Saffron let out a tired sigh, as she reached for her phone that December morning. She had just received a text message from her boyfriend ,Zach, who she had been with since she started secondary school. Things had been slightly off with him lately, and Saffron was excited thinking he was going to propose to her. Her mother had put the idea into her head, telling her that her father had acted coldly before he proposed to her. She explained that it was a nervous thing. Saffron surely hoped he would propose to her – after all, eleven years was a very long time.
She understood why he hadn’t proposed to her sooner, though. They met at twelve, finished school at seventeen, finished college at twenty-two and were now twenty-three. The only problem? They still weren’t living together, even though Zach had his own place, and so did she. The problem with Saffron was that she was way too shy to ask could they move in together. Zach was kind, and he wouldn’t have denied her, but she didn’t want to bother him. She hated feeling like she bothered people – but it was in her nature. Yes, she shouldn’t have thought that way because they were dating for so long, but maybe some part of her knew it wasn’t right.
She stared at her phone sleepily for a moment, one eye closed and the other squinted a little because the screen was so bright. She really needed to start turning the brightness down when she put it on charge at night. Once her eyes grew accustomed to the brightness, she clicked into his text message and began to read it. She couldn’t process what it said at first. “Meet me at our coffee shop. Need to talk to you” it read. What could he possibly need to talk about? What was so urgent at half nine in the morning?
Saffron let out a loud groan, kicking her covers off and throwing her phone beside her on the bed. She knew she would have to turn up, or else Zach would be mad. Which was understandable. After ten minutes, she replied with a quick “okay, be there in twenty”, before throwing her legs over the bed. She rubbed at her tired eyes, before standing up and stumbling over to her window. She pulled the wooden venetian blinds, then gazed out the window for a moment. “What a dull day” she whispered to herself, little knowing that the weather would represent her feelings later.
As she got ready, she began to wonder what Zach wanted to talk about. Was he going to propose?! She let out a small squeal as she pulled up her jeans, falling over onto the floor. She gasped as her cheek hit the carpet, then sighed happily. ‘I hope he does propose’ she thought to herself, picking herself up off the floor and pulling her jeans up properly ‘It’s my dream to marry him’. Saffron had completed every milestone in her life that she had set out for herself. She had met a lovely man, she had completed her Bachelor of Arts degree (with an Honour) and her Master’s degree (also with an Honour), she had moved into her own place and she had travelled a little with Zach. All she was missing in her life was an engagement ring, a huge wedding designed to her taste, and a baby. Saffron knew she was only twenty-three, and that she had plenty of time to be a mother, but she had always wanted to be a young mother. Not too young, but just when she felt the time was right; and she did feel it was right.
Saffron worked as a social worker. It wasn’t her original plan, but she loved her job more than anything. It was good money – and she got to help children find a home where they were loved dearly. Saffron had a soft heart, so of course some of the children’s stories made her heart ache. Though she loved to see their cute faces light up when they seen their new parents walk through the wooden double doors of the orphanage - where she also helped out part time. It was a beautiful mixture of happiness and excitement for their futures.
Saffron was ready within ten minutes. She had even surprised herself, as she had put on make-up and everything, but she was prepared to be proposed to. She had to look beautiful, or at least as beautiful as she could, for the occasion. What if Zach hired the photographer she always said she wanted when he was ready to propose? She had to look decent in the photos. She made her way out of her apartment, locking the door and then trotted down the steps eagerly. She found her car with ease, since all the other people who lived in her block were out that day, and her car was the only one in the parking lot.
A lot of nice people lived in her block. She was surprised, because she always thought living in Dublin was going to be rough. She was delighted to find out that wasn’t the case, especially when you lived in the expensive parts. Thank God for degrees, she always said. Her parents were very strict on her grades when she was in college – simply because they knew what it was like to struggle with money, and always wanted her to be comfortable in that area. Saffron was thankful to them then for being so pushy, though she wasn’t when she was younger. She was just glad she had listened.
Her favourite person in the whole block was her neighbour, Mrs Dunne. She was an elderly woman who had lost her husband ten years beforehand, but she had three lovely kids with him. The eldest was her mother’s age, forty-one, and the middle was thirty six while the youngest was thirty-four. They often stopped and talked to Saffron when she was out at the bins or even as she came in from work. Saffron admired their determination to keep their mother happy, and she hoped someday herself and Zach would have kids so helpful and kind.
