Coming Home, Part 2

(by anonymous, 15 May 2008)


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COMING HOME 
Part 2 

After 13 months in Iraq, I was given rotation orders to the States. I was 
going home. The plan was for Dorothy and her parents to meet me at the 
airport, along with my parents and my little sister. We would all go to a 
restaurant near the airport for dinner. The airport was two hours from our 
city, so after dinner I would stay over at a hotel near the airport and go 
home the following day, with Dorothy. Everyone knew Dorothy and I needed 
some quality time together. Dorothy would stay with me in the hotel, but we 
would not have sex. We had both agreed to that back before we got engaged 
and we both confirmed that decision just before I came home from Iraq. It 
felt right. We both wanted to save that event for our marriage, whenever 
that might be. It was no problem for us, and I know our parents surely must 
have approved. 

At the airport, our two families held a banner that welcomed my arrival. 
All four parents looked happy but older. Dorothy and I hugged and cried for 
what seemed like 20 minutes. She was wearing what she had worn when I left 
her at the airport more than a year before, and even before that when I 
went off to basic training: a cream-colored pants suit and an orange 
blouse, button to the top. She had on the garnet stone engagement ring I 
had given her 15 months ago, along with her silver cross necklace. "You're 
so skinny," she said, looking up at me, eyes wide with delight. Touching my 
service ribbons in admiration, she said, "You outrank me but I bet I 
outweigh you." I laughed nervously and suddenly noticed how yellow her 
teeth had become. "We're going to eat at Pistani's," Dorothy went on. "That 
should put some meat on you." She pinched me in the ribs and everybody 
laughed. 

Seated in the restaurant, Dorothy and I held hands under the table. It felt 
wonderful to be with loved ones again. Dorothy immediately got into a 
conversation with my sister Ellen about a Bible prophecy book. Ellen didn't 
know the book or the author, so Dorothy said, "Let me write down the names 
for you." With that, Dorothy reached down into her purse, which was resting 
on the floor between our chairs, to pull out a pen. As Dorothy wrote the 
information on a napkin for Ellen, for some reason I glanced down at 
Dorothy's handbag, which remained open. What I saw took my breath away. 
Lying sideways in the bag was not one but two packs of cigarettes. The 
packs were dark green in color, but I couldn't make out the name of the 
brand. One of the packs appeared to be opened. The other pack looked 
unopened. I glanced away instantly. My God! I thought. 

When Dorothy leaned down to put her pen away, she quickly snapped her purse 
shut. Soon our food arrived but I barely touched my lasagna. I had eaten on 
all three of my plane flights home. Plus, I felt too excited to eat now. 
Dorothy on the other hand ate all her meatballs and spaghetti, I noticed, 
along with several pieces of Italian bread, a big salad with extra 
croutons, and two king-size Coca-Colas. "Mind if I have a little taste?" 
she said, motioning toward my picked-at lasagna. I said sure, and she began 
eating off my plate until she had cleaned it. 

For dessert, we had a chocolate layer cake, an on-the-house gift from 
Pistani's. We talked about the war, the elections and politics until it was 
about 8 p.m. At that point our two families agreed they had to get home. 
"Sweetheart," said Dorothy's mother, "there's one piece of cake left. Do 
you want me to take it home so `s you can have it tomorrow?" Dorothy said, 
"Yes, ma'am, please, if that's not too much trouble." 

Standing up, we promised we would all see other the next day and talk more. 
Outside the restaurant, with most of my bags in my parents' car, everyone 
hugged again. Dorothy had parked her car at the hotel, which was nearby, 
too, so she and I walked over there, arm and arm. The night was warm and I 
never felt so blessed. 

Dorothy had made a reservation at the hotel for me earlier. When I checked 
in, the desk clerk mentioned that mine was a smoking room, as requested. I 
started to say something to the clerk, then I looked at Dorothy. She 
wrinkled her nose and said, "Please say you don't mind." I said I didn't 
mind. Placing her hand on my arm, she squeezed and mouthed a silent 
"Thank-you." 

The moment we entered the room Dorothy announced in a cheery voice, "I'm 
going to need a cigarette now." She sat down on one of the queen beds in 
the room. The room was stuffy, so she slipped off the jacket of her pants 
suit and laid it on the bed beside her. She had grown out of her orange 
blouse, I could see, for it was stretched taut in several places. The 
blouse was sleeveless and Dorothy's upper arms, I noticed, were bigger, 
saggier. Sweat stains rimmed the arm holes of her blouse. None of this 
mattered a bit to Dorothy, I was certain. I had heard that women smoke to 
lose weight or to try to look glamorous. Dorothy obviously was the 
exception. 

I walked over and flipped on the room's air conditioner. As I did, Dorothy 
reached across the bed and picked up an ashtray from the night stand and 
put it next to her on the bed. I took a seat on the bed across from her and 
looked on quietly as she reached into her purse and pulled out the opened 
pack of cigarettes. They were Camel Menthols. Dorothy took one and held it. 
Next she began hunting through the purse. "Darn," she said, "I can never 
find it when I want to." Eventually she came up with a purple lighter. 
Carefully, she inserted the cigarette between her lips and held it there 
with two steady fingers. With her other hand, she flicked the lighter and, 
with a determined look, brought it right to the cigarette's tip. She kept 
the flame there, making sure the cigarette was completely lighted. All this 
was difficult for me to watch. At the same time, I didn't want to look 
away, fearing I might miss something. When Dorothy withdrew the cigarette 
from her mouth she blew smoke toward the ceiling, politely keeping it away 
from me. 

