Airport Lies

(by an4@anon.lelnet.com, 21 September 1997)


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Airport Lies
an4@anon.lelnet.com

   Amy walked slowly through the airport towards the duty free shop. She tried
not to rush, but she was feeling an undeniable measure of excitement.
   It was guilty excitement. After all, it came from the fact that she had just
put her boyfriend of eighteen months on a plane for Pittsburgh.  It wasn't
that she didn't love Phil- it was just that-
   For a solid week, she would be able to revert to her natural state.
   Yes, she could again be a smoker, instead of a closet smoker. It was a
terrible thing, valuing that over spending time with Phil, but the truth was
she'd been looking forward to this business trip the way that she looked
forward to all his trips. The same reason was why she'd talked him into going
back to graduate school- two nights a week he came home at nine. She would
stand on the porch behind the house and smoke until a few minutes after
eight, then shower quickly in case class let out a little early.
   Guilty or not, it was a pleasure.
   She walked into the shop and saw that there was already someone at the
register.
   It would have been best if the shop was empty. Even though she'd been
smoking on and off since she was seventeen, when her best friend Lisa had
talked her into trying it, she still felt nervous every time she bought a
pack of Marlboro Lights 100s. What she should really do, she knew, was buy a
carton, and she would, on the way home, but it was forty-five minutes from
here to the store and that would be time enough to smoke four or even five
cigarettes in the car.
   With the windows down and the sunroof open, so that the car would not get
smoky.
   She walked forward, her steps slow, trying to pace it so that the person
would be done with their purchase by the time she reached the counter.
Naturally, though, as always seemed the case, the older gentleman buying a
pack of gum and USA Today was trying to get the purchase down to the last
cent. He went from pocket to pocket, fishing for an elusive penny.
   "You don't have to look so nervous-"
   The voice from behind her was strong, masculine, and unexpected.
   "Excuse me ?" she asked, turning around to see someone who looked only
vaguely familiar. She quickly placed him in the waiting area, seeing off a
young woman her own age on leaving on the same flight as Phil.
   "About buying cigarettes, that is-"
   "How do you know I'm not buying film or batteries ? Or that issue of
Playgirl ?"
   "Because I'm standing here doing the same thing. Waiting for-" he lowered
his voice "-that old coot to find three pennies. I just put my wife on the
plane and now I have a week to be myself."
   "The NT conference ?"
   "Yeah. My wife is a network administrator. You should heard the fights we
have-"
   "Let me guess- you're Mac based, right ?"
   "I design web sites. Oh, some nights I practically sleep on the couch. We
have some rows that- you're up-"
   Amy stepped forward, her nervousness gone. Initially she'd been mad at this
person for interrupting her private behaviour. But to actually have someone-
   She was thinking imperfect thoughts. It might be nice to have a fellow
smoker to commiserate with. It might be nice to spend a glorious September
afternoon with someone who understood what it was like to-
   "Can I help you ?" the woman behind the counter asked, managing to look
bored and annoyed at the same time.
   "Two packs of Marlboro Lights 100s, please."
   "ID ?"
   Amy sighed and pulled her driver's license from her wallet. She handed it
over and the woman managed to escalate the level of boredom she was
displaying to professional levels.
   "You know, these things are bad for you," she said, handing the two packs
over hesitantly. "Five dollars even, with tax."
   Amy handed over a fiver, smiled and the man behind her, and timed her walk
out of the shop to be as slow as humanly possible. She heard him ask for a
pack of Marlboro Lights 100s as well, and he had paid before she cleared the
doorway. Inside, she was hoping against hope that he would pursue her, that-
   She tried not to have the fantasy, but it came anyway. He followed her
outside and they lit up together. A conversation began and soon they were
sitting in a smoky bar, drinking warm Guinness and joking about what it was
like to smoke in secret. He would understand.
   Forcing herself not to look back was a monstrous effort but somehow she
managed.
   She made the door without further contact, and disappointed, pulled the
wrapper off one pack and then rescued a cigarette from its nineteen brethren.
She put it in her mouth and realised she'd forgotten to fish her lighter from
its deep hiding place in her purse.
   Just as she was about to pull it out a strong male voice behind her inquired
if she'd accept a light from a near-stranger.
   "I have been lighting these things since I was seventeen, you know."
   "That's a pity," he said, smiling. "I wish had been there to light your
cigarettes back then. That must have been, what, two years ago ?"
   "Are you flirting with me ?" Amy asked boldly.
   "As a matter of fact," he said, "I am. I'd love to see you with a lit
cigarette in your hand, smoke trailing from your nose."
   "I can oblige" Amy said, the unlit cigarette dangling from her mouth,
bouncing as she spoke.
   "That's the best offer I've had all day." He put the lighter to the tip of
the cigarette and lit it easily. She noticed a wedding ring.
