Bring Me A Light And Then Bring Me A Light, Part 2

(by The Tobacconatrix, 13 November 2012)

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Bring Me a Light and then Bring Me a Light 
By The Tobacconatrix 

Part 2 

"I believe nicotine is not addictive." 
Tobacco Company Executives testifying under oath before Congress; 1994 

Chapter 1 

Louise opened her eyes and instantly wished she hadn't. 

Brilliant sunshine was streaming into the little room, shining directly 
onto her face, and not in a good way. She squeezed her eyes shut again, but 
that didn't help much. Her head felt like it was about to explode. She 
waited hopefully, but nothing happened. Resigning herself to the fact that 
the explosion probably wasn't coming any time soon, she cautiously opened 
her eyes again. 

She was lying on a smallish bed in an even smaller room. It was full 
daylight outside, judging from the harsh sunlight that was bearing down on 
her, but she realised she had absolutely no idea what time it was. Was it 
morning? Afternoon? What day was it? She tried to turn her head, but that 
made the pounding worse, so she gave up on the idea for the moment. Her 
throat was incredibly sore, and there was an unpleasant taste in her mouth. 
And, she realised, she was unbelievably thirsty. She licked her lips, or 
rather, tried to. Just moving her tongue was painful. This was not fun. Now 
she became aware of something else: she needed to pee. In fact, she really 
needed to pee. 

She lay where she was, unmoving, going over the information so far. She was 
thirsty, she had to pee, and she didn't know what time it was. She was 
going to have to get up. So far, she didn't like this day one bit. 
Summoning up every ounce of her energy, she propped herself up on her 
elbows, fighting an urge to throw up. She remembered the cocktail party 
last night, and she remembered the lights going out. 

I probably had more to drink than I should have, she thought, ruefully. 
After the lights went out... After the lights went out... She mulled that 
over for a moment. She knew people who got very drunk were supposed to wake 
up with no memory of the night before. Wasn't that the cliche? She thought 
back to the blackout last night. She actually had fairly clear memories of 
the rest of the night, but she wasn't sure she could quite believe them. 
None of what had happened next felt like anything she would ever do. 
Perhaps that's what really happens, she thought. You wake up with clear 
memories, but they're all the wrong ones. Great, she thought absurdly. I'm 
lying in bed with the worst headache I've ever had, no idea what time it 
is, and the wrong life is flashing in front of my eyes. 

External clues. She needed external clues. Fighting the pain, she focused 
her eyes on the room, squinting in the blinding sunlight. The room was very 
small and very plain. A dorm room, or a very basic hotel. Well, yes. She 
was attending a two-week residential course; she never expected the Ritz. 
There was a small table next to the bed. On the table sat a cheap digital 
clock. She tried to see what the time was, but it was blinking 12:00 over 
and over. Of course, the power had failed last night. It was obviously back 
on again. Next to the unhelpful clock sat her little black clutch purse, an 
ashtray, and two open packs of cigarettes. The ashtray contained three 
lipstick-stained cigarette butts. 

Well, you wanted external clues, Louise told herself. There they are. It 
was bewildering. What had gotten into her last night? Her head was still 
throbbing, and she still needed to pee, so she put the cigarettes out of 
her mind for the moment and looked around the rest of the room. There 
wasn't much else to see. Next to her in the bed, a young woman lay 
sleeping. A few feet away was a second, empty bed, and beyond that was a 
door leading to a tiny-looking bathroom. 

The room has its own bathroom, Louise realised gratefully. Thank heavens 
for - wait; what? 

She looked down again, and sure enough, there was a woman lying next to her 
in the bed. She was turned away from Louise, so only her wavy straw-blond 
hair was visible on the pillow. The rest of her was under the covers. The 
same covers that Louise was under. So it really did happen. Louise turned 
over the implications in her head. It didn't help her headache at all. She 
remembered their smokey encounter downstairs in the dark - in fact that was 
something she was unlikely to forget for the rest of her life. They had 
eventually come upstairs to this room, and then... 

That's right, thought Louise; the power was still out, so this room was 
dark too. Not as dark as the bar downstairs since there was at least a 
window here. Dark enough, though, so that the two of them had huddled 
together on the bed, and continued what they had started downstairs. She 
remembered they had each lit another cigarette and played with the smoke; 
alternately smoking and kissing, enjoying the illicit experience. And they 
had shared a cigarette, Louise remembered. It had been incredibly sexy, 
taking the lit cigarette and putting in her friend's mouth, watching her 
puff on it. 

The cigarette as sex toy, Louise thought. She wondered if that would be 
covered on the course at some point. Her musings were interrupted by more 
pressing matters; she still needed to pee, and her throat was still painful 
and dry. Her friend seemed to be fast asleep next to her, so she gingerly 
pulled her legs off the bed, trying to be as quiet as possible. 
Unfortunately, her body was not cooperating. As soon as she began to move, 
she realised that she was aching all over. Her feet felt as if they were 
covered in blisters, and her calf muscles were almost completely seized up. 
When she tried to stand up, she nearly cried out, her legs were so sore. 
Looking down, she saw she had a bright purple bruise on her shin; probably 
where she had hit the chair when she fell over last night. Her friend moved 
slightly, but continued to sleep. 

Pulling herself upright with difficulty, Louise staggered over to the 
bathroom. She wasn't sure which was worse: the pain in her legs or the pain 
in her head, but she made it and gratefully sat down. When she finished - 
feeling much relieved - she pulled up her panties and flushed the toilet, 
which proved to be a mistake. The noise was painfully loud in the small 
room, and almost got the better of her. When she had recovered, she lurched 
over to the sink. There was a glass on the shelf by the mirror, and she 
grabbed it and filled it with water from the tap, then gulped it down 
greedily. As she moved to fill the glass again, she caught sight of herself 
in the bathroom mirror, and it stopped her. 

She looked awful. Her face was smeared with splotches of lipstick that made 
her skin look diseased. Her eye makeup had run and her lashes were caked 
with clumps of mascara; it looked as if she had two black eyes. Her 
recently dyed hair, which had looked so wonderful last night, was sticking 
out in every direction. God, what had she gotten herself into? 

She drank her second glass of water, trying to wash away the bitter taste 
in her mouth, then she washed her face as best she could, rubbing away as 
much of the makeup as possible. When she had finished, she inspected 
herself again. She still looked awful; her skin was very pale, and she had 
dark circles under her eyes, but she didn't look quite as monstrous now, 
she decided. Just very, very tired. 

