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Smile More

Gwen Whiting is an author and museum curator living and working in Tacoma, Washington. Learn more about her work at gwen-whiting.com..

Margaret Vine could make anyone do anything if she just looked into their eyes. The fear of her own power made her sick, so she only practiced in mirrors.
It began with silly things that she thought couldn’t matter to anyone but her. Perhaps, Margaret believed, she could shape the person she wanted to be.
“Practice the trumpet for fifteen minutes every day.”
“Don’t fall over when you ride your bike.”
“Eat broccoli and like it.”
Those words worked. Margaret grew older and decided to use her power on harder things. Things that would make her the person other people wanted her to be.
“Don’t talk so much in class.”
“Only eat twice a day.”
“Smile more.”
Making and remaking herself was the only safe use of her superpower. When she used it on others, Margaret learned, terrible things happened. People changed. They died. But she couldn’t resist the urge to use it and so she did, staring at her mirror night after night until she seemed only a shadow in the glass.
People loved her now. If only she felt the same. She had given herself too much advice, cursed herself with rules.
Now Margaret stood in front of a church full of people. A man who didn’t truly know her was jamming a tiny ring on her bony finger. Margaret looked at it until she caught her own reflection in the metal. Then she swallowed hard and gave herself one last command.
“Love him.”
The End
This story was first published on Wednesday, February 16th, 2022
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