Maybe Just Once, Part 1

(by, 26 July 1998)

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Maybe Just Once
Part 1 of 2

   Kellen got out of his car at precisely seven fifteen.
   He was wicked early. The Viewson day started at eight and went to six, and
you were expected to put in no more than eight hours, with either half an hour
or one hour for lunch. If you wanted to work late, you went downstairs and
swiped your card at the door, then went back up to your office. Weekends,
working at home, and all-nighters were discouraged. It was a unique
environment meant to discourage burn out, disgruntledness, and laziness, and
it worked miracles.
   Lyssa was always early. She wouldn't card in until eight, but most days she
was at Viewson no later than seven. At least now that the weather had gotten
nice. He'd heard about her early arrivals through the grapevine and thought
she might just be the person- the woman- that he was looking for to help him
with a thorny little problem.
   According to the rumours, she sat down at the back picnic table with a large
mug of home brewed coffee and a novel and read until eight, then clocked in.
But Kellen wasn't interested in her literary appetite, although he was
curious. If she was reading, say, Danielle Steel, this would never work. He
wouldn't expose his daughter to that sort of thing regardless of the reward.
   What he was interested in-
   He could see very clearly that she was working a just lit cigarette, and that
was what he wanted- no, needed- to see. She'd lifted the burning brand to her
mouth and was drawing deeply, patiently. Her cheeks sunk as she pulled smoke
into her obviously hungry lungs.
   Sitting next to her coffee mug was a pack of his personal favourite, Marlboro
Lights 100s. Oh, there were longer cigarettes, but not every woman could pull
off smoking those, and Lyssa was kind of smallish for them. He'd been partial
to Virginia Slims 120s as well until recently- he'd rented Eight Heads in a
Duffel Bag and the old battle axe mother had smoked them non-stop throughout
the later stages of the movie- she was an ugly hag who never de-ashed and
smoked with the sort of repulsive air which could almost put off a man of his-
   But there was something about the white cigarettes- long enough when lit, and
the sad truth was that all cigarettes burned down to the filters if allowed.
They only started so long and perfect, never staying that way.
   He started walking closer and Lyssa continued smoking, looking so remarkably
content that he thought to himself what a shame it would be if she were to
decline his request for help. She was definitely the one he wanted. She pulled
the cigarette from between her lips, executed a shockingly arousing nose
exhale, and trimmed the cigarette, the ash floating gently to the ground.
   The she looked up and closed her novel.
   It was Wallace's The Broom of The System, one which had gotten him favourably
compared to Pynchon, no small feat. All the better.
   Of course, he knew that Lyssa had a brain in her head. She was one of the
junior researchers on their project, but her grasp of the finer points of
optical engineering had made her among his most valuable resources. He knew
that although he rarely interacted with her because his lead engineer actually
wrote decent reports- in fact, she was a better writer and manager than
researcher, which was what had allowed her to move into the position. It
didn't meant that he liked Kelly, but-
   "How's it going, Lyssa ?"
   The younger woman treated him to a smile full of good will and white teeth.
   "Fine, Kellen. What brings you here so early ?"
   He tried his best to return the smile and put her at ease. It was always
hard, forging personal relationships with the people working under you. And he
really didn't have much of one with Lyssa because it simply wasn't necessary.
Until now, that was.
   "I wanted to ask a favour-" he said, trying his damnedest not to be more than
half as awkward as he felt, which was a challenged.
   "I'm sorry I haven't finished the data on the refraction gas indexes. I know
that taking three days off during the heart of the project was wrong, but-"
   Kellen laughed. "We're always in the middle of something earthshaking, Lyssa.
Don't sweat it. This is actually a personal matter, and if you can't help me,
I'll understand."
   "Personal ?" Lyssa said, brightening.
   He liked the interest he saw there. That would only make this easier, he
   "I need-"
   No, this was the wrong approach. It was too quick, not subtle enough.
