I have always considered myself to be a lucky guy. More often than not, the things I wanted dearly sooner or later came my way. All I had to do was to be patient and wait. Susanne was no exception.
I met her at a party, soon after graduating. It might have happened right then, except we were both in the company of someone else. Still, I spent most of the night with Susanne in the kitchen of the flat. I'm quite sure she felt the same instant attraction I did, yet neither of us dared cross the line out of consideration for our partners. So we just stood there, smoked and talked, or let's better say she did the smoking, as I have never even considered trying a cigarette. Well, to tell the truth, I am dearly fond of cigarettes, but only in the hands and mouth of a woman.
I met her again years later, when we both moved into different flats in the same building. I was about to unload my humble possessions from the trunk of my car when I heard a familiar voice behind my back.
'Hey, you're Nick, aren't you? Remember me? We met at Dan's party.'
I turned around and her name popped up as if we had met the day before. Suddenly the air filled with the same static electricity it had back at that party.
'Hi! Susanne, right?' I said 'Cute! It's nice to meet you again.'
'Moving in?' she asked.
'Wow, so we'll be neighbors.'
'You live here too, then?' I asked rather sheepishly.
'Flat twenty-seven. And you?' she asked joyfully.
'Twenty-eight.' I pressed out between my teeth, burdened with a heavy box that contained my computer and some tidbits like speakers and other tech stuff.
'Great! That's right across the hall.' She exclaimed happily. 'Tell you what. I'll be back home in an hour or two. Why don't you come round for a cup of coffee? At six?
That sounded fantastic to me. Yet I feared she might still be with someone. This had to be explored.
'I'll be there.' I said simply.
She ran off and I went on carrying my stuff up the stairs.
At six I stood in front of Twenty-seven, all shaved and scrubbed up, wearing my best shirt, socks and denims. I knocked on the door. I heard her steps and the door flew open. She too had dressed for the occasion. A trace of make-up on her face told me that she also saw more in the occasion than just a chat with a new neighbor. Things seemed to develop even faster than I had expected. And yet... Then it hit me. No trace of cigarette smoke. The flat smelled of perfume and a trace of female odors, just as one would expect in the loggings of a single young woman. I did my best to hide my disappointment.
I sat down on the couch at her invitation and she disappeared in the tiny kitchen, similar to the one I had found in my newly rented flat. While I heard her clicking and clanking, obviously setting up a tablet with china, silverware and coffeepot, I looked around. Like most men I don't have an eye for interior decoration, but I scanned the room for signs that against all odds she still smoked. Nothing! No ashtrays, no lighters, no packs of cigarettes. Damn!
'There you are. Milk? Sugar?' she asked while placing the tray on the table.
'Just black, please.'
My answer made her smile.
'Seems we share a taste.' She said.
Not knowing what to say, I nodded.
We chatted for a while, both a little unsure and afraid to ask the question that stood between us, but than I felt I just had to know, for better or for worse.
'You still with, what's his name, Rob?'
My question seemed to displease her. She shook her head.
'Oh, I'm sorry I've asked. Not over it yet, are you?' I asked, feeling I had brought up unpleasant memories.
Maybe she had recently parted with the guy and still suffered. Maybe I should have kept my mouth shut. But then she smiled again and said:
'Don't worry, it's been a while. You know, getting rid of the guy didn't really hurt, but in a way I'm still pissed off because of him.'
I must have looked confused.
'It's a long story.' She said, serious again.
'There's nobody waiting for me, you know.' I said, aware I was on dangerous ground again, but something told me I would also hear the answer to my second question, the one I found much harder to articulate.
'Oh, well, why not? I might as well tell you. It's kinda hard you know, because it reminds me... but that's not important.' She paused to sip from her mug.
Her words puzzled me even more, but I couldn't press her of course. She seemed quite disturbed now and already I began to regret I had brought up the topic. Yet I was too curious to stop her.
