Olive arrived at the bus stop encumbered with bags, feeling like a packhorse. The bench was full. She sank deeper into her shoes. The length of the queue suggested there would be no seats left by the time she got on.
At least most of them would get off a few stops before hers, so there was a chance she wouldn’t have to stand the entire journey. She might have a few precious minutes sitting down before she got home and had to start cooking.
Dropping the bags, she flexed her cramped and reddened hands, creased where the weight of the shopping had carved stripes into the folds of her fingers. One of the bags tipped over, spilling groceries onto the pavement. She scowled and kicked it. A soft crunch indicated she might have broken the eggs.
Staring across the road around the queuing traffic, she noticed the tree-lined drive of the yellow-bricked Victorian villa opposite. Blossom drifted across sunlit patterns on the ground behind its gates.
A memory surfaced, of bundling a red cardigan and lumpy canvas bag of books into her mother’s arms, to run home from school down a street like this one and across a field with buttercups and grasses as high as her head. She felt again the pull of grass caught in the buckles of her shoes, the tickle of seeds and petals in her socks. Her running self: a Stone Age warrior chief, a fleet-footed elf, a horse escaping from a cruel owner to reunite with the herd.
Once home, Olive would go straight out to the garden swing. She went so high, she almost took off over the trees. She spent hours on that swing. Standing: a bareback circus rider, a daredevil walking the wings of a bi-plane. Sitting: an aviatrix, a dragon-rider, an eagle. Landing, feet tumbling along the ground, she changed worlds, reluctant to go in for tea and account for the grass stains on her clothes, wash her grubby hands and sit up straight, recite what she’d learned at school today; pulled back to duty, chores and homework.
Her mind returned to the spilt packages around her, the weight of the bags jabbing her legs when she walked, the endless list of tasks in her head competing with a dull job that never paid quite enough.
She stamped her aching foot.
Sparks flew. She looked down. Instead of her shabby, down-at-heel shoes her long white legs ended in hooves. Looking behind her, she saw a glossy white back and a fine white tail.
Lowering her head, she nuzzled an apple from the shopping bag, soft lips enclosing and lifting it, rolling the cold smooth shape into her mouth. She crunched with strong teeth. It tasted vivid, vibrant and green.
Olive stretched out her arms. They felt longer, heavier, powerful. Whoosh! She looked. Her arms ended in…feathers? Wings! She moved them, creating a breeze that ruffled the clothing of the people in the queue but they didn’t seem to notice anything strange.
Whomp! Whoosh! Her hooves lifted off the ground. Still, no one noticed. She turned, kicking over the grocery bags and with a clatter, left the ground and swooped high over the street of Victorian villas and away towards green fields.
A new writer, Kate Leimer enjoys stories of all kinds. She has stories in ‘Hysteria 7 Anthology 2020’, ‘The Wondrous Real Magazine’, ‘Fudoki’, TL;DR Press ‘Hope’, Bluesdoodles and ‘Idle Ink’. She was shortlisted in the Cranked Anvil Flash Competition. When not writing, she works in a library. Twitter: @hollypook Pronoun: She/her