This short story is selected as Story of the Month November’2015 and won INR 1000
This story is selected as Editor’s Choice and won INR 500
The seagulls that sat on the boulders flew away as the waves splashed high washing them. I sat on the rocks gazing down at the deep sea. The bangs of hair that lay on my round plump face danced in the sea breeze. I rose to walk back to my hotel room. The rocks were slippery but I held my feet tight underneath. I found it hard to manage my baby pink satin nightdress and the open hair which blew in the wind.
Back in my room I found an envelope on the doorstep. I opened it to find a new set of my latest photographs. This was the fifth envelope that I had received ever since I moved into the hotel two weeks back. Each time I moved out of the room a new envelope of photos arrived. This time I had made up mind to check with the hotel reception.
I had reached the reception desk when suddenly a middle aged man in his early forties interrupted me.
“ Hello Ms. Drew how do you do? I am Benson… residing at Room No.14…” The tall, dark, handsome man introduced himself as I shook his hefty hand.
“I put the envelopes at your doorstep….” The man continued.
“What the hell? How can you click my snaps just like that…..” My distress was disrupted by him signaling to walk with him. We silently strode through the little passageways among the closed rooms to halt at Room No.14. He knocked at the door and called out
“Agnes please open the door.”
A fair, curly haired, chubby ten year old girl opened the door. She looked like an angel dressed in a white cotton full sleeved dress. The girl looked wonder-struck but bore a smile on her lips.
“This is my daughter Agnes … She was the one who snapped your photographs.” He added as I made myself easy on the couch.
I questioningly gazed at Agnes as she poured my coffee. She smiled at me and as if she implicated my question she replied “You remind me of my mom who died when I was two… …”
Agnes’ blue eyes welled up with tears. She brought in an old photo album with their family pictures. Though I looked in no way similar to the woman in the picture I felt she resembled me in some facial angle and dressing style.
I replied consolingly ”It’s all right honey if that can make you happy …”
The next two hours Agnes and I chattered and giggled till an incoming official phone call interrupted .
Day-to-day evening walks along the long beach side bound the relationship more than friends. I felt the bond growing warmer and stronger than in any other form of relation. Agnes saw her mother in me and I reverted the feelings abundantly. She called me lovingly ‘Tracy Mama’….
After a week or so I moved out of the hotel as my work in the city had got over. A tearful Agnes bid me goodbye promising to keep in touch. As my car drove away from the hotel along the beach road I could see the little one waving at me till she could be seen no more.
Each season Agnes greeted me with floral bouquets and long mails about ‘her school’, ‘her vacation with dad’, ‘her new year’, ‘her X’mas’ and much more. The maternal bond which we shared strengthened each day and this sustained for three years until it suddenly stopped. I wondered what could be the reason that Agnes had stopped sending mails. All my letters remained unanswered and her telephone unreachable.
A year and a half passed when Mr. Thomas, my manager in my office, proposed for marriage. Reluctantly I agreed to end years of my spinsterhood. The days that followed were filled with love, romance and dates which Thomas abundantly showered me with and slowly I felt my mind slip out to him.
“ Hey Tracy lets go on a trip….” Thomas came with a plan for the weekend.
The next weekend saw us driving past cities and villages in his car.
“Where are you heading?” I repeated but Thomas kept murmuring “surprise”.
As the car headed the roads looked familiar. It was the beach road heading to the ‘Marine Beach Resorts’ where I had met Agnes. I looked around at the few people seated in the reception lounge but deep in my mind I seemed to search for Agnes and her dad. All through the day Thomas and I strolled along the beach, went sightseeing, did a little beach shopping and went ball dancing. The end of the day saw me so drained that I retired to my room without dinner.
The early morning hums of high waves disturbed my sleep. I looked through the blinds that covered the open window. The sea water washed the rocks high exactly like it had on my last visit to the beach. Clothed in my two piece night dress I walked to the rocks and sat on them. I could see the half rising sun emerge from the distant sea like a huge ball of fire that spread light all around the water. A high wave sent my ‘off white linen night dress’ all wet through. The sea gulls that sat on the rocks flew away. The last time I sat on these rocks were my happy days. I was content now but deep somewhere inside me I felt a void that remained unhealed.
I sat lost in thoughts when suddenly I could hear chits and chats and laughter on the beach below. A group of girls walked to the seaside accompanied by two elderly ladies who looked like their caretakers. As they walked closer to the rocks I recognized from the ID cards of the caretakers that they were teachers of the nearby city orphanage school. The children had come to witness the early morning glory and they keenly listened as the tutors described to them.
As the sessions concluded the kids ran all over the shore. They laughed and played with the waves and splashed water at each other. A group of them played beach volleyball and others made sand castles. Still others collected sea shells and some of them picked small fishes that the waves had washed on shore and threw back into the water. Two girls sat making pits in the sand and pouring the sea water into it. I recollected how my brother Harry and I used to ‘dry the sea’ in a similar manner. I chuckled to myself thinking about the innocence of those juvenile days.
My gaze wandered all along the beach when I noticed a little girl who sat all alone. Her carrot colored frock indicated she also belonged to the orphan kids’ group . She sat gaping at the rising sun in the distant sea.
I paced through the rocks down to the beach. The kids ran all around me making it hard to walk through.
“What happened? Why are you not playing?” I asked the little girl who sat with her back facing me. She turned to me a slightly alarmed.
Her face looked familiar but something made it difficult to figure out. She looked thin , dark and her face was full of scars and blemishes. ‘My memory network’ scanned to recollect the face and the results seemed to match with none other than Agnes. But this girl looked very different from the fair and plump Agnes I once knew.
“Agnes… how come you are here? What happened to you?”
Her tear dwelled blue eyes looked sunken with grief. She looked so pale that I wondered what had happened to the once cheerful little kid. She moved back as if I was a stranger.
“ Agnes its me Tracy…..” Slowly but calmly I explained the past – her photo envelopes, the letters she wrote and everything . I secretly wondered if she recalled the facts. I drew her towards me as tears rolled down her muddy cheeks. She hugged me tightly and whispered ‘Tracy Mama…’. I kissed her forehead and she lay on my shoulders.
A car accident had killed her dad that left Agnes orphaned. She lay in the hospital unconscious for days from where she was moved into the city orphanage. The aftermath was a shocked and disturbed Agnes who kept mum most of the time. This was the first time she responded to any other individual.
I listened to what the orphanage teacher spoke as we sat on the beach with Agnes on my lap.
Agnes lay on my chest deep asleep as I inquired about ‘orphan adoption formalities’. The little angel hugged tightly on my shoulders. Her face looked composed reflecting the comfort in her mind . A cold wave washed my stretched feet. I looked at the distant sea that looked calm with lesser waves rolling into the beach. The scorching sun had finally fully emerged out of the vast water expanse to shine brightly over them…..