As she stood staring at herself, she became aware of noises coming from the 
other room; her friend was waking up. Her friend: what was her name? Louise 
strained to remember if she had learned it last night, but her brain was 
full of cotton candy. How could she not know her name, after all they had 
done last night? She certainly couldn't ask now; that would be ridiculous: 
"Good morning, I hope you slept well, I had a great time with you last 
night, by the way, what's your name?" 

She thought about going back into the room - maybe something would jog her 
memory - and she suddenly became very conscious of the fact that she was 
wearing nothing but her panties. What could she wear? She had packed 
pajamas and a bathrobe, but she didn't know where her suitcase was. She 
hadn't seen it since yesterday afternoon, and it certainly wasn't here in 
this room. For that matter, what was she going to wear downstairs? All she 
had was the outfit she was wearing last night. The thought of going down to 
breakfast (lunch?) in last night's dress made her feel embarrassed and 
insecure. She finally grabbed a towel and wrapped it around herself, then 
padded back into the room, wincing with every step. 

Her friend was just sitting up in the bed, and she looked the way Louise 
felt. Louise almost smiled at that. At least I'm not in this alone, she 
thought. With daylight filling the room, she finally had a chance to see 
her new friend's face clearly. She was young, probably in her very early 
twenties, with a sharp jawline and a slightly dark skin tone. Perhaps 
Spanish or Italian, Louise thought. She was pretty sure she had not spoken 
to her before the blackout last night. 

Her friend opened her eyes and then quickly closed them again. She was 
clearly in pain. 

"Good morning," Louise said. It was the first time she had spoken aloud all 
morning, and her voice sounded harsh and raspy. She cleared her throat and 
tried again. 

"Good morning, how are you feeling?" Her friend opened her mouth and tried 
to respond, but no sound came out. Louise went back to the bathroom and 
filled the cup with water, which she brought back to her friend. Her friend 
took the cup gratefully and drank it down. 

"Thank you," she croaked, finally. "What time is it?" 

"I have no idea," said Louise, embarrassed. "The clock isn't working, and I 
didn't have a watch last night." She had a sudden thought. "Did you have 

Her friend shook her head, eyes still closed. "We had that makeover thing," 
she whispered. "They didn't give me a watch." She was silent for a moment, 
then asked, "Is there a bathroom in here?" 

Louise assured her there was, and the young woman painfully pulled herself 
out of the bed. Like Louise, she was wearing nothing but her panties. Her 
body was slim and well-toned, but her face was drawn and haggard, and 
contorted in pain. Louise helped her into the bathroom, then retreated back 
to the main room to look around again. 

There was nothing in the room to indicate the time. She saw her dress, 
lying on the floor, alongside her shoes (no wonder her feet were killing 
her this morning!) and thrown over a chair were her friend's skirt and 
blouse. A pair of black high-heeled pumps were lying under the chair, along 
with a black shoulder bag. That must have been her friend's bag, Louise 
thought. In the dark she hadn't really noticed it last night. Her friend 
was still in the bathroom, so Louise quickly picked up the bag and opened 
it, hoping for some clue to her friend's name. The bag was empty, apart 
from a cigarette lighter. 

Resigning herself to her fate, Louise picked up her black dress and pulled 
it on. It reeked of stale cigarette smoke. What a weird night! The 
stockings she had been wearing were badly torn, so she threw them away. She 
balked at putting on those shoes again, but she couldn't very well go 
downstairs in her bare feet, so she finally pulled them on reluctantly. She 
could feel her calf muscles tightening up again as she stood up in the 
heels. And to think some women wear shoes like this all the time! 

Her head was still pounding, and she wondered if there was anywhere nearby 
she could get some aspirin, and maybe some coffee. It suddenly occurred to 
her that she had no money. That woman Tina had taken all of her things and 
put them in a secure area with her suitcase when she had arrived. She was 
going to have to go downstairs and find out what was happening. 

She could hear the sound of running water from the bathroom, and a moment 
later her friend emerged, wrapped in a towel and looking slightly more 
awake. When she saw that Louise was dressed, she smiled, weakly. 

"You're doing better than I am this morning," she crossed over and sat down 
heavily on the bed. 

"I'm not so sure about that," said Louise. "I was just thinking about going 
downstairs to see what's happening. Maybe find our bags." 

"Good idea," said her friend, and Louise had a sudden inspiration. 

"Shall I try to find your bag for you?" She asked. "Is it labelled?" 

"It's a brown duffel bag; it should have a name tag on it." 

Her friend was silent for a moment. What name, Louise screamed silently. I 
don't know your name!! 

"Ramirez," her friend finally said. "It should say Portia Ramirez." 

Portia. Her name was Portia. Louise felt a flooding of relief. She was sure 
she hadn't heard that earlier; she would have remembered the name Portia. 
Finally she had a name to attach to her friend: Portia! 

"What about your bag?" Portia asked. 

"Just a small black suitcase, nothing special," Louise shrugged, and then 
it suddenly hit her what Portia was asking. 

"It's labelled," she said. "Louise Hamilton." Portia smiled gratefully, and 
Louise felt some of the tension melt away. They had both been torturing 
themselves about this, she realised. They had just spent the night 
together, and they didn't even know each others' names. She felt close to 
Portia all over again. 

"Why don't I wait for you, and we can go down there together," Louise said, 
but Portia shook her head. 

"No, please go ahead; I'll need a few minutes to pull myself together. You 
can go and see what everyone else is doing." 

Louise nodded. "Are you sure you're okay?" She suddenly felt very 
protective of Portia. 

"I'm fine," she said. "It was a rather unusual night for me last night. I'm 
sort of new at this," 

"Me too," said Louise, very much relieved. "I'm not used to any of this." 

She started to say more, but Portia interrupted her. 

"We can talk about it when we're both fully awake," she said. "Go ahead; 
I'll catch up to you in a few minutes." 

With that, Louise clopped out of the room, feeling extremely ungraceful in 
her heels, and went off in search of the others. 

Chapter 2 

At first, Louise couldn't find anybody. She had gone downstairs, but the 
front of the building was deserted, and there were no signs of life in the 
corridors. Just as she was about to try her luck outside, she heard voices 
coming from the bar. Poking her head through the door, she saw that the 
room had been transformed. A series of tables and chairs had been arranged 
in the centre of the room, and the bar itself had been fitted out with 
coffee, orange juice and cereal. 

