A Picasso World – A Christmas Short Story

Evelyn is indeed a bright girl but no one really understands her. She has her own ideas of what the world is like. And so it really is to her. She sees the world in different shapes and colors than everyone else does. Evelyn has tried to explain that she does not think that no one understands that she sees the world differently. But again, how would she know that it is really different from from others see? Evelyn has been examined and she has been asked to draw what she sees and that’s how they knew. But everyone still thinks she’s just trying to be difficult.

It is December 24th and everyone in Evelyn’s family wishes for material things. Her sister deeply wishes to get a horse for Christmas, and her younger brother wants an electric remote controlled car. Her parents also wish for things, but they haven’t told their children about their wishes though, ‘cause they only give each other presents, and they don’t expect to get presents from their children. They don’t see their siblings that often – not even at birthdays or funerals, and Christmas is no different. And so this Christmas is going to be exactly like the ones Evelyn can remember. Evelyn is only 10 years old, and her brother and sister sometimes wish that they had only been the two of them. Sometimes they wish that Evelyn hadn’t been born even though that would mean that their parents would miss her dearly.

Evelyn was born prematurely and something indicates that she was somehow ‘malfunctioning’ from birth, but neither doctors nor Evelyn’s very own parents want to believe that angle. They just think that she’s imagining things, even though she might be a bit too old for that at 10 years old.

– “Ev!” her 12-year-old sister Matilda calls out for Evelyn, but Evelyn does not react. Her vision is different than anyone else’s but not her ability to hear.
– “Ev!” Matilda keeps calling for her sister, “I have to know what to get you for Christmas.”
– “I don’t have any wishes this year,” Evelyn sighs deeply.
– “But I’m sure there’s something you want… Anything, you name it, sis. You know it’s only Christmas once a year.”
– “Yeah, I know, Mat, but you see, I don’t wish for anything any of you can give me.”
– “Oh? Really? And what’s that?” Matilda asks intrigued.
– “I mustn’t tell you, or else it won’t come true.”
– “Really? Oh Ev, come one. Do you really believe that?”
– “Yeah, I do,” Evelyn replies proudly.
– “If you don’t tell anyone about what you wish to get for Christmas, then no one’s able to give it to you.”
– “I know,” Evelyn sighs.
– “Then what did you imagine, then?”
– “I guess that someone will hear my wish. I’m sure Santa has got something good up his sleeve for me.”
– “Santa?” Matilda looks disapprovingly at her younger sister and says, “Aren’t you a bit too old to believe in Santa?”
– “Well, I have to believe in something. I’m sure Santa will grant mu wish this year.”
– “Yeah, if I were you, I wouldn’t count on it.”
– “Why not?” Evelyn wonders out loud.
– “Because Santa too would think that you’re being a brat with all your insistence on being a brat. That’s why!”
– “I’m not a brat!” Evelyn bursts out.
– “Yeah you are. Then stop imagining that strange world of yours, Ev!”
– “I’m not imagining anything!”

Their mother sticks her head in to Evelyn’s room and asks, “Well, I’m not hearing you arguing, am I? We want good kids all year and the next as well, or else Santa won’t get you anything!”
Their mother smiles knowingly at them, but Matilda isn’t fooled: – “Oh, cut it out, mom. We don’t believe in Santa, do we Ev?”
– “No, of course not,” Evelyn shakes her head, and her older sister nods a satisfied smile at their mother, Theresa.
– “Well,” Theresa says, “Just make sure to say your prayers before you go to bed. Goodnight, and sleep tight. Don’t let the bed bugs bite.”
– “Yeah, mom,” both girls answer with one voice. Their mother smiles at both of them and closes the door. They hear her walking down the hall to their brother’s room to say goodnight to him as well. Their brother, Patrick, can be quite a brat, and he’s only 4 years old. Their parents have never told anyone, but Patrick wasn’t planned. It does not look way too random to others with first one kid, then the second two years later and then the third and last six years later. If people do ask, they tell them that they waited a bit on purpose because that didn’t have that much money at the time. And that’s true but that was not the real reason why.

