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Archive for the 'Season 3' Category

Season 3: Episode 13

August 30, 2011

Ana let herself into her old house with the key that Willow and Mia insisted she keep. She felt a bit strange returning when she no longer lived there – almost like she was trespassing on her own property – but, the others had told her she could come and go as she pleased and although she wasn’t planning on doing it often, she felt OK about it today. She was spending her last night as a single girl there, because tomorrow she was getting married.

A smile played around the corners of her lips as Ana walked down the old hall, recollections of all the fun times the three girls had here flooding back: The multitude of dinner parties, watching the royal wedding, meals in the sundrenched courtyard, Willow’s many baking extravaganzas. Granted, a lot of the memories were a tad hazy on account of the amount of champagne present when said memories were formed, but the overall vibe was a good one. She was so glad that she was spending tonight with her favourite people in the world: Willow and Mia.

Well, second favourite, she thought, recalling Tom’s sparkling eyes, wide smile and strong, tanned arms. She felt a shiver of pleasure run down her spine, once again thanking her lucky stars that everything had worked out perfectly between them.

Ana had finished work a few hours early and had come over with the hope that she would be able to locate her grandmother’s brooch that had mysteriously vanished in the move. She still had a few boxes stored in the house and thought that perhaps she’d put it in one of those by mistake. She didn’t expect anyone else to be home this early, but as she moved towards the kitchen she heard footsteps thundering down the stairs as Mia and Willow toppled over each other to greet her.

“It’s the nearly-bride,” shouted Willow jumping up and down on the spot and clapping her hands together in excitement.

Mia joined in and soon all three of them were bouncing around the house in a crazy display of anticipatory delight.

“Where’s your dress?” asked Mia, pausing for a second to catch her breath.

“In the car,” Ana said. “Along with the rest of the stuff.”

I’ll ask them about the brooch later, thought Ana, as the girls bounded outside to help her carry her things in. I don’t want to bring the mood down.

***

Once the dress was unpacked and hung properly – followed by the requisite oohing and ahhing – it was unanimously decided that it was champagne o’clock. They adjourned to the living room, which Willow had set up with a picnic blanket and colourful lights. She’d made a playlist of their favourite girly songs that was already humming along in the background. Mia had constructed an amazing and unique nicoise salad for them to feast on – correctly assuming that Ana wouldn’t want anything heavy the night before her wedding – and had procured several bottles of French champagne.

“Here’s to you, Ana,” said Willow, raising her glass, “and to many happy years of marriage to your prince charming.”

***

It was almost 10pm by the time Sarah made it home. She had stayed in the office because Tom had worked late, wanting to get everything finished up before the wedding tomorrow. She took it upon herself to bring him dinner and then, later when he looked completely exhausted, insisted that he stop and share a beer with her to relax.

She heard giggling and music playing as soon as she walked inside and paused in the door listening for a minute, trying to catch the conversation. Padding silently down the hall she walked into the living room and saw the three of them sitting on the floor having a carpet picnic. Her entrance had been so inaudible that they didn’t notice her immediately, Mia squealing when she finally saw her.

“Sarah! We didn’t even hear you come in! Here,” she said patting the floor next to her, “come and join us.”

“Sorry I’m so late,” she said, accepting a glass of champagne. “We had so much on at work that we both had to stay back.”

“Both?” asked Ana, cocking an eyebrow.

Sarah nodded and took a sip of her champagne. “Tom and I. He’s so busy at the moment that I couldn’t just leave him there on his own. He wouldn’t even have eaten dinner if I hadn’t given him some of mine,” she added, laughing.

The other joined in with her laughter remarking on how typical it was of Tom to be working late on the night before his wedding. Ana felt a knot form in her stomach. Sure, her instincts had been wrong before, but it just felt like this new girl was… well, that there was something not quite right about the whole situation. She glanced at the faces of her friends wanting to know if they felt it too, but they had moved onto another topic and were giggling at something else that Sarah was saying.

“By the way,” said Ana as casually as she could. “You didn’t happen to find a white gold brooch in your room when you moved in did you?”

Ana was sure that Sarah’s eyes darted away for a fraction of a second.

“Not your grandmother’s?” gasped Willow, before Sarah had a chance to answer.

Ana nodded.

“But you’re wearing it tomorrow, aren’t you?” asked Mia.

“I will if I can find it,” she said, looking again at Sarah.

“Her grandmother gave it to her just before she died,” explained Mia to Sarah. “It was going to be the something old that she wears.”

“Oh Ana, that’s terrible,” said Sarah, her eyes opening wide and her hand flying up to her mouth. “I haven’t seen it, but you’re more than welcome to come and look in my room if you think you lost it there.”

***

 Hours later, Sarah lay on the bed and stared at the ceiling, watching the headlights from the passing traffic bouncing off the walls. She was light-headed from the champagne and was enjoying the feeling of the whole room swirling around her as she lay still.

Life was good.

She reached under her pillow and felt around until her fingers grasped the cool metal of the brooch. She held it in front of her, turning it gently in her hands so the fleeting lights sparkled on the purple stone.

It really was very beautiful.

Season 3: Episode 12

August 23, 2011

Sarah carried the last of her boxes into the house and plonked down contentedly on a bar stool in the well-let kitchen. Being a Thursday afternoon, Mia and Willow were both at work and she had the whole house to herself. She too should have been at the office, but Tom – now officially the best boss in the world – had given her some time off to move into her new place.

“Take the day,” he’d said. “Moving is exhausting and the last thing you want is to be stressing about work. You can just make it up by working extra hard tomorrow,” he’d added with a wink.

She dangled her legs beneath her happily, like a little kid in an ice-cream shop, looking around the kitchen with excitement.

I’ll have to do something extra nice for Tom, thought Sarah, to say thank you for everything.

She couldn’t believe how well her new life in Melbourne was working out; she’d landed an amazing job, her boss was just wonderful, she’d managed to find a room in a fantastic house and her housemates – Willow and Mia – seemed absolutely lovely. She liked that they seemed to have their own lives but still enjoyed each other’s company. It was a nice change to other share houses she’d lived in where the general tone was punctuated with slamming doors and sour looks.

Sarah thought the house itself, with its large rooms and glossy wooden boards, was beautiful. Her new room had an ornate ceiling rose from which an antique light hung. She thought it was terribly romantic, like something out of a novel, and she had spent a significant part of the morning looking up at the ceiling in her bedroom and sighing in happiness. As Sarah didn’t have any furniture of her own yet, Ana had kindly left her old bed in the room.

Ana had always slept with the bed pushed up hard against the wall, but Sarah wanted to be able to lie in bed and stare up at the embellished ceiling. With difficulty, she heaved the bed across the carpeted floor until it was in the centre of the room. The dust from underneath it circled upwards, the afternoon light catching it as it meandered through the still air. She wrinkled her nose and sneezed. Dusting was obviously not one of Ana’s fortes.

Amongst the expected pen lids and odd socks that were always found underneath old furniture, a small blue box caught Sarah’s eye. She leant down and picked it up, flipping the stiff lid open. Inside was an intricate white gold broach set with a large purple stone. Sarah frowned. She fingered the delicate piece of jewellery carefully, gazing at the colours that skittered across the top of the jewel.

