The Magical Smile

 /   /  By Emma Birches
Stone Soup Magazine
September/October 2001

My Burton had a taste for dramatics. Her daily schedule was crammed full of acting lessons, ballet, and auditions. Her room overflowed with masks, stage makeup, and old playbills. Every day after school she would walk over to the acting studio where she took musical theater classes. Often, she would come home with amazing news about her budding career. Her parents knew how much she loved the spotlight. They knew of her ability to mold herself into any role, to put her heart into what she was doing. But Amy felt that, if she could be seen in a different way, her talent could shine more brightly. She soon found a way to be a shining star while mending a broken heart. However, it wasn’t how she had planned.

“Amy! It’s time to go!” called Mom. It was April 28, Amy’s twelfth birthday, and they were going to New York’s Hollywood—Broadway. They would see Phantom of the Opera, eat at the best diner in town, and ride the ferry to the Statue of Liberty. Amy was so excited she practically fell down the stairs. She had on her favorite stargazing (as she called it) outfit—bright pink flares, a white chenille sweater, and open-toe jellies. Like a filmstrip, she was ready to roll.

The pair climbed into the family’s blazing blue Chevy and blasted up the music. The spring air nipped at their cheeks and Amy’s hair sparkled yellow in the sunlight. “Sweetie,” said Mom, “before we go, I’d like to stop over at Rolesrose and pick up that crystal necklace your dad bought me.”

The Magical Smile inside a shop

“How’s it look, honey?” Mom yelled over the buzz of the cash register

“Sure, Mom,” Amy replied, and off they went.

Rolesrose was an antique shop owned by a cute old lady named Edna Berg. She seemed to have many secrets, as did her shop. It accommodated everything from glass elephants to Barbies in prom gowns to ship models and exotic souvenirs. The car stopped with a jolt, and the twosome jumped out and opened the rusty door of “antique paradise.” Amy wandered over to where the old movie cameras were. But it wasn’t the cameras she thought whimsically delightful. It was the jewelry box made of pink stained glass that fascinated Amy. A rainbow of delicately beaded figures, representing dancing women, dangled off the sides. On the top was a set of brass comedy and tragedy masks trimmed with turquoise rhinestones. Inside were various gem compartments.

Amy’s fingers crawled gently over the smooth glass and the colorful beads. The brass mask models on the dazzling box seemed to glitter and glow. Next to this box, on the same dusty shelf, was a showcased jade elephant, its varnish glinting in the dim light. Although the bright jade color was beautiful, the elephant didn’t have the same magical beauty that the jewel box had. It didn’t have the shine, the shimmer, the feeling. However, Edna Berg often referred to this elephant as her husband’s favorite. Mr. Berg claimed it took him down nostalgia lane, back to when he fought in the Korean War.

Amy looked over to where her mother was, trying on an iridescent string of crystals. “How’s it look, honey?” Mom yelled over the buzz of the cash register. Then her voice broke into a whisper. “Daddy has good taste, don’t you think?” She raised her eyebrows and Amy chuckled.

“Well, he found you, didn’t he, Mom?” Her mother smiled, then turned back to the mirror.

Amy turned back to her thoughts, too. Hmmmm, she thought. After all the times she had visited Rolesrose, she had never gathered up enough courage to look at the price of the box she admired. Today’s the day, she thought. Besides, nothing will ruin my day. It’s my birthday!

Her hand skated across the shelf the box was on with excitement, feeling for the back of the box because the shelf was so cluttered. Catching mental hold of where it ended width-wise, she edged her way carefully around to the back of the shelf. Peering through the clutter, her eye caught hold of the familiar twinkle of the jewel box. She reached in carefully and began pulling out the prized object. With an abrupt motion, her hand froze. Her nail had gotten stuck on something. She jiggled her hand back and forth and realized that in order to get the box she would have to yank it out of its place. She began to pull and felt her nail split, but her burning desire to take a peek at the jewel box’s price erased the pain. She jerked the box from the shelf and sighed a breath of relief. But before her smile had a chance to appear, she heard a glassy crash. Startled, Amy winced. She twirled around and fixed her gaze on what had fallen. It was the jade elephant!

Amy’s mouth burned; her eyes stung with pity and anger. How could she break something as valuable as this? Amy quickly began sweeping up the pieces with her sandals. She could take them home secretly and glue them together. But the right thing to do, she knew, was to tell the truth. Yet how could this one girl, who broke the most precious thing in an old man’s life, tell the truth?

Amy drew near the tear-streaked face of Edna Berg, who had seen the crash and looked as broken apart as the elephant itself. “I’m so sorry,” Amy said in tears. “I promise I’ll replace it.”

There was a long pause, interrupted by a raspy voice. “It’s not the money,” Edna sobbed. “It’s that my husband held it so close to his heart.”

Amy bit her tongue. “I didn’t know how much it meant to him,” she lied. She stroked Edna’s arm to comfort her.

“The truth is, sweetheart,” the woman began, “my husband is very sick. The doctor said he has had another stroke and is becoming weaker every day.” The poor woman collapsed to a stool in grief.

Amy waited until Edna gained back her strength. Finding her voice again, Edna exclaimed: “I wish that life was as smooth as the glass on the jewelry box you admire. If my eyes shone as brightly as those rhinestones, I’d be the happiest person on Earth. And if I could see another smile on my husband’s face, I’d be even happier. What he needs is the company of an enchanting young soul like you.”

An enchanting young soul like you. The words played again and again in Amy’s head. “Perhaps I could keep your husband company while you’re at work,” she began. Her eyes lit up with excitement as she remembered her passion for performing. “I could dance and sing for him, even write a play and perform it!” she exclaimed.

There was a moment of silence, then Edna’s face lightened and she attempted a smile. “I suppose that could work out,” she said. My husband would be delighted to have you with him! If you are willing to do this, it could make up for your mistake.”

Amy smiled and turned to her mother, who was obviously pleased. To Edna, Amy said, “I’ll be there.”

Amy and her mother left Rolesrose soon after, the crystal necklace sparkling on her mother’s neck. They decided to postpone Amy’s birthday treat for a future date. Amy glanced down at her favorite outfit. The stargazing clothes hadn’t come in handy, but she had found a star—a shining star deep within herself. She realized that the best birthday present she could have gotten was a smile from Edna.

When they reached home, hardly a minute passed before the doorbell rang. To Amy’s surprise, outside were Edna Berg and her husband. Amy caught a glimpse of a package tucked under Mr. Berg’s thin hand. He handed the package to her. She poked her fingers under the foil wrapping and was amazed at what she saw. It was the shimmering, mystical jewelry box! Amy’s smile could have reached the farthest galaxies. “Oh, I can’t accept this gift,” she exclaimed. But, on opening the box, she discovered that inside the largest gem compartment was a folded piece of paper. Typed in clear, bold lettering were the words: The only key to opening the heart is love. A single tear slid down Amy’s cheek. Lifting her gaze to thank the Bergs, she noticed something remarkable. The sight eased her mind of guilt and pain. There, under the soft glow of sunset, the couple was smiling.

The Magical Smile Stephanie Gomory

Stephanie Gomory, 12
Hewlett, New York

The Magical Smile Tania Karas

Tania Karas, 11
Palos Park, Illinois

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