Today we begin the second book in our series – Rubies – Escaping the Curse.
Along with insight into the life of the Morley family after Sonny has been removed, we see an old friend coming upon the scene who changes everything for them. Ginny now lives quite comfortably in Duluth, Minnesota, and wants to share her prosperity with her good friend Marty.
This book is exciting as we begin to see the unique relationship of the two Morley sisters, Katherine and Stacey, and what that closeness brings to our story.
It is because of their love for each other and their wish to find happiness that we see how they begin to weave a web of deceit and turmoil without even realizing it is happening. Already the curse is infiltrating their choices and spinning a web that will soon have them so tangled they will not be able to escape.
For those of you who have not received your FREE Summary of Book One, the option is still available on the bonus below. You'll enjoy the excerpts from the Widening Road a great deal more if you know all the details of the story from The Beginning.
Minnesota December 1956
Stacey recovered from the abuse she suffered from her older brother. The family decision to send Ronnie away from the home was the best thing that ever happened to her. It was not easy being a single parent but Marty had long realized that her husband Sonny could never be faithful to their marriage. Even though she was forced to live on welfare, Marty was determined to raise her family by herself.
“Don't play with your food, dear." Marty lightly patted Stacey's head, then continued to wipe the remnants of their rice dinner from the chipped white enamel table.
Stacey swirled the spoon around in the bowl of rice and swallowed hard. "Could I have some more sugar, Mommie?"
Marty peeked into the plastic yellow sugar bowl. "I think there's enough left for one more spoonful. We'll need the rest for cereal in the morning." She carefully placed a small teaspoonful into Stacey's bowl.
Stacey stared at the bowl, stirring the extra sugar into the soft rice porridge. "I don't like rice very much," she said, scooping up a large spoonful and quickly stuffing it into her mouth. Gagging before she could swallow the sticky substance, Stacey turned her face away from Marty's view. She was sorry she'd wasted their precious sugar on the rice. It didn't make it any better.
"Hurry up now, honey." Marty quickly lifted Christopher from his highchair and wiped the tray. "Aunt Ginny promised to phone at 6:00, and I want to have dinner cleaned up by then."
After Sonny's sudden departure, Ginny had taken an active role in their lives. Much to Ginny's delight, the children soon called her Aunt Ginny. Still living in Duluth, Ginny had managed to invest Al's insurance money wisely and was now a wealthy woman. The few extra items of furniture and clothing Marty owned were due to Ginny's generosity. This year she planned to spend Christmas in Minneapolis with Marty and the children.
Stacey smiled and nodded, forcing the last few spoonful’s of rice into her mouth. She carried her bowl to the sink. "When will Katy be home?"
"She should be done baby-sitting anytime now. I can't keep her rice warm much longer."
Knowing how Katy felt about rice porridge, Stacey guessed she'd already found something better to eat at the Jacobson's. Stacey stared at the pan of rice on the stove and gulped. Mom would never throw anything out. "I'm much too full to eat anymore."
Marty smiled wryly. "That's okay, honey, if Katy doesn't want it, we can warm it up tomorrow."
Stacey wanted to gag as she trudged off to her room.
Soon the porch floor creaked and Katherine opened the door. "Hey, you guys," she hollered. "I got paid extra today so I stopped and bought ice cream."
Stacey rushed out of the bedroom. "Oh goodie. Is it chocolate? I'm starved."
Marty raised an eyebrow. "Oh really. I thought you were stuffed."
Stacey's eyes fluttered as she rubbed her stomach. "Oh, Mommie, I am, but I can make room for one bowl of ice cream."
Marty grinned. "I see."
All three of them laughed together as Marty lifted Chris back into his highchair. "All right, Katy, bring on the good stuff."
Katherine proudly filled four bowls full of chocolate ice cream and put a spoon into each one. She smiled as Stacey devoured the chocolate treat. Now that Ronny was no longer a threat, Stacey had stopped crying in her sleep, and sometimes Katherine even heard her singing when she played with the one doll she owned. The little Raggedy Ann had been one of the few toys that had arrived in the welfare Christmas box last year. Katherine glanced at the wall calendar and guessed they'd be receiving another wretched box soon. The gifts inside were mostly for kids under five. That was okay for Chris, but didn't help Stacey.
