Umbrella

I wait at the bus stop as usual to catch the last bus home. I’ve come to know a few others who take this bus and smile at them as they arrive to wait with me. I say “hi” and make small talk with a few of them. I don’t know any of them well, and we usually stop talking when the bus arrives. Today is no different. The bus arrives and I get in line behind two other middle-aged men who are dressed like they just left the gym. I think to myself “I used to wear clothes like that.” As I am about to board the bus, a hand taps my shoulder and I hear a woman say, “Excuse me?” I turn around and see a disheveled lady wearing a coat that reaches her shoes and a hat straight out from a 60s gangster flick. I gaze into her eyes and she continues, “Is this your umbrella?” I look at the umbrella being held out to me and I know that it isn’t mine. I reply, “Yes, it is.” She pauses a moment and then hands it to me with a smile. I smile back at her and she keeps her hand stretched out. I automatically dig out my purse and hand her a few bills. She’s surprised too but she walks away silently. I wonder if she wanted me to kiss her hand as her shadow fades into the night. The next day, I wait expectantly for the bus to arrive. I’m hoping the umbrella lady brings me something again. I keep looking around me to check if she is lurking nearby, but she does not turn up. No one stops me as I board the bus. As the bus rolls down the street, I see her leaning against a lamppost smoking a cigarette. She spots me and reaches out her hand. I wave at her awkwardly. She is at the bus stop when I arrive the next day. She sits quietly in one corner, reading a newspaper. I think about going up to her and then change my mind. I notice her peeking over the paper at me from time to time. I smile to myself. Today, she gets on the bus with the rest of us. I take a window seat and she sits across the aisle from me. I turn to her and smile. I almost forget that she’s there when I hear a “Psst.” I turn to her and she’s leaning over with a wicked smile. She asks, “Did you open the umbrella?” I reply, “Umbre– Uh, no–yes, I mean no.” She shows no sign of retreating so I add, “Why?” She says, “You’ll see,” and sits upright in her seat. I watch her confused, hoping she would explain what she means. Nothing. When I reach my flat, I unlock the door and rush to my bedroom. I see the umbrella near my study table and whisk it up. I press the button to open it and “whoop” it spreads out. Lit up in huge, glowing letters on the inside of the umbrella is scrawled “LIAR.”