Watching the abuse of a troubled child and feeling helpless to prevent it is sometimes the most agonizing thing we face as adults. Some of that pain is the reminder of our own personal suffering and the scars we bear from the memory; other times it is the frustration of knowing we should help but our hands are tied.
In today’s excerpt we see a child who is devastated by the loss of the only father she has ever known but that disappointment is only magnified by the fear she feels over her new surroundings. This excerpt allows us to see a softer side of Sonny, one which we have been only a glimmer on rare occasions. We are saddened that he has the ability to love and be a good father but something within him will not allow it.
As you read the story of the beginning of Stacey’s abuse you will see how the circumstances a small child must endure will have impact on her entire life.
Minneapolis, November 1952
Stacey sat cross legged on the bedroom floor watching Christian pack his clothes in his worn brown leather suitcase. Her pink cotton sleeper was tucked snugly between her legs; her wavy red hair curled slightly over her ears.
“Why you hav’ta go, Grandpa?”
Christian choked back the lump in his throat. For the first time in his life he felt like a coward. “Grandpa must go back to Dakota, little one.”
The little red head puckered her lips. “But I’ll miss you, Grandpa.”
The tears forming in Stacey’s eyes saddened Christian. If only she could have been sleeping by the time he’d left.
“Come, come,” he said, sitting down on the bed and pulling her onto his lap. ”Soon your daddy is coming home to live with you. You and Katy can no longer sleep with Momma. You’ll have to sleep in Grandpa’s room. So Grandpa must find a new place to sleep.”
A teardrop crept into the corner of her eye as she placed her tiny hands on his cheeks.
“But you can sleep with me, Grandpa.”
Christian closed his eyes and pulled her to his breast, hiding his own threatening tears.
“Little one, little one,” he whispered, brushing his lips over her soft curls.
“Please don’t leave me, Grandpa,” Stacey sobbed. “I love you.”
Her little arms wrapped tightly around him, and she buried her face in his neck, her muffled sobs tearing at his heart.
“Come, now, Grandpa loves you too, but you must not cry so.” Christian rubbed her back as he carried her into Marty’s room. “Soon you will grow up, and then you will understand. Now you must be brave and say good-bye.” He pulled back the covers and tucked her in bed.
She looked up at him through tear filled eyes. “Grandpa,” she said, with quivering bottom lip, “when I get big, I’m gonna come and live with you.”
Christian nodded and forced a smile. Too choked up to speak, he kissed her tear stained cheeks and walked from the room
“Daddy, is this why Stacey is crying in my room?” Marty stood dumb-founded watching Christian continue his packing.
“My heart breaks for the child, but I must keep my promise to Kaja.”
“You are a foolish child.” Christian brushed his hand over his face. “When Kaja died, she made me promise to walk out of your life if you ever went back to – to him.”
“You’re lying!” Marty cried. “Momma would never do that to me.”
“Do you think anything but a promise to Kaja would make me turn my back on that little girl?”
Marty clutched her hands together. “You don’t understand, Daddy. The two years in prison has really changed Sonny. He won’t betray me again.”
“You are right, my daughter, I do not understand.” Christian shook his head in disbelief.
“Kaja has only been dead six months and already you have weakened. Haven’t you learned your lesson yet?”
“Daddy, I need this one last chance.”
Christian shut his suitcase and put on his coat. “If only your brother, William, had lived, he would have put a stop to this madness after Katherine was born. But then I” his voice broke as he wept, “then I would not have had the joy of my little Stacey.”
Hot tears stung Marty’s eyes as she reached to put her arms around him. “Daddy, William’s been dead since Pearl Harbor. I can’t live in the past any longer. Please don’t go.”
“It is too late, my child. You have made the choice for me.”
Katherine’s raven hair rested softly on her shoulders as she brushed through its hidden tangles, parted in down the middle, and hastily clipped a red barrette on each side. Her eyes misted as she gazed at the little red head crouched in the corner of the bedroom.
“Stace, you’ve got to stop crying. Mommie and Daddy will be home soon, and you don’t want to hurt Daddy’s feelings, do you?”
