Daria's Smoking Apprentice

(by Smokediva@aol.com, 12 January 1998)

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    Daria's Smoking Apprenticeship
    by SmokeDiva@aol.com

    Daria took a deep breath, tucked a stray strand of her light brown hair
behind her ear, and entered the third floor Manhattan studio of the Ballet
Arts Company of New York. Valery Primakov, head of the Company and the man who
had auditioned and selected her as an apprentice, motioned her over. "Daria!
Welcome! " he called to her with his heavy Russian accent. "Company, please
welcome Daria, our new apprentice this season." The company members stopped
their stretching routines to look up and murmur welcoming words. She took a
spot at the barre and began some stretching warmups of her own. She could
barely contain her excitement on this, the first day of her apprenticeship
with a national ballet company. What an honor to have been chosen! And so
young - normally apprentices were 18 or 19, but Daria, 16, had gotten her high
school school equivalency diploma and, after being notified of her acceptance
by the Ballet Arts Company, had flown to New York - by herself! - to begin her

    After the first Company class Daria, elated, but exhausted and thirsty,
left the practice studio and found a water cooler, where she drank deeply. Her
fellow company members walked past her in the hall, smiling at her, many of
them with unlit cigarettes dangling from their mouths. Still thirsty, and
ravenously hungry besides, she looked around for vending machines. Not
spotting any, she asked Jamie, one of the women who had introduced herself
during class, if she knew where any were. "Here, in the break room," replied
Jamie. "Follow me." They travelled down the corridor and around the corner,
where an open door billowed cigarette smoke. "This is where we can let it all
hang out," Jamie told Daria, lighting up a cigarette as she joined a table of
her smoking friends.

    "Thanks," Daria said, grimacing and squinting her blue-grey eyes to see
through the smoke, at last spotting the vending machines. She bought a Diet
Coke and a bag of Fritos while holding her breath and quickly fled the smoky
room. She could already smell smoke on her hair and skin. Daria hated the
smell of cigarette smoke. No one in her family smoked, and none of her small
circle of driven, high-achieving friends in Columbus, Ohio ever smoked or had
even tried smoking, as far as she knew. "Oh, well, I guess I'll be the
outcast," she thought, crouching in the hallway around the corner to get away
from the smoke and eat her snack.

    After her afternoon class she left for her lodgings. She was staying with
Sheila Bradstein, a college friend of her mother's, in Sheila's beautiful row
house on the Upper West Side near Park and 89th. Sheila was divorced and her
son was away at college, and she welcomed the opportunity to have a boarder.
"How did it go?" Sheila sang out from the kitchen as Daria opened the heavy
front door. "Good, I guess," faltered Daria, catching a whiff of something
delicious and somehow familiar.

    "I made your favorite - Stroganoff Casserole. Your mother sent me the
recipe," chirped Sheila.

    "Thanks, Sheila! But you don't have to cook for me - I can get my own
meals," replied Daria.

    "Oh, I know, sweetie, but I just wanted you to sit down to a nice hot meal
after your first day of rehearsal. Besides, I love to cook. And I'm so proud
of you," gushed Sheila, putting her arms around Daria. "Oh, Sheila, I'm all
sweaty . . ." demurred Daria, pulling away with a sheepish smile.

    "Did you meet anyone nice today? Any friends? Or boyfriends?" quizzed
Sheila, setting the steaming casserole on the table.

    "Well, not really - we worked out really hard in Company class in the
morning, and I had pointe class with the women in the afternoon with Madame
Valeeva. Not much time to chat," answered Daria, buttering a roll.

    "Don't worry - you'll make friends soon enough," soothed Sheila.

    The days began to flow into one another - morning Company class, afternoon
special classes or rehearsals, then coming home and tumbling into bed,
exhausted, after another of Sheila's terrific dinners. Daria made a few shy
advances toward her colleagues, but she could tell that they were not
especially interested in befriending someone so young and inexperienced as
herself. On breaks she took a walk or, on rainy days, read a book in the
hallway, away from the smoky break room.

    One afternoon the head of the company, Valery Primakov, poked his head
into her pointe class, and stayed a long time, watching her intently. She felt
she was holding her breath the entire time, she was so anxious and excited to
do her best. Maybe Mr. Primakov was taking notice of how hard she had worked
these last several weeks, in order to give her a glimpse of her bright future
with the Company. When the rehearsal broke, he approached her. "Daria? I wish
to see you in my office in half an hour." "Of course, Mr. Primakov," she
blushed, gathering her things. "Valery," he said sternly, and when he noticed
Daria's look of fear, his face softened into a smile. "Right, Valery," she
repeated, tongue-tied.

    After freshening up Daria knocked timidly on Valery's door. He let her in,
still talking in Russian on his cordless telephone, and motioned her into a
chair. When he finished he looked at her for a long moment, his clear grey
blue eyes unblinking. He began, "Daria, I must tell you something . . ah, how
you say . . personal. Difficult."

    Daria gasped, "Are you letting me go?"

    "Daria, no, no, darling. You are working very hard and making much
progress. I only want to make your work easier by telling you this one
important, but difficult thing." He paused.

    "Please, tell me," Daria gulped.

    "Daria, you must lose weight."

    Daria blushed deeply. Had she put on a few pounds in the past few months
from Sheila's dinners? Daria had always had a larger, more athletic build than
most of the ballet dancers she knew, but her muscular, athletic legs lent an
exciting quality to her dancing - especially her across-the-floor work and

    "Wow." She let his comment sink in. "OK . . . like, how much weight?" she
managed in reply.

    "Ten or fifteen pounds. Not much. It will make your pointe work so much
easier, and of course, when you are partnered, easier for the man," smiled

    "I'll work on it," Daria promised. She fidgeted and looked away.

    "Daria, my dear, don't look so apologetic. This is something I say to all
of the girls during their first year. It is not personal. You are a beautiful
girl. You dance like a goddess. Keep up the hard work, and do what I ask, and
you will have many assignments next season."

    "Thanks, Mr. Pri. . . Valery, I mean," stammered Daria, backing out of the
room. She closed the door behind her, and felt a wave of panic and dread
overtake her. "How can I lose weight?" she thought. "I'm hungry all the time
as it is." Tears welled up in her throat, and she ducked into the empty
stale-smelling break room, slid into a chair, put her head in her arms, and

    Jamie walked in, unnoticed at first by Daria, and sat down at the table.
Daria looked up, saw her, and couldn't hold back more sobbing. "Daria, what's
the matter? Can I help with something?" Jamie asked, putting her hand on
Daria's arm. "Oh, I don't know." Daria's voice trembled. "It's . . it's
something Valery said to me." "I should have known," murmured Jamie
sympathetically. "Want to talk about it? Or should I butt out?"

