"Let's go by and show Martha and Hank!" Ray grinned from ear to ear, as he closed the front door of his house behind them."Oh, I would love too! Do you think it is too late?" Livy wondered.
"Martha will never forgive us if she finds out with the rest of the town. She will be so happy for us."
Ray knocked on the Stewart's front door. The house was dark with the night. But soon it became bright with joy.
"When will we have the wedding?" Martha anxiously asked
"Soon"Ray and Livy answered in unison.
All the Stewarts were up celebrating this joyous time with Uncle Ray and soon to be Aunt Livy. Hank shook Ray's hand,
"I know you never thought this time would arrive, but you never lost faith that it would. I'm proud of you Ray."
They hugged and all Ray could muster was a half smile.
"I'd better be getting Livy home before the Rev sends out the Sheriff to look for us." Ray said mostly joking, but half serious.
It had been decided that Ray and Livy would come back over the next afternoon and discuss more of their plans after Potluck.
Martha was sure she would not be able to sleep, she began jotting down notes for the wedding, mostly guest and food. Martha knew that Livy had her own thoughts for her wedding.
When Ray and Livy arrived at the Case's house , the Rev was in the kitchen looking over his serman notes. When the couple came in the kitchen door, he looked up from his notes and smiled, "You kids want some tea? It's mighty cold out there."
"Yes, Rev, that would be nice." Ray replied. He was waiting on Livy to tell their news. The Rev didn't need to be told, though, because Ray had spoken to him at length several months ago about asking for Livy's hand in marriage.
The Rev put on the water to boil and Mrs Case came down to see who came to visit.
"Ray asked me to marry him!" Livy blurted out when Mrs. Case asked how was their night.
Livy and Mrs. Case hugged and the Rev shook Ray's hand. "Congratulations, Ray, you and Livy make a wonderful couple. You will be very happy for many, many years to come." And they both smiled. The Rev had tears in his eyes. He had come to love Ray as a son and had wished for this day since before Danny left for the Navy. Rev Case had prayed for Ray for years that love would find him one day and it did.
When the sun peaked over the horizon the next morning, Ray and Franklin were finishing up their morning chores.
Ray talked withFranklin, as he was his best friend.
"Soon Livy will be here with us, Franklin. Things will be different, but don't you think it's about time for change?" Ray reached down and petted Franklin on the head. Franklin looked at Ray as he knew exactly what Ray was suggesting. "Yeah, soon, you'll have Livy to keep company while I'm out in the fields plowing. And she'll keep you company. She's very smart, and you could learn alot from her Franklin. Things that I know nothing about." Ray couldn't conceal his smile any longer and Franklin smiled with his best friend.
Franklin waited on the porch for Ray. Franklin knew it was Sunday and that Ray would be going into town to church. Soon Ray appeared in his Sunday best and told Franklin he'd be gone longer than usual. That he and Livy would go over to Martha's after Potluck to talk about their wedding plans. Franklin wagged his tail and gave a bark as Ray shut the beetbox door and drove off.
Ray and Livy sat in their usual spot next to the Stewarts and Ray sat on the end so he could stretch his leg out if he needed to. They had decided last night that Rev Case would announce their engagement to the congregation. They forgot to ask when he was planning on giving the news in all the excitement.
The glances that Ray and Livy exchanged during hymnal singing was more than usual; smiling bigger each time. Ray wanted to just yell from his seat.... "I'm marrying the prettiest girl I ever saw. I love her more than anything else and she loves me." He laughed to himself at that, and Livy nudged him with a smile. When they sat down after the morning prayer, Ray put his arm around Livy and drew her close to his side. He traced with his fingertips the top curve of her shoulder. Livy slid even closer to him at that gesture. Livy was close to him, her body ever so lightly on his left side. Ray's heartbeat became faster and harder and the sermon became a distant muffle in his ear. Ray remembered how Livy's lips felt on his and the sweet taste it left him even until this morning. Ray really wanted to turn Livy around and kiss her and kiss her and kiss her. He knew he would never grow tired of that sweet taste.
