Ray was up long before he needed to be because Hank and the boys were coming over to do the morning chores so that Ray wouldn't have to worry about them. They were also going to see about the farm while Ray and Livy were gone on their honeymoon.Ray had not told anyone where he was planning to take Livy for their honeymoon; it was a surprise. All the ladies in Wilson, including Livy Dunne, were dying to know. They knew it had to be somewhere grand and romantic.Hank and the boys arrived at the farm early, before daybreak. Hank saw the bunkroom lamp on and told the boys to get started that he was going to check on Uncle Ray and see how he was doing only hours before his big day.Hank knocked on the door and opened it and called for Ray. Ray answered right from the dinning room table. He was sitting there in the dark thinking;. Hank was startled that he was there, in the dark.
"What are you doing here in the dark, Ray? Not getting nervous, are you?" Hank asked, half smiling.
"No, just sitting here thinking about Danny, and Mama, and Daddy. How bad I wish they would be here. Mama would really love Livy. She would tell me that she was the perfect girl for me...Daddy would tell me things to do to keep her happy and me out of trouble with her. Danny would be bold and say what I need to to do to make Livy happy." Ray ended in a whisper, a tremble in his voice."Ray, this is one of the biggest days of your life, besides the day your children are born, and I know you miss your ma, and pa and Danny. But I believe that they will be there, Ray. They will be there to see your happiest day." Hank said so sincerely and convincingly.Hank went over to the stove and started a pot of water to boil for coffee."It's a beautiful day, Ray. A grand day for a wedding." Hank implored.Ray had walked over to the window and peered out through the sheers. "Yes, a beautiful day to marry the woman I love so dearly."Hank walked over and put his arm around Ray's shoulder, "I know they'll be there. They will."
Livy sat at the kitchen table sipping coffee when Rev Case came down to the kitchen."Did you get any sleep last night, Livy?" The Rev asked"Enough," Livy said with a content smile on her face, "I can't believe today is my wedding day, Rev Case. Today, I will marry the man of my dreams. I am so lucky that Ray has never married. That he waited on me." Livy said with true belief that he was picked by God to be her partner in life."Yes, Livy you are. But Ray is lucky as well. You are a mighty fine catch for any man." The Rev added as he kissed the top of Livy's head as he sat down next to her.
"Livy, I know you are missing your parents, especially today. I know how proud your parents would be of you and Ray. They would have liked Ray, especially your father. The way Ray gets out and works hard and so kind and helps anyone who is in need. Just like your father. Same traits, I believe. " Rev Case put his hand on top of Livy's on the table. Livy looked over at Rev Case and smiled.
"Thank you, I really needed to hear that, thank you." Livy said with a tremble in her voice.
The Dunne/Singleton Wedding was to begin at eleven o'clock followed by a sit down lunch at noon. There would also be dancing and toasting and bidding the couple a great life ahead. At some point during the party, Ray would announce the place he had chosen for their honeymoon.Livy told Ray that she didn't care where they went, as long as they were together; alone. Ray liked that idea. Alone with Livy. They really had not been alone too much anywhere they could just sit and cuddle or make out. Ray had made sure that Livy's reputation remained pure and respectable. He never asked or put her in a compromising situation. Livy appreciated that, but how she longed to be "alone" with Ray and let their love be expressed in more intimate ways. Livy thought often over the past four weeks about their first kiss and how powerful and enticing it was. How she knew that other things would be just that way. How gentle Ray had been with her. How he, too, was nervous about things. Soon they would both know each other better and more intimately than they knew anyone else. That sent tingles all over Livy. For Ray to know her intimately. She knew he would love her forever and passionately.
All the women in town were eager to get to the wedding to get a good seat. The church started filling up well before time for the wedding. The first guest arrived at ten-fifteen. Livy had decided to dress at the church, so that no one would see her dress. She wanted Ray to see it first.Laura Cole played the organ that day, so that Mrs Case could be with Livy. Martha and Ruth were in the room with Livy as she got dressed. When Livy came out from behind the changing drapery, Martha's eyes welled up with tears. She began to cry."Ray will be so taken by this, Livy." Martha managed to say.Martha wore her best suit. It was blue. Ruth wore a new dress that Martha had made for her to wear. It was lilac and cream. It was beautiful. Ruth wore her hair up and looked very grown up.The organ had been playing for awhile when the Rev stuck his head in the door, "You all about ready to get started here?""Yes!" They all said in unison."Well, let's have a wedding!" Rev Case said with true excitement in his voice. "I'll go get the groom and the best man and we'll be up front whenever you are ready, Livy."Rev Case went back behind the front of the church where Ray and Hank had been since they had gotten there. "Are you ready?" Rev Case looked at Ray and asked."I haven't been more ready for something in a very long time." Ray said with a big grin on his face."Well, let's go out there and get this wedding over so we can get to the great food that awaits us in the fellowship hall." Rev Case said as he opened the door that led to the sanctuary.