***

It didn’t take long to put her belongings away and once Sarah had set up her room she felt like celebrating. Perhaps Mia and Willow would be home tonight and she could cook them all dinner and they could share a bottle of wine? She sent them both a quick text message but they replied that they were going out for a drink with Ana to discuss the final details of the wedding and wouldn’t be home until later. Sarah was momentarily hurt that she wasn’t invited too. The rational side of her knew that these girls had been friends forever and she was a total newcomer. Besides, they had already done plenty to make her feel welcome, such as Ana and Tom had inviting her to their wedding next week despite the fact they barely knew her. But still, her new housemates could have asked her to come along and meet them after they’d done their wedding chit chat.

Sarah chewed her nails thoughtfully. Suddenly she had an idea. She grabbed her handbag and jacket, checked her makeup, and left the house.

***

Tom was putting the finishing touches to a simple meal of linguine with roasted garlic, preserved lemon, parsley and capers when the intercom sounded.

“Hello?”

“Tom, hi. It’s Sarah.”

Tom frowned. Sarah?

“I just wanted to drop off a small thank you gift.”

Oh, that Sarah. “Come on up,” he laughed buzzing the safety door to let her in.

A few minutes later, Tom let her inside the apartment.

“Ana will be sad that she missed you,” he said, taking Sarah’s jacket. “She’s gone out for a drink with the girls – pre-wedding stuff.”

Sarah smiled. “Oh well. Next time.”

“Have you eaten? I just made some pasta and there is plenty for two.” Tom asked.

Sarah shook her head. “No, no. I don’t want to interrupt your evening. I just wanted to drop this off.”

She handed him a wrapped box that she had picked up on the way to his house. Tom opened it. Nestled inside were two bottles of Veuve Clicquot.

“Come on,” he said leading the way into the kitchen. “Lets open one.”

“What about Ana? I thought you could share them?”

Tom looked momentarily torn, but instead started unwrapping the foil from the cork. “There are two of them. We can have the other. Besides,” he added, “It’s terribly rude if someone brings you a bottle not to share it with them.”

Sarah smiled. “All right. And maybe I will take you up on the offer of dinner. I’m starving and it smells delicious.”

***

When Ana came home hours later Tom was already asleep. She noticed the empty bowls and champagne glasses in the kitchen and smiled, glad that it looked like he’d had a good evening too. She didn’t know that he had plans to catch up with anyone, but being Tom he had probably just forgotten to tell her.

She’d had a wonderful night spending time with Willow and Mia. She’d only moved out the day prior, but already she missed them. They were being so great about all the wedding preparations and had gone above and beyond the call of duty to help out. The catering was organised, her dress was ready and everyone – especially her – was getting very excited. She couldn’t believe that in only a week she would be married!

There was only one small niggle that she couldn’t shake. On the big day, Ana had wanted to wear something old, new, borrowed and blue. It was corny, but she liked the sentiment. The new, blue and borrowed were all sorted but the old was proving very evasive. She had been planning to wear a brooch which had been left to Ana when Grannie Bessie – the only member of her family that Ana had genuinely got along with – passed away several years ago. She had searched all her boxes, to no avail. She didn’t want to ask anyone about it just yet, because as soon as you did that, it was admitting that it was lost.

Ana yawned and stretched. Time to curl up in bed with her Tom.

It will turn up, she thought. Tomorrow I will find it.

Season 3: Episode 11

August 16, 2011

Warm smells of baking wafted through the house as Willow opened the oven door and removed the batch of apricot delight biscuits. She’d gotten the recipe from a wonderful online baking community that she had stumbled across one day. The tops were golden brown and she had white chocolate melting slowly over a basin of hot water that she was going to drizzle over the top. She hadn’t baked anything since her ill-fated dinner with Robert Fortescue the previous week and was finding the familiar actions very cathartic. For a few days after the dinner, Willow had been furious with Robert but this had given way now to confusion. On paper, she shouldn’t really like him, but he was everything she thought about. She certainly didn’t understand why he would pursue her like he did only to leave without so much as a good-night kiss or a follow-up phone call.

Men, thought Willow. Bah!

She shook her head to dispel thoughts of him; it wouldn’t do her any good to be distracted by that now. Tonight, the girls were interviewing for a new housemate. Willow and Mia were devastated that Ana was leaving. For years now they had enjoyed a pretty much perfect household: The three girls who were so different from each other but each knew they could rely on the others for a shoulder to cry on, a willing champagne partner or a special occasion meal. But all good things must come to an end – or at least diverge a little – and Ana had found her Tom and he was, well, perfect for her.

Ana herself had been in denial about the fact she would no longer be living with her best girlfriends. Tom was completely wonderful and amazing, but just didn’t have the same ability to gossip over a bottle or three of champagne. She initially hadn’t wanted to stay for the interviews at all, but Willow and Mia had begged Ana to sit in.

“It’s your house,” Mia had pleaded, “and don’t you want to make sure anyone who moves in is going to get along with you too? Just because you’re getting married doesn’t mean that we’re not going to keep hanging out all the time.”

Ana conceded that Mia did have a point and so was reluctantly preparing the living room for the anticipated arrival of the first prospect.

***

At 5:30pm, the girls were seated eagerly and nervously in the living room, sipping cups of tea and trying not to eat all of Willow’s amazing biscuits before any of the interviewees arrived.

At 5:45pm the first girl still hadn’t arrived.

The doorbell finally rang at 5:52pm. Mia answered in and ushered Marianne – “call me Mazza” – into the living room. Willow, Mia and Ana had already independently decided there was no way that they would ever call her Mazza and thus the prospects of her being invited to join the household were slim. But, they pushed aside their prejudices… for about three and a half seconds.

“I’m so sorry I was late,” Mazza said, tucking into the biscuits without being offered, “But Deal or No Deal was fucking awesome tonight and I couldn’t get my arse off the couch.”

The plastic smile was plastered over Ana’s face as she made eye contact with Willow.

“Don’t suppose you could switch on the telly could you? Neighbours is on now and I never miss it.”

“The television is broken,” lied Mia, “and we’ve got another person arriving in a few minutes. We’ll call you.”

Mazza grabbed another biscuit for the road as Willow, politely but firmly, showed her to the door.

“She farted on the way out,” whispered Willow in disbelief, walking back into the room.

The others started laughing hysterically and Ana jumped and went into the kitchen. She reappeared moments later with an open bottle of red wine and three glasses.

“I don’t think tea is strong enough for us to endure any more of these,” she said, filling the glasses.

***

Jenny was next and, having very recently broken up with her boyfriend, spent fifteen minutes sobbing about the injustices of the patriarchy regarding their ability to completely destroy a woman’s life by deciding they wanted to hang out with their mates and play poker rather than settle down and have 2.5 children and a white picket fence.

“How long were you together,” asked Willow softly, stroking her back as Mia handed her a box of tissues.

“Th-th-th-three weeks,” sobbed Jenny, emptying the contents of her nose loudly into a tissue. “It was my longest relationship ever.”

“I didn’t even think that three weeks constituted use of the term boyfriend,” said Ana after she left.

She topped up the three glasses with wine.

***

Sofia – a stunning Russian national – seemed nice enough, until her phone rang and she proceeded to shout into the handset for ten minutes, pacing around the room and making lewd hand gestures to no-one in particular. None of the girls spoke Russian, but they were pretty sure she wasn’t making polite chit-chat with the caller.

“My muzzer,” she explained, hanging up and slamming the phone back into her bag. “Vot a beech.”