   "Actually," he said, backpedaling, "I was wondering why you come out here so
early every morning. Not that I'm actually here this early on a regular basis,
   "I'm sure you've heard all about it. I'm just looking for a chance to relax
in the morning, and I can't do that at home anymore. Ever since my roommate
Maria quit smoking and started working out to lose the weight she put on-"
   "Not Maria Langston ?"
   Lyssa paused, drew on the cigarette, and smiled her best through an exhale
   "Yes, as a matter of fact. You know her ?"
   "I've seen here at a few of the races this summer. She's a pretty decent
   "She says the same about you. I understand you took home a trophy last
   "Just in my age group. I'm no duffer, but I'm not elite level, either. So you
come here to smoke because she doesn't like you smoking in the apartment,
right ?"
   "Exactly. It's amasing how when someone quits, they just lose all
perspective. I can smoke when she's not around, but she does weights from
seven to eight and well, I like Maria, so I don't want to cause trouble. So I
come here if the weather is good and read and smoke until they unlock the
doors. If it rains, I just sit in my car with the windows down and- do you
mind if I ask why you're curious, Kellen ?"
   If she only had a mirror, Kellen thought as she inhaled again, she wouldn't
be asking such a silly question.
   "I was going to ask you a favour. I want to preface that by saying that you
should feel perfectly comfortable saying no, but-"
   "Is it a strange request ?" Lyssa asked hesitantly, and Kellen found himself
damning the uneven nature of their work relationship. If it did turn out that
Lyssa thought him strange, and it made it through the grapevine, well, how was
he to explain himself ?
   She seemed to understand what he was thinking.
   "Kellen, whatever you need, if it's personal, it dies here, whether I can
help you or not. Does that make it easier ?"
   "Yes, it does. But I'm worried that when I ask you, you'll be unable to keep
that gallant promise."
   "Gallant ?" Lyssa asked, and then she drew on her shrinking cigarette again.
"I haven't heard that word in a long time, and I don't think it's ever been
applied to me. Sit down and ask away- "
   Kellen tried smiling again, found the effort less taxing. He sat across from
her at the table as she stubbed her cigarette out on the ground and then
dropped it into a paper cup that she seemed to be keeping for just such use.
   He was more than happy to let her light another one before finding his
courage. The sun was just coming up over the trees and it lit her blonde hair
wonderfully. He could get used to spending his mornings this way, but that
just wasn't why he was here.
   "I was hoping, well, you know my daughter Belinda ?"
   Lyssa worked hard not to let her face fall, seeking solace in her cigarette
as she nodded. He realised that it was maddening, not being able to see her
eyes. She was wearing black tinted sunglasses and there was no hint of what
was going on in her head, but he saw the corners of her mouth droop slightly
before she planted her cigarette between her pert lips.
   "Well, I was wondering if you would be so kind as to teach her how to smoke
   Lyssa reached up with her free hand and tipped her sunglasses down on her
nose, meeting his eyes with hers. They were the deepest, most eerie shade of
green, more feline than human. He liked them immediately and wondered how it
was that he'd never noticed them before.
   "How old is she ?"
   "Fifteen," Kellen said with relief. That question was hardly a no.
   "I'll do it on one condition. You and I date- at least three times, dinners
and at least one movie. Maria never has time to go anymore, and I'm dying to
see Armageddon. Can't beat that Bruce Willis smirk."
   "Date ?" Kellen asked, a little dumbfounded.
   "Yeah, that's the thing where you and I get into a car and drive somewhere
and talk and joke and if the chemistry is right, f- make out. You know, you
must have dated once. You do have a daughter, after all."
   "I am familiar with the concept. Date, eh ?"
   The draw Lyssa took on her cigarette made him realise that he'd have said yes
to the dating part even without the favour.
   "Well, what were you going to do ? Drive me over to your house, walk in, and
say, `Hey, Belinda, this is Lyssa. She's going to teach you to smoke  ?' Not
very subtle."
   "Nothing about this is exactly subtle."
   Lyssa reached out and stroked his hand.
   "I think you're very subtle."
