I made a new friend. Every now and then I scrape together enough money to get a beer at this hole-in-the-wall in Conrad. I know it’s stupid to spend money on booze when you’re homeless, but booze makes homelessness bearable.
Anyway, there’s a regular there named Dale. He’s an EVA master, mostly working out of the Apollo 11 Visitor Center. He does tourist EVAs, stuff like that.
We got to talking and, I don’t know why, but I ended up telling him my problems. He was shocked at my fucked-up situation and offered to lend me some money. I assumed it was a play to get in my pants so I turned him down. I don’t have a problem with prostitutes, but I don’t want to be one.
But he swore up and down that he just wanted to help me out as a friend. Accepting that money was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, Kelvin. But I was out of options.
Anyway, I had just enough to pay deposit and first month on a capsule domicile. It’s so small I have to step outside to change my mind (rim shot!) but at least it’s a home. And true to his word, Dale never expected anything in return. Perfect gentleman.
And believe it or not I’m even dating a guy. His name is Tyler. It’s early days, but he’s really sweet. He’s kind of shy, polite to everyone, and sort of a Boy Scout when it comes to rules. So the opposite of me in every way. But we really click. We’ll see how it goes.
You know what? I’ve been selfish lately. I’ve been so focused on me I didn’t even ask about you. How are you handling things?
Good for you! I was worried your experience with Sean would put you off men forever. See? We’re not all bad.
I have my job at KSC, for which I’m very grateful. I even got a promotion. I’m a loadmaster-in-training now. In a couple months, I’ll be a full loadmaster and I’ll get a raise.
Halima is six months pregnant now, and we’re all preparing for the baby. We’ve worked out a rotation so that my other sisters can take care of the baby while Halima stays in school. Mom, Dad, and I will keep working. Dad was almost ready to retire, but now he’ll have to work another five years at least. What choice do we have? There’s just not enough money otherwise.
You’re a loadmaster-in-training? Does that mean you sometimes set up cargo pods unsupervised? Because there are a lot of people in Artemis who smoke.
I stared at Dale like he’d grown a dick out of his forehead. “How…?”
“What else would you do?” He took the helmet from my unresisting hands. “You had to know the posse would cover all the Artemis entrances. That just leaves the Visitor Center.”
“Why aren’t you with the posse!”
“I am with the posse. I’m the guy who volunteered to guard the Visitor Center. I would’ve been here sooner, but this was the first train out. Given the timing, I’m guessing we caught the same ride.”
Shit. Some criminal mastermind I was.
Dale set my helmet on a bench, then took my hand and unclamped the seals on the glove. He rotated the glove at the wrist and pulled it off. “You went too far this time, Jazz. Way too far.”
“You’re going to lecture me on morality?”
He shook his head. “Are you ever going to let that go?”
“Why should I?”
He rolled his eyes. “Tyler’s gay, Jazz. Gay as Oscar Wilde wearing sequins walking a pink poodle with a tiara on his head.”
“The poodle has a tiara?”
“No, I meant Oscar Wilde—”
“Right, right, that makes more sense. Anyway: Fuck you.”
Dale groaned. “It was never going to work for you two. Never.”
“And that makes it okay for you to fuck my boyfriend?”
“No,” he said softly. He took my other glove off and sat it on the bench. “We shouldn’t have been screwing while you two were still together. I was in love and he was confused, but that doesn’t make it okay. It was wrong.”
I looked away. “But you still did it.”
“Yeah, I did. I betrayed my best friend. If you think that doesn’t kill me inside you really don’t know me.”
He scowled. “I didn’t ‘recruit’ him, you know. If I weren’t there he would have left you on his own. He’d never be happy with a woman. It has nothing to do with you. You know that, right?”
I didn’t respond. He was right, but I was in no mood to hear it. He gestured for me to turn around. I did as instructed and he detached my life-support pack.
“Don’t you want to tell your EVA buddies you caught me?”
He carefully set the pack on the bench. “This is a big deal, Jazz. It’s not just an ass-beating. You could get deported. You blew up Sanchez Aluminum’s harvesters. Why the hell did you do that?”
“What do you care?”
“I still care about you, Jazz. You were my best friend for years. I don’t regret falling in love with Tyler, but I know I did wrong.”
“Thanks,” I said. “When I can’t sleep at night because I know you’re nailing the only man I ever loved, I’ll just remember that you feel guilty. All better.”