The Power, Part 1

(by SSTORYMAN, 24 June 2004)


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The fictional account contains adult language and themes. If such language
and themes offend you, please do not read further.  The persons and events
described in this work are purely fictional.  Any similarity to actual
persons or events is strictly coincidental.  Copyright 2004 by SSTORYMAN.
All rights reserved.  Permission is hereby granted to reproduce this story in
any form and for any purpose as long as this notice is reproduced and no
financial remuneration is received, directly or indirectly, by the person
reproducing it.

THE POWER

1.	Under the Spell.

   Gregory Zahn covered his mouth as he patiently listened to the
beautiful young girl sitting across the table.  She was so immersed in her
story she never noticed his grin.  But just in case he hid his mouth.  For
literally years he waited for a moment like this.  The anticipation was
killing him.  Stifling his smile he watched Becky Gerhardt with dispassionate
and professional interest.  Periodically he would nod in response to her
lengthy account of why she'd come to his office.

   "Like I said, I've been smoking for five years now.  Soon I'll
graduate and look for a job.  So I decided it's finally time to quit.  Lots
of employers frown on hiring smokers.  I figure there's no reason to make it
harder than necessary to find a good job.  You know?"

   Gregory nodded sagaciously as he looked into her eyes.  God, Becky
was beautiful!  It was almost impossible not to stare at her.  She was a
lovely brunette, young with long hair, a slender, well-proportioned figure, a
pretty face and a nice smile.  The thought of this magnificent young girl
holding a 100 millimeter cigarette in her long, slender fingers made him feel
hot.  Luckily he was seated behind a table so Becky couldn't see his bulging
cock.

   "I understand your concerns," he nodded.  "But to help you, Becky,
I need to know more about why you smoke.  What I mean is, oftentimes
smoking's a response to certain primal drives and associated personality
needs.  So tell me exactly how and why you started to smoke and what needs
you think it meets in your case."  He smiled again, showing his professional
interest.

   "Oh, wow," Becky sighed.  "Sure.  I guess I can do that.  Let's
see."  She furrowed her brow.  "I started smoking my senior year in high
school.  Why did I start?  God, I guess because one of my girlfriends dared
me.  Susie smoked and made fun of me because I didn't.  It was stupid but I
thought, what the hell?  So I tried it.  Pretty soon I started to like it.  I
just kept doing it and I've been smoking ever since."

   "But why?" Gregory countered.  The bulge in his pants, hidden by
the table, got larger.  "You knew smoking wasn't good for you.  So what
made you keep doing it despite the health risks?"

   She frowned.  She was obviously confused.  "I don't know what you
mean.  I got addicted," she said as if that was answer enough.  "What else
do you need to know?"

   He smiled.  "Saying you're addicted tells me nothing.  The question
is, addicted to what?  You don't keep smoking only because you have to.  I
strongly suspect you also _want_ to.  So, why is that?  What is it about
smoking that makes you want to keep doing it?"

   "Oh, I see what you mean.  God, I don't know," Becky giggled.
"Actually, that's not true.  I _do_ know.  At first smoking made me feel
grown up, independent and rebellious.  I liked that.  But that's not why I
smoke now.  The reason I kept smoking, and the reason I still do, was because
I began to like how smoking made me feel.  I grew dependent on the good
feelings I got from nicotine.  Smoking's real addictive, Gregory.  When you
become a smoker you love how you feel when you do it.  I guess that's why
it's so hard for people like me to quit."

   "Sure," Gregory agreed.  "But it still doesn't answer my
question.  Exactly what about smoking makes you keep coming back for more?
In order to help you, Becky, I need details."

   That wasn't true.  If people like Becky sought help from the
university's student assistance program, Gregory just referred them to an
outside stop-smoking clinic.  The SAP didn't want its counselors analyzing
the motives of people who wanted to quit.  He was only a traffic cop,
directing interested seekers to appropriate programs.  But Becky didn't know
that.  She sighed and thought for a moment.

