Jamie, Part 1

(by puffery@prodigy.com (now quin_chris@hotmail.com), 20 November 1996)

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Sylvie's Lament

Jamie was now twelve and this parent abuse crap of hers had been 
relentless for three years going on a seeming eternity.  I thought I 
could take it.  I really did.  I kept telling myself I could.  It 
just couldn't keep up this way, could it?  Eventually she'd have to 
lay off me.  I repeated those thoughts like mantras but not to much 

That day in early February was the last damn straw.  "I've just had 
it with that filthy habit of yours" she sneered.  "I think from now 
on you should take your stinky cigarettes outdoors."  And with that 
she stormed out the door into the backyard.  

My daughter asked me ... no, more like commanded me ... to no longer 
smoke in my own home.  My own home mind you.  I didn't say a damn 
thing.  I couldn't.  I  just turned away quickly and went to my room 
to cry.  "Why does she have to keep on me like this for Godís sake?" 
I seethed.  Her dad left us near penniless three years back yet he's 
some kind of hero and I'm the ready made goat.  

Every time I even mention the bastard's name, she rushes to his 
defense.  On more than one occasion she's even had the gall to 
suggest that my smoking drove him away.  What a laugh.  That little 
bitch he took off with sucked anything in sight and that certainly 
didn't exclude cigarettes.  But Jamie doesn't even know she exists.  
As tempted as I've been to skewer the asshole once and for all, I 
just haven't the heart for gutting what few illusions she has left.  
In all likelihood, he'll do it for her eventually anyhow.  

All my pledges aside, at the moment I left the room it was all I 
could do not to throw Missy up in her face.  Thank God we'd gone our 
separate ways and I hadn't lashed back that ruthlessly.  Just because 
she was being childish didn't mean that I Had To.  The only thing I 
Had To, at the moment, was I Had To have a cigarette.    

My hand shaking uncharacteristically, I carelessly ripped the pack 
wide open desperately searching the deep recesses for a strangler or 
two.  Successful and relieved, I found four old friends.  I didn't 
give a damn what she thought about my smoking.  Quitting made death a 
viable alternative.  I'm entitled to something in my life that's 
there in time of need and whose response I can always count on.  I 
can't say that for Jamie and I sure as hell could never say that for 
her father.  But my Marlboro's, they never let me down.  

Who knows.  Maybe I'd just have to barricade myself up in my room.  
If that's what it took, then so be it.  Multi-pumping one puff upon 
an another with little regard to exhaling, smoke could have curled 
out my toes.  To an onlooker I probably would have resembled the lady 
in a magic act disappearing in a cloud of smoke.  In like manner my 
Marlboro 100 vanished in that one macro inhalation ... as slowly I 
recaptured my cool. 

I wasn't going to march back out there and spill the beans about 
mistress Missy but there was my long brewing 'Plan A'.  Up until this 
moment I'd hated myself for even thinking about it but today I was 
pissed off enough to seriously consider it.  Clearly, shy of murder, 
there's only one way I'm going to get that sanctimonious little 
offspring off my back.  And it's ultimately the only way she'll ever 
leave me alone.  If anyone ever finds out, my picture may end up in 
the post office but damn it, I'm sick and tired of her pushing me 

The plan was not new.  For two years it had been percolating in the 
darkest recesses of my mind but I hadn't even been able to admit it 
to myself.  What an animal I must be.  Isn't this tantamount to 
eating your young.  To simply perpetuate my own habit I was going to 
offer my daughter at the altar of nicotine.  Introduce her to this 
kingdom, at once both a heaven and a hell.  It was unimaginable.  It 
was depraved.  It was exactly what I intended to do.  

Sylvieís New Life

A year after the divorce I completed my two year paralegal training.  
I'd seen the train coming.  It's fortunate that I got through so 
quickly because once the settlement money ran out we were S-O-L.  Not 
one cent of child support or alimony ever sullied our mailbox.  In a 
race with welfare checks that I was determined to win, I got hired on 
by Johnson, Jones, and Jacobsen - Attorneys at Law.  They were 
regarded as just another one of your run-of-the-mill 'Inside the 
Beltway' parasites, but they did offer me $40K.  In a New York 

The orientation process included a full week's training conducted 
over on the Eastern Shore at what was a pretty tony little resort.  
My self-esteem was suddenly soaring.  My single uneasiness was that 
no one else seemed to smoke and I hadnít the courage to go it alone.  
Iíd even discreetly re-booked myself onto the smoking floor at 'Check 
In' that first evening then routinely chosen the stairs over the 
elevator to make my whereabouts less obvious. 

