Mia’s time and effort in painting for the district competition are rewarded, but it’s her words that fill her family with warmth.

 

Jimmy came running up to her house the morning the result was declared in the newspaper. He had the Art section of the paper in his hand, with his finger clutching the part that had Mia’s name as the winner.

It was Mia who opened the door to his frantic knocking. He almost thrust the paper in her face, shifting his weight on his toes as he was oscillating like an energetic pendulum.

“Holy crap, I won!” yelled Mia. Jimmy jumped back a couple of feet away from her and started dancing. Mia didn’t notice Jimmy prancing around in front of her. Her eyes moved over the column which announced her as the winner. She read it three times over just to let it sink in. She had not expected to win.

“What are you doing?” said Mia, unable to supress her laughter on looking at Jimmy.

“I said I’d dance if you won!” said Jimmy as he danced excitedly to some jaunty tune he was humming. Brandy came to the door with Joshua as she heard frantic movement and laughter on her doorstep. She was taken aback to find a boy dancing in her porch at seven in the morning.

“Mom, I won the painting contest!” she exclaimed happily and hugged her as Brandy tried taking in all the information thrown at her at once. Joshua wasn’t bothered about the details and began jumping around with Jimmy. His excitement was ephemeral, though, for Jimmy accidentally pushed him with his buttocks and Joshua fell on the ground, his injured arm hitting the floor hard.

“Oh, I’m sorry, Mrs Chamberlain. I didn’t mean to hurt him,” said Jimmy, picking Joshua up. Brandy forgave him at once, though Joshua was less inclined to do so.

Joshua did forgive him a week later, when they were all sitting in the city’s Civic Centre. Mia was backstage, sitting in a room waiting for her little speech. There were hardly more than fifty people there, but she was nervous nevertheless. Her entire family had come there, even Francis. Incidentally, he was the only one she knew who had had a chance to see the painting.

“Now then, without further delay, let me welcome the winner of this year’s Rising Artist Contest, Mia Chamberlain!” said the female announced on stage.

The man next to Mia nodded warmly at her and she walked out. Mia remained still for a few seconds after the applause died out.

“So Mia, what can you tell us about your painting?” asked the woman. Mia looked at her and then focussed at the painting.

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“Well, as you can see, it’s a painting about families. The lifeless, dull faces in the foreground here show how we are always unsatisfied and cross with our families without fail. We spend almost the entire day together, but more often than not, things get heated up every now and then when children are at a certain age. But the spirits that you can see hovering above the bodies signify that despite our feuds, we love our families no matter what, and want nothing more than making each other happy.

“We all have different expectations from our family. Some want understanding, some want space. Some, like my little brother, want no vegetables and just want to run around, (Mia was relieved to see her impromptu joke well received), and some just want little moments of joy. I don’t think it’s too much to ask for others to smile in a family picture. I just wanted to show that even though the faces in the picture might not show it, we’re all happy to be with our families and smiling on the inside.”

Her eyes shifted to her mother as she said this. She was spellbound by Mia’s work but she turned towards her the same instant Mia looked at her. They shared a smile together. Although a single tear fell from her mother’s eyes, Mia had never seen her so happy.

There was another round of applause from the audience. Mia was able to revel in it this time. She was too nervous the previous time to appreciate it. But now, she was feeling better. She had done the one singular thing that makes everyone feel purposeful and satisfied. That singular thing was making her parents proud.

She could hear it in her father’s claps which soared louder than any other in the room. She could see it in Max’s approving nod. But more than anything, she could feel it in Brandy’s gentle smile and the tiny drops of tear escaping her eyes. Mia had never seen someone cry because of happiness, but on that day, as her vision began to blur due to her eyes watering, she saw as well as experienced it at the same time.

She remained standing there for a minute or two, waiting for the applause to die out. When it did finally end, the announcer patted her on her shoulder.

“I would just like to ask you one last thing, Mia. What is the name of this painting? I didn’t see a title on the work.”

Mia’s face turned into a wide smile as she recalled her grandfather slipping the piece of paper into her hand a week ago. Francis’s suggestion was prefect.

“Family Feud,” she said. There was a wave of happy laughter in the small crowd. Mia, though, looked at her grandfather sitting next to her mother. It was the first time she had seen him smile like that in years.

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