Rubies-Escaping the Curse-The Death of William

They Shall Mount up with Wings like Eagles


In Rubies-Escaping the Curse we have witnessed sadness and disappointment, along with joy and great expectations.  Today we see the greatest tragedy that will befall Marty during her life. 

All of us have been faced with the death of a friend or loved one at some point in our lives.  Many of us very often; many of us only once or twice.  As we cannot see our future we do not know when tragedy will occur or how often we will have to overcome sadness and disappointment.  It is not so much that the event takes place but how we accept the circumstances and are able to go on living our life to the very best of our ability.

Many succumb to depression when loss is so great it becomes unbearable; others seek a way to end their life because they choose not to live with the loss they have endured.  It is the strong and the brave that step forth and become healed and whole again.  Sadly those people are a very small group. 

Today we resume Marty’s story as she faces the greatest trial of her young life.  She has no idea the circumstance she must endure is only a preparation for the enormous testing that will follow years down the road. 

In our last segment about Marty we saw her visiting Sonny in prison and then facing William only to lie to him about the circumstances of Sonny’s real betrayal.  She discovers now that she will never again have a chance to be completely honest with William as she faces the loss of the one man she really truly loves.

Marty has just given birth to a baby girl by Sonny and now faces reality that once again she is left alone by him.  She knows in her heart that he has been lying to her again and his constant overtime hours are really nothing but the wanderings of a man cheating on his wife.


Brainerd October 1941

The tiny second floor apartment in downtown Brainerd was a mansion compared to the tar paper shack. With the few items of furniture they owned, two rooms was quite sufficient. The inside plumbing was such a welcome relief; Marty thought it only a minor inconvenience to heat the water.

She quickly made friends with the neighbors, especially old Mrs. Solwalski, whose grandchildren visited every week, scattering their toys throughout the hallway and giggling incessantly outside Marty's door. The aroma of fresh baked bread and chocolate cookies permeated the building when Mrs. Solwalski did her weekly baking, and Marty felt a little less lonely as the smells brought back memories of childhood and her mother.

The summer seemed all too short when the first frost had borne the fall colors. Splashes of red and yellow dotted the countryside as the trees paraded their brilliant dresses, knowing soon their naked branches would be covered by the white blanket of winter.  

The fall was the only time Marty missed the farm, but she always missed her daily talks with Ginny. Much to Marty's dismay, Annie was a regular visitor at the apartment. It was a warm weekend in late October and Marty was weary of playing hostess for Annie so she allowed her to take Ronny back to the farm for a few days.

Marty was almost to term and was rather enjoying the rest. She was disappointed the baby wouldn't be born on William's birthday. That was tomorrow and Annie had predicted another two weeks until delivery. She hoped there would be more warning this time. She had never forgotten going into labor with Ronny when Sonny had been hunting. Those frightening minutes alone never faded from her memory. But at least this time Sonny had installed a phone and promised to wait until the baby was born to start the night shift.

A rap on the door jarred Marty's thoughts. Rubbing her back, she yelled, “Come on in, it's open.”

“My, aren't we trusting,” Ginny said, peeking around the door.

“Hey, stranger,” Marty responded with a grin. She waddled over to give Ginny a hug. “What brings you to town?”

Ginny sobered. “Al's in St. Joseph's.”

Marty could see the fear in Ginny's eyes. “His emphysema?”

Ginny's face was drawn. “They think it's lung cancer.”

Marty knew how much Al meant to Ginny. She was an orphan, and Al's parents had died several years before. Things like this made her thankful for even Annie.

“I'm so sorry, Ginny. Will they do surgery?”

Ginny began to weep. “Tomorrow morning.”

Then you'll stay here tonight. Sonny might not be home until morning, anyway.”

“Oh, I couldn't—”

“Yes you can and it's settled. Now I'll make us some coffee.”


They'd talked for hours before Ginny noticed the time. “Honey, it's almost ten o'clock. What's Sonny doing working on Sunday anyway?”

Marty shrugged. “Oh, he's just picking up some extra shifts to pay for the baby. He does that a lot lately.” She avoided Ginny's watchful eyes.

