Fiction‎ > ‎

Leaving You

Saffron Chase paused to survey her surroundings. “So this is my new school,” she thought to herself with a sigh. It was actually quite nice, she admitted grudgingly. Not that she’d be there long enough to appreciate it. She never stayed anywhere long enough to make friends. Now she no longer tried. It was always too painful when she had to leave. For a moment she allowed her mind to drift. She imagined a different life for herself; where she was able to make real lasting friendships, maybe even fall in love. That was her dream. To belong somewhere, to fall in love, to have a real home to come back to. Maybe someday her dream would come true but for now it was just that, a dream. Mentally shaking herself, she forced her thoughts to return to the matter in hand. Finding the headmaster’s office.

Half an hour later, she emerged from the office, her face set in a frown. She was still unsure as to why she had let herself be talked into being the make-up and costume designer for the school production of Romeo and Juliet. But she had found it difficult to turn the headmaster down. She had very few excuses. She had years of experience, having followed her actress mother from theatre to theatre across the country. It was over five years since the father she had cherished had been killed in a tragic car accident. Her mother had never really gotten over the loss of the love of her life. Unable to deal with living in the house they had shared for almost twenty years, her mother had decided to pursue the promising career in acting she had given up to marry her high school sweetheart as soon as he finished his degree. Before he died, Saffron’s father had been a very wealthy man, having built up a successful chain of bookstores. After the accident his wife and only daughter had inherited everything. Saffron knew there was enough money that if she wanted, she would never have to work her entire life.

She closed her eyes and inhaled deeply. Thoughts of the father she still missed terribly always had the power to upset her.
“Are you all right?”
Her eyes flew open at the sound of the unexpected voice. Her heartbeat increased rapidly as she took in the sight of the boy standing in front of her. He was tall, at least six feet, and had a perfectly sculpted face and dark brown, almost black hair that was glossy without looking in the slightest bit greasy. But it was his eyes that really caught her attention. Framed by long dark lashes, the brightest blue eyes she had ever seen were regarding her with a worried expression.
“I’m f-fine.” She stammered, certain that he could see straight through to her suddenly molten core.
“You’re new here aren’t you?” He said in that deep velvety voice that seemed to have the power to make her feel completely light headed.
“Yeah, today’s my first day.” She forced herself to say calmly, well as calmly as possible considering her heart was going for the Olympic gold medal in gymnastics inside her chest.
“Well, hi!” He said smiling, “I’m Marcus Daniels.”
He offered her his hand to shake. She almost gasped at the powerful serge of electricity that flowed through her at his touch. Still recovering from the effect his smile had on her, she somehow managed to introduce herself.
“I’m Saffron Chase.”
“Saffron… that’s a really beautiful name.”
“Thanks.” She muttered, positive he would notice the flush that had spread across her face.
He was about to say something else when the bell rang out from somewhere overhead.
“Well, I better go.” He said, absentmindedly brushing a stray strand of hair out of his eyes. “See you around.”
“Bye.” She said before watching him walk off down the corridor.

Leaning back against the wall to support her, she let her mind run over the events of the past five minutes. She could almost believe she had dreamt the encounter. Marcus Daniels was the most beautiful guy she had ever seen… and he liked her name! She sighed dreamily as she walked down the corridor in search of her lesson. As she passed an official looking notice board, her attention was drawn to a notice in the centre with the cast list for Romeo and Juliet. One name in particular caught her eye. Romeo was being played by Marcus Daniels. Her heart skipped a beat; maybe helping out with the show wasn’t so bad after all. Quickly she scanned the list to find the name of the girl playing Juliet. Jacqueline. She couldn’t help wondering whom the lucky girl was who got to play Juliet to Marcus’s Romeo. A sudden thought crossed her mind. Whoever the girl was, Jacqueline Lewis would get to kiss Marcus. Forcing these strangely disturbing thoughts from her mind, she went off in search off her classroom.

When lunch time came, Saffron was very relieved. Her morning lessons had been a seemingly endless list of new faces and new names. She had not seen Marcus again and was beginning to think she really had imagined him after all. She was also still in the dark as to who Jacqueline Lewis was. Though she had overheard several people mention her name in conversation. After she had paid for her lunch, she found a quiet table in the corner and sat down to eat. From her position she had a clear view of the cafeteria and more than once she found herself searching the faces for Marcus. Suddenly, she saw him. He was in the middle of a large group of people and he was laughing at something one of his friends had said. The second her eyes had come to rest on him, her heartbeat had sped up and she had felt a warm blush spread across her cheeks. Worried at being caught staring, she forced herself to look away, but over and over she found her gaze returning to the group on the other side of the room who were obviously the “popular crowd”. A deep sense of despair seemed to well up inside her as this thought sunk in. She would never be able to talk to him now.