Within minutes Mrs Case took her place on the front row where Livy's mom would have sat. Ruth walked down and then Martha. They both stood at the front of the church opposite of Ray and Hank. Hank smiled proudly at the two most precious women in his life.
The organ finished the processional of the wedding party march and paused before playing the Bridal March.The front door of the church opened and the beautiful noon sunlight filtered in, it was almost blinding to Ray, as he squinted eagerly to see his bride.
Livy stepped just inside the door as it closed behind her. Ray beheld the sight of his bride for what seemed eternity. Ray could not swallow, he could barely breath. She was so beautiful. As Livy slowly, meaningfully walked down the aisle, she and Ray maintained eye contact the entire walk. Livy didn't look at anyone else, she didn't want to, only at Ray. Ray kept whispering her name, "Livy....Livy......Livy". Livy could not had been happier at Ray's response to her as she entered the sanctuary. She could not have imagined it any better.
Finally, Livy was close enough to Ray so that he could reach out and touch her, and he did. He immediately took her hand in his. Livy gave her flowers to Martha to hold. Ray only took his eyes off of Livy a few times when the Rev had asked Ray to repeat after him. Ray wanted to be sure he got everything right. He knew that was important to Livy. For their vows to be repeated correctly, but most importantly earnestly. So when Ray repeated them, he looked far and deep into Livy's eyes. Livy could hardly breathe, catch her breath. It was the most romantic wedding Livy had ever witnessed. She could barely believe that it was hers. Her wedding."Now I pronounce you husband and wife. Ray, you may kiss your bride" The Rev said with an almost giggle in his voice.Ray leaned in and whispered, "I love you, Livy Singleton." And they kissed.
The sanctuary erupted with cheers and hooting from all.Laura Cole began playing "Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee", and Mr. and Mrs Singleton went back up the aisle. They went in the tiny room at the front door where Livy had dressed before the wedding. When they went in, Ray closed the door behind them. He kissed Livy as his wife, like never before. He picked her up by the waist and held her close. He twirled her around and they both giggled."Livy, you look so beautiful....the dress is so........amazing. How did you manage to get this so quickly, we only had 4 weeks?" Ray said with delight in his voice."It was my mother's dress. I have always wanted to wear it, and fortunately it fits." Livy said almost sadly.
There was a knock at the door. Through the closed door came"You two lovebirds going to join the party? Bobby is ready to take your picture." Martha hated to break up their little time together.Ray opened the door, "My wife and I are ready to see our guests. You say Bobby is going to take our picture?"Livy spoke then, "Yes, I asked him to bring his camera and take some pictures so we will have some to show our children and grandchildren."
Bobby placed the newly married couple in the traditional wedding pose, but to Martha who looked on from the front pew, she had never seen such a romantic pose than this. She began to cry."Martha, you promised you wouldn't cry." Livy reminded Martha. "I'll be a blundering basket case if you do!" Livy retorted.Bobby took a few still, posed shots. " I'll be around shooting some others during the dinner, if you'd like that, Mrs Singleton?" The young man said to Livy.Livy smiled back, "That would be wonderful, Bobby."Ray kissed Livy on the cheek, "Are you ready to greet our guest, my love?" Livy smiled and answered, "Yes!"
Livy and Ray walked in the fellowship hall hand in hand. Ray didn't take his eyes off of his wife for the better part of the party. Livy smiled warmly at Ray, several times she had tears in her eyes, Ray would walk over to her and nonchalantly place his arm around Livy because he knew what she was feeling and he knew her lonliness today as well.
The dinner got underway and everyone persistantly reminded Ray that no one, not even Livy, knew where they were going on their honeymoon.After a nice dinner, and as the guests were finishing up, Ray did something that he never thought he would or could do. He gave a speech.
Ray stood up at the front table that was lined with red and pink carnations, he and Livy were seated in the middle with family and friends leading out from them.
Ray cleared his voice, and Hank tapped on the ice tea glass. Everyone was anxious to hear what Ray had to say, they knew it was going to be good. Even though only a few had ever heard Ray give a speech. He prayed on occassion in church, but that was as close to a speech as Ray had ever given in public. Everyone knew it was going to be great, because when Ray spoke, it was from his heart that had been beaten, broken, and hardened by all the bends that life had given him.
"Livy and I would like to thank all of you for coming to what has been the best day of my life and being here to witness our union.", Ray looked at Livy and smiled.She gave him the reassurance that he was looking for when she replied, "my best day, too." Many guests clapped with delight and other's tears began to flow, for they knew they had witnessed what all believed to be God's will today at the church.
"Last summer, when I saw that red convertible pull into town, I knew someone was going to be swooned by this newcomer. I knew that it could be me, but I never thought it would be me. I never imagined the love that Livy stirs in me would be recipricated. It all started with a Farm Unit in a sixth grade classroom." Everyone laughed at that, Ray was a great storyteller.
