Chapter 16:

One Last Smoke

Annika Says No!

The air within my breath rushed inside and outside, back and forth from my chest to the outsides of my throat. My body trembled before the boy on the bench, the one who sat peacefully with a burning cigar.

“How the tables have turned,” Frey said.

“Please don’t do this.” I stepped further back.

“Why not?” Frey tilted his head. “It’s not like I’m forcing you to smoke anyway. I just want to talk about life.”

“But you don’t have to do it by smoking!” I snapped at him.

“I’m free to do whatever I want, Kwan. Isn’t that something you fully support? The idea of freedom. We have the choice to do whatever we can in this world, and we’re better off trying to enjoy every minute as much as we can, right?” He said with a straight face.

I tucked in my lips. My own philosophies were used against me. I only have myself to blame. It was I who decided to look after him when he was all alone, and it was I who made him start smoking. Just because I thought it was a fun idea. He turned out this way, all because of me.

“Frey.” I grasped my fists. “I was wrong. We don’t need to smoke to enjoy life.”

“But it feels good.” Frey blew out another stream of smoke.

I covered half of my face with my shirt to protect myself from the gray gas, yet I still felt its particles sneaking its way into my nostrils. It felt like an exhilarating amount of fresh air for me, but I couldn’t allow it to take control of my impulses. The shadows within me grew prominent through each inhalation of air, so I couldn’t let my guard down.

“Smoking will kill you!” I said and coughed.

“We’ll all die eventually. It’s only a matter of when. So why shouldn’t I just die enjoying this lovely cigarette?” Frey started twirling the cylinder around.”

I clicked my tongue. He’s always been good with making points. That was one of the reasons why I loved talking to him so much, especially when we used to smoke together. He was a man who didn’t like to speak, but always had the best things to say. However, I can’t allow myself to lose this fight.

It was me who brought him to this path, so it's my responsibility to save him.

Luckily for me, I had artillery to fire back with. Annika’s arguments.

“Smoking won’t give you a peaceful death. It will tear away at your lungs and mutilate your chest, destroying the way you breathe until the day you finally lose all air. It will be a life of suffering. Do you really want your life to turn out that way?”

I coughed as some of the smoke made its way into my mouth.

“You and Max already look like you're suffering as you persist on the idea of quitting.” Frey pointed his cigarette towards me. “It’s going to hurt either way, so what does it matter?”

“The difference is that you’re going to harm others along the way. Second-hand smoking is even worse, you know?”

Frey looked around. “That’s why I’m smoking here, away from everyone.”

"But you're with me, idiot."

"It's fine, you're already a smoker anyway."

"Was a smoker." I corrected him.

Frey looked at me for a moment and sighed. He got up from his seat and knelt down to crush his cigarette down into the ground, making a small splatter of black powder on the floor. He then picked up another cigarette from his box and walked up to me.

"We're just talking in circles at this point," Frey said and walked closer to me.

"D-Don't come any closer." I put one foot backward, but I couldn't move after that.

My eyes were locked in on the cigarette, and my fingers itched to take hold of it. I struggled to keep myself together at this point. My arms trembled to reach out for it, but I resisted it with all my willpower.

"Don't worry, I won't force you to smoke again." Frey shook his head. "But why not have a smoke with me one last time?"

One last time.

Those words gave me a feeling of relief. I let my arms go, and away they went. The next thing I knew, the cigarette was already in my hand.

"Nothing really matters in this world. It's all just a matter of perspective. We simply choose to bring meaning to experiences, but eventually, they will all fade away from our memories. So this time won't matter, right? We'll just forget this ever happened."

"Y-You're right. It's just this once, right?"

Frey nodded. "Just once."

I stuck the cigarette on my mouth.

It's all good, right? I'm going to quit right after. Annika will never know? Let me enjoy this one last time, then never again.

Frey sparked the lighter….and moved it towards my face.

Here it comes……


"Hell no!" I threw the cigarette away.

My sudden arm swing shocked Frey, causing him to stumble to the ground.

"Ouch," he said nonchalantly.

"S-Sorry, Frey! Are you alright?" I offered a hand.

"Yep." He grabbed my hand.

I pulled him upward and patted his pants.

"I'm fine." Frey moved my hands away.

He let out a slight grin, which was probably the most emotional way he's expressed himself.

"You're truly dedicated to the cause. I can see it now."


"Yeah." Frey nodded.

I scratched my head. "I almost ended up smoking again though."

"But you didn't. That's what matters." Frey put his lighter and cigarette box back into his pockets.

He then turned back and started walking away.

"Wait!" I grabbed his shoulder. "You're just going to leave like that?"

"There's nothing for me to do here anymore. I'm not interested in tempting you any longer. Revenge isn't my thing. It's meaningless."

He was about to move away again, but I held my grip on him.


"Why don't you join me? We can quit smoking together!"

"It's too much of a bother." Frey walked away with a wave.

"But." He turned his face back.

"If you can survive a whole year without smoking, then I'll join you. You have to prove it's possible first."

I clicked my tongue as I watched his figure move away.

"I'll show you, Frey! The legendary Kwan Kalor is going to blow your expectations out of the water!"

Just you wait, Frey. I'll save you someday. I promise.

F.C Fondness