There was incomprehensive silence as I walked into the lecture room. People seemed to pause in activity. I turned to the sound of the lecturer clicking his tongue.
“And who are you?” he asked, giving me a dull irritated look.
“New?” I said, making the previously quiet classroom burst into murmurs.
The lecturer rolled his eyes, muttering something under his breath before motioning me towards the seat. There were no introductions of any sort. I just took a random seat as I tried to catch up with the rest of the lesson.
The lecture called to talk to me privately after class. I sat on my sit as the rest of the class cleared, watching the Lecturer as he awkwardly arranged the sheets on his table.
“I have a class in ten,” I said aloud, hoping he’d take the hint and say what he wanted to say and dismiss me.
“I’ll give you a pass,” he announced, ignoring my hidden plea as he continued to sort out the sheets. He adjusted his glasses a few minutes later, giving me some form of attention.
“Where are you transferring from?” he asked, looking back down at the sheets on his table.
“Stanford,” I said monotonously. He frowned, looking up at me with new found interest.
“Then why move here?” he asked, putting his sheets aside. I shrugged looking towards him. I inspected him, noticing his pale skin was freckled and looked harshly harassed by sunlight.
“Isn’t there any reason at all?” he asked, folding his hands while giving me a calm look.
I was not in the mood to narrate my mother’s wish to send me far away so she could plan her wedding with her fiancé in peace. Besides, I’m sure it isn’t quite okay for him to pry into my life like that.
“Not that I know of...” I trailed, being stubborn. He sighed before deciding to just hand over some worksheets to me.
“Are you staying with anyone? You don’t stay in the campus dorms, do you?” he asked. I frowned, wondering why he was trying to force some sort of conversation out of me.
“I’m staying with my mother’s fiancé’s nephew,” I stated calmly as I looked over the worksheet. I’d already missed a good two weeks of tuition regarding when I stopped attending College to prepare to come here.
“Is there a deadline for this?” I asked, brushing stray strands of hair away from my face.
“Not exactly,” the lecturer said, giving me a considerate look. “Just get them all in before the end of this semester so I’ll have something to score you on.”
I nodded in understanding, tucking the worksheets into my folder.
“Oh yes, I still need you to fill out this form,” he said, slipping a piece of paper across the table. I took note of it, filling out Andrew as my guardian and his address. I reached for my phone to receive his cell number, and by the time I looked up the lecturer already had the half-filled form in his hands.
“Andrew... I remember him. He used to be a student of mine,” the lecturer said looking up at me. I took the form from him with a little difficulty before filling out the phone number.
“He still stays here?” he asked no one in particular, fumbling with the pen cup on his desk.
“Sort of,” I answered, slipping the form across the table to him. He grinned at me.
“Why are you studying literature, do you want to be a published writer? Or do you want to be an editor?” he asked, filling the form away. I looked down at my lap realizing I’d never fully addressed that question.
“I’m not sure,” I finally slurred. He sighed, giving me a brief look of what seemed like disappointment.
“Well, you’re free to go,” he said giving me a weak smile. “And send my greetings to Andrew.”
I left the lecture hall with a late permit, taking the rest of my classes in silence. If anything, I wish to remain a wallflower for the rest of the year until my mother got married and decided there was no point of me being so far away.
I sighed in realization that she might just let me stay here for the rest of my course. She’d already made it quite care long ago that she didn’t like me and I’d made it clear as well that I didn’t like her either.
“You’re the reason my marriages keep on failing.”
I remember her blaming me from a very young age, even before I could even grasp the meaning of marriage. She’s been married a total of nine times, and engaged a total of eleven. I don’t know why she pretends to hate the fact that all of her marriages end up in divorce. She’s made herself a mini-millionaire in divorce benefits alone.
I walked to the car park when my classes for the day were over. Opening the door of Andrew’s car I spotted someone far of in a bench blowing smoke into the car. I scrunched my eyes, wondering if the withdrawal was making me see things. But I was certain of it, and watched as the dark-haired man took another whiff of his cigarette.
“Damn,” I cursed, searching my pocket for loose change. I needed to find it, need to taste it.
My tongue swirled around instinctively like it was gripping a cigarette. It’s been so long, and the sight was more than exciting.
Finding enough money for a pack and a lighter I looked around the compound for someone to get it for me. I wasn’t quite sure how strict they were about age restrictions on smoking here was, but I wasn’t ready to take a chance.
Not finding anyone I shut the door of the car and head for the person I had spotted taking a smoke a few feet away.
“Hey,” I greeted in a monotone voice. There was no audible answer, just a puff of smoke sent flying across my face. I took a deep breath, taking in the smell of the nicotine — savoring it.
“I was wondering...” I continued, looking down at the young man as he bit at the end of the stick. He watched me with cold blue eyes, his lips blackened from probable addiction. I shook the haunting image of the man off my head, trying to concentrate on the present — the cigarette.
“I was wondering if you’d help me purchase some cigarettes,” I said watching him for any reaction. “...and a lighter,” I added, pulling the crumpled bills out my pocket.
“How old are you kid?” he asked, blowing another cloud of smoke into the air.
I’m old enough the smoke, not bold enough to buy it in a crowd of students. I thought to myself before actually speaking.
“You can have half the pack,” I offered, ignoring his question. He didn’t pry anymore. Just snatched the bills and disappeared into a far-off department store across the school grounds. He returned, shoving a lighter and a half pack of cigarettes into my hand. I muttered a small thank you before heading back to the car.
“Warning from the federal ministry of health; smokers are liable to die young.”
I grinned reading the bold warning at the front of the pack. It was ridiculous. When had it ever stopped anyone from taking a smoke?
I sighed lighting a cigarette from the pack. I took my time inhaling the smell of the burning nicotine before drawing on the cigarette. I didn’t do it for the high. I did it for the relief and the short asthma attack that followed.
I coughed after a few minutes of smoking. I quenched the cigar throwing it out the window. I searched and drew on my inhaler in between whizzing and coughing. I closed my eyes, resting my head against the window as my body and breathing returned to normal.
“You’re going to die in your own hands, just like your father.”
I shifted uncomfortably as I remembered my mum’s sayings. I could barely remember my father, just brief memories of a man holding me in his hands, a man who smelled like cigarettes and offered me beer in a feeding bottle, a man who chuckled with amusement as I traced his tattoos and pulled away his nicotine patches.
I remember being confused when he was no longer there, having an odd feeling of change when the air started smelling different and all the ashtrays became clean and empty.
I’d tried to reach out to my mother in my own twisted little way. Being stubborn, putting myself in harm’s way all for attention. I was too little to realize she was trying to deal with his passing as well, taking the company of other men which lead to many doomed marriages.
I’d started smoking early, and it had gone downhill just as fast. I couldn’t handle a smoke with my asthma and ended up in the hospital a time too many. My mother took the advice of the doctors and sent me to rehab where I spent a full school year. That’s why I graduated at nineteen, and it’s why I haven’t seen a cigarette ever since.
But now... I closed my eyes taking a draw at a newly lit cigar. Andrew doesn’t have to know. I’ll do it outside the cabin and around my inhaler; there was really no chance of anything going wrong.
Yes, that’s what I’ll do. I decided, bringing the engine to life and driving out the parking lot. What Andrew doesn’t know won’t kill him. Besides, I’ve missed it; the smoke, the smell of my father.