At the Dawn of Midnight

(by, 15 January 1998)

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At the Dawn Of Midnight

   Helen and Kaia were standing outside the mall, waiting for Helen's mother to
come pick them up. She was running about thirty minutes late and Kaia was
beginning to get annoyed. Oh, it wasn't fair, she knew. Mrs. Thurman had been
nice enough to drop them off and not insist on roaming the mall with them the
way her own mother would have, but she did have a date tonight and her sister
had promised to do something with her unruly mop of red hair, which was two
months out from its' last cut and looking mighty scruffy.
   Helen, of course, didn't mind. She was in the act of lighting another
cigarette, her third since they'd started waiting. Sometimes she acted as if
she wasn't allowed to smoke whenever she pleased.
   Her inhale was so deep it amased Kaia her lungs didn't implode from stress.
   She spoke as she exhaled, her words muffled in that strange way Kaia had
grown used to.
   "You look like you're fucking pissed. You ought to try and relax. Have a
cigarette." She held the pack and lighter out to Kaia, who politely refused.
   "No thanks."
   "Your loss." She inhaled again, making the cigarette hiss as she drew air
through it. Although Helen had been smoking for over a year now, Kaia still
found herself unable not to watch the way her friend easily worked the
cigarette, as though it was no big deal.
   "You know, your date isn't for six hours."	
   "Our date," Kaia corrected. "Remember that you insisted on doubling ?"
   Helen held the cigarette straight out from her body and tapped it with her
index finger. Ash floated off it and caught in the stiff breeze.
   "Well, with the way you reacted when Mike asked you out, I thought a little
morale support was in order."
   "For him or me ?" Kaia asked sourly.
   "For him mostly. Try to be nice to him."
   She lifted her head and spread dark white smoke into the cool air. It spun
and twisted in the breeze like a living gossamer snake.
   "Just because he's best friends with Joachim doesn't mean I feel obligated to
like him."
   "You could have just said no then," Helen answered, a little irritated. There
were times when Kaia seemed almost irrationally self-contained, especially for
a fifteen year old girl.
   "Yeah, right ? And would I have ever heard the end of that ?"
   "No," Helen replied honestly. "No chance in hell. What is it with you anyway
? You're gorgeous, and all the guys seem to have fallen for your little Ms.
Frank Black routine."
   "Come on, nobody really knows about that."
   "I mean the walking around looking like you've seen the end of the world just
past your fingertips."
   "Maybe I have," Kaia said, not much liking the direction the conversation was
   "I mean, you'd rather sit home reading the newspaper than get laid. And how
many fifteen year olds want to be criminal psychiatrists when they grow up ?"
   "Hey, it's a growth field. Next eight years at least. If I can get into an
accelerated programme-"
   "As if they could keep you out with your grades. But that whole Bobby Darrin
thing- it's too creepy."
   "Hey, he wrote some great stuff."
   "Maybe for our grandparents."
   "I like Nails, too."
   "That's just because Reznor sounds more depressed than you."
   Helen drew on the cigarette, her cheeks hollowing as she pulled smoke into
her lungs. It had such a calming effect on her.
   "Look, I'll try to chill, okay. I mean, Mike's not bad."
   "Not bad ? Would I be with Joachim if Mike had gotten to me first ?"
   "It's fucking high school, Helen. If you want to change dance partners in
   "Dance partners ? That's pretty retro. And Mike would never. He's got what my
Dad would call `a moral compass'. And it points straight North."
   "Are you sure it doesn't point straight up ?" Kaia teased, playfully slapping
Helen's perfect arm. "I've seen him watch you."
   "He just gets turned on watching me smoke, that's all. He never used to say
more than `hi' and `bye' to me until I started smoking. It's funny. Sometimes
when Joachim's not around, he acts- well, goofy. But he'd never do anything
about it, you know ?"
   "I don't," Kaia said honestly. "What's it like ?"
