Turkish Delight, Part 1

(by SSTORYMAN, 29 November 1999)


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This fictional account contains adult language and themes.  If such language
and themes offend you, please do not read further.  Copyright 1999 by
SSTORYMAN.  All rights reserved.  Permission is 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.  Thanks to AZ-MAN and STOGIE-MAN for their support,
ideas and encouragement.

TURKISH DELIGHT

At last the Turkish Delight was all finished and Edmund was looking very hard
at the empty box and wishing that she would ask him whether he would like
some more.  Probably the Queen knew quite well what he was thinking; for she
knew, though Edmund did not, that this was enchanted Turkish Delight and that
anyone who had once tasted it would want more and more of it.-
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis (copyright 1950 by the
Macmillan Company).

1.	A Wonderful Opportunity.

   Linda Evans looked around.  The room was teeming with people from her new
neighborhood.  They'd introduced themselves and made her feel quite welcome.
She appreciated the invitation to this neighborhood Memorial Day party at the
Simpson home.  There was just one problem.  It was obviously a non-smoking
household, and she needed a cigarette!

   Linda was new in town.  She and her daughter moved in less than a week
before.  It was a perfect opportunity to meet her new neighbors.  But that
familiar trembling feeling she knew so well, that subtle yet powerful urge to
smoke, was growing stronger by the minute.  She had to do something.  Maybe
she'd just run outside and grab a quick one.  No one would miss her.

   Slipping out the back door, she walked into the afternoon sunshine.  The
deck behind the house led to a fenced-in swimming pool and a large backyard.
Quickly surveying the area, she headed for the tall wooden fence behind the
pool.  While she walked, she fumbled in her purse for her cigarettes.  She
could stand safely out of sight behind the fence and smoke unobserved.

   Rounding the corner, she nearly ran into another woman who was already
smoking behind the fence.  "Oh, hi," Linda smiled with embarrassment, no
longer worried about hiding the cigarette and lighter in her hand.  "I didn't
know there'd be anyone else out here."

   The woman let out a sad sigh.  "Only us smokers," she smiled dejectedly.
The woman was attractive, with long blond hair and a thin face.  She was
slender, in her mid thirties.  A one-hundred millimeter, cork-tipped
cigarette rested between the second and third fingers of her left hand.  "I'm
Kelli Martin," the woman said, smiling.  She held out her right hand and
released a cloud of smoke into the afternoon air.

   Linda smiled back and shook Kelli's hand.  "My name's Linda Evans," she
replied.  She inserted her Marlboro Light 100 in her mouth, clicked her Bic,
and lit up without delay.  After a hard double pump, she sucked a chest-full
of precious smoke, for which she'd been lusting, deep into her hungry lungs.
The nicotine began to kick in.  "Oh, my God," she sighed happily.  Smoke
flowed from her mouth and nose.  "Damn, that's better!"

   Kelli smiled knowingly.  "It looks like you needed a cigarette pretty
bad."  The blond woman seemed both sympathetic and amused by Linda's frantic
smoking exhibition.

   "Oh, yeah," Linda smiled irreverently.  She took another long hit.  "I was
dyin' in there.  I mean, it's a nice party.  But after awhile, I need to
smoke."  She released a long plume of smoke into the atmosphere.  "It's a
bitch, being a smoker these days, isn't it?  No one smokes anymore."

   "Yeah," Kelli agreed.  She brushed her long blond hair back from her
pretty face.  "It's a real bitch, all right."  She followed her comment with
another drag on her cork tipped cigarette.  The drag seemed never-ending, and
her ensuing inhale traveled deep into her chest.  Kelli Martin looked like a
seasoned smoker.  "Actually, I'm trying to quit," she added before exhaling.

   "Uh, yeah, me, too," Linda nodded in half-hearted agreement.

   Actually, it wasn't true.  It was fashionable to talk about quitting these
days, even with fellow smokers.  But in reality Linda had no intention of
quitting.  She'd tried before, each time with disastrous results.  She swore
she'd never try again.  For better or worse, her lot in life was to be a
smoker.  She'd accepted it and adjusted her expectations accordingly.  She'd
be a smoker till the day she died, and she knew it.