Evelyn has always wanted to be an only child, but being the second would have made that impossible. Then her parents would have had to not get their first child, but that would be unthinkable because of the appropriate circumstances. They would rather have skipped Evelyn and maybe only have had Matilda. Their dad, Malcolm, has always only wanted two children, and Evelyn is sure that he would have preferred their annoying third child instead of her if they had known and had been able to choose in that way. Now that Evelyn’s here, there’s not much they can do about it. Sure they love all three children, but sometimes they just don’t get why Evelyn insists on living in her own world.
They kneel down to say their prayers, but actually they don’t speak out loud. They say their prayers inside their heads so they won’t disturb and annoy the other. Matilda prayers that she’s going to get a mervellous Christmas, but of course she wishes that what she has wished for will come true materialized into just the right Christmas presents underneath the Christmas tree.

Evelyn, or Ev, as she’s called, only has one little prayer to say. She wishes that just for one day she can be normal in their sense – seeing the world as they see it, and maybe she can understand what all the fuss is about, because she has never understood as she cannot see what they see. She can make painting of what she sees but they won’t accept it, no way. But she cannot see what they see, ‘cause if they were to draw what they see, it would still be just as how she sees it already. She prays to God that she can be normal, but what she doesn’t know is that her wish isn’t heard by God, but rather by Santa. To Santa, this kind of wish is rare, but not impossible. It will take a lot of magic and other tricks, but he can do it. He has changed the wish a bit, figuring it would be better to make Evelyn see what she sees for one day, than the other way around. Making Evelyn see their world would not solve anything. It would only make her versions of their world seem more appropriate to them if she were to draw from memory what she had seen. Santa knows the job will be tough, but none the less he takes on the assignment. He has a link with God, knowing that some people find it easier to believe in Santa than in God. Both Santa and God know that this would normally be a job for God and not Santa, but Santa has been called upon. Evelyn still believes in Santa, and she prays to God to find strength, but getting a wish come true, is Santa’s job at Christmastime. At Christmas, God is too busy granting people peace of the soul. And many people pray to God at Christmas, and many people die as well, so God is quite busy around the 24th and 25th of December.

The alarm clock beeps and Theresa reaches out to stop the alarm by reflex. She slowly opens her eyes and suddenly she doubts whether she’s still asleep. She blinks her eyes and then she blinks them again. The weird colors are too strange for her to really believe she’s awake. She pinches her arm which stopped the alarm clock and feels how it stings. She gets out of bed and takes a look outside. It’s a normal dawn and so it cannot be a strange lighting from the sunrise which causes these strange colors. She takes a more thorough look around the bedroom and she sees the weird shape her husband’s face has. She cannot believe this! She is just about to freak out, but then he opens his eyes in a split second. He could almost feel the tenseness in her rapid breathing and he sits up in the bed and then stares at Theresa. None of them speaks. They doubt whether to speak their mind. But Thesera, being the one most awake, decides not to speak her mind. She is sure that Malcolm will only think she’s become insane or something. Maybe she had some bad food yesterday which causes these strange illusions. This isn’t real! She gets herself together and manages to pretend that everything’s cool. She relaxes a bit more and then walks around the bed and lays a gentle hand on Malcolm’s left shoulder. Malcolm cannot believe what he’s seeing but by judging from his wife’s face expression and her sudden relaxedness he knows that he must have scared her by his abrupt awakening. He pretends that he’s not seeing this. He tries to tell his mind to see things as he usually sees it, but it has no effect. His brain won’t obey. Malcolm gets, mildly distracted, out of bed and goes to get dressed. He doesn’t know why, but he’s just got to check if the kids are alright. He thinks that he might have poisoned and maybe someone has kidnapped his and Theresa’s children. It has happened once long ago, when they only had Matilda and she was too small to remember today. Malcolm’s business is worth a lot of money, and so, as the managing director, he gets a more than decent pay. His wife earns quite a bit too, and it wouldn’t be that unthinkable that someone would want to kidnap their children to get money… and lots of it. Malcolm doesn’t hope that it’s the same guys who tried to kidnap his daughter the last time, ‘cause they didn’t succeed, and maybe they’ve come back to do it properly and maybe their fake guns won’t be fake this time.

