Innocence and Guilt, Part 1

(by an4@anon.lelnet.com, 10 August 1997)


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Innocence and Guilt, Part I
an4@anon.lelnet.com

   "You do know how hard this has been for me the last three years, raising you
alone, don't you ?"
   Daphnie looked at her mother and sighed. This was going to be so unpleasant.
And it really wasn't her fault.
   No, Jocelyn had slipped the cigarettes into her purse during last period
today and begged her to hold onto them until tomorrow. Someone had slipped a
bogus lock onto Josie's locker, and they hadn't gotten around to cutting it
off. Suddenly it was end of day, and Josie had very good reasons for not
wanting to be caught with those cigarettes. Daphnie had agreed to help
because it never crossed her mind that her mother would go into her purse.
   Or that she would tell her to.
   Why had she put her car keys in her purse ?
   "That wasn't a rhetorical question, Daph."
   "I don't know mom. I'm usually pretty well-behaved, so I would think the
answer was that it wasn't that hard. But feel free to correct me."
   "Well, it hasn't been easy. Not in the least."
   Daphnie had been toying with the idea of admitting the cigarettes were hers
and taking her punishment quietly. But the accusatory tone in her mother's
voice and the way she was carrying on about how hard it was being a single
mother had gotten to Daphnie.	
   "They aren't mine, Mom."
   "Then whose are they ?" she asked sternly.
   "Like I'm going to tell you which one of my friends smoke."
   "It beats me thinking you smoke. Trust me. Just give me a name and we can go
from there."
   "No way, mom."
   Anne thought for a moment. There were two possible scenarios here. Either
Daphnie didn't smoke and was telling the truth, or she did smoke and was
lying. One thing was sure. She knew how loyal her daughter was. She wasn't
going to wig out and tell on one of her friends. No amount of coercion would
change that.
   There was only one thing to do. Either they were hers and she was lying, or
they weren't, which meant that she had tried smoking and didn't like it. Anne
remembered being fifteen well enough to know that if your friends smoked, you
at least tried it yourself. There was no such thing as no thank you.
Curiosity would always win out over common sense.
   So Anne decided on a course of action that was most definitely not to be
found in a parenting handbook.
   She didn't say anything. Instead she walked over to the china closet and
took out the best crystal ashtray in the house, the one her father had given
her for her cigarettes and John's cigars. It hadn't gotten much use since
she'd quit three years ago, but it still felt like an old- and dangerous-
friend in her slim fingered hand.
   After she set it down between them, she pushed the cigarettes and lighter
across the table to Daphnie.
   "Go ahead. If you are smoking, this is going to be your best chance ever to
do it right here in the house. If you're not- well, then we'll talk about
this more later. But I'm warning you- don't play games. I'll know, one way or
the other. Remember, I smoked for twenty years."
   Daphnie couldn't believe this. Her mother was asking her to smoke ? 
   Well, she could believe it. Mom wasn't the most orthodox of parents by a
long shot. The question was what to do. If she pretended- if she could
pretend, for that matter- that she did smoke, it got Jocelyn off the hook,
but put her in deep shit. If she let nature take its course, it was likely
that she would get into even worse trouble for refusing to out her friend.
   "I'm waiting."
   There was no arguing with mom.  If she said to choke down a cigarette, well,
that was just what Daphnie was going to have to try to do.
   She picked up the pack and lighter and tried to look like she knew what she
was doing. It was hard getting a cigarette out of the pack- only two had been
smoked- but she finally extracted one and put it between her lips. It was
lighter than she expected, feather-weight that felt strange between her lips.
She could look down her nose and see the end of the cigarette there, waiting
for a light.
   She thumbed the lighter the way she was used to seeing other people- all her
friends- do. It caught immediately. The way the flame jumped startled her and
she almost dropped it.
   Somehow she managed to get the tip lit without burning half the cigarette.
