The last five cigarettes

by Mariana Busarova

Adel did not like smoking. She did not like the cigarettes. No. She felt closer to Antoan when she was taking a cigarette. It was a strange and surrealistic feeling. There were so many memories in her head. They stood there and filled her heart with grief. She fumbled into her purse and got her cigarette box. There were only five cigarettes in it. She would never smoke after finishing them. She would never touch a cigarette again. And she would bury her sacred memories for Antoan deeply in her mind. She would never turn back here, in this bar. It was their bar.

She would leave him to rest in peace.

Adel rolled the cigarette between her thin fingers and closed her eyes. She remembered how he was fiercely pulling at the cigarette and was half-closing his dark, almost black eyes. There was a delight in them. She remembered the little wrinkles around his eyes. They were there because he loved smiling. Antoan also loved to make her smile.

– Do not mind my words – he said once – I have a bit strange sense of humour. Sometimes it is maybe blue.

Antoan’s face was hidden in the smoke. His crooked smile was so unique. He was a unique man. First, she thought he was shy, no matter whether he was the centre of the company, telling spicy jokes and teasing. Once he sat down near her, here in this bar, and all night he was asking her if he was too boring.

He did not bore her. That night imprinted in her mind. It was the start of their common future life. The time they were together was so short but so luscious. It was like a sparkler. Like fire. Like a bonfire for their hearts.

Because of Antoan, she left her boyfriend. 

– You leave me because of this ugly man of no account! He hasn’t even a penny in his pocket, Adel! – said her former boyfriend with contempt. 

– No – she answered – I leave you because you do not notice me!

– What are you talking about, Adel? We go out together every weekend!

Yes, they were together and at the same time, there were thousands of miles of distance between them. 

– It is all over a long time ago – Adel said – I am just a beautiful trophy on your lapel! I am out of this insignificant role. 

After that Adel and Antoan became a couple. Lovers. Friends. They loved each other strongly. She felt so well with him. Her soul was whole. It was true he was not well educated. He didn’t have much money but it was not so important. The most important was they had love. They lived well. Adel had a little apartment and they shared it. She also worked a good, well-paid job. Antoan worked in the building construction business but had a bit harsh character. It was happening to separate him from his employers because of a sharp remark or a kind of disobedience. He used to beat with “windmills”… These things did not matter between him and Adel. Antoan was not a lazy bagger. He succeeded to gain enough to cover their expenses. They had enough also to go and get some drinks in their favourite bar. Usually, they were making pleasant trips around the towns and villages near the sea every weekend. Adel had a little car and she was a good driver. She was squeezing with her tiny “Peugeot” through the narrow streets near the shore. Antoan did not want to drive at all.

– It is a long story – he said, when she asked him – And rather sad.

After that, he gulped loudly as if he needed to gain strength to continue.

– Some years ago I hit a boy. He was on a walkway. My hand hurt extremely… I was exhausted then but it is not an excuse.

– And the boy?

– His leg was broken. He recovered, but I still have nightmares, my love! What would happen if I had killed him? I cannot forgive myself for such a thing. Driving is not for me. I am too absent-minded!

Those words closed the topic. Adel drove the car and organized their little lovely trips and Antoan did his best to finish his following order and finance it.

Adel rolled once again the cigarette between her elegant fingers. It was like she was afraid to fire it. One cigarette less was diminishing the reasons to come back here.

She heard a crack of a lighter and the sound dragged her out of the daze of memories. Adel stared at the little fire and lightened the cigarette. The edge burst with fire in a sharp red. She breathed out quickly the cigarette smoke and some curly clouds floated around her nose. They memorised her for Antoan and the passionate way he was smoking.

– I love the little pleasures in life, Adel – said he once – We do not have to abandon them. We, the people, are weak creatures. We are also sinful. These tiny sins are part of us.

Adel raised her face and gazed at the owner of the lighter. He was tall and swarthy. His eyes were bright and warm.

– Do I disturb you? – his deep-toned voice suited him.

Adel sucked on the cigarette, thinking about what to say. During these nights, devoted to Antoan and her memories, she used to give a curt refusal to anyone’s attempts to get close to her. The man in front of her did not look like he is looking for a flirt. Yes, he was staying close to her, but in his eyes, she sаw first of all sympathy, not a hint of desire.

