“Oh Livy! I met your sister this morning – what lovely girl!”
Livy’s walk continues at the same pace, even though Mrs. Jarvis’ has slowed.
“Yes, she is, um, thank you.”
Livy adds a quick nod at the end afraid that her tone was not exactly convincing. Opening the car door, she slides into the passenger seat and slams it quickly. Huffing out a long sigh, she leans her head back and closes her eyes for a moment.
“Had ‘nuff?” Ray’s hand rubs her leg soothingly.
Livy nods quietly, keeping her eyes closed. He starts the ignition and they roll off down Main Street.
Danny meanders slowly up the hill, his hands stuffed in his pockets. He can still feel the burn of embarrassment radiating on the back of his neck. The sting of Mr. Metcalfe’s words, hissed at him through clenched teeth, are fresh in his mind too.
As he reaches the top of the small hill, Danny looks out over the land his father works so hard. He knows it’s all for him someday. Dad had never said in so many words but his patient coaching through any and all farm chores, no matter how small, let Danny know. This would all be his responsibility one day.
Sighing, he takes off his hat and looks down at the house below. Scratching his head, he places his hat back on. Stuffing his hands in his pockets, he steels himself and starts forebodingly down the hill.
As Ray and Livy pull up out in front of the house, Daniel over hears them and scurries up the stairs to his room. He shuts his door quietly.
Ray holds the front door open for Livy. Sliding her coat off her shoulders, Ray hangs it carefully on the hook. Placing his hands on her shoulders her guides her into the living room. Turning her, he pushes until she slumps down onto the davenport.
Ray sits down beside her, stretching his arms out and placing his hands on his knees. She stares straight ahead, in a daze. They sit in silence for a few moments. Livy’s hand comes up to her cheek, resting their in an almost puzzled manner.
“I mean, she did say this was her calling, right?”
“So, I didn’t just dream it?”
“I just... I mean… Abby’s always been a little pre-occupied, but this is…”
“To say the least.”
Ray’s glance indicates he’s not quite as caught off guard.
The telephone in the hall rings loudly, interrupting their conversation. Ray gets up, answering on the second ring.
“Hello?” He rolls his eyes in his wife’s direction.
“Yes. She was there all day. From Kresge. No, I didn’t pick it, I gave her 3 choices. Blue. Uh-huh. I don’t know, light blue? I’m not sure, Abby. I see. I don’t know about that. Yellow. Yes, it was pale. All right. Yes, I’m sure. No, she’s resting. I’d really rather not. She’s exhausted after the day she put in. Yes, I’ll tell her. Yes, Abby, I will. Yes, okay. Goodnight.
Livy’s busy picking green paint out of her fingers nails. Her brows pinch tightly in annoyance.
“She doesn’t like the green?”
Ray sighs deeply, frustrated for his wife.
“She says yellow is cheerful and more conducive to selling.”
Ray rolls his eyes again, his voice going up a few octaves in a fairly decent imitation of his sister-in-law.
“Oh, and besides, the yellow will be the perfect background for the new spring dresses, just in time for your Grand Opening.”
Livy’s palm slaps her forehead, exasperated.
“Come on, let’s get you upstairs.”
“What about supper?”
“I’ll make something. How about a grilled cheese?”
Livy’s stomach lurches. She looks up at him, giving him a small, hopeful smile.
“Did you get over to Metcalfe’s?”
Ray’s mouth forms a small frown.
“I did. He says he’s sorry. No bananas until Monday. What about an apple?”
“I’m not hungry, really.”
Ray marches her upstairs.
The slit of light coming from the hallway shrinks away as Ray tugs on the bedroom door.
“Get some rest, my girl.”
Livy murmurs back as darkness descends on the still, quiet sanctuary of their bedroom.
Ray meets Danny at the bottom of the stairs.
“Your Mama’s asleep. Let’s keep it down.”
Danny nods his head. Proceeding to the kitchen, Dan starts setting the table.
“Should I set a place for her?”
Ray bites his cheek for a moment, then nods his head.
“Better go ahead. Just encase she does come down. We don’t want her to think we forgot about her.”
Daniel nods, laying the plates down at each spot. Ray reaches into the breadbox and pulls six slices out of the bag.
Ray nods, his eyes laughing. Danny was so easy to please sometimes. He rests his top of his son’s head. His small shoulders tense up. After a moment he looks up at his dad. His eyes are tormented.
Ray tries not to laugh. The boy is seven years old. How bad could whatever was troubling him actually be?
Ray pretends not to notice and goes back to his sandwich making. He would be out with it soon. Secrets for Danny were like hot potatoes – he couldn’t hold onto one for long.
Danny lets out a huge sigh behind him. Ray smiles in the corner, cutting the slices of cheese. Any second now…
“When did you first love Mom?”
