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Archive for the 'Season 4' Category

Season 4: Episode 15

December 13, 2011

The champagne arrived and Willow held her breath as the waiter expertly popped the cork. It was all she could not to squeal in excitement. What a wonderfully perfect evening! Well, it would have been far more perfect had Robert actually been able to join her, but it was as close to perfect as she could imagine without him.

She was about 99.99% sure that she had fallen head over heals in love with Robert and was 99.98% sure that he had undergone a similar, dizzying and wonderful transformation. Just thinking about him sent butterflies exploding in her stomach and shooting through every last inch of her body.

They’d tiptoed around the L word, neither of them being quite brave enough to just come out and say it; Willow still smarting from the last time she’d let her feelings get the better of her and Robert not having felt anything even remotely close to this since his wife had died many years earlier. Willow was pretty sure that Robert was going to tell her tonight how he felt and she would have no hesitation letting him know that she felt exactly the same way. She smiled giddily as she took a sip of the champagne and let the bubbles roll over her tongue and down her throat.

“Can I get you something to nibble on?” the waiter asked.

Willow shook her head. He smiled and vanished back into the main restaurant area, leaving Willow alone again. She checked the time, frowning slightly; Robert should have been here by now, surely.

***

Robert looked up and down the street for a taxi. He tapped his foot impatiently and looked at his watch. He’d been waiting at least ten minutes on this stretch of road. He momentarily contemplated calling his driver, but the gridlocked Friday night traffic wouldn’t have been conducive to a quick trip. He wondered about getting the tram. It had been years since he’d caught public transport. He checked his pockets and found a five dollar note. He guessed that a tram ticket would be about a dollar or so and that the conductor would have change. It had been a long time since he’d been on a tram, but they couldn’t have changed that much, would they? He checked the road and stepped out to find a tram stop.

***

Robert’s secretary, Claire, returned to her desk and sighed. She was meant to be having dinner with friends tonight, but had called and said that she’d meet them for a drink later because she was stuck at work. Her half eaten takeaway had congealed so she threw the container in the bin. The meeting room door was still closed, which meant they were still slugging it out over the details of the merger. If only Robert would just leave so she could go home. She was pretty sure that he didn’t even need to be there for the final negotiations, but in typical Fortescue fashion he liked to be involved in every part of the deal.

“How can I expect to run a successful company if I don’t understand everything about it?” he’d said to her on many occasions.

She contemplated sticking her head in the door to see how much longer they were going to be, but decided against it. If she broke the flow it would probably take six times as long.  She picked up the phone again and dialled her friends. May as well just reschedule completely. It didn’t look like she was getting out of here anytime soon.

***

Willow was getting impatient. She had passed the threshold of excited and was moving into pissed-off territory. Seriously, she thought, don’t organise something like this if you’re not even going to be here! She knew Robert was busy and had a lot of work on at the moment, but really, this was getting ridiculous. She sighed and took another sip of the champagne, drumming her fingers on the table.

***

The trams were packed and Robert hadn’t been able to get on the first one that had come past. Some kind of sporting event was going on and the tram was filled with people wearing team jumpers and sporting scarves, even though it was summer. He’d never understood the Melbournian obsession with all things sport. He stepped out and looked down the road again, not seeing another tram anywhere. Dammit. Over the other side of the road a taxi stopped and a gaggle of girls got out, tottering on their towering platform heels. Robert held up his hand.

“Hey!” he shouted, waving to the taxi. “Hey, wait!”

The taxi driver started to pull out, but then saw Robert and stopped, motioning for him to cross the road. Robert grinned and waved his thanks waiting for a break in the traffic. He ran out into the road. There was a screech of brakes and the stomach curdling sound of crunching metal and smashing glass. No-one heard the dull thud of Robert’s body being tossed into the air and then landing in the middle of the road.

***

Robert wasn’t answering his mobile. As a last resort, Willow dialled his office number. She’d spoken to his secretary once before, but didn’t want to come across as one of those girlfriends and therefore never phoned him at work. His secretary answered after two rings.

“He’s still in a meeting I’m afraid,” she said apologetically. She knew about Robert’s plans tonight and felt bad that this girl was waiting. She seemed nice. Still, if she was going to date Robert, she’d better get used to evenings of cancelled plans.

“But he called and told me… Oh, never mind,” Willow sighed. Robert must have gone back into the meeting after he called her. Was it so hard to pick up the phone and let her know?

***

The ambulance rushed Robert to the Alfred hospital. He was unconscious and every part that could be broken, was. The paramedics looked at each other grimly. This one didn’t look good. Not good at all.

***

Finally, at 10:30pm everyone filed out of the meeting room. They looked exhausted. Robert’s secretary waited for him to emerge.

“Where’s Robert?” she asked one of the lawyers who had been in the room.

“He left hours ago.”

Claire groaned and packed up her bag. It was unlike Robert to leave her hanging unnecessarily at her desk.

***

After several more fruitless attempts at getting hold of Robert, Willow finally gave up. She tipped the last drop of champagne into her mouth and stood up, quite drunk by now from the lack of food and the copious amounts of champagne. She apologised again to the waiter and left an overly generous tip, slinking out of the restaurant feeling embarrassed. As she was leaving her phone rang. She snatched it up, her heart sinking when she saw it was Ana – not Robert – calling her. She let the call go to voicemail. She was too grumpy and tired to talk to Ana now.

The house was quiet when she got home. She wasn’t tired and padded into the kitchen to make a toasted cheese sandwich. On any other day she would have laughed at the irony of making a cheese sandwich dressed head-to-toe in a brand new Chanel outfit, but not tonight. Not now.

The pissed-off feeling had gone and was replaced by gut-wrenching worry. Where was he? What if something had happened to him? She didn’t know who else to call; she didn’t know any of his friends yet and when she’d tried the office again it went to voicemail.

Even the molten cheese and fresh sourdough that was sizzling in a pan – thanks to a generous nob of garlic butter – didn’t help her shake the feeling that something had happened.

She’d only been asleep about thirty minutes when her phone rang at 2:30am. She answered without properly waking up.

“Willow? It’s Claire.”

Claire? Who the hell was Claire, Willow thought sleepily.

“Robert’s secretary,” the women said, as if reading her mind.

Willow sat bolt upright in bed. She suddenly felt sick. Her heart was beating fast and her palms started sweating uncontrollably. She didn’t want Claire to be calling her at this time of the morning. She didn’t want to hear what she had to say.

“What is it?” she managed to whisper.

“It’s Robert,” Claire said, her voice catching in her throat. “He’s been in an accident. They don’t know…” she started sobbing, unable to talk. “They don’t know if he’s going to make it,” she finally managed.

Willow ran to the bathroom and vomited before throwing on some clothes and rushing to the hospital.

Season 4: Episode 14

December 6, 2011

Ana threw her phone across the bedroom. It hit a pile of clothes in the corner so didn’t quite have the smashing into smithereens effect that she had hoped for. Still, she would probably be grateful for that next time she wanted to use it.

Another cancellation. It was the fifth client in the last week who had phoned and told her they no longer required her services.

Sofia wasn’t kidding, Ana thought wryly. Since accusing Ana of stealing from her, she had wasted no time getting in touch with her extensive network of nouveau riche cronies to make sure that Ana would never work in Melbourne again. It would have been better in a way if she had just pressed charges; at least then Ana could fight back. Ana had tried to exonerate herself by getting the security camera footage from the store, but unless there were criminal allegations, they wouldn’t release it.

Ana felt fat tears rolling down her cheeks. She was going to have to tell Tom about this. She had put it off for as long as possible. Losing one client was part of business, two was bad luck, but five? That was career suicide.

She wiped her eyes on her sleeve. What she needed was a drink. She pulled open the fridge looking for a bottle of white wine. They always kept a stash in the house for cooking or surprise guests. Where was it all? She vaguely recalled having a drink – or was it two? –  yesterday afternoon and then maybe another few the day before. She couldn’t really remember. Tom must have finished off the rest of it and not bought any more.
She grabbed her keys, threw a jacket over her leggings and oversized jumper and headed out to the car. The bottle shop was only a couple of blocks, but she couldn’t be bothered walking. She just wanted to be tucked up at home with a bottle of white as soon as possible.

When Tom came home some time later, Ana was already halfway through the second bottle. He eyed her sceptically. He knew that Ana liked to have a drink after work to calm down, but he’d taken six or seven bottles out to the recycling in the last few days alone. He walked over and kissed her on the cheek. His eyes fell on the case of wine that was on the floor next to her.

“It was on sale,” she said, following his gaze. Her voice was thick and the words sloshed together a tiny bit. “Want some?”