   "Well, it's like I said.  I guess I keep smoking because I like how
it feels.  I mean, nicotine makes me peaceful, relaxed.  I like that."  She
laughed nervously.  "God, no one's ever asked me this before.  I know it
sounds terrible but when I smoke I feel laid-back and energized at the same
time.  Mellow's the word that best describes it."  She frowned.  "I
suppose you'll say I need to substitute something else for the stimulation
and stress relief that I get from smoking my cigarettes, won't you?"

   "Maybe," Gregory grinned.  "And how much do you smoke, Becky?"

   She flinched.  "Oh, God!  I don't know."  She giggled
self-consciously.  "Between half a pack and a pack a day, I suppose."

   She was lying.  He could tell by her body language.  She was
purposely understating the seriousness of her own nicotine addiction.  But
that didn't trouble Gregory.  In fact, it pleased him.  "And what are the
things that trigger your desire, your need, for a cigarette?"

   This time Becky laughed out loud.  "Almost everything!"  She seemed
to like talking about herself.  "Let's see.  I always want to smoke after
eating.  And I like to smoke when I study.  It helps me concentrate."  She
thought.  "I also like to smoke when I talk on the phone.  And when I'm at
a party.  Or having coffee."  She smiled.  "Like I said, almost everything
I do makes me want to smoke.  That's why I need help quitting.  That's why
I'm here."

   Gregory sensed the moment had arrived.  In the six months he'd
worked as an intake counselor for the university's student assistance program
he talked with hundreds of students and staff about all kinds of personal
problems.  Most were about relationships, parents or significant others.
Some were emotional problems like depression or anxiety.  Becky wasn't the
first to seek help to quit smoking.  But she was prettiest, the sexiest.  So
he deviated from the procedure in the program manual.  This time he tried a
different approach, one he hoped would have a completely different result.

   "I often use hypnosis in these situations, Becky.  So if you're
willing I'd like to hypnotize you today to help you get in touch with your
subconscious emotional needs, all the ones that smoking cigarettes presumably
help you cope with.  Hypnosis may help achieve your objectives.  Would that
be alright?"

   She was surprised and a bit nervous.  "God, I thought you'd just
sign me up for a stop smoking class."  She hesitated.  "I didn't plan on
being hypnotized."

   "You're not scared, are you?"  Gregory's smile was gracious.
Seeing her counselor's confident grin Becky slowly shook her head from side
to side.  She didn't want to be a wimp.

   "No, I guess not," she finally answered.  "If you think it'll
help, I guess it's okay."

   "Fine," Gregory smiled back.  "Now then, I need you to relax.
Take a deep breath.  Breathe out slowly through your nostrils.  Keep your
mouth closed.  Yes, that's it."  His subject inhaled deeply and gradually
released air through her nose.  "Again, but deeper this time."  She
complied, closing her eyes and focusing on her breathing.

   Gregory touched her hand.  The feeling of her soft skin was electric;
he hid his excitement.  "Becky, you're still too tense.  Hypnosis won't
work till you're fully relaxed.  You just said smoking helps you relax.
Would it help you to smoke a cigarette before we begin?"

   She stared in disbelief.  "Are you serious?  This is a university
building.  I can't smoke in here."

   He smiled back.  "I don't care about the university's silly rules.
I merely want to know if you think having a cigarette right now would help
you relax.  Would it?"

   Now it was Becky's turn to grin.  It was a wicked smile.  "Yeah,
sure, I suppose.  I have to admit I'm pretty nervous and I'm dying for a
cigarette right now, to tell you the truth.  But you're supposed to help me
quit.  It'd be too weird to smoke a cigarette so I can calm down enough so
that then I can quit."

   "Perhaps.  But right now my only goal is to help you relax.  The
building's air conditioner will dissipate the odor of one cigarette.  You're
my last appointment today anyway.  No one will know you smoked in here.
Don't worry about it.  If having a cigarette will relax you, and I suspect
it will, then by all means have one.  I even keep an ashtray in my drawer."

