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What It Means to Smile

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She couldn’t help laughing, though her cheeks were sore from the effort of holding these still-unfamiliar smiles on her face. Valentina could always draw them out of her, no matter how far apart they were.

“It’s only been a week, chiquita,” Valentina’s voice spoke into her ear, tinny with the distance. Juliana sighed through her smile.

“A long week, Val.” Valentina hummed in quiet agreement on the other end of the line, and Juliana could perfectly envision the way she was sitting in bed, one hand twisting through her hair, the other holding the phone close to her cheek.

Ever since her fashion line took off, she had been traveling all over Mexico. It was exciting, but draining. These many-hours-long phone calls with Val were often the only thing that got her through the unfamiliar social interactions with upper class models and designers. She still felt out of place, alone in this world of wealthy socialites, but Valentina was always there to reassure her that she belonged wherever she went.

“Juls...” Valentina paused, her voice thoughtful. “What if I came to visit you there? I can take a couple days off work, come meet you and the new models. Would you have time?” Joy surged up in Juliana and she grinned unabashedly up at the ceiling of her hotel room, fingers curling more tightly around her phone as if taking Val’s hand. She had the best girlfriend in the entire world.

“Only if you have the time, Val. I know you’re busy there; that’s why you didn’t come in the first place.” Valentina started to protest, but before she could get more than a couple words out, Juliana continued. “But I’d love for you to be here.” A soft sigh filtered through the phone.

“I’d love to be there, too, mi amor.” Juliana’s heart melted a little bit more at her words.

Te amo, Valentina. I can’t wait to see you. Text me with your flight details?”

“I’ll tell the pilot to take me tomorrow. No reason to delay!” Juliana laughed again, shaking her head. The perks of having a private jet. She was still occasionally astounded at just how much money Valentina had at her disposal. Even with Juliana’s new more-than-modest income, she still saved and scrimped in a way Valentina had never in her life considered doing. “I’ll let you know when I get in. I’ll be there in time for the show tomorrow night for sure. Now, you should sleep! It’s late and I know you’re going to push yourself too hard tomorrow.” Juliana couldn’t argue with that; Valentina knew her much too well.

“But now I have something to look forward to! There’s this beautiful girl that will be coming to my show. I’ve heard she’s the most attractive woman in all of Mexico. What do you think of that?” It was Valentina’s turn to laugh, and the sound of it set Juliana’s heart ablaze in a way nothing else could.

“She sounds incredible, but there’s no way she’s more beautiful than you, bonita.” Juliana’s breath caught in her lungs. Valentina always knew exactly what to say, somehow, turning her teasing into entirely too romantic declarations. “Now, sleep. We’ll talk tomorrow! Good luck with everything, Juls. Can’t wait to see you!”

“Good night, Val.” The click of the call ending left Juliana feeling a little lonely, but she smiled and smiled, delight pulling at her tired cheeks, as the thought of Valentina’s arrival carried her into peaceful sleep.