Fourteen [14] Father’s Days [FD] had gone by for Tanya [T] and Matthew [M] in which neither of them had a father [f]. [T]’s [f] was missing and presumed dead or as good as by [T]’s mother [m] and [M]’s [f] had died before knowing that he had a son [s] on the way. Grammar School [GS] [FD]s had been awkward for the two [2] of them, spent folding paper and gluing macaroni to a card in the name of an imaginary [f]. Wiliwaw [W] Township [TWP] was a microtown [mt] of the everyone-knows-everyone variety [ekev], so the teachers [t] had the option of (a) pretending to not know or (b) like ask [M] and [T] if they wanted to work on a card for an uncle [u] or something. Neither of the [f]less children [c] were keen on sitting out because of their familial differences [fd] even though classmates [cm] knew the score and asked passive aggressively to see what [T] and [M] were each working on, offering broad compliments [bc] on how proud the recipient of such a magnificently constructed card [mcc] would be. This went on for what felt like forever.

While not friends during the school year [sy], their [FD] vulnerability pushed them together annually and for the third straight year they met on the bench at the Pizza Place [PP] across the street from their Intermediate School [IS]. [M] had approached the last [2] years fantasizing an Erotic Encounter [EE] born from their mutual lack [ml] of a [f] figure, the result of which he thought would make [T] kind of slutty, which was the cliché about [f]less girls. Plus he had heard some things. The past year had seen a shift in [M]’s persona and he currently affected a no-one-to-look-up-to [n1tlut] flannel-based-above-it-all [fbaia] attitude that [T] found way sexier and adult than [M]’s previous sweater vest thing that he was doing. The new [fbaia] attitude, which [T] imagined was a puberty born manifestation [pbm] of [M]’s [f]less state, had her doing a little [EE] fantasizing of her own. She was very attracted to this new thing that he had going on. [M] lit a cigarette as [T] approached the bench and sat next to him.

You have an extra one [1] of those, [T] said. [M] pulled [1] out of his flannel’s pocket and flicked it to her. [T] held it between her fingers unlit and adjusted it multiple times before bringing it to her lips. [M] lit it for her. [T] coughed as she breathed the smoke in and [M] laughed.

You’ve never smoked before, [M] said. [T] nodded. [T] didn’t want to smoke at all. She wanted to be somewhere else with [M], in an abandoned classroom or the woods or anywhere private. Smoking is good. You just have to practice, [M] said. [T] imagined a version of herself [T2] and a version of [M] [M2] who weren’t sitting on this bench. Who were walking through the woods behind the [IS]. [M2]’s hand would find hers and her palm would be clammy from sweat, because even in [T]’s [EE] fantasy, [T2] was a nervous wreck about boy stuff.

[M] took a drag from his cigarette and [2] tusks of smoke billowed from his nostrils.

You look like a dragon, [T] said and [M] did not laugh but gestured at her cigarette. Now you, he said. She shook her head no but then brought the cigarette to her lips and inhaled deeply. The smoke burnt [T]’s throat and when it reached her lungs it aroused a coughing fit that muscled its way up from her gut. [M2] backed [T2] up against a tree in the woods and placed his palms against the tree’s bark on either side of her head. She could smell the sweat from [M2]’s armpits and it made her dizzy. [M] held his cigarette high up by his knuckles. There was a yellow stain there that made his skin look rotten. As the coughs finished up [T]’s head felt unattached and light as air. [M] watched cars zoom down the street. He imitated their shushing noise as they sped past. [M2] leaned in and parted [T2]’s lips with his tongue. The kiss did not taste like cigarettes, tasted only like the faint wintergreen of gum that she’d had hours before. His mouth was warm and wet but tasteless. [T2]’s right fist closed around the dangling sleeve of [M2]’s flannel and squeezed. Their tongues pushed on each other and traded back and forth between mouths scraping against rows of teeth. [M2]’s hand went above her pants and under her shirt by her hip but no higher. His thumb rubbed across her skin, causing her to goosebump. [T] shivered as her own skin reacted. [M] flicked his spent cigarette butt into the street and looked at her.

            I don’t ever even think about my [f] anymore, he said. You.

            Sometimes, she said. But it’s no big deal.

            Do you think you like are who you are because of it, he said.

            Not really, she said.

            Me neither, he said.

But when [T] said it [M] was thinking about the things he’d heard about her. The slutty [f]less cliché stuff. And when [M] said it [T] was thinking about the new [n1tlut] [fbaia] attitude that she saw in [f]less teenage boys on soap operas but now also in [M]. [T] and [M] were both embarrassed by the look in the others’ eyes that said very plainly, I don’t believe you. [M2] pulled away from the kiss and took a step away from [T2]. [T2] raised her hand to cover her mouth, as if she were surprised that the kiss had happened at all.
Don’t stop smoking that, [M] said. You look really good.

Ha, [T] said and looked at the burning end. Something about the gray with the orange glowing right behind it. The woods dissolved around [T2] and [M2] and then [M2] dissolved and [T2] faded back into [T] and there was [M] looking at her with the same look that [M2] had had in the woods as he pushed his hands against the bark on either side of her head and she could smell his sweat.