   "Okay," Becky agreed sheepishly.  She watched him put a clean
ashtray on the table.  Her nervousness made her overlook how odd it was that
he kept an ashtray in his drawer.  She opened her purse and removed a pack of
Marlboro Ultra Lights and a lighter.  "Are you sure this is okay?"

   "Yes, it's fine," he answered reassuringly.  "Hypnosis is a
wonderful tool.  But its efficacy depends on the subject's passivity and
relaxation.  Don't get me wrong.  I'm not necessarily condoning your use of
cigarettes.  I'm just suggesting that smoking may help you enter the proper
state of mind so you can benefit from the hypnosis techniques I'll use in a
moment."

   Becky shrugged.  "You're the expert," she sighed.  With that she
shook a cigarette from her pack and put it in her mouth.  "It's just weird
to smoke in front of you when I'm trying to quit.  That's all."

   He didn't respond.  He simply watched her light up.  Becky's pretty
cheeks collapsed inward with her initial puff.  Gregory knew ultra light
cigarettes need maximum suction to get a decent nicotine infusion.  Becky
dragged long and hard before inhaling that first drag deep into her chest.
The sight of this beautiful young woman smoking was magnificent!  The fact
that she was doing it even though she said she wanted to quit excited him
even more.  Gregory's member swelled with delight as slowly, surely, smoke
began dribbling from Becky's red lips.

   She giggled.  "I'm so addicted to these damn things," she sighed
as smoke poured from her pretty little mouth.  She held her cigarette high in
the air.  "I know I need to quit."

   He ignored her comment.  "It's best if you close your eyes," he
suggested clinically, hiding his enthusiasm.  "Just smoke quietly for a few
moments.  Let the process of breathing the smoke in and out of your body
completely relax you.  Let it prepare you for what's to come."

   Becky did.  Shutting her eyes she returned the cigarette to her lips
every twenty seconds or so.  Every third exhale she opened her eyes and
tapped some ashes into the tiny ashtray.  The depth of this girl's ingrained
habit was obvious.  Becky Gerhardt's practiced smoking technique betrayed
the fact that she was a veteran smoker.  He could tell.  It wouldn't be easy
for Becky to quit.  But of course he had no intention of letting her.

   It was four thirty.  People in the adjoining offices had left for the
day.  No one would interrupt this session.  It was perfect.  Finally Gregory
cut short Becky's smoking exercise.

   "You look much more relaxed now," he soothingly assured her when
her cigarette was over two-thirds gone.  "So go ahead and put it out.  We
can begin."

   With an embarrassed smile Becky took one last large drag.  She
crushed the cigarette in the ashtray after pulling the last of the smoke deep
inside her chest.  "Someday maybe I won't need to smoke to relax.  But I
feel better now.  Thanks for suggesting it and for letting me smoke."
Exhaled smoke spurted from her lips as she spoke.  Seeing the lovely brunette
talking over an exhale nearly made Gregory come in his pants.

   "Excellent," he said in a measured tone.  "If you're still
comfortable being hypnotized, Becky, then let's begin.  I'm going to ask
you to concentrate on the sound of my voice while you look straight ahead."

   "I thought I had to stare at a ticking watch or something?"

   "Only in the movies, Becky.  Only in the movies."

   Gregory was experienced with hypnosis, but not professionally.  He'd
never used it in his job before.  Hypnotizing people was only something he
did at parties.  He first tried it as a teenager and discovered he had an
uncanny ability to put people to sleep and give them powerful post-hypnotic
suggestions.  His subjects inevitably carried them out to the letter.  His
friends used to call it "the power," and it was impressive.  After majoring
in psychology in college and with his interest in human personality, taking a
job as an intake counselor for employee assistance programs had been a
natural choice.  But in corporate EAPs most counselees were men or older
women.  He wanted a chance to work with younger women.  A university-based
student assistance program proved the perfect place for that.  Now finally,
after six months on this job he was about to do something he always wanted to
try.  Becky would be his guinea pig!