Tom nodded slowly and got a glass from the kitchen. “Have you eaten?”

Ana shook her head. In fact, she couldn’t remember the last time she’d eaten anything substantial. She’d picked at bits and pieces over the last week, but a meal…?

“I’ll make some dinner,” he said.

***

Ana barely touched the roast pumpkin and mascarpone fettuccine that he made. She didn’t have the same problem with the wine though.

“What’s going on?” Tom said lightly

Ana burst into tears and filled him in on everything that had happened.

“Are you sure you didn’t accidentally use her card instead of your own?” he said, when she was done.

“No,” Ana moaned. “I paid cash.”

“Can’t you just show her the receipt?”

Ana shook her head. “I didn’t get one,” she said sheepishly.

“What if someone took the card from her,” he said suddenly. “Instead of you. She could have lost her one.”

“I thought of that too,” Ana said, “But each card – even the one she got me – has a unique number.”

“Oh.” Tom was stumped. Still, it wasn’t a huge deal, surely? If she didn’t do anything wrong, she didn’t do anything wrong, it was as as simple as that. She’d get more clients and then everything would be back to normal. He didn’t think Ana would appreciate this optimism right now though, so he kept it to himself.

“You haven’t organised any work to be done here – plumbing or anything – have you, while I’ve been out?” Ana said suddenly.

Tom shook his head.

Ana sighed. “I didn’t think so. It’s just so weird. No one else has even been in the house except us.”

“Yeah,” Tom said. “The only other person is Sar…” His voice trailed off. Shit. He hadn’t meant to let that cat out of the bag.

He saw Ana’s hand tighten around the wine glass. “Who?” Her voice was icy.

Tom gulped. “Sarah. When she came to pick up the contract. I told you about that,” he said, knowing full well that he hadn’t. He didn’t want Ana cracking it over something that wasn’t even an issue, especially now when she was in a heightened sense of…drunk.

“Sarah was in this house,” Ana said. “Alone?”

“Ana, I know what you are thinking, but there is no way she would have done anything like that.”

“How do you know?” Ana said.

Tom sighed. “I just know. She isn’t that kind of person.”

“Why do you keep defending her,” Ana hissed.

Tom slammed his glass down on the table. He had had enough. “Why are you so goddam nasty to her,” he said angrily. “She told me about your little run in the other day. I was so embarrassed that my wife would behave in that way.”

“See!” Ana shouted. “She was at David Jones! It was her!” Amongst everything that was going on, she had forgotten that she had even run into Sarah that day.

“She bought Christmas present for her parents,” Tom shouted back. “That’s why she was at David Jones. I saw them.”

Ana clenched her jaw.

“Why are you trying to make her life difficult?” He said, sighing.

Ana started at Tom, her mouth open. She was making Sarah’s life difficult? Suddenly Ana had an idea. She picked up her keys and threw the last of the wine down her throat.

“Where are you going?” Tom said suspiciously.

“I’m going to see her,” Ana said, pulling on a jacket. “I’m going to make her confess.”

“Ana, don’t be such a drama queen.”

Ana fixed him with her icy blue stare.

“You can’t drive,” he said wearily. He pushed himself off the couch and pulled on his own jacket. At least a small confrontation might make Ana see sense.

***

Sarah was sitting at home on the couch. Willow had left earlier that evening for her surprise date with Fortescue and Mia had just gone out to tell Johnny that she loved him. Or something.

Maybe that will free up John, Sarah thought. He’s cute. He could be a good distraction until Tom finally comes to his senses and leaves that stupid cow of a wife that he got landed with.

A frantic knocking on the door startled her. She peered through the peephole, surprised to see Ana standing there. She almost pretended no one was home, but then she saw Tom, behind Ana and looking annoyed. She smoothed her hair and pinched her cheeks, opening to door with a flourish.

“Ana? Tom? What are you doing here,” she said, eyes wide. She was pleased to note that Ana looked like shit. Her eyes were red and her skin was blotchy. Her normally perfect hair was a mess.

“I’m so sorry,” Tom said. He looked embarrassed as he closed the door behind them. “We didn’t mean to disturb your evening….”

Ana cut him off. “You little bitch,” she growled. “You stole that card and now my life is ruined.”

Sarah looked from Tom to Ana, confused. “What are you talking about?”

“I saw you in David Jones,” Ana continued. Her voice was getting more high pitched and she was gesticulating erratically. “You bought lingerie so that I would be blamed!”

Tom tried to put his hand on Ana’s arm Ana, but she shrugged him off.

“Where is it?” she shouted. “Give it to me.”

“What is she talking about?” Sarah said, turning to Tom. Her voice was wobbly, like she was about to start crying.

“You are a liar and a thief,” Ana shouted,  jabbing her finger in Sarah’s face.

Sarah burst into tears, covering her face with her hands. Tom looked at Ana, appalled, and put his arm around Sarah, comforting her.

Ana stormed up the stairs before either of them could stop her and threw open Sarah’s door. She pulled drawers out and started flinging clothes across the room.

“Ana!” Tom appeared in the doorway, shocked. He went to stop her, but Sarah held up her hand.

“Let her do whatever she wants,” she said stoically, between tears. “It’s the only way she’ll know that I didn’t do whatever she thinks I did.”

Ana went through every cupboard and drawer, throwing clothes and jewellery everywhere. When there was nothing left to empty, she stood there, panting.

“Ana,” Tom whispered to her, putting his hands on her shoulders. “Stop this. You’ve embarrassed me and you’ve hurt Sarah.”

He pulled her into his arms. At least she seemed to have calmed down a bit. Ana glanced over towards Sarah, who had been sobbing in the doorway. She looked up and caught Ana’s eye. A small smirk spread across her face as she wiped the fake tears from her eyes.

Ana exploded. She pushed Tom aside and walked up to Sarah. Almost involuntarily, her hand formed a fist and swung around, catching Sarah square in the face. Sarah screamed, her hands flying to her eye. Tom pinned Ana’s arms to her side and forced her out of the room. He marched her to the front door.

“Get out,” he hissed.

“But Tom…”

“No.” He cut her off. “I don’t want to hear it. I want you to go home and pack a bag and go at stay… anywhere. I don’t care. I need a break. I can’t cope with this anymore.”

Ana watched the door slam in her face in disbelief. Her hand was aching from where it had come into contact with Sarah’s cheekbone. She felt numb, as though she were watching her own life happening in front of her, but she wasn’t really living it. She could hear the sobs subsiding and Tom’s soothing voice as he led Sarah down the stairs to the kitchen. Ana turned and slowly walked down the path away from the house.

Season 4: Episode 13

November 29, 2011


Mia held up her wine glass and motioned for Sarah to fill it. She’d had a long week and was looking forward to a night in front of the TV watching trashy movies with her new housemate. They heard Willow shout goodbye as she left for her surprise date with Robert, the front door slamming after her.

“Everyone is so loved up,” Sarah moaned, filling both the glasses and plonking herself down on the couch next to Mia. “You and Willow both have great guys…”

She didn’t manage to finish the sentence because Mia’s phone started ringing, and Mia looked suddenly distracted, hesitating before answering in her best I’m-coming-down-with-an-awful-cold voice

“Hi John. Yeah I’m not feeling crash hot. Think I’m just going to head to bed tonight. Alone.”

“What was that all about?” said Sarah, amazed. John was great – he was funny and gorgeous and had a cute british accent. She thought Mia really liked him.

“I just want a night off,” Mia said breezily, taking a gulp of her wine.

Sarah frowned. “You sure that’s all it is?”

Mia flashed her most brilliant smile. “Of course.”

They sat and stared at the movie in silence, finishing off the bottle of red and opening another one. Mia wasn’t even sure what the film was because she couldn’t focus for more than a couple of minutes at a time. She felt like all the pent up energy and frustration she had was affecting her ability to function as a human being.

“The thing is,” Mia began, then stopped.

“Yes?” Sarah said, when she didn’t continue.

“The thing is, well, I’m just not sure I like him that much,” Mia said, blushing.

“Who?” Sarah said, slightly confused. “John?”

Mia nodded.

“Oh,” said Sarah, surprised.

“I think I’m in love with someone else,” Mia suddenly blurted out.

She proceeded to tell Sarah everything that had happened between her and Johnny since that fateful first kiss. The story was told in conjunction with the consumption of another bottle of wine and by the time she had finished, Mia was very tipsy and rosy cheeked. Sarah didn’t say anything and looked at Mia thoughtfully.

“You should go and see him,” she said slowly, a smile spreading over her face. “You have to tell him how you feel.”

“What? No way,” Mia exclaimed.