Fortunately it was just the second floor.  As a twenty year, two pack-
a-day smoker too many floors would have challenged my stamina ... an 
issue which, like all other health related issues, I here-to-fore 
dealt with by delusion and avoidance.  Besides, the trip needed to be 
quick given that it was a trip I made with welcome frequency.  
Invariably every break and occasionally even between.

On Friday the class size increased by three as the recently hired 
lawyers joined us peons.  As their de facto subordinates we 
paralegals were cordial but also a little bit reserve.  We really 
werenít certain how familiar we should be.  I was pleased to note 
however that two of the three were women and, at that, one even a 
partner.  I hoped that said something about lack of gender bias at 
Triple J as we were now so intimately referring to it.  

At break time I did my routine sprint up the stairs now boldly 
lighting up on the first step.  With no other smokers around there 
was little risk of being seen and I hadn't a second to spare.  I was 
beginning however to become apprehensive about the future.  Was 
smoking going to make me an outcast?  How could I maintain this 
degree of invisibility at the offices themselves?  As any smoker 
knows, while in many situations smoking is uncomfortable, itís never 
as uncomfortable as not smoking.  Nicotine rules.    

Moving quickly since I also had some bodily issues to handle, I 
rounded the corner and dashed down the hall.  Passing the elevator, I 
saw the doors begin to open and tried to duck out of the way but was 
too late.  One of the two new female lawyers, the one that was a 
partner, stepped out and nearly knocked me over.  I gasped, smoke 
escaping randomly, much to her apparent amusement.  

"Looks like I just found a friend" she chuckled.  "Care to join me in 
my room?"  And that's how I met Jasmine.  We went into her room ... 
unlike mine a suite ... where I slipped onto a typically ornate, 
Louis the XIV sofa while she took the matching chair.  And there 
between us sat a large, nicely mounded, not-yet-emptied-that-morning 
ashtray; two lighters - one throwaway, one certainly not; and three 
packs of Marlboro 100's in varying states of depletion.  It took but 
a few more words on her part ...  "I'm soooo relieved to find another 
smoker in this company.  I was afraid I'd be the only degenerate." ...
 before I detected that southern genteelness in her voice.  Yet more 
that we had in common.

I extended my lighter to her which she eagerly greeted with her 
outstretched cigarette and for the next few moments we sat silently 
replenishing our nicotine deprived bodies.  If anything, she seemed 
more ravished than me.  Maybe a minute and a good half dozen drags a 
piece later we caught each otherís eye and began to giggle like grade 
schoolers.  Call it what you want, a coven or a covenant, a 
sisterhood had been instantaneously formed and a bond that has only 
continued to grow.

For the past two years we've taken breaks together religiously.  
Occasionally we lunch but frankly our difference in rank doesn't 
foster that.  Jasmine is generally expected to eat with clients or 
the other partners.  Even when she does so however, I can count on 
her to meet me on the back steps just before one o'clock for a very 
quick fix.  "I wish I had your freedom" she once commented.  "I wish 
I had your paycheck" I retorted.  We'd grown close enough for such 

Many times we'd exchanged those gratuitous invitations of 'We should 
get together sometime' but of course we never did.  Jasmine had a 
daughter just a few months older than Jamie but she also had a mother 
who was apparently not real well.  Jaz didn't and still doesn't talk 
much about it.  

A couple of months back we had 'Daughter's Day' at work and I asked 
Jamie to visit.  She declined with some unintentionally, I hope, 
hurtful comment about not needing to know much about being a 
secretary.  After all, she intended to eventually go to Med School 
and admittedly she did have the brains for it.  I must say that I 
couldn't complain thus far about her academic resolve.  None-the-less,
 I was disappointed.

