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Marriage is a wonderful event that changes lives forever but what happens when the honeymoon is short-lived and happiness ends much too quickly. In any marriage there is an adjustment period of getting to know one another and accepting all the bad habits along with the good. Unfortunately, for Stacey and Gary, the honeymoon period is over before it can begin and their lives are torn asunder by a senseless war.
Stacey waits for Gary’s return from Vietnam but she is stunned and shaken when the man that returns is just a shell of himself and one she does not recognize.
In our last episode we read about Stacey’s loss of her beloved grandfather and her impending marriage.
Katy was totally against her sister’s marriage and today we find out exactly why.
Chapter Eighteen Duluth, July 1966
Gary laughed as he scooped his bride into his arms and carried her over the threshold. “Well, baby, since we won’t have a home until I’m back from Nam, this will have to do.”
Megan had insisted they be married in the little church on Minnesota Point, and Stacey thought it was a reasonable concession seeing as she was Gary’s sister and his only living relative.
As was her dream, Stacey wore white, the symbol of a true virgin. Her satin gown was gracefully tapered to the floor, flaring out at the bottom in tiers of lace. Embroidered rosebuds edged the border of the silk chiffon veil that extended several yards beyond her dress.
Katherine was dressed in a peach brocade tea length dress, its off the shoulder style enhanced by her olive skin. It was the discontent so evident on her face that revealed the uncertainty she felt about Stacey’s decision to marry Gary Walker. Not even her coral lipstick and tinge of blush could hide the gray circles that continued to intensify beneath her brown eyes.
After a wedding reception at Ginny’s, Gary and Stacey headed up the North Shore to a tiny resort tucked away from the city, away from anything that might invade the consummation of their love.
Stacey’s heart was beating wildly, her face flushed with excitement as Gary put her down and turned to lock the door. At last she could give herself fully and completely to him.
Gary bent to kiss her. “You were the most beautiful bride I’ve ever seen, Mrs. Walker.”
“Mmm, that name sounds so good. I love you so much. I never thought I could feel this wonderful.”
He cupped her face in his hands; his eyes were filled with passion.
“Tonight I’m going to make you a woman, Stace. I’m going to make you feel things you’ve never felt before, give you pleasure you’ve never known.”
He covered her lips with his own, his pulse racing as their warm tongues mingled together. Slowly, he unbuttoned her dress and slipped it down off her shoulders; his lips brushed against her skin as the dress fell to the floor. Gently, he laid her on the bed, kneeling down by the side to trace his fingers over the curves of her body, his eyes drinking in her purity, her beauty.
Soon he was next to her, placing his warmth next to hers, tasting her, as she moaned in the pleasure of his touch. He caressed her gently, his tongue tantalizing her body with heated sensation; sending shivers through her body that made her tremble with ecstasy and scream with pleasure.
Her passion was heightened by his whispers of love and promises of fulfillment, but still her pleasure couldn’t shield her senses from the pain of their union, pain so intense, so sharp, it was as if a dagger had been thrust into her. She cried out as he entered her, unable to stop the warm tears bursting from her eyes.
Gary quickly pulled back and took her into his arms. “Oh, baby, ssh,” he whispered. “I’m sorry, don’t cry, the worst is over now.”
“Please don’t stop, Gary. I want to make you happy.”
He pulled her close, stroking her cheek with his hand. “We’ve got plenty of time to try again later, baby. You belong to me now, you’ve got all the time in the world to make me happy, all the rest of our lives.”
Gary sat on the edge of the bed staring aimlessly at the floor.
Stacey kneeled at his feet. “Gary, please talk to me.”
His eyes were clouded and distant as he tenderly stroked her hair. “I can’t Stace. I have to shut off my feelings now or I’ll never make it home to you.”
It had only been three weeks since their wedding, three weeks of days meshing into nights, nights into day, neither of them knowing or caring when one began or the other ended.
“But I don’t want you to leave me this way,” she said. “I need us to be together on your last night home.”
He pushed her away and stood up.
“Please, Gary.” Her tear filled eyes begged him to reconsider.
Shaking his head, he walked from the room.
Trembling, Stacey climbed into the empty bed and pulled her knees to her chest. Why was he turning his back on her now?
She knew her first few days of married life had left her emotions in a turmoil, but Gary had been patient, yet insistent that she accept her new role as his wife.
In the beginning sex had left her body aching, left her frightened by her own sexuality. She was appalled by the things Gary expected of her and embarrassed by the methods he used to achieve her physical satisfaction. She was certain such intimacy must be immoral, and she was almost ashamed of the ecstasy she felt as her husband became the master of her body. Soon she grew to know her husband as she never thought it possible to know another human being, satisfying his every need, longing to be with him at the slightest touch or glance.
Stacey brushed a teardrop from her cheek. Tonight she’d begged him to make love to her, but he’d refused. Hearing Gary come in the door, she sniffed back her tears and quickly slid under the covers and pretended to be asleep.
The next morning they began the journey back to Duluth where Gary would say good-bye to his sister and then catch a flight to Minneapolis.
“Gary, talk to me. You haven’t said two words since we left the resort.”
Gary kept his eyes fixed on the road, but she could see his knuckles whiten as he clenched the steering wheel; his agonizing sigh sent shivers down her spine.
“Don’t do this now, Stace.”
She felt her throat tighten. “I just want to understand what’s happened to you. Can’t you help me understand?”
Gary pulled the car over to the side the roadway and shut off the engine. He pulled her into his arms. “Stace, all I want is for you to be here for me.”
Stacey could no longer stop the tears from rolling down her face. “Of course I’ll be here for you, always. But couldn’t I ride down to Minneapolis with you so we could be together longer.”
He brushed her teardrops aside with his fingers. “Baby, just trust me on this, will you?”
