When she was a girl she never really bonded with her umbrellas. They never stayed around long enough. Her first umbrella was pink and white, all ribbons and swirls. She took it out on sunny days, pounded the spike into the hot tarmac. When it was raining she shut the door to her bedroom when she came back from school and curled up under its rosy dome. Their affiliation ended on an airplane. In the struggle to keep up with her parents in the after-landing chaos it slipped her mind, slipped her hand. Later she imagined it on the airplane floor. Neck poking out of pink pantaloons, head twisted to one side, like a dead bird.
She became adept at losing. Other umbrellas found themselves abandoned on park benches, kicked under cafe-tables, strung up from hooks in toilet-cubicles.
Her mother never lost or discarded an umbrella. If one became too emaciated, too spiky and awkward for public display, it was discreetly removed to a cupboard in the basement. She used to steal down and open that cupboard. Withered memories of wind, rain and brief rainbows trickled towards her. There was a rustle of sagging nylon, a flutter of bright patterns and slogans around naked metal spikes. SHELTER, KISS ME BELOW, THE FROG RULES...
The umbrellas watched her in hushed, rigid expectation, like prisoners hoping for a last glimpse of daylight.
Sometimes she relented, took one outside with her. She dismantled its rickety skeleton and stacked the parts under a tree, tenderly.
When she reached adulthood her mother gave her an old, bat-wing umbrella in excellent condition.
“This has served me well,” she said. “It may come in handy.”
The umbrella now stood in the corner beside the front door. It did indeed prove useful when she drove its sharp spike into the back of her husband’s neck at the vulnerable spot between skull and spine.
She enjoyed the quiet after his verbal lashings and gave the umbrella a cautious glance of gratitude when she walked past. It took to nodding back. Stretched its long shadow towards her and tickled her toes with a crooked finger.
She never took it out in the rain. It was comforting to have it waiting for her when she came back from work, even if she felt its resentment at being left.
One day it fell across the doorway, barring her exit. When she made a move to lift it, she found it wouldn’t let her. She called in sick.
She would be fine. There was food in the fridge, water in the tap.
It wanted to protect her, she decided. Against the rain. Against the world. But the world outside still encroached upon the flat. Raindrops pressed blank faces against the window, wanted in.
One night she opened the umbrella, pushed her thin frame under the dark vault and closed her eyes. Now she felt safe.
One day someone would find her; lift her up, unfold her gently and put her away.
First published in Octavius in August 2013.
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