My bagged were packed, I just had to get through my classes and a three hour bus ride and I would be able to get the business of breaking the news to my family over with.

I think I smoked more during the day than normal. Drew met me after class and briskly withdrew my pack from my bag and lit up, even before he could say a word.

“Anxious much?” He chuckled, casually lighting his own cigarette.

“It is not funny! My mother is going to kill me. You better say your goodbyes because I might not come back alive.” As I said this, he wrapped his arms around me holding me tightly.

“Whatever happens will happen, there is no point in working yourself up.” He said reassuringly.

“I know.  It is just fear of the unknown and all of that…” I continued to smoke my cigarette quickly. It was almost gone and I wanted another. I decided to do something I’d seen Drew do a few times. I extracted a new cigarette from the pack and used the almost spent one to light the new one.

“Wow, you must be stressed if you are chaining. I’ve never seen you do that before.”

“It is because I haven’t. I think I might buy a pack of regulars for this trip, in case I don’t get to smoke very often. That and I am almost done this pack. I think today I’m breaking some kind of record for myself. Which in retrospect was a terrible idea, because I am going to want to smoke even more now.”

“You’ll be fine.” he remarked as we got to his car. We hopped in and Drew lit another cigarette. I finished my second since class ended and chose not to keep going. I already had a pretty good buzz from chaining and didn’t want to push it.

When we arrived my bus was already boarding. Drew and I said quick goodbyes and I boarded the bus. I texted my sister to let her know my bus had left as I had arranged to her pick me up. That was part one of operation inform family of my new habit.

The bus ride was three hours long with a stop in another city about half way. Typically during this 15 minute stop, some passengers would end their journey, others would take their place and all the smokers would disembark to feed their hungry lungs. This time I would join them since I was unsure how long I would have to wait to smoke when I got home. I smoked hungrily, large drags and deep inhales. With every drag, and every deep breath in, I felt calmer. I got back on the bus and for a moment thought nothing of what was to come. I let the bliss of getting my nicotine levels back up wash over me.

When I got to the bus depot, I saw Anna there, waiting to greet me. She was my opposite in almost every way. Chin length, straight almost white blonde hair and always a bit of a rebel. Dark eye makeup and red red lipstick in contrast to the more nature look, I sported. She had recently ditched the 90’s era grunge look in favor of a more 50’s pinup girl look which really suited her; she was wearing a long navy sailor swing style dress with a white cardigan and red pumps. To keep her look modern, she wore stretchers in her ears instead of earring, much to my mother’s dismay. We always got along fairly well despite the fact that, in my parents eyes, she never lived up to the standard I set.

“Mel! Over here!” she called excitedly. I started walking fast towards her and gave a big hug.

“I’m so happy you are home, Mel.” Anna exclaimed as we hugged.

“Me, too, Anna.” I said, started to worry about how I was going to break the news to my family. Anna, being perceptive caught this.

“What’s wrong, Mel? Something is different about you. You look like you are worried about something. Are you already failing out of university? Too much party party? Good girl, gone bad?”  I could tell she was half joking, although I’m sure a small part of her would be pleased with my fall from perfection in my parents eyes.

“Oh no, nothing that dire. School is great. I’ve found a healthy balance between work and play, although I do have something to tell you.” I said, pausing, taking a deep breath.

“Come on! The suspense is killing me.” Anna said impatiently.

“I’ll tell you when we get to the car.” I said, grabbing my suitcase and walking toward the parking lot.

“Can I try and guess?” She called from behind me.

“Sure, why not…” I sighed.

“You are pregnant.” She asked.

“No! I know how to use birth control.”

“You aren’t a virgin anymore.”

I went silent. There was another change that I hadn’t talked to my sister about yet.

“That is it. You aren’t a virgin.” She exclaimed.

“That is part of it, I guess. Although not what was worried about telling you.”

“You are not a virgin but your boyfriend is really a girlfriend and you are into girls. If that is what it is, I’m totally cool with that.” As she said that, Anna approached the driver’s side of the car and her back was to me. It seemed I was having trouble getting the words out, so I decided to go for the dramatic reveal. Before she had a chance to turn around, I pulled a cigarette out of my pack and quickly lit it. Her head whipped around at the smell and her eyes went wide.

“NO WAY!” She stared disbelievingly. “That is the last thing I ever expected. You started smoking. My anti-smoking sister is puffing away on a cigarette like a confirmed smoker. I don’t even…” Her words trailed off.

I took another drag, “Are you disappointed?” I said, casting my eyes downward as I exhaled the smoke from my last drag.

“More like completely fucking shocked. Disappointed that you haven’t offered me one yet…” Anna’s eyes switched from shock to desire. “I ran out yesterday and haven’t been able to acquire any yet.”

I passed her my pack, “Here.” They were my new pack of Benson and Hedges Gold. I was enjoying the full flavour smoke and kick and didn’t think I’d go back to the silvers.

“Wow, full flavoured. My sister. I still can’t believe it.” She extracted a cigarette placed it between her ruby red lips and expertly lit up. She triple pumped the cigarette before inhaling, held the smoke in for about five seconds before exhaling and repeated this without saying anything.

“Ahhhh..” She sighed. “That ‘s better.” She had a look of pure bliss on her face. “Mom’s going to kill you, you know?” She said, dragging on the cigarette again.

” I know. I was hoping you would have some ideas on how to handle her.”

Anna almost choked on the smoke she had just inhaled, smoke came sputtering out of her mouth as she laughed.

“Mom thinks I’ve quit. I’m just really good at hiding it now. She is upset right now because she found out that Dad is closet smoking again.”

“Does Dad know you still smoke?” I asked, wondering if I could get away with just telling him.

“Yep, although he doesn’t exactly like it, he knows he has at least one ally in the house. I suggest you tell him first.”

We finished our cigarettes, put my bag in the car and Anna said, “Come on. Lets go to the washroom here and I’ll show you what I do to cover the smell. It isn’t perfect and you smell a bit more like smoke than I normally do, but it is worth a try.”

When we got to the bathroom, she opened her large purse and passed me a fresh dryer sheet. “Rub this all over your clothes and hair. I find it works better than perfume because it smells like fresh laundry rather than like you’ve tried to cover one smell with another.”

“Wash your hands and the outside of your mouth.” I did as she instructed. She gave me a small tube of white citrus scented lotion from Bath and Body works. “Use this on your hands to help cover any smell.”

“Last but not least- here is some strongly scented gum. Any type of gum that smells strongly will work as long as you chew it for a bit.” She passed me some Cloretts gum.

“Give me a hug.” She said, opening her arms. I did as she said and I could sense her inhaling my scent deeply. She sighed.

“It will have to do. I detect some residual smoky scent, but she might not connect her goody two shoes daughter to smoking.”

“I guess we shall see.” I sighed and we headed back to the vehicle to home.

Chapter Seventeen