Katherine rubbed her chin contemplating the special Christmas she had planned for her little sister this year. The baby doll she'd seen at the Woolworth Store had eyes that opened and closed, and a white lacy gown that flowed far over its toes. Katherine laughed as she watched her mother dab a spot of chocolate off Stacey's nose. She'd even seen a tube of lipstick with matching compact that would be perfect for Marty. And if she had any money left after buying gifts, she might just buy a tube of lipstick for herself. After all, she was fifteen in November. She'd borrowed Susie Nichel's lipstick one day at school and was amazed how its color made her cheeks glow and her eyes sparkle.
After cleaning up the dishes, Katherine walked into the bathroom and gazed at herself in the mirror. She gathered her long black hair in her hands and perched it on top of her head. Someday she would be beautiful. Someday she would marry a rich man who would give her everything she'd ever want. Someday she would have enough money to take care of Stacey and Mom and Chris. None of them would have to eat rice again - ever.
Stacey watched the curtains on the French windows move as the bitter winter wind seeped through its cracks. Shivering, she reached for another piece of tinsel and placed it on the tree. Aunt Ginny had arrived that morning and a beautiful Scott's Pine was delivered shortly after. Stacey frowned at the tree. It looked awfully bare without all the lights Daddy always put on it.
Ginny sat on the sofa rubbing her crossed arms as the cold air filtered through the shack. "I'm serious, Marty. Next summer you and the kids can come up to Duluth for the entire three months’ vacation. You know Duluth is beautiful in the summer and you all need a break from this house."
"Three months is a long time to be away," Marty said.
"Do you cook rice at your house?" Stacey chimed in.
Ginny's eyes misted. "Not a drop, darlin. Up in the north-country we only eat burger and fries and lots of ice cream."
Stacey's eyes danced, then turned to appeal to Marty's tender heart. Marty returned her plea with a compassionate smile. "I don't think it would be fair to ask Katy to give up baby-sitting for the entire summer."
Katherine was intently trimming the tree and quickly turned. "Maybe Aunt Ginny knows someone in Duluth who needs a sitter."
"I'll tell you what" Ginny said. "If we can't find a sitting job, we'll find something else. I could even use a hand in my garden."
"I'm a little tired of baby-sitting anyway," Katherine said.
"Okay." Marty raised her hands in concession. "I'm out voted."
Stacey threw her arms around Katherine. "I love you, Katy."
Katherine winked at the little red head. "Hey, I bet if we're really good, Aunt Ginny will let us share a room."
Stacey's questioning eyes turned to Ginny.
"I have one great big bedroom already prepared that's just perfect for two young ladies," Ginny replied.
Katherine's wide smile signaled her appreciation. It was about time people realized she was no longer a kid.
Summers in Duluth Minnesota 1957 - 1958
The summer of 1957 brought a positive change for the Morley family. Ginny's house was a palace compared to their meager home. Plush carpets ran throughout the house, each room with a different color to match the decor. Oak woodwork detailed the doors and ran along the baseboards and windowsills. Each room itself was almost the size of the little shack in its entirety.
Stacey and Katherine stood entranced in the doorway of their room for several minutes after Ginny had left them alone to view their new surroundings. A French Provincial canopy bed with matching night stands stood against one wall; on the other side of the room, a large eight drawer dresser was accompanied by a small white brocade loveseat. A lavender bedspread matched the lace chiffon draperies, which hung on a wood pane bay window overlooking Lake Superior.
"I've never seen so much water in one place, have you, Katy?"
Katherine smiled and put her arm around Stacey's shoulder. "Aunt Ginny says at night we'll be able to hear the waves splashing against the rocks. I hope I can stay awake to hear them."
"Well, I will," boasted Stacey. "I don't want to miss any part of Duluth."