   It was strange how it'd happened.  When she started smoking, 20 years
earlier, she never intended to become a lifelong nicotine addict.  She was
just a 16 year old waitress at a Bob Evans Restaurant.  All the girls Linda
worked with smoked.  In those days, it seemed everyone did.  Somewhat
naively, she tried it.  She wanted to be like the other girls.  She never
intended to become addicted.  She didn't wake up that fateful morning and
tell herself, "Hey, I think I'll smoke at least twenty cigarettes a day,
every day, for the rest of my fuckin' life!"  But that's what happened.  Ah,
that first cigarette!  She still remembered the incredible sensation she felt
that memorable day.  It was so nice!  In fact, it was nothing short of
incredible.  And so was her second cigarette, and her third one, and so on
and so on, ad infinitum.  Before she knew it, all that pretty little teenager
wanted was to smoke all the time.  She couldn't stop.  She never noticed when
it changed from being a pleasant diversion into a real habit.  But before
long the teenage Linda didn't just _want_ to smoke.  She _had_ to.  Even if
she'd wanted to, she couldn't have stopped.  The thing was, she didn't want
to.  Despite the health risks, she'd never _wanted_ to quit.  Never.  Almost
from the start, more than anything she wanted to keep smoking.  By the time
she was 17, she was completely addicted to cigarettes.  Her life as a smoker
began innocently on a beautiful summer day at age sixteen.  Now, 20 years
later, she knew the habit would never let her go.  In truth, she didn't want
it to, either.

   She'd done the math.  Since she was sixteen, she'd smoked at least twenty
cigarettes a day.  That was a minimum of 7,300 cigarettes a year, and she'd
been smoking for twenty years.  So the total number of cigarettes she'd
consumed in her lifetime was over fifteen thousand!  She sighed.  That was
fifteen thousand times she'd experienced the intense pleasure of .

   Her new friend interrupted her musing.  Oblivious to Linda's day-dreaming,
Kelli was going on about her plans to quit.  "I talked to a friend of mine
about a stop-smoking support group she joined," she droned on.  "Maybe that'd
help me finally quit this stupid habit.  I might try it and see."

   Linda smiled absent-mindedly.  Not me, she thought.  She wistfully
remembered the first time she seriously tried quitting.  She was pregnant
with Krissy.  She was 22 and had been a smoker for six years.  She and her
husband both smoked in those days.  Bill suggested they quit when she got
pregnant.  She agreed.  It seemed like a good idea; good for the baby and for
her.  But it didn't work.  Bill quit easily, but she lasted only five days.
They were five days of pure hell!  She tried everything to take her mind off
smoking.  She ate carrot sticks and celery.  She carried a mechanical pencil
and played with it.  She carried beads and said rosaries.  Nothing helped.
All she could think about was lighting up.  She dreamed about smoking every
night.  At work she was a basket case.  She snapped at everyone and cried at
the drop of a hat.  Her hands shook.  Till she tried quitting that time, she
didn't realize the depth or intensity of her addiction.  The morning of the
sixth day she gave up.  On her way to work she stopped at a gas station and
bought a whole carton of Marlboro Lights 100's.  She lit up as soon as she
got in the car.  That first cigarette was so fuckin' wonderful!  She thought
she'd died and gone to heaven.  It felt so good to smoke again.  She
chain-smoked all the way to work that day.

   Despite her husband's nagging she smoked throughout the pregnancy.  She
tried to cut back, but couldn't do that either.  She couldn't make it on less
than a pack a day.  Toward the end of the term, it became more awkward.
People constantly bitched at her about smoking.  At every appointment her
doctor lectured her.  She didn't care.  Nobody understood.  She couldn't help
it.  She simply had to smoke.  She needed to.  So she did, health
consequences be damned!

