Of the few happy memories Mandy had, the late night walks with Mommy and Daddy gave her the warmest feeling. Mandy couldn’t sleep during the nighttime. Daddy's tight bed tucks and Mommy's fairytales did little to calm her imagination. Mandy did not daydream about magic, robots, or falling down a rabbit hole in a magical wonderland. She daydreamed about being happy.
Mandy felt happiest looking at the nighttime sky. After tuck-in and storytime, Mandy would wait until Mommy and Daddy started having their loud talk, and sneak outside. The marbled deep deep blue and cheery sparklespots on the earth's ceiling made her calm. Mandy's favorite part of all the nighttime, was the moon. It was always changing, like the seasons. Mandy wanted to be just like the moon, the biggest, happiest sparklespot in the sky. She took every chance she could to try and touch it.
Climbing a tree.
Mommy and Daddy found out Mandy's evening pastime when she tried sneaking on to the roof. They didn't use their loud voices at her. Instead, Mommy and Daddy asked Mandy if they all could go out on walks before bedtime. A happy family activity they all could do together.
Mandy was so happy on these family walks. Daddy taught her that all the sparklespots in the sky were stars, and that they all made up pictures of animals and goddesses and spoons. Mommy showed her how to catch light up bugs and listen to the crickets leg violins. Most importantly, they taught Mandy about the the moon.
“See that? That's called a crescent moon. It looks like the moon is smiling, doesn't it?”
It reminded Mandy of the Cheshire Cat.
“Yes! Exactly like the Cheshire Cat, from your Alice book.”
Mandy tried her best to pull the biggest Cheshire Cat moon smile she could. She had a few spaces where her big girl teeth hadn't come in; in Mandy's mind, the smile was spot on.
“Careful sweetie. If you keep smiling like that, your face will stick that way.”
Mommy and Daddy thought that was funny, but Mandy couldn't think of a better thing!
All phases of the moon, she would flash her Cheshire Cat smile at the sky and wish the constellations goodnight, dreaming of smiling a big smile with the moon. Mommy and Daddy didn't have as many loud talks as before. They were the happiest family in the world.
Mandy was so happy that she could not stop smiling her giant smile. For days and days, she did not get tired. Mandy’s smile started to make her parents uncomfortable. They asked her to stop. She could not, she was happy. They were concerned for their daughter. This, and this alone, they agreed on. Weeks pass. She still smiles. Friends no longer visit.
“Your daughter looks psychotic. Have you considered getting her checked out?”
They do not take Mandy to a therapist. Months pass. Mandy's teacher calls.
“She is a distraction. None of the other children want to sit by her. I must admit that I am also disturbed by her… grotesque grin. ”
The nighttime walks stopped. They papered up the windows and stapled the curtains shut. Mandy's parents grounded her from seeing the night sky.
Still, Mandy had her own moon sized Cheshire Cat smile. Before bedtime, she would sneak a long peek at her smile in the mirror. She needed to remember what the moon looked like.
Mommy and Daddy caught her, after she locked herself in the bathroom for two hours. Mommy and Daddy were very mad. This confused Mandy, so she flashed her biggest Cheshire Cat smile to make them feel better. It didn't. It made Daddy cry. It made Mommy use her loud voice.
Mandy didn't sleep at all that night. Mommy and Daddy had another loud talk. The loudest talk Mandy has ever heard
Mandy knew it was her fault. She tiptoed her way to the attic, and sneaked on to the roof. She needed to find the happiness again.
That's when the entire moon is out and shining with all the stars and constellations in the sky.
Mandy flashed the most amazing and shiny Cheshire Cat smile she could manage. She stretched her arms out as far as they could go. All she needed was the moon, then Mommy and Daddy could be happy again. It was all there, the full moon, why couldn't she reach it? Mandy jumped as hard as she could. For a second, she was flying! She was going to be with the moon!
Everyone could be happy again.
It was dark when she woke back up. She couldn't feel her legs or fingers. She didn't see any stars in the sky. She heard a fuzzy hissy sound in her ears. She tasted dirt. The only thing she could feel was her Cheshire Cat smile. It was all she needed. She was happy.