Written for anti-bullying week and may be introducing religion later on so please don't get offended or anything if you think i'm out my line mentioning something. Feel free to comment as always and thanx a lot to every person who's reviewed me so far.

First Smoke

"Come on Maaariah...it's only one smoke...not chicken are you?" Gina drawled contemptuously

Mariah gazed doubtfully at the ciggarette held in Gina's hand and wondered what to do, consciously aware of the stares all around her, burning holes in her back. What was the big deal? After all, it was only one small, teeny tiny ciggy that no one except for her friends would know about and it was unlikely her parents would find out if she stuck to it in school. She had no doubt this would continue. It had happend before in other schools.

"No, 'course not..." she said in reply, her hands trembling as she took the light, papery stick and fearfully tucked it in her mouth. What the hell now? She wondered in panic, feeling her cheeks burn in embarassment. Her Dad smoked...the image of him sucking on the end of the ciggarette almost made her gag. Right...she hesitantly inhaled and felt the smoke crowd her mouth. Spitting out the ciggarette, she coughed in surprise as it flew back into the air.

She blushed as the crowd around her chuckled at her over-reaction. Gina laughed herself and said coolly,

"Gotta go now Mariah...but don't worry...you'll learn fast. Same time, same place tomorrow. See ya now," and with a brisk wave, she strutted outside with her cronies in tow.

Mariah watched them tensely as they departed and collapsed onto an overturned bucket. The tears came fast and furious and it was a total fifteen minutes later that she was able to stop and swing on her back-pack, heading home. The Sun was starting to descend and although the place wasn't dark, it looked like every corner was on fire. As she walked out the gates, Mariah saw Emily hurry towards her from across the road, where she was most probably hiding. As the two friends neared each other, Emily asked anxiously,

"Are you okay? Jeez, I've been waiting for ages. I saw Gina and her lot leaving after a while but you took ages...I thought you'd feinted or something. What did they want? Mariah?"

Mariah avoided eye contact and carried on walking at a casual pace.

"Nothing," she shrugged, "they just wanted to have a word with me about some stuff, tha's all...So, what time is it?" She asked to avoid the subject.

"Six thirty...your folks are gonna be upset you're so late and not to mention mine, they'll have a fit when I tell them about Gina-"

"Emily, shut up!"

"What?" She said taken aback.

"You heard me." Her voice cracked halfway and she felt tears sting her eyes like acid. "I don't need reminding what my parents will say and by you blabbering on about Gina, I'll be in even more deeps." She kept her eyes forward as she walked on unsteadily, miserably aware she'd just hurt her best friends' feelings.

There was a pause in the conversation as Emily wondered how to respond. Mariah had never snapped at her like that and they'd hardly ever fought. Finally, she came to the conclusion that she was in a bad mood and probably wanted to be left alone, but nevertheless, she couldn't pretend not to be hurt. Haughtiness crept into her voice as she said,

"Oh..sorry. I didn't think before talking...after all, I'm such a dumb-ass, good-for-nothing, useless person." Mariah didn't reply, successfully preventing herself from replying with equal venom.

Turning the corner, she caught the flash of the bus as it rounded the corner and came to a chugging stop at the bus stop. Silently, both girls boarded it, sitting as far away as possible from each other and headed home. Emily was still reeling from her friends' unexpected attack and Mariah sat wretchedly as she thought about what she'd said and about Gina's second lesson in smoking. It wasn't an invitation, it was an order.