tagRomanceUmbrella in the Rain

Umbrella in the Rain


Author's Note: While writing the Call Girl and the Businessman, I find myself drifting away to the weather outside. I had always been fascinated by weather. Taking a short respite from the Call Girl, I write this short story where, instead of the musky saturation before rain, I write about romance in the rain itself. There are parallels in this story with The Call Girl. I note that some readers do not like reading about the same themes, so be forewarned here.

Basically I am writing what I feel like writing about. I have realized how precious life is, and how everyday little things can bring joy.

I welcome feedback and comments. I hope that this story can stay in your heart a little longer. Then my aim as a writer is done *.*


Umbrella in the Rain

Dedicated to those searching and have found; most importantly dedicated to my husband

By she who possesses a beautiful name, or so says him

This would be a short story of part of my life personified. I have lived of course, and am still living the brilliant life. Many people have vouched for me, saying that I am a brilliant person. Why am I brilliant, I do not know. I think it is because I appear brilliant but in reality I am not.

It is raining heavily now. I look outside the windows of our flat. It is six in the evening. He would be home at exactly seven. Just like the first time we met, he had set the time at seven. Always at seven, never later or earlier. Boy, how I love the fact that he is so precise!

The atmosphere is dark outside. These winter months are long. Now I have known better having lived here for two years. And how often it rains during these months. We have sunless skies during winter, its clouds; more than gloomy. It was always the rain clouds or the storm clouds. They say the Eskimos have names for fifty different types of snow. Here we say we have names for fifty different types of rain. This rain falling now, it is either the needle rain or the sword rain. The locals call it that. When it falls, it falls hard. It taps to your skin like injections from the doctor.

Life is harsh sometimes, and it is more than bearable. The two of us complement each other. We just do. Looking outside the window, I await for his return. He has been busy lately at the restaurant. He had just opened up a restaurant and he manages it well. I still kept to my old job of interpreting and have managed to stay put here in Augusta without travelling.

The streets are lonely as usual. This part of town is the hideout of gangs and sub-gangs of inferiority. I have contact with them. By now, I know who are up the ranks and who not. Yet I treat everyone the same. They have gotten used to me. They do not bother me. In fact their presence keeps me safe because I have become part of them.

I do not fear walking down the streets alone. I do not fear the rain. I know, under those metal awnings now, they negotiate their business. It is too big a burden I will carry if I informed the authorities. I shall not and will not do so. I am no angel but I try to be a good person. I am just someone who lives here by choice and have accepted the shady part of life.

I am in its periphery of activities. They know I have their trust as I do theirs. I am silent. I let the rain do all its talking. Its noise; the loud thunder and crisp-quick lightning heightened my senses.

Did he bring the umbrella today? He had rushed to work. He might have forgotten. There was an emergency at the restaurant today which turned out to be a false alarm. The fire alarm had gone off; triggered by a lizard which somehow got in its wiring.

Just maybe through writing I get to see a clearer picture of the situation long gone. Most of my childhood, I had been a traveller. My parents were always travelling around the world. It was not that they had globe-trotting careers. It was just that they loved to see new cultures and they wanted to explore new dimensions in life they never knew existed. This was what my mother told me.

My parents would take any jobs available to them in each city we travelled to. Among them, they had been waiter and waitress, labourer and labouress (if ever there was such a word), taxi drivers, teachers and even pretend beggars on the road at one point when we really needed the money.

As a result of our frequent travelling, I had the opportunity to know many people. I grew attached to some of them. I would send them cards until today. Yet I knew I would never see them in a long, long time. Strange as it may sound, we never travel the same place twice.

I remember one day in a small town in a remote African country, I was crying. I was twelve years old, and yes, that is probably an old age to be crying on the streets. I was hot, I was tired and I just wanted to get out of all the barren landscape and people with long thick braids which frightened me.

I remember my mother patting me on my head, as if I were a dog. She told me, "Now there...we are only staying here for six months. After six months, we will go somewhere new. Would you like that?" She asked, looking at me; consoling me and finally when it did not work, she hugged me tight on the streets.