   "Knowing that I stroke Mike's manhood ? Or smoking ? You could learn about
   She held out the cigarettes again and Kaia shook her head. "No. I mean,
what's it like walking into a room and knowing that guys are going to be drawn
to you like that ?"
   "Not as if you  need to ask, but that's exactly why I like to walk into a
room smoking a cigarette. I mean, first of all you know that you're going to
turn some people on. And the people who are turned off are people I have no
interest in, anyway. You're the only good friend I have that doesn't smoke."
   "And it bothers you," Kaia said.
   "Only because I think you're a stubborn, bitchy person who won't let her
guard down for anything or anyone."
   Coming from anyone else, even someone for whom she was dependent on a ride,
that would have been the end of the discussion, plain and simple. But not with
Helen, who had a point. She had put up with plenty of down moments from Kaia,
who could admit to herself that she was rarely happy.
   "Well, somebody has to be that way, right ?"
   "I suppose. Look, there's Mom. Only forty minutes late- which means in her
own mind, she's on time." 

   Krysten was finished with the cutting and styling. A little hairspray and it
would be all over.
   She held her cigarette as far from Kaia's head as possible and applied the
spray with the other hand.
   "Don't you read the warning labels, Krys ? Do not smoke while using this
   "I do this all the time, sweetie."
   "It's not your head that gets set on fire if you fuck up. And how many other
sisters do you have who let you cut their hair ?"
   "None. I know. It doesn't make any sense that an English Lit major enjoys
cutting hair. Hey, it's fun."
   "It does look great," Kaia said appreciatively. "Thanks."
    "So is this date actually important to you, or are you just doing Helen a
favour ?"
   "It's a favour. Besides, Mike will probably spend all night watching Helen
   "One of those, eh ?"
   "What do you mean ?" Kaia asked, turning to look at her sister.
   She was greeted by a face-full of second hand smoke.
   "I love guys who are turned on by smoking."
   "They're like toys to you, aren't they ?"
   Krysten thought about that for a moment.
   "I suppose all guys are a little like toys. If you know what to do and how to
do it, that is."
   "What's the big deal with women who smoke ?"
   Krysten pulled on her Parliament 100 and thought. "Like you don't know. It's
partly the obvious oral fixation thing, and partly just that we smokers are
cooler, more relaxed, and more intelligent than average women. Present company
excepted, of course." Krys paused to smoke, then continued.
   "You're more attractive than Helen, for instance, but she's got the smoking
thing going for her. That and the willing to talk to people as if she might
actually have an happy thought in her head."
   "I have happy thoughts."
   Krysten laughed. "They must die very lonely deaths, then."
   "You know, you sound just like her."
   "Haven't you ever wanted to try it ?"
   "Smoking ?" Kaia asked.
   "Not just smoking, but smoking for effect."
   "I'd have to smoke first."	
   "Like you haven't tried it. I know you have."
   "No you don't," Kaia said defensively.
   "I've seen you out behind the barn when Mom and Dad aren't home. Why can't
you just admit for once that you're not entirely perfect ?"
   "Smoking doesn't make you- or me- imperfect."
   Again, Krysten laughed. "You don't believe that, do you ? If you did, you'd
admit that you've tried smoking and liked it, but that you won't give me, Mom,
or Helen the satisfaction of acknowledging it."
   "Maybe if you weren't all pressuring me to smoke all the time I might be a
little less hostile about the issue."
   "We love you. And we'd like you to be happy, you little bitch."
   Coming from Krysten, who was almost never this hostile, that stung a bit.
   "Who's says I'm not happy, Krys ?"
   "Well, if being unhappy makes you happy, then you must be pretty damn
ecstatic most of the time. Come on. You walk around like the weight of the
world was on your shoulders."
   "At least I'm not built like Atlas."
