Hypnotic Effect

(by an4@anon.lelnet.com, 26 May 1998)


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Hypnotic Effect
an4@anon.lelnet.com

   Night was preferable.
   It was a simple thing, this preference.
   Things which seemed ordinary and unremarkable by day were transformed into
wonders at night. But it wasn't the romance of it all which drew Tabitha
towards the dark. No, especially in the summertime, it was something much
simpler.
   The cool night air.
   In the dead of winter, it didn't matter. The air was cold all the time. But
in the summer-
    There was something about standing in the hot sun on a close, still day.
Smoking a cigarette simply wasn't the same. Not as enjoyable. But on a crisp
clear night like this one the temperature dropped fifteen, even twenty degrees
and suddenly it was like heaven.
   To Tabitha at least.
   Her mother was sitting in the easy chair, watching her only daughter standing
on the deck, lost in the enjoyment of her habit, her hand bringing the
cigarette back to her mouth over and over again. She hadn't put the porch
light on- no sense drawing bugs, but the moon was three-quarters and you could
see the smoke quite clearly as balls of it wafted away from Tabitha.
   What did she get out of it ?
   That was what Helene wanted to know. What was so special about it that her
daughter would give up more than ten minutes of Dawson's Creek- the season
finale- just to stand out on the deck in the chill night air, alone, and smoke
? What made it so compelling.
   "Fucked if I know," Helene said quietly and mostly to herself.
   She had asked her daughter very little about it. The truth was that she
really didn't want to know. She still felt incredibly guilty, incredibly
unparentlike  about her decision to allow her only daughter to smoke. Six
months had gone by since the night Tabitha had calmly asked for her mother's
permission, never expecting to actually get it- and without any sort of fight
or resistance.
   "I was a coward," Helene said, mostly to herself.
   That was the truth of it. Single mom, desperate for the acceptance of her
child, she'd given in without a fight because she very much doubted saying no
would have changed anything except the amount of time her daughter spent at
home. So three times a month she went to the store and bought her daughter a
carton of Marlboro Lights 100s and handed them over without comment. Ten times
a day, Tabitha retreated to the deck or the slider in the basement or her room
and lit up. Her room, the only place inside the house where she was allowed to
smoke, had the smell of a smoker's room.
   Helene had stopped cleaning in there long before her daughter had started
smoking- they divided the household chores and took turns not doing their fair
share- but now Helene almost never went in that room because it reminded her
too much of her deficiencies as a parent.
   There was mild curiosity about the habit, but not much. Helene had simply
never been into it, not as a teenager, when most of her friends had smoked
because it was cool, and not now, even though most of the people she worked
with also smoked.
   No, the smoking bug had never bitten her, but the loneliness bug was starting
to chomp on her nerves, and with Tabitha's seventeenth birthday just a few
weeks away, she was torturing herself over another decision which was hard to
swallow. Tabitha spent so much of her time at home in those places Helene
didn't go because she had, in a way, made a pariah of her own daughter with
her no smoking in the house rule-
   She sipped at her wine and made the decision. Walking into the pantry, she
pulled an old glass ashtray which had been her mother's down from behind a
sack of flour and brought it out into the living room. She sat it on the end
table near where Tabitha sat and then walked over to the slider.
   Her daughter was taking a deep pull from her cigarette. She didn't know that
she was being watched, didn't have any self-conciousness whatsoever. She held
the smoke deep in her lungs, for a three count, and then exhaled, filling the
cool night air with a volume of thick smoke.
   That was her daughter. A real smoker.
   She found her hand wrapped tightly around the handle of the slider. In the
far distance, Joey was telling Dawson that she was tired of waiting for him to
grow up.
   Good for her, Helene thought, but there was little conviction to her emotion.
   The door seemed to open of its own accord.
   "Tabitha, come on inside. I want to talk to you about something."

   Tabitha turned and looked at her mother.
   Her initial feeling was one of annoyance. She still had two or three good
drags on the cigarette. Knowing her mother, all this talk in the house and
senate about the `teenage smoking problem', as if, was making her rethink her
decision to allow Tabitha to smoke. The teenager thought about what her mother
would have to say, how she could patiently counter each argument.