'You know, Rob was quite strange in a way, but it took me a while to figure him out. Can you imagine he kept pressing me to quit smoking, while he considered it normal that he smoked like a fiend? Some macho, I can tell you. Then he kept insisting we had a sort of "open relationship", as he called it, but what he actually meant was that HE was entitled to screw around while I was supposed to remain faithful. Even then at that party, he made me a scene, even though I've been only talking to you while he disappeared for quite a while with another girl.
In the end I was quite relieved when it was over, though he pretended to take it the hard way. He even cried. But a few days later I saw him with another girl and they weren't just holding hands.' She paused again to drink more coffee. From the way she wrung her hands I could see how nervous she was.
'Oh God, look at me. I haven't touched a cigarette for two years and I still miss it.' She exclaimed, seemingly changing the subject.
So that's how it was. She had indeed quit. Well, too bad for me, though I still felt attracted to her. Very much in fact, but it just wasn't perfect.
'Oh, I'm sorry, I have to explain that. You see, it's a kind of revenge. I know it must sound strange to you, but it's the best way I can put it. When we split it had been in fact after a fight over my smoking. I know there was a lot more to it, but the way I felt was that if I would do the one thing he wanted me to do all the time, but only after he left me, I would punish him.' She paused again and sighed. 'Gosh, I could really do with a cigarette right now.'
'Well then, why don't you...' I asked, playing na´ve sort of.
'Oh, you don't understand. It's sort of like I would give in if I'd start again. I don't know, guess I'm just plain stubborn. But...' she looked at me directly. 'You can't be sad about it. I mean you don't smoke, so you must be glad I quit.'
She had me cornered now. To admit I wanted her to pick up smoking again would place me in a row with her ex, or so I feared. I had to find a diplomatic way. Well, the simple truth, even though incomplete, might be just right.
'Well, I don't know. I mean, I know smoking isn't exactly healthy, but I don't mind if someone smokes. The smoke doesn't bother me at all and my ex smoked and so did other girls from my past. I hate the campaign against smoking that's raving these days. I mean, either it's legal or not. Besides, there are worse things than smoking and a lot of them too. So for me it's simply what makes you happy makes me happy too.' And that was the best I could come up with.
She stared at me and said:
'Should've met you earlier! But I'm in a sort of fix now. I hate not to smoke, but I can't just pick it up again.'
We'll see about that, I thought. Maybe I could do something about it. Aloud I said:
'Well, whatever suites you. I just don't like to see you suffer.'
'Oh never mind, it's OK most of the time. Only when I...' she said, her voice trailing off in a whisper.
'I'm sorry I've brought up the subject. I won't do it again. Promise.' And in a mockery of an oath I placed my palm on my heart, trying to look as guilty as I could, although I rejoiced inwardly, knowing now there might still be hope.
That made her laugh and she gave me a peck.
'Now that wasn't your fault, stupid. Gosh, you're cute.' She exclaimed in an obvious attempt to comfort me.
'Yes and this cutie here still has to do a lot of sorting out and moving in. I hope we can do this again soon, but I really gotta go now.'
She smiled and at the door she kissed me again, but still only on the cheek.
'Don't worry. Unless there might be some objection from a third party, I plan to see a lot of you. If you want it too, that is.' She said with a wink.
'I don't know what I'd like better. And don't worry, there's no third party I know of.' Meaning I had no girlfriend, as of course that's what she had meant by a third party. 'Maybe next time I'll cook something for us, as soon as I have my stuff in place.'
'Hey, sounds great. You don't smoke, you cook. Be Careful man, or one day I might get ideas...'
We both laughed and the way we seemed to understand each other warmed my heart. I just had to find a way...
'Ah, that was delicious. You know, there are some kinds of smokes I miss most. The ones after. After a good meal and after... Although, I didn't have many opportunities to miss the second one. To tell the truth, it's almost like giving up smoking has made me give up sex too.' And Susanne fell in a pensive pose.
