Family Ties

Dear Diary (1 Jan 98),

   Well, we hardly know each other, yet I find myself telling you my resolutions

for the new year.

   – Lose ten pounds.

   – Tell Marcus that I’d like to go out with him. You know Marcus almost as

well as I do now, so you can understand that one.

   – Start smoking. You probably think this is weird. Most people resolve to

stop smoking. Maybe next year that will be on the list. But when I watch Mom-

she’s smoking right now, I know I have to at least try it. I wish that Lisa

had stayed home for Winter break longer- she would have helped me with this

one. I don’t know how Mom is going to take this. It’s been hard deciding, but

I have to tell her, and since this is the only one of my resolutions I can

start today, I want to tell her in- well, in a few minutes-

   “Honey, what are you doing ?”

   It seemed like a silly question to Mariella. She was obviously writing in the

diary Mom had given her for Christmas. It had seemed like a strange gift at

first- her Powerbook was better suited for this sort of thing but she had

grown attached to it quite rapidly, and now it seemed really cool, even if it

was just a collection of paper, thread, and glue.

   “Writing my New Year’s resolutions, Mom.”

   “Can I see ?”

   Mariella thought about that. It sure would be the easiest way to tell her mom

what she was planning, and yet-

   No, she wanted to speak those words.          

   “Mom, have you ever regretted that you smoke ?”

   As Mariella asked the question, she wondered why should would of. At thirty-

eight, she didn’t have the look a smoker was supposed to have. No wrinkled

skin, no morning cough. She smoked a pack of Parliament Lights 100s every day

and still ran five miles in the morning, lifted weights at lunch, and did

three or four road races a month. She was a killer on the racquetball court.

   And she was beautiful. Long blonde hair, luxurious even if she had that

Jennifer Anniston straight cut. Sparkling grey eyes. A round pert face and

very stand-up breasts. Hips that Mariella would have killed for.

   Beth straightened her robe, inhaled deeply, thinking. Not about the answer to

the question. There had never been so much as a single moment of regret about

her decision to smoke.

   But other things.

   “I used to regret choosing Yale over Harvard. I still regret telling David

Duchovny that I didn’t want to date him because I thought he was a bookworm.

If I had known- and I still occasionally regret marrying your father- don’t

look at me that way- he’s a gem where you’re concerned, but- no, I don’t

regret smoking. Do you think one of my resolutions should be to quit ?”

   “No,” Mariella said quickly, almost urgently.

   “I regret buying that two thousand dollar pentium paperweight to replace my

LC III, but no, I’ve never once wished I didn’t start smoking. Now tell me

what your resolutions are-“

   Mom had that way about her. Once she had an idea in her head, there was no

deflecting it.

   “I want to lose ten pounds, tell Marcus that I want to go out with him, and-“

   She hesitated. Mom drew deeply on her cigarette, obviously enjoying the way

the smoke expanded into her lungs. It was fun just watching her smoke, and

Lisa was the same way. When they got together- things hadn’t gone well for a

while after the divorce, but then Lisa started smoking and there was suddenly

this bond between them.

   “-I want to start smoking.”

   Mom’s exhale rushed from her mouth and the strangest look came over her face.

   “That’s an unusual resolution, young lady.”

   Mariella cringed. ‘Young lady’ was rarely a good sign. It usually presaged a

lecture of some sort.

   Well, at least the hardest part of all this was over. Now Mom could give her

the one thousand reasons why what was good for her wasn’t good for her

daughter.

   “I know, Mom.”

   “Do you understand what you’re asking me as well as what you’re asking

yourself ?”

   “I think so-“

   Beth looked at the half-smoked cigarette in her hand. The thought of taking

another pull on it was so settling, so calming to her.

   Was there any part of her which would deny her daughter the same pleasure ?

   Of course.

   Of course not.

   “Well, I guess I should ask if you’ve tried it.”

   “No. I’ve wanted to, but none of my friends smoke-“

   “That’s not true. Your cousin Janice smokes- don’t look at me like you didn’t

know. I think Aunt Diana knows too, but she won’t say. There’s going to be

trouble when she can’t deny it any longer, too.”