When she began to drive through the somewhat desolate streets – she pressed the play button on the stereo, forgetting what CD was in there. When U2 came blasting from the speakers, she slammed her hand down on the steering wheel. “FUCK YES” she yelled excitedly. She was a big fan of the band ever since she was a child. She admired Bono very much, both for his music and humanitarian work.
She reached the café in no time, and parked up outside it. She took in a deep breath, feeling the nerves bubbling in the pit of her stomach. Wow, she had never felt so nervous in her entire life. She stepped out of the car, locked it, then made her way into the café. As she walked through the automatic doors, she felt that something bad was going to happen. Ignoring her gut feeling, she scanned the room for her love. When she saw him – her heart leapt in her chest like it always did. He truly was everything to her, and she was sure (if not certain) that she was everything to him. She waved a little at him, earning a sad smile in return.
She approached him, taking off her jacket as she done so, and draped it over the back of the chair. She paused for a moment – waiting for him to stand up and hug her, then pull out her chair like he always did, but he didn’t budge. She raised a curious eyebrow at him, but his gaze didn’t meet hers. She pulled out her own chair, feeling the nerves wash over her even stronger this time. What the hell was going on? He was acting so strange. Zach was usually such a gentleman – what was going through his mind?
“How are you?” she questioned lowly, reaching across the table to take his hand. He just moved his hands from the table to his side, which startled her. “Fine” he replied simply, not even bothering to ask how she was. Damn, this was odd. She hadn’t caught on to anything yet, she just figured he was in a bad mood. Sometimes Zach was in bad moods, simply because he was bi-polar. Saffron was the type of girl who was attracted to men like that. Not because she wanted to manipulate them, but rather the opposite. She wanted to help them. She had always been like that, unfortunately. Though after that day, she would realise that some people cannot be helped.
“Listen, Saffron” he said, coughing nervously “we need to talk”. “I got that from the message” she sighed, retracting her hands, which also fell limp by her side “is there something the matter?”. He nodded his head slowly, before his green eyes met her blue ones “I want to break up”. Silence. Saffron chuckled quietly “you what? Is this a joke?”. He sat back in his seat “please don’t make a scene out of this. I just don’t feel the same way about you anymore. I haven’t for about a month now. We were both so young when we met, we need to see other people. I’m sorry, Saffron. Forgive me. I wish you the best”. With that, he stood up and prepared to leave.
Saffron laughed loudly “Oh wow, Zach. You’re a wonderful actor. For a moment I thought you were actually breaking up with me!”. He sighed, suddenly realising she really did think he was joking “Saffron, it’s not a joke”. The seriousness in his eyes, the lack of love, made her realise he wasn’t joking. “No, no. Zach! Please don’t do this!” she said, her eyes tearing up. “I’m sorry, don’t make this harder than it already is” he pleaded, wiping at his eyes with his jumper sleeve. She shook her head rapidly, unable to believe this was really happening. She felt as if her whole relationship had been a lie. Was he really going to do this? After all they had been through as a couple?
Saffron really didn’t want to make a scene, simply because his parents owned the coffee shop. They watched her with sad eyes, and that’s when she realised everyone knew he had fallen out of love with her – except her. She felt her whole world come crashing down. Her life was definitely a sham. If there was ever a time she wanted God to just take her – it was there and then. It was much better than living her life without him. Zach retreated behind the counter, giving her a small wave before disappearing into the back room with his parents, Cody and Mary. Saffron wasn’t sure what to do. Cody and Mary had welcomed her into the family so lovingly. They loved her- treated her like a daughter. It was the bond she wanted to badly between herself and her in-laws. She couldn’t believe she had been so foolish as to believe what her mother had said – that he was acting cold because he was going to propose to her. She left the coffee shop, her heart completely shattered.
Everything felt like a lie. The whole world felt like one, big, stupid lie. As she drove home – she gazed around at all the trees, the birds and the other people. They all looked so happy – she couldn’t help but believe they were faking it. Everything seemed like an illusion. Was anything real? Was she real? Was love real? She began to debate with herself in her head. She remembered at that moment what she was taught in Philosophy when she studied it in college. ‘I think, therefore I am’ she thought to herself ‘yet everything feels fake right now, everything feels dead’.
