Photo Credit: Sarah Madeleine Louise Horrigan
Ellie carried her umbrella with her wherever she went. The rain could be falling, the snow could be pounding, the sun could be shining. It could be a beautiful day in late May—the kind of day when the flowers hug your ankles and the air smells like freshly poured lemonade—and Ellie would still be using her umbrella. It was pink, with yellow polka dots that were so bright that they sometimes made Ellie squint her blue eyes.
Ellie liked how she felt when she was under her umbrella, like the entire world could only bother her if she invited them under her portable roof. She liked not being able to see the looks that people were giving her as the metal pricks of her umbrella inched near their faces. On days when she was feeling adventurous, she would spin the umbrella between her fingertips and the sun would cast bright pink shadows across her pretty face. She liked feeling invisible.
She always dreaded windy days, days when the cool air did cartwheels around the branches of the trees. It was hard to hold on to the worn metal handle, and sometimes the whole umbrella would invert. She would shut her eyes and pretend like nobody could see her, opening them only when the gust was over. She would adjust herself and continue.
Ellie had two friends in high school and she liked them because they never asked questions. She would walk up to the big doors of the school, shut her umbrella, and carry it around with her throughout the day. They never asked why. They heard the other kids talking about her, whispering floods of torment and disgust. They liked Ellie because she was different, because she made them feel normal.
During their lunch period the three of them would go outside under the cover of the polka dots and eat their bagged lunches on the warm macadam. There was one day, in the midst of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, apple slices, and an understood silence that it started to rain.
"I'm glad we have this umbrella," Andrew said, awkwardly nudging Ellie.
"I'm not," she said as she inched away from him, exposing him to the tears of the puffy gray clouds. "I hate having to use my umbrella."
Nobody said anything. The only sounds were the crinkling paper bags and the bouncing of the raindrops on the blacktop. Ellie breathed.
"Before my dad died, he told me that he would always be looking down on me. I hate the idea of being watched. I hide from him. He lost his right to care about what I do when he died," Ellie told them abruptly.
Her friends didn't respond. She had answered their unasked questions.
Ellie felt exposed. She wanted to be invisible to her dad. Now she wanted to be invisible to them too. She walked away, shuffling her feet in the deepening puddles.
Ellie could be invisible to the whole world if she wanted to be.
Kelley McDonald is a working writer from Philadelphia. Email: km440250[at]sju.edu