“I don’t really get along with my parents either,” said Ana, who understood something of dysfunctional families, but not a whole lot of Sofia’s strong Russian accented words and took a punt that she was talking about her mother.

Sofia made a snarf noise in the back of her throat and nodded enthusiastically. “Ze beech vants me to have lunch vis her Saturday, but I am getting my nails done. She doesn’t understand how important eet ees.”

***

By the time Natalie “I don’t eat anything with carbs, fat or sugar”; Steph “I think my boss is trying to kill me. Actually I think everyone is trying to kill me. You’re not trying to kill me though, are you?” (They didn’t actually have to reject her as she decided about two minutes after she got there that they were, in fact, trying to kill her, and ran from the house.); Bridget “my favourite thing to do on a Saturday night is to have wild sex with a stranger”; and Molly “I don’t like to wear underwear”, had come and gone the girls had polished off three bottles of red wine and were falling around the living room in fits of giggles.

Ana’s ringing phone quietened them momentarily until they heard it was Tom and then they started grabbing the phone and making kissy noises into it.

Tom laughed good naturedly, indulging them until he had Ana on the line again.

“Sweetheart, I know it’s late notice, but have you filled the room yet?” he asked.

“Not yet,” said Ana, “You should have seen some of the people who came through.”

“We have a new girl at work who just started last week and she needs a place to live pronto. I completely forgot to tell you the other day about her. She’s really sweet – you’ll love her. I’ve already mentioned to room to her. Can she come over now?”

Ana shrugged. “Sure, why not.”

“Her name is Sarah,” said Tom before hanging up.

***

Twenty minutes later Sarah rushed into the room breathlessly.

“Thank you so much for seeing me,” she gushed, words tumbling out of her. “Tom told me about the house and I’ve just moved over from Perth and need a place to live and he said that you were all so wonderful, especially Ana of course.”

Her cheeks were flushed from the cold and she had a pleasant smile. She was pretty in a plain way and had a wonderfully sweet vibe about her. She detangled herself from the swamp of coat, hat and bags and sat in the chair that was proffered by Mia. The girls liked her immediately.

“Oh, I almost forgot.” She jumped out of her seat again and ferreted through one of the bags, producing a Tupperware container.

“I made these for the people at work today,” she said removing the lid and offering it forward. “But architects don’t eat too much when they’re working and there are heaps left.”

The girls peered into the box.

“Aren’t they…?” Willow trailed off, looking at the plate of biscuits on the table next to her.

“They’re called Apricot Delights. I got the recipe from this great baking website.”

The three girls all burst out laughing simultaneously and Ana held forward the plate of identical biscuits.

“Here’s some we prepared earlier!”

Season 3: Episode 10

August 9, 2011

On paper, it should have been a perfect day.

It started with a trip to the Victoria Markets, followed by a spectacular coffee and a warm, flaky croissant at Di Bella in North Melbourne; then home to bake sourdough bread and potter around the house, reading the paper and snacking on the delicious morsels that she had procured from the market – chillies stuffed with cream cheese, smoked trout and fresh cherries (which probably had a carbon footprint larger than that of most small countries given that it was the middle of winter, but she couldn’t resist the plump, red, fruity kisses on display).

Willow, however, was preoccupied and wasn’t enjoying one minute of it. The coffee had made her even more jittery than she already was and the pastry, through no fault of its own, had tasted like cardboard. The snacking was undertaken for something to do, rather than a need for sustenance. Even the beautiful cherries had been consumed without properly savouring the taste.

Willow had to do something this evening that she had been dreading all week. Tonight, Robert Fortescue was coming over and she was cooking him dinner.

She recalled the awful phone conversation that she had with him earlier in the week. He had been surprised to hear from her and had initially been genuinely lovely, much to Willow’s amazement. But then the arrogance kicked in again. He started rattling off the names of Melbourne’s top restaurants, telling her to pick any of them because he would get a reservation, no problem. He reeled off places that you needed to book weeks in advance to get a sitting on a Saturday evening and some that you couldn’t even make reservations. He assured her he could pull some strings. Willow didn’t doubt him for a second. You didn’t get to be like Robert Fortescue without trampling over a few people on the way to the top, but once you were there, there were plenty of people willing to kiss your arse. Some women would have found this display of testosterone and egotism exciting, but to Willow it was just plain patronising. If she’d wanted to go to any of these places, she would have taken herself there. She didn’t need a guy to take her out for a nice meal. The clincher had come when he was recommending a small, recently opened French restaurant, tucked away in Carlton.

“It’s quite phenomenal,” he had said. “The chef spent years living in provincial France learning culinary secrets that are hundreds of years old.”

Willow snorted into the phone. “That is such crap!”

“No, I assure you…”

Willow cut him off. “The chef is a mate of mine called Rob and he learnt everything from his wife’s grandmother, who has been living in Toorak for the last 25 odd years. The whole provincial thing was thought up by some spin doctor, who is apparently very good at their job.”

The silence on the other end of the phone had been stony.

“If it makes you feel any better, the grandmother did live in Paris for a number of years,” she said sweetly.

“Well, seeing as you’re not easily impressed, where would you like to go for dinner,” he had snapped back.

Now it was Willow’s turn to be haughty. “Quite frankly, I’d rather just stay home and eat a bowl of spag bol than go…”

She didn’t get a chance to finish her sentence.

“You’re on.”

“Pardon?”

“You just offered to cook me spaghetti bolognaise at your house and I accepted,” Robert said, laughter twinkling in his voice. “Shall we say eight pm on Saturday?”

He hung up before she even had a chance to respond.

So, here she was, counting down the hours with dread until Robert Fortescue would come knocking on her door.

***

When it came, the knock was about an hour earlier than she’d expected it.

“It took less time to get here than I thought it would,” he said when she opened the door to him just before seven, although his eyes didn’t convey the apology.

He was resplendent in dark blue jeans and a checked white and blue shirt. His hair had been freshly washed and she could smell his shampoo when he leant forward and kissed her on the cheek. Although Willow wasn’t a wine connoisseur like Johnny, she knew the 2006 Penfolds Grange he handed her wasn’t you’re average coiffable red that generally accompanied spaghetti bolognaise.

“You may as well come in a make yourself useful then,” she mumbled, suddenly very conscious of her daggy black jeans and too-large jumper.

She led him into the kitchen where she had only just begun preparing dinner. He rolled up his sleeves and grinned at her, enjoying seeing the flush that spread across her perfect cheeks and nose.

“What can I do, chef?”

Willow clenched her jaw and took a deep breath. Only one night, she said to herself before directing him towards a board set up for chopping garlic.

He lifted the knife up and whacked it down on the chopping board, sending cloves of garlic flying in every direction.

“What the hell are you doing?” she yelled.

He looked at her, surprised. “I’m chopping garlic. Isn’t that what you wanted?”

“Yes, but not like that!”

She grabbed the large chef’s knife from him and showed him how to shear wafer thin slices of garlic that would melt as soon as they hit the oil warming in the pan. He addressed the task with the concentration of a school child learning how to write. It took him five minutes to make it through one clove, but when he did, he looked as proud as punch. She couldn’t suppress the little smile that crept onto her lips.

“I think you might be able to graduate to onion,” she said, which caused him to flush bright red and puff his chest out a bit.