   And then she saw the older woman's face. So much loneliness there. So much
honest anguish. Some days she hid it well, but this was not one of them.
   Tabitha tried not to be selfish, but she saw this was about to work to her
advantage, and she couldn't help but be excited.
   "Sure, Mom." She stubbed her cigarette out in the ashtray she kept on the
desk, gathered up her smoking materials, and walked back inside.
   "What's up, Mom ?" she asked as the show went to commercial.
   "Well, I'm getting a little tired of you spending so much time out on the
porch and down in the basement. It's kind of like living with a ghost."
   Daughter smiled at mother. "What would you like to do about, Mom ? I hate to
tell you this, but there's really no chance that I'm going to quit smoking.
You knew that."
   "I know, honey. I'm not going to ask you to quit. I don't begin to understand
why you started smoking, but you did-"
   "You'll never understand if you don't try it."
   Helene frowned. Tabitha had tried this approach before- without success- but
Helene understood her daughter's desire to smoke no more than she understood
her smoking.
   "That's not the issue, honey. The issue is that I'd- well, I'd rather have
you around more and let you smoke in the house."
   "I like smoking outside. Especially at night. But-"
   Helene smiled. Tabitha could be this way. Offer her the moon and she asked
which stars came with it.
   That was unfair, she supposed.
   "But what ?"
   "But if you're willing to let me smoke in the house I think I can see my way
around that. I just don't want you doing this because, I don't know, you're
lonely or something. I know that you're no big fan of it."
   Dawson's Creek was coming back on, and Helene decided that she didn't want to
talk about this any more, as she would only start regretting her decision.
   "Take what you can get, honey."
   Tabitha's response was to, very happily it seemed, light a cigarette and
settle back on the couch.

   "So you're letting her smoke in the house now ?" Martha asked, looking
squarely at Helene with her pretty brown eyes. There was no judgment in her
voice, just a neutral, almost disinterested question. But that was because
Martha could be that way. She could hide her interest, her approval or
disapproval, with the skill of a politician.
   "Yeah. Better that than hardly living with her at all. I let her start
smoking because I knew the other choice was that she'd find a bunch of bogus
reasons never to be home at all."
   "But then you set up all these rules so that she couldn't spend time with you
and smoke."
   "Exactly."
   Martha picked the pack of Virginia Slims 120s off the table, pulled one out,
and lit it casually. After she'd taken a deep drag, she finally smiled. All
approval.
   "You did the right thing. Let me tell you, you'll be better off."
   "What makes you say that ?"
   The other woman smiled. "Because when I was fifteen my mother found out I'd
started smoking. Fortunately, she didn't find out that I'd been smoking for
over a year. But the next six months was pretty hellish, until she finally
admitted to herself that she was a smoker and so was I and the best thing to
do was to enjoy the common bond. I know that Jocelyn will start smoking soon
and I plan to share it with her."
   "But I don't smoke."
   The exhale stretched across the table and broke just short of Helene, who
hardly noticed how used she was to Martha's smoking.
   "No. But Tabitha no longer has to hide on the porch, either. I don't think
you're nearly as adverse to smoking as you think you are."
   Taking a mouthful of after-lunch coffee, Helene considered that. Martha's
latest exhale was swimming in the air around her and it made her think of how
much time she spent with Martha, how her friend was always smoking, and except
for wintertime in Martha's car, she never really minded. Not even now.
   She looked around. The Rhapsod- at least this section- was filled with mostly
women, on their lunch breaks, and of course most of them were smokers. There
were a few people like her, non-smokers here with smokers, but as meals were
finished one woman after another sat back and lit up, all of them looking
satisfied, even happy.
   "Maybe you're right. But I really just wished I understood it. Sometimes I
watch her smoke and I just can't get inside what it's all about. She says that
there's no way I can understand if I don't try it myself."
   "She's right."
   "So I guess the moral is that I don't need to know."
   "You could look at it that way. But you're the sort of person who takes the
extra money from her paycheck and puts it in a savings account earning 5.25 a
year."
