A few months ago, I was watching something on TV when this PSA came on. It stopped me in my tracks, mostly because it brought some old memories to the surface. I’ve been thinking about writing about the topic of emotional abuse for a while, but wasn’t sure how to do it. I have one YA manuscript with a male character who is both physically and emotionally abusive to his girlfriend, but sometimes people don’t even realize they’re in a damaging relationship because they’ve never been hit, punched, slapped or kicked.
At least, that’s why I didn’t realize I was in such a relationship when I was 17 years old. I thought because my boyfriend was older, in college, and took me to nice places that I could overlook the tiny things he did that made me uncomfortable. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I came to understand he was emotionally abusive. I finally sat down and decided to put some ideas down on paper, and the next thing I knew, I had a short story that featured a lot of my own personal experience through the eyes of a fictional character. It’s still a work in progress, but I hope it will be something teenagers can read and learn from one day so they don’t make the same mistakes I did.
There were so many red flags I should have noticed. Like the way he didn’t want me talking to any other guys, period. I thought it was normal jealous boyfriend stuff. Then he didn’t really want me hanging out with my friends, either, because he was afraid other guys would be around. If I mentioned another guy—a friend, classmate, or whatever, he would let out a string of very unflattering names for that person, even if he had never met them. It made me uncomfortable, but I let it go because he was smart, attentive, bought me nice things, and seemed to genuinely like me. Wrong, I know. After a few months, he started calling me names and acting like I wanted to leave him for any other guy within a 10-foot-vicinity. It seems melodramatic, but that’s about how ridiculous his jealousy was. Thank goodness there were no cell phones back then. He would become furious if I couldn’t/didn’t want to spend time with him. I started to feel smothered after about six months, because I was a senior in high school and felt like I couldn’t be a teenager anymore.
When I was accepted into a college other than the one he went to, he was so angry he almost couldn’t see straight. He told me we should go ahead and break up then and there because he knew if I went to another school I would cheat on him. Immediately. Nice, huh? Once I made the decision to go to the same college as him, he wanted to know where I was at all times. He memorized my class schedule and if I wasn’t where I was supposed to be, he would interrogate me when he found me. (“You weren’t in the building where your class was, or the dining hall, library, or any of the parking lots. Where the hell have you been and who were you with?”) As you can imagine, all his controlling behavior drove me away. I became interested in another classmate, and broke up with my boyfriend because I was still young and wanted to be able to date other people. From there, the ex-boyfriend left threatening notes on my car, egged my house, sent his friends into my place of employment to call me names, etc.)
Even though I saw his behavior escalate, for some reason in a moment of weakness a few months later I reconciled with him briefly. But after the behavior started up again I called it off. I knew I couldn’t continue to live like that. I had been called so many names (including the title of this blog post and my short story) that I had very little self-esteem left. I knew he made me feel terrible and that his behavior couldn’t be considered normal, but because he had never laid a hand on me I didn’t think it was abuse.
I know now I was wrong. I have a teenage daughter, and I’ve shared my story with her in the hopes that she never finds herself in a similar situation. And if she does, I want her to know it’s not her fault, and she should not be afraid to tell someone. I was lucky—he finally left me alone a few months after I broke things off the second time. And I’m fortunate to have been married to a wonderful man for 17 years now, but the scars from this experience are still there. I guess they always will be. #ThatsNotLove
When I first decided to start up my blog again I knew I wanted to designate one day to true crime posts. (Hey—I had to find some way of justifying my addiction to the unsolved/unresolved missing persons and cold cases, right?) For today’s post I had originally planned to talk about Kyle Fleischmann, a young man who disappeared in Charlotte, N.C. in 2007, but after I saw a new program scheduled to run on the Oxygen channel this weekend titled “The Disappearance of Maura Murray,” I changed my plans.
For those not familiar with the case, on the night of Feb. 9, 2004, Maura Murray e-mailed her college professors at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and employers and told them she needed to take a week off due to a death in her family. (This was later determined to be a lie). She researched renting a condominium in the mountains of New Hampshire. She left campus, withdrew most of the money in her bank account from an ATM, purchased alcohol at a liquor store, including a box of wine, and drove to Haverhill, New Hampshire, a few hours away. She crashed her car on a country road there around 7 p.m.
A school bus driver stopped to ask her if she needed help on his way home but she said, no, she had already called AAA for help. He drove to his home just a few houses away and placed a call to police. He doubted her story because the area had no cell service whatsoever. By the time police arrived around 15 minutes later, there was no sign of Maura. Some of her possessions were found in the car, along with an empty bottle that appeared to have residual wine in it and the smashed up box of wine she had purchased at the liquor store. Her debit and credit cards and cell phone were missing. Maura was never seen again.
I’ve listed to a few episodes of the Missing Maura Murray podcast , produced by Tim Pilleri and Lance Reenstierna, where they discuss different theories out there about Maura’s disappearance as well as a detailed timeline of the events leading up to the night she went missing. James Renner is another journalist who has a blog devoted to this case, My Search for Maura Murray, as well as a nonfiction book titled True Crime Addict: How I Lost Myself in the Mysterious Disappearance of Maura Murray.
