It was my fault I tried smoking. I know that. I made the decision.
Hiding in the bushes at the edge of the lake road a couple of miles from home… A pack of Marlboro reds Cheryl stole from the gas station…
Missy and Cheryl offered up their support of course. That’s what friends are for! Isn’t it?
That wasn’t really the why of it, though. The thing is, the decision was made long before Cheryl called me into their little hiding place.
Grandma Schilde smoked like a chimney. I was never around her that much, and she died when I was still pretty young. But I remembered since I was very little the tantalizing aroma of the first wisps of her freshly lit, non-filtered Camels. I loved that sweet smell, and so the day I saw Molly Prescott holding a cigarette, the decision was made.
Molly was almost two years older than me, but only a year ahead in school. She lived on a farm a little ways down the south highway with her brother Avery and a couple of ‘Spanic kids whose parents lived on their property. It was easy walking distance during summer when Ferris Creek was dry. Avery was the closest one to my age. He was even in my class at school. But he was a boy, and he was also fallen to the fancy he was going to be a star circus act someday, so it was Molly I played with.
I looked up to Molly. She was the prettiest girl in five miles any which way, and everyone loved her for it. All with her beautiful blonde hair and her natural pout… I was jealous. We were all jealous. There was something comforting, almost stimulating, about knowing when we were alone, she was just another kid.
Even now, when I picture her in my head, I see a little lady. It wasn’t that she was mature. You couldn’t tell her chest from Avery’s yet. She just looked mature, lady-like, and I wanted to be lady-like too. The day I saw her with a cigarette, being a lady suddenly seemed like it was within reach. It would really happen.
I wanted one too, a cigarette of my own. I stood staring at her, waiting for her to light it, waiting for that waft of wonderfully fragrant smoke, but she never did. She just kept holding it, posing with it. It felt like she was purposefully teasing me. I knew if I had my own, I would light it. I would smoke it. I would be even more mature and lady-like than Molly Prescott. The desire of it made my little heart race, and so my mind was set.
When I was home from college on my winter break, I ran into Molly, sitting alone at Starbucks. Our age difference had become meaningless, but somehow she was still every bit of the lady I wished I was. I stopped for a few minutes while I waited for my caramel macchiato, and we got to talking about old times. I returned to her table when my coffee was up, but she was getting up for a cigarette, so I followed her out.
Ever the delicate balance between fantasy and reality, my mind watched in fascination as the little girl from my childhood finally lit her cigarette. The delicious first draft finally tickled my nose, completing a moment that had started thirteen years before. She held out the pack to offer me one and I shook my head.
“No thanks, I don’t smoke.”
She squinted as she put the pack away. “The way you were staring, I figured you for a smoker,” she said.
“I smoked for a little while back in middle school,” I admitted, and then I laughed. “Actually, it was kind of your fault I started.”
“My fault? How was it my fault?”
“Remember the day Avery fell off his stilts and broke his arm?”
Molly nodded. “How could I forget?”
“You had a cigarette that day, and it made me want one so bad. You looked so lady-like. I always figured if I smoked too, you’d think I was… I don’t know… more mature or something.”
“You started smoking at seven?”
“No, heck no. It took a few years. I could never sneak anything like that past Daddy. I finally ran across a couple of girls I knew smoking one day in seventh grade… I remember thinking about seeing you with a cigarette and so that’s why I decided to try it. I really looked up to you back then.”
Molly stared at me dumfounded. The thought was obviously one that had never crossed her mind before. “So you started smoking cuz you saw me with a cigarette that day?” she asked.
I winced a little as I nodded. It felt suddenly awkward hearing her say it.
“Shit! Annie! Oh my God! That was just a candy cigarette!”
© 2013 Anne Schilde