I smoked the last cigarette in my pack while I waited with Drew for the train to pick him up to take him to his parents. It was the first weekend we had spent apart since we started dating.

I decided not to pick up more cigarettes as I normally smoked very little when Drew was not around and I decided to see if I could go a whole weekend both without Drew or cigarettes. The funniest thing happened the moment I decided I was not going to buy cigarettes. At that moment, despite having just smoked a cigarette, I wanted to go buy a pack more than anything. But I didn’t. I spent the whole evening fantasizing about the purchase and what I would subsequently do with the cigarettes once they were in my possession. It didn’t help that Drew had given me the keys and invited me to use his apartment for the weekend as he knew technically my landlord didn’t even want smokers renting from her, let alone do it in or near the house.

That night, I had many dreams where I was smoking. Hungrily sucking back cigarettes usually, after I had been deprived from them a bit. I woke up wanting more than anything to go to the store and pick up some cigarettes. But I didn’t. I could feel my mood growing darker and darker as I went through the day without a cigarette with no prospects for one. To top it all off, I could not concentrate for the life of me on the homework I was trying to do as a distraction.

Frustrated, I made my way to the library to meet Lindsay. We always had a study date on Saturdays. At least at the library there would be quiet and hopefully no reminders of smoking. Just as I was approaching the library, I saw a beautiful girl exit and pull out her pack of Benson and Hedges Gold 100s. She was model tall, slim and had dark auburn hair. Her hazel eyes were framed by dark rimmed glasses and the way she was dressed looked more appropriate for a runway than it did for a trip to the library although it did have a preppy flair to it. As she brought the cigarette to her lips and lit up she looked at me. Until that point I didn’t realize I had been staring. I must have looked like a deer caught in headlights. She misinterpreted this.

Exhaling her smoke away from me she took three steps away from this door and said
“Sorry, I don’t think I was quite 5 meters from the door. I just really needed this cigarette.” She drew hard on the cigarette, cheeks hollowing as if to add emphasis.

Inside my mind, from the moment I saw her, I started debating asking her for a cigarette. One part of me was adamantly against it, one part was hesitant, but thought it might be a good idea if I was to get any work done and the uninhibited part of me was salivating, eye on the prize.

“That’s okay, “ I replied opening the door to go inside. It took all my willpower to not turn around and beg the beautiful girl for a cigarette. Instead I continued inside and up the stairs to the second floor study hall where I spotted Lindsay in our usual spot.

“Hey Mel,” she called, “How goes it?”

“Alright, I didn’t sleep well last night.”

“Worried about midterms? Problems with Drew?”

“I guess I’m just a little stressed about midterms.” Lies. I was stressed because I wasn’t letting myself smoke and I had clearly become a smoker. Currently, visions of the tall, auburn haired smoking girl danced through my head.

“Well then, lets get cracking.” We both put on our iPods and I noticed my smokey auburn beauty saunter in. Damn, that was going to be distracting. I was hardly getting anything done. Every time I glanced down at my hand, I wished it held a cigarette instead of a pencil. After about an hour and a half, I saw my auburn smoker get up and put on her jacket, but leave all of her things at her study station. As if possessed by some force beyond my control, I told Lindsay that I was going to the washroom.

She looked up from her studying briefly and nodded. I wasn’t heading for the bathroom though. It was all I could do to make myself walk slowing so it didn’t look like I was stalking her. When I reached the door I could see that my beauty had just lit up. I walked outside and almost turned myself right around to go back. What if Lindsay caught me? The other, more overwhelming side of my brain screamed, “screw it!” and walked right up to the mysterious auburn haired smoker.

“Hi, um I was wondering….” I hesitated.

“If you could bum a cigarette?” She smiled as she extended her pack towards me.
“How did you know?”

“The hunger in your eyes.” She said knowingly, “New to smoking?”

