Independence Day

(by an4@anon.lelnet.com, 13 July 1997)


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Independence Day
by an4@anon.lelnet.com

   There was a timeless quality to the girl standing in the doorway which
Nathaniel admired. At such times as these, accepting a position at an all
girls private school was a decision which the young teacher found vexing. He
had told himself- as he had told the review board who had interviewed him,
that he was not like some men, who would view a position such as his as one
in untoward ways.
   Of course, he was also still dating his- the term was saccharine but true-
the british equivalent of his high school sweetheart. He had, in fact, been
engaged.
   That was now history- apt in that he was, after all, an history instructor.
   Alicia was was actually one of his best students, a bright, if seemingly
somber young women with a keen mind and a quick wit. He had once joked with
her that said wit was as sharp as Occam's Razor and she'd laughed
depreciatorially as though she understood the reference.
   She would be here to discuss the grade he'd given her on her latest term
paper. Here it was, July 3rd- and the school was as empty as a morgue as the
Americans took their little holiday, as if two hundred years and a decade or
two were something to celebrate. But Alicia would want to quibble over what
amounted to seven points on one assignment.
   Her smile was at once cold and familiar, an unfitting reminder of his- no,
not his, not anymore- Gabriella.
   When she stepped into the room and swung the door closed behind her, he
considered the best way to ask her to open it again. There was a clear policy
at Templar's, a perfectly sane and legalistically pure commandment. Doors to
offices and classrooms were to remain at least partially open at all times
unless unoccupied. Propriety and legalism mingled, this credo. Perfectly
sensible, perfectly responsive to the American legal system.
   Of course, there was no one else in this entre wing. He'd been amased when
they'd offered him such spacious quarters for his collection of leather bound
antiquities, but he now understood that the remote location of his workspace
was the reason it had been so readily available. It was literally a kilometre
to the front gates from here.
   "Alicia, would you mind terribly opening the door ?"
   The girl walked away from the door rather than towards it. Again, the smile
which graced her face was not terribly reminiscent of a girl her age. 
   "I was hoping that we could talk in peace," she said. Her voice was low,
throaty. Sultry rather than husky. Again, like Gabriella's. It made him think
of her so strongly that he was struck, as always when he saw Alicia, of the
fact that she was vaguely familiar beyond their current association.
   "And I think we'll both enjoy the conversation more if I leave the door
closed."
   She walked over the open window and sat herself down on the wide sill. Of
course. She wanted to smoke. He'd seen her out on the quad or in the smoking
section of the cafeteria. It gave him no end of unspoken pleasure that the
teacher's main table was in that section at well. He always manoeuvered for a
seat against the windows so that he could surreptitiously watch the girls
smoke. It was his one pleasure he knew to be wrong. Less of a transgression
than some of his cohorts. Propriety was not, always, maintained.
   But her desire to smoke didn't explain her comment.
   Nathaniel decided to tack on a British course.
   "Whatever does that mean ?"
   Alicia carried a small black leather purse, just barely big enough for her
cigarettes and lighter. She opened it, removed a box of Marlboro Lights 100s,
and lit one with the casual air of a sixteen year old girl accustomed to
smoking in front of adults.
   Nathaniel felt a regrettable and inappropriate swell form.
   'You know," Alicia said, her Canadian accent rounding the o sounds in a way
far more pleasing than the nasal American tone he was so often irritated by,
"it hurts to be so easily forgotten." Her inhale was deep and satisfying. She
moved the cigarette from her mouth with languorous precision and held it in a
familiar way. Hand even with jaw, wrist cocked back so that the cigarette
pointed away from her head at a sharp forty-five degree angle. Smoke curled
teasingly from the end
   Her exhale was aimed at the open window. Her head swivelled on a perfectly
formed neck which fairly screamed to be sculpted. Her well-kept blonde hair
twisted gracefully, the wind catching the long, twisting strands and making
them fairly dance as the late afternoon sun created a chemistry of light in
the uneven colour of the strands.
   "It was only last summer."
   He looked at her, marvelling that he would have forgotten such a vision as
this.
   She was dressed en noir, as always. She was wearing a plain black shirt with
a short collar and long sleeves which hid what he knew to be aggressively
pale skin. The shirt had perhaps been washed one time to many, judging by the
way it formed to her breasts. Her jeans were black as well, running down her
thighs like water to terminate inside her high-tops, which were an
incongruous white.
   Too young or not, watching even a single exhale from those pouty lips seemed
unforgettable.
   "Gabriella said you were in heaven that day."
   Of course. Gabriella had said that to him many times, always with a tinge of
jealousy.
   The wedding. Gabriella's older sister Susan. Halifax. A perfect Sunday last
July- and not because of the weather.
   Nathaniel had told Gabriella very early in the relationship about-
   He avoided using the word because it was not something a proper Englishman
should fall prey to.
