Smoke And Pantyhose 1.7

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An airplane flying from Singapore to New York will fly over Alaska. Looking on a plane Earth map, you would say this is insane, expecting the flight path to pass over Central Pacific. However, if you look on a globe Earth, you realize that this is the shortest route.

Elementary school, Geography class

In a plain, if you want to walk from point A to point B, the best option is to follow a straight line. In the mountains, a straight line will always be impossible. If anyone asks me, I never follow a straight line, but always keep my eyes at the target. Sometimes, evasive left-right movements, to avoid obstacles and to create confusion, are the best ways. Other times, they are not the best option, but doing so, you can pick-up resources to keep on going. And anyway, it is much more fun doing this then following a straight line.

In this case, my target is to make Alia - Atan happy. The first step was to convince him start smoking. Without this step, nothing can be achieved. For others, maybe. But for me, Nicotiana, it certainly is impossible. Now, with the second step: to make him have a few feminine aspects in his life. I don't think it will ever be a good option for him to go to work as a trans-gender or a cross-dresser, but in and around the house, that is another story. The best strategy was to make him stay in the railway station, dressed as a woman, as a train came. I know what will now happen. He will be under huge pressure at the mine, from all his coworkers. The news will spread through the villages around, like a thunder. But, just this is the game. In Astronomy, a bright star won't last long, it goes supernova and dies. A small, dim star, on the other hand, might last longer then a whole galaxy. The news will be on everyone's lips for a while, then they will turn to other things.

There are two weak points in my plan. One is Alia - Atan. If he fails to do as I told him and will not help with the confusion, then there will not be a blast, but an agonizing death. The second weak spot is my former family: my parents and my sisters, Abida and Cemis. I also have a brother, but he lives far from us, so he is not part of the equation... yet.

What will Atan do at the mine? I don't know. Filling my brain with puzzling questions will not help. For my parents and my sisters, I have a plan. Just hope it will work this way.

Atan's Story

I go and take the train, having no idea what will be at the mine. I've never done the things Nicotiana wants me to do, but... why not? I will play her game. She seems smarter then me. The train engineer shouted on the platform: "Atan, where's your skirt?" but I didn't bother. But, once I got in, people started to talk and look strange at me. But, I manage to go to the mine without incidents.

There, I open the computer and see the 3D image of this mine. All rock samples are on the model, with colors indicating what the laboratory found. I think I am starting to understand where is the copper. I make a decision and go to the office where works the second in command and ask for a vertical drill on the other side of mountain Octagon. If I am right, the copper deposit forms a straight line under the mountain ,to the other side, ending close to the surface and continuing over the Octagon valley.

I talk to him about this idea and he agrees. But, doing so, will require building a road to the other side... and in winter, it's a hard task. We could carry some equipment on horses, but also that is not a solution in winter. He still comes with an idea: to send a small team, with me, to take samples from the surface or dig up to a meter. This might still work... but climbing the mountain and going on the other side, now, in winter, is a hard task, since all is covered with snow.

The drill is held until spring, but he accepts my challenge.

Then comes lunch break, when everybody comes out to eat and talk. The first to come, is my good friend Turgai.

"Hey, Atan, the whole mine is talking about you. They say some people seen you on Callisto station, wearing women clothes, while Ana was making witchcraft over your head", he says.

"That is false", I answer.

I just say this, when two miners, Kong and Bagdad, come and open their meals.

"Oh, here is the lady!" says Kong, while other miners come and laugh of him.

"I swear I've seen this guy dressed as a woman!" says Bagdad.

"Me?" I answer laughing. Have you lost your mind, Bagdad?"

"Atan, you don't remember?" he says.

"Remember what? I say, acting as I knew nothing.

"I don't believe it!" says Bagdad almost screaming. "He was saying in Callisto station, dressed as a woman. He didn't even answer to my hails. And that bitch was moving her hands above his head!"

"Bagdad, are you drunk?" I say, a bit bothered. "How could I be dressed as a woman?"

"Shut up, infidel! How could I be drunk when I am a Muslim? How about that, Kong?"

"My wife was in the train too", says Kebab, another miner. "I didn't believe her!"

"Kebab, just how could I dress like a woman?" I ask him with a false anger.

"She was on the train platform, watching you dressed as a woman, while Ana was focus on her spell, man! Ask her! My wife came from her mother!"

"What is all this about?" I answer very surprised. "Are you making funny of me?"

"I was right there, in the train, Atan", says Bagdad again. "You remember nothing, buddy? Oh, man! Just as that bitch said he won't remember anything!"

