Chapter 12B – Blue Cottage

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After beating the stuffing out of punching bag I felt a whole lot better. A little sweaty too, but a shower quickly remedied that. I had a hour before I had to be back at the hospital to pick Cassie up. I had the whole evening planned. I drove back to the cottage for Cassie’s Gelert dress. Murray the dragon is certainly going to get a workout. Then I put the dress in a garment bag. I grabbed some appropriate shoes and put them inside the outside pocket. I dashed back to the car and drove like a fiend. After parking and paying the attendant I made it back with five minutes to spare. The elevator was on the fritz so I had to dash down two flights of stairs. Just as I got to the last step Cassie saw me.

“Peter, what on earth are you doing here?” asked Cassie.

“Normally I’d be your taxi home. But today I’m taking you to dinner. Remember? You said you wanted Chinese. I even got your Chinese food dress. You know…the one with Murray The Dragon. The one that’s supposed safeguard…..something.”

I unzipped the garment bag. It was only then she remembered the dress. The memories, the restaurant yes. The dress not so much.

“You mean you drove back to the cottage, got the dress, then drove all the way back here?” she asked a little surprised I would do something like that.

“Well, if we’re going to Gelert Gardens I thought it only right we get spruced up. I only get dolled up for M’lady and super special occasions. I even wore a tie.”

The memories all came flooding back. She started to blush when she did remember. She looked around then looked at me in a panic.

“Where am I going to change?”

“Why not the ladies room?”

We started to garner some rather strange looks. Trixie, the senior nurse out of treatment room five was leaving for the day and eyed the dress.

“Looks like someone is going to dinner. How come you never offered to take me to dinner Peter?” She proceeded to tussle my hair. “Paws off Trixie. He’s spoken for” said Cassie. She came closer and inspected the garment bag. “Everything looks right. Even got the right kind of shoes. I’ll be back in a jiffy.” She inspected the garment bag and darted into the the Ladies Room.

Twenty minutes later I was sitting on the last step of the staircase staring at the ladies room door that never seemed to open. Finally, she emerged from the ladies room and she looked fantastic. “That was a jiffy?” I asked sarcastically.

“Well, it was the Carter version of a jiffy. A jiffy is just a little longer than a tic.” Then she started looking down the front of the dress and smoothed out any wrinkles. “Either there’s more of me or less of this dress. It’s a little snugger than I remember. But I’ll live.”

“Well, I’m glad about that. Because I have a very important question to ask you. By the way, you still look great in it.” Cassie noticed my comment. “Smooth recovery scribe.”

We got in the car and drove to Gelert Gardens. During the drive, Cassie was uncharacteristically quiet. My peripheral vision is pretty good and I noticed her looking at me wondering what I wanted to ask her. She started teasing me with half-assed questions hoping I’d crack. It didn’t work.

“Oh pooh. This no fun. How did your appointment with Dr. Willowby go? Did the good doctor scope you? Please tell me something because I really want to know. This morning you were in such a foul mood.”

After a deliberate pause and few more moments I started talking.

“I really must apologize for the mood. I was just so damn frustrated. I’m sick of being sick all the time. It feels like I’ve been sick forever.” Cassie used that particular moment to inject some personal comments.

“Egad! The sphinx actually speaks”. Passenger seat satire.

“Do want me to answer your questions or not?” I said. Cassie stopped making any snarky comments. But had one left in her arsenal.

“You don’t have to be such an old poop about it.”

“I am not an old poop. I’m a relatively young poop. Now do you want to hear the answers or not?”

Cassie sat facing the windshield and didn’t say a word. That was my cue to spill the beans.

Before I continued on I had some water from my water bottle.

“How do feel about your man crying because I really lost it in there today. Blubbering, sniffing, the whole nine yards.”

At first, Cassie was silent. I think she was astonished I’d admit something like that. It felt so easy telling her something so personal.

“I’ve heard you cry in the shower. The first time just tore me to pieces. I wanted to jump in that shower and hug the stuffing out of you. To let you know you weren’t alone. And since we’re being honest the reason I didn’t is I wasn’t sure how I’d behave or you’d react. Personally, I’m glad you do cry. I want my man to be a human being and not one of those crazy macho men who think to be a man you shouldn’t ever cry. Why did you cry today?”

I breathed in and prepared for a small speech.