Tina was sitting at one of the tables with a well-dressed woman Louise did 
not recognise, and two girls she remembered from the night before. They 
were drinking coffee and Tina was doing something on a laptop. There was no 
one else in the room. They all looked up as Louise entered the room, and 
Tina got to her feet, smiling. 

"Good morning," she beamed, looking ridiculously bright and alert. "How are 
you this morning? Can I get you some coffee? Something to eat?" 

Louise gratefully accepted a cup of black coffee and sat down with the 
others. She wasn't quite ready to trust her stomach with solid food, so she 
decided to take it one step at a time. 

"This is Dr. Piper," Tina said, indicating the well-dressed woman. "She 
arrived this morning; I've been filling her in on the problems we had last 

Louise shook hands with Dr. Piper and introduced herself. The other two 
girls smiled and introduced themselves as Jordan and Kumiko. They look more 
alert than I feel, thought Louise, ruefully. 

"You three are the first ones downstairs this morning," said Tina. "But 
after the chaos last night we're not going to rush anyone." 

Louise looked at the clock above the bar and was surprised to see it was 
only 9:20. She had imagined it was much later than that. She sipped her 
coffee, willing herself to feel more human. Her head was still pounding and 
she was uncomfortably aware of the way she must look, wearing last night's 
dress to breakfast. Thankfully, Jordan and Kumiko were also in the clothes 
they had worn to the party, although they did not seem as dishevelled. 

I must look like a rank amateur, Louise thought to herself. She tried to 
look alert and responsive as Tina and Dr. Piper began outlining plans for 
the day, but truthfully she was having a hard time focusing on what they 
were saying. Something about formalising the rooming arrangements and 
collecting luggage and belongings, then the first proper class session in 
the afternoon. 

"But first," Tina was saying, "Once you finish your coffee you can go see 
your stylists." 

Louise was surprised by this; she had thought the makeovers were a one-off 

Kumiko spoke up for the first time. "Apparently we are each going to be a 
project for the fashion college over the next two weeks. Tina was just 
explaining it when you came down. So they will be working on us each 

Tina nodded in agreement. "At the end of the two weeks, they will each get 
graded on the jobs they have done with you lot, so try to look stylish for 
their sakes!" 

Jordan smiled. "I like it," she said. "It made me feel sexy last night!" 

Yes, me too, thought Louise, and looked towards the door, wondering when 
Portia would come down. 

"Tina arranged this partnership with the fashion students," Dr. Piper said. 
"And it's great; in exchange, they have agreed to help cover the cost of 
this course for us." 

They chatted for a few minutes more while they all drank their coffee. Then 
Dr. Piper opened her purse and pulled out a pack of cigarettes. 

"I hope no one minds," she said, as she lit up. "I know you girls don't 
smoke, but I do." She inhaled deeply and blew a long, thick stream of smoke 
across the table. "It really goes with the coffee." 

Tina, Kumiko and Jordan all looked annoyed, but they made no attempt to 
move away from the cigarette. Louise watched Dr. Piper smoking with mixed 
feelings. On the one hand she wasn't crazy about the smell. She still had a 
headache and the thick cigarette smoke actually made her feel a bit queasy. 
On the other hand, it reminded her that just last night she had been 
smoking herself. 

And I'll be doing it again today, she thought. Along with the whole group. 

At that moment, Portia came in, looking more composed than she had earlier. 
Like the rest of them, she was wearing her outfit from last night. Louise 
stood up and introduced her to the assembled group, then got her a cup of 
coffee, which Portia took with great relief. Other girls were starting to 
drift in as well, most of them looking rather the worse for wear. 

Anthea the goth girl came in looking almost comical in the leather corset 
she had been wearing yesterday. This morning, she had obviously made very 
little attempt to lace it up properly, and she had to keep holding it to 
prevent it falling off. She came in with Michaela the dancer, who seemed 
surprisingly bright and full of energy considering how out of it she had 
been last night. Louise noticed that no one was making any move towards the 

The general noise level in the room was starting to increase as more girls 
arrived, and Louise was starting to feel a bit claustrophobic. She wanted 
to talk to Portia, but the opportunity never presented itself. With her 
head still hurting (and the smoke from Dr. Piper's cigarette) she really 
wanted some fresh air, as well. She was very grateful when Tina suggested 
that the girls who had finished their coffee might head over to see their 

Chapter 3 

"Darling, you really had a night last night, didn't you?" 

Louise was seated in the makeup chair. Adrian and Yvette, the two fashion 
students she had met yesterday, were fussing with her hair and eyes and 
chatting non-stop. 

"I heard about the power failure," Adrian was saying. "What a nightmare! 
These things always happen at the worst possible time." 

"And look at your eyes," Yvette tutted. "Someone didn't get much sleep last 
night! We have our work cut out for us!" 

Louise was embarrassed. "Well, it was a party," she started to explain, but 
Adrian interrupted her. 

"Please, we work with fashion models," he said. "We've seen everything. 
Just leave it to us." 

Louise had a sudden thought. "I don't suppose you have any aspirin?" she 
asked. "I woke up with a bit of a headache this morning." And what an 
understatement that is, she thought to herself. 

Adrian and Yvette smiled knowingly at each other. 

"Don't worry, we've all been there," Yvette assured her. She went to her 
bag and pulled out a small bottle of pills. "Take a couple of these; you 
will feel much better. They're very strong." 

She brought Louise a glass of water, and Louise swallowed the pills 

"In fact, you can keep those," smiled Yvette. "I have more in my room." 

Louise settled back in the chair and let them go to work on her. They 
continued to chat and prattle as they fussed over her nails, eyes and lips. 
Louise felt like a piece of meat, but for once she didn't mind. It was nice 
to relax and let them do all the work for a change. 

And they were very thorough. Yvette busied herself covering the dark 
circles under Louise's eyes, putting colour back into her cheeks, and even 
covering up the bruise on her shin. Adrian went to work on her hair and 
talked incessantly about wardrobe ideas and colour schemes. She was a bit 
annoyed when Yvette lit a cigarette, closely followed by Adrian, but she 
didn't make a fuss about it. She was in their workspace, after all. Yvette 
actually asked her if she wanted one as well, but Louise declined politely. 
It suddenly occurred to her that she had left her own pack of cigarettes up 
in the room. Her own cigarettes; that was an odd thought. She had never 
imagined that she might have cigarettes of her own. But last night, she 
knew, she had actually smoked more than one. 

