New Year's Eve, Part 1

(by, 04 January 1999)

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New Year's Eve
Part 1 of 2

   The baroque music reminded Crystal of Christmas time. It was just a day
after, and she was sitting across the table from Amber, who'd just rolled a
pair of fives.
   The odds against her beating that ten wasn't good, just three in thirty six.
She took another long swig of her beer as Amber lit a cigarette. As she let
the dice go, a plume of smoke wafted in her direction. She waved it off and
watched the dice roll around in the box. She briefly saw a pair of sixes, but
then the fickle dice turned over one last time and she was left with a seven,
an utterly average number which put her at the mercy of her best friend- who
played this game like her worst enemy.
   "So, what does four plus three add up to- a number less than ten by any
chance ?"
   Crystal frowned at her friend. "If you can't tell me, then I guess the answer
is yes it does." She took a defiant draw on her beer, tried to conjure up a
brave smile, but the effort failed. There was no telling what crazy thing
Amber would force her to do when she took dare rather than truth, as she had
all afternoon because it was marginally better than admitting that she really
did want to ask Marcus out.
   "Truth or dare, dear ?"
   "Dare, dammit."
   The loathing in her eyes only brought a smile to Amber's sweet face. That
such a face could sit affront a brain so devious and devilish was a triumph of
   "Let's see, we did the crank call, getting the mail naked- I don't think that
Mr. Greer is ever going to be the same, sticking your head under water for one
full minute- and you got that on the second try-"
   Crystal shook her head, sending still damp strands of blonde hair
   "I know. You'd think I was the smoker and not you-"
   As soon as it was out of her mouth, she regretted saying it, because she knew
immediately that Amber would latch onto that.
   "I'd like to think you were the smoker- so that's your dare. You have to
smoke a cigarette."
   "What if my Mom finds out ?"
   "You're Mom isn't coming home for hours. How is she going to find out ? I'm
not going to tell her."
   "I don't want to smoke, Amber."
   "I don't see what the big fucking deal would be even if she did find out. She
lets me smoke in the house, doesn't she ?"
   "You're not her only daughter. I am."
   "So what ? Your mom smokes..."	
   "Sort of. She smokes around her friends- like your mom. But she's not a real
smoker. She goes days on end without smoking."
   Amber's knowing smile said otherwise. "You're forgetting that my mom works
with yours and she tells me that you're mom is smoking more and more."
   "What do you mean ?" 
   "I mean that your mom keeps a pack of cigarettes in her desk at work, joins
the other women on all the smoking breaks, and eats lunch with my mother every
day. My guess is that she smokes about half a pack a day. In fact, mom says
that she smokes driving to and from work. Just because she has some silly
hangup about smoking in front of you doesn't mean that she isn't smoking. How
does that make you feel ?"
   "No different," Crystal answered, lying defiantly. "What difference does that
make ?"
   "Well, I think your mom would be a big flaming hypocrite to give you shit
about smoking, that's all."
   "And you think that she's not, or you think that she should take that into
account ? Do you even have parents ?"
   Amber's long drag on her cigarette was vaguely enticing to Crystal. It wasn't
as though she'd never seen her mother smoke, and she knew that deep inside
there was a certain curiosity about the habit burning away. Why not give it a
try ? Amber was right, what was there to lose ? Her mother was undeniably a
smoker. regardless of how often she gave in to the habit. And what was one
cigarette measured against not knowing.
   As she gave into this sudden urge, Crystal felt a flare of sexual excitement
she could not explain. She wanted a cigarette, and it was awaking other
sensations she didn't really associate with the act of smoking. The fact was,
she was experiencing an almost overwhelming urge to go lock herself in the
bathroom and masturbate. But that could certainly wait until after Amber had
   She reached out and snatched up both the pack and the lighter, noting some
surprise on the face of her friend. Rather than draw the moment out, she
placed a cigarette between the first two fingers of her left hand and lifted
it casually to her lips. Once it was secure between them, she lit it with the
   It was not what she expected.
   The lit cigarette did nothing on its own but give off not-all that offensive
   "You have to inhale, silly."
   Crystal was aware of this little fact about smoking. Without further
hesitation, she did just that, pulling the smoke not into her mouth, but
rather through it and down into her waiting lungs, expecting all sorts of
awful things to happen. She would cough and gag and entirely embarrass
herself. It would make her, to pardon the pun, she thought, the butt of jokes
told by her friend to all their friends...
   Except that it didn't happen. 
   Instead, the smoke slid down her lungs and opened up a whole new world of
   The smoke, which had been pleasant enough in her mouth, was absolutely
wonderful der downepe. She held it as long as she could, revelling in the new
sensations she was feeling, and then pursed her lips and exhaled. Smoke poured
from between her lips, passing across the table.
   "So, are you glad you chose dare now ?" Amber asked, deliciously wicked.
   "Yeah, actually. Why didn't you tell me ?"
   "Don't go there," Amber warned. "If you had listened to me before, you'd have
been smoking for the last fucking year."
   Just then the doorbell rang. Amber expected Crystal to panic, to stub the
cigarette out quickly and perhaps stop by the downstairs bathroom for a shot
of mouthwash. instead, she stood up with her usual grace and walked slowly
towards the door, smoking as she went. Amber followed. The only thing better
than getting her friend to smoke would be watching her do it in front of
someone else.
   She swung the door open and there was Beth, one of her neighbours and her
   Beth was holding a book-sized cardboard box in one hand and a freshly lit
Parliament 100 in the other, which she brought to her lips and made slow,
patient smoker's love to.
   As Crystal imitated her neighbour, Beth exhaled and smiled a typical glowing
smile which offset her rosy cheeks and red, irish hair.
   "I didn't know you smoked," Crystal's old babysitter said.
   "I just started." Crystal said, and Amber felt herself go wet with the pride
in her friend's trembling voice.
   "Welcome to the club. You look like you're enjoying it. God, I remember when
I started. It was like having sex for the first time, only better."
   The two women inhaled, enjoyed, exhaled. Smoke drifted through the opening of
the door, surrounding them. Crystal found she liked the unique smell of
second-hand smoke almost as much as the original.
   "I have a package for you. It just say `Moray' so it could be either yours or
your mom's I supposed." She handed the box to Crystal. "You know, we hardly
see each other any more. You should stop by some time."
   Crystal smiled. It had been a long time since Beth had shown any interest in
`hanging out', and she wondered if the change was for the obvious reason.
   "I'll do that. You want to come in for some egg nog ?"
   "Yes, but I can't. This time of year it takes me nine hours to deliver the
mail. I'll see you later."
   Crystal started to let her go, then said "You really think it's cool that I
smoke ?"
   Beth's exhale was something so full that Crystal could only dream about
duplicating it any time in the near future.
   "Like mother like daughter."
   "What do you mean ?"
   That smile was so full that Crystal felt something odd she attributed to the
   "Well, your Mom's office is at the other end of my route. I usually see her
outside smoking with Ms. Lang when I stop by."
   "Nobody calls my mother Ms. Lang but the telemarketers," Amber quipped.
   "It doesn't change the fact that Mrs. Moray is out there every afternoon,
smoking the same cigarettes as you, Crystal. Remember that if she tries to
give you an hard time about smoking."
   "I don't think she's going to get an hard time if she actually has the balls
to tell her mother that she's smoking."
   Crystal just smiled. It seemed like she was going to have to think about
having a talk with mom after all.