***

The cooking took about twice as long as it normally would, and they didn’t eat until about 11:00pm. Not that it mattered. Robert, despite his false start with the garlic, had proven a worthy and noble kitchen apprentice. He knew absolutely nothing about cooking – citing hotel living as the reason – but took to it like a duck to water. He wanted everything explained to him; from why carrots were chopped a certain way to how Willow made her own passata. Willow had bought some fresh linguine for the meal, but as soon as Robert found out she often made her own, he made her promise to teach him one day. She laughingly agreed, wondering how someone could have made it so far through their life without being able to dice a vegetable.

***

This has been a really fun night, thought Willow, surprised, as they cleaned up from the feast. Probably the most fun she’d ever had on a first date. The kitchen clock chimed one am and they both looked up, astonished that the time had passed so quickly. They locked eyes and Willow felt a tremor go through her body. He’s going to kiss me, she thought, her heart pounding wildly. What astonished her most was that she really wanted him to kiss her. She closed her eyes and leant towards him, terrified and excited at the same time. She felt his face draw closer and could feel his breath, feathery on her face. But just as she should have felt their lips together in a passionate embrace, he seemed to change his trajectory and she instead felt a soft brush on her cheek.

“Thanks for a lovely evening Willow. I should head off. I’ll show myself out,” he said gently.

Before she even had a chance to open her eyes, he was gone.

Willow clenched her jaw and squeezed her eyes shut to stop the tears that threatened to escape. I knew it, she chastised herself silently, furious that she’d let herself fall for him. He’s nothing but a selfish, conceited asshole.

Season 3: Episode 9

August 2, 2011

Willow tentatively opened the front door and peeked her head around to look down the hall.

She exhaled a sigh of relief. Safe.

Every day for the last few weeks there had been some kind of floral bouquet waiting on the hallstand, her name printed on the card. The cards were never signed, but Willow knew who they were from. The daily barrage of foliage made Willow more determined than ever that she was not going to go out with Robert Fortescue. She was not a girl who was bullied into dating someone by the constant provision of fresh flowers. Yet, it was becoming increasingly apparent that Robert Fortescue was not a man who took no for an answer.

“Willow, is that you?” Ana’s voice called from the kitchen.

“Yep,” she called out, dumping her bag in the hall and picking up the small tub of carrot and coriander dip that she had collected on the way home. Unknown to Ana, Willow had been doing some research into different catering companies for the wedding. In Willow’s opinion, Ana and Tom hadn’t put nearly enough thought into what they would feed their guests. She knew that they didn’t want a big fuss but, seriously, food was the most important thing about any party, wasn’t it? For the last few weeks she had been secretly bringing home samples from different places and getting Ana to try them, dropping subtle hints about what should be got from where. Willow was desperately hoping that Ana and Tom might ask for her assistance so that she could create a bespoke wedding feast for them, but she didn’t want to impose herself on their wedding planning and therefore resorted to clandestine missions to tucked away delicatessens and gourmet food stores.

“Hey Ana,” she called as she walked through the house. “I picked up some wonderful dip today that you should try. It’s from this tiny company based in…” She trailed off as she entered the bright cooking area and was confronted by a huge bunch of wild orchids making their way across the room. From somewhere behind them came Ana’s voice again.

“Seriously Willow, just go out with the guy already. Then he can stop clogging up our house with bloody flowers.”

Willow groaned. And here was she thinking that she’d escaped the floral arrangement today. She had made it perfectly clear to Robert on more than one occasion that the flowers were about as welcome in her house as a tiger snake, and for him to keep sending them was presumptuous and thoughtless and… and… just plain rude!

“How do I know that he’ll stop though?” snapped Willow.

A small piece of card was pitched from somewhere behind the flowers and landed on the bench.

Go on a date with me and I’ll stop sending flowers. R.F.

Ana plunged the stems into a bucket full of water and stepped out from behind them.

“These are quite pretty though,” she said begrudgingly, admiring the arrangement.

Even Willow had to admit that she was right. The delicate purple flowers were nestled amongst lush, green ferns and wisps of babies breath. The overall effect was… well… gorgeously elegant.

Ana caught sight of the dip that Willow had bought and lifted the top, inhaling the scent of fresh coriander and immediately scooping some up with her finger

“Delicious!” she muttered, helping herself to more, this time with a spoon.

Willow looked smugly at her, momentarily forgetting the flowers. It’s the sign of a good dip when you don’t want dipping implements sullying the flavour, she thought. This one will definitely go on the list of potentials.

Ana gave Willow a sideways glance amidst spoonfuls. She really didn’t understand why Willow didn’t just give this guy a chance? Sure, she understood that post-Carlo Willow had vowed off men, but maybe this one was different. If nothing else, he certainly appeared to be attentive, which was more than she could say about the Italian.

“Willow,” Ana began softly, “why don’t you just go out with him once. You never know, he might be really nice?”

Willow rolled her eyes. Ever since Ana and Tom had made up, Ana had been trying to get both Mia and Willow paired off as well; she was so sublimely happy with her partner that she wanted everyone to feel the same way. She didn’t entertain the notion that perhaps her housemates didn’t want their own relationships. Willow certainly did not want a boyfriend – particularly one as disagreeable as Robert Fortescue – and she was positive that Mia wasn’t interested in anyone.

What Willow didn’t know was that Ana had actually met Robert. He’d come to the house one day to speak with Willow. She hadn’t been home, but Ana had. Ana thought that Robert Fortescue was handsome, polite, charming and completely smitten with Willow. She had told Robert to persevere on his quest and she would help out in anyway she could. She didn’t see it as a betrayal of her best friend’s confidence, rather that she was doing Willow a favour by helping her discover something that she didn’t yet know she wanted.

Willow crossed her arms across her chest and began what had become her standard defence.

“For one thing Ana, he nearly knocked me down in his car. Then he tried to bully me into tutoring his son. And lets not forget that he has demonstrated a blatant disregard for my personal space by invading our house with flowers. And…” She paused for dramatic effect, even though Ana knew what was coming next; she’d heard this speech a few times. “I’m his son’s teacher, Ana! Ethically or morally or whatever it is, there is something just not right about dating a parent of one of my students.”

“Were,” said Ana, folding her hands over her chest.

“Pardon?”

“You were his son’s teacher. He’s in a different class this year, right?”

Willow made a non-committal noise.

“And he didn’t actually hit you with his car – for which he apologised, right? – and he offered to employ you to tutor his son, didn’t he? Hardly slave labour.”

Willow huffed and puffed a bit before Ana grabbed her hands. “Please Willow. For my sanity, go out with him just once.”

Willow shook her head.

“Please?”

“No”

“Pretty please?”

“Absolutely not”

“With a cherry on the top?”

“No way.”

Ana smiled. “If you go on just one date with him I’ll let you choose all the catering for our wedding.”

Willow was about to say no again, but paused. She looked thoughtful. “Including the cake?”

Ana nodded.

Willow thought for a long time. It would be quite something to organise every single morsel for her best friend’s wedding…..

“OK. But you have to agree with everything I suggest.”

Ana stuck out her hand. “Deal.”

They shook hands solemnly before Ana fished Willow’s mobile out of her bag and handed it to her.

“Now call him.”

“You can’t back out of our deal though, even if Tom doesn’t like it,” said Willow before stalking into the next room to make the call in privacy. She was damned if she was going to give Ana the pleasure of listening to her humiliate herself by begging for a date with the man she swore she’d never go out with.

