Gillian sat down in the plush chair, allowed herself to sink back, and
thought about how much effort it would take to forget this day.
A lot. More than she had, by a wide margin. It had been the sort of day
which would defy all attempts at being forgotten.
Yet she would be compelled to try.
The first step was to start up the brand new Nine Inch Nails CD she’d bought
yesterday at the Attic. It was something called a maxi-single, ten tracks
which were really only four songs in a variety of dour iterations. Reznor
started in on Head Like a Hole and Gillian felt some sense of relaxation.
Not much, but it was a start.
Her cat Piper jumped up on her lap. It wasn’t looking for attention- Piper
certainly was above wanting affection- but rather for the warmness of the
lap. The air conditioning was on a bit too high, something Piper despised.
Just then, the phone rang. Gillian opened her eyes and looked down at Piper,
who gave her an easy to read look. Don’t get up. Ignore it.
It might well be David, looking to apologise, playing out the shy
intellectual act, but Gillian wouldn’t have it.
Sensing that she was about to be displaced, Piper growled and jumped off the
warm lap angrily. Gillian followed her into the kitchen, grabbed the phone
from the wall, and by the time she’d let loose a curt “What ?” Piper was
enjoy a fresh dollop of cold, wet meat.
“Bad day, Gilly ?”
“Sorry, Marissa. The worst. I thought you were someone else-“
“David, right ?”
“Yeah. It’s no big deal. What’s up ?”
“I was wondering if you wanted to go out, grab a meal and a few brews at the
Terrible Lie ?”
Gillian had to smile at the irony of that.
“Why the hell not ? You want to pick me up or meet me there ?”
“Well, why don’t I swing by. One of us is bound to get too drunk to drive.”
“We can flip a coin…”
Marissa pulled up in her Saab 900s. It was a slick car, black, with black
leather and a black rag-top.
Gillian was glad the top was down. Marissa was smoking another in her endless
supply of Virginia Slims, pulling hard on the long, freshly lit cigarette.
They would sit in the Lie and be crammed together at a small corner table and
Gillian would be forced to inhale second hand smoke all night. But it would
be worth it because there was only one person who could possibly make her
“You didn’t say why you’re having a bad day-” Gillian said as piled into the
car. Marissa took one last pull on the cigarette before driving away from
“Gee, do you need to guess ? At twenty-five, I have a six figure job, my own
house, five weeks of vacation time- so it must be my career path, right ?”
“Gordon dumped you ?” Gillian asked, shocked. Gordon had seemed- well, too
submissive to dump anyone. Much too submissive. But in a nice way.
“Why do you look so shocked ?” she asked, trimming ash into the wind.
“Because you’re- well, you’re you, Marissa.”
Marissa laughed, tossing long curls of sandy hair off her shoulders. The
laughter became, in short order, a frightening thing, a frame-shaking,
gut-wrenching spasm, like some psychotic Shaker. This sarcastic laugh was
what Gillian referred to as her friend’s ‘other bad habit.’
Finally, she was able to stop. The effort of it had worn her down, but she
quickly refreshed herself with a long pull on the cigarette. Sanity flooded
back into her eyes as she pulled the car to a stop at the red light and
regarded her friend with her crystal blue eyes.
“I’m me. And that’s supposed to make me invulnerable to this sort of thing
“It could be worse. You’re attractive, you’re rich, and you’re aggressively
“You failed to mention my large breasts and small feet.”
“Well, that covers two of the more obvious sorts of fetishes-“
“Feet and money ?”
They both laughed now, but the tension remained. Part of it was Gillian’s
fault. At times she could be almost bitterly jealous of her old friend- and
it was most likely to creep up upon her precisely when Marissa was mired in
some low moment of her life. As though the very concept was anything but a
“What happened ?” she finally asked, driven by her own curiosity past the
edge of not wanting to know.
Marissa paused to inhale one last time and then crushed the cigarette in the
ashtray as she exhaled a thick flood of dark white smoke into the cooling
night air. She considered lighting another but decided to wait as the Lie was
only ten minutes away. For a long moment there was only the rush of the wind
in their ears as the convertible cut air.
“He- he wanted something I wouldn’t give him. And I’m not sure I want to
talk about it.”
“You asked me out, Marissa-” Gillian said. Just then, Marissa took Dead
Horse Shank, the tightest turn in the county, at almost forty miles an hour.
Her pack of cigarettes and lighter, sitting up on the dash precariously,
slid, quickly picking up speed. Gillian caught them just before they would
have rocketed out of the car.
