More Like Saffron: Part Two
Despite Cadmium's original thought that "this couldn't last
forever," the days following Saffron's adoption were similar. Whenever Athena
or Cadmium messed up on any little thing (or if Saffron did something slightly
better), Elspeth sighed and said, "Why can't you be more like Saffron?" Every
day, the yellow Xweetok would get home from school, finish her homework, and spend
the rest of the time before dinner working on her science project. This gave Athena
and Cadmium no chance whatsoever to develop an understanding of their new sister,
causing them to become bitter towards her. Meanwhile, Saffron gained popularity
at school, too. Soon Elspeth's signature phrase was adopted by the teachers, and
not a day went by without either Cadmium or Athena being told, "Why can't you
be more like your sister?" Finally, what later came to be known as "The Last Straw"
happened after school, about six weeks after Saffron's adoption.
"Come on! We've got to ask her NOW!" Cadmium
said breathlessly as she and Athena raced up the stairs of their Neohome. As
usual, Saffron lagged behind, chatting with Brett and her other new friends.
The Royal Aisha reached the porch and rang the doorbell with a fury.
"Hey, you're going to break the doorbell!" Elspeth
greeted her. "What are you two so excited about?" she asked, taking in their
windblown hair and labored breathing.
"Let's go inside, and we'll tell you!" Athena
exclaimed. By this time, Saffron had caught up with them, and the three of them
entered the house together. "Well, since it is the last day of the third semester
and all, Keira (you know, the Maraquan Uni from down the street) is throwing
a party at her house tomorrow night. And-"
Cadmium butted in. "And can we-I mean may we-go?"
Elspeth tapped her chin. "I suppose you can.
Saffron needs a chance to have some fun, and it would be good for the three
of you to spend some time together. But first, let me see your report cards."
Cadmium and Athena grinned at each other before
eagerly reaching into their backpacks. Saffron produced hers, and Elspeth's
eyes lit up with pleasure. "Oh, Saffy, you got straight A's!" The yellow Xweetok
blushed, and Cadmium and Athena handed Elspeth their report cards, too. Their
owner's eyes scanned the page, and the elation that was on her face a moment
before faded. "Cadmium, a B- in math? And Athena, a B in gym? I thought you
knew I expected better of you." The two were about to protest, but Elspeth held
up her hand. "I am very disappointed in you. If you two had been more like Saffron,
I would let you go to the party, but because of your grades, you will have to
stay home. Now, Saffy darling, let's go shopping for a new headband for the
party." Elspeth directed her attention to Saffron once more. The owner and the
Xweetok headed back out the door, and Saffron threw a sympathetic glance back
at Athena and Cadmium, but they were too miffed to notice.
The door clicked, and Athena could tell that
Cadmium was simply seething with anger. "I tried so hard to bring my grade up!
She didn't even notice that it went from a C- to a B-! All of my other grades
were A's or A minuses! All she cares about is that, that little..."
"Little twerp. You're right, I can't take this
anymore! She needs to be taught a lesson," Athena declared. Determination came
across the Faerie Peophin's face. "Let's go discuss this-over some of darling
El's chocolate chip cookies, of course." The two of them traipsed upstairs to
come up with the perfect plan to teach the "little twerp" a lesson.
The next afternoon, Elspeth went out with friends,
promising to be back to escort Saffron to the party. "Perfect!" Athena had exclaimed
as soon as Elspeth had walked out the door. Now they had the perfect opportunity
to put their "master plan," to quote Athena, into action. Saffron was busily
getting ready for the party when Cadmium came into the bathroom. She leaned
casually against the doorframe, her green eyes narrowed and glinting mischievously.
"Hey, Saffy, I need some help with my math homework.
Since I did so badly on my report card, I thought you could help me." She struggled
to keep her voice under control, peeking over her shoulder and seeing Athena's
subtle nod of approval.
Saffron stared at Cadmium in surprise. "You
want me to help you with your math homework?"
Cadmium nodded. "That's what I said, isn't it?"
she muttered between gritted teeth.
Saffron shook her head, a frown creasing her
forehead. "But I only have twenty minutes before the party. I could help you
afterwards," she murmured, her eyes not meeting Cadmium's.
"Oh, come on," Cadmium wheedled. "It'll only
take ten minutes, I promise." But her fingers were crossed behind her back.
Saffron followed her over to the beanbag chairs, and the two sat together, heads
bent over the page. Before they knew it, twenty minutes had passed. Saffron
started as she heard the clock chime 6:00, and she stood up, her eyes wide.
