The truth behind the smile

“But you always seemed so happy!”   ‘She never said anything…?’   ‘You were always here there and everywhere, always off on holiday, seemed to have so much fun…and the stuff you had!’   ‘But he called you his Princess!’

People look but they don’t see. They hear but they don’t listen. And we, we become excellent liars.

I used to smile, a lot. It covers up so much! You can laugh through tears and say you’re crying with laughter, but really in your heart you are broken, twisted, knotted inside. You are a shell of your former self.

He had a knack of hitting me on parts of my body that wouldn’t be noticeable. There were so many times I remember trying to hold a normal conversation with friends or family, and all the while I would be physically struggling to hold my head up. He would smack me so hard round the back of the head, repeatedly, sometimes even pulling chunks of my hair out for good measure as he dragged me across the floor by it. I suppose he knew a bruised head wasn’t noticeable to the rest of the world, you couldn’t explain away a black eye quite so easily.

There were black eyes, bloody swollen noses and split lips, but these would be hidden from the world by him playing the doting husband. ‘I’ll do the school run, you stay at home in the warm.’ ‘I’ll do the shopping, then we’ll cook dinner together, how about that darling?’

I remember sitting in front of my mirror at the dressing table one afternoon. Purple half moons cradled my eyes, my lids puffy, a split fat lip and a swollen nose. I studied my reflection. I applied a thick layer of concealer, then foundation to my face. Then another, and another. Then mascara to the lashes you could just about see, and red lipstick, it was astonishing how the bloody split almost vanished. I sat and studied my unrecognisable face. Puffy, overly made-up…it wasn’t me I was looking at. I cocked my head to one side, and practised a few smiles. I remember thinking, ‘that’s actually not too bad!’ And I carried on with my day, like nothing had happened.

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