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Authors: J. P. Barnaby

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BOOK: A House of Cards: Deconstructing Ethan
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It was during those times with my mother, that I blamed myself for the nightmare I had put us all through. If I would have just stayed on the route I was supposed to take, none of it would have happened. My father would be proud of the son he had raised, not disgusted by the freak raised by the
pervert. My mother wouldn’t look
ten years older than she was. She would smile when she looked at me, rather than looking at me with pity. And me? I would have been captain of the soccer team with a nice girlfriend and lots of friends, driving around in the convertible that my parents had bought me for my last birthday. I would have been fumbling through groping a girl in the back seat while we kissed. I would not have been the boy who had more experience with blow jobs than any girl on campus. I wouldn’t have been the only virgin at school who required tests for sexually transmitted diseases. I wouldn’t have been the boy who got physically ill when he woke up with morning wood because sex was so horrifying to him.

Thankfully my mother convinced my father to let me be home schooled. I had been on the news so often, there was little doubt that the kids I went to school with knew all of the details of my life. Because I spent all of my time alone, it didn’t take me long to catch up on the work I needed to do to graduate. Graduating from high school seemed like such a normal teenage activity, yet it felt completely foreign to me. At that point, I was just living to turn eighteen so that I could leave Chicago. Every time that my mother had talked me into leaving the house, either for dinner or even to go to a museum, I felt like people were staring at me. She tried to tell me that they weren’t, but I knew that they could see my shame. It might as well have been branded across my forehead. I was the freak from the news. I was damaged. I had to escape, again.

Would I spend the rest of my life running?

A few weeks after I was finally able to sleep through the night for the first time, I got notice from the district attorney that my abductor had accepted a plea and there would be no trial. For the first time in my whole fucking life, something had finally gone my way. I knew I couldn’t get up in front of a room full of strangers and explain in detail what he had subjected me to. I couldn’t go into detail about each act he had performed on me, and forced me to perform on him. Especially not with my father’s shame and my mother’s pity staring me in the face. The district attorney explained the terms of the deal to me and to my parents, assuring us that the man would not see the light of day for a long time. The dark, wicked voice in my head whispered that he hoped the man would become someone’s bitch and be taught a very valuable lesson in repeatedly being violated.

“Ethan?” Lexi’s voice called as she opened my door. I had been so engrossed in what I was doing, I hadn’t even heard her knock. When she saw I wasn’t asleep, she came to stand behind me, her hand went to my hair and she played with it affectionately. “Are you ready for dinner?” I closed my eyes and leaned into her touch.

“That’s a beautiful journal, I’m glad it’s working out for you.” We had gone with a simple leather bound journal with smooth, lined pages, and a plain Mont Blanc pen. Marking my page, I closed the book, and set it on the side table with the pen on top before I looked up at Lexi. Smiling, I took her other hand.

“Yes, I’m starving, actually. Should I come down now?” I asked and she looked startled. I hadn’t gone down to dinner since I’d been here. For weeks, either Connor or Jayden had brought a tray up for me and I had remained in my room. Companionship hadn’t been something I had desired or needed. That night, however, I wanted to be around Jayden and Lexi as opening up the wounds of my past had left me feeling vulnerable and alone and I knew that their presence would calm that feeling. While they would no doubt ask how the writing was going, they would never ask about the content. Lexi knew that I would share with them what I felt comfortable, but that the rest would stay hidden away.

“Um, in about half an hour?” She replied, although it had come out as a question. I smiled at her and she sat down in my lap with her arms wound around my neck. She rested her head on my shoulder and I kissed the top of her head as I wrapped my arms around her waist. We sat like that for nearly twenty minutes and, even though we didn’t speak, I could feel her love and acceptance in her touch. She was glad that I was finally trying to find Ethan Hughes, Jr. I had thought that he had died when Ethan Bryant had been born, but I was wrong.