"You are brilliant. You are a smart girl. You have been everywhere that your friends have not been." She said, whispering into my ears.

"Is it so?" I asked.

I liked this new word. It sounded posh and very adult-like.

She nodded and kissed me on my forehead.

Then I took to the streets in big strides. I rolled the heavy luggage down the desert road. My parents lagged behind me. I was in front of them throughout the walk to our rented house.

We normally travelled two places in a year. We became good at adapting and good at languages. We knew how to pack light and we were street-smart. The three of us bonded well and we were close.

I believed I was brilliant. The word was kept in my memory till this day. Yet I did not tell anyone that I was brilliant or anything like that. It was like my secret alone. Such were the irrationalities of childhood.

When I was eighteen, I opted to stay put. I just grew tired of all the travelling. I was world-weary. I did not find travelling satisfying. I felt my life lacked meaning.

Why couldn't we stay a little longer if we liked the place?

Why must we always leave?

These two questions popped into my head often now. My parents said they liked to see more and more. They were naturally curious people.

Yet, I felt sorry for them. I felt that they were afraid to be rooted somewhere. They feared commitment. Their life did not have a purpose. Why, after eighteen years of travelling, have they not found solace somewhere?

I told them one day that I wanted to stay put somewhere. So happened that we were in a town called Solav. I said I wanted to stay here. Not that I knew the place well, not that I had any friends. I just did not want to live like a nomad anymore.

I told my parents that it would be so much better for my education. I wanted to go to university and if I did, I would have to stay put. It would be better now than later.

After much deliberation, my parents rationalized that it would be good for me to stay while they left me on my own. At first it was scary but exciting. I was finding new meaning in life; in independence at least. I was happy to stay here, in a small town.

I made friends. I attended university and five years later, I graduated with an honours degree in linguistics. I started on a new job, but it seemed the curse of travelling came to me again. Due to economic recession, I was unable to land a desk job. I could only find this interpreting job which required me to travel as and when needed. And it was often needed.

Yet, ironically, travelling again after five years made me realize how much I missed the sense of trepidation of going to a new place. I wondered why I was never at home in one place. I felt a kind of solidarity everywhere and anywhere. Perhaps due to my upbringing, I had learnt to create this vision of inner peace in my heart no matter where I was.

In one of these travels, I landed in the town of Augusta. My day-time job required me to interpret from their native language into English. I was interpreting friendly closed-door discussions with senior government officials there with those who represented my company in an oil deal. By night I was free to explore the city.

I was not very adventurous by nature. My whole life seemed to be dictated by a litany of events and the consequences which I were taking were a result of the events. The café which I wanted to go to was closed, so I ended up in the bar next door.

I guess the bar was a small-time bar where everyone knew everyone. People, mostly men were talking to each other while I was alone with a margarita.

The atmosphere was dark and noisy and I did not like it at all. Once in a while was okay, but I still felt it was too much.

I left with hardly a sip of the margarita.

"Waste not, want not, eh?" A smooth voice sounded into my ear like a gong. Whoever he was, he spoke right into my ear, causing me to jump out of my skin.

It was so loud, and I was a softie when it came to noise.

I turned upwards to the voice and at the same time, my cheeks brushed into his rough stubble. Again, causing me to jump.

I looked at this man, mesmerized for a while.

He smiled a coy smile and immediately took my margarita into his grasp.

I nodded; affirming that he could take my drink if that was what he wanted. I turned and left the place.

Outside, apparently it had started to rain. I did not feel like going back in; not when some unknown claimed my drink after I abandoned it. To order again would seem embarrassing.

I stood by the sidewalk which was partially covered by a metal awning from the pub. I watched the rain. I literally stood as time passed by. I stared at the rain in its entirety. Shreds of raindrops; like needles seemed to pierce the ground hard.

With no foresight or inkling, tears started to flow from my face. I felt a deep stab in my heart. Yet I could not fathom why I was feeling that way. I saw my whole life graze pass me. The different countries, the friendly people, the unfriendly people, my university, my office and then I saw myself. This was my life.

