MUSED Literary Magazine.
Fiction

Saffron

Courtney Hoskins

Emily spread a pinch of saffron across the bubbling surface of her bland lentils. To her, saffron was the happiest of the spices: curly confetti threads smelling of earth and flowers the color of the sun at dawn. Similar to sunlight, it was possible to blind a dish with its unique flavor. It was best taken in small doses, as if filtered through the leaves of a tree on a summer day.

Emily’s day desperately needed a pinch of happiness. It was her birthday, but the closest thing she had gotten to a gift was an email message asking her to clear out her desk and vacate the premises. It was the third round of layoffs her company had gone through in a year.

She had surprised herself and everyone around her by responding to the message with a laugh. It was the only response her body had to feeling every emotion simultaneously—a lightning bolt of laughter. After the rumbling thunder of dark thoughts that followed, the only thing left was emptiness.

Once home, she sat on the couch in that emptiness with her box of office belongings in her lap. Chintzy desktop baubles sat atop a stack of sketches, each one a rejected idea or a despised, soulless compromise. The company never fully appreciated the role of a designer. When the afternoon light dimmed to a cool shadowy grey and her legs began tingling from the weight of the box, she decided to start her dinner.

Rummaging through her pantry, she had discovered a bag of green lentils and the small glass jar containing the precious saffron threads that she had been saving for a special occasion. Deciding her birthday satisfied that requirement, she opened the jar, cut the protective plastic wrapper, and freed the patient aroma.

She closed her eyes and inhaled deeply. Yellows and oranges flooded the canvas of her mind, casting the layoff in a new light. She realized she had been given a gift. The months of severance would allow her to exercise her atrophied creative muscles. A new portfolio would get her the job she dreamed of—a job that appreciated someone who recognized that sometimes the difference between food and a meal was a simple touch of saffron.

She set her kitchen table, complete with a candle, and feasted upon her creation, considering each mouthful as a treasure of flavor. Her emptiness gave way to relief. She had nothing more to fear. Like the saffron, she was no longer stifled or contained. She blew out her birthday candle, grateful for the gift of the freedom she never knew she wanted.