   Krissy was born two weeks early.  Linda was ecstatic because she no longer
had to endure the criticism about smoking while pregnant.  But her next
problem was not being able to smoke in the hospital.  For two days she more
or less quit.  As soon as she got home, though, she resumed with a vengeance.
She even smoked while nursing Krissy.  That infuriated her mom, who stayed
with them after her birth.  But Linda had no choice.  Unless she smoked, she
was too tense.  Her milk only came in when she was relaxed.  And smoking
relaxed her.  It was the only thing that loosened her up enough to nurse.
Poor little Krissy!  The kid constantly breathed second hand smoke while
nursing at her breast.  At the time Linda felt guilty, but she couldn't help
it.  She had to smoke.  She was a smoker.  She rationalized and told herself
Krissy would adjust, and she did.  Krissy thrived as a nursing baby and was
healthy as a horse.

   Linda and Bill got divorced when Krissy was two.  They had many problems,
not the least of which was the fact that Bill no longer smoked.  He wanted
more kids, but Linda refused to get pregnant again.  She knew people would
just bitch at her about smoking again.  She didn't want that!  She was almost
relieved when Bill finally left her.  It was hard living with someone who
constantly groused about her habit.  Poor little Krissy was too young to
complain.

   Of course, that changed.  In sixth grade, Krissy began an offensive and
nagged Linda about smoking.  Krissy's teachers lectured about its dangers.
The little girl was horrified because her mom smoked so much.  Linda couldn't
defend herself.  Her daughter was right; smoking _is_ bad for you.  But Linda
knew better than to try to quit again.  Krissy didn't understand that.
Finally, out of desperation, Linda gave it one last try.  She got the
nicotine patch and enrolled in a stop-smoking group.  For two weeks she
struggled valiantly.  The patch helped, and so did the support group.  But
she realized her addiction was not just physiological.  It was emotional and
social, too.  Finally, she couldn't stand it.  She sadly announced to Krissy
that she just loved smoking too much to ever stop.  She quit the support
group, gave up the patch, and bought another carton of Marlboro Lights 100's.
Krissy was disappointed.  Though she said she understood, Linda doubted it.
But more than ever, she knew there was no way in hell she'd ever quit.  If
she couldn't quit for her precious daughter, she'd never do it!  She just
didn't want to.

   Kelli was chaining into a second cigarette.  "How about you, Linda?" she
asked.  "Have you ever tried quitting with a support group?"

   "Yeah," Linda smiled ruefully.  "Last year, in fact."

   "Really?"  Kelli's interest was peaked.  But then her face fell.  "I
gather it didn't work?"

   Linda joined her new friend in chaining into a second cigarette.  She
_did_ enjoy the social aspect of smoking.  "No, it didn't," she smiled
ruefully.  "I lasted two weeks.  I did the patch and the support group."  She
took a long drag.  "I still couldn't stop.  I realized something.  I like
smoking too damn much to quit."  She turned sideways and slowly released a
stream of smoke into the breeze.  "Honest, I've tried everything.  But you
know what?  If you don't want to quit, nothing helps.  And I just don't want
to quit.  I like to smoke too much.  It's that simple."

   Kelli nodded.  "That's what I've heard.  You've got to want to stop.  I'm
not sure I want to quit enough, either."  She gave an embarrassed smile.
"I'm like you, I guess.  I love smoking.  But recently I've worried about the
effect that my constant smoking might be having on my teenage daughter.  I
sure don't want her to start!"

   It was Linda's turn to nod.  "Yeah, I know what you mean," she affirmed
with little conviction.  "I'm probably not setting a good example for my
Krissy, either."  She puffed thoughtfully.  "Hey," she exclaimed brightly.
"Not to change the subject, but I need to ask a question.  Do you mind?"

   "No," Kelli smiled, tapping some ashes onto the ground.  "What is it?"

   "My daughter and I just moved into the neighborhood from the east coast.
I'm divorced and new in town.  I have an information services job with a
local company.  But I have to take a ten-week training course on Tuesday
nights, starting this week.  My daughter Krissy is a good kid, but she's only
thirteen.  We don't know a soul in town.  I hate to leave her alone every
Tuesday evening for ten weeks.  I'd feel better if I could find a sitter.
Are there teenagers in the neighborhood who'd be interested in baby-sitting
Tuesday nights?  I'll pay more than going rate."