The following morning, Saffron was getting her books from her locker. She had arrived in school early and the corridors were still deserted. Closing her locker, she started walking towards her first lesson as the corridors began to fill up.
“Heya.” The unexpected voice made her start, but there was no mistaking the rich velvety voice that automatically made her heart race.
She looked up and found herself staring straight into his eyes.
“It’s Saffron, right?”
“Yeah.” She said quickly, trying to disguise the effect he was having on her. “Marcus, right?”
“Yep.” He said brightly, flashing her a quick smile.
“Marcus!” A silky sweet voice called out, startling her.
“Hey.” He said easily as a gorgeous blond draped herself over his shoulders.
“Saffron this is Jacqueline Lewis. Jacqui, this is Saffron…”
“Chase.” She finished.
“Hi.” Jacqueline said smiling brightly.
“Hey.” She smiled back tightly. So this was Juliet. “Well, I’d better get going.”
“See ya.” Marcus said, hardly giving her a second glance.
“Bye.” Jacqueline added.

The rest of the day passed in a blur. Though she didn’t see Marcus again, everywhere she went she saw Jacqui. By the time she got home she was on the verge of tears. It was obvious Marcus was with Jacqui. They made the perfect couple, they looked so good together, and besides, they had been all over each other. Punching a pillow in frustration, she collapsed onto the sofa. She’d been at school for two days and she had already fallen head over heals, something she had sworn never to do. She couldn’t fall in love, it hurt too much. She stopped suddenly. Love? Where did love come from? She couldn’t be in love with Marcus. She didn’t know anything about him. Groaning she forced thoughts of Marcus out of her mind. But their replacements weren’t much better. Andy. She had loved him so much. He had been her whole life for almost a year. He had been the one that stood by her when her father died. They had fallen madly in love… until her mother had decided to move. At first they had continued there relationship but it hadn’t worked out. The distance had been too much. She still thought about Andy from time to time. Wondering if he was happy, if he had found someone. She really hoped he had. He deserved to be happy.

At first she wasn’t needed at rehearsals but she chose to sit and watch. She told herself it was for research into costume design but as the costumes took shape, she was forced to admit her reasons for staying were simply to watch Marcus. When he was on stage, he seemed to glow with energy. He made every scene he was in come to life, even without the costumes or the sets. At the end of rehearsals, Marcus always came over to say hello but he was soon joined by Jacqueline, which became Saffron’s cue to leave. Later that week, Saffron was eating lunch in what had become her usual spot in the corner of the cafeteria. And as always, she was alone.
“Is this seat taken?”
Her heart jerked at the sound of Marcus’s voice.
“No…” She murmured, instantly shy.
She was expecting him to take the chair and walk back to his usual group of friends but instead he put his tray down opposite her and sat down. For the next half hour they chatted about nothing in particular. It didn’t take long before she had begun to relax in his company. She found herself relating to him in a way she’d never thought possible. For the first time in longer than she could remember, she let herself relax. By the end of lunch she felt as if she’d finally made a friend. As he waved goodbye she felt the grin spreading across her face. Then she caught herself. A friend? She couldn’t afford to make friends. Least of all Marcus. Grabbing her things she fled from the cafeteria, promising to avoid Marcus as much as humanly possible.

A little over three weeks before opening night, Saffron arrived at rehearsals to find that Jacqueline had gone home early and would not be attending the rehearsal. The scene planned for that day was the famous balcony scene and it was the first rehearsal with the balcony in use. The director was in the process of searching for someone to read the part of Juliet. Saffron was getting out her script to add some notes on costume colour, now that the set was fully completed.
“Hey.” Saffron replied, looking up at the guy standing over her. As her eyes met his, her heart skipped a beat. The more she spoke to him, the harder she fell for him. She knew she shouldn’t speak to him at all… but she couldn’t resist.
“How are you?” She asked after a moment.
“Good, you?”
“I’m OK.”
He was about to say something else when the director hurried over.
“Saffron. We need you to read the part of Juliet.”
“I…” She started, knowing there was no way she could stand on stage, let alone opposite Marcus…
“Go on Saffy, please?”
“OK…” She mumbled, too surprised to think rationally.
Saffy? No one had called her Saffy except her father. It had been a long time since she’d heard that name.
“Thank you Saffron.” The director said briefly before turning to speak to one of the other actors.
“Thanks, you’re the best!” Marcus said hugging her quickly.
She only just stopped herself from gasping out loud. His arms around her just felt so right. As he removed his arms she felt a chill go through her, as if she had come home only to have it torn away again.

