The Come Back – Chapter 21

by Anita Menon

It was an early morning and the mist hadn’t yet given way to the rays of the sun. Clouds of white mist lay heavy, like a mask, suffocating the early morning joggers. Sightless and breathless, the joggers only managed to avoid each other on the smooth road, which was a specially laid-out track for joggers. Muffled voices of walkers sitting on the wooden benches of the sidewalk were the only indication for the joggers that they were right on track and weren’t losing their way.
Anna brushed past most joggers with great ease that it almost shock-surprised the others. On some occasions, spurred by her confidence, many joggers took her lead and kept close to her while jogging. Most of the defeated joggers were seen leaving the ground after a few rounds. Anna kept her speed, feeling the pores of her face absorbing the wet mist. Her clothes were nearly damp  with sweat and the moisture. She found it easy to navigate compared to others because she wasn’t actually trying to see her way through the mist. Something else was bothering her and occupying her attention.

‘ A few more rounds and then I’ll be on my way back home.’ , she decided.

Maya was coming back home, her sister had announced a day back. It did not register, in the beginning because she did not know what it would mean to her. Ash had a history with Maya but she was a mere toddler when Maya had disappeared from her life. Biological mothers do not do that, atleast not the ones that belonged to the human species. They were supposed to stay and nurture their offspring until they are grown enough to take care of themselves. She was only a year old and remembered nothing of Maya. Not even the tinkling sound that Ash had mentioned to her sometimes while growing up. Ash was all of 5 and remembered every detail about Maya. Anna never even got a chance to say ‘Mummy’ because Maya was gone long before she started to speak. It puzzled her when she saw her friends’ mothers fussing over them and showering them with constant attention. She never had that chance but she did not miss it. Did she hold a grudge? Did she miss her? Why did she have to leave? Was she really that selfish? No one knew answers to these questions. Papa destroyed every evidence that spoke of Maya after she left some ‘letter’ addressing Papa and Ash.

‘She did not think of leaving anything for me’.

Now that was something she could hold against her. Growing up, she never felt she didn’t have a mother, because Mrs. P was always on her side pampering her with all the love and affection. Papa did the best that he could and she knew the love that he had for her sometimes sneaked past that expressionless exterior in the form of little actions. He was always there to tuck her in even if he had to rush from work to do that. He never left them to travel anywhere even if opportunities presented themselves. She did feel anger sometimes when she saw Papa lonely, without a companion. But it did seem, as if he did not desire any company anymore. She could not ever muster the courage to tell him that he should find some company and she wouldn’t mind that at all. She wasn’t too sure of what Ash’s reaction would have been if Papa had ever decided to share his life with someone else.

More conflicting thoughts jammed her head and as an automatic response she increased her speed. The ground was getting isolated by the second as most of the joggers decided, it wasn’t really a good day to run. Anna whizzed past the trees, the rose bushes and the little shrubs and taking no notice of the beautiful flowers, the golden leaves  and the hearty chirping of the song birds.

How was she supposed to react when Maya came home? Was she supposed to run and hug her and say ‘ Welcome home Mommy?”. The preposterous thought made her laugh. That would be ridiculous, she decided. She can just pretend that she did not exist. Would that be easy? She hadn’t even seen her once before to know how she looked like. Once Papa had answered, ” She looked exactly like you, Anna.” Papa never lied to her. When she was 4 years old, she had officially asked him, who her mother was.  He  had answered in the most gracious way that it was Maya. Where is she now and why is she not here, she had pressed. Papa, had  patiently, picked her up and told her that Maya had to go away and that was the reason why she wasn’t here.

Ironically, as she grew older, she never felt the need to know Maya or the urge to find out where she was right now. She got busy with her own life struggles and ambitions. She almost decided on calling her shrink and asking her advice, but Ash had forbidden her to do so. She insisted that Anna should take her own decisions and she was going to follow her advice. Anna felt smug about the sudden turn of events where Ash had apologized and made a sincere attempt to redeem herself. She now had an older sister to look up to but her cynical side kept warning her that Ash always had a way to disappoint her. This time, she was going to trust Ash, she promised herself. She smiled bright and wide, all to herself. Perhaps that smile was so dazzling that the few passers-by took notice and were struck by how beautiful she was. Anna felt a lot confident about facing Maya because she knew Ash would be on her side. She did not need her shrink anymore, she felt.

On her way back home, she hobbled a bit as she ran more than she ought to have. By now the mist had parted and given way to the stubborn sun. Every bit of the earth sparkled, people’s moods brightened and Anna walked back home humming  a tune.