The Walk, Part 1

(by, 09 January 2001)

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The Walk
Part 1 of 2    

    Maureen reached into her coat pocket, felt the familiar rectangle and the 
lighter, and smiled.
    "Mom, I'm going out for a walk."
    "Honey. It's almost dark and with that wind it's freezing."
    "Well, you know why I have to-"
    "You don't have to, Mo."
    "All right, I want to then. I'll be back in half an hour."
    "Well, wash up when you get back. You know how Mi-dad hates it when you 
have that smell on you."
    Completely hypocritically in Maureen's humble opinion, Mom walked out of 
the kitchen just as she finished lighting a cigarette.
    "Yes, Mom."
    "And be careful. It's very dark out."
    "I'll have the glow of my cigarette to light the way."
    She walked out of the house without saying anything else. It really was 
cold outside, and windy as well. She admitted to herself that her resentment 
of her mother's decision that she couldn't smoke in the house was totally 
unfair. After all, they had a pretty sweet deal worked. Mom ran interference 
with Daddy, who didn't really want her smoking at all, and she agreed to buy 
Maureen cigarettes until she was eighteen. In exchange, she got to tell 
Maureen where she could and couldn't smoke.
    The house and family functions were off limits, as were the school 
bathrooms. But anywhere else was all right, and once in a while- Christmas 
Day had been one example- she was allowed to smoke at home, over daddy's 
quiet objections. Although those objections seemed to be fading. Christmas 
was the first time he'd seen her smoke and not openly complained about. She 
had a feeling that she might need to wait to turn eighteen before he at least 
wouldn't care anymore.
    The wind was really howling. Maureen pulled a cigarette out of the pack, 
fished out her lighter, and tried in vain to get the cigarette lit.
    She cupped her left hand around the cigarette, and tried her best to 
light it. But the wind streamed around her hand and made the lighter's flame 
dance erratically and go out. She tried over and over again without luck.
    Then she saw a runner coming up the road. Maureen was up on the sidewalk 
and the woman was down on the street, her pony tail bouncing up and down. T
here was a time, just after she'd started taking these walks, that she 
would have been embarrassed enough to stick the lighter back into her pocket 
and hide her cigarette up her sleeve. But she was no longer embarrassed about 
the fact that she smoked, nor was she worried that someone would tell on her.
    "Need a hand with that ?" the runner asked as she drew up to her. Now 
Maureen recognised her. Jessica MacNeary. She was a transfer student who'd 
sat in on a few of her classes right before Christmas.
    "Uh, sure-" Maureen said uncertainly. This was not the sort of person you 
expected to get help from lighting your cigarette, after all.
    Jessica stepped up on the sidewalk as she pulled her gloves off. She 
tucked them in her sweatpants, reached out and took the lighter from 
Jessica's hands. She noticed how warm the other girl's hand was, but the 
skin was rough, like Jessica's, who had chapped hands because of the amount 
of time she spent outside.
    "Cup your hands around the lighter."
    Maureen did as she was told, and she drew on the cigarette as the flame 
from the lighter lit the tip. The smoke, as always, tasted wonderful because 
of the cold air.
    "Hey, anytime. See you at school on Monday."
    But it didn't take that long. On Saturday, Maureen kissed Mom and Daddy 
goodbye, pulled the keys from her best Christmas present off the key hook, 
and headed out to her car. Her wallet was full of Christmas cash and she was 
headed to the mall to spend it.
    As she settled into the car, she thought about the conversation that she 
had had with Mom this morning while Daddy was out chopping wood.
    "You're sure that Daddy didn't say anything about me smoking in the car 
    "No. It has a cigarette lighter and an ashtray, after all. Just be 
careful. It's hard enough driving a car. I know that you have experience 
driving- I've lived through that hell- but you have no experience driving 
while smoking. Drive first, smoke second. No lighting cigarettes while the 
car is moving. Promise me."
    Maureen promised.
    She pulled out of the driveway and headed up the back road to Route 149, 
which was a shortcut to the highway.
    She drove for about three minutes, gaining confidence in her car and her 
driving. Finally, she came to a stop sign. She had already pushed in the 
lighter and it popped for her just as she placed the cigarette between her 
lips. She used the lighter to light the cigarette and thumbed down the 
windows from the centre console. She watched the passenger side window roll 
down and that was when she saw Jessica, who was walking in the same direction 
on the sidewalk.
    There was no one behind her, so she rolled down the window all the way.
    "Hey, where are you headed ?"
    "The bus stop," Jessica said, flashing a smile.
    "And then ?"
    "The mall. You know how the holidays are when you have grandparents."
    "Well, hop in then. I'm headed to the mall. If you want a ride that is-"
    Maureen trimmed her ash out the window and waited for Jessica to answer.
    "Sure, if you'll let me buy you a decent lunch."
    "It's a deal," Maureen said as Jessica got in the car.
    "Can I ask you something, Jessica ?"
    "My friends call me Jessie."
    "Okay, Jessie. Why did you stop to help me yesterday ?"
    "Oh that. Why wouldn't I ? You weren't going to able to light it on your 
own. What makes you think I wouldn't ?"
    Maureen inhaled, blew smoke out the window.
    "Well, you were out running, being healthy and all that, and there I am, 
lighting up."
    "Trying to light up."
    "Well yeah, trying to light up."
    "So ? Just because I was out running- oh, I get it- you figure I must be 
an anti, huh ? That's just plain silly, Maureen."
    "My friends call me Mo."
    "Cool, Mo. It's not like I never had a cigarette."
    "You smoke ?"
    "Most days I'll have one before I go to school and a another one or two 
after dinner, but Mom and Dad have been away all week, so I haven't had one 
since before I dropped them off at the airport."
    Maureen pulled hard on the cigarette and blew smoke. This time she didn't 
bother trying to get it to carry out the window.
    "What do you mean ?"
    "Oh, Mom always offers me a cigarette before school and she and dad do 
the same thing after we eat."
    "Your parents want you to smoke ?"
    "Yeah, I guess so. I never really thought about it like that. They just 
like to share."
    "Do you like it ?"
    "It's all right. I don't live for it. I haven't thought about it much 
the last week."
    "If you have their car-"
    "My birthday is next week. I made a deal with the rents. They're buying 
me a car for my birthday- well, for my birthday, but that's today, so when 
they get back. I promised not to drive their cars while they were gone. They 
worry a lot. You know how parents can be !"
    Maureen trimmed again and drew on the half-smoked cigarette.
    "Well, happy birthday. Hey, do you want a cigarette now ?"
    Jessie made a non-committal shrug of her shoulders.
    "Come on. It's your birthday. Celebrate a little."
    Jessie picked up the pack and pushed the lighter in. She drew a cigarette 
out of the pack with ease, waited for the lighter to pop, and lit the 
cigarette casually. She drew deeply on it and Maureen noticed how natural 
that deep draw was. She might seem non-plussed about the concept, but she was 
pretty good at it.