Ethan Bryant isn’t a real person; he is a fictional character that I made up to deal with the nightmare that was my life.

Chapter 3

Journal Entry: The Monster

Last night I had a dream, no doubt brought on by opening up and writing about that dark place in my head where the monster lives. In the dream, Jayden and I were in the playroom. At least intellectually, I knew it was Jayden, but he felt like a young boy. As we stood there, I was reminded of youth and innocence.

Without warning, I pushed him over one of the tables and drove myself into him. Unlike the real Jayden, who had taken my assault the day Lexi left with quiet acceptance, the boy-Jayden cried out, begging for his mother. He pleaded with me to stop, to not hurt him. His words were those that I had used with my own attacker in the same pitifully weak voice of a boy in pain.

I woke up drenched in sweat and shaking. Moving quickly, I made it to the bathroom just in time; kneeling before the toilet, I became violently ill. I had violated that boy with no more mercy or compassion than I had been shown.

No – it had been a dream.

But I had violated Jayden in a similar manner. I remember that day so vividly. It had been the day that I had looked into the mirror to see the monster behind my own eyes. I had still been reeling from the night before. I’d finally had a somewhat normal sexual experience with a woman and felt absolutely nothing from it. I had a physical release, but everything else was just…numb. It may have been then that I realized that my attraction for Lexi lay in her submission, not in that she was Lexi or because she had a beautiful body. I thought that I had been in love with her. From all of the talks she and I had about “normal relationships” and “romantic love”,I thought it described the image I got when I thought about her. She was my closest friend, she had opened something inside me that I thought was gone forever – my ability to get close to another person. I couldn’t remember ever having had a friend before and that felt like what she had described as love.

Then she left. She had left me with another man, a man that I was desperately attracted to despite all of my efforts to the contrary. I just felt that pull whenever he was in the room, hell, whenever I thought about him. I don’t know if it was because he was Jayden or because of his submission or because he was a man. That thought sickened and scared me. If I was gay, had my attacker known that? Could he see it? Did he think I wanted what he did to me? Or… possibly even worse… did he make me gay? I have never voiced this to anyone or even contemplated it too closely because I don’t want to know. At eight, I was too young to be thinking about my sexuality, so I had no frame of reference prior to my abduction. But really, here in the confines of my journal, maybe I should ask. What makes someone gay? Are they born that way? Does something in their environment make them that way? When did my sexual identity form?

I had flown with breakneck speed through the Seattle traffic and then again through the airport to tell Lexi that I figured out what she was talking about, at least in part. I wanted to convince myself that I loved her because if I loved her, then I must be attracted to women. The alternative had been too horrifying to me to even contemplate. Now, it seems, I need to think about it.

It’s a large part of my identity. How can I know who I am if I don’t answer
that basic fundamental question?

When I got back from the airport, I felt lost, hopeless. I walked upstairs, intending to go to my bedroom but found myself in the playroom instead. Pulling Lexi’s wrist cuff from my pocket, I sat on the floor and replayed the events from the last few days in my mind. Then, Jayden came in and sat beside me. I knew he was trying to comfort me and I resented him for it. I didn’t want to be comforted, particularly by him. The rage in me just continued to build until the need to dominate him, to show him who was in control, was paramount. I hurt and degraded him and I hated myself for being excited by it. I knew it stemmed from the need to make him hurt like I was hurting, but it had been wrong.

Now all I can see is the boy Jayden from my dream begging me to stop.

There was a knock at my door and I called for whoever it was to come in as I got unsteadily to my feet and moved to the sink. I washed my tear-stained face, took a deep, steadying breath as I dried it with a hand towel. Turning around, I found Jayden watching me. Our eyes met and he sighed. “It looks like the writing is going well today.” He said, no doubt seeing my bloodshot eyes. Then, as I noticed that he must have seen the journal where I was much farther than yesterday, I nodded.