   “Well, yeah, I knew, but she’s very careful about it.”

   Beth managed a wry laugh. “There’s no such thing as careful enough when a

parent like Diana is involved.”

   “You sound like you don’t approve-“

   Tapping ash off the cigarette, Beth inhaled again, enjoying it for what it

was. A simple, guiltless pleasure.

   “Well, Diana was always the pigheaded one of the family. And considering that

both she and Uncle Harry smoke, it’s a little silly that they don’t want

Janice to. It makes me feel sorry for her.”

   “How do you know that she smokes, Mom ?”

   “Remember last week when I took her to have her hair done at my stylist’s ?

The first thing she did when she got in the car was asked me if I minded if

she smoked.” It hadn’t happened exactly that way, but that was close enough.

“That’s why I decided to take her for lunch afterwards.”

   “Lunch and shopping. You two were gone all day.”

   “Well, she can’t smoke at home, and with school out, there’s been almost no

chance for her to smoke at all. I felt sorry for her. She really enjoys it and

Diana’s just being an ass about it all. Uncle Harry would just as soon she did

smoke, instead of finding all sorts of lame excuses to get out of the house.”

   “You were never that way with Lisa.”

   “Lisa was very honest about it. Just like you. But have you really never

tried it ?”

   “What makes that so hard to believe ?”

   “You’re fifteen, almost sixteen. When I was your age I’d been openly smoking

for a year and an half.”

   “I never had to do that. Lisa would have let me have one if I wanted. She

offered me one just the other day.”

   “Why didn’t you take her up on it ?”

   “She smokes those Marlboro 100s. They’re so strong.”

   “I know. I was out with her last weekend and ran out of my own. I tried one

of hers and it made me dizzy. But she likes that full-flavour and it’s what

her boyfriend smokes, so-“

   “I can’t believe that were having this calm discussion about smoking.”

   “Honey, when your mother smokes, you have to expect as a child-“

   “A teenager, Mom.”

   “As a teenager, that her opinions about your smoking are going to be a little

bit different. I may have voted for Bill Clinton, but that doesn’t mean that I

share his opinions about my ch- my teenager smoking. You know that Lisa and I

started getting along better once her smoking was out in the open.”

   “You and I never had the problems she had with you about-“

   “I know. But I would never trade that bond we’ve formed for anything. And I’m

glad it formed around smoking, because of all the pleasures which I allow

myself, smoking is the one I could never regret.”

   “Are you saying your chocolate ice cream habit-“

   “Gives me pause. Yes. Every spoonful. Now, would you like to try one of my

cigarettes ?”

   Mariella thought about this. She’d had her heart set on Janice’s brand, the

Marlboro Lights 100s, but then again, was there really a difference ? Janice

seemed to think so. She said that she didn’t like her mother’s Salems Lights

100s, but that was because of the menthol.

   “My feelings won’t be hurt if you’d like something different, honey. Just

tell me what you want. We have to leave for Diana’s in a few minutes anyway.

I’ll stop and you can get whatever you want.”

   “Well, I was thinking that I’d try the cigarettes that Janice smokes.”

   “That’s perfect. Maybe you and I can kill two birds with one stone.”

   “What do you mean ?”

   “Well, Janice asked me if I’d be willing to talk to Diana about her smoking.

She seems to think it would be better coming from me, and she may have a

point. Diana is the one who got me started way back when. I can’t think of a

better way to get the ball rolling then to have you walk into the house

smoking a cigarette.”

   “Aunt D will have a bird, Mom.”

   “Aunt D is not your mother. If you want to smoke at her house, you’re going

to smoke at her house and that’s all there is to it. Get dressed and let’s

go.”

   She walked into the Stop ‘n Shop and went straight into a checkout line.

Mariella took two packs of cigarettes and a five pack of lighters from the

cigarette rack and put them down on the belt, noticing the ‘Not 18 ? No

Tobacco !’ sign on the ATM card stand.

