Welcome to another installment of Rubies – Escaping the Curse. If you are tuning in regularly to the ongoing saga, you are aware that our last excerpt revealed the terrible childhood trauma Stacey suffered when her grandfather left the home. He was truly the only father she had ever known as Sonny had left his family shortly after her birth. In our last episode we watched Stacey suffering abuse under the hands of her brother, Ronny.
In today’s segment we see Marty suspicious that Sonny has again returned to his old ways. As she is now pregnant with her fourth child she again tries to hide her head in the sand hoping it will all go away. Sadly, she is so consumed with her own self she doesn’t even notice the horrible abuse going on right under her nose.
Those of you reading the complete manuscript will see that this abuse continues and progressively worsens. Katherine suspects her brother but has kept quiet thinking she can handle things on her own, not wishing to upset her parents.
Sonny’s probation ends and he soon convinces Marty to mortgage their family home so he can buy a restaurant of his own. Marty is apprehensive fearing his own ways will return and as we see in our story today, she is right.
Circle Pines, May 1954
Marty peeked into the bedroom to see if Stacey was asleep. It was already nine and Katy was still baby-sitting over at the McCarthy’s. Thank God two of her children were accounted for.
The ringing phone startled her, and she quickly grabbed the receiver.
“Marty, it’s Pearl. I called to see how you were feeling.”
“I guess I’m a little tired tonight.”
“You sound more worried than tired. What’s up, hon?”
Marty tried her best to sound casual. “Ronny never came home after school, and Red says he didn’t show up for work at the restaurant.”
“Unfortunately, he’s still in Minneapolis buying supplies. Red said he’d be back around ten.”
“I know what a rough pregnancy you’ve had. It can’t help worrying about the safety of your kids.”
Pearl had been a good friend as well as a neighbor, but sometimes she only increased Marty’s anxiety. “Maybe I’d better stay off the phone in case Ronny’s trying to call.”
“Look, Marty, my Judy is still up. Why don’t I bring her over to stay with Stacey, and I’ll drive you into town to look for Ronny.”
“I couldn’t put you to all that trouble, Pearl.”
“It won’t be a problem. By the time we get there maybe Sonny will be back, and the two of you can look for Ronny together.”
Ever since Sonny started working such long hours, Marty had secretly wished for an excuse to visit him at the restaurant. He would already be furious with her for letting Katy baby-sit on a school night. What did she have to lose?
Marty was quiet on the drive towards town. She and Pearl stopped at the homes of all Ronny’s friends, searching until ten. They finally concluded it was useless and drove into town. The stores were dark by the time they reached the restaurant; its lights, too, were muted and dim, barely visible through the windows.
Marty chewed on her fingernail and leaned against the car window, hoping to spot Sonny’s green Chevy pick-up.
It was nowhere in sight.
“That’s strange. Sonny should be back by now,” Marty whispered.
“Maybe his truck is out back,” Pearl answered. “Why don’t you check?”
Marty buried her face in her hands. There was something very strange about all this, something too painfully familiar.
“Are you okay?” Pearl’s voice broke into her thoughts.
Marty nodded and smiled. “Why don’t you go home. I’ll wait inside for Sonny.”
“You take your time and find your son. I’ll stay with Stacey until Katy comes home.”
“Thanks, Pearl. You’re a good friend.”
Marty jumped out of the car and hurried towards the restaurant door before she changed her mind.
Red looked up when he heard the jingle of the overhead bell. All ten booths were empty, the only evidence of customers was a few coffee cups scattered on the counter. Red was standing behind the counter washing glasses, and Marty guessed from his expression she was the last person he expected to see.
He smiled tightly. “Mrs. Morley, you ain’t supposed to be out so late. The boss wouldn’t like it.”
“Where’s Sonny. I need to see him.”
“Ah, he’s out back, ma’am, unloading the truck. I’ll go and get–”
“Don’t bother. I’ll do it myself.” Marty walked towards the back door.
The glass in Red’s hand smashed onto the tile floor.
Marty turned sharply. “What happened, Red?” She rushed to his side. “Did you cut yourself?”
“Naw, I’m fine, just clumsy I guess. Never was any good at dishes.” He began to clean up the glass.
