Thanks for tuning in for another episode of Rubies – Escaping the Curse.
A few weeks ago, we began the second book in the series – The Widening Road.
In our last segment, we saw Katherine finally marrying the man of her dreams (or so she thought).
Stacey is left disillusioned and alone and disappointed in the choice her sister has made. It is not long after Katherine’s marriage that Stacey’s life changes drastically. She meets her future husband, Gary Walker. Marty is left a bit unnerved when she meets Gary and realizes that he reminds her of someone she once knew or thought she knew – the husband that left his children to starve – Sonny Morley.
Enjoy the excerpt below.
Robbinsdale, MN April 1964
The spring brought the birth of Katy’s first child – a son.
Stacey retreated to her room and plopped down on the bed. If only she’d known Katy was pregnant, she would have understood the reason for her hasty marriage. Now Edward insisted on taking Katy to Cape Cod for the summer. Sighing, Stacey glanced up at Katherine’s picture on the dresser. Maybe she’d marry a rich man someday too. But she wouldn’t settle for just a reception. She’d have a long white dress, and she would be a virgin on her wedding night. Then she would be blissfully happy for the rest of her life.
Marty had found a dried corsage in Stacey’s dresser as they were packing to leave for Duluth.
“You should have told me you wanted to attend the school prom, Stace. I’d have found a way to buy a dress.”
“It was no big deal, Mom. Working in the coatroom was enough. I wore a corsage. Besides, I didn’t want you to bother Katy for the money.”
Marty shrugged. “Well, all right dear, but I’ll make sure you go next year.”
Lying was so much easier than seeing the pain in her mother’s eyes. Stacey smiled and closed the dresser drawer.
“Sure, Mom.” She knew no one would ask her again after she’d turned down four boys this year.
“Why don’t you hurry down to the store and buy some snacks for the bus ride,” Marty said. “I’ll finish packing.”
“Don’t forget my tennis shoes. If I’m going to work at the Park Point Day Care Center, I’ll need some good hiking shoes.”
“Aunt Ginny bought you a new bike, remember.”
“I know, but I still have to be on my feet all day.”
Marty nodded. “Scoot along then.”
Stacey had barely left when the phone rang.
A lonely sob slipped from Marty’s throat. “How are you, Ron?”
“I’m fine, but Dad’s not so good. Grandma Annie died last night.”
Marty knew Annie’s health had been failing and had even been tempted to call her, but couldn’t bring herself to relive the past. It was enough that Ronny had been living with Sonny shortly after he’d left home.
“I’m sorry, Ron. Bertie never called.”
“Bertie says she doesn’t talk to you very much anymore so she wanted me to– I mean– Dad wants to come home for Grandma’s funeral, but he–”
“He thinks I’ll have him arrested?”
Ronny began to weep at the other end of the phone. “He says he’d rather be dead than in prison again.”
Memories flooded through Marty’s mind: betrayal, recrimination, self-doubt, weakness – her weakness. It was true she could easily have him arrested for bigamy and abandonment.
“Tell Sonny he’s free of this albatross that has hung around his neck for so many years. I no longer want any part of him.”
“I wish I could come home with him and see you, but I promised to watch the restaurant while he was gone.”
“I think that’s for the best, Ron.”
Marty feared Stacey would never fully recover from the abuse she’d suffered, but couldn’t admit the depth of the scars. The last few minutes of their conversation were friendly and upbeat, but loneliness weighed heavily on Marty’s heart as she hung up the phone.
Duluth July 1964
It was not long after their arrival in Duluth that Stacey was fully entrenched in her new job: supervising ten children eight hours a day. It was an easy job and the children were well behaved for the most part. But there was one little boy with coal black hair that would beat his head on the ground when he couldn’t have his own way. She didn’t know why it always made her shiver.
It was the Fourth of July and Stacey was anticipating the annual fireworks display over the harbor. She hurried home only to be stopped by the open Aerial Bridge as a large ore boat came through the harbor. She parked her bike and stood impatiently waiting for the bridge to descend. Stacey never understood why they had to raise the bridge so long before a ship was preparing to enter the canal. The ships always appeared to be so far away when the alarm rang halting all the traffic from crossing the bridge.
