The Agreement

(by Jay Lenil, 06 November 2012)


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The Agreement
By Jay Lenil

I had been awaiting this birthday for a long time. My Mom and I had made an
agreement - a verbal contract, if you will - and today was the day for her to
fill her end of the bargain. Lord knows, I certainly had upheld my end.

Some background is in order. My name is Ariana Fleischer. The day we are
talking about happens to be my twenty-first birthday, and my mother had
promised me a kind of unique birthday present if I agreed to follow certain
conditions. These conditions were almost more than I could bear, but I did
it, and now it's her turn. Here is how it happened.

When I was growing up, my mother, Beth Jamison, and I had always been close.
We were able to talk about everything, which, from what I heard from my
friends, was not very common. She was a typical, normal mother - and I
thought she was relatively cool. I was her only child, and she showered me
with attention - especially after Dad died when I was fourteen.

All that changed three years ago. Mom had met a guy, and she was serious
about him. I had my reservations. Ted was a nice enough guy, especially in
the beginning. But he had a dark side, or I guess in fairness I should say a
light side - basically he was a religious nut. I had been raised Catholic and
we went to church on Sundays, but the church was definitely not the center of
our lives. But for Ted, his church is everything to him. He is a member of
one of those sects where drinking and smoking, even dancing, are big-time
sins.

I couldn't believe that Mom had fallen for a guy with this belief system, but
I guess she was lonely and tired of all the guys out there who always tried
to use her. "Ted is a real gentleman," Mom said often. Yeah, but, I thought
to myself, he's a real asshole too.

I was shocked when Mom started using the same language that Ted used all the
time. I couldn't believe all the personality changes either. She stopped
smoking and stopped watching all the "trash," as Ted put it, on television.
Mom was not a big drinker, but she liked her Saturday night martini - her
"weekly reward," as she put it, and the occasional drink at a party. Ted
didn't like drinking at all, so Mom quit that too.

She seemed to be happy, but I always believed that she was somehow hiding her
feelings from herself. I was torn between wanting her to be happy with her
choices and my growing dislike of Ted. When they got married the day before
my twentieth birthday, I cried for the first time since my Daddy died - and
they weren't tears of joy.

Because I was going to the local community college, I was still living at
home. My friends didn't want to hang around my house anymore - it was no
longer fun with Ted around. And we were typical college students, meaning
that fun was a very important part of our lives. Ted was also starting to try
to exert control over me. It was his duty as the head of the house, he said.
Smoking, drinking, and normal dating were forbidden. I didn't smoke, but I do
enjoy my wine, and I like being with my male friends. Ted insisted that I
would meet "nice boys" in the Church, not at the bars.

One night I was getting ready to go out, and he made such a big deal out of
it that Mom started crying.  "She's just a girl, honey. She needs to get out
with her friends sometimes." Ted would have none of it.  "She needs to find
wholesome friends and activities. She lives in our house and needs to follow
our rules. That's the end of it." I was, of course, furious, but the look in
Mom's eyes somehow made me give in. She told me quietly, "We'll talk
tomorrow."

The next day, Ted was out and Mom and I had a long talk. I won't bore you
with all the details, but Mom begged me to give Ted a chance. "Just come to
the church with us, Ariana. The people are lovely and you need to get saved.
Your eternal soul is in grave danger and Ted only wants the best for you."
She cajoled and pleaded and, after thinking about it, a plan began to form in
my head.

"OK, Mom, you win. We'll do it your way. I'll go with you guys on Sunday."

Mom was overjoyed. "I knew you'd see the light, darling. You'll be glad you
did it. I can't wait to tell Ted."

"There's just one thing, Mom."

“What's that Ariana?"

"I want to make a deal. I'll try it your way, but you have to promise me
something too."

She looked perplexed. "What do you mean?"

"This is the deal, Mom. I go to Ted's church for the next six months, until I
graduate the two-year community college program. If I like it, I stay,
obviously. If I don't like it, I leave."

"And...?" said Mom.