   Kelli smiled.  "There are lots of teenagers around.  I presume you'd
prefer a girl?"

   Linda nodded.  "Krissy's good looking and quite mature for her age.  I
don't think I want a teenage boy watching her," she smiled knowingly.  "I'd
definitely prefer a female sitter."

   "I understand," Kelli nodded.  "You know, my daughter might be interested.
Leah's sixteen, finishing her sophomore year.  She doesn't do much
baby-sitting anymore.  You know teenagers," she smiled with a raise of her
eyebrows.  "Baby-sitting's beneath them at that age.  But Leah wants to make
more money this summer.  Last year she worked as a part-time life guard at
the neighborhood pool.  She'll do that this summer, too.  But your ten week
baby-sitting job might interest her.  She could make some extra money.  Do
you want me to ask her?"

   "God, do I ever," came the enthusiastic reply.  "It'd be a load off my
mind to find someone to stay with Krissy on Tuesday nights.  The class is way
across town.  It's an hour to get there.  I'll be gone from six till eleven
each week.  Please, ask your daughter.  I'm very interested.  God, it'd be
great!  I'll pay well.  How about seven fifty an hour?"

   Kelli took a long, last drag.  "For that kind of money, Leah will do
anything.  I'll find out for sure and let you know."  She pursed her lips and
exhaled a thin stream of smoke.  "Linda, it was nice meeting you.  We live
just down the street.  I'll see you around the neighborhood.  And maybe Sam,
Leah and I can have you and Krissy over sometime, to get acquainted."

   "God, we'd love that," Linda smiled.  She, too, took a final puff, dropped
her butt to the ground and crushed it in the grass.  "Other than people at
work and the neighbors I just met, we don't know anyone.  I enjoyed talking
with you, too.  It's always nice to meet a fellow smoker," she added.
"Especially in this non-smoking world we now live in!"

   "Likewise," Kelli acknowledged.  "We'd better get back to the party.  Give
me your number.  I'll let you know if Leah can help you out on Tuesday nights
this summer."

   "Thanks, Kelli," Linda smiled as they walked back to the house.  "You're a
godsend."

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------

   "Mom, I do _not_ want to baby-sit some thirteen year old every week for
ten weeks!"

   Kelli sighed.  "Leah, I know how you feel.  But Linda Evans is new in
town.  She only lives ten houses down the street, and she knows no one else.
She needs help.  Plus, she'll pay good money.  All spring you said you want
to make more money this summer.  Seven fifty an hour isn't bad!  You'll make
almost forty dollars every Tuesday night.  And for what?  You just have to
watch some TV and talk to this girl a little.  How bad can it be?"

   Leah squirmed.  "I'm too old to baby-sit.  What will my friends say?  For
God's sake, the girl's just finishing seventh grade.  My reputation is shot
if anyone finds out I'm still baby-sitting!  What will we talk about?"

   "Just talk about boys and clothes and movies and CD's," her mother
patiently replied.  "Look, your main job is still life-guarding at the pool.
That doesn't change.  You'll only sit for Mrs. Evans as a favor.  But you
never know.  You might just become friends with this little girl.  Her
mother's certainly nice."  Without thinking, Kelli unconsciously reached for
her cigarettes.  "Linda's busy with her new job.  Otherwise, I think she and
I'd probably become friends."  She put a Merit Menthol 100 in her mouth and
lit up.  "There's one thing I should tell you," she added, with her cigarette
dangling.  "I hope you don't mind too much.  But Mrs. Evans smokes."

   Leah startled, and then frowned as her mother breathed out an initial puff
of smoke and took an extended first drag.  "I know you're unhappy about my
smoking, sweetie.  You don't have to remind me.  I know you don't like being
around my smoke.  I told you I'm going to quit.  Soon, real soon," she
sighed, taking another drag.  "But Linda does smoke.  In fact, I met her at
the party because she and I both had to go outside for a cigarette.  She's
real nice.  You'll like her.  Anyway, she won't be smoking while you're
there.  It shouldn't bother you any more than it does here at home.  But even
if you're not happy about that, I want you to sit for her.  As a favor to me.
Okay?"