Rev Case's sermon was half over when Ray had to deliberately make himself focus on what the Rev was saying
"....there comes a time when a man shall leave his mother and father and cleve to his wife...."
Now that is what Ray was thinking... "cleving" to his wife, ...his wife, Livy. Ray glanced over to Livy. She was sitting there with her small smile of contentment on her face. How beautiful she was, Ray thought to himself. He still had a hard time still believing that Livy even accepted his invitation to dinner and a movie back in October, even harder to believe she said yes to his marriage proposal last night. Ray reached down and took Livy's left hand that she had folded on her lap. He twisted the diamond ring that he had placed there only hours before. Livy turned her head to look at Ray and she giggled. She giggled because she, too, was feeling how Ray felt. She could not believe after her terrible turn of events last year, that she was happy and smiling like she was; that she had found love in return.
How beautiful she was. Ray gloated to himself. Her profile, her nose, her smooth skin. The way she tied her hair up in a bun and on special occasions she put a hair pin in it Ray had noticed. Ray was lost again in his fantasy.....the thought of pulling the hair pin out and watching her hair unfold to her shoulders, then hiding the curve of her neck. The curve he carressed and kissed with his lips last night.......
Ray was brought back to the sanctuary when he heard Rev Case say, "Let us pray...."
Did I miss it? The announcement? Ray looked bewilderedly at Livy.
"...and Lord, thank you for showing us you are still at work duing our countries dark days...Thank you for bringing two people, that we care so much about, together. THank you for the hope they now have at a long life together...not to be alone in this world any more. Amen."
The congregation errupted when they all said amen-clapping and well wishes rang through out the sanctuary. Everyone was happy, and no one was surprised.
Ray and Livy were invitied to the front of the line at the potluck. They ate little. Partly because of the well wishes but mostly because they bot weer were filled with love-love from one another.
Martha greeted Ray and Livy at the door with a big smile and hugs. Lots of hugs, many tears. Tears of joy she told them, tears of joy for her ferbent prayer.
As they settled themselves at the dining room table with some hot tea, Martha asked, "What are you two looking at for a date of the wedding?"
"As soon as possible!" Ray spit out after his fantasies he had in church that morning. He knew they would not go away, but only get more consumming.
Everyone laughed. Including Ray. Though he felt his thoughts could be seen by others because they were so vivid to him.
There was discussion about the harvest for the winter and planting for the summer. Ray and Livy looked at the calendar that Martha had handed them.
Livy asked Hank, "What if we marry before school is out for the summer?"
"You can still finish out the year, right? You wouldn't quit before the end?" Hank asked for clarification.
"Oh, no. I intend to teach until....." and Livy looked at Ray, "Until we have children."
Ray and Livy had never discussed it, but Ray was pleased with what she said. He now knew it was what she wanted, too, not just him.
"Well, then, I think we can narrow down the date," Martha declared with a smile. "Livy, will you help me in the kitchen with the tea? You men decide what Saturday won't work by the time we get back with the tea." Martha requested.
Livy followed Martha into the kitchen. Livy had learned Martha's kitchen well in the past few months and she got the tea out of the jar that it was kept in."I hope I am as comfortable in Ray's kitchen as I am in yours." Livy said sincerely.
"Our kitchen, " Ray said as he placed his tea cup and saucer on the table in the middle of the kitchen. "Our kitchen, our house, our farm, our barn, our tractor, our beetbox, our Franklin..." Ray by then had his arms wrapped around Livy's waiste and was ever so close to her. Ray didn't care that Martha was there, Martha was glad she was there to see her brother so happy and in love. But most of all loved back by the most special girl she could ever have imagined for him. Ray kissed Livy on the cheek and Martha swatted at him with a dish rag, "Get out of here little brother and find the Saturdays that can be considered for the wedding." Ray listened to his older, wise sister and went back to the table to see which Saturday was good to marry the woman who filled his days with smiles and his nights with desire.
When Ray was out of ear shot, Martha turned to Livy and asked, "You need to consider your monthly cycle. Do you know when yours is?"
Livy normally would be uncomfortable talking about such personal topics with anyone but her mother. Livy didn't feel uncomfortable, because she was with family, and as Ray would remind her "our family".
