The principal is calling out the graduates by first name alphabetically. I’m holding back my tears, waiting. “Abraham”, “Ajax”, “Allana”, and then, that most beautiful of names, “Annika”.

I force myself to remain quiet. I long to tell the world who you are, who I am. Instead, I pull down the wide brim of my designer hat to hide my face, and bask in the sight of you. “Congratulations, Annika Cacheon,” the principal beams. You thank him, then scan the audience until you spot the elegant woman in powder blue wiping her eyes. Your special smile is reserved for her.

I remember that smile. You were tiny, perfect. I felt plain and dowdy just holding you. I vowed that your life must be different than mine, beginning with your name. Annika. So much better than the frumpy Annie. Four letters became an invisible cord, binding you to me. When I whispered your name, your smile became my most treasured memory. That was the last time I saw you until today.

I only met Bella Cacheon once. I don’t see how she could recognize me. I was an uneducated, impoverished teenager. Now I’m a famous artist of considerable wealth and culture. I could give you the world now. But she gave you the happy, stable childhood I knew you deserved. And we made an agreement. You were never to know of me. Her husband helped forge the papers to make you theirs. Now, since his death, only the two of us know the truth.

Graduation is over. Families and friends are taking pictures, greeting each other. My plane to France leaves soon, my cab is waiting. I decide to take my last and only chance. As I move toward you, Bella steps between us and takes my hand.

Even after all this time, she knows me. Her eyes hold compassion and understanding but also a gentle warning. “Annie,” she murmurs. My name finally sounds beautiful, those first four letters a brave secret. I give your mother a heartfelt hug and run to catch my cab. I don’t look back.

 

 
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Margarida Brei
Margarida Brei(@margarida-brei)
7 months ago

How tragic not only having to give up your baby but never knowing each other. Well done Julie.

Linda Rock
Linda Rock(@linda-rock)
7 months ago

Oh my goodness Julie, what a tear-jerker! Of course, Annie did the right thing for her daughter but how tragic that now she can support her, be a mother to her, there is no chance. And how sad Annika will never know her or the sacrifice she made. Beautifully written.

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Piyali Ganguli
Piyali Ganguli(@piyali-ganguli)
7 months ago

Such a touching story. It brought tears to my eyes.

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Carrie OLeary
Carrie OLeary(@carrie-oleary)
7 months ago

What a sad tale Julie. At least she was able to keep track of her daughter and knew that she was well and happy. Many other women don’t have have that luxury, which must be even more heartbreaking. Nicely written and emotional. Well done.

Christer Norrlof
Christer Norrlof(@christer-norrlof)
7 months ago

It’s a fascinating story, Julie. The reader, just like Annie, is feeling strongly that Annie and Annika should meet, that mother and daughter should get to know each other. What happened was probably the best for all parties, but it will be difficult for Annie to go on with her life without thinking every day on her daughter.
It’s a very powerful story that triggers a lot of thoughts, questions and emotions, for example concerning the contrast between (the possibility of) becoming a successful artist and (the possibility of) becoming an appreciated and loved mother; the chance of having both, and the risk of missing out on all of it.

Sandra OReilly
Sandra OReilly(@sandra-oreilly)
7 months ago

A lovely story Julie that brought tears to my eyes. I wonder how many women in the world are in this exact same situation through no fault of their own.

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Lotchie Carmelo
Lotchie Carmelo(@lotchie-carmelo)
7 months ago

It is so touching. I couldn’t stop my tears from dripping. Well done, Julie.

Melissa Taggart
Melissa Taggart(@melissa-taggart)
7 months ago

This is a touching story, Julie. I also agree with Carrie, I’m happy that she was able to keep track of her daughter. This one brought me to the brink of tears!

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