Forcing herself to move, she picked up her script and made her way over to the stage before climbing up to the balcony. Taking a deep breath, she read Juliet’s first line. She held her script in a death grip as she tried her hardest to stop her voice from wavering. She looked down at Marcus as he began to read his lines. Suddenly her eyes met his and her nerves evaporated. As she read the lines in front of her, she could feel his eyes watching her, and when she looked up, their eyes caught and held. It was as if he were saying it all for her. When the director called a halt, Saffron’s head was spinning. Every word she had said had seemed to reflect her emotions… in fact; Juliet seemed to suit her perfectly. The difference was in Romeo. For a moment she had let herself believe those words. But he was just acting. As she came back down to reality she listened as Marcus was praised by both the director and his fellow cast members: “That was perfect, so much better.” “If you do that on the night you’ll have the audience in tears.” “What was your inspiration?” The last comment came from a supporting actor called Gaz, accompanied by a wink. Saffron looked at Marcus and was surprised to find him staring straight at her. She felt the heat of a blush creep into her cheeks and she quickly looked down, allowing her hair to fall over her face.

Later, she was packing away her things when she felt, rather than heard, Marcus’s approach. He paused in front of her. When he didn’t speak she looked up, curious. He was looking anywhere but at her and a feeling of unease swept over her.
“I was wondering if you… uh… wanted to get a coffee or something.”
Her breath caught in her throat. He was asking her out. She was about to accept when an image of Jacqueline flashed through her mind. No, he wasn’t asking her out, at least not as more than friends. And even if he had asked her out, she couldn’t have accepted. She had already let herself care about him too much. There could never be anything between them. She knew without a doubt she’d be leaving again in the not too distant future. And they could never be friends, she had promised herself that. She wanted him too passionately, cared about him too deeply, loved him too much. This time she didn’t argue with herself over that last point. She loved him, that was for sure. She cared about his happiness more than her own. She would rather suffer without him than hurt him when she left. Realising he was still waiting for an answer, she took a deep breath before responding.
“I’m sorry, I can’t. I have too much work to catch up on.”
It was true, but she knew she wouldn’t spend the evening working whether she went out or not.
“Oh, OK.” Maybe next time?” He said, sounding slightly hurt and more than a bit disappointed.
“Yeah, next time…” She murmured, more to herself than to him.
They said their goodbyes and went their separate ways.

She had arrived home even later than usual for a rehearsal day. As usual she came home to an empty house. She fixed herself dinner and then sat down to eat, her thoughts still on Marcus’s invitation. Should she have accepted, she wondered to herself, though she knew she had made the right decision. Letting herself make friends with anyone always turned out to be painful when she was forced to leave them behind. Making friends with Marcus wouldn’t just hurt her when she had to leave, it would break her heart. She couldn’t ever remember feeling this way about a guy before. Even Andy. She had loved Andy with all her heart but there had never been such a powerful chemistry between them, not even at the beginning. She spent the rest of the evening watching television, then forced herself to get an early night, not that she was able to sleep much.

Several days later, Marcus approached her again, this time before rehearsals had properly started.
“Hey.” He said, his smile making her melt instantly.
“Hey.” She smiled back, not that she could have done anything else, his presence never failed to bring a smile to her face.
“You going to the after-show party?” He asked casually.
“I’m not sure…” She replied guardedly, “You?”
“Yeah,” he said quietly, “I was kinda wondering if you wanted to go with me…”
Her heart leapt into her throat. There was no doubt this time… he was asking her out. She knew he was not the type to cheat, she knew it. But there was an underlying sense of insecurity that forced her to ask…
“I-I thought you were with Jacqueline.” She stammered.
“Really?” He looked genuinely surprised. “I’m just friends with Jacqui.”
“So will you come with me?”
“I don’t think I can…”
“Oh…” He frowned
She thought for a moment he was going to ask her why. Then the moment passed.
“Well I guess I’ll see you…”
“Yeah…” As he walked away, a single tear trickled down her cheek and she hid her face in her hands. She wished with all her heart she could have accepted his invitation, but she knew she couldn’t. She sighed. Why was doing the right thing so hard?