   "What's that supposed to me an?"
   Drawing deeply on her cigarette, as if looking for a little extra courage,
Martha reached across the table and patted Helene's hand.
   "Look, Helene, I love you like a sister, I really do, but ever since the
divorce, you've lived this super safe life in that house of yours. I mean,
think back to the settlement. You could have taken Jake for all he had, but
you instead you took his lawyer's offer of the house because it was a sure
bet-"
    Of all the people she knew, Martha was the only one whom she would allow to
speak to her this way about the divorce. The only one.
   And she was right. She could have hired a detective for a few hundred dollars
at the point when she'd seen it all coming, about six months before the end,
she could have paid a lawyer to truck polaroids and video tapes and whatever
into a court room and demonstrate what a total asshole Kyle had been, but what
was the point ?
   He'd given up the house after paying off the mortgage and walked away with
his money intact.
   What was the point ?
   There wasn't one.
   "I made a decision I was comfortable with."
   Martha trimmed her cigarette, inhaled again. There was something different
about watching her smoke those long, elegant cigarettes. They just looked
right in her hands, in her mouth. Smoke pouring from her nose, as it was now,
looked perfectly natural.
   She could never imagine herself that way, even though she saw something very
similar when she watched Tabitha smoking. The girl was a mirror image of what
she'd looked like at that age.
   Of course, she wasn't that age anymore.
   "Exactly. You're always in the comfort zone. Daughter smokes ? Don't
understand smoking ? You let her smoke without trying to understand it
yourself."
   "Would you  rather I told her that she couldn't smoke at all ?"
   "Of course not. I'd think you were an idiot if you did that. I think that you
ought to consider that since you're living with a smoker you ought to develop
at least a very basic understanding of what it's all about."
   "I suppose that you'd be happy to teach me."
   "Of course. But I know better than to think it's as simple as saying `here,
have one of my cigarettes.' So look, we have a long weekend coming up, there's
a big happy hour at the Dogcow tonight, and I think you should come."
   "You can't just get me drunk, and pump me full of nicotine, you know. I `m
not like that."
   Martha smiled.
   "The plan's a little more complicated than that, Helene. Give me some
credit."
   Not sure why, Helene agreed that she'd go. She had no idea what she was in
for.

   Tabitha was alone in the house. There was a message on the answering machine
saying that mom was heading out to some happy hour thing at the Dogcow, so
here she was, able to smoke in the house, but all alone. She headed for the
deck. There was a stiff, cool breeze. It had rained earlier and the air  was
damp and cool, perfect for smoking.
   She wondered about people who cooped themselves up in bars and small
apartments and smoked incessantly. There was, after all, nothing wrong with
the quantity of smoking- lately Tabitha had to buy at least one extra pack to
get through each ten day period, sometimes two- but the quality had to suffer.
   Then again, there were plenty of people who smoked because they were addicted
rather than because they enjoyed it. Tabitha felt sorry for people who could
do something so wonderful and miss the real point.
   As she drew on her cigarette and let the smoke trail from her nose slowly,
the exhale every bit patient, she decided that she really wasn't in the mood
to be alone tonight.
   Jocelyn's mom would be out with hers and despite the fact that Josie was
gorgeous, she was probably sitting at home alone with a rented movie and a
large bowl of microwave popcorn, just chilling. For a fifteen year old, Josie
was extremely intense- well, tight was the word for it. But their moms had
been friends for so long that she had no choice but to be found of the younger
girl. It would do her some good to get out of the house for a while.
   She walked back into the house, glad that she didn't need to put her
cigarette out or leave it on the porch, and picked up the portable phone.
   "Hello ?"
   "Josie, it's Tabitha. I figured since your mom and mine were out together,
you might want to come over and we could watch whatever movie you rented."
   "Well, I was studying for the Calc final-"
   Tabitha exhaled, laughing. "Which is in a month-"
   "And I'm not sure you'd be interested in the movie Mom rented for me. I'm not
sure I'm interested in it."
   "What is it ?"
   "Teenage Sex Parties," Josie answered with something between a giggle and a
strangled moan.
