The man on the bus made bird noises.
He had dirty clothes on and no coat. He had probably been let out of hospital to save money. Probably.
One guy gave him a serious stare before returning to his paper. Others smiled or murmured. They thought it best to look at the passing scenery, at the dove-coloured sky. More snow?
It was standing room only but nobody sat next to the man making bird noises.
Susan, who had been watching him secretly, held a little strap to keep from falling as the bus jerked around corners. Street drugs? Alcohol? No. Just loneliness she suspected.
“Tsweetswee.” He got louder, “coo…coo.”
Maybe she should have sat next to him. But hers was the next stop.
Suddenly, the bird noises ceased. The man had seen her looking. Susan felt ashamed. He kept sharp, beady eyes fixed on her as he rose. Her heart ticked.
Then suddenly, he embraced her. She could feel the cage of his chest. A hint of brittle warmth.
People fell silent.
She stood stock still because she must maintain human dignity above all else. The serious guy with the paper looked over.
“It’s okay,” she said.
It was sleeting when she reached her stop. Snow was trapped in the green spires of the church and in the bare branches of trees.
Susan, who, at times, was not even certain if she was a real person, sat down amongst the stone angels of the churchyard.
She heard birdsong long after she left the bus.
It felt like spring.
Julia Robinson is a new writer of short and flash fiction. She has had several pieces of her flash fiction accepted for publication. Julia holds an MA in Literature Studies from the University of York St John, England.