    Daria thought for a moment. Should she make herself vulnerable? Would
people in the Company hear about her "weight problem" and treat her
condescendingly? Seeing Daria's hesitation, Jamie said, "Don't worry, we all
go through the wringer with Valery the first few months." Daria looked up
hopefully. "I can tell he likes you," Jamie added.

    "Really? Then why did he just tell me to lose 15 pounds?" The words
tumbled out of Daria's mouth before she could stop them.

    "Oh, God, the weight lecture. We all get it from him," sighed Jamie.

    "I just don't understand how I can lose that much weight. I'm working so
damn hard as it is," wailed Daria, the tears springing to her eyes again.

    "I know, it's not easy, but. . . Daria, I do notice you hit the vending
machines every day. Maybe you could just give that up. . ." suggested Jamie

    "That's not going to make me lose 15 pounds," shot back Daria defensively.

    "Yeah, I know ... look, I feel bad about suggesting this, but . ." Jamie
reached into her purse and threw her pack of Benson and Hedges on the table.
"These are the answer to your weight problem. I know you don't smoke, but I'm
sure you've noticed, most of us do. Why? We used to be in the same boat as
you. 'Cut weight,' Val tells us. So, we turned to these to take the hunger
pangs away. I'm going to have one now, do you mind?" Jamie asked, fishing one
out of the pack.

    "No, I was leaving anyway. Thanks for listening," Daria added, grabbing
her bag. "Anytime, kiddo," Jamie said, the cigarette in her mouth bobbing as
she spoke. Daria heard the rasp of Jamie's lighter as she walked out the door.

    Start smoking? she thought to herself. Ugh! The thought of it made her
stomach turn over. That would be the last thing she would do. She put it out
of her mind and, on the way home, stopped into a grocery store to buy some
celery and carrots, which she was determined to eat in the future instead of
vending machine food. "No, thanks, Sheila, not hungry," she said that evening,
when Sheila called her down to dinner.

    Daria dragged herself through the next morning's class, weak from not
eating. At lunch she pulled out the half of a tuna sandwich (no mayo) and
carrot sticks she had brought, and wolfed them all down in less than two
minutes. Still desperately hungry, she escaped the building and bought a Coney
dog from a vendor on the street and ate it greedily.

    The guilt feelings immediately overtook her. "How can I lose weight?" she
cried silently to herself. "I can't even trust myself for one day."
Despondent, she walked down the street and turned into a convenience store to
buy herself a candy bar to cheer herself up. "Wait! That's just the kind of
eating I need to stop doing!" she screamed at herself inwardly. She paused in
front of the cashier, who looked at her quizzically. "What can I get you?" he
asked her.

    "A pack of Benson & Hedges." Was that her talking? The words seemed
strange in her mouth. Daria shook her head in disbelief, turning away to leave
as the clerk said, "Regular or Menthol?"

    Daria stopped. Obviously, dieting was not going to work for her. And there
was no way she could exercise more, after those strenuous classes. Should she
try smoking? It seemed to be working for Jamie and all the other lithe
ballerinas in the Company. She couldn't think of one ballerina besides herself
who didn't smoke.

    "Menthol," she decided. "Regular or Lights?" asked the clerk. "Lights,"
she said, sure of that decision. She paid for the cigarettes, and put them in
her purse. "Matches?" the clerk asked. "Sure, thanks," said Daria, taking

    Daria had fifteen minutes to kill before her afternoon class began. She
walked into the break room, and tried not to wince at the heavy smoke in the
air. She bought a Diet Coke and decided to sit at an empty table and read.
However, instead of reading, she found herself watching her colleagues - the
same people she saw in the mirrors of the ballet studio all day long - smoke
their cigarettes.

    Jamie, her confidante of yesterday, a petite green-eyed brunette with a
turned-up nose, would inhale lightly and tilt her head up and blow the stream
of smoke high into the air. Nina, the tall, elegant blonde prima ballerina of
the Company, inhaled deeply, her cheeks hollowing out, and held in her smoke,
letting it escape in small puffs as she spoke. Jose, the young, dark-eyed
newest member of the Company, inhaled sharply, making the end of his cigarette
glow brightly for a second, then exhaled bursts of smoke, laughing. Daria
found herself strangely attracted to watching her colleagues smoke. She hoped
they didn't realize she was staring at them.

    "So, Miss Standoffish joins us for a day?" Jose teased her as they left
the room for rehearsal. "To what do we owe this honor?"

    Daria smiled, and looked down. "Nothing, I - well, I guess I feel kind of
left out sometimes," she confessed.

    "That's because you have to go where the people are," Jose smiled. "You
always sit by yourself - we thought you wanted to be left alone."

    Daria smiled at him sheepishly, and determined spend more breaks in the
"smoking room," trying to get to know people. She would have to learn to
tolerate the smoke. Especially if she was going to start smoking herself!

    Riding the subway home that afternoon, she fingered the pack of cigarettes
in her purse. Should she try to teach herself how to smoke today? Not wanting
anyone to see her, she got off the subway one stop short of Sheila's house and
ducked into an alley. Two men, who were unloading a truck in back of a
restaurant, ignored her. She took the package out of her purse again, and
pulled the cellophane wrapper off. She fumbled with the package, trying to
free one of the white cylinders from the pack. She worked one loose and held
it between two fingers, as she had seen others do. Hesitating, she looked down
the alley. The two men were driving away, and she was alone. She held the
cigarette to her nose and smelled the tobacco end. "Kind of minty," she
thought. She put it in her mouth, putting her lips around the firm filter end.
"I wonder what I look like?" she mused. She took the cigarette out of her
mouth, uncertain. Suddenly she decided, "It's now or never." She put the
cigarette back in her mouth, and fumbled for her matchbook. It was hard
getting a match to light and stay lit, but finally she put a lit match to the
tip of the cigarette and smelled the acrid smell of burning tobacco, and,
startled, dropped the burning match. "How do I make this thing burn?" she
wondered. She pulled the cigarette from her mouth and looked at the end. It
was only lit on one side, and the fire was going out. "I have to draw on it to
make it light," she decided, and lit another match, touching it to the end of
the cigarette once again. This time she sucked on the cigarette like a straw,
and smoke filled her mouth and nose. She began coughing. The smell and taste
together made her want to gag. She stood there, watching the cigarette burn in
her hand, sure she would never be successful at smoking. "Oh, well, one more
try," she thought, and put the cigarette in her mouth again. She sucked a
little of the smoke into her mouth and blew it out right away. This time at
least she didn't feel like gagging. She did the same thing again a couple of
times, watching the bluish smoke escape from her mouth.