   Leah made a face and nodded her blond head.  "I'm so sick of being treated
like a kid.  But okay, Mom," she acquiesced, apparently resigned to her fate.
"I'll do it, but you owe me."

   "Great," she said, obviously pleased.  "I'll call Linda and let her know.
Don't worry, honey," she smiled at her teenage daughter.  "I'm sure you'll
wind up enjoying it."

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------

   At five forty five on Tuesday, Leah Martin rang the doorbell at the Evans
home.  She carried a backpack with some videos and CD's.  She had a large
bottle of Diet Pepsi.  At her mother's insistence, she brought potato chips
and other snacks to share with the Evans girl.

   Linda came to the door.  "I'm Linda Evans.  You must be Leah," she
graciously greeted her guest.  Leah eyed the woman.  Linda looked to be in
her mid-thirties, professionally dressed, and pleasant.  Her auburn hair was
long and curly.  She had a round face with high cheekbones.  She was a little
heavy, but very attractive.  She had particularly big tits, Leah noted, and a
nicely shaped figure.  It made her wonder why this woman remained unattached.

   "Come in and meet Krissy," Linda went on, urging Leah inside with a wave
of her hand.

   As they walked into the family room, Linda sized up the sitter.  Leah was
tall for her age, about five eight, and skinny as a rail.  Like her mother's,
Leah's hair was blond.  She wore it perfectly straight, and it hung halfway
down her back.  She wore a navy tee-shirt and blue-jean shorts.  She had the
emaciated look of a fashion model.  Her facial features were extremely
attractive, and were complemented by a deep tan.  She obviously spent time in
the sun.

   "Krissy, I'd like you to meet Leah Martin."

   Leah looked at Krissy.  She was shorter than Leah expected, only five foot
three.  Her hair was darker than her mom's, and she wore it shoulder length.
Like Linda, Krissy's face was round.  She was really cute, and her figure was
well-developed for thirteen.  Instinctively Leah knew that next year this
little dark-haired vixen with the well-developed chest would have the eighth
grade boys at Ridge Road Middle School eating out of her hand.

   "Hi, Krissy," Leah said politely.  "It's nice to meet you.  I guess we'll
be spending some time together for the next ten weeks."

   "Yeah," Krissy said placidly.  "I told Mom I'm too old for a baby-sitter.
I could stay by myself.  But she won't listen."

   "Oh, come on," Leah replied cheerfully, doing her best to be upbeat.  The
last thing she wanted was to entertain a bitchy kid for ten weeks.  "I'm sure
we'll have a good time," she added without real conviction.

   "Of course you will," Linda interrupted.  "Leah, I need to show you a few
things around the house before I go."  She gave a quick tour of the house,
told her to eat anything she wanted, and gave some directions about her
daughter's homework and bedtime.  As she did, she walked to the kitchen
counter and absent-mindedly picked up a pack of Marlboro Lights 100's.  She
put one in her mouth and lit up.  "Oh, I'm sorry about the smoke," she said
just a bit defensively.  She smiled.  "But I guess you're used to it.  After
all, your mom smokes, too."

   "Yeah, she sure does," Leah offered whimsically.  Her answer was almost
too casual.  "But smoke doesn't bother me.  Actually, I'm surprised my mom
didn't tell you.  I smoke, too."

   "You  you do?"  Linda was shocked.  It didn't fit with what Kelli had
said at the party.  "I'm surprised.  You're a little young to smoke, aren't
you?  I thought you were only sixteen."

   "You're right, Mrs. Evans.  I am sixteen.  But that's not so young.
Anyway, my mom lets me smoke.  She'd rather have me smoke at home instead of
sneaking around and getting in trouble.  Yeah, I smoke," she reiterated.  "Is
it okay if I smoke while I'm here?  I'd really appreciate it.  Do you mind?"

