Sandra

(by Nic, 06 October 2004)


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Sandra woke up, running late as usual, finally shutting her alarm off after 
hitting the sleep button for the third time. Fuck ... school started in 
twenty minutes. The bus would have already left, which meant ... well, 
which meant, screw it. She'd stay home today. She collapsed back in bed. 

It wasn't like she couldn't have walked. School wasn't that far off. But 
she'd been up late last night, she was tired, and frankly, her bed was too 
comfortable to be getting up just yet. 

Sandra looked at her clock, noting the time. Her parents would've already 
left for work. Odd that they hadn't gotten her up, but then, they'd always 
trusted her to take care of herself. 

If her parents weren't home, though, then she had time for a cigarette. 

Rolling over in her bed, Sandra fetched her backpack and pulled out a 
half-empty pack. The pack itself was pretty old: it was hard to buy them 
when you're sixteen, and she didn't get up the nerve to steal a whole pack 
off her mom very often. She opened up the red packet of du Mauriers and 
extracted one of the long, king-size cigarettes from within, placing the 
orange filter between her lips and letting it dangle there while she folded 
the top back in and reached for the lighter. Her heart was pounding. She'd 
only dared smoke inside the house twice before, both times when her parents 
were gone for the weekend and she knew that by the time they got back, the 
smell of smoke would have faded back into the general aroma of tobacco that 
pervaded the house. She lit the disposable with a single deft movement, 
bringing the flame up to the tip and collapsing her cheeks around it as she 
took a long, deep drag before finally bringing the cigarette down from her 
lips and letting a long, luxurious plume of smoke drift out of her lungs 
and through her mouth. A morning cigarette first thing after waking up was 
a rare luxury, one to be savoured. 

She only had time to take a few more drags when she heard movement 
downstairs. Instantly alert, her entire body froze, every hair standing on 
end while she listened for all she was worth. 

There it was again. Footsteps. Definitely someone downstairs ... and it 
sounded like her mother. 

"Fuck!" she whispered under her breath, as she reached for her makeshift 
ashtray (really an old tupperware container, scarred on the bottom from use 
but with an airtight lid to keep the smell in.) She took one more quick, 
hard pull, then stubbed out the cigarette, shit the lid, and put the 
ashtray under her bed. 

Not a moment too soon, either. She heard footsteps coming up the stairs, 
and, soon enough, a voice. "Sandra, honey, are you still home?" 

Shit, thought Sandra. I am so busted! 

"Yeah, mom. Sorry, I slept late today." 

"Well, that's all right. I got halfway to work and I realized I'd forgotten 
an absolutely vital document at home, so I turned right around and came 
back for it. Hurry up and get yourself ready, and I'll give you a ride to 
school." 

"All right, mom, I'll be right out." 

Weird, Sandra thought. She totally didn't say anything. Maybe she couldn't 
smell it.... 

In short order, Sandra was ready, showered and dressed, with a pocketful of 
change in her pocket for lunch and a powerbar in her hand for breakfast. 
Her mom was already waiting in the car, dressed in a corporate powersuit, 
one hand dangling out the window with a burning cigarette in it. 

Michelle, Sandra's mom, was a mid-thirties woman with long, pale blonde 
hair. Her makeup was expertly applied, and she'd had a little plastic 
surgery done to hide the slow ravages of age, but if you looked closely 
enough you could still see the tell-tale signs of a long addiction to 
nicotine: lines around her mouth, a slight yellowish stain around her 
fingertips. Inside, after twenty years of smoking, her lungs were like 
charcoal; her throat was afflicted with an endemic cough. She was still 
quite attractive, however, for a woman of her age: her body was tall and 
lean, with well developed curves that were showing the first signs of 
plumpness. 

Michelle put out her cigarette before Sandra got in the car, stubbing it 
out in the ashtray and considerately blowing the smoke outside the window. 
When she'd been young, Sandra had put up a stink about her mother's 
smoking, and after three unsuccessful attempts to quit (she'd lasted a 
whole year one time, but had then relapsed and gone right back to smoking 
over a pack a day) Michelle had developed a guilty conscience about her 
smoking and tried not to do it around her daughter. 

