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(by an4@anon.lelnet.com, 07 December 1997)


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Directions
an4@anon.lelnet.com

   Tonya looked out the window and tried her best not to be depressed. She
couldn't believe that Helen had quit school with ten days left in the fall
semester of her senior year.
   Their senior year.
   She could still remember back to when they were freshmen roommates, thrown
together by their mutual tardiness submitting housing requests.
   At first, Tonya had hated Helen. FThe girl never slept. Well, she did- every
night from 2 am to 6 am. It wasn't that she was a toad or throat- the truth
was, she was an A student despite studying about once a week. No, she stayed
up late playing games on a series of ever-faster Macs, or talking on the
phone, or hanging out in chat rooms on the internet, or in the hallway. The
truth was, Tonya was jealous of Helen's easy popularity, both digital and
interpersonal.
   Then there was her lifestyle. She was never into drugs, but she was always
smoking, and after about six in the evening, drinking beer. Her parents kept
her in constant supply of Canadian beers and the RA their freshman and
sophomore years had always been willing to look the other way.
   Looking back on that, Tonya was glad.
   Somehow she'd made it all the way through high school with ever drinking a
beer, smoking a cigarette, or having sex.
   Helen had changed all those things.
   Of course, she hadn't intended that her brother, one year younger, would see
to that the first time he came to visit, but she hadn't really seemed upset
either.
   That wasn't Helen's way.
   And now she was gone.
   Tonya had gone from hating Helen's smoking to getting drunk enough one night
to try it, to getting drunk enough to try it again, and finally, to smoking
when she was perfectly sober.
   It had been an easy transition. First, she'd gotten over her dislike of
Helen. Then she got used to the fact that her clothes always smelled smoky,
that even her hair had the smell. That came from hanging out with Helen and
her friends, being constantly surrounded by smoke. After a while, it almost
grew on you, in a strange way.
   Which was exactly what her sister had said to her about a month after she
started smoking for real.
    It was one of those strange juxtapositions of fate that shortly after Helen
had finally broken down all of Tonya's resistance to smoking her parents had
also sworn off their eight year experiment with quitting. That was what mom
had called it in the aftermath. They'd gone to a party one night and gotten a
little tipsy and just decided it was time to start smoking again. Her sister
had started within two weeks, and by the time she'd gone home for
Thanksgiving, they were all very happy in their decisions to start smoking or
start smoking again.
   It seemed so long ago now. So many times that Helen had been home with her,
even for Christmas last year.
   And now she was gone.
   The reasons were as obvious as they were unfathomable. A messy divorce last
year was what had driven Helen away for the holidays, and somehow it had
dragged on through the winter, the spring, and then the summer. The dust was
just starting to settle when the fall semester started, but it was obvious
that things hadn't been going well for her mom.	
   Still. It seemed extreme to quit school to deal with it.
   Tonya picked up the pack of Marlboro Lights 100 sitting by her Powerbook, lit
one, and sank back into her chair. The rush from the first inhale washed away
some of the tiredness that had naturally accompanied the depression she'd been
feeling. The smoking helped, but with every puff she was forcibly reminded of
her friend.
   There was a knock on the door.
   It was locked and the lights nearest the door were not on. She could ignore
the knock, sit and sulk and smoke until the sleep overcame her again. And that
would mean no studying got done tonight, and it was far too close to finals to
eat a day just because of some emotional stress.
   So Tonya got up and walked over to the door, turned the lock, opened it.
   It was Jessica.
   They weren't friends. It would have been a stretch even to say that she'd
been friends with Helen, at least as far as Tonya could tell. That they were
study partners- abnormal psych- was undeniable, but Helen had never really
spoken much about her.
 	"How's it going, Tonya ?"
   "I've been better, Jessica. What can I do for you ?"
   "Helen left some books and notes for me. I felt bad, not getting a chance to
stop by and say goodbye-"
   "It was kind of sudden, you know. Come on in, take whatever you want from
what she left."