   "There is that. I don't know-" Krysten took a long pull on her cigarette and
sat down on her bed. "You're obviously curious about smoking. You've asked me
about it now more times than I can remember. I see you watching Helen smoke
and there's some legitimate fascination there. Tell me something- when you
smoke do you enjoy it or are you just determined to learn what it is and why
people do it ?"
   "I've had maybe half a pack of cigarettes in my whole life, Krys. It's just
experimental. I've never lit a cigarette thinking `Okay, this is the one where
I make a decision.' I mean, every cigarette that I've ever smoked has been
unique. You guys- Mom, Helen, and you- all smoke at least a pack a day. How do
you enjoy each one ?"
   "There's no law which says that you have to smoke that much, Kaia. When I
started, I was smoking maybe half a pack a day. But I can't think of the last
time I lit a cigarette and didn't enjoy it."
   "That's fine for you, but-"
   "You know, you're going out on a double date tonight and everyone but you
smokes. It wouldn't kill you to just ask Helen for one and see where that
   Kaia thought about that. It would so easy to do just what Krysten said, which
was what was unappealing about it.
   "Why do you want me to smoke ?"
   "I told you. I think you'd really enjoy being a smoker. There's an incredible
freedom involved in knowing when you get up every morning that you have
something so pleasurable to look forward to."
   Krysten finished her cigarette and immediately lit another one.
   "That can't be all of it."
   "Of course it's not. You're not just my little sister, you've my friend. And
you've the only friend that I have who doesn't smoke. It's fun to try and
change that. You're also a beautiful young woman. And personally, I think all
of we beautiful women should be smokers. Set an example."
   "So I'm a project ?"
   "Come on, have a cigarette with me."
   Kaia thought about it. The last one she'd had was over a week ago, and the
honest truth was that she was thinking it was about time to have one again.
   "Can you get me a beer, too ?"
   "Anything you want. Do you want one of mine, or one of Mom's ?"
   "I like Mom's better, if you don't mind."
   "Not at all."
   The sisters went downstairs and Krysten quickly found one of Mom's unopened
   She stripped the wrapper off. 
   It was just going to be another cigarette, Kaia told herself. But she had a
feeling that perhaps it was not, that openly smoking in front of her sister
was going to be a step in a direction she hadn't yet decided that she wanted
to actually take. 
   Krysten removed a single cigarette from the pack and handed it to her sister
along with her lighter.
   "I wish I hadn't left my camera in the dorm. I'd love to have a picture of
   "No pictures," Kaia said, trying to be casual as she lit the cigarette.
   The inhale was everything that she'd hoped it would be, smooth and sweet and
utterly worth the price of relenting to her sister's constant pressure. She
held the smoke deep in her lungs- where it belonged, a voice whispered. The
exhale was slow, her lips pursed so that she could watch the smoke pour from
the them. She paced it perfectly, a strong jet which trailed off slowly to
   As soon as it was complete she inhaled again, deeper this time, until the
force of it nearly made her as dizzy as the Pope.
   Krysten appraised her lovely younger sister. As soon as she finished the
second inhale, she moved the cigarette down by her waist, held but not pinched
between her first two fingers, the long white stick angled slightly towards
the floor. It was a very natural pose. She moved it upwards, over the ashtray,
and gently tapped on it with her index finger. Then it went back to her mouth.
She wrapped her pale unpainted lips around the filter with the gentleness of a
butterfly and inhaled again, strong and full. She picked the beer Krysten had
opened for her up off the table.
   Kaia then arched her neck and blew the smoke straight into the air, a dreamy
smile on her face.
   "I see you won't need any lessons in how to smoke sexily," Krysten said
appreciatively. "I guess practising out behind the barn has paid off."
   "I'll second that," a voice said from the hallway.
   "Oh shit," Kaia said, realising that she was standing in the kitchen with a
beer in one hand and a cigarette in the other.
   "Relax honey. It just proves that it's never to late to start."
   "I'm just fifteen, Mom."
   "Old enough to drink beer, I see."
