Island Smoke

Author: Cecilia

As the sun slowly sank over the ocean, Maria sighed softly and leaned back in the large wooden swing and kicked her feet, making herself go back and forth slowly. It was so relaxing. No one was here but her. She literally had almost the entire island to herself. Maria had been visiting friends over the holiday, and they had all headed home, but the boat that was to come and get her was delayed by equipment problems for a day. So, for tonight, she was here on her own.

Maria was a tan-skinned girl, of Spanish descent, perhaps, though she had golden hair, which indicated that it was a mixed background. She was tall, slender, and still fairly young. An office worker, she never had the opportunity to just rest on the beach like this. She picked up a pack of cigarettes, her favorite brand, luckily left by one of her friends who was surely missing them right about now during a layover at the airport. She packed them softly, jut a bit. Removing one from the pack, she put it between her lips, as she watched the sun touch the water. She was on the leeward side of the island, so there weren’t any huge waves. On top of that, she was in an inlet, which further calmed the water. Glassy and blue, the scent of the sea mixed lightly with the scent of tobacco, as she lit a match, and held the flame to the end of the cigarette, her cheeks concaved slightly, as she drew the fire down the slender white paper shaft, lighting it, and then shaking out the match, and tossing it onto the sand. The strong, spicy scent of the sulfur spiked the air last, as she drew the cigarette away from her mouth, and looked to see how it lit.

Maria was of the superstition that if the cigarette lit unevenly, burning down only one side, someone was having a naughty thought which included her. It was something for her personal amusement mostly, though this time, she took disappointment, in that it lit normally. She brought the slender white stick to her lips again, the ember glowing brightly in the fading light as the ocean slowly consumed the large reddish-pink circle of the sun. Maria watched it with warm detachment, feeling happy to be alone like this. It was not often she got the chance. As if toasting the sun, she exhaled long and slow, sending a plume of sweet white smoke over the horizon. From her perspective it reminded her of clouds rolling across the face of that fading hazy light. The shadows from the palms closer to the water stretched up the beach, far passing her, as more and more of the sun was eaten away by the turning of the earth.

Maria smiled again, leaning back, pushing herself with her foot again, as, again, she brought the cigarette to her mouth, closing her eyes as she took a slow, long drag on it. She held her breath a bit, feeling content and a bit spoiled, as she rocked back and forth in the near total silence. The smoke tingled in her lungs, as her body gleaned what it wanted, leaving what it did not for her to exhale.

She finally released the thin, wispy white smoke, devoid of any substance into the air, watching it caress over the sand and disperse into nothingness. The sea around her would never even catch sight of it, as the soft, occasional breeze scattered it about. The sporadic bleating of seagulls could be heard, some way away, but no sounds close. Just the soft lapping of water against the beach, and the occasional breeze ruffling the palms. The breeze was starting to pick up slowly, as the land cooled faster than the sea, and Maria opened her eyes, watching her smoke actually change direction, as the sea breeze of day shifted to the land breeze of night. She watched the smoke be pulled away from her, toward the sea, amused for a bit, before finally releasing her breath. The smooth, sweet smoke jetting silently from her slightly parted lips, as she crossed her legs, flicking her ashes to the sand, looking for ever-present fear that her ember popped off too. She always felt especially unlucky where that tragedy was concerned.

Confident that she still had fire, she rested a bit, letting the cigarette burn down a bit on its own, untended by her lips, as she watched the last crescent of sun dip below the waterline. She smiled and wrapped an arm over her chest, as the breeze cooled her skin. It had been, in her memory, the most lovely sunset she had ever seen, and it would stick in her mind forever. A perfect moment from a perfect vacation. She brought her cigarette back to her lips, that soft smile on her lips, as she pulled the smoke in, the ember sliding, sneaking, creeping toward her fingers, whittling down the length of the white shaft. She blew rather forcefully this time, watching the pink tint in her smoke from the last sliver of sunlight, before it winked out of existence below the sea. She almost half-expected a hissing sound of fire on water.

Maria gazed at her cigarette… almost gone. The sun and cigarette had gone down pretty much together. Maria took a final, long, deep drag of the sweet smoke, and flicked off the final ash, before snapping her fingers, sending the white spindle flying to the sand in front of her, trailing red sparks as it bounced and spun on the sand, to a stop. A spindle of smoke still rising as it slowly died on its own naturally, like the end of the day. She leaned back, watching the light slowly fade, the colors of the sky slipping from pink to violet, to a deep indigo, as the stars behind her, away from the light of the setting sun, started to fade into existence. The water lapped the shore, as the wind blew the cigarette closer and closer. Maria was suddenly transfixed on it, as the wind rolled it ultimately to the water’s edge, where the bright ember, fed by the breeze, winked out. Maria got up and walked slowly back to the cottage, relaxed, happy, and content.

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