Old Friends, Part 1

(by an4@anon.lelnet.com, 09 February 1997)

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>From - Mon Feb 10 22:39:28 1997
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From: an4@anon.lelnet.com
Newsgroups: alt.smokers.glamour
Subject: Old Friends, part 1
Date: 9 Feb 1997 00:59:57 GMT
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   Elisa walked out onto the back porch. It was the sort of cold, cloudless
night that was made for two things. Staring at the stars and smoking
   A cup of coffee would have been nice as well but there was none in the
house. It had been a choice of beer or milk and Elisa had chosen beer because
as beautiful a night as it was, it was going to be spent alone. She put the
beer bottle down on the railing and picked up the pack of cigarettes.
   The box had not been opened yet. The cellophane had been removed but that
was as far as she'd gotten.
   Of course, no sooner was the cigarette lit than the phone rang. Elisa
patiently inhaled and then picked up the cordless, her 'Hello' a smoky
   "It's Sandra, Elisa."
   Sandra Dennisson. She was working on something for the Team. What, Elisa
wasn't sure. But she had a feeling she was about to find out.
   "What can I do for you, Sandra ?"
   Elisa caught a reflection of herself in the slider. She was standing with
her cigarette down at her waist, held in her left hand. The wrist was
upturned at a 45 degree angle. Perfect form. Not that it mattered, out here
in the woods alone on a Friday night. But Elisa took the job seriously and
part of it was smoking- and doing it the right way.
   She watched herself bring the cigarette to her lips. They accepted the
cigarette gracefully. The inhale was deep, would even had been sensuous under
the right conditions- such as a man being in the general vicinity.
   "I- well, I hope I'm not jumping the gun here, but I'm at Friday's- and it
looks like Leah Appleton is here. According to the team, she's been in town
three days."
   "Leah ?" Elisa asked, the first half of the exhale through her nose, the
balance from her mouth.
   "You know her ?"
   "From college. She's the worst sort. When I knew her she was as a committed
a smoker as any of us. It's a shame, really. She could melt a man's knees
like butter. But now-"
   "Any idea why she's here ?"
   Elisa shook her head slowly, then realised that wasn't something Sandra
would be able to see.
   "No, but I know how to find out. I can get there in half an hour. Are you
alone ?"
   "Well, stay put. I'll be there as soon as I can."
    As always on Friday night, Friday's was packed. Elisa could see the press
of humanity from her car. She paused long enough to light a Marlboro Lights
100, inhaling a joyous combination of frigid air and tobacco smoke that
brought the faintest edge of lightheadedness.
   Bars. Elisa could do without the noise- she much preferred the quiet of the
woods surrounding her oversized house- but there was no better place left to
be a smoker.
   She walked into the place, feeling a rush of heat pass around her as she
opened the door. As she stepped inside she saw a table of teenagers, drinking
sodas and laughing loudly. Seven girls and two guys- all seven of them
smoking, waving cigarettes and one cigar around with great animation as they
laughed and joked. A young blonde girl who might have been sixteen bent her
neck slightly and took a long drag on the cigarette she was holding to the
right of her face. Her inhale was spectacular- the two young men at the table
staring openly as she exhaled- a thick milky jet of smoke that swam above the
table like a cloud. As soon as the exhale was completed she repeated the
process, smiling at someone's joke as she executed a stunning nose exhale.
   She almost envied the two boys at the table. One of the other girls said
something to the shorter one, who handed his cigar over to her immediately.
She took a deep drag on the thin cigar and passed it on to a tall redhead
with perfect teeth.
   Elisa smiled in spite of herself. There was still hope.
   Just about everyone in the place was smoking. Long white lights, shorter,
harsher Marlboros and Newports. Cigars- there was even one professorial man
at the bar sucking on a pipe that had been lifted right out of a Sherlock
Holmes movie. Why the whole world couldn't be this way was the question that
kept Elisa up at night.
   Well, that and the writing career that allowed her the resources to pursue
this special hobby. No, hobby was not right. It was a job.
   She spotted Sandra off in a corner. She was drawing on a Virginia Slim,
looking for all the world like Terry Farrell except for the Napoleonic garb.
   That and she was only about 5'4".
   The man sitting across from her had a dreamy look on his face. Her watched
her exhale a thin, powerful stream of smoke with open admiration and then
took a long pull of what appeared to be Guinness. There was no sign of Leah.
   Elisa took the third chair at the table. She put her cigarette to her mouth
on the left side as she extended her hand to Kyle, who smiled politely and
shook her other hand rather brusquely as she turned her head upward and
exhaled. He watched the process with the proper level of interest and then
tried to signal one of the waitresses.
   "What are you drinking ?" he asked, and Elisa said "Nothing yet. But I'll