   Amy brought her left hand to the cigarette, secured it between index and
second finger, then inhaled deeply. She savoured the sweet smoke as she moved
the cigarette to its traditionally waiting station by her left ear. The first
puff was always the best, and she felt a faint wetness deep inside, a
shamelessly sexual component to the experience. 
   The nose exhale felt perfect. Judging from the smile on his face, it did
something for him as well. She inhaled again, and spoke quietly as she
exhaled, the smoke forming word balloons.
   "My name is Amy."
   "Langly- Langly Frohike."
   "I hope that your friends call you Lang-" Amy quipped.
   Lang took a cigarette from his own pack and lit it with the sort of
unselfconcious ease that Amy always admired in other smokers. Like Lisa.
   "They do, if they want me to ever talk to them again. You really are quite
the pretty smoker. I could watch you all day."
   "You are flirting with me. I assume that's a compliment."
   She exhaled through her nose, spreading smoke around her in a sweet scented
fog.
   "It is. I've always thought that I'd been in heaven in if could get my wife
to smoke the way that you do. Or any way, for that matter."
   "She's not into it, I gather. And she has no idea that you smoke, either."
   Lang exhaled generously, matching his deep inhales. "Well, she knows that I
dabble in the occasional cigar. On my birthday or our anniversary. But she
doesn't approve, and she has no idea that I also smoke cigarettes-"
   "Or that you wish she did so that you'd have something to watch." Amy
inhaled deeply on the cigarette, pursing her lips tightly and drawing deeply.
   "It's more than that. I mean, you've looked forward to your boyfriend going
away, haven't you ? So you could smoke-"
   The exhale was long and slow, which Amy thought would please her new friend.
"You're right. It's a lot of little things. Like walking through the mall and
not worrying about the fact that I smell smoky. Or coming home and setting
down my cigarettes by my computer where I can see them instead of hiding them
in some safe place. Or having one last cigarette before I go to bed at
night."
   "What about going out to eat ? My favourite place is this little seafood
house down on the shore. They don't have smoking and non-smoking section. I
don't think Joella has any idea why I really like to go there. But I sit and
watch those people- happy couple who don't have to worry about how their
significant other feels about their smoking. I wonder what it's like to live
in their world."
   "Lenny's ?"
   "Yeah. Are you from Port Coquitlan ?"
   Amy puckered her lips and blew smoke through the tight opening, enjoying the
way the smoke streamed.
   "Yeah. I live on Telegraph Road."
   "No way. I live off Telegraph Road. Hansen's Terrace. We have a modest four
bedroom by the river."
   "I'm headed back that way. Do you-"
   Amy hesitated, not quite sure asking a married man who was flirting with her
to spend the afternoon in her company constituted a good idea.
   "I'd love to," he answered, finishing the thought. "I'll follow you back to
your house and we can- I don't know, go somewhere and sip coffee and share
closet stories."
   "Closet stories ?" Amy asked, blowing another long stream of smoke. She
could understand Lang enjoying the spectacle of her smoking. While it made
her feel a little silly, she actually enjoyed watching herself smoke. When
she stood out on the back porch she would leave the slider half-closed and
admire her reflection- the elegant look of the long cigarette in her hand,
the sight of smoke trailing from her mouth and nose.
   "You know. Those times that Phil comes home early without warning and you
have to rush upstairs and jump in the shower while he gets out of the car,
that sort of thing."
   "Horror stories, you mean."
   "Exactly," he said, smiling.

   Amy enjoyed the drive home. She loved long drives away from the immediate vic
inity of Port C. . It gave her an opportunity to do two things she enjoyed-
look for other smokers out on the road, and be seen smoking. She liked to
scout out an attractive man driving along with his window down, cigarette
lit, and drive up beside him, cigarette in her own hand. It was a way to
share the habit with someone who would understand, a way to tell others that
yes, she was a smoker.
   Of course, Lisa thought it was ridiculous that she wouldn't just tell Phil.
"You're just cheating yourself," Lisa would say between long, sensuous drags
on her cigarette, "and if he can't deal with the fact that you smoke, what
good is he ?"
   Of course, Lisa had spoiled her in college, encouraging her to migrate from
her almost occasional smoking habit developed in high school to consuming a
pack a day. She also introduced her to a long line of fellow smokers, college
boys who shared her desire. By the time she'd graduated, they'd both thought
of Amy as a committed smoker- until she met Phil by accident.
   The accident had been that she'd run out of cigarettes that afternoon, a
little oversight which had changed her life.
   As she watched Lang watching her, driving right behind her, she wondered if
that change had been for the worse. The thought of spending an afternoon, an
evening, a-
   With a fellow smoker. It was nice to contemplate.
   She lit another cigarette and smiled.

   They were sitting on Amy's back porch, drinking beers and talking.
   Amy bent her head down and caught a light despite the swift breeze. Lang sat
back and watched, opening admire her first deep inhale and the cloud of fast
travelling smoke it produced.
   "What do you miss most about your freedom to smoke ?"
   She blushed immediately and considered begging off the question because she
was afraid of where the answer might lead them.