“Yeah, and I mistakenly thought I could go without for longer than I can.” I freed a cigarette from her pack of Benson and Hedges Golds and placed it between my lips. She extended her lighter toward me and I drew lightly on the cigarette to get it lit. I followed this by what was probably the longest drag I had ever taken. I inhaled and closed my eyes, I allowed the smoke time to swirl into every alveoli. As I started to exhale I opened my eyes. The calm washed over me and at that moment I knew I had to tell Lindsay because there was no way I would be without my precious cigarettes again.

She laughed, “It happens to all of us at some point. My name is Alex, by the way.”

“I’m Mel. Thank for the smoke. Seriously, I don’t think I was going to get through the rest of my study date with my friend without one.”

“Not a problem. Actually, why don’t you take another for later? Just in case.” She extended her pack again.

“No, I wouldn’t want to impose…”

“Trust me, you’ll kick yourself later if you don’t. By the way your are dragging on that one, I think you’ll need it.”

“If you insist,” I smiled and took the cigarette. I delicately placed it inside my hoodie, wondering where I would keep it from being damaged.

“No problem…” Alex said as she exhaled her final drag. “Don’t be a stranger.”

“Thanks again.” I said, taking one last drag puff on my own cigarette, extinguishing it and heading inside. I followed Alex in and we went to our respective tables.

Lindsay eyed me suspiciously. “Where were you?” her nose wrinkled, “Why do you smell like smoke?” she accused.

“Well, logically, there is only one reason I would smell like smoke…” I looked her straight in the eye. “I’m not going to make up some bogus story on how I accidentally ran into some cigarette smoke on my way to the bathroom. I’m done with hiding.”

“Since when do you smoke?” Lindsay asked shocked. “You weren’t a smoker when I met you in September.”

“I’ve been smoking about a month now. I started right around the time I started dating Drew.”

“I always assumed you smelled like smoke from hanging out with him.”

“That would have been my cover before if you had asked.”

“Why did you start? I can’t understand why anyone would; especially knowing how bad it is for you. Don’t tell me you started because Drew smokes.”

“I’ve always been fascinated by it, Drew simply gave me to opportunity.”

Lindsay shook her head, clearly disappointed, “I’m not sure I get it. I see nothing alluring about smoking. It is a stinky, dirty not to mention highly addictive habit that you have fallen victim to.”

“Who said I was a victim? And if I am a victim, then I am a completely willing one. I love smoking and I’m telling you I smoke because I have no intention of quitting.” I was irritated now. Lindsay’s negative attitude was mostly what I expected. I mean the majority of the world is against smokers nowadays. But her attitude did irritate me, mostly because she seemed look down on me.

“That is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard. All smokers want to quit.” Lindsay sniffed indignantly.

“And that is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard- I’ll bet you’ve never even tried smoking.”

“I haven’t. I will never suck poison into my lungs.”

“And I’ll never make you. But not all smokers want to quit. Smoking is quite enjoyable once you are accustomed to it. There would have be some payoff to make people risk their lives to continue to smoke.”

“But why even start? That is what I don’t understand.”

“Curiosity… which I know seems silly. I mean you don’t see people going out and shooting up with heroin just because they were curious as to what it is like. But it is something I’ve always wanted to do.”

“Well… I can’t say I’m happy for you, but I’m glad you were honest with me.” Lindsay said quietly.

“So… still friends?”

“I like you too much to ditch you just because you smoke.” She smiled and winked, “But lets get back to work, I can see that you got almost nothing done during the first hour and half of our studying. I can’t imagine why…” she added sarcastically.

“Hey… “

“We can be friends, but I’ll probably still tease you about your little habit.”

“Deal, as long as you don’t ever try and make me quit.”

“Well… I know a lost cause when I see one. Clearly you are past the point of no return.”

“I could quit if I wanted to.”

“How cliché! Haha… but you don’t want to.”

“Not in the slightest.” And it was true. In telling Lindsay, I has admitted both to her and to myself that I was now indeed a smoker, regardless of the number of cigarettes I smoked in a day.

Despite the fact that I was probably already addicted, at this moment I felt freer than I had ever in my entire life.

Chapter Twelve