“You have to,” Sarah said calmly. “You’ll regret it forever if you don’t.”

“So, you’re saying that I should just go over to his house tomorrow and tell him,” Mia said, incredulously.

“Nope,” Sarah said, her smile widening.

“No?” Mia was confused. “But I thought you just said…”

“You have to go tonight,” Sarah said, cutting her off. “Right now.”

***

And so it was that Mia found herself standing outside Johnny’s front door, shifting nervously from foot to foot and biting her fingernails, a habit that she had managed to kick years earlier and had now suddenly taken up again. She took a deep breath and rang the doorbell. Her heart was hammering and she almost turned around and ran away. She heard footsteps coming down the stairs and the door swung open.

The surprise on Johnny’s face was almost comical. “What are you doing here?” he said, when she didn’t offer up any explanation.

Mia gulped. Here goes nothing, she thought. She reached forward and pulled Johnny towards her, kissing him deeply. He didn’t react at first, but after a few seconds he kissed her back hungrily, running his hands over her body and through her hair. The spark between them was as potent as ever and soon they were clawing at each other, trying to get their bodies closer together.

“You should invite me in,” Mia said breathlessly, in between kisses. She ran her hand slowly underneath his shirt, over his smooth stomach and started to work her fingers into the top of his trousers.

Johnny gently pushed her hand away and looked at her curiously. He couldn’t understand what had come over Mia. She’d never been this… forward before.

“Are you drunk?” he said. He’d been dreaming of this for as long as he could remember but didn’t want it to be a drunken fumble that she’d regret later. He’d been involved in enough of those over his lifetime.

“No. Yes. I don’t know,” Mia said, laughing.

“Come in and I’ll make you some coffee,” he said smiling and kissing her gently on the tip of her nose.

***

“Do you want me to call you a taxi?” Johnny said after she’d finished her coffee and a few glasses of water.

She looked up into his gorgeous, sparkling eyes and shook her head.

“You don’t want me to call you a taxi?” Johnny said, a smile creeping into the corners of his mouth.

Mia nodded.

“Do you want to…” Johnny hesitated. “You could stay here if you wanted to.”

Mia smiled at him and nodded her head again slowly. She could feel her pulse quickening again.

Johnny walked around the other side of the counter to where she was sitting and ran his hands through her hair.

“Forever, if you want to,” he whispered.

He took her hand and led her to the bedroom, where he undressed her slowly, kissing every inch of her body. They made love for hours, until the sun came up.

***

“Afternoon.” Johnny leant over and kissed Mia on the lips.

She momentarily forgot where she was, blinking as the bright sunlight peeking through the blinds obscured her vision.

“Afternoon?” she said, her voice thick from sleep.

“You’ve been asleep for most of the day,” he said, stroking her hair.

“Sorry,” she mumbled. “I should go…”

“No, no,” he said quickly. “Stay. I made you some afternoon tea.”

Mia looked at the bed to see a tray laid out with coffee and some baked good that smelled delicious.

“I made banana muffins,” said Johnny.

“You made these?” Mia said, amazed. “Just now?”

Johnny grinned proudly and sat on the edge of the bed, rubbing Mia’s foot under the covers and slowly running his hand up her leg.

It looked as though the muffins might have been momentarily forgotten, but a knock on the door startled them.

“I’ll be back in a sec,” he said, annoyed that someone was disturbing his perfect day.

Mia heard him bounding down the stairs, two at a time and smiled to herself, wriggling her toes in pleasure. Sarah was a freaking genius.

She noticed her bag on the floor by the bed and reached on to check her phone, frowning when she saw missed calls from Ana, Sarah and Willow. She was about to ring them back, but froze when she heard Johnny’s voice followed by the sound of a woman crying. Mia slipped out of bed and put on one of Johnny’s shirts she found flung over the back of a chair. She tip-toed to the top of the stairs and peered over the railing. She could see the back of a girl with long chestnut hair and a lithe body, very clearly on display in skin-tight black jeans and a jumper that fell casually off one shoulder. Mia frowned. The girl looked vaguely familiar.

“I have to talk to you,” the girl said, crying softly. It was the sort of crying a child does to get attention when they’re not really hurt, but knows that it is going to elicit some kind of sympathy. Johnny looked uncomfortable and was doing his best to get her to keep her voice down.

“I don’t know what to do,” she said, crying louder this time.

Suddenly it clicked. Mia recognised the girl as someone who Johnny had flirted with one night when she had the misfortune of being taken on a date to his restaurant. This girl was gorgeous and young and Johnny had done everything except make out with her in front of Mia. She felt a stab of jealousy and clenched her fists.

“Do about what?” Johnny whispered, trying to push her away.

“Oh Johnny,” the girl sobbed. “I’m pregnant.”

Mia saw Johnny freeze. The girl stopped crying and wiped her tears delicately.

“Why are you telling me?” he said slowly.

“Silly Johnny,” she said, a smattering of laughter tinkling from her now smiling mouth. “It’s yours, of course.”

Mia must have gasped involuntarily as they both looked up at the same time and saw her standing there. Mia turned and fled back into the bedroom, closing the door behind her.

“Who is that?” the chestnut haired visitor demand.

“Mia, wait,” Johnny shouted, running up the stairs. “I can explain.”

Mia pulled on her clothes with shaking hands, her mouth set in a firm line. No, she thought. No you can’t.

Season 4: Episode 12

November 22, 2011

Willow’s phone rang at about five pm. She looked at the caller ID and smiled. “Hey, you.”

“Hey, you back.” Robert sounded tired. “I’m so sorry, I’m stuck at work sorting out the final details of this merger. I’m not going to be able to come and get you at six.”

“That’s fine,” Willow said, meaning it. “I’ll just see you when you get here.”

She knew that Robert had some big surprise planned for the evening, but she didn’t care if all they did was curl up on the couch and watch a movie after he’d finished work. Spending any type of time with him always proved to be, well, perfect.

“No, no,” he said. “I’m going to have a car get you and then I’ll meet you as soon as I’m done here. It shouldn’t be too much longer.”

“Won’t you tell me where we are going?” she asked, for the hundredth time.

She heard the smile in his voice as he gave the exact same answer as he always did. “It’s a surprise.”

“At least tell me what I should wear,” Willow pleaded.

“All right,” he conceded. “Wear the first thing that you see in your cupboard.”

“Robert,” Willow laughed. “What if it’s pyjamas?”

“Then wear pyjamas.”

Willow heard muffled voices in the background.

“You’ve got to go,” she said. “I’ll see you later.”

She was about to hang up the phone.

“Willow?”

“Yeah?”

There was a pause. “I’ll see you soon,” he finally said. What he meant, of course, was I love you.

***

At exactly six pm there was a knock on the door and Willow grabbed her jacket and handbag. “Bye!” she shouted to her housemates, who were having a very low key Friday night staying in and watching videos. When she opened the door she was surprised to see a rather dapper looking gentleman dressed in a black suit and wearing a jaunty cap. He looked a lot like a limousine driver that you see in the movies.

“Miss Willow?”

Willow nodded.

“If you’ll come this way please. I apologise for not being able to park directly out the front; there wasn’t room.”

As she walked around the corner she realised why the guy looked like a limo driver: He drove a big, shiny, black stretch limousine. He held the door open and Willow got in awkwardly. She had never been in a stretch limousine before. She looked around the interior marvelling at the plush red velvet carpet and tan leather seats. A bottle of Krug sat nestled in an ice bucket. An exquisite bunch of dark purple roses lay across the seat with a handwritten note from Robert.

Sorry I can’t be there myself. Enjoy, and I’ll see you at the next stop. Xx

***

Robert snuck a glance at his watch. They should have arrived at the Chanel store by now. Willow had Chanel lipstick and perfume and had once quipped to him that it was the only Chanel she could afford, more’s the pity. Well, not anymore. He suppressed a grin and wished he could see her face. He refocussed himself on the meeting. The sooner it was over the sooner he could go and join in the fun.

***

Willow’s mouth formed a silent ‘O’ as she was invited into the store and introduced to her personal assistant for the evening, Claudette, who handed her a Champagne cocktail.

“I’ve spoken with Mr Fortescue,” she said kindly, “and he apologises that he isn’t here yet. He suggested we get started and he’ll be here as soon as he can.”

“Get started?” Willow said, her mind giddy.

“With your outfit for this evening, of course,” Claudette said, smiling. She leant in and spoke in a low voice. “Mr Fortescue wants to make it very clear he loves the way you dress and isn’t trying to change you, but thinks that, and I quote, ‘you deserve to be spoilt rotten.’”

