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The Agony of Joy by Red Haircrow
Published February 17, 2013 from Flying With Red Haircrow
- Published: February 17, 2013
- ISBN: 9781301334520
- Genre: Literary Fiction, Contemporary Fiction, GLBTIIQ Interest
- Price: $4.99 in e-book format
- Available at Amazon, Smashwords, OmniLit, Rainbow Ebooks & soon at other online distributors
Blurb: For many survivors of child sex abuse, there is a lifelong battle for understanding and acceptance, not only from others, but also from themselves. From London to Berlin, to the frozen seas of far east Russia, this is an unforgettable journey of rebirth, revelation and redemption as two men struggle to overcome their separate past agonies and allow themselves to experience friendship and love.
Description: “Former model turned actor Adrian Lee can barely list age range '23-29' on his resumé anymore nor stand his life of empty social events and appearances, meaningless roles and casual partners. When he meets Alexander Skizetsky by clever arrangement of his agent, the enigmatic yet infinitely attractive Russian kindles a little light of hope in his aching heart. Yet even the beginnings of a friendship and love beyond his wildest dreams cannot assuage a life spiraling out of control.
The long estrangement from his devout Irish Catholic parents and family and the dark secrets they all share combine to drive him to the brink of despair, though Alexander is determined to stay by his side. After locking away his own memories of betrayal and loss, the Russian had decided never to love again but something in Adrian spurs the noblest intentions in his formerly jaded heart. Returning in pilgrimage to his homeland, he brings Adrian along on a journey of rebirth, revelation and redemption.”
More about the novel: Taking almost ten years to complete, The Agony of Joy, incorporates many of the author’s experiences and observations as a survivor of sexual abuse and violence. But far from being the central theme although psychological and behavioral after-effects continue for many, the novel focuses on the courage it takes, often in the face of opposition, misunderstanding and/or apathy to not allow anything or anyone to keep you imprisoned by that past, not even yourself.
One of the primary reasons the author returned to university, completing a degree in Psychology (graduation Spring 2013) was to help others in this and other regards, as well as continue personal healing.
"Your story does what good fiction should do. It makes me think, makes me feel, allows me to visit different places, and connect deeply with the characters. It explores real issues that people face...."
"I love descriptive stories that enable me to travel to different places without leaving the comfort of my easy chair. I love using all my senses while reading and getting so totally immersed in a story that the sound of the phone ringing makes me jump. And I love characters so deep that I think about them during the day and dream about them at night."
"A love story, but not a romance, definitely a gothic feel and one of the most positive portrayals of bisexuality I've ever come across in fiction."
-Nancy Ferrer, Outlaw Reviews
"It is an incredible work! You have been able to channel your memories and experiences, create vivid real characters and make something so beautiful out of pain and struggle is the highest meaning of what I believe art is: transforming hurt and becoming healers.
I’ve never read anything like Agony of Joy. There has never been a story that deals with some of the personal issues you are presenting in such an open way. It is inspiring and liberating and needed."
-Ana Christina Caelen, Sound therapist, Musician and Composer
"A well-told story...I admire your tact, and am enthralled by these characters and the world they live in."
-M. Daniel Nickel, Author of The Dashing Mister R
Comment for cover image:
"It's a perfect cover image! It captures Adrian's pain and sorrow, his religious faith and conflicts, and the quiet solitude of the village where Lexx's country house resides. The sun peeking through the trees gives a glimmer of hope and change."
"One for sorrow, two for joy..."--Traditional children's nursery rhyme
Chapter 7 Revelations
They seemed alone in a world devoid of men, and even of beast and bird. A curious softness lit the whimsical shapes and patterns between the trees: an old stump was transformed into a miniature elephant shape, its humped back as high as Adrian’s waist. Hundreds of tall, narrow trees swayed in the light breeze, the creaking of their wood and their steps the only sounds. Adrian began to speak after reaching out to take Lexx’s hand in his.