   Jessica was the sort of quite, introspective girl who could be called on to
uphold the stereotype of bookworm- albeit an attractive bookworm. She rarely
got out to the parties, rarely went to the gym, rarely in fact, from what
Tonya could figure, did anything but go to class, study, and eat.
   The other girl walked into the room with the slight hesitancy of someone who
had things on her mind. Tonya pictured an unspoken question, but couldn't
imagine what it would be.
   "That's her side of the room," Tonya said, pointing at an half of the room
which still looked lived in. She drew deeply on her cigarette and sat down
again, feeling all over heavy and lost.
   "She left her computer ?"
   "That's her old 6500. She didn't have any use for it once she got her G3. Her
mom knew somebody out in California who got her a pre-production model in
October. Don't ask how."
   "I heard she spent half her time playing games. It's hard to believe. She was
always such a serious studier."
   Tonya exhaled a thick cloud of smoke and laughed. "Yeah. The one night a week
she spent in the stacks with you. I hardly ever saw her crack a book."
   "She coming back for this ?"
   "No. She told me I could sell it or keep it. If you're interested-"
   "I might be, if I can figure out how to pay for it around my car insurance
payments."
   Tonya watched as Jessica quietly selected two textbooks and three spirals
from a pile. She did it slowly and with no eagerness, which Tonya liked. Other
people had come in and acted like battlefield ghouls picking over the bodies
of the dead. But she sensed some actual respect in the way Jessica slowly
worked the items she wanted into her pack as her eyes lingered on a few
pictures Helen had left behind on her bulletin board.
   "You want to go study ?" Jessica asked impulsively.
   No, the question sounded impulsive, but it wasn't. Tonya understood suddenly
that for whatever reason, Helen's leaving had made this girl lonely as well.
Of course, it was her study night, but still-
   "Actually," Tonya said, pulling deeply on her cigarette again, waiting until
she exhaled to speak, "I'm feeling kind of tired."
   "That's a common sign of depression," Jessica said with the sort of wry smile
one expected from a psych major. Helen had said that Jessica would make a fine
clinical psychologist some day, not that that meant anything to Tonya, who
found psych hopelessly boring. It only made you realise how weird everyone
else was. As well as yourself. All that analysing. Tonya liked to think that
not every action she took had some great personal significance. It took the
pressure off.
   "Sorry, I didn't mean to insult you," Jessica added when Tonya's only
response was to crush out her cigarette and light another.
   "You didn't. And I know with finals coming I can't really afford to sit and
stew, but it's just hard. If I don't allow myself this now-"
   "You're right. But I'd rather not study alone, and you look like you could
use getting out of this room for a few hours."
   ‘What's in it for you ?" Tonya asked, wondering if sinking into the bowels of
the stacks was any way to shake of ennui.
   "I- this is kind of embarrassing, really-"
   Jessica sat down in Helen's old chair, which she'd brought up from home
sophomore year. It was an old cloth recliner which had long since stopped
reclining. It had broken springs and torn fabric and was wonderfully
comfortable- not that Tonya had been able to bring herself to sit in it since
Helen had left.
   "Get in line," Tonya said. "I've been taking all sorts of abuse for moping
around her like somebody died."
   "That's how it feels, though, isn't it ?"
   "Sort of. I mean, you expect this when you graduate. You know there are
people you may never see again. I have to wonder with Helen."
   "Anyone who could drop university this way, right ?"
   Tonya pulled deeply on the cigarette, enjoying the way the smoke filled her
lungs. She would always have Helen to thank for this gentle pleasure.
   "So, embarrass yourself."
   "I don't know-"
   Tonya got up, walked over to the half-fridge, and pulled out two Molson
triple X's. She thought about that, put them back, and settled instead on two
Corsendocks. She held hers in the hand with the cigarette, the other she
handed to Jessica, who took the Montreal Canadiens bottle opener/key ring on
Jessica's desk and popped the cap.
   "Well, since you want to know, I- oh, this is so stupid."
   "Try me," Tonya said, inhaling and then chasing it with a deep draw from her
beer.