   The girl behind the counter scanned the cigarettes and the lighters. Looking

down, Mariella could see a pack of Virginia Slims 120s in the girl’s smock

pouch. She was also wearing a small black button with the pink triangle in the

centre. She looked at Mariella and smiled.

   “Seven oh seven.”

   Mariella passed her Mom’s ten and that was that. She reached it to plastic

bag, pulled out one of the packs, and tore away the cellophane. This was it.

Her first pack of cigarettes. It had a very cool feel to it, very taunt, the

lines of the cardboard straight, inviting. She cracked open the top, noticing

how stiff it was. The foil was smooth and perfect, until she opened it,

folding it away to expose twenty cigarettes, the filters pure white.

   As she walked through the outside door, she managed to free one of the

cigarettes.

   She placed it between her lips, amased at how light it was.

   “Can I give you a light ?” a familiar voice asked.

   She looked up and there was Marcus. He had a lit Marlboro 100 in his hand and

he’d already fished his lighter from his pocket.

   “Sure.”

   “I didn’t know you smoked,” he said, his voice full of encouragement.

   “It was a New Year’s resolution to join the rest of the family.”

   He held the lighter to the cigarette. It didn’t catch immediately, but on the

third try he got it going.

   She pulled a small amount of smoke into her mouth and then let it slide down

her throat.

   The feeling was one of immediate, intense pleasure.

   “Wow !”

   “Don’t tell me I got to light your first cigarette ? That’s so cool.” He

sounded ridiculously thrilled.

   Mariella smiled coyly. “It’s not like you just popped my cherry, Marcus.”

   He redden. “Well, I remember my first cigarette. You know Kelli Langdon ?”

   “Kelli ? Who doesn’t ? The prettiest cheerleader in the history of Hansen

High.”

   “Yeah. She was my babysitter until I turned fourteen.”

   “You had a babysitter when you were thirteen ?”

   “If Kelli was your babysitter- and you were a guy- you’d beg your Mom to be

sat just like I did.”

   “So you’ve been smoking since you were thirteen ?”

   “Kelli insisted on it. She said that- never mind.”

   Mariella punched him playfully on the arm. “She said what ?”

   “Oh man, I wish Mom hadn’t gotten caught in the deli line, you know ? Well,

Kelli and I were very close- I mean, she was just sixteen and I was thirteen

and-“

   “You didn’t,” Mariella said, shocked.

   “It all started because Kelli used to go outside to smoke. She had this

stupid idea that mom wouldn’t want her smoking in our house- as if. Well, she

put a pizza in the oven, we went outside so that she could smoke- and the

pizza didn’t make it. After that, Mom told her she’d rather she just smoked in

the house. Well, this was in the last few months that I ‘needed’ a babysitter.

We started fooling around-“

   “In other words, you were really  close.”

   “Yeah. We started, I don’t know, fooling around, and then one day that turned

into something more- only she stopped. I mean, I had her bra off and- do you

really want to hear this ?”

   “Yes, I do,” Mariella said, although she was far from sure that she did.

   “Well, there I am with my hand on her breast, stroking her nipple-“

   Mariella realised that she’d forgotten entirely about the cigarette. Her

first one, and she was wasting it. She had been unconsciously tapping the ash

from it, holding it the same way that her mother did, down by her waist, wrist

bent, working it with her index finger to keep the ash trimmed.

   She brought it to her mouth, wrapped her lips around it, and inhaled. The

thing she hadn’t told her diary was that she didn’t plan just to start

smoking, but to really smoke. Inhaling the way Mom and Lisa did, something

Janice still was only half-heartedly doing.

   The sensation of satisfaction was more intense this time, more fulfilling.

   Her exhale was thick and luxurious.

   “Do that again,” Marcus said. His smile as she repeated the inhale was

matched by her own.

   “Your story,” she said, her voice thick through the smoke. She inhaled again

and this time treated her boyfriend-to-be with a nose exhale.

   “Well,” Marcus said, pausing to draw on his own. “She says ‘I can’t do it

with someone who’s not even old enough to smoke.’ That was how she put it. ‘Do

it.'”

   “You were pretty young. Did you even know what she meant ?”