Livy answered immediately, "The first week of every month, you can check your mail by it." Livy said with confidence.
"Well, then, you have to choose another Saturday. I wanted to remind you of it, so that you would consider it when choosing. " Martha said matronly.
"I am glad you did, I haven't even thought of that. I would hate for that to....." and Livy blushed
and didn't complete her thought not because she felt she couldn't but because she felt her thoughts would be seen becase they are so vivid to her. Her thoughts had been filled that day and the night before with things she had never entertained before about her and Ray. She knew she could not wait too long for the wedding.
Soon the women returned with fresh tea. The men had crossed out the Saturdays that could not be chosen. It left two Saturdays in February, one of which was the first Saturday, and the second Saturday. There were no Saturdays in March and the last Saturday in April was not crossed out. Ray flipped the calendar back to February. Livy knew what he wanted and she wanted it too.
Livy pointed to the second Saturday of February. "Four weeks," she said. "My mother would be hyserical if she were here,that I suggested four weeks. But she would also be so very happy for me and she would do it."
Livy looked at Ray, both had tears in their eyes, both had the thought of neither their mothers or fathers witnessing their holy union. They were both sad. They both knew the pain, "our pain" is what Ray would say.
"Then I say we make your mama happy!" Ray gently wiped Livy's tears from her cheeks.
"February 11th" Livy declared. "The day I begin my journey with you."
Ray leaned over and kissed Livy. He whispered to her, "The day we begin 'our' journey together as a family."
"Oh, my, we have lots to do in just a few weeks, we better get started on the plans." Martha squealed out.
So it was for the next few weeks very hectic in the town of Wilson. Everyone was preparing for Ray and Livy's wedding. The ladies in the community got together and had a party for Ray and Livy in honor of their upcoming niptuals. It was a ladies event and there were more gifts given than Livy had ever seen. There were guilts, hand embroidered pillow cases and sheets, towel sets, recipes, kitchen pots, and everything a girl needed to start her life as a married woman. Everyone in the town was happy for them.
According to the people of Wilson, time flew by. But according to Ray and Livy it was the longest four weeks they had ever lived.
On the Friday night before the wedding, very close friends and family gathered at the church for the wedding rehersel. Livy looked so beautiful as always Ray thought. She had on red winter suit with a red and white polka dot blouse. She wore her high heel black pumps. They made here several inches taller than her usual 5'5 stature. Ray liked Livy's high heels. Her hair was pulled back in a twist at the top of her neck, hair pin tucked in the side of the twist. Ray wore his brown suit, which use to be his only suit, but now he had a new one. The one he would wear on his wedding day.
After a few instructions from Rev Case and a prayer, the rehersal began. Martha would be Livy's Matron of Honor and Ruth would be a bridesmaid. Ruth was estatic when Livy asked her.
"You were there when it all began, Ruth, I want you to have a special part in it." Ruth had practiced walking down the aisle everyday since then. Hank would be Ray's best man, and the boys, Hank, Jr. and Chester, would be ushers.
After the rehersal, there was a big dinner for all who was there and lots of dancing. It was a festive time and love filtrated the building.
Ray was dancing with Livy and thinking about tomorrow and the tomorrows after, when he recognized a silliuette in the doorway of the fellowship hall. Ray closed his eyes and thought to himself... This can't be, I am dilieriously happy which is making me see things that aren't here. He looked away as he twirled Livy around and looked again at the doorway. He was hoping he had been wrong, but to no surprise the figure was gone.
For the rest of the night, Ray's heart felt the loneliness he had endured for several years. No matter how hard he tried to overlook it, it was there.
At 1130, Livy was wisked off to the Parsonage to stay her last night as a single woman and Ray headed home soon after to "our" farm Livy told him only moments before she left. This made Ray smile, and the loneliness he had been feeling was slowing fading to the thoughts of Livy going to "our" farm the following night.
Ray laid in his bunk room that night trying to understand what he thought he saw in the doorway of the fellowship hall, but sleep overcame him before he could logically comprehend it. He was soon dreaming of his tomorrows and not of his yesterdays.
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