Smile. It can make one think positively and feel happier.
Bullshit. If that’s the case, then why does it feel like the world is always against me?
Smile. It can relieve pain. Laughter is, after all, supposedly the world’s greatest medicine.
Ha! Bullshit. If that’s true, then why won’t it cure my eyes from leaking?
Smile. It can relieve stress and help build relationships with others.
Again bull-fucking-shit. I smile at my stepmom and stepbrother every day, and I’m pretty sure they wish I would just get hit by a car or something.
Smiles are powerful. Okay, well, I guess I can agree that smiling tricks everyone into believing a person is okay when really... They’re completely shattered on the inside.
Smile. Because it’s the easiest bold-faced lie, anyone can do.
I stare at the words on the lined paper before me. I reread it. Then a third time. I nibble on my bottom lip and tear the paper to shreds. I pull out a new sheet of paper and tap the butt of my pen against it to an imaginary rhythm with a sigh. I bite on my lower lip harder and flinch.
Crap. I think I just broke the skin. I pass my tongue against my lip and feel a slight burning sensation. I taste iron. I sigh again and rub my face, clearing my dark bangs out of my eyes. I inhale deeply and hold my breath as I once again go over my English writing assignment instructions.
“In a minimum of five hundred words, write about the importance of a smile in your life. Include the benefits as well as the effects on others...” My eyes skim through the rest of the guidelines.
I rub my face again and resume biting the rest of the skin off my lip. I cease tapping my pen and hold the point down against the fresh sheet of paper. I write my name and today’s date. I pause and begin tapping my pen again. My lip is really burning now. I press my tongue hard against it. The little bit of pain is soothing. I close my eyes and just focus on the sensation. My mind turns numb. Perfect.
The door to the covered balcony suddenly slides open behind me. My eyes immediately open, and I turn my head to see who it is. It’s late. I was hoping everyone would be in bed now.
“I want tea.”
My jaw drops slightly as I meet eyes with my stepmother. Her eyebrows point together, and she folds her arms over her chest with an exasperated sigh.
“Did you hear me?” she scoffs.
“Um, yeah. Sorry,” I mumble. “I’m working on a paper I have due tomorrow...” my voice trails off as her frown intensifies.
Smiles build relationships.
I take a deep breath and force the corners of my mouth up. “I’ll go put water to boil.”
“Be quick then!” she snaps, rolling her eyes as she turns back inside the house.
I place my pen down before standing up from the balcony floor. I stretch my arms above my head for a moment before stepping through the door.
My stepmom sits down on the ugly orange couch next to my stepbrother, Victor. Their eyes are glued to the TV as they indulge in chocolate eclairs.
I fail to stop myself from staring at the plate of pastries between them and feel an annoying pang in my stomach. I swallow and tear my gaze away from the sweets. Holding a sigh, I pass behind the couch and enter the kitchen. I pour water into the electric kettle, pull a mug from the cupboard, add a tea bag and three teaspoons of brown sugar as I wait for the water to boil.
Victor and my stepmother laugh at something on the TV. My stepmom’s name is Alice. She married my father less than a year after my mom passed away. My dad isn’t here. He’s a truck driver and is mostly on the road driving across the country. I think he’s in Vancouver right now. That’s way on the opposite side of Canada from Quebec.
Dad’s been gone on the road for about a month now. He should be coming home sometime this week or the next. I tried texting him a few times asking when he’d be back this time, but he hasn’t answered. He normally never does. I don’t know why I bother trying to reach out to him.
“Turn off the kettle!”
“Huh?” I glance at Alice and Victor, and both are glaring at me.
“Turn it off!” Alice hisses through clenched teeth.
“Oh!” I realize the water has finished, and the kettle is beeping. I must’ve really spaced out.
“Useless, I swear!” Alice shakes her head, and Victor snickers next to her.
Laughter is the best medicine.
I lightly chuckle and finish making the tea. I place it on the coffee table in front of her next to the plate of deserts and turn toward the balcony.
Victor clears his throat.
I freeze. Holding my breath, I swallow before grudgingly turning back around.
Victor stares at me expectantly. “What about me?”
I feel my eyebrow twitch.
I release the breath I’m holding and cover up a sigh with another chuckle. “I thought you didn’t like tea?”
“I don’t,” Victor responds flatly.
Victor is the same age as me. We’re both seventeen and in our final year of high school. He looks exactly like Alice. They both have caramel brown hair that they bleach blonde and a matching pair of almond brown eyes. Unlike me with my raven black hair and dark grey eyes.
I tilt my head slightly to the side. Man, all I want to do is finish my paper.
Victor groans impatiently. “Make me some coffee, stupid! God, why are you so slow?”
My smile falters, but I quickly force myself to recover. “Right...” I head back into the kitchen.
“By the way!” Alice takes a sip of her tea before throwing a nasty look in my direction. “When you do the dishes, can you make sure you wash them properly?”
“Sorry,” I say, rummaging around the kitchen again. “I’ll scrub the dishes better from now on.”
Alice shakes her head and takes another sip. “Completely useless!” she places her tea back on the table and scowls. “Why do I have to take care of you? You can’t even do the simplest of things right! Where do you get your incompetence from?”
“From his mother, most likely!” Victor smirks.
A viscid silence drifts through the room. Alice and Victor glance at me as I stand immobilized, my mouth slightly agape and my eyes wide. I stare back at them. They both sport a challenging expression, wordlessly daring me to say something back.
I press my lips firmly together and stare at the floor as I quietly carry over a mug of coffee. I place it carefully on the table in front of Victor and swiftly make my way back to the balcony. I hear the two of them chortle and feel the heat as my eyes begin to sting.
My vision is blurry when I stand back outside on the balcony, and I’m biting my top lip now.
Smile. It can relieve pain.
I realize I’ve been holding my breath and release it. It comes out shaky, and the corners of my mouth twitch upward once again. My eyes can’t hold any more water and begin to leak. I taste salty as I continue chewing on my lips. I chuckle and drop back down to the floor. Grinning, I pick up my pen and press it against my paper once more.
The art of smiling is a reflection of happiness. A smile can make one feel welcomed in an unfamiliar place. A smile can calm fear, anxiety, hurt and insecurity. A smile is so powerful that it can change the world.
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