“Here, let me finish this. You go outside and get Sonny.”
“Yes, ma’am.” Red quickly hollered out the back door. “Hey, boss, your wife is here.”
A puzzled frown appeared on Marty’s face. “You could have told him to come in without waking the whole town.”
Red smiled and wiped the perspiration from his brow.
Sonny burst through the back door. “Marty, what in the devil are you doing here?” He eyed Red suspiciously. “And why are you cleaning up that mess?”
“It was my idea,” Marty answered. “I was on my way outside to look for you when Red accidentally dropped the glass.”
“I see,” Sonny said, his voice calming. “Well, he can finish now. Are you all right. Is it the baby?”
“I’m fine, but I need to talk to you about Ronny.”
Sonny ushered her into a corner booth and put his arm around her shoulder. He called back to Red. “Go outside and lock up, will you?”
“If Red isn’t careful, his fingers will match his hair someday,” Marty said with a grin. “Honestly, isn’t it time you hired a waitress to do that stuff?”
Sonny stiffened. “Did you come here to tell me how to run my business?”
Marty sobered. “I was only teasing.”
Sonny brushed his hand along her arm. “What’s Ron done now?”
“He never came home after school, and he still isn’t home.”
Sonny’s face turned crimson. “Damn that kid! I knew this would happen sooner or later.” “I don’t understand.”
“I’m sorry, hon. I’ve seen Ronny hanging with a pretty rough crowd after school. They come in here sometimes.”
“And you didn’t tell me?”
“I didn’t want to worry you. I talked to him last week, but I guess it’s time to do more than talk.”
“No, Sonny. Please don’t–”
“Come on, I’ll take you home. I know where to look for him.”
“I want to go with you.”
“You’re in no condition to be running around this time of night.”
“I don’t care. Ronny’s my son too.”
Red came in the back door and waved at Sonny. “All taken care of, boss.”
Sonny nodded. “Lock up and go home, Red.”
He stood up and reached for Marty’s arm. “Okay, let’s go find that kid.”
Ronny crossed his arms and slumped down in the back seat of the car. His eyes twitched nervously when the car pulled into me driveway.
Sonny glared at Marty. “What in the hell are all the lights doing on?”
She swallowed hard. “Pearl must still be here.”
“Pearl? Where’s Katy?”
“I –ah, baby-sitting.”
Sonny pounded his fist on the dash. “Hell, Marty. It’s after eleven. I drive around half the night looking for one kid, and now I’ve got to worry about another.”
“She’s just across the street.”
“I don’t give a damn! I told her no baby-sitting past nine on school nights.”
“She was only doing a favor. It’s the McCarthy’s anniversary.”
Shaking his head, Sonny jerked the car into gear. “Go inside and get rid of Pearl.”
He turned to Ronny. “You get your butt out of the car!”
“Shut up, Marty! I’m doing this my way.”
Marty blinked back her tears and reluctantly opened the car door. She cast a sympathetic glance at Ronny and rushed into the house.
“Dad, you gotta listen to me,” Ronny whined.
Sonny’s eyes were dark with rage. “That woman I found you with was old enough to be your mother, and you reek of booze. What else is there to say?”
Ronny stumbled out of the car. “Geez, I said I was sorry.”
“Sorry doesn’t cut it! Do you know how close I came to losing everything tonight because of you?”
Marty had quickly hustled Pearl out the front door and had arrived at the back door just in time to see Sonny slam Ronny against the house.
“You stupid kid,” Sonny shouted, cuffing him repeatedly across the face.
Ronny winced, putting up his arms to block Sonny’s blows. “Stop, Dad!”
Sonny grunted and kicked the back of Ronny’s leg. “So you think you’re a match for your dad, huh?”
Ronny buckled and fell to the ground.
“Sonny, don’t,” Marty screamed from the doorway. “Not outside, please.”
Sonny grabbed Ronny’s hair.
“Ow – Dad!”
Sonny seized Ronny’s arm and shoved him towards the door. “Get inside the house!” Gagging, Marty covered her mouth, sickened by the blood oozing from Ronny’s lip. “Stop, Sonny. You’re hurting him.”
