Behind the Smile

Despite the warmth her smile conveyed, her eyes didn’t follow suit. It was an artificial smile, put on after years of practice to hide the pain. Lucy’s pain was private, not something she wanted to share, so this mask was exactly what she needed to keep others at bay. No one had ever questioned it.

That is, until Gerry came into her life. They met through a mutual friend and became lovers. Lucy didn’t want Gerry to get too close, fearing intimacy, but Gerry had a way with him that meant she let down some of her defences. 

As Lucy shared more of how she really felt, she felt naked and exposed. Could she really trust Gerry, she wondered. If she dismantled her reliable coping mechanisms, was he going to be there for her.

Gerry asked her to marry him. Lucy hadn’t imagined she’d ever marry. She said yes.

They had a quiet wedding, just Gerry’s family and a few close friends. Lucy didn’t invite her family and didn’t have many friends. Gerry was aware of Lucy’s anguish but never pried. He thought, she’ll tell me when she’s ready.

They decided not to have children. It was a mutual decision. Lucy knew she couldn’t cope, and Gerry realised that, too. Gradually, Lucy smiled less often. Her expression became more haunted. Gerry held her close. Gradually, over the years, without there ever being any pressure from Gerry, she spoke of her childhood. Of its horrors. Gerry listened. He felt her pain. And slowly, Lucy began to smile with her eyes, too.

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