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by F.C. Malby

He passes the bus stop. She is standing in the rain huddled over a shopping trolley, the wind buffeting her coat and blowing the hood away from the silver threads of her hair. She reminds him of his Grandma, although her frame is smaller and more frail. Her back is curved and her hands are gnarled, twisting at the joints enough that they might cause her pain. A pair of old leather gloves are resting on the top of her shopping trolley, and he wonders why she is not wearing them. She glances up and looks at the timetable for the third time, then turns and looks almost through him and away in the direction of the traffic. He pulls the black, woollen hat down over his forehead, shuffles in his seat, rubs his hands against his thighs to warm his fingers, then takes a sip of coffee. It tastes metallic and slightly acidic.

First one bus stops, then another: the sixty-nine followed by the forty-one, which he knows goes into town. She looks again at the timetable, her brow furrows and she looks down. She looks at her watch. A young man passes her the pair of gloves that have fallen into a puddle. She smiles and tucks them into her pocket. The next bus arrives, waits for passengers to get on then pulls away. She is still there. He wonders what she is waiting for but knows that he cannot let her out of his sight. The instructions were to follow her, but she looks too frail to be of any real danger to anybody.

F.C. Malby is a contributor to Unthology 8 and Hearing Voices: The Litro Anthology of New Fiction. Her debut short story collection, My Brother Was a Kangaroo, includes award-winning stories, and her debut novel, Take Me to the Castle, won The People’s Book Awards. Her short fiction has been longlisted in The New Writer Magazine Annual Prose and Poetry Prizes by David Gaffney, and won the Litro Magazine Environmental Disaster fiction competition. Her stories have also been published online in Litro Magazine, Ether Books, Spontaneity Magazine, 1000 Words, Flash Fiction Magazine, Paragraph Planet, Flash Flood Journal and The Puffin Review