Sonny pushed Ronny through the kitchen and into the living room.
“You’re damn right I’m hurting him.” He threw Ronny down on the sofa. “Next time you feel like partying, don’t do it on my time!”
Ronny burst into angry tears. “So I can drink if it doesn’t interrupt a night with your girlfriend?”
Marty gasped; her hand flew over her mouth.
Sonny’s fist smashed against Ronny’s mouth. “Shut up, you little bastard!”
Again and again Sonny’s fist pounded against Ronny’s face until Ronny rolled onto the floor, clutching the side of his head.
“Ow, my ear, my ear.”
Sonny kicked him in the shin. “Get up and fight like a man!”
Ronny struggled to his feet, panting and staggering towards the bedroom.
Sonny followed relentlessly close on his heels.
“Dad, I’m bleeding!”
Marty’s face was drenched in tears as she grabbed Sonny’s shoulder. “That’s enough, Sonny. I can’t stand anymore of this. Please!”
Sobbing, Ronny crawled underneath the bed, his blood smearing across the floor.
Sonny stared at the blood embedded in his knuckles and took a deep breath. He reached from Marty. “I can explain everything.”
“No! Not now!” Marty pulled away, covering her tear-streaked face.
The back door banged, and Katherine came running into the hallway.
“I could hear screaming all the way outside.” She stared at Sonny’s hands and the blood stained floor. “What’s going on?”
“I’ll ask the questions here,” Sonny interrupted. He scowled at Katherine.
“Why are you so late?”
Katherine flinched at Sonny’s tone of voice. “I was baby-sitting.”
“You’re grounded for two weeks!”
“No buts. Go to bed. You’ve got school tomorrow.”
Katherine turned to Marty who only shook her head, unable to speak through her tears.
Tiptoeing into the quiet bedroom, Katherine wondered how Stacey could possibly sleep through all the screaming. Then she stood staring at Stacey’s empty bed.
“Stace, where are you,” she whispered.
The tinted night-light softly illuminated the room and cast a melon glow on the white ceiling. Through the stillness, she heard the soft weeping coming from inside the closet. She flung open the door; the sight flooded her eyes with hot tears.
Stacey was crouched in the farthest corner, her arms over her head. “I didn’t tell, don’t hurt me.”
“Oh my God, Stace.” Katherine bent down to cradle Stacey in her arms.
“No!” Stacey fought Katherine’s arms. “Don’t hurt me!”
Katherine could barely speak. “St–Stace, it’s me.”
Stacey looked up and began to tremble. “Don’t put me in the water. I didn’t tell. I didn’t tell.”
Katherine bit her lip. This was much worse than she had ever imagined. But she couldn’t let Daddy find out the truth tonight. He’d kill Ronny for sure.
She forced herself to pray, to think. She remembered the song Christian sang when he had rocked Stacey to sleep as a small child. It might work. But what were the words? She took a deep breath and swallowed the lump in her throat. She began humming the tune, then softly singing, “Bye-ya, bye-ya, baby, hush now don’t you cry. Bye-ya, bye-ya–”
Her voice cracked as Stacey reached up her tiny hands and clasped them around Katherine’s neck, resting her head on her shoulder.
With tears streaming down her face, Katherine picked Stacey up and carried her to the bed. Quietly, she lay by her side, tenderly stroking her hair and singing, “Bye-ya, bye-ya, baby.”
Circle Pines, June 1954
“I don’t see Daddy, Stace, but let’s sit in that corner booth.”
The two little girls giggled and slid into the leather burgundy booth.
Stacey ran her hand over the smooth tile surface on the top. “Feel how slippery clean it is, Katy. Much better than the tables at school.”
Katherine smiled across at her younger sister. “It’s supposed to be like that, Stace. Did Daddy say he would be here this afternoon?”
“Uh huh.” Stacey nodded.
“I don’t see anyone but that waitress over there. I wonder where Red is.”
“Maybe he’s taking a nap.” Stacey answered.
Katherine looked away to hide the smile tugging at the corners of her mouth. “Maybe.”
The waitress approached the table. “What’ll it be kids?”
