Happy Hour, Part 1

(by Blackbladder, 02 April 2005)


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HAPPY HOUR
===========
By Blackbladder

PART ONE - OPEN FOR BUSINESS
------------------------------------------------------

"The name of the Bar is Drôle - I really like it. Anyway, you can make it on
Friday?"  Monique asked.

She nodded her head, her hand fidgeting with the red telephone cable as the
voice continued to mumble from the speaker.

"Yes, we are almost open for business.  Just unpacking the last of the
boxes."  Monique replied, staring at the three stuffed cardboard boxes on the
bar counter.  

The telephone conversation continued, as Monique glared at her reflection in
the wall mirror.  She admired her long, dark hair flowing over her shoulders
and her matching black eye mascara.  Monique hoped her slim, good looks would
bring her a partner once she settled into her new way of life.

Suddenly, Monique could hear footsteps approach the counter as she finished
the telephone conversation.

"See you on Friday, bye!"  Monique stated before replacing the telephone hand
set on the wall.

Monique turned to see three women standing at the counter, their eyes wide
with anticipation.  They all wore business attire; white blouses with cream
coloured skirts.  She noticed they all had gold nametags dangling from their
blouse pockets.  

That could be an idea I could use when recruiting, Monique thought, returning
their appealing smiles with one of her own.

"Hi.  We noticed the sign outside for this new bar.  We were wondering if you
were open for business yet" one of the women stated apprehensively.

"Well, a bar lunch is currently not possible..." Monique sighed.  The women's
smiles began to slouch.

"...However, we have plenty of drink!  What would you like?"  Monique
concluded, ushering for the women to each take a bar stool from the pile in
the corner and join her at the counter.

The women ordered their drinks while Monique poured herself a gin.  

"How much will that be, Ms.?"  One of the women asked, while rummaging in
their handbag.

"First drink is on the house.... and Mrs Dindeleux, but you can all call me
Monique."  Monique replied enthusiastically, taking a seat opposite her first
customers.  

"I am Courtney, and my other two comrades are Jane and Tracy."  Courtney
replied, taking a sip of her drink.

"I just love your deco!" Jane stated, staring at the blue interior
furnishings, with different shades covering the walls, carpet and tables.  

"Thanks.  So what do you women do?"  Monique inquired politely.

"We all work for Westfox Bank - it's just over the road.  We are just on our
lunch break, and Jane insisted we try your new bar instead of our local
cafe." Tracy replied, sipping her martini tentatively.

Another round of drinks later, and the women were all engrossed in their deep
conversation.  The topic of smoking was highlighted when they talked about
each other's pet peeves.

"There is only a small staff room in the bank, but it constantly reeks of
cigarette smoke!  All these smokers just sit all breaks puffing their lungs
out.  Don't they know how much damage they are doing to themselves?"
Courtney asked rhetorically.

The other two women nodded in agreement at Courtney's statement.

"So none of you like smoking?"  Monique asked, sipping her Gin once more.

The women shook their heads disapprovingly.

"We don't have anything against smokers - it's just unpleasant for us when we
are trying to eat.  People seem to forget that it does put non-smokers off
eating in our local cafe, Masons."

The women sat comfortably at the counter - all feeling very relaxed.  

"You know, I think I need to eat something.  Gosh, I think I've got food
cravings."  Jane stated, feeling a hunger roar in her stomach.

The other relaxed women nodded in agreement at their colleague as Monique
lowered her hand beneath the counter.

"I see."  Monique nodded, knowing the time was right.

She removed her hand and placed an ashtray onto the counter - the women
looked confused at it with shock.

Surely, Monique isn't a smoker?, they all thought.

However, their disbelief was prolonged as Monique reached into her black
waistcoat pocket and removed a pack of cigarettes and a shiny blue lighter.  

Under any other circumstances, their anger should have been vented at Monique
as she lit up casually, sucking as the tip shone red under the flame of the
lighter.  

Instead, curiosity took over as they all sat staring at the burning cigarette
dangling between Monique's lips.  Smoke billowed from the corner of her mouth
as she smiled at the confused group of women.  With the wall fans spinning,
the smoke from the cigarette rose, entangling itself with the fan and
spreading all over the room.  

Monique pulled heavily on the cigarette, cheeks collapsing as the smoke was
sucked from the filter, enticing the group of stunned women.

"Come on ladies, let's go..." Courtney half-heartedly stated to her
spellbound colleagues.  However, when she tried to move, her body felt heavy
and relaxed to do so.  The hunger inside each of them built as the cigarette
smoke descended around them.

After holding in her smoke in for ten seconds, Monique leaned over the
counter at the dazed trio and exhaled a cloud of the toxins into their faces.  

As the cloud of smoke bathed over the women's faces, the hunger grew in
intensity.  Breathing in the second-hand smoke, they knew what they were all
craving - the only thing that could satisfy the aggressive cravings they were
experiencing - cigarettes!

When Monique blew a second cloud of smoke into their faces, the cravings took
over.

"That smells so good!  Can I try a cigarette?"  Jane said first, succumbing
to the tense feelings within.