I looked at her, the way she sat there slumped in the chair with a grin like the cat that ate the bird. Indeed I had just found out another thing I liked about her. Not only did she have the same taste in food I have, but she also had no scruples to eat heartily. No fussing about her weight, no shame that she had a good appetite. Still she had a very good figure. Not slim, but well shaped with no fat rolls and a trim waist. She had a bit of Marilyn Monroe, except for her dark brown hair.
'Well, I think I have seen in a drawer a pack forgotten by somebody. Should I get it?' I made my first attempt.
I had no hopes to succeed, but I had to start somehow.
'Just you dare! I won't give in! Besides I don't want to scent your apartment. You'd remember my visit for weeks and you don't have a balcony were I could smoke.' She rejected my offer, her protest sounding a bit hollow. Good!
'We could open the window if that's what bothers you.'
'NO! Stop it.' She exclaimed, although there was more regret than anger on her voice and face.
'Err, sorry. Didn't mean to...' I apologized, trying to sound sincere.
In fact I had counted on her refusal. There was no pack stashed away. She would have caught me red-handed, should she have actually asked for one.
'No, don't. You wouldn't know. You never smoked. You don't know how it is.' She whispered and my heart leaped, seeing how she struggled.
With a little luck it wouldn't take long till she would cross the bridge back to where she belonged. I left her sulking, as I felt whatever I would say it wouldn't be helpful.
That night I didn't bring up the topic any more. Something started to bother me though. I had restrained from making the slightest move towards her, for fear she might feel I wasn't at it with all my heart, not as long as she didn't smoke. But then she might get the impression I wasn't interested and heaven forgive, she might find another guy. So I had to move fast. And I had an idea...
'Hey folks, this is Susanne from next door. Susanne, this is Andrea and Peter.' I introduced Susanne to my friends.
I had invited them with one purpose only, as we were quite good friends, but not all that close. They had known my ex and even though Kay and Andrea had never been close, only Peter and me being real friends, still it was a bit awkward. Going out with them wasn't the same after I had split with Kay. The real reason I had invited them to meet Susanne was that both where smokers. I had no idea whether they smoked a lot all the time, but whenever we met they smoked constantly, easily smoking up a pack of cigarettes between them in a couple of hours.
For an instant I earned a bewildered if not angry look from Susanne. No wonder, I had deliberately brought her together with two smokers, but then she softened up and pecked me. I could almost read her thoughts. She couldn't blame me for my friends' habits. After all these days it was a sign of great tolerance if a nonsmoker allowed people to smoke in his home, or so I hoped she would see it.
They shook hands and I could see there was an instant liking between them, especially between Andrea and Susanne. They were quite at opposite ends of the scale. Andrea, blonde and petite, almost skinny, and Susanne, tall and with a full body, almost statuesque.
In no time we were engaged in a vivid conversation, although let's better say two parallel conversations most of the time, one between Susanne and Andrea of which I missed the greater part, and one between Peter and me around "men's" topics.
After a couple of drinks I decided it was time for dinner and Susanne joined me in the tiny kitchen to help serve the Quiche I had prepared. Inevitably we touched a few times and I felt once more it was high time to achieve my goal with Susanne. Maybe after dinner would be the right moment.
The Quiche waned fast and once again I felt satisfied that I had managed to inherit part of my mother's cooking skills.
'Time for a ciggie!' Andrea exclaimed as if she hadn't smoked the five or six cigarettes before dinner.
Peter reached for the pack on the table and offered it to Susanne. With a quick move she reached for a cigarette and took it to her lips. Then I could see her face change. Obviously she had reached for the cigarette following an old habit and now realized what she had done. She couldn't just put it back and it would look awkward if she would lay it on the table. I could watch the short but heavy fight that flared up, to end in the inevitable conclusion. She would smoke this one and then stop never to touch another cigarette again. That at least was her plan, I imagined.
Without a word she accepted the light from Peter and I could only hope nobody would notice how I trembled. I could almost hear my teeth clatter. All over my body my hairs stood on end and I felt goose pimples on my arms. Luckily I wore a shirt with long sleeves. Susanne was still preoccupied by her downfall. Her gaze was locked on the long white cylinder with the cork tip and the gray end that flared up into bright red each time she dragged on it.
