4 min read

Chapter 2: An Evening with Friends

Saffron spends an evening with her favourite friends
A background image of a pie is overlaid with the text "Saffron and Bear" and "Chapter 2: An Evening with Friends"

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Saffron tied off the bandage around Meg’s leg, checking that the ends were tucked in and stood up, smiling at the older woman.

“How’s that?”

Meg lifted her foot and tentatively rolled it in circles. She nodded decisively. “Just right. Thanks dear.”

“You’re welcome. Just be more careful next time, I hate to see you hurt.” Meg had tripped and fallen against a metal bucket, cutting a gash in her leg. It didn’t look too bad, really. It hadn’t even needed stitches. But at Meg’s age she didn’t recover as quickly as she used to. Saffron had put a few extra herbs in her compress, adding luck and protection in addition to the usual concoction to reduce swelling and promote healing.

She’d also refreshed the small protective sigils she’d placed around the house, hoping to prevent any further accidents.

The front door swung open and Meg’s husband Henry entered, basket in hand. He’d gone out while Saffron was tending to Meg, and she could see now that he’d been to the market, and his basket was laden with food.

“What’s all this?” Meg asked as he came into the kitchen.

“I’ve done the shopping. Didn’t want you going out on that leg.”

“You didn’t have to do that.”

“I wanted to.” He bent over Meg and kissed her, a twinkle in his eyes.

Saffron, who’d taken a step back, watched them with affection. Meg and Henry had been the first people to make her feel welcome when she’d moved into her cottage on the edge of the village. A lot of people were a little wary of a new witch, but these two had taken her under their wings.

Henry stood up. “You’ll stay to dinner, Saffron?”

“If you’ll have me.”

“Of course we will,” Meg chimed in.

Bear, who had been quietly curled by the fire, had roused himself when Henry came in and now jumped onto the table to inspect what was in the basket.

“Yes, you can stay too, little one,” Henry said, rubbing the cat behind his ears. “There’s something special in there for you.”

“Let me help with the cooking, at least,” Saffron offered, though she knew they were unlikely to accept.

“You think I can’t handle the cooking?” Henry teased. “I know my way around the kitchen.”

“I just thought it would be nice to help.”

“Don’t be silly. Cooking for you is the least we can do. You and Bear go have a seat.”

“If you insist.” Saffron retreated to their front room and settled on one of the chairs next to the fire. Bear followed and hopped onto her lap. She stroked his head and let herself gaze be drawn into the mesmerizing dance of the flames. Behind her, she could hear Henry and Meg laughing in the kitchen while Henry cooked, chattering and bantering the whole time.

Saffron’s heart was warm and full. The glow of the fire, Bear’s comforting purr, and the simple joy of Meg and Henry’s affection brought her a sense of deep peace and comfort.

Before long, a delicious aroma wafted in from the kitchen and her stomach started to rumble. She roused herself, despite a petulant mew from Bear, and set the table before Henry could shoo her away. By the time she finished laying out the plates, he was removing the food from the fire. He served up a roasted trout coated in dill surrounded by caramelized carrots and parsnips.

For Bear, a portion of fish was left unseasoned and served on the smallest plate at his own place at the table.

Henry helped Meg to the table and the four of them settled in to eat. The food was delicious and the company delightful. Saffron never smiled so much as when she was with these dear friends.

At the end of the meal, Henry surprised them with a spiced cake fresh from the oven. The scent reminded Saffron of home. One bite took her right back to family dinners with her mom and Sage when she was a kid, the three of them seated around their little table in the dark winter evenings. Much as she missed them, she was glad to be finding a new family here, and she savoured the cake as her visit extended into the evening.

She was sad to leave them at the end of the night, but she packed up her healing kit with a last reminder to Meg about caring for her injury, and a promise to check in on her again soon. She hugged them both, bundled up in her winter clothes, and walked out into the night.

Bear rode on her shoulder on the way home, his head nuzzled against hers. It was a cold night, Saffron’s breath puffing out in front of her in great white clouds, and she hurried back to the cottage as quickly as she could.

Back at home, Saffron fixed herself a cup of tea and rested by the fire for a few moments, the smells of smoke and lavender mingling around her. By the time she curled up in bed, she was completely relaxed.

Bear hopped onto the bed and pushed his head against her face.

“I love you, boy,” Saffron murmured as she petted him. He curled up next to her, and the two of them drifted into a very contented sleep.

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P.S. If you enjoy my writing, check out my story “The Genealogy of Rebellion” in the recently-released collection, Hope.

Katie Conrad is a speculative fiction writer living in Halifax, Nova Scotia. She writes fantasy, science fiction, horror, and literary stories. You can find her on twitter or instagram.