   In the end, it had come between them. Gabriella never understood that no
matter where they were or who they were with, he had eyes only for her, that
watching a beautiful woman smoke and admiring the spectacle was far different
from loving one.
   He could still taste the sweet tinge of tobacco on her breath when he closed
his eyes. 
   Then again, he'd been a bit taken with her sister that day. The outdoor
reception- the smoking age in Nova Scotia was just sixteen at the time, it
seemed, and every woman or girl even close to that age was smoking. That
alone would have made the trip worthwhile. But when the entire wedding party,
Gabriella included, lit long, slender cigars-
   They'd done this just before posing for the wedding pictures. The
photographer had been provided by Cigar Afficiando, and she'd done the
picture shoot great justice. He still occasionally went back to the magazine
to look at those pictures. Gabriella had been stunning, but her sister Susan-
   No woman in a wedding dress had ever been so appealing to Nathaniel, and
there were long, lonely nights when he looked back on that day of bliss as
his undoing with mercurial Gabriella.
   "The wedding ?" he asked, watching Alicia exhale another perfect cloud of
smoke which drifted lazily towards the screen only to be thwarted by the
breeze. It crashed against the mesh and backwashed towards the girl, who
continued to hold the cigarette in a maddeningly alluring way. He wished that
Alicia would come to the point. Instead, she tapped ash onto the screen and
inhaled again, her eyes half closing at the dreamy taste of the smoke.
   "Yes, the wedding. I'm Gabriella's cousin on her mother's side. You don't
remember me at all ?"
   "Should I ?" he asked, knowing very well that he should.
   "I was there, smoking the entire time. I thought that was something which
interested you-"
   Nathaniel flushed crimson. 
   "Don't be embarrassed," Alicia said. "I think it's both sweet and perfectly
understandable. If it's any consolation, Gabriella's dating a medical
student. He made her quit smoking and now she's miserable."
   "That doesn't sound like the Gabriella I know-" Nathaniel said curtly. "It's
not like her to do anything she doesn't want to-"
   "You know how it is. Gabriella has a temper, but-"
   Nathaniel thought he did understand, but he didn't want to continue this
conversation any further. Watching this girl- he reminded himself that she
was just that, a girl- a student no less- smoke had made it impossible for
him to leave his seat.
   "Did you come in to discuss the A minus on your term paper ?" he asked as
the girl performed the sort of staggeringly perfect nose exhale which would
be enough to carry him through the rest of the day in a state of contentment.
He had to end this interview.
   "No," Alicia said, looking vaguely hurt. She inhaled again, trimmed ashes,
and returned the shrinking cigarette to a spot by her left knee. The wrist
was still cocked properly, and he had a feeling that it always was. Not that
he intended to find out.
   "I came here because Templar's is a morgue and I was hoping you needed some
company for the holiday."
   Coming from a girl who was normally so somber and reserved, this statement
made Nathaniel acutely uncomfortable.	It also made him warm and pleased,
which was worse than deriving so much pleasure from watching her smoke.
   "You should know, being such an excellent student of history, that an
Englishman finds this holiday to be something other than a cause for celebrati
on, Ms. MacCardell."
   "Does that mean that I'll be spending the fourth in the seclusion of my
empty house ?"
   "Empty ? I thought you lived with Pam and Kelli."
   He was sure that the three girls' parents had rented them an house together.
It was amasing how many of the girls lived in private houses with no adult
supervision. But with the main dormitory undergoing renovation, it had become
almost a necessity. Still, it had struck Nathaniel as a surprising liberty.
   "In case you haven't noticed, they went home for the summer. And before you
ask, my parents are on holiday. My father can't seem to get enough of Prince
Edward Island's golf courses. Although this time of year you have to fight
the hockey players for tee times."
   "I have- I have commitments," Nathaniel said, not much liking the flat sound
of the transparent lie.
   Alicia tried not to look too disappointed as she stood up. She extracted
another cigarette from the pack, replaced it in the purse, and prepared to
light it, something Nathaniel wished to avoid.
   "You might want to wait until you get outside," he cautioned neutrally.
   "No one is in this whole wing but you and I, and besides, I've been a good
girl all day."
   Nathaniel thought that was untrue in the extreme.
   She lit the cigarette and Nathaniel's self-control slipped another notch.
   "Aren't you going to see me out ?" the young woman teased, as if she
understood only too well the affect she was having on her instructor.
   "You know the way," he responded levelly.
   She walked over to the desk, exhaled, a slow nose exhale which spread smoke
across the large oak desk to hang like a cloud of indecision. writhing
without progressive motion. She switched the cigarette from left hand to
right. She then reached out and took the pen Nathaniel had forgotten he was
holding. Her hand fairly closed around his as she did this. Her skin was
unbelievably cool, incredibly electric.
   She turned his hand over and he resisted the urge to pull it away.