   "I gave her the beer," Krysten said, although she knew very well that since
Kaia wasn't driving tonight, the beer hardly constituted an issue, much less a
   "I asked for it," Kaia said, as if her sister needed to be defended.
   "Did she give you a pack of cigarettes, too ?"
   Kaia smiled. "I have the strangest feeling that you don't mind."
   Krysten dropped her sister off at the Thurman's and watched her walk towards
the door, newly lit cigarette in hand. She looked very adult, the way she held
the cigarette casually, as though it was no big thing.
   She drew deeply on it as she knocked on the door with her free hand.
   "Hello, Kaia," Mrs. Thurman said as she swung the door open.
   "Hi, Mrs. Thurman," Kaia answered, turning her head to exhale first. "Is
Helen ready ?"
   "Is Helen Reddy what ?" Nancy said, laughing. It was as if she'd named her
daughter just to take advantage of this one joke.
   Kaia laughed anyway, because it was polite.
   "Come on in, Kaia. And tell me," she added, as she swung the door closed,
"when you did finally start smoking ?"
   "I'm just a little nervous about our date tonight, Mrs. T."
   Nancy slipped an arm around Kaia and hugged her in a sisterly way. "Don't
worry. Mike is a perfect gentleman."
   Kaia smiled, paused to inhale, spoke through the smoke, enjoying the way in
which it changed her tone. "That's what I'm nervous about."
   "Oh, honey. They're only gentlemen if you don't want them to be." She lowered
her voice conspiratorially. "I want to thank you for going out with Helen
   "What do you mean ?"
   "Oh, that Mike. He thinks he has a crush on Helen just because he gets off
watching her smoke. Which makes me even more glad- Jesus, you don't look like
you just started."
   "What do you mean ?" Kaia asked, arched her head back to spread smoke
throughout the living room.
   "I mean, you smoke like you've been doing it for years. Hell, you're turning
me on."
   "Mrs. T-"
   Helen walked into the room. She'd done her short black hair up, or down, in a
way which accentuated its' length. It was a good look, although the black
lipstick and nail polish made her wonder who was really playing out the Frank
Black illusory.
   "I agree, Kaia. That's some look you've got going there. Mike won't spare me
a second glance. But what happened ? Krys finally get to you ? Or did common
sense finally overwhelm you ?"
   "I just thought- oh hell, I was nervous."
   "You're a lot of things, Kaia, but that's never been one of them."
   Nancy wanted to head off an argument about something which was most
positively a good thing, so she stepped between daughter and friend and said
"Aren't you two gorgeous teenagers going to be late ?"
   "It was nice of your mom to let us borrow the car."
   "I know. Dad won't let me smoke in his car. He says that I haven't been
driving long enough to smoke and drive and watch boys. And he knows I can't
stop watching boys, so-"
   "When we pick up Joachim I'll move into the back seat, okay ?"
   Helen heard the cigarette lighter pop, pulled it out, and lit her cigarette
   "Are you kidding ?" she asked, the cigarette bouncing in her mouth as she
spoke. "You really never have been on a double, have you ?"
   "No, why ?"
   "The car ride is the most important part. Especially when the women get to
drive. Here's how it goes- you and I are going to have a ball up here in
front, laughing, joking, and of course, smoking. You'll have Mike popping a
woody that they could see with the Hubbell telescope before they fixed the
   "Helen !"
   "By the way, are you going to light another cigarette, or were you just
teasing me earlier ?"
   Kaia did as she was asked, trying out the cigarette lighter. It popped back
out much more quickly this time and soon she was enjoying a deep inhale that
   Well, it felt sexual.
   And very good.
   Helen waited until her friend was smoking again to continue. "The secret is
to let them get their male bonding shit out of the way on the ride to Le
   "You got reservations at Le Chart ?" Kaia asked, unbelieving. "My parents
can't get in."