"I told you to get out of there", says Kong.

"I don't believe you", I say. "I was in the house, watching TV. I remember when Nicotiana said that a train is coming. I didn't lost my mind, Bagdad".

"You don't believe me? Listen, Kong! He doesn't believe me!"

"Atan, you don't remember?" asks Kong, surprised.

"Witchcraft!"

The voice is from a woman I know. She is Sofia, she keeps a small shop near the mine. Everybody looks at her as silence covers all.

"We have two witnesses!" she says. "First one is Sword, the train engineer. He slept here over the night, in the engine! I came to bring him a warm cup of coffee. He confessed to me, but I didn't believe!"

"Sword?" says Kong.

"Yea, Sword", continues Sofia. "You all know him".

People laugh, because they know that Sword has an extra-marriage relationship with Sofia... or at least that is what they say.

"Silence!" shouts Sofia. "Bagdad, are you sure you've seen this with your eyes?"

"I am sure!" he shouts.

"Can you swear on your gods?"

"For the holly name of Allah, woman!", he says. "What do you think? That I would invent such a story and say all this crap here? Did Atan do anything bad to me?"

"I am born in these mountains and know them very well", continues Sofia. "And I know Ana. But I've never imagined she can do such a sorcery. Atan, what do you say for yourself?"

"I say what I said: that I was in home, watching TV. I remember well, when she went out saying that a train is coming", I answer, with a strong accent on every word. "And you, people, are just making fun out of me. Just stop this non-sense!"

"How dare you!" shouts Bagdad, full of anger. "I sworn on my mother's tomb! Do you think I would dare to lie on such a thing? I want your guts spread on the snow!"

People start yelling at us, to stop. nobody wants a fight on the snow.

"Hold it!" shouts Sofia. "Men have the right to engage, women have the right to stop. So, you both stop. This man sworn on his mother's tomb. Does anyone think he is lying?"

Everybody answers a 'no' to this.

"Do you, Atan, swear on your gods or on your parents that you were watching TV when Ana went out for the train?"

"I don't remember going to the station or wearing women clothes!" I answer, knowing that if I swear I will lie.

"Just swear, Atan!" she insists.

What should I do? Lie? I don't dare, I know the truth. Just invent something...

"I don't know. Maybe I don't remember. But how could I?" I say, scared of the situation.

"I know what I've seen!" shouts Bagdad.

Now, I see a chance, without swearing. What if I play a new track?

"Bagdad, it is not that I don't believe you, it is that I don't remember such a thing".

"So, you believe me?" he asks.

"Yes. I believe you, since you sworn, but I don't remember. How could that happen?"

People start talking one to another about this. Sofia returns to her shop. I look how everyone talks about me. I continue a conversation with Kong and Bagdad.

"Do you believe me now?" asks Bagdad.

"I do believe you, but I am shocked that I don't remember anything".

"She will kill you, man!" says a miner passing by.

"So be it", I answer... "But even so, I love her".

"Hey, Kong, you hear what he just said?" says Bagdad. "That is no good, man. She will not kill you with a knife, but slowly, piece by piece".

"Get out of that house, man", says Kong.

I stay at the computer late. I moved to the station only one minute before the train should depart, to avoid conversations. But, the train just arrives. It is a bit out of schedule. The engineer has to detach the engine and do some maneuvers to lock it on the other side of the train, so we can go. He does all as fast as possible. The engine is locked, when the engineer jumps out to take a cup of coffee. Oh no! It's Sword! As he goes to the small shop, he comes with Sofia. My heart beats wild. I know what will now happen. They both come near the crowd, while Sofia points her hand at me. She makes a sign for everyone to make silence.

"You've seen him on the Callisto station?" she asks, shouting.

"Yes, I did", answers Sword. "He was dressed like a woman. At first, I thought there were two women, one making the other one's hair".

Everyone is surprised and starts mumbling something.

"You don't remember, Atan?"

"No, he was under a spell from that witch!" shouts Bagdad. "I was in the train and seen all, but he doesn't remember a thing!"

"He was like a woman", says Sword. "With a skirt, with pantyhose like a woman, while Nicotiana was moving her hands above his head".

"I told you!" shouts Bagdad.

"People were screaming at him, but he didn't answer!" says Sword again. "Then Nicotiana said: 'He cannot hear you, he is under a spell. He won't remember anything tomorrow'. Then she cracked her hands and he woke-up and moved away just as if nothing happened".

"She is going to kill you!" says someone.