   With the gentlest of pressure, she wrote her address in his palm, turned the
hand over again, and pressed against a notepad. The address came out in
reverse on the paper.
   Leaning over, she inhaled, so close now that he could hear the hiss of the
cigarette. She looked at her handwork and smiled, her teeth, small, white and
predatorially perfect. Her nose exhale bathed him in cool, sensuous smoke.
Leaning ever so slightly more would have revealed to the young woman the
affect she was having on Nathaniel, but he was relieved when she had the
propriety to resist the urge.
   She left without another word.

   Nathaniel discarded the notion of contacting the headmistress about the
incident immediately. That would certain cause more questions than answers.
Instead, he made his way out of his office, being very careful not to look at
the address scrawled in his hand.
   As he entered the hallway he smelled the fading smoke from Alicia's
cigarette. It was a pleasant scent, which grew surprisingly stronger as he
walked towards the Men's Faculty Lounge. These three words were a colossal
misnomer. The 'lounge' was two urinals, two stalls, and two sinks, all tile
and marble. 
   Of course, the breeze was blowing in from the west, which might have carried
the smoke down the hallway.
   He opened the door hesitantly.
   She was there, standing by one of the urinals, a vague look of disapproval
on her face. 
   "This room is reserved for men of the faculty, Alicia."
   "And I am neither," she said. "You could have left it there on your hand
until you got home. You do go home occasionally, don't you ?"
   "Yes. Occasionally."
   Nathaniel faltered. Suddenly he was out of dry responses and stolid english
flat affect. He simply wanted to walked over to the sink and wipe the ink
from his hand before the curiosity to look became overwhelming.
   Instead, he watched Alicia bring the cigarette to her mouth, watched her
inhale slowly and deeply, the corners of her mouth turned up slightly as
though she was happy to put on this little show for him, which he thought was
most likely exactly the case. Before she could exhale he did take the first
tentative steps in the correct direction.	
   Anything but a classic simple exhale, he thought to himself. He would not
reach a point where she was out of his field of vision before she exhaled. He
was sure of that, just as he was sure that he would not give her the
satisfaction of turning away. If she pursed her lips and pushed the smoke out
in that wonderful way of hers-
   Her eyes, brighter than sun-lit jade, fairly sparkled. She batted her
eyelashes a single time, and as if reading his thoughts she made her full,
pouty lips into a tight circle and forced the smoke out in a long tight
stream. If drifted lazily in his direction, undercutting the sterile scent of
cleaning products.
   Finally, he was able to turn his body away without feeling rude as he
reached his goal. Just in time. He was quite sure that the rest of this
discussion would be carried on with him giving her his back.
   "You really should move on, Alicia."
   "You know, the reason that I stayed for summer session was because of you-"
   "That seems unlikely," Nathaniel countered, trying very hard to be annoyed.
"I may have told you it would benefit your studies, but-"
   "Exactly. I stayed to benefit my studies but now there's this- what would
you call it- dreadful holiday and I am going to be all alone. I was just
hoping for some innocent company."
   "Innocent ?" Nathaniel asked, rubbing soap on his infected hand.
   "I could smoke. You could watch. We could discuss Milton and his feelings on
heaven and hell- or divorce, if the two things are really any different."
   "Milton was a bitter man. His politics and his libido kept him in trouble
for too many years."
   "The failing eyesight couldn't have helped," Alicia said.
   "He was already bitter by then. He was a man out of his time. Today his
views would be considered mild. Back that, he was a seditious intellectual
with a mean streak and a flair for epic expression."
   Sadly, Nathaniel admitted he was enjoying this discussion.
   Alicia turned to the door, inhaled one last time and forced a jet of pure
cream from between her lips.
   "If you don't come, it's your loss."
   Nathaniel pondered that long after the girl was gone.

   "So, who are you spending the holiday with, Nat ?" his mother asked.
   "I'm spending it alone, mother," he said, feeling suddenly dreary. Dating
had become a source of discordance between the two.
   "You should be on the beach, smoking cigars and drinking Guinness."
   "The nearest beach is of any consequence is fifty kilometres from here and
I've been thinking of putting away my cigars for a while." He was not going
to add the reason for this sudden decision.
   "Good God. Those Americans will make a total bore of you. Next you'll be
telling your dear mother that you're giving over tea for diet Coke and
Oprah."
   He looked at the old grandfather clock in his faculty apartment. It was five
past the hour of four and he was dutifully sipping at his dar jeeling, which
was perfectly tepid and utterly pleasing.
   "I shall never give over tea, mother."
   "Well, the men in the family have smoked cigars for three hundred years. Why
would you even think-"
   "How was Wimbledon ?" he asked, changing the subject to something safer.
   "The rain was dreadful but the tennis was passable. Your father, of course,
prefers to watch the women, even though they grunt like common pigs."
   "Will you be going to Paris next week ?"
   "Yes, as though you care. Why don't you get out and starting seeing someone
?"
