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Archive for the 'Season 6' Category

Season 6, Episode 11

June 26, 2012

Willow wandered down the hotel hall towards the suite that the three for them had been calling ‘home’ for a couple of weeks now. It was already 11:15am and she’d just managed to catch the very end of the buffet breakfast, the staff leaving it on a bit longer for her, still grateful for the multitude of pastries and cakes that had been left for them by this rather lovely guest.

She inserted her card into the door of the hotel room and pushed it open. Ana was draped over the couch, wrapped in a bath robe, and Mia was sitting cross legged on a chair, staring absently into space, still in her pyjamas.

Willow gritted her teeth. It had been the same every day since they’d arrived back in London: Killing time until Ana and Mia felt better, stronger, ready to make important decisions about their lives. Willow was beginning to feel like she was in limbo, waiting for her fate to be determined by her two friends who were – currently – incapable of making a decision harder than which crappy movie to watch next. She had tried to talking to them about going somewhere new – just like they had planned – and starting fresh, but they hadn’t wanted to do that just yet and Willow had indulged them, not wanting to push them into something they weren’t ready for. The three of them had even talked about the possibility of going back to Melbourne, starting over there. At least there everything was familiar. Mia could give it a real shot with Johnny and Ana could try to work things out with Tom.

But even that was a choice they apparently weren’t ready to make.

“What do you want to do today?” Willow asked in a faux cheerful voice.

Mia looked blankly at Willow. “Huh?”

“Today,” Willow repeated. “What do you want to do?”

“Ummm…” Mia shrugged. “Nothing?”

“We did nothing yesterday,” Willow said, trying to keep her voice calm. “And the day before that, and the day before that.”

“So?”

“I’m bored,” she said, her irritation showing through. “We’re in London. For goodness sake. There are a million fun things we could be doing.”

“I don’t feel like doing anything fun,” Mia said in a petulant voice.

“Oh for god’s sake!” Willow exclaimed. “Snap out of it!”

Mia looked at her, eyes wide, before promptly bursting into tears.

“Oh no… don’t cry,” Willow said, immediately regretting sniping at her friend when she was in such a fragile state. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to be cranky.”

“It’s not you,” Mia said, trying her best to sniff back the tears. “It’s just… I miss Johnny.”

“I know you do,” Willow said, stroking her hair. “But don’t you think…” she trailed off.

“What?”

“Well, don’t you think that maybe if we went out and did something then you might feel better? It might take your mind off it?”

“I don’t really feel like doing anything either,” Ana chimed in. “You go out, Willow. We’ll stay here.”

“But it’s more fun if we do something together,” Willow said. “Please? Just for a few hours?”

Ana sighed reluctantly and looked at Mia. “What do you think?”

Mia shrugged. “Oh, all right then. But only for a few hours. I don’t really feel like being around people at the moment.”

***

It was a crisp, sunny day and there were people everywhere, smiling and happy. Tourists posed to have their photos taken and kids ran around, laughing and eating ice-cream. But even wandering along the Thames, going to the Tate Modern and devouring a delicious Greek feast (well, Willow devoured. Ana and Mia picked) didn’t manage to bring so much as a smile to Ana or Mia’s lips.

“Can we go back to the hotel yet?” Ana said yawning, as they stood taking in the vista of London bridge.

That was the last straw. Willow snapped. “I can’t do this anymore!”

Mia and Ana looked at her, puzzled.

“Do what?” said Mia.

“Deal with you two! You do nothing but sit around the hotel and mope all day. I thought that we were meant to be embarking on a new better life? Quite frankly, at the moment it’s a bit crap.” Willow sighed. “We may as well just go back to Melbourne if this is what we’re going to do here.”

“Willow, I think that’s a bit unfair,” Ana said. “We’ve been through a lot and…”

Willow cut her off. “We’ve all been through a lot. No more excuses. We either do this properly or we don’t do it at all.”

“What are you saying?” Mia asked.

“I’m saying that we need to decide. Either we pack it in an go back to our old home in Melbourne or we do what originally planned and move to our new home.”

“Can’t we just stay here for another week or so,” said Ana. “See how we feel then?”

“No,” Willow said adamantly. “It’s time to choose.”

Ana and Mia looked at each other and nodded slowly.

“Let’s go home,” Mia said.

***

There was a slight bump as they touched down. Ana lent over and squeezed Willow and Mia’s hands.

“Welcome home,” she said.

The pilot’s voice came over the loud speaker. “Ladies and Gentleman, welcome to San Francisco where the local time is ten-fifteen am and the weather… well, lets just say it will change about fifteen times over the course of the day.” The pilot paused, giving time for the chuckled laughter of his captive audience. “If you’re visiting this lovely city, then have a fantastic time, and if you’re returning, then welcome home.”

