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Posted by Sandra J Eastman – Copyhound on Wednesday, October 25, 2017
In our last chapter of Rubies – The Widening Road we saw a visible difference in Gary Walker upon his return from Vietnam.
Now Stacey must face her greatest fear: has Gary really changed or did she never even know the man she married.
In today’s chapter we fully realize how the horrors of war can destroy not only the life of the soldier but of those loved ones waiting back at home.
Duluth, December 1967
“Calm down, Katy,” Stacey said. “I’m fine with this.”
“How can you be fine with spending Christmas alone?”
Even through the phone Stacey could hear the sarcasm in Katherine’s voice, but tried to ignore it.
“I won’t be alone. I have Gary and Megan.”
“As I said before, you’ll be alone on Christmas.”
“All right, Katy. Why don’t you bring the boys and come to Duluth? We’ve got plenty of room.”
“No thanks, kiddo. Me and the soldier boy couldn’t keep from killing each other that long. Besides, Edward invited me to go to Boston to see Mummy, and it may be the only chance I get to spend Christmas with my husband.”
“Gary’s really not that bad, Katy.”
“After the way he’s been treating you, I’d probably smack him.”
“He’s just going through a phase.”
Stacey wasn’t sure if she was trying to convince herself or Katherine, but she knew she had to hang on to that hope if she was to keep her sanity. Gary’s restlessness was worse than ever, and sometimes he went for days without speaking. She’d even asked for Megan’s help without avail.
“Gary’s only been home for a few months.” Stacey tried to lighten her voice for Katherine’s benefit. “He’ll snap out of it.”
“Well, I guess if you can tolerate Megan, I can tolerate Mummy. Boston will be a nice change.”
“Gee, Katy, you’ve been married five years and you’ve never spent Christmas in your own home.”
“Hey, that’s a great idea. You and Gary fly down to Chicago for Christmas. That way I can kick him out if he becomes too obnoxious.”
Stacey laughed. “Stop it, Katy. You know Gary would never leave Megan on his first Christmas back from Nam.”
“Fine. Bring the old bat along then.”
They giggled in unison.
Seriously, Katy. Think about coming up. I miss you.”
“I know, kiddo, but my own children need me, too. I guess that’s why I’m trying to understand Mom’s decision to spend Christmas in Phoenix. We both know it has a lot more to do with Ronny than Aunt Ginny.”
Ronny had written Marty that he was working in Palm Springs. Suddenly, Marty decided to take Chris and spend Christmas in Phoenix.
“It’s only fair that Momma see Ronny.” Stacey’s voice quivered just saying his name, but she wasn’t sure why.
“It seems disloyal that’s all.”
“Why do you say that? He’s her son.”
“You don’t remember, do you?
Stacey’s silence gave Katherine her answer.
“It’s just that Ronny’s been living with Sonny all these years. Imagine a thirty-one year old man still living with his daddy. I hope Mom doesn’t tell him how much money she has or he’ll bleed her dry.”
“Don’t you think Daddy knows about the inheritance?”
“Are you kidding! If old Sonny knew, he’d be on Mother’s doorstep with his grubby hands stretched out. Ronny and Sonny deserve one another.”
“Why must you be so bitter, Katy?”
“Sonny deserted you, Stace. He deserted all of us. If you only knew what you went through.”
“Please don’t talk about it anymore,” Stacey interrupted.
“Oh, oh, Gary’s home. I’d better go.”
“Why do you let that man intimidate you?”
“Please, Katy, I have to hang up.”
Stacey quickly put down the phone and spun around towards the back door.
Gary frowned as he walked in door. “So you finally hung up that phone!”
Stacey winced at the anger in his voice. “I was–”
“Talking to your sister!” He slammed the door. “And I’ve been stuck down at Streamer’s store for over an hour. The battery went dead on the truck.”
Stacey’s face placed. “I’m sorry, honey. How’d you get home?”
