“Don’t worry Jonas,” his mother said to him as he wiped away a tear. “Do you see the painting on the wall?”
Jonas nodded once as he turned his head toward the painting.
“It’s pretty,” he said, sniffing away him runny nose.
“That’s where I’m going when I leave here,” she continued while slowly nodding her head. “I’ll be there, watching over you as you grow up, and I’ll be there when you go on your first date. I’ll even be there cheering you on when you get ready for your first day of Kindergarten next year.”
“But I don’t want you to leave. We can just imagine going there instead!” he exclaimed.
“I know, I don’t want to go either, but the castle is calling my name. It’s a long road, so I will be leaving soon. Just remember, Jonas…remember every time you look at that painting, I’ll be looking back at you.”
Jonas looked toward his mother again as she nodded back off to sleep.
Jonas knew his mother was sick. His father told him that though she wasn’t hot with a fever, in fact she was quite cold to the touch for Jonas, she wasn’t well and wouldn’t get better.
Jonas didn’t quite understand what his father meant and had asked a simple question, a question that brought his father to tears.
“Will Teddy help mommy feel better? He always makes me feel better.”
Jonas’ father walked into the room and held his wife’s hand. He placed two fingers on her wrist and then to her throat.
He swallowed hard and began to cry.
Jonas didn’t understand why he was crying. His mother was sleeping soundly, like she almost always did.
Jonas’ father retrieved the cellphone from his pocket and dialed a number.
“She’s gone,” he said into the phone. He nodded before ending the call.
“Come on Jonas,” he said as he walked toward Jonas with his hand reaching for Jonas’.
“Why are you crying? Mommy is just sleeping,” Jonas said as he and his father walked towards the bedroom door.
“It’s time for your mother to walk the path to the castle in the mountains,” he said softly.
Jonas understood, as his mother had just talked to him about living in the castle in the painting.
“Can we go too?” he asked his father.
“One day we will see her in the castle and we can all live in the castle forever. You can be the Prince and I’ll be the Jester,” his father said to him, half smiling while looking down at Jonas.
“You are funny daddy,” Jonas said laughing. “But who will be the King?”
“Your mother will be a Queen, and she will rule the woods and the rest of the Kingdom while she waits on us. The King will already be there, and waiting for her with open arms.”
Jonas was confused because he knew Kings and Queens were always married to each other. “But you are married to mommy, you would have to be King.”
“I will be a king, but I will not be The King. The King is the King of us all, and He was married to your mother before we even met. She married Him when she was just a child.”
Jonas stopped walking as they entered the hallway outside of his mother’s room.
“I’m confused,” Jonas said. “I don’t have two Daddies. You are my Daddy, so she can’t be married to a different Daddy.”
“Jonas, do you remember in Sunday school when they talked about Jesus?”
“Yep, He was God’s son!” Jonas exclaimed proudly.
“Very good! Your mother accepted Jesus into her heart and loves him more than anything or anyone else in the world when she was just a child. So in a sense, she married Him before she even met me.”
“Oh,” Jonas said, not completely understanding.
Jonas looked towards the front door as he heard someone ring the doorbell.
“Jonah, please go to your room. I don’t want you to see this.”
“Okay Daddy, I love you!”
“I love you too, Jonas.”
Jonas ran up the stairs to his bedroom. He looked at his walls and frowned.
“How is Mommy supposed to get into the painting?” Jonas said to himself. “Maybe it’s magic?”
Jonas pulled a chair out from his desk and climbed onto it. He held his arms out to keep balance as he rocked side to side on the chair. He looked above his desk before placing a knee on it, trying to pull himself up.
As he stood on the desk, Jonas heard the front door shut.
Jonas touched the painting gently with his fingers. He could feel the brush strokes with every pass of his hand. His mother had taught him the basics of painting. She had painted the castle that was in her room first, and when Jonas fell in love with the painting, she painted another exactly like it.
“Jonas!” his father yelled from the stairway.
Jonas, startled, jumped off the desk and ran to the door.
“What?” Jonas yelled back at him.