"Get out of there, will you?" says another one.

"You're not the first one she kills!" I hear another voice.

"Hurry up, people!" says Sword. "I am late".

Everybody gets in the train and we start. I sit near my friend Turgai. We don't talk. I watch the landscape, trying to get away from everyone's eyes.

"You know what I think?" says Turgai. "I think Ana really has done something to you, but you do remember something. I know she is a witch, but she cannot do such things. Maybe you are too shame to recognize that".

"I do remember something", I say, "but not clear. Anyway, whatever she does, I won't leave her. I love her and you know it".

"I think you remember more", he says. "This is why you didn't swear. If you really didn't remember, you would have swear on your gods".

He rises from the bench, as the train approaches his station. And I keep avoiding anyone's eyes, until I reach Callisto and get down from the train.

Cemis's Story

Every day, I wake up and clean the barn, give food to our horse and cows. Then I milk the cows. It is winter and they stay almost all day inside. After I milk them, I come to my parents and we eat breakfast together, then smoke together. Later, my sister Abida comes to us and we hangout about an hour every day. She is the oldest sister and got married a few months ago.

I go out from the house, to a neighbor that wants to cut a calf. We want a part of the meat and we will be paying with what we have: handmade cigarettes, which my other sister, Ana, makes in every year. She is obsessed about nicotine and smoking. Well, this is how she is since I knew her. She started smoking when she were 6 or maybe younger... and she convinced all of us to smoke. Even her name, Nicotiana, is smoky enough. But, never mind. She might be strange, but she is my sister. I go to that man and tell him that we want some meat and we pay in handmade cigarettes. He accepts, then says:

"Do you know Atan?"

"Yes, Ibrahim. Ana's new friend".

"Her new victim, I would say, Cemis".

"Their problem", I answer, lighting a cigarette. "I am not standing between them".

"I heard that she made a spell on Atan".

"Could be, I don't care".

"Cemis, he was sitting in the railway station, dressed as a woman, while Ana was moving her hands above his head!"

"This is a shock!" I answer. "Are you sure?"

"Yes, I am. And when she cracked her hands, he woke-up and moved to the house, like nothing was around him!"

"Who told you this?"

"Velvet."

I know Velvet. She stays reasonably close to the station. But I don't like her.

I return home. There, I find Abida there, with my parents.

"Ibrahim accepted the offer!" I say while entering the house.

"Cemis, do you know what Small Wonder just did?" says immediately Abida.

"Witchcraft on Atan", I answer. Who told you?"

"Iunas. He came here to tell us", says my dad.

"Did he see it with his own eyes?"

"No, but his brother went down from the train", answers Abida, finishing her cigarette.

"This girl just cannot stay out of trouble", complains dad. "I don't understand what is she up to".

"She always takes sharp decisions", mom says. "You think she is going forward, but suddenly she changes her way. But why like this?"

"What does she want to do with Atan?" asks Abida. "Kill him?"

"I don't think she wants to kill him", I answer. "I think she loves him".

"Is this her love?" asks Abida puzzled.

"First she almost killed him, then made him look like a woman!" wonders dad. "How long will that man hold on?"

"She tried to kill him to force him smoke", adds mom. "I understand this well, after all, she convinced me to start smoking. And we live by growing tobacco and selling handmade cigarettes".

"That guy must be just as weird as she is", says dad, with a bitter look.

I laugh. I never get between Ana (or Small Wonder, as my parents call her) and anyone. It always ends-up bad for anyone that tries, while Ana, I never know how, wins almost always.

"People say that she were doing witchcraft", I say.

"I can believe that", says mom, "but I don't understand the purpose for".

"This is all my fault", says dad. "It was my guilt that I let her with that over-over-cursed tourist for forest fruits. This altered her. I suffer in every day for it. My gods, will this ever end?"

"Stop it", says Abida, gently touching his hair and his back. "I think we have to go to her. We have to talk with that stranger. She tries to keep us at some distance from all, but we need to do something."

"The unwritten law says that you can cross the law of freedom if someone is in risk of losing its life", continues Abida. "But still, I don't see the risk that Atan or Small Wonder will get killed".

"Not yet", I say.

"What do you mean, dear?" looks mom into my eyes.

"It is ok if we come to her and talk with both of them. But as long as nobody is going to kill nobody, we just stay out of this. Remember when I tried to get between she and Stromboli? Small Wonder could stop him easy. I tried to stop both and got hits from both of them. They ruined my hair that day".

