Sweet Natalie

(by anonymous20, 13 November 2006)


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Sweet Natalie

I'm proud of my family.  Since my husband died six months ago I've been able
to keep my daughters close to me, even in our sorrow and sadness.

Adapting in the beginning was hard, I had to restart my real estate agency,
which I closed 16 years ago, when Amy was born.  I had planed to anyway,
since the girls were now bigger, but I had to speed up my plans, even though
my husband's insurance gave us financial security for a while.

I missed Carl so much-he was really important to me.  After 17 years of
marriage we were still in love with each other. 

The only reason that kept me from losing my mind was that I had to take care
of Amy and Natalie.

Natalie was almost 14 years old, her birthday was in five days and I knew
already what I was going to get her.  Last week I saw a nice digital camera
at the mall, cheap.  I had to go there on Saturday even though I didn't like
the confusion of malls, but during the week I was to busy with my business.

Saturday after lunch I relaxed on the sofa for some time, with a fresh coffee
and the sweet company of a cigarette.  Smoking has always been one of my
favourite vices, after the departure of my husband I started smoking too
much, really, almost 2 packs a day of Marlboro Reds and soon my vice became
less and less pleasurable.  In the last two months I reduced my intake to
about 1 pack a day and I again enjoyed my addiction to the fullest.

I took a last drag from the cigarette, inhaling deeply, and I stubbed it out
in the ashtray, looking at the smoke coming slowly out from my nose,
perfectly controlled. Smoking the cigarette was as nice as when I started 23
years ago.

Natalie was at the pool because recently she wasn't happy about her swimming
and she tried to improve with practice.

Amy was out with her friend Kate, the daughter of an old friend of mine.

I took my freshly open pack, my purse, and the lighter and got out of the
house.  The 15 minutes drive to the mall was nice.  I always liked to drive
with the radio on and the window down.

I parked the car in front of the mall and entered; I was disappointed when I
found out the shop had no more of the digital cameras I was looking for.  I
didn't have another idea, so I decided to go outside for a cigarette, before
looking for a replacement.

I was a few meters from the glass doors when I recognised Kate and Amy
outside the mall, behind the common ashtray in front of the entrance.  I
immediately saw the cigarette Kate had between her fingers and I immediately
checked my daughter - she was not smoking.  Of course she could have finished
a cigarette just a minute before-.

I stopped for a moment, thinking about it. I never thought my daughter could
be interested in smoking, since she never asked about it, but then I
remembered when I started.  I was 15 years old and I hid it from my parents
for four months only to discover at the end that they knew already about it
and they were not that disappointed. 

Part of the pleasure was avoiding being caught, especially by my mother.  Itt
was stressful but also funny in a way-.

I went outside and the girls saw me.  Amy didn't have any strong reaction
while Kate was clearly embarrassed-

"Hi girls, what's up?"

"Hi mom!"

"Good afternoon, Mrs. Riley-."

"Hey Kate, you're smoking!!  I didn't know you started-. got a light ?"

I took out one of my Marlboro and waited for Kate to find the lighter in her
purse, then she flicked it and offered the flame to me.  I leaned forward,
catching the flame with the end of the cigarette and taking a deep,
cheek-hollowing drag. 

The thick smoke filled my chest, soaking into my lungs in order to supply me
the pleasure I needed.

I checked Kate's smoking technique.  She was obviously not a veteran, but she
already inhaled with a certain confidence and I guessed she was already
addicted.

The cigarette was a perfect complement to her figure, I found myself
thinking, that it would have been perfect also between Amy's fingers- my god-
what a wicked thought!

I cared too much about Amy to really want her to start this habit, but I knew
that if she had started I would have been supportive, avoiding discussions
and punishments.

Kate was really nervous, her vice was still obviously secret.  "Mrs. Riley,
do you think you could be discreet about- you know- about this-." she said,
putting out her cigarette in the sand.