“First I had to get the radiation treatments which seemed to take forever and now I’m having a bloody slow recovery. Then there was that damn scope and stupid student doctors. But the part that really scared the living stuffing out of me is that I was scared of losing you. That you might not want to marry someone who is afraid to use the phone because people won’t understand him, or sounds like the monster from the Black Lagoon.”

Cassie’s jaw opened in complete surprise and stared at me with extreme intensity and surprise.

“Hold the frigging phone buster. Pull this car over right now.”

When I did and put the car in Park she really let me have it.

“I don’t know where all this is coming from but I fell in love with you. All of you. And that goes for your throat too. At first, all I wanted to do was meet you. I was honoring a request from my late Aunt Heather. After you told me about the she-devil I wanted to help you through this. I realized how hard it was for you to ask for help from a woman after being so messed up by one and that was a gigantic leap of faith on your part. But then I fell in love with you. I realized there was something very, very special about you and I wanted you in my life. I wanted to learn as much as I could about Peter James Christopher and I wanted to spend my whole life doing it. And that includes having children together. But if you think I’m going to make tracks just because your voice is all screwed up you’re sadly mistaken and you deserve a pretty sizeable slap for even thinking that thought. The only thing that’s saving you from getting a slap is that you’ve already gone through enough grief today. If you were any other guy I’d slap him so hard he wouldn’t be able to see straight for a week. Now, what the hell did you want to ask me?”

My master plan had gone to hell in a handbasket. So I forged straight ahead with my question.

“All right. I wanted to ask you to marry me.”

Cassie looked at me suspiciously like I had something up my sleeve. I tried to assure her I had nothing nefarious or sneaky in mind.

“I already said yes. I remember every detail. If you’re toying with me prepare to feel my wrath. My knees are in great shape.” I couldn’t help noticing her flex her thigh muscles. In that dress it was almost impossible.

“No, I mean really marry me”.

Cassie started eyeing me like I wasn’t right in the head. Then I remembered the gold bands in my pocket. I took one out of my pocket and placed it over her engagement ring. “That kind of marry.” Her eyes just about bulged out of her head and she started stuttering nervously.

“You-you weren’t-you weren’t kidding. You really do want to get married. But there’s so much to do. Invitations, cake, venue. I haven’t even got a dress. What about your mom and dad?”

“They’re out my life. The she-devil saw to that. They didn’t like her, they thought she was nuts and refused to pay for their half of the wedding. They insisted I not marry her. When I did marry her they disowned me. You’ve never mentioned yours. What’s the story there?” Cassie sat back in the seat and crossed her arms. Something told me this was still a sore subject.

“Mom and dad didn’t want me to become a reporter. Said it wasn’t and I quote “a proper profession for a lady”. Pardon the air quotes but that quote calls for them. When I insisted and paid for university myself they cut their ties with me. Things got mighty ugly and pretty frosty for a while. Then I got the job at CKMT. That was the last straw for them. They cut me out of the will too. That’s when I really realized our relationship was really over. I haven’t seen them for years. I think they might be…”

What came next was a torrent of tears, wailing, and a few curses that surprised even me. I held her close and massaged her back. After a few dozen Kleenex’s and a handkerchief, she started putting herself back together. When she pulled the rear-view mirror towards her she discovered the waterproof mascara she had paid dearly for simply didn’t work. “Damn and double damn. I look like a blasted raccoon.” When she saw the teary mess she said I may sound like the monster from the black lagoon but she was “the bride of the monster”. After she got herself back together we continued on our way. The drive to Gelert can be horrific during the summer, but during the winter there was hardly anyone on the highway. Cassie started thinking out loud. “Sorry if this hurts but I honestly didn’t think you had it in you. I thought the she-devil had screwed with you so well that you were gun shy.”

I returned with a compliment as well as I could. I talked as I drove. “Well, you got me all unscrewed-up Cassie Carter and for that, I shall be eternally grateful. Now if I can put a wedding ring on your finger I’ll be a happy camper. The words may not be romantic but I assure you the feeling most certainly is.”

Once we got to the restaurant and were seated Cassie made a comment about my resolve. “You really want to marry me don’t you?” I replied as succinctly as I could. “You bet your boots I do. I want to get married properly this time. Plus get our honeymoon off to a great start. And if you really don’t mind I’d really like to go back to Eleuthera. The Arawak Cove Club has probably changed a lot since I was last there. I know we talked about going to Andros but I’d really like to try Eleuthera again. Mostly because my last visit there wasn’t very pleasant. The she-devil monopolized it. She never consulted me on any of the arrangements there. She never consulted with me about anything. The last time I checked a honeymoon involved two people enjoying each others company. And much like a marriage, they talked to each other, much like we’re doing right now. I’m telling you my ideas but none are carved in stone because I’m looking for input from you.”

