The Yellow Umbrella

October 25, 2012
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It is a warm, bright spring day and the scent of rain is overpowering. An old woman sits alone on a quilted blanket in the shade of an old oak amidst a grove of other trees. A wicker basket is sitting in front of her, containing special delights she had packed earlier today for this occasion.
The old woman turns and smiles, wrinkling her already weathered face, at an old yellow umbrella sitting next to her. The more she stares at it, the more she thinks of him.
She closes her eyes, drowning out everything around her. She is no longer an old lady with a closed picnic basket at the park, but a young woman with rouged lips and long curly blonde hair walking down a crowded street with a young, dark haired man. He has tan skin from spending too many days in the sun and is carrying the yellow umbrella.
She laughs at him playfully, noticing how sunny it is outside, “Why are you carrying an umbrella?”
He only smiles at her in return, “You never know when it’s going to rain.”
The images of the past dissolve as she opens her eyes and returns to the unfortunate present. Her skin no longer a fair pink color, but rather a pasty white with the addition of wrinkles and her thick, blonde locks of hair now thin and white.
She shakes her head of the memories and opens her basket. She takes out and places two peanut-butter sandwiches, two bundles of grapes, a thermos of lemonade, and two glasses, placing every other item in the space across from her on the blanket.
She carefully picks up the thermos of lemonade, her weak hand shaking despite her attempt to steady the container, and starts pouring the refreshment into her cup.
As she started pouring into the cup opposite of her, she is suddenly taken back to when she is a young woman again, pouring wine into the glass across from her. As she looks up, she sees the dark haired man wearing a white shirt with brown suspenders sitting across from her, smiling at her, with his dark brown eyes staring into her light blue eyes. They are in the same place, outside of the same park, under the same tree, though the tree was obviously smaller and less ancient. As the wine reaches the top of his glass, she stops. They both lift their glasses and make a toast to one another in celebration.
“Happy anniversary, dearest,” the man says lovingly before they both sip their wine.
The image starts to disappear regardless of how she longed to hold to it. She is brought back to the ancient tree. She realizes that she had filled the glass to where it is overflowing and quickly manages to sop up the lemonade.
Regaining her composure, she replaces the lid of the thermos and puts it back in the basket. She then picks up the yellow umbrella and set it across from her, behind the drink and food. After that, she raises her own glass and toasts the empty space in front of her. Her frail hand is shaking as she is holding her lemonade in the air for a moment and brings it to her lips, allowing the tartly sweet drink flow over her tongue.
After savoring the sweet taste in her mouth, she starts eating a couple grapes from her arrangement of food. When she is fully satisfied, she reaches into the picnic basket once more and pulls out a weathered ukulele and cradles it in her hands. She tries to fight back tears as she plucks one of its strings, making dust fly from the string as it sings out its single musical tune.
She rides the sad, lonely tune back to the park of olden days under same tree, its leaves a deep shade of red and orange which allows the warm sunlight to stream through into the cool shade. The man is sitting nonchalantly against the tree, strumming the ukulele expertly, bringing out the best of the remaining days of summer. The young woman laughs with him and sits next to him, curling up to him as he continues to play. She kisses his cheek, forcing him to stop playing and set aside the instrument next to the familiar yellow umbrella. He smiles at her and holds her hand, their wedding rings touching and glistening in the sunlight.
The sunlight fades with the memory as she finds herself clinging tightly to the ukulele with tears streaming down her cheeks, each dropping onto the instrument. She realizes that she is holding her breath so she manages to let it go in short, separate gasps, each breath growing harsher in her throat. She loosens her grip on the instrument and wipes her eyes as she places the ukulele across from her so that it touches the yellow umbrella. As she raises her hand to draw back, her eye caught something stirring in the corner of her vision.
She looks at the untouched food across from her own plate and sees a few tiny black creatures moving on the outer edge of the lonely sandwich. As she looks harder, she could see a small trail starting to form as one ant after the other makes its way on or around the sandwich. Horrified, the woman begins to frantically shoo off the insects, yet they cling to the bread relentlessly. Seeing how pointless it was, she drops the sandwich, leaving it at the mercy of the ravenous ants.
Her eyes cloud with tears, and when she blinks to clear her vision, she is taken back to the same location, though the man is no longer young and full of life; his hair is grey and his skin a pasty white, similar to hers. He is sitting under the tree with the woman under his arm, both looking into each others’ eyes, still in love after all they have been through together. Suddenly, he begins to cough; it was very deep and guttural. The old woman sits up, concern and fright written all over her face. The old man pounds his chest, attempting to suppress his cough while every now and then looking at his wife with a forced smile of reassurance. She clutches his arm lovingly while stroking his back to help him stifle his cough, but to no avail.
The images slowly vanish and the old woman finds herself holding her breath once again, unable to let it go. Tears are streaming down her cheeks, refusing to stop. She manages to exhale in a deep sigh, forcing the pain she was feeling in her chest out with her breath. Once she regains normal breathing and wipes her tears away, she looks down at the remaining sandwich and sees that it is nearly black with ants. Terrified to see it consumed with crawling insects, she lifts the plate with the half-eaten sandwich was on and shoved it away from herself, making the ants scurry away in fright, only to come back and claim their prize.
She does not know why, but she starts to mumble in between sobs, “I’m sorry darling, I’m sorry this happened.”
She looks up and sees her husband lying in a hospital bed across from her. The golden sunlight streams in from the window, bathing him in light. He appears weaker than he usually is, older and feebler. She is clutching his thin, veiny hand despairingly while mumbling, “I’m sorry, darling. I’m sorry this happened to you.”
He raises his hand, with what it looks like took all his strength, and strokes her cheek to wipe away her tears. “Don’t apologize, you did nothing,” he manages to wheeze, “it’s just that my body has too many bugs in it and no one can do anything about it.” He takes her hand from her grasp and brings it to his thin lips and lightly kisses it. “I love you,” he whispers.
“I love you too, darling,” she replies, squeezing his hand tighter. With that, she watches his face drop and his eyes close as if he is falling asleep, peacefully. His grip loosens and lets go of her hand, letting it settle on the side of his body.
The hospital room dissolves, along with her husband, into grey and she is back under the tree at her picnic, though the sky is no longer a sunny yellow, but a dark grey. The wind picks up, blowing against her tear-soaked face, sending a chill up her spine. She packs up everything into the picnic basket: the thermos, her leftovers, the blanket, and the ukulele. She stands up, grasping the basket in her left hand and the closed yellow umbrella in her right. Looking up into the sky, she whispers, “Happy anniversary darling. I only wish you were, somehow, here again.”
As she speaks, she feels a raindrop fall on her lips, kissing her with cold wetness. She opens the umbrella, letting it form an orb of yellow vibrance, and holds it above her head. She begins to walk away from the grove, but takes one last look in longing and memory. “You never know when it’s going to rain.”

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