Jaz's daughter however did come.  Per our routine, Jaz blitzed by my 
desk at 9:30 on the dot for our much needed break, with Talia, her 
daughter, in tow.  Jaz frequently spoke of her daughter's 
intellectual accomplishments which were many but her physical 
presence caught me completely offguard.  She looked more like Jaz's 
younger sister.  She was easily five six and stunning.  Blue eyes.  
Noxema skin.  Natural blond hair.  Natural!  Most seventeen year olds 
would die to look this good and she was weeks shy of even being a 

Talia accompanied us as we headed for our haven.  As we walked I 
wondered about what kind of crap she gave her mother about smoking.  
I had been too embarrassed to share about that frustration with 
Jasmine and she'd never mentioned it either.  At least Talia had 
agreed to join her mom at work and even wasn't fussing about our 
smoke break.  Actually she was extremely chatty and animated as we 

Reaching our oasis I reflexively lit up the first of the two 
cigarettes I always brought along, savored the rush, and then turned 
around preparing to be social.  Seeing Jaz flick her expensive 
Calibri was routine but what was not was seeing her extend the flame 
to her daughter.  Talia, a pack of Benson and Hedges Menthol 100's 
emerging from her purse, expertly extracted a single cigarette and 
leaned into her mother's outstretched flame.  Watching her inhale 
long, hard, and deep I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me.  
This wasn't a twelve year old.  This wasn't even a younger sister.  
This person was a Jasmine clone.  

This woman-child smoked a cigarette with the nativeness that most 
kids down candy.  Her inhales were full and confident with prolonged 
pauses following.  When her expectant exhales finally followed they 
were long and piercing spears into the winter's cold, often spanning 
several breaths.  She handled the cigarette like an old friend.  Bent 
arm, angled wrist, very lady-like.  Beyond practiced to mastered.  I 
was stunned by this performance.  How many Rita Hayworth movies has 
this kid watched?  I should look so good.  

In our allotted fifteen minutes I smoked my requisite two cigarettes. 
 So did Jasmine.  So did Talia.  We talked about many things but I 
couldn't get the sight of this young woman smoking out of my mind.  
She and her mom weren't at war like Jamie and I.  They were friends.  
Respect replaced rank.  Returning, they invited me to join them for 
lunch but I declined.  This should be their day.  

Afternoon break was a morning carbon copy, yet no less wondrous to me.
  I was at once judgmental and envious and curious and amazed.  How 
did this come about?  I could barely wait for Monday when I could 
quiz Jaz about this situation.  How exquisitely different from the 
turbulent terrain upon which Jamie and I so delicately tread.  

Monday came and quiz her I did.  First off she was surprised that I 
was surprised.  She was sure that she must have mentioned it sometime 
or another.  I assured her that she hadn't.  "Well" she responded, 
"Talia's been smoking since she was six or seven so I guess I just 
don't think of it as any big deal.  I smoke" she paused, a near 
imperceptible sigh "and of course Mom smokes" she added with that now 
familiar anguish.  "It's just always been pretty much a non-issue 
around our place.  Remind me to tell you the story sometime."  (See 

Sylvie's Resolve

I spent an hour in my room and pretty much settled down.  I decided 
that I'd bargain with Jamie for the moment.  I'd limit my smoking to 
my bedroom and the kitchen.  And that settlement would be non-
negotiable.  But a smile was overtaking my sullen lips.  Jaz had 
repeatedly suggested that we accompany them on a Caribbean cruise 
over Spring break.  I'd constantly declined mostly due to financial 
considerations but maybe we'd just do that.  Then we'd find out just 
how much resolve this self-righteous little girl of mine really has.

Uncertain whether I was ready to face her again, but certain that my 
pillaged pack of cigarettes now stood empty with my stash still out 
in the kitchen, I ventured forth.  Prepared to partially cave in to 
Jamie, she was no where to be found as I finally emerged.  I emitted 
a little sigh of relief, telltale that I could use a few more minutes 
to gather my wits.

That's what I got.  A few more minutes.  I was just lighting up my 
second kitchen cigarette when Jamie came bouncing in.  I leapt into 
my proposed compromise but she quickly interrupted.  My reddened face 
apparently reached her as she said "Mom.  I was a little severe.  I 
didn't mean to make you cry but you know how much I hate smoking.  
I'm just so embarrassed when friends come over and the house stinks.  
You know, like Jenís house always does."

