(This story is part of a continuing series, An Assault in Venice. Part 1 starts here.)

Jeanette’s assault coincided with a time in my life when I was searching. Perhaps everyone goes through a period of time when things aren’t working out the way you’d hoped, and so you search for deeper meaning. This was my what’s-it-all-about phase. My writing career hadn’t materialized in the way I imagined it would. My life partner hadn’t yet arrived. I didn’t have as much money as I expected to have at that point in my life. And so I kept asking why and looking for new sources of insight.

Southern California was offering a smorgasbord of answers, from the wacky to the holistic, and I was willing to try a little bit of everything. I read books, went to workshops and consulted psychics. I had my chart read, my palms read and my cards read. I meditated, got therapy and delved into my past lives. I became a vegetarian, ate macrobiotically and took herbs. I cleared my chakras, I studied Reiki, I wore magnets, I consulted a pendulum, I carried a medicine bag, I bought gemstones, I recited affirmations, I visited monasteries, I journaled, I journeyed, I fasted and I cleansed.

I’m not sure if what I found through it all was clarity or confusion. All I knew was that I kept returning to one resource over and over again. The book A Course in Miracles rooted me in a way nothing else had before, and my mentor Marianne Williamson was the clearest voice I’d ever found on matters both physical and metaphysical. She was the one who taught me how to pray. She also, in so many ways, taught me how to think. And so it was an enormous blessing that on the morning after I’d spent my first night alone, hers was the voice of comfort that reached out to me. It was still early when she phoned.

“Tess, it’s Marianne,” she said. “I just heard what happened.”

“Oh, Marianne.” It may have been my first moment of relief. “I don’t know what to do with this.” I struggled for words as I recounted the story to her, as well as my fear and sense of loss. “I’m trying to figure out how to frame this event in my mind and it’s not coming, I don’t know how to do it.”

I expected her to say something deeply profound, something that would radically change my perspective. This was, after all, what made Marianne famous the world over: she provided nuggets of wisdom that dispelled all questions. Especially mine. So her response surprised me.

“Evil can’t be framed,” she said simply. Her voice, which had always been so even and calm, ignited with anger as she spoke about the hideousness of violence. Then she paused and asked if we could pray together. We prayed for safety and comfort. We prayed for healing. And we prayed for help. She assured me that there were people everywhere who would come to us and help us. “What can I do?” she asked humbly.

I didn’t hesitate. From the moment I’d been on my knees trying to comfort Jeanette in the aftermath of the assault, I just kept thinking about the same thing. “We need a plastic surgeon. Someone who will donate services for free.”

“I’ll call you back in ten minutes,” she said.

I sat at my desk with my head bowed for those ten minutes. For slightly more than a week, I kept saying to myself: This is Los Angeles; this is the plastic surgery capital of the world. We must know someone.

And now we did. Marianne phoned back with the name of a plastic surgeon she knew in Santa Barbara, Dr. Gregory Keller. He was not just a master magician of the nip and tuck for the rich and famous, he also just happened to be the Co-Director of the Facial Plastic Surgery Fellowship at UCLA and, like his colleague Dr. Blackwell, he’d received a teaching award in the Head & Neck Surgery Department.

We would meet Dr. Keller for the first time the following week. He would assess all the damage to Jeanette’s face and tell us that the process of putting her back together again would take a year. By then, my insta-boyfriend Michael would be in the process of moving in. And despite how capable I’d been with everything else, I would fail to recognize him for the fraud he really was.

…go to Part 13