Joanna had been wandering round the art gallery following the guide for what seemed like hours. She checked her watch only to see that there was still at least twenty minutes left of the tour. Wondering why her mum had insisted on bringing her to this boring old place to look at stuffy old paintings she sighed loudly.
Joanna’s mum had heard her daughter’s sighs but hoped that she would eventually become interested. This was after all her birthday surprise, and although Joanna didn’t know it yet it was going to be magical. Looking down her mum smiled what she hoped was a reassuring smile and brushed Joanna’s hair out of her eyes with a loving gesture.
Joanna smiled back and took her mum’s hand in hers. Even though she was bored by the pictures she was glad to be spending time with her mum on a busy Saturday. She knew her mum had arranged to get this day off work especially for her and that all manner of treats were planned so she tried her best to tune in to what the guide was saying.
“… One of the last before the artist’s death from cholera…” the guide droned on. Joanna watched the guide as he spoke and noticed the details of his face. He may have had a boring voice but he had a very interesting face Joanna decided. To her he looked really old, at least thirty, or even forty she thought. His eyes were bright blue and every now and then he caught Joanna’s gaze and smiled at her, even winking now and then. He had a well trimmed beard and moustache, and big lips, which Joanna watched as he spoke. His hair was cut short all over, but he had big bushy eyebrows that wriggled as he spoke and when he made faces as he described the paintings.
“And now to one of my favourites…” he said as they arrived in front of another painting. Joanna glanced at the painting quickly then back at the guide. It didn’t look very special to her. She felt her mum’s hand tighten slightly on her hand and looked up to see her smiling brightly as she looked at the painting. Joanna guessed that it was one of her mum’s favourites too. Her mum had told her about how her dad, Granddad Roger, had brought her to the very same gallery for her eighth birthday as well.
Looking back at the guide Joanna felt sure he was staring directly at her as he spoke, as if what he was saying was meant for her ears only. Some of the others in their group were looking round at the other paintings in the room, not paying attention to him at all.
The guide smiled directly at Joanna and nodded. “The devil is in the details.” he said. “This artist had an eye for magic and painted like no other.” He stopped and nodded his head in the direction of the painting.
“Look closely and you will see the important and magical details.” Joanna was sure that he was speaking directly to her now so turned to look more closely at the painting to see if she could see what he was going on about.
As she turned she noticed that her mum’s gaze was fixed on the painting, and that she was still smiling happily. Joanna tried to see where exactly her mum was looking and stared at exactly the same spot herself. To start with she didn’t notice anything special then all of a sudden something caught her eye. It was as if something in the painting moved. She looked even more closely and was sure she could see someone moving in the painting. She looked back at the guide who nodded even more obviously and whispered, “You see it now, don’t you?” He smiled broadly. Joanna was sure no one else had heard his words .
Joanna turned her head back to the painting at watched it closely again. Sure enough there were figures in the painting that were moving. She closed her eyes tightly and opened them again to be sure she wasn’t seeing things. The painting itself didn’t appear to change at all, but there in the details were little people going about their daily lives. It was as if there was a town within the town of the painting. The main figures and buildings appeared lifeless but if you looked really closely there was a whole town moving around the painting. Joanna felt as if she were looking through a window from a high rise building. She was truly mesmerised and watched the scenes unfolding before her eyes.
Joanna felt her mum squeeze her hand again and looked up into her face. Her mum nodded just like the guide had nodded earlier. “How’s that for a magical birthday surprise?” she asked.