    "Do I dare to inhale this?" she wondered. The cigarette was about one
third gone. She put it in her mouth again and sucked some smoke into her
mouth. Then she pulled the cigarette away, letting the smoke stay in her mouth
without blowing it away. Some smoke drifted out of her open mouth and into her
eyes, stinging them. Then, she breathed in through her mouth, mixing smoke and
air, and felt the sting of smoke hitting the back of her throat. She wanted to
cough, but she managed to stop herself. She flicked the ash, which was more
than half an inch long. She waited half a minute, then tried the "mixing" puff
again. This time she closed her mouth and breathed in right away, mixing the
air and the smoke, so that none got in her eyes. She blew out the smoke,
noticing how little of it there was. "I have to learn to take in more smoke
than that, or I'll look ridiculous," she dared herself, and tried it. She felt
more stinging at the back of her throat, and a kind of tickling in her lungs.
"Weird," Daria thought, and exhaled more smoke than before. Looking at her
cigarette, she noticed that the filter end was stained a light yellowish
brown. "Wow, that crud is getting into my lungs," she thought. "OK, one more
puff, and I'll put it out."

    Walking the rest of the way home, she noticed the horrible taste in her
mouth and the smell of smoke on her hair and hands. "Disgusting," she thought.
Calling a greeting to Sheila, she made a beeline for the bathroom, where she
brushed her teeth, gargled, and took a shower and washed her hair. "There has
got to be a better way to lose weight," she sighed.

    The next day on break, she forced herself to sit in the smoking lounge
again. She thought to herself, "How long would it take me to be able to smoke
like these people?" Colleen, a curly-haired redhead wearing a pink hairband,
smoked her thin Virginia Slims cigarette deeply, hungrily, greedily. Alan, in
his thirties with thinning straw-colored hair, kept his cigarette in his mouth
constantly while he balanced his checkbook, stopping occasionally to take a
big puff. Rochelle, raven-haired, long-faced and long-limbed, smoked languidly
while staring off into space. Daria noticed that she was starting to get
sexually aroused again watching people smoke and, embarrassed, left the room
to take a walk.
    On her walk she made herself take another "smoking lesson." Ducking into
an alley, she pulled the package of cigarettes out of her purse, worked
another one loose from the pack ("easier this time," she thought), and lit a
match. This time she sucked in on the cigarette as she touched the match to
the tobacco end, and the cigarette lit right away, sending a bit of smoke out
of her nostrils. Wincing at the taste, she again fought off the urge to cough,
waited about 30 seconds, and decided to try a mixing inhale, like yesterday.
She mixed the smoke and air in her mouth for a couple of puffs, again feeling
the light sting at the back of her throat. She then decided to do her first
"real" inhale - no mixing. Daria drew a small amount of smoke directly into
her lungs, watching the fire end of the cigarette glow, and felt a rasp in her
throat and a warm, expanding sensation in her lungs. Daria was starting to
feel lightheaded. She looked around and saw that a man sitting in a parked car
was watching her. Embarrassed, she thought about putting out her cigarette and
scurrying away. But she stopped herself, thinking, "Then he would for sure
know I was a rookie smoker." Forcing herself to stay put, she almost defiantly
took another puff on her cigarette. This was her deepest inhale yet, and she
felt her head beginning to spin. The man smiled at her. She wondered if he was
getting turned on watching her smoke. She herself was beginning to feel a bit
turned on. She took an even deeper puff on her cigarette, in spite of her
dizziness, and held the smoke in her lungs for what seemed like an eternity,
forcing herself to let it out slowly. Her crotch felt tingly and wet. Daria
tried to look as though she were lost in thought, and didn't allow herself to
glance back at the man in the car. She flicked her ash, and rubbed the ash end
on the handrail of the fire escape stairs she was leaning against. "Two more
puffs and I'm done," she promised herself. Finishing the cigarette, she threw
it down on the concrete and ground it out with her shoe. As she looked up, the
man was driving off.

    As Daria walked back to the studio, her head was spinning. She had
absolutely no urge to eat her customary snack - in fact, she was a little
nauseous. She thought, "Maybe this smoking weight loss program could work
after all."

    After afternoon class Daria ducked into the same alley and smoked another
cigarette before going home. While not actually enjoying the smoking (she
still hated the taste), she felt she was gaining control over her "munchie
demon." At home she ate a light dinner - not gorging herself the way she
normally would - and after dinner, told Sheila she was going to a movie with
some of her fellow company members. Actually, she just was looking for an
excuse to get out of the apartment and smoke a cigarette in private. "If I'm
going to do this thing, I had better get good at it," she thought, applying
her ballet discipline to the task of taking up smoking.

    The next morning on her way to class, Daria stopped and smoked a cigarette
before class. She left the building at lunch break, satisfied with just her
half tuna sandwich and an apple, and smoked two cigarettes (feeling extremely
lightheaded after smoking two of them back to back!), and another one after
afternoon class. After another light dinner she made yet another excuse to
Sheila that she had evening plans, and left the apartment to have another
cigarette ("or maybe two," she thought.) She furtively smoked one cigarette in
an alley, noticing how much better a cigarette tasted after eating dinner.
When she finished she walked around for awhile, and about six blocks from home
spotted a coffee shop with outside tables. It was a crisp fall evening -
perfect weather for a flannel shirt - and she observed several people drinking
coffee or cappuccino and smoking - couples huddled together talking
intimately, larger groups laughing and chatting, people sitting alone with a
book. Daria went inside and ordered a cappuccino, then took it outside to the
only empty table left. After a few sips of the strong, delicious cappuccino,
she decided to light up her first "public" cigarette. Her hands trembled a bit
as she lit her cigarette, and she noted that she had used most of the matches
in the matchbook. The combination of the brisk air and the strong espresso
combined magically to make the smoke entering Daria's nose and mouth actually
taste good. She looked around to see if anyone noticed her smoking. Could they
tell she was a novice smoker? To make the best public impression, she inhaled
as deeply as she could manage without coughing and held the smoke in her lungs
a long time before exhaling. No one seemed to pay any special attention to
her, and she smiled inwardly, congratulating herself for "passing" as a
smoker. She suddenly caught a glimpse of herself smoking in the reflection of
the coffee shop window - her cigarette glowing brightly on an inhale, and a
luxurious plume of smoke on an exhale. Daria was becoming aroused watching
herself smoke, and continued watching while she smoked the rest of her
cigarette, getting wetter each time she inhaled. She had another cappuccino
("decaf this time") and two more cigarettes before strolling away into the
clear, moonlit night. She was feeling very adult and, for the first time since
her arrival, very much a part of New York City life.

