It was a cold and blustery winter night. Snow covered the ground for miles and miles across Wilson. Livy gazed out of the Beetbox window and remembered quietly to herself how she came to be a part of such a wonderful community and a wonderful man's life. The sting that death brought was still there, but it was becoming duller and duller. The love that Livy shared with Ray, was more than she could have ever hoped for last year.
Livy turned and smiled at Ray.
"Are you happy, Livy?" Ray asked earnestly. "You seem so distracted. Was it my dancing?"They both broke into laughter at that comment.
They both know that Ray is the expert between the two of them. Ray had taught Livy a lot of things and one was dancing.
"No, it's not you....and you know I love your dancing and I could dance all night with you." Livy said sincerely. "I just think about this town and how you all have accepted me into it and I just can't comprehend it. I feel like this is home. Something I never thought I would find again after.....well....you know....last year."
Ray reached down and took Livy's hand into his and squeezed it. Livy loved it when Ray held her hand. It made her feel safe and secure.Ray was comforted by Livy's statement. She considered this home. Ray was assured then that his plans was God's will. He knew that they had not courted a long time. Martha had hinted to Ray that the town would love to have a summer wedding to attend. But more importantly, Martha would love to have a sister.
They had been out to the Donavan's farm to celebrate Katie Donavan's 16th birthday. Winter was not the usual time for parties, but the Donavan's so loved their only child and wanted the town to share in such a special time for Katie. The Donavan farm was further out than Hank and Martha's place. They would have to pass Ray's farm on the way to taking Livy home. Ray wanted to stop by the farm and get the animals settled for the night so it wouldn't be so late when he got home from carrying Livy back to Rev. Case's house.
Ray asked Livy if she minded stopping by the farm. Of course, Livy didn't mind. She loved being on the farm. Even in the dead of winter.Ray turned onto the drive that went up to his house and barn. It was a long road, and he drove slower than usual because of the fresh snow on the ground. Livy commented on several things about the farm as they passed them.
"Sounds like someones been listening to alot of boring talk." embarrassingly Ray admitted.Livy was quick to respond, "Oh, no, it is the wise words of someone who knows about farming, and wants to share it with someone who cares about his farm.
"Livy said things like that always to Ray, so he would know where she stood with him and his farm. There was no doubt in her mind that she wanted to call this home one day.
Ray pulled the Beetbox as close to the barn as he could.
"You gettin' out in this cold?" Ray asked, still basking in Livy's earlier response. "Seeings how you care about the farm."
"Oh you couldn't leave me in this truck if you wanted to." Livy said playfully.
Ray came around and opened the door for Livy to get out. When he took her hand to help her, he never let it go. They walked hand in hand into the barn.
All the animals were there, even Franklin. He rushed up to greet Livy. Livy bent over and gave Franklin a hearty hello and a pat on the head.
"You are such a good boy. Watching over your friends in here." Livy said to Franklin. Franklin's tail wagged and wagged as it always did when Livy was around.
"I'll be right back I just need to check on the cattle and be sure they all have enough hay to keep them warm tonight. You'll be a'right?" Ray asked
"Sure I will. I have Franklin here to keep me company." Livy said jokingly.
Ray prepared the barn for the night and was back in a few minutes to where he left Livy and Franklin. Ray and Livy both bidded Franklin good night.
"I'll see you in the morning Franklin. Get a good night sleep because we got some chores to do tomorrow." And Ray closed the barn door.
"Are you cold Livy? I can make us some tea before I take you home." Ray suggested.
Livy wanted to and so she accepted.
They headed into Ray's house hand in hand.Livy had only been in Ray's house a few times before. It was not customary for a girl to be in a man's house alone. Ray wanted to keep Livy's reputation reputable as it so deserved.
Livy walked in the front door and smiled at the lovely place. What a nice home Ray had. One she hoped to be apart of.