   "That first cigarette after sex. College spoiled me. It was an unspoken
rule. A cigarette before sex was part of the foreplay- I had one boyfriend
who insisted on watching me smoke as I stripped-"
   "Lucky devil. Did he ever get you to do that while smoking a cigar ?"
   "Is that part of the-" Amy hesitated, then decided Lang wouldn't be
offended. "-part of the fetish for you ?"
   "Did he ?" Lang pressed.
   "As a matter of fact, yes. But only once, because he came while he was
watching me. It was too bad, because I really enjoyed it."
   "I can imagine. But you were saying-"
   "That first cigarette after climax-"
   She paused and took a deep pull of her beer. "There's nothing like that. I
get- well, I guess high would be the right word, when I climax. Add smoking a
cigarette to that and I'm in heaven."
   "How long has it been ?"
   "Two years now. Two years and two months and two days. I can still
remember-"
   "I wish I had a memory like that."
   The uncomfortable feeling Amy was experiencing was not nearly unpleasant
enough.
   "We could always go to the mall after the coffee shop. There's a great cigar
store-"
   "The Tobacconist. But-"
   Amy retreated into the simple joy of a deep inhale and willed herself to
stop blushing. "I'm sorry. I'm being silly."
   "Not at all," Phil said, lighting a Marlboro Lights 100. "I would just
watch, after all. I am married."
   The thought of stripping for married man should have made Amy disgusted, but
it didn't. She still had fond memories of Greg- the way his face had looked
just before he'd-
   The arousal bought on by the memory was undeniable.
   "Let's just start with the coffee and see where that takes us, okay ?"
   Lang finished his beer with a long gulp. "Fine by me."

   Phil waited for Joella to rescue her travel bag from the luggage belt. He
did so in an impatient fashion- it had been a long flight and he'd been
looking forward to one thing the entire time- walking out into the warm early
evening air and lighting a cigarette.
   But it was worth the wait. During the flight, he'd been delighted to
discover that Joella was also going to the conference. They knew each other
casually from projects their two companies had worked on together and she was
just the sort of fun, easy-going person who could make a week of dry seminars
seem almost enjoyable.
   An hour and an half had been long enough to actually get to know her, and it
made the news that the lateness of their flight- a thirty minute delay on
landing- had cost them a shuttle ride easier to take. Their was supposed to
be another one coming for them in half an hour, which would give them some
time to unwind.
   "Got it !" Joella said with a smile, holding up the Nike bag proudly as
though it was some hard-fought prize.
   "We've got half an hour to kill. Mind if we go to the bar and grab a drink
?"
   Joella's smile was almost intoxicating enough on its own.
   "Can't wait to light up, can you ?"
   Phil had confessed on the flight that he was dying for a cigarette. He went
as far to explain his situation to her, how he looked forward to these trips
because it gave him a chance to smoke at will, something he was sure his wife
Amy would never understand.
   Phil's grin was sheepish.
   "Oh well, I should be used to it by now. I'm sure Lang is sitting in a
lounge chair in the backyard smoking cigarettes and drinking beer."
   "He really thinks you don't know ?"
   "Of course he does. He assumes that I accept his occasional cigar as the sum
total of his smoking needs. But I'll call him at home and I can hear that
he's outside- you know how the gulls are where we live, and then I'll hear
him sucking on a cigarette. I can't believe you think Amy has no idea,
either. Why do men think women are stupid ?"
   They walked into the bar as Phil said "We don't think you're stupid- or at
least I don't think you're stupid."
   They sat down and ordered- Phil a Sam Adams and Joella a gin and tonic.
   "How did you ever meet a non-smoker ? And hide the fact that you were a
smoker ?"
   Phil lit a Marlboro 100 and blew the smoke away from Joella. He then looked
at her, admiring her dark green eyes and fulsome red hair. She possessed a
stunning face, a perfect combination of round features which made her look
complete. That pretty head sat atop a body which had been chiselled from fine
marble, sleek except at the bustline, which jutted out like stark Adirondack
peaks.
   He'd always had a thing for redheads. Although Amy's long, tightly curled
blonde locks were equally attractive. The fact was, except for green eyes,
red hair, and the fact that Joella was right handed, she was very similar in
appearance to his girlfriend.
   As he drew on the cigarette again Phil reminded himself that he was very
happy with Amy- and that Joella was married.
   "We were at a co-ed baby shower. It was ironic, really. I'd dated the
mother-to-be in college, and Amy had dated the father in high school. It's
always kind of weird, going to that sort of thing and seeing someone you used
to-"
   "Sleep with ?" Joella offered, sipping her drink.
   "Exactly. I'd run out of cigarettes that morning and I was late leaving the
office. It was a Friday thing and- well, Amy and I hit it off right away. I
gave her a ride home and we made a date for the next night-"
   "Didn't she notice that your car was smoky ?"