   "The assistant Chef wasn't their babysitter when they were five."
   "Bernard is the assistant ?"
   "Yes. And he still remembers me. I'm touched. But look, keeping them cooped
up in the back gets their idiocy out of their system. It also makes them all
   "We could just be nice to them," Kaia suggested, knowing that Helen would
never go for that. Once Helen got a plan in her head, it was all over.
   "Yeah. That ends the night with a goodnight kiss on the cheek and you have to
masturbate yourself to sleep. You can have the back on the ride home. With
   Kaia inhaled deeply, matching Helen. Twin plumes of smoke crashed against the
windshield and poured out the half-opened window.
   "Why don't we just make out on the way to Le Chart, then ?"
   All Helen could do was laugh. "As much as I really enjoy the thought of that
smoky tongue of yours tickling my ivories, they'd shoot their loads in their
pants in the first thirty seconds."
   Kaia wasn't sure which parts of that statement were true, or even which parts
she wanted to be true.
   "It's a nice plan, but I can't have sex, Helen. It would ruin my staid
   "Jesus Christ," Helen said, negotiating the steering wheel with the hand
holding the cigarette. She looked utterly in control to Kaia, guiding the car
and holding the Marlboro Lights 100 in the same hand. Maybe that was why guys
got off watching women who smoked drive. "You are unique, I'll give you
fucking that-"

   The maitre'd looked at Helen and frowned. "I am sorry, ma'am. Even though
none of you look old enough to smoke-"
   Kaia and Mike lit their cigarettes from the same lighter, Mike doing the
honours with a smile on his face.
   "-you did make reservations in the smoking section. But I haven't a table for
you. And I can't offer to let you sit in the bar without an adult. It would be
much easier for everyone if you'd at least consider a table in non-smoking."
   Joachim muttered a meant to be silent "Fuck."
   Judging from the frown on the maitre'd's face, it obviously wasn't.
   Not until Helen had lit her own cigarette did she speak again.
   "Bernard would be very disappointed if a friend of his received less than
adequate service."
   The face of the maitre'd went through a bizarre convulsion which ended,
obviously unusually, in a grotesque parody of a smile which was equal parts
pain and frustration.
   "Why did you not say that you were attached (he said it `attach- ed', in
perfect French english) to Mssr. Bernard. My apologies. Harold-"
   He literally clapped his hands to draw Harold's attention. The waiter sprang
to his side as if being reeled in by Mr. Bass.
   "Clear table seven immediately."
   "But they aren't done-"
   The maitre'd cleared his throat. "They have been milking their coffee for
forty-five minutes. They have no doubt had time to digest their meals. Snap to
   Harold exited immediately and Helen favoured them with her best shit-eating

   Bernard walked over to the table just as the four teenagers were lighting a
mix of Marlboro Lights 100s, Parliament 100s and Marlboro 100s.
   "I trust the meal was satisfactory ?" Bernard queried, as though the answer
could be anything but yes.
   Helen put her coffee down and smiled. "It was great. If I had known what a
good cook you were I never would have let mom foist those leftovers on us."
   "She wasn't paying me enough to cook," Bernard joked. He turned his attention
to Kaia. "And who is this ?" There was a look of almost adoration on his face.
   "Kaia," Kaia said. She held her hand out flat and Bernard took it gracefully.
She lifted her cigarette to her lips, pulled on it, arched her head up and
away from him, and favoured him with a nose exhale.
   As his eyes lit up she could see the smoke trailing out of her nostrils and
away from him. But that wasn't all.
   The flesh contact was always a bad idea, but there was nothing Kaia could do
about it. Even as she studied the depths of his stark blue eyes she saw
another image. It was Bernard, still in chef gear, complete with the strange
hat, standing out behind the restaurant. He was holding a glass of port in one
hand and a large, freshly lit cigar in the other. He turned his head to view
the stars, so crystal-perfect on a cold night like this one, and brought that
cigar to his mouth.