Cassie paused and didn’t say a word. She just stared at me.

“You really want to go back don’t you,” said Cassie a little surprised I’d given the matter so much thought. “I certainly do. I think you’ll love it.” I replied. Cassie was quiet for a while then gave me her reply. “OK, but on two conditions. I want to enjoy my honeymoon, but I want you to enjoy it too. And if we wind up doing something you did or going somewhere you went with the she-devil don’t tell me. I want the memories to concern only you and me. I don’t want the she-devil on our honeymoon” To show she meant business she pointed to the table top and lightly tapped on it lightly with her fingernail when she named her two conditions. “Now, what else is going on in that head of yours?”

I breathed in and took a sip of my mineral water.

“OK, here goes. You admitted to Wilma that you wanted a small wedding. I told you I wanted the same thing after I went to the wedding of an old school chum. The engagement period is to give the couple to learn about each before committing to a lifetime with each other. We’ve lived together for almost a year. You know enough about me to want to commit to a lifetime with me. I know enough about you to know I want you in every second of the remainder of my life. Neither one of us is religious so there are no considerations there. I was thinking we have all the people we’d want at our wedding in our lives right now. Dr. Willowby could be my best man. Wilma or Trina could be your maid or matron of honor. Buddha could give you away. And Kenny could be our ring bearer.”

Cassie was looking at me intently. Her eyes were becoming moist and she was slowing licking her lips periodically which was really distracting. It took a lot of effort just to ask her four words. “What do you think?”

“Phew. I’m sure glad you stopped. Just how long have you been thinking about this? Because I think it sounds perfect. I’d like to make a slight alteration. Buddha may have already popped the question to his lady love. It’s a woman named Gwen. She’s the station owners daughter. Aside from that, you haven’t addressed a very important matter. When were you thinking of us getting hitched?”

“At first I thought of us getting married this weekend. Then I thought would simply be rushing things. Then I changed that to a week from this weekend. What do you think? Too much?”

Cassie looked me strangely.

“I think you’ve forgotten another important factor. Since we both don’t want a religious wedding that leaves only two options. A justice of the peace or a judge. And I don’t know any at all.”

My eyes rolled and I buried my face in my hands. How could I possibly forget something so important?

“I’ve got bupkis too. Zero on JP’s and judges.”

Cassie picked up her fork and prepared to attack her Chow Mein.

“Well, it was a truly wonderful fantasy. I suppose we could always live in sin for the rest of our lives,” she said before she took a sip of sake.

I rapped my knuckles on the table top to get Cassie’s attention.

“No damn way. You’re going to be Mrs. Peter James Christopher legally if it kills me. Besides, the legal beagles would have a field day with this one when I died, left a sizeable estate, and didn’t have anyone to legally leave my estate to.”

Cassie picked up her serviette and dabbed the corners of her mouth while studying me with an intensity I’d never seen before.

“Why is it so important to you that we’re legally married?. Why is it so important to you that want me to be your lawfully wedded wife?”

“Because when I do die I want you and any of our children to be provided for legally. I don’t my life’s work to go to blood-sucking legal leech who doesn’t need the money. I want it to go the woman I’m madly in love with. And that’s you.”

Cassie looked like she might tear up again then she stopped herself. She got a grip on herself and forced herself not to cry. But she started sniffling.

“Lordy, I love it when you start talking like that. I almost feel like we’re already married. Hey, what are you looking at scribe?”

Cassie noticed my gaze had suddenly shifted from her to someplace behind her. Then my gaze returned to her. I asked her a very easy question.

“Who is the towns gossip and the man who seems to know everything about everyone in Norland?”

“Why, you’re talking about Mr. Lemay! We should ask him tomorrow who the local justice of the peace is.”

“We may not have to wait till tomorrow. He’s standing at the bar not twenty feet behind you. Maybe he knows who the Justice Of The Peace is for Norland is. I’ll ask him to join us.”

I got out of my chair and walked over to the bar. Mr. Lemay saw me coming towards him. “Peter, I didn’t know you frequented this establishment. How are you feeling boy?” I asked him to join Cassie and me. “Cassie and I have a question we’d really like the answer to and when I saw you waiting at the bar we thought you just might know the answer.”

