John sat in the car watching the wipers swish back and forth to their own rhythm.
He had helped the last of his family to enter the building without getting wet. His mother and aunts appreciated his chivalry. Good thing he'd remembered his umbrella.
He always kept it in his car now.
It hadn't always been that way. He'd made plenty of "rain runs" as he called them. You know the type. You try to dodge the downpour because you didn't expect the sudden storm that came out of nowhere.
He was never prepared before...before her.
This was her umbrella and that made it special. In fact, you could say this umbrella was their matchmaker. He smiled at the memory.
John had time to think about how different his life might have been.
So, he let his mind drift back 5 years to when they first met. He wouldn't have to be inside for at least another 20 minutes. This was a great time to reminisce.
5 years ago
Claire was nervous.
This was her first solo presentation. She had been with the company for some time. But this was the first time she had been responsible to land such a large client.
And this terrible rain didn't help!
She'd gathered her materials and prepared herself to meet the leadership team. Good thing she had her umbrella. Nothing worse than walking in looking like a drowned rat.
John hated meeting new vendors.
This seemed like something his managers should have been able to decide. He was more an "idea man." He came up with the "What," and his team would figure out the "How."
The meeting was uneventful with all the departmental updates. Then came the vendor presentations. The first two were for projects John wasn't even involved in, so he paid little attention.
Then she came in...
She introduced herself as Claire Armbrester. Claire represented the latest in software development. This got John's attention... and so did her smile.
The rest of the meeting was a blur.
The presentation went well, and Claire felt like she'd nailed it. While signing documents she couldn't help but notice her main contact, (What was his name, John?) staring at her. Not in a creepy way, but very appreciative of her knowledge and delivery.
She felt comfortable talking to him. Comfortable enough to allow him to help her load up her car afterward. "So, we'll be seeing a lot of each other as we move through implementation." He said it almost like a question.
"Actually," Claire began, "I'm not that involved in the installation part. I leave that to the techies." Was that a look of disappointment on his face?
Turns out he was frowning at the weather outside.
The storm had ceased but there was still steady rain falling outside. "Something told me I should've brought my umbrella," John remarked as they walked toward the door.
"I always carry one with me," Claire responded. "But don't worry, I can manage. I wouldn't want you to get all wet," she finished, testing his resolve.
John passed with flying colors.
"Are you serious?" John continued, "My mother would feel like she'd failed as a parent if I let you wrestle all this equipment out by yourself... and in the rain too!"
Claire had to admit, the initial attraction was growing. And his mother had taught him manners! "Well, you grab the boxes," she said, "and I'll hold the umbrella."
They walked extremely close to each other to keep from getting drenched. The distance to her car seemed far too short. John could smell her perfume- it was a fresh scent with a hint of lavender.
Once she was inside her car, Claire said "Keep the umbrella, this rain isn’t letting up any time soon. Besides, I always keep an extra one in the car."
John waved goodbye as she drove away. Good thing he'd left his umbrella at home. Such a little decision with a great consequence. Because now he had a reason to reach out to Claire!
He already had her business card. So he was able to email her a “thank you” card for the gift by the time she returned to her office.
This was the first of many emails.
These emails then became phone calls and meetings for coffee. It was a few months before their first "official" date. While both were understandably nervous, their relationship had evolved into a warm friendship.
"So, when am I going to meet this mother who taught you such good manners?" Claire asked over appetizers. Their courtship had been pretty straightforward. They both were at a point in their lives when marriage was the logical goal of dating.
"I like that no-nonsense approach, Miss Armbrester," John said with a smile. "I can see why my company bought your entire software line. Do you see yourself continuing working outside the home after marriage?" He liked the direction of this conversation.
So went their first date and so many more afterward.
She was ecstatic but not really surprised when he proposed on that rainy day in the park 3 1/2 years later. Of course, he had no umbrella AGAIN! She would have to work with him on remembering the little details.
They snapped a few quick pictures and then ran to her car to get out of the rain.
Back to the present…
John sat in his car, lost in the past for a few more moments. It was time to go inside. Claire and her bridesmaids would be arriving soon.
The plan was that John and his Best Man would already be down front and wouldn’t see them arrive. Everything had gone as planned so far. He couldn’t help but think of the RomCom’s she’d had him watch that showed all the things that could go wrong on a wedding day.
Their day would be different. John was such a control freak. He had planned and rehearsed everything down to the last detail. He was actually the “Groomzilla” of this wedding and he wasn’t ashamed to admit it.
But there was one thing that prickled in the back of his mind like an itch that he couldn’t scratch.
One of his coworkers had explained that getting married was the easy part. Staying married was where the real work began. This coworker was married and happily so. John had met his wife at a company function, and they made it all look so easy.
This coworker, Bob was his name, had told John he wouldn’t be able to attend the wedding. Instead, he said to be on the lookout for a special gift. He called it “The Secret to Family Happiness.”
John had promised that he would make time to check it out. He had seen so many of his friend’s marriages fail and he didn’t want to become another statistic. He reminded himself to look for Bob’s gift.
“Well,” John said to himself out loud, “this is it.” The rain continued to pour outside. He reached to the backseat for the old umbrella that Claire had given him all those years ago. He was glad he had decided to not take his that day. He shuddered to think how his life may have been completely different if he didn’t need hers back then.
John still kept that old umbrella in his car.
He probably always would. Claire would make sure of that... and that was ok. This umbrella may keep off the rain, but she was now his sunshine!
He opened the umbrella, stepped out of the car, and walked toward the door to start his new life.