   "Well, you know Helen always insisted on going to the lowest level of the
stacks so that she could smoke. At first, it was really annoying, you know."
   "And then it grew on you, right ?"
   "Yeah. How did you-"
   "I didn't smoke when I came to school. I'd never so much as tried a
cigarette. My parents smoked when I was young, but I was never interested and
they quit when I was about ten."
   "My parents have always smoked. My older sister started when she was
fourteen. It was really weird. She was like the most popular girl in our
school, captain of the cheerleaders- all her friends smoked. Then I got to
high school and I wasn't anything like her-"
   "You-" Tonya started to say, not sure how to say what she was thinking
without insulting Jessica.
   "Yeah, I was a big bookworm in high school, too."
   "I wasn't going to say that- well, not exactly."
   "It's okay. There's a reason I never brought my high school yearbook in like
most of the people here."
   Tonya sipped at her beer, inhaled again, enjoying the taste and feel of the
smoke in her mouth.
   "It's not like you're unattractive, Jessica."
   "You can call me Jessie. And I appreciate that. Coming from you-"
   "What do you mean ?" Tonya asked.
   "Come on, Tonya. I hardly know any of the people you hang out with, but I
know what all the guys think of you."
   Tonya would have liked to be coy about that. The truth was that Helen had
always told her the same thing, and she'd sloughed it off as the kind words
and constant teasing that was Helen's way. but she knew better.
   "So, you want me to go to the stacks with you so you can watch me smoke ?"
   It was such an odd question, almost hard to ask.
   While Tonya expected it to be equally hard to answer, Jessica surprised her
with a quick response.
   "Not exactly. Recently, she's- well, you probably know Helen a lot better
than I do."
   "And she can be very persuasive."
   "Exactly. But I'm not really that sort of person. Don't take that the wrong
way.  Helen told me how it was that she got you to start and I don't want to
say-"
   "That I'm a lemming ?"
   "That's not how I would have put it, but- this is great beer." She studied
the bottle. "Excuse me, Belgian Ale."
   It was an observant distinction. Which hardly explained why it was that Tonya
found herself crying. She inhaled on her cigarette because although the tears
were gently rolling down her face, there was no sobbing. 
   Perhaps her background and her studies made her know what to do, because
rather than comment, Jessica simply continued.
   "I'm curious, you know. I mean, I'll be sitting there- I'd be sitting there,
after midnight. All the coffee in the world only does so much for me, you
know. I'm fighting to stay awake and there she is, bright-eyed, plowing away,
like she could go all night. Said it was the nicotine."
   "But you're not interested because of that-"
   "No. I'd watch her. Sometimes I'd just sit there, pretending to study, and
watch her, taking one long inhale after another, that sardonic smile on her
face, as though it was all she needed in the world, and I'd start to wonder-"
   The tears had stopped, as they always did. Tonya felt that she was one good
cry away from getting the worst of it out of her system, but she knew herself
too well. There would be no one good cry. It would never come. In her entire
life, there was yet to be one of those good cries that you saw in the movies.
   Because-
   "Sure, let's go study. I'm one more early night in away from tanking my Late
Victorian Women's Authors final, and considering that paper I wrote on mood in
novelisation, I can't afford anything less than an A."
   "How can you study that stuff ? I tried reading Wuthering Heights once and I
almost lost my mind."
   "Well, at least you're studying the right thing for that. Let me get my stuff
together-"

   During the walk over to the library the two women talked. At first about
Helen, but as the time passed and the snow started to fall, cluttering the
crisp night air with fluffy crystals of heavy, wet snow, Tonya realised they
had more in common than she would have imagined. She also noticed the way
Jessica watched her smoke, as though the whole process was somehow
fascinating.
   That was encouraging. Tonya was developing a plan of sorts.
   In a way, it was kind of exciting. She'd never tried to get anyone else to
smoke. All of her friends were also Helen's friends, and all of them were
smokers. A tightly knit community of a dozen or so smokers who sat in the
smoking section of the dining hall and snuck outside between classes to catch
a quick smoke break.
