By Sam Howroyd

She smiled with her mouth shut. He grinned back a spread out smile with his mouth wide open and his teeth glaring in the sun like he would eat her. She kind of stepped back, kind of stopped, kind of looked frightened. He didn’t notice it, or acted like he didn’t notice it, which was kind of the same thing anyway. She realised that. She wasn’t stupid. Her mother had said she was stupid. Just once, and she had apologised, but she had said it. And she was not. None of her friends thought she was stupid. Veronique said she was the smartest girl she knew. Veronique always said ‘smart’. Veronique was American. It seemed that all Americans said ‘smart’. Bill said ‘smart’. Bill was American. He said ‘smart’ when he was talking about other men he thought were intelligent, like Mr Jenkins: “Oh, that Jenkins is a smart old guy, really smart.” That is the sort of thing he would say about other men. And when other men were dressed well, were dressed smartly, as Katherine would have said, he said they were “looking swell” as if he were in a film from a million years ago. Katherine thought he acted like he was a million years old. He really did. He said stupid things that no one said and he embarrassed her all of the time when they went out. He would say things and it was like he was just trying to embarrass her. If they went to a restaurant, particularly if they went to a restaurant, he would always say something and the waiter would look at them funny, or really just look at him funny, and she would see them whispering and she would want to curl up in a ball and hide but he just did not notice, even when she pulled on his sleeve and tried to get him to stop. Anyway, they had been having a nice time and maybe later he would be OK when they went to dinner. “You look really swell,” said Katherine as he looked at himself in the mirror. He smiled at her with his mouth open.

Sam Howroyd is a writer and editor living in North London. His work has previously been published on Litro online. You can find him on Twitter here: @SamHowroyd