   "I think your mom is trying to send you a message, girl. Bring it over. We've
got beer and frozen dinners. We can get drunk and horny together."
   "I really don't know if I like the sound of that," Josie said, but with a
smile in her voice. "But I'll be right over anyway."

   "I wonder  what the girls are doing ?" Helene said.
   Moving her cigarette away from her mouth, smoke following it in a gentle arc,
Martha found herself caught between a smile and a frown. That was Helene for
you- out to have some fun- and hopefully a new experience, and she was more
worried about two kids who could take of themselves than herself.
   And she should be worried about herself.
   Martha had a plan.
   "I rented Josie `Teenage Sex Parties'. Knowing Tab, she'll call Josie and
invite her over. I think your daughter feels sorry for mine."
   "Trying to send a message ?"
   "You know it. God, kids these days. You'd think with all the freedoms they
have they'd be better at dating and stuff, but Josie never goes out-"
   Helene nodded. "Well, it's television. I was watching Dawson's with Tab the
other night. These kids are fifteen or sixteen and think every relationship
has to be perfect, has to be maybe the `one.' God, if they only knew."
   "Well, we divorcees are jaded. But you're right."
   "I mean, we were that way too, but it leads to no good. Why get your heart
broken all the time  ? I wish I'd been more relaxed about it back then."
   "I think we all do, you know ?"
   Helene agreed, watching Martha smoke.
   She wasn't the only one.

   "I wonder what the rents are doing right now," Josie said.
   "Forget them. They're getting drunk and wondering what we're doing. They have
to worry about us because that's what they do. We don't."
   "I suppose you're right."
   Reaching out, Tabitha picked up her cigarettes and casually lit one as
Josie's eyes went wide.
   "When did you start smoking in the house- outside your room, I mean ?"
   "A few days ago. I think Mom was getting tired of me standing around outside
all the time and she finally gave in."
   There was a strange look on Josie's face, but Tabitha knew exactly what it
was. It was the look of a girl who wanted a cigarette of her own, but didn't
think she could have one.
   Boy, was she wrong.
   "I have a little secret, Tab. But there's a price."
   "Would that price be a cigarette by any chance ?" Tabitha asked knowingly.
Before Josie could answer she'd handed over her lighter and cigarettes.
   "For real ?"
   "Go ahead. I won't tell anyone."
   The way Josie lit the cigarette indicated it wasn't her first.
   As she drew the cigarette from her lips, smoke following, Tabitha found
herself wishing that maybe she wasn't so devoutly hetero.
   "How long have you been smoking ?" Tabitha asked.
   "What do you mean ?" Josie asked innocently, taking another expert draw on
the cigarette. 
   "What I mean," Tabitha said, demonstrating her own expert nature with a
cigarette as she inhaled, "is that you didn't just start smoking. That's
obvious. The way that you inhale-" and Josie was forced to marvel at how long
Tab could keep talking before she had to exhale, "-tells me you've been, I
don't know, practising."
   "Well, I have been smoking occasionally, but nothing like the way that you
smoke- I mean, you must smoke at least a pack a day."
   "At least," Tabitha said with a wry smile. "Probably more now that I can
smoke in the house. I missed almost half of Dawson's Creek the other night.
Speaking of which, don't you think it's time we started watching that movie
your mom rented for you ?"
   "Do we have to ?" Josie asked, half-serious. She took another inhale which
spoke of her experience. The exhale sealed it.
   "No. We can sit around and stare at each other rather than watch a bunch of
actors and actresses pretending to be our age have sex."
   "Okay, we'll watch the movie. After you tell me the secret, that is-"
   Josie inhaled, laughed and exhaled together.
   "My mom is going to try to get your mom to start smoking tonight."
   "Good luck," Tabitha said sarcastically. "I've been trying like forever. She
has no interest."
   "If anyone can change that, it's Mom."
   "Let's hope so. But it is ironic. Me giving you cigarettes while she tries to
do the same for Mom."
   "Cigarettes ? Not just one ?"
   "Would I do that to you, Josie ?"
   "I hope not."