"Come on, Stace. We'd better get ready for bed. Aunt Ginny has a big day planned for us tomorrow."
The first thing every morning, Stacey and Katherine worked in the garden, and Ginny paid them accordingly. The garden was almost as big as the house and was more than enough work for the two of them. Multiple flowers of every color imaginable surrounded a spacious patio and edged a long cobblestone path that led down to Lake Superior.
Instantly awed by the size and beauty of the lake, the girls would spend their afternoons exploring its rocky shores, while many a cool evening in June would find them snuggled together around the fireplace, telling ghost stories or roasting marshmallows. It was the first time Stacey had ever tasted a roasted marshmallow. She wrinkled up her nose in disgust when Katherine pulled one out of the fire looking like a small lump of coal. Ginny and Marty laughed hysterically at Stacey's look of utter horror when Katherine popped it into her mouth.
Working for Ginny, Stacey received the first money she'd ever had and couldn't think of anything to do with it but give it to Marty. Of course, she made her mother promise not to buy rice with it when they returned home. Determined she would not live in poverty for the rest of her life, Katherine continued to save her money for college.
Katherine turned sixteen before their second summer in Duluth. That year Ginny got her a real job working at the local drive-in. Katherine would always come down with a cold from the cool lake air, but she refused to let anything get in her way. She'd down a swig of cough syrup and go off to work.
That was the summer the boys started to notice her, and she discovered how to use the attention to her advantage. She'd swing her hips and flash her large brown eyes, and soon they were eating out of her hand. Sex made it easy to get what she wanted and it all seemed so simple.
When each summer ended, the family begrudgingly said goodbye to the air-conditioned city and bemoaned their return to Robbinsdale and their life in the little shack.
"Katy, what are you doing?" Stacey's eyes widened as she stared at the cigarette in her sister's hand. "You're only seventeen, how did--”
"Ssh,Stace. Hurry up and shut the door."
Katherine pulled Stacey inside the bedroom and quickly closed the door.
She wedged a chair underneath the doorknob. She picked up a True Story Magazine and began to fan the smoke out the tiny square bedroom window.
Stacey stood with her mouth gaping open.
Katherine grimaced and took another drag off her cigarette, blowing smoke out the open window.
Stacey shivered. "It's freezing in here, Katy."
The cool November air was already icing the linoleum floors, and soon they would be able to see their breath in the little bedroom.
"I'll close the window as soon as I'm done. Here. You fan while I smoke."
Katherine shoved the magazine at Stacey. "I'll get done faster that way."
They both paled when the screen door slammed.
"Mom and Chris are home, Katy. Now we'll really be in trouble!"
Katherine took one more long drag off her cigarette, coughing as she blew the smoke out the window. "Fan faster, Stace!" She grabbed another magazine and joined in the ruse. The two of them frantically whisked the smoke out the window.
By the time they'd finished, Stacey was shaking and rubbing her arms.
Marty tapped on the bedroom door. "Katherine? Is Stacey in there with you?"
Katherine shook her head and pursed her lips as her finger brushed the tip of her mouth. "She's asleep on the bed."
"I think it's a little cold for you two to sleep in there tonight."
The handle of the door jiggled.
"What's the matter with this door?" Marty said.
Stacey's eyes almost popped out of her head when she noticed a residue of smoke hovering in the ceiling of the room. Silently, she nudged Katherine and pointed her finger upward.
"Ah, the door sticks sometimes when it's cold outside," Katherine said through the closed door. "How was school conference?"
"Christopher's teacher is very nice," Marty replied from the other side of the door. "I'll tell you all about it at dinner."
Katherine cleared her throat. "I'll wake Stacey, and we'll be out in a minute."
There was a long silence. Both girls stood stark still, holding their breath, hoping their inquisitor was gone.
"By the way, Katy?" Marty's voice came again from outside the door.
Startled, both girls jumped, staring wide-eyed at one another.
"If you've gotten those drapes full of smoke, you'll be hoofing it to the Laundromat tomorrow!"