   She rapidly fell under his spell.  Her eyes glazed over.  She
breathed deeply and rhythmically.  She was out.  Gregory was sure of it.  He
could speak freely and she wouldn't remember a thing when it was over.

   "Becky, can you hear me?"

   "Yes," she replied in a droning voice.  "I hear you."

   "Lift your right hand to your nose," he commanded.  "What do you
smell?"

   Becky obediently sniffed her fingers.  "I smell smoke on my hand.
Tobacco smoke," she added in a disinterested staccato voice.

   "That's right.  And doesn't it smell good?"

   She paused, continuing to look straight ahead.  "Yes, it does smell
good."

   "Excellent, Becky.  You're right.  The smell of smoke on your
fingers is wonderful.  You love it.  Do you also smell the smoke in the air
from the cigarette you just finished?  It's wonderful, too, isn't it?  You
love the smell of tobacco smoke, don't you?"

   Becky sniffed the air.  "Yes, I can smell the smoke in the air,"
she agreed placidly.  "The smell is wonderful.  I love it."

   "Very good, Becky.  That's right.  It is wonderful.  In fact, the
smell is absolutely divine, isn't it?  Nothing's more pleasant than the
smell of fresh cigarette smoke.  Now, I must ask you a question.  You said
you love the smell of smoke.  It's splendid indeed, isn't it?"  She
nodded.  "But in light of that, do you really want to quit smoking?  Are you
sure that's what you want?  Answer truthfully, please."  This was
critically important.  His plan would go easier if her answer was no, as he
hoped.

   She paused.  "No, I don't want to quit smoking," she said
resolutely.  "But I should quit.  It's bad for me.  Everyone says so,
including my roommate."

   It was time to redirect her.  "But Becky, that makes no sense.  You
like to smoke.  You think it smells wonderful.  You said so yourself.  You
shouldn't quit doing something that you like so much.  It doesn't matter
what others think.  The only thing that really matters is what _you_ think.
And you told me what you think.  You love to smoke.  You want to keep
smoking.  You don't want to quit.  So therefore you shouldn't.  It makes no
sense.  Do you understand?"

   She nodded her head.  "I understand.  It makes no sense for me to
quit smoking."

   Gregory smiled.  That answer was music to his ears!  She couldn't
see since she was staring straight ahead, and she wouldn't remember anyway,
so he put his hand on his crotch and gently stroked his throbbing member
under the table.  "Let me tell you something else, Becky," he groaned.
"The other reason you shouldn't quit, and the reason why you don't need to,
is that smoking isn't really that bad for you.  Do you understand?  Any
negative health consequences from smoking won't happen to you, if at all, for
many, many years.  The anti-smoking rhetoric in the media is all bullshit.
So there's no reason for you to quit smoking right now, especially since you
don't want to.  There's no reason at all at for you to quit.  Do you
agree?"

   Becky nodded a second time.  "I understand.  I agree.  Smoking is
really not that bad for me.  Nothing bad will happen to me.  There's no
reason for me to quit smoking."

   Gregory heaved a sigh of relief.  It was easier than he expected.
Now he'd reinforce the logical path he'd directed her to take.  "Becky,
listen carefully.  When you come out of your trance you'll tell me you've
changed your mind.  You don't want to quit smoking.  You have no intention
of quitting, either now or at any time in the foreseeable future.  Do you
understand?"

   She compliantly nodded her head.

   "The thing that's made you unhappy, that's caused you tension, is
not your smoking but merely the idea that you _should_ quit even though you
don't want to.  So you'll begin telling others that you've decided to
remain a smoker and you'll no longer apologize for being a smoker.  Because
you like smoking.  Don't you, Becky?"

   Once more Becky nodded.  "I like smoking.  I've decided to remain a
smoker.  I shouldn't quit.  I don't want to.  I won't apologize for
smoking."

   "Very good," Gregory said reassuringly.  "Excellent.  You're a
good girl, Becky, and you just made a very smart decision.  Smoking is nice.
Smoking makes you feel good.  You want to smoke.  You like to smoke.  You
_need_ to smoke.  Therefore you should keep smoking just as much and as often
as you feel like it.  No longer will you apologize for being a smoker.  You
love smoking.  Do you agree?"

