John and Brea have lived very different lives. His began as a near orphan in New York City, where he became involved with, and practically raised by, the mob; accepted as a man of honor by his fellow mobsters, young and old. His involvement in an incident, one resulting in the death of his childhood friend, lands him in prison. He now wears not only some physical scars, he carries a consuming agony and guilt over this night that took the life of his friend. Brea Rhodes is a golden girl, a sweetheart of Hollywood. A famous starlet, she is swarmed by rumor-hungry paparazzi; despite her success, however, there’s something sad about the young beauty.
After his release from prison, John accepts an offer from a senior fellow mobster, and also fatherly figure to John, to head out west and tend to a faltering business…he, seemingly by chance, runs into Brea one day at a deli. He also makes the acquaintance of enigmatic Hollywood agent to the stars named Gabe. Something about John interests Gabe, and Gabe invites John to a fancy celebrity gala he’s hosting. Brea also happens to attend, and soon John and Brea find they have more in common than they imagined.
Their love affair is rapid and passionate. They can’t get enough of each other, and John feels the need to keep her protected from his past and from the paparazzi. Soon, turmoil resulting from the death of his fatherly, senior mobster back east, calls John home. He must now choose between the life he once lived and the life he hopes to start with Brea. What will his final alliance be, and will John be able to protect his butterfly from the oncoming storm?
FOR THE LOVE OF A BUTTERFLY is a story of love, compassion, divine beauty and divine redemption. It is a heartfelt tale of love, with philosophical undertones that contemplate good and evil, right and wrong, pain, sacrifice, loneliness, and the divinity found in sincerity, found in truth.
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About the Author
While John Christopher (1922-2012) was born as Sam Youd, he chose to write his science fiction books under multiple pseudonyms. Well known for his young adult book The Guardians, he won numerous awards for his work. He also wrote The Tripods, which is a series of young adult books that imagine a post-apocalyptic world.
Read an Excerpt
For the Love of a Butterfly
By John Christopher
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2012 John Christopher
All right reserved.
Chapter One... memory, among the lost below.
The wide grey wooden strip of boardwalk was abuzz with beachgoers in 1980s-style dress. Children, some in costume and dance regalia, sparsely crowd an area in front of one of the large hotels that line the long beach side walkway. Sea gulls squawk as they glide the skies over the beach. An overhead banner strung across the boardwalk reads: "ATLANTIC CITY TALENT SHOW."
A petite, six year old girl, dressed in a pretty dance outfit, sits upon a bench with her bare feet dangling beneath her; her hands timidly fidget together in her lap as she looks out toward the sea. A subtle sadness seeps from her ... a colorful painted floral design with a small butterfly adorns her right cheek.
Nearby, to her right, hover a couple of other young girls. They edge in closer to her, giggling and motioning toward her slightly bigger-than-average feet ... not abnormally bigger, just a sure sign she probably won't be destined to shortness. The young girl, humiliated, stops dangling her feet, brings them under the bench some, and tilts her head toward the ground.
A young boy of similar age, with dark hair and big brown eyes, stands close by. He observes this, and approaches the vacant left side of the bench.
"Can I sit with, um ..." he sputters.
She gives him a shy, insecure assenting nod. He climbs up and sits upon the bench, then makes an ugly face at the mean girls. ... They scatter off.
The girl, hands still fidgeting in her lap, legs curled beneath the bench, still looks down. The boy kicks off his shoes and sticks out his own feet. He curls his toes and distorts them in self-mocking expression. She shyly looks over at him with an amused smile and allows her feet to slightly dangle down again.
Politely, he looks at them. "I think they're pretty," he says.
... She becomes slightly embarrassed and bashfully curls her legs beneath again.
Recognizing this, he looks up towards her, in her pretty outfit, with her butterfly, floral-design painted cheek. He adjusts his words, "Your colors ... I think they're, you have pretty colors."
She gives him a humble thank-you smile and turns her head back toward the sea. "My name is Johnny," he says.
At that moment, a women wearing big sunglasses and big hair approaches, and proceeds to put the shoes back on Johnny's feet. With a drawn N.Y accent, she readies him on his way ... "It's time to go now, Mr. Say goodbye to your friend, Johnny," she says, as she leads him away. He looks back to the young girl, and with a consoling smile. "It's alright," he says. She watches him, and with a humble smile, expounds, "My name is ..." He's led away down the boardwalk.
