What Caitlyn drew came alive. Broad strokes of floppy green leaves, vibrant purple and yellow with a strawberry center; she drew that when she was 4. The crayon wobbled in her plump fist, resulting in wavy, amorphous leaves, but the flower thrived.
Mommy loved her drawings, but she told Caitlyn she couldn’t draw at school anymore, not after the house incident.
“The other children can’t do what you can do,” Mommy said.
“It’s not fair!” Caitlyn wailed. She had been so excited for kindergarten. On the first day, they had colored.
Caitlyn had picked a toy house to color in, using purple and blue and grey. Her teacher, Mrs. Penfrew, called her a liar when Caitlyn showed her the cute little house balanced in her palm, the coloring page behind her blank.
“A mean trick,” she heard Mrs. Penfrew tell Mommy as Caitlyn got in the car, safely buckling herself in.
“Oh, well, her father is a magician,” Mommy said apologetically.
Daddy was an accountant; he wasn’t a magician. But Mommy always said he was a magician. He could make colors appear and disappear and project his voice into other rooms in the house. Sometimes, when he was ready for a really big trick, he would make himself vanish.
“Maybe one day the trick won’t work and he’ll vanish for good,” Mommy mumbled once.
The colors were still on her skin, blue and purple and green. He had forgotten to make them disappear, Caitlyn pointed out as they drove home. Mommy smiled but her eyes were tired.
“They’ll disappear once the trick is over,” she reassured her daughter. Caitlyn never understood why Daddy used those colors. There were so many others to choose from.
Silver and red vines twined around Caitlyn’s bed. Every two weeks the vines erupted in ivory-colored blooms. Mommy had gotten her special colored pencils to make those vines. Her mother said the scent was magical.
Today at school, Caitlyn drew very carefully, and only with pencil, inscribing thick black lines on stark white paper. The other children scribbled with abandon, green and pink marker on yellow construction paper. Mrs. Penfrew had told them it was ‘very important’ to draw inside the lines. Caitlyn didn’t understand why it was so important.
Still, Caitlyn held her pencil firmly, chewing her bottom lip as she carefully drew lines on the page. Her skin tingled as she drew, and she shifted uncomfortably.
Daddy had reappeared last night. He had been gone for a long time. He said the trick didn’t work like it was supposed to; he had ended up in the North Pole. He brought her back a gift from one of the elves, a little teddy bear.
When she woke up this morning, the teddy bear was lying on the sofa, ripped in half. She knew not to cry. Daddy’s tricks didn’t always work and he got upset when that happened.
The thick black lines on the page slowly formed the rounded ears, plump arms and legs and goofy grin of the teddy bear. She was careful just to draw the outline, only black and white at school, Mommy said. She could color it at home.
Mrs. Penfrew stopped by her table. “That’s very nice, Caitlyn. Does she have a name?”
“He,” Caitlyn corrected her firmly. “And he doesn’t know what his name is yet.”
Mrs. Penfrew frowned, but moved on.
After dinner, Caitlyn started coloring in her bear. She used soft shades of brown, chocolate for the eyes.
Daddy was working on a trick where he looked all wobbly; he said he made his bones disappear and it made him walk funny. Caitlyn never liked that trick. When his bones went away, his voice got loud and she had to go to her room.
“What is that?” Daddy was right behind her, staring at the coloring page. Caitlyn smiled.
“It’s my bear,” she said proudly. Already she could see the bear beginning to wriggle, to come off the page.
“Give it to me,” Daddy said, his hand outstretched. Caitlyn didn’t want to. The bear was almost free of the coloring page.
She tried to grab the page, but Daddy was faster. He ripped it in half as Caitlyn screamed.
The blank pieces of paper fluttered to the ground. Then Daddy screamed.
Her teddy bear was free of the page, but much, much bigger than her drawing. The bear was hugging Daddy. He winked at Caitlyn, then Daddy did his disappearing trick. It was the first time Caitlyn had ever seen him disappear in front of her.
Mommy came running. “Where’s your father?”
Caitlyn had stopped crying and was picking up the ripped paper.
“Teddy bear and Daddy did the disappearing trick,” she explained. “Can I have another piece of paper?”
Mommy looked at the ripped page, and her face went white. “The teddy bear came out of the page? Like the vines and the plants?”
Caitlyn nodded. “Daddy ripped it up but the teddy bear was out by then. He hugged Daddy and they did the disappearing trick.”
Mommy sat down next to her. Her hands were shaking when she handed Caitlyn another piece of paper.
“One more drawing, then off to bed,” she said.
Normally Caitlyn wasn’t allowed to draw a chocolate ice cream cone, but this time Mommy let her. She drew another cone for Mommy, and they ate them in the kitchen before bed.
Mommy woke her up early, turning on the lamp. She had Caitlyn’s teddy bear in her arms. He was small now.
“Look who I found on the front stoop,” Mommy said quietly.
“All alone?” Caitlyn asked, rubbing her eyes.
“All alone,” Mommy said. In her arms, the teddy bear smiled.
Diana Rohlman lives in the Pacific Northwest, invariably spending the rainy days inside, writing, with a glass of wine nearby, and her dog offering helpful critiques.