   After Amber finally left- somewhat disappointed that her friend had not
promised to tell her mother today that she'd started smoking- Crystal decided
to open her mom's package. It was clearly a book, so it had to be her mom's,
after all, she hadn't ordered any books- the ones she had to read at school
were plenty enough, thank you very much. The packaging used that gummy seal
which could, if you were very careful, be opened and then resealed, much like
an ATM bank deposit envelope.
   Something told Crystal that it was wrong to go and open her mother's mail,
but she was curious. The fact that there was no return address on the box was
enough in itself to make her wonder what was housed in this cardboard
   She undid the seal, careful and cautious, which was very much the way she
lived her life until now.
   The book slid out.
   The Secret Joys of Smoking, by Carla Camberlain.
   Crystal couldn't help but smile. That told her more than she had expected,
and of course confirmed opinions she'd been resistant to. Amber was right. Her
mother wasn't, as she'd always assumed, a woman who smoked. She was, plain and
simple, a smoker. And that difference-
   First Crystal sealed the package back up, pausing to admire her work. Then
she walked back into the living room and stared at the cigarette which her
friend had left lying on the table. She'd also left a book of matches, her
emergency supply in case her lighter failed. Crystal lit the cigarette without
hesitation and walked up to her room, carrying a small dish which sometimes
doubled as an ashtray. She logged on to the internet and smoked while she read
her email, sad only at how quickly the cigarette burned away, leaving her to
want for another.