   “Yes, we get HBO. So I said that I was old enough and she asked me to prove

it. She put a cigarette in my mouth, lit it for me, and a few puffs later-“

   He didn’t say any more. Mariella drew on her cigarette, noticing with

disappointment that it was almost gone already.

   “Yes-“

   “Gentlemen don’t kiss and tell-“

   “Or fuck and tell-” Mariella said, trying her best to be good natured about

it. “I just-” Taking one last draw on the cigarette, she felt suddenly bold.

“-hope she didn’t ruin you for the rest of us.”

   Just then the car horn finally honked, a quick, half-hearted bleat that was

Mom’s way of saying, ‘I hate to interrupt.’

   They exchanged a few more sentences and then Mariella was back in the smoky

safety of her mom’s Lexus.

   Dear Diary (1 Jan 98 £2),

   Well, unless I can find a way to get liposuction by sundown, only two of my

three resolutions will be brought to fruition today. Marcus asked me out-

although after his story about Kelli- and I have to say that I do believe it-

I’m a little intimidated. It’s like following Seinfeld on open-mike night. I

should have bought a box of tissues in the store.

   That’s silly. Marcus isn’t like that.

   Mom was so cool about it when I told her I had a date tonight. Then again,

I’m sitting here in the car smoking a freshly lit cigarette and I can tell she

couldn’t be happier. I wish Lisa was here to see this. I was she’d seen the

way that Marcus almost wet his shorts watching me smoke, too.

   I can understand that. After having Kelli, I’ll bet he never so much as think

twice about a woman who doesn’t smoke. Maybe that’s how it starts with most

men. The first love of their life, real or imagined, is a smoker. Mom was

saying a few minutes ago that it was that way with Dad, and-

   “You’ll have to put your diary up, dear. We’re here. Try not to think about

Marcus the whole time. We have work to do.”

   Work. No way. It was going to be pure pleasure, smoking for Diana. Or rather,

smoking for Janice.

   Harry answered the door. He smiled at them and said “Welcome, ladies. Happy

New- uh oh.”

   “Uh oh, what ?” Beth asked, as if she didn’t know. She punctuated the

question with the sort of exhale that she knew would give Harry half a jones.

Good old reliable Harry.

   “Diana’s not going to like the fact that you’ve let Mariella smoke, Beth. You

might want to put that out, Mari.”

   “No, she wouldn’t. And you can’t tell me that my daughter isn’t welcome in

her mother’s sister’s house because she smokes.”

   Harry parsed the family relation, smiled, stepped outside and closed the

door.

   “I know Janice has been smoking, Beth. And that you encourage her. You forget

that we have the same stylist.”

   Beth considered cracking wise about whether or not Harry still needed hair

styling with that chrome dome of his, thought better of it.

   “And-“

   “And I wish that Diana would lighten up and let Janice light up. Frankly,

it’s been causing a little tension lately. Janice looks for any lame excuse

she can find to get out of the house and I know that if Dee would just let her

smoke that would stop. But she’s dead set against it, and she’d going to piss

a river if-“

   “You know, I’d think a licensed therapist-“

   “The problem is that we’re both  licensed therapists. Every argument I throw

up she shoots down.”

   “Well, Mariella is my  daughter-“

   Mariella spoke through a nose exhale. “Mom, I don’t want to piss off Aunt D.”

   “Well, maybe I do. Janice is a good kid, Harry. So she smokes ? We all smoke.

Mari, tell Uncle Harry what your resolution was.”

   The girl reddened slightly This was already going far less smoothly than

she’d hoped.

   “Come on, Mari. You know I won’t judge.”

   Mariella looked at Uncle Harry, who was honestly the least judgmental person

she knew.

   “I made a resolution to start smoking.”

   “That’s interesting. Why did you do that ?”

   Beth rolled her eyes. “I’m sure we both appreciate the free therapy, Harry,

but this is about Dee and Janice. Do you want my help or not ?”

   “Do you really think that Dee seeing Mari smoke is going to change her mind

about Janice ?”

   “I hope so. I- yes, I do. Dee has always been very fond of Mari. You know

that.”

