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When I became a father, my whole world started revolving around Marie. She was the most perfect, most treasured little thing in my world. We are kind of an unconventional family; my wife Taylor is a CEO, while I’m an artist and stay-at-home dad.
Taylor and my parents are people I cherish and am grateful for, but I felt like I never knew what love was until I held my little Marie in my arms for the first time. I know everyone thinks their kids are amazing and special, but believe me, Marie is amazing and special.
I had no problem living almost exclusively in order to take care of her, raise her, help her and please her. Marie is my whole universe. I was grateful for the precious being I was given.
I woke up in the middle of every night to feed her when she was a baby with a smile on my face. I taught her first words. I put her to bed with a princess story every single night as she grew up into a sweet kid. We became the best of friends, watching cartoons and chasing butterflies together.
Taylor was so thankful to be able to be a mother and still focus 100% on her career. She would come home every night to a hot meal, happy baby girl and overjoyed husband. I never knew a family as happy as ours – until the incidents started.
First it was Marie’s cousin, Victoria. They pretty much were born together, and spent the early years of their childhood constantly playing together and being really close. When Victoria and Marie were 5 years-old, Taylor’s sister announced she would move away to another state; being a single mother, she was too tight on money (even with Taylor helping), and was to move back to my in-laws house.
Marie found out she wouldn’t be able to see Victoria more than thrice a year and cried her eyes out the whole night in my arms. We fell asleep in my rocking chair next to the break of morning. It was heartbreaking.
I hated seeing my perfect little angel cry; she seemed to be in so much pain. I promised her that we would visit Victoria. Marie would soon start going to school, and I assured her she would make a lot of new friends.
A few days after that, Victoria went missing. Everyone in the family was crazy after her, but nobody was able to find a clue. It was like the girl disappeared into thin air.
Taylor’s sister was devastated at first, but she followed up with the plan of moving away. She soon married a nice man and had another child. Taylor doesn’t talk much with her now because she thinks her sister moved on too fast and completely forgot about her first kid. Victoria was never seen again even after all these years, nor her remains were found.
As a family, we did our best to get over this tragedy together. Kids’ brains are amazing to process everything. After a few months, it was like my daughter was past her loss.
When Marie was in second grade, she was crazy about her teacher, Ms. Martinez. She was a fairly old lady, chubby and gentle, and treated all the kids like their own granddaughters (the school was girls-only).
Her warm smile could make an adult feel as if they’d been tucked into a comfy bed with a teddy bear. She was the greatest and, despite her loving nature, the girls were perfectly disciplined and had amazing grades. It was like they would do anything to earn and keep Ms. Martinez’s affections.
Marie was raised without a constant presence of a grandmotherly figure; I moved from England to marry Taylor, while her parents live in another state and don’t visit too frequently. So you might imagine how overjoyed Marie was to finally have an older lady showering her with constant attention and unlimited affection.
But, being an older lady, Ms. Martinez was close to retirement. She clearly loved her job and was postponing this moment but, when she got sick, she had no option other than take a leave.
Marie freaked out, feeling abandoned and depressed. I assured her she would still see Ms. Martinez when she got better, but she didn’t; the school was more incisive about making her retire, and she no choice but to acquiesce.
Marie’s new teacher was way younger, perfectly nice and adequate. But Marie hated her guts because, in her 8-years-old little mind, she was just an intruder. A usurper.
Ms. Martinez went missing from the hospital just a few days after deciding to retire.
After that, little by little, we moved past against yet another traumatic experience. My heart was shattered to a million pieces when Marie asked why everyone she loved had to suddenly disappear. I could do nothing but promise her I wouldn’t.
I took Marie to a great therapist, and we even went to Disneyland, just the two of us. Marie and Taylor loved each other, but they weren’t super close; since my wife couldn’t take a break from her job often, most of our family fun times were just me and Marie, and they were perfect.
Being showered with all my love, Marie started to improve again, but she only got better when she became friends with Bruna; they were both 9 at the time.
Bruna was a classmate and lived nearby. She was a polite and easy-going girl, and I couldn’t be happier than to see my daughter excited to go to school again, and having such good company.
This time, I thought the peace would last. Our family had an amazing 4 years and 10 months, until Bruna, at age 14, announced she would go to an internship in France. It was her childhood dream and she finally got it. She would study abroad during the entire duration of high school.
Bruna called me uncle and I grew to like her like she was my real niece, but I couldn’t find it in me to be happy for her accomplishment. I knew what would happen. I just knew it.
Marie, of course, was devastated. She felt abandoned and betrayed. I gently explained that she could still be friends with Bruna overseas, that they would have so much exciting things to share with each other, and that Bruna still loved her and cherished her as a most important friend, but it was an once in a lifetime opportunity to fulfill her lifelong dream. I emphasized how we should be happy and proud for her, and that Marie could spend all her vacations in France if she wanted.