She thought back to it, and it again felt as though she was remembering 
someone else. It was not Louise who had done those things last night, it 
was some other person. Some sexier, more glamorous person. 

She tried to study Yvette and Adrian as they smoked. They seemed to do it 
so effortlessly! Both were working with their hands so they often let their 
cigarettes dangle in their mouths for long stretches at a time; drawing the 
smoke in almost continuously. When they exhaled, Louise noticed, the smoke 
came out in long, thick, concentrated streams. She remembered the unformed 
clouds that she and Portia had been blowing last night, but they had looked 
nothing like this. And Yvette and Adrian didn't seem to be obsessing over 
their cigarettes at all. They continued to fuss with Louise's hair and 
makeup, never pausing in what they were doing. 

They were multi-tasking, Louise realised. Working and smoking at the same 
time. She wasn't sure she would be able to do that. She remembered her 
experience last night, trying to hold the unlit cigarette while drinking 
cocktails and talking to the other girls. To be convincing as a smoker, you 
almost have to ignore the cigarette, she thought. You carry on doing 
whatever you were doing, you just do it while smoking. She tried to imagine 
herself making coffee, or surfing the Internet, or talking on the phone, 
while smoking. It must be very strange to reach a point where cigarettes 
are so completely second nature to your daily life. Certainly she and 
Portia had found the act of smoking completely engrossing last night. 

Adrian and Yvette continued to work on Louise for quite a while and by the 
time they finished, she realised with surprise that her headache was 
completely gone, and she felt newly energised - almost euphoric. Even her 
leg muscles didn't hurt as much, and she didn't bother to object as much 
when Adrian produced a new set of high heels to compliment the outfit he 
had selected for her. 

"Are you sure about this?" She merely asked when she saw the revealing 

"Sweetie, you have amazing legs," cooed Adrian. "You've got to show them 
off, girl!" 

Louise brushed this off, laughing - and secretly flattered - and put on the 
lavender dress they had selected. A pair of tights and the open-toed shoes 
(not quite as insanely high as the last pair, but still more than Louise 
was used to) and she felt like a new woman. Looking at herself in the 
mirror, Louise was amazed. The pasty skin and dark circles of that morning 
were gone completely. Her skin looked radiant and her hair was silky and 
shining. She looked like a million dollars, and felt ready for anything. 

Yvette saw the look in her eye and smiled. 

"Go get `em, girlie!" she said. 

Chapter 4 

While the girls were getting their makeovers, Beverly and Tina set the 
stage for the rest of the day. Both were tired. They had spent most of the 
night going over the video footage with Eve, and had only managed to grab 
an hour or so of sleep. Eve had now gone to her room to get some 
well-earned rest, but Tina and Beverly were having to content themselves 
with strong coffee and lots of energy drinks for the time being. 

The video footage had been dynamite. Turning off the lights had had a much 
more dramatic effect on the group than Beverly had dared hope, and by the 
time they were ushered up to their rooms, the majority of the girls had 
experimented with smoking. Rather a lot of them had experimented with other 
things as well, and Beverly was only sorry that they couldn't have cameras 
in the bedrooms; she was certain that things had not stopped once the girls 
had gone upstairs. 

"Do you want me to lay out refreshments?" 

Tina had been arranging chairs and tables in preparation for the first 
official smoking lesson. The tables were arranged in groups with plenty of 
ashtrays within easy reach of all the chairs. She now looked over at 
Beverly inquiringly. 

Beverly shook her head. "No, not in here, but put out plenty of water and 
coffee outside for afterwards." She knew that the girls would be desperate 
for water as they learned to inhale for the first time, and she didn't want 
any within easy reach. They were also all extremely hungover, and would 
doubtless be dehydrated all day. Watching them all staggering downstairs in 
yesterday's outfits and practically pouring the coffee into themselves had 
been the high point of the morning thus far. In their weakened condition, 
the nicotine should affect them even more strongly, so their first "real" 
smoking experience would be a powerful one. 

Tina went out to organise the drinks, and Beverly took the opportunity to 
sit down for a moment. She lit a cigarette and closed her eyes briefly. She 
was tired, but felt wide awake thanks to the energy drinks - and, she knew, 
the adrenaline from seeing the project developing so well. 

After spending yesterday evening watching the group, she had a good sense 
of the types of girls she would be dealing with. 

That working actress - Claire - was the oldest of the group and, like so 
many professional actresses, a bundle of neuroses. That much had been 
plainly obvious last night. When the lights had gone out she had almost had 
a full-blown panic attack. She had then been the first of the group to 
actually light her cigarette - after Kumiko and Jordan had started the ball 
rolling. Someone as insecure as that was going to a heavy smoker almost 
immediately, Beverly knew. By the end of the first week, Claire was going 
to be relying heavily on her cigarettes. 

The surprise had been Michaela, the dancer. She was one of the few who had 
not smoked last night, and Beverly shook her head at the irony; a 
non-smoking ballet dancer. She would keep an eye on her today, though. 
Kumiko had cautioned that she was almost certainly on something, from the 
way she was behaving last night. Whatever it was that she was taking had 
not mixed well with the cocktails they had been serving. Diet pills, 
Beverly assumed, from the look of her. Probably amphetamines. Oh well, 
smoking would actually be the healthier option for her. Beverly wondered if 
that was why she had signed up for a course like this, but apparently she 
had told Kumiko that her ballet troupe was preparing a dance version of 
Carmen, and she was going to have to smoke onstage. Whatever her reason, 
Beverly was sure she would be compulsively smoking soon enough. 

Although Michaela had not smoked last night, she had managed to persuade 
one of the other girls to start. Beverly laughed out loud, thinking back to 
it. That goth girl, Anthea, had been so terrified of Michaela drunkenly 
waving her lighter around in the dark, she had actually lit her cigarette 
just as an excuse to take the lighter away from her. 

