Promp #2 Chrysalis Experiment: “The truth behind the smile…”
The Truth Behind The Smile: Leo and Mona
“Why do you think she’s smiling?” He asked Mona as she walked slowly away from the painting. She shrugged her shoulders, stopped to contemplate the Mona Lisa one last time and then she turned away again.
“Honestly who cares? She looks like a self righteous bitch who thinks she knows everything best. It’s probably an ‘I told you so’ smile.”
He walked after her laughing, “you don’t think it’s a come-hither-smile then?” he mumbled.
“No, surely that woman was dry as a desert” she laughed a bit contentedly. He had hated that laugh once upon a time. An elderly woman glanced their way, she was holding a leather purse that once had been black but was now white from use and a pair of goggles.
Mona raised an eyebrow and smiled at the woman.
“Dry as a desert” she repeated.
“Perhaps it’s simply a polite smile, an ‘I’m being painted by this strange, crazy, dirty old man’ smile” he offered.
“No, that’s not a polite smile, it’s a smug smile if I ever saw one” Mona countered.
“Right” he said, “so that’s that then”.
“I’m bored, can we go?” she asked pretending to pout.
“You’re learning from the French girls, are you?”
When they got outside she pulled an Evian bottle out of her bag and took a big clunk from it before she offered it to him. They sat down by the pond where there was no shadow and therefore little people. He glanced at Mona.
“So …?” he started.
“So that was an anti-climax if I ever felt one” she moaned. “Can’t we do something orgasmic?”
“A club? A party? A coffeehouse with music? Anything that looks like it’s had a pulse in the last fifty years give or take a few?” she took the bottle from him and put it back in her bag.
“Sure” he said, “there are clubs but there isn’t much life until after dark”.
“Right” she said, “so a coffeehouse it is then?” she stood up and they started walking. After a few steps she stopped, took her camera out of the bag and offered it to him.
“I should have proof that I was here” she said.
“Right” he said and took her picture. She had the sun in her eyes so she squinted and the curls danced on her head with the wind. There was a smile on her lips. He figured it was a polite ‘I’m being photographed’ smile but it could just as well be a wicked grin for all he knew. He couldn’t read her more now than he had been able to read her when they were going out, five years ago.
He handed her the camera back and they started walking again.
“So do you like it here?” she asked him. It sounded like she’d been avoiding the question.
“I guess” he said, “it’s a great city and my job is…” he didn’t finish the sentence but gave her a thumb-up.
They walked quietly for a while. Occasionally she would stop, pick up the camera and photograph something, a bird in a tree, an old woman crossing the road, a kid holding an ice-cream cone with his face covered with ice-cream or something else that caught her attention.
“So you don’t think Mona was giving Da Vinci a come-on smile?” he asked her. She pulled at her bag as if it was getting heavier suddenly and gave him a glance.
“I don’t know” she said, “maybe”.
A man wearing blue suit and a briefcase strolled past them in a hurry, he looked like he was sweating.
“What do you think this guy would see in her smile?” she asked him.
“Money” he said quickly and they moved on.
They stopped in a small coffee house not far from his apartment. They sat down outside with view over the Seine. He was getting more and more nervous and it showed. When their drinks came he couldn’t help himself.
“So why did you call me?” he asked in a low voice.
“I just wanted to see you” she answered quickly, as if there was nothing to it.
“You just wanted to see me” he repeated her answer but and although she seemed to realize that he hadn’t meant it as a question she answered it anyway.
“I haven’t seen you for five years, we are friends, aren’t we?”
“I don’t know” he said, “I don’t know if we were ever friends” he looked away.
“Well then we should be” she said stubbornly. She was pouting, for real this time, staring into her drink.
“Because we are good together, we are interesting together” again she answered quickly, as if she’d had time to think about the answer.
“Isn’t that to late now?”
“Are you seeing a Parisian supermodel who doesn’t want you having female friends?” she asked him.
He shook his head.
“I don’t know if I can take you” he said. “You were a handful as a girlfriend and I’m sure you’ll be an even more of a handful as a friend” he tried to smile but it was crooked.
“Well if you’d rather have me as a girlfriend…” she smiled at him.
“If only I knew the Truth behind that smile…” he said.
She took a large sip out of her wine glass and stared over the river ignoring him.
“I think she was bored” she then said, “Mona Lisa, I mean, she was sitting there with her hands in her lap not knowing what to do and she was bored to tears.”
“Is that why you’re here? Because you’re bored?” he asked.
She shook her head, then shrugged her shoulders. “I wanted to see Paris” she said, “so I’m here. I wanted to see The Mona Lisa, so I did and I wanted to see you, so I called. End of story”.
“You haven’t changed your hair” he said to change the subject.
She shook her head, making her curls dance again. “I’ve tried, but what do you do? The only thing more stubborn than me is my hair, it refuses to be anyone’s bitch”.
“Perhaps that’s what’s behind Mona Lisa’s smile“ he contemplated.
“Well she sure succeeded, all these years later and people are still discussing her expression. That’s one wicked expression… I guess”.
He smiled and slowly his smile turned to laughter. She laughed with him, tentatively.
“Where are you staying Mona?” he asked turning serious again.
“Some hotel somewhere” she said.
“The truth behind the smile…?” he said, “is that she just wanted someone to know…” he stopped, thought for a moment, then carried on, “you know… her”. He smiled apologetically. He felt embarrassed.
“I guess you might be right, too bed nobody ever will” she said.
“Don’t you think he did?” Leo asked her.
“I don’t know… possibly” she looked at him, hand on the table.
He covered it.
“Let’s go and see if we can find a club somewhere” he said, “you can stay with me”.
She smiled. There was satisfaction in the smile.