This is a sneak peek of my upcoming novel, Feel No Evil. Feel No Evil dives deep into the many gray areas in life and the transformative power of forgiveness. It asks the question, could you forgive a person who did the unforgivable? What if your life literally depended on it? Can a person change? Can good people do bad things and bad people do things? A page-turning, addictive, dark, and yet hopeful, tale – perfect for the age of #MeToo – Feel No Evil will stay with the reader long after the last page. (I know there are a few other sneak peeks of this novel floating around on here, from 2014 through 2017, but none have this temporary cover I created.)
2:21. 2:22. 2:23. All I could see were the digital numbers of the clock. All I could hear was his menacing voice, “Is it going to be hard or soft?” All I could say was, “Please stop. Please don’t.” See no evil. Hear no evil. Speak no evil. They forgot feel no evil. All I could feel were his hands pushing down on my shoulders and the searing pain ripping through my core.
I close the journal—the flowers on its cover faded; the paper almost silk-like from age. It has been over twenty years—twenty-one years, to be exact—since I wrote those words. I wish that they were fiction from a long ago college creative writing class, but they aren’t—they’re real and every year on the anniversary of my assault I pull out that journal and read that entry. After I read it, I put the journal back in my old leather briefcase on top of my closet and drink a glass of wine. It’s my way of marking the anniversary and moving forward. My husband, Caleb, keeps our kids downstairs or even takes them out for a slice of pizza or ice cream, so I can read it alone, in peace. So I can shed a tear or two.
I know that it might seem odd for a forty-one year old woman to still think about something that happened so long ago, but if you’ve ever been assaulted, you know that the fact of what happened never really goes away. It just sits like a rotten little bit of food in the back of the refrigerator. The smell will eventually take over the whole thing if you ignore it, so every year I pay attention to it—I take out that rotten bit of food, throw it in the symbolic garbage and try not to think about it, until it starts festering again a year later. It’s an odd ritual, to be sure, but one that works for me or at least it did work, until this year.
It’s a cruel joke being raped on Tax Day—for at least a few months before commercials always reminded me that the day is coming. “Don’t forget, April fifteenth is right around the corner,” a voice would ominously intone. It was always everywhere, warning people of the day of doom. It’s not as much anymore with extensions and early filing, but for me it’s still the lead up to reading that passage. I know I’ll pull down the briefcase; I know I’ll open it to the same page; and I know that I’ll put it back and lock down any thoughts of that April fifteenth so many years ago for another twelve months. But as I put back the briefcase, I know that this year is different. This year I might not be able to lock it down. This year, the person who destroyed my life, Vin Merdone, just popped up on Facebook as “someone I might know” three days before April fifteenth, and I realized that while he damn near ruined my life, his life just went on as happy as could be.
With morbid curiosity I had clicked through his profile pictures. There were pictures of him smiling on a beach; swimming with dolphins; lazing on a lounge; emerging from a pool; and one that looked to be from several years earlier of him holding up a beer, no doubt saying “cheers” to the person taking the picture. He looked happy and tan—and, quite honestly, had a slight menace about him, muscles bulging beneath the tattoos covering his arms—in all of them. The worst photo by far was the one of him kneeling next to a large shark lying in a pool of blood. The smile on his face was broad and satisfied, a cruel glint in his eye. I quickly moved on, the knot in my stomach tightening. One glance at his About told me that he now makes Miami his home. It didn’t look like he had a wife and kids, thankfully, but it did look like he was living a dream life—wealth and luxury abounded in all the photos, leaving me envious and angry in equal measure.
And the shock of seeing his face after all these years cut right through me—sure, he was older, but the set of his jaw remained, the curl of lip was the same. He still had a full head of hair—slicked back in most photos, giving him a look of smarmy intensity. When I clicked on our mutual friend, shock morphed into anger. The thought that my old friend, Sean, the friend who introduced us that fateful night, the friend who apologized so profusely and swore up and down that he didn’t know Vin was violent, the friend I thought I loved was still friends with this person, even on Facebook, filled me with a feeling I couldn’t quite name—rage, surprise, despair. Or perhaps it was all of those rolled into one.
I quickly “unfriended” Sean and started to block Vin. Only I couldn’t. It was like passing a car crash on the highway—I just had to look at it. I had to try to make sense of the man he is now, so maybe I could understand the boy he was then. Staring at his grinning face, I once again berated myself for only filing an anonymous police report—one that went on his record, but didn’t get him arrested.
Even worse, looking at those pictures, I spun back to that night. I had been drinking—I always admitted that, but I would never agree that drinking made me a victim, that anything other than violence made me a victim. Sean was hosting a party in his dorm room, and Vin was there. After we talked for most of the party, Vin asked me to take a walk. Up until that point in my life, my sophomore year in college, I had only encountered people with good intentions. Even the drunk guys who hit on me at parties, took a “no” in stride and moved on to the next girl. If I did go home with someone, they too took my “no” in stride and were content to just fool around a bit, before I went back to my dorm room. I had never slept with anyone at college, and I was proud of my ability to stand my ground. That all changed on an early spring night when I was twenty years old…