“I have to go to the funeral home, Miss Nichols is here to watch you. Don’t go into your mother’s room until I can get back.”
“Okay Daddy, have fun!”
His father shook his head, knowing Jonas didn’t fully understand what just happened. He knew Jonas was cheated out of a mother so young, and feared how he was going to raise a 3-year-old boy by himself.
Jonas heard the front door open and close again as the TV in the living room turn on. Jonas walked down the hallway and stood at the top of the stairs listening for the TV.
Jonas knew that Miss Nichols would turn on baseball as long as it was playing. When she shouted at the television, he knew the game was on and she would ignore him until she heard his father pull up.
Jonas sneaked down the stairs, past the living room and stopped right outside his mother’s bedroom door.
Jonas wouldn’t normally go against his father’s wishes, but he wanted to see how his mom got into the painting.
After listening for a brief minute, Jonas cracked the door open and peeked in.
The first thing he noticed was the empty bed. The sheets were thrown to the floor and the bed was slightly angled, unlike the normally straight sheets and perpendicular to the painting.
“Mommy must’ve gotten out of bed to climb into the painting!” Jonas thought to himself.
Jonas jumped as an orange and white kitten ran into the room.
“Beanie, you scareded me!” Jonas hissed at the kitten.
Beanie was a gift from his mother when she became sick. She told her husband that Jonas would need someone to cuddle when she was gone. Jonas loved the kitten, but now the kitten was into a lot of mischief.
Jonas picked Beanie up and started walking out of the bedroom. As he reached to open the door further, he took one glance at the painting and vowed to visit his mother in the painting every day. And so he did.
Days turned into weeks, that turned to months, then years. As time went on, Jonas visited the painting every day, even if during the middle of the night. His father visited it with him every day at first, but as time progressed his visits became shorter and less frequent until Jonas visited the painting alone.
Jonas’ 8th birthday was right around the corner and his father told him that he wanted to introduce him to someone knew. A woman who, his father told him, made his father very happy. Jonas was scared that this new woman was going to become his new mother.
The day before Jonas’ birthday, Jonas went to the empty room that was his mother’s and started talking at the mantle before looking up at the painting. When Jonas raised his hand to touch the painting, like he did every day for the past 5 years, his fingers grazed a smoothness that was unfamiliar to him.
Jonas looked up at where the painting his mother had painted and found nothing but a bare wall.
“DADDY?!” Jonas yelled throughout the house.
His father ran out of the study, looking around frantically. “What is it, Jonas?”
“Mom’s painting! It’s gone!”
“It’s not gone, I put it in the attic.”
“I told mom I would visit it every day!”
“Jonas, you’re old enough to know that your mother isn’t in the painting. She’s gone.”
“You’re….you’re WRONG!” Jonas yelled at his father before running up the staircase crying.
Jonas’ father stared at the floor as a woman came up behind him and wrapped her arms around his torso.
“You did the right thing Jonathan. It’s not healthy to allow him to divulge himself into delusions like he has been.”
“I hope you’re right, Amanda, because that just shattered my little boy’s reality since Julie’s passing.”
Amanda put her forehead between Jonathan’s shoulder blades and kissed the middle of his back before saying, “I am a child psychologist, I know what’s best for Jonas. That’s why you came to the office last year, right?”
“Yes, but I didn’t think he would take it this badly.”
Amanda put her arms on Jonathan’s to turn him around. As he turned around, she reached up to wipe a tear from his cheek. “It will get better with time. He needs to understand reality versus imagination. He’s not a 3 year old toddler anymore.”
“Maybe if I had told him to keep his mother’s painting a secret, the school wouldn’t have called to tell me about his storytelling.”
“All things happen for a reason.”
Jonas sat at the top of the stairs, listening in to his father’s conversation with the strange woman.
“Storytelling,” Jonas thought questioningly to himself. “Mom wouldn’t lie to me. She’s in the painting, and Dad just doesn’t believe it anymore.”
Jonas looked up at the ceiling where a small rope dangled from a square panel. Jonas knew what he had to do; he would show his father the truth in the painting.