The craziest thought came into Gillian’s head. She was so angry with David
after today. It was, to be honest, now nothing more than blind fury, no
longer directed solely at him- or anyone. It was just an hunger demanding to
be fed. A single act of defiance usually quelled the fire. Too often, this
involved a large ticket item purchase.
But right now, that liberation seemed to be held in her hand. She wanted to
light one of Marissa’s cigarette- light it and then smoke it. Inhale the
smoke deeply, feel lungflesh sear. She wanted the smoke to burn her eyes and
nose and make her throat raw- the way it had Marissa when she was 14. Funny,
but Gillian thought she might just remember Marissa’s first cigarette better
than she did.
Why smoking a cigarette right now was so obviously the answer was beyond
Gillian, but she didn’t care. The pace of her heart quickened. The night air,
once cool, became warm and heavy again. Within her empty stomach grew a
flower of anticipation. Faints sound rang in her ear, below the level of the
As she teetered on the precipice, ready to give into this momentary urge,
stripped down to the most defiant need, Marissa answered the question.
“He wanted me to do the black leather thing, you know ? Pseudo-dominatrix-“
“Like Marv Albert-” Gillian said.
Marissa noticed that Gillian’s voice sounded strange, as though she was
eating something. The road had straightened out, affording her the
opportunity to look at her friend.
When she saw why it was that Gillian’s voice had sounded odd she nearly
drove the car off the road. Between her lips was one of her own cigarettes.
Although she had not seen it, she imagined that cigarette bouncing up and
down in Gillian’s mouth as she spoke.
“What the hell are you doing ?”
Gillian looked at her, the cigarette still held surprisingly firmly between
her lips. “I’m going to smoke a cigarette, if that’s all right with you.”
Marissa forget the visions of black leather which had been plaguing her all
day. Because this was a far more delicate situation. She had her fits of
laughter- painful, throat-rending fits- and Gillian had her defiant moods. Of
course, they were usually expressed in a shopping frenzy- mail order
catalogues being the most entered gateway to temporary insanity.
This was different.
To say that Marissa had tried to talk Gillian into trying smoking would have
been the grossest of understatements. Since the day she started at 14- a day
Gillian was there for- Marissa had tried every trick in the book. Recently
she’d even begun lurking in a usenet group dedicated to smoking glamour,
hoping someone would post tips on how they’d gotten their girlfriends to
She couldn’t say for sure what the obsession was. She preferred to date men
who smoked, but it wasn’t a rule. And Gillian was the last person to give her
an hard time about her own smoking. Yet she’d become increasing obsessed with
the idea of Gillian picking up the habit. While she’d read a few articles
about how this was perfectly natural, it seemed anything but.
Here was the opportunity she’d been waiting for. After a month of beating
around the bush, of trying to slip seemingly casual comments about the
pleasures of smoking into casual conversation, there was Gillian, sitting in
her car with an unlit cigarette in her mouth, ready to light it and join the
club with no prompting whatsoever.
There was only one thing to do.
Without taking her eyes off the road, Marissa took a swipe at the cigarette
with her right hand. It was hard making sure that she missed using only her
peripheral vision, but she managed to come up short by just over an inch. It
had looked good, however, and that was the whole point.
Gillian turned her head sideways.
“What’s the problem ?”
Marissa found the sound of her friend’s voice, muffled by the cigarette, to
“You don’t smoke, that’s the problem. You’re just acting out because you’re
“So. Unless I’ve really misunderstood you, which I doubt, you’ve been trying
to sell me on the joys of smoking for our entire adult lives- and you’ve been
hoping I’d start ever since you did.”
“That’s selfish of me,” Marissa said. She made another false attempt at
grabbing the unlit Virginia Slims, and missed by as much as before. “I
shouldn’t push that off on you.”
“Selfish is acting like you can’t spare one fucking cigarette for your best
friend. Right now I want this.”
Inside, Marissa smiled. Gillian might have wavered at any point up to now,
but she was committed. There would be no turning back. She would light that
cigarette, and if Marissa was very, very lucky, her friend would actually
As Gillian bent her head and cupped her right hand around the lighter,
Marissa rolled the car windows up to cut the wind.
The lighter flared and the cigarette caught. As soon as that part of it was
complete Marissa forced her attention back to the road.
But a profound relief which she couldn’t begin to interpret engulfed her.
