The Umbrella

Zoë was a practical girl with a dreamy side. On the other side of the spectrum was her cousin Amy Davis, who was pure dreaminess, and completely out of this world. Zoë was not like that. She never would be. She never could be. If there was something that needed doing, her mind clicked into place at once and spotted the easiest way, whereas Amy would ponder on it for a while and come out with some very artistic and well-thought out suggestion probably long after the time for action had passed by.

Another characteristic of Amy was that she hoped a lot.

Zoë planned a lot.

Today though, Zoë was hoping. In fact, more to the point, she was dreaming. In this dream, an unnamed suitor, a very good-looking man, stepped out onto the pavement and offered Zoë a lift home in his bright red Porsche so that she could keep her feet dry. And during the car ride, they fell in love. The only slightly disconcerting item in this image was the fact that the nameless suitor seemed to have the face of Zoë’s ex-boyfriend Ed. She tried to shake it off. It didn’t work. She tried to picture some of Hollywood’s most dishy actors in his place, but that stupid face in her imagination always had Ed’s eyes, Ed’s voice.

“I hate you Edward Wesley!”

She didn’t realise she’d yelled it out loud until she noticed random people in the street had begun to give her funny looks.

“I hate you Ed,” she muttered again, this time under her breath.

Except that was the problem, she didn’t hate him. She could lie to herself about that. She could say she felt nothing for him. But then, why was it so hard to picture herself with anyone else?

And either way, it’s statistically unlikely that I’ll meet the man of my dreams walking along Taunton High St.

Then she stopped dreaming. Just like that, she switched it off. There was no point to any of that sort of thing. Besides, I’m happy single. I want to be single. I would want some stupid man in my life. They only mess things up.

It wasn’t as if Zoë was short of any suitors, in any case. Just, none of them were suitable. None of them were perfect. None of them were the ideal romantic hero to sweep her off her feet. And none of them were Ed.

Not that Ed had ever been the ideal romantic hero. But he was the only man she’d ever loved.

In the same way that it was statistically unlikely that she would meet Mr Right walking along the High St, it was also extremely improbable that she would bump into Ed. Especially as Ed was not in Taunton. He was at university in Exeter.

But today was not a good day for logic.

Walking down from Smiths and towards Morrisons, with a head of very wet hair and nothing but her work clothes and a light fleece, Zoë, to her complete horror, spotted none other than Edward Wesley himself, walking towards her. And she panicked.

What was it they had agreed, they day he’d broke up with her? That they’d still be friends? And they’d tried for a while but it hadn’t worked. If he saw her he would have to stop. He would have to say hello. And that could be a disaster in itself.

Zoë, in her haste, practically jumped into the nearest shop.

It was some sort of men’s tailors.

So what was Ed doing here? She shivered in the shop door, pondering on it. It seemed to her an imposition. He was at Exeter now. He had no business being in Taunton at all. This town wasn’t big enough for the both of them.

“So I see, you’re sheltering from the rain?” came a voice behind her.

She looked up, then, startled, came face-to-face with a man.

She turned round ready to make a up a story about how she'd come in for a present for her brother. But it wasn't the shop assistant after all.

He was a tall, well-spoken man, dark-skinned, with a great deal of floppy black hair falling over his eyes. He wore a long black coat. His accent had a slight foreign note to it but that was barely noticeable. Then he wasn’t British. No one could be British and have such a good tan for a start, it just wasn’t possible in the current climate. Secondly, he was probably educated in Britain, thought Zoe. Probably Oxford or Cambridge, But by birth, he was French or Italian.

Of course there was no way Zoe could know any of this, but if you must have an explaination for everything, one will do just as well as another. Her assessment was made in but a moment. The moment between his saying,

“So I see, you’re sheltering from the rain?”

and her replying,

“No, there are worse things than rain out there.”

He seemed interested.

“Oh really, what’s that?”

“The mafia. Werewolves. I’m on the run from the police. Take your pick.”

“Then you won’t tell me. Perhaps you are on the run from the police.”

“If I am they aren’t doing very well.

Ed had gone now, and she didn’t feel like telling this stranger the truth about her need to hide from an ex-boyfriend. It seemed a bit feeble. If there was one thing Zoë hated more than anything else in the world, it was to appear feeble.

“Well, it was the rain after all,” she laughed. “But it doesn’t seem to be calming off at all. I’d better run for it.”


He had stretched out an arm and caught her before she had chance to hurtle back into the downpour.

“Do me a favour won’t you?” he asked.


“Take my umbrella.”

She paused. “No. I can’t do that! I don’t know how to return it--”

“You don’t need to return it. I’ve got more umbrellas than I need, and my car’s parked in Canon St, just around the corner. I’ll barely get wet. I expect you have quite a way to walk.”

“Only to French Weir!”

“Then it’s too far. Take it.”

He pushed the umbrella at her, and she had no choice.

“If nothing,” he added, “At least you can use it to shield your face from the mafia, or the police, or whoever it is who’s after you.”

She laughed. “Thank you,” Zoë said.

Then they both dispersed into the rain.

The End

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