Ana chuckled to herself. She and Tom had already discussed the catering and were going to ask Willow anyway.

Ana clasped her hands together in delight; she had a good feeling about this one. Now she just had to find Mia a fellow and then she could leave her housemates happy in the knowledge that they were as blissfully in love as her.


Season 3: Episode 8

July 26, 2011

Mia stared at the man across from her and blinked. She had come to Bangkok to escape the pervasive thoughts of Johnny, not to be confronted by his doppelganger, who even shared the same name. She shook her head, baffled. She must have heard him wrong. The world couldn’t be that cruel, surely.

“Sorry, what did you say your name was?” she asked, hoping he hadn’t noticed her shock.

“John,” he said.

Mia groaned inwardly. Apparently her ears still worked fine and the planets were colluding against her.

“Have you ordered?” he asked. “I’m sorry to just sit down like this, but I hate eating alone and I recognised you from the ferry and I thought – well I hoped – you wouldn’t mind.”

“Uh, sure. OK”, said Mia hesitantly.

“Great. That’s just great. Thanks.”

He had a lovely lilting voice that carried all the best aspects of the British accent and he did indeed sound very grateful for the company. She glanced at him as he settled himself into the seat, which he had been merely perched on the edge of before, and he smiled shyly at her. It wasn’t a conceited, self-confident smile, but a genuine one that spread all the way to his eyes. She liked that in people; when they smiled with their eyes. He blushed and looked away, unsure of himself, like he didn’t know what to do next.

Perhaps not so similar to Johnny, after all?

He started flicking through the substantial menu and she took the opportunity to peer at him surreptitiously from beneath her lashes. She could see the muscles in his jaw flex in concentration and he ran a hand idly through his hair, pushing the sandy mop off his face. Around his left wrist was a well-worn string bracelet – a memento of his travels perhaps? Despite the difference in ego, the physical likeness to Johnny really was uncanny.

“You, err, don’t have relatives in Australia, do you?” she asked casually.

John shook his head. “Not that I know of. Why?”

“Oh, no reason,” shot back Mia, hurriedly.

***

The conversation over dinner, despite its stilted beginnings, was easy and fun and it wasn’t until about half way through the meal that she realised he was trying to impress her. John regaled Mia with grand stories of his travels and life thus far, which, Mia established, was significantly less than she herself had experienced. Although he claimed to be 27, she suspected he couldn’t be more than about 23 or 24. Mia – despite having seen the other side of 33 – didn’t look a day over 25, and thought the whole situation highly amusing. She got a strange buzz that a total stranger was lying about his age in order to seem more worthy of her attention, and she started to relax and enjoy herself for the first time since she’d left Australia.

The more time they spent chatting, the more differences Mia started seeing between this John and her Johnny (who was, she kept reminding herself, not her Johnny at all because otherwise she would not find herself in this situation). John didn’t have the same confidence of Johnny and although very well travelled she suspected that he perhaps wasn’t as well… errr… ‘Travelled’.

They ordered a portion to share of fresh mango and sticky rice for desert, which they devoured in no time at all. Mia picked up the Mango stone, cocking an eyebrow, challenging him to try and take it from her. He would have had a fight on his hands, as Mango was one of Mia’s absolute favourite things. He knew a losing battle when he saw one, and graciously allowed her to have it, contenting himself with the scraps of rice that were stuck to the plate. Mia tugged the remnants of the fruit from the hard stone and ran her tongue along the furry edge.

John had stopped what he was doing and was staring at her, mesmerised, his excitement palpable. Mia was astonished. Never before had she witnessed her own ability to make a man stop in his tracks.

I wonder how far I can push this, she thought to herself, slowly bringing each finger to her mouth and sucking the sticky fruit from them, enjoying the feeling of being desired. It could have been the heavy heat or the spicy, fragrant food, but there was something about the situation that made Mia feel strong and untouchable. She felt a familiar warmth spread downwards through her body and realised she wanted more than just mango for desert. She looked across as him and smiled slowly. The anticipation that she was about to do something so completely out of character was a powerful aphrodisiac.

“Let me show you my hotel,” she said in a low voice.

***

They didn’t speak much on the walk back to Mia’s room. She could feel John’s eyes darting to her and she felt excited by the power that she wielded over him. When they arrived she took his hand and pulled him towards the lift. She could see his adams apple bobbing up and down like crazy. He was nervous. She put his hand to her mouth and slowly kissed each of his fingers, like she had done to her own in the restaurant, feeling him tremble beneath her touch. She slid her hand underneath his t-shirt and held it over his heart, the beats quickening to her touch. She could hear his breath in short shallow bursts. He tried to kiss her, but she smiled and shook her head. Not yet.

Once in the room, she peeled off his t-shirt to reveal a perfectly toned and tanned torso. She trailed light kisses across his chest and shoulders and ran her hands down his perfectly flat stomach. She removed his belt and finally his jeans, taking a sharp breath as she felt his substantial groin push against her.

Finally she leant in and kissed him; a long, passionate kiss. A growl escaped from the back of his throat and he wrapped his arms around her, pulling her close.

“You are so beautiful Mia,” he whispered in her ear, between kisses down her neck.

She could tell that he meant it too.

The rest of the night and much of the next day was spent in a tangle of sheets and limbs

***

Hi Ana and Willow!

Sorry I haven’t written for a few days – haven’t been back at the hotel much to check emails. Am heading to Ko Phi Phi tomorrow with some friends and then back to Bangkok to fly back to Melbourne. Having such a great time. Not looking forward to coming home, but I miss you both and I suppose if I want to keep my job I need to get back…

Mia stared at the blinking curser on the screen in front of her and giggled. Should she tell them who she was really going to the island with? Or should this be something that she should keep to herself? She couldn’t believe that so much had happened over the last few days.

A knock on the hotel room door startled her and she jumped up to let John in. He had his bags packed and a big smile on his face.

“You ready?”

“I just need to quickly send this email,” she said, receiving the kiss that he offered.

Mia smiled to herself. Holiday romances: Why had she not tried these before?

 

 

Season 3: Episode 7

July 19, 2011

From: mia_pilates@hotmail.com
To: ana.prevents@gmail.com, willowbakescakes@gmail.com
Hello from Bangkok

Hello to my two favourite ladies!

Arrived in BKK late last night safe and sound – having an amazing time already. I’d forgotten how humid it is here – I think that Melbourne has made me soft! I grew up in weather like this, but can’t even look outside without cracking a sweat now!

Had drinks last night with a bunch of people who I met at the hotel – they are all really nice. The place I am staying is really great and I might head to one of the islands in a few days for a week by the beach. Have spent the morning so far acclimatising to holiday life (i.e. sitting by pool and reading and drinking fruit smoothies – it’s a tough life). Am about to brave the city and head out for a wander and then probably going to meet up with some people for dinner or something.

Hope that you are both surviving the cold!  Will write again soon.

Miss you!

Mia xxx

Ps: Ana, give my love to Tom

Pps: No, Willow, I haven’t met any boys (yes, I can read your mind!!)

Ppps: Willow, I must find the recipe for you of these amazing fruit smoothies that the hotel make. They are incredible. Fresh Mango and Pineapple with a hint of ginger and crushed ice. I’ve never tasted anything like them!