   "I won't apologize," she reiterated.  "I want to smoke.  I need to
smoke.  I love to smoke.  Smoking's nice.  It makes me feel good."

   "That's right, Becky.  You adore smoking.  Now, tell me.  How many
cigarettes a day do you think you smoke, on average?  Give me your best
guess."

   She paused, as if counting in her head.  "About a pack and a half
every day," she droned.  "More or less.  Usually more on weekends."

   "That's not what you told me before you were hypnotized, is it?  You
lied to me before, didn't you, Becky?  You said you smoke less than a pack a
day.  And that was a lie, wasn't it?"

   She nodded.  "Yes, it was a lie."

   "You lied because you were ashamed.  You were ashamed of being a
smoker.  You thought I'd disapprove of you if you admitted how much you
really smoke.  Isn't that right?"

   Again, she nodded.  "Yes, I was ashamed."

   "You'll never do that again, Becky.  From now on you won't be
ashamed of being a smoker.  You love to smoke so you won't apologize for it.
You won't feel ashamed, either."  He took a deep breath.  "In fact, you'll
tell other people that they're stupid if they don't smoke.  Non-smokers are
stupid.  They don't know what they're missing, do they?  Smoking is nice,
isn't it?"

   Becky moved her head up and down.  "I love to smoke.  I won't
apologize for smoking.  Apologizing for smoking is what made me unhappy in
the past.  I'll never apologize for smoking again.  Non-smokers are stupid.
Smokers are smart."

   Instead of simply repeating his words she was beginning to use the
concepts he suggested in her own words.  That was exactly what he'd hoped
for.

   He took another deep breath.  "But when you wake up, Becky, you'll
decide it's time to make some changes in how you smoke.  And these changes
will make you very happy.  Aren't you eager to learn what these nice changes
will be?"

   She nodded enthusiastically.

   "Okay, then, here they are.  From now on you'll smoke only 100
millimeter cigarettes.  The shorter cigarettes you smoke now are ugly.
Longer cigarettes are better.  First, they last longer.  You can smoke more
because they last longer.  That's good because you love to smoke, don't
you?"  She nodded again.  "Second, 100 millimeter cigarettes look elegant,
sexy.  The longer length is so more attractive.  Everyone thinks so.  Don't
you think so, too?  It's important to look good when you smoke.  That means
you should only buy longer cigarettes.  Doesn't that make perfect sense?"

   "It makes perfect sense," Becky repeated.  "From now on I only
want to smoke longer cigarettes.  They last longer.  They're more
attractive."

   "Exactly.  And you'll stop smoking those nasty ultra lights.  They
don't have as much smoke as lights or a full flavor brand.  You like more
smoke.  From now on you should smoke something stronger than those nasty
ultra lights.  Don't you agree?"

   She nodded.  "I don't like those nasty ultra lights.  I like
stronger cigarettes."

   "And do you know why that makes perfect sense, Becky?  Can you tell
me?"

   "Because smoking's not bad for me," she answered confidently.  "I
love to smoke.  Ultra lights don't have as much smoke.  I should smoke
stronger cigarettes, not ultra lights.  Stronger cigarettes taste better."

   Gregory was delighted.  In her hypnotized state she was applying the
tenets instilled in her subconscious and drawing logical conclusions.
"You're a smart girl, Becky," he added, patting her on the hand.  "I'm
proud of you.  You're thinking about this exactly right."

   "I'm thinking correctly about these things," she answered back.

   "So, let's review.  What are you going to do when you wake up?"

   Continuing to stare straight ahead Becky listed her responsibilities.
"I will tell you I changed my mind, Gregory.  I don't want to quit smoking,
now or ever.  It's because I love to smoke.  I'm done apologizing for being
a smoker.  The thing that made me unhappy in the past was apologizing and
being ashamed of being a smoker.  So I won't do that.  I won't apologize
anymore.  Smoking's not bad for me.  Nothing bad will happen to me for
years, if ever, because I smoke.  I want to smoke more now.  I'll smoke more
often.  I'll only buy 100 millimeter cigarettes, and stronger ones.  I love
to smoke.  I'm a smoker."