The first few times she didn't inhale. She sucked a little and released the smoke immediately. Whether she felt she would make fool of herself in front of my friends by wasting away a cigarette like a teenager at her first timid experiments with mom's cigarettes, or whether the desire had overcome her resolution, Suddenly she took a long drag and inhaled with expanding chest. For a second or two I feared she would cough, but she just swallowed and kept the smoke in her lungs for what seemed an eternity, then blowing out with half closed eyes a huge cone of white smoke. Involuntarily an expression of overwhelming satisfaction spread over her face. Everything changed. Now she dragged frequently, without pause, finishing off the cigarette faster then Peter or Andrea.
'Hey Jake, why don't we clean up the table?' she said, her voice all mellow and shaky.
I couldn't tell her that I feared my feet wouldn't support me. I had to brace myself. How I managed to avoid a stiffy in my pants I don't know. Maybe it was the feeling that it might not yet be accomplished.
We carried the plates and the empty casserole into the kitchen, again touching here and there and I needed a lot of willpower not to snap my arms around her and kiss her breath away. I could almost physically feel that with all her confusion about what she had just done, she felt aroused by my presence too. Still, it was too early.
We turned back and then Andrea suggested a game of Canasta. There had been times when the only thing that had upheld the friendship between them and Kay and me, had been our common passion for Canasta, even though Kay had not been the most pleasant partner when it came to card playing. For a game that relies much on the nonverbal communication between partners sitting opposite each other, Kay had been way too stubborn and insensitive. What had compensated the frustration to loose game after game with Kay as my partner had been the fact that both Kay and Andrea had always chain-smoked during our games that often lasted half the night.
Naturally I hoped it would work with Susanne too. At first, while she turned out to be a better player than I was and a perfect partner, she disappointed me by turning down another cigarette offered by Peter. Still I could see how her eyes wondered back and forth between the open pack on the table and the cigarettes held by Peter and Andrea.
We were leading by more than fifteen hundred points and had just entered the critical stage, where Peter and Andrea had much better chances to hit the pot than we had, needing a only 50 points to meld, while we had to bring up 120. As the game advanced and Susanne managed to keep the pot closed, the strain grew on both of us till finally the spell broke. The odds turned and Susanne gave the pot away. Then she broke down and furiously reached for Peter's pack.
'Oh, I'm sorry Peter, I haven't asked.' She mumbled, the unlit cigarette dangling from her lips.
'C'mon, have as many as you want. I'm always glad if I can help out. We smokers must stick together. Besides, we've got more from where those came from. Andy and I never go on visits without a good supply of cigarettes.' Peter said humorously.
Susanne started to say something, probably to the effect that she had just a temporary relapse and would quit again as soon as the game was over, but she didn't.
We played for three more hours and in the end Susanne smoked constantly, seemingly having forgotten that she had ever quit. I was in seventh heaven. To add a little to my joy, we beat the shit out of Peter and Andrea, to the point they almost had a fight over who was responsible for their disastrous defeat. But they reconciled quickly and congratulated Susanne and me for being such a good team.
'You two should really stick together. You're such a perfect team.' Andrea said teasingly.
Finally, after a few more cigarettes for each of them, Andrea and Peter left. I turned back and for a while I just watched Susanne smoking. She looked up with a strange expression in her eyes. Then, with determination, she stubbed out the unfinished cigarette and rose.
'Time for bed now.' And off she went, fleeing past me as if haunted by the devil.
I had no chance to catch her in my arms and go for a kiss. Reluctantly I started to clean up. It was well past midnight and I felt more then just a little tired. My arousal and the tension I had been under had turned into a leaden fatigue. I opened the windows and undressed. After a perfunctory teeth brushing, I dropped my clothes to the floor and fell into my bed. The cozy smell of cigarette smoke lulled me into sleep.