Well, good for Michaela, Beverly smirked. Beneath all the goth trappings 
(courtesy of the fashion department) Anthea was a cocky literature 
post-grad. Beverly had seen the type many times before; a boorish academic 
who was convinced she understood every aspect of the human psyche because 
she had read a book about it. Well, Beverly was a social anthropologist. 
Anthea was playing in the big leagues now. Turning her into a full-time 
smoker was going to be a pleasure. 

And then there were the lovebirds, Beverly thought. There had been quite a 
lot of groping and physical contact in the dark last night, but two couples 
in particular had gone far beyond that. Anushka (the Bollywood 
sex-goddess-to-be) had put in quite a performance with Rochelle, the 
minister's daughter. Beverly wondered what a minister would do if he ever 
found out what his sweet daughter was getting up to when he wasn't around. 
She also hoped that Anushka's family was liberal in its attitudes. A Hindu 
girl getting together with a black minister's daughter? There could be 
fireworks there. Beverly hoped she was wrong, but she had a strong feeling 
that their relationship wouldn't last very long now that the lights were 
back on. Some old attitudes were hard to shift, even with advanced social 

The other couple might have better success. That gorgeous girl with the 
Louise Brooks hair (whose name really was Louise, Tina had told her) had 
put on quite a performance with another girl, Portia. After literally 
sweeping her off her feet, they had essentially made love right there on 
the floor of the bar. They had also put on an incredible smoking show, 
especially considering they both clearly had no idea how to smoke. Tina had 
been astonished when she had seen the footage. 

"But that girl was so timid and reserved when she arrived," she had said, 
shaking her head. "It's amazing what a makeover and a few drinks can do." 

Beverly now had high hopes for both Louise and Portia. If her instincts 
were right, they were going to be the stand-out subjects of the whole 

But first things first, she reminded herself. Today she was going to have 
to teach twenty hungover girls how to inhale. 

Chapter 5 

At 1:30 the group had its first official smoking lesson. They met in a 
simple, well lit room; tables had been arranged in small groups, with four 
or five chairs per table. Louise saw that each table had several ashtrays. 
At the front of the room, Dr. Piper sat casually on the edge of a desk with 
an ashtray of her own and several cartons of cigarettes. Tina was flitting 
around the room with an armful of cigarette packs. 

The girls had drifted in in small groups, and Louise saw that they seemed 
to be looking better than they had that morning. Like her, everyone must 
have been washed, brushed and quaffed by their respective stylists. Louise 
herself was feeling fantastic. There was no trace of the headache she had 
had in the morning, and even her feet had stopped hurting in the heels. She 
was obviously getting used to them, finally. She was amazed that she could 
be feeling so much better after such a rough start to the day, but she 
certainly had no complaints. She and Portia sat down at one of the tables, 
finding seats so that they had a good view of Dr. Piper. Portia was looking 
great in a simple pair of dark slacks and a white blouse. Her heels were 
just visible under the slacks; Louise thought she looked very elegant. 

The other girls were finding seats around the room. Louise and Portia were 
joined at their table by Anthea and Michaela. They had come downstairs 
together in the morning, Louise remembered; they were probably sharing a 
room. They made a very unlikely pair: Anthea in her full goth ensemble 
(which was, if anything, even more extreme today) standing well over six 
feet tall in her stiletto boots, and Michaela the dancer, at least a foot 
shorter and extremely (scarily) thin. Louise wondered how the two of them 
had gotten bundled together. 

"Does anyone here need cigarettes?" Tina had come up to their table. Louise 
and Portia both shook their heads; they had retrieved their own packs an 
hour earlier when they had taken their luggage and belongings up to the 
room. Anthea also produced a pack of her own, but Michaela accepted a fresh 
pack from Tina. 

"I'm afraid I must have lost mine last night when the power went out," she 
said apologetically, and Anthea rolled her eyes. 

"Not to worry," Tina assured her. "There are plenty to go round, so just 
take what you need." Louise saw that Michaela's new pack was different from 
their own, and she squinted at it. "Newport," it said. 

"That goes for everyone," Tina was saying. "Whenever you need fresh 
cigarettes, just take them; there will always be supplies available." She 
moved on to the next table. Just how many cigarettes does she think we're 
going to be smoking, Louise wondered. She opened the lid of her own pack 
and was momentarily surprised to see how many were already gone. 

Well, I guess we smoked a few last night, she thought; plus the unlit ones 
I was holding... 

At that moment, Dr. Piper stood up and called for everyone's attention. 

"Good afternoon, and welcome," she said. "I know we're a bit late getting 
started today, and I apologise again for the problems last night. Hopefully 
we can now get the schedule back on track. 

"I know you are all here because you want to learn how to smoke 
convincingly in different social contexts, and that is what we will be 
working on together. There is obviously a great deal more to smoking than 
simply putting a lit cigarette in your mouth, and by the end of this 
course, I hope that all of you will have an idea of what it means to 
portray `a smoker', rather than simply someone holding a cigarette." She 
smiled at that. 

"But first things first. Before I proceed with any of this, has anyone here 
actually tried smoking a cigarette before?" She looked around the room, 

Louise and Portia exchanged glances, and Louise felt herself turning red 
under her makeup. She wasn't sure whether to raise her hand or not. Before 
yesterday, the answer would have been a resounding, unambiguous no; she had 
never so much as touched a cigarette, let alone smoked one. But today... 

She looked around the room. No hands were going up. Well, it makes sense, 
thought Louise. A smoker wouldn't really need a course like this. Then, 
very timidly, and looking very embarrassed, Kumiko, seated at the adjacent 
table, raised her hand. For a moment, hers was the only hand in the air. 
Everyone in the room turned to look at her. Then, just as nervously, 
another hand went up: a girl with designer glasses - what was her name? 
Louise had met her in the morning: Jordan. 

Suddenly, at their own table, Anthea's hand went up, much to Louise's 
surprise. She looked around the room again, and quite a few hands were 
starting to go up, including Anushka, and Claire, the professional actress 
Louise had spoken to last night. Louise looked questioningly at Portia, who 
shrugged slightly, and the two of them raised their own hands. By now about 
two thirds of the group had their hands up. Louise didn't know what to make 
of this; she had assumed that everyone here would be just as inexperienced 
as she was, but now she wasn't so sure. She felt a hint of the old 
nervousness starting to return. 

Dr. Piper surveyed the show of hands. "Interesting," she said, nodding. She 
didn't seem particularly surprised. "Some of you, but not all." 