   "Very good, Becky.  I'm so pleased with you.  And doing those things
will make you very happy.  You'll feel better about yourself than you have
in a long time.  A couple more things.  First, you won't remember this
conversation.  Do you understand?  You'll tell me that under hypnosis you
realized on your own that wanting to quit smoking was a mistake.  You'll
thank me for helping you get in touch with your inner feelings.  These are
all your ideas, aren't they?"

   She nodded.

   "The second thing is you'll ask me if I smoke, too.  When I say
that I do you'll suggest that we get together for dinner soon.  You won't
come back to the student center to see me professionally again but you'll
ask to see me socially.  Having dinner with me will make you very happy.  Do
you understand?"

   "I understand.  Having dinner with you will make me happy, Gregory.
I want to have dinner with you soon.  I want to see you socially."

   "That's right.  Now when I count to ten you'll wake up with no
recollection of what we just talked about.  But you'll no longer want to
quit smoking.  And you'll do the other things we discussed.  You'll firmly
believe all of it, including your decision not to quit smoking, is your own
idea.  Correct?"

   "Yes, that's right," she answered placidly.

   "Okay.  One, two, three -."  

   As soon as Gregory reached ten Becky blinked.  "Oh my God," she
gasped.  "I feel so weird.  Did it work?  Was I hypnotized?"

   "Yes, you were," Gregory smiled confidently.  "What do you
remember?  Anything?"

   She shook her head.  "No, nothing," she admitted.  "But I feel
good.  God, I feel great!  Whatever you did to me, Gregory, wow, it really
worked!  I feel wonderful."  She began giggling uncontrollably.  "Damn!
Thanks a bunch!"

   "No problem.  You're welcome.  Well, I guess our session's over.
Do you want to make another appointment, Becky?  Or can I get you information
about stop-smoking classes?"

   She stood, stretched and shook her head.  "No thanks.  I don't
think so.  You know what?  It sounds terrible but now I don't think I want
help from the student assistance program."

   "Really?  And why is that?"

   "I don't know," she replied, with a sheepish grin.  "It's just
that, well,  after being hypnotized I'm not sure I want to quit after all.
Did I talk about that while I was out?"

   "I'd rather you tell me.  What do you recall?"

   "Nothing," she admitted hesitantly.  "But I suddenly feel like I
don't want to quit after all.  No, I'm _sure_ I'm not going to quit.  Know
why, Gregory?  Damn!  I just love to smoke.  I love the way cigarettes taste.
I love how they smell and I love how it feels when I smoke.  God, I love
everything about smoking.  Why would I want to quit?"

   "But what about the health risks?" he asked innocently.  "What
about finding a job after you graduate?  You worried about discrimination
because you smoke.  Don't those things still trouble you?"

   Becky shook her head.  "Oh come on, Gregory.  Everybody knows that
the anti-smoking rhetoric in the media these days is all bullshit.  Smoking
isn't all that bad for you.  Nothing bad will happen to me for years, if
ever, as a result of smoking.  No, I'm not worried about that."

   "And the concern about getting a good job?"

   She laughed.  "God, why did I ever say that?  I can't worry about
not getting a job.  Lots of places hire smokers.  I love to smoke way too
much to let that influence me.  I mean, I'm a smoker, for God's sake.  If
they won't hire me just because I smoke, well, I feel sorry for them.  I
wouldn't want to work for anyone that stupid.  No, I'm not worried about it
at all.  Fuck them!"

   "I see," Gregory said, stroking his chin thoughtfully.  He loved
hearing the pretty young woman speak coarsely and forcefully in defense of
her evil habit.  "To be honest, Becky, you did express some of those
opinions while you were under hypnosis.  You were pretty adamant, too."