    She walked into the apartment she said goodnight to Sheila, who was
reading a book. "Daria, come here and sit down a minute. I hardly get to see
you anymore!" invited Sheila. Reluctantly, Daria crossed the room, trying to
stay as far away from Sheila as she could so that Sheila would not smell smoke
on her, and took a seat opposite her.

    Sheila's nose wrinkled. "Ugh. You reek of smoke." She eyed Daria
suspiciously, accusingly.

    Daria thought quickly. "Oh, I know," she sighed. "All of the people in the
Company smoke. We went to Jamie's apartment after the movie, and it was, like,
blue in there," she lied.

    "Don't you follow their example, " cautioned Sheila. "Take it from me,
it's a lot easier to start smoking than to stop."

    Daria nodded in agreement. "I won't," she assured Sheila.

    "That's good. Smoking will ruin your looks and your health. Besides,
nobody dates smokers anymore. They're practically outcasts," Sheila asserted.

    Except in my world of the Ballet Arts Company, non-smokers are the
outcasts, thought Daria. "Well, Sheila, it's late. Time to hit the hay, as my
dad would say."

    "'Night, sweetie. I'm glad you're making some friends," Sheila added,
picking up her book again.

    "Thanks, me too. Good night," Daria replied. Maybe smoking will help me
make friends in the company, she thought.

    Getting dressed the next morning, Daria noticed that her jeans were
beginning to fit a bit more loosely. "Great!" she crowed to herself. Smoking
her morning cigarette on the way to class, she noted that she only had four
cigarettes left. "Time to buy some more, and a lighter, too," she thought. She
stopped into the same store, and looked around for the clerk. "I'll be right
with you," a woman's voice said from under the counter. The woman stood up,
brushing off her hands on her smock. "What do you need?"

    "A pack of Benson & Hedges Lights, menthols," she said. "And this," she
said, pulling a disposable lighter off a display rack.

    The woman eyed her, then frowned. "I'll need to see some ID, please," she

    Daria's face burned. Of course! She was underage, and hadn't even thought
about it when the other clerk sold cigarettes to her. "Oh, shoot - I must have
left it at . . . I'll have to come back," Daria mumbled, stumbling toward the

    Great! she muttered to herself. Now that she was finally starting to
tolerate, even like, smoking, it might be hard to get cigarettes. She decided
to try again at lunch to see if the clerk who had sold cigarettes to her
before would be working. After class she anxiously bolted out the door without
even eating her lunch, on a mission to get more cigarettes. When she walked in
she spotted the same male clerk who had sold her cigarettes the first time.
Breathing a sigh of relief, she asked for 2 packs of her cigarettes ("just in
case!") and bought a disposable lighter. Exiting the store, she found she was
practically running toward her "smoking spot," the alley on one side of the
building where Ballet Arts Company rehearsed, anxious to light a cigarette to
express her great feeling of relief. "Am I starting to get hooked for real?"
she wondered, pulling in deeply, gratifyingly on her cigarette.

    Daria continued her smoking regimen over the next few weeks, gradually
adding a couple more cigarettes per day, until she was smoking 2 on the way to
morning class, 2 (or 3!) after eating a light lunch, then 2 or 3 after her
afternoon class or rehearsal on the way back to Sheila's. After eating a light
dinner (Sheila actually noticed how much less she was eating, and Daria had to
tell her she was trying to lose weight at Valery's request), Daria would
excuse herself for yet another "social evening" or "shopping trip." She became
a regular at the outside tables at the coffee shop - even as the weather
turned colder - where she would sit, read a book, and smoke another 3 or 4
cigarettes. She was starting to recognize people, and struck up conversations
with some of them. Martin, a curly-haired, blue-eyed student at NYU in his
early twenties, became one of her chief confidants. Daria, relieved to have a
friend, told him about her day-to-day trials and tribulations as an apprentice
with Ballet Arts Company. Martin was impressed and eager to learn more about
the field of dance. She was, unbelievably, not even nervous about smoking in
front of him - it felt natural, as though she had been doing it for years. She
grew to look forward to her smoking evenings with Martin, and was disappointed
if he didn't show up. Daria thought, with some dismay, that this was the first
time she had ever felt "that way" about a guy - there had never been time for
boyfriends in her rigid dancer's schedule. But how did Martin feel about her?
Did he realize how young she really was? Would her age prevent them from
getting any closer?

    Daria decided to make a few changes to her appearance to look older. She
bought a hair color kit to tint her nondescript light brown hair a darker,
chestnut color ("so I stand out more in the Company," she told Sheila). She
began wearing makeup, especially black eyeliner, mascara, and a dark brownish
matte lipstick. She took the subway on a day off to the Garment District,
where Company members had told her she could get some good deals on cutting
edge, designer, and funky clothes. She enjoyed "dressing up" in her new
clothes for her evening stroll to the coffee shop, applying her lipstick
looking in her little mirror, then smoking a cigarette and noticing the
grown-up lipstick stain on her butt as she crushed it out. She started to see
a new Daria looking back at her from the mirror each morning: not
good-little-girl Daria, but adult, sophisticated Daria. As she lost weight,
she was pleased to see angles and bones emerge from her formerly girlish face.
Her new "adult" appearance was paying off: she was actually able to buy
cigarettes from the same female clerk who had asked her for ID a month ago!

    In mid-November rehearsals began in earnest for the Company's holiday
production of The Nutcracker. Daria, as an apprentice, was dancing in the
snowflake chorus, and as a flower in the Waltz of the Flowers. She had also
been selected as a "cover" for the Chinese Dance, although she knew that
Rochelle, whom she was understudying, would probably never get sick or injured
and, besides, with Rochelle's black hair and dreamy eyes, she looked the part!
Still, it was exciting to learn the steps and practice the athletic pas de
deux. With the weight she had lost, it seemed she could spring and jump higher
than ever!