Ginny leaned forward and rested her chin in the palm of her hand. “This is me you're talking to, Marty. Extra shifts don't last over twelve hours.”

Marty flushed and began to chew on her lip.

“Come on, what's the scoop?”

Marty began to sob. “Sonny hasn't--”  Marty paused to choke back her tears. “Sonny -- he works all the time. He hasn't touched me since--”

Ginny reached over and took her hand. “Look, honey, sometimes when a woman's pregnant, her emotions kick into overtime.”

“You don't understand. This isn't the first time.”

A look of sympathy spread across Ginny's face. “I always suspected there was more to that three year stay in Minneapolis.”

Marty hung her head. “Oh, Ginny, I'm so ashamed. Here you are comforting me and I should be comforting you.”

“Nonsense,” Ginny said with a shake of her head. “I know what it's like to be alone without even a mother to talk to. Do you love your husband, honey?”

“I think so, but sometimes I'm not sure he's worth loving.”

“Well someday you may be forced to make a choice and it may be the most important decision you'll ever make in your life.”


The next morning, the ringing phone interrupted Marty’s sleep.

Shunning the fierce static, she held the phone away from her ear.

The operator's voice was faint. “I have a person to person call for Mrs. Sonny Morley.”

Marty stiffened and sat up. “Yes, I'm here.”

Through the crackling she faintly heard William's voice. “Hey, sis.”

Marty's heart was in her throat. “Is it really you, William?”

“The one and only, kid. I just talked with Momma and she gave your number. I thought I'd give you a chance to wish me happy birthday.”

Marty glanced at the empty bed next to her and hoped he didn't ask about Sonny. “Happy birthday, old man,” she said with a giggle. “Forty-one this year, isn't it?”

“Thanks, honey, that's right. Only three more years until retirement. Say, I hear we're about to have another new addition to the family.”

“Any day now.” Marty winced just thinking Sonny's name would come up. “I can barely hear you. Where are you?”

William laughed. “I'm stationed aboard the Arizona at Pearl Harbor. I'm trying to get a leave for Christmas but things look mighty bleak with the war--”

Static whistled in Marty's ear.

“William! William, I love you!” Marty shook the receiver.

The operator's voice cut in. “I'm sorry ma'am, the connection is terminated.”

“It can't be,” Marty screamed. “We didn't say good-bye. We didn't say--”

The dial tone buzzed in Marty's ear as tears stung her eyes. We didn't even get a chance to say good-bye.


Brainerd, December 1941

Marty said in Kaja's old walnut rocker, yawning as she nursed her new baby daughter. She ran her fingers through Katherine's think black hair and admired her dark eyes. She'd begged Sonny to name her after Momma, but the only part of Kaja's name he agreed upon was the first two letters.

She'd gone into labor the week after William's birthday and now Katherine was already a month old. Sonny began working the night shift after the baby was born and even picked up overtime on weekends. He justified the long hours by saying they needed the money, but it was already the first week in December and he hadn't a penny saved.

Marty sighed as she rubbed her fingers across the arm of the rocker, treasuring its memories: Daddy, William, Ronny. How she missed her little boy. At first she was relieved that Annie had volunteered to keep him while she gained back her strength, but lately her constant  meddling was annoying. It was time for Ronny to come home permanently.

She glanced over at the clock and flipped on the radio. Almost seven. The night shift ended at 6:00 a.m. If Sonny ever came home, she'd make it a point to discuss their son as well as his long working hours.

Marty began to hum along with the music, trying to free her mind from the doubts that lay ready to ambush any contentment she still had left; yet, each squeak of the rocker sang its own torturous melody: Sonny's a cheat --Sonny's a cheat -- Sonny's a cheat-

She caught her breath as she stopped short. She rested her head on the back of the chair and began to rock, her eyes slowly closing; she dozed as she had so many times in the shelter of the old rocker's arms.

Jerking suddenly, Mary was awakened by static on the radio; Katherine squirmed in her arms. Marty sat up straight and stretched, trying to relieve the cramp in her neck. She did a double take at the clock. It was 10:30 and no Sonny. She blinked her eyes, still struggling to clear her senses when her attention was diverted to a news bulletin coming across the radio.