Mia pressed send and shut the cover of her laptop. Who was she kidding? She wasn’t going to go to the islands on her own, and the drinks with people she met at the hotel equated to her having a complementary cocktail at the hotel bar on the insistence of the concierge before hurrying back to her room and curling up in bed. She hadn’t even talked to anyone else.

She surveyed her surrounds and sighed, taking a long sip of the fresh fruit smoothie that she had ordered, her second already for the day – they were just about the best thing she’d ever had to drink. The hotel was gorgeous – she wasn’t lying about that at least. The large pool was crystal blue and sparkled in the midday sun. Deck chairs were set up around the edges and were slowly filling with holidaymakers who came equipped with books, tanning lotion, hats and elaborate bathing suits. Mia looked down at her own navy blue bikini, for the first time embarrassed by how unfashionable it was. She noticed that a lot of the girls had floaty dress type things that they wore to cover their bikinis. They all looked so effortlessly cool. Mia only had singlets that she wore to work and some old crummy shorts that had holes in the pockets.

Maybe it had been a mistake planning an impromptu holiday alone, especially to somewhere like Bangkok. Sure, the hotel was wonderful and the weather was certainly better than the bitter cold of Melbourne, but she just wasn’t enjoying herself. She felt… lonely. Everywhere she turned there seemed to be couples. Men and women feeding each other pancakes at the breakfast buffet; walking through the lobby hand in hand; canoodling by the swimming pool. It was as though they were rubbing her face in the fact that she didn’t have a boyfriend.

Mia didn’t want just any boyfriend though. She wanted Johnny.

She thought that getting away from Melbourne would cure her longing for him, but if anything it had just made it worse. She could not stop thinking about him; about the way he looked, smelled, spoke, smiled. The way he had kissed her. She had slept fitfully last night, tossing and turning in her oversized hotel bed, wishing that he were there to share it with her. She didn’t dare imagine what she wanted him to do to her – it was just too painful knowing that it wasn’t going to happen.

A couple had set up camp on the sunlounge next to her and were tangled in a passionate embrace, all hands and lips and heavy breathing. She cleared her throat to remind them that she was in close enough vicinity to see that his hand had gone places that it probably shouldn’t in public, but they either didn’t notice or didn’t care. Mia realised that this was a losing battle and stood up, pulling her shorts on and picking up her laptop, before heading back to her room. She had mentioned going into town in the email, so maybe she should do that. That was certainly something that would help kill a few hours. She quickly showered and changed into her least hideous summer dress, ran a brush quickly through her hair, grabbed her Thailand Lonely Planet and headed out of the hotel.

***

The streets felt as though they were bathed in hot soup and after half an hour wandering she found refuge and a cold beverage in a nearby air conditioned café. Mia flipped through the guidebook’s suggestions of things to do and see. She decided that a ferry trip to China Town sounded fun (or, more fun than wandering aimlessly in unbearable humidity) and headed towards one of the stops along the Mekong river.

The ferry was jammed with tourists and locals as it zig zagged across the river, collecting and depositing people at every stop. At the stop for China Town there was a mass exodus of oversized cameras, bum-bags and maps. Mia joined the throng of visitors as they filed across the makeshift gangplank onto the jetty, careful not to trip over the uneven surface. The tall Norwegian behind her had other plans however, and pushed her forward so that she fell sideways onto the jetty, her dress ending up somewhere around her ears. He loped off, unaware that he had sent Mia sprawling. She tugged down her clothing so that she was decently covered again and glanced around, embarrassed.

“You OK?” a friendly voice said above her. “That was a pretty big tumble.”

She looked up into the smiling face of a young man who was holding out his arm to help her up. He looked familiar and she thought for a moment that she might have known him, but then she remembered that she was somewhere on the other side of the world and she didn’t know anyone. Mia mumbled her thanks as she got to her feet again and turned quickly to walk away.

“Hey, wait,” the voice said again. “You dropped this.”

She turned and saw he was holding her Lonely Planet guide.

“Thank you,” she said, taking the book and walking away quickly, mortified that someone had not only seen her take a spill, but that she had displayed her ‘sensible’ underwear to the general public.

***

Mia spent the next couple of hours wandering through the narrow streets of China Town before realising that she hadn’t eaten since breakfast and was absolutely starving. She checked her watch and was surprised to discover it was nearly dinnertime. She thought about going back to the hotel and ordering room service, but her grumbling stomach was in need of more immediate gratification and won over. There was a pleasant looking restaurant across the road, so she tentatively crossed and peered through the door.  The restaurant was busy, but there were lots of people eating alone so Mia took a deep breath and walked in. She was quickly seated and ordered a water to sip while waiting for her food. She looked intently through her Lonely Planet so she wouldn’t have to make eye contact with anyone.

“Hello again.”

Mia looked up from pretending to read. It was the boy from the ferry who had salvaged her book.

“May I?” He indicated to the chair opposite her, sitting down before she had said yes.

“I’m John,” he said, extending a muscular, tanned forearm out towards her.

Mia peered at him closely, taking in his attractive features and strong, wide shoulders. Her jaw dropped. Of course he looked familiar. She couldn’t believe she hadn’t noticed it before.

He was the absolute spitting image of Johnny.

 

Season 3: Episode 6

July 12, 2011

Ana drummed her fingers on the table as Johnny’s phone rang out. Again. She’d been trying to call him for the last three days, but he wasn’t returning any of her messages. She was used to him being aloof, but seriously, this was getting ridiculous. She sat at the kitchen bench, wondering what to do, and listening to the rain gently patter on the roof. She was hoping to get all her closest friends together for dinner this evening to tell them her and Tom’s exciting news that the wedding was back on and to give them all the invitations that Tom had got printed earlier in the week. It was just going to be a small wedding – their closest friends and family – but she still wanted a bit of pomp and ceremony. After all, she was only going to get married once.

Ana heard the front door open and Mia wandered into the kitchen.

“Mia, can you do me a massive favour?”

Mia nodded. “Sure.”

“I think that Johnny is mad with me about something and I need to get in touch with him,” she sighed. “I have no idea what I did, but he’s not answering his phone. Will you call him from your mobile and see if he picks up?”

Mia hesitated. “What do you need to speak to him about?”

“Tonight. He’s supposed to be coming over for dinner, but he doesn’t know it yet because I can’t get through to him.”

Mia groaned inwardly. She had forgotten about dinner this evening and that she would have to potentially be in the same room as Johnny again. From past experience, she knew that did not bode well for a good night.

“He’s probably busy,” she said wandering to the fridge and staring in, more for something to do than the fact she was hungry.

“I know, but I just want to try once more.” She put on her best puppy-dog eyes. “Please Mia?”

The last person Mia wanted to speak to was Johnny, but if she didn’t Ana might think something was up and then she would, literally, never hear the end of it.

“OK, fine,” she said, not even trying to keep the annoyance out of her voice. She dialled his number from her mobile and willed him to not pick up.

Johnny answered on the second ring.

“Mia?”

“Hi Johnny. I have…”

He cut her off. “I’ve been trying to call you for weeks.”

Mia glanced at Ana who was looking at her expectantly.

“Um, yes, it’s been a very frantic couple of weeks, hasn’t it?”

“Not really,” he said, his voice deadpan.

“Tell him about tonight,” Ana hissed to her.

“We, I mean Ana, would like to invite you over for dinner tonight.”

“You want me to come over tonight?”