take a Bass."
   The waitress turned away before Kyle could get her eye, so he got up and
walked over to the bar.
   Before Elisa could ask, Sandra said "He's just a friend."
   "Does he-"
   Sandra shook her head. "No. I told him- well, I told him-" She hesitated.
   "You told him you felt sorry for me and you were going to give me a call and
see if I wanted to get out of the house for a change, right ?"
   "It's all I could think of. Sorry. All I know about you is what the other
members of the team have told me."
   Elisa and Sandra shared inhales. Elisa noticed that Sandra had a habit of
gripping her cigarette like a wild animal twisting to escape. She reached out
with her free hand and lightly grasped the hand Sandra was holding with down
by the wrist. Using the gentlest pressure, she turned the wrist up, pushing
the palm back.
   She then mimicked the hold herself.
   "Like that. It's much more effective. How you hold the cigarette is almost
as important as how you smoke it."
   "Sorry," Sandra said, looking more than a little embarrassed, "I've only
been smoking about a year, Elisa. Senior year of college."
   "It's okay. But you want to make the most of it. I've been smoking ever
since my mother gave me my first pack on my seventeenth birthday. Ten years-
you learn how to do it well. So, where is she ?"
   "She went into the bathroom just before you came in."
   "What has she been doing ?"
   "Just standing at the bar, drinking Sam Adams and looking- well, I'd say she
was lonely, if I didn't know better."
   "Really. That's not the Leah I know. She was-"
   "You knew her well ?"
   "You won't find it the databases, but we were roommates freshman year at
univesity. When she moved in, she'd never smoked a cigarette in her life. A
terrible waste. She can- or she could- walk into a room and turn every male
head there. When she took her cigarettes from her purse- well, it was like
being at a rock concert."
   "How did she end up-"
   Just then Kyle returned, holding two Bass and a Guinness. As soon as the
glasses were down on the table he scooped up Sandra's lighter and lit her
cigarette with an experienced hand. Elisa stubbed hers out, pulled another
one from her pack and Kyle again provided a gentlemanly- and perfectly
executed- light. She rewarded him with a deep inhale, lips pursed, and
exhaled directly at him. He leaned into the smoke rather than away from it
and Elisa gave Sandra a fully understood 'Just friends ?' look which
suggested she'd do well to change that situation. She noticed that Sandra's
hold after the opening inhale was much better.
   Just then she saw Leah.
   The woman- her friend, once- truly did look lonely.
   They made eye contact, and Elisa saw something there. An haunted look.
   She excused herself immediately as Leah made her way back to the bar. Kyle,
still proving himself the gentleman, gently prodded Elisa's arm as she turned
to leave and then handed her glass to her. "Don't take too long," he said,
   Leah turned to look at Elisa and her old roommate saw a struggle in her
   "What brings you all the way from Minneapolis ?" Elisa asked, exchanging a
stiff hug with Leah. "I haven't seen you since graduation."
   "We didn't part on good terms."
   That much was definitely true.
   "I could say that I was here on a freelance assignment. You still writing
novels ?"
   Elisa knew immediately that Leah knew exactly what she had been doing with
her time. Suddenly she was sorry for approaching her so openly. There were
rules about this sort of thing, best followed for a reason.
   It was arrogant ,Elisa knew, but she said "Do you have to ask ?"
   "No," Leah answered, looking mildly embarrassed. "I've read all of them.
You're damn good."
   "I've read the shorts you've been writing. You ought to try a novel
yourself. Nothing would make the English department at the university happier
than adding a fifth novelist to our class." She took a deep inhale on her
cigarette after saying that, making sure to blow the smoke directly at Leah,
who didn't even blink.
   "I know what else you do, Elisa."
   There it was, out in the open. Leah was no more here on a freelance
assignment than Elisa was doing research the last time she'd flow out to San
   "What would that be ?" Elisa asked. There werethose rules, after all, and
she began thinking they might best be followed.
   "I'm not here on an assignment, Elisa. I don't think I'll be taking any more
   "Giving up writing ?" Elisa asked, slightly sarcastic. Her french inhale,
expertly executed, drew the attention of the bartender. She smiled at him,
inhaled again, and blew a wonderfully thick stream of smoke in his direction
which drew him towards them immediately. She nodded in response to his
questioning look, and he was at their elbows, asking if they wanted refills.
   "Please," Leah responded, sounding weary.
   "You know what I mean. I knew if I came here you'd find me. I want you-"
   She paused and Elisa noticed how intently she was watching her smoke. The
look of disgust she'd grown used to senior year, when Leah became one of
them, was gone. In fact, the look in her eyes as Elisa inhaled on the
shrinking cigarette was one of-
   "I want to start smoking again, and I'll need your help."
   That was one thing Elisa had not expected.

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