Zing.  That one really stung but not enough to alter my plan.  
"Jamie" I said, "here's what I'm willing to do.  I understand how you 
feel and I'll limit my smoking to my room and here in the kitchen.  
We'll keep the rest of the house closed off enough that it shouldn't 
offend you.  If you want more than that then you'd better start 
tracking down that father of yours."  

A truce of sorts reached, we went our separate ways.  On Monday 
morning I broached the joint vacation proposal with Jasmine and she 
was genuinely excited at the prospect of us joining them.  She even 
suggested subsidizing a little of the cost but backed off quickly 
when she saw me turn cool.  A charity case.  No way!  

With a respite from the late winter chill suddenly so enticing ... 
our first vacation since Herb left ... we booked a second stateroom 
on a nine day Easter break cruise.  Just the mention of this trip 
began to thaw the relationship between me and Jamie.  It didn't seem 
to increase her tolerance of my smoking any but on the other hand she 
actually might have been a little less overtly belligerent about it 

>From everything that Jaz said, it sounded like Talia was equally 
pumped.  Again there seemed to be some issue about Jaz's mom but she 
never said much about it.  I asked once but got the same "this is out 
of bounds" uneasiness from her that I'd received in the past.  I 
allowed her her privacy but not without some continuing curiosity.

The first week of April couldn't get here quickly enough for any of 
us.  Only Jaz had done anything like this before and that was years 
ago.  The excitement mounted.  I did pay a discreet visit to the 
Credit Union and gulped deeply at the percentage of our savings that 
was suddenly to be committed.  None-the-less, the excitement won out. 
 Not even a contest.

We'd promised to get together for a joint planning session before the 
trip but like our previous promises, this one too petered out.  So 
the first time that Jamie was to meet Jaz and Talia would be on the 
gangplank.  And so it was.  They were no more than twenty yards ahead 
of us as we boarded.  Shipboard introductions were polite but 
perfunctory as we all headed to our staterooms to unpack and get 
organized.  We agreed to meet on the lido deck in an hour.  

Jamie's first comment was not unpredictable.  "Mom, I thought you 
said she was my age."

"She's only about six months older.  Really that's all" I responded, 
keeping the distinction between chronology and maturity to myself.  

"Well, I wasn't so concerned about how I'd look in my two piece 
before but now I'm terrified" Jamie responded.  "That girl looks like 
she's twenty.  She'll have guys swarming all over her.  No one will 
even notice me."

"I know what you mean.  I'm not so bad looking for a thirty three 
year old but Jasmine is a knockout.  Well, let's not worry too much 
about that for now.  Let's just go out and have the best time ever" I 
concluded pleasantly surprised by my daughterís new found agenda.  
And that's exactly what we set out to do.

We did a once around the pool and the amazing array of chaise lounges.
  Not seeing Jaz or Tally, we staked out four chaises ... Jamie on 
one end and me on the other.  As I laid back and relaxed, lighting up 
my first shipboard cigarette, she then brought up the second topic 
that I'd expected, "Isnít Jaz the person you smoke with?" she 
inquired.  Before I could respond she continued, but from an 
unexpected angle "Maybe you guys should room together and let me hang 
out with Talia?"

"Perhaps" I responded turning away and stifling a smile.  "Let's 
discuss that later."  Maybe fifteen minutes passed before they 
arrived.  While fully wrapped upon their arrival, our fears, if 
that's the right word, were realized as each disrobed.  They both 
looked fresh off a Parisian runway.  Moving over on to the chaise 
next to Jamie, I whispered "Don't think of them as competition but 
more like bait."  Never had we ever shared such a candid comment.  
When what I said fully registered, it was greeted with a mock horror 
grin and a soundless, mimed "Mother!"  

Jaz suggested that we re-arrange ourselves and so we did.  Moms to 
the left and daughters to the right.  Predictably, immediately, and 
simultaneously, Jaz and I lit up from our always communal supply of 
Marlboro 100's.  Exhales entwined, the cloud enveloped poor little 
Jamie.  With that all too familiar look of disgust she tried to fan 
it away with her hand and turned her head the other direction just in 
time to see Talia lifting her Benson and Hedges from her oh-so-
appropriate Gucci bag.