   No amount of diversion kept the woman off course long. She was like a
bloodhound. Or a member of the Black Watch.
   Instead of answering the question, Nathaniel took the one tact which would
appease. "You were right, mother. Gabriella was never english, not for all
her schooling. I should have listened to you."
   Surprisingly, not even concession worked this time. "You sound more
depressed than usual. That place is dulling you."
   "Not true, mother. The colonials are still enthralled by an active English
intellect," he half-joked. "School is going quite well. I'm sure to be
promoted to teaching the seniors in the fall."
   "Then why do sound like there's some great weight pressing you down ?"
   "You wouldn't understand."
   "It's a girl," she said, not, perhaps, knowing how right she was.
   "Mother-"
   There was a commotion in the background and his mother cursed in that
strangely guttural way of her. "The damn dog is loose again. I tell you, the
worst thing you ever did was leave that hound here."
   "We aren't allowed pets in the faculty apartments. You'd better get him
before he ruins Mrs. Cambering's flowers again-"
   "Do start taking better care of yourself, dear."
   With that, she was gone, and Nathaniel made a mental note to reward the dog
on his next visit.

   'Do start taking better care of yourself, dear.'
   Nathaniel was doing no such thing.
   Instead he was almost all the way down the old dirt road on which Alicia
lived. He was doing something which no matter how innocent would turn out to
be a mistake, turn out to be wrong and at the same time utterly enjoyable.
   He was sure watching a sixteen year old girl smoke was not what his mother
had in mind.
   The sun was still up in the sky, bright and hard, a summer sun requiring a
light sunscreen to protect his frail british skin.
   The car ground stone and dirt underneath its wheels, kicking up dust which
coated the white paint of the old Jaguar and the leather interior. She would
hear him coming and know that she had won some little victory by sitting on
his window sill and doing the one thing she knew he couldn't resist. Why
couldn't Gabriella kept his secret- their secret, to herself ?
   She was sitting in her used Saab 900s, the top down. Or rather, he knew she
was there because he could see her left hand hanging over the side of the
door, holding a slowly smoldering long white cigarette. She must have inhaled
recently because a thick cloud of hanging smoke filled the space above the
cockpit.
   On the index finger of the hand she was wearing some sort of large silver
ring. It was the style these days, large rings which Nathaniel usually found
distractingly unattractive. But not in this case. The ring, shaped liked an
apple out of which a single bite had been taken, drew the eye to the
cigarette held between Alicia's fingers.
   He didn't get out of the car immediately. Instead he waited until the hand
was drawn inside the car, waited until it emerged again, shortly before
another languorous exhale which clung to air above the car like an unnatural
fog.
   Of course, she had to have heard the car, but she had made no move to
acknowledge him. He preferred it that way. Better if she were not the least
bit excited to see him.
   Getting out of the car turned out to be more difficult than the drive. It
took all his courage to put one odd-looking sneakered foot on the dirt and
stones, to follow it with a second. Elongating his frame out from the
confines of the car was even more difficult, more demanding of his
determination to relax and enjoy himself.
   Alicia sat up suddenly, turned around so that her head popped up over the
headrest, brought the cigarette to her lips and inhaled deeply. She held it
for a few seconds and then smiled, the upper lip curling into a grin quickly
turned down so that she could exhale through perfectly full pinkish lips
drawn into a tight hole.
   "I can't believe you actually came," she said cheerily. Her right hand was
now dangling over the side of the car and he saw that she was holding a
Molson XXX, a beer that you couldn't get in the states. Nathaniel's stomach
did a low, lazy roll. This had all the signs of major trouble now. Getting in
the car and leaving might just be the first good idea of the day.
   "I thought about what you said. About innocent company and how missing it
would be my loss. I decided not to suffer that loss."
   The car door opened and Alicia stepped out onto the gravel, naked foot
first. He'd seen no hint of clothing at all, just bare arms and hands, making
him the tiniest bit nervous that the girls was actually naked throughout.
   When he saw what she was wearing he almost wished she was.
   He had a feeling the scant bikini, pastel blues in a chalk and charcoal
design, was actually more enticing than plain nakedness would have been. The
tight top, which was linear in shape, covered little more that a strip of
flesh two inches wide. Only the girl's nipples seemed fully contained.
   The bikini brief lived up to its name. Without any effort Nathaniel could
see that she'd clearly shaved this morning.
   The effect was-
   Maddening.
   She brought the cigarette to her lips, inhaled graciously, and exhaled a
creamy cloud of pure white smoke which was intended to engulf him. There was
no breeze and it did its work quickly and effectively. He had nothing to do
but smile. Alicia then took a long draw on the beer, draining the bottle with
casual efficiency. Holding up her empty she asked if he wanted one.
   He wanted desperately to say no, but her warm smile, something Gabriella had
never mastered, forced a polite yes, please from his lips.