Monique placed her cigarette in the glass ashtray, and offered her pack to
the customers.

Jane was the first to take a cigarette from the pack before the others did
the same.

Without being asked, Monique raised her lighter and produced a dancing flame
as the women placed the cigarettes in their mouths.

One by one, she lit up the customers' cigarettes and watched with interest as
a cloud of smoke emerged between them.

Rather than coughing fits, Monique was pleased to see the women instinctively
inhale the first puff of their cigarettes with effortlessly.  They all smiled
as their virgin lungs were coated with smoke, its nicotine surging through
them.  Eventually after an intense nicotine buzz, they pursed their lips to
exhale towards the ceiling fans spinning relentlessly.  

Monique loved seeing this process.  Her 'non smoking' customers were now in
love with cigarettes forever, without questioning it.

"Jane,  you still hungry for a snack?" She mocked.

"No!  This is all I need!  I can't believe how good this is!" Jane exclaimed,
staring adoringly at the cigarette between her fingers.  

"Why the hell did I ever criticize others over smoking when it tastes
wonderful?" Tracey asked herself, before inhaling once more.

"I should have tried this years ago!" Courtney exclaimed with excitement,
laughing at the smoke punctuating her very words.

"I think none of you will be avoiding the smoking staff room anymore?"
Monique suggested.

The three smoking women just shook their heads, inhaling deeply in unison on
their cigarettes.

Neither of them could understand why they were now smoking and loving it so
much, but didn't dare question it as they thrived on this new experience.
Monique noted immediately that the trio relaxed, placing their elbows on the
counter with the cigarettes burning freely.

As expected, normal conversation resumed between the smoking ladies with no
word of their sudden conversion.  It was as if nothing had happened.  

"What brings you to Westfox, Monique?" Jane asked.

"I am divorced, and on the pull, so let me know about all your single men and
women!"  Monique laughed, tapping her cigarette on the ashtray before
inhaling again.

The women all stared into their cloud of smoke, coughing briefly from
surprise.

The nicotine rush had removed their inhibitions and prejudices, and replaced
them with feelings of pleasure and relaxation.  Also, Monique's calm tone
seemed to be very understanding and soothing as they sat and smoked
contentedly.

"I have been in the bar industry all my life.  I owned a bar in Seattle, but
business was struggling.  I felt I just needed to have a fresh start
somewhere different."  Monique continued.

"I think you've made a very wise move.  Everyone at Westfox enjoys a drink
and a night out, so this bar should thrive." Courtney said, before inhaling
once more.

"I hope so...anyway, I'd love to know more about this town..."  Monique asked
the new group of smokers.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------

"How many weeks do we have left before the college breaks off, Gillian?"
Hazel asked as she wiped her breadcrumbs off her lip.  

"About three weeks - can't wait til we hit the Caribbean!" Gillian replied
enthusiastically.

The friends always ate their after-college meals in their local diner,
Masons.  The diner was packed to capacity, people munching and conversation
constantly flowing. 

"Talking about holidays, Lizzy is due back real soon." Pamela Donaldson
sighed as she missed the company of her sister.

"So has Lizzy been on her best behaviour?  You know what French men are
like."  Hazel teased, fiddling with her straw in her soda can.  

"Behave yourself Hazel!  She is with her boyfriend, Paul, remember!"  Pamela
replied, throwing her friend an evil smile.

"When does she come back?" Gillian asked.

"Sometime on Thursday afternoon.  I can't wait." Pamela replied.

"Will Lizzy be coming to the party on Saturday night?"  Hazel wondered

"Yeah.  I think so.  You know my sister loves a good party!" Pamela laughed.

"What about you, Gillian - you going to hit the dancefloor?" Hazel joked, as
she knew Gillian was not a party animal like her.

"Kinda.  Don't you think its sad how the college still haven’t booked a venue
for it yet?"  Gillian replied, trying to take the focus of conversation away
from herself.  

"You know what our amazing rector is like - she always leaves parties to the
last minute!" Pamela laughed sarcastically.

Suddenly, they heard a sharp, loud voice bark.

"Hey!  You can't smoke in here anymore!"

The girls all looked towards a nearby table at a man dangling an unlit
cigarette, his finger on the wheel of his Zippo Lighter.  He looked up to see
a woman with curly blond hair storm towards him - her eyes squinting at his
position. 

"But Grace..." The man pleaded, his words mumbled around the cigarette.

"No buts..." The cafe owner screamed, swiftly pulling the cigarette from the
man's mouth before taking his lighter too.  

"If you wanna smoke, you'll have to go outside.  I gave people like yourself
plenty of warning ages ago."  Grace stated clearly before returning to the
cafe counter.  Grace Mason has owned the cafe for many years, and knew Pamela
and her family all their lives.  

The man stood up, placed the pack and lighter in his pocket before walking
out through the front door.

"Bitch!" The man huffed as he left the cafe.

"Someone got out of bed the wrong side this morning!"

Pamela and her friends suddenly looked towards the cafe counter and smiled as
another young lady approached them with a cup of coffee in her hand.