We agree. At noon, when my parents go to Ana, I will go to, with Abida. We have to find out what's happening there. My plan is that, if Ana doesn't want help, I will just step aside and watch what will happen. Abida, also doesn't seem to interfere much. But our parents are not like that. Well, as long as Ana does not do something unexpected, as she always does.

Ana's Story

I sit in the railway station. The train that went up to the mines, with Alia - Atan, will come back down soon. And as usual, just minutes after it, a train with coal will follow. I know the same driver will be. He will return to Jupiter, the largest station. His shift should be over, I think. Well, engineers don't work 24/7 as we do. They make arrangements one with the other, to keep the trains going on. The radio beeps just when expected.

When I was born, stations were connected by a phone line. But the soft started to glimpse. They replaced phones with beepers and buttons and started to use Morse code. But hyperinflation hit hard. People were starving and they started to steal the cables. Trains were going blind. A few collisions were nearly to happen. The huge speed restrictions avoid trains to go fast and that saved us from a disaster. After hyperinflation stopped, the mine hired an electrician, Dimitri. He came with some radio devices (in fact, walkie-talkie things), disassembled them and connected them with our beeping buttons, with portable radios and with megaphones. Each station has one main receiving antenna and two umbrella shaped antennas, to send, each one oriented to the upstream and downstream stations. Without them, trains are going blind. When a train arrives or departs, we signal upstream and downstream stations. The signal includes a long beep (to wake up who is listening), followed by a short-name of the station, direction where the train is going and an indicative of what kind of train it is. We also have a draw of the station, with links to upstream and downstream station. When a train is there, we put a rock on the draw. In past, we had a display with lights, but it is long gone.

The message says "Beeeeep! GAN P CAL". Ganymede, passenger train towards Callisto. When the train will arrive, I will send the message "Beeeeep! CAL P ALM" (Callisto, passenger train towards Almathea), both to Ganymede and Almathea stations. Then, I will signal the train to move. Sometimes, we add other messages. The most famous is "DRUNK" and it's a nightmare. A drunk train engineer. It rarely happens, but there is nothing worse possible.

Well, I focus on this, to keep my head clean of ideas. I otherwise would be in tension, since I know what happens right now at the mine and at my parents' house. Just hope that, at noon, when my parents will come, everything will go the way I want.

A few people come to take the train. They talk a lot and they look at me.

"Ana, is it true that that stranger was dressed like a woman?" asks immediately someone.

"Yes", I answer with a smile.

"How is it possible?" asks someone else.

"I made him a spell", I answer quick.

"But why?"

"No reason".

"No reason?" asks someone. "There must be a reason".

"Anyway, he doesn't remember anything", I continue.

"Ana, please, stop", says an old woman. "You're going too far! What bad thing did he do to you?"

"Nothing... yet".

"If you don't want him, just let him go, don't torture him like this", adds the old woman.

"She won't stop", says someone else. "And that stranger is mad in love after her!"

"It is our problem, you stay out of this", I add.

"You're going to kill him!" says someone else.

"No, I am not going to kill him... yet".

"But why, Ana? Why do you do all this?" asks a woman.

"I told you, with no reason".

"If you torture him, he has the right to do the same to you", says an old man.

"We'll see", I answer. "But before that happens, if ever, I will have enough fun!"

"Is this funny? I think you're insane!" says a young man.

"Insane or not, he came to me, not me to him".

"You almost killed Stromboli and Abdul. But what you do to this guy, is far beyond. You've better killed him fast, then let him suffer like this".

"What I can tell you for sure is that this is not the first time I do witchcraft on him and for sure not the last time. It is the first time he thought he is a woman, but for sure not the last one".

"Well, better you make him think he is a cuckoo bird and sing naked on the roof of the train station" says someone.

They all laugh, even I laugh.

"Maybe he will spot the trains coming better then those megaphones".

The train comes and they all get inside. All the time, I was calm, with a little, charming smile. I gave the impression of a person that did nothing. Just like if they see me smoking, I would answer calm: "Yes, I smoked another one 20 minutes ago".

Now, I must prepare for my parents. They will come soon here. Should I do something special? No, they are just my parents. I better try to cook something. Anyway, when you have visits from relatives or neighbors, you host them in the kitchen. Now, let's see... I should make a soup, but what to put in it? Let's check out what I have...

I keep cooking, until I hear radio beeps. A train is coming. I know, it is time it should come. I go and do my job. After the train passes, I return. Well, my parents will come very soon. Like everybody in here, they use the train schedule like a clock. Everyone knows when trains will come. Now, there is not much time. I hope my strategy will work... if they come alone. If they take my sisters, it will be more complicated. Well, time to make some cookies!