   Of course, Helen had already done the ground work, but Tonya found herself
looking forward to giving this a try. 
   It was nice, if nothing else, to have a goal. The night Helen had told her
she was leaving Tonya had felt as though she'd been set a drift on a large
body of water without land in sight. Jessica was right. It was depression.
   The library was full of students. This close to finals it would be that way
twenty-four hours a day. As they walked inside, they were both struck by the
awful heat of the place, the smell of human warmth which was not exactly
pleasant.
   They wound their way through the halls to the elevator that would take them
into the bowels of the giant building. The truth was, the library, and
especially the stacks, had always intimidated Tonya. Part of it was the legend
of the Jumper.
   It was the sort of stupid story that Tonya would have never normally treated
as more than a ghost tale, because every university library was said to have
such a thing.
   In this case, the ghost of Thurston Thomas Library was said to be a
disgruntled graduate student who had jumped from the clock tower one night
after her sponsor had given her a low grade on a research project. Way back in
the fifties, long ago enough that real details about the suicide were scarce.
That a young woman had pitched herself off the tower was undeniable-
   Tonya had never seen her, but late one night her sophomore year, she had
heard her. Down in the very level they were going to.
   She'd been there alone. Helen was back at the room, hosting a small birthday
part for one of their friends who'd had the poor sense to be born in mid-
December. She'd passed on the party because she was staring down a twenty page
paper with three handwritten pages of notes which she knew might, under
perfect conditions, be the kernel of a good idea.
   It had gotten late, so late in fact that Tonya never heard the warning bells
indicating that the library would be closing in fifteen minutes. They usually
swept the building just before closing, chasing out the throats and sleepers,
but late in the semester the student aids got sloppy, and no one came to let
her know.
   She hadn't realised anything was wrong until the lights went out.
   That had been creepy enough. The lowest level of the stacks were a good fifty
feet underground, and the only light came from the red glow of the emergency
exit signs and the burning tip of her cigarette. The place was baking hot-
they pumped heat from the old steam tunnels into this lowest level on the idea
that it would rise to the levels above and the place was like a sauna in the
winter.
   The problem with that red glow was that it marked only the emergency exits.
Use one of those and every alarm in the building would go off, security would
come, an article would be written in the student newspaper with her name in
it. Somewhere, the elevator, which would still be working, was waiting to
carry her to safety.
   She lit another cigarette and kept the lighter out and handy. Packed her
books into her pack.
   She had taken a few tentative steps away from the table she'd been at when
she smelled it.
   Strong cigarette smoke. Much stronger than her own, the sort that came from
old-fashioned unfiltered cigarette like her grandparents smoked.
   She found herself following that smell instead of finding her way to the
elevator.
   It wasn't until she heard the sound of gentle sobbing that she realised the
elevator was in the other direction.
   The smell of the smoke and the queer noise of muffled crying made her imagine
that some silly freshman had gotten lost down here and was now crying rather
than looking for a way out. Tonya might well have chosen not to involve
herself, but this was a fellow smoker, someone who probably needed a little
help.
   She followed her senses to the centre of the level. It was the 000 level of
books, dusty tomes on 14th century warfare and the evils of educating women,
the sort of books even the history majors rarely touched. Those old moldies
had an evil smell of knowledge best forgotten, the stench of decay. But the
scent of burning tobacco was stronger.
   Still, Tonya began to feel a little claustrophobic down here. The tall
shelves seemed to be pressing down on her, closing in as they stretched to a
ceiling which seemed all too far away. It would have perfectly acceptable to
panic, but instead she followed the path her nose was leading.
   She turned a corner and the smell of the smoke was so strong that she
expected to see the glowing cherry of a lit cigarette, to be able to hear the
deep breathing of the crying. The sound was definitely strong down this row
she found herself in, but there was no cigarette and no hand holding it.
Tonya's surprise was complete. She was sure that she was in the right place.
