Young and in love with a head full of dreams, Christina’s shy smile disguised cracks beneath the surface - a past filled with doubts and hurts she worked hard to bury deep. Then a car crash broke her wide open, in more ways than one.
That near-fatal collision could’ve been the end. Instead it was the start of something vibrant, beautiful –– even wonderful. But first it nearly killed her.
Christina Maria Martinez
“Here’s the thing about dark places. Sometimes, we don’t get out of them by pulling ourselves out. Sometimes, it’s just a simple step that keeps us around one more day. Then one more. Then another. Sometimes, it’s just piecing together a string of ‘barely making it through’ days until we get to a day that’s okay. Which leads to days that are good. And then, eventually, when you least expect it, you find your way to great days.”
Shattered Pieces Everywhere tells the miraculous story of how one woman learned to embrace her scars –– both inside and out –– and the love story that carried her through it all.
“A vivid, clear-eyed, emotional, and ultimately hopeful story, shared with remarkable courage and heart.”
AUTHOR OF FAITHFUL DAUGHTER
“This compelling story truly allows the reader to personally feel invested in the writer’s life and how she
approached the good and the bad with simply three words: drive, love, & patience.”
FORMER REGIONAL SALES AND EDUCATION EXECUTIVE FOR SHISEIDO AMERICA
It felt like they had been driving for days, or maybe it was time moving slower, according to her will. As if she had that kind of power. As if God would give a woman like her, who had made the mistakes she had, the ability to control anything. Shaking the demons of self-doubt from her mind, she pulls out a sheet of paper from her purse on the floorboard in front of her.
Taking off her sunglasses and squinting at the bright sunlight, she looks over the driving instructions one last time. She reads the address on the paper and compares it with the address on the sign in front of them. “This is it,” she quietly announces to the two young girls in the backseat. He is there too, in the driver’s seat, but she doesn’t acknowledge him. She is deeply indebted to him, and she loathes that he is here at the same time—loathes the fact that she needs him at all.
“Vivian,” he says softly. “You’re doing the right thing.”
How the hell would he know? Vivian shrinks at the harsh words that come to mind first. It’s not his fault she’s in this predicament and besides, how else would she have made this trip if not for his car? The man drives the creaky sedan up a winding road until they reach a red brick building perched high on the hillside. As the monstrosity groans into park, she takes a deep breath and sighs. There’s no turning back now.
She looks over at the young girl seated behind the driver’s seat first. A beautiful, little blonde-haired wild child with hazel eyes. She’s barely six years old. Vivian gives the little girl a warm smile and, though it is unrequited, she softly touches the bottom of the girl’s chin and gives her a wink as well. Vivian then turns her gaze to the back seat where the younger child is. This little girl is four years old, her thick brown hair held back with two tiny red barrettes. She has chubby cheeks and a sweet smile radiating from her eyes, which only gets bigger with Vivian’s attention. They know what’s coming, thinks Vivian. We talked about this. It’s not a surprise.
The dusty drive had been long, crossing state borders and landing them in a city none of them have been to before. With the car idling in the gravel driveway and a curious mind itching to explore, the oldest little girl opens the door, steps out, and takes in the new surroundings. Her eyes follow the tall pine trees until they meet with the clouds in the sky. Gazing back at the car, she opens the back door wider. Her little hand reaches out to the smaller shy brunette, urging her to scoot across so she can help her out of the backseat.
Leaving the door to the car open, the two girls straighten and turn to look at the entrance of the building, the doorframe of which is now filled with two women walking towards them. The eldest girl immediately steps away from the vehicle and ducks under the shade of a pine tree, arms crossed in a pout, and refusing to utter a word. Her sweet face is now replaced by anger, but with a deep, unmistakable sadness in her eyes. Vivian walks over to her and winces in pain as she kneels—now eye-level with the blonde girl. She whispers something to her, out of earshot from the rest of the group. Attempting to mask her own emotions, Vivian offers the little girl another smile, but is met with only a scowl and a half-turned back.
Despite the stabbing pain of rejection, Vivian pulls her in for one last hug. She knows this could be the last time she ever sees Santina. Struggling to hide the very real physical pain as she stands, she then walks over to the younger child. Kneeling once again, this hug is met with the open arms and warm embrace of a child who has not yet learned to mistrust. Hold on to that innocence. Hold on.
As Vivian brings the younger girl in closer for a final hug, she can feel the child’s heartbeat racing against her own chest. Not wanting to let go, but also not wanting to draw out the pain of goodbye any longer, she pulls the little girl away to gaze upon her one last time. She wipes away the tiny tears that stream down those chubby cheeks. Before standing up for a final time, Vivian clears her throat, holding back her own tears.
“It’s time to say goodbye,” Vivian chokes out. “Your sister will take care of you, and remember, you’ll always have each other.” Pausing as she stands, she softly strokes the cheek of the younger little girl. “Christina, I will always love you.”
Get it together, Vivian thinks. He drove you all this way. There’s no way out of it, even if you wanted one. Sensing herself only moments away from a total meltdown, Vivian turns back toward the car, attempting to distract herself from the torture within her heart. She ducks into the back seat of the car and grabs a small brown grocery bag with a few pieces of clothing inside.
Christina’s whimpers become louder and louder. As the two women from the building reach Vivian, she hands the bag over to one of them. Vivian looks stone-faced at them both and makes one last plea: “Please take care of my babies.”
Turning on worn heels, Vivian walks away to get into the car as she hears Christina scream, pleading with her, “Don’t leave, Mama! Don’t leave! I want to stay with you! Please!”
From the reflection of the car window, Vivian can see one of the women pick up Christina and take both girls up the steps towards the intimidating building with its two-story facade and gray windows. She can’t turn back. She’ll change her mind. She can’t bear to see the pain in both daughters’ eyes.
Vivian closes the door of the car, but nothing can shut out the heartbreaking cries and howling screams from Christina and Santina as they reach the building’s heavy doors. A mother would hear that pain from across an ocean. “Are you ready to go?” he asks.
Has she been ready for anything in her life? Was she ready for motherhood? Was she ready to make this decision? There was no use fighting against all the tiny moments that had led her to this big one. Rather than answer, she places her sunglasses on her face to hide her tears and adjusts her seatbelt. Wordlessly, he puts the car in Drive, trying to avoid looking in her direction as she takes a punishing peek in the side mirror. Christina, the “quiet one,” is visibly heartbroken and inconsolable as she stretches her arms towards the retreating shadow of their car.
As they approach the end of the driveway, Vivian tries unsuccessfully to catch her breath while wiping the tears from her face. She repeats the only thing that comes to mind. This is what’s best for your daughters. Even in that moment, though, she doesn’t truly believe it. But it doesn’t matter. What’s done is done.
Her emotions crash through the flimsy strongholds of her mind as she looks up and reads the sign in the rearview mirror: “Hillcrest Children’s Home.”
This is how one of my life’s most pivotal moments felt as perceived by my mom, Vivian.
Ultimately, though, Shattered Pieces Everywhere is my story.