"Bloody hell!" Alex sighed deeply. "I should have known that this day would eventually come. How did it happen?"
"Her teacher told the class about the Ludovico treatment. Marisa was curious and looked up more about it on the Internet."
"Poor devotchka," Alex said softly.
"She's so upset that she doesn't even want to come home," Lorelei sighed. "What are we going to do?"
"I'll talk to her," Alex decided, picking up the telephone receiver.
Alex's Em answered. "Marisa, it's your father. He wants to speak to you," she called to her granddaughter.
"Tell him I have nothing to say to him," Marisa replied.
"She won't come to the phone," Alex's Em told her son.
"She won't even speak to me," Alex told his wife miserably.
"Let me speak to her," Lorelei said. Alex handed her the receiver.
"Marisa, please listen," Lorelei said to her daughter. "I realize how upset you are, but you're simply going to have to accept this. Your father loves you dearly. He's very sorry for the bad things he did in the past, and he'll never do them again. Please, sweetheart, won't you at least just talk to him?"
"Like I told Grandma, I have nothing to say to him," Marisa said shortly.
"He does really love you, Marisa. He's still the same person who used to give you piggyback rides and take you out for ice cream."
"He's a horrible person, Mum. He's a rapist and a murderer. I never want to see him again!"
"You don't mean that, sweetheart," Lorelei said, but Marisa had already hung up.
"I don't want to go home," Marisa complained. "I'm not ready yet."
"You're our daughter, Marisa. You belong with us."
"Did he come with you?"
"No, he stayed home with Malcolm, but you're going to have to face him eventually, Marisa."
Marisa scowled as she followed her mother back to the car. The ride back home was absolutely silent. Alex and Malcolm both glanced up as she entered the house, but she completely ignored them.
That night Marisa heard a soft rap on her bedroom door.
"Come in," she said.
Alex opened the door. "I know you don't want to see me, Marisa, but I have to talk to you," he said.
Marisa glared at her father defiantly.
"Listen, Marisa, I completely understand how badly it hurt you to find out about the things I did when I was younger. Please believe me, Marisa, I'd give anything, anything at all, if I could go back and undo all the wrong things I did, but I can't. The memory of all those bad things is something I'll have to live with for the rest of my life, and worse than that is the knowledge of how badly it's hurting you now. Marisa, sweetheart, I love you and your brother more than life itself. If there were anything in the world that I could do to take away the pain that's in your heart right now, I'd do it in a heartbeat."
"What were you thinking about while you and your friends were raping Lauren Alexander's mum?"
"I was very young then, and I thought that it was all just a game, a joke. I thought it was a lot of fun to hurt other people. That was before I developed empathy. Do you know what empathy is, Marisa?"
Marisa shook her head.
"Empathy is the ability to put yourself in another person's shoes, to understand how they feel when you hurt them. The reason I did all those bad things was that I hadn't yet developed empathy, but I have now, thanks in large part to your mum."
Marisa looked thoughtful. What her father said seemed to make a lot of sense, and she felt the anger that she had for him beginning to dissipate.
"What about me?" she asked.
"What do you mean?"
"What if I turn out to be just like you were? I mean, what if it's inherited?"
Alex laughed. "I don't think you have anything to worry about, Marisa. You have more empathy than just about anyone else I know."
"What about Malcolm?"
"I think he'll be fine too, Marisa."
"Are you sure?" Marisa felt as if a heavy load had just been lifted off her shoulders.
"I'm positive, Marisa." Alex grinned and rumpled his daughter's hair. "Feel better now?"
"Much." Marisa grinned back at him.
"I love you, Marisa." Alex lifted her chin and kissed her forehead.
"I love you too, Dad." Everything was all right again. Well, maybe not completely all right, but at least she was no longer afraid.