No Summer This Year, Part 1

(by msulliva@asacomp.com, 15 February 1998)


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Notice:  This story has been rated "R" for adult language, nudity, sexual
content, violence, and explicit smoking.  Some scenes may be too intense for
the unimaginative.

Copyright 1998 by G. M. Sullivan.  All rights reserved.  This story may be
copied and distributed for the uncompensated amusement of others only.

Author's Introduction:  "Submitted for your approval, a little tale I call
'No Summer This Year.'  File this one under 'A Young Girl Starts Smoking...in
the Twilight Zone.'"

Dedication:  For the StogieMon, who understood.


"No Summer This Year," Part One of Three


As always, it was freezing out.

Janie had to kick heavy snow away before she could descend the steps of the
brownstone to the sidewalk below.  Bleeker Street was lined with
ice-encrusted parked cars, long since settled on flattened and split tires.
None had moved in a long time, and none would be moving again.

Wind howled down the narrow street, plastering her threadbare coat and scarf
to her shivering body.  She hated to go out.  It was not much warmer in the
dim apartment, but at least there was some shelter from the ceaseless wind.

The sky was heavily overcast.  No sign of sun was visible through the
low-hanging deck of dark, gray clouds.  That never changed, either.  Only a
small lessening of the gloom told her it was late morning.  Things would only
grow worse later.  She might as well get on with it.

Fur hat pulled low over her ears, she leaned into the wind and pressed her
way eastward.  Each step was a trial, a torment.  The key was to keep
moving.  Stop, and she would freeze in place.  Lay down, and she would become
a sculpted part of the landscape.

Only a few corpses were evident this morning.  They lay in the street or on
the sidewalk in attitudes of prostration, hard-frozen beneath rounded layers
of snow and ice which she never tried to penetrate.  What was the use?
Tomorrow they would be gone, replaced by the freshly departed.  Who took
them, or where, she didn't know...or care, for that matter.

Most did not take that way out.  Most just left, if they were going.  Where
they went or how, Janie hadn't learned.  One day she would see them around,
the next they were gone.  Gone for good.  Gone to someplace warmer...?

She reached the corner where Fifth Avenue crossed Bleeker.  The wind was
lessened on the wider street, and she gratefully turned north.  Janie spotted
a young girl on the opposite sidewalk.  She had seen this girl before, but
had never spoken to her.  She didn't speak to most people if she could help
it.  The girl could not be more than 16, seven(?) years younger than Janie,
and she was smoking a cigarette.  Exhales magnified by frigid air spun above
her head and fell in cascades to the street, wrapping her in a warm-looking
mist before the wind snatched it away.  Where had the girl gotten cigarettes,
of all things?  But Janie knew.  The Store had them.  The Store always had at
least a few packs, somehow.  That was where she was going now.  Keep moving!

Soon she was passing Tompkins Square Park, and tried to keep her glazed eyes
on the sidewalk.  It was no use.  She heard the call, muffled by wind and
distance but unmistakable.

"Jaanieee! Janie!  Come her, darling!"

Her mother was there.  Her mother was there most days.  She tried to ignore
the summons.  It was no use.

Involuntarily, her feet changed course and she trudged across the street,
leaving shallow bootprints in the hard-packed snow.  She entered the park,
where no vestige of grass showed above the impacted ice, and gray, long-dead
trees cast no shadows on the reflective surface.  A few small, rounded lumps
on the uneven ground concealed the bodies of frozen birds.

Her mother stood at the center of the bleak wilderness, her bare feet making
no impression on the frigid crust.  As usual, she was dressed in a
white-and-blue checked chenille bathrobe, her dingy-blonde hair in curlers, a
half-smoked cigarette in her right hand.

"Janie!"

"Hello, Ma."  Janie kept her eyes downcast at her mother's bare feet.  How
could she stand it?

"Janie, why are you staying in this dreadful neighborhood?  Haven't you been
looking for a better job?"

"No, Ma."  It was no use to lie, and anyway she'd had no job since...since
when?

"Young lady, if you won't try to better yourself, you'll need to find a man."

"Yes, Ma."

"And soon, Janie!  They won't just come knocking on your door, you know.  Not
in this part of town!"

"No, Ma."

"Janie, why don't you call that nice Mr. Stevens? He..."

Miraculously, she found herself in control of her feet again.  Not waiting an
instant, she turned and walked back toward Fifth Avenue.

"Janie!  Come back here this instant.  I'm not finished with you, young
lady..."