   Monica Moray stood outside the office where she worked and lit a cigarette.
Most of her co-workers were smokers, which made the decision to indulge
easier, but they were getting in their cars, rolling down the windows, and
then lighting up, because they had no issues with smoking in their cars.
Monica thought about that and wondered. It was almost as though she had not
yet joined the adult world, where people smoked at their own desire. No, she
acted like a girl of sixteen, like her daughter, hiding her smoking from the
most important person in her life for reasons even she didn't fully
understand, which was, of course, entirely silly and wrong-minded.
   Justin walked out from the building and lit one of his long thin cigars. It
was how he always ended the day. He seemed to enjoy it. Monica had never
actually tried a cigar- it was all the rage these days, but not really her
   "How's things in acquisitions and mergers these days ?" he asked off handedly
as he puffed the cigar to life. It was, Monica had to admit, a good look for
   "Pretty damn good, Justin. It looks like that Benberg-Coates merger is a
definite go, and that's enough work to keep us busy until the y2k bug knocks
down all the pcs in accounting."
   "You mac people," Justin said with a wry smile.
   "Well, I saw the y2k budget for our department. Zero. Kind of makes you
think, doesn't it ?"
   He pulled thoughtfully on his cigar. "I see you out here quite a bit lately.
And here it's the end of the day." He started to say more, then paused.
   "Why don't I just get in my car and drive away like all the other smokers ?"
   "The thought had obviously crossed my mind."
   "Well, I don't smoke at home or in the car because my daughter hasn't started
smoking yet and-"
   "Yet ?"
   "Yet," Monica said with a wry smile. "Her best friend Amber smokes, and I
imagine it's only a matter of time before she tries it herself. I don't want
to be an influence in her decision to smoke, so I don't do anything which
would remind her that I smoke, too."
   Justin drew on the cigar again and nodded. "Yeah. I know how it is. The twins
smoke, and it's kind of an issue."
   "You don't want them smoking ?"
   "Oh no. I don't mind at all. They're really great girls. They study hard, get
good grades, have normal social lives. They're really very self-sufficient,
and we get along great. To be honest, my life is a lot easier because they do
smoke. I don't have to hide my own smoking from them, and it's nice to be able
to go out and not have to abstain. We curl up in front of the fireplace at
night, watch TV, play games, have real conversations. They're not always
looking for some excuse to get out of the house so they can sneak off and
smoke. And they're sixteen- that's old enough as far as I'm concerned."
   "Well, it's Miriam. She quit smoking about the same time we split up. And
that was just a few weeks after the girls started smoking. So it's been an
issue ever since, what with the girls living with me. Not that she has much of
a say- I think that's what really bothers her, even though it's her own
fucking fault."
   "What do you mean ?" Monica asked. Justin never talked about his divorce, and
no one else seemed to be up on the details.
   "Well, I-"
   The sad look on his face brought sympathy. There was always a good reason why
people didn't talk about their divorces- Monica wasn't like that, but she
certainly understood. She had no problem telling people that Hank had cheated
on her, but not everyone was like that.
   "You don't have to talk about it if you don't want to, Justin."
   "Nah. You know, when I first found out that Miriam was seeing someone else, I
had a reaction to it. I asked her not to tell anyone. I made a deal with her.
If she would give me a nice quiet divorce and not haggle over the custody of
the twins, I'd keep quiet about what happened. That was fine for her- being a
politician and all, and she knew that having had an affair she wasn't looking
at winning any court battles. But I took it as- you're going to think this is
stupid, but-"
   "A slight to your manhood ?"
   "Exactly. So I didn't want anyone to know-"
   Justin found himself thinking that Monica's exhale was worth the
   She reached out with a perfectly smooth hand and touched him gently on the
arm. "That's silly Justin. People cheat on each other for the dumbest reasons
that have nothing to do with who the other person is. You can be a wonderful
guy, great in bed, and still find yourself at the wrong end of things, you
know ?"
   "I do know. Is that how you felt with Hank ?"
   "Yes. At first I was so angry. I mean, Bethanne isn't younger than me-"
   "She's not nearly as pretty, either-"
   Monica found herself blushing unexpectedly.
   "That's sweet, but-"
   Justin tapped ash from his cigar and planted it in the corner of his mouth.
Monica thought it was a very manly look.
   "No buts. You're very attractive, and Hank was a fool to turn you over for
   "You never know, Justin. I might be an unholy bitch."
   "I doubt that. Look, how'd you like to go grab a drink at Thurston's. I don't
feel like going home right now. The girls are staying over at a friend's
house, and I've got a touch of the holiday blues."
   "I know all about that. It's funny how the holidays can do that to you."
   "Well, then, drinks are in order all around, don't you think ?"
   Monica indicated her hearty agreement with the idea and they were off.

