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Archive for the 'Season 2' Category

Season 2: Episode 4

March 22, 2011

Willow bit into the crisp shell of the honey and pistachio biscotti. She hadn’t had breakfast, thinking she would grab something from the market, but the smell of her own homemade, freshly baked goods wafting through the car was too tempting.

She pulled down the driver’s side visor, checking her face in the mirror. Her make-up was strategically applied so that it didn’t look like she had any on, and her hair was tousled in a just-out-of-bed fashion. Willow had read somewhere that this reminded men of sex and, therefore, they found it very, very attractive. She brushed the remaining biscotti crumbs from her lips and rummaged around in her bottomless handbag to find lipstick – her favourite Chanel red, a gift brought back from New York – applying carefully, then blotting.

Surveying the small mirror again, she decided she was ready.

Picking up the small container of biscotti, she gathered her shopping bags from the boot in preparation for entering the market, deciding that the ‘grandma’ trolley she normally wheeled along to carry her purchases didn’t give off the right vibe.

Nothing screams wanton sex goddess more than a personal shopping cart, she mused, a small smile forming on her crimson lips.

But not even a wire shopping trolley could have distracted from the vision that was Willow today. A vintage floral dress hugged her tantalising curves, the neck cut just low enough to give a hint of cleavage; but nothing indecent. Although it was going to be a sunny weekend, the morning was cool so she’d accompanied the dress with a short, modern jacket. Even though a nice pair of heels would have set off shapely calves marvellously, she had sensibly decided on a pair of ballet flats. No man, no matter how gorgeous, was worth walking around the Victoria Market in high heels!

The biscotti, the dress, the lipstick… they were, of course, all for the divine man who had saved her from being trampled by tourists at the market two weeks ago. The man whose name she didn’t even know.

Willow pondered her best course of action: find him straight away, or shop first and casually bump into him? She’d arrived early and the normal Saturday hordes hadn’t descended yet. She wanted to maximise every opportunity to see him; didn’t want him distracted by other customers, especially – heaven forbid – other women! She was disappointed that she hadn’t had a chance to see him last week, but decided it was probably fortuitous it had turned out that way. Her leggings and oversized T-shirt worn to the sports carnival wouldn’t even have looked good in the 90s, so she felt mildly relieved when she’d arrived and all the stallholders had packed up for the day.

There was a residual cool from the previous night still in the air, and Willow pulled her light jacket closer around her. Perhaps the summer dress had been a mistake, she thought, the breeze making her shiver. Meandering through the central aisle she surveyed the stallholders unpacking their wares – boxes brimming with fresh vegetables and colourful trays of fruit. Even though it was autumn there were still plenty of summer fruits around – nectarines, strawberries and watermelon – all providing a vivid spectacle for the shoppers.

She slowly and strategically made her way towards the area that her mystery man had pointed towards, casually observing the offerings along the way.

“Willow!”

She turned to see her favourite stallholder, Lorenzo, walking towards her, arm outstretched.

He kissed her on both cheeks. “You haven’t been to visit us for ages!”

She kissed him back and they exchanged pleasantries before he took both her hands and started pulling her, excitedly towards his stall. “Come! Come!”

Willow protested. “I’ll come later…” There was no way she was missing out on seeing her mystery Adonis two weeks in a row!

He shook his head. “You have to meet my son. He’s only here on Saturdays.”

His son? Willow didn’t remember him having a son….? She stopped suddenly, recalling the conversation they’d had months ago. “Carlo comes to visit in a few months. I think that you should meet…” Oh my God! The photo pinned to the fridge at the side of the stall. It was him!

The Adonis!

Willow felt like an idiot. She had been so flustered the other week that she hadn’t recognised him as the divine man from the photo.

As they approached the stall she could see his broad back, his strong, tanned forearms. He was wearing a tight black T-shirt and blue jeans that hugged his muscular legs and perfect bottom. Had she been religiously inclined she would have vowed to recite ‘Hail Marys’ for the next five years based on the impure thoughts that she was having about this man. About the way he moved, the way he smelled, the way he spoke…

“Carlo!”

He turned at the sound of his father’s voice.