“What does it look like?” He stomped his feet to dislodge the snow and bent to remove his boots. “That wind chill’s close to thirty below.”
Stacey groaned inwardly, quickly drawing a warm towel to bundle his red shaking hands. “I’ll run you a hot bath.”
He shoved her aside and started toward the stairs. “I can take care of myself. I didn’t have a nursemaid over in Nam, you know.”
“Gary, stop it!”
He turned sharply, his eyes narrowing. “The next time you want to talk to your sister, write a letter.”
“That’s not fair, Gary. This isn’t my fault!”
“Nothing is ever your fault, is it, Stace?”
Her face flushed; her hands flew to her hips. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
Swiftly, he stepped towards her, his voice raising. “Where do you get off telling my sister that I’m depressed all the time?”
“I — I thought she could help. I was worried.”
“Yeah! Just like you were worried about me flying missions in Nam? So worried that I left my squad when that cushy post opened in Saigon, that cushy post where I’d be safe. All so you wouldn’t be worried!”
Stacey stared at him as if she was seeing him for the first time. “Is that what this is all about? I never asked you to do that.”
“Shut up!” He swooped his swaddled hands around her head and pinned her against him. “I don’t ever want to talk about Vietnam with you!” His voice was hoarse from screaming. “Do you hear?”
Trying to stop her trembling, Stacey nodded. Her eyes flooded with tears. “Let go of me, Gary,” she whispered.
His eyes softened and he stepped back.
Stacey carefully ducked out of encircled arms. She watched him slowly climb the stairs, then sink to his knees on the landing. She could hear his muffled sobs, and she ached to go to him, to hold him in her arms. But she knew it was too late. He would never allow her to be his comforter again.
Duluth, June 1968
Stacey quietly watched as Gary stood next to the open bedroom window, gazing out at Lake Superior. The night air of early June chilled the room, but Gary seemed so deep in thought he didn’t appear to notice.
The glow of the moonlight spread across Superior’s glassy waters. The water was so clear it was difficult to see where the horizon ended and the lake began, as if there was no beginning and no end. Many times since his return from Nam, Gary would spend hours staring out at the lake.
Stacey wondered if he ever thought about how miserable their lives had become. Their constant bickering seemed unavoidable and living together was becoming unbearable.
His shirt rumpled and unbuttoned, Gary seemed to sense her presence and turned from the window.
Stacey steadied her voice. “Gary, we need to talk.”
He avoided her eyes and sat down on the bed. “So talk.”
His callous reply brought only a glassy-eyed stare from her eyes.
He stood up to face her; his voice was harsh and loud. “Speak up woman! Are you gutless?”
Stacey gasped, her face draining of color. “I don’t know who you are. The man I married would never be so cruel.”
He threw her a sneering glance. His voice was like ice. “Why can’t you understand? I can’t be the man the married!”
Her patience gone, her own voice pitched close to screaming.“Then help me to understand who you are, Gary!”
A shadow of emptiness flooded over his face. He walked back to the window, bracing himself with one arm against its frame. As he continued to stare out at the lake, the bitter words came tumbling out, one upon another.
“What make you think you can understand, Stace? How do you know how it feels to have your buddy blown to bits in front of your eyes? Have you ever held a dying man in your arms, listening to his screams, begging for you to kill him to put him out of his misery? Have you ever been so scared that you wanted to die to escape.”
His quiet sobbing filled the room.
Stacey rushed to his side, grasping his arm. “Please, Gary, don’t say anymore.”
He whirled around, the tears in his eyes burning like acid in her soul. “Why? Because you only want me to tell you how much I love you? You’ve been begging me to talk, but you don’t like what you hear, do you?
She covered her ears. “Stop! I won’t listen to this!”
He grabbed her wrists, pulling her hands from her ears. “Well, you will listen to this! I’ve found someone who accepts me for what I am now. Never questions. Never pushes. Just takes me for me.”
Tears flooded her eyes and rolled down her face as she struggled to be free of his grasp. “Let go of me!”