Several men could be heard saying faintly, "God bless the farm!" Ray agreed."I had decided that I had been dealt a mean supper in this banquet of life. I was okay with farming on my own. I had given up long ago on finding my life's desire. I poured myself into my farm....our farm," and he looked at Livy again with a blush of redness in his cheeks."I had decided that finding someone to share all I had was not going to happen for me. I had decided that hurting from people leaving...dying, was not going to be part of me anymore. I had hurt too long." Tears had welled up in Ray's eyes and most every guest there."But then His will took motion... "
There was a pause in Ray's speech, so he could be sure he chose the right words as to not stir up more sadness in his bride. Ray had practiced this speech many nights since he decided he needed to speak at the wedding.
"And it makes me sad when I think about what circumstances brought Livy here to Wilson, but I know beyond a shadow of a doubt she was brought by God... to me. To me, the man who had lost everything but what he held true...God's promise for those who are faithful. Livy, I will always love you, I will always provide for you, I will always support your decissions you choose, I will love you forever. Thank you, Livy, for listening to God's voice and doing what you knew to be His will. You will never be alone again for you have me and our family." Ray smiled the biggest smile Martha remembers seeing her younger brother smile. For he was truly happy.
"Now, Mrs. Singleton, may I have the pleasure of our first dance as husband and wife?" Ray asked as would for many firsts they would have today.
Livy was so touched and overcome with emotion of Ray's speech. She knew what it took for him to stand in front of the town and say such private matters of his heart. She took her husband's hands,which were so strong, and took his lead to the dance floor.
When they reached the dance floor, few words were exchanged, for their eyes spoke volumes.
"I love you, Ray, forever. Thank you, for loving me." Livy managed to get out after a few moments of intimate eye exchange.
Ray pulled Livy so close, she thought she would loose her breathe, but Livy could breathe just fine. How comfortable she had become in his arms, how natural it felt.
Livy had forgotten that Ray hadn't announced their honeymoon destination, but she was soon reminded by others.
Livy and Ray danced mostly together, but occassionally others got to dance with them. Ray made the honeymoon announcement after he had danced with Martha and Livy with Hank.
"It seems to be that many of you are anxious to hear where this beet farmer will be taken his beautiful bride on their honeymoon in the dead of winter. Well, let me put all curiosity at rest and tell you that we will be on the 6pm train on Monday evening heading west. We will be enjoying the Pacific Ocean, something I have never seen and would like to for the first time with Livy." Ray said with his glued smile on his face, which he could not get rid of all day. Livy and Ruth and many other ladies in the fellowship hall squealed with delight. Livy had never been to the ocean and she so wanted to go. She couldn't imagine seeing it with anyone else but Ray.
Ray continued, "Now, you fine folks are welcome to stay as long as Martha will let you, but Livy and I will be leaving now. We have alot of packing to do so we can be on the train when it departs on Monday evening. I suspect some of you will want to be there to bid us farewell, and that will be fine." Ray looked at Livy, and she knew he had waited long enough. It was time to go. Livy barely remembers telling everyone goodbye and thanking them for coming. Martha darted into the kitchen and returned with a picnic basket of food from the dinner.
"I thought you both may enjoy this later tonight." Livy could have sworn Martha had a sly grin on her face when she said that.
Before Livy realized it, she and Ray were half way home... "Our home" she thought to herself.
They talked about the day and what all had happened and how they thought it was like they thought it would be.
The closer they got to the farm, the quieter Livy became. Ray knew why. He hoped he would be just what Livy deserved.
When they got out of the beetbox the sun had just gone down behind the shed and Livy could hear Franklin in the barn whincing and calling.
"Someone's not happy" Livy said not sure why Franklin was in the barn.
"I didn't want him jumping on you in your wedding dress." Ray said sheepishly.When they arrived at the door, Ray sat the basket down and opened their front door, he swooped Livy up and held her close and looked far into her eyes,
They kissed so deep and the feelings that Livy had right at that very moment were the ones she had pressed back for many months. But now, tonight, they would be allowed to surface and acted upon.
Livy stayed in her wedding gown for awhile, as she was not sure what to do about changing. Should she change into regular clothes or should she put on what she had chosen as their first night together? Ray took off his suit jacket, tie and unbuttoned the top button of his shirt. Livy decided that she would change into her night gown. She excused herself and went upstairs. She was gone for what seemed like a long time to Ray. But when she appeared in the doorway of the living room, Ray knew why she had taken so long, she knew it wouldn't be long before she and Ray let the love between them take over and let their love reach all parts of them, even Ray's hiden places of his heart that he had forgotten were even there.Ray spoke a soft tone, "Livy, I love you and I want you more than I've ever wanted anything in my life." Ray took Livy in his arms and kissed her. Livy said nothing, for words were not worthy of what she was feeling. She had to show Ray, not tell him, of her love for him.
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