The Smiles We Wear

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She sits up in the quiet of her apartment. Not a sound but her movement and a leave blower in the far off distance. She stares at the floor as her toes pinch at the carpet. A sigh escapes her mouth as she brushes her brunette locks out of her face. The quiet already begins to make her uneasy as she grabs her phone and turns on Pandora. She selects a station of French jazz as it fills her room. She pushes herself up from the bed, her legs getting used to the weight of her body. She doesn’t turn on a light because the pain it would cause her eyes at this point is not worth it.
She finally hears a noise in the next room as her girls rustle around. She slips on her pajama pants and comes out into the hall. She pops into their room and says good morning. The oldest is still bed and the youngest is lying on the ground next to her bed, squirming on the floor like a fish out of water. She rolls hers eyes and a small smile comes across her face as she prompts them for breakfast.
Soon the girls are sitting at the table eating cereal and watching Mickey Mouse. She wanders back down the hall after starting the coffee pot. She grabs her work outfit for the day and her bra and panties and heads for the bathroom. She looks at her tired eyes in the mirror and yawns, she pinches her little tummy and hoists her breasts up to where they were five years ago. It wasn’t too much of a difference, but that second child was like a milk vampire and her nipple had gotten so big from her abusive little mouth. She laughed when she made her nipples hard.
She took her shower and braided her hair once she was out, letting it dry in the braid. She slipped on her work clothes and tightened the straps on her bra before slipping on her shirt. Might as well make them seem like they were 25 again. She smiled and admired herself in the mirror. She was pretty, but she was definitely older. She winked at herself.
The oldest had already gotten dressed in the clothes her mother laid out for her the night before. The youngest was strewn around the couch. She prompted them to brush their teeth, and they both went into the bathroom with only being told four times, the last with a little growl. She poured her coffee into her tumbler and put her non-dairy creamer in and one sugar as she slid the toast down into the toaster. She loved bread but didn’t want to eat it all the time, so she started to make toast in the morning with some of her favorite raspberry jam.
She looked up from her toast and her eyes caught a family picture on the fridge. He was there, smiling, now he was across town. Today was the day they were going with him. She felt that familiar tightening in her chest, she would be saying goodbye to her children this morning for a whole week. She breathed deep and pushed the tears back down. She put her toast together into a sandwich and slid it into a sandwich bag.
It only took until the very last minute to get them all out of the house, still dragging the youngest behind her. She hugged them both tightly as she put them in the car. She started her old clunker that she got from her parents and pulled out of the carport and headed to their home so they could watch the youngest for the day. She saw her youngest playing with her chestnut brown hair and using it as a paintbrush on the foggy windows, a small smile played on her face. Her oldest had a thoughtful look on her face and then she locked eyes with her in the rearview. Her eyes were no longer thoughtful, but intense, and with tears at the edge of them. She knows what today means.
They pull into the driveway of her parent’s home and she gets out and walks around to her youngest’s door and lets her out and squats down to hug her tightly and stands up, her daughter’s legs swing in the air as she laughs. She kisses her on her soft rosy cheeks and sets her down. She tells her to be good for grandma and grandpa and she said she would. Grandma comes out and kisses the oldest and her daughter on the cheek and gives her a hug, she knows what today means too.
They waves as they leave the driveway. The road is long to school and her daughter sat their quietly. She told her she loved her. The daughter repeated the sentiment quietly from her seat. She looked in the rearview and saw her looking out the window but knew the face. She knew she was crying. She had a way of crying without making a single noise. She told her daughter she knew it was hard and that she would always love her no matter what happened. He daughter sniffled and shook her head.
 But them her daughter called her name and pointed out the window. In the distance a wide rainbow could be seen in the coming rain, cast by the morning sun. It looked like the clouds were raining colors. They marveled at it together. They talked about the colors. They enjoyed their moment. It was their moment. It couldn’t be stolen, it was something they would remember together. Her daughter said she should have snapped a pic, but then she said that they did, right in their heads. It was a picture for them to share. Her daughter seemed pleased with that answer.
They were at school, she came around and hugged her daughter. Then her daughter saw some friends and said goodbye as she ran away from her. She waved with a smile on her face, shielding her pain from the surface. She watched her daughter disappear into the grounds of the school, she would see her on FaceTime tonight hopefully for a fleeting moment. She got into the car and started it up, she was able to make it two blocks from the school before balling her eyes out. The tears splashed on her pants and she leaned against the wheel. She pulls her parts together and drive to work with her sunglasses hiding the trails of her tears as she wiped the strays away.

“The Smiles We Wear” by Rio Martin


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