Louise tried to see whose hands were still down. Michaela, for one, she 
saw. Also a tall girl with bleach blond hair whose name Louise didn't know, 
and maybe half a dozen others. 

"Well, we will start with the absolute basics," Dr. Piper continued. "And 
that is learning how to inhale." She looked around the room. "Any of you 
who already know this, I apologise. Just be patient." 

She pulled out a cigarette from the pack next to her and lit it, casually. 
Smoke began to rise from the tip. 

"A cloud of inhaled smoke and a cloud of uninhaled smoke look very 
different," she said, and took a theatrically long drag, which she then 
blew into the room. The smoke came out of her mouth in a thick, tight 
stream that seemed to go on forever. "That's why inhaling is important." 
She took a second, shorter puff on the cigarette and blew the smoke out 
immediately. It came out in a formless, weak cloud. 

That's what Portia and I were doing last night, Louise thought. We weren't 
inhaling. She was struck by the difference. 

"To an experienced smoker, it's always very obvious if someone isn't 
inhaling," Dr. Piper said. "It will always just look like someone 
pretending to smoke. Even non-smokers can tell the difference, although 
they might not understand exactly why it looks different. They will have 
seen enough images of smokers to know what smoking is supposed to look 
like." She took another long drag on her cigarette. 

"This afternoon, you are all going to learn the basics of inhaling." Thick 
smoke poured out of her mouth with every word. Louise could smell it from 
where she was sitting. 

"So let's get started. Can everyone take out a cigarette?" 

Here we go, thought Louise, and pulled a single cigarette out of her pack. 
Around the room, everyone else did the same. 

"Does everyone have a lighter?" Dr. Piper asked. Louise retrieved her own 
from her purse. Portia also had produced her lighter and was holding it 

"Okay, I want you to begin by simply lighting the cigarette. Don't try to 
inhale just yet. Just touch the flame to the tip of the cigarette and suck 
on it very gently." 

Louise put her cigarette in her mouth. The lipstick she was wearing today 
wasn't nearly as thick as yesterday, so it felt slightly different against 
her lips. Yvette had decided to go for a slightly more subtle look this 
morning, and had chosen a less fiery shade. She flicked the lighter into 
life (she was getting the hang of the mechanism) and gingerly touched the 
flame to her cigarette. 

For an instant, nothing happened. Then she sucked slightly on the filter; 
the flame flickered slightly against the tip, and she felt the harsh smoke 
rushing into her mouth. 

Last night, everything had seemed to be happening in a dream. She 
remembered the cigarettes she and Portia had smoked together in the dark, 
but it hadn't seemed quite real. She wasn't sure if it was because of the 
darkness, or because of the drinks she had had, or because the whole 
situation had been so unlike anything she had ever experienced, but there 
had been a distinct touch of fantasy about the whole night. Even now, she 
couldn't quite believe that it had been her, Louise, who had smoked those 
cigarettes, who had kissed Portia in the dark, who had... done everything 
else they had done last night. 

This was different. The room was brightly lit, and she was awake and alert. 
If anything, she felt hyper-alert. She was acutely aware of every 
sensation; the smell of Dr. Piper's half-smoked cigarette, the feel of her 
own cigarette against her lips; the sound of Portia nervously shifting in 
her seat; and now the harsh taste of the tobacco filling her mouth. It was 
an unpleasant taste, and she quickly blew it out, expelling a large, 
formless cloud of smoke. It left a bitter feeling in her mouth, and it 
reminded her of the time she had accidentally swallowed a mouthful of milk 
that had gone off. She suddenly wished she had brought a bottle of water 
with her. 

Next to her, Portia had lit her own cigarette, and was also releasing a 
big, messy cloud of smoke, wrinkling up her face as she did so. She saw 
similar clouds of smoke appearing at the other tables, and she heard a few 
muffled coughs. 

"Don't try to take large puffs for now," Dr. Piper said. "Just take it 

Louise put the burning cigarette back in her mouth and took a very shallow 
puff. Again, the harsh smoke filled her mouth, and she blew it out quickly. 
The air in the room was becoming very thick with smoke; twenty-two girls 
were all smoking simultaneously. Twenty-three, counting Dr. Piper, who 
continued to exhale long, thick streams of smoke into the air. 

She's showing off, thought Louise. She's deliberately showing us how 
amateurish we look next to a `real' smoker. She remembered the way Yvette 
and Adrian had smoked their cigarettes earlier, and suddenly she was 
gripped by a determination to prove herself. If so many people can do this, 
it can't be that hard, she thought to herself. I will master this if it 
kills me. 

She again puffed on her cigarette, and felt the now familiar sensation in 
her mouth. This time, however, she consciously pulled on it for longer, 
taking in more of the smoke than she had previously. Instead of blowing it 
out immediately, she held it in for a few moments. It tasted foul, and she 
had to concentrate to avoid gagging, but she was careful to keep her face 
calm; she refused to be beaten by this. Finally, when she could stand it no 
longer, she released the large cloud of smoke. 

As she did so, her eyes met Portia's. Portia was watching her with a faint 
smile on her face; a cloud of cigarette smoke hung in the air between them. 
Louise was momentarily embarrassed; she felt like she had been caught 
red-handed. Without breaking her gaze, Portia slowly raised her own 
cigarette to her lips and pulled on it. The tip glowed faintly red. She 
then lowered the cigarette and let the smoke dribble out of her mouth, 
keeping her eyes locked on Louise the whole time. 

She's flirting with me, Louise realised. Not to be outdone, she raised her 
own cigarette and took a long, dreamy puff, then puckered her lips in an 
exaggerated kiss, and let the smoke escape in Portia's direction. They 
continued to play with each other like this for a few minutes more. Louise 
noticed that it was much easier to tolerate the smoke if she focused on 
Portia and not the cigarette. 

Dr. Piper was moving around the room, observing everyone, showing how to 
de-ash the cigarettes and offering occasional pointers. 

"Keep your lips a bit firmer," she said to one girl, "try to focus the 
exhale, like you're blowing out a candle." 

"Try holding it like this," she said to another. "It looks like you're 
smoking a joint." 

She came up to Louise and Portia. "Not bad," she said approvingly. "You two 
are getting the hang of it." She turned to Michaela, who had been taking 
very rapid, shallow puffs and blowing them out quickly. 

"Try to relax a bit; space your puffs out a bit more. You don't need to 
mainline the thing." 