Stacey sniffed and rubbed her eyes. “I want Grandpa to come home.”
Katherine walked over to her sister. “Honey, you know Grandpa isn’t coming home. I want that, too, but it just isn’t going to happen.”
Ronny’s voice loomed from the living room. “Tell that brat to quit her blubbering or I’ll give her something to cry about!”
“Shut up, you idiot,” Katherine snapped. “Do you want to make her more upset?”
Ronny appeared in the doorway. “Come here, kid.”
Stacey paled and scrambled closer to her sister, clasping her arms around Katherine’s legs.
Katherine bent down and lifted Stacey into her arms. “Come on. Let’s get your face washed and put on a clean dress for Daddy.” She scowled at Ronny. “I told you to stay out of this, and I meant it.”
“Yeah, and who’s goin make me?” Ronny cocked his head to one side. “Grandpa spoiled that kid rotten. It’s about time someone undid the damage.”
Katherine glared at him. “Lay off her, or I’ll have a talk with Daddy.”
Ronny silently crossed his arms, his eyes narrowing. “I’ll worry about that when I see how long the old man hangs around this time.”
“Stick it, Ronny! You know Daddy’s changed, and we’re going to have a good life together.”
“Oh, I know one thing for sure,” Ronny answered, smirking. “I know he’s smart enough to know that Ma’s his ticket for an early parole.”
Katherine’s large brown eyes widened. “You’re just mad because you can’t be boss around here anymore. You’ve been getting a little pushy since Grandpa left.”
“Aw, screw you.” Ronny waved his hand at Katherine. “I’m going out. Tell Ma I’ll be home by ten.”
Stacey cringed in Katherine’s arms as Ronny slammed out the front door.
“Don’t worry, honey,” Katherine said, stroking Stacey’s hair. “I won’t let him hurt you. I promise.”
Stacey was huddled in a corner of the living room window when Marty and Sonny arrived home.
“Come over here, Stacey.” Marty crossed the room and reached out her hand. “I want you to meet your daddy.”
Stiffening her legs, Stacey shook her head. “I don’t like him.”
Sonny followed and knelt next to Stacey. “I know I’ve been away for a very long time, but I love you very much. I want to take care of you if you’ll let me.”
Stacey’s lips puckered and she hid behind Marty’s legs.
“You have to give her some time,” Katherine said from across the room.
Sonny put out his arms. “Come here, kitten, and give Dad a big hug.”
Her face aglow, Katherine ran into her father’s arms. “Welcome home, Daddy.” Then
she turned to Stacey. “Listen, sweetie, why don’t you get your new doll to show
Daddy. I know he would love to meet her.”
Stacey shuffled towards the bedroom, hanging her head to avoid Sonny’s watchful stare.
Katherine whispered to Sonny. “Daddy, she misses Grandpa so much, and she’s just
scared of you, that’s all. Please don’t be mad at her.”
“Of course not, Katy. I’m sure she’ll fine in a few days.” He grinned at Marty. “I
guess I’ve got more than one heart to win this time.”
Circle Pines, September 1953
Ronny stirred the steaming pan of beets and flipped over the frying hamburgers. “Well, squirt, the folks said they might be late at that teacher’s conference so looks like it’s just you and me for dinner.”
Stacey smoothed her hand over her white pinafore dress and sat down sideways on a kitchen chair. Resting her arms on the back of the chair, she nestled her chin in her hands. “When is Katy coming home?”
Ronny threw her an impatient glance. “Look, kid, I’ve told you three times already that Katy is baby-sitting over at the Anderson’s until after dinner.”
“Then I don’t want to eat until Mommie comes home.”
“Well, Ma said you was to eat at five if she wasn’t home.” Ronny slammed two
plates down on the table. “It’s five now, so you’ll eat.”
Stacey turned toward the table; a teardrop escaped from the corner of her eye and splashed onto the plate below.
Ronny gritted his teeth. “Don’t start that cryin with me cause it won’t work.”