   Crystal was sitting in front of her Mac, idly browsing the net, not really
interested in what she was seeing. 
   All she could think about was having another cigarette. It was cruel that
Amber had only left her one. That was just like her friend, to tease her with
something new and then-
   Well, that wasn't fair. Crystal was sure that if she'd asked, Amber would
have left her more cigarettes. She'd said one more would be fine, hadn't she ?
Of course, she'd also promised herself that she wouldn't smoke it right away,
but she had, and now she was stuck, wasn't she ? The thought of walking almost
two miles in the snow to try and buy a pack when her mother would be home
soon- No, that wouldn't work, would it ? So what else-
   The other line rang and she picked it up, expecting it to be Amber. But it
was her mother- probably to tell her that she was on her way home, which meant
that any thought of smoking was out anyway. In fact, she should take a shower
to wash the smell away- just in case.
   "Honey, I'm going to swing by Thurston's with a friend, so I won't be home
for another hour or so. Don't worry about dinner. I'll put something together
when I get back."
   "Okay, Mom. Enjoy yourself."
   That was it. Calls from the car phone were notorious quick, and Crystal had
no reason to believe she need ask who her mother was with. But when she
started thinking about her mother, and the extra time that she had, an idea
   Smokers bought cigarettes by the carton, not the pack. Even Amber got her
cigarettes that way, and if Mom did have a carton, it was probably here in the
house somewhere. Crystal's mind chewed over possible locations, and then it
came to her. The bedroom, in the closet behind the clothes basket. That was
where she used to hide chocolates and other sweets from a younger Crystal. Not
quite believing that she was doing it, Crystal walked across the hall into her
mother's disorganised room.
   The carton was exactly where she thought it would be. She knew that ten packs
came in a carton and there were six left. Her hands shook as she held the
carton. Would her mother miss an entire pack ?
   Hard question. Mom was incredibly smart, but terribly disorganised, and that
was what Crystal finally decided would have to work in her favour. She waited
until her hands steadied and then drew a pack from the carton, admiring the
way it felt in her hand, enjoying the sexual rush that accompanied the thought
of ripping away the cellophane and lighting up. But she would not smoke in the
house again. That would be too obvious. Instead, she'd go and stand on the
porch. None of the neighbours could see in the backyard and she could smoke in
peace there. 
   She found herself thinking about time. If her mother said an hour, that
probably meant two, but she'd hold her to that. Taking time for a quick
shower- she could always say she'd been working out- that gave her maybe fifty
   Fifty minutes ?
   She could easily smoke five or six cigarettes in that time.
   The thought was so exciting that she was on the back porch in her heavy
leather coat in less than a minute, a freshly lit cigarette in her gloved
hand, revelling in the discovery of what it was like to smoke on a cold winter
   "I can get used to this," she said to herself with a smile.

