OOC: Just a different perspective on the picnic in the park. I gave Maria a voice.

I was a person, once. A wife, a mother, a daughter. I had dreams of a peaceful life, sharing it with the family I loved. I had hopes! I had bad times. Now I'm nothing but a memory, haunting the man whom I was glad to share my life-and even last moments-with. It is only my memory saving him from completely losing himself in the life that seems to have been chosen for him.

I am the thin barrier that prevents him from becoming the very monster that he has vowed to kill. Not that Frank is crazy, or in danger of going crazy. It is just too easy to lose yourself in the violence that is a remnant of our more animalistic days.

My name is Maria Castle, and this is my story. The only one that is in me to tell. It is the last echo of me that is still in Frank. I hope it saves him, one of these days.

April 21, 1976

Frank hadn't slept well in weeks, and therefore, I suffered alongside him. Most nights were full of nightmares and muffled screams. I heard mumblings about the killing fields, and the blood that he waded through. I lay awake and cringed at the horrors he must have seen, and the pain he endured. His body shuddered and he lashed out, involuntarily.

The doctors nowadays would label him with having a bad case of post traumatic stress disorder, but there wasn't much known about it back in 1976. People who came back from 'Nam were treated like a dirty secret. Most had a hard time finding a job. Some committed suicide. Frank was one of the lucky ones who was hired as a Special Forces Instructor-which meant the USMC found him too valuable to let go, but not so valuable as to pay him what he deserved.

"Frank," I said, in the quiet of the morning. We lay in bed with the cold light on our bodies. His eyes were black morasses of guilt, anger and a memory that he couldn't forget or truly remember. I touched his arm and he shuddered. "I was thinking that perhaps that we should have fun as a family. I've noticed you've been so ...distant lately, and you haven't slept well."

The children were the only bright spot in his life that gave him joy. Sometimes, when we made love, he would let his guard down and he'd smile...but even that, made him hurt deep in his soul. Like he thought that this life was too good to be true, and that it would all be ripped from him. How true that intuition was, so I would soon find out.

"I'm sorry." He told me, quietly.

"I wish my father was alive. I'm sure he'd be able to help you." I added. He had served in the Army during the Korean conflict, mostly mentioned to me as a police action. With a great deal of sarcasm. He, like Frank, had been plagued by nightmares. Only, I said to myself, sometimes it seemed that Frank craved that chaos, like he both missed and loathed the horrors of war.

He loved Frank and had more than given his blessing when we wed. It was good that he did, because I was already pregnant with Lisa. Yes, we had engaged in premarital sex, but we married because of love, not out of any societal pressure to assure that Lisa would be legitimate. That's what Frank said, and his word was solid as a rock. He told me he loved me, and that was good enough for me.

I shoved it out of my mind and rose from the bed. "We have quite the day ahead of us, so let's get ready."


We were laughing and eating our lunch when the shots rang out. I didn't know what they were, but Frank reacted to them. Too late. One hit Lisa in her stomach, I recoiled at seeing her secrets that should never been exposed. And her cries. I reached out to her, then I screamed, pierced by a sharp bullet. I glanced down to watch the scarlet fluid of my life gush forth, turning my shirt from white to crimson. I clutched my chest as Frank Jr. collapsed, caught by his father.

Although I remember all of this, I don't quite recall the order. I find that to be very strange, as if the event were too large for my mind to capture all at once, but too horrific for me to forget. It hurts. All this pain. I wish I could tell him that I feel everything that he does, though he is beginning to repress his emotions...other than hate. I'm turning into nothing but fog.

Even though Frank had been shot, he still tried to help us, with Frankie's brains over his large hands. I wanted him to help me...I begged him with my eyes, and that's when I saw his blue eyes shatter. That's when he realized he couldn't help me, he couldn't help any of us.

Then my world faded to black.

The end.