   He tried not get turned on by that touch.
   He failed.

   Belinda was sitting at the kitchen table, reading. It was still one of her
favourite past times, something which Kellen found quite encouraging. When he
walked into the kitchen, she looked up from her novel and smiled.
   "So, are you nervous, Dad ?"
   "Nervous ?"
   "Come on, Dad. When was the last time you had a date ?"
   There was as little criticism in her voice as she could manage. Which was to
say there was still a healthy amount.
   "Six months ago. That's not that long-"
   The girl's laugh, as always, was somewhat infectious. "I could never go six
months between dates. That would drive me nuts."
   Kellen didn't say the obvious, that losing a spouse to the grim reaper had a
certain tendency to put one off dating. Nancie's death had hurt both of them
and it was an unspoken agreement that they no longer discussed it. They'd had
time for the purging and the healing process and now that was all behind them.
   "Well, Lyssa is great- or at least I think she is. I guess that's what the
dating will allow me to find out."
   He sat down at the table because the truth was that he was nervous, that his
knees were shaking.
   "Tell me about her, Dad."
   It was a simple request, one he was surprised hadn't come sooner, and
suddenly his rehearsed version of his answer faded from his mind like sand
caught in the undertow.
   "She's twenty-six, about five foot three or four, blonde hair, green eyes.
Very pretty, and very smart. She's a junior level researcher, but her work has
really been outstanding."
   "Does she smoke ?" Belinda asked, surprising him. It wasn't the sort of thing
he expected to be at the top of her list of questions, but there it was.
   Another good sign.
   "Yes, actually. Why do you ask ?"
   "Well, Mom smoked, and the few times you have dated anyone, they've been
smokers too. I just kind of assumed it was some sort of preference or
something," she said, understating.
   "It doesn't bother you that she smokes, does it ?"
   Belinda shook her head.
   "No, not at all- as if you had to ask. Some of my best friends smoke. I just
think it's odd that you're attracted to smokers, that's all, since you don't
   Kellen found himself unable to form any sort of response to this. He knew he
looked flustered and he also knew that his daughter would be enjoying this. As
if reading his mind, she twisted the needle a little deeper. 
   "Remember our agreement ?"
   How could he forget ? Belinda had been thirteen when she'd lost her mother.
Just old enough to start thinking about experimenting with smoking. But unlike
most kids, she'd hadn't simply snuck off on her own and tried it. Instead,
she'd gone to her mother and asked when it was that she would be old enough to
   Nancie had told her that she could start when she was sixteen. It was about a
week later that she'd died, and Kellen had never found out if she meant it or
she was just putting her daughter off. And he hadn't know how serious Belinda
was about it until six months later when she'd casually asked if he was going
to honour the agreement.
   He said yes, and at the time he'd most certainly just been putting her off.
   That was then. Time when by and he began thinking about it differently, that
this was like Nancie's final request, and regardless of how he felt about it,
he intended to see it honoured. That might be strange- oh, he knew that it
was, but he was doing this tonight to get one step closer to realising that
last decision of his wife's.
   And not complaining any about the method.
   "Yes, honey."
   "And you're still planning on honouring it ?"
   "Are you still thinking that you want to start smoking ?" Kellen asked.	
   Always direct, his daughter met his eyes and there was a decided smile in
them. "No. Not thinking. I want to start smoking as soon as possible. Jane
smokes, Illisa smokes, Maureen smokes. I'm the last of the-"
   "Do you guys still call yourselves the four daughters of the apocalypse ?"
   "Yeah. Kind of cute, isn't it ?"
   Kellen smiled, but he wasn't so sure why. Any more than he understood what
the self-imposed nickname meant.

   They were staring at each other over relatively empty plates. Kellen found
that he'd spent very little time thinking about what Lyssa was going to do for
his daughter. As she sat back, box of cigarettes in one hand, lighter in the
other, he instead was thinking the most wonderful thoughts. And he was getting
hard. There could be no mistake about that.