Ray pointed towards the dining room, "It's warmer in here." Ray pulled out a dining room chair at the table, "here". Livy smiled, "Thank you." The two were a bit uncomfortable , at first, simply because this was not common for either. They knew that it was understood that Livy should not be alone with Ray in his home, but Ray had the sincerest intentions and Livy knew it.
Ray stoked the fire, and fixed a kettle of water to boil. He came and sat in the chair closest to the kitchen, next to Livy. The two looked at one another for a second before Ray spoke.
"I hope you don't feel awkward here. I just thought it might be nice to warm up before we head into town." Ray tried to explain his gentleman gesture.
"Oh, no, Ray, I don't ever feel awkward with you." Livy said so boldly. She had said several things tonight that she hoped that Ray understood and knew how she felt about him, his farm, and Wilson.
They smiled at one another.
Ray cleared this throat, "Good, I am glad you feel so comfortable with me. I feel the same way. I usually don't say much, but with you I obviously ramble about things." Ray was referring to Livy's elloquent reciting of his words about the farm earlier when they arrived at the farm.
Livy smiled, " I love spending time with you and the farm. I enjoy learning about the farm.
Ray reached out across the table and held Livy's hand. Ray and Livy had been courting since mid harvest. Ray felt comfortable holding Livy's hand. However, he also wanted to feel comfortable giving Livy a kiss. But there had never been a right time, until now.
Ray wanted their first kiss to be special. One that Livy would tell their grandchildren about one day. Ray just felt that a kiss was a special thing and not to be rushed into or stolen away quickly. Ray was a romantic as his father was. He had heard story after story about his parent's courtship and marriage. Ray never tired of hearing it. Though his parent's courtship extended over years, Ray didn't want to waste that much time on courship.He knew beyond any doubt that Livy was his answered prayer. He hated the thought of what she'd been through to get to him, but she was there. Brought by God's will.
Ray chuckled nervously to himself at that thought.
"What's so funny, Ray?" Livy asked.
Ray had not realized he had chuckled out loud. He could feel his face flush with reddness.
"Oh, nothing. Just remembering how I use to feel around you. At potluck, the school library, and when you came by that one afternoon to ask me about teaching you some things about the farm." Ray said, trying to divert Livy from his true thought.
At that, Livy blushed. Ray did not know the whole truth of that visit. And Livy would like to keep it that way.
Livy came over that Wednesday to ask Ray to teach her about farming. She was beginning a unit on farming and she knew the students would know so much more than she. So she decided to learn about farming. She asked around town and everyone told her that Ray Singleton would be a great person to teach her about farming. So Livy gave Mr. Singleton a visit.
That was the version that Ray knew.
Actually, Martha had helped Livy come up with the idea. Martha had outright asked Livy if she was interested in her brother. Livy didn't know how to respond. Martha told her if she was, then she probably needed some advice on how to get to know her brother. That's when the plan of learning to farm came to be. It was true that Livy had to teach a unit on farming. Martha knew this was a way for Ray to be able to get to know Livy and have some confidence in what he was doing. Martha had explained that Ray was shy, and had not dated girls in quit some time. Livy made Martha swear that she would not tell a soul about their plan. Not even Mr. Stewart. Martha understood Livy's concern and gave her word. Martha had not broken her word as a Singleton never does.
Livy came out on Saturdays to see how farm life was. One Saturday, Livy stood on the gate to the cattle pen, and Ray could not take his eyes off of her. She was so beautiful, even in plain farm clothers. She had dirt all over and on her face. But Ray had never seen someone as beautiful as she. Ray remembered his father talking about his mother and how beautiful she was when she milked the cow. Ray didn't quit understand what his father felt or spoke of until that moment. He knew he had the same feeling as his father. It was a feeling of not being alone, of having someone to share your life with.
After Livy taught the unit on farming, she continued to go to the Singleton farm every Saturday because Ray invited her.One Saturday, Ray had decided before Livy got to the farm that he was going to ask her if she wanted to go to La Junta and see a movie and to dine out. Ray was confident that Livy felt the same about him.