   Linda was dumfounded.  Something was amiss.  Based on her brief
conversation, with Kelli, she couldn't imagine her letting her sixteen year
old smoke.  In fact, Kelli said she wanted to quit, to stop being a bad
influence.  Was Leah trying to pull the wool over her eyes and get away with
something?  Linda wasn't sure, but she strongly suspected this was a scam.

   Leah interrupted her musing.  "Look, Mrs. Evans," she broke in, with a
smile.  "I know you need my help.  And I will help you by baby-sitting
tonight."  Her words became more pointed.  "But if you let me smoke while I'm
here, I'll be much more likely to agree to baby-sit for Krissy the entire ten
weeks.  You see what I'm saying?"

   So that was it!  She was only willing to baby-sit if she could smoke at
their house.  It was pure extortion!  She was demanding to be allowed to
smoke in exchange for an agreement to baby-sit the entire ten weeks.  The
threat was subtle, but unmistakable.

   Linda glanced at her watch.  Damn!  It was six.  She had to go.  She
didn't have time to deal with this.  She looked at Leah.  She was sure Kelli
knew nothing about this.  But if she ratted on Leah, it might ruin everything
and she'd lose her baby-sitter.  Was it worth making a stink?  She decided it
wasn't.  She didn't want to sabotage her baby-sitter and start a fight she
had no interest in.  After all, she didn't care if Leah Martin smoked.  It
wasn't her problem.  She was probably lying about having her mother's
permission.  But there was no way to know for sure right now.  In an instant,
she decided to just play along and give in.

   "Okay, sure," she smiled good-naturedly.  "I don't mind.  Yeah, you can
smoke in our house.  That's fine.  You know, I started smoking myself when I
was your age."

   Leah grinned.  She seemed quite pleased.  "Gosh, Mrs. Evans, thanks a
lot," she gushed.  "It's so cool of you.  If I can smoke, I'll definitely
baby-sit the whole ten weeks.  I just hate to go without having a cigarette
for an entire evening.  You know what I mean?"

Linda took an extended drag.  "Oh, yes.  I know _exactly_ what you mean." She
inhaled and retained the smoke deep inside her lungs.  "Tell me.  Just how
long have been smoking?"

   Leah stumbled, as if unsure how to answer.  "Oh, about six months," she
blurted out, trying to sound nonchalant.  "At first Mom wasn't crazy about me
smoking.  But now she's used to it.  She started smoking when she was about
my age, too.  I guess that's why she doesn't mind so much."

   Linda expelled twin streams from her nostrils.  Her mouth was closed in a
tight smile.  "I'm sure that's right," she agreed with a hint of sarcasm.
"Well, we have an agreement then.  Go ahead and light up whenever you want.
If it's all right with your mother, I don't mind."  She looked at Krissy,
whose little face was incredulous.  "You don't mind, do you, dear?  I mean,
it's no different than being here with me when I'm smoking."

   "I guess not," Krissy answered slowly.  "Gosh, not only do I have to have
a baby-sitter.  But I have to have one that smokes, too."

   "Oh, come on," Leah chided.  "It's not that bad.  I don't smoke that
much."

   "I'm sure you don't," Linda chimed in.  She leaned over and gave Krissy a
kiss on the cheek.  "Have a good time, girls.  Go to bed on time, Krissy.
Leah, I'll see you around eleven."

   "This'll be great, Mrs. Evans," Leah said happily.  "Don't worry about a
thing."

   As soon as Linda left, Leah turned to Krissy.  "Well, what do you want to
do?  I brought some of my favorite videos, and some CD's.  My mother also
packed some snacks."

   "I dunno," Krissy sighed.  "First let's talk.  I'm curious.  Do you really
smoke?"

   "Yes, I do," Leah answered solemnly.  "Does that surprise you?"

   "A little, I guess.  But why?  I mean, it is so bad for you."

   "Yeah, that's what they say," Leah replied flippantly.  "But when you
reach high school, kid, you stop believing every single thing your teachers
tell you.  Some things you have to discover for yourself.  Smoking is like
that.  But hey, don't get stressed.  Your mom smokes.  It doesn't look like
there's anything wrong with her.  She's pretty cool."

   "Yeah, you're right," Krissy conceded reluctantly.