    One Monday evening in early December, Daria's mother called, breathless
with excitement, to tell her, "Guess what, darling - we're all flying in this
weekend to see you in Nutcracker - Daddy, me, Ryan and Grandma. We'll be in
town three whole days!"
    Daria's heart skipped a beat. While her mother babbled on excitedly, Daria
wondered how she would be able to keep up with her smoking regimen with her
parents around. "Great, mom, looking forward to it," she managed, as she hung
up the phone. The thought of not being able to smoke made her feel panicky.
"Wow, I'm really hooked now," she sighed. She had, in fact, been noticing how
much she was coming to rely on cigarettes as a way to wake up, as "breather"
during busy rehearsal days, and as recreation and relaxation at night. She
was, until that moment, glad to have discovered smoking as a way to control
her weight, break down social barriers, and make her feel more grown-up. Now
she was forced to see her new-found habit as a wedge between herself and her
family. Daria had already realized that her smoking had changed her
relationship with Sheila: she was sneaking around to smoke, telling Sheila
lies about her whereabouts, and denying to her (though it must appear obvious
by now) that she was smoking. Daria was beginning to wish that she lived
somewhere else where she didn't have to hide her smoking. She fantasized about
smoking her first cigarette of the morning in bed, and another one after her
morning shower. But where would she be able to do that?

    The next day Daria, while looking at the Company bulletin board for her
rehearsal schedule, saw a hand-lettered sign in Jamie's handwriting
advertising for a roommate. An answer to her silent prayer: a place where she
could smoke! Excited, she asked Jamie about it on break.

    "Yeah, Colleen, Rochelle and I need another roommate. Tina, Rochelle's
cousin, is moving out the first of the year."

    "Would you ... would you consider me as a roommate?" asked Daria timidly.

    Jamie frowned a moment. "I guess so," she said finally. "How old are you,
eighteen? Nineteen?"

    "Not quite," demurred Daria. "My mom and dad would be paying my rent," she

    "No big deal - most of us get a little help from home," smiled Jamie.
"I'll talk it over with the girls. Let me know as soon as you can, OK, because
we're going to start interviewing people."

    "I will," promised Daria. This weekend she vowed to ask her parents on
their visit.

    That evening, on her way home, Daria decided to broach the subject of
moving to Sheila. "Some of my friends from the Company are looking for a
roommate," she began after dinner. She was dying to get out of there and smoke
a cigarette, but she made herself stay put. "Would you be - um, hurt if I
moved in with them?"

    Sheila took a deep breath. "I could see this coming, actually, with all of
your evenings out with your friends lately," she signed. "Daria, I want what's
best for you. And maybe it is time for you to move in with some people your
own age," she said. "Though I'd like to meet them sometime to be sure..." she

    Relieved, Daria threw her arms around Sheila. "Thanks, Sheila!, she cried.
Wow, this was a lot easier than I thought it would be, she said to herself.
"Sheila, would you be willing to stick up for me when I mention it to my

    "Sure, honey - though I am going to miss you," Sheila replied. "And I mean
it, I would like to meet some of your friends soon."

    "You've got it! See you later - I'm going to go over to the apartment and
tell the girls," lied Daria, crossing the room to get her coat. She couldn't
wait to smoke a celebratory cigarette!

    As she smoked she thought about how she would manage inviting some of her
"friends" over to appease Sheila. She had, of course, been lying to Sheila
about hanging out at their apartment, going to movies with them, going
shopping, etc., etc. How would she be able to convince Sheila that these were
her "bosom buddies" when she barely knew them herself, and they hardly knew
her? "Well, I'll cross that bridge when I come to it," thought Daria, lighting
up another cigarette as she walked to the coffee shop.

    The next day, deciding to lay her cards on the table, she tentatively
approached Jamie at morning break. "Um, Jamie, I have a partial answer for you
about moving in," she ventured. "I know this is kind of dorky, but my mom's
friend, Sheila, who I'm living with - well, she wants to meet you guys. She's
kind of protective."

    To her surprise, Jamie smiled. "Sure. We'll show her what upstanding
citizens we are," she laughed. "Plus, it will give Rochelle and Colleen a
chance to get to know you better. When I mentioned to them last night that you
wanted to be our roommate, they were kind of surprised, quite frankly,"
admitted Jamie.

    "Cool!" said Daria, a bit too loudly and enthusiastically. "Today's
Tuesday - how would Wednesday or Thursday work? Like, for supper or

    "A free meal? Works great for me," Colleen chimed in, joining the

    "I'll talk to Sheila and let you guys know tomorrow," Daria said, grabbing
her purse. She practically flew out of the building, not even bothering to get
to the alley before she lit up a cigarette. Drawing in deeply, she smiled
that, so far, things were looking good for her emancipation to adulthood.

    "Thursday's better for me," said Sheila, when Daria asked her about a
dinner party. "What should we serve?"
    "Oh, god, I don't know," sighed Daria. "Dancers don't eat anything but
salads, I swear." The next night, her dancer friends proved her wrong, as they
dove into the fajitas she and Sheila had made, cleaning their plates, downing
Sangria and saying a resounding "yes" to fried ice cream for dessert. Chatty
and open, they bowled Sheila over with their friendliness. The only awkward
moment came after dinner, when Rochelle asked if they were allowed to smoke in
Sheila's home. Sheila smiled ruefully, and said she preferred if they would
step outside. "No problem - we're used to it," said Rochelle, as the girls
gathered their cigarette packs and lighters to go out on the front steps for a
post-dinner cigarette. Daria was strongly craving a cigarette herself, but
forced herself to stay inside, helping Sheila clear plates and do dishes.

    "I must say, I had a few doubts at first, but I think those girls are
terrific," beamed Sheila. "They treat you like a little sister - answering
questions for you, kidding around with you. I can see why you'd want to live
in their apartment. Better than with an old fuddy-duddy like me."

    "You're not a fuddy-dydd! But thanks, Sheila," said Daria, longingly
looking toward the door where she could smell the faintest smell of smoke
mixed with fresh outside air, as her dancer colleagues came inside.

    After they all had coffee and chatted some more, Colleen ventured, "Well,
we hate to eat and run, but - final dress rehearsal tomorrow and all."

    "It was lovely to meet you, and I'm looking forward to seeing the matinee
performance on Sunday," smiled Sheila, getting their coats from her bedroom.