He dumped a spoonful of red beets on her plate and accompanied them with an over-cooked burger. “Here, I’ll even cut your burger for you.”
Stacey puckered and wrinkled her nose, the tangy pungent odor of the beets burning her eyes. “I don’t like those red things.”
“Those red things were all we had to eat on the farm. They’re my favorite. Try’em.”
Ronny grabbed the ketchup bottle from the refrigerator, and sat down at the table. “A little ketchup on your burger, and you’ll be all set,” he said.
“No, don’t!” Stacey winced, watching him douse the meat with ketchup. “I don’t like that red stuff neither.”
Scowling, Ronny hammered out his directive with the ketchup bottle. “Well, you’re goin to learn to like’em tonight!”
Stacey pouted in silence as he poured them each a large glass of milk and sat down across from her.
“I’m tired of you always gettin your way around here,” he said, while shoveling an offensive mountain of red beets into his mouth.
After devouring several forkfuls, he gulped a slug of milk, then briskly wiped his mouth on his shirt sleeve. “Hey, kid. I said eat, and I mean now!”
Stacey gripped the edge of the table, her tiny knuckles turning white.
Ronny smiled slyly. “Guess you need some help.”
He filled her fork with a large slice of beets, along with a smothered piece of burger, then he pried her one hand loose from the table and jammed the fork between her fingers.
She promptly unfolded her fingers, sending the fork plummeting onto her plate, splattering ketchup and beets into her face and down the front of her dress.
“You dumb kid. Ma will kill me!”
Stacey’s red freckles faded from her ashen face.
Ronny grabbed the dish rag to wipe off her dress; with a smug look on his face, he slid his chair over next to hers. “It’s time you were taught a lesson.”
He refilled her fork with a double portion while squeezing her chin with his other hand. “Open up!”
She shook her head violently; her taut lips stuck together like glue.
“You brat!” Ronny lunged at her hair, seizing a handful in his fingers.
“Ouch–ie, it hurts me,” Stacey screamed.
Laughing, Ronny quickly shoved the red concoction between her lips and clamped his hands securely over her mouth.
His eyes gleamed as he watched her squirm to be free of his grip.
Her cheeks bulging, juice oozed from the corners of her mouth.
“Swallow it, damn you!”
Panic screamed from her eyes. She gulped. Red beet juice streamed from her nostrils.
Ronny’s face twisted with repulsion. Damn! She was gagging! He lifted her arms over her head, but it was too late.
Vomit spewed from her mouth and gushed out her nose.
“Ah, shit! You little-” Like a crazed maniac, he pulled up her dress to trap the expelling food.
His mind racing, he whisked her from the chair and ran to the bathroom with the gagging tot in his arms. For a moment, he stared at the bathtub, then dumped her inside its safe haven. He reached to turn on the faucet.
Stacey gasped, coughing and spitting, tears streaming down her face. Tears mingled with vomit, slimy mucous and beets — bright, red beets.
“You need a bath, kid.”
“No! I want Mommie!”
Ronny grabbed her by the back of the neck. “I’m goin teach you a lesson you’ll never forget.”
“Don’t, don’t,” she shrieked as he pushed her towards the faucet.
Ruthlessly, he plunged her head beneath the running water.
She clawed wildly at the water, eventually struggling to her knees.
Minutes passed as she wrestled beneath the torrential downpour.
Several inches of red water collected in the tub.
Her shrill screams grew louder, transcending the noise of the pounding water.
Ronny’s eyes darkened. Exploding with rage, he shoved her onto her stomach, pressing her face into the repugnant water.
“You ever cross me again, I’ll take you down to the creek and give you a dunking you’ll never forget!”
Stacey gasped, groping to be free of his grip, but her hands only splashed in the slimy water.
Ronny yanked her up by her hair. His hoarse voice heckled, “Understand?”
She nodded her head while coughing and choking; desperate sobs sprang from her throat.
“Well, let’s make sure you don’t forget.” He rammed her face into the red water once again. He pulled her up quickly, then slammed her head back under the faucet’s pounding water.
By the time he sat her up, she was wheezing and shivering, her tiny body shaking uncontrollably.