Stacey’s cool green eyes twinkled. “You have red hair like me.”
The waitress laughed. “Ya, darlin, but mine comes out of a bottle.”
Stacey looked at Katherine, a confused scowl forming on her brow.
“We have to wait until my dad gets here before we can order,” Katherine politely replied.
“Well, honey, you let me know then when he gets here.”
Sonny came in the back door, carrying a bank bag. Without looking their direction, he began filling the register.
Katherine pointed towards the counter. “There he is.”
The waitress turned. “The boss is your dad? My, my, he never mentioned you cute little girls.”
Katherine cast a dubious look at the waitress. Daddy never mentioned a beautiful red head working for him, either.
“We’re going to have another baby this summer,” Stacey volunteered.
The waitress nodded and feigned a smile. “Your daddy knows how to keep secrets, doesn’t he?”
Sonny was still at the register, his back facing the children, unaware they were in the room. The waitress walked over and linked her arm in his.
Katherine’s smiled faded as she watched the two of them whispering.
Sonny quickly turned, his eyes meeting Katherine’s cold stare. With a tight-lipped smile, he hurried over to the booth.
“You girls surprised me. Did school get out early?”
“Maybe you have your mind on too many other things, Daddy?” Katherine said.
“You said we could come for a treat on the last day,” Stacey joined in.
Sonny nodded. “Ah, that I did. It’s hard for me to keep track of school times now that Ronny is up at the farm.”
Stacey stared silently down at the table.
Sonny had convinced Marty that Ronny would be better off in Brainerd, away from the influence of his friends; he had left for Annie and Roy’s shortly after the drinking incident.
“Too bad Ron has to spend the entire month of July in summer school,” Sonny said, winking. “Let that be a lesson to the both of you when you get to be his age.”
Katherine wished she could forget Ronny forever, forget that horrible night forever.
“Can we have some ice cream now, Daddy?” Stacey reached up to tug on Sonny’s hand.
Sonny tousled her hair with his fingers. “Sure, pumpkin. What kind do you want?”
“Some of the pink stuff.”
“I want a chocolate malt,” Katherine chimed in.
Sonny laughed and called to the waitress. “Rita, two small malts, one strawberry and one chocolate.”
Rita nodded. “Comin right up.”
“Now as soon as you’re done, you head right home so you won’t be late and worry Mom.”
“We can always cut across the creek,” Katherine answered.
Stacey trembled slightly as Sonny slid into the booth next to her. He pulled her close to him. “You be careful crossing that creek.”
Noticing Stacey’s apprehension, Katherine replied cheerfully.
“Oh, Daddy, that creek couldn’t hurt a fly, you know that.”
“No, but it could certainly ruin a good pair of oxfords.” Sonny laughed. “No splashing in the water, hear?”
“Momma’s making stew tonight,” Katherine added. “Will you be home for dinner?”
“No, kitten. Red has the night off so I won’t be home until midnight.”
Katherine glanced over at Rita and then back at Sonny but said nothing.
“Here you go, kids. Two malts extra special good by Rita herself.” The waitress had piled them high with whipping cream and stuck two sugar wafers in each one.
Stacey grinned up at Rita, showing off her missing tooth. “You’re pretty.”
“Thanks, honey,” Rita replied. “You’re pretty cute yourself. Too bad someone stole your front tooth.”
Stacey opened her mouth wide and pointed to the new tooth protruding through her gum. “But I gots a new one.”
Sonny kissed Stacey on the top of the head. “I think my two girls are the prettiest in town, even if one is missing a tooth.”
They all laughed together, but Katherine had a foreboding feeling inside. She didn’t like the way Rita looked at her daddy. And she was much too pretty.
“Well, how was your visit with Daddy?” Marty said as she dished up two bowls of stew, one for each daughter.
“It was fun, but I think the malt spoiled my appetite,” Katherine said.
“Daddy gots a new lady to make’em for us.”
“Ssh, Stace, never mind.” Katherine shook her head at Stacey. “This is great stew even if I’m not very hungry.”
Marty eyed Katherine closely and then sat down at the table. “What time is Dad coming home tonight?”
Katherine shrugged. “Gosh, it will probably be late. He and Red have lots of paper work to do.”
