Annie and Ray were happy at first. She thought God had delivered Prince Charming right to her door. After all she hadn’t even been on a date since J.L. died. Her sister had convinced her once to go out with her to the Elk’s Lodge dancing. J.L. and Annie had loved dancing. They would go once every three or four months with a group of friends to the VFW in a nearby town. Maybe Annie felt guilty or maybe it just reminded her of what she’d lost, but she was miserable and she never went again.
Ray was a breath of fresh air. He was completely different from J.L. and she liked that. Ruth was surprised by the contrast and asked Annie about it one day. Annie said that was a big part of the appeal because Ray wasn’t competing with the memory of a ghost that way. Made sense to Ruth and after all Annie had been through all the kids were just happy that Annie was happy.
Annie had a half-brother who would disappear for years and then we’d see his car coming down the driveway with his whole life packed in it. He’d stay two or three days, load the kids up on candy and donuts, and then Uncle Donnie would be on his way, not to be heard from again for two or three years. At one point he came to live with Annie and the kids after J.L. died. Uncle Donnie had never married and didn’t have any kids. When he came to live with Annie, once again, he showed up with his life packed in an old clunker. He had cancer and had nowhere to go so he moved in and aggravated everybody. Uncle Donnie was kind of a know-it-all. Ruth was fifteen at the time and she wasn’t very keen on the idea that he was taking advantage of Annie. She didn’t have much, but she was generous with what she had. Ruth and Annie had words about it one day. Ruth asked Annie, “don’t you know he’s just taking advantage of you, he’s a vagabond?” Sure she knew, she knew and didn’t care that he was. He was dying and she wanted to be there for him. Ruth needed to mind her own business.
Uncle Donnie stayed there for probably a year and a half. Then one day he was gone, just like always. Packed all of his stuff in that old clunker and left while everybody was gone. Annie didn’t hear from him again. A few months later Annie’s cousin called her to let her know she’d gotten word he had passed away in a hospital in Florida – alone. He had a will and he’d left Annie quite a sum of money. He’d left her a hundred thousand dollars. That was a lot of money to Annie. And who knew Uncle Donnie had two pennies to rub together? Annie received that inheritance a month or two before she and Ray got married.
Annie and Ray were happy to have that money. They got married on it and remodeled the house with some of it. Annie was happiest holding a baby in her arms, and she and Ray decided to have a child together. She was fertile myrtle, it didn’t take her long to conceive. She was so excited and happy. It was hard for her to believe this was all happening to her. She had to pinch herself to make sure she wasn’t dreaming.
In the meantime things were growing more serious between Ruth and Charles. They wanted to get married, but Ruth was still only seventeen. Annie almost refused to sign the consent for the marriage license but Ruth would be eighteen in a month so what good would that do? She even offered to pay Ruth’s way through college if she’d just hold off, but Ruth’s mind was made up. There was no talking her out of it. So in June of 1990 Ruth and Charles were married in that quaint ceremony in the little country church.
Ruth and Charles went on a nice little honeymoon at a tiny island off the coast of Florida. St. George Island was beautiful and largely deserted. The only things there twenty years ago were the St. George Inn, the Buccaneer Hotel and the Blue Parrott Bar and Grill. A few vacation houses sparsely dotted the island, but other than that it was pretty secluded. They had a great time for a few days and then it was back to reality.
They’d bought a small, two bedroom house with a tin roof. Just the right size for them and Samantha, Charles’ daughter. Sam would be living with them as Charles had custody of her. When they got back from their honeymoon they still had a bit of moving to do. Mostly small stuff, but there was a large dresser that would need to be moved. Charles and Ruth decided to tackle it themselves instead of asking for help with it. Ruth was sure she could handle it, they’d take all the drawers out and it wouldn’t be too heavy. Ruth is not a furniture mover. Charles thought she’d know precisely how to turn it to get it in the door and through the narrow hallway. It nearly took a contortionist. She did not. She lost her grip and her end fell. Charles started yelling at her that any moron would know what you have to do to get that in there just right. He should have known better than to think she could do this.
Ruth wasn’t too crazy about him speaking to her that way, so she fired back. Before she knew it Charles had his hands around her throat, choking her and pushing her against the wall. He was screaming in her face, “Don’t make me sorry I married you, I hate you bitch!”. Ruth managed to get away from him, but she didn’t know what to do. What had just happened there? It all happened so fast. She ran out the door and around to the back of the house and just sunk into the ground in a heap sobbing. Was this the fairy tale life?