   "That's the really ironic part. I was late to the party because I'd just
taken delivery of a new Celica, the convertible. Never been smoked in."
   "What made you think that Amy would have a problem with you being a smoker
?"
   It was a good question, one which Phil had asked himself many times.
   "Instinct, I guess. I really liked her, you know. I didn't want to fuck
things up and-"
   Joella looked at him with her piercing eyes. "And now you regret that
decision, don't you ?"
   "Sometimes. I don't know. I've adjusted. It's almost like-"
   "You have two lives," Joella said, as though she understood Phil's deepest
thoughts after one short plane ride.
   He had a feeling she did. Draining his beer, he signalled for another, and
as the bartender sauntered over Joella gulped her gin and nodded to indicate
she'd like a second as well.
   "Exactly. My colleagues at work all smoke, I smoke, and they understand that
Amy isn't to find out. I go to the gym after work every day, work out, and
shower. I sneak my clothes into the wash and-"
   "I can't believe that your boss lets you guys run around in jeans-on site,
no less."
   "Hey, that's one of the reasons I choose Optimal. You guys at Network
Resources are so stiff-"
   He watched Joella take a goodly gulp of her gin and tonic and added "Well,
not you, maybe."
   "No, we are stiff. I like that. There's no- no confusion. No distractions.
Getting network systems up and running is hard work, after all."
   "Well, at least that's what we want the customers to think." 
   They laughed at the inside joke and Joella watched Phil smoke. He seemed to
enjoy it so much that she could almost understand why he- why Lang- took the
risks to hide their habit. Not that she didn't understand enjoying
cigarettes.
   "So here you are, hundreds of miles from home, and you get to be that other
person. Do you feel guilty ?"
   Tapping ash, Phil considered the question.
   Knowing the answer was the easy part. Whether to give it away honestly and
free of charge wasn't.
   "What you're really asking me is whether or not your husband feels guilty,
aren't you ? Why don't you just confront him ?"
   Now it was Joella's turn to think about honesty.
   Well, about dishonesty. Perhaps Phil would soon notice that she'd slipped
her rings off as soon as they'd de-planed, that she-
   Instead of following that train of thought she finished her drink, and
leaving Phil a little wide-eyed, ordered a third.
   The warm flush rising up from her stomach gave her some much-needed courage.
   "It used to bother me. Having that lie between us. You know, he brings it to
bed and puts it between us. I mean, I suppose that it's no big deal. He's an
adult, he's entitled to smoke if he wants, and I think he doesn't understand
that I wouldn't have a problem with it if he were just honest about it. But I
would never make it that easy for him. At least, I used to think that way."
   Phil smiled wanly. The truth was, he was living on the other side of the
coin. Their were days when he found himself getting angry at Amy for not
diving his secret, for not 'making it easy' for him. Times he wanted her to
find out. But he weighed the risk of her objecting against the fact that he
did have a second, happy life as a smoker and decided that it wasn't worth
it.
   That maybe it was time for a change.
   Although he knew it was probably just his hormones talking, he found himself
believing Joella wanted a change as well.
   He'd certainly noticed how quickly she'd ditched her rings.
   "And now ?"
   "Now, I- I think maybe we should finish our drinks and go wait for that
shuttle."
   Pausing in the act of lighting a cigarette, Phil twisted his wrist and
glanced at his watch.
   "We still have twenty minutes, at least. Relax and finish your thought-"
   "We are going to spending the next week together. I'm not sure you want me
to-"
   Phil exhaled, grabbed his beer mug and did a valiant job of catching up.
   "That's exactly why I do want you to finish the thought-"
   "What do you think is going on here ?"
   That was the hard question. Phil knew what was going on at his end. He'd
made a decision a few weeks ago. It had been coming ever since- well, ever
since he'd moved in with Amy, really. He was going to come here to Pittsburgh
and live his real life as a smoker for a week, and if he liked it as much as
he usually did, he was going back to Port C and tell Amy that it just wasn't
working. Joella had asked him about guilt, and while there was plenty of it,
the truth was he would rather be a smoker than be with Amy. That was
horrible, he knew, but he was only twenty-four and there were lots of women
out there who would accept him for what he was- a smoker, and he wasn't
prepared to live the rest of his life that way. Compromising, weighing risk
factors just to keep his relationship intact. He was never going to be fully
happy this way, and-
   "I think you'd rather be with someone who was honest and up front about
themselves. You wonder how you could have married someone who would live a
lie every day, and you're starting to think you'd both be happier in a
different situation."
   Joella laughed, tossing her red hair. Phil thought of that as a flirting
gesture, but-
   "You're being pretty goddamned forward for a guy I just met-"
   "I didn't say with me, did I ?"
   There was some heat, some anger to the question, but it was self-directed.
Phil wondered what he was thinking, being so bold.
   "You know what the ironic thing is ? Well, there are two ironic things. It's
irony day, I guess."
   "That I'm right ?" Phil pressed, wondering what the hell he was doing.