   "Really?  Well, you said it'd get me in touch with my true
feelings," Becky sighed.  "It must have.  Yeah, I'm sure I don't want to
quit, now or ever.  I must've been out of my fuckin' mind!"  She laughed.
"So I guess I don't need your help, Gregory.  Sorry about that."

   "No problem," he replied gracefully.  "If you'd tried to quit,
even though deep down you didn't want to, it would've been a disaster
anyway.  So don't apologize.  In fact, by finding out in advance how you
really feel we probably just saved you lots of time, trouble and money.  Not
everyone is ready to quit smoking, you know."

   "No, I love to smoke way too much to ever give it up," she went on
assuredly.  "I'm sure of that now.  I'm glad you're not mad I feel that
way."  She looked straight at him.  "Gregory," she said with an odd look
in her eyes.  "Can I ask you a dumb question?"

   "Sure," he smiled.  "Shoot."

   "Do you smoke?"

   "Why are you asking me that?"

   "God, I don't know," Becky admitted with an embarrassed giggle.
"I mean, I know your job with the student assistance program is helping
people like me quit smoking, among other things.  But for some reason I just
have to ask.  Do you smoke?"

   "You're very perceptive, Becky," he said with a sly smile.  "Yes,
in fact I do smoke.  It's why I have an ashtray in my desk.  Sometimes I
even smoke here in the office if no one's around.  No one here knows or
they'd probably can my ass in a minute.  But I'm a smoker just like you."

   "I knew it," she exclaimed excitedly.  "God, I must be
clairvoyant.  Damn!  So you're a fellow smoker, too?  That's great!  So do
you understand my reasons for deciding not to quit after all?"

   Gregory smiled broadly.  "Becky, to be honest I do understand, and
completely, too.  Many of the things you said today are the same things I
often say myself."  There was a twinkle in his eye but she didn't catch its
significance.

   Becky grinned.  "God, what a relief!"  She paused.  "Can I ask
another question?"

   "Of course.  What is it?"

   "Do you want to have dinner sometime?"  She blushed as she asked.
"God, I'm sorry.  I don't know what's got into me.  I'm usually not so
forward.  But I really like talking to you, Gregory.  For some reason I feel
like you really, truly understand my thinking on the subject of smoking.
I'd love to talk more with you about it.  What do you say?  Do you think
it's too weird?"

   "Not at all," Gregory graciously smiled.  "Becky, you're a
delightful girl.  You're very attractive."  She blushed as he went on.
"Unless you think I'm too old I'd love to have dinner."

   "Old?" she exclaimed.  "God, how old are you?"

   "I'm 26," Gregory said.

   "Shit," Becky laughed derisively.  "That's not old!  I'm 22, for
God's sake.  What's four years?  Hell, I've dated guys older than you
before, Gregory."

   "So, it's a date then?"

   "Yeah," she replied with a mischievous grin.  "It's a date.  How
about tomorrow night at the Friday's near campus?  Does that work for you?"

   "Perfect," Gregory answered.  "Let's meet at six."

   "I'll be there," Becky smiled.  She picked up her purse to leave.
"And I assume we'll sit in the smoking section?  Because I want to smoke!"

   "Absolutely.  I'd be disappointed if we didn't sit in smoking.  I
love to smoke."

   "Yeah, I feel the same way," she sighed.  "You know what?  The
idea of having dinner with you tomorrow night makes me really happy.  Thanks,
Gregory.  I'm looking forward to it."

   "You're welcome," he said with a smile.  "I am, too.  And I'm glad
you finally know what you want.  That's the important thing.  If you're
sure you really _want_ to keep smoking, that's worth a lot.  It's good to
know what you want."

   Becky smiled.  "Oh, I know what I want now!"  She said it with
confidence.  She leaned in and gave him a little peck on the cheek.  "God,
I've never been so sure of anything!  I tell you what else.  Just as soon as
I'm outside this building I'm lighting up a cigarette.  I just love to
smoke, Gregory.  Thanks for helping me see that.  Somehow I sense you do
understand."

   "Oh, I do, Becky.  I do."

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