"And you agree that on my next birthday, you will do whatever I ask of you.
It won't be anything illegal," I laughed. "Trust me."

"I'm not sure I like the sound of that."

"Look, Mom, I'm making a big sacrifice for you and taking a big chance. You
know I wouldn't do anything that would hurt you. It sounds like you're
getting a great bargain. Please?"

"OK Ariana, I'll trust your judgment. I'm sure that after you get to know the
life of the spirit, you'll leave all of this silliness behind you. It's a
deal."

"Promise?"

"Yes, I promise."

"OK, just don't tell Ted we have a deal. That would ruin it."

I had her.

The next six months would have been pure hell, but I took the time to catch
up on my schoolwork, studying harder than I ever had. I went to church with
Mom and Ted and it was as bad as I expected. The people were all very "nice,"
but I felt weirded out with all the holy roller stuff. It was totally foreign
to anything I had ever experienced. After a couple of weeks, some of the boys
at church started to ask me out, but I used school as an excuse to say no. I
played my part well but had to admit that, being honest, a person really
could find great peace living their lifestyle - it just wasn't me, though.

I had clued in my best friends as to what was happening, and they thought I
was nuts.

"Why the charade?" asked Maria. "You're an adult and shouldn't have to play
games."

"I know. But it's only for a short time, and I'm developing a plan to get my
mother back. It's not worked out yet, but believe me, I have to get her out
of this marriage. This guy is a control freak and has turned my mother into
something she's not - his own little Stepford wife."

* * *

And that brings us to today.

"Happy birthday, Ariana," said Mom. "I can't believe my little girl is a
full-fledged woman today. It seems like only yesterday..."

I cut her off. "Thanks Mom, but we've got a big day ahead." I had been
waiting for this day for six months and could not control my excitement.

Mom had arranged for my birthday party to be held today - she was going to
keep her bargain. She was now against "wild" parties, but had agreed to have
a group of my old girlfriends at the Spa Ranch. Ted was against even that,
but he had deferred to Mom for once on this one. "At least there won't be
drinking and smoking," he had said. I smile inside at that particular memory.

"Don't forget one thing Mom," I said. "You remember that you agreed to do
anything I want today. Remember?"

Mom looked discomfited. "What on earth do you mean? Isn't the party what you
wanted?"

"Yeah Mom, but just remember, you're all mine today."

"Well, you have kept your word Ariana, and you're saved now. I'll do whatever
you want. I'm just happy that you're with us in the church."

"Uh, Mom... there's something I have to say about that too. I've been with
you on this for six months and I really tried to make a go of it. But I can't
do it anymore."

"I thought you had found yourself Ariana. What happened? Come on, we'll pray
about it."

"No Mom, it's just not me. I believe in God and all that stuff, but I can't
go for all the stuff they preach at Worldy Mission Church. Asking you to give
up ten percent of your income, so the preacher can ride around in his fancy
cars? All the miraculous ‘healings’ that never really happen? People
getting bopped by the spirit and falling and acting crazy? Come on Mom, I
know you can't believe all of this. At least not if you're being honest with
yourself." She looked pained, but I continued. "You made me a promise. As a
Christian woman, you are bound by your word. Today you have to do whatever I
ask. I promised you that there would be nothing illegal involved, and there
won't be. But a deal's a deal, and you wouldn't go back on your word, would
you?"

Mom looked at me, coldly this time. "All right, Ariana. You win. I don't know
what you're up to, but I don't like it. I will keep my promise. What do you
have in mind?"

"Actually, Mom, it's nothing that you wouldn't want to do. We're going to my
party at the Spa Ranch, which you already planned, after all. You remember
the great times we had there the few times we could afford to go. That's all,
no big conspiracy. But if I ask you a favor or two while we're there, I would
hope that you'd agree. It's my birthday."

Mom's face brightened. This was going to work out OK.