The days leading up to the play passed quickly. She spent as little time alone with Marcus at rehearsals as she could, and spent the rest of her time, when she wasn’t in lessons, working, or at least trying to work, in the back of the library. The afternoon before opening night was hectic. An hour before the first members of the audience were due to arrive, she had finished everyone’s make-up except for Romeo and Juliet. Marcus and Jacqueline. Jacqueline was relatively easy, she had simple make-up designed to emphasise her features. Marcus, as with many of the boys, was much harder to do. The make-up had to look much more natural without being too bland. Saffron had to try exceptionally hard to stop her hand from shaking as she applied lip-gloss to Marcus’s full lips, the lips she would do anything to have against her own. Finally everyone’s make-up was perfect and she left to take up her seat in the wings where she could easily touch up everyone’s make-up.

The show was brilliant. And the whole time her eyes never left Marcus. He was amazing. Though she’d never admit it to anyone, she would have given anything to go to the party the following night. But she couldn’t afford to get close to anyone. Especially not Marcus. She still didn’t know whether she was going to the party or not. Deep down she knew it was a terrible idea, but she wasn’t sure she had the strength to stay away. Her mother’s show had come to and end and she had no idea how long she had left before she had to leave. Could she really pass up the chance of seeing Marcus? Now that the show was almost over, she knew she’d be seeing a lot less of Marcus. She wasn’t sure she’d be able to stand it. How could she go from seeing him for hours almost everyday to sometimes passing him in the corridor? She felt like crying. She felt as if she was never going to see him again, and the more she thought about it, the more she realised how true it was. Since she had turned him down for the second time, he had hardly spoken to her. Not that she blamed him. But it still hurt.

By the end of the second night, she knew she had to go to the party. Her mother had already secured a part in another play, on the other side of the country. Saffron would be gone by the end of the week and she would never see Marcus again. She got a lift to Jacqueline’s house, where the party was being held, with some of the other crew members after they had cleared up. By the time they got there, the party was in full swing. And in the middle of it all, were Marcus and Jacqueline, dancing as if they were extras from “Dirty Dancing”. Saffron’s heart pounded painfully in her chest, she felt as if she couldn’t breathe. Suddenly, Marcus’s eyes caught hers across the room. With a silent gasp, she fled into the kitchen, her eyes filling with tears. She collapsed against the counter, relieved to find the room empty. She closed her eyes and pressed her fingers to her temples, trying to stop the throbbing behind her eyes. She wasn’t aware that someone else had entered the kitchen until she felt a hand on her arm. Her eyes flew open and she found herself just inches away from Marcus.
“Saffy…” He whispered her name.
“Marcus, I…”
He didn’t let her finish, pressing his finger to her lips to silence her.
“Saffy.” He said again, his voice husky.
This time she didn’t attempt to speak. He held her gaze as his finger traced a line over her lips. His touch ignited a spark inside her she didn’t even know she possessed. As he lifted his other hand to run it through her hair, a sigh of pleasure escaped her lips. Taking this as all the encouragement he needed he stepped closer, until their lips were no more than an inch apart. Then he kissed her.

She felt her body mould against his as the overwhelming sensation of his lips on hers flooded though her. Lifting her arms, she slid them around his neck, pulling him even closer. She let herself get lost in his embrace, not allowing herself to think. Her whole awareness rested on Marcus and the fierce chemistry pulling her closer and closer to the edge, after which, there would be no going back. When he finally broke the kiss, she leaned back to look up into his eyes. He was watching her intently, his eyes smouldering with undisguised desire. But there was something else as well. Something she had seen more than once in her own eyes over the past few weeks. Something that looked distinctly like love. At this thought her heart skipped a beat. The expression on his face told her he expected to bolt, and she knew that was what she should do, but there was nothing on earth powerful enough to make her leave his arms. As if sensing she had made the decision to stay, he lowered his mouth to hers once again. This kiss was much gentler and softer than the first, though no less passionate. Again she let the sensations wash over her. She couldn’t imagine anything could be better than this. It felt like heaven. As he deepened the kiss, she felt his hands brushing the back of her neck, stroking her cheek, tangling in her hair. He left a trail of fire wherever he touched her.