   She just touched the tip of the cigarette with the flame and the cigarette
lit easily. He found himself wondering what had made this strange confluence
of events occur as she drew deeply on the cigarette. Watching her smoke, he
was sure of one thing. He was definitely letting her drive home. The thought
of looking across the car and seeing her with her left hand on the steering
wheel, cigarette pinched gently between first and second fingers- well, that
would be worth a dinner that was clearly going to run over one hundred
   "What are you thinking ?" she asked as smoked trailed from her mouth.
   "I was just admiring your beauty," he said, hoping that didn't sound
ridiculously stiff.
   "Keep talking like that and I might just have to break my rule about sleeping
with men on the first date." She de-ashed and then inhaled again, making the
hardness a painful thing.
   "I suppose this is the part of the date where I should tell you about what
happened to my wife."
   Lyssa stopped in mid-exhale, and he made a little mental note to surprise her
more often. The stream stopped, replaced by a slow leak of cigarette smoke
which was more than worth the dinner by itself. Her mouth was full to bursting
with smoke that slowly drained into the cooler air of D'Arbuckles. He wished
he had his digital camera to capture the image.
   "Okay. But I wasn't going to ask. The utter lack of- gossip- about it made me
think it was something you didn't discuss with anybody."
   He reached across the table and patted her free hand.
   "You're not anybody."
   "You can tell that after one day ?" she asked flippantly, although the way
her nipples had rocked at his touch made her sure he was right.
   "It was a freak accident. You know how they say never take a shower in a
thunderstorm ? Well, I'm sure that we've all done that once or twice. She'd
just gotten in from rollerblading and we were supposed to go out for dinner-
Belinda was doing a sleep over and I told Nancie that she looked fine, but she
wouldn't have any of that. No, she insistent on taking a shower, even though
you never saw a woman so lovely with her hair in a pony tail. I was downstairs
reading my e-mail when the house went dark. The noise just before it happened-
like the hand of god they talk about in novels- had closed around us. I lost
my wife, my Power Mac, and my faith in lightening rods all in a few seconds."
   He tried, as always, to make light of it as best he could because of the
awful sympathy the story evoked. 	
   "I admire the way you seem to have dealt with it," Lyssa said quietly.
   It was hard to Kellen to resist the urge to say `How could you possibly know
?' but she must have seen it with her cat-like eyes.
   "I mean, you come to work every day, stay focused, you obviously, from what
you've said, manage to keep a very special relationship with your daughter- if
you didn't notice, you've spent quite a good deal of time talking about how
wonderful she is- and you have the most delicious sense of humour. I hope
you'll take this as a compliment that I think you could just as easily pass
for twenty-five as thirty-nine."
   "You've obviously missed the retreating hairline. Napoleon rallied his troops
better at Waterloo than I've done with my hair."
   "Hair isn't something that can be commanded to do your bidding, Kellen. If it
were, women would never wear pony tails."
   "I love a good pony tail."
   "Nancie smoked, didn't she, Kellen ?"
   "Yes, why ?"
   Before she spoke, she drew deep on her cigarette again, and he could see that
whatever it was she was about to ask was troubling and she was almost
unwilling to go there.
   "Well, this is hard to say. Here we are on our first date and- well, your
wife smoked, you obviously enjoy watching me smoke, and-"
   "Belinda's a lesbian, Lyssa."
   "I don't want to suggest that you would, I mean, well, that's an awful thing
to even ask about-"
   Kellen smiled, and then stoked her hand again, making her run cold. "It shows
that you care. I'd be thinking the same thing if I were you. A lonely man
comes to you and asks you if you'd teach his daughter to smoke. Seems odd. But
unless you're bi, we don't have anything to worry about."
   Lyssa took his hand in hers and squeezed it tight.
   "Let's get the check and get out of here so that I can prove I'm not."
   Kellen looked at her with whimsical confusion. "I don't think that there's
any way you prove you're not bi, but if you have an idea-"

   Belinda was staring at the phone. Trying to decide.Should she call Illisa or
   The dance was tomorrow night and neither of them had anyone to go with yet. 