Janie ignored the call, kept her head down, and plodded on against the
stiffening wind.


The picture window of the D'Agostino's Grocery was broken and jagged, the
gaps incompletely covered with rudely-nailed, wooden boards.  It would be
windy and cold inside.  No light shown through the window, and only those who
lived in the neighborhood would guess that the place was open.  It was,
though, as it never failed to be.  Janie pushed on the glass door and went
inside.

The gloom in the narrow aisles was palpable, making it difficult to see.
Other figures, wrapped like she was in heavy layers of cloth, huddled up and
down the paths.  They ignored Janie even as they bumped impatiently against
her.

The shelves were mostly bare, empty surfaces covered by thick layers of fine
dust.  There were, however, a few items for sale.  Just a few, but always a
few, always different.  Janie placed two cans of young peas in her stretched
and cracked basket, a box of short, white candles, a sealed bag of potato
chips.  Then she came across a real treasure; three cans of Dinty Moore Beef
Stew.  She grabbed them all, quickly and furtively, hoping no one else had
seen.

She felt her way to the front of the shop, where Mr. Novello would be
waiting.  Mr. Novello, in his stained white apron and stubbled cheeks, who
never seemed to move from his station behind the narrow counter.

She laid her selections before the shopkeeper, hiding the cans of stew amid
less desirable items.  To her relief, none of the other shoppers paid her the
least attention, remaining intent on their own hopeless and isolated
searches.

She noticed a few open cartons of cigarettes lining the high shelves behind
the counter.  Surprising herself, she said to Mr. Novello, "and I'd like a
pack of Kent 100s, please."  Why was she buying these?  She certainly had no
intention of smoking them.  For Doug, she thought.  He would like her to have
them.  Who was Doug?

Without turning his head, Mr. Novello reached behind the counter, fetched the
requested item unerringly, and placed it amid her other selections.
Automatically, he began packing everything in an oft-used paper bag.  As he
did, he intoned, "that will be one dollar, please."

She found a single dollar remaining in her tattered wallet and laid it on the
counter.  The total was always a dollar, and that was all she ever had left
to spend.  He swept the creased bill into an apron pocket and handed her the
bag.

Clutching the sack protectively to her breast, she emerged into relative
brightness and crueler wind.


One of them was standing at the corner of Fifth and Bleeker. Casting her eyes
down as she had done with her mother, Janie tried to pass without being
noticed.  Again, it was no use.  Her legs froze to the sidewalk as if welded
there.

"Janie," it said.  "We must talk."

"Yes, sir," Janie replied, keeping her eyes on the snow-covered concrete.
She had no wish to see the thing's dead, fish-white eyes.

"Have you been thinking of the things we last spoke of?"

"Yes, sir," Janie said.  She had no idea if she had ever spoken to this one
before, but she had been thinking...at least a little.

"Are you happy with your life and how you are living it?"

"No, sir."

"What would you like to do?"

"I would like to be loved, sir.  To be worth loving."  Her answer shocked
her.  Never could she remember answering with more than a simple "yes," "no,"
or "I don't know," appended by the inevitable "sir."

"How are you seeking this love, Janie?"

"I...as best I can, sir."  The temerity of such a response!

"Seek farther and deeper, Janie.  More is required than love."

Her legs were free.  She was delighted; there was usually more, much more,
but now she was able to continue home.  Perhaps she was finally mastering
this game, if game it was.


Janie closed the door to her second-floor apartment and triple-locked the
heavy oak door.  As far as she knew, she was the building's sole remaining
resident.  There were others though, out there, who might envy her scant
luxuries.

Despite being indoors her breath remained visible, the cloudy vapors hanging
in the still air like a gathering fog.  The building's ancient radiators were
frozen and cracked, ice bleeding from wide splits.  It was old ice, hard as
the steel it had sundered.  She removed none of her heavy clothes besides the
hat and mittens.  Wearing anything less would make her suffering unbearable.

Dust coated the carpeted floor, as it did every surface she didn't use, and
she used very few.  She made her way through the living room with its
neglected couch and blank, staring television, and into the small kitchen.

Sheets of cardboard were plastered by ice to the cracked windows, offering
some relief from the wind if not the biting cold.  She placed her bag on the
counter and a small cloud of dust rose up, dull and dingy in the lusterless
air.

Sometimes when she entered she would flick a wall switch out of long habit,
expecting brightness to alleviate the oppressive gloom.  Today, she didn't
bother.  It was a futile effort, anyway.