His face registered surprise before breaking into a wide grin. “You!”

Willow grinned back, her heart fluttering.

Lorenzo was confused. “You know our Willow?”

“We met. Sort of.” He walked over and kissed her lightly on both cheeks. “Willow.” He savoured her name, rolling it around his tongue like a fine wine. “You look even more beautiful than last time I saw you.” His eyes sparkled as he said it.

Willow melted. The puddle formerly known as Willow.

“I don’t think you saw me at my best last time,” she managed to stammer.

Lorenzo proudly cuffed his son on the shoulder. “What do you think, Willow? Handsome?”

Willow certainly couldn’t deny that.

“He’s visiting from Italy. He’s a chef there.”

Willow nodded slowly. The conversation she’d had with Lorenzo months ago had come flooding back. That explained the exquisite recipe Carlo had pressed into her hands, weeks earlier. She could have saved herself so much trouble, had she only remembered his face.

Lorenzo clapped his hands. “Carlo will choose everything for you. The best for our Willow.”

Carlo brushed past, whispering in her ear. “Nothing but the best.”

“Willow, come.” Lorenzo beckoned her over to sit with him while Carlo set to work. She was reluctant to leave his side even for a moment, should she lose him again. Boxes looked weightless in his powerful arms, and he moved with the grace of a dancer. She sat watching Carlo, only half listening, as Lorenzo regaled her with stories of Italy.

***

After he had loaded her up with fresh fruit and vegetables, Lorenzo had insisted that Carlo walk Willow to her car. Willow was not going to protest.

“Thank you for the recipe, the mushrooms were beautiful.” She weaved her way through the crowds that were just starting to build.

“A beautiful recipe for a beautiful woman.” He gave her a sideways glance, the intensity of his look suggesting he wanted exactly the same thing as her.

They walked in silence for a while. Willow, normally so verbose, was tongue-tied. She shivered as their hands brushed accidentally. She’d never felt such longing for a man before.

When they reached her car, he loaded the boxes in, careful not to damage any of the produce.

“You are cooking tonight again for your housemate?” The playful twinkle in his eye was back.

Willow shook her head, hoping he couldn’t hear the ferocity with which her heart was beating.

“Maybe…” He paused, taking a tendril of her hair and wrapping it around his finger. He leaned in, close to her ear. “Maybe tonight I can cook for you?”

Willow willed her voice to come out evenly. “OK”. It was little more than a squeak.

In one swift movement, he took a notebook from his pocket and scribbled his address, tearing the page and handing it to her.

“Come at eight. I will make something special for you.”

Willow took the note and put it in her handbag, at the same time catching sight of the forgotten container of biscotti.

“Oh! I almost forgot. I made these…”, she said, carefully digging the container out of her handbag, not wanting to spill its contents onto the pavement.

But when she looked up, his figure was already retreating into the distance.

 

 

Season 2: Episode 3

March 15, 2011

“I’m here! I’m here!” Willow rushed into the kitchen and dumped the armfuls of bags she was carrying. “I’m so sorry – the traffic was awful and the carnival ran overtime…” She trailed off, catching her breath.

Tonight, Willow and Mia were cooking dinner for their friends. Given the time constraints they had decided to keep it simple and make pizzas. Willow had insisted she would be able to get to the market and pick up ingredients for the toppings despite having to attend her school’s annual sports day.

“I’m the bloody music teacher,” she had complained to Mia earlier. “What do I know about sport?”

Mia looked pointedly at her watch. “They’re going to be here in 40 minutes.”

Mia truly had no idea why Willow was so adamant about going to the market herself. Sure, she was friendly with the stallholders who often gave her discounts, but they had both known that for Willow to get from the sports day to the Victoria Market and then home again by 6pm was a little unrealistic. Still, she had insisted.

“Did you manage to get everything?” Mia had already made the wholemeal dough for the pizzas and it was rising beautifully in the warm kitchen. She started unloading the bags: smoked trout, buffalo mozzarella, jalapenos, heirloom tomatoes… Not quite up to her normal market standards, but they would have to do.

