Always Losing Your Umbrella?

It seemed almost coincidental how it happened. So fortuitous. Like fate had lent a hand.

Ella had travelled to Hong Kong on a whim, ostensibly to shop. A snap decision to get away from the mounting conflict at home. Living next door and sharing a common wall with one’s ageing parents had its advantages, but she had little privacy. She so needed to escape the relentless nagging of her conservative Icelandic Mother, who thought she should stop burying herself in work and start dating someone. Something she had never done in her 32 years.

The morning after arrival, Kowloon’s museums and shopping precincts were first on Ella’s itinerary. She visited the museum and shops, but soon found Hong Kong a dizzying assault on the senses for a country-born girl from Iceland’s open spaces and cool climate. Everywhere she turned, a cornucopia of street vendors and shopkeepers spruiking bargains greeted her. It was loud, busy, and humid. The strident mishmash of English spoken in Mandarin and amplified through loudspeakers transformed a simple shopping trip into a cacophonous sensory overload.

Ella sought out a side alley that appeared to be quieter, lined with high-rise apartments on each side and various shops on the ground level. Some upper-floor residents extended a pole across the alley to dry their washing. Mostly smalls that flapped about amidst a spider web of communication wires and neon advertising signs.

street in Tokyo with umbrella

The pace was slower here. Ella could browse lazily for a memento of her trip. Not for too long, though, as she noticed the clouds thickening over her head. Minutes later, monsoonal-sized raindrops polka-dotted the hot asphalt road like dollops of soft serve dripping from an ice cream cone in summer. Ella sought shelter in an emporium selling a diversity of cheap Chinese imports. She thought she’d find a brolly to keep her dry on her walk back to the hotel.

Being a tall girl standing over six feet, Ella had to bend down to enter the emporium’s low doorway. This caused the proprietor to look up from his work. With a bow, he greeted the attractive tourist with her slim build and waist-length blonde hair, which she’d casually tied with a ribbon.

He ushered her quickly to the counter, “Such a beautiful lady from the beautiful sky,” he proclaimed. “This way. Mr. Wong has something special just for you. I have been waiting just for you.”

“Thank you. I am sure you have,” Ella began, “but really, I’d prefer to just look around myself,” she retorted in a soft but firm way, so as not to cause offence.

“Ah, I promise you, no disappointments. You so beautiful; I have something just right. Very special for a special lady,” he said, flashing her a look she couldn’t fully interpret. Flicking aside a red curtain hanging behind the counter, he disappeared into the darkness beyond the door.

Suspicious that Mr. Wong was a shyster, Ella turned back to the shelves. Her hesitation rapidly turned to curiosity when Mr. Wong returned with a folded brown umbrella and held it out for her. An umbrella! But its colour, she thought and smiled reluctantly, her face belying her inner dislike for its dirty brown appearance. It seemed a little dull, given so many bright designs were hanging on the rack beside her.

This did not go unnoticed by Mr. Wong.

“You think it boring,” he said, “But this one very special, you see. A real bargain. Follow me,” he instructed, beckoning towards the street. Ella sheepishly followed.

The rain had eased substantially now, falling softly like fairies’ tears. The air, however, remained stifling as the sun shoveled its way through the clouds. Ella thought that elusive sunbeams and the constrained light appeared atmospheric, almost magical. Almost.

Mr. Wong opened the brown umbrella and stretched up to hold it above Ella’s head. The dampened rays of sunlight illuminated the umbrella’s underside, revealing an intricate cherry blossom design. “This one, hand-painted – by my great-grandfather,” he announced proudly. “Just for you.”

Photo by Evgeny Tchebotarev on

Ella looked at the umbrella with its bamboo handle and struts. She thought it did indeed look old and authentic – the cherry blossoms could possibly be a woodblock design that had been printed by hand. She had seen designs similar to this in the museum exhibition of traditional art, earlier that day.