“At approximately 8:00 a.m. this morning, Pacific Standard Time, the Japanese Navy attached the American Naval Base at Pearl Harbor.”  

The announcer's voice was like a knife slicing through Marty's heart. Her eyes widened, brimming with tears. No, please God no! She quickly turned up the volume. Coldness flooded through her as she prayed, waiting, dreading the next fatal words.

“Hardest hit was the U. S. S. Arizona. There appears to be no survivors.”

William! No! It can't be.

Too stunned to move, Marty shook her head as bitter tears spilled from her eyes, dripping down onto the baby cradled in her arms. William -- William. She began to rock faster and faster as another stabbing pain tore through her chest. She squeezed the baby tighter and tighter.

Katherine began to whimper but Marty's trembling hands were unable to calm her. Don’t cry little girl, you'll freeze your face.

The baby’s screams soon filled the room, but Marty's ears were deaf to them. She didn't hear the downstairs door open. She didn’t hear Sonny come dashing up the stairs.

“Hon, I just heard--” He stood motionless, his face paling. “Marty, give me the baby!”

Sobbing harder and harder with each sweep of the rocker, Marty stared through him.  Sonny pried Katherine loose, soothing her as he spoke. “Come on, little girl, Daddy's got you now.” He placed Katherine in the crib and rushed back to Marty.

He leaned over the rocker and fastened his hands on its arms, bringing it to a grinding halt. “Snap out of it, Marty!”

Tears drenched her face. “I love him more than anyone and I never said good-bye. I never said--”

She gasped as Sonny's hand stung her cheek.

Sonny wiped the drops of sweat from above his lip. “Oh, God, Marty, I'm sorry. I had to do it.”

Sobbing, Marty fell into his arms. “Help me, Sonny. Don't let William die.”

Sonny's eyes misted as he gently stroked her hair. “I'm going to take care of you from now on, hon, I promise.”  


Mooreton, North Dakota December 1941

Christian quickened his pace; the new flash came across the radio just as he was leaving Swanson's store. He'd had an ominous feeling about this day from the moment he awoke. He knew Kaja sensed it too, but she never spoke of it. She could always feel bad news before it arrived, just like the day Marty married Sonny.

He prayed Kaja hadn't heard the news. He wanted to spare her from enduring the pain alone. Rushing in the back door, he called her name. The kitchen sink was filled with water; a dripping faucet thundered through the silent house.

“Kaja where are--”

He choked on his words when he saw her solemnly sitting on the sofa, her arms crossed, her jaw set, staring at the picture of William laying across her lap.

“Kaja,” he whispered as he sat beside her and took her into his arms.

“Marty has already called. I think sometimes they felt each other's souls.” Pausing, she drew a long breath. “She will be home as soon as it's official.”

Kaja placed her cheek against his breast, gently brushing her hand over his strong arm.

Agonizing tears ran down Christian's face. “Kaja, my Kaja.”

“You are my rock, Christian. You must not worry. Once I drowned in the bitter water of my tears but now it does not matter for I am dead already. There are no more tears to give. God has taken them all from me.”


The official telegram arrived the following day and Marty boarded the train for Mooreton with Katherine in her arms. Sonny had insisted on staying behind with Ronny and it was one time Marty agreed. Marty arrived in Mooreton hours later. She stepped off the train and ran into Kaja's arms.

Kaja gazed down at her new granddaughter. “She is a beauty, this one.”

Marty tried to swallow her tears. “She looks like you, Momma. I wanted so much for William to see her. Oh, Momma, how can I go on without him?”

Kaja took the baby into her arms. God has given you this beautiful new life. You will learn to be a survivor like your momma, that's what you will do, my child. Come now, we must prepare for William's homecoming.”


William came home the following week. The full military funeral was a sight Dwight Township had never witnessed, but would probably see in abundance during the next few years. The United States had declared war on Japan on December 8, 1941.