Malcolm hurries out the bedroom and storms into Patrick’s bedroom. Patrick is sleeping soundly in his bed and Malcolm breathes with relief and then Theresa says from behind him, from the door: – “What’s wrong, honey?”
– “Oh, nothing… I just had that feeling you know… that they had come back.”
– “Oh!” she bursts out and Patrick moves in his sheets, “Oh,” she then says with a lower voice, “I thought you had forgotten all about them. I haven’t. I now know you haven’t either. Do you think they’re the ones who’ve done this?”
– “Done what?” Malcolm says, pretending to be confused.
But Theresa knows that she cannot fool him, nor can he fool her, although he tries. Now she knows, from his strange behavior and the ‘them’ talk that he’s seeing this too. – “I think you see the same strange shapes and colors like I do,” she says and nods knowingly down at her husband who’s kneeling by their son’s bed.
– “Oh… alright. I can’t fool you. I can fool many people in the office, in the country, even the whole darn world, but I can’t fool you. Yeah, I think we see the same things. It’s strange. Do you think it’s some kind of poison or something else?”
Theresa just shrugs her shoulders, “I don’t know what I believe. I think we’d better wake up the kids.”
– “Yeah, normally they would have been up already to find their presents, but I guess something might be wrong with them too.”
Theresa steps closer to her husband and then she gently shakes Patrick by the arm to wake him up. He wakes up right away. Then he blinks his eyes a couple of times, like he’s trying to focus, and then he bursts out: – “Your faces look funny!”
– “Oh no! Whoever has done this, he hasn’t even spared the kids!” Theresa bursts out, and then she hurries out in the hall and to the girls’ room, which they share. Although Evelyn and Matilda don’t always get along, they’d rather share rooms together than with Patrick because he’s quite loud in his sleep, and during the day he’s quite annoying like many 4-year-olds are.

Theresa slams the door open and both her girls wake up in an instant. When Matilda sees this strange new world that meets her eyes, she cannot believe it. She starts screaming and Theresa hurries to her side by instinct. She thinks something’s wrong, and so it is, but not in a life-threatening way. Finally Matilda stops screaming after Patrick and their dad have entered the room and rushed to her side as well. They’re all busy trying to calm each other, mostly Matilda, down, and no one notices how calm Evelyn is, not until she says: – “What’s all the fuss about?”
They turn their heads to her and Matilda asks: – “Don’t you see it?”
– “See what?” Evelyn asks with a shrug of her shoulders.
– “The strange colors, the strange shapes?!”
– “Oh, that. I think I see it. It’s totally normal,” yet with a shrug of her shoulders.
And the others can’t believe their ears now either.
Patrick dares to ask: – “So sis, is this what you’ve always seen? Is this your strange world that we have never seen?”
Evelyn nods.