“Home,” Willow repeated softly, letting the word linger on her tongue. It felt good. Right. A new start with new people to meet and adventures to be had. Her stomach rumbled loudly. Adventures will come, she thought. First things first. At this juncture, the most important thing was discovering some new food to be eaten! Even in business class, plane food was still plane food.

They collected their bags and walked slowly towards the big shiny doors that stood between them and their new lives.

“Ready?” Ana said.

“Yep,” said Willow.

Mia nodded and took a deep breath. “Absolutely.”

Together, they stepped through the doors. They were home.

***

This is the final episode of Season 6. Stay tuned for Season 7, when Ravenous returns in a couple of weeks.

Thanks for reading. xxx

Season 6, Episode 10

June 19, 2012

By the time the three girls managed to check back into the Langham in London, Willow felt as though she were a nanny in charge of two sullen children: Ana was feeling very sorry for herself and the general state of her life; Mia hadn’t resolved anything concrete with Johnny – who had flown back to Australia a few days earlier – so was in a particularly foul mood too. The two of them had spent the day sniping at anyone and everyone – air hostesses, taxi drivers, the concierge, even each other – and Willow was looking forward to a long bath and having some time – and space – to herself.

The suite they’d booked last time – but didn’t really get to use – had already been taken by someone else, so they stayed in a smaller suite, equally lavish but with slightly less space. They could have arranged for separate rooms, but Willow wanted the three of them to stay together, at least for a little while, until she was sure that Ana was doing a bit better.

As soon as they got into the room, Ana and Mia plonked themselves on either ends of the couch, sighing simultaneously. Mia kicked off her shoes and tucked her toes underneath her as Ana picked up the remote, flicking aimlessly through channels until she came across a movie. George Clooney’s face filled the screen and Mia and Ana both let out a little sigh.

“I truly believe,” Ana said, “that our lives would be one hundred percent better if we could just meet George Clooney.”

“Oh yes,” Mia said. “I agree.”

Willow smiled and rolled her eyes. She had never understood the George obsession that most females tended to have. “Do you guys mind if I head out for a little walk?” she said.

She took the grunted response to be in the affirmative and walked out of the room in search of some piece and quiet.

***

It was raining outside and so Willow decided to say within the hotel. The concierge had pointed her in the direction of a small, secluded bar, that was reserved for special guests. Willow took that to mean guests who were paying stupid amounts of money for their accommodation.

As it turned out, the bar was perfect.  It was at the top of the hotel, affording an incredible view of the twinkling city below, and was empty aside from a barman cleaning glasses and a guy softly playing the piano. Willow ordered a glass of champagne and took a seat next to the window, getting lost in the maze of alleys and lights, wishing that Robert could have been there to share it with her. She took a sip the champagne, the bubbles popping lightly on her tongue as the cool liquid slid down her throat. It should have been a happy moment, but she was overwhelmed by a sadness so exhausting that all she could do was give into it. She been bottling it up for the last few days, trying to keep a happy face on when she was around the others. Out of nowhere, tears sprang to her eyes and she started crying. They weren’t uncontrollable sobs, but delicate hiccups of tears. She cried for Ana’s divorce and Mia’s relationship that seemed destined for failure. And she cried for Robert, her beautiful man who she would never ever see again. She barely even noticed when the pianist stopped playing mid song and walked over to her.

“I’m no concert pianist, but I didn’t think it was that bad,” a kindly American voice said.

Willow smiled thinly. She was not in the mood for small talk. “The playing is beautiful. Please don’t stop.” And please leave me alone.

“Well if it’s not the playing, then is it something else I can help with?”

“No thanks. I’d just like to be on my own.”

“How about another drink?”

“Oh for gods sake,” Willow said angrily. “Can’t a girl cry over her dead boyfriend in peace?” She immediately regretted shouting at the man. He was just the piano player, after all. She softened. “I’m sorry. That was very rude of me. I apologise.”

“No need to apologise,” he said. “I shouldn’t be sticking my nose in other people’s business, but when I see a beautiful girl crying…”

Through her tears,Willow gave him a scathing look.

He laughed. “OK, I get it. At least let me buy you a drink though. To apologise. My girlfriend would never forgive me if I didn’t try to make amends after offending someone.”

Willow sighed. “Oh, OK them. A champagne please.”

A bottle of French champagne appeared at the table minutes later. “They don’t do the really good stuff by the glass,” the man said, shrugging. “You don’t have to finish the whole thing.”