There was a faded calendar nailed to the wall, where she had once been in the
habit of crossing out the days as they passed.  She had quit on some
long-past June 28th.  It made no difference.  Nothing ever changed.  How long
had that same calendar greeted her?  Months.  Years.

She stored the peas and chips in a dusty cabinet, then fetched an
old-fashioned can-opener to investigate the stew.  Sniffing the can's
contents carefully, she decided she was in luck.  She placed the gluey mass
in a battered pot and laid it on a steel frame above a carefully hoarded can
of Sterno.  Most of her food she ate cold; tonight, she would enjoy a rare
hot meal.  She lit the flammable mixture with a wooden match.

To stretch the precious food, she decided to add a little water to the pot.
She never forgot to leave the kitchen faucet perpetually open, and today she
was rewarded with a thin trickle when she increased the flow.  All the other
water pipes in her apartment, in the building, were long since frozen and
split.

In a few minutes she was greedily bolting the lukewarm contents of the pot
with a bent spoon, grateful for the rare, full sensation it lent her flat
stomach.  What wouldn't she give for a single slice of bread?

The outside gloom was rapidly deepening toward true night.  She placed some
of her new candles around the kitchen, hoping to master the darkness just
enough so that it would feel like bedtime was a matter of choice and not
necessity.  She extracted the maximum value from each wooden match, hoping
there would more the next time she went shopping.

While certainly not cheery the yellow candlelight raised her spirits, giving
her a rare sense of control over her environs.  If she tried hard, she could
imagine the tiny flames making the room warmer.  If she tried very hard.

Her attention was returned to the counter and bag, which still held a single
item that had no traditional home in her apartment; her impulse purchase, the
pack of Kent 100s.  Again, she wondered why she had bought them.  It was
Doug.  He had urged her to get some cigarettes.  Who was he?  She could
vaguely remember his face, but not what he meant to her.

She fetched the odd item from the bag and placed it on her small eating
table.  The bag she carefully folded and placed in a cabinet under the sink,
where it joined countless others similarly folded and saved to no clear
purpose.  Then she sat down on the single kitchen chair.

She examined the pack carefully.  It was neither old nor dirty, like most of
the items she purchased at the Store.  Cigarettes burned.  You held a burning
cigarette close to your body, drew its hot smoke inside.  That much she
knew.  It sounded warm.

With no difficulty, she stripped the cellophane wrap from the top of the
pack.  A slight tearing of silvered foil, and its contents were exposed.  She
saw the blank, white tips of many cylinders, packed tightly within.  How to
extract a single cigarette...?

As though trained to the task, she tapped the top of the pack against a
finger and magically, some of the cylinders protruded from the opening.  Her
mother had done this countless times while Janie watched.  Her mother.  The
thought made her pause.  She had never liked her mother.

But, she thought, smoking and "mother" were incidental associations.  Had she
learned that in college?  No matter, it was the truth.  She grasped the tip
of a single cigarette and pulled it from the pack.

She examined the long. white cylinder closely.  It was light, almost
evanescent.  If it was food, it would hardly make a decent bite.  But it was
not food.  The intent here was different.  This was...warmth?  Nothing warm
could be unwelcome.

Suddenly she leaped from the kitchen chair, dropping the cigarette.  A
blazing pain swept across her chest and her limbs shook with shock, spasming
helplessly.  This, though, was nothing new.  She felt this pain from time to
time, perhaps once a week, but it never failed to frighten her.  Or hurt.
Gradually it passed, the spasms subsiding, and she sighed with relief.

Recovering, she retrieved the fallen cigarette and sat back down.  Determined
not to be distracted, she raised the strange object and placed its whiter end
in her mouth.  She waited blankly.  Nothing happened.  Something more was
needed.  Fire, that was it.

One of her new candles was burning on the table, accumulating a puddle of wax
on the Formica surface.  Not wanting to waste a match, she leaned forward and
let the end of the cigarette touch the yellow flame.  At the last moment she
thought to suck.

A twisting spiral of smoke broke from the end of the cigarette, and she felt
her mouth invaded by a warm, bitter cloud.  Surprisingly, the taste was not
unfamiliar.  Had she done this before?  She let the smoke leak from her mouth
around the cigarette and removed it, holding it upright between her fingers
and in front of her face.  She regarded its burning tip, watching the smoke
twist toward the ceiling.