"Dear-I won't say anything to your mother, but-. don't you think it would be
easier for you to speak about it with her ? She could be reasonable-. you
could smoke at home maybe-."

"Maybe, I'll try- Thank you for your understanding, Mrs. Riley, but now I
have to go.  Bye Amy, you got a cool mom, you know!"

Amy kissed her friend and looked at her disappearing back before turning to
face me, smothering a laugh.

I smiled at her, "What?!?  I AM a cool mother!!"

"You are-.in a way-."

We both started to laugh and went back inside the mall to get a coffee.

I didn't ask Amy whether she had tried smoking already, I guessed she had.  I
remembered how it was between girls, when one starts her friends normally
follow because of curiosity, or for the fear of feeling "left out".

I would have been disappointed if she did it behind my back.  I always taught
my daughters were honest with me, that we could speak about everything-.

In the evening, staring at the TV with a hot cup of coffee and a freshly lit
Marlboro, I considered the fact in all aspects.  The bottom line?  I wanted
to know if Amy had started smoking.

Well, I decided to use the small trick all smoking parents know.  The next
morning I "forgot" an almost full pack of my cigarettes in the sitting room.
I would check in the evening if any were missing.  The secret was to leave
the pack with about 15 cigarettes remaining, if the pack was too full or too
empty normally the child wouldn't risk taking out one because it was too
noticeable.

Finally, after a long day I was back at home.  As soon as I entered in the
apartment I remembered the cigarettes I left and I went immediately to count
them.  That morning there were fourteen Marlboros, now I counted 13.  I
double checed - again, 13.

I can't describe what I felt.  Was I disappointed?  Angry?  Surprised?

A little disappointed, yes, because I didn't like that Amy thought she had to
hide this from me.  But maybe I made a mistake counting that morning, so I
decided to try again.  I left another pack, this time I left it on my desk
with sixteen cigarettes remaining.

During that evening I tried to behave as if I didn't suspect anything, but I
smoked a lot more than usual, checking if Amy was looking to me.  I was kind
of hoping she was honest and would come to me and say, "Look mom, I started
smoking.  I know very well it's bad for my health but I have to be open with
you because I like it too much.  The point is I don't want to quit."

Then I would be the supportive mother and I would offer a fresh new pack to
my daughter and everything would be ok.

But Amy was strong and didn't show any particular stress that evening.
Natalie was upset with her swimming coach and with some of her friends, but I
was too focused on Amy to pay much attention.

I tried not to think about it until the next day, but when I came back home
of course the curiosity was great.  I was happy it was Friday, so I would
have time in the weekend to discuss the problem with Amy-.

There it was - the pack.  I counted again, and again.  14.  14.  16
yesterday, 14 today.  I was definitely pissed now and I had to clarify the
question with Amy immediately.

I took the pack and went to Amy's room.  The door was partially opened and
she was reading a book.

I tossed the pack of Marlboros on her bed, she turned and looked surprised.

"Here they are, young lady!  You know how much I hate when you lie to me, and
still you're smoking and you steal cigarettes without having the decency to
tell me!"

"What ?" was her only reaction.

"You know what?  If you would have been honest about it I could have easily
accepted the fact that you are a smoker, but not like this-"

"I really don't know what you're speaking about."

"You don't know, huh ?  Okay, you want to do the hard way, that's up to you.
Let's start with you being grounded this weekend!"

"You're grounding me?  I don't believe it!  Grounded, for what?  I didn't
touch your stinking cigarettes, believe me or not!"

The doubt hit me like a bolt.  Amy has always been honest with me.  She knew
I was not an anti-smoking jerk.  The pieces didn't fit, then I thought about
Natalie-.

In two days Natalie would have been 14 years old.  She was one year younger
than me when I started, but that didn't mean anything of course.

"Amy, listen, if you didn't take them there's only another possibility, and I
guess you know something about it-"

"What do you mean?"

"C'mon, I think you would know if your sister were smoking.  I promise I
won't get mad."

