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Ocean Eyes and a Smile

Why are you smiling?

It's kind of a long story. Well, not actually so long.

"You should know."

It's lunch time at a crowded cafeteria table full of close friends, talking and laughing. We truly enjoy one another's company. We all come from different places, different families. South Carolina, Alabama. Brazil, Germany. Right here in North Carolina. There are so many differences between us but we all mesh so effortlessly. Ocean eyes meet my own. My Christmas tree green meet hazel. Hazel meets bottomless cocoa brown. Cocoa meets grass and grass meets ice.

Somehow we get on the topic of murder. It's not the most cheerful topic, but not all that unusual with this particular group of friends. We are an unusual bunch. We understand realities normally beyond the grasp of 16-year-olds. We are the strange, the not normal, the ones who don't give a damn what you think of us because we are who we are and there is no changing that, not now, not ever.

"You should know."

Ocean Eyes tells us that he would never kill someone. We all agree with him. He is very nice. Sometimes too nice. But it's endearing. He wouldn't be Ocean Eyes without the nice. However, he adds, he would not hesitate to kill someone if that someone killed a family member. I admire that. Ocean Eyes' kindness and loyalty are my favorite parts of him.

"You should know."

I tell him I understand. No one messes with family. Especially in the south. We stick together down here. We stick up for our own. We can't expect Hazel and Cocoa and Ice to understand it, though. They aren't from here, they aren't one of us.

"You should know."

And then he says it. "You should know. If you're ever murdered, you'll be avenged." Grass and Cocoa and Ice and Hazel are oblivious to what just happened. In fact, I am oblivious.

"That's nice to know." I tell Ocean Eyes with a real smile, turning back to the group conversation we have become excluded from.

It isn't until hours later, after more laughter and conversations, quizzes and rides home, snacks and TV, that I think back to what was said while his ocean colored eyes and my Christmas tree colored ones met.

"You should know. If you're ever murdered, you'll be avenged."

With wide Christmas eyes, standing in my kitchen, I wonder what that means. Is he suggesting that he would be the one to avenge me? The solemnity I remember in the ocean depths tells me that the answer is yes. The smile on the freckled face around the miniature oceans, though, what does that say? Does it speak to his belief in being a southern gentleman, always? Does it tell me that he's joking? Does it simply show that he's happy, or sincere?

My Christmas eyes remember seeing happiness in the freckled face. They saw sincerity and joy. And so, hours after the fact, I smile, too.
Christmas mirrors the same expression Ocean Eyes wore half a day ago. And there is the question, "Why are you smiling?"

"You should know. If you're ever murdered, you'll be avenged."

Well, it's kind of a long story.




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