"Bella, honey, can you please come here and help me?", said a polite voice from inside the bathroom of this plush mansion located in the uptown of Maryland, a huge estate bordering the Atlantic ocean. Following this sweet melodious voice, appeared a fairly medium height-ed, wheatish skinned girl walking at a pace higher than normal. "I was wondering if you could fetch the hair dryer for me...and.....I need some of the hair set gel for dad too...."
"Coming right up, mom!" said the girl in her usual obedient fashion, as she headed towards her dad's wardrobe. "I completely forgot, I also need the......This time Bella's almond shaped beautiful Asian eyes fixated on a paper. 'Mrs. Neepa- 998****' was written on the half folded thin piece of paper. She wondered why her dad had been so reckless by keeping the paper that had the contact of some Mrs. Neepa, who was apparently an important contact for him or else by now that paper would have found its way into the bin, quite like what Bella's dad most often did with the small chits of paper he used to write on, to improve his memory. This was strange. Who was this lady named Neepa? Why was her number so important?
"Bella, honey, I need you to get your bags down in 10 minutes okay" said a deep low pitched voice.
Bella took the paper put it into her pocket and got all what she needed as she ran towards her room to get her bags.
The family left for the airport where they boarded a plane to Finland, as per Bella's wish to celebrate christmas in Lapland that year. It was the trip she had been planning since a long time. Being the only kid to her American parents, she was extremely privileged, however, she was brought up much different from the rich kids in her neighbourhood. She was an Indian kid who had been adopted by the Smiths when she was 5 years old from an orphanage in India. Living with her parents she had developed a strong American accent despite which she continued to understand major parts of Hindi, even though she was just 5 when she had almost discontinued conversing in that language. Bella had much to love in her life after adoption despite her obvious physical differences from her parents' resemblance. She never had any doubts with respect to the love they had for her, however, she also knew that they were hiding something from her.
Around 2 years ago, she was told that she was adopted from India, on her insistence, however she was not told the reason why a mother could ever let go of her child. She remained persistent in her never ending curiosity to know who her mother was and why her mother had to give her up. The Smiths felt the pain in their hearts as much as Bella felt in her own. Probably worse. They knew how much it would hurt their little baby when she finds out why her mother gave her up. They tried to avoid bringing up the topic altogether. But this Christmas was different.
The flight landed in the snowy land as they received a turbulent welcome in this Scandinavian country, pretty much creating a stormy feeling not just outside the fight, but also in Bella's mind. She was uneasy for some reason.
"I have a reservation in number 11 organized by Mr. Smith..." said a musical voice handing over a card that confirmed the reservation. The receptionist checked the card meticulously going back and forth between the card, his computer screen and the black haired woman's face rechecking if her appearance matched that with the id he was sent on his check in page on his computer screen. He noticed a minor difference in her eyes, they looked baggy and exhausted. He called for a person who could guide this woman to the special table that was specifically organized for the Smiths, overlooking the entire town of Lapland with snow laden rooftops and radiant lights illuminating the entire chilled town of Niceo on Christmas eve.
"Bella, I have arranged for a surprise for you as you probably did guess correctly a few hours before...I want you to know that this was much delayed but I needed the correct time for this and nothing better than Christmas, right?" informed the loving father who had this time honored his daughter's much asked for wish. As he looked away, his eyes welled up and he wanted to just look away to hide his emotion, when Bella noticed right away and questioned him. She felt the little crack in his voice and went to comfort him. Even though she did comfort him then, her mind kept giving her impending signals of something about to set her off in some way. Her uneasiness had now doubled. Her parents and she hugged one last time as her parents wished her a Merry Christmas...Her dad told her her surprise was waiting by the room 11 overlooking the town.
She made her way down towards the porch in her fur jacket, walking at a faster pace to compensate for the cold wave that was quickly climbing upwards from her feet. Her mind was on high alert, sad, excited and anxious at the same time. She had probably never felt this way before except for when she had almost drowned while learning swimming back when she was 7 years old. This feeling was ten folds of that. Her mind realized a new limit of excitement.
She walked into the beautifully located Greek architectural hall which had huge windows over looking the snowy town from every angle. She saw a woman having jet black long and straight hair standing in one corner facing outside. As she heard Bella's approaching footsteps, she turned towards Bella.
A chill ran down Bella's spine as she saw this woman's face. Her mind took her back to the chit that read Mrs Neepa...who hopefully wasn't someone Bella thought she was. Bella felt a wave of excitement run down her body as never before. This sign was her mind telling her she was someone Bella wanted to know more about since the last few years and most of all why.....