They jumped apart as the door swung open with a bang.
“There you are!” Jacqui exclaimed walking over to Marcus and kissing him quickly on the lips.
The simple action sent an arrow straight through Saffron’s heart. With a sob she turned and fled. Maybe it would be for the best if she never saw him again but somehow, she just couldn’t make herself believe it. She was opening the door when a hand pushed it closed again. She turned to find Jacqueline looking at her coldly.
“Stay away from Marcus.” She said quietly, her voice icy. “He’s mine.”
With that she spun around and went back to the party. Saffron opened the door with trembling hands. She felt as if someone had pulled out her heart and replaced it with an icy weight. She could hardly breathe the pain was so intense. Somehow she made it home. As she collapsed onto the warm comfort of her bed, she let herself go. The tears poured down her face, and she hugged herself, wishing there was a way to ease the emptiness she felt. Her hand automatically went to her throat, to the ring she wore there. It was gone. Her heart lurched painfully. That ring was her most important possession. It had been a gift from her father. It was his mother’s engagement ring and he had given it to her before he died. It was a silver claddagh ring, with a heart shaped stone of Blue Topaz in the centre. The ring was not worth much but its sentimental value was priceless. Saffron had worn the ring on a chain around her neck since the day her father had died. And now it was gone. She was lost without the ring, the one constant in her ever-changing life. Eventually she curled up on her bed and fell asleep.

The following morning, the last thing she wanted to do was go to school and face Marcus but she had to. It was her last day. After today she would never see Marcus again. As that thought filled her mind, she felt as though her heart was breaking all over again. When she arrived at school, she went straight to her locker, hoping to have her books before the corridor started to fill up. She closed her locker and jumped as a hand tapped her on the shoulder. She turned to find herself face to face with the one person she had hoped to avoid talking to.
“Marcus!” She almost cried, her voice raw with emotion.
“Why did you leave last night? You never even said goodbye.” He asked, his voice full of pain and confusion.
“I…” She started
“Hey sweetie…” Jacqueline’s silky voice sliced through.
She shot Saffron a look of pure hatred before turning to smile adoringly up at Marcus. But the look on Marcus’s face showed Saffron he wasn’t fooled. He had seen the look Jacqui had given her. Marcus looked directly at her, his gaze daring her to walk away. She held her ground.
“Go away Jacqueline.” Marcus said evenly, his gaze never leaving Saffron’s face.
“What?!” Jacqueline stuttered.
Then catching sight of the expression on Marcus’s face she cursed and hurried away down the corridor. Neither of them turned to watch her. Then she saw it.
“My ring.” She whispered, reaching out to touch the familiar ring, hanging from Marcus’s chain in the gap left by the open top button of his shirt. As her fingertips brushed his bare skin, she felt him suck in his breath. Before she could withdraw her hand, he covered it with his own.

Her heart thudded wildly in her chest as he lifted her hand to his lips and gently kissed her fingertips. Putting up no resistance, she allowed herself to be pulled into his arms.
“Oh Saffy.” He whispered into her hair.
“Marcus…” She breathed.
Then, finally, he kissed her. The feelings of pure bliss made her melt against him and he shifted slightly to allow them to get even closer. She pressed herself up against him as he deepened the kiss and when they broke apart, she didn’t move away.
“Saffy…” he said again, the sound of her name on his lips making her melt.
“No-ones called me Saffy for years.” She murmured against him.
“Do you mind?”
“Good, I like Saffy. It suits you.”
She smiled and he kissed her again. When they drew apart he reached up and undid his chain before refastening it around her neck.
“Marcus, I can’t accept this…”
“Think of it as a loan.”
Then she remembered. She was leaving. She would never see him again. She was about to protest again when he pressed a finger to her lips.
“You can give it back to me when you come back to visit.” He smiled.
“But how… how did you know?”
“I overheard the Head telling your English teacher.” The smile left his face. “Why didn’t you tell me yourself?”
Sighing, she decided to tell him everything.
“I didn’t know how…” She started.

