SUNSHINE AND PIGEONS by Jennifer Harvey

She is only three so the world consists of what is in front of her. Nothing more.
Today, it is sunshine and pigeons. They peck seeds from her hands and coo while she squeals and yells at you to “Look, mama! Look!”
You thought she would be scared of their insistent pecking and fluttering, but she seems not to care and you envy her because you want to be that way again, in the moment, not caring.
But the pigeons unsettle you. The way they gaze at you - askance, nervous; you don’t like being watched like that.
“They’re just birds, Amy,” you tell yourself.
And you say it out loud to allay this and every other fear.
And as if it understands, one of them flaps upwards and perches on your shoulder, its orangey eye a surprise.
“Just like a jelly baby,” you think, and you wonder if it would taste as sweet; the thought a momentary distraction which dilutes the fear.
You are just about to reach out and touch it when Marie leaps in the air, her movement bringing with it a rush and flutter of wings that leaves you shaking and suddenly aware of where the bird had perched on your shoulder.
You can feel where its feet had grappled your t-shirt and you swipe at your collarbone and try to shift it as if it was still there.
“What's wrong?” she asks you.
“Nothing,” you tell her, “I was just remembering something.”
“Are you scared of them mummy?” she asks.
“No, not of the birds,” you tell her.
And you worry for a second that she'll ask you to explain that. But she's only three, so such questions don't occur to her. Instead she takes some seed from the packet, pops it in her mouth then spits it out, rat-a-tat-tat, like gunfire.
“Bang! Bang!” she laughs.
The birds scurry and you think you catch one of them looking at you.
“Do something about her, will you?” it implores.
And you feel you should help it, though you can’t say why.
“Don’t scare them, Marie.”
“But you don’t like them,” she complains, and she plants her feet firmly on the ground, folds her arms across her chest and produces a frown that is so like his you shudder.
“I was starting to like to them,” you say.
She squints into the sunlight, and throws the whole packet of seed into the air causing a terrible commotion of wings.
She is daring you to react, angry that you sided with the birds. But today is not the day for fussing or arguing. Today, all you want is peace.
The pigeons seem to agree. You watch as they waddle around pecking at the seeds and crumbs.
You like the way their necks wobble as they strut. They're funny. Something you never noticed before.
And you see that orangey eye again and wish you had a jelly baby.

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