"Hi guys!"

"How is it going, Norah?" Pamela asked as the girl sat down beside her.
Norah was Pamela's next-door neighbour, and they had a close bond almost like
the one Pamela shared with her sister.  Like Lizzy, Norah was also a year
older than Pamela.

"Pretty good. I've got an interview tomorrow at a new bar opening." Norah
said with exhilaration.

"Where is it?" Gillian inquired as she cleaned her spectacles.

As if she had read her mind, Norah handed Gillian a leaflet with details of
the new bar.

"Drôle Bar?  It's on Hope Street.  During the 'Happy Hour', all drinks are
half-price." Gillian read out from the leaflet.

"I know where that is!  That must be down where the arcades used to be."
Hazel boasted.

"They are looking for general bar staff.  If any of you are interested, the
details are there."  Norah stated.

The girls' expressions turned sour as they all had negative views on working
behind a bar.  Norah changed the subject of conversation.

"Talking about jobs, you all know that Carrie, in my biology class, has got a
placement at the health clinic?"

"No.  It seems everyone is getting work placements at the moment.  My sis has
offered me a chance to do some work experience in her office."

"And?" Gillian asked.

"I'm still thinking about it.  I'll tell her my decision when she gets back
from France."

"So Hazel - how's the cheerleading going?  Don't you do anything else at
Pride College these days?" Norah said as she stirred the coffee in her mug
using a spoon lazily.

"Listen Norah, cheerleading is very important.  How else is our basketball
team going to win these games?  And for your information, I do Media
Studies... I am gonna work in Hollywood.  You forget I have already been on
television." Hazel stated seriously.

"Oh yeah, didn't you get an Oscar for that performance as a sheep in your
school play years ago?" Norah teased

"Hey! I resent that...it was actually a pig if you must know." Hazel
whispered

"We better get going if we don’t want to be late for our next classes!"
Gillian commanded to the group.

The girls all put on their jackets and left the Cafe, nodding their
appreciation to Grace on their way out.  Norah parted from the college girls,
as she needed to shop for clothes for her interview the following day.

After class, Pamela arrived home.  The route was of easy walking distance
from Pride College.  Walking into the household, the student dropped her bag
in the hall before slouching towards the kitchen.

"Mom.  Are you in?"

Her voice echoed around the cream kitchen interior and was met with silence.
However, she could detect a faint trace of cigarette smoke and followed the
weak tendrils out the back door onto the patio.  Stepping outside, she saw
her parents deep in conversation with a cloud of cigarette smoke hover over
them.  

"Is this how smokers quit their dirty habit?" Pamela shouted, hoping that
would shame her parents, Kirsten and Andy.

"Cut us some slack young lady! It's been a hard day for both of us..." Andy
said in defiance

"How many have you both smoked while I have been away?" Pamela asked,
noticing Andy subtlely move his foot over several cigarette butts.

"Erm...just the one."  Kirsten mumbled, trying to hide her cigarette from her
daughter.

"More like five!  You know your Smoking Cessation 'buddy' wouldn't be best
pleased..."

"I hope you're not threatening us, Pamela.  Smoking is highly addictive, and
until you've smoked yourself, you'll never understand how difficult this is
for both of us." Andy said, puffing on his cigarette in a vain act of
defiance.

Sensing Pamela was about to answer back in anger, Kirsten pleaded "We are
seeing Dr. Rosemary Pemberton tomorrow anyway... just don't phone her up!"

Pamela nodded, and sat beside her parents while they finished off their
current cigarettes.  After grinding out her cigarette on the grass, she
pursed her lips to release a controlled cone of smoke into the air.

"So how was your day?" Andy asked.

"It was not bad.  You know Norah has got an interview tomorrow.  Hopefully,
it will lead to her first job.  Plus, I was given a new assignment today in
class."

"That's good.  I'm glad for Norah - she deserves a break.  What is the
assignment?" Kirsten replied.

"Nothing important...just a research article on the legal aspects of smoking
in public places!" Pamela said sarcastically, sensing her parents' postures
becoming tense once more.

"Relax.  You have already both had the quota for a lecture on your vile
habit.  I really hope that you work harder to quit.  You know Lizzy is all
excited about coming back to a non-smoking household." Pamela continued.

"I know we agreed to quit for Lizzy coming back, but it is not easy.  We just
want you to understand that." Andy said, staring into his wife's eyes.

"We are determined to quit though." Kirsten said, trying to convince herself
of the words she had just spoken.  She also looked down towards the pack of
cigarettes lying in her lap like a cat - crying for attention.  Momentarily,
she considered lighting up again, but fought the strong urges of her 15-year
habit for the sake of her daughters.

"Pamela, have you made up your mind yet on taking up Lizzy's job offer?" Andy
asked, desperate to change the subject as his cravings for nicotine were
intense.

"I'm still thinking about it.  There is a lot of opportunities out there for
me through the Economy and Law course I am doing."

"Oh no." Kirsten said, looking up towards the sky as raindrops began to
descend upon the family.  Instinctively, they all made their way back into
the house for the evening.


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