Funny how things worked out, thought Sandra as she buckled her seatbelt. 
She still complained sometimes, but lately it had more been out of a sense 
of desperation provoked by the sight and smell of her mother satisfying her 
addiction after Sandra had had to go without for a few hours. 



They pulled up at school five minutes later. Sandra gave her mom a quick 
hug, then grabbed her bag and started walking towards the school. Her 
mother was reaching for her pack even as she shut the door behind her. 

All of the other students were in class, the bell having rung five minutes 
before. The hallways were empty, and Sandra had no intention of going to 
class just yet. She lurked inside the doorway for half a minute or so, 
waiting for her mom to leave sight of the school, then made a beeline for 
the smoker's pit across the parking lot. While she walked towards it, she 
pulled her cigarettes out of her bag and hurriedly lit one. The four pulls 
she'd had before just hadn't been enough; she needed to fortify herself 
with a whole cigarette if she was going to survive math class first thing 
in the morning. 

She smoked the cigarette mechanically, rapidly, barely pausing to take 
breath between drags. She needed a cigarette, bad, and besides, she didn't 
want to be too late for class. Mr. Williams got really bitchy if you were. 

She was just taking her last, quick hall when a voice startled her from 
behind. 

"Sandra! Sandra Appleby! What are you doing?" 

She whirled around. Shit. It was the vice principal, Ms. Humes, a dowdy, 
humorless women with a pear shaped body and a light dusting of hair on her 
upper lip. 

"Smoking, eh?" Sandra didn't bother to deny it, with smoke escaping her 
lips and the smoldering butte still held between her fingers. "And skipping 
class to do it! Get inside to class right now, young lady. You've just 
earned yourself a lunch-time detention! And a call home, I should think." 

Fuck! Sandra thought. 



The rest of the day was hell. She only got two smokes in, during the 
morning and afternoon breaks. By the end of history in third period, three 
hours after her last one, her entire body was screaming for nicotine so 
badly she couldn't concentrate on what the teacher was saying, and when the 
bell rang she was already on her way out the door, heading out to the 
smoking pit. 

Her friend Nicole was sympathetic. "Humes is such a bitch," she said, her 
lips pursed around her cigarette, pausing to light her Belmont. "All she 
does is walk around looking for kids to bust. I mean, doesn't she have 
anything better to do?" 

"I know," said Sandra, smoke escaping in drifts from her mouth around her 
words. "I just wish there was some way of getting back at her." 

Nicole smiled, her lips twitching impishly. "I'll talk to my boyfriend. 
He'll do something that'll make you feel better, even if she doesn't know 
what it is." Sandra laughed. Nicole was Korean, as was her boyfriend, Jay. 
He was in a gang - nothing hardcore, just dealing pot and smashing the 
occasional thing. He'd do something all right, something appropriate to the 
transgression. 

They talked trash about the vice principal for a little longer, until 
Nicole said, "What's wrong? You look worried." 

Sandra shrugged, took a drag on her smoke. "I am. My parents are gonna find 
out I'm smoking, like, for sure, and they'll hit the roof." 

"Don't worry about it," Nicole said. "Just get home in time to intercept 
the message and wipe it off the answering machine. Jay can give you a 
ride." 

Sandra shook her head. "No good, Nicole. The school's got my parents cell 
numbers. They probably already know." 

"That sucks," her friend said, with genuine feeling. 



Her parents did know, and they were indeed royally pissed. 

Her father was waiting for her when she stepped out of school, and she 
could tell from across the parking lot that he was not in a good mood. 

As soon as she got in the car he was on her case. How long have you been 
smoking? Whatever possessed you to start? Haven't you seen what it's done 
to your mother, she's been trying to quit for years and can't do it! Do you 
want to end up like her, puffing away all day? The questions flew at her 
the whole way home, her dad not even bothering to wait for an answer to one 
before firing off another. She just sat in silence, and when they pulled 
into the driveway, he just said, "Get inside. I'm sure your mother would 
like to have a few words with you. I need to take some time to calm down 
before I punish you." 

She found her mother sitting in the living room, watching TV, a half-smoked 
cigarette held in her upraised hand. "Sandra," her mother said, "Come in. 
Sit down." 