   “Yeah. Both of us are. She’s a lot like Janice- and we didn’t have to raise

her.” He smiled at his own joke. “Look, I’m all for anything which gets this

out of the way, but-“

   “You have to live with Dee and we don’t. I know.”

   “Exactly. But then again, you’re her sister. If anyone has the right to

interfere, it’s you.”

   Mariella finished her cigarette.

   “Can I light another one, Uncle Harry ?”

   She cuzzled up to Uncle Harry, pressing the length of her body against his,

her right breast pushing into his arm. She looked at him with sky blue doe

eyes and he melted.

   “Of course, honey. But don’t blame me if things get a little ugly.”

   Beth saw that the old Mariselle charm still worked on Harry. She didn’t

follow that thought any farther. Harry was a good man- now.

   Mariella lit another cigarette, amasing her mother with the veracity with

which she smoked.

   The inhale was full, measured, intentional. A life time around smokers had

certainly done her good.

   They walked inside.

   Diana noticed almost immediately. She was sitting on the couch, playing

Scrabble with Janice when they walked in.

   “Happy- Oh, I see you’ve started smoking, Mari. I’ll bet your mother is very

proud of you.”

   Janice was smart enough to see what was coming. She stood up, took Mariella’s

arm, and halfway dragged her into the kitchen without so much as saying a

word. Harry considered sticking around, but one look from Diana told him that

this was between sisters. Thinking bowl game, he was more than happy to

oblige- for now.

   The first thing that Janice did when they got to the kitchen was put out her

hand, practically demanding the cigarette. Instead, Mariella passed over her

pack and the lighter.

   “Are you crazy ?”

   “Come on Janice, you know Mom and Aunt D. Once they decide to argue, that’s

it for the next hour or so. Go ahead.”

   Without further argument Janice slid one of the cigarettes from the pack and

lit it with a trembling hand.

   “What are you so nervous about ? I’ve seen you smoke in the house before.”

   “Not when Mom is actually home. I can’t believe that you’ve started smoking.

What happened ?”

   “Mom asked me what my New Year’s resolutions were and I told her one of them

was that I wanted to start smoking. She was all for it. Not only that-“

Mariella stopped in mid-sentence, inhaled deeply, and tried another nose

exhale, liking the subtlety different feel of it. “-Marcus Aero asked me out

tonight. I came out of the Stop and Shop and he lit my cigarette for me.”

   “Sounds like a black and white movie.”

   “I don’t care what it is. Except-“

   Seeing how confidently Mari inhaled- on her first day of smoking- Janice

found herself inhaling more deeply than she was used to. She knew she wasn’t

really inhaling the way her mom and dad did, but it wasn’t until she saw Mari

doing it that she realised she was missing something.

   The truth was, the feeling was even better, more intense. And it wasn’t

making her dizzy or nauseous like the last time she’d tried to really inhale.

   A smile spread across her face.

   “Except what, Mari ?”

   “Do you who Kelli       Langdon is-“

   “She is my daughter,” Beth said, angrily tapping ash into the expensive

crystal. “Not yours. Mine.”

   “I know that,” Diana said angrily. “And I also know a few other things. I

know that Janice smokes. I know that when she’s with you, you let her smoke. I

know Harry would just as soon we let her smoke. And now Mariella will be

pressuring her to smoke more or more openly. But she’s my  daughter, Beth. If

I wanted her to smoke, she’d be smoking right now, this very minute.”

   Beth inhaled, paused, exhaled slowly. It was a nice exercise in relaxation.

When she’d first started smoking openly she’d noticed that her smoking changed

when she was nervous or agitated. She would attack the cigarette with her

mouth and then try to blow the smoke into the next county. Mom had called it

angry smoking, and Beth had asked her why she never did it herself.

   ‘There aren’t many thing important enough to waste a good cigarette about,

honey,’ had been her answer.

   Not once since that day had Beth smoked that way.

   She watched Diana jam the filter of her own cigarette in her mouth, pull

hard, and almost immediately blow a fast moving jet of unenjoyed smoke from

her mouth.