After inhaling- and it wasn’t much of an inhale at all- Gillian lifted her
head and blew a tiny wisp of smoke up and over the car, to be torn away by
the wind. Marissa rolled the window back down so that Gillian wouldn’t smash
the cigarette against the glass. Then she snuck a glance at her and saw
another inhale taking place. This one was also of the juniormost variety, but
it showed clearly that she did know how to smoke, if haltingly.
Gillian found herself unfazed by the cigarette. The small, brief inhales
were far from what she would need to open her eyes to the side of smoking
Marissa knew so intimately. It was neither pleasant nor un. Still, the urge
to rebel was now fading, and that had been the whole point of this particular
“So, was this whips and chain black leather or biker bar and tattoo black
“I don’t know. As soon as he started in on the whole leather kick I told him
I’d had enough.”
“He doesn’t seem the type.”
Marissa snuck another glance at her friend, who was managing to inhale
It made her feel a little flush, that image.
“Well, that’s the problem. They never do seem the type. And then one day
it’s ‘Hey, you’d look great in a black leather bra and knee high boots.
What’d’ya say ?”
“You know,” Gillian said, feeling bolder with each successive attempt to
inhale, “I can’t say I really like the menthol.”
“Well, that’s good, because I only brought that one pack and it has to last
me all night.”
“Can we stop and get another ?” Gillian asked, animated. “I’d like to try
the brand that my sister smokes.”
Again, Marissa was struck by the need to play this precisely the right way.
One miscalculation and there would be no more smoking for Gillian. She was in
one of her moods, and this could be used, but only if it was played
“You’re not going to start smoking,” Marissa said in a matter-of-fact way,
as though the issue was not up for discussion.
“Just for tonight. I feel- liberated, like I’m finally an adult or
something, you know ?” She punctuated this statement with another pull on the
“That’s just the clever advertising. Are you absolutely sure you want to do
“There’s the store. Please stop.”
Marissa was not going to ignore her friend’s plea. She pulled the car into
the convenience store parking lot and tried her best to relax, which wasn’t
easy. Gillian might think that she was just going in for one rebellious night
of innocent smoking, but that was not going to be the case by a long shot.
“Will you get me a box of Marlboro Lights 100s ?” Gillian asked as they got
out of the car.
Marissa smiled. “No way. If you want a pack of cigarettes, you’ll have to
buy them yourself.”
“I don’t know how-“
“Just walk up to the cash register and ask for them. It’s not against the
law- not yet anyway.”
They walked in together, and Marissa decided to make things easy on her
friend when she saw her waver, as though she was going to roam the store
looking to pad her purchase. Marissa had learned a long time ago that padding
was just a waste of money. They kept hundreds of packs of cigarettes behind
the counter for a reason and the truth was, no one cared whether you smoked
or not- at least not in this venue.
“A pack of Virginia Slims, please.”
The teenage boy behind the counter smiled a little too eagerly at Marissa
but quickly produced the cigarettes. He scanned then and then handed them
over, taking Marissa’s fiver with only a faint grin on his face. Then he saw
Gillian and turned his attention to her as he dispensed Marissa’s change.
“What can I get you ?”
“A pack of Marlboro Lights 100s, please,” she asked around a palpable lump
in her throat.
“Can I see some ID, please ?”
It was hard for Marissa to avoid laughing.
“You’re the youngest looking twenty-five year old I’ve ever seen. Look, they
watch us on camera. It’s not like I care-“
As Gillian dug for her license she pointed her thumb at Marissa. “You didn’t
“I don’t have to anymore. She stops in all the time. But I’ve never seen you
before-” He took the plastic, scanned it. “Gillian. That’s a cool name.”
“Thanks. How much ?”
As soon as they were back in the car, Marissa looked at her friend, who was
only slightly the worse for the wear.
“See that wasn’t so hard, was it ?”
“I haven’t been proofed in two years.”
“It’s a compliment, Gilly. I think he liked you.”
Gillian had torn the cellophane off the pack of cigarette immediately. She
now cracked back the top of the box, extracted a cigarette, and lit it
casually. Once it was burning, she inhaled, another slight effort but better
than before. If anything, the look on her face suggested that she enjoyed the
stronger cigarette more.
Marissa decided to be honest for a moment. She studied her friend, the way
her blonde hair framed her pleasant face, the gentle angle she held the
cigarette at while she waited to take another puff. The long white cigarette
looked perfect in her hand.
“What the hell are you looking at ?”
“I- you look good with that cigarette, Gillian. That’s all.”
“Well, don’t get too used to this. I just want to try it for one night-“
Marissa promised herself then and there that they’d look back and laugh at
that one day.
