Table of Contents


Author’s note






































About the Author





Copyright© 2017 Brompton Road Literary, LLC

All rights reserved by author.

Published by Brompton Road Literary, LLC

No part of this publication may bereproduced in any form by any means electronic, mechanical, photocopying,recording or otherwise without written permission of the publisher.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters,businesses, places, events, and incidents are either the products of theauthor’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actualpersons, living or deceased, or actual events is purely coincidental.

ISBN: 978-0-9988873-1-9 Print.

ISBN:  978-0-9988873-0-2Ebook.

CoverArt by: James T. Egan ofBookfly Design

BromptonRoad Literary, LLC Logo by: Green CloakDesign

Interiorbook design by: Bob Houston eBook Formatting

Contact the author for contests,giveaways, and book release news at her website:


Bear with mereaders, it has taken many years to get to this place, and I have a number ofpeople to thank.

This book isdedicated to…

My motherElaine—you have been my rock and my dearest friend from the very beginning.Thanks is not enough, but I give it with a full heart.

Louis—I loveyou, Silver Fox. After a quarter century, you still show me the fairytalemoments in life and keep me laughing. By the way, it was rain, not mist.

Jacob,Zachary, Taylor, Liam, Grace, and Owen—my greatest gift to the world is you.

Everett—welcometo the tribe, little one. And thank you to my son-in-law Cameron. Your smile isone of my favorite things.

HesterGrayson—for coming into my life at the exact moment I needed an invisiblefriend.

Lastly, Idedicate my first novel to those kindred souls who envision different worldsand then create them. Writers and dreamers, this one’s for you.

Author’s note

American SignLanguage is a glorious, beautiful form of communication. I feel the utmostrespect for those who sign and for the language itself. The main character inthis book has difficulty speaking and learns ASL after reaching adulthood. Itchanges her life for the better, allows her to be understood as was previouslyimpossible.

I have notadhered to the ASL grammar rules for this story, however. Yet I hope toillustrate how lives can be enhanced through sign. Authentic grammar is alwaysdesirable. Please pardon this exception to the rules.


Pulvis et umbra sumus.

We are but dust and shadow—Horace

Ironwood Lunatic Asylum

Ironwood, Colorado January 1892

Butterfliesare my salvation.

Milkweed monarchs, to be precise. Danaus Plexippus.

Though I may be trembling with fear, held captive in mysubterranean cell, I summon the image of the butterflies with ancient magic, andthey appear in my psyche, to bring a little hope, a little comfort within theconfines of the Pit.

The monarchs are just as lovely as the day Tom sent them, viatelepathic pictures, to my blind eyes. They came from a memory he had as achild of walking through a summer field of grain and watching the butterfliesdance. By sharing the memory, Tom brought color into my world, showing me the brilliantshades and teaching me each name. Orange and black monarch wings, blue-purple eveningskies, golden barley. He helped me understand the scene as a sighted personwould, back when we loved each other, before all was lost.

My eyes feel dry and gritty, as though they have no more tearsto shed. I lift my face toward the ceiling and the butterfly vision disappearsas noise shatters my conjuring. Men curse. Boots scrape against the floorabove. Metal grinds against metal and a series of shouted commands ring out asthe iron lid of my cell lifts away. Like clockwork, the guards come for me on amadman’s whim.

My cell, known within the asylum as the Pit, is usually a quietplace, except for the sound of dripping water and the scuttle-dash-whisper ofrats and insects. But this noisy production is straight out of a penny dreadful—theghastly novels once read to me by my friend Cordelia, for amusement’s sake on slowsummer afternoons. Only now I find myself cast as the hapless maiden indire straits, and there is no hero arriving in the nick of time.

The Pit is stout and circular, and I lean against its rough,limestone squares as I listen to the guards move about. The stones are warmedby the kitchen ovens located on the other side of the thick walls. The heathere must be suffocating in the summer, but it’s most welcome on winter dayslike this. I run my fingers along the nearest square. Is it odd that I am reluctantto leave this forsaken hole? My excursion into the world beyond can’t possiblyend well, after all. It isn’t freedom, but merely a relocation from one chamberof horrors to the next.

A guard enters my cell through a hole in the ceiling, taking aset of iron stairs to the narrow landing below. He continues down more stairsanother twenty feet to the dregs of the Pit. To my home away from home. Damnand blast, it’s Titus. I know him by the squeaking heel of his boot. He kickssomething across the hay-strewn floor—corn cobs or old chicken bones, mostlikely. Titus reaches me and grunts. A sound of disgust if ever I’ve heard one.

Yet I must look a little frightening, body and hair pale as analbino. Silver, iridescent eyes. At least that’s the description I’ve heardothers give of me. But lacking sight, and a mirror, it isn't as though I gazeat my reflection. Sometimes I imagine myself as a striking brunette, or betterstill, a redhead. Such vivid plumage is all the rage, is it not?

“On with your bracelets, princess,” Titus says, latching a setof irons around my wrists and ankles.

So heavy and rough are they against the skin. And Titus doesn’tneed to use shackles—he knows I’ll obey. Or I have done, for the most part,since my last failed escape when he nearly broke my jaw. Jackass.

“Up the stairs,” Titus mutters,

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