Saffron felt like she had just been shot in the chest, and her life was flashing before her eyes. There was no way this was real, Zach would never do that to her. After all the years they spent together, loving one another and trusting each other, it had to just end like that. She didn’t know what to do, or how she was going to do it, all she wanted was to be in her sisters arms. Though they fought a lot as kids – Saffron adored her little sister Erin. When Saffron was born, her mother, Lily, swore to never conceive again. She said it was the single most painful experience of her life, and she originally wanted Saffron to be an only child. Though after a night of passion with Saffron’s father, Michael, the following March after Saffron’s birth, she conceived again. Enraged, Lily had decided to have an abortion, but couldn’t follow through with it. She ended up having only Saffron and Erin. Saffron was born in October – while Erin was born the following December.
If asked, Lily would say that her daughters were her biggest blessing. She had never loved another human being the way she loved her daughters. If asked, Michael would say the same thing. As much as he loved his wife, Saffron and Erin were his pride and joy. Even though Erin was younger than Saffron, she was feisty and had always protected her older sister. Many find this order strange, but for them it was the norm. Saffron wouldn’t have had it any other way.
By the time she arrived at her younger sister’s apartment, she was a sobbing mess. Her hair had somehow knotted at the back, though she presumed it was from her shaking her head against the headrest in disbelief. She was surprised she had managed to arrive in one piece, honestly. A part of her was hoping she would die in a car accident, but she didn’t have it in her to deliberately crash into something.
She made her way into the clean apartment block, knocking on the first door to the right. Saffron wasn’t surprised about Erin’s choice of apartment. Erin was a severe clean freak, who even cleaned the hallways herself sometimes. Erin had only recently moved out on her own, perhaps three months beforehand. Originally, she was supposed to move in with Saffron for a few months, but then decided she didn’t want to because she thought Zach would propose to Saffron. Sadly, that wasn’t going to happen. Erin was a small girl, not even 5ft (she was 4’11”). She had obtained this height from her mother, which was a trait she wasn’t exactly proud of. Even though Saffron had told her countless times that it was a beneficial characteristic (it got them out of a lot of serious pranks as kids), Erin didn’t like being thought of as cute and small.
Erin was far from cute, personality wise. She hated people who acted all cutesy, calling them fake and such. Saffron couldn’t tell you how many times she had to listen to “how can she sneeze so quietly? What a fake bitch!” or “Oh shut up, idiot. We all know you’re evil”. She wasn’t relating to Saffron, not at all. Erin and Saffron had shared similar facial features as babies and toddlers, but once they hit their childhood – their looks changed. Lily would often say it was the strangest thing she had ever seen.
This change furthered once they reached adolescence. Saffron dyed her hair blonde, while Erin kept her brunette hair. Though they still shared the same eye colour: a beautiful blue. Saffron had a boyfriend, while Erin had been single her whole life. Erin had never even had a childhood boyfriend! She had always been envious of Saffron’s childhood boyfriend (the ‘relationship’ lasted 10 weeks and two and a half days to be exact), but never actually ventured out to find her own. Saffron had had her first kiss at nine years old (with said boyfriend, Robert), while Erin had never kissed a boy even at twenty-two (her birthday was December 18th).
Erin wasn’t bothered with relationships, honestly. She had given up on that a long time ago, and quite frankly she just didn’t care for men. As far as Erin was concerned, they were sleazy assholes with nothing better to do than to hurt women. She had been asked out countless times, and was a very beautiful lady. It’s not like men just didn’t fancy her, so she was taking it out on them. No way, she was gorgeous. In fact, Saffron could recall one situation in particular where Erin was asked out by their cousins new step-brother, who had asked Saffron out many years ago. Erin was disgusted by him, and declined him immediately. Not only because he had asked her sister out, but because he was just not her type.
Saffron admired Erin very much. She wished she was more like her; carefree and feisty. As mentioned before, it had always been Erin who protected Saffron, never the other way around. Saffron had never even had the opportunity to stick up for Erin, simply because Erin would beat up the bullies by herself. She wished she didn’t care that Zach had dumped her – but she was broken inside. She wished she could be carefree about the situation, but it just wasn’t in her nature, unfortunately.
Her shaking fist knocked on her younger sisters door, using the secret code they had used as kids. Erin had told her to use that knock just in case she was naked someday so she would know it was her. She always cracked her up. Her hand then fell limp by her side, before she lifted her other hand and wiped at her eyes. It took a few minutes for Erin to open the door, so Saffron was about to walk away, having presumed she wasn’t home. As she turned on her heel, she heard a key in the lock. “Sorry, Saffron. I was in the show-“ she cut herself off, staring blankly at her sister through the small crack in the door. She pulled Saffron in by her arm, throwing her halfway across the hallway in panic.