   Justin poured from the pitcher into Monica's empty glass as she lit another
   "Have you ever thought about talking to Crystal about smoking ?"
   "You mean, asking for her permission ?" Monica said, exhaling as she spoke.
Justin found himself thinking that he might just want to date this lovely
   "Christ, no."
   "Oh," Monica said knowingly. "The do as I say, not as I do speech ?"
   "No. The `I want you to know that I smoke, but smoking is a personal decision
and you shouldn't feel as though you should make a decision about smoking
based on what anyone else wants or does' speech."
   "A decision about smoking ? I don't think she's ever made a decision about
smoking, Justin."
   "Oh, everyone makes a decision. Every non-smoker makes a conscious decision
not to smoke. We all get offered a cigarette at some point in our life."
   "Or a cigar," Monica added as he clipped the tip off his second.
   "My father waited until I was seventeen. It was Christmas Eve. We'd settled
down by the fire with spiced wine. Mom always smoked a cigar in the evening
with dad and he asked if I wanted to join them."
   "And you've been smoking cigars ever since ?"
   "God no. I smoked maybe half the cigar and by then I'd turned so green mom
was worried I was going to blow Christmas cookies all over the rug. It was
about a year before I learned the right way to really do it. I didn't get my
first box of cigars until Thanksgiving the next year."
   "Of course, she might already want to smoke-"
   "And that's what you're afraid of. That if you start smoking at home, and she
wants to smoke, that she'll feel like that's the excuse she needs to join the
party, right ?"
   "And what if she does want to smoke, would that be so terrible ?"
   "No. I mean, I guess it wouldn't. And-"
   Justin took her hand in his and squeezed it. "Think about being able to curl
up on the couch at night with a good novel, a good glass of wine, and light a
cigarette. To be able to relax."
   "I'd rather curl up with a good man."
   "That can be arranged," he said, smirking slightly.
   "You know a good man ?" she joked, thinking that maybe it wouldn't be so bad
to actually try dating Justin.
   "I might be able to point one in your direction. I'd be doing him quite a
   They held hands and drank in almost silence.

   Crystal turned the water to the shower on. It had been an hour since her
mother had called, and she'd be home soon, but everything would be fine. She'd
flushed the remains of six cigarettes and was about to clean herself off. Mom
would never know.
   The whole thing had been exciting. From stealing the cigarettes to smoking
them while listening to the moan of the wind in the trees, it had been nothing
short of wonderful. So as the hot water started to pour over her naked body,
Crystal allowed herself the time to enjoy her own body. She began by gently
stroking her nipples until they were taunt, and then when the water was able
to keep them erect, she allowed her hands to drift slowly downward until she
was truly masturbating, at first softly and then with increased vigour as the
excitement built.
   By the time the orgasm came she was furiously pleasuring herself, an endless
rhythm of fingers. She moaned softly as the moment extended itself to a final
point of no return, and then she began the job she'd entered the shower to

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