I think people are fascinated with Maura’s case because on the surface, she looked like she had everything going for her. She was young, beautiful, athletic, intelligent, studying for a promising career in nursing. But Maura’s story goes much deeper than that. Scratch the surface a bit and secrets would be revealed, one by one. So many secrets and transgressions that when added up, could result in a person wanting to run away, disappear, or take their own life rather than be exposed.
Some of those secrets (from what I’ve been able to glean from news articles, podcasts, and television broadcasts of the case) are that Maura had been asked to leave West Point Academy, which she originally attended after graduating from high school, for an honor code violation. She transferred to the University of Massachusetts at Amherst to study nursing. While there, she got into trouble for using the credit card of someone who lived in her dorm to order food from a local restaurant. The day before she disappeared, she crashed her father’s brand-new car near campus around 3:30 a.m., causing a lot of damage. The next day, she put most of her belongings in boxes in her dorm room, e-mailed professors and her employer for the time off, researched condos in the mountains of New Hampshire and Vermont, and drove away. Then she crashed her car again around 7 p.m. that night. How could this girl not be scared that her world was caving in?
Some people theorize that a local resident snatched Maura as she stood outside of her car wondering how she was going to get out her second car accident in two days. Me? Personally I believe she panicked because she was probably going to get a D.U.I., and that, along with the rest of her troubles, was too much for her to handle. She probably grabbed what she needed and took off into the woods before police could arrive. She could have gotten disoriented in the woods and succumbed to the elements. I don’t really believe any of the theories that she faked her own disappearance and is living in Canada somewhere. It seems a little too far fetched to me. But, who knows? I could be wrong.
Do you have any theories about what could have happened to Maura Murray? Have you watched “The Disappearance of Maura Murray” or followed any of the blogs? Do you think the case will be cracked anytime soon?
“The most underrated force at work in the universe is that of coincidence. And yet who among us hasn’t been at its mercy?” – The Identicals
Elin Hilderbrand is one of my favorite authors, and every summer I look forward to meeting a new set of characters in her latest novel. In my favorite book, The Blue Bistro, it was Adrienne, Thatcher, the mysterious chef Fiona, and the whole colorful front and back of the house staff at the restaurant. In The Castaways it was Tess and Greg, Addison and Delilah, Addison and Phoebe and Andrea and Jeffrey, a group of couples who had all grown too close for their own good—I almost couldn’t keep up with all their secrets! In A Summer Affair it was the illicit romance between Claire and Lock as they worked together on a summer gala, even though both were married and had a lot to lose if their secret was discovered. The list goes on and on. This year, I couldn’t hold myself back when I heard about The Identicals, a tale of two identical twins who were raised on the separate islands of Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard.
In fact, both Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard each serve as narrators in different parts of the book. Nantucket says things like, “Famous residents: Prefer not be named,” while Martha’s Vineyard adds, “Famous residents: Meg Ryan, Lady Gaga, Carly Simon, James Taylor, John Belushi,” etc. The book is also told from the points of view of twins Tabitha (raised on Nantucket with her mom after her parents’ divorce when she was a teenager), Harper (who traveled to Martha’s Vineyard with the twins’ dad) and Ainsley, who is Tabitha’s 16-year-old daughter and quite the handful.
Both women are 39 and have lives that couldn’t be more different. Tabitha never married but had two children with her ex-boyfriend Wyatt, Ainsley and an infant son who only lived a few months. She also followed in her mother’s business trying to keep a clothing line (think Lilly Pulitzer variety) afloat, while Harper never really settled on a career and got into one scrape after another, including a drug trafficking charge. When the book begins the two women are united when their father Billy dies, and the reader learns the women haven’t spent any time together since the death of Tabitha’s son—a death for which she blames Harper for some mysterious reason. When their mother Eleanor falls and breaks her hip, there is no one to stay and watch over Ainsley, who has become quite a rebellious and indulgent teenager, on Nantucket. Harper ends up traveling to Nantucket to help out against Tabitha’s wishes while Tabitha first helps her mother in Boston, and then makes her way to Martha’s Vineyard.
I enjoyed reading about the dynamic between the two sisters, especially their complicated love lives. The character of Ainsley had the most growth throughout the novel, which was a nice surprise. I did grow a little frustrated at the hints of what happened the night Tabitha’s son died, because at the end blaming Harper was a little more than misplaced. It also reminded me a little of the storyline in Summerland that involved Ava and Jordan’s infant son who also died.
As usual, Hilderbrand’s love of food comes into play (Harper is a great cook and the meals she prepares are decadent) and it was a change of pace to read about Martha’s Vineyard this time along with Nantucket. It made me add one more place to my travel bucket list! I also purchased the book from Barnes and Noble and it featured bonus content at the end that gave a little backstory to the Tabitha and Harper’s parents, Eleanor and Billy.
Have you read any Elin Hilderbrand books? Which was your favorite? If you haven’t, what is your favorite author famous for writing “beach reads?”