Ray’s head comes up and he catches a glimpse of himself in the reflection of the kitchen window. It’s the first time an older man has looked back.
Ray clears his throat.
“Well, I guess I’m going to need you to go ahead and repeat that question, son.”
“When did you first love Mom?”
Ray turns to his son, wiping his hands on the tea towel a little more vigorously than normal.
“You mean when did I first feel like I loved your Mother?”
“No, you already told me that a hundred times. It was when you first met… I know…”
Ray laughs a little, but stops himself when he sees his son growing frustrated.
“No, I mean when did first show her?”
Ray’s throat closes slightly. He pulls on a kitchen chair, pointing for Daniel to sit.
“Show her what?”
“Dad, I need to tell you something.”
Ray’s hand white knuckles the back of the wooden chair.
“Well, spit it -
A sudden hammering at the front or causes them both to jump out of their skin. Ray’s eyebrows knit themselves together in a frustrated line.
“Who the - ?”
Stomping towards the front door, he turns to Danny.
“We’re not finished here, right?”
Ray walks back to the door. Pushing open the screen, he looks out at Joshua Metcalfe with a sceptical smile.
“Well, its one thing to have the town plumber AND grocer come when you call him. It’s another thing entirely to have you show up on instinct. It seems I need you on both counts these days.”
Ray and the man share a friendly handshake.
“I don’t see any bananas for my very pregnant wife, so plummer it is. I expect we’ll be needing you soon for the powder room at the dress shop. Come on in.”
As Ray backs up, he nearly trips on Danny, wide eyed and tucked in closely beside him.
“Danny - what are you – I said we would continue our talk later.”
Danny’s feet stay planted in place.
Turning to close the door behind Joshua, Ray glances over at the man’s serious face.
“I think the boy had better hear what I have to say.”
Livy extends her arms up to the sky. Hooking the corner of the diaper to the clothesline with a wooden peg, she tugs on the bottom. Allowing her neck to relax, her head falls back. She closes her eyes as the warmth of the sun envelopes her face.
Reaching down for another wet diaper she feels a slight pinching in her side. Better take it easy, she thinks to herself. Humming along with Bing Crosby to Mountain Greenery from the radio on the other side of the open kitchen window, she slows her pace.
A crackling comes from the radio startling her as the familiar voice of William Shirer breaks the calm.
“We interrupt this musical event to bring you news from the Front - ”
Livy gasps. Collecting her laundry she decides to head back inside and find Ray, to tell him what she's just heard.
She stops, suddenly sensing that she’s not alone. Pivoting on one heal, spins around.
A man in a wrinkled, khaki military uniform stands just a fifty feet away from her. His face is full of rage.
She drops the clothes pins from her hand and starts running. As she looks back, she sees Walter gaining on her. She clasps her hands under her round belly to absorb some of the impact of each pounding step.
“RAYYYYY.” She screams at the top of her lungs.
His long legs take one to every three of her small, waddling steps.
“RAYYYY” she continues screaming with all her breath.
Reaching the barn, she runs inside and grabs the large wooden door. Pushing behind it with all her might, she cries out as a sharp pain tears across her middle.
Walter stands before her, breathing heavily, his hands planted on the other side of the door.
“You promised me a coffee.”
“I SAID - You promised me a COFFEE.”
Backing up slowly, her heel thumps against a water bucket, tipping it over. She falls backwards, landing on her backside in a pile of soaking wet hay.
Livy looks up at Ray’s beaming face. He seems so pleased with himself.
“Where is he?”
“He’s right here, Livy Honey. He’s right here.”
Ray brings his hands from behind him and proudly shows her the biggest banana she has ever seen.
“Oh, I –“
Livy squeezes her eyes closed.
“Wake up.” Ray says, more firmly now. Holding her hand, he shakes it lightly.
Livy opens her eyes. Ray and Danny are standing above her.
“It’s time to go, my girl.”
“Go where. Where are we going?”
“Your water broke.”
“No. Not yet.”
Livy’s eyes fall closed.
Ray chuckles, amused by how sleepy she is.
“Come on. Get up for me, now.”
A car door slams outside.
“Who’s that?” she moans.
Livy’s eyes spring open.
“Did he find me some bananas?”
Ray chuckles for a moment.
“No, sorry. He was just here to talk.”
Livy props herself up on one elbow, awake now. She motions for Danny to pass her the glass of water on the nightstand.
“Talk about what?”
Ray’s eyes dart over to Danny, just for a second.
“That’s for another time. Right now we’ve got bigger fish to fry. Let’s GO.”
Livy laughs at his enthusiasm, trying to plant her feet on the floor. Another pain sears across her front.
“You’d better call Martha and Doc McCutcheon. I don’t think I’m going anywhere.”