It’s hard to fathom for all four of them, but yet it’s the youngest one of them who finds it the easiest to believe. Kids just might have a wider imagination, or rather, are more receptive to how the world really is. Sometimes some people just get too tied up in ‘the normal way’ of things, and when something doesn’t fit it, they just block it out.
Patrick steps away from his parents and his oldest sister and walks interested towards his other sister, which he has always been told was a bit ‘unlike the rest of them’. Now he knows that she was right all along. He just feels it. He knows that he was right in believing in his sister, he has just never been allowed to believe so, ‘cause then his parents would say to him that they didn’t hope he was starting to get sick too. – “How does it feel?”
– “I don’t know…” Evelyn shrugs her shoulders, in a very grown-up and calm way. “There’s really nothing to it. I just see this, and you normally see something else, I guess.”
– “Doesn’t it hurt in your eyes?” Patrick wonders.
– “No,” she shakes her head, “Do your eyes hurt?”
Patrick shrugs his shoulders and then shakes his head as well, “No. They don’t.”
– “But,” their mother starts, “How can this be? How is this possible? There’s something wrong with all of us!”
– “No, don’t worry mom. I only wished for it to last one day.”
– “Oh, my goodness!” their father bursts out, and Patrick and Evelyn think he’s thankful that it only lasts for one day, but their mother and sister know that he was devastated to find out that he has to see the world this way for several more hours.
– “Well, except that…”
– “Except what?” Matilda asks nervously.
– “I wished that I would be normal as you would call it… that I could see what you see for one day. But I guess something went wrong with my wish.”
– “Oh, honey, why would you wish for something like that?” their mother asks in a way only mothers can after a round of something surreal like this seems to her and the others.
– “I’ve always been told that I was sick, or something. I just wanted to see what you see, so I could draw better versions of your world so you would stop calling me all those bad things.”
– “Oh, honey, I’m sorry! I didn’t know. I swear I’ll never call your world unormal again,” Theresa says caringly for her daughter.
– “Well, you might think this is all candy-dandy, but I’m kinda freaked out by this,” Malcolm says without holding it back.
– “But darling, Malcolm, don’t you see? Your daughter was right all along. We were just too ignorant to not believing in her. I believe her now. Honey,” she says to her youngest daughter, “I truly believe. So does your father – he’s just not himself right now… he’ll come around.”
– “Of course I’m not okay! Don’t you see that our daughter is playing trick on us, somehow?! She’s better pray that this doesn’t last for more than one day.”
– “I told you so dad. You’re scaring me. Mommy, tell him to calm down.”
– “Easy, Malcolm. Sit down. No, lie down on Matilda’s bed. Matilda, get up.”
Matilda gets out of her bed and leaves it to her dad. He lies down and closes his eyes and then he says: – “I am not going to open my eyes again before they’re back to normal.”
– “Daddy, don’t do this please. I really didn’t want this to happen to you. I wanted it only for myself. I wanted to be more like you, so you wouldn’y hate me that much. I only wanted to be a part of your world for just one day. I guess Santa…” In midsentence Evelyn stops herself from speaking more about Santa because of the mocking from her older sister, and then she says instead, “I mean, God, must have somehow made an error. I wished for something else. I swear!”
– “Don’t you blame this on God, child!” her father warns her. “If this devil-like work isn’t done by you, then I’m sure it must be Santa, ‘cause don’t you ever dare blaming Santa for such a grave mistake like this!”
– “I prayed to God, yes, but I don’t believe in Santa, so why should he have fulfilled my wish?”
– “I think it’s the devil who answered your prayer, Ev!” her father has gotten back on his feet and instead of walking to Evelyn and slapping her cheek, he rages out of the room. He needs some calm and quiet peace. He has never been a strong believer in neither heaven nor hell, but when things get too hard for him to understand, he blames someone else who isn’t around to stand up to him. He walks down the stairs and walks into the living room. He stops in his steps when he sees the big horse standing beside the Christmas tree. As far as he knows, no one has bought a gift more expensive than a thousand, and this horse looks way too real to have cost less than that. He swallows a lump of disbelief in his throat and walks closer. He forces his legs to obey and when he’s close enough to the horse, the horse turns its head and blows a puff of air from its nostrils. He is shocked and steps back. He shouts for his wife to come down, but a few seconds later, all of them tumble down the stairs, eager – and maybe even scared of what’s wrong – to him. By having an altered vision, none of them sees the horse like it actually looks, but everyone is sure that this indeed is a horse.

“Wow! Thanks mom and dad!” Matilda bursts out as she hurries to the horse, having forgotten all about the strange look of the horse in pure excitement. She jumps up on the coach and then up on the horse before any of her parents can say anything. Malcolm turns his head to Theresa and asks without words: – “Is this your doing?” he moves his lips and she understands but she shakes her head. Patrick bursts out in cheers as he sees the unwrapped remote controlled car underneath the Christmas tree and he hurries to play with it. Theresa and Malcolm just stand there, staring at the horse, at Matilda, then at Patrick and the toy, and then finally they look at Evelyn and she just shrugs her shoulders and she dares to say: – “Merry Christmas, mom and dad.” Her voice is shaky and they can tell that she really didn’t plan on this. Malcolm is still quite disturbed by all of this, but suddenly he’s filled with a deep-rooted feeling of peace inside and he finds the strength to smile at his wife.

She speaks to him: – “Embrace it, Malcolm. You know I do. Now we can finally see what our dear daughter has always seen. And then we can finally be a realy family. A real family don’t mock each other like we have done lately. If they want to believe in Santa, then let them. Why not? I mean, after all that’s happened, then it might as well be real. We teach them to believe in the Higher Power, God, or what else people call him, but why? I mean, sure there’s something out there, but do we really know who it is or if it really is a he? What if it’s just cosmic power or something? For every night since the children could talk, they’ve been taught to say their prayers, and now that their prayers finally have been answered, then why bother who granted their wishes? Santa? God? A cosmic power? Does it matter. The most important thing to me is that this is a chance for a new start. Maybe the mistake wasn’t a mistake after all. Whoever granted Evelyn’s wish, I’m sure it’s someone who knew what they were doing although it might not have looked that way, and even though it still might not look that way to you, but I guess someday you’ll be thankful this happened. It’s only for one day, and maybe we should hurry outside, walk down the street, maybe visit some family before the effect of the wish wears off. I’m sure your aunt Louise and Uncle Benny would look absolutely amusing this way!”

