The lady stood alone,
In the awful storm that night,
She held a small umbrella,
As a shield against its might.
A gale was blowing fiercely,
She wore a light-weight coat,
With just a flimsy scarf
Tied aound her slender throat.
I watched her from my window,
She must be very cold, I thought,
And I felt an honest guilt
At my warm and cozy spot.
"Look," I said to my companion,
As the waiter brought our wine,
"That poor soul is nearly drowned,
She ought to be inside."
He nodded in agreement.
I think we both felt sad
That she was there outside alone
On a night that was so bad.
The sidewalk was deserted,
Not much traffic driving by,
And still she stood there by herself,
I could not move my eyes.
"Should I go out and ask her in?"
Aloud I spoke my thoughts,
"No, you could be misjudged,"
Said my friend, "You'd better not."
So we sipped our wine and watched her,
Our dinner partially ignored,
The rain fell even harder,
And the wind was wilder than before.
She hung on to that umbrella,
As it frantically danced about,
She would not release its handle.
Though it was almost inside-out.
There was no traffic now at all,
And the night seemed darker still,
Just the lady and her umbrella,
The scene appeared surreal.
I could not take much more of this,
I got up from my seat,
"No, wait," cautioned my wise friend,
Just as a man came down the street.
The man wore a black rain-slicker,
With a hat securely tied in place,
It fit so low upon his brow,
We could not see his face.
The lady's back was turned,
She did not see the man,
I felt panic rising in me,
I rose from my seat again.
I raced to the outside door,
My friend could not hold me back,
I fought against a blast of wind,
That almost stopped me in my tracks.
I felt I had to reach the woman,
Before the sinister figure did,
I struggled through the rain and cold,
He must not touch her, God forbid!
The lightning crashed and lit the sky,
I saw the man draw nearer,
She seemed oblivious to him ,
I shouted out to warn her.
But with the noise from the storm,
No way could she have heard,
I waved my arms as I raced on,
I must have looked absurd.
A bolt of lightning startled me,
The street lights then blinked out,
I could barely see the woman now,
But I continued still to shout.
I slipped and almost fell,
I was miserable and wet,
I thought I was an idiot,
This night I'd not forget.
But the vision of the lady,
My damsel in distress,
Had fully overwhelmed me,
And I'd lost all common sense.
Another flash of lightning,
And I saw the lady move,
Obviously she'd seen the man,
And she was startled, too.
Then I watched in fascination,
I knew this picture was all wrong
For she wasn't running from him,
But towards him, as if drawn.
 The street lights suddenly lit up,
I saw their warm embrace,
And though the rain was falling hard,
I could not miss the smile on her face.
They turned and walked away from me,
Together arm in arm,
I felt like an utter fool,
Though I was glad she'd met no harm.
With dismay I made my way
Back to the restaurant door,
I ordered something warm to drink,
I was chilled down to the core.
My friend teased me, and we laughed it off
You bet I won't butt in again,
I had a second warming drink,
And I felt much better then.
My friend casually glanced outside,
"Uh, oh," I heard him say,
And sure enough, into the rain,
Another woman strayed.
"Oh no," I said and looked away,
"I'll let that lady be,
Fool me once, shame on you,
But fool me twice, then shame on me."
I grabbed my coat; it was almost Nine,
"Good night, my friend, I'm heading home."
"I'm leaving, too," my partner said,
And we left the woman there alone.
She stood with her umbrella,
In the cold and driving rain,
I tried not to look at her,
I'd not make that mistake again.
The next morning, bright and early,
My phone rang nearly off the hook,
My buddy called and woke me up,
"Have you seen the papers?  Take a look."
And there in one inch headlines,
I frowned at what I read.
"M I S S I N G"  was the printed word,
"Woman missing and feared dead!"
Right outside the restaurant,
Where my friend and I had dined,
They'd found a broken, slashed umbrella,
And a watch, smashed and stopped at Nine!
Virginia (Ginny) Ellis
Copyright November 2004

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The graphic is Charles Burchfield's "Rainy Night"
on view at San Diego Museum of Art, CA