She Owed Her One, Part 5

(by Kalithanatos, 20 December 2009)

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She Owed Her One
by Kalithanatos


Julianna stuck to her word (she always did) and smoked her fourth cigarette
in the garden around lunchtime. This time she did her best to look well
practiced, consciously making an effort not to screw her face or eyes up when
the smoke drifted towards them and trying to make each puff a little longer
and smoother. She felt much more comfortable holding a cigarette than she had
only yesterday, and was very much looking forward to this all being over.

Debbie called a little after four-thirty, telling her that Hannah was home
and she fully expected to see sweet little Julianna smoke in front of her.
Julianna collected her things (including her cigarettes, but not her lighter
- according to the plan, the lighter Hannah now had in her possession
belonged to Julianna, and why would she own two?) and made her way the
relatively short distance to Debbie's house.

Debbie greeted Julianna at the door. "You ready to do this?" she asked.

"Yep, ready and able, captain!" Julianna replied good-naturedly, trying not
to act as nervous as she felt.

"Hi Julianna, come in," Hannah called from the kitchen, "I'm just about to
put out some dinner. Would you like some?"

"Yes, please, Hannah," Julianna responded. Both girls had known each other's
parents long enough to be on first name terms with them.

"Sit yourselves down then, and I'll dish it out," Hannah said. She had made
some steak pie and potatoes, which Julianna wolfed down. She sometimes forgot
to make herself any food when she was studying, and today was one of those
days where she had not eaten at all. After they had all finished, Hannah took
the plates to the kitchen and returned with the cigarettes and lighter she
had found yesterday in Debbie's jacket.

"So, Julianna, Debbie tells me you have started smoking. If this is the case,
you'll know how good a cigarette tastes after a meal." She handed the
cigarettes to Julianna. "I take it you'll be looking forward to smoking a
cigarette with me right now?"

"Yes, please, Hannah!" Julianna mustered with as much enthusiasm as possible.
In truth she had never smoked directly after eating, but it was part of the
plan the girls had devised for Julianna to go along with whatever was
suggested in order to convince Hannah the cigarettes had belonged to
Julianna, not her daughter.

Julianna opened the pack and extracted a cigarette, placing the filter in her
mouth. Picking up the lighter, she was glad Debbie had bought exactly the
same model twice, knowing how much she had initially struggled to work the
one yesterday. A different type of lighter might have blown the whole plan!
Hannah looked on as Julianna lit the cigarette, took a medium sized puff and
blew the smoke out. Julianna even threw in a little sigh of pleasure to seal
the deal.

"Well, if I didn't see it with my own eyes, I wouldn't believe it. Little
Julianna Posey, smoking a cigarette!" Hannah lit up a cigarette of her own.
"So tell me, Julianna, what made you start smoking?"

"Well, it's like this...," and with that, she told Hannah the story that the
girls had come up with. Julianna mentioned the enormous pressure she had been
under recently with studying and that one of her other friends had suggested
she try a cigarette since smoking would help her to feel less stressed.
Julianna, of course, had been reluctant to smoke but her friend was very
convincing and eventually she buckled and took a puff. Not hating it, she
tried again, then again, and admitted that smoking did seem to relax her. Her
friend had then given her the last few cigarettes in her pack and asked only
that Julianna would definitely smoke them, not throw them away. Julianna, a
girl of her word, had then smoked the remaining six cigarettes and admitted
to herself that it did indeed make her feel good. The next day, she went out
and bought a packet of cigarettes and a lighter. She made this pack last a
whole week before she had to buy another one. Eventually she confessed to
Debbie that she had started smoking and had sworn her friend to secrecy,
terrified her parents would find out. Debbie, being the friend that she is,
kept that promise, and even helped her out in the jam they found themselves
in yesterday when Julianna was smoking in her driveway. Without warning, her
dad arrived home early from work and Julianna panicked. She was wearing a
dress with no pockets and had nowhere to hide her cigarettes, so she asked
Debbie if she could hold them for her until the coast was clear. Debbie put
the cigarettes and lighter in her jacket pocket with the understanding that
Julianna would pick them up later and went home, leaving Julianna to face her
father. Thinking on her feet, Julianna explained the smell of smoke by saying
a delivery man from UPS had left a parcel for her and he had been smoking,
which her dad had no reason to doubt

Julianna had long since finished her cigarette, while Hannah had chain-smoked
throughout the tale. Both Julianna and Debbie could see that Hannah still
looked a bit dubious so, to allay her fears, Julianna did something she had
not planned. She reached over, extracted another cigarette, put it between
her lips, and lit it. Hoping this would be the convincer, Julianna watched
Hannah's reaction, which was simply to light another cigarette of her own.

"So, you've really started smoking then?" she asked, starting to believe.

The look of relief on Debbie's face was palpable to Julianna. The story had
worked and Hannah was fooled! Julianna took a draw on her cigarette for
emphasis and decided now would be a good time to put the next part of the
plan into effect. She said, "Yes, although to be honest, I'm thinking of
stopping soon. I've not been smoking long, and it's probably best to quit
before I get addicted."

Hannah nodded in agreement. "I suppose you're right. At least you're not
inhaling yet, or it would be a lot harder to quit. Once smoking gets a grip
of you, it is very difficult to stop. Saying that, I don't ever regret
starting smoking - in fact, I'm glad I did. Smoking has given me so much
pleasure throughout the years that I don't know what I would be like without
a cigarette in my hand. Looking back on it, I think I may have overreacted
when I found those cigarettes yesterday. This may sound hypocritical, but I
just never wanted to be the reason Debbie would become a smoker - if she
wanted to smoke, I would hope it would be on her own terms and not because
she was copying me."

This revelation was news to both girls; it appeared Hannah would not have
been upset if it had been Debbie's choice to smoke, just if she believed
herself responsible for it!

"I don't have a problem with any of you guys smoking, per se," Hannah
continued, "and of course you can smoke here anytime, Julianna. I was just
upset with myself when I found the packet of cigarettes in Debbie's pocket.
On reflection, it was wrong of me to come down so hard on you," she said,
turning to her daughter, "and I wish I could take it back. If you want to
start smoking, feel free. I promise I won't say a word against it."

"Oh mum, you're so sweet!" said Debbie. "But honestly, those cigarettes
belonged to Julianna, not me. I don't smoke, but if I did, please believe me
when I say it would be entirely my own choice and not because of anything you
said or did."

Julianna saw what Debbie was trying to do. If she now admitted lying to her
mum about who the cigarettes originally belonged to, it would almost
certainly break the trust the two of them had just shared, even though that
trust was ironically based on a fabrication. Julianna, transfixed by the
exchange between the Martin women, continued to automatically smoke her
cigarette (actually finding it quite pleasurable) until Hannah finally turned
and addressed her.

"Julianna, if you do end up continuing to smoke, feel free to come over here
anytime; your secret is safe with me. I would actually appreciate the company
of another smoker since most of my other friends have given up or moved away,
but I totally understand if you do want to quit. You'll always be welcome
here, no matter what."

It made Julianna feel funny to be addressed as a `smoker', but a door had
been opened and she now saw a way out; she would smoke with Hannah the rest
of the evening (for appearance's sake), then come back tomorrow and announce
that she had finally managed to give up. This would mean that everything
could return to normal and she would finally be free of both cigarettes and
Debbie's burden forever.

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