   They walked into the house, Nathaniel a few steps behind. He told himself
this was not so that he could watch the attractive way her derriere shifted,
but it was a poor lie, even trapped in his skull. She took one last long
inhale on the cigarette as she passed through the door and filled the hall
with another heavenly cloud of white smoke.
   They passed through the living room and Nathaniel came to a dead stop.
   Sitting on the coffee table was a twenty-fifth anniversary Macintosh, a high
back, sleek model with a modem line running out of it which Nathaniel could
only dream of owning. Especially since they were yet to be official shipped.
   Just then, the phone rang.
   Alicia excused herself politely and sat down on the couch. She tapped the
mouse and smiled as Nathaniel hung back, noticing that there was a quick cam
sitting on the table.
   "Hi Mom," Alicia said cheerily. The sound in her voice brought a strange
thud to Nathaniel's heart. It was the sound of a child speaking to a parent.
   But even as her mother started speaking, she reached out, picked up a pack
of cigarettes, and lit one casually.
   "Well, my plans for the holiday are still up in the air, mom." Her nose
exhale was nothing short of stunning, more compelling because she turned to
look directly at Nathaniel as she completed it.
   "Am I alone ? Well, who would be here ?"
   He heard Helen MacCardell say 'a boy', and that dampened his enthusiasm for
this particular venture a bit more.
   "Well, mom, I stopped stating boys when I turned sixteen. But where would I
find even a boy at an all-girls school ?"
   She looked directly at Nathaniel and smiled. As she did so, she brought the
cigarette to her lips and wrapped them around it with an almost exaggerated
slowness. The inhale was the sort of thing that Nathaniel usually saw only
once a week at best. At lunch, the girls tended to smoke as though they were
just an hour from their execution- wonderful volume, but so often without
style. This was the sort of performance inhale usually limited to the movies,
and Nathaniel thanked himself for remembering to wear his baggiest shorts.
   The exhale was also just short of staged, a wonderful exhibition which left
him breathless.
   He was in desperate need of a cigar.
   The conversation finished quickly after that.
   "You know mothers," Alicia said.
   Nathaniel had to smile. "Yes. I had too long of a conversation with mine
before I came over."
   "Is that why you're here ?" Alicia asked innocently.
   "Good god, no. If my mother knew I was spending the afternoon-"
   "And evening-"
   "Whatever- with a sixteen year old girl-"
   "Didn't I mention that today was my seventeenth birthday ?" Alicia asked.
   "No. And here I am, without a present for you. How churlish."
   Alicia inhaled deeply on the cigarette, so unselfconsciously that he found
himself needing to ask the question which had been bothering him since she'd
sat on his sill this afternoon.
   "Do you mind telling me how long it is that you've been smoking ?"
   She smiled, forcing a nose exhale which put a tight knot into the base of
his stomach.
   "I was fifteen when I started. My mother gave me my first pack and made me
promise it would last three days."
   "Did it ?"
   "Of course not. More like one. It really fascinates you, doesn't it ? Would
you like me to tell you what the first one was like ?"
   It would have been very difficult to say no. But instead of elaborating, the
girl- the young woman- stood up and padded on naked feet towards the kitchen.
"You need a beer. You're stiffer than a board, Mr. Wellington."
   "Don't you know that it's a genetic prerequisite for british men to be stiff
?" he joked.
   "You forget, I've seen you otherwise."
   At the wedding, of course. He had quarrelled with Gabriella. They'd both
gotten drunk afterwards, but it had done little to alter their moods. He
seemed to remember making something of a fool of himself in the end, but the
reviews had been ever so slightly more positive than that. Damn karoke.
   "I hope you don't think you understand me because of one unfortunate day,"
he teased.
   "I have also sat in your class all year and drank of your dry wit," she
answered, sounding serious. She trailed smoke through the house and he was for
ced to walk in the sweet smell. Each step found him wishing to experience
from a less remote vantage.
   "I hope you'll settle for beer. I'm not feeling very comic right now."
   She took two bottles from the fridge and set them down on the table. Then
she lifted the cigarette to her lips and trapped it there while she undid the
caps with an opener. He noticed that the cigarette did not dangle from her
lips as it would have from a man. There was nothing careless about the way
the long white cigarette stuck out at a straight angle from her mouth. In
fact, she held it dead centre, tightly caressed between full lips. As she
opened the first beer she somehow inhaled without moving those incredibly
fleshy appendages. As she opened the second there was another world-class
nose exhale.
   She then removed the cigarette from her mouth with one hand, moving it down
to her waist where it was held between long slender fingers at the perfect
angle. She handed him his beer with a coy smile and he took it hesitantly.
   He was profoundly worried.
   "You look nervous," she said, standing close to him. He could have easily
reached out and run his hand through her long, smoky blonde hair, he could
have leaned forward and smelled the faint scent of sweet tobacco in the
strands.