   He didn't inhale, but rather filled his mouth with strong yet sweet cigar
smoke. She could taste it, thick and cloying, something she could only enjoy
through the mouth of another. She could feel a single tear, forced from his
eye by the cold and the harsh wind, trickling down his face, leaving a faint
salty track behind.
   His penis became vaguely erect as he thought about a certain cigarette being
lifted to a certain mouth, the inhale completed with a pretty, coquettish nose
   She broke the contact, realising that this was something, which of course,
had already happened, last night in fact.
   "There's nothing like a good strong cup of coffee and a cigarette after a
meal, is there ?" he asked, his attention rivetted on Kaia.
   No answer came until she'd treated him to another inhale-nose exhale.
   "I think you prefer cigars, don't you, Bernard ?"
   He smiled wanly. "Thanks to Helen's father, yes. He gave the an humidor when
I graduated. And cigars to put in it."
   Helen laughed. "He's never gotten over the fact that I show no interest. I
was his last hope."
   "Well, I have to get back to the kitchen. Until I came here I didn't know
being the assistant to a master chef meant you  do all the preparation while
he looms over you like an angry bear."
   "I can't believe that you need any help," Mike said, trying to be nice and
honest at the same time. "The food was awesome."
   "He could correct the way I mince garlic- and the damnedest thing is he's
always right."
   He turned his attention back to Kaia. "It was a pleasure meeting you."
   Mike tried to smile. "You made quite the impression," he said as soon as
Bernard was out of earshot.
   She found herself enjoying the vaguely jealous look in his eyes.

   This time Kaia and Mike took the back seat. On the way to the restaurant Kaia
had noticed through the side mirror that most of Mike's attention had still
been on Helen, watching her as she drove and smoked. He really had been
entranced and she wondered how it was that Joachim didn't noticed.
   But the others might just as well have not even been in the car with them as
Helen searched for the perfect out of the way parking spot.
   She finally settled on Kaia's suggestion. There was an old ice cream shoppe
out on Route 36, one of the retro ones built back in the earlier seventies
which looked like something out of the Jetsons, all glass frontage with the
roof peaking on one side of the building at about thirty feet. The shoppe was
open from May through September and dark as a graveyard in a storm on a
January night like this. The nearest working street light was almost half a
mile away, down under the horizon, only a faint luminescence of pink from the
arc-sodium light visible.
   "Tell me something, Mike," she said, her voice low enough not to carry over
the smacking of lips coming from the front seat.
   "Anything," he said dreamily as he lit first her cigarette, then his.
   "Are you attracted to me because I smoke ?"
   He started to answer, but was cut off by a slightly too loud "Is that the
shift stick ?"
   There was muted giggling.
   "I'm more attracted to you because you smoke," he answered, equally quiet. He
reached his hand towards Kaia, who steeled herself for the touching that would
   Hoping she would like what she saw.
   The flesh met. His hand was warm, the palm slightly sweaty. Helen said that
it was better when they were nervous, when they weren't sure what was going to
   She saw herself through his eyes, sitting in Le Chart, coffee cup in one
hand, cigarette in the other. He saw a young woman with a very adult cast, but
not what he'd expected. She felt his surprise that she was actually witty and
capable of a fleeting smile. He was trying to think of some clever avenue of
conversation to travel down, thinking that she would hardly show any interest
in small talk.	
   It was right before he asked her what she thought about the latest problems
arms inspectors were having in Iran.
   A nice, intelligent question. He seemed to have an opinion- of course, he
didn't know as much about it as she did, but he listened politely to her
answer anyway.
   The here intruded on the then and Kaia found herself slipping her hand from
his and placing it on his crotch. She knew what she would find but the urge to
feel it was overwhelming, because this was the first time she'd had such an
   It was everything she'd expected and more. The tight line of his jeans, the
hardness of the zipper flap with its coarse threads. Underneath there was
something alive, growing by the instant, until she was sure he would have to
reach inside and straighten it to keep it from breaking in half. When he
didn't she did it for him, undoing the metal button with a surprisingly deft
hand and slipping her fingers down past his bikini briefs so that she could
gently reposition it.