Stacey dropped her spoon. “But Daddy said–”
“Daddy said he would be working late with Red. Didn’t he, Stace?”
Stacey pouted at Katherine and nodded.
“I guess so.”
Marty stood up and rubbed her back. “Well, I’m kind of tired. I think I’ll turn in early.”
“Why don’t you go rest, Momma. Stace and I will do the dishes.”
Marty bent her head to make eye contact with Stacey. “Is that okay with you, honey?”
Stacey’s glance shifted between Marty and Katherine. Finally she nodded and jumped up from her chair. She buried her face in Marty’s extended stomach.
“I think you’re pretty, too, Mommie.”
Marty cast a questioning look at Katherine.
Katherine raised her brows and smiled wistfully. “Me, too, Mom.”
Marty turned over in bed for the fourth time. She just couldn’t get comfortable. It was past midnight, and Sonny still wasn’t home again. She felt the baby kick and rubbed her hand over her stomach. She wondered if this one would be a boy. Another son. One that Marty was determined would grow up without Annie’s influence.
But was it fair to blame everything on Annie? Ronny’s childhood had been one turmoil after another. It was surprising he was able to function normally at all. She hated it when Sonny sent him away. The memory of his cries still haunted her; the memory of his accusation festered within the depth of her soul. Oh, she’d accepted Sonny’s feeble excuse, but it didn’t matter. She’d suspected long before that night that there was someone else in Sonny’s life again. Momma had been right all along. Why did she always let her foolish pride get in the way of her common sense?
Just as Marty’s new son arrives, the family home is foreclosed upon. Sonny arrives at the hospital and announces to Marty that he is leaving her and wants a divorce. Sadly, she is back in the same predicament but this time she is on her own without anyone’s help. Sonny eventually finds a small house to rent for Marty and the children.
October 1954- Robbinsdale, Minnesota
“You want me to stay in this horrible place with a new baby?” Marty rubbed her temples. “This is almost as bad as the tar paper shack.”
Sonny shrugged. “It’s the best I could do for fifty bucks a month.”
Marty felt sick as she stared at the little green house that stood on the alley side of two vacant lots. It was so small a huge weeping willow tree practically covered its view from the street. An old oil burning stove stood outside its one lone bedroom. The stove ticked and cracked but provided little heat to the drafty house and no warmth to the worn out linoleum floors.
“I bought it on contract for deed so I could turn it over to you.” Sonny looked around the room. “I’ll help you fix it up.”
“Oh, thanks so much.” Marty waved him off with her hand.
Sonny ignored her protest. “Bertie has a roll-a-way bed for the girls. It’ll be okay for them to sleep in the living room until I fix a bedroom for them.”
Marty shivered. “Are they even safe sleeping out here? Look at those windows. A prowler could hop right in.”
French windows extended into one side of the living room; the kitchen was only a small corner adjoined by an “L”.
Sonny rolled his eyes. “Ronny will be home soon. He can sleep on the sofa. No one will get by him. Besides,” Sonny added, “Robbinsdale’s a suburb of Minneapolis. You’re plenty safe here.”
Marty’s stomach churned. He acts like he’s provided us with a mansion.
Sonny pointed to a doorway off the living room. “Come on and see the extra room connecting to the bath.”
Marty stood in shock staring at the decaying bathroom. A pedestal sink stood across from a stained claw footed tub. A wobbly toilet, flushed by a pull string, was squeezed in-between them.
“I thought we’d finish this extra room for the girls.” Sonny pointed to the adjoining room. “You and Christopher can have the bedroom by the stove.”
Screaming outrage boiling inside her, Marty exploded. “You really expect us to live in this hole?”
Sonny raised an eyebrow. “It’s all I can afford. Take it or leave it.”
Marty walked back into the living room and ran her fingers across the gaudy pink flowered wallpaper. “We have no choice but to take it – for now.”
“Good. Ron will be home this weekend, and we’ll move you in then.”
“I hope you rot in hell for what you’ve done, Sonny Morley,” Marty whispered as she walked out of the only door connecting the shabby little house to the outside world.