Sandra did as she was told, sitting across from the room and folding her 
legs under her, hunkering up against the storm she was sure was coming. Her 
mother didn't look pissed, but then, that was her way. 

Her mother took a long drag on her cigarette, burning half a centimetre off 
the tip, exhaling a thick cloud in the general direction of the ceiling. 
"So," she said, "How long have you been smoking." 

Sandra looked away. "A year." 

"A year! How on ever did you hide it from us?" 

Sandra shrugged. No point in lying. "It wasn't hard. I don't smoke much, 
maybe one or two a day. " Well, maybe lying a little. Sandra had started 
out smoking only once every few days, but it had been months now since 
she'd gone a whole day without a smoke ... or, more usually, six or seven. 
And really, Sandra supposed, once she'd started smoking that much, getting 
caught was really only a matter of time. 

Her mother laughed. "Honey, don't lie to me. No one smokes for a year and 
only smokes one cigarette a day. I'll bet you're up to a pack every week or 
so, aren't you?" 

Averting her eyes, Sandra nodded. "I thought as much," her mother said. 
"I'd thought my cigarettes seemed to be going kind of fast." 

Sandra looked up. "What are you and Dad going to do to me?" she asked. 

Michelle sat back, arched her eyebrow. "Well, for one thing you're 
grounded, of course. Evenings and weekends. We're going to make sure you 
don't smoke." She sighed, reaching again for her pack. "Sandra, honey, I'm 
really more hurt and disappointed than anything else. You've always been 
such a smart, sensible girl. I never thought you'd do something as rash as 
starting to smoke. Still," she sighed again, extracted and lit a cigarette 
in a single darting movement almost too quick to see, "Still, I have no one 
but myself to blame, in the end. Setting the example I do, it's hardly 
surprising that you'd get curious, and decide to see what the big deal was 
with your mother's nasty habit." 

Sandra stopped herself from rolling her eyes. Just because her mom was her 
main source of her cigarettes didn't mean she was why Sandra smoked. God, 
her mom could be so self-centered sometimes, always the martyr, always the 
center of blame and attention. 

"Sandra," her mother said, "I'm making you a promise. Tomorrow, I'm 
quitting. So are you. It's high time I kicked this habit, and now that I 
see that it's gotten a hold on you too, well ... it has to be done." 

Fuck! Sandra thought, for perhaps the dozenth time that day. 



Of course, Sandra had no intention of quitting. She was still too new a 
smoker to be acquainted with its health effects; all she knew of smoking 
was that she liked it. She liked the feel of the smoke in her lungs, liked 
playing with it as it came out of her mouth, liked gesturing with a lit 
cigarette, liked the way the cigarette made her look and the nicotine made 
her feel. And, besides, she was already incurably addicted. If she went 
more than an hour without nicotine in her blood, she started getting 
anxious and fidgety; were it not for the restrictions placed on her by 
school and living at home, she'd easily have smoked as much as her mother, 
if not more. 

Still, there would be difficulties, most obvious among them the fact that 
her supply of cigarettes had been abruptly chopped off. 

Nicole, as always, came to her rescue. The next day in class, she told her 
what had happened, and Nicole said, "No worries. I'll give you all the 
cigarettes you need to hold you over. I mean, how long will this last? I 
give it two months, tops, before your mom starts smoking again, with or 
without the patch. I mean, come on, be realistic. Like your mom could ever 
stop smoking. You'll see. It'll all blow over." 

Nicole was as good as her word, providing as many cigarettes as she needed. 
It wasn't hard: her boyfriend was able to get them cheap, thanks to his 
connections. In fact, there was an upside: now that she no longer had 
access to her mom's weak ultra lights, she was able to start smoking 
Nicole's significantly stronger Belmonts. 