   But she was torn because of one simple thing. She couldn't decide if she was
thinking of asking Illisa because she really liked her or because she was only
other lesbian in her tight little circle of friends.
   Actually, it was more complicated than even that. There was the fact that
both she and Illisa were very stubborn and they weren't too keen on the fact
that all their friends assumed they would hook up because they were, after
all, the only lesbians in the group, and for that matter, the only teenage
lesbians they knew.
   Of course, the only thing dumber than going out with Illisa because she was
the only option was not going out with her for the same reason. And she did
like Illisa, after all. Quite a bit. Her reddish blonde hair was perfect, her
sweet eyes were enough to melt most of the boys they knew, and her build,
well, she was perfect. Not model pretty, not emaciated and sunken-looking but
really well-built, about 5'4", 105, everything so perfectly balanced that it
would have been easier to believe she'd been sculpted from some man's
imagination than that she was merely a product of evolution.
   The phone rang.
   "Hello ?"
   "Belinda ?" The voice was instantly recognisable. It was Illisa, probably
just finished with the act of reading her mind.
   "What are you up to, Illisa ?"
   "I was just sit here smoking and looking at one of the flyers for the dance.
Were you thinking about going ?"
   "Yes and no. I mean, the summer dance is really cool, you know. We don't see
everyone every day-"
   "We don't ?" Illisa teased. Between hanging out at the mall and the corner
stores and downtown, you almost did see everyone every day. But she knew
exactly what Belinda meant. There was a major difference between hanging out
with people for an hour at a time and really seeing them all day for eight
hours straight, not squeezed in between summer jobs and classes and all the
rest of the bullshit that came with the good times of summer.
   "But then again, going to the summer dance alone is like painting the word
`loser' on your forehead in Packer Yellow or Bronco Orange."
   "That's what I was calling about-" There was a pause, and Belinda heard the
sharp his of her friend's cigarette as she drew on it. It made Belinda realise
how much she was looking forward to August 5th, the day she turned sixteen.
   "I was thinking that maybe you and I could try the- ugh- the dating thing,
you know ? Give the other daughters something to giggle about ?"
   "Is Melissa still planning to spike the punch ?"
   "If that dirty old man Mr. Kivlin doesn't beat her to it, yeah. You know,
he's the head chaperone."
   "The question is," Belinda said with a laugh, "is who's going to chaperone
   They talked for about an hour after that, until Belinda heard her father's
Saab pull into the driveway. About how two people could mirgrate from a
friendship which had never been anything else to a place that was everything

   Even as Belinda and Illisa talked about changing their relationship, Kellen
found himself deep in a situation which he had not planned at all.
   It had been a long time since he'd done what he was doing now in the back of
a car. He remembered talking his dad into his first car because he needed it
for a summer job, but the real reason he'd wanted it had nothing to do with
cleaning glassware at the local lab for six bucks an hour. No, it was a known
fact in New Milford that if you were a boy in high school and you had your own
car, you got laid.
   That was awfully crude, but true nonetheless. And dad had known it. He
remembered the knowing wink dad had given him at the end of their discussion,
as if to say `I was once 17, kid.' 
   Kellen had gotten the car, a Volvo four door that was about six years old
with less than an hundred thousand miles on it. Hardly broken in.
   He'd also gotten laid.
   "What are you thinking about ?" Lyssa asked as she drew on her Marlboro
Lights 100 with the same style which had been driving him to distraction all
night. More so now because she was stark naked except for her socks.
   He hesitated for the obvious reasons.
   "You were one of those slick kids with his own car, weren't you ?"
   "How'd you-" he asked, shocked as she drew in smoke.
   Her exhale coated them and he didn't mind in the least. It had been too long
since a woman had done that for him.
   "You have that look on your face. A cute guy like you- I bet you had a Saab
or a Volvo, too, not some piece of shit Pinto. The girls must have been all
over you."
