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Smile Like You Mean It

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We sit apart, me and Elli, him on the armchair across from me where I can see him smiling and laughing with my cousin, Eva, who holds my head in her lap.

One of Eva’s hands is placed on my head while the other threads through my dark hair. Me and her are spread out on the two seater sofa, although it is clearly not long enough for my legs are sticking off the far end.

I hear a loud and rather boisterous laugh and that snaps me back into the present. I look up to see that Eva has thrown her head back filled with joyous laughter. While Ellie chuckles, grinning to himself, it would seem.

I envy their carefreeness and I wish I could replicate it, make me seem more human, more natural. I know how strange and stiff I come across to other people, if I could just find a way to become more genuine, maybe I’d be more believable.

I smile, it feels tight but I am sure they won’t realise, and I ask them:

“What’s so funny?”

Eva starts outright cackling and her hands have left my scalp to cover her mouth instead.

Still confused, I look over at Elli to find he seems to have calmed down, at least more so than Eva has.

He smiles at me, his bright eyes trained on mine. “It’s nothing Moses, we’re laughing at nothing.” He tells me, his smile becoming softer as his mouth closes.

I hate that he won’t tell me, I hate how they both treat me like a child when I am older than both of them. They use the same patronising tone that my parents use, the kind of tone you’d use to a puppy. It’s frustrating and infuriating but I’ll ignore it for the sake of keeping peace.

So I smile some more and turn back to Eva who has also calmed down considerably and has placed one of her cool hands on my scalp again. I smile and lean again into the touch. I can pretend for a little while longer.