"As usual, I ate too much," she said patting her stomach proudly with the 
hand that held her cigarette. "But it was so good." We talked about her 
parents and mine, my buddies in Iraq, our church and her job, which she 
said she liked. Ronnie, she said, had discussed the possibility of 
promoting her to a specific department-the cosmetics counter, maybe-the 
next step up from floor stocker. Such a promotion meant more money. When 
she got older, Dorothy said, she hoped to be a cashier, like JoAnn. I asked 
her about her plans for Bible college, which we had always talked of 
attending together. She wanted to go, she said, but she had read in the 
catalog that all prospective students had to sign a pledge promising they 
would not to smoke while in school. 

"Do you have to tell them?" I asked. She said, "I could never lie. You know 
that." I asked, "Do you think you could stop for those two years?" Dorothy 
bit her lip and thought for a few moments. "I don't know, " she said 
finally. "JoAnn said she quit once, but could only last two days. She said 
she was miserable every single minute." 

I wanted to ask more about her smoking, but I didn't know where to begin. 
Finally I just jumped in. "How are you able to buy those cigarettes? Don't 
you have to be 21?" 

"Eighteen in this state," said Dorothy. "Ronnie says that might be going up 
soon, to 19 or 20, which I don't think is fair." She explained that JoAnn 
buys cigarettes for her at the Save-More. Or Ronnie does, when JoAnn is 
off. "There's another girl working there, Carlin. She's a year younger than 
me and they buy for her, too. The four of us, we get along really well. A 
couple of weeks ago, we met up at the Jack-in-the Box for supper. After we 
ate we all sat in Ronnie's car and smoked and talked till past 10 o'clock. 
We had so much fun." 

"I don't think I've seen that kind before," I said, pointing to the Camel 
Menthols lying on the bed. "How does someone decide what to smoke?" 

Dorothy took another drag and turned her head toward the ceiling to exhale. 
"Promise not to laugh?" she said. "I just picked them. JoAnn smokes Merit, 
the light ones. I didn't want to keep accepting hers, so I told JoAnn I 
should have my own. She was really pleased for me, I could tell, and said 
it was about time. To make a long story short, I had seen packs of these 
lined up at check-out and I . . . I just liked the color." She giggled. 
"Everyone at work kids me about that now. Anyway, I told JoAnn what I 
wanted and I gave her the money. A few minutes later she came up behind me 
while I was stocking a shelf and slipped a pack into the pocket of my work 
coat. She whispered `Congratulations' as she did that." Dorothy giggled at 
the memory. Then: "I just made a lucky choice with the menthol. You know 
how much I like sweets? Well, that's kinda what these are. Right off, they 
hit the spot. They suit me." 

Suddenly Dorothy grew serious. "I want to apologize," she said. "Smoking 
was something I never wanted to do. You must know that. It just happened. 
JoAnn is always telling me that smoking is for relaxing, not regretting. So 
that makes this whole thing a problem. Smoking definitely relaxes me. But I 
hate hiding it from everyone. If my parents suspect, they're not saying 
anything. I truly, truly hope you're all right with this. I prayed that you 
would be. Oh, how I prayed." 

I crossed over to her bed and put my arm around Dorothy's shoulder and drew 
her near. The room had begun to smell badly. Holding her cigarette away 
from me, she turned and kissed me eagerly. A foul, burnt-toast taste filled 
my mouth, almost making me sick. But at the same time, weirdly, her mouth 
attracted me. When I sat back upright, Dorothy took another drag. Only 
inches away now, I had the opportunity to observe her routine closely. To 
be honest, the next few moments startled me. As Dorothy drew the smoke in, 
a tiny sucking sound came from the back of her throat. At the same time, 
and as if on cue, she jerked her head backward, almost imperceptibly, 
apparently to force the smoke in her mouth deeper into her throat, deeper 
into her body. The smoke came back in plumes at first, and then in little 
gray balls, from her mouth and nose-all of it settling directly on me now, 
not toward the ceiling as before. Dorothy didn't seem to notice. 

"Without these," Dorothy said, holding up her cigarettes, "I don't think I 
could have dealt well at all with you being so far away and in a war. I 
know I couldn't have. Can you please understand that?" 

I nodded. I didn't understand, but I did. I didn't like it, but strangely I 
did. I knew what I should do. At the same time, I knew what I didn't' want 
to do. 

During the next hour, Dorothy smoked three or four cigarettes and we 
continued to talk. Our wedding was a major subject. That would happen in a 
year, we decided, when my military obligation ended. Dorothy said, "I wish 
it was sooner. I feel like I'm ready this very second. " 

As promised, we did not have sex that night. We did, however, agree to 
undress to our underclothes, the first time in our relationship we had done 
that. Lying next to one another on the bed, we held each other. I wore just 
my Army green boxers. Dorothy had taken off her glasses, pants and blouse, 
keeping on a frayed, white cotton brassiere with big sturdy straps and 
white elastic briefs, the long kind. I ran my hand gently back and forth 
across her hips and buttocks, which, I could feel, were severely straining 
the fabric of her thick panties. Then I pulled Dorothy even closer to me, 
carefully repositioning her silver cross necklace as I did. Her breasts 
felt soft and warm through the heavy bra. I buried my face in her hair, 
breathed in deeply and kept my face there. Then I closed my eyes. Dorothy, 
meanwhile, had stopped moving. She had fallen asleep and was snoring 
lightly. As I listened, the sound soon led me toward slumber. 

End 


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