Neon Blue (suspense) and This Shoal of Space (SF) by John Argo were the first two e-books ever published online for download, in the history of the world, 1996-7 in innovative weekly serial chapters. More info at the museum pages. If you enjoy this free read, which is offered in the spirit of the Golden Age of the World Wide Web, please consider buying a print or e-book edition as a way of thanking the author. A fine E-book is typically priced at the cost of a latte, yet offers many more hours of enjoyment than a cup of coffee. Thank you (John Argo).
Blue and John sat by the pool in the evening breeze, dressed in terrycloth bathrobes. They had made love, gone for a swim, showered, and were eating left-over enchiladas with rice and beans. Balmy wind in the canyon sent smells of jasmine and lilac. The night sky hung around them like a canvas spattered with stars. A distant freeway whispered like a seashell.
"I wanted to talk," she said. "Are we going to see each other again after I go back to New York?"
"I've been wondering."
"Do you want to?"
"Yes. I want to."
She took a deep breath, held it, and exhaled slowly. "It's so far. Are we serious? Or is this just a little you know
He took her hands. "I dream about you, Blue."
"Oh, you're full of it."
"We make love in my dreams. I was married once, and it was a bummer, and maybeno, not maybe, for sureI'm leery. But you are special. You are always happy, Laurel."
"Not always. Only an idiot would be always happy."
"I wish you lived here. Or I lived there. We would have time to get to know each other. It might work out, you know."
She felt her heart skip. She grabbed his face. "Did you really say that?"
He nodded. "Yes."
She kissed him on the lips. "I was hoping you'd say something like that just one time so I could remember it."
"My luck. Somebody comes into my life and she has to leave."
"You could write to me," she suggested. "You could come visit me in New York. I have a nice apartment. Well, nice inside when nobody's throwing beer bottles off the twentieth floor. It's warm, and I've got a big cozy bed."
"Is that an invitation?"
"You don't have a dozen boyfriends back there?"
"Not a one. The closest thing" she thought of Vito, and laughed. And Maggieand frowned.
The air got fresh. John put his arm around her and they went inside. He put a log on the fire. She brought two glasses of wine. They cuddled on the couch and ignored the game. Blue felt happy, but unhappy too; she wanted to blurt out the truth. Was she a fraud? Would he be hurt like poor Martha? Sipping wine, she said: "I think you'd have to be an actor to pull this off if it's not real. No offense."
He sipped his. "No offense taken. I can't believe it myself. But Laurel, I don't know everything about you either."
That hit. She lowered her eyes.
"Are you okay, Blue?"
"You're right. I haven't been totally honest with you."
"Now would be a good time."
"I've been wondering if I should tell you."
"Go on, tell me."
"I've been agonizing about it."
"Tell me, Laurel."
"Silence fills the room."
"I have to gather my thoughts."
"Speak, for crying out loud."
She felt tears welling up. "I wish
there were more time
because I don't want to tell you
maybe I'm a fool to tell you
because I don't know how you're going to feel about me after I tell you." She began to cry, big alligator tears that rolled down over her fingers and fell like rain from her lips.
"You're drenching my couch."
She went into the kitchen. Returned with tissues and wiped her face. Sat down feeling like a kid confessing that she had broken the window with her ball. "John, I'm not really sure about myself." She gulped twice, and he wondered if she were going to cry again, but it appeared that she had cried herself out. "I've had boyfriends here and there. I went with one guy all through high school and he dumped me for a big blonde. I had a couple of boyfriends in college, but no offers of marriage or anything, and I was too shy to really go out of my way to meet guys. Funny thing was, I was always athletic, and I knew a ton of guys. Everyone at my karate studio liked me, I think, and they were a bunch of really neat guys. They used to pull tricks on me like putting shaving cream in my bra while it was in my locker during practice, or turning my wristwatch forward an hour so I'd be all screwed up the next morning. But they always treated me, well, they almost spoiled me. Other girls used to be jealous because I seemed to have boyfriends coming out of my ears."
"My sweet little angel, what is the point of this Iliad?"
She embraced him hard. "Kiss me."
"Am I going to lose you?" He kissed her passionately for long minutes. Then when she lay on her back looking up into his face, she told him. "I am sometimes attracted to women. I want you to know that, because I'm trying to be fair with you, and I hope you'll be fair with me. I've made love to women. I don't think of myself as a Lesbian or anything, because I do love men, and John, I am just crazy about you."
He was silent, and she thought He's gone.
"I'll leave if you want."
"I'm falling in love with you. I can feel it in my heart, and my heart never lies."
"Even after what I just told you?"
"Falling in love and being rational are two different things." He agonized. "We need to look at this rationally. If you said you are attracted to me, would I have this fucking feeling like my heart fell into my stomach? No. Am I nuts about you? Yes. Then the only other question is, if we're in love, will you be seeing women?"
She said simply: "No. Will you?"
"No." He dabbed her eyes tenderly with a tissue. "Blue, I think I knew sort of. The way you and Martha Yee seemed to hit it off, and I knew about Martha Yee in any case, from a friend."
She blew her nose. "I walked into something here in San Diego. I didn't mean for it to happen, and I killed it. Poor Martha. It's over. Can you trust me and believe me?"
"I want you to know something about me. I'm very loyal. I never cheat. When I'm in love with a guy, I'm in love. That's how I got hurt so bad. That's why I'm so afraid to fall in love with a man again. Can you understand that?"
"That's an awesome responsibility you thrust on me, Blue."
"All I ask is that you be honest with me. The two guys I was in love with didn't do that for me. Will you promise?"
"I promise. In fact, Fontainebleau raves about you when he comes out of the canyon for his milk. He's a smart cat. I listen when he talks."
"You're a pretty smart cat yourself." He was taking her clothes off. I'm 3000 miles from home, alone, a cat up a tree. Now I've done it. I'm in freefall without a parachute. And as he touched her she cried: "Yes!"
Copyright © 1996 by John Argo, Clocktower Books. All Rights Reserved.