She straightened up and addressed the whole group. "An average smoker will 
usually spend about six to ten minutes on a cigarette. Faster than that and 
you will seem nervous, or edgy. Slower and it will look as if you're just 
holding it for show, and not really smoking it. But we'll get into all that 
in due course." 

Louise's cigarette was starting to get quite short, and she awkwardly 
crushed it out in the ashtray. She stabbed the burning stub repeatedly, but 
it continued to smolder. Had this happened last night? It had been too dark 
to tell, but the room hadn't burned down, so presumably it was all right. 

Dr. Piper saw her attempts and came over to assist. 

"You need to twist it as you crush it," she said, crushing out her own 
cigarette by way of demonstration. "Every smoker develops their own style 
of putting out a cigarette, so there is no definitive right or wrong way to 
do it. In fact many crime thrillers - going back to Sherlock Holmes - have 
shown detectives identifying people by the way their cigarette butts have 
been stubbed out. In real life, of course, a lot of smokers will just drop 
the cigarette on the ground and crush it out with their shoe." She laughed. 
"That's a very bad habit to get into, but then so is smoking." 

A number of other girls attempted to crush out their own cigarettes. 
Anthea, who had been smoking her cigarette with a resigned expression, 
stabbed almost viciously at the ashtray, jabbing it over and over. 

"I think it's dead," said Portia, mildly, and Anthea looked up and blushed 

"If you girls are ready," said Dr. Piper to the room, "it's about time to 
try inhaling." She smiled knowingly. "And this is where things get 

Louise extracted another cigarette from her pack (which, she noticed, was 
now about half empty). She became aware of a tingling sensation in her 
stomach; she was curious about this, she realised. More than that, she was 
almost excited; she was about to try something completely new, and she 
wasn't sure what it would be like. New experiences seemed to be crowding 
upon her at the moment. She looked over at Portia again. Portia had just 
extinguished her own cigarette and was preparing to light a new one. 

"Some of you may find this very strange," Dr. Piper was saying. "That 
wouldn't be surprising. Don't forget that nicotine is a drug, just like 
caffeine, or alcohol, and you will definitely feel it in your system for 
the first time. So just take it slow." 

Louise lit her new cigarette, and felt the now-familiar sting of tobacco in 
her mouth. She released the cloud of smoke. 

"When you are ready," Dr. Piper said, "take a puff of the cigarette, as you 
have been doing, but don't blow it out. Instead, inhale through your mouth, 
so that the smoke in your mouth is sucked into your lungs." She paused for 
a moment. "And don't be surprised if your lungs aren't ready for it!" 

Louise took a smallish puff on her cigarette. Something told her to go 
easy. Cautiously, she opened her mouth slightly, careful not to blow the 
smoke out. Then she sucked a tiny bit of air in from the room, and the 
smoke poured down her throat. 

The effect was immediate and dramatic. She felt a force slam against her 
chest, and she was instantly convulsed in a fit of coughing. She felt her 
eyes watering as she fought to catch her breath, and she nearly dropped her 
cigarette. Dimly, she was aware of violent coughing coming from the room 
around her, but she couldn't look around - not just yet. First she needed 
to start breathing again. She felt a hand on her shoulder, and she sensed, 
rather than saw, Portia leaning over her, concerned, but smirking slightly. 
Portia didn't seem to have any difficulty, so she was either coping better, 
or she hadn't tried inhaling yet. 

Louise gradually caught her breath and straightened up, trying to affect 
some dignity. Her nose was running and her eyes were watering, but she 
forced herself to appear calm. 

"Piece of cake," she croaked, and almost started coughing all over again. 
She looked over at Portia. "Have you tried it yet?" 

"Here goes," said Portia, and pulled on her own cigarette. Louise saw a 
little ball of smoke appear as her lips parted, then the ball disappeared 
as it was pulled into her lungs. Portia was instantly doubled over, 
coughing and spluttering, and spewing thick smoke out of her nose and 
mouth. Louise held her gently, just as Portia had done for her a moment 

Around the room, she saw the same spectacle being repeated at every table. 
It looked for all the world as if the whole group had come under gas 
attack; everyone was coughing, gasping and convulsing. Louise would have 
laughed if she had been able to breathe. 

At the front of the room, Dr. Piper actually was laughing, in between puffs 
on her own freshly-lit cigarette. 

"Don't worry," she said. "This is perfectly normal. It takes a bit of 
practice." She released a long, thick column of smoke towards the ceiling. 
"That's why it's good to know what you're doing before you audition to play 
Sally Bowles." 

There was some weak laughter from the group. Louise still had her cigarette 
in her hand, and resolved to try again. It's a skill, she told herself; 
like riding a bicycle. Once you learn it, you will know it. 

She raised the cigarette to her lips again, and took an even smaller puff 
than last time. Once again, she held the smoke in her mouth for an instant, 
then sucked it into her lungs. This time, she told herself, she was ready 
for it - it wouldn't catch her off guard again. 

She almost made it. She again felt the force slamming into her chest, and 
her lungs felt like they were full of acid. She clamped her lips shut and 
forced herself not to cough. She felt herself sweating, and her skin felt 
cold and clammy. Why would anyone do this recreationally? After a moment, 
she actually felt the cough reflex starting to subside. She released her 
breath, and was surprised to see a tight stream of smoke escaping from her 
lips. It wasn't as thick as the rich luxuriant streams Dr. Piper had been 
blowing, but it was also much tighter and more directed than the loose 
clouds she and Portia had been releasing thus far. She watched the stream 
come to an end and start to dissipate into the smokey room, obscurely proud 
of herself. 

She decided to try again right away, even though the clamminess was getting 
worse. Having once succeeded, she wanted to hold that feeling while she had 
it. She took another puff, and saw the tip of her cigarette flare up. 
Sucking the smoke down, she knew what to expect, and successfully held it 
down. Her throat was burning, and the room was starting to spin around her. 
She felt a large knot forming in her stomach, and she realised she was 
actually feeling quite dizzy. She released the stream of smoke and it once 
again emerged thick and strong, but now all the blood was rushing to her 
head - or perhaps the blood was rushing away from her head, she wasn't 
quite sure. Either way, she felt sick and dizzy. Her pulse was racing and 
her stomach was turning flip-flops. This is like having the flu, she 

She looked over at Portia, and had to fight off a wave of nausea as she 
turned her head. Portia was exhaling a very nice plume of smoke, but she 
was also looking distinctly green, and she was rocking in her chair 
slightly. She looks seasick, thought Louise. Across the table, Anthea was 
also having trouble. Her goth makeup already made her look pale, but now 
she looked like the walking undead (or the sitting undead, thought Louise). 
She held the burning cigarette between her long fingertips the way one 
might hold a dead mouse. 

