Anne sat down in the sofa in the living room between her Mom (Mary-Anne), aunt Helen and Mom's best friend Lydia. The room smelled of cigarette smoke, both directly from the cigarettes and, even more, from smoke that had been in three middle-aged women's lungs. The 12 year old girl, short, a bit "big" (but just a bit!) and with chocolate brown eyes and chocolate brown half-long hair brought her brown-skinned, soft hand to her mouth and coughed in her hand. The first hack was followed by a long wheezing before two new hacks prepared an inhale. The quick, uncontrollable inhale was followed by two new, deep hacks and the girl frowned and her eyes squinted when the last hack sounded like her diafragma was trying to make her stomach touch the bottom of her lungs.
- Had a cold dear, her aunt smiled before turning her
head to blow her smoke out in another direction.
- No... well... yes, I mean..., the cute girl hesitated.
- I think we could tell your aunt as well as Lydia, Anne's Mom said before inhaling with a thick sound and coughing in her hand. She had had a smoker's cough for over five years now.
- Tell what, aunt Helen asked curiously and suddenly Anne had a proud look in her face. She took her Mom's cigarette pack, put a cigarette between her red lips and lit it. Anyone could see it wasn't the first time she pulled on a cigarette and inhaled deeply in her young lungs.
- It's a smoker's cough, Anne smiled, talking out some smoke. Her young nostrils sent out a grey twin stream.
- Oohh, your nostrils are so black and fine, aunt Helen giggled and caressed the girl's straight nose bridge with two fingers. - Give us a little cough again!
- It'll come sooner or later, don't worry, her Mom said. - She's coughing like she just did every noow and then the whole evenings since Christmas, I think.
- How much do you smoke, Lydia asked. She couldn't take her eyes from the smoking girl who took deeper and deeper drags on the cigarette.
- A pack per day, I think, but only at home. Anne had to clear her throat twice. - Two with Mom after breakfast, the rest in front of the TV and when studying. I... (she coughed with a raspy rattling right out) ... love smoking with ... (two new, fast hacks right out) ... Mom ... (she inhaled deeply and coughed deeply right out and she again made a sound like if she was going to whoop, and she bent her body forward a little and got a worried expression in her face as a new sequence of quiet hacks came from her already so smoky chest).
- Hand over mouth, dear, her Mom said sharply but smiling.
- Don't you worry dear, aunt Helen will help you, the girl's aunt giggled and put her own hand over the girl's coughing mouth. Her warm palm received at least two of those deeper ones.
- Oh, I wish I had a smoker's cough like you, she joked when it was over and caressed the girl's hand with the one she had had over Anne's mouth. Anne noticed how warm the hand was now. - My palm loved that, aunt Helen said to Maary-Anne. - Just come over to me when you need to cough again, Helen then whispered in Anne's ear.
- But you can't go on almost whooping like that, day after day, dear, Lydia said a bit worried before lighting up again. - Not even I cough like that, she added. - Mary-Anne, mind her little chest!
- Don't you think I've tried?, Helen laughed but her laughter turned into a short but deep and dark coughing fit. - I told her to listen carefully to my cough, especially my quite bad morning cough. And, when she got a bad cold a month ago she could hardly lie down in her bed in the nights because her chest got so full of all her mucus so I told her it would have been easier if she hadn't smoked so much. Know what the little lady does? First, about my cough, she wanted to be with me to study my coughing fits in detail and even cup her hands over my mouth. Even when I got my morning mucus up from my poor lungs!
- I want Mom to smoke much more so she'll cough even better, the girl added.
- And about her own bad chesty cough last month, even after those coughing fits when she was almost crying and her chest was in pain, and she lost her air, she begged me for a cigarette all the time.
- Besides, Mary-Anne added, I don't want to cough alone...
- You must have the most beautiful, black lungs in your school, aunt Helen smiled at Anne, and the most black, smoky nostrils too.
- If I just could cough a little bit less in school, Anne sighed and crushed the cigarette out in the ash tray. Her nostrils let the last portion of smoke leave her lungs.
- Just try to skip those morning cigarettes, Lydia said. She had calmed down a little and looked at the girl with admiration in her eyes.
- I tried the last week, but it was impossible, Anne coughed.
- Oh, are your little lungs so hungry?
- They're worse than mine, Mary-Anne filled in because Anne's coughing fit made it impossible to talk. The girl was going to say something, but Mary-Anne stopped her.
- Don't try to talk, dear. - Her cough can get quite bad this late in the evenings, but if she doesn't talk too much, especially not directly after a coughing fit, she can keep it down at least a little.
- Come on, rest a little, Mary-Anne continued, you'll cough your lungs up soon if you don't.
The girl nodded, closed her eyes for a while and massaged her own chest. During the rest of the evening, she just sat there beside her Mom, watching her and the other two women almost chain-smoking. Her young lungs inhaled the second-hand smoke time after time and her cough sometimes accompanied the women's.
To be continued, sooner or later...