The Spa Ranch is a luxury "camp" where ladies go for the day for total
relaxation. There are natural hot-spring pools, any kind of massage you might
want, body rubs, facials, and almost anything else a woman could want in the
way of total indulgence. It is obscenely expensive, but worth every penny. We
had booked a six-hour appointment for a few of us - me, Mom, and my friends
Maria and Kate. I had secretly also arranged for Mom's former best friend
Jaqui to come. Jaqui is a fun-loving, flamboyant lady who was Mom's best
friend for many years. Of course Ted doesn't like her and the friendship was
put on hold around the time Mom and Ted got married. I'm sure Jaqui was
devastated by this. When I called to invite her, she was overjoyed.

"How is your mother, Ariana? I am seriously worried about her."

I couldn't lie. "I am too, Jaqui. But I think we might be able to wake her
up."

We arrived at the Spa Ranch by limo. That was a nice touch that I hadn't
expected Mom to provide. There's still some life inside of her, I thought
happily. The girls were waiting for us as we arrived. Shortly, Jaqui came
walking up the path, her cigarette holder dangling from her lips, with a More
cigarette in it. As I said, she's a bit flamboyant. Mom was very surprised to
see Jaqui, but smiled deeply and went outside to greet her old friend. Jaqui
took a languorous puff, inhaled it, and blew the smoke away from Mom. They
greeted each other warmly. I was relieved at this, since I wasn't sure what
Mom's reaction would be. Things were looking up.

"Sometimes I do miss smoking," Mom said. "Especially when I see you with one,
Jaqui. But that's in the past now, thank God."

Jaqui laughed. "Anytime you want to change your mind, just let me know,
dear."

We went through the entrance and commenced with the day's activities. First
we had our massages and our facials. After a light lunch, we lounged for a
time in the hot spring pool, and had the most wonderful body rubs. When we
were done, we still had another hour and a half.

"What can we do now?" wondered Mom.

"I know," replied Jaqui. “We'll go to the pool bar. That was always my
favorite part of this ranch."

The pool bar is just what it sounds like, only better. It's a really nice
pool, made to look like some kind of tropical lagoon. They have all kinds of
water seats that are really comfortable. You're actually down in the water,
with only your upper body out, and with the built-in trays, you can have
drinks and even snacks while you drift around the pool. Of course, there's a
gorgeous bar right in the center of the pool, well-stocked with anything you
could think of, and it is the only place in the entire Spa Ranch in which
smoking is allowed.

"I don't know," Mom said. "It's not really my thing anymore."

"Nonsense. It's your daughter's day, darling." Jaqui replied.

"Mom, remember our deal. You have to do anything I want."

"OK, dear, I give in. What harm could there be? And I could use a dip in the
pool." 

We were all smiling as we were assisted into our seats. It was wonderful
being there. Jaqui immediately headed, in her "reclino-floater," to the bar
and ordered a margarita. She whispered to the bartender and smiled when the
rest of us joined her.

The girls and I were about to order our drinks when the bartender announced
that champagne had been already ordered for us, courtesy of Jaqui. He poured
our flutes, including one for Mom.

"I'll just have some bottled water, if you don't mind."

Jaqui intervened. "Beth, I have never known you to turn down a glass of
champagne. It's Ariana's twenty-first birthday. I insist."

Mom started to argue again, but this time I jumped in. "Mom, I really want
you to have a glass--just one. How else will you be able to toast the
birthday girl?"

We all laughed, and Mom said, "OK, but just one."

Jaqui lit another cigarette and this time Maria joined her. Maria loved her
cigarettes. As I mentioned, I was a non-smoker and Kate had been trying to
quit. Jaqui offered Mom one of her Mores, but Mom wouldn't go that far,
although I'm sure she wanted to. 

The bartender then arrived again and told me, "Miss Fleischer, in honor of
your twenty-first birthday, Jaqui has requested that I present you with a
special gift. You may open it now.”

"I am honored Jaqui. Thank you."

I opened the small package and inside found a big cigar! This was a total
surprise. Everyone (except Mom) began laughing and telling me to smoke it.

"But I've never smoked anything. I wouldn't know where to begin." I really
didn't want to smoke the cigar, but I knew that Jaqui would be disappointed
if I didn't.