“This reminds me of times I used to wander the hills above our town. I’d fallen in love with the legends and stories my mother read to us when my father wasn’t around. I used to imagine the hero coming for me through battles against magic and iron, swearing his undying love. Silly childhood nonsense, but I did. I loved those stories. I spent an ungodly amount of time dreaming, playing in the woods whenever I could get away. There are many dark and wild places still in Ireland, hidden doorways to the fairy world, dangerous places full of fey spells and creatures. So ‘tis said, anyway.”
“I had an uncle,” Adrian began off-handedly. “My father’s youngest brother, not so much older than the oldest of my siblings. He reminded me of one of those old knights or warriors. He listened to me when no one else would. Would take me to see old stones he’d found, secret places.”
Lexx suspected where this story was leading.
“At first I didn’t mind when he touched me or when he wanted me to touch him. I felt… special. And that’s what he told me too, that I was special. That this was just for he and I, and stupid fucking idiot me, I believed him.” Tears were on the pale cheeks. Disengaging his hand from Lexx’s, Adrian shoved his hands back in his pockets.
“Why do we let them do it? Why do we believe them? I remember...I remember thinking: why is he doing it again? But I felt guilty because sometimes it felt good, and he said my body showed what I really wanted. He still seemed the handsome knight whenever I didn’t think about those times, but I learned soon enough he had a truly darker side.”
“There was a room in my grandmother’s house at the back, down a hallway. A room we were all warned against, for she had been nothing of Christian but practiced the old ways. I was curious. Oh gods, how could I have been so stupid!”
Adrian stomped ahead causing Lexx to lengthen his stride to keep up, making sure to stay in the background just inside peripheral vision. Close enough to listen, but not to intrude or alarm.
“I knew I shouldn’t have gone in. It was a summer afternoon and close inside the rest of the house, stifling hot, and quiet as everyone had gone out, or so I thought. I crept to this backroom through the darkness of the hallway, and it was unlocked for the first time, though I’d tried it before and always found it fast. I opened the door into a room of dark magic, windows shuttered, with only a thin shaft of light shining inside. At the centre was a table upon which a great book lay, candles all around it; things that looked like bundled herbs, stones, bones. I heard a movement in the far corner and nearly shat myself in fear. But it was Uncle. He rose unsteadily from a cot, just a pair of jeans on, his hair loose and wild. He smoothed it down though and some of the wildness left his eyes as he recognized me. He said come, come to him, and I did because I was afraid in that room, but afraid to go back also. And he pulled me down then... he pulled me down...” Adrian voice rose. “And it wasn’t like it was before, he’d never done that. He’d...never made me bleed.”
Adrian stopped abruptly, turned round, hands clenched at his sides. Gazing back down the path they’d walked. Lexx reached out but when Adrian turned his eyes to the man, the hand faltered.
“Your room...I can’t help it. I’m terrified of it! I—,” He didn’t know what to do or ask. Adrian raised shaking hands, wiping at his reddened nose, the tears wetting his cheeks. Of a sudden he grasped at his hair for his head seemed close to exploding with too many memories.
“Adrian! Asha, please,” Lexx said, stepping in using his greater strength to pull his stiffened fingers away. “Don’t do that. He’s not worth it!”
He was pulled into Lexx’s arms, cheek against the cold fibers of his coat, yet he could feel the strength and heat beneath. With a sob, he gave into the physical entreaty, yielding his weight into the accepting embrace. He was held fast, tears leaking from under his lids as Lexx murmured words of comfort in the middle of the swaying forest. When he was pushed away slightly, the hands remained on his shoulders. Adrian averted his face, yet was shaken gently until he looked up again. And he couldn’t help but laugh a little. Lexx took his face within his hands and very deliberately kissed him. The heat of Lexx’s mouth warmed him throughout, flowing through his limbs until a measure of peace returned.
“Come on,” Lexx said, “let’s get back. We can talk more if you like, or not at all. But perhaps…perhaps if you think you can, you may step inside the room and see it’s not that other. Maybe we can conquer something of your past.”