I watched out of one eye as Talia slowly perceived Jamie's hypnotic 
attentiveness.  Presumptively she offered the pack in Jamie's 
direction to an instantaneous negative nod.  Nonchalantly Talia 
proceeded to light her cigarette first taking a simple ignition puff 
then following up with a lung challenging set of inhales.  
Perceptibly relaxing, her submission to the habit, to the perpetual 
hunger, already seemed no less than ours.  I would have given almost 
anything to have been able to see Jamie's reaction to this unusual 
piece of theatre.

Jamie Observes

Like I couldn't believe what I was seeing.  This girl, pretty much my 
own age, was smoking right out here in front of her mom and everyone 
else.  She even had her own cigarettes and lighter and cigarette case.
  I was amazed.  I tried not to be obvious about watching her but I 
couldn't help myself.  She smoked like some grown up.  Way better 
than Jen. 

As my shock subsided a little, it was replaced with intrigue.  How 
strange.  A mom that doesn't care whether her daughter smokes.  I 
wonder how that is?  I suppose Talia will tell me if we get along.  
It seems very weird but as much as I've hated mom's smoking, Talia's 
is something else.  It makes her seem so adult.  

After she had stubbed out her cigarette, I suggested to her that we 
case out the place.  We might as well get to know each other I 
figured.  The small talk was a little stilted to begin with but we 
soon found a common interest commenting upon the physiques of all the 
guys.  She liked the big builds but they intimidated me.  I was 
actually more taken by the smaller, lean guys.  Maybe we could make a 

Talia paused poolside for a moment to light another, very conspicuous 
cigarette and the effect was desired and immediate.  Suddenly all 
eyes were upon us.  These looks that we were receiving in return from 
the male audience weíd been reviewing suggested that our tender ages 
would not be serious inhibitors.  Amazing what a pair of shades, a 
well graced bikini, and admittedly yes, a tauntingly exhibited 
cigarette, could do to level the playing field.

When after maybe half an hour we returned to the chairs, both moms 
were sitting up anxiously.  We hadn't even sat down before they 
announced that they were heading to the deck bar for a few minutes.  
They'd be back in a little while.  As they traversed the deck we 
watched and we watched a lot of other watchers watch.  Our moms were 
drawing substantial attention.  "Can you believe it?" I chimed "Those 
same cretins that were looking at us are looking at our moms in just 
about the same way.  Disgusting."

It didn't take Talia long to light up another cigarette and as we 
began to settle back in, a deck waiter asked if he could get us 
anything.  Flashing the room charge card her mom had given her, we 
both replied cokes then shared a knowing little glance as we got full 
view of his really tight buns.  Talia, now running her tongue coyly 
across her upper lip, was going to be a kick and a half for the next 
week.  This was going to be really serious fun.

Now with the first real chance we had for a conversation I said "I've 
never known anybody my age who's allowed to smoke, especially in 
front of their parents.  Never even heard of it before.  Your mom 
must be pretty cool.  How long has she let you smoke?"

I was anything but ready for her response.  "Oh, since I was about 
six" she said.  It's a long story if you want to hear it.  Of course 
I did and said so.  (If you want to as well, see the story of "Talia".
)  It took two cokes apiece, a couple more cigarettes for Talia, and 
the better part of an hour.  Story over, an amazing story, and still 
no moms.  All things considered we concluded "That could be a good 

Sylvie's Confession

I wasn't about to be any charity case but five dollar drinks caught 
me completely offguard.  I simply couldn't handle much of that.  The 
panic must have shown on my face as Jasmine reached for the check.  
"Look girl" she said "we're here to have a total blast and I'm not 
going to let you ruin that by worrying about what things cost.  All 
charges go to my room and I'm not about to argue about it.  That's it.
  End of discussion."  And that was it.  I just gave her a huge hug.

"I'm just so damn happy that we've finally gotten together and in 
such a great way" Jaz continued.  "The girls look like they'll get 
along just fine and we know how much fun we're going to have.  What 
finally made you reconsider anyhow?"