She spent all of lunch with Marcus. They talked and talked, continuously wrapped in each other’s arms. At the end of the day, Marcus drove her home. On the way, he stopped at the park. When he suggested going for a walk, she jumped at the chance. Desperate to spend as much time with Marcus as possible. They walked in silence for a while, hand in hand, just enjoying each other’s company. When they got to a bench they stopped and sat down. Immediately he wrapped his arm around her shoulders and pulled her close.
“Saffy, I… I know we can’t stay long, but there’s something I want… no, need to tell you.”
“Go on…” She half whispered.
“I love you Saffron. You probably don’t want to hear that but…”
She cut him off.
“I love you too Marcus.”
“You do?” He asked genuine surprise showing in his eyes.
“I do.” She whispered as his mouth came crashing down on hers.
Finally they pulled apart. His eyes were burning with a desire she knew he could see mirrored in her own.
“How about we go back to mine. My mum won’t be back for hours.” She found herself saying.
“Sure…” He almost growled, his breathing ragged.

The drive home was short and they made the trip up to her apartment in record time. As soon as the door closed behind them, Marcus pushed her up against the wall, kissing her fiercely. Saffron melted into his arms, letting the sensations of his body pressed against hers push out all rational thought. Somehow they moved to the sofa without separating, and he fell down into it, pulling her along with him. Finally they broke apart.
“Say it again.” He whispered urgently.
She had no need to ask what he meant, and her answer came straight from the heart.
“I love you Marcus.” She said looking deep into his eyes.
“I love you so much.” He said, showering her face with kisses.
She moaned softly as he kissed a path from her lips, down her neck and across her shoulder, pushing the straps of her top down with his hands. When he would have pulled her top off altogether she put a hand over his to stop him. His head sagged against her chest.
“I’m sorry.” He murmured. “I just want you so much it hurts.”
She ran a soothing hand through his hair.
“I know how you feel.” She whispered softly, “If I had a choice I would never let you go.”
“Please don’t leave me.” His voice cracked a he looked into her eyes.
The tears she saw in his eyes were too much for her and the tears she had been holding back spilled over.
“Oh Saffy,” he whispered, holding her close. “Please don’t cry.”
Biting her lip, she let him wipe away her tears. Then his lips found hers and he kissed her until the tears stopped falling.

Half an hour later they were sitting wrapped in each other’s arms, legs tangled up together.
“What are you thinking about?” he asked, kissing her forehead.
“Have you ever had a dream about me?” She asked, looking up at him.
He dragged his eyes from hers as a bright red flush spread across his cheeks. She only just caught his whispered “yes”.
“Tell me about it.” She said, lifting his face so she could catch his eye. “Please?”
“All right.” He took a deep shuddering breath. “It was a few weeks ago. After you read Juliet’s lines in rehearsals.”
She smiled gently, encouraging him to go on.
“I dreamt that it was at the end of rehearsals. Everyone had left except for you and I. I had come to collect my script that I’d left backstage. I was just leaving when I ran into you, checking over my costume. I asked if you needed a hand with anything. You asked me to try on my costume so you could adjust it. When I came out of the changing room to show you, I found you wearing Juliet’s costume. You asked if I wished it were all real. I just nodded I was so surprised. Then you came over to me and asked if I could help you with the zip.” He paused, unsure whether to continue.
He looked at Saffron who was listening intently her eyes wide.
“Are you sure you want me to carry on?” He asked, nervous of what she would think of him if she heard what they had done in his dreams.
“Yes.” She whispered, her voice husky.

One glimpse of the desire in her eyes and he knew she was affected as much as he was. Smiling slightly, he continued.
“Well, I helped you out of your dress and then you helped me out of my costume… Then I kissed you. We fell onto the bed used for Juliet’s bedroom and…”
He looked at her, taking in her slightly breathless expression and the eyes full of lust, for him. She looked just like she had in his dream…
“You really want me.” She whispered incredulously.
It wasn’t a question but he answered it anyway.
“Of course. Can’t you tell?” He asked, shifting his position.
Her eyes grew wide as the meaning of his words sunk in.
“Oh G-d…” She whispered, closing her eyes.
She opened her eyes.
“Maybe we could…” She murmured against his shoulder.
“No.” He cut her off gently. “When, if, that ever happens between us, I want it to be special. I don’t want you to regret a moment of it.”
“I could never regret that. Not with you.”
“Oh Saffy, you have no idea how hard it is to say this, but I won’t do this to you. We can’t. Not like this.”
“I know,” she said finally, the tears threatening to spill over yet again, “I know.”
“Oh Saffy.” He whispered as he pulled her close and kissed her.