“David’s right,” Marissa said.
Maddeningly- at least as far as Gillian was concerned- her friend paused
after this statement to light a cigarette. The defiance creeping back,
Gillian lit one of her own- her sixth from the pack. Although she still
wasn’t truly inhaling, she was making progress on that front, and Marissa had
little doubt that she was watching the transformation of a non-smoker into a
smoker. For most neophytes, this sort of consumption would have been
overkill, but Gillian was used to smoke, from family and friends, so there
was no surprise at her quick acuity.
“Explain.” She exhaled a short wisp of smoke and tapped the cigarette with
her index finger, a perfect trim.
Marissa was a little concerned about-
She let that slide.
“You get too attached to the characters. I mean, three novels in eighteen
months with the same protagonist. David’s too driven to want to stay with one
“And I’m not driven ?” Gillian asked, punctuating the question with her
sharpest inhale yet. A good deal of smoke quickly made its way into her lungs
and Marissa could see her friend enjoy the sensation.
Marissa pulled hard on the Virginia Slim. Watching her friend smoke the
Marlboro Lights was making her wonder if it wasn’t time to try the menthol
“You are- that’s the whole point. David understands the part of the business
“We’re a pair of twenty-somethings. It’s not like he’s ten years older than
me. We started this little venture in a dorm room at four am one night, drunk
and happy. Besides, what do you know about publishing ?”
“I know,” she said, exhaling a long cloud of smoke which washed over her
friend, “that you can’t milk one cow for the rest of your life. You got too
attached to Jacob and now you hate David for killing him off.”
What was the right answer ? That she, in a sense, loved the dark knight
they’d both gotten rich off of. That David was a pragmatist and she was a
fool. It was just a stupid character in a novel, after all.
“He didn’t ask. He wrote that last chapter without me and then asked me to
rubber stamp it, as though my credibility with our readers isn’t an issue.”
Marissa signalled the waitress. This was turning into another pitcher of
beer sort of night. Why she cared about this aspect of her friend’s life was
beyond her, but-
“What you and David do is unique. You sit in a room eight hours a day
professionally married to two Power Macs and each other and you bang out
these fantastic novels. You walk into the office and it’s a job, but it’s
like you’re creating this whole other world. You two can do this for the rest
of your lives and get filthy rich- but not if you can’t walk away from it at
“If I could walk away from it, I wouldn’t carry a powerbook with me all the
“I can’t believe that you brought that damn thing to the beach last
Gillian’s inhale was deeper.
Her exhale was sensuously complete.
“If I get to a point where I can turn it on and off, it’s not art anymore.”
“Now you sound like one of those starving Soho types. There’s nothing wrong
with the way you and David do your work. But you can’t hate him- when I read
Songs of Madness, I knew the next novel would be the last in the Jacob
series. Tell me a part of you-“
“A part. And I hate that part the way I hate David. He uses my creativity,
but in the end he sculpts- and destroys- the characters.”
Taking a long, slow inhale, Marissa watched for the watchers. It was more
obvious tonight. She was used to it- the Terrible Lie was the sort of place
where there were few antis, and she knew well enough that she attracted
plenty of male attention when she smoked. But now there were two of them,
both smoking, and with the way Gillian had quickly discovered the right ways
to hold her cigarette, they were getting plenty of attention.
Marissa elongated the inhale, dragged out the exhale. Gillian unconsciously
A trio of boymen two tables over were pretending to watch the Giants-Jets
preseason game, but not convincingly. Gillian was blissfully unaware.
“Are you starting a new novel tomorrow ?”
“Well, maybe in the late morning or afternoon. We have a teleconference with
our main editor first thing- he’s more of a rubber stamp these days than I
am. David ftped her the beta draft before we left for the day-“
“Over your objections, right ?”
“Yeah. We’re doing a story chart tomorrow-“
“Well, it’s time you came up with the next antagonist. Don’t let David do
Gillian inhaled, the deepest one yet, and saw the way in which Marissa
appreciated its deepness. The white hot anger she’d been feeling towards
David was fading. Marissa was right. It was time to let it go. If nothing
else, every puff she took on each cigarette seemed to please Marissa that
much more, and-
Gillian had lit the first Virginia Slim out of a sense of base defiance, but
now each inhale was a little deeper because she was-
Enjoying it. And it was giving her an idea for tomorrow.
Like that, the anger was gone- for an hour or so- and the conversation
turned to leather. Black leather. It was a two pitcher talk.
“Very interesting. We make the switch to a female protagonist. I like it.”