As she put the lighter down, smoke curled up and into her eyes. It was harsh
but she willed herself not to let her eyes tear. Instead, she put the first
two fingers of her left hand around the cigarette and tried to inhale.
   It didn't work. Her lips weren't closed tightly enough and she garnered only
a tiny bit of smoke. It had a strange taste, cooler than she had expected,
neither pleasant nor foul. It was just different.
   She tried a second time. This time her lips were closed, but that only made
her draw her breath through her nose. She got nothing more than a noseful of
second-hand smoke, which she was more than used to by now. That at least she
liked, because it reminded her of her friends, but it didn't do anything to
convince her mother, who was watching her like a hawk.
   Daphnie understood the mechanics now. She was supposed to close her lips and
breath through the cigarette.
   But it was too late.
   Her mother put out her right hand, first two fingers separated, and Daphnie
passed her the cigarette. That was something she knew how to do. She'd held
Jocelyn's cigarettes many times by now while her friend tied her shoes or ate
part of a sandwhich.
   "This is how it's done, pumpkin."
   Anne took the cigarette and put it between her lips. She inhaled deeply, a
strong enough pull to make the tip flare and hiss. The flood of smoke into
her lungs was definitely welcome. It had been so long.	
   That wasn't true. It had been less than three weeks, but it felt like three
years.
   She spoke through the exhale. "That's how you smoke a cigarette." Daphnie
had been encouraged- instead of annoyed, which was usually the case- by her
mother's use of the pumpkin appellation. But her voice was stern now- even
disappointed.
   "Well, these aren't yours, that's for sure. I want you to go to your room
and think about how much better it would be for both of us if you just told
me who these really belong to."
   "But we haven't even had dinner."
   "I know, and I made chana. I'm serious, Daphnie."
   Her daughter stood up and left the room quietly, because she knew when she
was beaten. That was one of Daphnie's finer qualities.
   The truth was, wanting her to leave the room had nothing to do with being
mad at her. The truth was that Anne wasn't mad at Daphnie at all. they
weren't her cigarettes, after all. And loyalty was a scare commodity these
days.
   No, the truth was that she wanted to finish this cigarette and do it in
peace and privacy.

   "Thanks for bringing me dinner, Mom."
   "Well, I can't starve you. But I will ask you one last time to tell me who
gave you those cigarettes."
   Daphnie signed. She wasn't overly keen on disobeying her mother, but there
was nothing else to be done.
   "I can't do that. And whomever it is, you're not that person's mother. It's
not up to you to-"
   "If they were yours, I'd want whoever it was who found them to tell me."
   "That's because you're a parent. I'm a- teenager. I'd want my friends to
keep silent."
   "Well, there's a reason they let parents run the show-"
   Daphnie stood up angrily. She'd never thought smoking would be an issue
between them. Her mom had smoked for so long that for years she'd merely
assumed that one day she'd smoke too. She still hadn't decided that she
wouldn't. In fact, at times the knowledge that all her friends smoked- that
she could start smoking at any time if she wanted- was enticing, exciting.
   Other times it just seemed like a gross, inexplicable thing to waste so much
time and money on.
   "Look, mom, I have to get up early tomorrow and get to the library." It was
a lie, but a little one. She knew that her mother wasn't giving Josie's
cigarettes back, and she knew where she could buy more. It meant a long,
early morning, but that was fine. She could use it to think. This little
incident had given her plenty to mull over.
   "Okay, p-Daphnie. But you aren't getting those cigarettes or that lighter
back, understand ?"
   "Yes, mom."
   
   Anne was sitting in her window. She'd had to remove the screen to do it, but
it was worth it to be out in the nice cold air- or half out in it anyway.
Fortunately, Daphnie's window was on the other side of the house, so she need
never know-
   "Hello, Joella."
   "Let me guess. Lunch tomorrow, right ?"
   "How'd you know ?" Anne asked. She then inhaled on her third cigarette of
the day, enjoying the way the smoke make her faintly light-headed.
   "Well, every time the urge to smoke overwhelms you, you pick up the phone
and call me."