The following week, Katherine and Stacey tiptoed through the tiny shack, peering soberly at their new home.
“It will probably be okay once we get it cleaned up,” Katherine said.
“I don’t like it here. I want to go home.”
“This is our home now, Stace. The bank took away our other house so we have to live here for a while.”
“Is Ronny coming home?”
“Yes, but don’t worry.” Katherine reached for Stacey’s hand and squeezed it. “I’ll take care of you.”
Stacey’s eyes filled with tears. “Is Daddy coming here, too?”
“No, Stace. Daddy lives somewhere else now.”
“Don’t he love me no more neither?”
Katherine watched a teardrop roll down Stacey’s cheek. “Oh sure he loves you, but he—” Katherine’s voice broke. “Daddy’s just mixed up, that’s all. He loves himself better than anyone, I guess.”
Marty forces herself to adapt to her new home all the while hoping Sonny will change his mind. When Sonny visits, Stacey is happy to see him but Katherine is furious with her father. Soon Marty makes another fatal mistake and allows Sonny back in her bed.
“We’d better get up before the girls return,” Marty said, rubbing her hand over Sonny’s chest.
“Mmm, just a few more minutes, hon. It’s so peaceful here with you.”
Marty sat up. She was his wife, yet knowing he was living with Rita made her feel like the other woman. “Why don’t you come home then, Sonny?”
“Please don’t start with that again.” Sonny rolled out of bed and pulled on his pants. He took Marty’s face in his hands and kissed her tenderly. “You know we can’t make it living together, but that doesn’t mean I don’t love you.”
Christopher began to squirm in his crib, and Marty lifted him into her arms. “You know, I think he’s going to look like William.”
Sonny put his arm around her. “Well, if that’s the case, maybe he’ll bring some joy into your life Martha. God knows I’ve brought you plenty of misery.”
“How stupid are you, Ma?” Ronny’s laughter accompanied his smug look. “You let Dad come over here, and then he goes back to that whore.”
Marty felt her face burning. “What are you talking about?”
“Don’t you know what he pulled?” Ronny plopped down on the sofa. “Even Aunt Bertie is furious with him.
“Dad was using you as a front so that bitch could get her divorce without a snag. She’s knocked up!”
Marty shook her head. “No! I don’t believe that!”
“You’re lucky he didn’t do the same for you!”
Marty jumped as the door slammed.
Katherine threw her books on the floor. “Shut up, Ronny. Looks like Stace and I got home from school just in time.”
Ronny bolted up from the sofa. “You think I care!”
“Why are you here? I thought you were living with Aunt Bertie.”
“Aw, she kicked me out when I told her I was squealing on the ol’ man.”
Katherine slapped at his chest. “You’re nothing but a liar!”
“Stop it! I won’t listen to this.” Marty stepped in between them.
“Well listen to this then, Ma.” A satisfied grin spread over Ronny’s face. “Dad took off for Mexico yesterday with that red head. He duped you. He duped all of you!”
“That’s can’t be!” Marty’s voice pitched close to screaming.
Ronny crossed his arms, a sinister smile covering his face.
Stacey’s face became the picture of fear as she cowered behind Katherine.
Robbinsdale, Minnesota August 1956
Ronny greased back his thick black hair and tossed his head, dropping a curl onto his forehead. He rolled a pack of cigarettes up in his tee shirt sleeve and zipped up his skin-tight jeans. He was bound to find some action tonight. Summer was almost over. He looked in the bathroom mirror and smoothed his hand over his chin. With his looks and personality, they should be waiting in line. After all, he wanted the old man to be proud of him.
He squeezed his hand into his pocket and pulled out two quarters. Only fifty cents left? He’d need more than that if he were going to get laid tonight. He eyed Katherine’s room and glanced at his watch. Four o’clock. Good timing. Katy was baby-sitting until five. She must have quite a stash saved by now. Ma would at the hospital with Chris for at least another hour. Damn convenient the kid getting pneumonia in the summer.
Ronny kicked open the bedroom door, his eyes encompassing the room. Through the window he could see Stacey busy playing with the fat little neighbor girl.
He rubbed his hands together and smacked his lips. Perfect.