When we got to the table I asked Cassie to take over as my voice was on the verge of vanishing. 

“Mr. Lemay, Peter and I want to get married and we’d like a small wedding. We know who we want to invite. Neither of us is religious so we won’t be having a church wedding. We’re looking at a civil ceremony. What I’m leading up to is this. We need to who the justice of the peace is for Norland.”

Mr. Lemay, who’d been nursing a small gin and tonic, just about burst his seams when he heard the intensity in Cassie’s question.

“Let me see if I understand you. You two want to get married and you want to get married in Norland. And you’re wondering who the local JP is.” Cassie’s answer was perfect.

“Crystal.”

Mr. Lemay started chuckling then had a good old fashioned belly laugh.

“You may find this hard to believe but it’s me!”

…yes, there’s still more to come in chapter 12C coming next week…

Chapter 6B – Blue Cottage

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Sunrise in Coboconk

A mist covered the surface of the water. And we swam at daybreak. Peter tried to be brave. Suddenly he buried himself in my arms, And he cried. Like a baby. He was scared. But not for the reason I thought. “I don’t want to die” was all he said. Over and over. I held him close and rocked him. He tried to show strength. But he couldn’t hide his feelings any longer. The reality of his life was just too close. And his tears came out like a flood. I made a mental note to inform Dr. Willowby privately of this development.

***

The day after Dr. Willowby’s phone call didn’t allow for a lot of extracurricular activities if you know what I mean. Peter and I had to get quite a number of things done prior to the radiation treatments and we had precious little time in which to do it in. I was hoping to get Peter more relaxed the old fashion way – sex. However, we had lots to do, and Peter suddenly going to pieces wasn’t making things any easier. He was as nervous as a long tail cat in a room crammed full of rocking chairs and I don’t blame him. We drove into Coboconk, Coby for short, with a rapidly growing list of things to get. We got the collarless tee shirts in Norland. Mr. Lemay had them in the aisle for garden supplies. We got six of them -one for every treatment. And shirts with simple button-snaps so you could tear the thing open like Superman if you had to. We also had to find a drug store that stocked Lubriderm for Peters skin and a liquid meal replacement called Boost. I had heard of it, even seen it. But in only small quantities. We had to find someone who sold it bulk. We finally found a store in Miners Bay which was just north of Norland that sold it in bulk. We had three cases of it in the trunk with each case holding 25 drink boxes. I know Peter said this would be a journey that I wouldn’t want to document but it’s not often you have 75 drink boxes inhabiting the fridge. So I took a digital photo of a box.

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Peters ability to chew and swallow solid foods could be severely impacted in about two weeks. So I’m going to put him on the scales every day. He’s 182 pounds right now and my job is to see he stays that way. He’s not going to be a happy camper if he has to sit in from the TV and drink from that box with his left and suck on a fudgsicle in his right hand.

***

Yesterday was so hot. We spent most of the day down by the water. Peter is terrified. I tried to snap him out of by wearing one of my most revealing bikinis. When I walked in front of him he didn’t make one sound. Not even a mildly approving growl. Nothing. So I tried shock therapy. No, not that kind. When we were inside I took my bikini off and stood right in front of him and asked him if he wanted to play. Peter was sitting on the couch and “she” was at eye level. He just shook his head. At least “tab” was interested in me. That was a mildly encouraging sign. At least part of him was paying attention to me.

Later in the evening, I sat on the couch in just my panties and my feet were propped up on a table. I didn’t feel like caging up the girls in a bra so I didn’t wear one. I was fanning myself using an old magazine while I sweated. It was just so humid. Normally, Peter would be all over me like a cheap shirt. But he wasn’t. And I was worried. And it scared me to death. Was he losing interest in me? Did he fall out of love with me? Did he still want to marry me? I made another mental note to ask Dr. Willowby about this too.

As Monday drew closer Peter started to pull himself together. He was back to his old croaky, horny self. He tried to get inside as often as possible. But he seemed to completely miss the concept that maybe I just didn’t feel like it. When I didn’t say yes he got snarly and nasty. Sometimes when I didn’t move fast enough for him he picked me up bodily and moved me out of the way. I had to find out what was going on. I didn’t want to lose him but at the same time, he was starting to scare the hell out of me.