Two hours later, Saffron was on the train. Her mother had driven their car up to Birmingham for a meeting with her agent. Saffron was left to take the train alone. She sat staring out the window, fingering Marcus’s chain that she still wore around her neck. Closing her eyes, she leaned back in her seat listening to ‘that’ song yet again. Marcus had been helping her pack her CDs and he had been teasing her about the ‘Westlife’ album he had discovered. As a joke he had put the CD on. When they had packed everything she had gone over to stop the CD so she could pack away the hi-fi. As she had reached for the stop button, Marcus had grabbed her wrist, spinning her into his arms. He had asked her to dance with him, just once, and she had agreed. As the next track had started, he had pulled her close. But then the lyrics had begun. Neither of them had been able to ignore the words of the song; “Just close your eyes”. The entire song could have been written for them. She already missed him like crazy and they had been apart for less than an hour.

When she finally reached the apartment that was to be her home for a few weeks or however long her mother’s show would run. She unlocked the door and walked in to find her mother crying her heart out.
“Mum! What’s wrong?” Saffron cried, running over to throw her arms around her mother.
“Oh Saffron, honey, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean for you to see me like this.”
“Mum, please tell me what’s wrong.”
“You know I was going to see my agent today?”
“Well I didn’t go to see my agent. I was with Drew.”
“You mean the man who owned our apartment?”
“That’s right.”
“So what’s wrong?” Saffron asked gently, trying to hide her growing concern.
“I don’t know how to tell you this but Drew and I saw a lot of each other whilst you were at school and… and this morning he asked me to marry him.”
“Mum!” Saffron squealed, hugging her mother tightly.
Saffron had noticed that whenever Drew was around her mother had looked happier than she had been ever since the death of her husband.
“So what did you say?”
“I said no. I know how much you loved your father and I loved him as well. I didn’t want you to think I was trying to replace him with someone else.”
“Oh mum, I know you loved Daddy. But you deserve to be happy. I don’t expect you to be alone forever, and I know Daddy would have felt the same.”
“Sometimes I forget how old you’re getting.”
Suddenly it hit her.
“Mum… does this mean we can move back to London?”
“Yes.” She smiled let me call Drew.”
Saffron left her mother to her phone call and went to explore the apartment, even though she would no longer be staying there. They spent the following day tying up loose ends, deciding to return to London on Sunday evening in time for school on Monday.

Sunday evening, Saffron dropped her bags in the bedroom she had vacated only 48 hours earlier. Drew had suggested that the three of them move back into their old apartment and Saffron had eagerly agreed, wanting with all her heart to live in the place that held such special memories. She wanted to go straight to Marcus’s house but it was too late. She tried calling his mobile but she just got his voicemail. Eventually she had to give up and accept she would have to wait until the following day to tell him she was back. She would have to tell him at school. She was filled with a warm bubbly feeling as she thought of seeing Marcus again. So much sooner than she had expected.

An hour or so later, she collapsed exhausted into bed. Closing her eyes, her mind was instantly filled with images of Marcus. She let her mind wander and found herself thinking about his dream. Even though she was back for good and there was no rush, she almost wished his dream would come true. Her body ached to feel his hands on her. And she craved the feel of his lips against hers. She kicked off the covers and wandered into the bathroom. She turned on the tap, splashing cool water over her flushed face. She had never wanted someone so much in her whole life. Groaning, she forced herself back to bed. She wondered what it would be like to share her bed with him. Wondered what it would be like to spend the night wrapped in his arms. She cursed. This was getting her nowhere. Now she was more awake than ever. Picking up the phone she punched in Marcus’s mobile number.“Hello?”
Her voice stuck in her throat. She’d recognise that silky voice anywhere. What in the world was Jacqueline doing answering Marcus’s phone at 11:30 at night?
“Is Marcus there?” Saffron asked finally.
“He’s in the bathroom. Hang on.” Jacqueline said sweetly.
“Honey, come back to bed. There’s someone on the phone for you.” She heard Jacqueline call out.
“Sorry Saffy, he’s… busy.”
“Don’t call me that.” Saffron gritted her teeth, trying not to snap.
“Sorry.” She said, not sounding the least bit sincere. “Try him again tomorrow. OK?”

Saffron hung up without answering. Marcus was spending the night in Jacqueline’s bed… after he had refused to sleep with her. But there was something that didn’t add up right. She hadn’t heard Marcus in the background and she trusted him. Vowing to give him a chance to explain, she turned off the light and went to sleep.

