KILL YOU TO SMILE
"Would it kill you to smile once in a while?"
Ross Whittler spoke the words. He's one of the more popular guys in school, although I can't fathom why: he's angry and moody and nothing ever pleases him. And in particular, he seems to have something against me.
All I was trying to do was leave my English classroom. The teacher was absent so we pretty much had a free lesson; and I wanted to go and ask my Science teacher about my Chemistry coursework. But to get out of the room I had to walk past Ross and all of his mates, who are those arrogant types who like to sit as far away from their desks as it is possible to be, making it damn near impossible for anyone to get past. Especially someone like me, who carries a little extra weight around the belly area, which you're trying to squeeze past their chairs.
So, I was walking past them – or squeezing past them, more accurately – when Ross opens his stupid mouth and speaks.
I felt like banging my head off the wall behind me, ruining the Year 7's Poetry display in the process. Whenever Ross speaks to me, it is to go on about the fact that I never smile.
Which is nothing new. It just so happens that when this incident occurred I happened to be in a low point of my high school social career, if that's the right phrase. Aside from my friends, everyone seemed to have something to say about me. She's depressing. She's emotionless. She's no sense of humour. She talks too much. She's obsessed with bras.
And, it appears, Kayleigh Haigh never smiles either! Giddy gosh, I should just kill myself now. Clearly, I'm offending so many people I just don't deserve to live.
Seriously, though, if you heard all the things that people say about me (the ones listed above are just condensed versions of bitchier conversations), you'd think that I was some kind of freak. It makes me think that I'm doing something wrong; it makes me feel sad; it makes me feel inadequate; and it makes me wonder why these people actually give a shit if I'm depressing, emotionless, humourless, or a chatterbox or if I'm obsessed with bras or if I don't smile enough.
I am not depressing, by the way: I used to be, in Year 8 when I was going through my emo phase and I painted my nails black and thought I was so hardcore because I knew all the words to My Chemical Romance's The Black Parade album. And I'm certainly not emotionless – I don't even have to explain that one – and hell, I do have a sense of humour! I laugh at loads of things and I know what makes me laugh. Most of my classmates are just too thick to understand the humour in an episode of Fawlty Towers.
But I'll hold my hands up and admit that I talk way too much which I'm sure is incredibly annoying but if you don't like me talking so much then don't listen. Walk away. Or, you know, tell me to shut up rather than going behind my back and bleating on about how I talk too much. Idiots.
And as for the bra thing – I am not obsessed with bras. I do like bras. I think there's something really nice about wearing a gorgeous set of matching bras and knickers with cute patterns and colours and lace and bows and shit like that. It's nice knowing that underneath the school blazer and regulation school skirt I'm wearing something that looks good. But I'm not obsessed! If anything, I'm more obsessed with what goes in the bra (hey, I like looking at boobs. So sue me.)
But out of all the aforementioned accusations it's the smiling thing that annoys me the most. I smile a lot. I spend most of my time giggling at something, which usually leads to smiling. I'm not some weirdo who sits there with a completely blank face all the freaking time. And what does Ross want me to do? Ponce around with a false, insipid smile plastered all over my face? If he does, I'm concerned. My smile can be scary sometimes.
So on that occasion I found myself boiling over slightly. It's always something and it's really annoying.
"Would it kill you to smile once in a while?"
"What does it matter to you if I don't smile?" I found myself exploding, hands on hips and trying to look as intimidating as it's possible to be while squashed in between a chair and the wall.
Ross twisted around in his seat, squinting up at me with an annoyed look on your face.
"You never smile," he responded.
"Yes, and?" I pushed myself through the chairs and I could breathe at last. "Why should that matter? Giddy gosh, it's my face and if I want to smile then I'll smile, but I refuse to walk around looking like a complete and utter tit just because some angst ridden, PMS-ing prick in my class decides that the fact I don't smile is a criminal offence to be pointed out at every available opportunity!"
Everyone was looking at me, and all of his friends looked ready to burst out laughing. In fact, one or two were already sniggering – scrap that, the whole class was starting to laugh. Ross, on the other hand, just looked at me quite coolly with one eyebrow raised. The supply teacher – an unfortunate woman in a pink dress – looked on apprehensively.
In fact, the only person who wasn't sniggering at my outburst – aside from Ross and the supply teacher, that is – was Ross' best friend, Gabe, who just looked bored, but was also looking at me as if I'd gone completely mental.
