Mourning the loss of a loved one is a difficult part of life. All of us suffer the loss of a parent, loved one or friend at some point in our lives. Each of us handle the experience differently and some of us are fortunate enough to suffer the loss as an adult rather than as a child.
Invariably we all have regrets when we recall the mistakes we made in our relationship with the deceased and all too often we mourn their loss more because of our own guilt rather than because they are no longer a part of our lives.
Marty feels all of this when Kaja dies. She is overcome with guilt because she wasn’t with Kaja at the moment of her death and she also knows she is once again lying to her mother regarding Sonny.
After Stacey’s birth we see Sonny leave Marty alone until he is arrested for abandonment and put into prison once again. It just doesn’t seem to end with him and he is constantly regretting his decisions and then attempting to rectify the consequences. He has once again convinced Marty that he is a changed man and she begins to write to him in prison. She is deliberate in her decision to keep the truth from Kaja but her mother as always is one step ahead of her.
Minneapolis – May, 1952
Marty crumpled Sonny’s recent letter in her hand and tossed it into the wastebasket. The last thing she needed to do was upset Momma.
Kaja had been diagnosed with congestive heart failure, and everyone, including Kaja, knew it wouldn’t be long. The past two months had been spent in and out of the critical care ward at Hennepin County General Hospital. Marty hated to see her mother in a place where the stench of death permeated the halls; she hated Sophia even more, knowing full well if they had William’s money at least Kaja would be comfortable.
Marty fought Sonny’s request for a divorce even though Kaja begged her to let him go. Sonny left the state after his divorce was denied. Marty filed abandonment charges and the authorities soon found him in Reno. Sonny was extradited back to Minnesota and placed in Stillwater Prison for abandonment. That was a year ago.
The letters from Sonny had begun shortly after his imprisonment. Marty had managed to destroy them all even refusing to see him. She had promised Kaja she would never take Sonny back again and she meant it.
“Hey, Ma, are you goin take the bus downtown to see Grandma today?”
Ronny’s voice was deep and strong like his fathers.
“Yes, but that doesn’t mean you can skip school again. You may look eighteen to a policeman, but you won’t even be sixteen until November.”
Ronny snickered. “Aw geez, Ma. I thought you needed me to baby-sit.”
“Katy is quite capable of minding Stacey for a few hours, and it’s easier for her to miss school. I’ll need you here if I have to go to the hospital at night when Grandpa’s working.”
Ronny put his hand on Marty’s shoulder. “Sure, Ma. You can count on me. I won’t let you down.”
Marty shivered inside at Ronny’s words.
Stacey squeezed Christian’s hand as they crossed the intersection.
“Is Mommie gonna be gone all day, Grandpa?”
“No, little one. She is just going to see Grandma for a short while. Then Grandpa will go later when your momma comes home.”
“Is Grandma comin home then too?”
Christian’s eyes misted. “Not today, little one. Not today.”
The petite red head smiled up at Christian. “Then I’ll save her some candy.”
“You must share the candy with Katy and Ronny, little one.”
Stacey pouted. “But I don’t like Ronny. He hits people.”
Christian stopped walking. “When does the boy do this?”
Shrugging her shoulders, Stacey silently stared at the ground.
“Come, little one.” He bent down and lifted Stacey into his arms. “You must never be afraid. Grandpa will see that the boy never hurts you.”
Kaja’s breathing was shallow as she stared into Christian’s face. Her heart ached when she saw his tear filled eyes.
“Christian, you are a good man. I wish I had met you when I was young and free of all the guilt.”
Christian began to weep and took her hand. “Kaja, my Kaja. I have only prayed that you would love me someday, but it does not matter. I have loved you more with each day that passes.”
“My husband, I do love you for all your kindness to me and for making Marty your own.”
Kaja stopped to catch her breath. “I need you to do one more thing for me, just one more thing.”
“Kaja, you must try to rest. This talking makes you weak.”
“No, you must listen to me. Marty has promised me she will never go back to Sonny.”
“But the man is in prison, my wife.”
Kaja nodded. “I know, but someday he will be free again. I want Marty to be happy and my grandchildren to have a good life. It will not happen if she goes back to Sonny. I want you to take care of her for me.”
“Of course I will, my Kaja.”
Kaja took another long breath and held up her hand.
“No, you don’t understand. If she takes back that slothful man, she has broken her final word to me. If she returns to Sonny, you must leave her to survive alone. It is the only way she will face the truth about him.”
“But the little one, Kaja. I am her only papa.”
Kaja closed her eyes. “I know, my husband, and my heart is in great pain for you. But I need you to promise me this — please.”
Christian’s hands trembled as he brushed a tear from his cheek. “For you, my Kaja, I would do anything.”
Every night for the next week Marty sat with Kaja while Christian worked the graveyard shift at Wards. Marty clutched Kaja’s hand, brushing her lips over her cool forehead.
“Oh, Momma, I wish you didn’t have to be in this horrible place.”
Kaja’s breathing had become shallower with each passing day. When she heard Marty’s voice, she strained to open her eyes.
“Martha,” she whispered, “remember I love you. No matter what happens after I’m gone, you must never forget that one thing.”
Marty gulped back a sob. “Momma, you mustn’t talk. Please rest.”
Kaja’s eyes closed, but she shook her head. “Remember your promise. Don’t go back.”
“Shush, Momma, don’t worry about me, just rest.”
Kaja lips parted. “Mmm, some water, my child.”
Marty moistened Kaja’s lips with a cool cloth and gently placed a spoonful of ice chips on her tongue. Soon Kaja was in a peaceful sleep.
“Mrs. Morley,” the nurse interjected, “why don’t you take a few minutes to get a bite to eat. You look exhausted.”
Marty nodded. “I’ll only be gone a few minutes.”
The coffee was refreshing and the break gave Marty some time to think. Thank God Momma didn’t know about Sonny’s letters? It would only upset her. Sighing, Marty finished her coffee, then stopped briefly to call home before hurrying back to Kaja’s room.
She walked down the tile covered hallway towards the ward, each click of her heels on the tile seem to echo Kaja’s words — don’t go back – don’t go back.
As she neared the ward, her heart began pounding. She heard the sound of oxygen pumping!
Momma! Something was wrong. She ran! When she reached Kaja’s bed, she stood in shock staring at the oxygen mask covering her mother’s face.
“Momma,” she whispered, tears blurring her eyes. “How could this happen?”
The nurse came up behind her. “I’m terribly sorry, Mrs. Morley. She slipped into a coma while you were gone.”
Marty dropped to her knees by the bed. “Oh no, Momma, no.”
She lifted Kaja’s limp hand, kissing it tenderly. “Don’t leave me yet, Momma. I’m not ready.”
Weeping, Marty laid her head on Kaja’s breast. “You didn’t give me time to say good-bye. Not you too, Momma. I didn’t have time to say good-bye.”
As you know the Rubies series is based upon the story of Kaja Ericsen who was a real person and suffered some of the same tragedies of her novel heroine. I hope you’ve enjoyed our excerpt today and continue to tune in for more exciting chapters to follow. The Rubies Saga can be found on Amazon.com in paperback and kindle so don’t miss out on reading the entire series.