   "Yeah. I came here to forward my career, but that's almost- ancillary. I
came here to think about my marriage, to try and decide- to make a decision I
can sense that you've already made. It's part of what is making me think the
same thing. You're ready to leave Amy over something so stupid as smoking,
and I wonder if Lang will eventually do the same thing. We're twenty five and
I can't believe he wants to spend the rest of his life living this lie."
   Phil gulped. He decided he needed another beer. Needed it more than he
wanted it, really, but that was fine. The bartender didn't care. He served up
the Sam without question, although he was within earshot of their
conversation. If he had any thoughts, he kept them tightly locked behind
steely grey eyes.
   "What's the other ironic thing ?"
   "I was a smoker once. In high school. I was the captain of the cheerleading
squad."
   "I can believe that-"
   Joella looked at the pack of cigarettes sitting on the bar and smiled. "It
was something I started to keep my weight down, you know ? My parents were
very permissive. I started smoking as a freshman- my mom gave me my first
pack. I'd just made the JV squad and well- you're going to think this is
terrible, but-"
   "The thought of you in a skimpy skirt jumping up and down is not  terrible,"
Phil said.
   "Are you flirting with me ?" Joella asked with a smile.
   "I would give real money to see you like that," Phil answered. That was, he
was sure, just the beer talking, but who cared ? He felt sixteen again. He
was having flashbacks to his  cheerleader, a girl with loosely curled jet
black hair who used to sit in his car and smoke Camel Lights 100s after
practise.
   "Anyway, all the girls on the squad smoked. I'd just barely made it- the
coach told me she thought I'd be a real top-notch cheerleader- if I lost ten
pounds. She made it sound like I was hanging on the team by a thread. Looking
back, I should have been horrified. This woman was brutal- she would tell you
to your face that you'd better go on a diet or else. Well, I still had my
baby fat. I went home and told my mom that I needed to lose weight."
   "I can't imagine you ever being-"
   "I was," Joella said. "Anyway. I was kind of terrified. Mom is sitting there
at the dining room table listening to me tell her how I'm so excited to have
made the team, but I have this problem and one of the girls had suggested
that their was a sure-fire way to lose the weight."
   "You asked your mom if you could start smoking to lose weight ?"
   "No. I didn't get the chance. She was smoking a Marlboro Lights 100 and
looking at me with a smile in her eyes. 'I knew this day would come sooner or
later,' she said. She got up, went into the kitchen, and came back with a
pack of cigarettes, which put in front of me. 'We're going to sit here until
you know how to smoke. I hope you know what you're getting yourself in for.'"
   "That's so cool," Phil said.
   "I thought it was deranged, to be honest. My Dad came home about an hour
later and we're sitting there smoking. He walked over to the table and asked
me if I'd learned how to inhale yet. I still think back and can't believe it.
I expected them to have a shit fit, and instead they were-"
   "Supportive ?"
   "Exactly. My mom even started driving me to school- ten miles each way, just
so I could smoke in the morning."
   "I wish my parents had taken that approach. So what happened ?"
   "Oh, I decided to quit before I went to college. I just thought that it
wasn't- I don't know. I just thought that I'd be limiting myself to one pool
of friends like I had in high school and I didn't want that."
   "Do you miss it ?" Phil asked.
   "No, not really. When I met Lang I hadn't smoked in four years, you know.
None of our mutual friends smoked and I didn't catch on that he did until we
got married. Hard to believe. He never smokes in his car. Never did. And I'd
been dating him for three months before we ever went to his apartment. At the
time I wondered why he steamed cleaned his rugs the day before he had me
over- now I know. The place stank of rug cleaner- to this day I think of that
smell as terribly romantic."
   "Have you ever thought about-"
   "Starting ? Not to save my marriage, no. It's not about smoking anymore."
   "It's about honesty. What about smoking for your own sake ? I assume that
you enjoyed it."
   "Of course I did."
   Phil pulled a five from his wallet and waved it at the bartender. "A pack of
Marlboro Lights 100s. Box"
   He expected Joella to resist, but she didn't. Instead she grabbed his arm
and smiled, tugging like a co-conspirator. Her green eyes were alive with
mischief.
   The bartender handed the cigarettes to Phil, who undid the wrapper. He
extracted a single cigarette from the pack and watched Joella's reaction.
   She wanted-
   The cigarette.
   He put it to her mouth and she accepted it gratefully. 
   "I can't believe I'm doing this," she said, the cigarette bouncing as she
spoke. Phil provided a light, the task taking his mind off his growing
erection.
   It caught easily and Joella inhaled deeply.
   She then took the cigarette between the first two fingers of her right hand,
holding it in a perfectly feminine way. He'd dreamed about Amy doing that
many times, but this was even better and he knew that regardless of what
happened over the next week, it was time for him to make a change.
   Joella's long exhale was joyous.
   She reached around behind Phil's head with her left hand and pulled him
close to her.   
   "Thank you," she said, her breath smoky.