It was only appropriate that Nicole was now her friend's supplier, since it 
was Sandra's fault that Nicole had started smoking in the first place. 
They'd been best friends for years, and when Sandra had first had the guts 
(and the uncontrollable need) to slip out for a smoke during break, Nicole 
had smelled it on her afterwards and bitched her out for being stupid. 
She'd kept up her verbal assaults for a month, acting out of a genuine 
desire to keep her friend from harm, but finally Sandra had tired of it, 
and had told her goody-two-shoes asian friend that maybe she should try it 
before constantly dumping on her for doing it. To her surprise, Nicole had 
accepted, and had thought the experience suitably disgusting. A few days 
later, however (with a little prompting from Sandra, who'd told her that it 
was an acquired taste, always gross the first time around) Nicole had 
consented to trying it again. And then again, a few days later. Three 
months down the line, and she was smoking just as much as Sandra was, and 
was every bit as addicted, if not even more so. 

Sandra quickly took to smoking as much as she could while she was at 
school. She'd have two before class, two during each of her breaks, and 
three or four during lunch. By the end of the week, she was smoking more 
than she had been before she got busted, trying to soak up as much nicotine 
as she could during the day before the forced fast of the night. 

Home life was no fun. Michelle had taken to wearing a patch, figuring 
willpower wouldn't be enough, but it didn't seem to make much of a 
difference. She was fidgety and irritable all week, and within a few days 
was fighting with Dan, Sandra's father, on a pretty well regular basis. At 
first, Dan tried to calm her down by saying, "Now, hon, it's just the 
cravings. Don't let them get to you." When he found that didn't work, he 
simply retreated into the computer room immediately after supper, 
ensconcing himself in his work while his wife restlessly flipped through 
channels and magazines in another room, snacking endlessly. 

Those first evenings, however, were nothing compared to the tortuous 
weekend that followed. 

Sandra woke up Saturday morning with a sense of palpable need suffusing 
every nerve of her body. She'd never felt like this before, never had a 
craving this bad. Her last cigarette had been yesterday, during second 
break (she couldn't risk one after school: one of her parents was always 
there, now, to pick her up.) 

For half an hour or so, Sandra just lay there, silently cursing her 
parents. Any other time (last weekend, for instance) she wouldn't have had 
any problem. She'd have woken up, had breakfast, and then, at the earliest 
possible opportunity, joined up with Nicole, Amy, and Jessica to go down to 
the mall, where they could smoke in peace. Now, the knowledge that her next 
opportunity for a smoke wouldn't come for two days made the cravings even 
worse. 

Finally, her stomach managed to get heard above her lungs, and, grumbling, 
she climbed out of bed and stalked towards the shower. When she got out, 
she smelled bacon cooking downstairs; she hurriedly threw on some clothes 
(it wasn't as though she was going anywhere, after all, so no sense in 
dressing to impress) and went downstairs for breakfast. 

Her father was the one making it, of course. He hovered about in the 
kitchen, humming to himself as he prepared bacon and scrambled eggs. "Oh, 
hi, Sandy," he said as she entered the kitchen, "Breakfast will be ready 
soon. Sleep well last night?" 

Sandra thought about it. It had taken an hour to get to sleep, and she'd 
tossed and turned all night. Just as she'd done every night this past week. 
"Oh, I slept fine," she replied. 

"So," her father said, as he put their plates down on the table, "How was 
your first week as a non-smoker?" 

Sandra glared at him. "How do you think it was?" was her pointed response. 

"Probably a lot easier on you than it has been on your mother." 

"She has the patch to help her out. How hard could it be?" 

"She's also been smoking a lot longer than you, Sandra. She's much more 
addicted." 

They ate in silence for a few minutes, until some impulse made Sandra say, 
"Dad, are you happy that Mom's quitting?" 

"Hm? Why, of course I am. It's a terrible habit." 

"Will you still be happy when she's fifty pounds heavier?" 

Dan's face clouded. "That's a horrible thing to say, Sandra." 

"It might be horrible, but it's still true. Mom's eating, like, all the 
time. Every time I see her she's snacking on something. All that food adds 
up, Dad. Mom's gonna get fat." 

"Listen, young lady, I may put up with this from your mother, but I will 
not take it from you." 

"What are you gonna do? Ground me?" Sandra stood up and started walking out 
of the room. 

"Aren't you going to finish your breakfast?" 

Sandra looked back. She'd had maybe four bites. "I'm full," she said, and 
left. 



