Billy inherited a painting of a cottage from his grandmother. It was a nice, friendly painting, with sun-dappled gardens and tall, sheltering oak trees cradling a little brown house with white shutters and a shiny black door. It looked like a pleasant place to live.
The note that Grandmother had left for him said that it was her favorite painting and that for some reason it always made her think of him. She said to hang it in an out of the way place that needed a window. Billy liked the painting and missed his grandmother, so he decided to hang it in his bedroom instead of somewhere out of the way.
Billy hung it on his wall and kneeled backwards on a chair while he looked at it more closely. There was a little girl looking out the window, and a lady with a yellow dress and bright red apron was out in the garden, mostly hidden behind a rose bush. Billy took a picture of the painting with his phone.
That evening, after school, he checked his painting again. The little girl was sitting on the steps and there was a puppy sitting on the path. That wasn’t right! He pulled out his phone and checked the picture. Wasn’t there supposed to be a lady in the garden? And wasn’t the girl inside? He was certain he didn’t remember a puppy.
He found the picture on his phone. He couldn’t see the girl or the woman in the picture. Just the house and the garden and trees.
“Mom!” he yelled. “Come look at this.”
She came in a few minutes later, her finger in her book to mark her page. “What is it, Billy?’
“I think the people in my painting are moving,” Billy said. “Look!”
“All right, where are they?” She asked. She bent closer to look. “Billy, I don’t see any people.”
“What? They were right there,” Billy said. But, when he looked at the painting, he didn’t see anyone either. The people had moved again.
He kept checking the painting. Sometimes he’d see the little girl, or the lady, or a man, or the puppy, but they never showed up on his phone when he took a picture. They were never there when his mom came in either.
One day he decided to catch them moving. He sat in front of the painting where the man was weeding the garden and just watched him. The man was gone when Billy blinked.
The next morning, there was a sign in the yard of the little house. It said, “Stop spying on us!” Billy took a picture. He checked his camera, but the sign wasn’t in the image. When he looked back at the painting, the sign wasn’t there either.
Billy found his mother in the kitchen writing a letter. “Mom, the people in the painting don’t like me watching them,” Billy said.
“Do you think they’d like the guest room better?” his mother asked.
“As long as we don’t go look at them too often, I guess,” Billy said.
They moved the painting. Billy still checked on it sometimes, just to see how the family was doing. They didn’t seem to mind that. After a while, he forgot about the painting.
He grew up and started dating a woman that seemed familiar the first day he met her. They got married and bought a house that looked just like his grandmother’s painting. He brought the painting home from his parents’ house and hung it in the living room.
His wife was amazed. “It looks just like our house! That’s eerie.”
“I know, isn’t it?” Billy said. He didn’t mention the people. He didn’t see them again, either.
It was after his daughter was three that he was certain that it wasn’t all a coincidence. She looked too much like the girl from the painting. He bought her a puppy the next year for her birthday. A month later, he was out in the garden weeding and felt like someone was watching him. He couldn’t see anyone. It was time.
He put a sign out in the front yard that night. His wife saw it in the morning. “Honey, what’s that all about?” She asked. “Are you feeling alright?”
“Yes, I was just answering one of those questions I had as a child. I’ll bring it in now,” Billy said. Life had come full circle. He never did find out how the painting had allowed him to look into his future, but he was grateful for it all the same.