Third Host: Excerpt, Valoel

April 13, 2008

Valoel laid in the grass watching the stars. She blew a puff of smoke into the air and tapped ash off the end of her cigarette into a tray sitting on the sidewalk above her head. She let out a soft happy sigh and wiggled her bare toes in the air. It was one of those perfect nights. Enough moonlight to see reasonably and a soft breeze off the mountain driving away the heat of the day. She took a final drag off the cigarette and smashed the last bit out in the ash tray. Last one. Really she should stop. It was a terrible habit and not much of an example to the kids she would be heading back into the hills to help in another week. Then again, it was nice to spoil herself once in awhile.

She stretched slowly and slid to her feat. The small patch of grass behind her apartment really wasn’t much to speak of, but she didn’t think the city would appreciate her laying around in the grass at the park late at night without a shirt. Valoel wore a simple black bra and a pair of jeans riding low on her hips. She scooped up the ash tray and carried it with her inside, emptying the contents straight into the trash before setting it back on the small table next to the sliding door. Val picked up her battered peace sign t-shirt up off the kitchen table and tugged it back on over her head, then pulled her long charcoal black hair free, letting it settle in waves down her back. Her features were soft and her face almost always graced with a smile that echoed in her soft brown eyes. She stepped over to the door and slid her feat into the flip flops waiting there. Next was the quest through her purse for loose bills. Once again she reminded herself that she needed to clean up and organize her purse and made a promise to do it tomorrow with no real intention of keeping it.

Money and keys tucked in her pocket, Val headed out the front door and up the street. The night was quiet. A few insects chirping and buzzing away, but not much else. In the distance the occasional truck roared past on the freeway, but only the faint echo of it reached into town. Val wandered through pools of light from porches and the darkness in between with a relaxed confidence you can find in smaller cities at night.

It was a pleasant walk down to the gas station, two streets up from her apartment. The ding of the door opening drew the cashiers attention away from a magazine. The lady smiled and reached up, grabbing Val’s cigarettes of choice and settled them on the counter. “Anything else tonight, dearie?”

Val smiled and leaned against the counter, “One of these days I AM going to quit, you know. Then you wont know what to do with me when I come in.”

The cashier laughed and rang it up, “You should, it’d be good for you. You can switch over to a caffeine fixation to help you with these late nights you tend to keep anyway. $4.53, by the way.”

Val settled a five dollar bill on the counter and tucked the smokes into her pocket. “You are a terrible influence. I don’t know why I keep coming here,” she said.

The cashier laughed again, “You want me to keep having a job, don’t you?”

“I suppose so,” said Val with an easy smile. “I’ll see you later this week. Maybe bring you something better to read then the latest celebrity crap.”

“We all need our vices, dearie. Take care of yourself.”

“You too Claire,” said Val and ducked back into the night.

Val waited until she got a ways up the street before giving in and breaking out the cigarettes, tucking it between her lips and lighting it with a battered piece-sign engraved zippo. She shook her head a bit. “We all need our vices indeed,” she thought. That and to control things that have hurt us in the past. She held out the cigarette, staring at the smoldering end a moment. She gave her head shake, not letting her thoughts linger too long on burning. Not that her memory of the whole incident was all that clear in the first place. The wrath of God himself was something she was probably lucky to not remember well. Val blew a ring of smoke into the night air and continued home.

She put the cigarette out on the sidewalk out front and circled around to toss it into the dumpster. A noise off toward the next complex drew her attention, but she couldn’t attach it to anything in the pools of light coming from the apartments. The street lamp had fizzed off again. The thing couldn’t seem to make up its mind on weather it actually worked or not. She shook her head a bit and headed inside. Probably just a cat, or a college kid not wanting to be noticed sneaking out of her boyfriends house late at night. She grinned a little at that and let herself back into the apartment to settle in for the night.

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