Michelle didn't get up until ten, and when she did she looked horrible and 
felt worse. She was in a shitty mood, too. Sandra and Dan both avoided her 
all day, because whenever they tried to talk to her, she'd start yelling 
without realising she was even doing it. She just sat in the living room, 
watching TV and eating. Dan suggested they go out, maybe take a walk, but 
Michelle turned it down. If she left the house, she said, she'd be too 
tempted. 

Sandra couldn't stay interested in anything all day. Her attention span had 
contracted to that of a two year old's. She tried everything: watching TV, 
surfing the web, playing on her PS2, even reading and doing her homework. 
It was no use, though. She couldn't concentrate on anything. She spent the 
whole day bouncing around the house, desperately trying to find something 
to distract her from the even more desperate cravings she felt. It was a 
futile effort. All she could think about was how wonderful it would be to 
smoke a cigarette. 

For maybe the first time in her life, she found herself looking forward to 
school. 



By Sunday afternoon, Sandra had come to the firm conclusion that things 
simply couldn't continue as they were. Being locked up in her house all the 
time, unable to satisfy her nagging addiction, simply would not do. 
Something had to be done. 

And so, Sandra started to hatch a plan. 



"Oh, my God, did I ever need that," Sandra said as she exhaled what was 
possibly the thickest cloud of smoke ever to issue from her lungs. It was 
her first cigarette since Friday, and damn, did it ever feel good. Nicole 
had greeted her with a cheery, "Hi, Sandra," to which Sandra had responded, 
"Shut up and give me a fucking cigarette." 

"That must have sucked," Nicole said, puffing away on her Belmont, "Having 
to go two whole days without a smoke." 

Sandra brought the cigarette up to her lips and gave it another long, 
cheek-hollowing drag. "It was absolute fucking hell," she replied, exhaling 
another long plume and then puffing again. "You can't imagine what it was 
like. It doesn't help that my mom's turned into a total bitch." 

"She'll get over it," said Amy, taking a much smaller drag. She'd only 
started smoking a couple of months before, and still smoked only one or two 
cigarettes a day. "My mom was the same way when she quit. She was back to 
normal in a month or so." 

"I'm not sure if I can last another month of this," said Sandra, before 
taking another monstrous pull and stubbing out the already spent butt, 
consumed in under two minutes. "But I don't think I'll have to, either." 

"What do you mean?" asked Jessica. "I thought your mother was serious about 
quitting?" 

Sandra reached out her hand, accepting another cigarette from Nicole. She 
placed it in her lips, lit it, and breathed out a more normal sized cloud. 
"Whoa," she said, "I've go the most incredible buzz going on right now. 
This is amazing." She giggled, took another drag, then said, "Listen, I've 
got a plan that should get my parents to accept that I'm a smoker now, and 
that I don't want to quit. But it means ruining my mom's attempt at 
quitting." 

Jessica frowned. "That's not very nice, Sandra." 

"Yeah," said Nicole, "I mean, smoking's great and all, but it is bad for 
you. If your mom wants to quit, you should help her, not try and stop her." 

"If my mom quits," said Sandra, "My parents will never accept my smoking. 
My dad hates it, and my mom will turn into an anti-smoker as soon as she's 
finally kicked it. Besides, by the time she's quit, she'll be fat. You 
should see how much she's eating, now! She'll be, like five hundred pounds 
by the time she's through, and that'll kill her off just as quickly as 
smoking will. Besides which, it's gross." 

There was a short silence, before Amy ventured to say, "I guess you have a 
point there, in a twisted sort of way." 

"Twisted is the word for it, all right," said Jessica, lips pursed around 
the filter of her Matinee as she brought it to life. "Now," she said, 
exhaling a plume of smoke up into the air, "Let's here your plan." 

"Well, the way I see it is, my mom's been smoking for a long time. She's 
tried quitting before, with and without the patch, or gum, or whatever, and 
she's never been able to do it. She just doesn't have it in her; she stays 
a nonsmoker for a while, then temptation strikes, she talks herself into 
having a cigarette again, and then - wham! - she's a smoker again." 

"So you're planning on tempting her?" Nicole asked. 

