4 min read

Chapter 24: Party

Sage finds a way to stop Saffron's worrying
An image of a Christmas pudding is overlaid with the text "Saffron and Bear" and "Chapter 24: Party"

Need to get caught up?

Saffron took her morning tea sitting on the front step as she always did. With a blanket wrapped around her shoulders and Bear on her lap, she nursed her hot mug as she stared at the place where the path disappeared into the woods, just like she had every morning for the past month.

She had barely made it through half her cup when Sage opened the door behind her.

“Not today. Leave it.” Sage swooped in and pulled the blanket off her and the mug from her hand before Saffron could react. “Come on and help me with the baking.”


“If she hasn’t done anything yet, she’s not going to do it today.”

“What if–”

“Sitting out there staring at it isn’t going to help anyway. Now come on, chop those dried fruits so we can get the pudding in the kettle.”

Saffron continued to protest, but Sage ignored her, and so she chopped the fruit while her sister mixed the rest of the ingredients. Soon the pudding was steaming in its kettle and Sage moved them on to shortbreads and then to the mulled wine.

“Who is all this for?” Saffron asked. “There’s only three of us.”

“Three of us–” Sage shook her head. “Saffron. We’re having a party, did you forget?”

“Party? What party?”

“I asked you about it last week and you said it was fine. I invited your friends over for Christmas.”

“You did what? Which friends?”

“Meg and Henry and Mister Payton.”

“You don’t even know them.”

“I’ve met them. And Alistair knows everyone these days. And they’re your friends, so they didn’t really care if they knew me or not, they all wanted come see you.”

“You shouldn’t have done that. What if–”

Sage cut her off with a sharp slap of her hand on the table. “I don’t want to hear your what ifs, okay? It’s Christmas. Let’s just be happy. If Professor Burton does something, we’ll deal with it when the time comes. I’ve already put my life on hold for too long because of her schemes, and I’m tired of it. I’m not going to do it any more, and you shouldn’t either.”

Bear emphasized Sage’s point with a headbutt to Saffron’s knee.

“I’m sorry for getting so caught up in it, I just–”

“It’s your job to protect everyone. I know. But stressing yourself out over it isn’t helping anyone. So set it aside for a day and let’s just have fun.”

Sage was pretty convincing, so Saffron did her best to take her advice. She tried not to think about what her old professor was doing. She tried not to glance out the windows toward the forest whenever she had the chance or to look out at the former meadow and sigh. She focused on the little details - the smell of the mulling spices, the bubble of the pudding’s kettle, Bear’s warmth where he curled up beside her.

It got easier once their guests arrived. Alistair came first and helped with the final preparations. Meg and Henry arrived next with a fruitcake to share. Mister Payton came in last, bringing a pot of honey from his hives and a wheel of cheese from his goats.

The six of them were soon seated around the fire, and as she talked with her friends and ate the delicious treats, for the first time in months, Saffron finally forgot to worry about what was out there, what was coming for the town. She just let herself enjoy the good food and good company.

The evening passed in a pleasant blur of laughter and warmth and cheer. She was sad to see her friends go out into the cold dark night. She felt a renewed determination to spend more time with them next year. Not just worrying about them or trying to protect them, but actually sharing their company and being a friend.

As Sage said goodnight to Alistair, Saffron cleaned up the dishes and tucked the last of the food in the pantry before settling in her bed with Bear tucked up against her. Sage came in a few minutes later, all smiles and cheer.

“Did you have a good time?” she asked.

“I did. Thank you for doing that.”

“You’re welcome. You have some good friends here. I was starting to think maybe you’d forgotten that.”

Saffron shook her head with a smile. “You always knew me better than anyone. I’m glad you’re here.”

“Me too. Merry Christmas, sis.”

“Merry Christmas.”

Sage made her way to her own cot, and Saffron curled up closer around Bear. “Merry Christmas, Bear. Thanks for always being there for me.”

His only answer was to curl up tighter and put a paw over his eyes before falling into a deeper sleep. Saffron soon followed suit.

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Katie Conrad is a speculative fiction writer living in Halifax, Nova Scotia. You can find her on twitter, instagram, and tumblr.