– “Yeah, I guess you’re right,” and he finally manages to smile a real smile. It’s been awhile since he last smiled, and Evelyn grabs her father’s hand and gives a light squeeze. She looks up at her dad with a question written all over her face, but instead of looking down at his daughter, he’s looking at his wife with a grin and then he says, “Okay, it’s a deal, but first we’ll go visit your sister Mary Lou! She looks weird like we normally see her, so I’d like to know what she’s looking like right now.”

Evelyn doesn’t want to speak up an anyway, ‘cause her parents will soon find out themselves. She doesn’t need to speak the words for them to know. They know it already, ‘cause how can they expect everyone else who doesn’t see what they see to find this amusing when they didn’t think it was the least funny when their daughter painted pictures of their world in a style of Picasso? Living in a Picasso world is no fun, but it’s not a drag either. To Evelyn, her world will always look like it always has and she doesn’t know any alternative. Her world is as real as everyone else’s. Even though Evelyn’s wish might have been reversed, there’s no reason to believe that it has affected anyone else than her closest family – those who live under the same roof, and who have now finally seen her world. And Evelyn now knows that she’s got no reason to ever see their world now that she knows that her family at least knows that she isn’t crazy. Now she’ll just have to refrain from painting or drawing what she sees, and she knows she’s certainly not going to be an interior decorator or something like that.

Matilda gets down from the horse and Patrick stops playing with the toy. Neither their dad nor their mom worries about the horse; they’re just too busy figuring out just how exactly to convince their friends and family to get a brief visit.
– “You do realize, Malcolm, that we have to keep this to ourselves?” He nods. Theresa continues, “I don’t think they see what we see, so don’t expect them to find it funny. You can laugh as much as you want, but laugh only on the inside.”
– “Yep, you got it,” Malcolm nods with a smile and then he starts the car and they drive out of the driveway.
– “What’s their to laugh about?” Evelyn asks with hurt in her voice, “This is the world as I see it. Why would you want to laugh? Is this still just a joke to you?”
– “Oh, no, honey. No. It’s just that,” her mother explains, “Having been used to the other version of the world, then it looks a bit strange. I’m not going to say which version is the true version, ‘cause it can be either. Who says that most people see the world the right way. I mean, it might as well be you who’s one of the few who sees the world as it is. It’s a gift, Ev.”
– “Then why do you need to laugh?” she still wonders.
– “Look, Ev,” Matilda tries to explain on their mother’s behalf, “I guess that what mom is trying to say is, that if you had gotten your wish like you wanted it to be, then you would probably had laughed at how our version of the world looks, right mom?” She nods. “There you go,” Matilda smiles at Evelyn.
– “Yeah, and if I had dared to laugh, you would have thought I had gotten ‘sicker’ and then you would have worried for my wellbeing or just called me a brat.”
– “Yeah, and we’re sorry for that,” Theresa says affectionately.
– “Well, then you better not laugh at anyone no matter how strange you might think they look. I might have laughed as well I guess if I had seen something differently all my life, but I haven’t got anything to compare with, and so I wouldn’t know.” Then she sighs and says what she didn’t want to say back at the house, “If you laugh at anyone, they will think you’ve all gone mad. No, just look at my gift as a bonus. I don’t want you to spend my gift in that selfish way just laughing at other people. Now that we’re finally going to see some of our friends and family, I don’t want any of you to spoil it. I know a big part of the reason for never going was because of me and my drawings and your nervous talk about me. But now, can we please just act normal?”
The others nod and even Patrick gets it: – “I will not laugh, no matter how far apart Uncle’s eyes are, or no matter how twisted Aunties nose is.”
– “Good. Finally we can be a family! Don’t let anyone know about your true agenda. If you slip, just remember, that I will seem like the normal one of us, and the four of your will seem like the crazy ones. So just remember not to laugh!”
– “Ay ay,” her father bursts out and then before he can help it he bursts out laughing, but then their mother takes a nervous look back at the children in the backseat and she looks questioningly at Evelyn.
And she nods and says: – “Well, it’s okay to laugh now. I can be quite funny, you know in a weird Picasso-like way!”
They can’t help it and then they burst out into laughter. Even Patrick who isn’t sure whether he got it. None of them knows if they got Evelyn’s joke, but it really wasn’t a joke. They just don’t dare question her. But their laugh is genuine. They’ve needed a laugh for a long time. Finally they’re a real family!

© Copyright, Ida Pedersen, 2010.

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