   Then she kissed him.

   "Are you sure that it's all right to smoke in the bedroom ?" Lang asked.
   Amy smiled. It hard to believe what a change had come over her in the last
twelve hours.
   In a way, she felt terribly guilty about this.
   Poor Phil.
   It was hard to believe a guy that was now making seventy-five thousand a
year had, just eighteen months ago, run so far and so quickly afoul of his
student loans that she'd had buy the house on her own credit. Then again, the
Bureau had paid for her school and she'd come out with an excellent starting
salary for a civil servant. Excellent enough to secure a loan for a mortgage
which was solely in her name.
   Poor Phil.
   It was hard to believe that you could decide to leave the man you'd woken up
with thinking you'd loved in the space of one smoky evening.   
   Dinner at Lenny's had been-   
   There was no word for it.
   They'd laughed and drank and smoked.
   That had been the best part. Amy had smoked one cigarette after another.
She'd even paused in mid-meal to light up at Lang's encouragement and right
then she'd decided that she would most certainly smoke one of the cigars that
he'd bought for her in precisely the way that he wanted.
   Of course, it was possible that Lang didn't understand what her permission
to smoke in this most private room in the house meant.
   Or perhaps his caution was born out of that knowledge.
   "Lang, what would you say if I asked you to do something for me ?"
   "What would that be ?"
   "Take off that fucking wedding ring."
   "For tonight ?" he asked, arching his eyebrows as he fingered the unlit
cigar.
   "No."
   "We've known each other half a day-"
   "I want to expand that knowledge. Infinitely."
   "After half a day ? What if I fart in my sleep or yell too loud at the
television when I'm watching football ? What if I pick my nose and eat it ?"
   "Then we'll have some things for you to work on."
   Lang considered this. He'd been thinking about his marriage for months now.
There were days he couldn't believe he'd married a woman who didn't smoke.
Something he'd convinced himself was so inconsequential suddenly wasn't.
Tonight had been something out of a dream. As though all his inhibitions had
died.   
   The price for a little flirtatious behaviour was far higher than he'd
imagined.
   "Are you actually asking me to leave Joella after one night of-"
   "It's going to be one week of- unless I'm not understanding what's going on
here."
   What Lang understood was that underneath the white angora turtleneck and the
skin-tight black jeans was one hundred and thirty seven dollars of Victoria
Secret's naughtiest underwear, which he fully intended to see lying strewn
all over another man's bedroom. What he understood was that he'd already
scoped out a place for his 9600/350- which made him think.
   "I need to ask you a serious question."
   Amy lit a cigarette and intentionally blew the smoke far and wide in the
bedroom. When she got up in the morning, she intended this room to be full of
that smell. Permanently.
   "More serious than whether or not you'll leave your wife ?"
   "You have three computers and two Powerbooks lying around and something
which looks like the mainframe for Norad in the back hall off the kitchen.
What exactly do you do for a living ?"
   "I can't tell you," Amy said.
   "That's a little bit of a sticking point, don't you think ? I mean, at least
I know what my current wife does for a living."
   Amy considered this. It was interesting, how different people were. When
she'd told Phil who it was that she worked for, and that was all she could
tell him, he'd swallowed this pill whole, as though he didn't need to know.
Which was one of Phil's problems. He seemed to accept that there were secrets
between them best left untold.
   Which, of course, had made her willingness to hide her smoking easier to
accept.
   She had a feeling Lang wouldn't be put off so easily.
   She walked over to her dresser drawer and reached underneath her sock for
her ID.
   She then walked over and sat down on Phil's lap, feeling immediately
something in which she was developing a keen interest. She blew a tight
stream of smoke at his face and then held the cigarette to his lips. He
inhaled greedily and they kissed again. The smoky taste of his insistent
tongue was quite a turn on.
   Then she showed him the plastic ID card and the badge.
   "I don't suppose that comes with handcuffs," he asked, smiling.
   "Of course it does. And a gun."
   "We won't need the gun, I hope."
   
   There was no question that Lang was cute as hell. His hands were cuffed, the
short links threaded through a slat in the headboard. He was lying patiently
on the bed, his penis standing at sleepy half-attention as Amy pulled the
sweater up and over her head, careful not to catch the delicate fabric on the
cigar. She then put the cigar in her mouth and drew on it, careful not to
inhale, enjoying the impossibly sweet smoke.
   Cigar clenched tightly between her teeth, she undid the zipper of her jeans
and begin to wiggle out of them. Lang watched the way her delicate but full
breasts danced as she squirmed. He watched her hold the cigar tightly between
her lips, pulling on it repeatedly and blowing the smoke through her nose,
inhaling it just enough to transfer it to that perfectly sculpted place.
Smoke trailed from her nostrils in an almost endless stream as she released
the straps of her sheer black stockings, which slid to the floor.
