Celia the Acara looked at herself in the full-length mirror in her room. She thought she was rather pretty, and many others did, too, which made sense. She was nice too look at, a light shade of blue and with simply stunning eyes. There was only one thing wrong, she felt, with the way she looked.
She never smiled.
It wasn’t that she couldn’t smile, it was just that she didn’t. She had been very serious since she was a young child. When she looked in the mirror and tried to smile, she saw a lopsided grin that looked out of place on her nice Acara face. No, the ever-constant frown on her always-neutral face looked more... natural with her eyes, which, though pretty, always seemed to be calculating something, even when she smiled.
It wasn’t that she felt no emotion. She felt happy, sad, angry, just like your pets. She just never showed it, which was a definite turn-off for anyone who met her. Others would say hello to her in the Marketplace, and she would greet them back, but there was something missing.
Indeed, every day she would come into contact with others who would be intimidated by the unintentionally cold look in her deep eyes, unable to smile truthfully.
This all changed after she met Sunny.
“And it’s simply fantastic if you make it with...” A green Techo, who had walked up and wanted to make a suggestion, seeing Celia poring over a recipe looking for its ingredients, stopped talking suddenly, noticing the look in the Acara’s eyes. “I’m sorry, did I say something wrong?”
Celia shook her head. She knew she had that look again, but she didn’t know how to fix it. She just couldn’t seem to have a truthful smile. “Really, you didn’t say anything wrong.”
The Techo, still unnerved, coughed. “Well, I’d better go. Umm... I’m testing out a new recipe today. Yeah...” It muttered this last part to itself and slid away.
Celia sighed. She knew she had run off another potential friend. A friend would be a first for her.
“I saw you over there. Why don’t you ever smile?” A small yellow Usul, shorter than Celia, skipped up to Celia and looked at her, and endearing look in her wide eyes.
“I... don’t know.” Celia found herself struggling for an answer. Why didn’t she smile? Why was she always so serious? “It just... doesn’t feel natural.”
“Not natural? It’s so simple! You just smile-like this!” The Usul smiled wide, showing her perfect teeth.
Celia tried, producing a lopsided grin.
“I’m obviously going to have to work with you.” The Usul laughed. “I’m Sunny, by the way.”
And that was how Celia got her first real friend.
“See, you’ve got to learn to... smise!” the Usul bubbled. She was sitting on Celia’s bed in her room, watching her as Celia stood in front of her mirror.
“Umm... explain, please?” It had only been a few days since she had met the little Usul at the Health Food Shop, but the Usul already acted like she was Celia’s best friend. She was, of course, her only friend...
“You know, smile with your eyes! Make it look really sincere!”
“That would be easier if I could fix my grin first...”
“I’ve got a plan!” Sunny dug inside the small bag she had brought with her and produced a small contraption. Its base was a horizontal spring, and it had two rods sticking up off the sides. “You place your lips around the rods, and when I release the safety catch, the spring pulls the rods to the side, and stretches your smile to the side! No more lopsided grin!”
Celia was a bit shocked. “I never knew Usuls were so smart!”
Sunny shrugged modestly. “It runs in the family.”
Celia put her lips on the strange contraption.
“Ok, and... three... two... one!”
“I think it’s working!” It was true, the Acara felt her full lips stretching, and it felt like things were fixing themselves. Of course, it was too true to be true.
“OwowowowowturnthisthingoffSunny!” Celia started yelling as the insane invention started stretching her lips a bit too far!
Sunny, who hadn’t been paying attention, leapt over to her device and pulled it from the Acara’s face.
“Ow,” Celia muttered as she rubbed her lips. “That was close.”
“Yeah, I’ve never been a good inventor...” Sunny threw the contraption across the room into Celia's trash can.
“I’m sure you can be a great inventor one day, Sunny. Don't give up just yet!”
“Really?! I can be an inventor?”
“Of course! But, for now, let’s not do anything that would cause my smile any more harm, all right?” She said this with a joking tone, but as usual with when she showed rare emotion, only the slightest hint of a smile. “How about baking cookies?”
Sunny bounced up and down. “Okay!”
The two walked downstairs to begin mixing up dough.
“Ok, what’s next in my smile lesson, Teacher Sunny?”
Sunny smiled, and pointed to the collapsible blackboard she had brought along with her.. “We’re going to practice.”
“Smiling, of course! You haven’t smiled in such a long time, you’ve forgotten how!”
“What is there to practice?”
“Well,” Sunny began, “If you practice smiling, it will, A: start to feel natural--” She pointed to her blackboard again-- “B: You will lose the lopsidedness, and C: You will ultimately become the beautiful smiling Acara we all know you can be!”
“Uh... thanks!” Celia tried a lopsided smile.
“Remember the trusty old cliche: practice makes perfect!” The Usul smiled, showing off her perfect white teeth. “A flower only needs a bit of sunshine!”
From that day on, Celia smiled at everyone she met, and people started to notice how much nicer she seemed. Over time, the lopsided grin went away, and Sunny decided it was time for Celia’s final lesson.
“You’re doing great, Celia, but you need this last lesson. You’ve learned how to smile, but you need to learn how to smise.”
“Oh, this again. But, how do I do that?”
“Show me what you can do. Try.”
Celia smiled. She tried her hardest to produce a sincere grin.
“That’s no good, Celia. Try thinking of something you like.”
“Like, my favorite book character?”
Celia tried, but laughed.
“My favorite book character is really funny!”
“Oh, brother... How about cooking?”
“Remember that time we made cookies? I saw something in your eyes that day, pure joy. There was even a small smile on your face.”
“Ok, I’ll try.” Celia smiled and thought of her favorite recipes, recipes for chocolate cakes and frozen treats and trifles...
“And, we have a winner!” Sunny cheered, and jumped off of Celia’s bed. “You, girl, have learned to smise!”
“Are you sure about this?”
“Of course I’m sure, now go!”
Celia stepped onto the stage of the Annual Neopia Central Beauty Contest and held her bouquet of flowers in her paws. She squinted in the bright light, and let out what she and Sunny had been working on so long.
As fans in the crowd threw roses and other flowers at her, and as they clapped and cheered, the Acara had only one thought.
Thank you, Sunny.
Yay, first time in the NT. Hopefully more to come. I would love fan mail, but please send only constructive criticism.