“But I want to spend every possible moment with you.”
“That’s only postponing the inevitable. It’ll be hard enough saying good-bye to Meggie. It’s better if the two of you stay home and pick up the car later.”
“Are you ashamed of me, Gary?”
A momentary flash of anger turned to sadness as he stroked her cheek.
“I know this is rough, but I can’t say good-bye in public. I can’t risk breaking down.” He swallowed and she watched his eyes fill with tears as he stared past her.
She suddenly realized how frightened he really was. “Oh, Gary, forgive me. I’ve failed you. I should have understood.”
As their lips touched, she clung desperately to him, weeping, burying her face in his neck.
The following week Gary’s squadron left for Vietnam, taking with it all of Stacey’s hopes and dreams.
Chapter Nineteen Duluth, September 1967
Stacey chewed on her lip as she watched the huge ore boat leisurely chug its way into the Duluth harbor. She was surprised at how well she could see the canal from the porch of her new home.
As Gary requested, Stacey stayed in Duluth with Megan while he finished his tour in Nam. Together they prayed. Together they watched the newspapers for news of Gary’s division, and together they rejoiced when he was transferred to Saigon, removing him from the front lines. Neither of them asked for an explanation for the transfer, but neither of them cared. They only cared that the man they loved as a brother and husband was safe.
They spent the year brightening up the old house, giving it a new coat of paint and wallpapering some of the rooms. The new taupe and white colors added to the stately elegance of the large three-story home. The house was big enough for a family of five. The kitchen door looked out on the end of the sanded driveway; a screen porch on the back of the kitchen overlooked Lake Superior. The front room was twice the size of Marty’s and was decorated with antique furniture and leather wing back chairs that sat in front of a gigantic brick fireplace. An open staircase led to the five bedrooms and two baths on the upper levels. Two bay windows were placed on each side of the front door. The houses were arranged two to a lot, the smaller placed closest to the street. Stacey was happy theirs was the larger of the two and faced Lake Superior.
Megan had given them the house as a wedding gift, and now that Gary had returned from Nam, she had moved to an apartment in Hermantown.
Today the Superior waters were so clear Stacey could almost see the billowy white clouds reflecting on its surface. She stood transfixed by the subtle calming of the lake. Gary’s homecoming had been marred by his constant nightmares and moodiness, but she vowed not to repeat her past mistakes.
She recalled their time in Hawaii for his R&R, and the disaster it had been. Rest and Recuperation is what they called it, but its reputation had spawned terrible stories about the mental anguish a soldier suffered when he spent a few days with his wife, while keenly aware he would soon be thrown back into the horrors of war, possibly to be snatched into eternity at any moment.
Stacey had foolishly expected Gary to be his old self, yet she was met by a man depressed and tired, one who could only focus on achieving enough sexual satisfaction to last him until his tour was over. There were no words of love, only the cold distance she had experienced before he left for Nam.
Megan said once Gary got back to Duluth he would be his old self. So far, the old Gary had not appeared.
“Hey, Stace, could you give me a hand with the door?” Gary’s voice jolted her back into the present, and she rushed to open the kitchen door.
“I didn’t realize there were so many boxes left in the car. I started watching an ore boat.”
“Never mind,” Gary said with a scowl. “Quit daydreaming and let’s get unpacked.”
He brushed by her, sliding the boxes onto the kitchen counter.
Stacey felt a twinge in her stomach, and she forced a trembling smile. “I didn’t know we had so much to unpack.”
Gary raised a brow when he saw the stricken look on her face, and his sour look turned to an apologetic smile. “I shouldn’t have snapped at you. I know it’s been rough for you living so far away from your mom.”
Stacey relaxed. “I guess I wouldn’t feel so alone if Aunt Ginny hadn’t decided to leave for Phoenix so early.”
Gary put his arm around her waist. “Listen, I’ve been a bear since I got back, but I promise to make it up to you. How about a drive up the North Shore tomorrow to see the fall colors?”
Stacey reached her arms around his neck. “I’d like that, but do you think we can leave all this mess?”
Gary bent his head to rub his nose against hers. “I think some time alone with you is what I need right now.”
Stacey moaned and turned over in bed, squinting at the curtains flapping in the cool night breeze. Shivering, she stretched out her arms towards Gary, but was startled as she found herself groping around on the empty bed. She sat up and tried to focus her eyes in the darkened room. With her mouth gaping, she sat stunned by the spectacle before her.
Gary was crouched on his knees near the corner of the bed, every muscle in his body rigid and taut; his eyes were glassy and fixed.
“Honey?” she whispered. “Are you okay?”
When he didn’t move, she edged closer to his side, her heart pounding so hard she could feel it in her throat. She gently brushed her hand along his arm. “Gary?”
Suddenly, his head jerked towards her. His breathing hurried, his eyes widened; stark terror spread across his face.
Stacey froze at the rage she saw in his eyes, a rage so powerful she instinctively feared for her own life. Groping for words, she choked out his name again. “Gary–I — it’s me.”
Slowly, his eyes narrowed, flickering with such uncertainty that she flinched as he reached to touch her face with the palm of his hand. Silently, he slumped down in bed.
Stacey released a trembling breath. “Gary, please let me help.”
His fist came crashing down on the bed. “Damn you, Stace!”
“Don’t — don’t you dare shut me out again,” she screamed.
“Shut you out? For the love of God, why can’t you leave it alone?”
“I want to help you.”
“Well, I don’t need your help!” He flung back the covers and sprang out of bed. “I’ve got to get out of here.”
“But it’s three o’clock in the morning!”
“I need some space- a walk — something.” He pulled on his pants and sweatshirt and brushed his fingers through his hair.”
“Gary, please don’t go.”
Brushing aside her tears, she cringed as he slammed out the door. If only she could find a way to understand.