Anne's Choice, Part 1

(by Richard, 26 February 2006)

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by Richad
Chapter 1
Anne picked up the cigarette which was smouldering on the ashtray on her
dressing table and placed it gently between her lips.  She inhaled and blew a
plume of smoke towards her reflection in the mirror.  Replacing her
cigarette, she returned to the task of putting on her make up in preparation
for the evening ahead.  As always, she took great care over making herself
up; she had recently been promoted to the post of cosmetics editor for a
women's magazine (not a bad job at the age of 29) and she felt that she ought
to look the part.  Blusher, eye shadow, eye liner, and mascara were all
meticulously applied.  Before starting to put on her lipstick she returned to
her cigarette, which had now burned almost to the filter.  After one last
drag she crushed it out and glanced up at the clock.  Martin's taxi would be
arriving in a few minutes.  She took another cigarette from the red and white
pack which lay open on her dressing table, lit it and inhaled before placing
it on the ashtray.  As she applied her lipstick, her thoughts wandered back
to their first date, already more than three weeks ago.
*     *     *
They had met at a health and fitness club near where Anne lived in south west
London, and where she attended dance classes on two evenings each week.
After her classes she sometimes stopped off in the club café for a cold
drink.  On one of these occasions she chatted for a while to a tall, good
looking man, perhaps a couple of years older than herself, whom she had
noticed doing weight training in the gym.  She was pleased to discover on her
next visit that the man, whose name was Martin, was again in the café, and
they had another drink together.
It was no coincidence that Martin was there again.  He had noticed the slim,
attractive woman with beautiful eyes and long dark hair in the dance class.
Martin was immediately struck by how hot she looked in comparison to the
other women who frequented the health club, and he did his best to ensure
that he was around the café each evening when her classes finished.  He
looked forward to their meetings but, to his disappointment, Anne always
excused herself and left after only a few minutes.  Martin wondered why she
seemed in such a hurry to leave, and hoped that it did not betray a lack of
interest in him.
The truth was that after an hour and a half in the club, Anne was in urgent
need of a cigarette.  As soon as she had driven her car out of the club car
park, Anne would retrieve her Marlboros from the glove compartment and light
up her post-exercise cigarette: always one of the most enjoyable of the day.
It didn't seem right, somehow, to admit to Martin that, however pleasant his
company might be, her need for nicotine was a much more compelling
After two or three more brief chats in the health club café, Martin asked
Anne for a date, and she readily accepted.  They arranged to meet for a drink
and a meal in a nearby inn with low ceilings and wooden beams, before going
on to the cinema.  When Anne arrived, Martin was waiting for her at the bar.
She looked strikingly beautiful in a short red and black dress and black
stiletto heels, her dark hair tied back and her make-up professionally
applied, as always.  Having ordered a drink, she sat down beside him at the
bar and, opening her bag, she said in as casual a manner as she could manage:
"Oh, by the way, you don't mind if I smoke, do you?"
Martin's reaction was worse than she had feared.
"What!" he said, astonished,  "You smoke?"
"Well, yes," Anne hesitated, an unlit cigarette in her hand. "I do.  I'm
sorry - does it annoy you?"
"Well, I-  I mean, no, not really," Martin replied, confused.  "That's to
say, I'm not bothered by the smell, or anything like that.  It's just that,
well, I didn't expect-  I mean, you don't look like-  No, go ahead, if you
want to."
Anne lit her cigarette and turned away to exhale a long plume of smoke.
Martin watched her, transfixed.
"Have you- er- smoked for a long time?"
Anne laughed and blew out another cloud of smoke.  "Oh, yes," she said.  "I
started when I was fourteen.  All the girls smoked.  You had to, to be one of
the crowd.  I'd been smoking for more than four years before I left school."
Martin was still looking at her as if she had just confessed to eating her
last boyfriend's liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti.
"And do you- um- smoke a lot?"
Anne reached along the bar counter for an ashtray and tapped the ash from the
tip of her cigarette.  This was not going well.  She decided that, in the
circumstances, something  less than the truth was called for.
"No, not really," she lied.  "I suppose I'm what you would call a social
smoker.  I have a cigarette now and then when I'm out for an evening.  And
occasionally at home," she added, not wanting to stray any further from the
truth than was necessary.
"But it's so bad for your health," protested Martin.  "Why on earth do you do
Anne was getting fed up with this topic of conversation.  Most of her
previous relationships had been with smokers and she had not had to undertake
the tiresome task of justifying her habit to them. 
"Because I enjoy it," she said, shortly.  She found that she was not,
however, enjoying this cigarette and, after taking another drag, she stubbed
it out half-smoked in the ashtray on the counter.  Martin's expression
brightened visibly and he changed the subject.
After this shaky start, their evening out together had gone well.  They
discovered that they had a lot of interests in common and that they enjoyed
each other's company.  Anne resisted the urge to light up in Martin's
presence again.  When they had finished eating, she excused herself to go to
the ladies' room and walked away through the restaurant, her bag over her
shoulder.  Martin poured himself a glass of wine and tried to come to terms
with his discovery that the beautiful Anne was a smoker.  Physical fitness
and well-being had always been of enormous importance to him and he had never
understood why other people were willing to put their health at risk by
smoking.  Ever since he was a boy he had been resolutely anti-smoking.  The
warnings which he received at school and read in magazines seemed to be amply
confirmed by the sight of the old, unattractive men and women smokers with
coughs and throaty voices whom he met around town.  The one curious exception
to this rule was his aunt, his mother's younger sister, who smoked and yet
was neither old nor unattractive.  Late one night many years ago, during a
visit by her, he had been unable to sleep and had come downstairs, to find
his mother and his aunt chatting together in the kitchen.    His aunt was
smoking a cigarette and there was another cigarette burning in the ashtray on
the table.  Young Martin was puzzled.  He had never before heard of anyone
smoking two cigarettes at once.  Could it be that his aunt was an especially
heavy smoker?  An alternative explanation which occurred to him later was too
shocking to contemplate.
Martin was beginning to wonder what had happened to Anne when she reappeared,
smiling contentedly, her make-up freshly applied.  He called for the bill and
they got ready to leave.
In the cinema, Anne had excused herself again during the previews, so she was
able to keep her nicotine level sufficiently topped up to see her through to
the end of the film in relative comfort.  By the time they arrived back at
her apartment, though, she was beginning to need another cigarette, and she
did not invite Martin in.  They kissed goodnight, agreeing to meet again
*     *     *
Recalling that first night out now, Anne picked up her cigarette from the
ashtray, reflecting, not for the first time, on how her smoking habits had
changed in the last month since she had started dating Martin.  Her thoughts
were interrupted by the sound of a taxi arriving outside her apartment.  She
hurriedly took several deep drags in quick succession.  With smoke streaming
from her mouth and nose, she closed the door and made her way downstairs,
where Martin was waiting impatiently for her.

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