"Anne's Choice 2" / Chapter 5
Martin woke first the following morning and climbed quietly out of bed. As he dressed, he contemplated Anne sleeping peacefully, dreaming perhaps of their more unhurried love-making which had carried on late into the previous night. He went downstairs to the kitchen and drank a glass of orange juice while reflecting on what had happened the night before. Guilt would arrive later, no doubt, but for the time being he could feel only a euphoric sense of release caused by having, after so long, revealed his innermost secret to a beautiful woman smoker and having then made love to her. Whatever happened now, life would never be quite the same again.
He could still faintly taste the two cigarettes he had smoked the night before, and wondered whether Anne, with her two pack a day consumption, ever really tasted anything else. His attention was diverted by the sound of coughing from upstairs. He listened with concern as it intensified and then began to subside. Another part of the trade-off for the pleasures of smoking, he supposed. He hoped that Anne would not discover one day that the price which she had to pay for these pleasures was much higher than she had calculated.
She appeared in the kitchen doorway, dressed in a fluffy white bathrobe and holding a freshly lit cigarette – not, Martin guessed, her first of the morning. At the sight of her he was immediately aroused again. She read his expression.
“Cool it, stud,” she laughed, her voice cracked and deepened by the previous night’s heavy smoking. “I need coffee.” She put her cigarette between her lips and busied herself filling the machine with water and coffee. The morning sunlight streaming through the kitchen window caught the small plumes of smoke which escaped from her nose to the rhythm of her breathing. Having finished with the coffee machine, she took the cigarette from her mouth and exhaled.
“And how is the apprentice smoker this morning?” she inquired.
Martin laughed. “Wishing he hadn’t been tempted last night. Does the taste always stay with you for so long?”
“I’ve no idea,” she replied. “I don’t usually leave enough time between cigarettes to find out. But these Reds are quite strong. You might find the Lights more enjoyable to begin with.”
“There’s no question of that,” he assured her quickly. “I just wanted to try to share what you experience when you smoke – nothing more. I don’t suppose I’ll ever do it again.”
They drank coffee and chatted about trivial matters, avoiding the issue which was in both of their minds. The conversation tailed off, and Martin asked, hesitantly: “So, where do we go from here?”
Anne stood up. “Let’s go for a walk through the village. The autumn colours are wonderful just now.”
“That wasn’t what I meant,” he said.
“I know,” she said.
* * *
They walked in companionable silence down an avenue of chestnut trees. The spiky green fruits lay all around them, some having split open to reveal the shiny brown nut inside. At the end of the avenue there was a wooden bench. They sat down and Anne retrieved her cigarettes from her coat pocket. She lit up, exhaled a long stream of smoke and said: “Where do you want to go from here?”
Martin shook his head slowly. “I don’t know,” he said helplessly.
Anne sat for a while contemplating the autumn scene around them. “In that case,” she said, “I’ll just have to do the thinking for both of us. To be honest, I’ve no desire to start an affair with a married man. That’s what messed up my marriage and I don’t intend to do the same to someone else. And deep down, it’s not what you want either.” She turned to look earnestly at him. For once she seemed to have forgotten about the cigarette which she was holding and the ash was growing long. “That wasn’t me you were making love to last night. It was the fantasy woman smoker you’ve been dreaming about all these years. I just happen to fit the description. The real problem is that you can’t reconcile your fantasy with the reality that you still hate the fact that I smoke so much. You wouldn’t be any happier with me now than you were before. You’d always be torn between wanting me to smoke and wanting me to quit. It would be no fun for either of us. You’ll be much happier at home with your nice, healthy wife where you can escape from the conflict.”
Martin was silent, thinking this over. “You’re wrong about one thing,” he said, eventually. “I can never escape from the conflict. It will always be there for me, whether I’m with you or with Carol. I’ll just have to find another way of dealing with it, that’s all.”
Anne finished her cigarette and deposited the remains in a litter bin. They walked slowly back to her house and Martin got ready to depart. He looked at Anne questioningly. “How about one more smoky kiss before I go?”
She picked up the red and white pack with a laugh which, as usual, turned into a cough.
* * *
Anne stood at the garden gate and watched Martin’s car disappear round the corner of the street. The day had turned colder and there was an air of late season melancholy about the village which seemed to reflect her own mood. She did not find it at all unpleasant. Although the night with Martin had been an enjoyable interlude, she was content that it would not turn into something more prolonged. With a smile to herself, she wondered idly how she might go about meeting more of those men, apparently out there somewhere, whom she could arouse simply by lighting a cigarette in their presence.
Into her thoughts there intruded a familiar sensation. Nowhere precisely identifiable in her body; not exactly in her mind, either; a little of both, perhaps. Not a craving, although she knew that the sensation would eventually develop into one if she took no action in response to it. There was little chance of that. She turned and walked back into the house, in search of a cigarette.
* * *
Martin was in thoughtful mood too as he drove back to town. He felt that he had been allowed a tantalising glimpse of nirvana which had then been snatched away from him. He had said to Anne that he would have to find another way of dealing with his conflict. How would he do that? He tried to visualise Carol lighting a cigarette as she got out of bed in the morning but the image was so preposterous that he abandoned the attempt. Anne was right, in any case – it wasn’t what he wanted. So what did he want?
As he approached home he stopped to buy a Sunday newspaper. Having parked near a general store, he was about to open the car door when he noticed a woman with long ash-blonde hair coming out of the shop. He recognised her as the mother of a child in his younger son’s playgroup, but what caught his attention was the pack of cigarettes which she was carrying in her hand. Although he had met her on a number of occasions, he had had no inkling that she was a smoker. He watched, fascinated, as she unwrapped the pack, took out a cigarette and lit it, taking several deep, cheek-hollowing drags while standing outside the shop. Despite the chill in the afternoon air, it was obvious to him how much she was enjoying her cigarette: her half-closed eyes as she drew in the smoke and the upward tilt of her head as she exhaled told the story graphically. Martin, observing from his car, was rock hard: he had always regarded the woman as quite attractive but her sex appeal now suddenly skyrocketed. Eventually she let the cigarette end fall to the ground, crushed it with the heel of her boot and got into a car which was parked nearby. As she drove off, he wondered why she had felt it necessary to smoke outside. Perhaps her husband objected to her smoking in the car; or was she simply concealing her habit from her children, or from him? Not that it mattered: as Martin got out of the car and walked towards the store he was still intensely excited and aroused by the show he had just witnessed.
While he stood waiting to pay for his newspaper, Martin studied the display of cigarettes behind the cash desk. He remembered the buzz which he had experienced when he inhaled the smoke from Anne’s Marlboros the night before. He thought of her description of hundreds of moments of pleasure every day and of the playgroup mother’s expression while she enjoyed some of those moments. What if….? After all, one pack wasn’t going to do him any harm, was it?
“That’s one pound fifty for the paper,” said the girl at the cash desk. “Anything else?”
“Yes,” said Martin. “There is.”
Responses are not allowed!