Monday morning, Saffron arrived in school early, hoping to talk to the Head before lessons. She had just come out of his office when she saw Jacqueline and Marcus standing a few feet away. She started walking towards him, then stopped dead as he threw his arms around Jacqueline.
“Thanks.” Marcus said to Jacqueline. “And thanks for last night. It was great.”
“I had a good time too.” Jacqueline replied, catching Saffron’s eye over his shoulder.
Saffron didn’t want to hear anymore. She turned and fled. By avoiding the cafeteria at lunch and spending all her free time in the corner of the library, she avoided Marcus all day. At least, most of it. At the end of the day she waited until the corridor was empty before going to her locker.
“Why are you avoiding me Saffy?”
The sound of Marcus’s voice cut through her thoughts.
“Marcus, I…”
“Why didn’t you tell me you were coming back?” He asked, the hurt evident in his voice.
“I was going to.” She said her voice dripping with menace. “But you were too busy sharing Jacqueline’s bed to talk to me.”
“What the hell are you talking about?” He shouted, his voice echoing through the empty corridors.
“Ask your precious Jacqui.” Saffron yelled, pulling his chain from around her neck and throwing it at his feet. “And stay away from me.” She half whispered before running down the corridor, tears streaming down her face.
“Saffy wait!” Marcus called, running after her.
He easily caught up with her and grabbing her arm, he forced her to turn and face him.
“What’s going on Saffy? I thought you loved me.”
“I could say the same for you.” She whispered. “Where were you last night?”
“At Jacqui’s, but…”
“You’re not who I thought you were Marcus. Please let me go.”
He started to protest but he let her go.
“Goodbye Marcus.” She said before walking out the door.

All evening her phone was ringing and eventually she had to turn it off. At half nine, she was ready for bed. Unable to concentrate on anything, she had given up on her homework and couldn’t face watching television. Drew had taken her mother out for dinner and Saffron had the apartment to herself. When the doorbell rung, she didn’t think twice before opening it. When she saw who it was, she tried to close it again, but Marcus was too fast for her.
“Saffy, at least give me a chance to explain.” He pleaded, closing the door behind him as he entered the apartment.
“What’s to explain?” She muttered, reluctantly following him into the living room.
“I don’t know…” He said finally. “I never thought of you as the jealous type.”
“I’m not jealous. How do you expect me to react when I find out you’ve been spending the night with Jacqueline two days after I leave.” She half sobbed.
“What?” He asked, the shock registering in his eyes. “You think I slept with her? Saffy, I love you, how could you possibly think I would betray you like that?”
“What do you expect me to think when she answer’s your phone in the middle of the night and calls you back to bed to take my call?” She asked indignantly. “And then I hear you telling her what a great time you had? Give me a break. I’m not an idiot Marcus.”
“She answered my phone?” He asked incredulously, more to himself than to her. “Oh G-d” He groaned, collapsing onto the sofa.
Immediately Saffron was reminded of the last time he’d been on that sofa. The scene was slightly different now. For one they were on opposite sides of the room.
She was brought back to the present by the near hopeless tone in Marcus’s voice.
“Saffy, I didn’t spend the night at Jacqui’s. I would never do that to you. I went to her house for a few hours during the evening to watch a movie. We ended up talking for ages, about you. Then she asked if I would spend the night.” He paused to look at her.
She looked away, scared of breaking down completely.
“I refused, damn it, Saffy. I said no. I went home.” He cried in frustration.
For the first time since he had arrived, she caught his gaze and held it.
“Then how…?” She let the question hang.
“I left my phone at her house by accident. She must have answered it and made you think I was there. I guess she was trying to get back at me for refusing her. What you saw this morning was my attempt at clearing the air between us. Obviously it was pointless.”
“Marcus, I don’t know what to say.” She stammered. “I should have trusted you… I,”
“Shhh…” He said soothingly, crossing the room in a second.
The feel of his arms around her was bliss after what felt like a lifetime apart.
“I love you so much.” She whispered into his shoulder.
“What was that?” He asked, pulling away slightly, an impish grin on his face.
“I love you Marcus Daniels.” She said brushing a hand across his cheek.
“And I love you Saffron Chase.” He said looking deep into her eyes.
She started to protest as he moved away slightly. Then she realised what he was doing. She watched as he unfastened the chain from around his neck and refastened it around hers. She trembled as his fingers brushed the back of her neck.
“This time it’s for keeps.” He said moving closer.
She couldn’t help thinking she would wear the chain forever. Then she stopped thinking as finally, his mouth came down on hers, and she lost herself in the fiery sensations evoked from deep within her soul.

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