He only gripped her wrists tighter, his voice grew louder and louder. “I don’t have to see the disappointment on her face when I can’t tell her how much I love her!”
“Stop, it please, Gary,” she sobbed.
He pushed her way and brushed his hands over his face.
She ran for the bathroom, her face drenched in sweat and tears as she knelt retching and vomiting, the pain so intense; the emptiness was so deep, it screamed for her to wake from this horrible nightmare.
But then out of nowhere Gary was kneeling by her side, wiping her face with a cool washcloth.
“Stace, forgive me. I just lost it.”
“Tell me you didn’t sleep with her,” she cried.
When his eyes gave her the answer and she could only weep.
Gently he placed his arms around her with a tenderness that was only a memory. “It’s over now, Stace. I won’t ever see her again. I promise.”
Stacey picked up her hairbrush and stroked her long red hair letting it fall softly around her shoulders. She stared at herself in the mirror and noticed the tired lines around her eyes.
It had been six months since Gary claimed his affair was over, but Stacey still couldn’t stop doubting him.
She recalled her conversation with Katherine. She was livid when Stacey told her about it. . .
“I knew he was just like Sonny!”
“That’s not true, Katy. I drove Gary away by not accepting his behavior after Nam.”
“Oh, that’s a Walker brainwashing if I ever heard one. Nobody forces a man into an affair. He had one because he’s too damn selfish to think about anyone but himself.”
“But I promised God until death do us part and — and I still love him.”
“Now you sound like Momma. Do you want to spend your life raising a bunch of kids and living off welfare?”
“Gary would never abandon his children. That much I know. Not after living without parents himself.”
“Even so, I still think you should get out of there and come to Chicago. He could get rough on you.”
Visions of Gary’s irrational behavior had flashed in Stacey’s mind but she’d reassured Katherine, “Gary would never hurt me.”
Stacey shook her head, trying to refocus on the present. Why couldn’t she forget Katy’s words? She wondered if she should confront Gary.
She heard footsteps on the stairs and took a deep breath. She walked to the bedroom doorway and watched Gary empty the change from his pockets onto the dresser.
“You’ve been getting home awfully late this week.”
Gary turned and shrugged. “Maybe.”
Shaking inside, Stacey could feel the beads of sweat forming around her mouth. “Gary, I can’t stand living like this any longer.”
“Living like what? Your constant innuendos about me having another affair.”
“That’s not fair, Gary.”
“Fair? He scowled. “Maybe if you’d given me time after Nam.”
“Time?” She felt her face flush with rage. “Did you need time for two or three women to understand you?” She spun around to leave the room. “You make me sick!”
He seized her shoulder. “Don’t you ever walk away from me!”
She thrust her shoulder forward, releasing his hand. She started walking down the hall. “It’s no good, Gary. I think we should talk about a divorce.”
She shuddered at how easily the words had come from her mouth.
Gary rushed after her. “A divorce? Is that what your bitch of a sister told you to do?”
“Katy is not a bitch! And she has nothing to do with this.”
“She probably has everything to do with it!
Stacey kept walking, ignoring his comment. She could feel Gary’s breath warm on her neck as he followed closely on her heels.
“Stace, listen to me. We can work this out. We can have a child.”
Stacey shook her head. “A child isn’t the answer to our problems.” She walked into the bathroom and turned to shut the door.
Gary slammed his hand against the door, blocking its closure.
Stacey paled, overcome by nausea. “Please, Gary. I need a shower.”
“I want to talk about this!”
Her hands trembled as she unbuttoned her robe, pretending he wasn’t there, hoping he would leave. Her legs felt like rubber as she stepped into the shower and quickly pulled the curtain. Turning on the water, she took a deep breath and closed her eyes, letting the warm water flood over her body, hoping to soothe her jangled nerves.
Rolling her shoulders to release the tension, she reached for the soap, spreading its rich lather over her body.
