It began as a drizzle, hanging like mist. It shifted visibly on invisible air currents, shrouding the yew trees and rows of angular stones. I feigned apathy towards the dampness as it settled in a glistening sheen along my coat sleeves. Moisture weighed down my eyelashes like a premonition. I ignored the cold trickle that invaded the warmth at the nape of my neck. But when the falling droplets resolved themselves into beads, I opened my black umbrella in defiance.
Holding out against the elements had been a mistake. That thread of water was soaking into my blouse. I shifted my shoulders, attempting to separate the silk from the skin along my spine. I sacrificed that elusive comfort for my dignity but the sensation nagged. I blinked drops from my eyes, afraid to smear my mascara. The raindrops on the taut nylon canopy beat a sedate tempo that contradicted my runaway pulse.
When the wind increased its force, the first gust nearly stole the umbrella from my grip. I cried a reflexive rebuke at the darkening sky. Everyone turned to stare; eyes wide with surprise or narrowed at my lack of decorum. I grasped the shaft at either end, holding the canopy closer to my head, excluding the weather and their judgement.
The priest droned against the wind’s crescendo. My sole focus had become my battle with the gale. I caught glimpses of others engaged in similar struggles. I turned away from the sight of my sister sliding into her husband’s embrace, deeper beneath the cover of the vast golf umbrella clamped in his hands.
The rite was drawing to a close when the heavens truly opened. A few people darted under the spreading boughs of the nearest tree. Most flocked into the little chapel. The priest murmured something before he, too, retreated. Only the remnant of our family endured, buffeted by the forces of nature. We stood in silence, the wind still striving to snatch away the small comfort of my umbrella.
It was not enough, that little shadow over me, to keep out the storm. It was too flimsy and insignificant, and I too weak to bear even that small protection. Time became meaningless as I persevered through that tempest, defying the odds and the sky, knowing it was futile. My breath caught ragged in my throat, exhaling in a moan that the wind echoed in mockery.
A sudden blast caught me unawares, bringing down the last of my defences. My umbrella blew inside-out. I screamed, furious at the storm. And then I felt my Father’s arm slip around my waist, drawing me in. He took the ruined frame, still flapping, from my hand. He kissed my dripping brow and lead me from the graveside, towards the chapel, to a shelter that was greater than the cover of my umbrella. A shelter more complete and enduring than any I could support with my own strength. There, together, we would weather this storm.
Hannah Hulbert is a writer from urban Dorset. She is on a permanent sabbatical from reality as she raises two children and devotes her scarce free time to visiting imaginary worlds, some of her own creation. She is probably tweeting or doodling at this very moment. Twitter: @hhulbert | Website: hannahhulbert.wordpress.com.
Image via Unsplash.