Chapter 1

Our self-image, strongly held, essentially determines what we become.

Maxwell Maltz

Her warning still echoed in my mind. “He’s the kind of man that pulls wings off of butterflies.” The faceless man had haunted me for as long as I could remember. I shuddered and clenched my eyes as tightly as I could, but the admonition refused to be silenced.

All my life I’d been drawn to jerks. I even married two of them, but one autumn morning in 1994, as I sat sipping coffee in my kitchen, I decided I had to know why. Glancing at my desk, I noticed my son Jace’s library book peeking from beneath a pile of discarded notebook paper.

“I hope he didn’t forget his report too,” I murmured, as I reached for the book and then flipped through the pages. Someone had highlighted the final words of the novel and the florescent yellow caught my attention. “I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart.” Ann Frank lived through hell, but despite her suffering, she remained adamant that people were innately good. Her diary, a solace for her, had ultimately inspired hope in millions of people. I closed the book, lay it back on the desk and drifted toward the kitchen. My struggles paled in comparison and I shared her passion–her kindred spirit, but when it came to people, I wasn’t so sure anymore.

Drawn to the refrigerator, I opened the door and stared at its contents. I wasn’t hungry, but the fridge held an irresistible fascination when my mind was searching. What was wrong with me? Why did I find myself yet again at the bottom struggling to look up? I’m educated, thoughtful, honest, kind–I shook my head in disgust and closed the fridge door empty handed. My self-assessment sounded like a girl scout.

Perfect, a 42-year-old girl scout! Surely I have more substance. I’m so tired of feeling used, betrayed, and tossed aside. Why do so many men lie and cheat? “I just have to face the facts; I am a ‘jerk-magnet’!” I said aloud. They say the first sign of going crazy is talking to yourself.

The men in my life were pushing me over the edge. I reached for my empty coffee cup, filled it, and wrapped my hands around the steaming mug. The rich aroma of the strong, nutty brew spread through my senses and the hot liquid almost burned as it slipped down my throat. Its warmth comforted me and the effect rippled through my body. As I ambled back towards my chair, I paused at the sight of the somber image reflected in the mirror. My God, how did I ever get this way? I barely recognized the frumpy figure staring back at me.

“Pathetic,” I whispered as I pulled the long, stringy, dark hair away from my face and grimaced at how old I looked. What happened to the determined, vivacious young woman who dreamt of conquering the world?

Collapsing into the chair, I noticed the empty journal that had been strategically positioned on the table beside me. Josh, the older of my two boys, had given it to me a few months earlier in an attempt to encourage me.

I used to love to write. I used to love a lot of things, but life had devoured my passion and swallowed my dreams. I opened the cover of his insightful gift, stared down at the blank pages and ran my fingers across the pen attached to the binding of the diary.

Maybe writing could help. The wind whistled as it swept around the chimney and I shivered, feeling the chill of the autumn morning as it stole through the open flue and into the room. Curled up in the overstuffed chair, I tugged at my robe and tucked it neatly around my feet. As I picked up the pen, my mind began to unveil forgotten memories.

Journal entry, autumn 1994:

I amjust me. I can’t change who or what I am any more than I can move the moon or the stars. I feel deeply, think far too much and dream of passion and love beyond the scope or fantasy of ordinary people. I, Casi McLean, was society’s child, daring to dream, but only in the solitude of my bedroom in the dark of night. Something deep inside has held me hostage and sabotaged my ambitious aspirations.

Mom told me so many stories of when I was a little girl, but I have little to no memory of those days. I can’t recall playing with my sister, Brianna or my brother, Alexno birthday parties, Christmases, or special events. I can’t remember my mother shopping with me to find the perfect party dress or fussing over my hair to make sure it looked just right, butmother’s stories are seared in my mind . . .


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