Louise looked around the room, partly out of curiosity, but mostly as an 
excuse to take her mind off her own cigarette for a moment. Everyone seemed 
to be struggling. She saw the beautiful Anushka raising her cigarette to 
her lips, and saw that her hand was shaking. Her eyes were glazed, and she 
appeared to be barely holding herself together. Next to her, her friend 
from last night was looking miserable and a bit frail as she sucked glumly 
on her own cigarette. Other girls were also looking pained and disoriented; 
it was almost funny, but Louise knew that if she laughed right now, she 
would probably throw up. 

She still held her own burning cigarette, which, she noticed, was visibly 
shorter. It seemed to be going faster than the previous cigarettes she had 
smoked. She looked over at Portia, who was just taking another drag on her 
own cigarette. Louise scrutinised her carefully. She didn't look happy, but 
she also didn't cough. After a moment, she released a very decent stream of 
smoke through pursed lips. It looked very convincing. Despite herself, 
Louise was impressed; she decided to try once more with her own cigarette. 
Raising it to her lips, she deliberately took a deeper puff than she had 
previously, and felt the smoke filling her mouth. She then pulled it down 
into her lungs, and immediately felt as if she had received an electric 
shock. Her entire body was tingling, and she could feel her heart pounding 
in her chest. Releasing her lungs, she exhaled a long cone of smoke. It 
looked good. 

She had now taken four drags on her cigarette. That was probably enough for 
a first attempt, she thought, and stubbed it out in the ashtray, alongside 
the other butts. She didn't think she could physically handle any more, and 
she just wanted the thing out of her hand. A moment later, Portia stubbed 
out her cigarette as well. Around the room, Louise saw other girls starting 
to give up on their own cigarettes. At least it isn't just us, she thought. 

Dr. Piper spoke up. "The first time is always the hardest," she assured 
them. "You'll find it will get easier as you practice." Anthea groaned and 
dropped her head onto the table. 

"Oh, please, just kill me now," she mumbled. Next to her, Michaela was 
actually still working at her cigarette. She exhaled a thick cloud of smoke 
through her nose and mouth, then patted Anthea on the shoulder, 

"Ladies, shall we take a break?" Dr. Piper asked. "I won't suggest a 
cigarette break, for obvious reasons." There was weak laughter from around 
the room. "We can take a non-smoking break," Dr. Piper continued, "for 
coffee and some fresh air." 

Both ideas sounded good to Louise. The air in the room was toxic with 
ambient cigarette smoke, and Louise's mouth was painfully dry. The idea of 
coffee sounded fantastic, and hopefully a bottle of water to wash away the 
bitter taste in her mouth. She started to stand up, but her legs were 
suddenly shaky, and she realised she was still dizzy. She took a couple of 
deep breaths and pulled herself to her feet. Portia was also clearly having 
difficulty, and the two of them leaned on each other for support as they 
stumbled out of the room. 

Chapter 6 

Beverly watched the girls shuffle out of the room with satisfaction. All of 
them were clearly feeling the effects of their first serious brush with 
nicotine, and several of them were swaying almost drunkenly as they went in 
search of coffee. She knew Tina would be waiting for them outside with 
refreshments, but she remained behind. Once the room was empty, she began 
gathering up the ashtrays and disposing of the many cigarette butts. Once 
the break was over, she would start introducing them to a few basic smoking 
techniques, and she didn't want any visible reminders of the number of 
cigarettes they were smoking. 

This was the crucial point in the project, she knew. Right now they were 
all overwhelmed by the negative reactions to their first `real' cigarettes. 
She could guess what they were talking about over their coffee: "Wasn't 
that disgusting?" "I feel sick!" "How can people do this to themselves!" 
She could practically write the dialogue herself. Her task over the next 
twenty-four hours was going to be persuading them to smoke just a few more 

After the break she would get them to "practice" once more, and then she 
would divide them into smaller groups and have them do some role-playing; 
feeding them some improv scenarios. The actors and drama students in the 
group would eat that up, she knew, and they would all be willing to smoke 
more if they weren't being themselves. The makeovers had made them all feel 
like strangers to themselves, but that wouldn't last; they would already be 
forming new self-images - new roles for themselves in this new environment. 
A bit of well-timed role-playing would throw them off balance yet again. 

She lit another cigarette of her own and sat for a moment, focusing on the 
- for her - familiar sensations of smoking. The tobacco companies were 
always so agitated by the ever-more restrictive government policies about 
cigarettes, but truthfully, they really didn't need to worry. Beverly would 
never say this aloud to a tobacco executive (never bite the hand that feeds 
you) but cigarettes really didn't need marketing; they were ludicrously 
easy to sell. 

She took another puff on her own cigarette, and enjoyed the feeling of the 
smoke passing into her lungs. Hell, she thought; they're addictive! They 
literally market themselves! The government could ban all tobacco 
advertising, they could ban smoking in public, they could mandate 
horrifying images on the packaging, and none of it would make any 
difference at all. Smokers were going to smoke, and they were going to 
continue to smoke because they had forgotten how to do anything else. And 
there was no way to "pretend" to smoke. If you smoke a cigarette, you are a 
smoker. It was just as simple as that, Beverly knew. Once you learn how to 
smoke, you forget how not to smoke. 

The reason smokers got so angry at the restrictions placed on them by 
society was not because it interfered with their personal liberty, or 
freedom of choice. The government could announce tomorrow that it was 
banning, say, brussels sprouts in public, and no one would give a damn. But 
smokers knew deep down that they had to smoke, because they were smokers. 
It was not freedom of choice, because there was no choice; that was the 
beauty of smoking. Once you start, it defines you, and that is who you are 
for the rest of your life. 

"I am Dr. Beverly Piper, smoker," she said aloud to the empty room. Outside 
that room, Tina was serving coffee to a group of twenty-two young women. 

And they were all smokers. They would realise that soon enough. 

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