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A Beautiful Smile

By Barbara Mather

 

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My biggest fault is that I fall in love too easily.

When asked during ragging in my freshman year what turns me on, I had replied innocently "A smile."

"Then you must be getting turned on a lot" a smart alec senior had remarked.

"Not everyone has a beautiful smile" I retorted.

But I never understood my own definition of a beautiful smile. Is it a perfect set of pearly white teeth peeping through a pair of lips open just wide enough to create a tiny dimple on the cheek or is it a wide end to end smile that covers the entire face?

Before I could find out, and way before I saw him smile, I fell in love with him. He was the serious type. Young, ambitious and mature way beyond his years, he carried an aura of self importance that ensured everybody gave him the level of respect he demanded. I was told that he wasn’t in the category of what one would term ‘friendly creatures’ and I kept my distance.

But fate had other plans. Our paths crossed often and not all meetings were God created.

My roommates and I had invited him and some other close friends to dinner one night. I wasn’t much of a cook, but my contribution – rajma (kidney beans) were at the center of the table that night. He seemed to enjoy them and mentioned it once briefly.

He was the quietest of the group preferring to just watch us and let his friends carry on the conversation. Somewhere in the middle of dinner, he got a call from a friend and spoke to them at length about a cute waitress he’d met at this Indian restaurant he’d been to. It seemed to cheer him up considerably and when he returned to the living room, he launched into a verbose explanation of the events that had let up to his receiving that call. We all listened carefully at his delight and embarrassment at being teased about liking the waitress.

As dinner drew to an end I realized that I was still evaluating the kind of person he was and wasn’t quite sure what to think. As he was the only one who lived across the road to us, the others got into their cars and left. My roomies and I decided to walk him to his house. He was embarrassed and asked us not to do so.

"Come on it hardly matters – we were going to go out on a stroll anyway." I stated. My friends fell two steps behind and he and I walked silently down the road.

All of a sudden he turned to me and said, "Can I ask you something?"

Though I said "Sure" with a high degree of confidence, I realized that my heart rate had increased drastically.

"What perfume do you use?" he asked out of the blue.

"Poison" I replied amazed at when he had possibly gotten close enough to smell me and worried whether he had liked it or not. "Why?" I continued not sure if it was a good sign or a bad one.

"No reason" he replied flatly.

I thought about it all night long. Was he being nice and inquisitive or was he making a pass at me? I hadn’t the foggiest idea. I just knew that I was considerably shaken by the question.

Over the next month, we spent a good amount of time together. We’d become part of this huge gang and went out together a lot – movies, pubs, dinner, even games of Uno. Life became predictable.

Until I saw the smile. As expected, it was most unexpected.

"Can I ask you something?" I asked him one day as we sat in his car waiting for our friends to join us.

"Sure" he replied oblivious at what was about to hit him.

"Are you attracted to me?"

His first reaction was a muffled laugh that showed his shock as well as his amusement. Luckily he didn’t snicker too long. Instead he looked at me and the slightest little smile appeared on his face. It was almost like an I’m not sure I should smile but I feel like it smile. I was flirting and he liked it. I was watching him closely and he liked that too.

"What do you think?" he asked back unnerved.

"That’s not an answer", I said impatiently as I turned away embarrassed.

He seemed to think for a moment, the tiny smile still remained on his face and I began to get irritated.

"Either tell me or say you won’t", I said rather rudely not enjoying the heavy silence.

Then the smile began to broaden. Naughty, seductive, amused and definitely pleased. I could see so many feelings in it that I was amazed at how revealing a smile could be. Unfortunately I couldn’t find it in me to smile back because I was so anxious to hear what he’d say next.

"Why? Are you?" he asked me, grinning now, an eyebrow arched rather high, curiosity taking over his usually poised exterior.

"I asked you" I said, harassed now and agitation beginning to set in as I saw our friends walking towards the car. The conversation was over.

I spent another restless night, thinking. I was convinced it was a bad sign and I lost count of the number of times I derided myself for doing something so foolish.

I reached office at 10 the next morning to find an email that I’d received at 6 am. There were only three words in it.

"Yes I am"

"So what are you going to do about it?" I typed back and pressed send.

"Nothing" it came back.

"Why?" I pressed send again.

"There is no reason" he replied.

He smiled a lot more after that. He smiled when I told him he should buy the book "Tuesday’s with Morrie", he smiled when I joked about my cooking and he smiled when we went bowling. Each smile was different. Some showed affection, some showed amusement, but none was as sensual as that one had been.

The movies, dinners and outings continued. The questions didn’t. We parted several months later and continued to be close friends.

I received a call from him a year later, full of excitement at having just gotten engaged. He’d called to invite me to his wedding, which was in a couple of months. After several minutes of Congratulations and questions about his fiancÚ, followed by stock taking of all of our friends and what each one was upto now, there was suddenly a moment of silence.

"Can I ask you something?" I broke the awkwardness of the moment.

"Sure", he replied.

"How come you never initiated anything with me? What was wrong with me?" I asked, the question still nagging my soul.

"You don’t make good rajma", he joked.

"Come on, tell me seriously", I pestered.He was quiet for a moment.

"Well to be honest", he said finally, "remember that day when we were chatting in the car?"

"Yes", I remembered only too well.

"It was going so well, but I was surprised that you just didn’t smile. And you know" he continued, "Nothing is as beautiful as a smile".