This was written during a session of my university’s Creative Writing Society, in response to the prompt “Impressions and Expressions”. I also set myself the challenge of writing a full story, with a beginning, middle, and ending, rather than just a story excerpt, as is my wont when responding to prompts.
There was once a girl who couldn’t smile. No-one knew why, as she didn’t talk much either, in fact she didn’t do anything much at all. She had just arrived in the village one day, to live with her grandmother in the house at the top of the hill. It was unclear as to where she had come from, or how long she was planning to stay, but when she hadn’t left after four years, they assumed that she was there for good.
All that they knew about her was that she couldn’t smile, and even that was an assumption. What they knew for certain was that she didn’t. She went to school every day, ignoring the other children and even the teachers unless she was forced to do otherwise, and never ever showing even the tiniest hint of emotion. When the class clown placed a frog in the teacher’s drawer, causing the rest of the class to explode into giggles, she seemed unamused. When she was praised by the teacher for her consistently high marks, her face showed no sign of pride at her accomplishment. When the circus came to town and the faces of the other children lit up in wonderment, she remained impassive. It really was a mystery.
At first, the other children had tried to befriend the girl, and the village adults had attempted to coax information out of her, curious as to whence she had come. But they had quickly tired of being ignored and rebuffed, and soon paid her very little attention whatsoever. She had become simply “the girl who doesn’t smile”, and before long they had all but forgotten her actual name.
Until one day a new teacher came to the village school. She was young and idealistic, and worried about this quiet little girl, who had no friends and who always seemed somehow sad.
“What’s wrong with her?” She asked in the staffroom one lunchtime, and was met with looks of puzzlement by the other teachers.
“Wrong with her?” Came the response. “Nothing. She’s always been like that!”
“But haven’t you asked her why?” The young teacher replied in horror, and was met with a laugh of derision which rippled around the staffroom like a wave.
“You can talk to her if you want.” The head teacher offered, sensing the fire in the young teacher’s spirit. “But I’d be surprised if she responded. She never has before.”
Unswayed by this, the young teacher decided to try. And so, the next day, while the rest of the children played and the girl sat in silence, head bowed over her book, she crouched down beside her.
“I hope I’m not disturbing you,” she began nervously, for there was something about this girl which made everyone nervous, “but I was wondering if everything was alright?”
The girl looked up, something like surprise appearing in her dark eyes. “Alright?” She asked.
“Yes.” The teacher continued. “You never play with the other children, and you always seem so unhappy. Is there anything wrong?”
The girl looked directly into the teacher’s eyes and sighed. “Oh,” she replied. “You want to know about the smiling. Everyone’s always curious, but no-one’s ever seemed quite so concerned before. So I’ll tell you, but only if you promise to keep it a secret.”
“Of course.” The teacher swore.
The girl leaned closer, lowering her voice. “The truth is I just don’t like the people in this village. They’re so nosy, always wanting to know everyone else’s business. So I decided not to talk to anyone, so that they’d leave me alone. And then the not smiling thing irritated them so much that I decided to keep it going. I’ll be leaving in a year anyway, to go to boarding school in the city. And I can smile at home, and talk to my grandmother, so it’s not so bad.”
And with that, she stood up, collected her book, and left the room. But the teacher could have sworn that, as she paused in the doorway, she flashed her the tiniest hint of a smile.