I burst into tears again, and sat down on the curb. Ben was obviously overwhelmed by my outburst of emotion. He stood there for a few seconds, and then awkwardly sat down next to me and put his hand on my shoulder. I was surprised when I was oddly comforted by it.
When I had finished crying my eyes out, Ben stood up. I tried to smile, because I was grateful that Ben had made an effort to calm me down. I thought about all the happy thoughts that I had, playing in the park with my parents before they died, my little red ball, and anything else I could find that was even remotely comforting. With all that warmth and happiness building up inside of me, I felt like I was about to burst. I focused all of that on this one little gesture, this one little thing that so many people take for granted.
I tried so hard. It felt like I was smiling, but that was impossible. How could I, the Dead Face Girl, smile? But I could feel it! I could feel the smile lighting up my face.
I didn’t realize that I had my eyes closed until I tried to look at Ben’s expression, and couldn’t. I quickly opened my eyes, and the look on Ben’s face confirmed it. I was smiling.
I grabbed the mirror off of the curb, where I had let it drop, and looked into it. What I saw made my knees so week that I had to sit down.
I was gorgeous. My hair seemed to shine like it never had before, despite the ugly green color that it was. My skin was still pale, but it looked good now. My eyes were big, bigger than I remembered. And my lips! They were full, and pink, and they turned up in the corners. This was me. This was who I wanted to be.
A dog barked.
I stopped concentrating.
My smile faded, and I went back to being The Dead Face Girl.
But I had smiled. I was a new person.
This time it was me holding my arms out for a hug. But it was short lived. I caught sight of my watch. It was 4:35. I was supposed to be home by 4:20.
“Crap!” I said. Julie was going to be mad.
“I have to go,’ I told to Ben. “I’m ten minutes late. Ju— my Mother, likes me to be home by now.”
“Oh!” He said, sticking his hands into his back pockets, “I’ll walk you, if you want.”
“Um, sure.” I said awkwardly. You are talking to the queen of tact right here.
I hoisted my backpack on to my shoulder, and started down the street. Ben followed.
We talked about nothing in particular, and as I walked along, the glory of my smile slowly started to fade, until it didn’t seem real anymore. It wasn’t possible.
Eventually, we got to my house. “This is it.” I told Ben.
“Okay. See ya.” He said, taking his hands out of his pockets for the first time since we had started walking.
“Bye.” I said, and started to turn away, but Ben stopped me.
“Wait!” He called. I turned around. “I wouldn’t get too excited.” He said cautiously. “It could have been a trick of the light or something. I mean when you smiled. It might not have been for real.”
I felt like a safe landed on me. I thought that if Ben believed it, it might actually have been true. But he didn’t. It never happened.
I didn’t say anything; I just turned and walked away.
Ben didn’t try to stop me.