Willow blushed and ran her hand over a rack of silk dresses. They felt as smooth and cool as ice cream. She tried to glance at a price tag, but Claudette stepped in.

“Ah yes,” she said. “He was also adamant that you don’t look at the prices.”

***

Robert shifted in his seat. He was frustrated with himself for not scheduling this meeting for next week, but he honestly didn’t think that it would take this long. He checked his watch again. Damn! He’d missed the shopping part. He’d been so looking forward to seeing Willow trying on all the different outfits. She would have been flustered and embarrassed initially, telling him that she didn’t need expensive new clothes. He knew that she didn’t need them, but he also knew that she would like them, and therefore buying them for her made him happy. He’d just have to get her to do a fashion parade later for him. Then he could take them off her himself. He smiled. He wouldn’t have been able to do that in the shop.

***

Willow sighed as she settled into the back of the limo. She kept telling herself not to get used to this, but my goodness, it was a lot of fun. She’d been embarrassed initially, flustering around not wanting to try anything on.

“I’m not allowed to let you leave until you have at least one thing,” Claudette said, grinning, “so you may as well try something.”

She hadn’t gone overboard – just an outfit for the evening and a pair of shoes. And some new underwear. What girl could resist lace Chanel underwear? She suspected Robert might quite like that part of the outfit too. She grinned and pulled out her phone, sending Robert a quick text message.

Is it the opera next?

Thankfully it wasn’t. Even though Julia Roberts had gained an appreciation for opera in Pretty Woman, Willow didn’t know if she would be able to do it justice. She’d tried in the past, but it was one of those things she just didn’t get. As it turned out he’d hired out the private dining room at Vue du Monde for the two of them. Now food; that was something Willow understood. She perused the degustation menu, her mouth watering at the descriptions of the tempting morsels.

“Champagne?” said the waiter appearing mysteriously behind her.

“I think I’ll wait,” Willow said. The champagne cocktails had been free flowing at the Chanel store and she wanted to be vaguely sober when Robert arrived.

***

Robert shook his head, frustrated. The legal stuff for this merger was taking way too long. They would be at this for another few hours. It wasn’t like he even needed to be there anymore really and he doubted that anyone would notice if he snuck out. Willow would have arrived at Vue Du Monde by now and would be waiting. Shopping alone was one thing, but sitting in a restaurant by yourself was something else entirely. He slid out of his seat and went silently out the door of the meeting room. The office was quiet and most of the other people had gone home. His assistant was still there somewhere – he could tell by the half-finished take-away dinner container on her desk. He felt bad that she had to stay so late and made a mental note to give her a day off next week. He had a quick look around to tell her he was heading off, but she must have been in the bathroom. Didn’t matter, he could text her from the road.

He pushed open the office doors and stepped out onto the street. It was humming with people heading out for the night or going home from after work drinks, a bit wobbly. There were cars everywhere, but he couldn’t see a free cab. He put his hand in his pocket and wrapped it around the small turquoise box, making sure it was still there. Robert smiled to himself. He pulled out his phone and dialled Willow’s number for what he hoped with be the last time that day.

“I’m on my way,” he said when she answered. “Don’t go anywhere.”

***

The waiter magically appeared beside her as soon as she hung up the phone. She wondered if they had to take a special class to learn how to do that. Impeccable Timing 101.

“I think I’ll take that bottle of champagne now,” she said smiling and wriggling her toes in excitement. She sat, anticipation bubbling inside her, and waited for Robert Fortescue.

Season 4: Epsiode 11

November 15, 2011

Ana wandered through David Jones, testing face creams, smelling perfumes and searching through racks of clothes that she couldn’t afford to buy. It was one of the very rare occasions that she had a couple of hours to kill before her next meeting. Well, that wasn’t exactly true – there was plenty she could be doing, but she felt like wandering around shops.  The first promise of summer in the air had elevated everyone’s mood and the city was alive with an infectious sense of excitement and possibility. In Ana’s opinion, these were the most perfect days for window shopping because people didn’t really mind if you spent ages in their shop and then didn’t buy anything. Even the Creme del la Mer sales assistant was in a chirpy mood, and if you’ve ever tried to sidle up to the counter to grab a sneaky sample of the exorbitantly priced face creams, you’ll know how rare that is.

Ana was so absorbed in learning about a new moisturiser that promised to eliminate the fifteen signs of ageing (and here she was foolishly thinking there was only one sign of ageing – wrinkles!) that she almost didn’t notice the young lady stop and do a double take as she walked past.

“Ana?”

Ana turned to see who it was and just managed to stop herself groaning out loud. Sarah. Talk about a buzz kill.

“I’m just on my lunch break,” Sarah explained, holding up the David Jones bag. “Just needed to pick up a few things.”

Ana smiled thinly. Like I care, she thought. They made small talk about the weather and other such inane topics before Sarah apologised that she had to get back to work.

“I very rarely take breaks,” she said in a saccharine voice. “Tom just can’t seem to cope without me.”

“He seems to manage just fine at home,” Ana retorted angrily, wishing as soon as she said it that she could retract the words. She could tell from the flash in Sarah’s eyes that she had been  hoping to get a rise out of her. Ana had walked straight into it. She’d probably go back to the office now and tell Tom about it and then he would come home and gently chastise Ana for being nasty to Sarah. “What has she ever done to you?” he’d say and Ana wouldn’t be able to answer, because Sarah hadn’t done anything tangible.

Yet.

That was what made her so dangerous.

To make herself feel better, Ana went to the lingerie department. Nothing cheered her up like expensive lace underwear. Fortunately, nothing cheered Tom up more than Ana in expensive lace underwear. It was a win win situation. Even more fortuitous was the fact that there was a sale on and her absolute favourite La Perla set – made from beautiful black lace so soft that it felt like wearing clouds – was fifty percent off. Although she already had the exact same one at home, she couldn’t resist getting another identical. Lace, after all, does not last forever.  She paid cash for her purchase and didn’t get a receipt – didn’t need Tom knowing that she was spending more money on frivolities. She left the store, annoyed that even retail therapy hadn’t managed to get rid of the uneasy feeling in her stomach that running into Sarah had aroused.

***

Sofia was already sitting in the cafe tapping away on her iPad. On the table were two plates of sandwiches and mineral water.

“You haven’t had lunch had you?” she said.

Ana shook her head as she settled into the small booth. She indicated to the waiter for a coffee.

“I took the liberty of ordering,” Sofia said. “These are the best chicken sandwiches in the world.”

“How thoughtful,” murmured Ana. She turned to the waiter. “Better make it a double espresso.” She was going to need it.

Ordinarily, Ana would have been delighted by the prospect of a chicken sandwich, even if someone had ‘taken the liberty’ of ordering without asking her, but the Sarah thing had left a bad taste in her mouth. Now, having to deal with Princess Sofia was the icing on the cake. And not good icing. Crappy icing, like the stuff that adorns supermarket made children’s birthday cakes.

“What did you buy?” Sofia said, nosily peering into Ana’s shopping bag.

“Just some underwear,” Ana said, blushing.

“Ooh, can I see,” Sofia squealed.

No, Ana thought. No you bloody can’t. But, she didn’t say this. The worst part of her job was that clients – particularly those who were paying her a lot of money – thought that they owned her. Ana recognised it was partly her own fault. She should just stand her ground. But with Sofia, she had realised early on it was easier to nod her head and smile and just do what she was told. Only two more weeks, she silently chanted. Two more weeks.

Sofia held the lace bra up, allowing the whole cafe to view Ana’s purchase.

“La Perla,” she said breathlessly, without even glancing at the label. “My favourite. I’m so glad you have good taste in lingerie, or I might have had to fire you.”

Ana looked shocked and Sofia burst into peels of laughter that sounded somewhere between a high pitched jackhammer and goat.

“I’m just joking!” she said, tucking into her chicken sandwich with gusto.

***

In the bathrooms of the office, Sarah pulled off her clothes and slipped into the new underwear she had bought. Even at fifty percent off, it was still extortionately priced. Lucky she hadn’t actually had to pay for it. It had been almost too easy to phone David Jones and tell them that she was the personal assistant of Sofia, whoever Sofia was. She’d given the card number over the phone and said that she would be in later to pick up the purchase. She still hadn’t quite figured out why Ana had a black Amex of some lady called Sofia, but she didn’t care.

Sarah carefully left a few buttons of her blouse open, so that when she moved glimpses of black lace could be seen. She smiled to herself in the mirror, taking out her new perfume and spritzing a little behind her ears.

“Perfect,” she muttered to her reflection. She checked her watch. Better get back to her desk. She had a meeting with Tom in two minutes.