"Uh huh. I'm going to get a pack of her old brand, leave a few cigarettes 
in it, and hide it somewhere where mom'll find it first, somewhere she'll 
look but dad won't, but somewhere where she doesn't check too often, so she 
won't have looked there in the past week but hopefully she'll check before 
the month is out. The worst that could happen is that she just thinks 
they're a bunch of old cigarettes from before she started quitting, and 
throws them out. But I'm betting she'll smoke one of them, and once that 
happens, its over." 

There was silence as they considered the merits of the plan, both ethical 
and practical. Then Amy said, "What if it doesn't work?" 

Sandra shrugged. "I'll think of something." 



Nicole came through with the cigarettes the next day: a small back of 
duMaurier ultra light king size cigarettes, just as Sandra had requested. 
She took all but one out, putting the rest in a spare pack in her locker, 
and smuggled the pack home that night. 

After school, her mom picked her up, and on the way home they pulled into 
the PetroCan. "I'm just running in to get some milk, hon," said Michelle, 
"I'll be back out in sec." 

"Okay, Mom," said Sandra, "I'll wait here." Jackpot, she thought. 

She waited until her mother was inside, then quickly opened her bag and put 
the pack in the glove compartment. 

Now all I have to do is wait. 



Michelle was driving into work when she opened the glove compartment. She 
kept most of the car's CDs in there, and - stuck in rush hour traffic - 
decided she wanted to switch up the selection currently available under the 
arm rest. 

There, sitting underneath the CDs, was a pack of cigarettes. "That's 
funny," she said to herself, "I thought I'd cleaned the car out." She took 
out the pack, and made to put it in the garbage, before, half on whim and 
half by reflex, she opened it up to check if there were any cigarettes 
inside. 

There was one. Just one. 

Just one, she thought. One won't hurt.... 

The cigarette was already in her mouth before she remembered that she'd 
already put her nicotine patch on, and that she wasn't supposed to smoke 
while wearing it, especially not while driving. "Oh, well," she said, and 
put the cigarette back, leaving the pack on the passenger seat. 

She was able to forget about it once she got to the office, immersing 
herself in the never-ending pile of work that always seemed to bury her 
desk. She didn't think about it at all until lunch, when she saw Alice, her 
co-worker and former smoking buddy, heading out of the building. She didn't 
see Alice pull out her pack and light one up; she didn't have to, because 
she knew where she was going. 

Almost instantly, Michelle was hit with a powerful longing. She wanted - 
no, needed - a cigarette. Badly. 

And she knew exactly where to get one. 

One. Just one won't hurt. Surely I can have just one cigarette.... 

Michelle swore under her breath and headed for the cafeteria. She had an 
extra large lunch that day. 



The patch grew increasingly ineffective as the day wore on. By two, it was 
pretty well useless, and Michelle started rooting through her purse, 
searching with increasingly frantic desperation as the package of patches 
failed to turn up. 

Shit. I must have left them at home. Sleeping in too much these days.... 

Michelle sat back, chewing her lip. She couldn't concentrate on her work, 
couldn't think about anything except.... 

No. I can't. I just can't. Think of your daughter, Michelle. Be strong. For 
her. 

The rest of the day passed very, very slowly. 



She left work early, hoping to beat the afternoon rush, but it seemed that 
half the city had had the same idea. The highway up ahead was blocked for 
miles. 

Michelle sat in her car, the air conditioning blasting in the early summer 
heat. Her fingers tapped arhythmically on the steering wheel. 

Every nerve in her body was screaming. 

Occasionally, her glance darted over, to the almost empty pack, sitting 
there malevolently on the passenger seat. 

She wanted that cigarette so bad she could taste it. 

Just another hour or so, Michelle. Then you'll be home, the patches will be 
there, and you can put this craving down. 

After what seemed an eternity, her gaze went to the clock. A minute had 
passed. A whole fucking minute! 

Her hands moved down the dashboard, plugging in the lighter. 

Thirty seconds later, it popped out, ready to go. 

Of its own volition, her hand moved across the seat, picking up the pack. 

Just one. Just one to pass the time.... 

She opened the pack, took out the cigarette. 

Just one. 

No! You have to quit! 

She sat there, motionless. Her brain was warring with itself. She knew she 
couldn't have it, but another part of her knew that she had to. 