David was lounging in his chair, smiling.
“Well, her name is Gretchen. And all I know about her for sure is that she’s
“So she’s a- well, for lack of a better term, she’s a bad guy.”
“What makes you say that ?”
“Well, she smokes. I mean, it’s cliche, but-“
“Break the cliche.”
“No. You break it. I made Jacob’s framework. It’s your turn. Besides, I’m
not a woman, and I don’t smoke, so-“
“I thought you were characterisation and I was mood and setting.”
David’s smile was cold and engaging at the same time.
“Let’s change that, too. You know a lot more about women- and smoking- than
“You’d be surprised how much I know,” Gillian said.
“What’s that mean ?”
David thought for a moment- he had a certain habit of pausing for just long
enough that you began to wonder if he was ever going to speak again.
“Your parents and your sister smoke. Marissa smokes-“
“So that makes me an expert ?”
“Well, my last girlfriend smoked, but-“
Gillian’s moue of distaste was unmistakable. “Please, don’t mention that-
He stood up, some agitation in his manner. In his jeans and black peasant
shirt, he reminded Gillian of a young computer mogul, glasses perched
haphazardly on his face, the small black frames seeming too tiny for his
eyes, the look of determination undeniable. “Why didn’t you like her ?”
“That whole time you were dating her you were-“
“Yeah. Exactly. But you’re right-“
Gillian was struggling with this. With telling him. Just blurting it out.
Why not ? He was as close to her- perhaps closer. After all, she’d never had
the energy to hate anyone who wasn’t close to her. And there were times, like
last night, when she truly hated David. But now wasn’t one of those times.
Oh, who was she kidding ? Herself.
Last night, she’d smoked all but four of the cigarettes. They’d stayed at
the Lie for six hours, right up until closing, and she’d smoked just over two
an hour- amasing even Marissa with her ability to turn on her smoking like a
switch. For a change, it was her friend who was jealous- after all, Marissa
had been smoking for almost a year the first time she put a whole pack away
in a single day. Of course, now she smoked that much every day, but Gillian
could have easily done it in six hours.
The truth was, she’d made sure to preserve a few for today, because she knew
she’d want more and she wasn’t sure she was immediately ready to go back to
what she’d endured last night. Getting proofed was ridiculous.
She’d taken her shower before bed, which was unusual- to get the stench of
tobacco smoke from her skin. She wasn’t ready to sleep in that all night. As
the last of the water had drained away, she’d convinced herself that the
evening had been an aberration, that the look in Marissa’s eyes as her friend
watched her smoked wasn’t worth the nicotine hangover she expected- and felt-
in the morning.
She’d gotten up and stumbled downstairs fifteen minutes late- still plenty
of time to get to the office.
As she made the coffee she somehow found herself able to ignore the fact
that she’d snuck the almost empty pack of cigarettes into her robe pocket. It
wasn’t until she had drunk half a cup and begun to wake up that she realised
that she didn’t need a cigarette, but she wanted one anyway.
In the end, wanting that cigarette was almost as nice a feeling as smoking
it. But the second one had been better.
In the fifteen seconds of wool-gathering she indulged herself in, David
divined her secret in that strange way of his. Before she could tell him, he
walked over to her desk and snatched her leather jacket off the chair.
Without preamble- and this was something she should have been angry about- he
pulled the nearly empty pack and the lighter from the pocket where she so
foolishly thought that they’d been hidden.
“Are you disappointed ?” she asked.
When David wanted to, he could lay on the guilt thicker than anyone Gillian
knew. But instead of adopting a pensive look, he just smiled at her.
“Can I tell you a secret ?”
There was a time when they’d shared secrets the way brother and sisters did.
There had never been any sex between them- both had considered and rejected
the concept at separate points during their college days- somehow, although
they both would have agreed it was trite, their friendship had seemed more
But it had been a long time since either of them had crossed those lines-
right up until he’d reached into her coat pocket and told her secret for her.
“I suppose that will make us even, although it would better if I could guess
yours as easily as you did mine.”
“I saw your secret unfold last night. I wandered over to the Lie- to
apologise for hurting your feelings, I guess. I mean, I still don’t think
that I was wrong, but I did feel bad- you seemed to have gotten very close to
Gillian frowned. As secrets went, this was no comparison to the time David
had admitted that he’d been sleeping with Professor Kilar, or, as he’d called
her, Kristen. Gillian had never looked at Eastern European literature the
same way again.