“Ana does,” Mia said between clenched teeth.

Johnny hesitated. “I’m not coming if you don’t want me there.”

“No, Ana’s having a dinner party.”

“But you don’t want me there?” He sounded genuinely hurt.

“No, you should come.”

Ana was straining to hear parts of the conversation.

“It would mean a lot to, err, Ana,” she said finally.

“Ask him if he’s mad with me?” Ana whispered again.

Mia rolled her eyes. “Are you mad with Ana?”

“Why would I be mad with Ana?”

“She thinks that you’re mad with her because you haven’t answered her calls.”

“Oh right.” She could hear him sigh loudly. “I just assumed that you’d told them about, you know, what happened and that she was trying to call me to yell at me or something.”

“No, not at all,” said Mia brightly. “She’s very much looking forward to seeing you tonight.”

Johnny paused, all kinds of things suddenly falling into place.

“She’s standing right there, isn’t she?”

“Err, absolutely. See you tonight!”

Ana jumped up and clapped her hands together. “He’s coming?”

Mia nodded.

“Oh goody. This is going to be fun.”

Mia wasn’t entirely sure if fun was the right word, but she managed a wan smile before disappearing upstairs.

***

Hours later, the five friends were sitting contentedly around the table. Ana and Tom had put together a delicious meal for them. Mia snuck a look over at Johnny, marvelling at just how gorgeous he looked. Even though she’d abstained from wine, remembering what happened whenever she drank around him, she couldn’t help feeling weak at the knees and wobbly in her tummy just from looking at him. Why oh why did he have to look so good every time she saw him? He caught her eye and held her gaze until she blushed and looked away.

Ana stood up and gently tapped her fork against her wine glass.

“Ahem. We have an announcement to make.”

Tom reached into his jacket pocket and took out three envelopes, handing one to each of them.

“We’d like to invite you to our wedding,” she said.

Tom stood up and wrapped his arms around her, kissing her gently on the cheek. Everyone cheered and opened their envelopes, making the appropriate noises of appreciation at the delicate craftsmanship of the invites.

“You can all bring dates if you want,” Tom said, grinning around the table.

“I might just do that,” Johnny said, laughing.

“Ooh, someone in particular? Do you have a girlfriend?” Willow teased.

“Well, I do have someone in mind as a matter of fact, but I’m not sure if she’ll go with me.”

“Who could resist you?” Willow said, jumping up and pinching his cheeks.

He laughed and batted her hands away. “Well, she’s done a good job of it so far.”

Mia hoped that no one else noticed that he looked pointedly at her when he said this.

“Rubbish,” called out Ana, topping up her glass. “I’ve never known a single girl to say no to you Johnny.”

“Yeah, literally!” called out Willow, holding out her glass for a refill too. It had become a ritual for the two of them to gently rib Johnny about his colourful love life. “And he never says no back, do you?”

Only Tom noticed that Mia and Johnny didn’t find this in the least bit amusing.

***

Mia stomped upstairs leaving the others to clean up. She knew that she was being unreasonably petulant, but she couldn’t help it. She didn’t want to know about Johnny’s sordid love life. If she was truthful to herself, she just wanted him to want her, but that was never going to happen. Not really anyway. Sure, he thought he fancied her now, but no doubt he’d get sick of her in no time at all when he realised that she wasn’t like the other girls he dated. She just felt so… dull compared to the other women she’d seen him with.

“I’m boring,” she sighed, flopping on her bed.

She looked at the framed photo of her last trip overseas to visit her family, wishing that she could have even a little taste of the humidity, warmth and holiday feeling to take her mind off Johnny.

Suddenly, she sat bolt upright. Why couldn’t she? She was owed a few weeks holiday and what better time to escape than during the middle of Melbourne winter?

Fifteen minutes later she was booked to fly to Thailand the following Thursday for two weeks. She smiled to herself as she lay back on the bed. Boring people don’t just book themselves trips overseas on a whim. Maybe she wasn’t so bad after all.

 

Season 3: Episode 5

July 5, 2011

Tom ran his hands down her back, his face buried in the crook of her neck and inhaled deeply again. A hint of that Channel perfume that she always wore intermingled with her Aesop shampoo and underneath it all was a smell that he could never have described even if he wanted to. It was pure, unadulterated Ana. His Ana.

“You didn’t really let me go,” he whispered in her ear. “We let each other go. Never again though, OK?”

Ana nodded, her head buried in Tom’s shoulder, tears smudging her mascara and rubbing off onto his shirt. She didn’t care though. She was so happy. Tom loved her. He wanted to make this work.

They stood locked in the embrace for what felt like forever, but still not long enough. Eventually, they wandered slowly back to Tom’s apartment, unable to take their hands off each other for even a second. He poured her a glass of red wine and they sat on the couch, legs intertwined, looking shyly at each other like two teenagers who had the house to themselves for the first time. Tom stroked Ana’s hair and she sighed contentedly as she sipped her wine. For the first time in ages, she could actually feel herself relaxing. Her shoulders, which had been a permanent fixture up around her ears for weeks now, slowly dropped a few inches, and the headache that she’d just taken for granted as a significant part of her life, magically disappeared. Tom, unable to wipe the goofy smile off his face, kept leaning forward and kissing her.

They talked for hours about absolutely everything. The discussed the affair for the first time and Tom told her about Lilly. Once it was all out in the open, it felt good, like they had nothing left to hide from each other. Sure, there would still be moments when the memory of these events would surface again, bringing with them feelings that they’d rather forget, but that was life and together they would deal with it.

Outside it was pitch black and the traffic had died down. They could hear the wind howling and snuggled closer together for warmth, even though there was a blazing open fire. They’d finished off two bottles of red and the rest of the cauliflower cheese that Tom had made earlier.

Ana yawned and looked at her watch. “How did it get to be 4:30am?”

She glanced over at Tom, who looked about as exhausted as she felt. It had been a very long couple of weeks for both of them.

“Bed?” He asked, stretching his limbs.

She nodded and peeled herself off the couch. He held her hand as they padded into his bedroom and curled up in the bed, too tired to even undress.

They both woke up at 6am, still groggy from the lack of sleep and managed to undress each other slowly – a few times – before falling back asleep, wrapped in each other’s arms, until midday.

**

Ana finally returned home around four that afternoon. Willow was sitting in the kitchen having a special Willow-made hot chocolate and reading one of the glossy magazines that she liked to indulge in every once in a while. The weather hadn’t cleared and outside, dark storm clouds were gathering. The wind was whipping the streets into a frenzy of leaves and inner city debris. The house felt snug and warm and Ana felt a pang of sadness that she would be leaving here.

That was one of the other things that she and Tom had discussed last night. They’d decided that she would move in with him as soon as Mia and Willow had found a suitable housemate. Even though Ana owned the house that the three girls lived in, she didn’t want to kick them out when Tom had a perfectly good apartment for her to move to. Besides, they would probably look at buying somewhere else in the next few years that was a bit bigger anyway.

“Good night?” asked Willow, putting down the magazine. She noticed that Ana hadn’t come home last night after leaving in the afternoon to go and see Tom. She hoped that meant it was all back on track. Tom and Ana were a perfect couple in her opinion.

Ana smiled secretively. She would tell Willow everything, of course, but for a while she wanted to just keep it to herself. It felt more special that way.