The uninhaled smoke she had expelled hung over the table, exaggerated by her
vaporous breath.  As it drifted it stung her eyes, but not too badly.  This
also was familiar, and she found it strangely welcome.

There was a slight, lingering warmth in her mouth, but it failed to satisfy.
There was something else needed here, a step she was missing, one that
promised more potential for warming comfort.  She raised the cigarette to her
lips again.

She drew heavily, seeking the point where she might feel uncomfortably hot.
It never came.  She removed the cigarette and drew in frigid air on top of
the smoke.  From some past time she knew that would make the smoke flow
inside her, carrying its spare warmth to her inner core.

She held the smoke in her lungs until its residual warmth was masked by the
feeble furnace of her own body.  Then she blew out, slowly, watching her
emerging breath gradually thickened by smoke, billowing endlessly from her
slightly compressed lips.  Perhaps it was her imagination, but the succeeding
breath also seemed thicker as she exhaled again through her mouth and nose.
Was she sure this was entirely new?  Yes, of course it was.  Her mother had
smoked.  She hadn't.  Now, though, she could understand why the young girl
she had seen earlier had seemed so delighted.  It was a small help, but small
helps were all anyone had.

She took another pull on the cigarette, drawing smoke into her mouth until
she could hold no more.  She removed the burning cylinder and noted, this
time, how the curling spiral broke quite heavily from the tip when she ceased
drawing.  She inhaled the lode of smoke into her lungs, savoring its slight
warmth, and held it in until it cooled.  This time her exhale definitely
continued for several breaths, the smoke lingering in the air long after the
condensed water vapor had vanished.  She leaned into the cloud over the
table, trying to re-breathe it, seeking every calorie of heat she could
find.

She smoked that first cigarette as thoroughly as possible, luxuriating in
every puff, holding the smoke in ever-longer, releasing it reluctantly,
watching every curl and eddy of her exhales as they drifted across the small,
cold room.  To her delight the smoke grew warmer as the cigarette grew
shorter.  All too soon she had only the filter left, and dropped it to the
dust-laden floor.  Smoke was layered heavily in the still air of the kitchen
and she regarded it with regret, longing for its lost presence within her.
Doug had been right.  But who...?  Never mind.

She took the cigarettes and stubby candle from the table and went to her
bedroom.  The darkness outside was total now, and the small light of the
candle seemed to pool around her, illuminating little.  In the gathering
night, the bedroom had become even colder than the kitchen.  Soon she would
need the shelter of her bed.

She paused, though, when the light of the candle was caught and doubled by
the remains of her dresser mirror.  She placed the melting paraffin stub
close by and regarded her distorted and dusty reflection.  Her long,
chestnut-brown hair still held a pleasant sheen.  Her face, centered around a
large pair of hazel eyes, was fairly appealing though marked with small,
white, frostbite scars.  Short, straight nose, round lips, cheeks not overly
hollowed.  If anything she looked younger than her...well, 23 years the last
time she'd been sure of anything.  Beneath the myriad layers of clothing her
figure was nicely rounded, but showed many signs of her meager diet.  And
though it had been long, long since her last lukewarm bath, she didn't quite
look filthy and her body did not smell too bad.  In fact, there was a new
odor about her now...the odor of cigarette smoke.  It was not the worst thing
she had smelled, and its pungency could mask other odors that were far less
pleasant.

Giving in to an unexpected impulse, she decided to have another cigarette
while standing before her mirror, so she could watch herself smoke and
perhaps carry some lingering warmth to her bed.  She extracted a second
cigarette and bent to the shrinking candle to light it.  Puffing hard, she
straightened and looked again at her reflection.

She saw the end of the cigarette glow a bright red, saw the smoke burst
copiously from the tip as she removed it.  Keeping her mouth slightly open,
she could see a milky fog filling it before her intake of air pulled it deep
inside.  The slight sensation of warmth returned.  After a long pause to
savor the small comfort, she pursed her lips and blew at the mirror.  Waves
of smoke and vapor crashed against it, obscuring her reflection.  Her next
breath, through her nostrils, produced two small but visible clouds.  Aloud,
she said, "not too bad," and saw her words accompanied by the last of the
smoke in her lungs, emerging in dense, white wisps.

She was only able to enjoy to a few puffs before she felt the numbing cold
deadening her feet and creeping up her legs.  She could delay no longer.  She
dropped the cigarette to the floor and ground it out with a worn bootheel.
She moved the candle to her night-stand and climbed under a pile of sheets,
blankets, and comforters she had salvaged from many empty apartments.  She
removed no more clothes except for the scarf.  Any protection from the night
was a blessing.