   Diana had always been the emotional one.

   “When you talk like that Diana, it’s not about Janice, it’s about you. What

about her ? What if she wants to smoke.”

   “It’s not about her, not really. I mean-” This time Diana’s inhale was more

reasonable, and shew actually held the smoke long enough to relax her at least

a little bit. “I don’t know how you managed after the divorce. I guess that

you’ve just never felt a lot of pressure where Lisa and Mariella are

concerned- don’t get me wrong, you’ve done a great job, but- I mean, you don’t

go to the PTA meetings and the parent-teacher conferences the way I do, you

don’t interact in those circles-“

   “And you’re not trying to criticise,” Beth mocked.

   “I’m not. You’ve always had a chip on your shoulder about that. As if I can’t

understand that you have a living to make and a life to live you’re already

working twice as hard as Harry or I without the PTA or whatever. I do

understand that, Beth.”

   “Why do you let those people get to you ?”

   “Get to me ?”

   Beth stubbed out her cigarette and lit another one, thinking back to when

they were kids and they’d just started smoking. Diana had been sixteen, she’d

been fourteen. They’d started together and it was a very short number of days

before Mom had found out. She’d immediately given their smoking her

unequivocal stamp of approval. Beth had taken full advantage, lighting up in

public at every chance because she wanted the whole world to know that she was

a smoker. Not Diana. Her smoking had remained almost furtive.

   “Remember when we first started. You were thrilled that Mom was letting us

smoke, but you were still afraid to light up when we went anywhere, as though

the wrong people might see you. The four of us would go out to eat and sit in

the smoking section and Mom, Dad and I would light our cigarettes and you’d

sit there glancing around. It was always ‘there’s the principal or there’s

Mrs. Green or there’s the priest.”

   “So-“

   “Well, you haven’t changed.”

   “You don’t think this should be about me at all, even though when people look

at Janice, they see Harry and I as an extension of her, do you ?”

   Beth paused to inhale again. Her sister’s body language was slowly changing

for the better. She too inhaled again and this time it was slow, patient,

well-measured. Which told Beth that she was slowly winning her case.

   “I think if you look at an eleven or twelve year old girl and she’s standing

with her mother smoking a cigarette that you have to question that. But Janice

is fifteen. She’s old enough to enjoy smoking in her own right. Your whole

problem is that you’ve fallen into this nineties trap that smoking is somehow

bad or evil or socially pariahical.”

   “Well-“

   “That’s just the media. Millions of people see millions of other people

smoking every day, and you know what the majority of them think ?”

   “No, because we’re in the minority.”

   “Not everyone is a judgmental bastard, you know. Most of them just think,

‘Hey, she’s smoking.’ Not ‘She’s smoking, her parents must suck’ or ‘she’s a

bad person.’ In fact, I value Mariella’s judgment very highly, and what she

took from watching Lisa and I smoke was that she might enjoy it herself. You

have to get it out of your head that everyone out there has a negative

association with smoking.”

   “Everyone’s not Harry, Beth.”

   “We’d live in a better world if they were. You know, I asked Janice why she

started smoking the other day. I didn’t really need to. When she got in the

car I waited until we were out of sight of the house to tell that she could

smoke. She lit up so fast- and she glows when she smokes. She loves it. But I

asked anyway, just so that I could hear her say that it wasn’t because we

smoke or anything stupid like that. She looked at me with those big brown eyes

of hers and said ‘The same reason Mom smokes. The same reason you smoke. I

enjoy it.’ All you’re doing by refusing her that is alienating her and

instilling the same fear of others that you have.”

   “That’s not fair, Beth. I don’t have an avoidance complex.”

   Beth laughed, exhaled, then drank the second hand smoke back in. “Of course

you do. You’re one of the most non-confrontational people I know. Which is why

you’re such a good therapist. But you overcompensate in the home environment.

You do things because you think you have to, because the other parents in the

fucking PTA might not look kindly on you letting your daughter smoke. Rather

than take them on, you’re making Janice very unhappy.”