Ronny took a deep breath, his voice quieting. “There. All that junk is off your face, anyway.”
Stacey was weeping softly as he turned off the faucet and unbuttoned her dress.
“I’ll have to wash this out before Ma sees it. But first, you’re going to bed. I want you asleep before anyone else gets home.”
She trembled as he removed her dress; salty tears streamed down her face and into her mouth.
“Stop that dumb crying,” he said, lifting her from the bathtub. “And don’t tell anyone about this or I’ll make good on my promise down at that creek.”
Terror filled her red swollen eyes.
“You hear me?”
Sniffling, Stacey nodded her head.
“Do you want to go back in that tub?”
Sobbing, she shook her head. “Then you’d better stop that bawling.”
She rubbed her eyes with her tiny fists.
Gasping sobs shook her body as she sucked in her breath, fighting to stifle her tears.
Ronny wrapped her in a towel and pushed her into the bedroom. After drying her hair, he slipped a nightgown over her head and pulled back the covers on the bed.
He walked towards the door and glanced back over his shoulder. “Remember what I said, kid. I’m a man of my word.” Smirking he rolled his eyes. Guess that brat learned a lesson tonight.
Stacey watched him turn out the lights and shut the door, then she climbed into the bed and pulled the covers over her head. Warm tears trickled down her face, her muffled sobs piercing through the silent, empty room, echoing her heartbroken whisper: “I miss you, Grandpa. Why don’t you love me anymore?”
“You’d better hurry, Stace,” Katherine prompted. “You’ll be late for school.”
Stacey stood by the bed, her bloodshot eyes transfixed on the floor. Her dress was crumpled at the hem, and her matted hair stuck to her neck.
“I think I’d better help you with your hair.” With a hairbrush in hand, Katherine sighed and sat down on the bed next to Stacey. She began to brush through the tangles.
“Honestly, I don’t know how you could have gotten so many rats in your hair in just one night.”
“Gosh, I’m sorry, Stace. I guess I pulled too hard.”
Katherine reached in the drawer and pulled out two streamers of baby blue ribbon. “Let’s put in some pony tails.” She carefully parted Stacey’s hair down the back.
“What in the world! How did you get these–”
“Don’t!” Stacey jerked away. “I don’t want any tails today.”
Katherine gently cupped Stacey’s shoulders and swung her around. “Honey, how did you get those bruises on your neck?”
Stacey shrugged, blinking back tears. “I don’t know.”
“Of course you know!” Katherine’s voice rose.
“What’s going on in here?” Sonny appeared in the doorway.
“I don’t want any tails today, Daddy.” Stacey stared at the floor.
Sonny glanced at Katherine and back at Stacey. “Well, if she doesn’t want any pony tails, let her be.” “But, Daddy you don’t–”
“I’ll handle this, Katy. Go and help your mother pack the lunches.”
Katherine blew out a frustrated sigh and brushed by her father.
Sonny knelt down beside Stacey and lifted her chin with his fingers.
A warm teardrop rolled down her cheek and dripped into the palm of his hand.
“Don’t you feel good today, pumpkin?”
Stacey shook her head
Sonny stroked her cheek. “You are a little warm.” Sonny scooped her into his arms and carried her to the bed.
“You’re not going anywhere today.” He removed her dress, pulled back the covers and gently laid her on the pillow.
With the back of her hand, Stacey smeared the wet salty tears across her face, her tongue catching the last residue dripping into her mouth. She smiled up at Sonny.
“I’ll have Mommie come in and look at you in a few minutes.”
As Sonny bent down to brush his lips across her forehead, Stacey stretched her arms around his neck and kissed his cheek. “Thank you, Daddy.”
“Sure, pumpkin,” he said, tucking the covers around her. “You sleep now.”
Sonny walked from the room, wiping a teardrop from the corner of his eye.
Don’t miss the next exciting chapter of Rubies – Escaping the Curse as Stacey’s abuse continues and Marty must finally rid herself of Sonny forever.
The Rubies Saga is available in a four book series on Amazon.com.
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