   "And there's a good reason for that. Of all of us, you're the only one who
doesn't give me an hard time about having quit."
   Anne inhaled. Joella laughed.
   "Of course not. Because you haven't really quit. You just abstain a lot. I
mean, how long has it been ? Almost three weeks ?"
   "No. Actually, I'm smoking a cigarette right now-"
   "What ?"
   To say there was some surprise in Joella's voice would have been an
understatement.
   "I found a pack in Daphnie's purse. But they weren't hers."
   Anne looked down at the street. Two houses to the west on the other side of
the road, a woman waved from a bedroom window. Anne took a deep inhale on the
cigarette so that Joella could see the tip flare. But that was it for the
cigarette. She crushed it in the crystal ash tray and then explained to a
disbelieving Joella how it was that she was sure they weren't Daphnie's
cigarettes.
   "Not exactly standard parenting, Anne."
   "Well, it worked, in a way, or after a fashion. We can talk about it more at
lunch. My car or yours ?"
   "Mine. See you at twelve-thirty."
   That abruptly the phone conversation ended, leaving Anne to light one last
cigarette.

   When the alarm had gone off at five-thirty, Daphnie had been convinced that
it was a cruel joke, that in fact it was Saturday and there was going to be
no school whatsoever.
   Now, at five 'til six, she could clearly understand what a mistake that had
been. She had indeed set her alarm for five-thirty, and a few ticks shy of
six she was almost ready to take that long out-of the way drive. A drive
which would not have been necessary if Josie hadn't decided to turn her
friend into a swag bag.
   As Daphnie finished her coffee, she noticed that Mom wasn't up yet. That
wasn't good. If she wasn't in the shower by six she was almost certain to be
late- Daphnie had learned to let Mom have the bathroom first because it was
the closest thing to a true rule which they kept in their house.
   Daphnie walked up the stairs slowly, still mad at her mother. Part of her
wanted to let mom oversleep. It wouldn't really make a difference, anyway.
Everyone who worked at Seven Sisters had their own key. But mom liked to get
in early, arrange her schedule. That sort of thing. Lead by example was what
she always said.
   She walked down the hall and saw that her mother's bedroom door was closed,
which was odd, to say the least. Doors were not closed in this little two
person family. 
   Daphnie didn't bother to knock. She swung the door open and was hit by a
blast of cold air.
   The window was open, making the room almost uncomfortably cold. It might be
high summer, but this close to the Canadian border, nights were still cold as
a matter of simple fact. Mom was sound asleep in her massive bed. She looked
so small and alone in the middle of the bedclothes that it brought an old
Police song to mind from mom's favourite CD. The Bed's Too Big Without You.
   She also saw the ashtray on the desk by the window. It was sitting on the
far side of her 21" monitor, half-obscured. It had two spent cigarette butts
sitting in it and Daphnie understood why the window was open. She tried to be
angry, tried to turn around and walk back out of the room, but couldn't. So
what if she'd not only refused to give Josie's cigarettes back but was
smoking them herself ?
   It was kind of cool.
   Instead she walked over to her mom, kissed her gently on the cheek, and then
put her hand on her face.
   "Mom ?"
   Anne had been in the middle of some dream and there was a wide smile on her
youthful face. Looking at her like this, Daphnie was struck by the idea that
this was how a slightly older sister would have looked. The years of worry
and depression which had coated her mother's face since Dad's death seemed to
have faded from it.
   "Pumpkin ?" she asked, startled out of her reverie.
   "It's six o'clock, Mom. Time to get up." As she spoke, her eyes went back to
now almost hidden ashtray. There was the faintest aroma of stale smoke in the
bedroom, something which had once filled the entire house. It was not
unpleasant, but rather homey.
   Anne followed her daughter's eyes, saw the edge of the tell-tale ashtray.
   "Snagged, huh ?"
   There was a window every morning, five or ten minutes after mom first woke
up, when the parent-daughter relationship was supplanted by something else.