* * *
From somewhere close by, an old man's voice bellows through John's haze of memory ...
"John-Aay John, are you up? I made you a cup of coffee for your birthday. It's hot, do you want it?"
... Metal distantly clangs here and there at a distance. An old dingy tier of jail cells is the reality. Scraped into the colorless paint on the lintel above the door of the dingy, old, shadowed cell, "THROUGH ME THE ROAD TO THE CITY OF WOE, THROUGH ME THE ROAD TO THE LOST BELOW."
Inside the cell, sits a young man, somewhat obscured in a shadow, he sits leaned back on an old bunk, head tilted back in reverie, John, ... he abandons his reverie and straightens his head, "Yes, Marty. Thank you." John, average height, slightly better than average build, dark hair, big brown eyes, with modestly handsome face, wearing only pants and shoes, rises out of the shadow and off the bunk ... two Bullet wound scars prevalent, on the right side of his chest.
"Thirty-three today, right John," Marty questions? The older man's weathered arm protrudes from the cell, to the right of John's, and slides over a mildly steaming, just as old and weathered tin mug, full of coffee. In his characteristic, level toned voice, John answers the thoughtful old man's inquiry, "Yes, Marty; thirty-three. An old thirty-three, Marty, an old thirty-three," he says, as he lifts the coffee through the bars and into his cell. "Thank you my friend, Thank you". He sips from the old tin mug, walks over to, and stands a-front a small old desk ... he stirs the coffee.
"So, what were you doing John, working on your "writing," asks Marty? John glances over at a small stack of papers that lies on the desk, a pencil rests atop it. The cover page reads: "UNTITLED".
"No, Marty, getting too close, haven't been able to stir much, what shall I call it ... much creativity lately? Was just sitting here thinking back to a simpler time, that's all."
A TV faintly crackles from Marty's cell, "Aay John they're showin' that celebrity girl again on my TV. They're surrounding her again with all those cameras. Those people should be locked up in here. Look at them-do you want to see this, John?"
"Na, not really, Marty, but yeah, why not, push it out. Let's take a look at the circus again for a minute," says John, with an indifferent boredom. Marty slides an old miniature TV out in front of the divide between their cells. John pulls a T-shirt on over his bare, tone frame, and stands in the middle of the cell, looking out at the broadcast. He picks up, and sips his coffee.
There on the Screen, a pretty young woman with long blonde hair, and a beautiful figure, apparent through her tight-fitting high-fashion attire, forces her fragile face stern, but cannot hide the obvious humiliation as a swarm of paparazzi maul at her with their flashes, microphones, and violating questions. "Is it true, Brea?!? Do you have any comment about your ex-boyfriend's book release!!!?"
The mask adorning Brea's face, seeps through with painful humiliation ... a man's uncouth voice crudely sounds from the cell to the left of John's, "She's a tramp anyway-let them harass her! Her ex-boyfriend told everyone all their–"
... Cutting him off, John intervenes, "Aay Ralphie, do you know that girl?! No, I don't think you do anymore than I do! Do you realize what those people put this girl through? Look at it, at her, she's about to cry for god's sake! And on top of it all, some little creep ex-boyfriend, for a ham sandwich sells out not only her privacy and dignity, but even his own," scalds John, as he shakes his head! "No honor having scumbag creep ... and now even mamoans like you Ralphie, get to call her a tramp? You think you got her by miraculous conception Ralphie? ... So sick of these envious, miserable people," reprimands and rants John, as he respites' from the TV and picks up a nearby newspaper.
Dopey ... "Miraculous what," asks Ralphie?
John, standing in the center of the cell, coffee in one hand, newspaper outstretched in the other ... "Just do me a favor, Ralphie. Do us all a favor, shut your sewer mouth up for a night, huh," John exhorts, as distant voices ring out ... "Yeah Ralphie-who wants to hear you!" "Yeah shut up for a night Ralphie!"
"Wouldn't you agree, Marty," asks John, as he lifts the coffee to his lips and looks at the newspaper. "Yeah John-I agree," answers Marty, in almost child-like tone ... as the TV cackles on in the background.
"I've seen enough, Marty. You can take it in. Thank you," says John.