   And then it struck her. A cold so bone chilling it hurt. A tightness in the
air which made it feel as though a hand had clamped itself down around her
throat. She brought her cigarette to her mouth and inhaled, sure it was her
imagination. As she drew on it the warmth of the smoke cleared her windpipe.
The rush of the smoke cleared her head, and she heard, or thought she heard,
three words, a tired plea.
   ‘How could he ?'
   They were gossamer things, these words, unverifiable, half imagined, half-
heard. Emoted.
   Suddenly Tonya knew exactly where the elevator was, and she found herself
running.
   She'd never gone back, until now, and never told anyone.
   As they sat down at the table Jessica reached over to the one next to them,
asked a pretty young freshman if she could borrow one of the two ashtrays, and
the spell of remembrance was broken.
   
   It was getting late.
   They'd been down in the stacks for over four hours and Tonya had amased
herself by actually being able to study.
   She'd also gone through most of a fresh pack of cigarettes, lighting them
after the other, smoking the way one could only when you sat in one place and
were relaxed. It was a much more enjoyable sort of smoking than the rushed
cigarettes Tonya took between classes, when the cigarette was never allowed to
burn freely or just be held.
   Tonya found herself regretting the fact that she hadn't come here in two
years just because she'd gotten spooked one night and wigged- it had to be her
imagination-
   Or did it ? That bone-numbing cold had been real enough.
   She picked the pack of cigarettes up off the table and flipped back the top
of the box. There were only four cigarettes left.
   The time had come. Jessica had watched her smoke all night, watched eagerly
as if anticipating something.
   They hadn't really spoken much. It was the library after all. But she was
getting to like her.
   She pulled two cigarettes from the pack and Jessica looked up at her.
   Her emerald green eyes were very pretty, offsetting her lightly reddish hair
in a way that should have made her more popular with the other half of the
coed set than Tonya sensed she was.
   "Would you like to try one ?"
   "I-"
   "I'll take that as a yes." Tonya put them both in her mouth, holding them
gently between her lips, and lit them with her lighter. She took them both
away with her right hand, enjoying the double strong hit of nicotine as she
transferred one to her left hand and passed it to Jessica.
   No one noticed. Only smokers studied down here, and this was college after
all. No one looked at you in shock when you lit a cigarette the way they might
do in high school. The event that would change Jessica's life went unnoticed
by all but Tonya.
   The cigarette was hardly smoked. Which Tonya expected. Instead, Jessica
seemed content to getting used to the idea of holding it while she continued
to study. There were a few cursory attempts to puff on the cigarette and at
one point she got an entire mouthful of smoke, which was quickly exhaled. As
it drifted towards Tonya she noticed it didn't have that pleasant smell of her
own second hand smoke because it had not travelled into Jessica's virgin
lungs.
   They didn't talk during the experiment.
   Instead, Tonya watched the way she held the cigarette, which she seemed to
understand how to do. She tapped ash from it frequently, not letting an
unsightly build-up develop.
   Shortly after she finished the cigarette, she picked the pack up, pulled out
another one, and placed it between her own lips. Tonya watched with quiet
appreciation as she lit it with a more experienced hand than she would have
imagined. Jessica removed the cigarette from her mouth quickly, but as she
did, she met Tonya's eyes and said "I'm going to inhale this time instead of
just holding it."
   Tonya thought about that. The eagerness was a positive sign, but it might
just be misplaced.
    "You can take your time with it, you know. If I were you, I'd wait until you
were someplace more private to try that."
   ‘Why ?"
   "I remember what happened the first time I inhaled, that's all."
   "I can handle it," Jessica said, not understanding what Tonya meant in the
least. Smiling, Tonya lit another cigarette of her own and watched amusedly as
Jessica inhaled.
   She didn't get sick from it or nauseous. Just as Tonya had expected. Instead,
her face flushed, reddening, and her eyes grew wide with shock at a sensation
that Tonya was very familiar with. She thought back to how intense it had been
the first time, and knew exactly what it was that Jessica would feel like
doing.
   There was shock and confusion mingled with the excitement.