   Martha looked around the bar for her friend Michael. He was stalking around
somewhere. No doubt, wondering when she was going to get around to introducing
her to her friend so that he could perform his parlour magic on her. Martha
knew that she should feel honoured, because there were precious few people
he'd do this for, but the truth was she was too nervous to be grateful. Helene
was particularly pigheaded and there was a real chance that this would not
work.
   Then she saw him and some of her edginess faded. He was very, very good at
what he did.
   There he was, leaning against the bar, using his dark good looks and his
cagey but honest smile to charm a pair of accountants from the basement. That
had been one of the best moves that Yancey and Satan had ever made- all of
YS's accounting department was in the basement, where, Martha felt, they
belonged.
   "Is that him ?"
   Martha smiled at her frriend. She then lit another cigarette- if their was
one thing that Michael liked, it was a woman who smoked- which was a big part
of the reason that he was willing to do this.
   "Yes."
   "Now why are we meeting him ?"
   Michael- his real name was Mukund Kumar , but he'd gone with Michael because
it was a name Americans seemed able to spell- looked up, saw his friend, and
excused himself with a flourish of the thick cigar that he was smoking.
   "How are you, Martha ?" he said in those soothing tones of his. 
   "Just fine, Michael. I want you to meet my best friend, Helene."
   Michael extended his free hand and took Helene's in his. Without- and Martha
had no idea how he did it- seeming insincere he said "I see that Martha did
not exaggerate your beauty in any way."
   The two women exchanged looks. Helene's was not altogether kind. She already
felt the possibility that she was being scammed, that Michael was the one who
was going to somehow try and get her to start smoking. It seemed absurd, but
then again, anything was possible. He certainly was handsome, and he had what
her mother would have called any easy voice, meaning that it could be listened
to endlessly.	
   "Thank you," Helene said neutrally. "It's a pleasure to meet you."
   "I trust our mutual friend has not spoiled things by telling you too much
about me."
   "Nothing, actually. I'd almost say that she's been rude about it."
   "Really. That's quite unlike her, but then again, she does love a good
mystery- as do we all. What do you say that we have a seat in the booth over
there and then get to know one another ?"
   As suggestions went, it was mild, but Martha heard the underlying quality of
that silky tone. It was a request and an order as well as a suggestion.
   Helene either failed to catch these subtleties or chose to ignore them.
Michael painted the path with the smoke from his cigar and Helene followed,
allowing Martha to bring up the rear. As they sat down a waiter came to the
table and before Helene could speak, Michael had ordered each of them
something and sent the college kid away.
   "So, how did you meet Martha, Michael ?"
   "We were in graduate school together- although looking at the two of us I'm
sure that you can't imagine how she could have been in college as long ago as
I was."
   Once again, the compliment, though overdone, managed to sound utterly
sincere. Martha merely drew on her cigarette and sat back in the booth,
shrinking herself into the corner as far as possible so that Michael would be
able to get Helene's full attention.
   As he took a considered pull on the cigar, Helene eyes him carefully, as if
trying to surmise his purpose and abilities. It couldn't possibly be as simple
as Martha expecting them to meet and hit it off. It was obvious watching him
smoke his cigar that he was a fan of the habit- or rather, it was possible to
understand that by seeing the way in which he looked at Martha as she took
another pull from her still long VS 120, but Martha knew her better-
   Mukund saw his opening. Helene had turned her attention to Martha, who was
smoking with the same stylish intensity he'd long ago grown used to. In truth,
he had never been so much as mildly interested in smoking until he'd met
Martha and they'd started hanging out in bars together. It was amasing to him
how men seemed to be drawn to her by the simple act, and he'd finally taken up
cigars to see if the same thing would work for him with women.
   It had worked just as well for him as Martha, except that he'd sidestepped
the messy divorce by never getting married, which had worked marvelously as
far as he was concerned.
   Then again, he'd never had an opportunity with a  Martha.
   He let that slide for the moment. Helen was the object of his interest right
now, and her head was still turned away from him.