The day came and Peter and I got a really lousy sleep. I was not in the best of moods. Peter tried for an early morning quickie. I tried to let him know I just wasn’t interested at that time. He wasn’t listening. I was so angry at him I slapped him. He turned his back to me and gave me the cold shoulder. A few hours later the alarm clock rang and I told him to get up. He still didn’t talk. We had breakfast in total silence. I was really concerned. If every morning was going to be like this I was going to move back to Blue Cottage. I just didn’t know what else to do.

I dropped Peter off at treatment room 5. I told him I’d see him after the treatment and gave him a kiss for good luck – on the cheek. He had really hurt my feelings. When I got up to Dr. Willowby’s office I guess he saw my expression and came to the conclusion that things were not all peaches and cream. I talked and cried.

“I don’t understand what’s going on. The day after you called Peter and I were swimming and all of a sudden he starts crying and saying “I don’t want to die” over and over. He seems to have lost interest in me, I offered myself to him several times, and last night he almost raped me. I love Peter but I don’t know if I can do this.”

Dr. Willowby sat in a small chair about five feet in front of me. He tried to get all clinical and professional but his humanity was showing and not his white lab coat.

” Nuts! I was hoping this wasn’t going to happen. It would seem Peter has been repressing some emotions. It also sounds like he’s done an online diagnosis. I warned him about bottling up his emotions. I also told him not to do what I think he’s done. From your description, it sounds like he’s gone online to research his type of cancer”

“How do explain his losing interest in sex, me, then almost raping me last night.”

“OK, since you and Peter are engaged that makes you my patient. That means I can’t mention a word of this case to anyone without your permission. So I want you to call me as soon as something like this pops up again. Cancer patients they tend to bottle up their emotions -especially men. Men need to air them out and cut out all this macho crap!  The sex drive of a great many cancer patients – again mostly male, almost vanishes. He’s not going to feel like going through the motions with anybody, but the hormones in his brain will still want to show you he’s still got what it takes. He loves you wildly. His mind is saying take things slow and concentrate on the cancer. The Cro-magnon in him wants to mate with you as often as he can and show you he’s still healthy.”

Every time Dr. Willowby said, “you”, he put a lot of emphasis on the word and pointed right at me with stabbing motions. I really wanted to understand Peter.

“If I understand you-you’re saying his brain wants to show me he’s still King Kong but his body is saying “not tonight dear I have a headache.” But I had to slap him. Hard!”

“And you might have to again. And if he gets any more violent call the cops then call me. I’ll tell my service to put your call through really quick. But getting back to Peter, his mind and his brain are not in sync. They should be in about a week. Now for the sex part. Since he can’t perform the way he wants to let him cuddle you. Or sooth you. Or you can let him try to please you with his fingers but that parts totally up to you. Whatever you feel comfortable with. Him seeing a positive reaction from you could do wonders for his libido. Try to let him know that you know he’s going through a rough patch but you still really want him. It’s imperative he feels useful in this relationship. If he starts to feel he’s useless and a burden to you things are going to become more difficult for him.”

Just then was a knock at the door and Peter entered.

Dr. Willowby was visibly upset with Peter. He didn’t get out the chair or shake his hand. He simply told him to take a seat.

“I’m disappointed Peter, very disappointed. I rarely have to say this to my other patients but if you don’t smarten up you can start looking for a new doctor. I tell you not to go online and research your cancer. But from what Cassie has said it sounds like you’ve done exactly that. And I can tell you what I think you found.”

Doctor Willowby got out of his chair and went over to his desk. He lifted a file folder simply marked “OOD – 50 years” from his file cabinet and dropped it on his desk. It made a thunderous crash. “These reports are out of date. Fifty years ago when somebody got a diagnosis of cancer it was pretty well meant a death sentence.” But he slammed his fist on the desk for dramatic effect. “But that was fifty years ago. Hardly anybody dies from throat cancer and certainly not from a stage 2 carcinoma. If you don’t know exactly what you’re looking for you could end up reading fifty-year-old data. Leave the medical research to the professionals.”

Dr. Willowby returned to his chair. Then he leaned forward and looked right at Peter.