"All right," Ross said finally, rolling his eyes and tilting his chair back on two legs, "Chill. I was just saying."
"Well, you're always just saying something and I'm sick of it. Everyone's always just saying something about me and I wish people would just stop it!" Everything was boiling over. "Who cares if I'm an emotionless, humourless, depressive chatterbox who never smiles but has an obsession with bras? It's no one else's business and I'm sick of it!"
And to my horror, tears began to splash down my face and I had no other choice but to leg it out of the room, dignity lost.
About ten minutes later, I was sniffling to myself round the back of the portakabins, perched on a damp and dirty old tree stump that was surrounded by discarded coke bottles, cigarette stumps and one used sanitary towel. Lovely.
It was really dark because the thick canopy of trees that hung over the portakabins blocked out all the light and – fortunately for me – the rain that had been pouring all morning.
Pouring like the tears running down my face.
Ugh. My emo phase has returned.
Giving one huge sniff, I began to wish that I were the type of person who brought tissues to school. Even when I needed them – like when I had a cold – I never brought them. I might, occasionally, tuck some toilet roll in the sleeve of my sweater, but otherwise, I was lost.
Like then: I was all snotty and my face was soaked with tears but I had nothing but my sweater sleeve to wipe my face with, not to mention the fact that I'd got soaked running across the school yard to hide. Because it was raining.
That day was not my day.
A fresh flood of tears began and that's when I heard the crunching of twigs and leaves as someone began to walk around the portakabins. I groaned. Clearly, it was corridor patrol looking for the truanting kid with the bra obsession.
So I was surprised when Gabe walked around the corner of the portakabin, looking sympathetic with a wad of toilet paper wound around one of his hands. He walked towards me and offered the white tissue towards me.
I took it and began dabbing at my face, while he stood over me with his hands in his pockets, looking awkward.
"Thanks," I mumbled thickly.
"No problem," he replied, kicking at the dirt and twigs.
"Why are you here?" I demanded snottily after I'd wiped my face thoroughly. Gabe was, after all, a popular boy and it wouldn't do to talk to him with tear tracks and snot running down my face.
"When you ran out the room kind of went chaotic," he began to shrug. "People were laughing and the teacher was angry because you'd caused a scene and Ross was angry for different reasons –"
"Ross was pissed at me, right," I finished for him glumly, staring at my feet.
"Nope." Gabe passed a hand over his hair. "He was pissed at everyone else for laughing at you."
"Aha," I muttered under my breath, "even dicks like him can be chivalrous on occasion."
"Huh?" Gabe frowned at me, and I shook my head.
"Never mind. Carry on."
"So yeah, he got annoyed at everyone and told them all to shut up and then he said he was going to find you but the teacher told him to sit down and he was throwing a strop – you were right, by the way, he probably is PMS-ing at the moment – so I snuck out. I saw you coming behind here." Gabe stopped speaking, and shrugged his shoulders.
"So," he said a few minutes later as I began to shred the tissue he'd given me, "Who thinks you're emotionless and depressing?"
"You're forgetting humourless with an obsession for bras. Oh, and I'm a chatterbox. Apparently."
"Yeah. Who said that?" he enquires, raising his eyebrows.
"Oh, you know. People."
He looked uncomfortable. "Well, I can't really say anything about you like that because I don't know you but...honestly? You never smile."
"I do smile!" I declared indignantly. "I smile all the time! I laugh all the time! Are you and Ross blind or something?"
"No. I mean, I have seen you smile before but it just seems really rare..."
"Well, it's not. I just don't smile around you two because you're not my friends."
Gabe seemed to consider this. "Whatever the reason...It just pisses Ross off."
"But why?" I asked, my voice sounding pathetic. "Why does it matter to him?"
"Because he has seen you smile, you know," Gabe pointed out. "And, well, you know..."
I stared at him. I didn't.
"Look, Ross...In his words, Ross thinks you've got a 'pretty smile' and he 'wishes you'd show it more often', but you know what Ross is like. God forbid he should actually say that to you..." Gabe gave me a crooked smile and I felt confused.
"I still don't get it," I complained.
Gabe sighed and his bored, you-are-so-stupid look was back in his eyes. "You are so stupid," he declared, and I didn't disagree. "Ross likes you, Kayleigh. And I mean that he likes you and he has done since Year 7. I mean, no offence, but I don't get it. You've got nothing on Tina."