"Help me, Shadow!" I whisper, as I hear some voices. They are coming. From the station, they now cross the bridge over the river and it's a matter of seconds until they reach the house. I can see them on the window. They will go directly into the kitchen, as always. The door opens. Well, both my parents and my sisters. All are here.

"Oh, welcome to all of you!" I say with a smile, looking in their eyes, to see what to expect.

My parents are serious, by their look. I see in my father's eyes a pain. I know and that makes me suffer. Anytime I do something I shouldn't do, it is the same pain. He wants to change me, but he knows that I never let him to. He is just like always, with dark grey clothes and a woolen hat. My mother looks also affected, but there is a smile in her eyes. It looks more like 'what are you up to' then 'what have you done'. She is in a dark yellow winter coat, with a dark sweater. Cemis is looking like 'Ana, I have nothing to do with this, tell me what to do' and wears a blue coat with knee-long skirt and boots, but her black pantyhose are visible a she takes a seat. Abida is looking like 'I want to know what's going on and that's all' as she is wearing an old fur coat, with a dark grey knee-length skirt and boots. But again, you can see her dark-blue pantyhose. Alia - Atan will like to see this, I think. For sure, they will stay until he comes. They all want to know him better. I took my green dress, which he bought me, with a dark red sweater. And since it's cold, I took black opaque tights and layered green pantyhose over them. The result is a darker green, warmer for my feet, a good think since around the house I move in plastic slippers.

"Small Wonder", says my dad, "would you tell us what is going on?"

A fast, direct approach. I must not say I don't know, they know well. The whole village knows.

"About what?" I ask, not being curious.

"About that guy, Atan, you keep in your house", he continues.

"People say he was dressed like a woman", says Cemis with a smile, lighting a cigarette.

"Yes, it is true", I answer very calm, lighting my cigarette. "Here", I say as I put a pack and an astray on the table.

"People say you were doing witchcraft", says my mom, as she lights one.

"Yes", adds Abida, lighting one too. "Is that true?"

"Yes, I was doing a spell to him, but never expected to get things like that".

"so, it is true", says my dad, making a cloud of smoke. "But why, Small wonder?"

"This was not my plan", I say, as all the eyes watch me.

"First of all", starts my mom. "Are you trying to kill him or make him suffer?"

"No. And I sworn him I wont".

The small room gets full with smoke, like always when they all come. They want to open the door a little bit. Well, my addiction to smoking is beyond any limit. All of them smoke because of me.

"It was like this", I start speaking after taking a drag. "I've seen some strange patterns in his personality, like he wants a different life then what he has. So, I did to him what I do. I placed my hands around his head and started moving them, asking Actit for help. And suddenly, he started to talk, but with a different voice. I never experienced something like that. He said 'I am half man, half woman. With the body of a man, but the soul of a woman'. This was the first time".

"You mean you've done many times this on him?" asks Abida.

"Yes, many times. It all started after I found out that he wears pantyhose under his trousers".

they look surprised. Cemis laughs at this. Abida looks very serious. Dad looks a bit disgusted, while mom takes it like a big surprise.

"He has the body of a man, but the soul of a woman", I repeat.

"Is he gay?" asks my dad, with much disgust in his eyes.

"No, not gay, I answer. And he loves me. You see this dress? He bought to me. And many clothes".

"I knew he loves you", says Cemis with a smile, taking her cigarette to her mouth.

"But do you love him?" asks my mom.

"Yes, I do", I answer with a huge smile and release.

I see a glimpse of hope in my dad's eyes. All his pain comes from knowing I am a sfenist and I cannot have sex, so no guy will ever remain around me.

"Is he... sfenist?" says Abida, with a mathematic coldness in her eyes.

She knows I am a sfenist? I never told my sisters or my brother that, because they could tell others. Only my parents knew. They must have told them. Well, no time to show surprised, let's be calm.

"Yes, he is a sfenist", I answer, with a strong voice, almost like a man. "That's the reason why I chosen him and that's the reason I rejected all other guys over and over".

Immediately, I see a major change in their eyes. Cemis takes all with a smile of happiness, like saying 'the story looks well, there is no need to get involved... Ana is OK'. My mom looks like 'what a surprise! All my prays, all my fasting and tears have brought this guy here'. Dad doesn't look happy, like saying 'I hoped you will recover one day... or one handsome guy will take you out from this state and give me back the daughter I had'. Well, Abida looks like 'Now I get the whole story, it makes sense'.