“Most of the stalls were closing so I grabbed what I could.” Willow didn’t have the heart to admit that the market had been completely closed by the time she got there so she’d had to get everything from the supermarket. She was particularly annoyed because she’d missed her chance to see the gorgeous mystery man who had saved her from being trampled by the hordes.

Why didn’t I just ask for his phone number?, she chided herself for the 50th time. She didn’t know if she could wait another week to see him!

“Let me just jump through the shower and then I’ll get to work. Everything will be done by the time they get here.” Willow flashed her brightest smile. “Promise!”

***

When she came back downstairs, Ana had arrived home and was helping Mia set the table. They had arranged candles and little glass jars filled with jasmine from the garden along the length of the table. Willow looked quizzically at Mia – this was more trouble than they usually went to!

Mia indicated her head towards Ana, shrugging. “Her idea.”

“Special occasion?” Willow winked at Mia behind Ana’s back. They both suspected Ana’s good mood was due to a rekindling of her relationship with Tom, but she hadn’t said anything about it.

Ana just shrugged. “Felt like it.” She whistled as she wandered back into the kitchen.

***

Thirty minutes later everyone was gathered in the kitchen. Johnny had arrived, as always, with an amazing selection of wine to complement the meal. To Willow and Mia’s delight, Tom had also turned up, bearing a case of Champagne, which he assured them had been on sale. He shot a look at Ana, who was filling glasses for everyone. She cleared her throat.

“There’s something we have to tell you.” She held up her left hand and, for the first time, the girls and Johnny noticed a giant diamond, sparkling outrageously on her ring finger.

“You’re engaged!” screamed Willow and Mia, in unison.

***

After dinner everyone was very tipsy. The volume of Champagne consumed was vast and didn’t look like it would slow down any time soon. Ana, Willow and Tom had moved into the sitting room where Willow had put on Beyoncé’s ‘Single Ladies’, shouting over the top of the lyrics, “Tom liked it and so he put a ring on it!”

In the dining room, Mia and Johnny cleared the table, laughing at Willow’s attempted lyricism. Collecting the empty glasses, Mia looked up and caught Johnny staring at her. He grinned, walked over and pulled her into a friendly bear hug. Mia was surprised at how comfortable she felt in his arms. His body felt so warm and safe. She could smell his aftershave mixed with laundry powder. Honey, vanilla and spices.

Neither one of them tried to pull away.

I’ve had too much Champagne, thought Mia.

Her legs had turned to jelly and her heartbeat had quickened. She was pretty sure this wasn’t how you were meant to feel while hugging your friend. Then, without warning, Johnny gently took her face in his hands and kissed her softly on the lips. She hesitated – more from surprise than anything else – before closing her eyes and kissing him back. His tongue gently probed her lips open and tenderly explored her mouth. She uttered a small moan, opening herself up to him and pushing her body closer into his.

From the other room, Willow yelled, “Where’s my other single lady?”

Mia and Johnny sprang apart. They were both flushed, their breathing rapid.

Mia felt as though an electric charge had just been run through her. She had goose bumps over her entire body and her lips tingled with desire.

Willow poked her head into the kitchen, too excited to notice the tension between the two of them. “You have to come and dance with me!” She grabbed Mia’s hand and dragged her into the sitting room.

Mia’s head was spinning. She went through the motions of a few dance steps before feigning tiredness and sitting down. She snuck a glance over at Johnny who was still staring intently at her. She couldn’t read his look.

Suddenly, his mobile rang. Looking at the number, he hesitated before disappearing into the other room and answering it. When he walked back in it was with his jacket. “I’ve got to run.”

Willow raised an eyebrow. “Got a hot date?” she teased.

Johnny suddenly looked very uncomfortable. Fidgeting, he averted his gaze to the floor.

Willow squealed. “You do have a hot date!” Looking over at Ana and Tom, who were slow dancing and staring deep into each other’s eyes, she sighed, theatrically sinking into the couch. “Look’s like it’s just you and me, Mia.”

Mia felt as though she’d been slapped across the face. “Think I might go to bed”, she mumbled. “Early start.” She moved toward the hall.

Johnny tried to stop her. “Mia, I…”

She looked up at him, her eyes flashing. “Have fun on your date.”