Marty pulls the TV away ... John stands there, still looking at the headline and photo on the front page claiming, "BREA'S BOY TELLS ALL". He occasionally sips the coffee, as he looks at the headline photo of a defensive, defenseless, Brea, underlain with emotion, being mobbed by paparazzi. Tears threaten to burst through the masked expression she displays. A photo of a preppie guy, of a similar age, smirks in cheap triumph as he holds up a book ... the photo sides the one of Brea.
"So you're going to be out there in California yourself soon, John ... you said handling some things for Jackie," asks Marty? John still looking at the front page, aloud to himself, utters ... "Creep!", as he tosses the newspaper into a small trash basket.
... The preppie guy's smirking photo looks out from the basket.
"Yeah, just some off time Marty - The sun, weather, and everything, you know." John, back turned, does something near the desk, as Marty goes on ... "Maybe if you finish your "writing," you can do something with it out there, a movie or something?"
John sips his coffee and looks down at the desk, towards the small stack of paper with pencil atop it. "... And maybe you can help that girl out with all those camera people, John? Didn't you say you would? That you'd like to do something to them for-" John, interrupting, with a grin and an amused shaking of his head ... "Yeah, Marty, I did."
"I think that's a good idea, John. I think she can use help with all them," says Marty with innocent petition.
"So do I Marty. Maybe I'll try and send a letter out there to her, a damsel in distress, to let her know, OK? You have my word on it, Alright Marty?"
"Yeah, all right John–".
"See. At least somebody in here still owns a little humility," Commends John. "And the "writing" Marty ... A movie? Maybe I'll do that too– You listening Ralphie? We'll all be big stars. Everyone except Ralphie!" says John, as he glances sarcastically towards Ralphie's cell, then sips the last of his coffee ...
* * *
Hours later, as the night closes, and the noise subsists, John sits at the small, old desk, finishing up a letter. Some old books stand on a small shelf above the desk, some others lie crookedly stacked at the back corner of the desk. He scrawls out the closing lines ...
"... sometimes very capable. Who I am, my name, is not important ... But if ever I can help, well ... you let me know? Sincerely, and always Just a guy ..."
... John hears Squeaking Sound approaching from a short distance away. He slowly stands, while sealing the envelope. He looks at its written destination:
"To: Brea Rhodes 100 Studio Drive Hollywood, CA 91601"
"Return address 30 Crosby Ave. (box B7) Bronx, NY 10461"
... Then tosses it atop a news paper that lies on the desk, which, next to a photo of Brea, reads: "100 Studio Drive, Hollywood CA. 91601...." The squeaking sound stops behind him, John turns. There, standing in front of the cell, an old hunched over man, beside a small rolling book cart, shuffles through some books.
"How are you feeling today, Mr. Barnes," John inquires?
"I'm all right son, I'm all right," the old man replies, with a friendly, vacant wrinkled smile. John affords him a modest smile in return, as the old man jestingly continues ...
"Saw the doc the other day. Another twenty years left in me he told me? –Told him, the judge is not going to like that," ... he casts a side smile at John. "I got another twenty-five to do?
John enjoys his humor, and shakes his head. Mr. Barnes takes a book off the cart.
"I have one here I put aside for you. I really don't know how it got on my cart, but I thought you might like it. Here it is," says the old man, as he holds the book up and squints at it ...
"Masterpieces of Antiquity, Paradise Lost and Regained," Mr. Barnes reads, and hands it through the bars to John.
John looks down at the cover admiringly. An old, biblical, Angels, and clouds type painting covers its front.
"Look at that ... I'll definitely enjoy this. Thank you Mr. Barnes," says John, as he lifts his head and looks out to the now vacant space in front of his cell, that the old man and his cart just occupied ... Mr. Barnes and his cart having already squeaked away a short distance down the dim tier.
* * *
A short time later, in the darkened cell, with only the warmth and yellow glow that the desks small book lamp bestows, John fiddles with and an old transistor radio, he settles on a station. Some just as old sounding Music faintly spills from its crackly speaker. He takes up in hand, the old book from Mr. Barnes, heads over to, and lies back on his bunk. Some newspapers lie stacked and scattered beside his bunk, protruding out of the shadows, some, like lingering ghosts: a couple headlines with negative "Brea Rhodes" slants and photos. Some with smaller headlines and articles read:
"GANGSTER SOON TO BE RELEASED"
... Older newspapers, these ghosts that they are, haunt from bottom of the pile:
"D.A. BOTCHES CASE: MOBSTER GETS SEVEN YEARS" "AKA JOHNNY SHOT BUT LIVES! THREE OTHERS DEAD!!"