It was then she heard the rustling of the curtain.
She opened her terror filled eyes to see Gary’s fingers edging around the side.
Flinging it open, he stood glaring at her.
“What do you think you’re doing,” she screamed, reaching to pull it back.
But Gary was faster, wrapping the curtain in his fist and yanking it from the rod.
She stepped back, bracing herself against the wall of the shower. “Get away from me!”
“I want to talk about this – now!” He lunged for her arm as she wildly slapped in the air.
Suddenly, she was reliving a horror hidden deep in her subconscious, a horror from her childhood now erupting, plunging her into terror.
“Stop – don’t hurt me!”
Her deep gasping breaths echoed through the pounding water as Gary groped to reach her.
Swearing under his breath, he stepped fully dressed into the tub and reached for the faucet.
Before he could touch it, she pounced on him, like a caged animal, ripping her fingernails down his face and beating on his chest with her fists.
Blood oozed down Gary’s cheek as he struggled to seize her wrists.
Her arms thrashed uncontrollably into the air.
“Are you nuts, Stace? What in the hell the matter with you?”
She was deaf to his words through the pounding water.
Dodging her swinging arms, he grabbed her hair with one hand and pulled her to her knees.
When his hand grasped the back of her neck, she exploded into blind hysterical screaming. “I hate you! I hate you! Don’t touch me!”
The sympathetic concern that had momentarily filled Gary’s eyes was quickly replaced with arrogance. “You’re my wife. I’ll touch you whenever I damn well please!”
She clawed at his hands, fighting to remove them from her neck. “No, I won’t let you hurt me again!”
Muffling her screams with one hand, Gary pulled her from the shower, his other hand slipping over her soapy, wet skin as she wrestled to be free of his grasp.
Forcing her into the bedroom, he pushed her down onto the bed. As he stood looming over her, she fought again and again to get up.
She screamed as his hand smashed against her face, knocking her flat across the bed.
The jolt forced her into reality. “Gary, I didn’t mean it. I don’t know why.”
“Shut up! I’ll talk now and this time you’ll listen. You’ll have my baby whether you want to or not. Then we’ll see how quickly you get your damn divorce!”
She watched in horror as he peeled off his wet clothes. She willed her body to move, to run, to hide. Yet not even the smallest muscle was at her command. Paralyzed with fear, she opened her mouth, but only silent screams echoed in her mind. She was powerless to stop him.
Soon his unbearable weight was upon her.
Tears streamed down her face as he held her arms and licked at her breasts. She arched her back, whimpering, begging, “Please don’t, Gary.”
He whispered in her ear. “Let’s make a baby.”
Still fighting to withstand his strength, she moaned as he forced her legs apart with his hand; crying out, she sucked in her breath as he entered her.
“Please, Gary. Don’t destroy all the love I have for you.”
For a moment he hesitated, his eyes softening as he listened to her plea.
Then he plunged into her.
The minutes of his satisfaction seemed like hours, her sobbing seeming to bring him some sort of sadistic pleasure.
When it was over, her red swollen eyes searched for remorse on his face, but found none. He simply turned and walked from the room.
Her sobbing overpowered the moronic pounding of the bathroom shower. Was he trying to wash away what he had done?
Then the water stopped and silence was her companion.
She closed her eyes praying for the memory of her ordeal to melt away but she only felt betrayal, only felt violated, finally forced to face the truth she had avoided for so long.
The man she married had died in Vietnam, and she could never accept the one that had returned in his place.
Duluth – The Present 1992
Gregg Phillips had been treating Stacey for five months before he began to understand the depth of the anger she harbored for Gary Walker. Today her quiet weeping had continued long after he’d brought her out of the hypnosis.
The urgency he felt to hold her, to comfort her as he had before, was almost more than he could bear. But then he had been comforting a troubled child; now she wept as a woman, and holding her would be far too dangerous.
“Do you think it was my fault?” she mumbled through her tears.
“Your fault, Stacey?”