– I don’t know what to answer – she said finally – I do not need company.

– Yes, it is obvious – he nodded – I just decided you don’t have a lighter because you hold this cigarette for about fifteen minutes.

Adel smiled.

– You observe me for so long?

– You are beautiful… I am just saying. It is a fact. You are also very sad, lady! The pain is like an aura around you.

– I am sad. It is true.

Adel pointed to the chair next to her.

– You may sit down if you want.

– If I disturb you…

She shook her head.

– I would probably need this lighter again – she said.

– Good. I am Antonio. Antonio Silvano – he introduced himself.

A shudder went through her whole body. Fate was making jokes with her! Suddenly she felt sorry that she invited him to sit down. She breathed loudly and bit her lip.

– What is the matter? – asked Antonio.

His eyes became darker.

– Did I say something wrong?

– No – a tear rolled down her cheek and held on her chin.

Antonio quickly gave her a paper napkin.

– I upset you somehow… Sorry!

– It is because of your name – she whispered – Me, I am Adel… Your name remembers me of a man who was very close to my heart – her voice was so hushed that he hardly heard her words – I loved him so much, but I lost him. Not today or yesterday but I miss him so, so…

– Sometimes time does not matter, lovely and sad, Adel. Never is enough long ago – said Antonio – Would you like something to drink?

– A glass of rose wine – she answered.

Antonio offered a bottle of wine with two glasses.

After that, she retold him about the other Tony in her life.

– You know – started Adel – Sometimes our life is a sequence of miserable circumstances. When all went wrong, you ask yourself – but if I? If I have made another choice? Maybe then everything would come to another end? – she stubbed out her cigarette in the ashtray – Oh, my God! A whole year passed, and I feel like I have made just a blink, and here – all this time is gone! I feel like this year has never happened to me. I have nothing to remember. Just sadness – Adel took the fourth cigarette and bent her head down to the lighter Antonio held – One day before I lost him, we went for a little walk in the forest. It became rainy, and unfortunately, I slipped and sprained my ankle. It hurt so much, and I could not bring Antoan to his work the other day. He needed some machinery and a ladder. He had to go there and finish his work. He had given a promise, and he insisted on holding his word. Yes, he was this kind of man! I insisted on taking the car. I persuaded him to drive my car. Maybe I had to set my teeth, no matter the pain in my leg, and drove him to work! The evening, when he was turning at home, someone pulled him out of the road, and the car slipped into a ravine. He had a brain injury. I was talking and talking until he was lying there in the hospital, but he did not wake up. Probably he did not hear even a word. A month after that, he faded away. I lost him, no matter how much I loved him. 

– I think he has been hearing your words, Adel.

– How could you know?

– We are not just bodies. Our souls matter. He has been there, listening to you. He has understood all you have told him, but you know well – not everything is under our control. Just a few things are. About eventualities – what can we do? It wasn’t your fault that your Tony died. That person who pulled him out of the road was guilty. 

The bottle with rose wine was empty. In the box, there was just one lonely cigarette. 

– I have to go to the graveyard, to be with him… to bring him some cigarettes. I smoke just because I want to remember him. I have just a single cigarette in the box, you see. I am going to finish with this bad habit on his grave. 

-There are just a few hours till dawn – Antonio said – Would you like to make a little walk together? I know, many hours passed after midnight, but I do not feel sleepy.

-You got me drunk and now you are kidnapping me? – she gave him a little smile.

-Yes, I am taking you with me and you do not have a reason to deny my proposal – he also smiled – I am taking you away from all self-recriminations and grievous memories. Maybe my name will give you good luck.

-You think fate gives me another chance?

-Might be. Probably fate gives you a sign that life has to go on. It is a cliché, but what else to do?

In the morning, in the graveyard,  Adel said “A Dieu” to Antoan. The tip of her last cigarette flashed in scarlet red and died out.

One other Tony waited for her in front, on the alley.

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One Response to “The last five cigarettes”

  1. Dobrina Says:

    I like this story! And the writer’s style too!

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