Willow laughed and shook her head. “You may as well join me then,” she said. “I couldn’t bear to see good champagne go to waste.”

***

As it turned out, the man was a very good listener and sat silently while Willow recounted – what felt like – her entire life story. It was so good to talk to someone about it though, someone who didn’t know her or Ana or Mia or Robert or Johnny or Tom. Someone who would just listen and not offer advice.

“I thought that leaving Melbourne would help me forget,” she said after she had been through the entire sage. “But it hasn’t.”

The man took a thoughtful sip of his champagne. “What would you do to make yourself feel better if you were at home?”

“If I was at home?”

“There must be something that you do when you’re feeling sad. Something that you can only do at home. For example, I like to get into my oldest pyjamas and climb into bed with a huge stack of newspapers and a plate of toast and not worry about getting crumbs on the sheets.”

Willow grinned. “Well, if I was at home, I’d bake. I’d keep baking until there was nothing left to bake. Until I’d used every single cup of flour and gram of butter in the house and every single surface was covered in cakes!”

“Baking, eh?” The man smiled at her. “Wait here.”

He sprang up and spoke quietly to the barman who made a phone call and then nodded at the gentleman.

“Follow me,” the man said, waking back towards Willow.

“Where are we going?”

“The kitchen.”

“The kitchen?”

“I know it’s not your own one, but it might help a little,” he said, weaving through a maze of corridors. “Ah-ha. Here we are.”

Another man, dressed in an impeccable black suit, pushed open a door and ushered them into the biggest, shiniest, most beautiful kitchen Willow had ever seen.

“It’s all yours until the breakfast shift, Mr Clooney,” the man in the impeccable suit said as he walked back out.

Willow turned around sharply and looked at the man in front of her carefully. Tall, dark, handsome, well dressed, American…
“Errr… What did you say your name was?” she asked slowly.

“I didn’t, but it’s George.”

“Right,” Willow said, feeling like a prize idiot. “George. As in, George Clooney.”

He shrugged, smiling, and pulled on a white apron. “Tell me what to do, Chef.”

***

Even Willow wouldn’t have been able to bake her way through all the flour and butter that this kitchen had to offer, but she did her best. Hours later, the counters were lined with croissant, cakes, pies and breads. As it turned out, George had proven to be a very good assistant, even licking the mixing bowls clean when she’d made up the batter. Willow hummed happily as she washed up the last of the crockery and put it away.

George yawned. “Well, not even my jet lag is going to keep me awake for much longer, Chef. I think I might turn in.”

Willow looked at the clock. It was nearly time for the breakfast crew to start preparing anyway.

“I might take some of these though,” he said, filling a container with fresh croissant and danish. He winked and gave Willow a small wave as he walked towards the door.

“George?”

He turned.

“Thank you,” she said sincerely.

***

Willow opened the door to her hotel room quietly. She was smiling to herself and for the first time in weeks she felt completely at peace. The TV was still on in the background, both the girls asleep on either ends of the couch.

Ana sat up groggily as she heard the door close.“Whatimeisit?”

“It’s still early,” Willow whispered, so as not to wake Mia. “Go back to sleep.”

Ana stretched and rubbed her eyes. She peered at Willow. “You look different,” she said. “Happy.”

Willow grinned. “You were right,” she said. “All I needed to do was meet George Clooney.”

***

Season 6, Episode 9

June 12, 2012

Ana shoved the rest of her belongings into her handbag and picked up the large bunch of flowers that still sat next to the bed. She looked around the small hospital room to see if there was  anything she’d forgotten. She wasn’t going to miss this place, that was for sure: Bad food; pervasive smell of disinfectant; grumpy nurses. Yep, she sure was glad to be going home.

Home.

Wherever that was.

It was a strange feeling not knowing where you belonged. Up until recently she had been sure of where her home was. It was in Melbourne, with Tom. But now…? Now it was anywhere she wanted it to be. But she wasn’t quite sure if that was a good thing or a bad thing.

The door to the room opened and the doctor walked in.

“I’m glad I caught you,” he said in a friendly tone. “I wanted to say goodbye.”

“I would say it was great to be here,” Ana said. “But, I don’t look forward to coming back anytime soon.”

“I hope not,” the doctor said with brevity. “I sincerely hope you mean that.”

“Of course I do,” Ana said.

The doctor hesitated. “You know there is always help around you if you need it.”

Ana laughed dismissively. “Oh, I don’t need help. I’m fine.”

“Well, if you ever do…” He trailed off as Willow walked into the room.

“Everything OK?” Willow said, concern etched on her face.

