Livy and Ray finished up their dinner with six-week old Danny cradled in Ray's arms. "It sure is a relief to hear that the doctor thinks you are okay, Livy" he said to her as she carried the plates to the sink.
Livy smiled at him. "Yes, but not a surprise, Ray. I had a baby, I didn't have a disease!"
"Well, I know that," he answered somewhat sheepishly. "But some women try to do too much and end up taking a long time to get their strength back and all that. You went through a lot and who knows what he might have said."
"That's true, Ray," she said. "Some women just have too much to do and have no choice. Look at me though. I have a husband who can't do enough for me, a sister-in-law and niece who could not be more helpful, and friends from the church who send food on a regular basis. Why I am practically living like a queen!"
"Well you've been saying all along that once you got through this six-week check up with the doctor, you'd want to do more for yourself so you may not feel so much like a queen in a week or two," he teased.
Livy laughed. "Maybe not, but I wonder if you could keep Danny occupied long enough for me to get a bath in before it is time for him to eat. I've wanted to have a bath all day, but haven't had a minute to get it in."
Ray lifted Danny toward his face and said to him, "Do you hear that, Danny? Your mama is going to have a bath and leave the two of us men to fend for ourselves. That's what it's like when you're mama is a queen!"
Livy swatted his shoulder and draped the dish cloth over it as she started to leave the room. She stopped and turned back towards him, put both her hands on his shoulders and leaned down to kiss him on the mouth. She lingered the kiss a bit and then pulled her head back and beamed at him.
"Thank you, sweetheart," she said as turned and left the room and headed toward the stairs.
"I'll be quick because he is going to be hungry soon," she said as she hurried up the stairs.Ray looked down at Danny and smiled.
"Sweetheart," he repeated with eyebrows raised. "That was some kiss, too. I'd say it's worth doing a few dishes." Ray stood and put Danny in the cradle while he washed up the dishes and wiped the counters and table. He was looking for the broom to sweep the floor when he heard Danny start to fuss. As he walked toward the cradle he found Franklin standing near the cradle peering in at Danny as if to check on him.
"What's going on, Franklin?" Ray said to the dog as he reached the cradle. Danny was growing increasingly unhappy as Ray lifted him and walked toward the rocking chair in the living room. Franklin followed them and sat next to the chair as Ray lowered himself into the rocker to try and comfort Danny. Despite Ray's efforts, Danny could not be calmed. Ray stood and tried to walk about the living room, swaying a bit as he walked and trying to sing to the wailing baby.
"Now, now Danny - we need to give your mama a little time in her bath. You can wait a few minutes now, can't you? She'll smell really good when she gets out - it will be worth it if you can hold on."
Danny was unconvinced as his hunger seemed to override any of Ray's attempts to sooth him. He started to cry harder and his face turned red as he waved his fists in the air. Ray started upstairs as Franklin sat at the bottom of the steps, not being permitted above the first floor. Knowing that the only thing Danny wanted could be given to him only by his mother, Ray moved toward the bathroom door growing less confident in his ability to handle Danny at this moment.
"Livy?" he called out to her behind the closed door. "I'm not sure how much longer Danny can wait."
"I'll be right there, Ray," Livy called back. "I just need to rinse my hair."
Ray and Danny paced up and down the hallway, Ray bouncing and crooning, Danny wailing. Ray's relief at seeing Livy appear in the doorway was so evident that Livy had to smile despite Danny's state. Her hair was wrapped in a towel and she had thrown on her robe and was tying the belt at her waist as she moved into the hallway. "I'll feed him in the bedroom," said Livy as she turned into their room with Ray following close behind. As she sat in the rocker, the weight of the wet towel in her hair caused it to tilt and then fall off her head. She put it on the floor next to her chair and shook her hair loose as she reached for Danny. Ray promptly handed him over. She quickly pulled the robe off her one shoulder, exposing herself rather completely before she quickly pulled Danny toward her. Ray's eyes widened in surprise at her lack of shyness and Livy smiled a bit triumphantly as the room became quiet and Danny began to nurse.
"Sorry for my lack of discretion, but our son was hungry!" she said without much remorse. Ray nodded and stared at her, marveling at Livy's beauty. Her loose hair, still wet and starting to curl, and her skin, still flushed from her bath gave her a radiant glow as she held his gaze.
Ray swallowed and said, "I'll finish a few things downstairs" as he moved toward the door to head downstairs. "Think you'd like a cup of tea or something?"
"Yes please, Ray," she answered. "That sounds wonderful."
Ray went to the kitchen to resume his search for the broom. As he swept the floor, he wondered about Livy's behavior tonight. Was she sending him some kind of signals - first the kiss in the kitchen and then her "openness" as she got ready to feed Danny following her bath? She'd never called him sweetheart before tonight, either. He didn't know what to make of it, but if she was wanting him to do something, he didn't want to appear unaware of her desire, but he didn't want to push her to do something she didn't want to do. He'd heard other men say that doctors often gave a woman a go ahead at that six-week check up to resume relations with her husband. Only their case, there were no relations to resume. Ray put the kettle on the burner and prepared two mugs for tea. He paced about the kitchen while he waited for the water to boil, continuing to wonder about what to do. It no doubt was becoming increasingly difficult to share a bed with Livy and keep his distance at the same time. He had worried about hurting her too soon after the baby and was hoping that he'd know when that was no longer a worry. They loved each other and no doubt at some point they would become husband and wife in the truest sense - he just wanted to be sure she was ready. Had she gotten the go ahead from the doctor and decided to send him signals that she was ready? Would a woman expose herself to a man and expect him not to notice? She did not seem all that embarrassed by her robe falling open. Was she testing him? The kettle whistled and startled him from his deep thought. He poured the water over the tea bags, put the mugs on a tray along with some biscuits and headed toward the stairs.