“Well, it’s nice to know you’ve learned how to share,” she said
He walked over to her and handed her the cigarettes and lighter. “That’s not
my secret.” He then sat down again and tried to lounge in a relaxed manner.
But it didn’t take- he was so often a nervous ball of energy that sitting
seemed to present a problem. He could pull it off once a day as he had
earlier, but now he was getting wound up- which meant they’d be getting down
to work soon.
“It’s about Eunice.”
Gillian’s wry laugh failed to hide the soreness of the subject.
“I should get this out of my system now, before you start smoking here in
the office and you wonder-“
“You’re not going to let me smoke here, are you ?” she asked incredulously.
“This is our office. Sometimes I think you forget this is a partnership.
You let me bully you and you don’t say anything, just like when we were at
Colby. Yesterday was one of those rare times you actually stand up to me
“I was wrong. It took six hours, but Marissa finally got me to see that.”
“What was her problem last night anyway ?”
“Boyfriend dumped her.”
“Why ?” David asked, as shocked as Gillian had been. But there was something
else in the question, an hint of interest beyond that casual which Gillian
had no problem identifying. David had sniffed around the topic of Marissa’s
eligibility more than once- somehow, they rarely crossed paths, despite being
her closest friends. She supposed she segregated them for-
Perhaps the reason wasn’t so hard to divine.
“I really can’t say, David. It’s personal.”
“I’m a person-“
“Yes, a person with a secret, and I’d like to light one of these cigarettes
in my office, so spill it.”
He swallowed. It was his nervous tick, a slight gesture less frightening
than Marissa’s baleful laugh.
“The thing which initially attracted me to Eunice was-“
It took him a while to come around that final corner. As their working
relationship had tightened, his unwillingness to let her see into his soul
had grown. These days, he was practically stoic, especially considering that
he let her peer into his darkest corners eight hours a day through his
“-that she smoked. I- I have a thing for women who smoke.”
“And what in god’s name made you think I need to know that ?” Gillian asked.
She then went ahead and lit one of the two remaining cigarettes, partly
because she wanted one and partly to see his reaction.
“Because- well, I can’t say I won’t enjoying watching you smoke. You should
Gillian took as deep an inhale as she could manage. This morning had been a
revelation as to just how deep those inhales could be. Last night it had been
all baby puffs, but today…
Today she had started smoking for real, and she knew why what had taken
Marissa a year had taken her one day. She was older, more ready for it than a
young teenage smoker ever could be.
She was proud of herself.
“Is that why you’re always asking about Marissa ?”
Now it was his turn to smile- although as she’d exhaled before asking the
question, he’d grinned visibly.
“Well, only partially. The other component there is that it always makes
you see green, even though you’ve never been the least bit interested in me,
at least that way.”
“No, just calculating. But now that you know my secret, and Marissa is
available, will you-“
“Men,” Gillian said, exhaling again. This was a full bodied nose exhale and
David couldn’t keep the impish grin off his face. She was glad he’d told her-
it was going to prevent a large misunderstanding from developing.
“What ? What’s with that ‘we’re all little grey men from Reticulum’ look on
your face ?”
“She broke up with Gordon yesterday. How does that parse out in your mind to
mean that she’s available today ?”
“Digital processing. Didn’t you know that I had my brain replaced with a
motherboard senior year ?”
“Considering how little you studied, I had always wondered how you passed-
He stood up, clearly agitated. “How many times do I have to tell you I
earned that A ?”
“I know you earned it,” Gillian said playfully. Before he could answer, she
brought the cigarette to her lips, wrapped them around the clean white
filter, and inhaled as deeply as she dared. She let the smoke trail from her
mouth slowly after she was done with it, liking very much the way the scent
of the smoke changed after spending time in her lungs.
David’s response was arrested in mid-thought.
God, I’m going to have fun with this.
David and Gillian banged out the character of Gretchen and drew up a basic
story flow chart, pausing only long enough for drive-through lunch and a
quick stop at the convenience store. By five, they were ready to call it a
It was amasing to Gillian how a little thing like their twin admissions
about smoking had seemed to narrow the growing gap between them. It had been
clear to Gillian for some time that they’d made an unspoken agreement to
place their professional relationship above their friendship- which made it a
little sad that he was still one of her two closest comrades.
But today had been different. They’d talked off topic. They’d laughed. There
had even been a grudging return to the brother-sister touching that had once
been something beyond sexual.
All because Marissa had left her Virginia Slims on the dashboard.