“Everything’s fine,” Ana said brightly. “I’m ready to go when you are.” She hitched her bag onto her shoulder and walked past the doctor, out of the room.

***

“What shall we do tonight?” Willow said as they walked slowly towards Ana’s hotel room. “Anything you want.”

“I think I’ll just have a quiet one,” Ana said. “I’m pretty beat. Besides, it’s so nice to have my own room with no nurses coming in every five minutes to check on me.”

“I guess they were just doing their job,” Willow said. “We were all pretty worried about you.”

“I know,” said Ana. “But you really didn’t need to be. The doctors said that there was no long term damage and that I’m right as rain.”

Willow tugged at a loose thread on her t-shirt. “I suppose they weren’t sure… you know…”

“If I was going to kill myself?”

“Well I wasn’t going to put it quite like that, but yeah, I guess so.”

Ana laughed. “Don’t worry. I’m fine.”

“You’d talk to me if you weren’t though?”

“Of course.” Ana stopped outside her door and slid the card into the lock. “I promise, Willow, I’m absolutely fine.”

Willow gave her friend a hug and walked next door to her own room. Ana pulled the door shut and rested against it, closing her eyes, sighing in relief.

Alone, at last.

It felt as though she hadn’t managed any alone time in weeks. She stepped out of her clothes and turned on the shower, letting the hot water rush over her body, steam filling the room. She washed her hair, inhaling the smell of the shampoo. It reminded her of Tom. She was almost certain that it was the same brand that he used. She felt a sudden pang of… regret? Sadness? She hadn’t had time to miss him before now, but it suddenly hit her, and she felt tears well in her eyes and start running down her cheeks, mixing with the shower water. She rinsed her hair quickly and stepped out of the shower, not bothering to dry herself properly, pulling on the hotel bathrobe.
She picked up the phone and dialed Tom’s number. She still knew it off the top of her head.

“This is Tom’s phone.” The voice was light, playful, a hint of laughter around the edges. “Hello? Anyone there?”

Ana heard a small struggle then giggling.

“Give that to me,” Tom’s muffled voice said. The girl laughed again before handing him the phone. “Hello, this is Tom.”

Ana felt her heart skip a beat.

“Hello? Hello? Anyone there?”

“Tom…it’s…it’s Ana.”

The background laughter stopped. Ana could have sworn she heard Tom say “shhhh”.

“Ana! How are you?”

Ana curled the cord of the phone around her fingers. “I’m fine.”

“I haven’t heard from you in ages. Not since… I tried calling you a few times, but you never answered.”

“I’ve been away,” Ana said. “Overseas.”

“But you’re back?”

“Actually, I’m still away,” she said carefully. “Not coming back for a while I don’t think.”

Silence on the other end of the line.

“Tom?”

“Yeah, I’m still here.”

“Oh. Well… how are you?”

“I’m fine,” he said brusquely. He sighed loudly. “Ana, what do you want?”

“I just wanted to say hi,” she said in a small voice. “To see how you were.”

“Well, I’m doing just great,” he said angrily. “You know, the usual. Working too hard. Wife divorcing me. Trying to get on with my life.Nothing out of the ordinary.”

“Who was that in the background?” Ana said, immediately wishing she hadn’t.

Tom sighed again. “That was Carly.”

“Are you… You’re seeing someone?”

“Well… yeah. I guess. I couldn’t wait around for you, could I?” he added defensively.

“No,” Ana said quickly. “I think it’s great. It’s really great.” Tears pricked her eyes again. “Tom, I’ve got to run, but we’ll chat again soon, OK?”

She hung up the phone before he could respond. Her heart was pounding and her mouth was dry. She felt frantic, her breath coming in short, shallow gasps. Without even realising what she was doing, Ana went to the fridge and yanked it open. She pulled out the small bottles of spirits and drank them, one at a time, barely stopping to take a breath. She couldn’t stop crying the entire time.

“I don’t’ want to feel like this anymore,” she whispered to herself between sobs.

She staggered into the bathroom where she’d put her toiletry bag and rifled through it finding what she was looking for. A full bottle of sleeping pills, prescribed before she left, to use for jet lag. She’d hardly had any of them. She popped off the lid, and emptied the pills into her hand.

***

Willow was flicking through television stations when there was a quiet knock on her door. She peered through the peephole. Ana was dressed in a robe, her hair wet, her face red and puffy from crying. Willow pulled open the door and ushered her in.

“What happened?”

“I’m not OK,” Ana said between sobs. “Willow, I’m not OK.”