    "I'll walk them to the tube stop," offered Daria, using New York lingo for
the subway, seizing an excuse to get outside to smoke. Donning her coat, she
walked with her colleagues (did she dare say friends yet?) out the door. The
older girls all lit up cigarettes as they walked, and Daria longed to reach in
her purse for her own cigarettes, but stopped herself. She had not yet smoked
in front of her colleagues, and for some reason she was too shy to do it just
then. "See ya tomorrow, thanks for coming," she called to them as they
descended the steps to the tube. Giving into her craving for nicotine, which
was almost unbearable by this time, she chain-smoked 4 cigarettes while
walking slowly around Sheila's block. She felt lightheaded and dizzy again, as
she had when she had begun smoking a little over a month ago. How things have
changed since then! she thought.

    "Good night Sheila - you were great. Thanks for everything," she called
out, heading straight upstairs to her room so Sheila couldn't smell her smoke.

    Daria now had to prepare herself mentally for her parents' visit, and to
ask their permission to move to the apartment. As if she were trying to "stock
up" on nicotine, Daria smoked more heavily the next day than she ever had -
chaining 4 cigarettes in the morning, 4 at lunch, 4 on the way home and at
night, she even lost count. "I'm a smoker now for sure," she lamented. "I
couldn't quit right now if I wanted to." Thankfully, her parents, brother and
Grandma were going to be staying at a midtown hotel, and she hoped she would
have lots of "travel time" and un-accounted-for moments to get her nicotine
in. She began to plan when she could smoke, and when she would take showers
(as often as possible!), and stocked up on purse-size mouthwash and a
fragranced body spray to hide the smell of smoke from her family.

    Knowing she would have to be sneaking smokes in limited amounts of time,
Daria wondered about trying the regular cigarettes of her brand instead of the
lights, so she could get more nicotine in less time. On Friday morning, the
day of her parents' visit, she stopped into the store and the clerk, without
her asking, reached for a pack of Benson & Hedges menthol lights. "Um - not
this time, Ned," grinned Daria to the clerk, whose name she knew by now. "I
need the strong ones today - 2 packs, please." "Here you go," said Ned,
handing them to her.

    Taking her cigarettes outside, she opened one pack, first rapping the
pack, tobacco side down, against her wrist, the way she had seen her friend
Martin from the coffee shop do. "Makes 'em burn longer," he had explained to
her. Reaching her "smoking spot" in the alley, Daria lit one of the regular
100 menthols, first taking a shallow, tentative puff, afraid she might not be
able to handle the stonger cigarette. To her surprise, the cigarette tasted
not stronger, but smoother - less harsh and "chemical" than the light
cigarettes of the brand. She eagerly took a deep second puff, and thought,
"I'm not going back to those lights!" After 5 deep inhales, her brain started
to "buzz." "This must be the menthol buzz that Martin was talking about," she
reasoned. "Wow." She finished her cigarette and automatically reached for a
second because she had five more minutes to kill. "No, I think I'll wait," she
thought, satisfied with just the one regular cigarette. Maybe these stronger
cigs could get her through this weekend of her parents' visit!

    She boarded a mini-van with some of the Company members to the theatre
where final dress rehearsal, and all of the performances, were to take place.
Final dress rehearsal finished in the early afternoon give the dancers the
afternoon off to rest before their performance. Knowing her parents would be
at Sheila's when she arrived, Daria lingered at the theatre to get some
serious smoking done before she saw them. She found her way out to a loading
dock in the back of the theatre, where some stagehands were smoking. No one
from the Company was around, so Daria lit up one of her new B&H full-strengh
menthols, again enjoying the smooth, cool taste of the regular cigarette. She
quickly smoked two of them back-to-back, taking new inhales before she even
exhaled the smoke of the last inhale. She felt really dizzy and a bit sick
during the second full-strength cigarette. "Good!" she thought - "That'll be
enough nicotine to get me through the afternoon, I hope." She raced inside to
shower away the smoke smell, brushed her teeth, gargled, and boarded the
subway home.

    It was wonderful to see her parents, brother and Grandmother after a three
month absence. Right away Daria's mother said, "Sweetie, you've gotten so
thin!" Pleased, Daria answered, "It's because I'm working so hard, mom."

    Daria's mother frowned. "You look so different - not like my little girl
anymore," she moaned, then grabbed her and hugged her hard. "It's like hugging
a bag of bones!" she teased Daria.

    "Oh, mom! Don't be silly!" she giggled, kissing and hugging her mom back,
then her dad, then her grandma, and then punching her brother on the arm.
"Thanks for not hugging me," Ryan teased her, and she chased him into the TV
room to try to hug him against his will.

    Sheila and her mother gabbed the afternoon away while her Grandma rested
in her bedroom and Daria, her dad and brother watched videos in the TV room,
with Daria sneaking in a few winks here and there. Before she knew it she was
craving another cigarette. After another hour dragged by she decided it was a
"respectable" time to leave for the theatre, and after eating a quick
half-sandwich and piece of fruit ("I don't want to get bogged down for
performing," she explained to her mother when her mom objected to the small
amount Daria was eating for dinner), she practically flew out of the
brownstone, waited until she was safely around the corner, and lit up one of
her new full-strenghth menthol 100's, savoring it after an afternoon of
abstinence. She smoked another one before boarding the subway, and another
before entering the theatre.

    The excitement of the opening night performance kept Daria's urge to smoke
in check. She had told her parents to come to the stage door after the
performance. She met them, and her grandma handed her a gorgeous bouquet of a
dozen deep red roses. "To our ballerina," she crowed, and Daria blushed and
smiled as she introduced her family to some Company members who were standing
nearby. Valery Primakov came over and greeted her parents, telling them how
pleased he was with the progress of their "future prima ballerina." Daria
grinned, barely able to restrain herself from jumping and shouting, "YES!" at
the top of her lungs. She told her parents she would take a cab to their hotel
to meet them for a quick bite. "No, no, quick get ready and come with us," her
Dad said. How would she be able to get out of it to sneak a smoke or two?
"Well, Dad," she began, lowering her voice so no one would hear her lie,
"there's a company celebration that I should put in an appearance at. I'll
just stay half an hour. Besides, I know Gran probably wants to get to bed, and
Ryan. . ."

    "Not me!" shouted Ryan, embarrasing Daria.

    "Well, anyway, it would be best if I could just meet you in 45 minutes or
so at your hotel," Daria stated.