***

Sofia dumped her handbag unceremoniously on the white leather sofa and kicked her shoes off. She went to the bathroom and stepped on the scales. Only two weeks to her wedding. She probably shouldn’t have had the chicken sandwich, but she couldn’t resist. They were just so amazingly good! Oh well, she just wouldn’t eat anything for dinner.
The house phone rang and she answered it with her married name – she had been practicing the intonation so that when the deed was finally done, she would be able to say it perfectly.

As the person on the other end of the phone was speaking, Sofia clenched her jaw. That lying little bitch, she thought to herself. She cooed her thanks down the phone and hung up. It wasn’t really necessary to involve other people in your private affairs, after all.

She dialed Ana’s mobile number straight away.

“You think you can buy slutty underwear for yourself on my credit card?” she spat as soon as Ana answered.

“What…?”

“David Jones just called me to ensure I liked the purchase that was picked up for me today by my assistant. A purchase of black lace underwear.” She paused. “The thing is Ana, I didn’t buy any black lace underwear today.”

“I don’t know what you’re…”

“Cut the crap,” Sofia hissed. “I know it was you. I should never have trusted you. And now I have to find someone else to finish my Wedding for me.”

“Wait! Just listen to me,” pleaded Ana. “I don’t understand…”

“No you listen,” Sofia snapped. “You. Are. Fired. Can you understand that? You’re lucky I don’t press charges.” She breathed heavily into the handset, furious. “Oh, and don’t expect to ever work in this town again,” she added nastily slamming the phone down.

***

Ana stared at her mobile phone, unable to move. What the fuck had just happened?

Season 4: Episode 10

November 8, 2011

The dinner party had come about due to a phone conversation two days prior when Ana had accused Willow (in the nicest possible way, of course) of not properly introducing her to Robert. Ordinarily Willow would have waited weeks longer before she allowed a man she was interested in to meet any of her inner circle. She liked to be very certain that they (the men – not her friends) were not going to embarrass her by getting drunk and loudly singing the Fremantle Dockers anthem or asking her friends for a threesome (sadly, both of these mortifying incidents had occurred on more than one occasion). However, after only two weeks of ‘properly dating’, she knew without a shadow of a doubt that Robert would do neither of these, nor any of the other horrible things that a new boyfriend could potentially do (such as going off you when you started wearing your comfortable underwear again. A girl can only cope with so much lace!). Since that night at his house, things had moved at a rather rapid pace. The last fortnight had been a whirlwind of …well… sex, sex and more sex, if she was completely honest about it; a few fancy dinners thrown in for good measure. They just couldn’t keep their hands off each other! And it wasn’t just pants down, off you go it was the proper, romantic, staring into each others soul rubbish that she had read about, but never actually experienced.

Until now, that is.

Ana had suggested dinner at their place. “Just something casual,” she said, “with the four of us, so Tom and I can get to know Robert. We can grab pizza or something.”

Willow had agreed. Something casual sounded perfect.

***

“I thought you said this was going to be low key,” Willow said, when they arrived at Ana and Tom’s beautiful apartment. The house was cleaner than she had ever seen it, and Ana looked quite the hostess in a beautiful black dress and twinkling diamond earrings. She was even wearing an apron. “And since when do you own an apron?”

“Sorry, I got a bit carried away,” Ana whispered. “I was just so excited that you two finally got your shit together. I didn’t want him to think your friends are losers.”

Willow rolled her eyes, but couldn’t quite suppress a grin. Trust Ana to turn a pizza night into the event of the week.

“Now make yourself at home,” Ana said breezily, taking Robert’s coat. “I just have to pull the entree out of the oven and put the finishing touches to the coconut and lime mousse. Tom’s made some cocktails so go ahead and relax in the dining room. Won’t be a tick.”

The dining room had been transformed into an oasis of gorgeousness. Candles were scattered strategically around the room and amazing flower arrangements lined the centre of the table.

“These are incredible,” Robert said, leaning down and admiring a glass bowl filled with plush, velvety orchids.

“Oh, those,” said Tom, offhand. “They’re all practice arrangements from this wedding Ana is organising. The bridezilla didn’t like them and was going to throw them out.”

“It was such a waste,” said Ana, coming into the room with plates of delicious smelling entrees. “It’s not like she’s going to miss them. I just rescued them from the rubbish bin.”

***

The dinner was absolutely delicious and as soon as she’d had a couple of glasses of wine, Ana calmed down and forgot that she was trying to impress.

“What is it you do Robert? Willow never really told me,” asked Ana, kicking her high heels off and scrunching her toes into the carpet.

He laughed. “I try not to bore Willow too much with the details.”

“Oh, it’s not boring,” Willow said grinning cheekily, “It’s just, well, more interesting for some than others.”

Robert tickled her playfully on the waist and Willow giggled, batting his hand away. Ana and Tom looked at each other and tried to suppress their laughter. It was so obvious that these two were completely smitten with each other. Almost nauseatingly so.

“The simple answer is that I buy companies that are in financial trouble and either help them get back on their feet or sell them off in pieces,” he said. “It’s not glamourous, but I enjoy it.”

“Oh. My. God,” said Ana, her jaw dropping. “You’re just like Richard Gere in Pretty Woman. Except good Richard Gere from the end of the film when he helps the old guy get the shipping contracts.” She turned towards Willow and squealed. “And that makes you just like Julia Roberts! Except you’re not a prostitute,” she added as an afterthought.

Robert laughed again. “I haven’t actually seen Pretty Woman, but if you say so.”

“Never seen Pretty Woman?”  Ana and Willow said simultaneously.

“Even I’ve seen that movie,” said Tom.

“I love that movie,” sighed Willow. “That bit where she goes shopping on Rodeo drive…”

“And all the sales girls are total bitches…” Ana chimed in.

“Then she walks back with all the bags and says…”

“Big mistake. Big. Huge. I have to go shopping now!” They finished off in unison, bursting into fits of giggles.

Tom gave Robert a knowing look. “You’d better see it mate, or they’ll just keep quoting at you. Trust me.”

***

Robert put his arm around Willow’s shoulders and pulled her close as they walked slowly out to the main road to hail a cab. He kissed the top of her head, breathing in the elixir of shampoo and Willow. He’d really enjoyed getting to know Willow’s friends. They were good people. All in all, it had been a very fun evening. He ran his hand down her back, thinking of all the ways that they could possibly make the night even more fun.

“Do you want to…?”

“I thought you’d never ask,” said Willow, cutting him off mid sentence. She snuggled in to his body a bit closer. “I do have one condition though.”

“What’s that?”

“You have to watch Pretty Woman.”

Robert laughed. “We’ll download it as soon as we get home.”

***

Hours later, after watching the film and then re-enacting and expanding upon a few of the more R rated scenes themselves, they lay in bed, exhausted. Robert gently stroked Willow’s arm, her slow, regular breaths indicating that she had finally fallen asleep.

Robert smiled to himself. Over the course of the evening a plan had been formulating in his mind. It was now crystal clear and he couldn’t wait to put it into action.

Season 4: Episode 9

November 1, 2011

Ana leafed through the pile of papers in a last ditch attempt to locate the crisp white envelope she had received the other day, cursing under her breath when it wasn’t there. Where the hell have I put it, she thought angrily. Unless she found it, she couldn’t actually finish organising her current client’s Very Important Wedding.

She didn’t think the already bigger-than-Ben-Hur wedding could get anymore ridiculous, but she had been wrong.

“Almas caviar,” Sofia had announced when Ana last met with the future bride, current bridezilla. “That’s what our Wedding meal is missing.”

(No really, she actually said wedding as though it had a capital ‘W’ all the time).

Ana’s mouth had, literally, dropped open. Almas caviar was one of the most – no, make that the most – expensive caviar in the world. And that was saying a lot, because caviar ain’t cheap to begin with. Originating from Iran, the only outlet you could buy it from was in London. It came in solid gold tins and retailed for just under the thirty-thousand dollar mark.

Per tin.

When Ana had mentioned this small fact, Sofia had looked at her as though she were from another planet.

“So?”

“Well,” Ana had begun, wondering how to tactfully put it. “As I’ve mentioned before, your deposit is supposed to cover most of the expenses, but I don’t think it will…”

Sofia put her hand up to stop her. “Here,” she said opening her Hermes crocodile skin Birken bag and pulling out a crisp white envelope. “I had a duplicate made for you.”

Ana peered inside the envelope to see an American Express Centurion card.

“I’ve authorised you on the account,” Sofia said, as if giving a stranger your Amex ‘black card’ was completely au fait. “So we can stop all the silly chit chat about money, hm?”