“Lexi asked me to come up and see what you wanted for lunch,” he stated. When I looked away out the window, he put his hand on my cheek and brought my gaze back to him. “But, we are going out instead.” My eyes widened and I began to shake my head. I didn’t want to be around other people, especially after the dream I had. I didn’t even feel human. How could I go into public and have a civilized conversation?

“We will wait for you downstairs. There is this great place I want to take you.” With that, he strolled out of the room. After everything that he and Lexi had done for me, trying to save me from myself, I felt I had no choice but to clean up and follow. I had to trust in Jayden and I found that it was easier than I would have expected.

* * *

“No, this one is on me.” I said, smiling. Jayden had been right, of course, I had needed to get out. The three of us were telling jokes and laughing and I felt better than I had in weeks. They had made sure that we were fairly isolated in the restaurant, so that I felt more comfortable and, for the first time in a long time, I didn’t feel like people were staring at me. I smacked Jayden’s hand as I grabbed the check and when I handed it back to the server with my card, my eye caught a caramel-haired woman a few tables over. Her hazel eyes were captivating as they locked with mine, both of us apparently reluctant to look away. The spell was broken a moment later when our server returned. I signed the slip quickly and nearly bolted for the door. Even though I heard Lexi and Jayden call out from behind me, I didn’t slow until I got outside and the steel bands around my chest started to loosen. The panic that was threatening to engulf me just moments ago began to lessen marginally. Unfortunately, I hadn’t been fast enough and I felt a hand on my arm. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. Opening them again, I turned around to see the hazel-eyed woman.

“Ethan?” She asked softly and I looked down at her. She smiled up at me sadly. “Ethan,” she said again, but this time in an almost reverent whisper. Just then, Jayden and Lexi came through the front door. Jayden, noting her hand on my arm, came and put himself between us. He turned to go and pulled me along with him.

“Ethan Hughes,” the woman said in a stern voice and I stopped.

“Darlin’, you must be mistaken, his name is Bryant. We’re from out of state.” Jayden said coolly, once again standing between us. This time, Lexi joined him while I stood frozen.

“No,
darlin’,”
she said emphasizing the endearment, “I think I know my own son.” Then she turned to me.

“E.J., how long have you been in Chicago?” My heart got stuck in my throat; she hadn’t called me E.J. in so long, not since before…The nickname E.J. had always been a joke in our family. Dad was the big E.S., Ethan Senior, and I was little Ethan Junior, E.J. I blinked back tears that threatened to consume me. That name was from an entirely different lifetime to me. In that lifetime, I had been happy and safe.

“A while,” I finally replied quietly.

Looking as though I’d slapped her, she sniffed once or twice and then nodded. “And these are you friends?”

“Yes. Mom, this is Jayden Carter.” I indicated Jayden to my left. “This is Alexis Morgan.…Lexi.” Then, I looked at each of my shell-shocked friends and finally regaining some composure, introduced her, “This is my mother, Charity Hughes.” Lexi recovered first and shook my mother’s hand.

“It’s very nice to meet you,” she told my mother with a warm smile. My mother nodded back and looked back to me as Jayden stepped forward and apologized. Waving him off, my mother took my hand.

“How long are you going to be in town?” she asked, feigning a calm I knew she did not feel. It had to be killing her that we were in the same town and I hadn’t even called. I had a feeling that she thought I was going to run from her, to leave like I had when I was eighteen. In retrospect, I felt bad about leaving, but she didn’t need to see me floundering and I needed to get away.

“I don’t know yet,” I admitted. “I left my position at the hospital and am staying with Jayden and Lexi until I figure out what I want to do.” I didn’t want to get into the reasoning behind the change and thankfully she didn’t push.

“Please, Ethan,” she said suddenly, sounding like she was desperate not to let me leave, “Come to brunch on Sunday?” I paled so quickly, I could feel the blood drain from my face. “Bring your friends with you. They seem very nice… and protective.”

BOOK: A House of Cards: Deconstructing Ethan
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