Agnes sat at the cafe, with her back to the entrance. She was enjoying her morning cup of latte and was in no hurry to send in the report scheduled to reach her partner an hour ago. Her meeting with their client had gone on well. She was looking forward to working with him and maybe start her own enterprise. Agnes had no idea whose blood was running in her veins, she was from an orphanage, grew up there, and being ambitious as she was, moved on to being quite successful in her own right. Oh how she was looking forward to a new life!

Enjoying the sun falling at her feet, warming them, she was engrossed in her own thoughts when she heard the lady behind her speak with pursed lips, hissing out the words, ‘How dare you!”  Agnes ignored, till she heard a familiar voice reply to the lady in gentle tones. It was Gerard! The elderly gentleman at the orphanage! He owned it, looked after it well, and nurtured the children there as his own. Everyone there was aware of his special love and attention towards Agnes.

And here he was sounding amused, slightly condescending towards the lady. She sounded as though she belonged to another country, her accent seemed French. But who knew, Agnes was not an expert in identifying languages or accents. All she knew for now was that her ears were burning as she continued to overhear the conversation, glued and almost frozen to her chair.

Gerard’s tone slightly irritated, telling the lady that he was ready to keep “her”,  and tell his wife too about their child. He would face the music, but never let her go from the country to a strange land where he himself had never ventured and maybe would never get an opportunity to see his child ever again. This way she would at least come down, visit them often and he was in the know how of what was going on in her life. By now Agnes knew it was she,  the person they were fighting over. She heard him say that he could not entrust his little princess in the hands of a drug addict artist, who did not know where her life was going. Who was not aware of how her next day would unfold, someone who had no clue about her own self, could never  be a guardian or friend to her own child, whom she had left years ago in his care.

Agnes could hear a teary , wavering voice say helplessly, “but she is my baby too”. Gerard had no faith in his friend whom he had loved so dearly years ago. Simone was in Pondicherry, India, a French Colony, twenty three years ago, as a student from her college in France, sent on an exchange program. She became interested in art and would sketch round the clock. The sea, the forest, birds, humans , anything that caught her eye and imagination and generated enough interest. Gerard, a young happy entrepreneur in those days, was handsome and rugged enough to catch her eye, and be her subject.

She sketched innumerable poses of him, and in the process the two fell in love. It was a crazy whirlwind affair, and just as it was time for her to leave, she realized that she was pregnant. Gerard proposed, knowing that to be the best direction to go, only to be shattered and so confused to hear Simone’s denial. She would not hear of it. She had a family, a life to go back to, and would in no way continue to stay here in this country she so despised.

Simone, somehow agreed to give birth to their baby, and then leave for Bordeaux forever. Oh, but strings of motherhood did tug on her, and she did come once, looking older and drained, wanting to meet their girl. She was a successful artist, whose paintings were much sought after, but was given to drugs, once in a while. Gerard was married with two lovely daughters of his own and was running an orphanage. Disappointed at not being able to have her family back, she left, only to return again.

Agnes did not take time to make a quick decision. She looked back, saw the lady, her mother and was surprised to see her own features duplicated there right in front of her eyes. She greeted her father with a tight hug and an affectionate peck on his cheek. ” But pa, I am an adult now. I will leave for France with my mother.”

Simone gently put her slender hand on her daughters arm and smiled. Agnes had no idea what she had opted for, she thought, a sly look in her tired eyes.

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