(c) Anne Douglas, 2007
Although he had been out on the bay for the last two hours, his mind really hadn’t been in it for the last forty-five minutes. That was about the time he had noticed that the green umbrella and pink flip-flops that had walked the beach, not once, but three times had taken residence on steps of his boat shed.
“Looks like Miss. Green Umbrella is being stood up, George.” George was Stan’s trusty Labrador sidekick . Despite being barely more than a pup, he loved sailing so much he sat at the prow of the boat still as could be; until they hit the beach. Then he came alive with a bark and a splash as he threw himself off the boat and into the waves lapping, or crashing as they did some days, against the lake shore.
There had been just enough wind to make it worth taking out his small racing boat despite the dampening effect of the rain. With the odd quiet of the sea providing no distraction, Stan had noticed the woman about twenty minutes after launching his boat into the drizzly grey day. Her umbrella had been a bright spot in a monochrome world, and judging by the dampness of her skirt, he’d spotted her what must have been her second lap of the small beach. He’d watched her out of the corner of his eye as he tacked and jibed his way across the water; but when she had taken a seat on the top step of his boat shed, constantly glancing up the beach to the parking lot, he had lost what little concentration he had left.
She looked so lost, so lonely; her white skirt transparent where the spray off of the lake had hit her legs. She’d looked small as she walked, yet she wasn’t quite petite enough to be able to tuck her legs under and sit fully protected under the small umbrella. Stan felt an echo of her loneliness inside his chest, after all, he sailed solo trying to forget there was no one to go home to.
As the small boat rushed toward the beach, George’s haunches gathered as he waited for just the right moment to leap–too soon and he would have to swim, too late and he would hit the sand and miss out on chasing the waves. But Stan was horrified to see George take off, not into the surf, but straight towards the lady with the green umbrella.
“George, no!” Pausing only long enough to make sure his boat was pulled up on the shore, Stan raced after his dog. “Get back here, George! What’s gotten into you?”
Stan pulled up short when he reached the shed, and watched as the woman tilted her green umbrella back and laughed, her face catching the raindrops and spray as George shook and snuffled and licked; loving all over her as if she was the butcher’s daughter. Struck still, he was captivated by her generous smile and the way her straight black hair fell down her back, damp and wind blown.
With a small bark George leapt back down to the sand, looking as pleased as punch with himself; parking his backside on Stan’s foot, and barking for all intents and purposes what amounted to a ‘look at me’ to the umbrella lady.
“I’m so sorry, he’s only really a pup, but he hasn’t ever done that before. He’s usually well behaved…” Stan’s apology faded away as he got his first full glimpse. He had thought she was possibly Asian–her size and coloring had been his main clues from a distance–but her beautiful open face with her shy tilted eyes confirmed her ethnicity.
She was a beautiful woman in that way Asian women have. Not the haughty, blonde, iciness of the Norse, or the dark allure of West Europe, but the shy, innocent, wide eyed beauty of the Japanese. Beautiful.
“It’s okay, I love dogs. Which is good since they all seem to love me.” Her smile was genuine, but a little sad. “I’ve been watching you sail. Your red sail looked so small against that big grey sky. You’ll probably think me silly, but it looked so lonely, yet so fierce; like an ant shaking his fist at a giant.”
Stan shook his head as reached for George’s scruff–not to reprimand the dog, but to clear his head before he lost himself in his lady’s soft brown eyes. “No. Not silly. I watched you walk along the beach, and though a similar thing; that your umbrella was a bright spark amongst all the grey… I shouldn’t ask, but was he very important?”
Her umbrella cocked to one side as she looked up at him. “He?”
Shifting uncomfortably, Stan was reminded of why there was no-one waiting at home for him with a hot cup of tea and a roaring fire. He was a klutz around women–he had never felt like he had truly grown into his height and he always got the words wrong; and he was no prize in the handsome stakes either. “I figured you were supposed to be meeting someone here.”
“Oh.” Her smile faded a fraction and her chin dropped down towards her chest. “I thought he might be important, but obviously I wasn’t.” Her small sigh made Stan’s heart ache. “we hadn’t known each other that long.”
She raised her eyes again, only to look behind him. “I guess since your boat and this shed have the number forty-three on them they are a matching pair? Would you like a hand to get her put away?”
Not knowing how to express his regret that she’d been disappointed, Stan took the easy out and followed her lead. “How’d you know that?”
“That she was, well, a she?” She left her umbrella on the stairs and made her way down to stand beside him, the tip of her head barely reaching his chest. She looked up at him again and smiled.
“My Dad couldn’t afford the golf club dues when we lived in Japan, but we lived on the coast, so he had a small boat like yours. His was a she, too–I just took it for granted all boats would be a ‘she’.”
She appeared so delicate to him, but she didn’t let him put her off helping him. To thank her Stan asked her to share in his coffee and afternoon snack–old fashioned tea buns from the local bakery.
Before she finally left, he tried to hint that he was here every weekend–storms willing–and would be happy to take her out on the lake, just as her father had. But as he watched her walk across the sand and to her car, he really wasn’t sure if he had been successful. “Stan strikes out again, George.”
As the sun set he closed the doors to the shed and stared wistfully out over the beach, wishing he could see a bright green umbrella bobbing its way toward him.
* * * * *
As Stan came to make a turn into a tack he caught a flash of green out of the corner of his eye, and jerked around, nearly knocking himself silly on the boom. His Lady with the Green Umbrella was standing at the lake edge waving, trying to get his attention.
As he came in close to shore, he could see her wave change pace, waving hello instead of trying to attract his attention.
“I hoped you would be here!” As Stan pulled up on the beach, George leapt straight for Stan’s umbrella lady. Her laugh was infectious as she bent to rough George behind his ears, squealing as he splashed her. Her smile was wide as she came up to the side of the boat and held out her hand. “I’m Michiko Jun, I realized when I got home last weekend we never exchanged names, so I couldn’t call you.”
Stan felt his smile get wider.
“I hope I’m not intruding, but I really hope I didn’t misread your hints that you wouldn’t mind a sailing partner now and then?” Her smile was wide, but shy and hopeful.
“I’m glad to meet you Michiko Jun, I’m Stan Rollerson.” He took her hand and gently shook it. “That annoying pup is my dog George, and we would love to take you sailing.”
Hoisting her up and over the side he sat Michiko in George’s spot in the bow. George joined her with his wet head in her lap, turning sad puppy dog eyes up to Michiko, begging for her to pet him.
As Stan sent them back out into the lake, he watched both Michiko and George turn their faces to the wind and laugh. Stan looked forward with them, hoping that he might have just found the cure for his loneliness in a bobbing green umbrella.