After the Nightmare

Author: Kay
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Ray rose from the side of Livy's bed, turned out the light, and started to leave.

"Ray---" she reached out, attempting to catch his arm as he left.

He looked back down at Livy.

"You are such a good........thank you.....thank you."

He paused, biting his lip, not knowing what to say or do. Though his heart ached at the sight of her tearstained face, he turned and left the room. Outside her doorway, he leaned heavily against the wall, shoulders slumped in frustration. He could hear Livy crying even harder now. He went into the bathroom, wet a cloth under some warm water and returned to her room. Leaving just the hall light on, he again sat on the side of her bed.

Speaking low and soft, he tried to soothe her.

"Livy ........Livy, I can't bear to see you cry. Here...."

He gently wiped her cheeks, brushing the loose curls away from her face. She couldn't speak, trying to catch her breath. Looking up at him in anguish, all she could think about was how she had hurt him. Not only with her foolish letters to Edward, but by repressing the love that she had begun to feel for Ray. Now it was too late.

"Ray, I... I just wanted to thank you -- for being such a good man--taking me and this baby in when my own father turned me away."

"Please, sweetheart.....hush now." He handed her a glass from the nightstand.
"Drink a little water for'll help."

After a few moments, he took the glass from her.
"You need to rest, Liv. I'll stay right here till you fall asleep." Emotionally drained, she nodded slowly at his next words.

"How 'bout if I rub your back a little? Seems like it bothers you some lately." He stood while she scooted over a bit, then rolled to her side, facing away from him. As she tried to get comfortable, he carefully placed a pillow in front of her to support her tummy.....the baby was growing bigger everyday.

"Hmmm.....thank you". She took a ragged breath and closed her eyes. Ray gently rubbed slow circles across her back. His hands were large and warm, and gradually Livy began to relax. They both started to breathe a little easier, the room silent but for the chiming of the clock downstairs.

Though Livy felt the tension in her body ease with every touch, her thoughts were in turmoil. She was painfully aware that she was facing another life-altering moment. She had to make up her mind about leaving. Her decision would determine not only her future, but that of her baby. This was even worse than being sent to marry a man she didn't know. She knew it would be better for Ray if she left. She didn't want her shame to reflect on him. She was already worried about people gossiping, thinking she had tricked him into marriage, that he was a fool. And she knew in her heart she was not worthy of the life and respectability he had offered her.

But how could she leave him and the family he had shared with her? The family she had come to love and who had given her so much in return. Martha, who was even more of a sister to her than Abby--always there with a warm smile, reassuring her when she had doubts and questions. Hank--like a big teddy bear--quick with a grin and a hug. The boys, Hank, Jr. and Chester, who loved her simply because they idolized their Uncle Ray. And dear sweet Ruth! From the beginning she had been drawn to Livy. She wanted to know all about big-city life and such. Livy had hoped to gently guide Ruth--to show her the joy to be found in her ordinary life out here in the country. She drifted off to sleep, thinking about what she would be losing when she had to leave.

Ray was lost in his own thoughts. He continued rubbing Livy's back, glad that she was finally able to sleep again. He knew she was confused and it hurt him seeing her upset like this. Dreaming about her mama...probably the only person who had ever given her real love. And her could he turn away his daughter and grandchild when they needed him most? He was angry at Rev. Dunne's harsh treatment and swore no child of his would ever know such pain and rejection.

Could they ever work this out? He cursed himself for kissing her earlier that morning...shocking both of them. She must have been disgusted afterwards...she certainly hadn't responded to him! He didn't know what he had expected. It wounded him deeply to think she didn't have some feelings for him, that he would forever be her husband in name only. He was afraid she would go to Denver... supposedly just long enough to deliver their baby in a hospital. But he knew in his heart that if she left him now, she would never come back. Dear God, what if Edward wanted Livy and the baby? God only knew what promises he had made her in that damned letter. How he wished he had never given it to her! Ray was in agony...if Livy left him, how could go on? He would be losing not only the woman he loved but the baby he already cherished. He yearned to find the words to tell her what she meant to him. She had brought him joy-- a light to his dreary world. Most of all, she had given him a glimpse of a future filled with hope and promise--a new beginning with their baby's impending birth. How could he go back to the lonely life he had before God sent Livy to him? He heard the clock again--midnight -- it was Thanksgiving Day. Ray had hoped he would have so much to give thanks for this he wasn't sure what the future held for them.

Livy stirred. Still drowsy, she reached for Ray's hand and placed it on her swollen belly.

"Ray..." she murmured, "Wait, the baby move?"

She had never shared this with him before, and he would not have presumed to ask to touch her. But he had longed to go to her, hold her close and feel the life growing inside her body.

"I do.....I do." He smiled slightly, spreading his fingers, following the baby's movements. He was in awe at this miracle under his hand, and he was filled with love. He thanked God again for the blessing he had brought to him...this woman and child. As Livy drifted back to sleep, her hands over Ray's, she heard him whisper,

"Our baby, Livy, our baby."

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