A Series Of Fortunate Events, Part 2

(by Kalithanatos, 10 February 2010)

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A Series of Fortunate Events
by Kalithanatos


"Oh my God, my head is pounding," the woman next to Katrina whispered the
following day. "I really shouldn't have drunk so much last night."

Katrina recognized the young woman sitting beside her as one of the people
from the bar as soon as she had walked into the first training session,
closely followed by the rest of the party. They all looked the worse for wear
as they had taken their seats, and thirty minutes later things had gotten no
better. They had been split into two groups by their instructor, tellers and
customers, and were being asked to role-play. At the front of the room, Kelly
was trying to calm Vic down as she demanded to withdraw a million pounds in
cash from her account, leaving Katrina and the young woman alone at the back.

"Hi, my name's Anne, by the way," the woman said.

"Katrina," replied Katrina, extending her hand towards Anne. Anne shook it
and asked, "How come you didn't come out with us last night? We tried to ring
your room before we headed out, but no one answered."

"I was late getting in because of the bus. I must just have missed you,"
Katrina said.

"Pity. It was a wild night. We all had a great laugh. It's a shame you
weren't there; it gave us all a chance to bond over a drink and a smoke."

"That's OK. I'm not really the social type anyway," Katrina said. "I'm sure I
would have ended up bringing the mood down or something."

"Nonsense!" Anne replied loudly, making everyone else glance at them briefly,
then under her breath she whispered, "Actually, they all seem a bit clique-y.
I may end up chatting to you rather than them, if you don't mind?"

Katrina was buoyed by this. She didn't make friends easily due to her quiet
nature, and here was someone she barely knew offering her an olive branch!

"That's fine by me," Katrina whispered back. "And Anne - thanks," she said,
just as the demo up front came to an end.

An hour later, the instructor announced they had a fifteen minute break.
Katrina noticed all the girls practically bound out of the room with their
bags and overheard Anne ask the instructor where she could go to smoke as she
was "gasping for a cigarette or three!" Katrina decided to hang back and read
the novel she had brought with her, not being a smoker and not really wishing
to spend fifteen minutes breathing in second hand fumes.

A short while later the class resumed. Anne again sat next to Katrina and
they spent the rest of the morning completing induction forms and human
resources documents. As the instructor declared that they had an hour for
lunch, Anne asked Katrina if she was joining them since "she had a surprise
for everyone."

Intrigued, Katrina agreed and they all gathered their handbags and coats
before heading to a nearby café. It was a warm morning with not a cloud in
the sky as the five women sat down at the table. Everyone except Anne and
Katrina automatically reached into their handbags for their cigarettes, but
Anne stopped them with a hand motion.

"Ladies," she began, somewhat grandly, "in this day and age it is hard for
anyone to get a decent job, yet we five have proved it can be done. This in
itself deserves a reward," Anne continued, reaching into her bag and bringing
out a fairly large silver box, "and in my fiancé's eyes - and mine too -
there is only one way to celebrate such an undertaking!"

Anne opened the box and showed the group what was inside. Five high grade
cigars lay within and Katrina's heart skipped a beat as the other girls
murmured with interest.

Anne began handing the cigars round the table, finally reaching Katrina. As
Anne offered the cigar to Katrina, she found herself in a dilemma. She had
never touched (never mind smoked) any tobacco products in her life and here
she was being offered a cigar, of all things. Her mind raced. If she picked
up the cigar, she knew she would have to smoke it, a thought so alien to her
it defied belief. But, looking round the table, everyone seemed so excited by
the prospect she felt she would end up being the party pooper, a position she
had frequently found herself in at school that she was determined she would
end once she started earning for a living. She had always hated being the
brainy loner at school that no one really accepted as a friend and she was
now being presented an opportunity to be an equal, to fit in with her peers.
But still, smoking seemed vile to her, something only stupid people did. Then
she looked round the table and saw four intelligent women lighting up their
cigars and obviously enjoying themselves. How hard could it be? Maybe just
once, for the first time, Katrina could fit in.

All of this took just a few moments to process, and then with some surprise,
Katrina found herself reaching and taking one of the two remaining cigars
from the box. Anne picked up the final cigar and, after lighting her own,
turned to Katrina and said, "Need a light?"

Katrina nodded as her heart raced even faster than before. She started
bringing the cigar to her lips, watching in amazement as she opened her lips
and seen the large brown tip enter her mouth. She clamped her mouth as Anne
sparked up the lighter. As Anne moved the flame towards the exposed end of
the cylinder, she asked Katrina, "Have you ever smoked a cigar before?"
Katrina shook her head. "Don't worry about it, it's easier than a cigarette.
Just remember not to inhale, or you'll cough your guts out!" Katrina was
about to mention she had never smoked a cigarette either, when suddenly the
flame made contact with the cigar and she was smoking.

The first thing she noticed was the bitter taste as the smoke entered her
mouth for the first time. It was very bitter and she immediately blew it out,
noticing the way the unfamiliar flavour lingered in her mouth. It was
disgusting! Why would anyone take pleasure in this?

Anne had immediately turned away after lighting Katrina's cigar to order a
bottle of wine for the table (they weren't supposed to be drinking alcohol
since they were still working that afternoon, but Anne declared "One glass
won't matter," to the table and the rest of the girls murmured their
agreement) leaving Katrina alone for the time being. She had managed her
first hit off the cigar without any trouble (at least she hadn't coughed and
made a fool of herself) and decided to try again. She took another small puff
and immediately blew it out, again with no ill effects. She watched the other
girls to see how they were coping; they all seemed to be having a blast.
Tracy was sitting back in her chair, head tilted upwards and blowing smoke
rings to the delight of the group. Susan was breathing the smoke in and
puffing it out in a quick repeating pattern, reminding Katrina of Groucho
Marx. Kelly and Vic were taking long draws and holding the smoke in their
mouths before releasing it and letting it drift slowly upwards. Anne's style
was completely different. She seemed to be breathing the smoke into her lungs
before releasing it out.

Katrina was amazed at all the different techniques, but was content to take
shallow puffs and not try to emulate any of the real smokers. She had by now
decided that she would not drop dead after only one cigar and decided to do
her best to finish as much as she could before lunch arrived.

Before long the bottle of wine Anne had ordered arrived and all the ladies
had their glasses filled. Katrina had almost declined for fear of reprisals
from the trainers, but then looked at the cigar in her hand and thought, "In
for a penny, in for a pound," and let the waiter pour.

Anne raised her glass. "A toast," she declared, "to us - five strong women
who managed to get a decent job!"

Katrina joined the other four women as they clinked their glasses together
and drank.

As Anne sat down she turned to Katrina and said, "There's nothing better than
wine and a cigar, is there? Well, except maybe wine, cigar, and sex!" she
said quietly, winking.

Not knowing how to respond, Katrina smiled and took a drink.

Katrina continued to puff at her cigar until lunch arrived, when she was
finally relieved to be able to extinguish the foul object. The whole table
stank of stale smoke, and she was already looking forward to being able to go
home and shower to remove the smell.

Lunch was nice and before long they were all headed back to the bank's head
office to resume their training.

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