Ana fumed inwardly. She thought she had been very restrained about the ridiculous costs associated with this wedding (small w). The only other time she had brought it up was when Sofia had requested that unicorns pull her carriage to the church. “Can’t we just buy some white horses and stick horns on them?” she had said when Ana gently broke it to her that unicorns were, in fact, fictional animals. Ana didn’t think the animal cruelty angle would really resonate, so she tried the expense argument instead. That obviously had just about as little impact.

“Now, it’s for Wedding purposes only,” Sofia had cooed, wagging her finger at Ana and then tapping the envelope with a perfectly manicured nail. “No personal expenses please.”

Ana fumed some more and clenched her fist around the envelope. She hadn’t got to this point in her career without being a consummate professional (most of the time), and the mere suggestion that she would be otherwise made her blood boil.

“Of course not,” she managed to say, offering a simpering smile.

But now – in a blatant display of unprofessionalism – she had lost the stupid card, so she couldn’t order the stupid caviar. Why it was even her problem to start with was a point of contention, but the chef that Sofia was having flown in from New York to cater the Wedding was almost as temperamental as his client and was refusing to have anything to do with the ordering of difficult ingredients. Ana wondered monetarily whether he would agree to the appetiser of truffle custard with lobster and caviar being made without the final ingredient.

She suspected not.

“You OK, hon?” Tom asked as he rushed into the study, clutching a briefcase in one hand and a piece of toast in the other. His usual work uniform of jeans and t-shirt had been replaced today by a shirt and suit.

“You haven’t seen a white envelope lying around have you?” Ana asked.

Tom shook his head, only half listening. “Can’t say I have,” he said, sifting through the same pile of papers Ana had only minutes earlier. “You don’t know where the competition proposal document is, do you?”

Tom had been working for months on this proposal and was pitching it this morning to the potential client. If he pulled it off, it could be one of the biggest, most exciting projects that his firm had worked on. Not to mention quite a coup for a small Aussie architecture firm to win the honour of working on such a visible international project.

Ana frowned and shook her head. It was pointless asking Tom if he’d seen anything when he was in this state.

“Must have left it at the office,” he said to himself before planting a quick kiss on Ana’s cheek and running out the door. “Good luck finding the contract,” he shouted back.

“Envelope,” Ana shouted after him. “It’s an envelope with…”

The slam of the front door resonated loudly throughout the apartment.

***

By 8:30am, Tom’s office looked as though a whirlwind had swept through it. Papers had been thrown on the floor in a desperate attempt to find the missing document. If only his stupid laptop hadn’t decided to have a heart attack last night, he could just print another one. The ‘heart attack’ had been caused by the accidental spilling of tea all over it just before he went to bed. He managed to save the proposal document from getting splashed, but couldn’t save the computer and, of course, had forgotten to back up said document. He was an architect damn it, not a backing-things-up tech person. He stuck his head out of the office to see if anyone else was around yet and had seen it. Sarah had just arrived and was shrugging her coat off, a tray with two coffees held precariously in one hand. She smiled as soon as she saw Tom.

“I thought you might need this,” she said, handing one of the take-away cups to him. “Double shot.”

“You’re a mind reader,” he said, taking a welcome sip of hot coffee.

“Everything organised for the meeting?”

Tom half-nodded. “I just need to find the proposal document.”

“You’ve lost it?”

“Er…maybe.”

“Can’t you just print another one?”

“I would,” Tom groaned, “But my computer carked it last night”.

Sarah raised an eyebrow. “Carked it?”

He could sense another lecture about why everything should be backed up in multiple locations.

“Never mind,” he said with a wave of his hand. “It has to be around here somewhere.”

After another thirty minutes of them both searching his office, it was still nowhere to be seen. He threw his hands in the air, promptly knocking over a glass of water all over his desk.

“Great,” he muttered, furious with himself. First a cup of tea over his laptop and now…

“Under the sink!” he shouted. “It must be under the sink!”

When he spilled the tea last night, he had swooped in and picked up the document, then dashed to the cupboard under the sink for paper towels to mop up the tea.

He picked up his phone and called Ana. He was hoping that she could stop past home and then drop it at the office. When there was no answer he left a message, asking her to call him back urgently. He checked his watch. The clients were due in 30 minutes. He could get home and back in 45 if he rushed. Someone else could keep them busy for a few minutes.

“I’ve got my car here,” said Sarah lightly. “Want me to go and get it?”

He almost hugged her in relief.

***

Sarah unlocked the door to Tom’s house and called out, in case Ana had come home. She’d been there before a couple of times, so she knew her way around. Sure enough, the proposal document was under the sink, looking as crisp and new as it had done yesterday. She was about the walk back out the front door, but stopped. She’d managed to get here in record time. Tom wouldn’t be expecting her back for another twenty minutes at least.

Very slowly she pushed open the door to Tom and Ana’s bedroom. She quietly opened a chest of drawers and sifted through Ana’s clothes, pulling out a black lace underwear set and held it up. It looked expensive. That must be what Tom likes, she thought to herself, imagining him peeling the delicate lace of her own body, not Ana’s. She took a photo of the label with her phone.

She picked up one of Ana’s perfume bottles, spraying the scent liberally on herself, before noticing the plain white envelope poking out from underneath Ana’s jewelry box. Carefully, she prised it open and looked inside.

An American Express black card.

Sarah whistled under her breath. How on earth did Ana have one of these? Not recognising the name on it, she took out her phone and photographed each side of the card before placing it back in the envelope and leaving the room as she found it.

***

“Sorry I missed your call earlier this morning,” Ana said, as she took out her earrings and put them on her chest of drawers. It had been another long and frantic day and she hadn’t got home until after 9pm. “What was so important?”

“It was nothing,” Tom said, stretching out on the bed, exhausted after his own long but – he thought – successful day. He had already decided that he didn’t need to tell Ana about Sarah going to the house. That was a fight that could easily be avoided.

“Oh my God,” Ana said suddenly, seeing the white envelope. “That’s where I put it.”

“What?” Tom mumbled sleepily.

“Just the card that the lady who….” She looked over at Tom. His eyes were closed and his breathing rhythmic. She smiled to herself. “It doesn’t matter,” she said.  And it really didn’t anymore.

Card found.

Disaster averted.

She felt lighter and more relaxed than she had done in days. She peeled back the covers and climbed in next to Tom. All was right with the world once again.

Season 4: Epsiode 8

October 25, 2011

Willow stomped her foot and crossed her arms over her chest, a frown creasing her ordinarily cheerful face. Here she was again, knee deep in clothes strewn across the floor, not a thing to wear, her stomach a bundle of nerves, and potentially running late for another date with Robert Fortescue. She had reluctantly put on her only matching set of expensive lingerie again, thinking that it deserved another innings after the last rather short lived one.

Why do I do this to myself, she thought, sifting through dress after dress, trying to find the perfect one. She wanted her outfit to say ‘I’m gorgeous and glamorous and always dress like this, so don’t think that this outfit is for you. But it might be. So impress me.’

It wasn’t a big ask, was it?

As seemed to be her permanent countenance where this man was involved, she was irrationally cranky with Robert Fortescue. This time, it was residual annoyance from their last date. Why couldn’t he have just told her, straight off the bat, that the amazonian goddess who owned the bar where they had gone was a relative? Willow had become progressively jealous as the night wore on, getting very drunk and finally accusing Robert of flirting with another woman. He had laughed, telling that ‘the other woman’ was his cousin. He had bundled Willow into a cab and sent her off, as though she were a silly child incapable of looking after herself. The more she thought about it, the angrier she got.

Furious, she pulled open her dresser drawers and fished out her most plain underwear. She took off the lace set and replaced it with something Bridget Jones would have been proud of. She looked in the mirror and put her hands on her hips.

“Take that Robert Fortescue,” she said triumphantly to her dowdy reflection.

Her pleasure was only short lived. Take what, she thought. Some blue cotton knickers and a bra in a totally different hue? Yeah, that’d show him. No, what she needed to do was wear the good stuff, but not let him see it. Or, let him see it, but not let him near it. She grinned. Yep, that was the best plan. Definitely. Picking up the lacy number, she slipped it on once more.

Eventually, she was ready to go. Willow gave herself one last glance in the hall mirror as she headed towards the front door. Her hair was perfect, her makeup subtle, her dress flattering, and she knew that if a certain someone somehow managed to get past the outer layers they would be in for a very pleasant surprise. Until I cover it up again, she thought, and leave him wanting and sick with desire.

She paused.

Deja vu.

Hadn’t she been down this road before? Given prior experiences, her evening would end, not with him trying to passionately embrace her but rather, in a heated argument with her leaving, furious with him.