"That happened even before I tried to kill him", I continue. Since then, he is half a man, when at work, but half a woman, when at home..."

"Doesn't it sound disgusting?" says my dad.

"Hey!" I hear my mom. "Don't you see? Small Wander hates men. You remember when she said she would like to rape all men with a... I don't remember what and then crucify all men in the world?"

"I do", says Abida, as she lights another cigarette. "Well, I think they match. They have many things in common".

"Just don't kill him, Ana, will you?" says Cemis, as she lights another cigarette.

"I didn't finish the story", I say.

"Continue, Small Wonder", says my mom, as she takes two cigarettes: one for herself and one for my dad.

"Half man, as he becomes a man at work, but half woman, as he comes at home. After I heard he saying this, he didn't remember anything. But, I gave him the widest skirt I have, which is too large for me. And he felt so naturally in it. I just couldn't believe it! So, I decided to buy a few women clothes for him, for when he is at home".

I make a little pause, to light another cigarette.

"All worked like this, without anyone knowing. All, until that night, when I made the spell again. And he said: 'It is time for anyone to know this, that inside this body lives the soul of a woman' and he stood up. I asked 'Atan, are you there?' and he said... or at least that voice said 'no, he is not here'. And I asked 'who you are' and the voice answered 'I am Alia'. So, what could I do?"

They are all shocked.

"I don't believe it", says Abida.

"I do", says Cemis.

I take a full drag of smoke and continue:

"The train was coming, so I had to go to the station. He followed me to the station, in women clothes. I did not know what to do. It was time to wake him up. I tried, but got the spell wrong. I tried again... The train was coming, so I tried and got it right, but the train was there. So, everybody seen it".

"I don't believe it", says my dad. I know you have powers, but not that much. And I never seen any wizard in the mountains, able to do that. I think that you are half true, but half this is a lie. I don't know what part. And you know that if he is a gay, the unwritten law says we will have to kill him or force him leave".

"This works only on him, on nobody else. And I don't know why. I even don't know how I did it to work like this. I do sorcery for a long time, but never made the shadow of a person to speak".

"I believe you", says my mom. "But be careful, you are doing something you don't know. Wrong spell and you'll kill him".

"That sounds plausible to me", adds Abida, playing with her long blonde hair.

"Well, Small Wonder", says my dad, you always have token strange decisions through your life. You made me cry many times, as you seem to go towards the gates of hell. I always trusted you and I will always do. Only that to me, this guy is too strange. On the other hand, he is somehow not stranger then you are".

Cemis laughs at this, while Abida watches all calm. My mom has a hidden smile, while my dad lights another cigarette and says:

"I have nothing against you, if you want to be with him. If I have something against, is his strange woman side. The only thing I do want, now, is to see him. We will wait until the train comes. Don't worry, even if it sounds strange and he might be not my type, I won't stop you. Anyway, there is no force rather then gods, able to stop you. I never could".

This is better then expected. So, if my dad accepts this, there will be peace between us. I don't want a war with my parents.

Now, let's wait the evening train...

All Together

The evening train should come soon. I hear the radio beeps, wait a bit and go to the station. There are two persons waiting at the platform, but they seem to ignore me. It looks like they heard the story and avoid me. Well, just hope Alia - Atan did what his part.

I hear the train coming. Then, I see it: the old engine, carrying 3 rusted wagons. The train stops and people go down, while the two that were waiting go up. Alia - Atan comes directly to me. He looks so exhausted. We hug each other, like after a hard day. But... while I hug him, I see that everyone is at the windows, watching us.

"Ana!" shouts a man.

"Yes, Bagdad. What do you want?"

"I've seen you last night, in train! Tell the truth or die!"

"Watch your words, or you will be dancing like a cuckoo in a tree!" I say, while other people laugh.

"Tell the truth or I'll kill you!" he insists. "Last night you were here with Atan on the platform and he was dressed as a woman!"

"That's true", I answer with a smile.

"You see?" Bagdad shouts. "She is a witch! If Atan dies, you will die too! By my hands!"

"Shut up, Bagdad", shouts Alia - Atan. "Witch or not, I love her. And if this makes her happy, I will let her even kill me!"

We get fast inside the station. I radio contact nearby stations, then signal the train to go.

"Die, bitch!" says someone as the train departs.

I look in his eyes. He had a hard day. I just imagine what happened.

"Did you tell them that you remember nothing?"

"I told them that I don't remember anything and they forced me to swear. Well, I managed not to... They all think you made me sorcery".