“Oh, it is so beautiful,” she said. You must treasure it. After all, your great-grandfather painted it.”
“No, I have many others,” Wong said. “This one bargain for you. Worth lot of money, but I give you good price.”

“I… I…don’t know… I do love it,” she paused, imagining the dilemma of removing a family heirloom from China, so she continued making excuses. “But I’m not sure I could handle the responsibility of caring for such a precious item. I always seem to lose umbrellas and this one …your grandfather…it’s not right.”

“It’s for you. Bargain. It’s been waiting for you to come. All these years. I sell to nobody else. Only the right lady. It is yours, okay? For the beautiful lady from the beautiful sky. We take Visa and MasterCard. Not Amex – Sorry,” he prattled, grinning widely and producing a portable EFTPOS machine deep from within his pocket.

Ella relaxed in the lounge after making her way back to the hotel. She sipped a refreshing drink from the bar and smiled as she recalled Mr. Wong’s words.Her umbrella purchase, now carefully folded, rested by the leg of her bar stool. She reached down and rotated it in her hand…lightly caressing the oiled fabric with her fingertips. It felt old, fragile almost, like an elderly lady with breakable skin and more than a few wobbly wrinkles.

Ella was someone who was constantly losing umbrellas. Especially in rain-ridden Iceland. She furrowed her brow. What if she lost this treasure too? Or someone took it in error? Any hint of a shower of rain at finishing time at her work and any umbrellas would disappear into some bottomless vortex where lost umbrellas go. She’d have to be careful.

Ella’s concentration was broken by the feeling of someone watching her. It’s funny how one can sense the eyes without actually seeing them directly. She looked around. A smartly suited gentleman with a broad smile and neatly trimmed fashionable beard met Ella’s gaze. He stood and made his way to her table.

“Pardon the intrusion, Ma’am, but I have been admiring your umber-ella,” he said in perfect Hong Kong English. “You know the umber colour is exceptional. It indicates the umbrella is quite and very valuable. But of course, you must know this already?”
“Umber? Valuable? I – ah…”
“I am a trader in Chinese antiques, you see,” the man continued. “I have an eye for these things. That umbrella is at least 160 years old.

But you must excuse my rudeness. I am forgetting my manners. Allow me to introduce myself: – Thomas Sotheby.” He held out his hand.His touch felt warm and comforting.

“Ella Martinsson,” she spluttered, and assumed his name meant he was connected with the famous auction house in England.

“Please tell me what a sophisticated lady, such as yourself, is doing in Hong Kong with an antique ‘Umber-Ella?'” he said, smiling cheekily at the word pun. A smile Ella found genuine and attractive at the same time. Her Mother might be pleased with her, after all.

stpa logo

Responsibility was the word prompt from the dailyspur and new2writing’s #writephoto


41 thoughts on “Always Losing Your Umbrella?”

    1. That is so very kind of you to say such a nice comment! I am glad you stopped by again. I see that your handle byline is travel blog. Are you travelling at the moment and where may I ask are you based? I am in Australia.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Janis. This might be a Chapter 1 – or I could just write a series of blog posts. I don’t usually write romantic type stories, so it was a bit of an experiment. It seems people liked it!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. You know that I thought it was just an average kind of story. Presumably because I don’t read romantic stories, (although the romance is only alluded to), but I am really glad that a lot of readers found it entertaining. I hope I painted a picture of Hong Kong.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. I think that had to rate as one of the nicest and most encouraging compliments I’ve received. Thanks ever so much. I will try to keep in mind simple with quiet imagery when writing. (Are you sure it wasn’t a tad boring?

          Liked by 1 person

          1. It’s not boring at all! It’s a modest tale of one young woman’s ventures in Hong Kong. Some stories are fascinating in their simplicity. I suppose it depends on the mindset of the reader as much as what the writer wants to imply. Regardless, I just enjoy good writing.

            Liked by 1 person

Everyone is important. What do you have to say?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.