>From beneath the mass of heavy fabric, she leaned to the night-stand and
blew out the guttering candle.  Immediately, darkness and silence closed
around her like a hungry, living thing.  Once the city had never been truly
dark.  Now the night ruled utterly, enwrapping her like the cold vacuum of
space.

One last thing remained before sleep would come.  The Review.  It occurred
every night without fail, reprising some incident from her past.  She closed
her eyes and waited.

================================================================

"Janie, Janie, can you hear your heart beat?"

The sing-song voices echoed derisively around the corner of the ancient brick
junior high school, followed quickly by a scattering of footsteps and
giggles.  Janie was back in the suburb where she had grown up.  She stood
alone before the tall wooden doors, bundled against the February cold,
knowing somehow that she should be delighting in the relative warmth.

The other children teased her constantly about her long absence from school.
She had suffered a bout of rheumatic fever, a disease that had permanently
enlarged her heart.  Six months was a long time to be away from peers at age
12, when so much was changing so fast.  She had been left behind, still a
child among the girls who were taking their first, halting steps toward
womanhood.

Janie walked away from the building and toward the city bus stop, feeling
lonely and very sorry for herself.  Even Jennifer, her former best friend,
was a stranger to her now, wearing lipstick and talking incessantly of boys.
Janie was not at all sure about boys.  Weren't they to be avoided at all
times?

She hated taking the bus.  It smelled bad, and sometimes the older men who
rode it made her feel uncomfortable.  Since her return to school she could
feel their eyes on her, examining her newly expanded breasts and hips.  What
would she do if one of them spoke to her, or tried to touch her?  It was too
terrible to think of.

At least the busses ran often, so she didn't need to rush.  She took her time
reaching the stop and sat on the bench beside the tall, black-and-white
sign.  Janie thought of opening her new English assignment, something called
Dante's "Inferno," but decided not to.  Time for that later, she thought.
She stared at her saddle-shoes instead, and waited.

Her musing was interrupted by a familiar odor.  Cigarette smoke, just like
the kind her mother was incessantly blowing around the house.  A gray-white
cloud passed before her lowered eyes.  A voice spoke.

"Hi Janie!"  She looked up and saw Carla sitting beside her on the bench.
She didn't know the girl, except by reputation.  Everyone knew her that way.
Carla, a year ahead of Janie in the 8th grade, was the school "slut."

Carla's platinum-blond hair was teased to a frenzy around her face.  Dark
eyeliner emphasized her light-blue eyes.  Her lips were painted a bright,
cherry red.  A long, white cigarette burned between the fingers of her right
hand, its nails polished a shade to match her lips.  Under her elderly car
coat, she was dressed in a loud and almost forbiddenly revealing manner.
Carla lived on the bad side of town, with a mother but no father, and was
rumored to have "done it" on more than one occasion.

Everyone knew to avoid Carla.  She was a sure source of cooties.  Janie,
though, was in no mood to rebuff a friendly advance, regardless of the
source.  "Hi, Carla," she replied.  "You take the bus, too?"

"Sure, but I usually wait across the street to grab the eastbound.  I seen
you over here looking...sad, so I though I'd come over and say hello."  Carla
took a puff on her cigarette.  She was a showy, adolescent smoker, who
allowed some smoke to escape before each inhale, and made of each exhale a
smoky exhibition of satisfaction and contentment.

Janie smiled, watching the show though thinking it cheap.  Her mother's
behavior had long since drained any glamour or attraction from the habit of
smoking, at least for her.  Suddenly, though, it seemed critically important
that she be friendly to Carla.  Perhaps she could learn something here,
something to restore her to popularity, if she was careful.  She had to start
somewhere, or face a life alone at school forever.

When Carla quickly turned the discussion to boys, Janie played along, adding
her comments to the critique of every significant male at school.  Two busses
came and left unnoticed as they talked.  Carla was really quite friendly,
though sophisticated in a way Janie found either incomprehensible or
shocking.  After a while, Janie felt comfortable and accepted enough to
confess real concerns to her new friend.

"I was out of school for a long time.  Too long," Janie said.  "I don't
really get it, Carla, not like you.  My old friends...they won't even talk to
me now.  They think I'm still a kid, not grown-up like them."