As the final taps played, Marty wept in Christian's arms while Kaja stood stoic by the grave.

The scattered headstones in St. Paul's Church cemetery were the few remaining remnants of a past generation. Sunk in several inches of snow, the tombstones were barely readable, but Kaja's eyes were drawn to the grave of little Hans. Placed next to his father's, the marker for the baby could not disguise its age.

Kaja knelt down next to the grave, her fingers caressing the words, A child sleeps next to God. Sighing, she straightened her shoulders and faced William's flower-laden casket. At least her two sons would rest together next to their father. Hans would be pleased.

“Come,” Kaja said, motioning to Marty. “You were only a small child when your papa was laid to rest. Someday you must bury me here.”

“Please don't talk about that now, Momma.”

Kaja kept silent, knowing the day would come soon enough for Marty. She remembered the heartache she had suffered losing the ones she loved, the heartache she had placed upon herself by her own disobedience. Will this curse ever be lifted from her?

Even after all these years the memory of Sophia's rage was still vivid. She'd arrived today, alone, shortly before the service began, but never spoke until she saw Kaja standing by her father's grave.

Ignoring Kaja, she walked over to Christian, extending her hand. “It is good to see you, Uncle, even if it is for such a terrible tragedy.”

Christian took her hand but his eyes were cold. “The tragedy, my child, is that even now you cannot give a little sympathy to your step-mother.”

Sophia's face darkened with hatred as she lashed out, “She is nothing to me except a housekeeper!”

Christian shook his head. “She meant a great deal to William.”

Sophia pointed her chin towards Kaja and Marty. “Maybe she managed to delude my brother, convincing him to leave everything he had to her and that brat.”

Christian scowled and pulled her aside. “Do you still have the mind of a child? You should be ashamed to say such things.”

Sophia laughed as the pitch of her voice heightened. “I'll make sure that housekeeper never sees any of that money. She'll be long dead before--”

“You spiteful bitch!”  Marty came from behind and spun Sophia around by her arm.

Sophia yanked her arm away. “Let go of me you little idiot!”

“How dare you!” Marty's voice was trembling with anger. How dare you talk about my momma that way!”

“Martha!” Kaja's eyes widened as she stepped between them. “Not at the grave.”

Squinting, Marty pursed her lips. 

Christian put his arm around his wife. “Come, Kaja.”

Kaja glanced at William's grave and then at Marty. To Christian she murmured, “Perhaps he has left the tough part of his soul with her.”

Nodding, Christian beamed proudly and urged Kaja towards the car.

Marty glared at Sophia. “William often spoke of you.”

The slight blond girl had been replaced by a portly matron whose shallow skin and puffy eyes were a portrait of the bitterness she carried inside.

“Do you think I'm even the least bit interested in what you have to say?” Sophia turned to leave.

“Just a minute,” Marty added. “I have a message for you from William.”

Sophia's face flushed as she stared back at Marty.

“William wanted you to know that he loved you in spite of all the hateful things you did to his mother.”

“That housekeeper is not--”

“To his mother,” Marty repeated louder, “the woman who loved him and whom he loved for almost thirty years.”

“William was a fool,” Sophia snapped.

“No, you're the fool. You've been so consumed with hate you've lost the chance to be loved --unconditionally.”

“I will never, never,” Sophia hugged her arms to keep from trembling, forgive that housekeeper for taking my father away from me.”

Shaking her head, Marty clicked her tongue. “I feel sorry for you, Sophia. Don't you know that Momma wasn't the one responsible for your being sent away? Papa made that decision himself.”

“You're a liar!”

“And to whose benefit would it be to lie now, Sophia?” Marty began to walk away.

“Wait,” Sophia screamed. “I'm not finished with you yet.”

Marty stamped her feet on the snow, muttering as she kept walking, “That's too bad, because I'm finished with you forever.”

And so it is with great sadness that Kaja and Marty say good-bye to their beloved William.  Little does Marty know that one day William will come to her rescue even from his grave.  Life has a way of leading us through twists and turns that we cannot even fathom.

Tune in again next week for another exciting excerpt from Rubies-Escaping the Curse.

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