   “She’s not unhappy-“

   “Because she sneaks out every day to smoke. She told me some of her

favourites. As if you don’t know why she’d rather walk three miles to the

store to get a Diet Coke at the convenience store than drink a glass of milk.”

   “She knows I know.”

   “Of course she does. But you let that go because it’s easier to say ‘not in

my house’ than face your own fears. Who knows what she’ll miss, and what

she’ll take away from her last two or three years here before college. Do you

want her to resent you ?”

   “No. But parents can’t just cave in all the time to avoid resentment. And

what do you mean ‘What she’ll miss ?'”

   Beth’s nose exhale would have made Harry’s pants seem too tight.

   Actually, it did. The two sisters didn’t know that Harry was watching the

discussion from the hallway. He’d snuck past the kitchen where Janice and

Mariella were smoking. Janice looked so calm, so peaceful. She had her

mother’s way of working a cigarette, perfect holds, nice inhales- much better

today than he’d ever seen, actually. Seeing the open enjoyment on her face was

making him wish that Beth would work her gentle magic on her sister.

   “Well. I let Mariella go buy her own cigarettes this morning. Seeing as

nothing is ever closed anymore, we swung by the Stop ‘n Shop. I remember how

much I enjoyed buying cigarettes when I was her age- anyway, she was walking

out of the store and there was Marcus-“

   “That gorgeous kid that’s she’s in love with ?”

   “Well,” Beth said, smiling as she drew on her cigarette. “Love is kind of

strong. She hardly knows him, you know. But yeah, she thinks she’s in love.

Wouldn’t you be ?”

   “I almost am. That day at her birthday party- made me wish I was fifteen, you

know.”

   “Exactly. Don’t we all. Well, there she is, so eager she already has the

cigarette in her mouth. Well, you could see that he was getting a jones just

lighting it for her, and now she has a date tonight.”

   Diana finished her cigarette, lit another. Beth couldn’t help but notice the

way her sister’s hand crept towards her crotch and she wondered if there

wouldn’t be a little pretending tonight when she went to bed and started in on

Harry.

   “True. I would never have met Harry if I didn’t smoke- but the same could be

said for you and Johnny.”

   That was Diana for you. Back her far enough into the corner and she would get

a little mean.

   “We’ve been over that ground. But I have two wonderful daughters because of

that man and he’s not a bad person. He is helping to put Lisa through college,

and he’ll do the same for Mari. I just got to a point where living with him

wasn’t the right thing to do. But I don’t regret the result and I still think

back very fondly of that day my lighter ran out of fluid and he was there for

me.”

   “That trick always did work for you,” Diana said, her voice now tinged with a

narrow sort of anger.

   “Please, Dee. This is about Janice, not Harry.”

   “I know. I’m sorry.”

   “I’m not. Look, what do you say you try it ? Let Janice smoke and see what

happens.”

   “You mean the whole nine yards. Let her smoke in the house and the car and

when we go out.”

   Dee wasn’t convinced yet.

   “Is there any part of you which is proud that Janice made a decision, on her

own, to start smoking ?”

   Diana said nothing. She merely sat there, thinking and smoking.

   “Do you like to smoke, Dee ?”

   “Of course I do.”

   “Would you say that you’re pro-smoking ? That there isn’t part of you that

enjoys going into a restaurant and lighting a cigarette in an environment

where you can proudly proclaim that you smoke ?”

   “Of course.”

   “Well then ?”

   “Okay, yes, I’m proud of her. But I don’t want to make this so easy for her

that she thinks I don’t care about her.”

   Beth and Harry both knew that the game was over.

   “It’s because she knows that you care about her that she wants you to approve

of her smoking. That should be obvious.”

   “All right. Harry, stop standing behind the wall and go get your daughter.”

   When Janice walked into the room, she was holding an unlit cigarette in her

hand.

   Mariella’s was lit and she drew deeply on it, a smile creeping across her

face.

   “Can I, Mom ?”

   “Come over here, young lady.”

   Janice went and sat down next to her mother, who picked her lighter up off

the table and used it to light her daughter’s cigarette.

   “No more long walks to the store, Janice.”

   They all laughed.