   Along with the definite impression that she was in the wrong place for this.
Tonya thought for a moment, stood up without speaking as she grabbed her
cigarettes and lighter from the table, and took Jessica by the hand.
   She led her to the bathroom. Although it had been a long time since she'd
been down here, she knew that it was a small, two person bathroom with a lock
on the door, which was perfect- even essential. Being that this was the
smoking level of the library, there was even an ashtray by the sink.
   "What are we doing ?" Jessica asked, adjusting her glasses with the hand she
was using to hold her cigarette. She then placed it between her lips and
inhaled again, and the look on her face told Tonya that she was not making a
mistake. 
   Tonya didn't speak. Instead, she simply reached out, undoing the zipper on
Jessica's jeans with patient hands. She half expected that Jessie would
object, but the other woman said nothing.  Instead, she exhaled slowly, taking
her time, as though she'd come to the understanding that she should savour and
enjoy this particular cigarette in a special way.
   Moving on, Tonya hooked her index fingers inside Jessica's soft pink panties
and yanked them unceremoniously down around her ankles. Once clear of this
obstruction, Tonya went to work, taking her time, letting her fingers slowly
search for the secret sweet spot. Jessica moved her own hand down and guided
Tonya until there was no question she was in the right place.
   They started standing up, but after Jessica finished her cigarette they moved
to the floor. Uncertain, it took Jessica a moment to decide that Tonya would
not mind some reciprocation. Still, neither woman spoke. It was exactly that
unspoken agreement which made all this possible. 
   There was no kissing. Just a series of endless touching, erotic, friendly,
unselfish. A mutual decision to satisfy one another sexually as friends.
   They didn't stop at the end of the first cycle.
   In fact, it was at least half an hour later when they lit the last two
cigarettes, no longer caring if anyone would notice how long the two of them
had been in the bathroom together.
   That was when the lights went out.
   Deja vu gripped Tonya, who tried to convince herself that two years was a
long time and her imagination was no longer quite so overstoked. Especially
not with Jessica here. She was sure that Jessie was the sort who knew better
than to think their was a ghost here in the stacks.
   "Damn it," Jessica said.
   "What's wrong ?"
   "Oh, the last time this happened to me- I don't know, it was-"
   "Did you see her ?" Tonya asked, understanding that no, Jessica was not
someone who would be sensible enough not to believe in spirits.
   "You never see her. Just hear her, This has happened to me half a dozen times
and I always think this time it won't happen, that my imagination won't run
away with the dark and that faint fear you always have when you're somewhere
you're not supposed to be late at night."
   "And here we are, down to these last two cigarettes we're smoking. Have you
ever tried to talk to her ?"
   "Once. It's hard to find her, you know. You walk through row after row of
books following the smell of cigarette smoke and the sound of that crying. I'm
not even sure why I tried. I never quite found her. What would you say ? I
mean, I can't conceive of what you talk about with a ghost-"
   "Who committed suicide. It makes me wish that someone had swept the stacks to
make sure we weren't still down here."
   "We were in a locked bathroom, remember. And I think I can understand why it
is that we didn't hear the bell."
   "So," Tonya asked, "what do we do now ?"
   "Well, I think we break for the elevators, ignore anything we hear or smell,
and- if it's all the same to you-"
   "You're welcome to spend the night. There's an extra bed in my room these
days."
   "Great. Is the Rat open twenty-four hours yet ?"
   "Last week before finals, yeah. Good thinking. We can go through the tunnels-
once we get out of here."
   There was nothing else left to do but try and accomplish that task. They
talked briefly about where it was the elevator was located in respect to the
bathroom. Then they opened the door and-
   The smell was, well, Tonya only had the one experience with it, but the sweet
yet harsh tinge of unfiltered tobacco smoke had never been this strong. It was
almost as though it was coming from her own cigarette. She drew on it and the
taste was not typical- stronger than usual, even the filter -
   There was something on Tonya's tongue, like a tiny piece of grass.