Chewing her lip and pacing, Stacey was frustrated with the delay.
“Does the bridge make you nervous?”
She flinched as a man’s voice sounded behind her. Turning, she stood with her mouth gaping. It was the soldier with the teeth! She could feel the perspiration forming above her lip as her mouth moved to utter silent words.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to frighten you,” he said, smiling.
His cobalt blue eyes were as magnificent as his teeth. They radiated with strength and, like a magnet, they seemed to pull her under their spell.
Stacey cleared her throat. “You — you’re – -I saw you at the beach last year.”
“Did you?” he raised a brow.
“You were dressed in a uniform and talking to a woman. I was–”
“The girl with the lotion!” His eyes betrayed his inner thoughts as they traced her body from head to toe. “You look different than I remember.”
Stacey felt her cheeks warm. It was obvious she had blossomed in one short year. Turning sixteen had put a tasteful curve in her hips; her breasts, though small, were taut and fully rounded, accentuating her slender waist and long slim legs.
“Funny I’ve never seen you around here before,” he added.
“I come here in the summer to visit my aunt who lives on London Road.”
“That’s quite a hike from here. Why so far from home?”
“I’m working in the park. I have–” She stopped and stared at him.
He nodded. “Go on.”
Stacey shook her head. “I shouldn’t be talking to a stranger.”
He laughed heartily and extended his hand. “I’m Gary Walker.”
Her eyes gravitated to his hand. It was tanned like his face but several fingers showed the calluses of hard work.
Hesitantly, she took his hand. “I’m Stacey Morley.”
His jaw tightened with determination. “Well, now that we’ve been properly introduced, I’m not a stranger and we can have a nice talk.”
“How come you’re not wearing a uniform today?” She blurted out.
He laughed again. “I’m on leave for a month.”
“Have you been in the service for a long time?”
“Not really. I joined the air force right after college, thinking I’d make a career of it.”
Stacey smiled up at him. He was tall and slim, over six feet she guessed, and obviously much older than her sixteen years. “My uncle was a career man in the navy, but he was killed at Pearl Harbor. Of course, that was long before I was born.”
He folded his arms across his chest. “So just when were you born, Miss Stacey Morley?”
“I’ll be a junior in high school this fall.”
He nodded while suppressing a grin. “Ah, sweet sixteen, I’ll bet. And never been kissed?”
Little did he know. Stacey could feel her cheeks burning with anger or humiliation, but she wasn’t sure which. She turned towards the harbor to hide her confusion. “Does your family live in Duluth?”
“Just me and my sis. My parents died in a boating accident when I was twelve.”
Stacey swerved around. “Oh, I’m so sorry. I shouldn’t have, I mean — it’s hard not to be normal like other kids.”
“It’ll be twelve years this summer. I’m over it.”
She stared at the ground. “My daddy left us when I was six, and I don’t think I’ll ever get over it. I haven’t spoken to him in ten years.”
“Does that bother you?” he said softly.
She looked up into his eyes. “Sometimes.”
They stood in silence, their eyes locked together as if an invisible bond had formed between them.
He was the first to speak. “Hey look, the bridge is down.”
“I’d better get home.”
“Will you be back for the fireworks tonight?”
“Oh yes, the whole family comes down every year.”
“Good. My sister and I will probably be here. We only live about six blocks out on the point. Maybe I’ll see you then.”
Stacey nodded and hopped on her bike. Waving, she began to peddle down the road. Her stomach was doing flip-flops, and her legs were shaking. She wondered if Katy felt this way the first time she met Edward
Duluth August 1964
Stacey and Gary sat on Ginny’s deck holding hands, both entranced by the spectrum of iridescent lights cascading along Canal Park. The lights from the Aerial Lift Bridge illuminated the harbor and danced with the moonlight shimmering across the water.