“That smells amazing,” she said, leaning in and taking a whiff of the hot chocolate. She caught a hint of nutmeg, dark chocolate and… chili?

“Have a seat and I’ll make you one,” said Willow.

“Let me just get changed quickly. I’ll be back in a sec.”

Willow put the stove back on as Ana went upstairs. She stirred the rich, milky chocolate gently so that it didn’t burn.

Rain started falling, smashing into the window pain so ferociously that Willow almost didn’t hear her mobile ringing. It was a blocked number.

“Hello?”

“Willow?” It was a man’s voice, familiar but she couldn’t place it.

“Yes?”

“This is Robert Fortescue.”

Willow inhaled sharply. Robert Fortescue! The man who had nearly run her down in his car, insulted her in front of her boss and then had the audacity to ask her out on a date. How did he even get her number? She sure as hell didn’t give it to him.

“What can I do for you?” she managed to say once she’d regained her composure.

“I’d like to take you out for dinner.”

She could tell by the tone in his voice that he was used to getting his own way. Not this time though. There was absolutely no way that she was going out with this cantankerous, demanding, selfish excuse for a human being.

“I’m sorry, but I’m busy,” she said coolly.

He uttered a throaty laugh. “I haven’t even suggested a day yet.”

“I’m busy… everyday,” said Willow, inwardly kicking herself for not thinking of something cleverer to say. Even though she didn’t want to go out with him, she didn’t want him thinking she was an idiot.

She heard him sigh. “I thought that’s what you’d say.”

He cut the line suddenly and was gone.

Willow was still staring at her phone, furious, when Ana came back downstairs.

“You OK?” Ana asked, concerned about this rapid change in demeanour.

“Oh, you are never going to believe what just happened…”

Willow didn’t even get to finish her sentence, because the doorbell rang.

She looked at Ana inquisitively, who shrugged. She wasn’t expecting anyone.

Willow opened the door. Standing there, drenched from the rain, was a young man carrying a large bouquet of beautiful Irises.

“Delivery for Willow,” he said, panting from his dash to the front door.

Willow accepted the flowers speechlessly.

“I’ll just get the rest,” the deliveryman said, bracing himself for the dash back to the car.

“What do you mean, the rest?” called Willow after him, her voice swallowed up in the storm.

There were another six trips from the van to the house, each time with a different and more extravagant bunch of flowers. Roses, Lilies, Orchids, and then some flowers that Willow didn’t even recognise.

“Sign here please.”

Willow signed and shut the door, turning to survey the front hall, which had been transformed into a wonderful indoor garden. Ana walked out and her mouth dropped.

“Who are they from?” asked Ana, leaning down to smell the beautiful velvety-red roses.

There was no card, but Willow suspected she knew. Her mobile phone rang again.

“So, will you have dinner with me?”

She could hear the laugher in Robert’s voice.

“They’re from you, aren’t they?” Willow tried to keep her voice calm.

“I didn’t know what you’re favourite flowers were, so I just got everything.”

“What am I meant to do with them all?” Her voice was getting a bit hysterical.

“Have dinner with me and I’ll buy you a vase as well.”

She had to give him one thing. He was persistent. The scent of jasmine filled her nose and reminded her of wonderful summer evenings drinking white wine in the back garden. She faltered briefly, but Willow wasn’t going to cave to some guy’s demands, even if he did buy her an entire florist.

“Thank you for the flowers, but I am going to have to decline your offer.”

This time she hung up the phone first.

 

 

 

Season 3: Episode 4

June 28, 2011

Tom pulled into the underground car park of his apartment building just as his phone started ringing.

Lilly.

He hesitated before silencing the call and letting his voicemail get it, promising himself that he’d call her back later. His head had been all over the place today and he needed some time to collect his thoughts before speaking to her.

He and Lilly had established something resembling a friendship since they’d reunited a few weeks prior. Lilly had been Tom’s college sweetheart and, long story short, had broken his heart years earlier by leaving the country, without him. He had spent too long pining for her and had eventually been distracted by his burgeoning architecture career and, later, by Ana. He and Lilly had touched base a few times since she’d moved back to Melbourne, but his heart had been too preoccupied to invest in a friendship with his ex-girlfriend.

But then, everything had changed. Seeing his fiancée at a function talking to the very man with whom she had an affair made something in Tom snap. All the repressed anger he felt towards Ana had surfaced. For reasons unknown even to him, his immediate instinct had been to call his ex, get drunk and then try to make the moves on her.

To her credit, Lilly had turned him down.

But she hadn’t turned him away and for the last few weeks they’d been hanging out almost constantly, slipping back into that comfortable routine that you have with someone who you’ve known for years and years. Tom found it so easy being with her. He started to question if what he and Ana had was worth all the drama. He still loved her, of that he was sure. But was that enough?

And to complicate matters even more, Lilly had made it quite clear that if things were ever really over with Ana and that if he tried ‘it’ again, she would be quite receptive to the prospect of a – ahem – more intimate reunion.

Tom and Ana had never actually spoken about her affair in detail, both assuming that if they ignored it long enough it would just eventually not be a ‘thing anymore’. Tom had told himself he was fine with it and that he was big enough to just let it be.

You know what they say about pink elephants though.

And now Tom found himself in the situation where he spent more time talking to the previous love of his life, rather than the current one. Both these amazing women had told him, in no uncertain terms, that it was his decision as to what happened next in their respective relationships.

Tom sighed as he picked up his laptop and walked towards the lift to take him to his loft apartment. Lilly or Ana. Ana or Lilly. Even though it was only three pm, he poured himself a large glass of red wine as soon as he walked through the door. The wine hit his empty stomach like acid and he realised he hadn’t eaten a thing all day. He wandered to the fridge and perused the limited contents: Half a block of Gruyere, a wedge of Parmesan (if he cut the mould off, it was sure to be fine) and a whole cauliflower that, miraculously, still looked remarkably fresh. He sniffed a carton of milk to make sure it hadn’t gone off, poured another glass of wine, and set about making creamy cauliflower cheese – a favourite of his as a kid and a recipe that he knew by heart. Tom found cooking incredibly cathartic and allowed himself to be lulled into rhythmic trance as he watched the white sauce bubble lazily on the stove, hoping that the popping bubbles might magically reveal an answer.

When the meal was ready he sat on the couch and thoughtfully ate through several bowls, pondering his situation. He eventually came to the realisation that he’d known what he wanted all along and that he couldn’t keep on pretending anymore. For one thing, it was totally doing his head in, and for another it wasn’t fair on Ana or Lilly. He picked up his landline, dialling the number from heart.

“It’s me. Can you come over now? We need to talk.”

***

He buzzed the front door to the apartment complex open thirty minutes later and waited anxiously by the front door, propping it open with his foot. He suddenly realised that he was exceedingly nervous, his stomach flip-flopping everywhere. What if she’d changed her mind and didn’t actually want him?

He could see the lift doors slide open and she stepped out, her eyes on the ground and her arms wrapped around herself protectively.

She stopped in her tracks when she saw him. Their eyes locked, knowing exactly what the other was thinking. They ran to each other and embraced, holding on as though their lives depended on it.

“I was such a fool for letting you go the first time,” she whispered softly into his ear, before kissing it gently and sending tingling waves of pleasure through his body.

He held her tight inhaling her familiar scent, all his feelings of anxiety dissipating, and knew that he’d made the right decision.