“What happened?!” she exclaimed, slamming the door with her foot, then dragged Saffron into her living room. When Erin opened the door, one would think she had just moved in yesterday. The walls were blank, no paintings, no murals. Though as soon as you entered her living room, which was the first door on the right, you were surprised. She had the walls painted a beige colour- which made you feel warm and at home. The fire was lit, burning the turf she had probably received yesterday from their father. The only reason Saffron knew this was because she had received some turf yesterday, too. The walls were plastered in childhood photos – but they were not cramped together. Instead, it made her feel like she was back in her childhood home.
The photos consisted of their numerous photoshoots as children, whether it be professional photography or just photos taken from their family camera, which was still functioning. Many books on law, which was what Erin was studying in college, were piled neatly on her glass coffee table. Her curtains were neatly held back by two curtain tie backs, which were in the shape of black roses. Erin’s home felt cosy – unlike her own, which was still only furnished with the previous owners furniture.
Finally, after glancing around the room to make herself more calm, Saffron told Erin what happened. “Zach and I are finished” she told her, her bottom lip wobbling slightly. “Finished?!” Erin exclaimed angrily, having thought that he was going to propose “what the hell? Why didn’t the asshole do that sooner, rather than leave you hanging while he acted like a douche?”. Saffron pressed the palm of her hand to her mouth as she cried, shaking her head in response.
“I’m not sure” she responded once she had held back the tears, wiping at her eyes once more. Erin reached over the pile of books on her coffee table and grabbed a Kleenex tissue from its box, wiping at Saffron’s eyes gently. “There, there. You don’t need a man, Hun. Look at me, I’m just fine by myself” Erin said, which made Saffron feel slightly annoyed, even though she knew she was only trying to help. “That’s easy for you to say” she scoffed, taking the tissue from Erin and blowing her nose. “Huh?” her sister was clearly confused. “You always said you never wanted to get married – and that you never wanted to have kids, unless through adoption or artificial insemination. It’s fine for you, it’s not your dream” came Saffron’s still reply.
Erin nodded, knowing her older sister was correct. Saffron had always dreamt of having kids and being married young. She had completed most of her other milestones, leaving only a few remaining, which included getting married and getting pregnant. That’s when an idea snapped into Erin’s head, but she knew it would take a lot to convince her older sister to do it.
“Hey, I have an idea” Erin said, smiling warmly at Saffron. Saffron, who was in the middle of blowing her nose, quirked a curious eyebrow at her younger sibling “what is it?”. Erin bit her bottom lip, then reached out and grabbed her sister’s hand. A small silence followed, before Erin took a deep breath and said “why don’t you try artificial insemination?”. Another silence followed, then a loud laugh. Erin was taken aback. “I’m not that desperate for a child!” Saffron exclaimed “I can wait for another man to enter my life”. Erin was a little enraged, but knowing her sister was still upset, remained calm “I’m not saying that. All I’m saying is; do you really want to rely on men to do the things you want to do? It’s almost socially acceptable to be artificially inseminated in this day and age. I know it may seem stupid, but think about it. You get to have a baby with no messy strings attached. You don’t even have to see the father. No man can control you, because the baby won’t be his”.
Surprisingly, Saffron stopped laughing. She was thinking about what Erin had said about no man could control her. If she didn’t have kids with a man, if she stayed single for her whole life, she wouldn’t have to face the heartbreak anymore. She wouldn’t have to repeat her hurt, but instead could live a happy life with her son/daughter. Saffron quite liked the idea of proving to Zach that she didn’t need him to live her life, and to fulfil her dreams. The only problem? She would never have the big wedding she had always planned out with Erin as kids, but was that really so important? All Saffron really wanted at the end of the day was a baby. A mini version of herself, someone who looked up to her.
“I’ll think about it” she suddenly responded after the minutes silence. Erin smiled reassuringly “think about it. I’m sure you’ll come around to the idea. Mam and Dad will be mad at first, but we will all adore this child. I promise”. Saffron thanked her sister, then watched a few movies with her while eating some ice-cream. Honestly, Saffron didn’t think about the insemination idea for a good while, having decided halfway through the first film that she didn’t want to do it. She felt embarrassed about it. Until one day..