    "OK, honey - I just don't want you traveling alone this late at night,
that's all," her Dad said, stroking her hair.

    "Daddy, it's fine, I know where I'm going," soothed Daria, pushing her
family lightly toward the door.

    "My little girl, all grown up, taking cabs around the city," sighed her
Dad, giving her a quick hug as he and the rest of the family left the theatre.

    Finally! thought Daria, as she quickly hung up her snowflake costume. She
put on a leotard and her coat, rummaged through her purse for her cigarettes,
tucked them into her coat pocket, and slipped out of the crowded dressing
room, headed for the cool outside night air of the loading dock, where she
would at last be able to greet her "best friend," her long-awaited cigarette.
She drew in deeply, smiling at the stagehands who were smoking nearby.
Suddenly she caught sight of Jose and another man she didn't know, sitting on
the edge of the dock, smoking. Reflexively she moved to put out her cigarette
and run back inside, but her gnawing need to smoke forced her to stay glued to
the spot. She would have to risk being seen by a company member! Fortunately
it looked like Jose was too busy talking with his friend to notice her. She
kept an eye on them and continued to smoke, hungrily, furtively. As they still
took no notice of her, she fired up another one, smoking it just as hungrily
as the first, double- and even triple-inhaling. She pulled so hard on her
cigarette that smoke curled out of the filter end after she took it out of her
mouth! Smoking it down to the filter, she crushed it out and ducked back
inside. Jose hadn't had spotted her! She grinned triumphantly - her secret
"friend" was still her secret.

    She quickly showered, dressed, brushed and gargled, and hailed a cab
outside the theatre. Meeting her parents in the hotel restaurant, she waved
away the menu the waiter brought. "I ate at the reception," she lied. She
genuinely was not hungry, from all the excitement and, of course, with the
help of her "friend!" "I'll have a Diet Coke, please, with a wedge of lime,"
she told the waiter. Daria's parents again gushed about how good she was in
the Nutcracker, and then they planned their sightseeing itinerary for
tomorrow. The smell of smoke in the restaurant was beginning to make Daria
crave yet another cigarette. "It's late, and I ought to be getting to bed,"
said Daria after a while, sliding out of the booth. She kissed her parents
good night, and walked out into the night to hail a cab. "Can I smoke in
here?" she asked the cabbie who stopped.

    "No, miss," the cabbie told her.

    "Then I'll wait for another cab," said Daria, hoping her parents weren't
watching her send away the cab. She walked a few blocks into the theatre
district before lighting up a cigarette. She smoked two of them in a row and
before hailing a cab in front of a different theatre. She then had the cabbie
drop her off a block ahead of Sheila's house, and smoked a long, leisurely
cigarette while strolling the rest of the way home. God, a cigarette in the
night air was a good reward for a long night of dancing! she thought.

    In the morning Daria got up early, before Sheila, and stole out of the
brownstone, immediately lighting up her "wake-up" cigarette as she rounded the
corner. She walked to the coffee shop, where she went in to buy a cappuccino
and splurged on a cinnamon roll as well, and took them both outside with her
into the cold wintry air to consume them at the tables outside. Snow fell
lightly as she enjoyed her strong, steaming cappuccino and her second morning
cigarette, then the cinnamon roll, the rest of her cappucino, and her third
morning cigarette. Daria enjoyed watching her exhaled smoke combine with the
steam of her breath outside in the cold air to make a great big steamy "cloud"
of an exhale. "I must look like one of those old-fashioned trains belching
smoke," she smiled to herself. She walked back to the brownstone smoking her
fourth cigarette of the day, and contemplated lighting a fifth. "Wow, could I
be used to the stronger cigs already?" she wondered. Looking at her watch, she
saw that she had only about 50 minutes to get ready and get downtown to meet
her family for a ride on the Staten Island ferry, her brother's choice of
activities. Flying into the brownstone and calling out "good morning" to
Sheila in the kitchen, she hurriedly showered, brushed, gargled, threw on warm
clothes, and hustled out the door again to get on the subway downtown. "God, I
wish I could have another cigarette," she thought as she waited for her train.
"I need all the help I can get to get up the nerve to ask my parents about
moving into the apartment." She determined her strategy: she would play the
good daughter and hostess to her parents, ignoring her cigarette cravings all
day, and wait to find just the right moment to ask them.

    Of all of the difficult things Daria had mastered in ballet which required
her utmost discipline and willpower, going without a cigarette all day was
proving to be harder for her than even the most difficult dance routine!
Twice, without even thinking, she had reached into her purse by force of
habit, and almost pulled out her cigarettes in front of her family! She
endured the Staten Island ferry, which seemed to take forever, and then the
subway ride into midtown (her brother was fascinated by the tube) where they
had to ride the elevator to the top of the Empire State Building for her
father ("I know the World Trade Center is taller, but I've always wanted to go
to the top of the Empire State Building," explained her dad to her protesting
brother) and a trip to Bloomie's for her mother. Any time they were outside,
Daria couldn't help staring at people smoking their cigarettes - young, old,
black, white, Asian - all enjoying the pleasure that was forbidden to her as
long as she was around her family!

    Finally the time came to drop her parents back off at their hotel. Daria,
silently gathering her courage to ask them about the apartment, asked if she
could talk to her mom and dad downstairs in the hotel restaurant. Her parents
exchanged a look of concern, and her mom said, "Sure, honey. We'll meet you
down there in five minutes, as soon as we get Grandma settled." Daria chose a
booth, and watched more people smoke as she fidgeted, and ordered a diet coke.
Finally her mom and dad came down, slid into the booth, and her dad asked, "Is
anything wrong, honey? Please tell us the truth."

    Daria smiled at her parents' concern, and reached out and took their hands
across the table. "No, not really. I love dancing in the Company, and I love
all of my new friends. . . but, there's just one thing that doesn't fit. I
don't want to live with Sheila any more - I want to move in with some of the
girls in the Company who have a vacancy in their apartment." There, she had
said it!

    Her parents exchanged glances. "Daria, are you having problems with
Sheila?" asked her mother.

    "No, mom - I love Sheila! She's great! But, it's not any different than
living with you guys. I feel like a baby living with Sheila, while all the
other people are, you know, independent," sighed Daria.

    "We understand, honey. Sheila already filled us in on this. She said she
met some of your friends in the Company, and said she thinks it might be a
good learning experience for you to move out," said her mother. "Dad and I
talked it over this morning, and we decided it would be fine."