“The — what Gary did that night.” She began to rub the side of her neck in the usual manner, and he was beginning to understand the magnitude of its meaning.
Shaking his head, Phillips blew out an exasperated sigh. “Stacey, listen to me very carefully. The trauma you suffered as a child may have triggered your reaction to Gary’s behavior, but nothing excuses the violence your husband committed against you.
“In our society marital rape wasn’t even considered a crime until the late
Seventies, but that doesn’t make it any more ethical. No man has a right to force himself on a woman whether she is his wife or not.”
“But I rejected him after he’d sacrificed his own peace of mind for me.”
Phillips leaned forward in his char. “Stacey, do you really think Gary accepted that transfer entirely for you?
She stared at him as if bewildered by his question.
“Stacey, everyone suffers from war, even those not in the battlefield. I was just a young surgeon when my experience in Vietnam pointed me in another career direction. I’ve counseled with hundreds of men since then, and their stories were not unlike those of Gary.
“He may have convinced himself that he took that desk job for you, but in reality, he was just as motivated by his own fear. That fear was the part of himself he was unable to face, thus the anger he felt towards himself he directed at you, the scapegoat for his own fear.”
“I should have been more patient; should have tried harder to reach him.”
Phillips saw the recrimination in her eyes, and he rubbed his fingers across his temple. Why couldn’t she stop blaming herself?
He reached over and took her hand. “We all lost a part of ourselves during the war, but I think Gary may have lost a piece of his soul.”
She began to weep again. “I guess I was too young to understand.”
“We all want to be loved whether we’re eighteen or eighty. It wouldn’t have mattered how old you were, the outcome would have been the same.”
He felt her squeeze his hand, and he returned the gesture with a sympathetic smile.
“Stacey, I know it’s difficult for you to discuss what happened, but it’s important. Did you ever tell anyone what Gary did?”
She dropped his hand and leaned back on the sofa. “I told Katy eventually. She was the only one until–” She stopped short, her eyes glossing over with fresh tears. “It doesn’t matter. She didn’t believe me.”
His brow furrowed as he watched her hand brush the side of her neck. He gently urged her to continue. “Until whom, Stacey?”
She buried her face in her hands. “It wasn’t right to tell her.” Slowly, she lowered her hands, seeming to look right through him when she spoke again. “Vicki and I argued one night and she refused, still refuses to believe it.”
“But why would she think you would make up such a story?”
Her eyes clouded, her face flooding with intense loathing. “Because the great Gary Walker said so, that’s why. He always wins, you know. Always.”
The contempt in her voice seemed to engulf the room, smothering the aura of benevolence that had previously passed between them.
“I hate him. I hate him for what he did to me then and–” Her voice broke as she clutched her arms and began to weep.
Gregg Phillips stared at his patient, then leaned back in his chair. His gaze turned towards the window, and for a moment he watched the falling snow. A fresh snowfall made everything look so clean, yet underneath the new white carpet lay the dirty remnants of ice and snow previously worn away by man and nature. The cleansing blanket of snow would raise a temporary havoc on the city streets tonight, but all too soon it would melt away, adding to the residue still beneath the surface.
He knew he must not be satisfied with a temporary cleansing for Stacey Walker but a complete elimination of all the garbage that lay beneath the surface. Each book of her life had to be examined carefully, all the useless pages removed and shredded. Only then could she be completely whole, free of the festering wounds she carried so deep inside.
Her actions today confirmed his conviction that the anger she felt for Gary Walker went far beyond the violence of twenty-three years ago. Today’s breakthrough was only the beginning.
Be sure to tune in again for continuing episodes of Rubies – The Widening Road. You won’t was to miss any of these great excerpts. If you haven’t had a chance to read Rubies – The Beginning, the FREE summary is on the link below. Book One brings you up-to-date to our current excerpts. Just enter your email and the book will be on its way to your inbox. In the meantime, have a wonderful week and don’t forget to tell someone you love them!