   The corset went next, undone by another mind-bending dance. The cigar never
left her mouth and she filled the room with thick smoke as she danced for
him. Finally, she wriggled out of the panties, and with William S. Burroughs
droning his way through Star Me kitten in the background, she danced for him,
watching his penis grow startlingly erect.
   When she was finally naked, she put her hair back in a tight pony tail,
securing it with a band, and walked over to the bed. 
   She blew one last long cloud of smoke, tapped the ash off the cigar, and
placed it in his mouth.
   Amy climbed onto the bed, positioned herself perfectly, and slid down over
him, rocking back and forth. He grabbed the slat with both hands and pushed
back, writhing in rhythm with her until she climaxed. He then came and she
sank down beside him, taking the cigar from his mouth. This time she did
inhale deeply, not caring about how the smoke burned her throat as it
expanded into her lungs. They finished the cigar together and then Amy lit a
cigarette. She smoked for a moment as Lang watched, growing hard again.
   "The answer is yes," he said breathlessly.
   She waited until she was finished with the cigarette, gently stroking his
penis at intervals as she filled the room with more of the wonderful smoke.
When she was done she checked the handcuffs to make sure they were secure.
Satisfied, she leaned close to him, her lips brushing his ears. "I think some
more interrogation is in order, don't you ?"
   He turned his head and kissed her hard and long.
   She bit his lip, drawing blood.
   Without another word, she slid on top of him and reversed herself. As she
slipped her mouth around his penis she felt his tongue begin to probe and she
splayed her legs so that he would be able to reach inside, which he did with
marvelous ability. She ran her tongue around the head of his penis until he
began to emit muffled groans and then she bobbed her head in earnest.
   When he came, she swallowed and she could feel him smile. He then finished
his half of it. Perfectly.

   It was hard to believe so many things.
   Phil stood outside the door to his room, fumbling for his keycard.
   It was hard to believe that Joella had been able to get the room next to
his. She explained that she'd been mistakenly booked for a non-smoking room
and when she suggested the desk clerk check, 345B had actually been
available.
   It was equally hard to believe that the door between their rooms had been
open the entire time, or that one bed had remained unused. It was hard to
believe how easy he'd converted her to smoking again, or how well she'd taken
to it. 
   It was hard to believe that they were going to go home tomorrow and tell
their others that they were moving in together.
   Joella had joking suggested that she might be able to talk Lang into rooming
with Amy until he found a place of his own.
   That joke should have been a sour one for Phil. Giving Joella the honesty
she require, he'd told her that 'his' house was solely in Amy's name and that
if they were going to live together it would have to be in her house. It
also, he knew, should have bothered him, the idea of another man moving in
with his girlfriend.
   His ex-girlfriend.
   Then again, it was just a joke.
    He finally dug the flimsy plastic card out of his wallet, snickt it home,
and opened the door.
   Joella wouldn't be there. She'd begged off the last presentation of the
seminar, claiming an errand that needed her attention.   
   Phil was half considering calling Amy while he was alone and letting her
know what was going on- suddenly, he wanted to be honest with her as well.
But any thought of dialing home was shoved aside by the vision on the bed
which met his startled eyes.
   There was Joella, in a red and white cheerleader's outfit, her hair pulled
back into a flaming red pony tail except for one long strand which had been
braided with red and white embroidery thread. She was wearing the dangling
silver earring and matching chain that he'd given her yesterday and smoking-
   It was a Camel Light 100, just like Beth. He'd told her about Beth- about so
many things.
   She bounced up off the bed, bounded over to the door and closed it. Holding
one pom in her left hand, she shook it, brushing his face.
   "Give me a P- Give me an H- Give me an I- Give me and L-"
   She lowered her voice to a throaty, sultry burr. "Who do I love ?"
   "Phil-Phil-Phil," she said, bounding up and down and making him wonder if
Mr. Thorton, in the next room over, would call security to complain.
   He should have felt silly or stupid, but instead he grabbed her and kissed
her. As they broke, she inhaled deeply on the cigarette and blew the smoke
high into the air. They followed this with a kiss, during which Joella passed
the cigarette to Phil. He inhaled and passed it back. They kissed again.
Joella dropped the pom and slid Phil's hand inside the collar of the outfit.
   As they broke, she pirouetted away. There was the sound of velcro snaps
tearing away, and she was suddenly naked, standing in the middle of the room
holding the cigarette in her mouth. She let it dangle there for a moment,
puffing on it precisely the way Beth used to- something he had told her he
especially enjoyed.
   "How much was the deposit on this ?"
   "An hundred dollars. I had to call every costume shop in Pittsburgh."
   "Well, I'll eat the deposit."
   "Will you ? I couldn't resist. Just don't call me Beth while we're making
love, okay ?"
   "You're beautiful." She was. Her full breasts were amasingly upright, her
nipple spectacularly hard. He rushed across the room and placed his mouth on
one, working it with his tongue until Joella was purring with pleasure. She
undid his pants and slipped his underwear down around his ankles. As he
stiffened, she gently worked him into a frenzy. They broke their kisses only
long enough to smoke. As he grew close, he tried to move her over to the bed,
but she resisted, continuing to stroke him until he came.