"We'll have to give you a lesson," remarked Jaqui.

Mom interjected at this point. "I really do not like this. Jaqui, this was
inappropriate. My daughter is a non-smoker and she is not about to start.
Especially a cigar."

At that point, I was determined to do it.

"Sir, my lesson please."

The bartender gave me a brief tutorial on the art of cutting, lighting, and
smoking a cigar. He then produced a box of large matches, toasted the end,
and told me to put the cigar in my mouth.

"Just remember not to inhale!"

"Until you get used to it," laughed Jaqui.

I closed my eyes and tentatively took a few light puffs as the cigar came to
life. To my great surprise, rather than being disgusted I rather liked the
taste.

"Not bad."

"Not bad? That's an understatement. It's a Cohiba Esplendido, darling" said
Jaqui. "It's one of the best Cuban cigars you can get. I got a couple of
boxes last month when I was in Cabo. I tried my first cigar down there and,
although they'll never replace my cigarettes, I enjoy them immensely now and
then."

Mom was looking a bit angry and finished her champagne in one gulp before the
bartender poured her another. She downed that one rather quickly too.

I continued to smoke the cigar, taking more substantial puffs and was really
enjoying it. Both of the girls asked if they could try it.

"You can each have one of your own," said Jaqui. “The bartender has my
humidor under the counter. I thought it would be a nice way to celebrate
Ariana's birthday.”

Kate and Maria enthusiastically took Jaqui up on her offer and before you
knew it, we were all smoking up a storm, and drawing the stares of the other
ladies in the pool. We liked knowing that they were all watching us and we
knew this was something we would be doing again.

"Let me have a cigarette, please."

It was Mom. I was flabbergasted. It was now apparent that her year of not
drinking had left her without much tolerance. She was half-shot, and the
alcohol had triggered her old desire to smoke.

"Mom, are you sure?"

"She's sure," said Jaqui.

Mom put the More in her lips and the bartender quickly ignited the cigarette.
Mom took a deep drag, inhaled it and blew out the smoke.  "I really miss
this," was all she said.

"Of course you do, darling,” opined Jaqui. “You don't have to be a
puritan to be a good person. Smoking and drinking are two things that help
make life fun. Enjoy yourself."

"Fun...what a concept," replied Mom wistfully, and we all laughed again.

We smoked our cigars and cigarettes and drank our champagne and, before we
knew it, our time was up. The bartender told us that because it was my
birthday, we could stay as long as we wanted to. Our party lasted into the
night and I, at least, now knew that I wanted to smoke cigars for the rest of
my life and to be happy like this. I was grateful that I had my mother back,
at least for today. It was the best birthday I could ever have.

* * *

Epilogue

Needless to say, the day's activities did not go over well with Ted. I have
never seen him so angry. He accused Mom of having acted like a slut, and I
thought he was actually going to hit her when she told him that from now on
she was going to be herself and that if he didn't like it, she was out of the
marriage.

"I'm a good person, Ted. Smoking a cigarette doesn't make me evil and neither
does having a drink. Do you remember what Jesus's first miracle was? He made
wine, so it can't be that bad for us to drink it.”

"I won't tolerate drinking and smoking in my house."

"Our house, Ted. And yes, you will."

Mom then proceeded to light her cigarette and took a deep drag. Ted's veins
bulged and he looked like he would explode.

I did the only thing I could. In solidarity with my mother, I lit a cigar.
When Ted saw the Cohiba dangling between my lips, he screamed with rage and
told me to put it out immediately. He walked over to me in a threatening
manner and I took the biggest drag I could and blew the smoke directly in his
face.

* * *

Looking back, I am glad that all of this happened. Ted is now out of our
lives, Mom is herself, and our home is fun to be in again. I am also happy
that I have discovered the joy of smoking cigars. I even got Mom to try one
and she now joins me every now and then when I have my nightly cigar. I love
to turn heads when I smoke them in public and I just love everything about
them. Life is beautiful!


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