A voice is speaking on the other end when she scowls and hucks her phone into an unruly boxwood. An explosion of sparrows billows up yelling fuck you! in chorus, then races back down to the center of the shrub.
She heads up the driveway, peering at the phone casually like it’s the only ride out of here but hey it’s in a bush that’s fine. Like who cares except to desperately pray the screen isn’t smashed. The phone is vibrating. Incoming call from smiling-cat-with-heart-eyes Babe smiling-cat-with-heart-eyes.
At the front door, she tucks her elbows tight against her body and clasps her hands at her chest, twisting one hand’s fingers in the C of the other. It’s felt like dusk since 8am. A few tight squeezes bring some feeling back.
The house is exhausted and veiny with the husk of climbing hydrangea. Was this really it? She did get lost a few times on the walk from the train. A homing pigeon she is not, it turns out. Though there is a message she can’t read tied around her ankle.
Her hand on the doorknob, someone’s twisting it at the same time from within. She suddenly changes her mind and holds the handle tight. Nope, this was a mistake. Not ready.
The person on the other side is pulling hard. She tries to lift her foot to the doorframe for leverage, but her hands are weakened by the cold. The handle slips and the door opens inward. She’s running now. Down the driveway scaring the birds up into the gray sky. Trying not to touch anything or anyone in the subway car and holding her breath in the tunnel for as long as possible.
She presses her hands into her armpits on the walk home and looks at the same shadow out the corner of her eye again and again. No one’s there. The phone is vibrating. The sparrows do not pick up.