"Hi Bella, I'm Neepa.....Bella was lost in her mind. She was confused but surprised. Had she ever thought this day would come? Had she ever thought she would ever get to meet her own Biological mom? Noooo......way.. she said! "who are you? What are you doing here?" , as she astutely observed her facial skin and eyes which were literally a 100% match with hers, something that scared her even more! " Bella, I gave birth to you!" confirming the fear Bella had since long. Bella noticed the way this woman moved her lips and her facial expressions which were so similar to herself, a little something she wanted to see in either of her parents ever since she was adopted. Bella noticed the baggy eyes and the little earrings this woman wore. Bella's heart dropped, as her breathing rate tried to come back to normal. She sat in the chair besides the woman. The woman tried to hold Bella's hand but Bella withdrew it right then and there.
Her awestricken appearance was very evident as she sat there for a few seconds before saying anything. "why did you give me up? Why did you choose to meet me, after being so embarrased by my birth? How can you just choose to show up in my life suddenly!.......Neepa looked on now almost in tears...she waited for Bella to finish as she gave her time for her excitement to settle. " I'm very very sorry baby! Bella looked away, her eyes trying to find solace in the beautiful spirit of christmas outside. This time Bella's eyes were overflowing and she needed a tissue to soak their unending path. "I was married off into a very male dominated family that wanted a son. My first ever child was you! My dear baby, who was snatched away from me because she was a girl. The society in our village shunned the entire family that had their first baby who was a girl. Your father decided to kill you..." this time her voice cracked. "I did not want that. I waited for your biological dad and grandparents to leave the hospital and I handed you over to my friend who promised to take care of you for a few days, while I tried to escape, your father guessed my plan and he beat me because of it and tried to threaten to kill me...I was left to myself. But I did not have the guts to run. I took some days to heal, while I kept a check on my friend who now seemed burdened by your presence..." her voice went lower than normal. "My friend told me that if I can't take you back within the next 2 days, she would give you to an orphanage. With the death threats to my life, I wondered what your future would be in the village of that God forsaken area! As much as I wanted to hold you in my arms, I couldn't. You were given into the arms of one Theresa woman who loved you very much until the Smiths inquired about you."..she continued " I tried to escape from that house but most of my attempts failed. However, I did make sure you were fine, in some way or the other!" Bella listened intently...tears had dried on her face as this story was something she never expected. She now missed her parents who would've comforted her at this sensitive time. She realized, they had given her the gift she demanded since so long. Her love for them was acknowledged now more than ever before. " I'm sorry Bella, I could never be there for you, even when I made sure you were fed well, taken care of well and happy! But I knew this day would arrive..." she tried to hold Bella's hands, this time Bella allowed. Her touch was gentle and her skin was so similar to Bella's. Bella felt the pain. "When you were 5, I was told the Smiths were looking for a baby girl to adopt and they had found their daughter in your eyes, I was blank, but when I saw their photo, my instinct told me they could give you a better life and a family, I cried for 2 days straight but I had to give up my own longing for you, I decided to kiss you one last time, before actually bidding farewell to you." She now fell silent with little sobs coming up every few seconds. Bella's fear, sadness and anger had left her. She felt a calming sensation over her which had finally ensured the storm was gone. "I know you might be angry that I never tried to save you, never did anything to reach out and suddenly now.....Bella I'm proud of that one thing I did when I kissed you goodbye that day, when the orphanage handed you over to the Smiths. Your dad loves you very much, Bella. He called the orphanage about 2 years back and was very sad while he called. He asked if the orphanage could find out anything about your biological mother. The orphanage called up but my family never mentioned this to me. It took the orphanage and your dad a few months to reach out since the time Mr. Smith had made his request. He got my number from somewhere even though my new contact wasn't available with the orphanage. He said he wanted to gift you something for the upcoming Christmas. He mentioned how much you longed to see me. He finally arranged for me to meet you. I hope you forgive me for not fighting for you baby. I'm sorry!"
Bella's heart sank and so did her eyes. She felt grateful for having been given to the Smiths. She felt more compassionate, more empathetic than she had ever felt before. A sweet smile came onto her lips as she continued to observe her biological mother's countenance. An inexplicable transformation had changed her within a matter of a few minutes.
"Forgive me, Mother"
Those three words, touched Neepa right in her heart. She felt like a burden was off her head.