“Oh fuck this,” she said turning around, slamming the front door and storming back to her room. She pulled the dress roughly over her head and ripped off the underwear.

“You’re nothing but a cantankerous, self-righteous man,” she said between clenched teeth. She pulled her stockings off, “and you don’t deserve the good stuff.”

***

Four minutes and thirty-three seconds later she was back at the front door dressed casually in jeans and a long sleeved top. Underneath, her underwear was practical and droll. And it didn’t match. She smirked as she closed the door and wandered into the street to find a cab.

***

“Welcome,” Robert Fortescue said, as he opened the door to his apartment.

Willow stepped inside cautiously. “Is…?”

He pre-empted her. “Samuel is staying at a friend’s place tonight.”

Willow breathed a sigh of relief. She didn’t particularly want to see one of her old students just as she was about to go on a date with his father.

“Can I get you something to drink,” he said, slipping her coat off her shoulders. “Champagne?”

“Won’t we be late for our dinner reservation?”

“Oh that,” said Robert. “I cancelled it. I thought we could eat here.”

Willow looked at him skeptically. “What, get takeaway or something?”

“Er, not exactly. I thought I would cook.”

Willow almost burst out laughing. She knew first hand that Robert knew nothing about cooking.

“I still owe you a homemade meal,” he continued, leading her into the kitchen. On the bench, the MoVida cookbook was lying open and bowls of pre-prepared ingredients were lined up neatly.

“You’re going to make something from that?” said Willow, pointing to the cookbook.

“I’ve adapted a few of the recipes,” said Robert slyly.

“Adapted?” said Willow incredulously. The recipes, as they were, required a certain amount of base knowledge. But adapting them…? For someone with Robert’s skill in the kitchen – or lack thereof – that could be a very dangerous thing. Particularly for those people who had to eat said creations. Namely, in this case, Willow.

He handed her a glass of champagne (real, of course). “Make yourself at home. I’ll do some squid for starters so we’ve got something to nibble on while the rest cooks.”

Willow groaned inwardly. There was nothing – literally nothing – worse than badly cooked squid. She sipped the glass of champagne and perused his book collection on the other side of the room, too terrified to watch as he undoubtedly butchered something that should have been a delicacy.

But when he served the seafood to her and she reluctantly bit into the flesh, she was amazed to find that it wasn’t rubbery at all. In fact, it was… perfect. The soft, delicate pieces of squid were coated in a rich sauce that tasted of sherry and saffron and had small flecks of – were they macadamias? – clinging to them.

“This is amazing,” she said, with more surprise than she had intended. “How did you get it so… succulent.”

“I’ll let you in on a little secret,” Robert chuckled. “I might have had a couple of cooking lessons.”

“With who?” said Willow. They must have been good if they taught him to cook like this.

“A buddy of mine. Frank.”

Willow nodded and put another piece of squid in her mouth. “Hang on a second,” she said suddenly, looking at the MoVida cookbook. “Not that Frank?” Frank Camorra was regarded as one of the top chefs in Australia.

“Yeah,” said Robert casually. “He owed me a favour.”

Willow did her best to try and not look too impressed. She didn’t want it to go to Robert’s head.

The rest of the evening was a culinary awakening as Robert produced a number of small and exquisite dishes, each one more wonderful and surprising than the last. When they had sopped up the last drop of sauce with light and tangy sourdough bread (“not homemade,” he had apologised) Willow sat back in her chair, a contented smile on her face.

“That was wonderful.”

“I’m so glad you liked it,” said Robert, his relief palpable. “I was terrified of cooking for you.”

“You’ve got friends who are famous chefs and you’re terrified of cooking for me?” she said incredulously.

“Frank thought it was hilarious that I wanted to learn to cook,” Robert said with a laugh. “But I told him that I needed to impress someone who was not easily impressed.”

Willow felt all warm and gooey inside. “You… you took cooking lessons to impress me?”

Robert nodded and looked down at his plate, embarrassed.

The anger she felt – which had been slowly evaporating all evening anyway – was suddenly completely gone. She stood up and walked to the other side of the table where Robert was sitting and gently put her hands on either side of his face. She leant down and kissed him softly on the lips.

“Thank you,” she said, smiling into his face.

He put his hands on back and pulled her down, until she was sitting on top of him, her legs wrapped around either side of his body.

“My pleasure,” he said softly, pulling her closer and returning the kiss, slow at first but quickly intensifying until they were each clutching at the others body.  He slid his hands underneath her top and carefully ran them over her breasts. Willow groaned and lifted her arms so he could pull her shirt off.

“Dammit,” she murmured as his strong hands explored her torso.

“What?” he said, stopping and looking at her with a concerned expression.

“I should have put on nicer underwear,” said Willow apologetically.

Fortescue ran his gaze over her body. It was so intense she could almost feel its heat.

“No,” he said. “No, you don’t need any fancy wrapping. You’re perfect exactly as you are.” He kissed her again on the neck, murmuring into her ear, “but if it makes you more comfortable, we can just take it off?”

Willow uttered a throaty laugh and allowed him to unclasp her oldest and most sensible bra.

Season 4: Episode 7

October 18, 2011

Mia put the finishing touches to her make-up and stood back so she could get a look at her whole reflection in her bedroom mirror.

Wow, she thought. That can’t be me.

She wasn’t one to big note herself, but she looked good. Damn good. Her firm body was clad in tight fitting jeans and a black top that slung down low at the back. Her dark hair, which usually sat in a neat bob, was slicked back off her face and her full lips were painted crimson red.

A knock on her bedroom door startled her and she sprung back, embarrassed that some one might have seen her surveying her own reflection.

The door opened and Willow walked in. “Hey Mia, what do you….” She stopped mid sentence and her mouth dropped open. “Wow.”

“It’s too much, isn’t it,” said Mia, automatically grabbing a tissue and rubbing at the lipstick. “I look like an idiot.”

“No way!” said Willow breathlessly. “You look… amazing.”

In all the years that they had lived together, she had never seen Mia looking so outright sexy. She often looked elegant or pretty, but this was something else all together: This was cartoon super-hero hot.

“So what’s the occasion?” Willow asked, flopping down on the bed, the question she had come in to ask, forgotten.

“Going for a drink,” Mia mumbled self-consciously.

“Oh? And who is the lucky drinking partner?”

“Just John.”

“Just John?” Willow raised an eyebrow. “Poor guy isn’t going to know what to do.”

“What do you mean,” said Mia. “Do with what?”

“With you of course,” teased Willow. “He’s not going to be able to concentrate on a word you say, all he’ll be thinking about is getting you home and ripping your jeans off you so he can…”

“Willow!” Mia cut her off. “That’s ridiculous.”

When Mia thought about it though, most of the times they went out did end up with them together, him ripping her clothes off so that he could… you know….

She blushed a charming shade of fire-engine as Willow giggled at her.

“I should go,” she said, leaving Willow lying on her bed. “I’m running late.”

“Have fuuuuuun,” called Willow, her giggles following Mia down the hall.

***

Mia pushed open the door to the dimly lit bar and peered in. She couldn’t see John here yet so she slunk in to find a seat. As she settled at a small table towards the back of the bar, she felt as though every pair of eyes in the small establishment were on her. I must have something on my face, she groaned inwardly, shrinking into the chair and using the drinks menu to hide behind as she brushed her face off in case there was something there.

“Excuse me,” the barman was standing next to her. “Gin and chicken pate with maple pear.”

Mia looked at the plate that was being proffered: Small, delectable medallions of bread finely covered in creamy pate with a sliver of poached pear adorning each one.

“I didn’t order that,” stammered Mia, wishing she had.

“He ordered it for you,” said the barman, pointing towards a man sitting at the bar.

Mia peered across the room. It can’t be, she thought. Not again. The two dates I’ve been on in the last year and Johnny has to turn up to each of them?

She smiled and waved at him and he walked over to her table. Her hands started shaking and she clutched the edge of the table. God, he was gorgeous.

“May I?”

“Sure,” she said, her steady voice no indication of how she was really feeling.

“It’s really good to see you Mia,” Johnny said softly, gazing shyly at her. “You look… incredible. Beautiful. Incredibly beautiful.”

“Thank you,” she said, her heart hammering against her chest. “And thanks for these.” She indicated to the platter in front of them. She picked one up and bit into the chewy bread, allowing the sweet pear and spicy pate to surprise her taste buds.

“I’ve been wanting to call you since Ana’s wedding,” Johnny began, lowering his voice and leading in towards her. “But I didn’t know if you…”

He stopped as he saw Mia’s gaze shift to a man who had just walked in the door and was making a beeline for their table.