***

Mia couldn’t sleep that night. She cursed herself over and over again for falling for Johnny’s boyish charm and dishevelled good looks. She thought that she had felt something between them – something that she had never felt with anyone else – but she was obviously wrong.

She was just another conquest to him.

Bastard!

Putting the pillow over her face she tried to block out the painful images of Johnny with his anonymous date that played over and over in her head.

 

Season 2: Episode 2

March 8, 2011

Willow skipped along the footpath on her way to the market, humming a mix of songs that popped into her head. It was a game she played with her family as a child when they went on long car trips – each person took turns to sing about the first thing they saw. Sure, it was a bit Brady Bunch, but fun nevertheless. Today she was covering a variety of songs – some real, some invented – about cars, coffee and young girls with too few clothes on. She couldn’t quite put her finger on why she was in such a ridiculously chipper mood. Perhaps it was the sunshine? Melbourne had been subject to the wettest summer on record, but now that autumn had arrived it was an uncharacteristically beautiful week of weather.

Crossing Victoria Street, Willow decided to start at the top end of the market and work her way down, through the fruit and vegetables to the deli section. She and Mia had planned to spend that night at home watching girly DVDs, drinking wine and eating good food. Willow was on the hunt for Mia-friendly ingredients – fresh fruit and vegetables, legumes and pulses. Although Willow tended to favour the Nigella Lawson approach to cooking – the more cream and butter, the better – she had gained an appreciation for Mia’s simple, fresh dishes.

The market was positively bustling. The good weather had attracted thousands of tourists and locals alike, and Willow had to elbow her way through the throng of people to even get in the entrance. Halfway down one of the aisles she found a stall that sold nuts, dried fruit and legumes. She paused to look at the wide variety of pulses and grains, all beautifully displayed in large, clear sacks with the tops rolled down. Unable to resist the colourful temptations, she stocked up on cannellini beans, kidney beans, chickpeas and quinoa.

As she was receiving her change from the stall-owner, a surge of people jostled past, knocking her bag to the ground. Without stopping to help, they continued their way down the narrow aisle. Annoyed, Willow bent to collect her scattered purchases, hoping to save them before they became engulfed by the crowds. A group of tourists, busy looking at their guidebooks, knocked her off balance and she found herself being bumped and buffeted by what felt like thousands of feet. She shouted out in pain as someone stood on her hand, whilst another person kicked her in the calf.

“Watch out!” An angry man with a red face glared at her, before knocking her roughly in the side of the head with his shopping bag.

Like the end of an old movie, everything around her started to fade to black. She wondered if anyone would notice if she lay on the ground for a minute to get her bearings. Suddenly, she felt a strong pair of arms lift her clean off the ground and place her squarely on her feet.

“Are you OK?” His voice was deep and he had a strong Italian accent.

Willow turned towards the voice and found herself staring into the face of the most gorgeous man she had ever seen. His skin was tanned and he had a thick mop of jet-black hair that flopped over his forehead. Long, dark lashes framed his dark brown eyes and a chiselled nose led her gaze to his sumptuous lips.

Willow’s own lips parted in a silent “Oh!” and she proceeded to drop the bag of cannellini beans she had just salvaged from the floor.

“Are you hurt, Bella?” He bent to retrieve the beans from the floor, not taking his eyes off her face for a second.

Willow was not shy by nature, but this man – this beautiful man – had rendered her speechless. Taking her elbow, he propelled her through the crowd to a small café at the edge of the market.

“Sit,” he commanded before disappearing inside. He returned minutes later with a strong espresso – to which he added a generous spoon of sugar – and a plastic bag with ice in it.

He handed her the cup. “Drink.”

Willow obliged. The sugar and caffeine woke her out of her daze and she realised that she was shaking. Her leg ached where it had been kicked, her hand was already swollen and her head throbbed. She gingerly rubbed the side of her face, feeling a lump already starting to form where she had been hit.

I must look awful, she thought, groaning inwardly.

“Here.”