She found the cigarette between her lips. The lighter was in her hand, 
raising up.... 

No! 

It touched the tip. By reflex, she sucked on the end. 

No! 

Yes.... 

Oh, God, yes.... 

The smoke came billowing out of her mouth, a long, opaque stream that 
seemed to go on forever. 

She dragged again, hard. Half an inch burned off the tip. Her blackened 
lungs cried out in relief, a sweet satisfaction that coursed through her 
blood, into her brain. Michelle sat back, eyes closed, dragging again, and 
again. And again. 

Before she knew it, the cigarette was gone. It was only then that she 
noticed that the windows were still rolled up, that the smoke was thick in 
the air. Cursing softly - she was too happy to be truly mad at herself - 
she rolled down the windows and turned off the air conditioning, hoping the 
breeze would air the car out once traffic started moving again. 



Things picked up about fifteen minutes later, and soon enough she was 
flying along again, making good time. She'd be at the school just in time 
to pick up Sandra. 

Half an hour after her cigarette, her lungs were already crying out for 
nicotine. Michelle sighed to herself, and tried to fight back the urge. 
Deep down, though, she knew it wouldn't work. Tobacco had its hooks sunk 
too deeply into her psyche. She'd never be free ... and, to tell the truth, 
she wasn't really sure she wanted to be. 



Sandra walked out of school, and saw her mother waiting in the car across 
the parking lot. She said goodbye to the girls, and walked over to catch 
her ride. 

Once again, they stopped off at the convenience store on the way home. As 
soon as Michelle was inside, Sandra surreptitiously checked the glove 
compartment. 

The pack was gone. A slow, impish grin came across Sandra's lips. Her 
mother had found the pack. Now all she had to do was wait, and see if she'd 
taken the bait. 

Michelle was back out a minute later. There were no grocery bags in her 
arms, nothing to explain the stop. Sandra felt a twinge of excitement 
building inside of her. 

Michelle sat down in the drivers' seat, and turned to look at Sandra. There 
was an odd look in her eyes. "Is something bothering you?" Sandra asked. 

Her mother met her gaze head on, and said, "Sandra, tell me the truth. You 
haven't quit smoking at all, have you?" 

Faced with such a direct question, Sandra couldn't lie. She'd never been 
any good at it anyway. "No, Mom. I haven't" 

"I didn't think so. Where have you been getting cigarettes from?" 

"Nicole." 

Her mother nodded. "Well, there's no sense in making your friend pick up 
the tab for your habit, now, is there?" She opened up her purse, and took 
out a pack of cigarettes. She ripped off the cellophane, folded back the 
top, ripped the foil off the first deck, and offered Sandra the pack. "Care 
for a cigarette?" 

Hardly believing how quickly her ploy had worked, Sandra reached out and 
eagerly took a cigarette, placing it between her lips and rummaging around 
in her pocket for her lighter. She brought it up, and offered the flame to 
her mother, her own cigarette placed firmly between her lips. Michelle 
leant over, accepting the light, the lines around her mouth setting into 
well-practiced grooves as she sucked on the flame, bringing the cigarette 
to life. While Sandra lit hers, Michelle brought the cigarette down from 
her lips, exhaled a long, thick stream, and said, "I don't know about you, 
but I've been absolutely dying for a cigarette." 

Sandra smiled, dragging. "I know the feeling, Mom." 

Her mother looked at her. "I'll bet you do." She watched her smoke, and 
commented, "You smoke like a pro, that's for sure." 

"I've had practice. And a good role model." 

Her mother laughed. 

"So," Sandra said, then stopped. 

"Yes, dear?" 

"Um... does this mean I can smoke, now? Like, around you and Dad? In the 
house and stuff?" 

"Of course it does, Sandra. I could hardly puff away all day while you sat 
there niccing, now, could I? That wouldn't exactly be fair of me." 

Sandra gave her mother a hug, the first one she'd given in years, since 
becoming a teenager. Her mother returned it. 

"What will Dad say?" Sandra asked, once the embrace was over. 

"Your father," her mother said, pausing in mid-sentence to take a long drag 
on her cigarette, "Can go screw himself." 

They laughed. 


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