   When it was sticking straight up, the head faintly visible in the pale light
of the low-lying moon, she began gently, ever so gently, stroking the
underside of the head with a single finger. As she did that she leaned back
and inhaled, the tip of the cigarette flaring orange. Her exhale was like a
ghost in the cool air of the car and it quickly drifted towards the quarter-
opened window.
   He shuddered. She knew very well it was with pleasure, but she asked anyway.
"Are you all right ?"
   "Yeah," he muttered breathlessly. "I was just trying to decide how all this
will sound in confession."
   The wry comment broke the last layer of ice between them. Kaia felt him undo
her pants with one hand as they smoked. When he was finished she rose up on
her knees over him, her exhale and his mingling in a wonderful cloud of dark
smoke. She was too tight at first, so she bobbed up and down gently until she
was moist and he slid inside her. Way inside. She took one final exhale and
they met with their first kiss shortly after their first penetration.
   "What- about- condom-" he managed, his speech disjointed as they broke.
   "It's that time of the month," she said proudly, perhaps shocking Helen that
she even had a time of the month. That was the last time she thought of either
of them in front seat for some time.
   This time she inhaled before kissing him and they shared the smoke as she
continued to writhe, up and down, slightly sideways so that the head of his
penis could find all the sensitive areas, more than she could have ever
imagined existed.
   He came first, a hot and steamy jet that she could feel, milky passion of
which there was no need to fear.
   She didn't stop until after her own climax. By then they'd put out their
cigarettes and were wrapped in a sweaty embrace.
   As soon as she finished she lit a single cigarette that they could share,
finding out just how wonderful that first cigarette after sex could be.
   She didn't let him withdraw. He tried, once, then again, but she squeezed her
thighs and began working them. That combined with a few strategic inhales was
enough to make him harden again. As soon as he did she shifted underneath him,
cigarette held tightly in her mouth, and let him lead the way. His thrusts
were wild, animalistic, and she found that she liked it. Even if not all of
his thoughts were of her.
   He had to pause when he came again, but he understood that she was not yet
finished, and like a true gentleman, completed the task in good time.
   After that they settled for kisses and smoking. He didn't ruin the moment by
trying to talk, which was a blessing.

   Helen looked out the car window at her friend. It had started to snow and
with the porch light behind her head, she looked like an angel from a nativity
scene, a solid glow wreathing the snowy flakes in her beautiful hair.
   "Thanks," Helen said breathlessly. The truth was that Kaia had never looked
so beautiful. Certainly her sister, and perhaps her mother, would know
instantly that she'd had sex.
   "For what ? Steaming up the back of the car ?"
   "No, you silly. For relaxing tonight."
   "You really thought I was going to be a miserable, tight bitch, didn't you ?"
   "I did," Helen said, bringing a cigarette to her mouth. Kaia lit it for her,
hoping it would be the first of many nights which would end this way. "But I
can tell you this. My first time with Joachim was nothing like what you and
Mike had tonight."
   "It was special. And I have you to thank."
   She inhaled, then leaned down to kiss Helen, who'd just done the same, good
   It was meant to be a sisterly kiss, but their lips met, opened, and Kaia felt
the extreme moist softness of Helen's smoke-coated tongue. They traded exhales
as they prolonged the kiss, until a part of Kaia felt certain she would get
back in the car and carry this forward. She pushed back, hard, until two
became one. Of the few kisses Kaia had known, this one was the most sweetly
   Instead they finally broke, two friends enjoying a special moment together.
Helen waved goodnight, rolled the window half-up, and drove away, leaving Kaia
with the thoughts that would carry her into her first dreamless sleep in many
a night.

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