Category Archives: Matthew Friett

My Mother Smiles at Me

by Matthew Friett

It’s not a happy smile, nor a sad, accepting smile. It’s a different kind of smile. I don’t quite know what kind, but it’s a smile nonetheless. It’s wide. The kind where you can just see the outline of the top teeth resting against the bottom lip.

I don’t think it’s a real smile, though. I don’t think it’s a real smile because her eyes aren’t smiling. There are no creases or wrinkles, just her eyes staring at me. And they are staring at me. They’re not staring past me, or beyond me, and I know because she turns to keep looking when I move. If I shuffle over to the other side of the bed, she moves her head to keep watching me. Still smiling. Or pretending to. Now I’m not so sure.

Her feet don’t move. Just her head. Her feet don’t move unless I close my eyes. She doesn’t like it when I close my eyes. She stops smiling. And her feet move. I don’t see them, but she’s closer when my eyes open again. Normally she just stands in the corner. She never closes her eyes. I don’t want to close my eyes. It makes her stop smiling. I don’t like it when she stops smiling. And she moves.

I used to tell people about her, but no one listened. Or cared. And she’d always know. She’d always know if I’d told people. She didn’t like that either. Closing my eyes, and telling people. That’s when she stops smiling.

She’s never there in the morning or in the daytime. My room is empty. Sometimes I think I see her in the corridor at school, or at the park when I’m with my friends. I don’t tell them though. She wouldn’t like that. But she’s always there at night. When Dad sends me to bed. I know she’ll be there then, waiting, smiling. She likes it when I’m sent to bed. I used to ask not to go, to stay up instead, or to sleep in Dad’s bed. But he’d always ask why. And she doesn’t like it when I tell. I told him once. And he told me it was a horrid thing to say. And he cried. And he sent me to bed even earlier the next night.

Dad says she went away a month ago. I told him that she came back. He said she couldn’t.

So now I go to bed when he asks me to. And I don’t know why he thinks she won’t come back. She does come back. Every evening.

And she smiles at me.

Usually.