"I'm almost ashamed to admit it but Jamie and I had another fight 
about smoking last month and it was the straw that broke the camel's 
back.  Sheís been on my case forever" I began, but Jaz interrupted.  

"Why be a hypocrite?" she commented. "Why not just let her smoke?"

Gasping, I interrupted back. "No, you don't get it.  That's not the 
problem.  Youíve got it all backwards.  She doesn't want to start.  
She wants me to quit."  Clearly surprised, she sat back to listen.

"Right then and there, soon after she yelled at me, I decided that 
the only solution to getting Jamie off my back was to get her hooked. 
 I'm embarrassed to admit that I'd been thinking about it for a long 
time, but ever since that day when I met Talia and saw that she 
smoked, I'd decided that maybe it wasn't such a farfetched solution 
after all.  Tell me the truth Jaz, am I really screwed up?"

Her instant reaction was "I'm a fine one to ask.  I think you already 
know my answer."  Then methodically taking an extended drag and 
snuffing out just one of today's multitude of Marlboro's, she looked 
at me curiously and responded thoughtfully.  "I can't make that call 
for you.  All I can do is tell you about how Talia's smoking has 
affected our relationship.  It's eliminated the need to lie on my 
part or cheat on hers.  

>From the very beginning I haven't had to deny loving smoking and she 
has never had to sneak around.  Her smoking started at a ridiculously 
early age for ridiculous reasons but none-the-less it happened.  
Today it's just one more activity, healthy or otherwise, that bonds 
us together.  I wouldn't change a thing.  Except maybe about mom" she 
dead-ended again, that inner pain so clearly gnawing.  

I now knew enough to leave that last comment alone and continued with 
my story.  "The way I figure it, Jamie's going to end up smoking with 
her friends in a year or two anyway but I can't stand the wait.  If I 
actually suggest to her that she smoke, it'll either repulse her 
further or make her think I'm a selfish freak ... which is not 
altogether untrue.  So I've got to be extremely subtle.  She's got to 
think that it's her own idea.  

All I've really concocted thus far is this trip.  To expose her to 
shipboard where smoking is a way of life and maybe just move up her 
timetable a couple of years.  With Talia being such a great kid and 
all and a smoker as well, Jamie might decide that it's not such a 
wicked diversion after all.  All I know is if this doesn't do it, I 
don't know what will.

By the way, one reason I grimaced so when I saw the bar tab was that 
I went out and spent a bundle on a new wardrobe for her.  I intend to 
have her presented shipboard not as a child but as a young lady.  If 
that's as a cigarette smoking young lady, so much the better for 
nasty old me.  Of course most of the clothes will fit me just in case 
she prefers adolescence.  But with that bikini parade they've been on 
the past hour, I'm quite optimistic." 

Three drinks apiece and the better part of a shared pack later, we 
got down and dirty.  "You know Jaz, I haven't been with a guy since 
the old asshole left" I volunteered.  "Not enough time and not a hell 
of a lot of interest either.  Not until today that is.  Maybe it's 
the salt air.  Whatever.  I'd almost forgotten what it's like to be 
horny.  Do you see those two guys over there.  They haven't taken 
their eyes off of us for the past hour.  Particularly when we're 
smoking.  What exactly are the bag limits on twenty-something guys 
with designer bodies?"    

Jaz replied "I was wondering exactly when you'd acknowledge them.  
Their hypnotized by us.  And no, it hasn't been any three years for 
me but yes, I have every intention of getting laid.  Several times if 
possible.  Maybe several ways too.  Sweetie, I don't recall the last 
time I didn't feel horny.  The only complication we've got is our 
sleeping arrangements.  You don't suppose that we could talk the 
girls into bunking in your cabin?  Do remember that mine has two 
private rooms" she concluded with a wink. 

"Sounds do-able to me" I said "but isn't it about time for dinner?  
I'm getting awfully hungry.  Let's get the girls and get a moving.  
We need to get this place hopping."  That said, we both rose from the 
afternoon's barstools and headed unsteadily toward Jaz's room.  Just 
how many drinks did we have anyway, I wondered?      

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