Gary had returned for the Fourth of July fireworks and Stacey had introduced him to her family She was careful not to approach the subject of his age after Ginny had asked how long he’d been out of school. Gary had conveniently sidestepped the issue, joking about being too young to think clearly when he joined the army.
After that first night, their relationship had blossomed. With Katherine in Boston, Stacey had plenty of free time. Gary would pick her up after work and they’d spend the afternoon and sometimes the evening together. One afternoon they drove up the North Shore to Split Rock Lighthouse. They climbed the high tower and peered down at the water smashing against the shoreline of Lake Superior. It was frightening, yet peaceful, almost like the first-time Gary kissed her. His lips were so soft, his touch so gentle, but nothing could disguise the fierce passion she saw in his eyes.
“I always feel peaceful in Duluth,” Stacey said, snuggling under Gary’s arm.
“Mmm.” Gary brushed his lips across her head. “After my parents died, I used to sit by the lake for hours, dreaming I would see them out in their boat. They would wave at me and smile. But as their boat neared the shore, it would suddenly disappear. Then I would cry for hours.”
“It must have been horrible growing up without a mother or father.”
“It was tough at first, but Meggie was always here. Sisters are great.”
“I know what you mean. I couldn’t have survived my childhood without
Katy. I was heartbroken when Daddy left. When my friends asked me about him, I would lie, saying he was a traveling salesman and that’s why he was never home. It was my favorite childhood fantasy.”
“You were so young, Stace. How could your father leave you?”
“I once thought he loved me. I was devastated when I discovered he didn’t.” Her next words were distant, almost as if she were talking to herself. “I’ll do anything to protect my children from that kind of pain.”
Gary grew very quiet, then bent to gently kiss her. “I always knew someday God would send me an angel to love and now He has.”
Stacey’s eyes filled with tears. “I hate it that you have to go back tomorrow.” Warm tears streamed down her face, and she laid her head on his shoulder. “Everyone I love always goes away.”
Gary took her into his arms. “Don’t cry, baby. I’m not like the others.” He brushed his hand down her arm. “I know you’re young, but someday you’ll be old enough to get married. I promise I’ll still be here; we’ll spend the rest of our lives together. Trust me.”
Inside the house, Marty and Ginny were occupied with their daily chores.
“I can’t help it, Ginny. I don’t like this one bit.” Marty folded the lavender bath towel in a net square and placed it on the pile.
Ginny tilted her head. “I guess not, honey, cause you’ve been folding those same five towels for the past half hour.”
Marty shook her head vigorously and stood up to glance out the window. “Where did Stacey meet that soldier, anyway?”
“Do you remember the night we went down to the fireworks?”
“But there were so many people.”
“Stacey told me she’d met him earlier that day on the bridge. He came back purposely to see her again.”
“But he’s got to be at least five years older than she is.”
Ginny raised a brow. “At least.”
“And Stacey said he is a career man in the army. He’s probably got several years left of his tour.”
“And why does Stacey want a relationship with someone who she’ll only see once a year?”
Ginny sighed. “I can’t imagine.”
“I haven’t seen her so happy since Sonny–” Marty caught her breath and swallowed the sob which had crept up in her throat.
Ginny walked over to Marty and placed an arm around her shoulder. “Face it, honey. Gary Walker reminds you of Sonny Morley, doesn’t he? That’s what this is really all about.”
“Oh, Ginny, I couldn’t stand it if Stacey became trapped in the same nightmare I lived in for all those years.”
“Don’t count your chickens, honey. This thing may die before next year rolls around.”
“No. They’ve been sitting out there for hours.” Marty shook her head. “I think Momma was right. She was cursed and so are all the rest of us. I have a terrible sick feeling that Gary Walker is here to stay.”
In our next excerpt, we will reveal Katherine’s life with Edward and discover who she really married. It is a real eye opener for Katherine and the irony is one you will not want to miss reading. I hope if you’ve enjoyed this excerpt you’ll leave me a comment. I love hearing from you.