   "Of course I'm right.  I'm always right.  It's my job to be right." Leah
opened her backpack and removed some videos and CD's, as well as a pack of
Merit Menthol 100's.  She handed Krissy the videos and CD's while shaking
loose a cigarette.

   "Do you mind if I smoke right now?  I'd really like a cigarette.  Will it
bother you?"

   "No, go ahead," Krissy sighed.  "I'm used to the smell of smoke around
here."

   Leah put the cork-tipped cylinder between her lips and fished in her
backpack for a disposable lighter.  Finding it, she clicked it and maneuvered
the cigarette's tip into the flame.  As the cigarette ignited, her cheeks
caved in.  She took a long, luxurious first drag and inhaled.

   "Oh God, that's good," she sighed dreamily, jerking her head and flipping
her long blond hair over her shoulders.  She held the smoke in her lungs for
several seconds and then turned her head and released a long stream of smoke.
"That's more like it.  God, I love your mother!"

   Krissy stared at Leah's demonstrative smoking exhibition.  "Yeah, she's
pretty neat."  As Leah drew again on the cigarette, Krissy held up one of the
videos.  "Let's watch this one," she announced.  "I love Tom Hanks."

   "Me, too," Leah agreed.  Taking the video, she put the cigarette in her
mouth.  From her nostrils she exhaled smoke from the previous drag.  She
turned on the VCR and inserted the video.  "I'm gonna get some Diet Pepsi,
and maybe something to munch on," she reported as she headed to the kitchen.
"Do you want anything?"

   "I'm fine," Krissy replied, settling on the couch as previews rolled
across the screen.

   Leah returned to the family room with a glass of iced Diet Pepsi and
potato chips in a bowl.  Putting a coaster under her glass, she put her
cigarettes and lighter on the table by one of Linda's ashtrays, and plopped
onto the couch next to Krissy.

   "Okay, I'm ready," Leah announced.  She drew again on her cigarette.  She
breathed in, purposely pulling the smoke deep inside.  Her modest breasts
visibly rose as her chest expanded to receive the bequest.  "God, I know I
shouldn't say this to you, Krissy, because you're only thirteen."  She gave a
girlish giggle.  "But I love to smoke."  She tilted her head, pursed her lips
and slowly discharged a stream of thick, creamy cigarette smoke straight
upwards into the already hazy air.

   "I can tell," Krissy said dispassionately.  She leaned in the other
direction, and turned her attention to the TV screen.

   "I tell you what," Leah offered.  "I'll cut you some slack while we're
doing this gig together, if you cut me some slack.  Don't get on me about
smoking while I'm here, and I'll pretty much let you do whatever you want.
Deal?"

   Krissy smiled.  "Deal," she agreed.  She looked back at the TV.  Maybe
this wouldn't be so bad.  And meanwhile Leah was thinking exactly the same
thing.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------

   Linda got home at a quarter after eleven.  She entered the house, which
was dark except in the family room where Leah was watching TV, alone.

"Hi," Linda said cheerfully, putting her purse and notebook down on the
kitchen table.  "I assume everything went okay tonight.  Is Krissy in bed?"

   Leah smiled.  Despite the late hour, her countenance remained bright and
cheery.  "She went to bed at ten o'clock.  We had a great time.  I really
like Krissy."

   "Me, too," Linda agreed.  "She's a good kid, isn't she?"  Nothing pleased
her more than hearing someone complement her lovely little girl.  She picked
up her purse and sauntered casually into the family room.  "What did you guys
do?"

   Leah thought for a moment.  "Well, we watched a Tom Hanks movie I brought.
Then we talked.  She told me about middle school, and I told her about high
school.  Of course we talked about boys," she admitted with a blush.

   Linda smiled and opened her purse to get out a cigarette.  Now that she
wasn't rushed, she wanted to engage this sixteen year old in more discussion
about the permission to smoke she'd supposedly been given by her mother.  She
figured lighting up in front of her was one way to turn the conversation to
the subject of smoking.

   "Krissy asked if she could read to me," Leah added as Linda put the
cigarette in her lips.