I hear as he tells me a few more details. After a few minutes, I say:

"Well played, partner! But now, another game awaits us. My parents and my sisters are here. They want to know you. Pretend you remember nothing from last night. I've told them that was not the first time I made you a spell and you don't remember even those events. Also, I told them you are a sfenist and they understood. I told them that you wear pantyhose and that in house you dress-up like a woman".

"You did that?" he says, not accepting my actions.

"It is the best way. Past my parents and sisters, nothing will go. Nobody will know that you are a sfenist, just as nobody knows that I am".

"I mean, about the pantyhose I wear hidden".

"Now, when the whole world knows you were dressed like a woman? It is too late. Don't fail now, it is too late. You will ruin everything. Just go to the kitchen with me, say hello to them. Then, go to the house and change in Alia. Then, be friendly to them".

We go. I can see that this is too much for him. But, not for me! I like to do these kind of things. We enter the house and say hello to all of them. I make presentations and tell them that "This is Atan. He will go to change into Alia and then we will eat". I go with him to the house and wait him in the shoe changing room. I realize it will be too hard for him to return to the kitchen on his own. It takes too long and I see he is not changing.

"come on, you will ruin everything!" I say.

"This is too much for me!"

"This should be too much for me too. I heard over 50 people today saying that they will kill me".

"Help me pick up something that will match".

I enter and help him. I pick a black and white sweater, a white knee-long dress, black tights and open-toe sandals. We go together, holding our hands, to the kitchen. We enter and I say:

"And this is Alia!"

He takes a seat and I start adjusting the table and putting food on it. I look at their eyes. Alia - Atan looks so embarrassed, even scared a bit. Cemis is smiling, even laughing a bit. She is laughing to see something she never seen, not to be against him. My mom examines him, mainly by looking in his eyes, not at the clothes too much. Her look is like 'strange guy, but good soul, definitively good for you'. My dad looks with one eye closed. Clearly he doesn't like that. It is against his wish, to have me married with a normal man. But also, I see the pain in his eyes. He has suffered more then anyone because I am a sfenist. Abida, on the other hand, watches him mathematic cold eyes, like always. She certainly accepts him, as he is not a thread to me.

The tradition says that people don't speak while eating. It is considered a sign of disrespect for the host. And this is just what is needed. My planning was perfect. It is good that for a few minutes they all look at each other, without talking. We eat the soup, then comes the second meal of the day. And then, a few cookies for everyone, with enough milk.

When many people gather together, we put a round, low table in the middle, while we all sit around it. Also, the food is placed in a large pot and everyone takes as much as it needs, in its own plate. Like always, I cook with vegetables and milk-based products. But since this is a rare occasion, I also added small slices of meat to everyone. Here goes all the meat in the house!

Then, I take the plates in a plastic basin and put water from a bucket over them. I will wash them later. I put a plastic bag full with handmade cigarettes and two lighters, together with the ashtray, so that all of us can smoke. And just as expected, we all light a cigarette.

The main problem is that Alia - Atan does not speak well yet our native language. So, on many occasions, I have to translate everything.

My dad starts to ask him general questions, like: were are you from, what religion are you, what you do, how much you earn, how is the world from where you come; general things like this. Then, my mom starts to ask him things like do you like here, have you adapted to this place, to the people, to the unwritten law... Then, my dad says:

"Do you like our daughter?"

"Yes, I do", he says.

"Do you know what she did to you last night?"

"The witchcraft? I heard from the people at the mine. I remember nothing".

My dad is so surprised! They all look at him.

"Really? You don't remember?" says Abida.

"No, nothing. When I came to the mine, people were asking me over and over again. I was so surprised, that they had to swear and I still didn't believe them".

"Are you angry on Ana for this?" asks Cemis.

"Not for what she has done, but for the way she has done", explains Alia - Atan. "I don't like that she didn't tell me anything and I found out all from the miners".

"You are not angry that she made you stay in the railway station dressed as a woman?" says my mom.

"No. I would have accepted this, if this made her happy".

"Are you angry that she tried to kill you?" asks my dad.

"No, I am not angry on that. But I was scared to death. And I still am".

"Relax! I won't kill you as long as you smoke!" I say.

"What do your parents say about our daughter?" asks my mom.

"Hey!" says Cemis. How could them know from such far away?"

"Yes, they don't know anything yet", says Alia - Atan. "But I don't talk to them much".

"You should", says my dad. "One day, you should".

"I just waited for Nicotiana to see if she will kill me. If I survive long enough, I will tell them".