He pulled out the dresser drawers one by one, his fingers hastily probing each one’s contents. Finally, he let out an exasperated sigh. Where in the hell was the money?
Marty laid her sleeping son in the hospital crib, and then walked to the door to peer down the empty hallway. The tiny hospital run by Dr. Samuelson had a meager staff, but having it only three blocks from home was a lifesaver.
Katy had been so insistent that Marty stay home until she finished baby-sitting, but the nurse had sounded so urgent. Chris had been awake most of the night and needed to see his mother. Surely Ron could manage Stacey for a few hours. She probably didn’t even know Marty had left.
Chris was sleeping peacefully now. Marty slipped on her blue nylon scarf and tied it under her chin. She’d be home before anyone missed her.
Ronny sat on the edge of the bed, his face twisted in frustration; the contents of the dresser were scattered haphazardly around the room. Suddenly, the porch door banged and he bolted up. His heart pounding, Ronny wiped the sweat from the side of his face. He slithered out of the bedroom. He tiptoed through the living room and peeked around the corner, then threw back in head in laughter.
Stacey stood in the kitchen drinking a glass of water.
Sneaking up behind her, he hollered, “What are you doin?”
Stacey jumped; the glass slipped and smashed in the sink.
“You dumb shit!” Ronny slapped the back of her head. “Watch out.”
Hearing Ronny’s voice sucked the color from her face. The hot stench of his breath filled her nostrils. Her feet seemed clued to the floor.
“Where’s — where’s Mommie?” she stammered.
“What’s it to you, kid?”
His mouth was inches from her ear. She choked back her tears and sprang for the door.
But Ronny was faster, snatching her hair in his hand and pulling her to her knees. “Oh, no you don’t brat.”
“Ouch -ie,” she screamed, her arms flailing in the air.
Ronny only laughed. “Where’d you think you’re goin?”
“Let go! Don’t hurt me!”
“I won’t hurt you, brat. That is — if you tell me what I want to know.”
Katherine finished changing Andy and carefully washed his hands and face. She carried him to the kitchen and pulled up the highchair. The one-year-old pounded his hands on the tray, anxiously awaiting his afternoon treat. As Katherine handed him the graham cracker, she could feel her own stomach growling. They won’t miss one cracker. She bit into the cracker, savoring its flavor in her mouth before swallowing. When she grew up, she’d marry a rich man and have lots of money. She would never be hungry.
The kitchen curtain flapped in the air as a gust of hot August breeze whisked through the house. It was already four fifteen, and Mrs. Peterson thought she might be home early. Today was payday.
Katherine picked up the phone and dialed home. Bet Stacey would love some ice cream for dinner. She stood chewing on her lip as the phone rang repeatedly in her ear. When there was no answer, she scowled and silently placed the phone back on the hook. Mom had promised to wait until five to go to the hospital. And where was Stacey?
Ignoring the ringing phone, Ronny yanked Stacey by the arm and pushed her into the bedroom. “Where’s Katy’s stash?”
Stacey shivered. “I don’t know what you’re–”
“The stash! The cash!” Ronny shoved her against the dresser and pressed his face to hers. “Where’s Katy’s money?”
“She — she gives it all to Mommie.”
“Bullshit!” He gripped the top of her head. “Now show me!”
“Don’t. You’re hurting me!” Stacey wiggled, beating her hands against his stomach.
His powerful hands pounded down on her shoulders and he began to shake her. “Tell me where it is. Now!”
Gasping for breath, Stacey’s shrill screams filled the room. “I hate you! I hate you!” Hot tears spilled from her eyes and rolled down her face.
“You hate me, huh?” Ronny slammed the bedroom door shut and shoved the dresser in front of it. “I’ll show you hate! I’ll show you to respect your elders.”
“You’re not my daddy!”
“Maybe not, but I’m all you’ll ever have, brat!”
“Daddy would beat you up!”
“Shut up, kid! You think the old man cares about you? The reason he left is because he was sick of you. Just like Grandpa was sick of you!”
“You’re lying!” Stacey scrambled up onto the bed. “I want my daddy!”
Cracking his knuckles, Ronny gave her a surly smile and walked towards the bed.
