Short Story

Small Smiles

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Most people find normalcy in their downfalls, their mistakes, their sins. They acknowledge them, shake hands with them, walk away, mostly unaffected, flawed but accepted. Unscarred.

However, when you acknowledge it and try to shake its hands, its nails dig into your skin, clasping shut and never letting you go, no matter how much you pull. No matter how much you scream to let go, you can never walk away. And when you sit in the room where darkness is present, it all comes back. Because when it’s dark, the hurt comes to light. 


“Are you even listening to me?” your friend questions from behind the counter. 

You’re at a diner yet you feel as if it’s an interrogation room, a metal table between the two of you. You nod convincingly enough for her to continue her lamentation. You’re not quite sure what the complaint is this time: a breakup, homework, school drama? As she continues talking, it clasps once more into your skin, claws out. It has a hold on you, enough to make your breath hitch and your head swim. The knowledge of what she’s whispered about you bites at the back of your mind. You try not to tell her that you know what’s been said, all the while, your heart is screaming for an explanation. 

But it’s your fault anyway. 

You’re the one who doesn’t confront her or ask her why. Try to mend the unknown broken ties. 

Instead, you sit in silence with the claws in your palms. 


It stings,  the claws in your palms, piercing your skin.

If only you were stronger, to pull away or to bear the pain. It jeers at you with a half-moon grin, glistering.

You break so easily, don’t you?

Take the blame so easily, don’t you? Take it.

It’s what you deserve in the end anyway. And you know it.

You do, you know it. 

“God, I hate the sight of her,” he say behind a closed door. Muffled conversation, muted words of contempt. 

Because even after having been the only one there for him, he can’t stand looking at you. You know this to be true before he even said it. You know this to be true from the way he avoids you. Looks away, barely says a word to you. Despite your knowing, it still stings to hear it spoken aloud. He gives you a cold shoulder when, not long ago, you lent him yours to lean on. To cry on. He holds on to things you said when you were angry, even after he held onto your hand. Your hand that burns as you try to walk away from the door, only for the claws to take hold of you. 

Because this was your fault, wasn’t it? 

It was your downfall, your mistake, to be trusting without second-guessing. 


Despite its ugly jeers and its wretched comments, its persuasive voice and its nagging presence, there are moments when it leads you to unexpected places. Places that you would shy away from and rather hide from. It urges you to make the first step across broken foundations. 


“I’m sorry,” you weep, “I’m so sorry.”

Your words are muffled on your parent’s shoulders. It had grabbed you by the hand again, and led you to their room, making the words spill out, jutted, into the air. Forced you to address the mistakes and the fumbles you kept in your heart. 

It lets go of your hand temporarily as you are in theirs. It watches from the sidelines as you shed tears of misunderstanding. They rub your back and insist that it is okay. It feels good hearing them say that forgiveness is in the cards. 

For a moment, you’re grateful for it bringing you here. 

When you leave the room, however, it entwines its fingers in yours, gripping once more. Lightly this time, but a faint feeling in your chest reminds you that it’s still there. It feels as though it will always linger. 

It comes to you. In the darkness, lightly, without making a sound. So familiar. You give it a hint of a smile because despite the desperation to get rid of it, you’ve lived with it all your life, an unwanted companion, but a companion nonetheless.

You’re tired, aren’t you?

Yes, I am.

Are you getting rid of me? 

Yes, I am.

I knew this time would come. 

You’ve overstayed 

It was fun though. 

No, it wasn’t 

I did help in a way, didn’t I? 

Maybe, yes. 

And when it finally releases your palm, a final handshake, you find that it’s your own fingers that open up stiff like the rusted hinges of a treasure box. An open palm with crescents imprinted by your own nails, on your own skin from holding tightly to your own mistakes, keeping them balled up in your own fists. 

Small smiles left by guilt.

When the words were too much and the comfort was not enough. When the shaking would overtake and the only way to steady yourself was to grasp onto your own hand – because there were no other hands to hold on to. You had been grasping for a single soul to bear the pain with, only for your hands to claw through air, every time. You held on to yourself, instead. Piercing your closed-up walls trying to break them down. 

But not anymore. 

No more convoluted thoughts of regret and mistakes. You will not constrict yourself to your own thoughts. Not anymore. 

The sad smiles on your palms will fade, the broken ties will thread together again, and you’ll walk away mostly unaffected, flawed but accepted. Unscarred.

Hajir Butt is an aspiring writer residing in Kitchener, Ontario. She finds passion and comfort in the folds of a book and hopes to one day create something that can make others feel. You can find her either reading, writing, painting, or curled up in a bunch of blankets trying to hide from the real world, preferably all at once.


  1. I am awestruck. I just stumbled upon this on Instagram thinking it was going to be a cute little story. I’ve read some books in my day, but let me tell you…this was honestly the. Best. Thing. I’ve read in a long time. I’ve always known you were an amazing writer but this….my mind is blown. How are so talented MashAllah!!! It’s was so profound. It made me just feel. (Don’t tell anyone, but I think a little something moved inside me.) Unlike you I’m not eloquent enough to express how much I love this. But you can know that from the bottom-est parts of my heart that this was amazing times 100. You are literally the best-est author of all time!

    • Ahh aishe you’re too kind!! I’m so so glad you enjoyed and it (I won’t tell anyone) moved you your compliments always make my heart swell ❤️

  2. This is a very interesting personification of mistakes. I like the way you treated it as if it were a separate character. Well done.

  3. Aabid Shivji Reply

    This really got me – my breathing was tensed and short reading this piece because you did such a good job putting the sheer weight into words. Mashallah!

  4. Oh my God Hajir!!! I am blown away! I literally just read the story and it was sooo good. Especially that first part. And the last part. And the middle. How did I not know you were this good of a writer?!

    Also….you just taught ne a new word. Glistering.

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