    They'd been shopping for about two hours and were laden down with bags 
from the Gap, Structure, and Weathervane when Jessie suggested that they stop 
and get some lunch and then take the bags back to the car.
    "The food court is upstairs."
    "God no. My parents gave me three hundred dollars for food and essentials 
while they were gone. And it's my birthday. And my cousin Derek gave me a 
wonderful fake drivers license for Christmas. I want to try it out. Let's go 
to JP Anderson's."
    That was exactly what they did.
    The hostess came out to greet them in the door.
    "Table for two ?"
    "Smoking or-"
    "Smoking, please," Jessie said quickly.
    "Thanks," Maureen said.
    "Hey, I might just join you. It is my birthday, after all."
    They were seating at the edge of the smoking section and as soon as 
they'd settled in, Maureen lit up.
    "Want one ?"
    "Don't mind if I do," Jessie said, picking up the pack and lighting up.
    Maureen watched Jessica. She wasn't tall, but she was slender with a 
sweet but mature face, long blonde hair and ample breasts. She was a very 
attractive and she handled the cigarette gracefully. She inhaled- deeply- 
then moved the cigarette from her mouth and held it pointed upwards to the 
right side of her face.
    The waiter came over and Jessie drew deeply again and lifted her head to 
exhale. She made an 'o' with her mouth and the smoke streamed out in a tight 
column. Maureen saw the look which crossed the waiter's face. She was a 
little jealous at that. So she did the same and noticed him appreciate her 
the same way.
    "Can I start you ladies off with something to drink ?
    "Newcastle," Jessie said, matter of factly.
    "And you ?"
    "The same," Maureen said, surprised.
    "Coming right up," he said, flashing them his best smile and walking 
away. The girls picked up their menus and studied them for a moment in 
    "I can't believe he didn't even ask for our Ids," Maureen finally said.
    "It's the smoking thing. It makes us look more mature."
    "Yeah, but I'm two months short of being seventeen !"
    "Try not to say that so loudly," Jessie admonished, but she was smiling.
    "Hey, how would you like to come over for dinner tonight ?" Maureen 
asked, an idea beginning to form.
    "I don't want you feeling sorry for me just because it's my birthday," 
Jessie said, a grave look on her face.
    Maureen stared at her new friend quizzically. She was being serious.
    "Please. I'm not that nice. The truth is that you're a lot of fun to 
hang out with-"
    "I'm having a pretty good time, too. I just want to be sure."
    "Well," Maureen said, drawing on her cigarette, "you can be sure."
    "Great, I'll come. And I have an idea."
    Before Maureen could ask what that idea was, the waiter came back with 
two pint glasses of Newcastle. He asked if they were ready to order, and they 
were. As soon as he'd written down what they wanted, Maureen's excitement 
got the better of her. She was wondering if Jessie was thinking the same 
thing that she was.
    "What's your idea ?"
    "Well, you've been telling me how your dad doesn't really like the fact 
that you smoke. I think it's time we changed that. He might be more open to 
letting you smoke- at least tonight- if your new friend wants to. Especially 
since it is my birthday and all."
    "That's a great idea," Maureen said, pretending that she hadn't been 
thinking precisely the same thing.
    "And I can casually mention how my parents are totally cool with the 
    Both girls stubbed out their cigarettes and Maureen immediately lit 
another one.
    "You don't have to mention the fact that you don't really smoke that muc
h, that you're not actually a smoker, per se."
    Jessica reached across the table, picked up the cigarettes, noticing 
there were only four left.
    "To be honest, I'm really enjoying this. It's the first time I've every 
smoked except around my parents and it's kind of cool, having someone my own 
age to hang out with and smoking. I could very easily get used to this."
    "Then by all means, I think you should."

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