[previous chapter] [start from the beginning] They’d done a Disney classics marathon all afternoon and evening, occasionally pausing to gobble down more comfort food. Nathalie drank some wine – all told she probably had about half the bottle. She was mightily tempted to have more, but Marc had gently reminded her that she needed to have all her wits about her in the morning and that a searing headache would not help her any. He was right, as usual, so she paced herself on the wine front and made sure to drink lots of water along with it.

Marc volunteered to give the kids their baths and put them to bed. He read them stories for what seemed like an hour, during which she invaded the freshly liberated bathroom and sank into a warm bubbly bath with candles all around and soft music coming from the cheesy waterproof speakers she’d received two years ago during a blind Christmas gift exchange at work. It had seemed so silly then. She appreciated it now.

She soaked until Marc was done with the stories, and got herself out of there. She went to her kids’ bedroom and took the time to lie down with each of them and cuddle them but good. She explained to them that tomorrow would be a difficult day for her, but that with plenty of hugs and kisses from her children she’d be strong enough to get through that day. They responded the way she was hoping: they practically smothered her with love.

How could such adoring creatures as small children grow up to kill their parents? That was a question she’d asked herself many times since her brother had been arrested. Every time she got a kiss or a hug from her own kids she’d wonder. Was Jeff like this when he was little? If not, why not? If so, what had changed?

How do you explain that an otherwise normal kid – he was her brother, after all, and she wasn’t abnormal, as far as she could tell – would grow up to hate his parents so much he was prepared to kill them and even spend the rest of his life in jail for having done so?

What a waste… what a terrible, tragic waste.

She shook her head, hugged her kids once more, and went downstairs to the kitchen. Marc had done the cleanup and everything was sparkling. What had she done to deserve such a gem of a man.

“Ready for bed, sweetie?”

“Am I ever.”

****

The good news was that Martina’s mother had not yet seen her Facebook post. The better news was that thousands of people had, at least judging by the number of reactions. There were over 15,000 likes on that post, and the comments kept coming in fast and hard.

“I’m sorry you got hurt, but what you’re doing is dangerous,” said one. “You will prompt other people to go out and kill their parents! Shame on you!”

“I am not a good writer like you,” said another, “but if I were I would be writing a book about my experience, just as a warning to new parents never to let themselves be so overwhelmed by the stress of parenting that they wind up taking it out on their kids. Like mine did. I’ve been in therapy for years and I’m still having trouble dealing with my anger and confusion.”

“THANK YOU!!!” exclaimed a pleasant-sounding woman, “Thank you for creating this page and coming forward with your story. It’s given me the courage to write down my own. I, too, grew up unloved. My parents never had time for me; they dropped me off at daycare before 7 am and picked me up late in the day, only to rush me through dinner and activities then bed then start over again. On weekends they’d actually hire babysitters to look after me and my two brothers while they did chores and went shopping. I don’t remember my mother spending any significant amount of time with me. She was always too busy. She had an important career; she was a doctor. My dad was a dentist. They were both crazy busy with their jobs, and kids were just a distraction to them. So they parked us with strangers until we were old enough to look after ourselves. We always had money and fine vacations at resorts where there were fun activities for us kids, away from our parents. I had all the coolest toys, the best computer games, the nicest clothes. We had a big house, great cars, and a TV as big as the wall. But we never had love. Reading your post made me realize that I was still messed up because of that. I am married now but I’ve resisted having children, despite my husband being very keen on them. Maybe verbalizing my feelings will help me get over my fear of being a bad mother…”

“So, let me guess,” sneered another one whose gender could not be deciphered from the avatar, “you’re ugly and fat and can’t get laid, and now you found a way to blame it on your mama, is that right?”

That made Martina laugh then cry. For the truth was that she was quite good looking, and had looked after herself very well. She was healthy, financially comfortable, smart, funny. And single. She had to admit there was a problem with her, something that sent the wrong signal, or signals, to good men. Maybe she didn’t know what love was supposed to look like and went looking for it in all the wrong places. Evidently writing that post was only the beginning of her healing process.

A more thorough self-analysis would have to wait for now. Her page wasn’t two days old and already there were over 4,000 comments on it, some very supportive, some very dismissive, none indifferent.

Then the media requests came pouring in and she had a decision to make; was she ready to push this story out there, on television?

[next chapter]