Tina is his drop dead gorgeous girlfriend who wears bright red lipstick and has lovely hair and is really flirty. Obviously, I've got nothing on her.
"But Ross says he likes you because you're a 'real girl' – whatever that means" – It means I'm not some stick insect clone, I thought to myself – "and he appreciates that you're clever and write good stories and he respects that you don't like breaking rules. He also thinks you've got great tits and he bet me ten quid that you wear sexy underwear, but then he called off the bet because he thought it was disrespectful to you or some shit. To bee quite basic, Kayleigh, Ross really likes you but being Ross he just has to act like a dick towards you. Because he's a dick. But you know that already."
I did know that. But right then, I didn't care that Ross was a dick because I felt quite...happy. So, he didn't think too badly of me...Unless this was just Gabe taking the piss, but he looked quite serious.
In the distance, we heard the bell ring for lunch, and we glanced at each other. I sniffed again.
"Um, well...Thanks for the tissue and..." I shrugged.
"It was no problem. So, are you going to talk to Ross, or not?" Gabe cocked his head to one side as I stood up and began to walk shakily towards the portakabins so I could get back onto the schoolyard.
"Probably," I said over my shoulder, dabbing at my eyes again. I looked over my shoulder at him. He was walking too but much more slowly, looking at the ground. "And, Gabe, thanks for telling –"
I slammed straight into something warm and solid but was saved from hitting the ground by a pair of arms that stretched out and caught me. Obviously, it was Ross who had come to the rescue.
"You found her, then," he said to Gabe, not letting go of me.
"Yep," Gabe nodded, and he walked passed us. "See you later."
And he was gone.
Ross looked down at me, suddenly looking uncomfortable. He released me. "Are you...are you okay?" he asked cautiously, looking nervous.
"I'm fine," I told him, my voice coming out in an embarrassed squeak. I could feel the blush rising to my cheeks. "I'm better."
"Look, about the smiling thing..." He began, but I held up a hand to interrupt.
"Don't, Gabe already explained about that." And then I clapped my hand over my mouth. Shit.
"Gabe – Gabe explained?" Ross' face went just as red as mine felt. "Like – everything?"
"Well. Pretty much everything." I felt a grin steal over my face, and I suddenly felt quite sly. "So, I'm a real girl, am I?" I found myself teasing.
He glared at me. "Shut up," he growled.
I stuck my tongue out at him. "Hey, you said it, not me, weirdo."
I began to walk past him, and something made me reach out and put my hand in his to tug him along. He looked down at our intertwined hands but made no move to pull away.
"Look, what you said in the classroom, about what other people say about you," Ross began to say hesitantly. "I...I don't believe that you're emotionless or humourless and...All the other stuff. It's just... I like it when you smile...that's all."
"You're cute," I told him, resisting the urge to ruffle his hair. He glared at me.
"And, you know, you could totally get ten quid of Gabe," I drawled. You know, it was the same thing that made me hold his hand and tease him, and I don't know where it had come from...maybe it was just an overwhelming feeling that if I didn't do it then I'd never get the chance again. I could just walk away and pretend nothing had ever happened but...I didn't want to.
"Huh?" Ross looked down at me, his frown deepening and turning confused. I smiled in response.
"Sexy underwear. I wear it. But you can't see it because, you know, we've only just started holding hands and I've got some morals." His frown eased up slightly and he rolled his eyes, tightening his grip on my hand. "Oh, and Ross?"
"Yes, Kayleigh," he replied.
"Would it kill you to smile once in a while?"
Thankfully, the corners of his mouth twitched up into a smile and his frown disappeared, and together, we walked back into school. Happy.
Later, I guess he'd learn that I do talk too much and I can get some really annoying giddy moods sometimes, and I eat way too much, I talk about some weird things and I do have a habit of looking at boobs sometimes...And I'd learn that he pretty much is a dick most of the time, he's too argumentative and he smiles even less than I do.
But it still worked and it managed to last.
We did smile. Quite a lot. And it didn't kill us. Which is a plus, right?
A/N: Sorry for any mistakes in this. I wrote it to a time limit (it was a writing exercise) and I'm tired, so I've not edited it as thoroughly as I'd like. Sorry about that.