Monday, September 16, 2013

The Umbrella - by Sasha

Maribelle took Oswald’s white gloved hand as she gingerly lowered herself from the motorcar, stepping as quietly as she could on to the cobble stones of the street. She paused to brush a bit of stray dust off of her pale yellow skirt, and then quickly checked her reflection in the car’s side mirror before waving at the chauffer. He started the car with a rather rude puff of exhaust before driving down the alley.

“It’s quite a nice day today, wouldn’t you say, Oswald?” Maribelle said conversationally as they strolled down the street. Indeed, the sky above them was a brilliant cerulean, only interrupted by a few wisps of silver cloud here and there. There was a cool summer breeze running through the air, a refreshing reminder that fall was on its way.

“Yes, ma’am, I would say it is,” Oswald replied.

“Good, good,” Maribelle said before the butler could make any other trivial contributions to the conversation.

They walked for a while in perfect silence, as Maribelle liked it. They passed quaint little townhouses, squished together in a fashion that the lady found quite distasteful. Their small windowboxes full of flowers were nothing but a sad attempt at gardening, and their cheerfully painted doors were clearly a cry for help echoing up from the monotony of suburban peasantry. Not two minutes into the stroll, a pack of children came running through the alley, spraying bits of mud at the bottom of Maribelle’s fine dress. The girl sighed.

“Umbrella,” she said.

“I have it with me, ma’am,” said Oswald.

“I know you have it with you,” Maribelle remarked. “I would like it, please.”

“Madam, you said yourself that it is quite the lovely day outside,” said Oswald.

“Oswald, is it your job to tell me what I should be doing with my things?” asked Maribelle.

“Well, yes,” Oswald pointed out. “Your mother did charge me with watching you on your little excursion.”

“Do you think,” said Maribelle through gritted teeth, “that giving me an umbrella will do me any harm, oh great butler Oswald?”

“I suppose not,” Oswald admitted, and he pulled the umbrella out of the extremely large and very feminine purse he had the unfortunate task of carrying. It matched Maribelle’s dress exactly, down to the buttercup yellow fabric and patterned lace overlay.

“Thank you,” said Maribelle curtly. “And I would like to go that way.”

The lady gestured to the right. A patch of greenery could be seen in the distance, through a long alley walled on each side by three-story apartment buildings. She propped her umbrella on her shoulder and began making her slow, careful way through the street. The corridor seemed to channel the breeze into more of a constant stream of wind.

About halfway through the alley, Maribelle thought she might have the good fortune not to meet anyone on her walk. Unfortunately, it was at that moment that a young gentleman emerged from one of the apartment buildings. He was dressed in a rather unappetizing brown, like grass in winter or a bit of dry soil. On top of his plain clothes, he also chose to wear a hat that served only to emphasize the squarish nature of his face.

“Oh hello there,” he said cheerfully. Maribelle resisted the urge to roll her eyes. Only in the city would she have the misfortune to be greeted by peasants. She angled her umbrella so as to hide more of her face, hoping to show her disinterest.

“That’s quite a nice dress you have there,” the young man said.

“Yes, it is nice,” said Maribelle. “I chose to wear a color that goes well with my skin tone today. I suggest you do the same. Good day.” She strode past the boy’s house, forcing herself to walk a little quicker than she would have liked to in this outfit.

“You have a nice day too, ma’am,” he said before going on his way.

Maribelle had almost reached the safety of the park – the city was beginning to suffocate her – when she was interrupted once more, this time by a young mother emerging from the park, pushing her child in a stroller.

“Good morning,” said the woman. “That’s quite a nice umbrella you have there.”

“Isn’t it though?” Maribelle said, exasperated.

“It doesn’t look like it’s going to rain, does it?” the mother remarked.

“No, it doesn’t,” said Maribelle.

“Well, enjoy your walk,” the mother said as she passed Maribelle and Oswald, looking a bit disconcerted.

The wind really started to pick up as the two entered the park. The rustling of the leaves had a calming effect, drowning out the sounds of the motorcars in the streets behind them. The few rays of sunlight that made their way through the trees were blocked by her yellow umbrella. Maribelle took a deep breath, inhaling a great deal of smog mixed with a slight scent of fresh grass.

“It’s a lovely day, isn’t it, Oswald?” Maribelle commented.

“Indeed,” Oswald replied, almost shouting now against the strong wind.

Maribelle’s umbrella began to buckle under the pressure. She smiled serenely up at the sky, which was still a deep blue. Oswald seemed a bit concerned, and kept fidgeting with his jacket, which was constantly being blown open by gusts of wind.

“I think I can guide myself from here, dear butler,” said Maribelle, unhooking her arm from Oswald’s.

“But, ma’am, you mother instructed me –”

“Oh do stop saying words, Oswald,” interrupted Maribelle, picking up her stride. “I honestly don’t care what my mother has said.”

To Oswald’s great surprise, Maribelle started to hop. It was the most graceful hop he had ever seen, yet it was still quite strange. Maribelle smiled, still looking up at the sky. She walked into a small clearing in the park and her yellow umbrella picked up the rays of the sun, turning the color from a pale buttercup to a brilliant topaz.

Maribelle paused once more to brush the last bits of mud off of her skirt, and then she took one last hop. The wind howled just as she jumped, and her umbrella caught the gale at exactly the right moment. Oswald cried out, but it was too late. Smiling, Maribelle rose into the sky, her face illuminated in the brilliant light of the sun.

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