The screen door was banging relentlessly against the tattered green shingles of the little shack. Marty stepped into the porch and fastened the door securely in place. She frowned when she heard the muffled cries echoing from inside the house.
Wailing and screaming, Stacey kicked her legs in the air. Blood seeped out her nose and trickled into her mouth. She brushed her hand across her swollen lip, whimpering as she touched the bruises blanketing her face.
Ronny grabbed her ankle and twisted her leg until she cried out. “Are you sorry, kid? Tell me you’re sorry and I’ll let go.”
“No! Stacey sobbed.
“Ronald Morley, stop it right now!” Marty screeched, pounding her fist against the barricaded door.
Ronny’s eyes darted towards the door. He clamped his fist over Stacey’s mouth.
“Open this door, Ronald, or I’ll call the police!”
There was lifeless silence.
Ronny stared down at Stacey’s battered face and released his hand.
Sobbing hysterically, Stacey crawled to the corner of the bed.
“Ronald!” Marty fought to remain calm.
“Mom, what’s going on?” Katherine had arrived home just moments after Marty. “What is it? Where’s Stacey?” She looked at her mother’s tortured face. “No!” Katherine pushed on the door. ”I’ll kill him!”
“Katy!” Marty grabbed her arms. “You must let me do this. It’s the only way.”
Katherine’s eyes misted. “Mom, you don’t understand. You’ve got to get her out of there.”
Marty swallowed and nodded. “Ronald, I want you to open the door.”
Still only silence.
“Ronald,” Marty continued. “I don’t know what happened, but I promise I’ll let you tell your side of the story if you open the door.”
Katherine rolled her eyes, her mouth gaping in a gesture of disbelief.
Marty shook her head and put her finger to Katherine’s lips. Minutes seemed like hours. Finally the dresser shifted and the door opened.
Marty was numb, horrified at the sight before her eyes.
Ronny’s hands were smeared with blood. Stacey was crouched in the far corner of the bed, embracing herself, rocking back and forth and weeping softly.
“I didn’t mean to hurt her, Ma. She made me crazy.”
“Where is she?” Katherine yelled, pushing her way past Ronny.
“Oh my God.” She spun around, her face filled with rage. “You bastard.” She lunged at Ronny, searing both sides of his face with her fingernails.
Ronny seized her wrists. “Back off, bitch!”
“Let go of me you animal! I should have told Daddy about you years ago and let him kill you!”
“Katherine, what are you saying?” Marty was crying.
“He’s been beating on Stacey ever since Grandpa left, but she was too scared to tell anyone.”
Marty was shaking, her tear filled eyes begging Ronny to vindicate himself. He only turned and walked from the room.
“How could I have been so blind?”
Marty knelt down by the bed and reach out her hand to Stacey. “Honey,” she choked, “don’t worry, Ronny will never hurt you again.”
Mucous and blood covering her tear stained face, Stacey stared through her mother and kept rocking back and forth.
Marty gave Katherine a questioning look.
“You go get some ice, Mom. I know what to do.”
Embracing Stacey, Katherine gently wiped the blood from her face. “I thought I could protect you, but I failed. Please forgive me, Stace. I promise I’ll never leave you alone again.”
In a daze, Marty stumbled into the living room, knowing she must find a way to say good-bye to her son.
In the background she could hear Katherine softly singing Christian’s old lullaby. She brushed a tear from her cheek.
She prayed for God’s help. Her obsessive love for Sonny had blinded her to the torment of her own child. It was time to let go of Sonny and his memory forever.
As parents we often become so involved in our work, social life, or relationships that we fail to notice our children or other children crying out for help. It may be with a behavior or perhaps with only silence.
Reach out to your children and the children whose lives you touch on a daily basis as you may be the only comfort a child will ever receive. Don’t ignore a cry for help.
This is the final segment in the Rubies – Escaping the Curse – The Beginning. Next time we will begin the second book in the series: Rubies – Escaping the Curse – The Widening Road.
I hope you enjoyed today’s excerpt and will continue to tune in for more of the continuing saga.
Rubies – Escaping the Curse is available on Amazon.com and can be purchased in paperback and kindle versions.