Carla had apparently been waiting and hoping for such an opening.  "Janie,
Janie, it's so simple!  Makeup and clothes are important, of course, and
someday when you don't have to get home too quick, you should come over my
house and I'll show you.  But the real thing, the best thing, is this."
Carla held up her mostly smoked cigarette for Janie's perusal.  "It'll
impress the girls and drives the boys wild.  It tells them you're a real
lady, ready to...well..."

Janie thought she knew what the "well" covered, and wanted no part of that.
However, she knew some of the girls at school had started smoking, and not
all of them had Carla's "slut" image, not by a long shot.  Perhaps this was
something...a way back in.

"You think so?  Really?"  Janie said, and Carla nodded vigorously, exhaling a
frosty, smoke-laden breath for emphasis.  "Could you show me how?"

Carla grinned.  "That's my specialty, honey.  Will your Mom be mad if you're
a little, um, later?"

"No, of course not," Janie said, though privately she was not at all sure.

"Then let us ad-journ to my parlor," Carla laughed, and indicated a row of
bushes behind the bus stop.

Janie and Carla soon found a spot out of sight of the inquiring public.
Sitting on the stiff, brown grass, Carla pulled out a cigarette and lit up.
She loosed a huge exhale at Janie, trying with all her might to make it look
delicious, tempting, and sexy.  Janie had to admit it was an admirable
effort.

"This is my most favorite thing to do," Carla said, her already visible
exhales thickened with smoke.  "Smoke, and break in a virgin while doing it."

Janie winced at the word "virgin," but said nothing.

Carla was in her element, and Janie was surprised to see that it was more
than just showing off for a younger kid's benefit.  The older girl really
seemed to enjoy sharing her pleasure and helping someone who needed it.

Carla extended her pack while holding the lit cigarette in red lips.  They
were Salems.  Janie's mother smoked Kents.  Janie accepted a cigarette and
held it between her fingers in her lap, as she had seen her mother do.

Carla lit a match and extended it to Janie.  The clearing was sheltered from
the wind, and the match flared brightly in the late-afternoon gloom.
Following Carla's step-by-step instructions, Janie leaned forward to get a
light.

The cold was a help.  The smoke was hot but seemed a welcome respite from the
February air.  It tasted bitter, though, and lay heavy and unwelcome in her
mouth.  Janie blew it out in a small cloud, chased by water vapor.

"That's good, good!" Carla said, pulling hard on her cigarette and breathing
the smoke in deeply.  "A good start!"  Carla's words were accompanied by a
thick exhale, something Janie remembered seeing often at home.

"Not too bad," Janie said, not wanting to discourage Carla.  She regarded the
burning cigarette in her small hand.  It looked large there, improperly
large.

"It's only a start, though," said Carla.  "You need to inhale to look cool
and do tricks.  Like this."  Carla puffed long on her cigarette, removed it,
breathed in with an audible whoosh, then let the smoke emerge over several
breaths.  "Understand what I did there?"

"Sure," said Janie.  "you inhaled.  My mom smokes like that."

"Then try it, Janie!  Don't screw around.  If you're gonna smoke, then smoke
for real!"

Hesitantly, Janie raised the cigarette to her lips.  Her resolve suddenly
stiffened.  She could certainly do anything Carla, or her mom, could do.  She
pulled heavily on the cigarette, removed it, then inhaled a gulp of air as
instructed.

She froze in astonishment as the warm, minty smoke descended into her lungs.
She successfully suppressed the catch at the back of her throat, not wanting
to cough in front of Carla, then savored the new sensation.  It was not quite
a breath of springtime, but it was a feeling not at all bad on a cold day.
She felt both a pressure and absence within her, warm and cozy, which she
released in a thin stream.  Carla was also exhaling and their smoke mixed
between them, causing both to giggle in delight.

They finished the cigarettes together, and two more as well before returning
to their respective bus stops.  Carla demonstrated her "tricks," including
French inhales and smoke rings.  Janie was impressed; her mother did none of
these things, but it seemed Carla had practiced long and hard to achieve her
effects.  Janie could not manage any of the tricks, and by the end of her
third cigarette was feeling rather dizzy and over-stimulated.

In the weeks and months that followed Janie spent a lot of time, discreetly,
with Carla. She learned about makeup and clothes (though Janie tempered the
lessons with what she considered "good taste") and continued to smoke
throughout the period, hiding it from her parents but not her classmates.
She was delighted when she was invited on her first date to a school dance.
The first was soon followed by a second and a third date, each with a
different boy.  She was back, and forging ahead nicely.

================================================================

End of Part One


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