Just Sixteen

by Katya Zhukova

Her quivering hand stretched out for the cigarette and gently grasped it, while the three sneering boys looked mischievously at one another. "You'll like it, I promise," said one. She deeply inhaled, coughing ferociously, tears swelling up in her clear, curious eyes. She coughs now too: she pants and fights for her last gulps of that all-too-clean, hospital air. Her hands still shake, not from the cold, but because of her fragile, aged body. All alone, weak and powerless, trying to remember: why had she ever done it in the first place?


Katya Zhukova dreams of being an eminent artist, even though she has trouble drawing stick-figures.