"I would love to see a movie and have dinner out."Livy answered sincerely.
When they finished their tea, Livy took the cups to the sink while Ray put another log on the fire.
Ray was still thinking about how he wanted to kiss Livy. He wanted it to be in his house. Not in the Beetbox, not in the barn, not on Rev. Case's front stoop, but in the place he wanted Livy to make her home.
Livy walked back into the dining room and stood at the end of the table and watched Ray place a log on the fire. How handsome he was. What strong hands he had. Livy had noticed that the first time Ray held her hand.
They were walking down Main Street in La Junta one Saturday afternoon, and Livy spotted a dress shop.
"Do you want to go in and see the dresses, Livy?" Ray asked pleasingly.
"I don't want to make you do anything you don't want to do, Ray." Livy pronounced dearingly.
Ray took Livy by the hand. The only thing Livy remembered from the dress shop was that she wanted to hold Ray's hand the rest of her life.
Ray turned around and saw Livy standing there. The ache Ray had in his heart was no longer for what had been, but for what had to be.
Ray and Livy's eyes met and locked. Ray knew what he wanted to do, and Livy hoped Ray would do what she wanted him to do. Ray stepped closer to Livy. She had thought of this moment a million times before. She wanted it more than ever. She wanted to feel Ray's lips on hers. To taste the sweetness that poured out of him each time she was with him.
Ray had not kissed someone in a long time. He was nervous that he had forgotten how or he would not be kissed back. When he was close enough to Livy, Ray reached out with his hands and placed them on Livy's soft, white face. Before their lips met, Ray rested his forehead on Livy's.
He closed his eyes and whispered, "I love you, Livy Dunne."
His whisper was met by Livy's, "I love you, Ray Singleton, always."
He then drew her lips to his. Ray kissed Livy with every ounce of love he had ever known. Ray had never tasted such sweetness before. He knew he could never be alone again.
Livy wiped Ray's tears away, and Ray kissed Livy's away. It was the most intimate time either had ever had with anyone.
Livy did not want that moment to end. Ray took Livy by the hand and led her into the parlor. Livy was unsure of what Ray had in mind next, but she was sure of one thing, she trusted Ray with everything .
Ray sat Livy on the couch. He remained standing.
"Livy, I had no idea about tonight. I didn't know or plan on us kissing. I just know that when I'm with you, I am so happy. I don't feel lonely, afraid, or sad. I feel hope, and comfort, and happiness. You bring all of that to me. "
Tears fall down Ray's checks and he wiped them away and continued.
"I have fallen in love with you. Your smile, your talents, your kind words, your willingness to learn new things. But most of all I have fallen in love with you. You, Livy Dunne, complete me and this life I have. I don't have the finer things to offer, but I do have a promise for you."
Ray reached into his pocket and took out a diamond ring. He got down on one knee and promised to Livy...
"I will love you more each day. I will provide for you all that you need. I will give you everything your heart desires. I will love you until the day I die."
Ray looked so deep into Livy's eyes...Livy could no longer hold back her tears. She cried....
"Will you be my wife, Livy, the mother of my children, the keeper of my deepest desires and wants? Will you love me, Livy, forever?"
With tears trailing down Livy's cheeks, she replied most confidently, "For eternity, Ray, I will love you. I want to be the one you seek in a crowd, the one you come home to at night. The one that will love you forever. I want to be your wife..... I want to be Livy Singleton."
Livy Singleton sounded like music to Ray. A song that Ray would hum for many many years to come.
They kissed again and it was better than the first. And they kissed many times that night, before and after he placed the ring on Livy's finger.
After what seemed like only minutes, Livy knew that the time had come that she had to go back to the Case's home. Livy was beaming from excitement. Ray
was overcome by contentment.
It was a cold and blustery night. Wilson was covered for miles and miles with snow. But Ray and Livy had never felt warmer.
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