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An All or Nothing Smile          Miriam N. Kotzin and Bill Turner

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Kelly always worried about his name.  The feminine sound of it made him
cringe.  So when Chris said it, she made him nervous.  Her name could have
just as well been Christina, but she was an obstinate sort.  And he had to
take her or leave, allowing her to get away with it.  She was, after all,
gorgeous and smart and witty and everything else he thought a guy named
Kelly could never hope to land.

Being an all or nothing, always or never sort narrowed his options.  Even as
she walked through the door, he thought she might well be the loveliest
woman alive.  “Do you think I’m an idealist?” he asked.

“You’re a pessimist and a cynic,” she replied.

“But if I think in the affirmative,” he said, “I’m the opposite.”

“You’re complicated.”

“You’re beautiful,” he said.  She always smiled when he said it.  That was
why he felt uncomfortable when she didn’t smile.  The order of things was
violated.  He might need to investigate.

He would try to make her smile without telling her that she is beautiful. 
He planned it all out so that on their next date he’d experiment.  And so he
did.

Chris opened the door for him.  She was wearing a pink angora sweater and
jeans. He thought that the pink sweater looked great with her strawberry
blonde hair.  And he noticed that she had a new hairstyle.  She wore her
hair up, with wisps falling around her face.  Tiny diamond studs sparkled in
her ears.   A white pearl dangled on a chain in her cleavage.  She was a
knockout, and that new hairstyle was really different from the way she’d
been wearing her hair.  She reached up and smoothed the back of her hair
with her fingers then looked at him.

Normally he would have told her right then that she looked beautiful, that
she looked beautiful before, and her new hairstyle made her look even more
spectacularly gorgeous.


He knew that his mother always preened when she came home from the beauty
parlor and wanted to hear his dad say she looked great, even though Kelly
couldn’t see anything much different. His mom had a gesture just like the
one Kelly was making.  And that’s when his dad would tell her that she
looked nice.  But he had decided that he would investigate.  If he told
Chris she looked beautiful now, he’d ruin everything.    “Um, so are you
ready to leave?” he asked.

Chris had a puzzled look on her face.

“You know, is there anything else you need to do before we go to the
movies.”

“Gee, Kelly,” she said, “I’m ready.” She looked him in the eye.  “Is there
something else you think I should do?  I’m all dressed and I’ve combed my
hair.”  Then she looked away as though she were searching for something out
in the neighbor’s yard.

“Great,” he said, “then I guess we can be going.”  He searched her face. 
Not a hint of a smile.  “I really like it that you’re on time,” he said.

“Thanks,” she said, looking solemn.  “I’m glad.”

They were sitting in the car when she said, “I bought this sweater today at
the Mall.”

“Wow!” he thought, “good choice.  And she wore it on our date.  Maybe she
had me in mind, too.”  He wanted to reach over and touch the sleeve of her
fuzzy sweater.  He said, “Oh.  It’s new.  That’s why I didn’t recognize it.”

She said nothing.  She didn’t smile.  She hadn’t moved for some time.  He
could see her reflection in the window.  Her reflection wasn’t smiling
either.

Kelly knew that he’d made a mistake.  His scientific experiments always
fail.  He would never quite understand her.  He couldn’t bear another moment
of this.  It would kill him to admit it.

“I really like the sweater,” he said.

“Uh huh,” she replied.

“Can I tell you something?” he asked.

“I suppose so.”

“I can’t seem to make you smile and it is driving me nuts,” he said.

“You think ignoring how I look will make me smile?”

“I wasn’t ignoring, I was thinking of new ways to appreciate you.”

She paused for a moment and looked at him.  Her expression was blank.  He
swallowed hard.  She sat with her lips pressed tightly together and breathed
slow, deliberate breaths.

“I was running out of ways to say that you are beautiful,” he said.

She smiled.