I reached out to the rain. Clasping my palms into a bowl, I gathered rain. I was relieving my past; trying to figure out why I was brilliant. Why was that? What was it that my mother said?

She said that I had the opportunity to travel the world. Others had not. She said I had...

"Travelled the world, stranger?" Came that smooth voice again from behind me. Jerking me again.

"Ah." I stared at him, into his eyes.

That was exactly what I was thinking about at that time. How could he have known?

"The margarita's great. By the way, thanks." He said.

"Oh." I said. Belatedly I remembered to wipe my tears.

I wonder if he had noticed them at all. It was raining, so it was only natural that I was soaked.

"Yes." I said later. I was behaving rather silly. For a person with a gift for languages, it seemed I was lost for words.

"Raining, huh...tough luck. You have no umbrella?" He asked.

I shook my head.

"Good luck!" He said.

He swung the pub door open and on the coat hanger there swished out an umbrella.

So he knew it was going to rain, I thought. He had bought an umbrella with him.

Without looking at me, he opened the umbrella and was on his way into the darkness.

I stood there as the rain got heavier. I watched the street grew silent of people. There was nothing to see except the darkness and the piercing blades of rain.

I had travelled the world. Surely rain could not hurt me. It could not. Instinctively I walked a step forward. Then I was basking in the rain.

I let the rain wet me thoroughly. Then I ran towards my hotel which was a kilometre away. I figured that I might as well get myself drenched for the full experience.

I ran blindly, barely opening my eyes. But my sense of direction was good. I knew which street to take and where to go.

Suddenly I no longer felt the raindrops in my eyes. I looked up, only to find an umbrella covering my body. The owner of the umbrella - it was him. The same man who took off; leaving me to stand alone outside the pub.

"Where are you going?" He shouted at me.

The rain was loud and pattering; the wind howling like crazy.

"The Hotel Augusta." I said.

At the same time, I pushed myself away from him and his umbrella.

I shook my head.

"I am already so soaked, it doesn't matter. I will run." I shouted over all the commotion of the rain.

"No, I come with you. It's safer." He shouted back.

I deliberated. It made no difference if he accompanied me or not. There was not a single soul whom I could see on the streets given the heavy downpour. Safer? Being with him was dangerous enough.

"You want to run, eh? Then we run together. I know...short-cut." He yelled at me; catching his breath, as I took a few steps back from him.

He grabbed my left hand in his.

Startled I resisted in the opposite direction.

Yet he pulled me while running. His strength was greater than mine; my resistance futile. After a while, I ran with him. I was so accommodating. Years of adapting like a chameleon in different countries taught me this.

He brought me to the doorstep of my hotel. Then he released his iron grasp on my hands.

At the hotel lobby, we were both drenched. A few people were staring at us but trying not to stare too hard. Some chuckled, which they tried to turn into a cough of sorts. Typical of human nature.

"You're alright?" He asked; lifting my chin so that he could look into my face.

"I'm perfectly fine."

I smiled the most radiant smile I could while his hands held me still. But in reality I felt lost and confused. I could not fathom this feeling. I had to compensate by putting up a glorious act.

His touch; those fingers; they felt so warm. I reached my hand to that warm hand and took it down gently. It was unbearable. I could not take it anymore.

In full light, I now saw him clearly. He was tall and broad. He had this dark, curly hair which stood out of place. His eyes were pitch black. The depths of it were chilling. So deep. He reminded me of a wolf I saw at the Tanzanian National Park many, many years ago.

"I wanted to show you the short cut. You were running the long way. It would take ten more minutes to reach with the main road." He said in his smooth voice.


Again was my monosyllabic reaction. Too many I don't knows for that night. I was out of my self-sufficient functioning element.

It was the way the rain fell. It had to be.

"Have a good evening."

He extended his palm towards me. All I could think of still was how he resembled a wolf.

Sensing that I was not going to shake his hand, he retracted them into his coat pocket. He headed for the entrance of the hotel. He was leaving me alone, finally.