Daphnie thought of it as the friendship window, when the two of them were
close without the usual boundary lines between them. It was always a pleasant
time.
   "Mom, it's not like I care. I mean, I never had a problem with your smoking.
You had a problem with it."
   "I"m not going to start smoking again, Daphnie. That's not what this is
about. It was just-"
   "I know. They were there- well, I just want to say that if you change your
mind-"
   Anne sat up, saw that it really was after six, and allowed a mild sense of
panic to set in."I won't be changing my mind. I will, however, be very late
if I don't get going."
   "Me too," Daphnie said, and with that she was out of the bedroom and halfway
down the stairs. There were times when Anne missed having that youthful
energy- although today she felt a little more energised than usual. It wasn't
hard to guess why. These days, even a little nicotine was likely to stay with
her for hours.
   The front door slammed and a moment later Daphnie pulled her car out of the
driveway and headed off for school.
   Anne had made it over to the window into to see the car pull away, and now
she was left staring at the dew on the early morning grass and the odd way
the sun seemed to be in the process of being devoured by dark grey clouds.
   Looking down, she saw the pack of cigarettes.
   They were very inviting, those cigarettes.
   What Anne really needed to do was get in the shower, get ready, and go
downstairs and drinking some of the coffee Daphnie would have left for her. 
   But then again, if she was going to smoke, the best thing to do was get it
out of the way. Smoke first, shower later. It would be a change in plans, but
what was life for. Coffee and a cigarette, then a quicker than usual shower
and one of the pre-set outfits she saved for when she was in hurry.
   Feeling like a schoolkid- like whichever one of Daphnie's friends had forced
those cigarettes on her- she walked over to the pack and picked it up.
   The familiar feel of the box was pleasant. It brought back the certainty
that Anne had never been happy about quitting.
   Of course, after six months of psychotherapy, her therapist had finally told
her that the real reason she had quit was a reaction to John's accidental
death- just not the one she had assumed it to be. No, this was not a fear of
death reaction, but a self-punishment, a sort of you can go on living but
don't you dare try to enjoy it response.
   Anne had stopped the therapy soon after, because the therapist seemed to be
scorning her for her decision to quit. Then again, her therapist smoked-
during sessions.
   Right now, giving in to her interpretation seemed like the easiest thing to
do.
   But that was not reason enough.
   I just want to say that if you change your mind-
   Daphnie wouldn't mind. The truth was, Daphnie was probably a smoker just
waiting to happen. Anne had her Joella, and she was willing to bet that
Daphnie's friend Jocelyn had given her those cigarettes. Maybe hoping that
she would try one. Anne had done such things as a teenager, and they had
worked. Twice. Francine and Helena had both started smoking after doing
exactly what Daphnie had done yesterday.
   The thought of Daphnie smoking didn't bother Anne the way she felt sure it
should have. No, it made her excited. She knew that made her a bad parent,
but right now, with the thought of lighting one of these cigarettes singing
through her veins, the idea that Daphnie would start soon was compelling. If
she did, this three-year charade would crumble. If she did, the crystal
ashtray sitting below her hand would take its rightful place in the living
room.
   She'd left the ashtray out on purpose last night. She'd hoped that Daphnie
would see it- why else would she have turned her alarm off ?
   The box was lifted, opened, a cigarette removed.
   After last night, this was no big deal. Smoking each cigarette would be
easier, less a defeat and more a victory.
   What did it matter anyway ?
   Quitting had been nothing short of a victory. Proof positive of her own
willpower. But most of her friends still smoked- everyone in her office, for
that matter, with the exception of she herself smoked-
   That reminded her that she didn't have time to linger. If she was going to
smoke, she'd better have done with it and get on with her life.
   The cigarette was lit. It wasn't quite as fresh as it had been last night-
Anne was spoiled still by her years of smoking where she smoked exactly one
pack each and every day, meaning that the first cigarette of the day was from
a fresh pack-
   Well, if she opened a second pack in a day, it was always finished as well.