A hard rap on the door woke me up after what seemed only seconds. I tried to sober up. A glance at my watch told me it was four in the morning. I opened the door and Susanne fell into my arms. She was weeping desperately. I rocked her gently and patted her back before I asked:
'What's wrong, dear?'
In an attempt to control her fit, she sniffed a little and said:
'Oh, Jake, what am I gonna do now? I feel I have to smoke, I need to smoke. What's happening to me? I want to smoke so desperately, but that would mean to give in. I feel like I've already admitted I've been the fool and not Rob. My revenge is all ruined if I start smoking again, but it's beyond me, I can't last without them cigarettes now that I've had a taste of them.' And she clung to me, sobbing softly.
I felt an erection setting in. Her beautiful softness almost engulfing me, her wonderful firm breasts against my chest and her erect nipples poking thru the thin fabric of her nightgown.... I was utterly aroused also by her desire to smoke, by her hopeless battle against her addiction.
'Ssh, dearest, don't fret. Think of how good it was before you met Rob. You enjoyed smoking and it was OK. Why don't you kick Rob out of your soul once and for all? Don't you see that you punish yourself and not him? Defy him and smoke as much as you like, that would be the true revenge.'
She looked up and held me at arm length. Her eyes locked into mine and her tears faded out. A puzzled expression settled on her face.
'I don't know, Jake. Why do you say all this? I thought you of all people... You as a nonsmoker should support me in kicking the habit, yet you...' she looked down, still holding my shoulders and a frown formed on her forehead, like she tried hard to get at the bottom of my words.
Then suddenly her face cleared up like the sky after a thunderstorm in August.
'Hey, you're right you know!' she exclaimed. 'I'll celebrate this by having a cigarette or two. You said you have that pack somewhere. Can I have it now?'
Hadn't I anticipated something like this, she'd have caught me now. Luckily last night I had asked Peter for a pack while Susanne had used the bathroom. I took the pack from the drawer and gave it to her. Her hands shook and she struggled hard to rip the cellophane from the box. I took it away from her and even though my hands shook too, I ripped away the foil, flipped the lid and removed the protective foil. I managed to extract a cigarette and without ceremony I just took it to her lips. I had no lighter, but a collection of bar matches and I managed to ignite a match and give her a light.
With swimming eyes she took a drag, then another one to push the first one down. Two long dense white streams emerged from her nostrils while she dragged again with collapsing cheeks. I had to sit down and hide the bulge in my pants and I dragged her down on the couch with me. Now was almost the time to make my move, but I wanted to savor the anticipation a little more and so I just laid my harm around her shoulder and with the other hand caressed her bare knee.
I felt her respond under my touch and she pressed her side into mine. Her breast pressed softly against my chest and I felt how waves of heat rushed over my entire body. She had just taken another huge drag, this time holding down the smoke and I decided now was the right moment. I took her by the back of her head and pressed my lips against hers. She startled at first, but then, releasing the smoke through her nostrils, she opened her lips and the world went blank.
I rested on my elbow, her leg over mine and watched how she took yet another cigarette from the pack. I waited for the second drag and then pecked her softly on the cheek. She turned her head to face me and whispered, gently engulfing me in a cloud of fragrant smoke:
'You really like to get smoked, don't you?'
Her eyes told me she was enchanted rather then repelled as others had been before her. What was I to say? I feared giving away too much. She might still turn away from me, so I decided to give her the only answer I could think of. I waited for the next drag and then pressed my mouth once again over hers. This time I was determined to go for it all. I started to suck on her mouth till she gave way and exhaled the smoke into my mouth and consecutively into my lungs. I was overwhelmed by the hit, never having inhaled cigarette smoke before. My body reacted in the only appropriate way, with an instant erection.
Susanna stared into my eyes.
'Does my smoking really do this to you?'
I nodded, unable to speak. A broad smile was my reward.
'Hey, I like that. Come over here.' And she took a regal lungful of smoke to blow it into my mouth, while I maneuvered my body slowly over hers.