   Linda looked up.  "Oh no, don't tell me," she smiled knowingly, with the
unlit cigarette dangling.  "Krissy read to you from The Lion, the Witch and
the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis?"

   "That's right," Leah confirmed.  She watched Linda light up and take a
long first drag on her Marlboro.  "How did you know?"

   "Because Krissy loves children's fantasy books," the proud mother
explained, releasing a cloud of smoke around her bobbing cigarette.  "The
Narnia books by C. S. Lewis are her favorites.  She reads them aloud to
anyone who'll listen.  I guess it's 'cause I used to read 'em to her.  I
should've warned you."  She removed her cigarette from her lips and pointed
at Leah's pack on the table.  "Hey, go ahead and join me if you want.  Smoke
with me.  I don't mind."

   Leah hesitated.  "Are you sure you don't mind?"

   "Hell, no," Linda confirmed with a wicked laugh.  "I hate to smoke alone."

   "Well, okay," the younger girl cautiously agreed.  As she put one in her
lips, Linda noticed the ashtray.  Six cork-tipped butts were crushed out in
it.  "So, I see you smoke Merit Menthol 100's," she said nonchalantly.
"That's the same brand your mother smokes, isn't it?"

   "Uh, yeah, it is," the sixteen year old timidly replied.  She, too, lit up
and began to smoke.

   Linda watched Leah take an initial hit on the freshly-lit cigarette.  She
was clearly no novice!  Her cheeks caved in when she dragged, and the inhale
of smoke deep into those youthful lungs was unashamed and powerful.  Her
first exhale, too, was practiced and stylish.  Leah _looked_ like a smoker.
Linda nodded approvingly.  Maybe her tale about having permission to smoke
wasn't a fabrication after all.

   "Krissy is a good kid," Leah said happily, holding the smoldering
cigarette erect beside her pretty, adolescent face.  "We spent four hours
together before bedtime.  It went fast.  God, she loved hearing about high
school.  I think she's ready to be sixteen right now."

   "She's always been mature for her age," Linda agreed.  "She'd like to be
grown up right now.  Part of that's because there's only the two of us.  I
probably confide in her, and treat her as an equal, more than most mothers do
with their daughters."

   A brief moment of silence ensued.  Linda was tempted to ask Leah how she
started smoking, and about her parents' feelings.  But she decided not to.
She needed a better read on whether Leah was simply taking advantage of the
situation to smoke, or whether Kelli Martin had really let her daughter take
up the habit.  Either way, Linda decided not to rock the boat.  In truth, she
enjoyed the young girl's company; she didn't like smoking alone.  She had
fond memories of being a teenage smoker.  She could tell Leah enjoyed talking
while they smoked together.  That was the great thing about smoking, she
mused to herself.  With any two smokers, sharing cigarettes forges an
immediate bond between them.

   Leah looked at her watch.  "Gosh, it's late," she muttered.  "I should
go."  She took a protracted, powerful drag on her half-spent cigarette.
Unwilling to snuff it out too soon, she followed the first drag with a second
impressive one.  As she inhaled, she leaned over to crush the cigarette in
the ashtray.  She stood up and bursts of smoke erupted from her mouth and
nose.

   Linda was damn impressed!  Leah smoked like a woman already committed to
the habit.  It reminded her of how she used to smoke in high school.  "If
this girl isn't a smoker," Linda mused, "she could've fooled me!"  She made a
mental note to uncover more information the next time she saw Kelli.  She
wouldn't spill the beans about Leah smoking, in case Kelli didn't know.  But
she was curious about what was going on.  In a strange way, she found herself
happy to be helping this young woman smoke.  

   "Thanks for your help tonight, Leah" she said sincerely.  "Hey, I'm glad
you took the bull by the horns and asked your parents for permission to
smoke.  I was a teen smoker myself.  I know how tough it can be to go
without.  You're welcome to smoke here anytime.  I mean it."

   "Thanks, Mrs. Evans," she blushed.  "I appreciate you being so
understanding."

   "No problem," Linda smiled.  "I'm glad to help."

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------


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