“Hi Mia.” John’s voice was cautious as he looked between Mia and Johnny.

“Hello John,” said Mia, wishing the ground could swallow her as she reluctantly did the introductions. She couldn’t think of a single situation that she would less rather be in that the one she was right now.

The two men eyed each other up and down, like lions circling prey. They could sense that the other was encroaching on their territory but neither wanted to be the one to start the war. John leant down and kissed Mia hard on the lips, for much longer than was necessary, straightening up and giving Johnny a look as if to say ‘Back off. I got here first.’

“Johnny was keeping me company,” she said quickly. “While I was waiting for you.”

“A beautiful woman like Mia shouldn’t have to wait alone,” said Johnny cooly.

“Lucky I’m here now then, isn’t it?” replied John, with equal iciness.

“I’m going to go to the bathroom,” Mia stammered, tipping her chair over as she stood up.

John and Johnny sat in silence for a couple of seconds.

“So how do you know Mia?” said Johnny finally.

“We met in Thailand.”

“Wasn’t Mia in Thailand… months ago?”

John nodded. “Yeah, it was a while ago I guess.”

“She never mentioned you,” said Johnny.

“She’s pretty secretive,” John retorted. “Likes to keep things to herself.”

No shit, thought Johnny angrily. What, he thinks he knows her now or something? Instead, he took a bit of pate and shrugged. “I don’t know, she’s been pretty open with me over the years I’ve known her.”

“You’ve known her for years?” smirked John. “Funny she never mentioned you.”

“I guess you don’t know each other that well,” shot back Johnny.

John raised an eyebrow. “Oh, we know each other pretty well. I came to Melbourne to be with her and she seems pretty keen for me to stick around…” he trailed off with a shrug. “I’d say that she’s the most serious girlfriend I’ve ever had.”

Girlfriend? Johnny nearly choked on his pate. What the fuck? A date was one thing, but a serious partner? How did he not know about this?

“I’m back,” said Mia brightly. She had taken some deep breaths and given herself a pep talk in the bathroom. We’re all grown-ups, she’d reasoned. I’m sure that we can have a very pleasant evening. The thunderous looks on the boys faces indicated that this might not be the case.

The barman broke the stony silence as he came to the table and smiled congenially. “What can I get you folks to drink?” He looked from Johnny to John a number of times and scratched his head. “Are you guys related?”

John and Johnny looked at each other.

I’m way better looking than him, thought Johnny.

This clown isn’t a patch on me, thought John.

“No way,” they said in horrified unison.

The bartender, shook his head, bemused. “I’m sure you get that all the time,” he said chuckling, “because you could be twins.”

Now, thought Mia. The ground can open up and swallow me now.

Season 4: Episode 6

October 11, 2011

Ana stepped into the elevator at Tom’s office building, pressing the button for the 17th floor.  The lightweight fabric of her Burberry trench coat felt foreign against her naked skin. Underneath, she wore only her favourite La Perla underwear set; a delicate black lace bra and tiny underpants, attached by suspenders to fine, black silk stockings. On her feet, towering Manolo Blahnik stilettos, and tossed casually around her throat was a blue silk scarf that bought out the colour of her eyes.

A smile curled corner of her lips seductively. She had plans for that scarf later.

The other passenger of the lift – a young man in his early twenties with a spot of mustard on his tie from a lunchtime incident – scurried out at the 12th floor, unable to tear his eyes off Ana, who was resting languorously against the rear wall of the elevator. She looked tall, sexy and just a little bit dangerous. She winked at him and he stood there speechless as the doors slide closed and she was gone.

The elevator stopped at Tom’s level and she stepped out, her stocking clad thigh peeking through the carefully buttoned coat with each step she took. She paused outside Tom’s door and looked around. The rest of the office was empty. Everyone must be out at meetings, she thought. She considered knocking, but decided against it. Tom wasn’t expecting her and she wanted to surprise him. She opened the door silently and slid inside, shutting it noiselessly behind her. Since she’d been here last, he’d had heavy drapes installed over the windows. They were pulled down and it took her a few seconds to adjust to the dim light.

A noise to her right startled her and she looked over to see Sarah and Tom standing in front of a velvet couch. They were both had their backs to her and didn’t see her come in. Ana peered across at them. From the back, Sarah appeared to be wearing the exact same coat as her.

Horrified, she watched as Tom reached up and slipped the coat from Sarah’s shoulders. It fell to the floor with a whoosh. Underneath, Sarah was wearing nothing but black underwear and suspenders, her long hair cascading down her back in lazy curls. Tom gently placed his hands on her waist and spun her around so she was facing him.

Although Tom still had his back to Ana, Sarah noticed her straight away. A wicked smile curled the corners of her mouth as she spoke.

“Don’t just stand there,” she said. “Come and join in.”

Ana looked over at Tom, imploring him to step away and tell her it was all a bad dream. But, keeping one hand firmly on Sarah’s waist, he held out his other hand towards Ana.

“This is a pleasant surprise,” he said, his voice thick with lust.

***

Ana sat up in bed with a start. She was drenched in sweat and her heart was hammering away at a million miles an hour. She looked over at Tom, who was still fast asleep, snoring softly. He’d been working late and she hadn’t even heard him come to bed.

The dreams were getting more frequent and Ana now dreaded going to bed for fear of being tormented once more by visions of Tom with Sarah.

She got up and went to the kitchen to get a cold drink and splash some water on her face.

“You OK?” Tom whispered sleepily, as she climbed back into bed.

“Yeah,” said Ana. “Bad dream.”

“Another one?” he sounded genuinely concerned, even though it was 3am and he wasn’t properly awake. “Don’t worry, I’ll protect you,” he said.

He put his arms around Ana and pulled her towards him, stroking her hair. She nuzzled into his body, unable to shake the feeling of dread, but eventually slipping back into a dreamless sleep.

***

Ana got back into the car and shut the door, resting her head against the seat and closing her eyes for a few seconds. She felt completely sledgehammered. The meeting she’d just had with an important client had not gone terribly smoothly. She couldn’t stop thinking about her dream last night. The client had noticed her wavering attention, assumed it was incompetence, and questioned her ability to provide everything required for their 500+ guest wedding. Ana had beamed her thousand-watt smile and assured them she had orchestrated hundreds of perfect weddings and theirs would be no exception.

She knew when she took this job it was incredibly ambitious. Not for the first time, she wondered about hiring someone to help her, but the date was getting too close to get someone else up to speed. Besides, pulling in another person now just looked like she wasn’t capable of doing it herself.

As she started her car engine, a pang of hunger hit her and she realised she hadn’t eaten anything all day. She craved comfort food: Something a bit stodgy and chock full of carbs. She knew this area quite well – it was only a few blocks from Tom’s office – and recalled a particularly good croque monsieur that she’d had from his favourite bakery. They used to go there all the time when she would come and meet him for lunch.

“We haven’t lunch together in ages,” she said out loud, trying to remember when the last time was. Six months ago? Nine?

In fact, she thought, we barely seem to have time for anything together these days.

They had both been so busy with their own work projects, that weeks had gone past without even being able to grab a meal together. The times when they fell into bed, exhausted, seemed to be the only snatches of together time they managed at the moment.

Maybe that’s the reason for all the nightmares, Ana thought.

“Not any more,” she said, putting the car into gear and heading to the bakery. Today, they could at least spend half an hour over lunch together.

 ***

She pulled the glass door open and let herself into the office. The secretary wasn’t at the front desk, and she couldn’t see any of the other architects around. I suppose it is lunchtime, she thought to herself, an uneasy feeling of déjà vu creeping over her. Maybe I should have called first, she wondered.

She walked down the corridor towards Tom’s private office. His door was slightly ajar, and she could hear laughter inside. She pushed it open gently and stepped in.

For a second, Ana thought she was going to throw up.

In the middle of the office, surrounded by papers, were Sarah and Tom. A picnic basket, its lunch contents laid out on a tea towel, was next to them. Sarah was lying on her side, her blouse falling open ever-so-slightly to reveal a black lace bra. She reached behind Tom to pluck a strawberry from a fruit platter and put it in her mouth, sucking the flesh from the stalk. Tom was too busy reading something to notice that she brushed her arm across his back.

Ana clutched at the wall to steady herself. The movement caught Sarah’s attention and she looked up. Hostility flashed through her eyes and she held Ana’s horrified gaze for a couple of seconds before speaking.

“Don’t just stand there,” she said in a friendly voice. “Come and join in.”

Tom looked up, his face breaking into a wide grin. “This is a pleasant surprise,” he said.