Like a Bird by Sarah James

In a past life, Tina must have been a bird, Jack thought. His girlfriend pecked chocolate chips from a snack bar, then threw away the remnants. She’d scoop a lump of cookie dough from his tub of Ben & Jerry’s like a hungry sparrow attacking the fat-balls his mom strung in the garden. She wouldn’t eat the rest. Tina could sing too, though only for him. Although Jack had never heard a lark or nightingale, he’d liken her song to theirs. Except, in myth, the nightingale’s tale was sad, too sad. While everything about Tina was graceful, Jack wasn’t sure her wrists should be so thin. Or her legs remind him of a flamingo’s. When she ran though, it was fast and sleek, as if powered by invisible wings. Back from the gym, her skin shone as iridescent as a hummingbird. She was both stronger and softer than she looked. Sometimes at night, Jack would watch her sleeping: her beautiful face eggshell-pale on the pillow; her dark hair a sudden shock against the cream sheets, like a silken nest unwickering. Curled up with no clothes on, her frame was more fragile than a baby chick’s. Once, he rested his head on her breast to listen to her heartbeat; he felt only a gentle fluttering and the slow weak tap of a beak against rib-cage bone. Every morning, he woke half-expecting to find nothing left but a handful of feathers.

Sarah James is a fiction writer, poet, journalist, reader and reviewer, fitting life around words and words around life. Her website is at

Photo by averie woodard