He gave her the bag of ice and she pressed it gently to her head, wincing as the cold touched her skin. After a few minutes the pain had subsided and she became very conscious that the Adonis who had rescued her was still there. She stood up with the intention of thanking him for his help and demonstrating that she was much better, however, as she did, the colour drained from her face and the dizziness returned.

He laughed, taking her arm and guiding her back to her seat. “I think you need to sit for a bit longer.”

She made a vague attempt at protesting. “I have to prepare dinner for tonight…”

“You are cooking for your boyfriend? Husband?” he enquired with mock innocence.

“Oh no!” Willow shook her head vehemently, not caring about the pain. “My housemate.”

He grinned at her. “Wait here. I’ll be back in 10 minutes.”

***

When the man returned he was carrying a box overflowing with brightly coloured fruit and vegetables: leeks, rhubarb, crispy apples, aubergine, zucchini and large field mushrooms as big as dinner plates! He loaded everything into her shopping bags – refusing to accept reimbursement – making sure that they weren’t too heavy for her to carry home.

He handed her a folded piece of paper. “A recipe. For your dinner tonight.”

She hesitated before accepting the note.

He laughed at her uncertainty. “I can cook, you know.”

As she placed the recipe in her bag, his phone rang. He glanced at the screen before pressing the answer button and saying to the caller “Un momento.

Covering the mouthpiece he said to Willow, “I’m here every Saturday. Just over there.” He indicated towards the far left corner. “Come and tell me how the meal was, yes?”

Willow nodded.

Taking her hand in his, he bent and softly kissed it – his lips feather-light on her skin – before being swallowed up again by the masses. She thought she heard him call out “Ciao, Bella” over the noise but when her eyes scanned the crowd, he was gone.

***

Closing the front door behind her, Willow sank back against the wood, beaming.

Mia poked her head out from the kitchen. “I got Dirty Dancing and Centre Stage to watch tonight. I thought…” she trailed off.

Willow was somewhere else, a radiant glow emanating from her whole being.

Mia laughed and shook her head. She knew that look! “What’s his name?” she teased.

“I have no idea.” Willow said breathlessly. “Oh, Mia. I think I’m in love!”

 

Season 2: Episode 1

March 1, 2011

Ana carefully balanced the pastry box on the palm of one unsteady hand as she fumbled desperately in her bag for the front door keys, tears welling in her eyes when she couldn’t find them immediately.

Why did everything have to be so difficult?

For the past week, Ana had been an emotional wreck, the smallest things setting her off: a broken glass, a missing DVD, a bank advertisement – and now –  elusive door keys. Mia and Willow had borne witness to the myriad of negative emotions Ana was capable of and, although she felt terrible for dragging them down to her new depths of despair, she really didn’t know how to turn the hurt off; how to pretend everything was OK.

Finally managing to find her keys – which were in exactly the same compartment of her handbag they always were – Ana nudged the door with her shoulder to open it, the box wobbling even more precariously. She was a bundle of nerves; had been since Tom had walked out of the house leaving her alone and heartbroken. Finally, yesterday, she had gathered up the courage to call him. He answered after the fifth ring – just before it went to voicemail. Tom had agreed that they needed to talk and that he would come to her house for dinner that night.

Ana had decided she wasn’t up to cooking this evening, so she had wandered down to Chloe Rose, a beautiful gourmet delicatessen named after its proprietor who was an exceedingly talented and lovely chef. Chloe had loaded her up with fresh, vibrant salads, cured salmon and a pastry box full of delectable-looking, spiced chocolate puddings. Pushing the door shut with her foot Ana lost her balance and the box of puddings fell to the floor with a thump, echoing through the hallway.

“Great,” she said aloud.  This was the last thing she needed!

The tears were streaming down her cheeks when she finally made it to the kitchen. Setting the dessert on the bench she peeked inside the box to survey the damage. The warm, spicy smells of chocolate and nutmeg escaped and, closing her eyes, she inhaled deeply, trying to calm down. The smell reminded her of sitting in cafés on cool autumn evenings and sipping hot chocolate while the world rushed past outside.

And Tom. Everything reminded her of Tom.

Opening the lid fully, she realised that most of the puddings were undamaged. Not a total disaster, then, she thought wryly. Maybe it’s a good omen?