“Maybe,” Adrian echoed hollowly.
Lexx took his hand again, directing them towards the final turn he said would take them back to the country house. The shushing sound of the wind over the snow fields, rattling through the long grass, and the empty windows of a dark, broken house waiting at the forest’s edge accompanied his wide ranging thoughts.
Other western countries had suffered during the world wars including France, England, the Netherlands, but nothing like the populations of central and eastern Europe, Germany and Poland especially, Russia and the Ukraine. Whole villages wiped from the face of the earth, millions of soldiers, civilians, babies and old ones alike. What mentality did this create in the survivors, the descendants?
The forest was beautiful of itself, picturesque in the snow, as were the few inhabited houses trailing smoke from their chimneys that they’d passed, but the scars of the broken places were still evident, an ever present, insistent reminder of the negative past.
“Why do you love Germany the way you do? What makes you stay?” Adrian asked.
“I came at a time of my life when I was emotionally lost, nearly shattered mentally, yet this formerly broken place healed me. Like my native Russia, where I was born on the permafrost in some of the harshest cold on earth, the people here have survived with a dogged determination, quiet but proud and strong. This place had its ills, it has done its wrong, rather like myself, no doubting that, and its former leaders created horror of a sort the earth had seldom witnessed, but it has its beauty as well. Unlike some places though, for the most part, the current society of Germany passionately demands and defends tolerance toward many kinds of lifestyles, nationalities and sexualities. For me, that is the best thing about it.”
“You do make it sound like something to be proud of,” Adrian said.
Lexx sniffed. “Well, pride now, that’s a term you’ll find Germans are cautious of using, sensitive to past declarations regarding ethnicity, but yes, I do think it is something to proud of, though it can always be improved further.”
* * * *
Past twilight, they entered the house, shrugging off outer garments, Adrian eagerly headed for the toilet to Lexx’s amusement, who had stopped to stoke the fireplace before heading to the kitchen. Wanting a relatively quicker meal, Lexx prepared what he called his special Chicken Cacciatore, and they consumed it with the last of Herr Manfred’s bread interspersed with glasses of red wine.
Adrian made Lexx laugh with different stories of when he’d first become a model and was learning the ropes, such as the time he’d thought it was a naked shoot and showed up on the set in the buff when he was suppose to be part of the background of an ad campaign for a young female star. Beneath the combination of electric and candle light on and nearby the table, the fine bones of Adrian’s face seemed to glow with happiness yet one could sense complex emotion just beneath the skin, reminding Lexx of Rossetti’s Pre-Raphaelite artwork.
Mesmerizing, with a kind of charm that contrasted sharply with the frenzy of self-loathing he’d witnessed in the forest, Adrian was far more of a conundrum than he’d originally realized. It wasn’t too hard to comprehend what was at the root of his pain, the uncle had been enough, but Lexx sensed Adrian’s family’s response and his own feelings of culpability were deeply bothering him. First turning to sex and alcohol by his own admission, or whatever distraction to keep his mind from dwelling on things lost and wounds unhealed, the most dangerous stage lurked on the horizon: despair and hopelessness. Lexx remembered resorting to similar avoidant and depressive behaviors, and the breakdown into which they eventually led.
So it was rather a surprise when, after they’d cleaned up the dishes, with great resolve and courage, Adrian took his hand and led him to the grandfather clock room.
“Show me,” he’d only said.
Back to main page, The Journey of Red Haircrow
My other book excerpt pages:
"Katrdeshtr's Redemption", a vampire tale before vampires were cool. Book One in the Night Cat series.
"Lieutenant's Love", a gay historical fantasy available from Dreamspinner Press, an e-book.
"Convenience Store Romance", modern gay romantic tale from STARBooks Press, part of the Boys Getting Ahead anthology. In print and Kindle format.
"The Berlin Shift", the sequel to Night Shift.
"Twin Masquerade", a classic gay Regency novel.
"The Children of Driy", a series of fantasy tales of an androgynous race. (Coming Soon)