Fear Of Flying, Part 2

(by kalithanatos, 28 December 2009)


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Fear of Flying
by kalithanatos
CHAPTER TWO

The two women enjoyed each other's company all the way to Paris after
arranging a seat swap on the plane. The flight was not long, but they had
time to bond and become friends. They exchanged personal details and agreed
to meet up in the UK a few weeks later for a meal.

Janet did not feel any need to smoke again on her trip since she was very
good at her job and even the strain of fixing the problems at the Paris
branch of her firm had seemed like fun to her. In fact, she felt buoyed by
the whole experience and was looking forward to getting back to her husband
and daughter right up until the moment her taxi pulled up to the Charles de
Gaulle airport and she felt the rising panic build within her again. Matters
were not helped much by long queues at the check-in desk and a busybody
attendant trying to charge her extra because her suitcase was 0.1kg
overweight.

By the time she reached the departure lounge, Janet's blood was boiling and
the familiar panic was upon her. Her stress levels were through the roof and
she didn't know how she was going to handle the flight back. The departure
lounge was especially busy and seats were limited, so Janet picked a seat at
the end of an aisle next to a woman in her early thirties. The woman had
headphones on and was reading a book, so Janet could sit on her own without
being bothered.

After about 10 minutes, the woman reached into her bag and pulled out a
packet of cigarettes, the same brand her new friend Beth had been smoking. As
she lit up, the smoke drifted towards Janet. She tried to turn away and not
breathe it in, but it was no use - the smoke was all around her, and it was
intoxicating. Remembering how good she had felt only a few short days ago
when she had had a cigarette of her own (and how much it had relaxed her),
Janet attempted to breathe in some of the fumes wafting in front of her face,
but it was no use. The smoke smelt and tasted different and did not give the
same feeling of calmness as when she had smoked for real.

Suddenly, she knew what she wanted to do, but did not know how to go about
asking for it. She felt nervous and a little sick as she turned to the woman
sitting next to her and timidly asked, "Can I...I mean would you mind if
I...could I possibly have one of your cigarettes, please?"

The woman looked at Janet quizzically and, removing her headphones said,
"Excuse me?"

"Would it be possible, please, to have one of your cigarettes?" Janet asked
again.

"Sure, no problem!" the woman said, searching in her bag. "Having a nicotine
fit, are we?" she asked.

"Something like that," Janet replied, taking the proffered cigarette, "I
don't usually smoke, but I hate flying and this seems to help." Janet raised
the cigarette to her mouth as the woman flicked her lighter and held the
flame up. Janet, who had never lit a cigarette before, leaned forward and let
the flame dance over the end of the cigarette.

"You'll probably have to breathe in to get it started," the woman said,
helpfully.

Janet did so, getting a somewhat uneven light, and breathed the uninhaled
smoke straight out.

"You're not kidding, you really don't smoke often, do you?" the woman asked
with a smile.

Janet took a more confident second drag and exhaled. 

"No, this is only my second ever cigarette! My name's Janet, by the way."

"Fiona," the other woman said, offering the hand without the cigarette for
Janet to shake.

Janet, unsure of the protocols of shaking hands whilst smoking, simply put
the cigarette in her mouth to grip Fiona's outstretched hand.

"For someone who doesn't smoke, you sure look like you needed that," Fiona
said, pointing to Janet's cigarette.

"I know, it's weird, isn't it?" Janet replied. "It's just that I get so
nervous about flying. I thought I had tried everything to calm my nerves
without success until a friend suggested I try this, and it worked." Janet
emphasised this by taking her biggest draw yet, holding the smoke for an
impressive five seconds before breathing it out.

"Well, if it works for you, good luck to you. I only know that once you start
smoking, even if it's only one every time you fly, pretty soon you get used
to it and won't be able to stop. Just be prepared for that."

"Oh no, I'm not about to get hooked or anything. I may, as you say, have one
before I fly since it really seems to help, but I'm not going to smoke
anytime else."

"We'll see," said Fiona, knowingly.

The two women continued to chat for the next 30 minutes. Janet surprised
herself by making another new friend in an airport. She refused when Fiona
offered another cigarette, feeling one was enough to sufficiently calm her
nerves and the plane was now only moments away from boarding.

Suddenly, there was an announcement over the loudspeaker advising passengers
that the flight was delayed. The times on the board also changed - the plane
was not leaving for almost an hour! Janet's mind started racing. What could
have caused the delay? Was there a problem with the engine? Was the pilot
okay? Terrorism? All irrational thoughts, she knew, but the panic was back.

Seeing the fear return to her new friend, Fiona opened her cigarette packet,
slid one halfway out and offered it to Janet. Janet looked at the cigarette
and without hesitation pulled it from the pack and stuck it in her mouth.
Fiona handed Janet her lighter, and after a few moments of trying to figure
out how it worked, Janet lit her first ever cigarette by herself. This time
she got a much more even light and hungrily sucked the smoke into her waiting
lungs. Her nervousness about the delay seemed to feed her desire to smoke and
it seemed like only seconds later she was stubbing the cigarette out in the
ashtray nearby.

"Wow, you really needed that!" Fiona exclaimed.

Janet nodded in agreement. "That was really good, actually, but I don't know
if it's knocked the edge off."

"Would you like another one?" Fiona offered. Janet thought about it.and
decided, What the hell?

"Okay, yes, I think I will, if you're offering," she said.

Fiona reached into her purse again and pulled out two cigarettes, one each.
This time, Janet smoked at a more leisurely pace, taking time to really
notice the feelings and the taste that smoking offered. She decided then and
there that she quite liked smoking and would not let herself feel guilty
about it.

The plane started boarded about 45 minutes later, and Janet and Fiona smoked
another two cigarettes each in that time. The women liked each other's
company and Janet could start to see the appeal of bonding over cigarettes
and coffee, which she had bought Fiona as a way of thanks. Yet again, Janet
arranged to sit next to a new friend on the plane, and they made plans to
travel back to the centre of London together when they got home.

When the plane landed and the two women cleared customs, the first thing
Fiona wanted to do was find a quiet place to smoke before the chaos of the
London Underground. It was a nice day, and there was space outside the
terminal to have a chat. Fiona immediately lit up and offered the pack to
Janet. Janet thought for a moment - now that there was no pressure to fly,
did she really want to smoke? She decided to give it a miss as she did not
want to feel like she HAD to smoke - after all, she was not addicted like
Beth and Fiona obviously were. However, when Fiona lit up again ten minutes
later and the smoke inevitably drifted towards Janet, she again found herself
asking for a cigarette, which Fiona only too happily provided. Shortly after,
the two women boarded the Underground back to central London. 

Once they arrived, they decided to go for a quick drink before saying their
goodbyes. This time when offered a cigarette, Janet said "yes" with no
hesitation, and thoroughly enjoyed smoking with her glass of wine.

"Do you think you'll continue smoking?" Fiona asked as they were both packing
up to leave.

"I don't know," Janet replied. "I DO enjoy it, but I don't want to get
addicted. Also, I don't know how David and Maria would react!"

"Don't worry about that," Fiona said, "it takes ages to get hooked, and I'm
sure your family will understand. Enjoy yourself, and do what you feel is
right. In fact, take these," Fiona said, offering her pack to Janet, "and
smoke them if you feel under pressure or even if you just feel like it."

Janet looked at the pack, which had 3 cigarettes left inside.

"Okay, thanks, I will. You're a very nice person, Fiona, let's make sure we
keep in touch." And with that, they went their separate ways.


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