   "I think I- perhaps I should drink this beer and call it an evening-"
   She leaned forward, her mouth opening slowly. The cigarette was retrieved
from its waiting place and inserted into her mouth surrounded by two pale
fingers. The inhale was slow, ponderous, and he knew, partially for his
benefit. He did not move. The exhale filled his filed of vision, broke
against his stern face and washed over his upper body. He regretted instantly
not going with the boxers.
   "Tell me something," she said, the words carried on the last bit of smoke
from her lungs. "You enjoy watching me smoke and you have the rest of the
night to do it, if you'd like. Why are you uncomfortable with that ?"
   "Well, there's the fact that you're sixteen- pardon me- seventeen years old.
Then there's this little thing I like to call my job-"
   "You smoke cigars don't you ?" she asked.
   "Yes. Why ?"
   "Because," she answered, pausing to inhale so that each of her following
words would be carried on smoke, "I get positively horny watching attractive
men smoke cigars. It's  my  little private fetish, just like yours. Let's set
up chairs in the back and sit in the sun and pretend we're the two most
asexual creatures on the planet while we get all excited watching each other
smoke."
   "Maybe I didn't bring my cigars."
   "You did though, didn't you ? Meet me out back-"
   He was so unresponsive that she finally added "please."
   "I'd like that-" he finally said.

   There was the faintest ringing in Nathaniel's ears. From the time he was a
small child he'd got this sensation, origin unbeknownst, any time he embarked
on a path he knew to be wrong. The first time had been at the age of six.
He'd let the dog out of the house without a leash, and as one would expect
with a dog, havoc had ensued.
   He had, of course. Known better. He'd been told more times than he could
count that the dog was most definitely never to be let out without benefit of
leash- or tranquiliser, his mother often joked.
   The results had been predictable.
   But the dog's eyes had made a fool of him. So sad, so knowing.
   Alicia's green eyes were of the same cast.
   Only this time it was he himself about to be let off the leash, quite
possibly to bite the neighbour's daughter as Gibraltar had.
   He lit the cigar while he was still standing by his car. It had an
immediately calming effect. In fact, after a long draw on the cigar and a
longer one on the bottle of beer, Nathaniel felt himself unwind perceptibly.
His mother was right, after all, if not about the beach, about his tendency
to, as she termed it, 'out-british the british.'
   The yard was expansive, but open. The forest closed in on the domain from
all sides, but it had carefully been trimmed back so that the space behind
the house seemed almost oddly enormous. It looked like the sort of free-range
which might once have hosted large outdoor cocktail parties.
   Alicia had set up two chairs near the pool- he was a little surprised to see
that this spacious, upscale residence had a rather ordinary looking above
ground pool which disfigured the landscape badly. She was lounging
comfortably, her skin glistening with sunscreen, a cigarette in her left
hand. She was sporting a pair of tight fitting sunglasses which had a similar
effect to the bikini, hiding the alluring eyes.
   This time she didn't even look up. She just raised the cigarette to her
lips, pulled on it casually, and the spoke as she exhaled. "You really didn't
dress right for this," she said, her words thick from the smoke.
   Nathaniel actually allowed himself a slight laugh. "Believe me, I wouldn't
have dressed any other way." He stretched himself out, laying down carefully
on the long beach chair. He turned his head and saw that Alicia was look at
him, a smile on her face.
   "It is comfortable, isn't it ?" she asked.
   Putting the cigar in his mouth, he spoke around it easily. "Yes, it is
comfortable. Now that I've admitted that, I can I go back to being stiff ?"
   "I'd rather you didn't. Why don't you just enjoy that cigar of you're and
I'll watch."
   "You're not serious about that, are you ? I mean you did just say that to
get my- to get me going, as it were."
   Pushing herself up on one elbow, Alicia removed the sunglasses. he could see
in her eyes that she was indeed serious.
   "Why should I do all the work? Whether you like it or not, I know you enjoy
watching me smoke. And I feel the same way about watching you."
   Nathaniel raised himself up the same way so that their heads were level,
about a yard apart. He took the cigar from his mouth briefly, trimmed the
ash, and then took a long pull on it. He watched Alicia carefully. There was
no gleeful smile, no measurable expression at all. But he saw something which
reminded him very strongly of the way he felt when-
   She repaid him by inhaling deeply on her cigarette, pursing her lips, and
blowing smoke high into the air above her head.
   And with that one exchange, most of Nathaniel's fading resistance melted
away.

   They were in the pool. It was the last few moments for it. The sun was just
about behind the trees and Alicia said that they'd have to go inside once it
set because of the bugs. The water was pleasantly warm- heated, as it turned
out- and Alicia, with her hair pulled back into a tight pony tail and the
water wetting her lush eyelashes- her eyes and her smooth, rounded cheekbones
were an amasing sight.
   She was surprisingly exuberant in the water. In fact, she was at this moment
begging Nathaniel for a piggy-back ride.