   As she said that, she reached out and gently took his penis in her hand and
began slowly stroking the head with thumb and forefinger, enhancing his
already aroused state.
   "And I'll bet you always used a condom, so that I have nothing to worry
   "That was over twenty years ago, and yes, I always used a condom. Until the
day I got married. That probably sounds ridiculous, but-"
   "I think it's sweet-"
   They hadn't actually had sex yet. There'd been plenty of making out, and once
or twice he'd gotten worried that he was going to preempt the main event by
   He didn't have any condoms.
   "And it's even sweeter that you don't have any condoms with you. That shows
that you weren't going to try and take advantage of me on our first date."
   She was amasing. It was as though she was half a step ahead of him all night.
Then again, that could cause problems down the road-
   "I want to take advantage of you. Right now. While you keep smoking that
   "There's a condom in my purse. I talked it out of one of the waiters while
you were in the bathroom."
   He looked at her strangely.
   "I saw the odd way you were walking when you got up to go and figured I might
need it later."
   He had to laugh. Make that a full step, he thought. Moving closer, he slipped
his hand behind her back and lifted her tight against his chest so that he
could slide his tongue deep into her smoky mouth. She responded with a passion
that made him forget her age, their work relationship, and the fact that they
might just not be parked far enough off the road to miss enjoying a visit from
a Vermont State Trooper or Rosterton peace officer.
   Her hand was still working magic, and although he had been hesitating up to
now, he slipped his own down between her legs. It had been a long time since
he'd tried this and he wasn't sure he would do anything more than show himself
up to have become a sexual klutz, but the way she bit his lip, drawing blood,
told him that he still remembered how to work his thumb and forefinger.
   It quickly became obvious that they wouldn't need the condom, not on the
first go, at least.
   He moved his upper body back so that she could smoke and she showed her
appreciating by treating him to a set of inhales and exhales which he scored
as a perfect ten. The window behind her was down and she showed real skill
trimming her ash even as they continued to pleasure one another. Still, he
wasn't sure he felt quite adequate here- she was driving him to the edge of
orgasm with such perfect patience that he was having what seemed like forever
to enjoy the wonderful sensation which came just before the orgasm, something
which was actually, in his mind, the ultimate moment.
   But she too seemed to be headed towards her own fulfillment with the same
slow edginess. Finally, she paused long enough to light another cigarette.
   As she slipped it from the pack, the long white cigarette rising like an
angel from behind the clouds, he felt a terrible finality to his stiffness. As
she brought it to her mouth, her pursed lips hungry, she saw the strained look
in his eyes. 
   "Please don't come yet," she asked, her voice sultry, smoky.
   He fought it off as she slid the white cylinder of his desire between her
   The lighter was lifted to the cigarette, and she lit it perfectly. The tip
flared orange as she drew the smoke down its length and into her lungs. She
closed her eyes, tipped her head back, dropped the lighter, and found him
again. As she exhaled, she reached the point of orgasm and it slipped from her
with a banshee cry which reminded him of wild scottish warriors.
   Somehow, she managed not to squeeze him even as the aftershocks rocked her.
   Then she pulled her hand away, opened her eyes, and smiled a devil smile.
   "Forget the fucking condom-"
   Her breathless voice was commanding.
   He slid inside her and she writhed until he came, the ejaculation a furious
torrent after a long time of sexlessness. While his penis was still twitching
in the aftermath she sat up, pushing him back, and drew deeply on her
cigarette just before sliding her mouth down around him. Impossibly- at least
for what he was used to from himself- he hardened again. She mixed his
pleasure with theirs, alternately smoking and stroking, until he came again,
his head pressed against the window and wet from the steaminess of the car.
She made no show of swallowing, but the next inhale was so deep and furious
that Kellen almost found himself forgetting that he'd just come again.
   "I hope you know," she said, her voice throatier than ever, "you're taking me
home tonight."
   He just nodded.
   He knew how he was going to get her behind the wheel of his car now. There
was no way he'd be able to drive for some time.

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