I regained my composure then.

"Wait!" I ran after him, almost bumping into him due to the lightning speed I ran.

He looked surprised.

"It's still raining." I said.

"I'm already soaked. It doesn't matter. Just like you told me half an hour ago."

He smiled then, showing how charming he could be.

"Where...where's your umbrella?" I asked, noticing that he did not have the umbrella anymore.

"Gone. Must have slipped from my hands while I was holding yours." He said.

"I'm sorry." I said, biting my lips.

It was a guilty reaction.

"No big deal. Umbrellas do not last long in Augusta anyway. It rains hard here." He said, with a twinkle in his eyes.

"Anyhow I have some business to attend to. I have to go now if you'll let me." He said.

His nose, upturned, I felt like he was challenging me on to something.

I opened my mouth to say something but I did not know what to say.

I am a terrible flirter, by the way. All my years in university and staying put and I have only managed to chase men away when I did intend to flirt.

I did not want to flirt. I just wanted him to stay for a little while longer.

My expression must have said it. For then, he patted me on my shoulders.

"Tomorrow evening at seven, I will be free. I will be standing right here if you shall want me."

He mocked me. Those pitch black eyes.

The next day, I went to the conference hall groggy and irritable. I did not interpret accurately but I was able to get away with it because both parties did not understand the language of the other. Luckily I held a high standard for myself, so only words with negligible content were omitted. I felt that these guys should just cut the formal language out and get straight into business; which I did for them.

I thought about what he said. I decided not to go there to meet him. It was a man at a bar, just that. Nothing more. Why should I care? He did not offer me the umbrella in the first place when I was standing outside there, all alone, crying even for some irrational reason known.

I went to the twenty-four hour shop nearby and bought two umbrellas. One was lavender, the other was midnight blue. It came in a set. Apparently if you buy one umbrella, it costs five dollars. Buy two umbrellas and the price is only eight dollars. At seven, I was in my hotel room looking out of the window. I noticed the time but I decided to stay in. At seven-thirty, I walked to the lobby, ready to satisfy my growing hunger. I had not had dinner. Women like me, travelling a lot, always dine alone.

I walked out to the café I had wanted to go to yesterday. It was open today. On the way though, I bumped into him.

Providence would have it that way, I guess. Goodness knows how many times have I jumped in his presence? This was no good. I cannot be in "shock and awe" every time I came into contact with him. He was a distraction to my solitary but peaceful life.

He saw and he noticed me walking his way. He was walking towards me; as the natural sequence of events would go.

Yet he turned his head away from me the moment we passed each other. He pretended not to see me.

This was what I wanted. This was good for me. Yet I called out after him. I ran after him and I actually fell on his back in the process. His strong body did not bulge. So much for keeping away from this stranger.

"Take this umbrella." I puffed.

Finally I managed to string a sentence together.

Was it some undercurrent in my heart wishing for more so that I had come prepared with two umbrellas? I handed him the blue umbrella.

"This is to replace the umbrella you lost yesterday while guiding me to the hotel." I said.

He took it and placed his palms on mine.

"This is a surprise; meeting you here. Are you sure?" He asked.

He had that deep look in his eyes again. I tried to read his countenance but could not. Why could I not read him? I could always read people. I knew people. I was the brilliant one.

"Don't tell me you're going to order a margarita and then leave it there again?" He asked.

I expected it to be a joke. Jokes are meant to be taken lightly but he sounded very serious.

"Here. I am going here to have dinner." I pointed at the café next to the bar.

He let out a deep sigh of relief.

"And would you be kind enough to allow me to buy you dinner and serenade you the night through with a history of this town? And just maybe, we could have a special dessert somewhere else if you're up to it." He asked, raising my palms so that his lips grazed them ever so gently.

His Casanova smooth voice was back. Yes, indeed, he was a Casanova. A man who got women as easily as he changed his socks.

"I like ice-cream." I said, foolishly.

"Which flavour?" He asked.

"Chocolate." I practically beamed at him.

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