“Can we stop by Marissa’s ?” Gillian asked, knowing it was a stupid
“Sure. I want to thank her for-“
“None of that. If I started smoking because of anyone but myself, it was
because I was mad at you.”
“Point taken. I assume you just want to make sure that she’s all right.”
“Well, that and I can see if she’s willing to make herself available for
Digital Man.” It was a joke, of course-
Gillian got quite a shock when Marissa opened the door- and she opened it
just a crack. David was around the corner, looking a suspicious lump of dirt
by the side of the house.
It was just as well.
Looking through the cracked door, Gillian was met with one of strangest
sights she’d ever seen.
Looking out the door, she could see Marissa’s surprise at the cigarette in
That was mild compared to the shock of seeing Marissa in a tight black
leather bra, knee high black leather boots, and straps leading up to matching
black leather panties. She looked- well, strangely enough, she looked
comfortable, in a sexual sort of way. Her long hair, curled out and teased,
was perfect for the part.
She took a deep pull on her Marlboro Lights Menthol 100 and just then David
peered over Gillian’s much shorter shoulder and said “I see you’ve changed
brands- and tailors.”
Gillian could have gladly died at this point, but Marissa seemed
“Why don’t you two come in. I don’t want the neighbours to see me like this.
Mrs. Lansing will call the police and tell them I’m running a brothel.”
“There’s a hole in your-“
Gillian elbowed David as hard as she could in the stomach and he finished
with a breathless “-in your lawn.”
“It’s a termite trap. Don’t ask. Just get inside.”
She stepped away from the door and they walked inside. As David made his
way- all too casually- into the living room, Marissa stepped close to
Gillian, the smell of leather strong, and said “I can’t believe you told
“I can’t believe you let him into the house dressed like that.”
“He’s a little casual, but-“
“I meant you-“
Marissa excused herself to go change, and Gillian followed David into the
living room, where she explained what had happened between Gordon and
Marissa. Not that the explanation cleared up why it was that she was dressed
Gillian heard the tinkle of glass in the kitchen and was shocked when,
instead of coming into the living room properly dressed, her friend walked in
carrying three glasses of white wine. She distributed the other two, sat down
in her television chair, crossed her legs, and lit another cigarette.
The stouter Marlboro looked better in her hand than the Virginia Slim,
“So Gillian told you that she decided to start smoking, eh David ? Were you
“How do you like my new look ?” she asked, uncrossing her legs to reveal how
tightly the boots fit her stylish legs. But Gillian had a feeling that David
was watching points north. The bra had to be a c-cup, and Marissa was not a
“You decided to give it a try ?”
Marissa laughed, but this was a normal one. She looked at Gillian. “You know
how you caught my cigarettes last night and just decided you had to try one.
That’s how I felt today. I mean, Gordon’s history, but I decided that I
wanted to know. Curiosity.”
“You could have put a robe on before you answered the door,” Gillian
“I saw you pull up in David’s car. If I hadn’t wanted the two of you to see
me like this, I would have.” She took a long pull on the cigarette and
Gillian knew from the look on his face that David had developed a raging
hard-on. It made her realise just how well she knew him.
She also noticed that her other friend’s nipples were spectacularly hard,
practically bursting the precision seams of the bra. Then again, with all
that tension, how could they not be.
Gillian suddenly felt profoundly uncomfortable.
Not even a deep inhale on her own cigarette calmed her. David glanced her
way in time to catch the exhale- he seemed especially taken by fine exhales,
which made Gillian wonder why she worked to purse her lips and force the
smoke to trail from her mouth in a tight stream. She was even more perplexed
at why she suddenly felt the need to undo the top two buttons of her blouse.
“So you were pleasantly surprised to find out that Gillian’s started
smoking. Why’s that ?”
Before David opened his mouth, Gillian knew he’d tell her. If there was one
thing David was, it was an opportunist, and he wouldn’t pass up the chance to
make some progress in his little digital world.
He sipped at his wine as though he wasn’t fighting to keep his pants from
bulging awkwardly and then grinned that boyish grin of his.
“I happen to find women who smoke attractive. You don’t think that’s weird,
do you ?”
Marissa took another long drag on the cigarette, opened her mouth to expose
the ball of smoke resting inside her mouth, and then inhaled sharply, pulling
it into her lungs. As she performed the sort of nose exhale Gillian could
only wish she was capable of, she said “No. In fact, I think Gillian’s a very
That comment caused Gillian to drain her wine glass in one gulp. Marissa
bounced up from her chair to fetch the wine bottle, and Gillian couldn’t help
but notice that the back of the panties were nothing more than a string.