She hesitated, obviously she didn't want to betray Natalie.

"Ok, I understand.  I shall have a word with her, I'm sorry-"

I left the room and Amy came with me to the sitting room.

"Don't worry mom, maybe she's only experimenting-"

I looked at the pack and I took out one of the deliciously full cylinders,
lighting it, hollowing my cheeks and receiving a big amount of smoke, and the
relevant nicotine in my body.  Just what I needed in order to relax.

"Experimenting?  If that's so, I guess she chose the wrong brand."

In that moment Natalie entered the room, and she noticed immediately
something was going on-

"Hi, what's up?"

"Hi, sweetie.  So, -how is it going with your experiments?"

"Experiments?  What do you mean, mom ?"

"Don't treat me like an idiot! You are stealing my cigarettes, now tell me
you didn't like them!"

"Well, mom- I can't lie anymore-"

"So?  You're joking!  You're not 14 years old yet, and you steal three
Marlboro Reds and you enjoyed them? You're telling me you didn't feel sick
right after?"

"What I'm trying to tell you - those were not my first cigarettes.  In fact,
I've smoked 2-3 cigarettes every day since November."

November.  6 months ago.  Maybe she was not addicted, maybe she could stop
right away.

I placed the filter in the centre of my parted lips, closed them around the
cigarette and started dragging.  The ash grew bigger and the end of my
Marlboro was bright orange.  I saw her eyes.  I understood there was no hope
anymore, and I did what my mother did with me many years before.  I told
Natalie to sit down and I told Amy that we were going to have a private chat.

We were now alone, Natalie was on the sofa beside me.

"Listen honey, I really think you are big and mature enough to decide what's
best for you.  You know everything about smoking now, you always knew the
risks to your health because I explained them to you many times, now you know
probably also why so many people smoke in spite of that."

"I guess so-."

"So, you really like it?  Are you sure you're not doing it to impress your
friends or for some other stupid reason?"

"None of my friends know about it-."

"You know that if you're going to be a smoker, swimming will be very
difficult?"

"I know.  Listen, mommy, I never thought I would have tried it but I got so
curious.  You seemed to like it so much.  I tried a little, then a little bit
more and every time was better.  You know, I'm not addicted, I can easily go
days without smoking, I do it because it feels so good."

"Shit, this is just what I feared."

I saw her face and I understood she was really sorry.  When I handed her the
half smoked cigarette I knew inside there was no turning back.  She took it
between her fingers, with doubtful eyes, keeping it high and distant from her
face.  I looked at her placing the filter between her lips and she drew on
the cigarette, closing her eyes, for two or three seconds.

She surprised me with an almost perfect snap inhale, and breathed in the
white and creamy ball of smoke to the bottom of her young lungs.  I asked for
the cigarette back with a wink while my little girl was slowly exhaling a
very long stream towards the ceiling.

I smiled seeing the pleasure on her face.  She obviously knew what she was
doing and I had no intention of stopping her from getting what she wanted.

"So, here we are, my sweet smoking girl-  Now listen to me, I'm not sure if
I'm right or wrong but I am going to permit you to smoke, but only with
certain rules."

"I'm all ears, mom!"

"I will buy your cigarettes but you will not smoke more than two packs a week
and certainly not Marlboro Reds, you will get Marlboro lights if you like
them, or a similar lighter brand.  Moreover, you are not permitted to smoke
in public until you are at least 15 years old, and that includes smoking in
the park or in the school yard. And finally, I don't want you to get any of
your friends to smoke, since I don't want discussions with their parents.  Do
you think you can follow these rules?"

"I will.  I can't believe you're so understanding, mom.  I love you so much!"

I took my pack and I shook out a cigarette for my daughter.  A sparkle in her
eyes told me that it was just what she wanted.  She caught the flame as if I
had always lit her cigarettes and she smoked the Marlboro calmly beside me.
When the cigarette was almost finished she turned to me and said with a
devilish smile, "And now we have Amy to corrupt-"


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