Focus by Holly Bargo
Advanced Read Excerpt
Chapter 1 - Dana
Dinnertime chatter about my photographic expedition to Palmisano Park faded into ritual gift-giving. White lights twinkled on the Christmas tree as I watched Sonya pull away the pretty wrapping paper, open the box, and pick up what at first glance resembled large, heavy chandelier earrings. They weren’t earrings. Fear flashed in her eyes, swiftly masked by a polite smile. I looked away and saw the lust glittering in her powerful, billionaire husband’s eyes. He licked his lips in anticipation of using the bejeweled nipple clamps on his wife, who loved him too much to deny him anything, no matter how unreasonable, degrading, or humiliating. She loved him with a slavish devotion that brainwashed a normally intelligent woman into living a life as a sex slave. The red leather collar she wore testified to that.
And, just like that, I’d had enough.
“No,” I growled as I half-rose and leaned across the dining room table to swipe the box from her hands, my own tight grip crushing the sturdy cardboard. As I settled back into the chair, my voice strengthened and I focused my anger upon him. “No, you selfish prick. You will not use these on her.”
He glared at me, surprise morphing into anger. I wanted to wince, but held my ground against the much bigger and imposing man.
“How dare you!” Bradley Vermont snarled, using the domineering voice that cowed his employees, colleagues, business associates, and Sonya. She ducked her head and cringed, waiting for the punishment he meted out regularly in their master-and-slave relationship. What little I’d witnessed of their hardcore BDSM lifestyle made my stomach churn, although Sonya swore that Brad loved her, took care of her, and gave her indescribable pleasure alongside the pain.
Sunday, April 12, was Easter and a most un-Easter-like day it was. The weather was typical for spring in Ohio: undecided. Shall it rain? Be mild or chilly? Overcast or sunny? Mother Nature couldn't decide.
What made the highest holy day of the liturgical calendar un-Easter-like? The shelter-at-home orders arising from the COVID-19 crisis. But this isn't a pandemic-related post, even though the lockdown has really messed with my concept of days of the week by canceling Sunday Masses.
Easter is the day when Christians celebrate Christ rising from death. I spent Easter morning visiting the dead.
First I went to Ferncliff Cemetery where my niece, Madeline, is buried. I thought I remembered where her grave is, but I was wrong. Ferncliff has a plot locator on its website, so I checked that on my phone. No results. It appeared my niece was not in their records. However, a search from my home computer did return her record and her location. I'll have to go back, because I did not find her plot on Easter.
Off to the Dayton National Cemetery. I had no trouble finding the columbarium and locating the niche where my father's ashes rest. I wept a little, sniffled a lot, and talked at him. I received no sense that he listened. I did not hear his voice. I didn't really expect to, although if I had it wouldn't be the first time I heard the voice of the deceased.
The first time I can recall hearing the dead speak was when my maternal grandmother died. Grandma was often brusque, so her words to me were few: "I'm fine." That's all I heard in her distinct voice, in her distinct tone, on the way to the cemetery for the interment service. Her words echo in my brain. Many may dismiss that as a hallucination or illusion arising from grief; I choose to believe that my grandmother spoke to me. She gave me the quick reassurance I needed.
I've never heard Madeline speak since she died, but her mother has. I don't doubt it, because faith informs me that the souls of the deceased can communicate with the as-yet living. I haven't heard from my father. Perhaps he thinks I need no reassurance. Perhaps I've outgrown or become too cynical or jaded to hear. Or perhaps it's simply not yet time.
But I'll continue to listen.
I hope you had a peaceful Easter holiday.