She couldn’t help but feel as if it were a test. Someone taking the temperature of her temperament–trying to see if she was survivable, tolerable. The happiness affect, directly proportional to the amount of company one could expect, was a formula she knew well.
She thought about the implications of her response, about the choices that were at her disposal and quickly calculated the probability of rejection given each variable. I like this man and if I don’t configure my face into happiness it will end miserably (a word the ex used to describe her frequently). How do I fix my face?
Quickly thumbing through images of happy people in her mind, she shined on with as much enthusiasm as she could imagine conveying externally– lashes lying, lips lifting the heavy skin at the corners of her mouth.
“Yes!” she said. “Yes, I am happy today!!”
They made plans to see each other later. Her head throbbing from trying to reverse gravity as tears tried to escape down her cheek. Controlled, slow exhales aspiring for a better turn out here than her previous attempts at telling the Truth of the matter:
The truth that she was incapable of happiness since the kids left. It left that day. She left that day.
The truth that she would give anything to feel happy again, but can’t figure it out.
The truth that she was a failure at happiness.
The truth that for him she might try.