La Mer, Part 1

(by, 05 November 1999)

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La Mer
Part 1 of 2

Lara was trying very hard to concentrate, but it was difficult. All that beer 
seemed like it was a mistake now, in retrospect. She tried to open her eyes, 
but the scene in front of her spun maddeningly, so she closed the again. 
Listening was easier. There was the sound of traffic, but not hard by. She 
knew where she was. In an alley.
    Maybe, she thought, a cigarette will clear my head. She reached into the 
pocket of her black leather jacket and found the pack that she'd pinched from 
her roommate. Ariel hadn't known that Lara had taken up smoking-maybe- but 
she probably would now. She felt the slick cellophane covering the pack and 
realised that she lacked the dexterity to open it. That was disappointing. 
She couldn't remember the last time that she'd been that drunk. It had been 
at least twenty-four hours.
    As she took the pack out, not sure what she was planning to do, a strong 
pair of hands took the pack from her. 
    "Stand up. Now."
    It was a stark command, but not delivered unpleasantly.
    She liked the voice. Strong and masculine. The sound of the pack being 
opened was clear. She opened her eyes as well and a cigarette was placed 
between her lips. It was quickly lit. She drew deeply on it and then looked 
at the man. He was of only average height, and even that was being generous. 
Nevertheless, he was attractive, with strong features, a solid jaw, deeply 
intuitive eyes, and perfect brown hair.
    She drew deeply on the cigarette, and he then did something stranger. He 
thrust a thermos in her free hand as she took the cigarette from her mouth.
    She did as she was told. It could easily have been paint thinner or a 
date rape cocktail, but it was coffee.
    Damn good coffee. Vanilla nut.
    "Can you move now ?"
    Lara drew on the cigarette again.
    "Yes. Why ?"
    "Besides the fact that you were half passed out in an alley on Halloween 
    "We turn the clocks back tonight."
    "It's still one in the morning. Now, can you walk ?"
    Out of the corner of her eye, she saw movement down the alleyway. She was 
definitely in an alley. Not the place to be on Halloween.
    They started to move and before she knew what was happening, she was 
standing outside the house she and her roommate had rented for the last year 
and an half.
    He looked at her with those deep eyes of his and smiled wanly. "You 
should be more careful, you know."
    "Who are you ?"
    He put his hand out. "My friends call me Shade."
    She shook his hand carefully because he looked like he might just be able 
to crush hers if he tried. "Lara. Lara Graham."
    "Well, Lara, it's been interesting. Good night."
    Lara paused long enough to light her fourth cigarette from the pack and 
then asked him if he wouldn't come inside.
    "I really should be getting back."
    "Sure I couldn't interest you in some coffee ?"
    He held up the thermos. "I think I'm set. Good night."
    With that he turned and walked away from her. She told herself that he 
would look back and visit one last wan beautiful smile on her. But he didn't. 
He just kept walking until he seemed to disappear into the shadows and 
disappointed, she turned to the dark house and walked inside, assuming  she 
would be alone.
    She carefully removed her jacket, holding the cigarette between her lips 
until it was hung on the coat rack. She drew on it only when her hand was 
steady and as soon as her lungs were full of the sweet smoke she withdrew it 
from her mouth.
    "Borrowed some of my cigarettes, eh ?" a disembodied voice asked. Then 
Lara saw the glow of Ariel's cigarette as she inhaled.
    "Oh god, I'm sorry. I stole one of your packs before I went out tonight. 
You're not mad, are you ?"
    "Are you kidding ? I'd kiss you, if you'd let me. Come over here, sit 
down, and tell me about it."
    "About what ?" Lara asked, moving slowly towards the oversized couch the 
two girls practically lived on.
    "Well, you know how I feel about smoking-"
    "It must be nice to have an habit that gets you off more ways than one."
    "It is. But that's not the question."
    "I- well, I was embarrassed about the thought of walking into a store and 
actually buying cigarettes, you know ?" She punctuated this by drawing on her 
cigarette and exhaling a long cloud of smoke. Ariel wanted to come just 
watching the smoke trail away from her dimly lit face. It was the fulfillment 
of a long series of masturbatory fantasies. She had always liked Lara. But 
right now, at this moment, knowing her head was swimming pleasantly from the 
smoke, she loved her.
    "I remember what it was like when I started. Of course, I was seventeen, 
so it wasn't exactly automatic that I could walk into a store and buy, but- I 
must have spent two months just bumming cigarettes from my friends. I kept 
telling myself-"
    "That you weren't really a smoker as long as they weren't your 
cigarettes, right ?"
    "Exactly," Ariel agreed. They both paused, drawing deeply from their 
cigarettes, holding smoke in their lungs and savouring it before twin 
exhales. Lara's was a nose exhale which made Ariel wish she'd left a light on.
    "But I thought you wanted to smoke ?" Lara quizzed.
    "That wasn't what it was about." Her voice hitched slightly and she 
washed down some dark emotion with a long pull on her beer bottle. The liquid 
did little to dull her senses. It had been a very long time since she had 
been drunk, and it wasn't happening tonight.
    "You don't have to talk about it, you know,' Lara said, her free hand 
seeking out Ariel's, who in hoping for the contact of human flesh, had put 
the bottle down eagerly.
    Ariel returned the pressure with a gentle squeeze. "I want to talk about 
it and then I want you to talk. Give and take, it's the human question."
    "You take P366 too seriously," Lara joked, but it fell hollow between 
them. Ariel was a great believer in human emotion. Lara was not so sold on 
the concept.
    Their cigarettes spent, they stubbed them out. Ariel lit up first and 
then Lara followed suit, enjoying the community of smoking as she never had 
before. It felt nice to share it.
    "I- I used to always complain to Helena about her smoking. I was sixteen, 
seventeen years old, you know ?" The tip of her cigarette hissed and glowed 
as she drew on it, lighting her face like one of those orange electric 
Christmas candles. Lara thought it was unearthly and beautiful and for the 
first time, she saw her roommate not as a woman but as a person.

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