    Ecstatic, Daria leapt up and threw her arms around her Dad and her Mom.
"You guys have no idea how much this means to me!" she cried. "Thank you,
thank you, thank you!" she said, kissing her smiling parents. She glanced at
her watch, eager to get outside and smoke a cigarette to celebrate. "Can I
tell the girls tonight?"

    "Sure," her dad replied. "Now I suppose you'd better get going to the
theatre for the show."

    "Right, Dad! I hate to leave you guys after the fun day we had together,"
she said, only partially lying. The day would have been great, if only she
could have smoked!

    "We'll see you tomorrow after the matinee," her mother called to her, as
her Dad walked her out.

    After she was satisfied her Dad had gone back into the hotel lobby, Daria
desperately fished out her cigarettes and lit one up. She had taken three deep
drags and was about to hail a cab when suddenly she heard her mother calling
her name. Panic surged through her and she quickly dropped her cigarette,
exhaling into her coat sleeve in a vain attempt to hide the smoke.

    "Yeah, mom?" she asked, wheeling around, hoping maybe she hadn't been

    "There's no sense in hiding your smoking. Sheila told us about it. But Dad
and I did want to tell you we appreciated your not smoking today around your
little brother," her mother said.

    Daria felt first relieved, then indignant. "How did Sheila know I was
smoking?" she demanded.

    Her mother smiled wryly. "Honey, any non-smoker can smell a smoker. Sheila
said you were sneaking around to do it at night, and she could smell cigarette
smoke on your coat and your clothes."

    "Are you still going to let me move in with the girls?" Daria asked

    Her mother nodded slowly. "Daria, we don't like that you've started
smoking. But we understand from Sheila that it's how dancers control their
weight. Did you know Sheila's sister was a dancer?"

    "Yeah, I guess I did," admitted Daria, amazed at Sheila's insights into
her smoking habit. "You know, mom, if you made me quit smoking, I might as
well give up dancing, too!"

    "We hope you can quit smoking someday," her mother told her, putting her
arms around Daria. "Lung cancer and emphysema are terrible ways to die."

    Daria grinned. "Oh, mom! Of course I'll quit someday! I just need it to
get to my ballerina weight!"

    Daria's mother smiled ruefully. "I wouldn't be so sure I could quit if I
were you," she told her. "Lots of my friends from college couldn't."

    Daria spotted a cab, and hailed it. "Mom, I'll try not to get really
hooked," she promised, knowing already that she was lying. "I'll see you after
tomorrow's matinee."

    After the cab pulled away, Daria stood on Sheila's doorstep and smoked a
cigarette, wondering if she should admit to Sheila that she was a smoker now,
or just not broach the subject, since she was moving out soon anyway. The
decision was made for her by the flinging open of the front door, and Sheila's
head poking out. "Aha! Busted!" cackled Sheila gleefully, as Daria dropped her
second cigarette of the day in surprise.

    "Sheila! How did you know I was here?" Daria gasped. Her cigarette had
fallen into the bushes. Giggling with the relief that comes from not having to
hide any more, she fished in her purse for another cigarette.

    "I could smell just a little smoke coming through the crack of the door,"
Sheila told her. "Honey, I told your parents I thought you had started
smoking. I hope you're not mad."

    Daria smiled. "Forgiven," she said, taking a deep drag on her cigarette,
the first cigarette she had ever lit up around a family member! Sheila was
like a second mother to her.

    "I remember how well my little lecture went over about a month ago," she
stated wryly, shaking her head. "You dancers and your cigarettes. Just like
Ronna. My older sister," she added quickly.

    "Does Ronna still smoke?" asked Daria, curiously, taking another deep puff
on her cig.

    "God, yes. They'll have to pry her last cigarette out of her cold, dead
hand. And now you, smoking those regular 100's! And looking like a real
smoker, though she claims she's only smoked a month!" observed Sheila,
watching Daria's strong, steady exhale.

    "A month and a half," corrected Daria. "I know, I really fell hard for
these things. But I'm definitely going to quit when I'm older, and I want to
have a baby, or something."

    "I hope you can, honey," sighed Sheila. "Quitting was damned hard for me,
I'll tell you. I think I started at about your age, due mostly to Ronna's
influence. I even smoked through my pregancy. I couldn't quit until after my
divorce, and how old was I then? 40? Even right now, ten years later, I'm half
tempted to join you."

    "Go ahead," grinned Daria, offering her the pack.

    Sheila shook her head. "I'm not going to fall into that wicked trap again!
I've still got these pucker wrinkles around my lips from all that inhaling."

    Finishing her cigarette, Daria entered the door. "Sheila, mom and dad said
it's OK to move in with the girls in January. But I'll come back and have
dinner any time you'll have me," Daria told Sheila, putting her arms around
her, for the first time in more than a month, at last not afraid that Sheila
would smell cigarette smoke on her.

    "I'm happy for you. Just don't bring that tribe of dancers over for dinner
- I don't think I can cook enough food to feed them!" joked Sheila.

    After a quick shower, Daria practically raced to the theatre to give the
girls the good news about moving in. Spotting Jamie at the mirror smoking
while she applied makeup, Daria ran up to her and said breathlessly, breaking
into a big smile, "You've got a new roommate! Mom and Dad gave the OK!"

    Jamie smiled back at her. "That's great, Daria. But there's just one
little problem we haven't talked about. . . "

    Daria froze. "What?"

    "OK, I'll just tell it like it is. None of us are going to quit smoking
around the apartment just because you're moving in."

    Daria grinned so wide she thought her face would break. "Jamie, that is so
NOT a problem!" she cried gleefully, and to prove it, she fished out her
package of cigarettes, clamped one into her mouth, and said, "Gotta light,

    "Oh, my god! Daria smokes!" announced Colleen to the room at large,
spotting Daria as she entered the dressing room. "Here!" she said, walking
over and extending her lighter.

    Daria, initially embarrassed by Colleen's outburst, gratefully accepted
her light, and took a long, deep drag.

    "Smokin' like a pro!" cried Jamie. "OK, be honest: did you start smoking
that day I told you to? I would feel so guilty!"

    "Jamie, you did me a favor," Daria reassured her. "These things have
changed my whole life."

    "Now you're really a dancer, Daria," pronounced Nina, the prima ballerina,
in her low, husky voice. Everyone laughed.

    "I'll smoke to that!" replied Daria, exhaling a long series of puffs of
happy laughter.

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