   It seemed to him that such a request should sound childish, but of course it
did not. In fact, the sound in Alicia's voice reminded him strongly of
Gabriella, but without the sarcasm, the innuendo, or the naked hostility. She
was standing behind him, her, firm hands on his eager shoulders, ready- of
all things- to mount him.
   "Please," she intoned.
   "If you must," he said dryly. "But do try not to kick me in the head too
much."
   He remembered this from his childhood. Ideally, there would be two other
children- adults- whatever- in the pool, and this would be a chicken fight.
If it was still politically correct to castigate chickens.
   Of course, thankfully they were alone. She pushed up hard on his shoulders,
got her legs up and over and managed to sit atop him without pushing him
face-first into the water. Even as this precarious balancing act was
occurring Nathaniel found his mind wandering back to just a short while ago.
They'd smoked together, sharing a common bond. Alicia had been very open,
even eager, to talking about her smoking. She told him about her first
cigarette, which she'd smoked in her own bedroom late one night with the
window open, wearing nothing but a bar and gym shorts. About how quickly her
mother found out- and gave her permission to smoke.	
   Nathaniel found his curiosity about these stories hard to explain, but
nevertheless he'd become a tad excited just thinking about Alicia being given
the right to smoke.
   She'd shaved her legs. They were smooth, the skin slick with water and
without stubble. 
   "You have to give me a ride," Alicia said, and Nathaniel complied. He walked
back and forth, bobbed up and down, and spun in circles until he was nearly
dizzy and the last faint rays from the sun began to be blocked by the flora.
   "You call that a ride," Alicia asked derisively.
   Nathaniel grabbed her by the ankles and spun both of them into the water. He
let go of the ankles, thinking to free her, but they became tangled up before
breaking the surface. As his head broke the water, he found her pressed up
tightly against his chest. He realised belatedly that he was holding her
around the waist, as she was him. Their faces were just inches apart.
   The entire rest of their upper bodies was pressed together and Alicia
wrapped her legs around Nathaniel's to complete the connection. The boxers
she'd let him borrow for swimming were as loose fitting as his shorts, but
here in the water that was a problem. She could surely feel that he was hard.
   Any doubt in his mind was erased by the brush of her hand against him.
   "You know I can't do this, Alicia," he said, but it was a lie.
   "Is it because I'm only seventeen, or because you feel like the only reason
you're here is because you like to watch me smoke ?"
   "Well, the fact that you are my student- and under age, are two not
inconsiderable parts of my-"
   "It's not like anyone will know- unless you don't trust me."
   Her hand strayed to where the boxers were not doing their job and applied a
perfectly sensuous touch.
   "Let's take the other consideration. If I am only attracted to you because
you smoke- which is not to say that there are not plenty of other reasons to
be attracted to you- but let's say that one factor is the reason I came
here-"
   "Then you and I are no different. And it's no different than if you were
attracted to me because of my breasts or my eyes or my sparkling wit- you do
think my wit is sparkling, don't you ?"
   Nathaniel moved his to hers with the intention of moving it away. Instead,
she intertwined her fingers in his and began to stroke him gently with the
other hand.
   "Something like that. But basing an attraction on an habit many people find
disagreeable at best-"
   Alicia's hand moved away from him and she began to float gently, using her
feet deftly to remove his shorts, which fell away after she skillfully
unhooked them from his swollen penis.
   "You and I don't believe that. Do you know how many times I've waited on the
steps of the library just to catch a glimpse of you walking across the quad
at the end of the day, cigar in hand- or better yet, in mouth ? Gabriella
believes there's something wrong with that but you don't."
   "I took a vow not to sleep with the students. They take that sort of thing
rather seriously here."
   "Which is why I would never tell anyone," Alicia said as her bikini brief
floated lazily to the surface. "Have you ever had sex in a pool ?" she asked,
beginning to stroke him again.
   "Don't you think we should have some protection ?" he asked breathlessly,
suddenly having no strength to argue with her.
   "It's the safe part of my cycle- and Gabriella told me you were here first,
so I'm not worried-"
   Nathaniel flushed crimson. "That's embarrassing. Should I ask if you've-"
   Alicia leaned close to his ear, her smell a wonderful mix of coconut,
chlorine, and smoke. "You're going to be my  first-"
   She floated upwards slightly and settled down over him in a perfect fit.
Nathaniel reached down and kissed her hard as he began to thrust. She was
wonderfully tight, and although it felt tremendous he worried that he might
be hurting her, because he honestly believed that he'd never been so aroused.
She bit his lower lip and began to suck on it, pulling hard as she
rhythmically flexed her hips in and out.
   He was amased that it lasted more than a few brief seconds, but somehow he
found the control to wait until after her orgasm had begun to work his own
motion into a frenzy. He came as she lowered her mouth to his shoulder and
bit him, hard enough to draw blood which stained the crystal water of the
pool. He found the pain a strange, perfect compliment to the orgasm.