   Mukund imagined what the pitch of his voice should sound like, intonated in
his mind the charge upon which each syllable should be carried, and then he
spoke with the weight of the ages in his voice.
   "You look very weary, Helene. Very relaxed."
   Helene, who had actually been keyed-up nervous and a little hyper, at first
found this suggestion to be nothing short of a wee bit absurd. Totally
ridiculous. 	
   Except that her eyes did feel a bit heavy. There was a  certain world-
weariness which no doubt was the result of coming off yet another hard week at
work. That was what made going out of Friday harder and harder these days. The
tiredness which had once set in on Sunday nights now seemed to fall into her
life at about three o'clock on Friday afternoon.
   "Yeah," Helen said.
   "So relaxed, so unfocused, that you could easily fall into a deep, dreamless
sleep right now."
   His voice was the opposite of electric. The sweet gentle tones rose no
emotion at all inside her. No, the voice was pitched both pleasantly and
emotionlessly. There was nothing but reason in those casual tones.
   "I could at that,"  Helene said, stifling a great yawn.
   "Just let your eyes slide closed for a moment so that they may rest."
   Again, there was nothing to dispute. Helene felt as though Michael knew what
she was thinking, felt her bone weariness, her lack of cohesive thought, her -
   She allowed her eyes to slide closed gently. There seemed nothing wrong with
that, after all. Just a moment of respite and then she could  go back to
drinking her beer and trying to figure out what Michael was up to. Yes, what
was he up-
   Mukund read the eyelid flutter, knew that she was trying to think, perhaps
even reason something out, which was simply no good.
   "There's no reason to be concerned with anything right now, Helene. Just
relax a little bit more."
   That voice. 
   There was no resisting it, no arguing with it. She wanted to stay focused,
observe him, learn what it was that he had, but that voice was telling her
that now was not the time for that search.
   "Are you relaxed now, Helene ?"
   "Yes."
   "Are you in a distant place, a comfortable place ?"
   "Yes."
   Martha inhaled, held, blew smoke. Normally that would have gotten Michael's
attention, but he was deep into this with Helene and hardly noticed.
   "Tell me about that place, Helene."
   "I'm sitting in the snow. It's a bright, sunny day, but cold. There is no
wind. The snow is soft and packed and I am reading Wuthering Heights. I'm a
few miles from home and no one can find me because this is my private place.
We all need a private place."
   "Yes, we do," Mukund agreed.
   "I'm happy here."
   "You are happy, but something is missing."
   "What's missing. It seems perfect here."
   "It would be, if you only had a cigarette. Imagine sitting back with your
novel and drawing deeply on the first cigarette from a new pack. Feel the
smoke in your lungs, the wispy feel of your exhale as you paint the heavy,
moist winter air with a coat of it. Can you feel it ?"
   "Yes. It's relaxing. Calming."
   "That's right. Relaxing. Calming. You want to be relaxed and calm, don't you
?"
   Martha took a pack of Marlboro Lights 100s and a lighter from her purse, tore
the cellophane off, and placed them in front of her. When she was done, she
passed a folded slip of paper across the table. Mukund set the paper aside.
   "Your opinion about smoking has entirely changed. You look at smoking as
something that is both understandable and enjoyable. You'll smoke when you
have the opportunity, and you'll never even think about why. You'll just enjoy
it. The smoke will not be harsh or make you cough. You will simply enjoy
yourself. I'm also going to give you a key phrase on which to focus. Any time
that you hear the words-"
   He opened up the paper, looked at it, and then shot Martha a sour look, one
which asked if she was sure this was what she really wanted.
   She nodded.
   "-whenever you hear the words `fucking bullshit', you'll find the nearest
appropriate place and light a cigarette. Do you understand ?"
   "Yes. I like smoking. I enjoy smoking. In fact, I'd like a cigarette right
now, wouldn't I ?"
   `Yes. You're going to wake up, light a cigarette, and forget that we had this
pleasant little conversation."
   Helene's eyes opened and she immediately reached for the cigarettes. Without
appearing to think about what she was doing, she lit the first cigarette of
her life and began smoking it as though it was simply one of many.