After our constant talks about it, Marie seemed to deal better with this loss. I never felt more relief than when the day of Bruna’s trip came and nothing happened to her. Some hours later, Bruna texted me “Uncle, arrived at the airport. Getting a cab now!”
But she never got in the cab. She simply vanished from the airport.
Up to that moment, that was the loss that I grieved over the most. Poor little Bruna, just 14 and full of dreams. This hit Taylor and me really hard but, strangely, Marie seemed almost fine with the disappearance (and possible death) of her best friend.
Bruna’s tragic disappearance brought Marie and her long-time crush, Ian, together. Ian was a sweet boy, despite being a sports enthusiast. His heart and brains were in the right place, just like his muscles, so I didn’t freak out when my then 15-year-old daughter started to date. I felt so happy for her. She had confided in me regarding her passions a year ago, but never made a move.
When he learned what happened to Bruna, Ian immediately took upon himself the task of cheering Marie up and distracting her from her pain. He was such a nice boy. They were a happy couple for precisely 19 months.
“Ian broke up with me!” Marie said one day, as she entered the house screaming and crying. “He said I’m too clingy!”
I raised my daughter to be affectionate, and I see no problem with that, but maybe she crossed the line and became possessive. I suggested we see her therapist to help her deal with this kind of problem, so she can talk again to Ian and try to fix the relationship. I pointed out that romance takes time and work, and that her mother and I have been happily married for almost 20 years because we are always doing our best to become better people for one another.
I tried to calm her down, assuring her that anyone can see Ian is head over heels for her, and that they can improve their relationship.
Marie hated the idea. She felt like the breakup was definitive, and wanted the problem solved right in that moment. She wanted to keep feeling loved by him the whole time. Can you blame her? The first one is the worst one when it comes to a broken heart.
That same night, Ian went missing while out of town with a few friends. Like all the others, he was never found – dead or alive.
By this time, my heart was unbearably aching, but my daughter’s existence kept me going. My love for her hasn’t wavered or faded since I first saw her, it has only grown. I was grateful and overjoyed to see my baby maturing into a sweet kid, and then into a beautiful and capable young lady.
After Ian went missing, everything was a blur to me for weeks. I was depressed and heavily-medicated, and my love for my daughter was everything I felt I had, but I didn’t know if I could carry my heavy heart any longer.
Eventually, during dinner, Taylor suggested that Marie go to college in another state. She’s smart, she reasoned, and in our city we don’t have such great options.
“Do you want me to leave?” Marie asked, unspeakably hurt. “Am I a bother to you, Mom?”
“Of course not, sweetheart. You just deserve better,” Taylor said, attempting to calm her down.
“Why don’t you and Dad move with me then? I don’t wanna be without him.”
Taylor explained she couldn’t just transfer from her job, and Marie, once again, freaked out. They had never fought before.
After that, I was afraid I knew what was going to happen, so I had to call Marie to my studio and talk to her.
“Baby, are you aware of your doings?” I softly asked.
“My doings? What do you mean, Dad?”
“I mean this.”
I opened a curtain and showed her a small body, completely surrounded by shiny golden thorns. They were like a cage, enveloping a fragile human being. The tiny body was neither alive nor dead, it was something else. It was cold like death, but showed no signs of decay. No blue dead lips, but no breathing. It was like they were asleep otherworldly beings.
Needless to say, the tiny body belonged to Victoria. It showed up in my studio just after her disappearance and, I swear to God, it was floating. The golden thorns were sheer, but it was impossible to get through them and touch the person.
I honestly spent weeks thinking it was a hallucination, but when Marie started to move on, I finally understood. Every time, the missing person related to my daughter showed up in my studio, which Marie, Taylor and the cleaning lady never set foot in.
Marie’s feelings of loss and despair produce a prison of golden thorns around people she loves and believes to have lost, and they promptly vanish from whenever they are. They were never kidnapped by a person, they are just left unconscious and frozen for eternity – right here in our basement.
“Dad… I didn’t! I swear!”
She didn’t have to say it twice. First of all, she’s my special little girl and I believe her. Secondly, it’s obviously she didn’t have the power to kidnap Victoria and Ms. Martinez without a trace as a little child, and never left home when the other two disappeared in another town, in another country even.
“Whenever someone disappeared, I felt better than when they said they would leave me, Dad,” she simply stated. “Knowing they are choosing to leave me makes me broken and empty, but when they are gone this way, I feel whole again.”
Marie has no queasiness about it. As long as the people she’s losing are gone for good, she will feel better. She didn’t take them, but she doesn’t feel bad about what actually happened, either.
No matter how I assured her that Taylor loves her to bits and wants to be by her side, she felt rejected. So you can imagine what happened to my wife a few days after the discussion.
It all makes me sad, but Marie’s my whole world and I’m not only going to let her feel and do as she pleases… I’m turning the people she loves into art. I want her to keep them untouched as they were before they almost left her, so I’m creating a giant mural with their frozen bodies, peacefully and forever preserved inside a cage of golden thorns.