   They looked at the rug and Joella smiled.
   "That's what housekeeping is for. Just don't step in it."
   Now she let him move her over to the bed. His foreplay had improved
dramatically- Joella could sense that his interest in sex had skyrocketed
over the last week, and as he gently ran his soft hands over her naked skin,
she felt him hardening again. He slipped a finger inside her and probed
gently, finding her quickly. His hands were a thing of wonder and she
climaxed furiously, furrowing his back with her close-cropped nails, careful
not to draw blood.
   She began immediately to work him towards her because he was ready again,
but he shook his head.
   "Not yet. Enjoy it."
   Nodding, she reached over to the nightstand and pulled two cigarettes from
the other pack. She would smoke the Camels for him, but they weren't what she
wanted. He was right though. He knew that she would prefer to smoke before
they continued. He would smoke as well, and watch her smoke, and his erection
certainly wouldn't go anywhere while he waited.
   "I can't believe I ever quit, you know," she said as she handed him one of
the cigarettes.
   "Neither can I. You've really taken to it, though."
   She looked at him. He was quite handsome. So was Lang, but it was different
with Phil. He was softer, more beautiful, less rugged.
   Inhaling deeply, she decided they should try the one thing that they hadn't
yet.
   She moved the ashtray onto the bed.
   "Let's do something different. Sit down on the bed, facing me."
   He did as she asked, sliding his legs under hers. They worked out the
positioning with the sort of speed which had come to their lovemaking all
week. They seemed to make a perfect fit. He slid inside her effortlessly and
she reached over to the portable CD player, turning up REM's Star Me Kitten
as his thrusts intensified. She inhaled deeply on her cigarette, enjoying the
rush of sensations that seemed to emanate from every cell in her body. The
lightheaded rush of the nicotine and carbon dioxide. The tingling of her
vagina.
   It was hard to believe anyone thought of this as just a series of
involuntary muscle spasms.
   He came first, and his thrustings stopped. With Lang this would have brought
disappointment, but Phil quickly reversed himself and finished what he'd
started with his tongue, digging like a madman until he had the prize. She
smoked through the climax, one long inhale after another, until she felt she
could die being this happy.
   "Thanks for the costume," he said as he lifted his head, breathless.
   "Thanks for buying me those cigarettes."
   He smiled. "If I had known the effect they'd have on you, I'd have bought
you a whole carton."
   
   Amy walked down the stairs of her house. She could hear Lang clacking away
on his extended keyboard, crunching code. There was a warm mug of coffee on
the kitchen counter, perfect for five am on a chill fall day. The sky was
grey and the clouds were rushing overhead, lousy travelling weather. 
   She padded into his work area on bare feet and watched him for a moment. He
was almost pretty, framed in the glow of the monitor, which reflected off his
tight framed glasses.   
   "I'm going to miss you terribly."
   "Hard to believe it's been a month. I wonder what Phil and Joella are doing
right now ?"
   "Being as happy as we are, I think. It's funny how things work out, isn't it
?"
   "Two promises," he said with a smile.
   "Which are ?"
   "You'll smoke while you're gone, no hiding it. And you won't take up with
any buff young smokers."
   She reached out and hugged him. "I have the only buff young smoker I want.
Come on outside with me."
   He picked up his own coffee and followed her out onto the porch. they stood
close as reached down into her robe pocket and took out her cigarettes. She
lit one, inhaled, and handed it to him. They shared it as they often did,
enjoying the unique bond that communion brought. Amy would reach up and put
the cigarette in his mouth. he would draw on it and return the favour.
   When they were done with the first one she lit two more and handed him one.
   "God, I wish I could smoke every cigarette like this. In the cold morning
air with you at my side."
   "That makes two of us. I don't suppose you can tell me what you'll be doing
out there in the great Northwest."
   "No. But you have my cell phone number. Please, call me. I may be bored to
death."
   "I doubt it," he said wistfully.
   He didn't speak after that. Instead he just watched her smoke, watched the
way her nose exhales were torn away by the wind. That smoked took a life of
it's own, dancing merrily as it sank and clung to the dewy grass, trailing
along the landscape. By the time the cigarette was finished, he was stiff
with desire. As Amy had hoped.
   She walked over to him, reached inside his boxers and moved him through
their opening. She undid her robe and he bent his knees until they met. She
folded the robe around them, glad for the fact there were no houses behind
hers. They agreed silently to take it slowly, each holding back until the
moment could be delayed no longer and they came together.
   Amy waited a long moment before lighting another cigarette. She wrapped her
free arm around Phil's waist and sank her head against his back, turning to
the side so that she could smoke. Her exhales were pointed upwards and her
smoke ran up his back and down his front. She could see him drink them in.
   "If it's all right, I'll drive myself to the airport."
   They both had to laugh at that.


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