The first cigarette of the day should be the freshest, the most rewarding.
   Still, the one she lit was fine. The cool crisp morning air made it special.
She lingered upstairs, smoking half the cigarette before moving towards the
kitchen-
   With the pack in the pocket of her robe. If she was quick enough with her
toilette, she could have two before her shower.

   Daphnie pulled her car into the parking lot of the Gas Up and killed the
engine.
   All the kids knew this was the place to come to buy cigarettes. They never
carded, and no one got caught. Not that anyone in the town seemed concerned
about teenage smoking. It might be an issue on Capitol Hill, but not here in
Millerford. There was no anti-smoking initiative in the school, no civic progr
ammes, but then again, this was Vermont, which hardly even wanted to be in
the Union.
   Daphnie thought that was crazy, but right now the laize-faire attitude was
to her advantage. Even though the Gas Up was off the beaten path by ten
miles.
   She had a ten, which would be more than enough to replace Josie's cigarettes
and lighter. The problem was that the pack had been minus two cigarettes
yesterday and she had no intention of explaining to Josie what had happened.
   That was silly, considering how terrified Josie was of being caught smoking-
why was a mystery, since her parents smoked, but- well, there was the pride
thing. No need for Josie to know her mom had gotten the wiggins when she
found out that her daughter was carrying cigarettes. No reason at all. Some
secrets were truly better kept.
   She walked into the Gas Up and saw immediately that the place was empty,
which was unusual.
   But fortuitous.
   She marched up to the counter and boldly pronounced that she needed-
   "Two packs of Marlboro Lights."
   She'd made that  decision just as she'd spoken.
   The girl behind the counter, who looked to be college age, nodded and put
two soft packs of Marlboro Lights down on the counter.	
   Daphnie frowned. That was definitely not what she wanted.
   "Is there a problem ?" College-girl asked. Daphnie, who was busy staring at
the large laminated sign on the counter "Under 18- No Tobacco- We Card."
   What a joke.
   "Um, that's not what I wanted. I'm sorry. I need 100s."
   "Box or soft ?"
   "Box," Daphnie said, embarrassed. For her part, the girl didn't seem to
care. She plopped two boxes of the correct sort down and Daphnie sheepishly
added a lighter. She knew at this point the girl could have easily guessed to
card her and the charade would be over. But instead she asked for five
dollars and seventy-three cents.
   Daphnie couldn't get out of there fast enough. As she passed through the
doors a red pick-up rolled into the pump area and the girl found herself
holding her unbagged purchased close to her body to hide them. She made sure
not to meet the driver's eyes, but instead looked up at the rapidly darkening
sky. An hot day followed by a cool night. Nestled in between the mountains,
that could easily lead to morning thunder storms.
   Piling into the car, some of Daphnie's embarrassment faded. She'd done
nothing-
   Well, actually she had done something illegal.
   But not very illegal. She pulled the wrapper off one of the packs of
cigarettes and stuffed it into the car's small ashtray. It took a while, as
the stiff cellophane resisted staying balled up. That done, she turned the
key in the ignition, started the car, and then impulsively depressed the
cigarette lighter.
   She had decided that she was not going to waste the two cigarettes. She
might not smoke them either, but she was at least going to hold and let them
burn between her fingers. She was, in fact, going to try to learn how to do
what had come so easily to her mother the night before. It had been
embarrassing when Mom had taken the cigarette from her hand and showed her
how to smoke it, as if smoking was a task that was too difficult for Daphnie
to master.
   Then again, she had been pretty inept.
   The lighter popped.
   Pulling it out, she saw that it a bright glowing orange, the metal dangerous
looking.
   As she'd done the night before, she put the cigarette in her mouth. The
pickup driver was walking into the Gas Up to pay his for his gas and he never
so much as looked in her direction. Satisfied that she was entirely
unobserved, she put the lighter around the end of the cigarette and gently
moved it forward until she felt contact. She held it there for about one full
second, just as she was used to seeing her mother- in what seemed like a past
life- do, and the cigarette caught easily.
