Authors: Russell J. Sanders
The Book of Ethan
The Book of Ethan
was a very enjoyable read that doesn’t easily fit into any specific subgenre... The author definitely has talent.”
—Prism Book Alliance
“I really enjoyed the diversity in this book... I will probably be on the lookout for more from this author.”
—Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words
is a quirky novel: part murder mystery, part coming-of-age tale, and part romance.”
—Rainbow Book Reviews
The Book of Ethan
5032 Capital Circle SW, Suite 2, PMB# 279, Tallahassee, FL 32305-7886 USA
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of author imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
© 2015 Russell J. Sanders.
© 2015 Aaron Anderson.
Cover content is for illustrative purposes only and any person depicted on the cover is a model.
All rights reserved. This book is licensed to the original purchaser only. Duplication or distribution via any means is illegal and a violation of international copyright law, subject to criminal prosecution and upon conviction, fines, and/or imprisonment. Any eBook format cannot be legally loaned or given to others. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without the written permission of the Publisher, except where permitted by law. To request permission and all other inquiries, contact Harmony Ink Press, 5032 Capital Circle SW, Suite 2, PMB# 279, Tallahassee, FL 32305-7886, USA, or [email protected]
Digital ISBN: 978-1-63476-543-5
Library of Congress Control Number: 2015947191
First Edition January 2016
Printed in the United States of America
This paper meets the requirements of
ANSI/NISO Z39.48-1992 (Permanence of Paper).
For my amazing husband, a word I never thought I would use, a man I never thought I’d find.
been in development for several years. So many people helped me hone the plot, flesh out the characters. I thank them all, especially Varsha Bajaj, Kathy Duval, Linda Jackson, Marty Graham, and Vonna Carter. As budding writers, we struggled together and made the process so much easier. Most of all, I thank my friend and mentor Kelly Bennett. When I first met Kelly, I had a desire to write (nurtured by the supremely wonderful writer, teacher, and mentor Kathi Appelt), and Kelly has stood by me, coaxed me, taught me, critiqued my work, and shown me I do know what I’m doing. Finally, Dreamspinner Press and Harmony Ink must be thanked for giving me a wonderful publishing home. I’m grateful every day for their support and faith in me as a writer.
Nine years before
Blue. Orange. Yellow. Purple.
Neil stared at each color the sunbeams made as they came through the stained glass.
Blue. Orange. Red. Green. Purple. Yellow.
Dots of color on his bare skin.
Purple. Red. Yellow. Green. Blue. Orange.
His white T-shirt looked like a box of crayons.
Orange. Blue. Red. Purple. Green. Yellow.
The sunlight pierced the windows and lit up the pulpit with a rainbow.
Green. Purple. Yellow. Blue. Red. Orange.
The colors stained the carpet of the altar steps.
Green. Purple. Orange. Yellow. Red. Blue.
Looking at the colors had always helped before. Now the colors just reminded Neil of the other times.
Yellow. Please. Purple. Please. Green. Oh, please. Red….
When would Brother Gramm finish?
The pastor’s warm slobber bathed Neil
The man moved his tongue over him. He ran his fingers up and down Neil’s body. The fingertips felt like spiders crawling, creeping.
Brother Gramm finally gasped and collapsed with a little moan, lying on his back across the altar steps. It was almost like he had died.
Neil’s first reaction was to run away.
But the doors to the sanctuary were locked. Brother Gramm had locked them after they came in. Except for services, the doors were always kept locked because other churches in town had been spray-painted.
All Neil could do was sit there until Brother Gramm was ready to let him out. He stared at the colors, knowing they weren’t helping him anymore.
Blue. Green. Red….
“Let’s finish putting out those hymnals, shall we?”
Brother Gramm’s voice startled Neil. It took him a moment, but he remembered the new hymnals were why the pastor had brought him here in the first place. Brother Gramm was always getting Neil to help him with some chore or another.
But it always led to “their little secret.”
That’s what Brother Gramm called it. He would flash his big, toothy smile and say, “Now, Neil, don’t forget. This is our little secret.”
And who would Neil tell anyway? Who would believe a nine-year-old boy? His mother certainly didn’t when he tried to tell her. His parents thought Brother Gramm Peters was a saint. In fact, the whole congregation felt that way.
Brother Gramm had always been their preacher. Neil had never known another pastor. The tall, broad-shouldered man was everything to their church. He preached loud, fiery sermons on Sunday, then coached the church league softball team in the afternoons. About twice a week, Neil’s mama had Brother Gramm to dinner. Sometimes it was just Neil, his mom and dad, and the pastor, and sometimes other church members joined them. Mama was a good cook, and no one turned down her invitations. The grown-ups laughed at Brother Gramm’s stories while the kids fought to sit on his knee.
No one saw through him.
Only Neil knew the truth.
Only Neil shared Brother Gramm’s “little secret.”
Only Neil and the colors.
Red. Green. Blue. Purple. Orange. Yellow.
glints off the wall of mirrors, dappling the room with diamond sparkles. The dance floor is scuffed and worn. Tattered theater posters are taped here and there. A scarred table sits in front of a bank of high windows. Three empty chairs wait silently at the table.
Aunt Jenny and I sit in folding chairs across the room to the right of the table. I let out a huge, deep breath. Loud. Nervous.
is Satine. Gorgeous. I would take her instantly if she offered. Love those lips. She’s my favorite on that reality show
That’s the one that tracks four high school show choirs as they head to competition. Why Satine? Because she’s tough, takes no prisoners.
Be like Satine, Neil.
Aunt Jenny clutches my arm, whispering soothing words. She’s my rock, my comfort. Has been for eight years. But I don’t need comfort right now. No, this moment cries out for passion, for determination, for resolution. Yeah, I’m an actor, all right. Only an actor would think of passion
I stare at the sheet music, rolled up in my sweaty hand: the “Soliloquy” from
If I’m going to get through this, I have to become Billy Bigelow, the character who sings the soliloquy. Billy: manipulator, charmer, sex personified—takes shit from no one but gives a lot of it. I let Billy possess my body, like an alter ego taking over. I sit up straighter, push my shoulders back. Now I
This is it. My one chance. Blow it, and it’s all over. A lifetime of training and wishing circling the drain. But I won’t let that happen. My dream is just one song away—here, at my audition, at MusicTheatreMidwest. Ms. Walter, choir teacher extraordinaire, had arranged it. If—no,
—I win this audition, I’ll be enrolled in the best musical theater training program in the world.
My leg jiggles—a nervous habit I inherited from my dad. Aunt Jenny puts her hand on my knee, pats me, quelling the tremors, and smiles.
Stop it, knee!
I can’t let anything get to me. I can’t let my nervousness show. Would Satine? I feel a tickle deep inside. Why this
fixation all of a sudden? Am I a thirteen-year-old girl? I expel an audible titter. Aunt Jenny glances at me, wonder in her eyes. I just smile. Shake my head. I’m not sure she’s even aware I’m obsessed with that show. Sure, she’s seen me watching it, but I doubt she knows every episode is banked on my DVR. I like watching it, plus those guys’ moves are great training videos. And then there’s Satine. My age. My performing obsession. Attitude funny as hell. Easy on the eyes. Sexy as all get-out.