Her friend had a very tight ass- which David watched out of sight.
Immediately Gillian stood up and rushed over to the couch, cigarette still
“What the hell do you think you’re doing ?” she demanded, pushing on David’s
chest with one hand as she used the other to bring the cigarette to her
mouth. She inhaled sharply and exhaled quickly. David leaned into the smoke
and drank the exhale in.
“What any guy in his right mind would do right now.”
“Stop it !” Gillian said, not sure why she was so upset. She shoved him
again and he shoved back this time. Only his hand slipped inside her blouse
and caught her breast, cupping it accidently. She brought the hand with the
cigarette back up towards her mouth, trapping his hand in place with her
They had played this way on occasion in college and it had never led
anywhere. But right now the gentle pressure of his hand along the underside
of her breast was compelling.
She looked down, unable to meet his eyes, and saw a large hump in the fly of
David’s khaki trousers. Her free hand strayed towards it as she exhaled
again. Mimicking her, her moved his arm over hers and trapped her with her
hand just inches away.
That was when Marissa walked back into the room, carrying the half empty
bottle. She refilled glasses as though the two were sitting on the couch
discussing current affairs and then squeezed herself in on David’s backside.
She put the hand holding her cigarette on his arm and leaned her chin over
his other shoulder.
“Am I interrupting ?”
Gillian moved to release David, but Marissa’s other hand came around his
ribs and pushed her friend’s hand to the place it had unconsciously been
seeking. She then lifted her head and began running her tongue along the rim
of David’s ear. He leaned his head back and closed his eyes, his right hand
still on Gillian’s breast.
For a split second, Gillian thought she must be going mad, and then she
leaned forward and put her head under David’s chin. She began slowly kissing
his exposed neck, pausing only long enough to work one last inhale from her
cigarette. As she moved to kiss him again, Marissa twisted her hand in a way
which clearly offered her cigarette to her friend. Gillian leaned towards it,
found it with her lips, and pulled hard. The cool taste of menthol flooded
her mouth, and she decided that while it was a nice change of pace, certainly
stronger than the VS, it wasn’t for her.
“Kiss me,” David moaned. Gillian moved as if to exhale but he shook his head
and she understood what he wanted. She brought her lips to his and they
shared the smoke even as Marissa began working his shirt off, which she did
with uncanny speed and skill. Her hand then began massaging his tight, almost
hairless chest and Gillian kissed him deeply. She then grabbed his shoulders
and spun him like a top so that he was facing Marissa. She inhaled and kissed
him the same way that Gillian had.
Gillian found his zipper hard but not impossible to undo.
David was lying on the couch, spent. The bottle of wine had been drained,
along with a second. Clothes littered the living room floor. Gillian and
Marissa lit fresh cigarettes and sat down next to one another on the floor.
Strangely, Gillian didn’t feel at all weirded out by something that she was
sure should have freaked her.
In fact, for the first time in her life, she felt truly comfortable with
Marissa. Instead of competing for something, they had shared it.
There was only one thing which was bothering her.
She leaned into Marissa until they were holding one another up at the
shoulder. They turned to face one another. Noses inches apart. Emerald eyes
met sky blue.
“Did you mean what you said about my smoking ?” Gillian asked.
Marissa lifted her head back and exhaled a long stream of smoke.
“I could watch you smoke all night.”
“I can’t believe we did this,” Gillian said.
David lifted his head. The only bad part about all this was the shit-eating
grin on his face.
Marissa reached out and gently turned Gillian’s chin towards her. Her skin
was flush with sweat and warm, but it was a pleasant feeling.
“I mean it, Gillian.”
Their noses were touching, and though this to should have shocked Gillian,
when they started to kiss, it only made her feel hot again inside. She heard
David draw a deep, satisfied breath, and then she forgot him. There was just
the insistent pressure of Marissa’s tongue against hers, the taste of smoke
in her friends mouth. She found the ashtray, and then with both hands free,
cupped Marissa’s generous breasts. They were firm and round and everything
she’d ever imagined they would be.
Marissa broke this kiss, brought her cigarette up, and inhaled. She then
turned it around and offered it to Gillian, who accepted gladly. As she was
inhaling, Marissa worked her index finger up and in, finding the g-spot with
the sort of ease only another woman could hope to accomplish.
Gillian’s breath turned to ragged gasps and Marissa kept the pressure
constant even as she smoked with her other hand.
“I think I’ve just found something else I love to watch,” David said from
Fortunately, he caught the glass that his old friend threw at him.