   Once it was burning, Daphnie pulled the car out and onto the deserted
stretch of 111 that lead- eventually- to school.
   She was holding the cigarette in her left hand and all she could think of
was that it must be a nightmare to drive and smoke on a regular basis. She
was glad that the road was empty this time of morning because her attention
was at least half on the cigarette.
   Finally, the urge to try and smoke again became overwhelming. She approached
a straight stretch of road and holding the wheel tightly with one hand,
brought the cigarette to a space between her lips.
   She closed her lips around the cigarette and thought about what her mother
had showed her.
   Wrap the lips tightly around the filter. That was terribly important. Then
breathe through the cigarette.
   It turned out to be easier than she thought. Suddenly her mouth was full of
smoke, too full.
   She exhaled rapidly and the air between her and the windshield was fogged
with clean white smoke. If anyone had been in the car with her she would have
been embarrassed, which was the whole point of doing it here. The taste of
smoke coated her mouth and tongue. It was odd, a taste unlike the smell which
didn't fade even when she stuck her left hand out the window so that the
cigarette smoke wouldn't fill the open car.
   What was surprising was how quickly- how insidiously- the urge to take
another puff on the cigarette overtook the young smoker waiting to happen. It
was odd that she was thinking of herself in exactly the same terms as her
mother had, like some vague psychic connection. Even as she was wondering,
even imaging, that mom was putting her shower off long enough to smoke one or
two of the borrowed cigarettes she now possessed, Daphnie took another drag
on her own.
   This time she tried to inhale.
   The smoke was overwhelming. It seared her throat made her nose feel
painfully dry-
   And was wonderful anyway.
   "Wow," Daphnie said.
   It was worth the pain. The feeling of lightheadedness which overcame her
almost made her forget that she was driving a car.
   She exhaled, smoke filling the car. It was quickly washed away by the cool
morning air.
   Then disaster struck. She put her hand out the window to trim ash from the
cigarette and it slipped from her hand. She looked in the rearview and saw it
bounce on the road, sparks flying.
   "Damn."
   That was certainly disappointing.

   Anne was sitting at the table, sipping her coffee in a much more reserved
manner than her usual gulping.
   There was nothing like smoking and drinking coffee, which was why she was on
her second cigarette. She'd decided that if she was a few minutes late to
work this morning it wouldn't hurt anything. After all, today was not a day
she was looking forward to, especially in that she was sitting in her kitchen
smoking.
   Today she was planning to go into work and tell her eight employees that she
had decided not to convert the third conference room in their oversized
office space into a smoking lounge, despite the fact that the lease
specifically allowed smoking. The only non-smoker among them was going to
tell them that they would just have to gone on standing outside in the rain
and the snow- under an awning- if they wanted to smoke.
   She would explain that by not having an official 'smoking area' on site that
she saved five percent on their group help insurance.
   She would calmly cajole them into somehow believing it was for their own
good.
   And it was all true, but the truth was that while she found herself able to
resist the urge to go outside and have a smoke with her co-workers, she would
not be able to do so once they had a smoking lounge. The smell of cigarette
smoke and the laughter and the companionship which she no longer allowed
herself would overwhelm her and she would start smoking again.
   Of course, if Daphnie started smoking she would experience the same
feelings.
   That was her wild card. She let herself enjoy the sort of stylish nose
exhale which would have turned John's head and-
   "That's why I quit," she said aloud and then paused to inhale again. She
made it a double, pulling in enough smoke to perform a joint nose-mouth
exhale. John had the fetish, he'd told her about it the first week she'd
dated him, and as he'd explained how hard he got just watching her light a
cigarette, much less smoke it, she'd known she'd be happy for life.
   Until the bastard had gotten himself killed in a stupid accident. He and his
BMW-
   She stubbed the cigarette out and ran upstairs to the shower, trying to fly
ahead of the tears.


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