   When it was over he moved to disengage but she asked him not to. She began
to writhe again and rather than going soft, he found himself ready to have a
second orgasm almost immediately. She too, seemed instantly refreshed, a
well-spring of youthful energy unlike the deliberate nature of her older
cousin.
   After the second time, they pulled themselves up onto the deck.
   Alicia towled her arms and head off, and then immediately lit a cigarette.
She did it slowly and deliberately, taking a long, almost exaggerated exhale
which she held until her understood that he was to kiss her. they shared the
smoke and then she sat up crosslegged, holding the cigarette by her left leg,
the angle perfect.
   "I love the way you hold your cigarette," Nathaniel said. "It's simply
marvelous.
   "I got that from Susan. She has to be the most gorgeous smoker I've seen.
Are you going to light on of those cigars for me or not ?"
   Nathaniel moved to his cigar case, pulled one out, bit the tip off rakishly,
and lit it quickly with surprisingly rock steady hands. He took a deep inhale
and waited for Alicia to share his smoke. 
   "Mmmm, I like that," she said, bluish smoke trailing from her mouth. She
held out her hand and he handed her the cigar very willingly.
   She took one tentative pull on it and then a longer one, blowing out thick
smoke. Nathaniel was not surprised to see that he immediately became hard yet
again even before she could return it and favour him with a series of deep
inhales on the Marlboro 100 Lights.
   "You know, it's a long summer, and there's no one around for miles. I hope
you can get used to this."
   The sun was down and a light had come on over the deck, backlighting the
girl's striking blonde hair. Her green eyes were magically iridescent in the
fading light and smoke was gently rolling over her full lips.
   He moved closer and she lay back for him, beckoning him with her free hand
to enter her yet again.
   There was no question in his mind. He did as she asked, gratefully suddenly
for her forward nature. Leaning forward on his knees and supporting himself
with his free hand he managed to remain upright enough that both of the were
able to continue smoking as they made love a third time. He turned the cigar
to her at one point and she took a deep draw on it, her ragged breathing
making it impossible to hold the smoke as she orgasmed again. 
   Immediately she lit another cigarette and inhaled deeply, the sight of which
was enough to make him come immediately. They stayed like this and smoked
until the bugs finally drove them into the house.

   Nathaniel finally admitted to himself that he would have to leave Alicia's
wonderful bed and its smoky, sweat-stained sheets when he heard her moving
about downstairs.
   He walked into the kitchen while she was pouring them coffee. When she
turned around he saw that she was clutching one of his cigars tightly between
her teeth. She handed it to him immediately and then lit a cigarette. Her
hair was pulled back into a tight pony tail and her eyes-
   It was clear from the gleam in them what they'd been doing last night- all
night.
   She was nothing less than radiant.
   She held the cigarette as tightly in her mouth until she had the paper open-
   The paper.
   The paper boy-
   "I parked your car in the garage," Alicia said, pronouncing it in the oddly
english way he was used to with a smile. "Besides, Kenneth wouldn't see you
if you fell out a window onto him. I'm afraid he has the worst crush on me-"
   "I wonder why ?" Nathaniel asked, puffing on his cigar.
   "He's nine. What do you want to do for the holiday ?"
   The teacher laughed. "Mr. Barstow left me the keys to his cabin before he
went off to Europe. Up on-"
   "Mount Fargo. I'll bet you can see the fireworks from there-"
   "Exactly.  You can see them without, as he says, 'mingling with the common
folk.' He was of the notion I would find someone to take up there for the
day-"
   "And you have-"
   "So pack some clothes. We'll stay a few days. I'd already packed. I was
going to head up from here last night without saying anything."
   "I'm glad," Alicia said, exhale a thick cloud of smoke, "you changed your
plans. But aren't you afraid that someone will 'see us' ?" she asked
mockingly.
   "Well, I was looking at the map. There's a side road half a mile back which
leads straight to the highway. No one will 'see us', I think. Besides-"
   He hesitated. "Besides. As much as like to watch a woman smoke-"
   "So, I am a woman now instead of a schoolgirl ?"
   "After last night ?" he teased. "There's nothing quite like watching an
attractive woman smoke while she drives a convertible. I was hoping you would
oblige."
   "Only if there's a place where I can buy a pack of cigarettes on the way."
   "There's a general store at the foot of the mountain. They seem to
specialise in beer and cigarettes. But you'll have to settle for a carton-"
   "Or two. I'll be ready in ten minutes."

   As they pulled out of the driveway, Nathaniel watched Alicia. She was
holding the cigarette in her right hand, working the steering the wheel. As
soon as she had the car moving in a straight line, she switched hands and
looked directly at him, inhaling deeply and blowing the smoke into his
waiting face.
   Suddenly there was nothing dreary at all about the fourth of July.


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