   "I can't believe that I'm actually enjoying this movie," Josie said, lighting
yet another cigarette.
   The two girls were sitting together on the couch, shoulders touching, resting
against one another.
   As soon as Josie had taken a good draw on the cigarette, she passed it to
Tabitha, who repeated the gesture. She glanced at the screen again and found
herself-
   Looking at Josie, she saw that the other girl was thinking the same thing.
   "Maybe we should turn it off for a while. I'm starting to feel a little
funny, and-"
   "You want to go off someplace private and-"
   Josie took the cigarette, inhaled deeply, blew out a long, experienced cloud
of smoke.
   "I don't do that."
   Tabitha laughed, reached down to the table, and lit another cigarette of her
own. Once it was burning, she placed her free hand directly over Josie's
zipper and began gently probing with her index finger.
   "What the hell are you doing ?" Josie asked, but she didn't really sound
angry. Just bewildered.
   "If you can't do it yourself, I'll have to give you an hand."
   "Are you serious ?" Josie asked, sounding as though this was simply not
within her range of comprehension.
   "You and I are alone on a Friday night, watching Teenage Sex Parties, and you
don't masturbate. What choice do we have ?"
   Rather than argue, Josie reached up behind Tabitha's back and deftly undid
the strap of her bra. With equal skill, she managed to worked the bar
completely outside the shirt and began stroking Tabitha's nipple.
   "Have you done this before ?" Tabitha asked.
   "No, but it's easy."
   Tabitha showed no less skill slipping her hand inside Josie's flowered
underwear. Both girls continued watching the movie and smoking, wrapping
themselves in a sweet haze of smoke. Josie had the perfect ability to tweak
Tabitha's nipple without tickling her. At the same time, her own breathing
grew rapid and shallow.
   Exhaling through her nose, Josie rested her head against Tabitha's shoulder
and looked into her deep blue eyes.
   "What about you ?"
   "You first-"
   Josie hugged her, careful to keep her cigarette out of her friend's hair. She
began kissing Tabitha's neck, slow, patient, wet kisses which further excited
her. Her orgasm was slow, drawn, utterly enjoyable. She quivered for thirty
seconds and then lay back, spent, finishing her cigarette in peaceful bliss.
Tabitha finished her own and just as she was going to light another and two
scantily clad seniors made their way into the room of Biff Hamstrung, the
`star' of the movie, Josie gently  pushed her friend down on the couch so that
she was lying full out.
   She had some fun with Tabitha's jeans, stripping them off slowly, one leg at
a time, making it last.
   Next went her underwear, the strange Christmas panties Grandma had given her
with the `unwrap me first' stenciled across the shield.
   "I really never had done this before," Josie said, and then her head
disappeared. Tabitha took a sharp inhale on her cigarette and found it very
hard to believe that Josie had no experience. She had precious little time to
think about that before Josie's natural skill brought her to the point of no
return.
   When her orgasm was finished the two girls simply lay together, sharing
another cigarette and watching the movie, their sexual urges spent.
   Or so they thought.

   Josie was long gone by the time that Tabitha's mom finally rolled in. Tabitha
had cleaned up, although the thick smell of smoke was everywhere in the house
now, which was fine with her.
   Even from ten feet away, she could smell smoke on her mother as well, like
most nights when she went out with Martha.
   "How was your day ?" Martha asked offhandedly.
   As if.
   But while there were things that Tabitha would never tell her mother, she
could give the standard answer which had become like a well-known joke between
them.
   "Same fucking bullshit."
   Without missing a beat, Martha opened her purse, pulled out her half-empty
pack of cigarettes, and lit one easily.
   "Mom, what the hell are you doing ?"
   "Smoking a cigarette, honey," she said, the cigarette bouncing up and down as
she spoke. "You don't have a problem with that, do you ?"
   Tabitha  lit one of her own.
   "Not at all, Mom. Not at all."
   "Did you invite Josie over ?"
   "Yeah," Tabitha said, post-exhale.
   "Enjoy the movie ?'
   All she could do was laugh- and watch her mother smoke.
   She couldn't remember a better Friday night.
   Ever.


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