"I need to leave now, or I'm going to be late!"
she exclaimed, dashing down the stairs and to the entranceway to wait for Elspeth,
who was late herself.
Athena and Cadmium grinned at each other. "Perfect!"
they chorused. Their plan was to delay Saffron just enough to make her late-then
maybe Elspeth would see that her little Xweetok wasn't perfect. The grins were
wiped off their faces as they heard a CRASH in the hallway. Saffron ran back
into their room, a lightning streak with brown fur. Athena and Cadmium sped
down the stairs to see a shattered vase-the one that Elspeth had purchased from
Osiri in the Lost Desert. "Oh, no! It wasn't supposed to happen this way! Elspeth's
going to be mad at all of us now," Athena groaned. The two of them made their
way back upstairs to try to figure out what to do-before Elspeth got home and
saw her favorite vase, smashed on the floor.
Cadmium opened the door to see the yellow Xweetok,
tears streaming down her face, furiously stuffing all the clothes, books, and
games that Elspeth had bought for her into a ragged backpack.
Athena's eyes grew wide with astonishment. "What
in the world are you doing?"
Saffron sniffed. "Well, she's going to take
me back to the pound, right? I figured I might as well pack now."
"Why would you think that? Elspeth would never
take you back to the pound. She loves you!" Cadmium blurted out.
"And why wouldn't you want me to go back to
the pound? All I've done is made life more difficult for you. I can see that,"
Saffron said bitterly.
Athena shook her head. "We don't want you to
go back. We're just tired of, well, of being compared to you. We're not you.
And anyway, why would you ever think that Elspeth would take you back?"
The Xweetok sniffed again. "All my other owners
did," she hiccuped.
"All your other owners?" Cadmium questioned.
Saffron nodded, a lone tear trickling down her
already soaking wet fur. "I've had three others before Elspeth. They thought
I was too quiet, or I wasn't good enough, or I messed up on something, or their
other pets beat me up, so they took me back to the pound." She looked sheepish.
"And they found out that I absolutely hated omelette! I've been cleaning the
house, studying for hours, complimenting her cooking, and doing everything she
wanted me to do so that I wouldn't have to go back again."
Athena and Cadmium shook their heads solemnly.
"If you think Elspeth's going to take you back, just look at us. She would've
taken us back a long time ago!" Cadmium laughed a little. "I think we understand
now, and I know I'd like to get to know you a lot better." She looked at Athena,
who nodded in agreement.
"And I think we need to apologize to you," Athena
Saffron looked at her, a confused expression
on her face. "But why? I'm the one who's made things miserable for you."
"What do you mean, 'why?' We've ignored you,
and we made you miss the party," Athena confessed.
Cadmium stuck out her paw. "So, do you accept
Saffron smiled at both of them. "Yes, I do.
And now," she paused as she heard the front door open, "I think we need to stop
acting 'like Saffron' and start acting more like sisters! After all, sisters
can get through anything together." The three of them gulped and cautiously
walked down the stairs, where their owner stood impatiently tapping her foot.
"I need an explanation." Her voice was as hard
and cold as a bowl of soup on Terror Mountain.
The three of them started talking all at once.
"It was all our fault!" Athena exclaimed.
"No, it was my-"
"No, it was totally our-"
"No, really it was my fault. I was the one who
ran down the stairs. I was in a hurry to get to the party-"
"Because of us. We made her late, Elspeth, and
"Sorry," the three of them chorused.
Elspeth sighed, the hardness melting away from
her face. "No, I'm the one who should be sorry. I heard your conversation through
the open window, and I realized how wrong I'd been. Saffron, I love you dearly
and would never give you back to the pound. You're a part of our family." She
paused to hug the Xweetok and beckon Athena and Cadmium closer. "And Athena
and Cadmium, I'm sorry that I expected too much of you. I worry too much about
what other people think. You are both unique, and you don't have to be perfect.
I'm certainly not perfect."
Cadmium rolled her eyes. "You've got that right!"
Athena and Saffron swatted her, but Elspeth
didn't look angry. "I guess I deserved that," she said wryly.
Saffron spoke up. "But what about the vase?"
Elspeth waved her hand over the broken pieces
of pottery. "Ah, pottery can be replaced. Besides, now I have what I've always
wanted-a big family! Now," her voice suddenly brisk and efficient again, "what
shall we do about dinner? How about some lovely omelette?"
The four of them looked at each other for a
moment and broke into laughter.