The Red Umbrella
The Red Umbrella5 mins 554 5 mins 554
The grey horizon promised a turbulent night. The fluttering sails white against them seconded it. She hoped Craig knew what he was doing with the ropes and ties. She knew nothing about sailing and had come along only to keep him company. “Would we need to turn home?” Could he hear the hopeful suggestion in her voice, had it masked the anxiety? She had tried to keep her voice as steady as she could – he hated weakness and she didn’t want to come across as a helpless damsel in distress – which was exactly how she felt at the moment. The boat’s bow crashed into another wave; she held on to her seat tightly, fighting lunch which threatened to rise up along with the next wave.
He didn’t reply. Had he heard her above the wind, or was he just ignoring answering? He had once told her he avoided any conversation that would cause dissension or a reason for an argument as he viewed it. That had been when she had tried to tell him how much he had hurt her over the years, and how a simple, sincere, ‘sorry’ would have been balm enough, but he had chosen silence and a quiet exit from the room, as if her two sentences had been too much of a bother.
“Do you want a drink? It's in the fridge. I have brought juice and whatever – take what you want.” He called out cheerily. She knew then that he had heard her, but had chosen the easier path of ‘saving his arse’ by changing the topic in an unwanted conversation – as usual. He also wanted her out of sight; did he think she would judge him on his prowess with the ropes? She, who could not sail and hated water sports?
How far apart they were on this tiny boat, in the middle of the water with no one else in sight for miles. Yet, he had been crowded with ‘his people’ - he had brought his laptop, his phone and had been constantly on ‘important matters’ for as long as he could till they were out of network range. “No thanks.” She turned her head to get her hair off her face not daring to use either hand.
“Could you get me one then?” He had heard that. “Need to be here to check the sails.”
She looked at him wondering if she could point out that he wasn’t doing anything with them, merely sitting by that long rope that he had wound over that metal knob-like thing that seemed to keep everything on course. The sails seemed calmer now too. Why couldn’t he get up and serve himself? Couldn’t he see how scared she was? Were they that distant?
“The clouds look angry,” she said instead. Indeed the horizon wasn’t merely a metallic grey anymore, there were boiling clouds rolling in. Sailor, she may not be, but even she could sense a brewing storm. If she pointed it out a second time, he might, just to prove a point, turn even further away from shore. She held back her counsel. He would do just as he wanted, would risk everything for the sheer excitement of it; she didn’t need to encourage him.
She twisted to look behind, the way they had come. The shore seemed a hazy outline in the mist. Had she imagined it in her desperation to want to be connected to a sense of safety, or were they even further out than she knew? Regret minced at her insides – why had she thought this ride would change anything between them, that they would be friends again, the way they used to be? A flood of memories crashed in unbidden mirroring the heaving craft. Best friends marred by marriage; they should have stayed friends and married others – would that have preserved what they had? Or, maybe it’s just the way of life – seasons change even a forest of trees, maybe marriages too have seasons and maybe they would see spring again? She smiled at the hope. “What happened?” his voice above the wind broke her reverie.
“You were smiling. Finally enjoying the ride? I told you it’s nothing. The lake is moody but I can control her.”
Control. That’s it. It summed everything up perfectly. She looked at him with this new revelation. How could she have not known? Stupid woman, following her heart – what heart? There is nothing left of it, she scolded herself. Bits and pieces glued together with hope – hope springs eternal – where had she read that? Reading – that had always been her escape route – to bury her head in other worlds where she could control the time and pace of the reading, change the scene with a new story if the previous one was uncomfortable or boring or….simply because she could. Control.
The craft was on course into the charcoal grey of rainclouds kissing the waters – she could see the sheet of water even before the first raindrops pattered down, spitting up the water as they fell. “Let’s turn back!!” Her panic raw and exposed, her restrained reasoning within herself now no longer a choice.
His laughter rode the wind. “Enjoy it!”
A lone figure stood still on the pier they had left behind. The umbrella gave scant protection from the rain-laden, lashing wind. He had brought it for her. She would need it when they returned. The water would be choppy; she hated even a funfair ride – how would she be living through this? She could swim, he knew, he had seen her, but he also knew she could not fight these waves.
He had waited for what seemed like an eternity. He would wait even longer, if only it meant he would see her again. He hoped his red umbrella would help guide her home, and to safety. He had been her shadow; and like shadows, never seen as long as they lay behind. He had never been in front – how could she know he existed? But he existed for her. He waited….