The conversation lasts long in night. It changes to many subjects: from some calf meat my parents want to buy, to how are we going to plant tobacco in spring, to what if hyperinflation will strike again the next year... a lot of things. But not only.

"So, you were wearing pantyhose before?" asks Abida.

"Yes, but nobody ever noticed until Nicotiana".

I laugh.

"You like wearing them, don't you?" says Abida again.

"I do", he says.

"No problem", says Cemis, laughing and taking off her boots. "Look, I wear too! But I guess mine are a bit more transparent then yours", she says, showing her toes.

"We all wear", says my mom, showing them where her jeans end.

"All of us except dad", laughs Cemis. "Dad, put on some pantyhose, will you?"

Even dad laughs at this joke. but something to Cemis, to shut up.

"Well", says Abida, while lighting a cigarette, "you got what you deserved, Ana. Your obsession with smoking made us all start to smoke, plus all your fellow at school, high school, university, coworkers... not to mention the whole village. Now, you meet a person with another obsession, probably as strong as yours".

"Smoking is good", I reply short, lighting another cigarette.

"I know", adds Abida, but it is not about the thing itself. It is about the way you tell everyone that it is a good thing".

"Works for me!" says Cemis, lighting a cigarette for herself.

"also works for me", says Alia - Atan, lighting one.

And immediately, our parents light their cigarettes. Well, the kitchen is as large as the rooms in the house, but still small. With 6 smokers, it gets too smoky inside, but still manageable for me. I have to go, as the radio beeps and a train will come... the same train when Alia - Atan was wearing women clothes in the station. Then, I return to the house.

They all decide to go. And they do, after we smoke one last cigarette together. As they go, Cemis makes one final joke. She wants Alia - Atan not to shake hands, as men do, but to shake feet. They touch each other, knee by knee. Then, she does the same with me. My dad remains behind a bit and talks with him.

Without Ana noticing, her dad says to the stranger:

"You have no idea what this girl has been through. I realize that she did all this for a reason, she never does things at random. I think the reason is that she wants you to be happy, to allow your feminine soul to dress like a woman. You must realize that she has token a huge risk. Only to us, at least 10 people said that they will kill her. With other words, she risked her life for you. I am going to put it all, straight. If anything happens to her, I will kill you. And beware, you are not the first one I've killed".

We return to the house and make fire. We relax on the bed, watching the shadows and lights the fire makes on the walls. We lie in bed, holding one each other by hand, but in such a way that we can touch each other's feet, at the knee. We both light a cigarette and smoke with the other hand.

"Mission won!" I say. "It was a huge gamble, but I did it. From now, Alia can walk in skirts and dresses around the house. We will need some other appearances like this from time to time".

"I must say thank you", he answers. "You risked your life for me".

"It is not the first time I risk my life to make someone happy", I answer. "But as long as you don't die, nobody will kill me".

"Thank you for everything".

"You're welcome!"

"I started to like the huge confusion you created to everyone at the mine".

I laugh, dropping some ash on the bed. "It is not the first time... and for sure not the last time".

"You've done similar things?"

"You have no idea. How many tons of counterfeited tobacco I carried over the border, you don't imagine. This is how I survived at the University, by selling cigarettes. One time, I filled five benches in a train with packs of cigarettes. I just placed the packs inside the tiny gap between benches and the wall. But when I seen the police coming, I just stepped outside the train and lighted a cigarette. They discovered what was inside and one of them came to me: 'Miss, do you know what is inside the train?' 'Cigarettes', I answered. 'Do you know who put them here or where they're going?' And I answered: 'No, only that there I found this pack!' and showed him what I was smoking. But the real reason I let them discover all those cigarettes was another one. They thought they hit the jackpot, without knowing that in the next train, I had about 20 times more cigarettes placed in sacks covered with clothes. The first cigarettes went to the news, the latter ones went to make some lungs happy. And this is not the only time I took a gamble".

It is getting dark and late. We are exhausted and we must get to sleep. The plates remain unwashed in the kitchen. Maybe tomorrow. But, as we get ready to sleep, Alia - Atan says:

"Nicotiana, I think I know what should be the next step".

"What do you have in mind?"

"What if I will come tomorrow at the mine with painted nails?"

I look amazed at him. I think he is on the good track now. So, I take one of my nail polishes and start applying some color. How about a very light pink? A mixture of pink and white, in fact. I slowly apply this paint, then we wait it to dry, as we smoke one more cigarette.

One hard day has passed and everything went just as I planned.



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