“You are on thin ice my friend, very thin ice. Every cancer patient will have mood swings but you don’t forcibly move someone, and you certainly do not under any circumstances try to force somebody to have sex with you. Now, because I heard about this first you get a get out of jail card. But if you ever try either of those things again with Cassie or anyone else the cops will take you away for so long you’ll never get your voice back. And there won’t be anything I can do. I understand what you’re going through. I had throat cancer, stage two, just like yours twenty years ago. I survived through the love of a very patient, understanding wife. You scared Cassie. Very, very badly. If you’re smart, and I think you are, I’d wine and dine this wonderful young lady and apologize like you never have before. I know you can’t perform the way you want. But you can still cuddle, hold hands, sooth her, stroke her hair, and something Cassie will tell you about. Just remember to be a gentleman 24 hours a day. And no wine or spirits for you. You’re on the wagon till I say differently. The only alcohol that should be in your system should be from a cotton swab. Now take this gorgeous young lady to lunch. And you drive home. When you get home start to write a new book. And maybe in a few weeks, if all goes well you can autograph all three of your others for me.” 

As we got up leave Dr. Willowby asked me to stay behind.

“OK, I threw some ice cold water on his face. Text me in a few days and let me know how it’s going.”

I wanted to ask Dr. Willowby another question.

“Can I ask you another question? Why are you taking such a personal interest in this case? We’re no different than any other case.”

“Ah, that’s where you’re wrong. You and Peter remind me of my wife and me some twenty years ago. Plus I think you really love that big monkey and he really loves you. I just don’t want to see this relationship go up in smoke.”

As I walked towards the door I stopped and said a very impulsive thing.

“Somewhere, under that white lab coat, is a hopeless romantic screaming to get out.”

“Cassie Carter, you’re beginning to sound like my wife. See you next week, and make a note of any problems.”

Dr. Willowby handed me a list of all Peters appointments for that week. Times, locations, everything we needed.

Before we went home Peter began to apologize for his horrible, scary behavior. He asked what Dr. Willowby and I talked about before he arrived. I told him. Point blank. I said either he straightens out or I walk. I could have mentioned my simplistic version of the diagnosis, my King Kong and the headache bit, but I thought he’d had enough cold water for one day. Besides, I was hungry!

He took me to a little sidewalk bistro. He ordered or at least tried to. I had to help him with that. I was then I discovered how just how helpless he really was. No iPad, nothing to write on. Nothing. When the person taking our order finally moved on Peter let me in on a little secret. He had already started work on a fourth book. From what I could understand it was based on us. He said it was a piece of romantic fiction. I asked when he started it. Peter said he started it the day he met me. Peter prefers to write at night. He says there are fewer distractions. When I asked if I could read some of it he initially said no. Then he changed his mind. “No, I’d really like your opinion. Normally I don’t let anybody but my agent read anything I’m still in the process of writing but I would like a woman’s opinion.” What he said next answered a great many nagging questions I still had. Questions I had about us. “I’d like my fiancée’s opinion.”

I couldn’t help it but I asked him if he any ideas for a title. “Right now I’m toying with two titles.” But he didn’t tell me what they were. He just sat there looking at me. It was a little unnerving.

“Well, are you going to tell me? The suspense is killing me.” He started to chuckle. “I love looking at your face when you’re like this. Your face is gorgeous and your curiosity infectious. You remind of a little kid on Christmas morning.”

I couldn’t stand it anymore. I kicked him. “Peter James Christopher. Are you going to tell me or not? Do you realize that what you’re doing could be called cruel and inhuman torture?” He started to chuckle some more and slapped the table.

“PJC, are you ever going to tell me or are you toying with me too?” Peters’ face took on a semi-serious expression. “Alright. I’m sorry. I just couldn’t help not doing that. I’m working with two titles. One is The Lady Next Door and the other is The Woman From Blue.”

Neither one really grabbed me. I tried to imagine myself in a book store and seeing two books on the shelves with those titles. If I simply saw the title and didn’t see the actual artwork neither one would garner enough interest to make me want to pick it up and give it a quick glance.

“Mind if I make a suggestion? What about The Lady From Blue Cottage? A title like that would interest me enough to pick it up and take a look at it.”

Peter looked like he was thinking. “I like it. It’s short and memorable. It’s on the list.”

Then I asked him how many chapters he had written. “Only twelve chapters” My eyes bugged out in surprise. Then I asked if I could read some chapters expecting a strong no. “Sure. Will three chapters do?”

***

When we got home he handed me the first three chapters. He went to bed early. I stayed up reading what he had written, then re-reading it. The detail was frightening accurate. Even Mr. Lemay was in it. But Peter had changed his last name to Murphy. When I came to bed he was already asleep. As I looked at him I tried to imagine the monster of the night before. And the longer I looked the monster disappeared.