Livy was still nursing Daniel as he entered the room. He put her tea on the small table next to the rocking chair. "Daniel really is growing isn't he, Ray? He takes longer and longer to eat each day it seems."
"He's growing for sure. The nurse at the doctor's office said so while we were in the waiting room today" he said as he sat down on the bed holding his mug of tea. He thought this might be a chance to bring up the doctor's visit.
"Did the doctor say there is anything that you still shouldn't do, Livy?" he asked tentatively.She shrugged, shook her head and raised her eyebrows.
"Not a thing. He says I've recovered just fine and can resume my activities." Ray nodded and looked at Livy with a bit of intensity, trying to read her face. She looked back at him with a slightly impish smile on her face, hoping that he would know that she was trying to tell him that she was ready to be his wife. She so hoped that she wouldn't have to come right out and say it - it would be so embarrassing. She thought of her rejections of Ray's advances early in their relationship. She was sure they had left him unsure and maybe reluctant to risk such rebukes from her again. She knew she owed him encouragement and wanted to reassure him that she was receptive without being forward and having him think her too fast.
"Danny will probably be ready for bed after he eats - I bet he'll sleep about four hours before he wakes hungry again," she said to break the silence. She knew Ray already knew this to be the case as it had become the evening routine for Danny, but she didn't want to break the mood by talking about the weather or some such innocuous subject. When Ray didn't respond she asked,
"How are you, Ray? Are you tired?" She sipped her tea as she waited for a response. Ray looked at her a bit confused - little did she know that he had been deep in thought over her wearing only her robe. As she looked at him expectantly, he realized after a moment what she had said.
He shook his head. "Not particularly so," he responded. "But I'll probably turn in before too long." The air hung between them, heavy with what was unspoken. "I think I will, too. Tomorrow I'll be back to my old self so I better get some rest" she said brightly. Then she frowned a bit, not wanting him to think that she needed to sleep right away. "Of course, who am I kidding about getting rest with a six-week old baby in the house!" she said cheerfully. She realized that she was starting to sound nervous. Danny's nursing slowed and he broke away and looked up at her with heavy lids. She laughed and said to him,
"Come on sleepy head, let's get you ready for bed and mama will do the same. She carried him toward the nursery where they kept Danny's things and where he would sleep when he was a little older. She changed his diaper and put him into a sleeper and carried him back to their room.
Ray still sat on the bed and watched her as she put Danny in the cradle and covered him with his blanket. She patted his back and softly said, "Good night, sweet boy." Then she turned toward Ray and smiled, "Mission accomplished" she said.
He stood and looked at her with a seriousness that made her shiver. Her smile faded as she met and held his gaze. After a pause he held out is hand toward her. She moved toward him and took his hand. He drew her toward him and put his arms about her waist as she placed her hands upon his chest. He breathed in her fresh, clean scent. When he kissed the top of her head, they both loosened their hold upon one another and gazed into each other's eyes. Her look told Ray that he had not misread her signals. His look told Livy that she had given him the certainty that he needed.In the next little while, Ray and Livy Singleton finally became husband and wife in the truest sense.
A while later while cuddling together under the covers of the bed, Ray said, "I must be the luckiest man in the world, Livy."
She smiled and replied, "I don't know about that, Ray Singleton, but you certainly are the best man in the world."
"I know that isn't true," he said. "But I must be doing something right for God to send you to me. You are everything any man could ever want and what every man dreams about."
Livy laughed. "Well, I don't know what men dream about, but there is only one man I dream about."
"Do you dream about me, Livy?" he asked with some seriousness.
She smiled teasingly and answered in a playful tone, "I have been lately."
"Oh really?" he said raising his eyebrows and giving her a smile. "And just what kind of dreams do you have about me, Mrs. Singleton? Am I your slave and do I wait upon the queen?" he asked as he tickled her waist. She stifled her laugh and admonished him, "Shhhhh, there is a baby in the room, Mr. Singleton. And I am not the queen and you are not my slave."
"Well, you still haven't told me about those dreams," he said. "And I'm not likely to lest you think that you married a fast woman of some sort" she replied.
Ray propped himself up on his elbow and looked down at her with amazement. "I didn't think that a minister's daughter would have such dreams about men that could make people view her as a fast woman!" he teased.
She met his gaze defiantly. "Not men," she corrected. "one man - one very handsome, honest, kind and loving man."
Ray blushed as he returned his head to the pillow and held her close. He closed his eyes as he gave thanks that they had finally shared this love, that they were truly husband and wife.
Despite her best efforts not to think of Edward, Livy could not help but make the comparison between this act of love with Ray and what happened between Edward and her on that one night nearly a year ago. She knew now that she had not experienced love with Edward. Ray's actions were all rooted in love and she felt cherished in his arms. This night represented a start, not an end and she squeezed Ray as she thought about it. He tightened his embrace in response to hers. She closed her eyes, too.They grew quiet and soon the only sound in the room was of three people breathing the sleep of the very contented. At least for another three hours until their son was ready to eat again.