Ana was more certain than ever that Tom was the most wonderful man she had ever met, and she hoped, more than anything, that he would – no, could – forgive her. But she held out little hope. She knew what she’d done was wrong: horribly, terribly wrong.

“What can I do to make it up to him?” She shook her head, frustrated. She hated not having the answers. Somehow, she had to prove to him that she was totally over Marc. That he – Tom – was the most important person in the world to her. That she loved him.

Suddenly it dawned on her! Her face broke into a wide smile for the first time in seven days. Picking up her keys, she raced back out the front door.

***

When Tom arrived, Ana wanted nothing more than to throw herself into his arms, however his icy disposition brutally quelled that impulse.

He hates me, she silently wailed to herself, all her bravado from that afternoon dissipating.

Taking a large swig of her white wine for false courage, she addressed Tom. “I guess we should talk.”

He nodded slowly. “Yes, we should.”

“I’ll start,” she said, laughing nervously. She licked her dry lips anxiously. All the explanations that she had mentally prepared earlier vanished.

“Go on, then.” He crossed his arms over his chest.

Even when he’s mad, he’s completely gorgeous, Ana thought, her heart breaking just a little bit more.

“When you left last time I was so upset,” she said slowly.

A frown momentarily crossed his face. “I’m sorry I left the way I did but, Ana, I just don’t know…”

Cutting him off gently, she implored, “Please, let me finish.”

Tom indicated with a slight dip of his head for her to continue.

She took a moment to compose her thoughts. “I want… no, I need your forgiveness. Please Tom. I know I don’t deserve you, but you mean everything to me and I want to be able to prove it to you.”

Ana took a sip of wine, her mouth suddenly dry. She could feel tears pricking at the corners of her eyes. “What I’m trying to say is that I love you and I made a horrible mistake. But I could never forgive myself for giving up without a fight.” She gazed at her fingers, awkwardly twisting the fabric of her dress. “I love you, Tom. So much. And I can’t imagine my life without you in it.”

She looked up at Tom anxiously. He didn’t look angry. In fact, his face had softened, and she could see that his eyes were damp. Her spirits lifted and she allowed herself a faint glimmer of hope. If he’d been furious with her, or seemed disinterested, she didn’t know if she could have gone through with the next bit.

She took a deep breath. Here goes nothing, she thought. Freeing her fingers from the fabric of her dress, she reached into the pocket of her jacket. Pulling out a small black box, she handed it to Tom.

Tom looked at her quizzically. “What’s this?”

“Open it.”

Tom lifted the lid. Inside was a simple, brushed platinum ring – about his size.

“Tom, will you marry me?”

For what seemed like an eternity, Tom sat staring at the ring. Ana could barely breathe. Her heart was racing and when she looked down at her hands again they were visibly shaking. She peeked back at Tom from underneath her lashes.

His face had transformed into an enormous grin. He threw his head back and roared with laughter. Jumping out of his seat he commanded, “Wait here.”

Ana could hear his footsteps moving quickly down the hall. The front door opened and closed.

Ana was stunned. “What…?”

She leapt out of her seat and rushed towards the door. Before she reached it, however, it had opened again and Tom stood framed in the doorway.

“I thought I told you to wait in the living room?” he teased.

Taking her hands, he got down on one knee. Ana closed her eyes, excitement bubbling through her.

When she opened them again, Tom had his hand held out, palm up. On it, was a diamond ring.

“I know you beat me to it,” he said softly, “but, Ana, will you marry me?”

***

Ana and Tom lay in bed, wrapped in each other’s arms. The remnants of the spiced chocolate pudding and fresh raspberries, which they had enjoyed feeding each other in between their lovemaking, were on a plate next to the bed. Ana held up her hand and gazed at the ring. The diamond winked at her, its spectrum bouncing off the ceiling and casting tiny rainbow shards across the walls.

She snuggled in further to Tom. “I love you”, she murmured into his ear. He pulled her close and kissed her more deeply, more tenderly than she’d ever been kissed in her whole life.

Much later, they fell asleep; their two bodies intertwined, dreaming only of each other.