   Jessica noticed the sound first. She was expecting it, after all. Only it
wasn't what she had been expecting at all. No, there was none of the quiet,
patient sobbing she'd gotten used to. It was a gentle laugh instead. Easier to
follow, which was good considering that despite what they'd planned they were
following the sound.
   Tonya inhaled again, and once more found something on her tongue. She took
the index finger of her free hand and plucked it from her tongue.
   Why she thought she'd be able to see what it was in faint light of the place
was something she didn't consider.
   But she was sorry that she looked down.
   The impression- the false impression, she assured herself- that flashed
across her vision- was of a dark gulf beneath her, of wind and snow blowing in
the layers of air beneath her feet. The floor was nowhere to seen, the air was
sharp and almost unbreathable. Then all that was gone and everything returned
to normal.
   Jessica noticed her new friend's disorientation. "Does your cigarette taste
funny ?"
   She reached up to her mouth and in the glow of her cigarette she saw the
small piece of tobacco that came off on her index finger. Jessica looked down
at it, and then did something decidedly strange. She fell over. Tonya didn't
have to ask why.
   As she reached down to help her friend up she noticed that flesh-searing cold
that she'd sensed that other time was back, strong beyond deniability.
   "What the hell is going one ?"
   An answer came from a source neither woman would have expected.
   Themselves. 
   "Sorry, girls. Or women. It's women these days, isn't it ?"
   The voices were their own, although they weren't exactly.
   No lips moved. In fact, as the third voice continued to speak, Tonya inhaled
on her suddenly strong cigarette.
   "I hate to do this to you, but it's my last night here and after twenty-five
years, I needed to share this with someone."
   "I think you know who I am. Kelly Stouffer. The Jumper."
   "Why have you been here all this time ?" Jessica managed to ask, finding her
own voice briefly.
   "I wish I could say that I really knew for sure. I mean, I know and I don't.
Kind of sad, considering that I was a religion major. All I know is that my
penitence was to stay here, smoking one cigarette a day until I'd smoked one
for ever one I'd had during my life. Which is the only thing making me glad
I'd only been smoking for a year when I died."
   Neither Jessica nor Tonya could find their voice now.
   "Please don't ask me where I'll be going when the three of us finish our
cigarettes. Again, it's a little sad that I of all people don't know the
answer to that question, but I do know is that wherever it is I'm going, I
don't have to worry about waiting twenty-four hours between cigarettes. That's
certainly a comfort."
   "This is-" Jessica managed.
   "I want to thank you two for staying behind tonight. I was hoping that I
wouldn't have to spend this night alone. I know that I've disturbed both of
you before, and I should be honest. Someone did come down here to clear
everyone out, but I scared her off so I'd have the two of you to myself."
   Tonya took one last draw on her cigarette, realised that she suddenly wished
she was smoking something longer. Naturally, there was still about a quarter
of Jessica's cigarette left, but that wouldn't last long.
   "Why didn't you-"
   "Reveal myself before ? I couldn't. There are a lot of rules to all this. I
wish I understood them. It would have made one hell of a better paper than the
one I wrote-"
   Tonya turned to look at Jessica and realised that she wasn't just looking
through her own eyes.
   "Go ahead, Jessica. I'm ready to go. After twenty five years, it's been long
enough."
   Jessica did as she was asked.

   Tonya took the pack of cigarettes from the counter and stepped back. She
wanted to watch Jessica buying for the first time. She stepped up and asked
for the pack of cigarettes without any seeming embarrassment, handed over a
five, and soon the two were finally outside and free to light up. There was no
question that Jessica carried her end of it with the proper amount of
excitement.
   "I can't believe how late it is," Jessica said as the smoke trailed from her
mouth, disappearing into the falling snow. "And I don't feel like going to bed
yet. You ever go to the diner up on Jackson Street ?"
   "Helen and I used to go there all the time."
   "They have a smoking section ?"
   Tonya smiled. "We never would have went back a second time if it didn't."
   She slung her arm across Jessica's shoulder and they began the long walk.


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