"BUTTON MEN SHOOT IT OUT!!!"
... John lies on the bunk, the old book lies closed on his lower chest, with his left hand, he agonizingly traces a section of his upper right chest, the gun shot scars. He looks upward in reverie, he remembers ... "The emergency room ceiling rushing by him, the nurses and doctors frantically working on him, as the police swarm and follow with them."
He rests his hand over his scars. In slow motion, void of sound, as if a dream, a nightmare, he remembers ...
* * *
"... Within the shadows, a hand with a gun rises to the back of another man's head and squeezes the trigger ... a young man falls forward out of shadow to a place on the floor bathed with a sliver of revealing, light. John's own shadowy face cries out "No", with despair, his head shaking with the same ... He kneels on one knee. One arm beside him towards the floor, one hand on the slumped body of the fallen mans back."
"... The hospital ceiling rushes by again, the silence, the police walkie-talkies, emergency room loud speakers blaring, nurses, doctors, "we're losing him! We're losing him!!" Frantic hell ... then the reality of it all, of all that can't be undone, silence again, silent hell."
"... A well-dressed, seedy-looking, older man steps from a darkened place. A smirk covers his cruel face. He mouths out, "It's over –-It's all right ..." John rises up and angrily approaches the man. A struggle, a gunshot flashes between them ... The man slides down the front of John to the floor, his face, shock. A gun falls to the floor with him ... Another man, arm outstretched with gun in hand, emerges from behind a darkness-concealed bar, and fires at John ... John's right side jerks back. John pursues him, the man continues to fire. John's right side jerks back again as John nearly reaches him ... he reaches him. They fall to the floor behind the bar. A flash illuminates the darkness behind the bar. A gun's barrel, the man's own, eases away from the man's own head, John releases it, and the man's hand all as one, as a pool of blood starts to puddle on the floor."
"... The face of the first man, the younger man, lies lifeless on the floor. John stands over him in despair, looks at the blood on his inner fingers and lets his head droop. Blood drips to the floor from John's right hand."
* * *
John, in the jail cell, awakes from his macabre reverie ... his eyes open, his hand still agonizingly feeling the right side of his chest, the scars ... his eyes stare, stare upward toward the scrawled thought written on ceiling ... "TOIL UPWARD AND CARE FOR NO REST FROM THESE BARS. CLIMB FORTH TO LOOK ONCE UPON THE STARS." Pain in his eyes, he lifts the book off his lower chest, opens to a page, and silently reads:
"... and after the clashes of battle between the angels of heaven, in great pain and despair, Satan looked down from the tree of life and once again saw innocence, innocence and beauty ... For she as a veil down to the slender waist, her unadorned golden tresses wore."
... John slowly, randomly turns through its pages and rests on one. A beautiful old painting ... grandiose biblical, with clouds and beams of light platform-ing and streaking a scene of angels in battle, one Angel in particular heading part of the battle, his face turned toward, glares at the viewer, John ... The caption below reads:
"Painted by prophetic artist, Artemisia Gentileschi (1596) "GABRIEL"
Chapter Two... to look once more upon the stars.
John, now dressed in casual Armani-style attire, wrapping his wrist, a very expensive Bulvgari watch, he carries a manila envelope which conceals his "writing", the only thing he's preserved from the place, the solitary existance of years, he only hours ago left behind ... he enters into the medium-sized room of a Bronx, NY social club. A number of tables and a modest-sized bar furnish the room. Some "crooner era" music lowly cuts through the smoke-filled air, a number of guys and bustles occupy the space. Many of the guys greet John with revered handshakes, hugs and kisses. An older, well-groomed, silver-haired, dignified man, approaches with a reserved but sincere smile. John, with the same dignified, reserved smile, receives him. The man takes John by the hand, and in a hug ...
"C'mere. Let me see ya. It's good to see you," the man declares, as he looks John up and down, lips pursed in a modest grin, and proceeds to lead John over to a somewhat vacant area of the bar.
"What'll you have, John," asks the man, as the late middle-aged bartender approaches, already placing a drink in front of each of them.
Excerpted from For the Love of a Butterfly by John Christopher Copyright © 2012 by John Christopher. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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