PRETENDER

I smiled at him with my hundred-watt smile.

"Stop it." He said.

"What do you mean?" I asked him tilting my head to the side.

"Smiling. Stop it. It's ugly."

My smile fell but it didn't fall to a frown. It was just a thin line of confusion.

I stared at him for a second and started laughing, "Travis, you're funny. There is no such thing as an ugly smile." I giggled into my hand.

"Angela, I think your smile is very ugly." I stopped chuckling and looked up into his captivating brown eyes.

Silence surrounded both of us.

Travis broke the silence with, "You're a fake you know that?"

I looked up at him with my usually happy grey eyes.

"I'm not a faker. How could you say that?" I asked keeping my casual bubbly attitude that I just portrayed before we had this conversation.

Actually before this we were just our regular selves, talking about everything and nothing at the same time. You know, the usual things that best friends talk about. Travis and I had been best friends since first grade; we met in the sand box when the other boys were throwing sand at my hair. I was shy and was too timid to stand up for myself. So here comes my Prince Charming. Travis pushed one of the boys to the ground and sat on him and said in the most adorable, but menacing tone, "Stop throwing things at her." That got them running. I thanked my prince, who I was so sure that I would marry one day, and gave him a big kiss on the cheek. He smiled at me and yelled teasingly, "Ah! I got the cooties!"

So I wonder how we ever got to the subject of how I was a faker from all the things we've been through, he tells me, on our last day of out senior year, the last day that we might see each other. Travis was thinking of moving to California to go and reunite with his father and I am to stay here and attend a local college just a drive away. He said he was leaving next week for his flight, I wasn't going to be there because I was suppose to visit my sick grandmother that week and spend time with my younger cousins. I leave in two days and get back after two weeks.

"You're a faker Angela. You always smile, every time I see you, you're smiling. Even when your younger brother died you smiled on his funeral! What is with that Angela! You laughed when you heard he got into a car crash and fell off a cliff! You giggled at the thought that your mother might have cancer! You patted your sister's back when she came home crying because she's pregnant! You danced when your father married a total bitch that ruined your life at home! Not once had I seen you complain or whine to me! Not once had I seen you cry! Not once had I seen you frown at any possible crisis! Heck if I died would you even care?" Travis burst out flailing his arms in some moments.

I looked around my surroundings to find my father and my eldest sister with her little baby, Thomas, watching us from the bleachers of the football field. I was about to smile and wave but then I remembered what Travis just said about me smiling at everything. I dropped my head to the ground and watched my shoes step over the green grass.

"Tell me, Angie." Travis used his nickname for me while putting a finger under my chin to make me look at him right in the eye.

"What?" I asked quietly cursing the tears that were threatening to fall out of my eyes.

"Why are you always happy?"

When I heard that my brother died, I wasn't happy. I was devastated; I didn't exactly think that it would happen to me. To my family. To my brother. I knew if I cried it would be too clichéd. So I smiled and kissed my parents goodnight like every other night. Like I didn't just lose my closest friend. As if no one died.

And as for when we found out that my mom might have cancer, I just shrugged it off and skipped to the backyard to continue on my gardening, which I was what I was doing before I heard the news. My parents knew that I wasn't fazed by those traumatic things. They just ignored me for most of the time. Mom tried smiling with me and kept trying to forget that she's sick. But we weren't even sure if she really did have cancer. The doctor said to keep looking out for the symptoms. I did look after my mom, and it turns out she didn't even have the disease. I told my family that I knew there wasn't anything wrong with mom. That is, before she suddenly died. In the middle of the day, when she was supposed to making lunch, we heard the pans falling and when we came into the kitchen, we saw her lifeless body on the floor. I remembered just calmly getting into the car and glancing once at my mom on the stretcher. Doctor said that she had a silent stroke, that she never had cancer and that all she had was that stroke. We asked why we didn't see the signs and they said that silent stroke didn't have any outward signs so no one could have suspected it.

It was a sad time for us, I might not have looked like it but I was miserable. And to make it worse, after a year, my father decided to marry a much younger woman to be a motherly figure to us. My sister ran away, coming back after a year with a baby in her stomach in tow.

It was great that we had a new family member, two actually if you count my sister's fiancé, the father of her little Thomas. Three, for our new mother.

If you even call her a mother.

She can't cook, she uses the money my dad sends us (he travels around collecting antiques, trading them and selling them.) for herself, she doesn't help around the house at all, she doesn't care about us. Actually she acts more of a teenager than my sister and I. Monique goes to clubs and parties all the time, leaving us, her supposedly kids, at the house to fend for ourselves. Vicky, my sister, has become my father and mother, but when she ran away, I was left alone with Monique, who was rarely home.

Travis has been supportive every step of the way. When my brother died, he slept beside me and just kept me busy and distracted. When my mother died, he was there to hold me even though I looked fine. I was laughing and smiling like any other day. When Monique came, he tried to hang out at my house or get me out of the house so that I won't have to deal with her. When Vicky ran away, he was with me running around town looking for her. Travis was one of those kind of friends that you just know that will always be there for you.

"Why, Angie?" Travis whispered, resting his forehead on mine.

I smiled as a tear fell and slid down my right cheek.

"Angie?" Travis looked shocked at the sight of my tears that are now spilling non-stop.

I tried laughing it off but it just made more tears come out.

"I'm sorry! I didn't mean to make you cry!" I sniffed and rubbed my nose with the back of my hand.

Travis took my face into his hands and wiped the tears with his thumbs.

"I'm sorry I really didn't want you to cry. I just wanted to know why you're smiling all the time." He paused to look away, "I want to smile like you do."

I laughed and put a hand on his cheek and caress his face.

"Travis," I started with my regular smile, tears still streaming down my face.

"I only smile because you're with me."