“So you did okay in finals?”

Julie nodded. “All that stress actually made me work
my ass off.

I think I did pretty well,” she grinned.

“I’m going to miss your company out here, but good
luck with quitting,” I said. “The few, the proud, the
exiled,” I added.

“Mike, thanks for keeping me company and listening to
me bitch all semester,” Julie said. “I’m gonna miss
hanging out here with you and those–yeccch!–Mores.”

“I would have offered, but you never bummed one from
me,” I grinned. “You always had a brand of the day. I
never knew what you were smoking.” We stuck our tongues
out at each other and laughed.

“You’re so funny. Anyway, I’d better go; everybody is
meeting at O’Reilly’s in another 15 minutes. I’ll see
you around in the halls and I’ll drop by once in a
while to say hi. See ya ’round.” Julie smiled, waved,
and headed to her car in the parking lot.

I didn’t see her for a long time after that. She must
have quit, I reasoned. Maybe Julie had even left
school, because I never saw her in the halls. Oh well,
graduate students come and go. However, I eventually
did run into her again, in mid-March, at the same bar
where we had officially introduced ourselves. “Julie?”
I hesitantly questioned the vivacious, black-haired
women sitting at a table with a group.

“Hi!!!! Michael!!!! I’m happy to see you again! How
have you been?” Julie’s eyes sparkled, and she
certainly looked as if she were happy to see me. She
got up from the table and gave me a hug. “My class
schedule this semester is kinda weird. I only have
class in your building at night this semester,” Julie
apologized. “I was gonna leave you a note, but your
section of the building is locked up by the time I get
there. Let’s go somewhere so we can catch up,” she

We chatted amiably about the previous three months for
a few minutes; she was having a much easier time with
her classes and hadn’t been stressed all semester.
Julie excused herself for a second, went back over to
her table and grabbed her purse. She pulled out a
lighter and a Capri.

I commented, “Still smoking when you drink, I see.”

Julie blushed a little. “No… actually, I guess I’m
just a smoker now. I never did quit like I said I was
going to.” She indicated her classmates. “It’s kinda
nice not having to pre-tend any more.” We smoked and
talked; she bought two beers and we talked some more. I
would watch her lean casually against the bar, Capri in
hand, and tilt her chin slightly before each exhale.
She was definitely more relaxed, and not in as big a
hurry. One of Julie’s classmates came over and told her
that the group was leaving for another club.

Julie waved her on. “You guys go ahead. I haven’t seen
Mike all year.” As her classmates headed out, she gave
several hugs and wished all a good spring break. After
they were gone, Julie reached into her purse for
another cigarette, but her pack was empty.

“Dammit. Now I gotta go get change for the machine. I
know they won’t have these in it.” She looked at me and
continued, “I hope they have more than Camel Lights.
Bleccch.” She wrinkled her nose in distaste, then

“Julie,” I said as she began to pull out her wallet,
“there’s a book store less than a block away that sells
cigarettes. I think I’ve seen your brand there.”

“Really?” Her face brightened, then she cocked her
head. “You’ll be here when I get back?” I nodded. There
was no way I was going to miss the remainder of this

Julie came back in about ten minutes with a pair of
fresh beers. “I decided to stop on the way,” she
grinned. “Figured we could use some more beer, and the
crowd at the bar is getting bigger.”

Her smile and dancing eyes made her look very
attractive, and distracted me. Somehow, I managed to
remember that she had also bought the last round.
“Julie, you bought the last round. At least let me
contribute,” I said, feeling very odd.

“You can give me a light,” she coyly replied. “You look
like the gentlemanly type.” Julie pulled out a fresh
pack of Capri 120’s. “Before you say anything, these
were on sale, 3 packs for 2. Since you smoke really
long cigarettes, I thought I’d give it a try in my

She opened the pack, pulled one out, and studied the
long, very slim white cylinder between her fingers.
“Wow, these are long,” she giggled.

“Sir? If you please?” I lit it, and watched her take a
drag. She turned her head aside to exhale. “Hmmm… Not
bad. But I can see that I’d have to take my time with

Julie took a long, deep drag, and closed her eyes. She
let the smoke flow from her nostrils for a few seconds,
then exhaled the rest through her lips. Her eyelids
fluttered a little as she opened them. “You’re right.
This is relaxing,” she smiled.

“Now that you’re not stressed anymore…” I began, but
my thought died when Julie took another long pull and
some of the smoke spilled out from her lips, only to be
drawn into her nostrils. She leisurely exhaled a long
trail of smoke.

“You’re right. I’m not stressed anymore; I can enjoy a
cigarette.” Julie paused to look at her watch. “If you
really feel guilty about the beer, there is a way you
can make it up to me. Take me to a movie sometime.”

“Ummm….” Julie chose that moment to french-inhale
again, hold the smoke, and exhale leisurely with her
chin slightly inclined. It took me a few seconds to
process what she had said. “Sure.


“I was thinking… the midnight show down the street.
That is…” Julie took another slow, deep drag, drawing
escaping smoke back into her mouth as she pulled the
cigarette away from her lips. “If you don’t mind
waiting for me to finish my very relaxing, long
cigarette,” she teased. I shook my head and grinned

As we walked out of the bar five minutes later, Julie
turned to me and asked, “By the way, Mike… how old
are you?”