There was a streetlight outside the building, one of the old kind that gave a pure white light. Standing underneath it, Lucy lit a cigarette. Once she’d drawn in a lungful of smoke, she held her breath for a surprisingly long time before letting it out.
“I thought there should be witnesses,” she said. “This is the last cigarette I’ll ever smoke.”
“Sure it is,” said Rikki.
“I know it’ll be tough, but I don’t plan to fail and I trust” — she gave Rikki a look that suggested no trust at all — “that certain people will be supportive.”
“Don’t look at me. I fully endorse your decision to stop sucking Joe Camel’s puh-roduct. Sorry, I just remembered there’s a kid here.”
The smoke made intricate little curls in the air, like bluish lace. It looked kind of nice, actually, as long as you stayed upwind.
“The Buddhists,” said Lucy, “say that all suffering comes from attachment. The more people and the more things you want and need and care about, the more you end up suffering. Which doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get attached to anybody or anything — that wouldn’t be human — but you should choose, carefully, who and what you really need.” She inhaled again, held the smoke inside her as long as she could, then let it out. “When I was a few years older than you, I decided to attach myself to a dried plant. It seemed like a good idea at the time. Now comes the part with the suffering.”
The little ring of orange fire worked its way up the length of the cigarette, leaving an almost-perfect cylinder of white ash behind it. While Lucy was talking about the process of cleaning out her car and apartment to get rid of the smell, Lock watched a chunk of ash nearly half an inch long fall off the end and land on her right sneaker.
“Um… Lucy?” said Lock.
Lock pointed down. Cursing under her breath, Lucy tipped the ash off onto the pavement and stomped it until it stopped smoldering, then looked mournfully at the little burn on her shoe.
“This was a perfectly good shoe.”
“Do the other one,” suggested Rikki. “Everybody’ll think it’s a new look.”
Lucy drew in another lungful.
“You’ll notice,” said Rikki, “that even though she almost set her foot on fire, she’s still gonna keep smoking that thing ‘til she hits the filter.”
“This from the woman who once made a batch of barbecue sauce where the secret ingredient was bongwater… and then served it to guests.”
“Hey, I haven’t lit up in two weeks. Let’s see you after two weeks cold turkey.”