   Dear Diary (1 Jan 98 £3)

   What a day. I’ve always thought that the New Year was a boring day. Adults

getting over their hangovers. Nothing on television but college football and

old movies. I’ve never been a fan, you know. But I’ll think that I’ll have to

change my mind about that. I can’t believe how much a little thing can change

your life.

   One of the first things I did after Marcus picked me up was ask him point

blank the question that had been nagging me all day.

   Part of Mariella couldn’t believe that she was really here. It was amasing

that just twenty-four hours ago there had been no hope in her mind that Marcus

would want to be doing something like this and now-

   Now she had one doubt which needed to be answered.

   “Marcus, did you just ask me out because I smoke ?”

   “You mean,” he said, backing out of the driveway slowly and forcing himself

to pay more attention to the road than to the fact that his date was lighting

a cigarette. “-am I just looking for another Kelli ?”

   “Something like that.”

   There was no one else on the road so he did spare a glance at Mariella. It

was more than worth it. Creamy white smoke was just pouring from both her

mouth and nose. It was impossible to imagine that he’d lit her first cigarette

for her just hours ago. All he could think about was pulling the car over and-

   Watching her smoke.

   That would be plenty for a first date.

   In fact, although it was an hard thought to reconcile, Marcus knew he’d

probably go home tonight and masturbate himself to sleep thinking about her

sitting in his sister’s car, smoking those cigarettes.

   “No. I mean, yes, the reason I finally asked you out was because you smoke.

That’s an huge turn on for me. I won’t lie. We’ve been friends for a long

time, but until I saw you with that cigarette in your mouth-“

   I have to say, diary, that there was a part of me which didn’t much like

that. But think about it. Makeup, hair, clothes, the way you talk and smile

and bat your eyes at a guy- well, not you, but the rest of us. And you don’t

enjoy most of those things. I’ve only been smoking for one day, but I can tell

you that I’m going to be smoking for a long time, and enjoying it.

   It’s a good thing I bought two packs this morning. I had to share with Janice

and then all of the sudden Marcus and I are slipping out in the middle of this

boring movie to have a smoke. If I hadn’t had that second pack-

   I was glad he was honest because I knew.

   No question.

   After the movie we just stayed in the parking lot. It was the last show so

the place cleared out. We made out for about half an hour and then I asked him

if he wanted to move to the back seat.

   I lit a cigarette. It tasted so good in the cold air with the windows open.

   I told him to unzip his pants, which he did. Then I sat back and started

smoking. It was about three inhales before the head of his penis came sticking

up through the top of his briefs. Right then I knew what to do.

   I told him to start playing with himself. As I said it I let go of this

perfect exhale. Creamy white smoke, like liquid ivory. It drifted between us,

hung, this perfect haze.

   An haze of open sexuality. I had never felt so alive. He put his hand on the

head of his penis and began- it looked almost like he was tickling himself.

This dreamy look came over his face but he kept his eyes wide open and I just

sat and smoked. Nose exhales. I tried a double but that was too much.

   I leaned close and exhaled right in his face and he came. It went everywhere.

But he just sat there, watching me. When I finished, I lit another one and he

stayed hard the whole time. So hard. I took a few puffs and then traded my

cigarette for him.

   When he came again, I had a lungful of smoke. So I swallowed for him and then

asked him to open his mouth.

   I thought he’d say no, but he did and we kissed, trading the smoke back and

forth until it was gone.

   After that he insisted that it was his turn.

   His hands are amasing. We were both in the middle of inhales when I climaxed

and I thought that I was going to die. It was the most perfect moment of my

life, and he was so turned on he came a third time.

   Talk about remembering your first time.

   We just sat and smoked after that. I wanted to have sex, but he was exhausted

and finally around two he drove me home.

   I’ll have to go buy more cigarettes tomorrow.

   I can’t wait.

   There was a knock at the door.

   Mariella was dreading that knock, but she knew she’d have to tell her mother

something.

   She only hoped she could decide what.

   As she lit one final cigarette for the day she knew very well it would have

to be the truth.

   And that was just fine.

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