Willow wrapped her arms around Ana and pulled her close, feeling her body heaving as she sobbed uncontrollably. Willow could smell booze on her breath and saw that, in her hand, Ana clutched a full bottle of sleeping tablets.

“I’m here,” Willow said. “It’s all going to be OK.”

***

Season 6, Episode 8

June 5, 2012

Mia woke with a start, heart hammering, mouth dry. Another nightmare, same as the others: She was trapped in a huge, empty grey house. No matter how hard she tried she couldn’t find a way out. Eventually, she gave up and collapsed on the floor, resigned to the fact she would be alone there, forever.

She sat up in bed, allowing her breathing to regulate and her rational mind to kick in again. The eerie green glow from the bedside clock told her it was 3:14am.

Too early to be awake.

She pulled back the covers slightly from the other side of the bed and felt relief flood through her. Johnny. He was still here. She didn’t know why he wouldn’t be, but she just couldn’t shake the feeling that she was going to lose him.

“I’ve only just got you,” she whispered to the sleeping figure. “Please don’t go away again.”

He rolled over, still asleep, and wrapped his arms around her, pulling her close. Mia smiled and closed her eyes, eventually falling back into a dreamless sleep.

***

“Good morning sleepy head.”

Mia groggily opened her eyes. Johnny was sitting on the edge of the bed, grinning at her. She wiped the sleep from her eyes and stretched.

“What time is it?” she mumbled.

“Nearly ten.”

Mia groaned. “You should have woken me up.”

He leaned down and kissed her gently. “But you look so at peace when you’re asleep,” he whispered. “I couldn’t possibly disturb that.”

His skin felt cool and damp, and he smelled like shampoo with a hint of chlorine. He had nothing but a white towel wrapped around his waist. He’d obviously had his morning swim in the hotel pool and was showered, almost ready to start the day. Mia grinned back at him, a familiar warmth glowing in her chest and, for about the millionth time, marveled at his divine body. Sunlight streaming through the cracks in the curtains emphasised his toned abs and muscled arms. His skin had a hint of golden tan from the times during the last week they’d actually managed to leave the hotel room.

From where she lay, Mia ran a hand lightly over his chest, her fingers tingling where they connected with his skin. She pushed herself up to sitting, the white sheet falling from her naked torso. Johnny leaned forward and gently cupped her breast with his hand, lowering his head and kissing it slowly, seductively. Mia inhaled sharply, feeling her heartbeat quicken and the warmth in her chest spreading downwards. She ran her fingers roughly through his hair, forcing his mouth harder onto her nipples until she couldn’t tell if she felt pleasure or pain. She let out a small moan. Johnny lifted his head, bringing his lips to hers, his hands to either side of her face, kissing her deeply and ferociously.

“I love you so much,” he whispered, between kisses.

Mia gently pushed him away, a smile playing on the corner of her lips. She knelt on the edge of the bed, next to where he was sitting.

“Stand up.”

The towel did little to cover his excitement for her and she tugged it, throwing it to the floor. She roughly pulled him onto the bed, so he was lying on his back, and kissed his toes, his knees, his firm stomach and broad chest. She pinned his hands above his head with her own, straddling him. Very slowly, she slid him into her, moving gently, rhythmically, until neither of them could bare it any longer and they clutched at each other, their bodies convulsing in the most beautiful pleasure they could possibly imagine.

***

The bed was littered with half empty plates from a tapas feast Johnny had prepared. Plump, juicy tomatoes with buffalo mozzarella drizzled in olive oil, warm bread, cured meats and local cheeses. They’d spilled food on the sheets and there were crumbs everywhere.

“It’s the beauty of living in a hotel for a while,” Johnny said, brushing crumbs onto the floor. “We don’t actually have to clean anything up.”

He stroked Mia’s head gently, watching the gentle rise and fall of her chest. She seemed as though she were somewhere else entirely.

“What are you thinking about?” he said gently.

She wrapped her fingers around his, looking thoughtful before answering. “I was just wondering what happened,” she said.

“With what?”

“With you. Why are you here?”

“To see you,” Johnny said. “And Willow and Ana too.”

“But why now?”

He shrugged. “It’s like I said. I didn’t want to live a lie anymore.”

“But what about…” Mia paused. She didn’t really want to bring this up, but she knew they had to talk about it one day. “What about Cecelia?”

“That was never serious,” Johnny said. “I told you. I was just doing it so her family wouldn’t disown her.”

“Does she know it wasn’t for real?”

Johnny hesitated for a second. “Of course.”

“So she knows you’re here? She knows about us?”

“Well… Not exactly.”

“Johnny!”

“What? I didn’t even know there was going to be an us!” he said. “You weren’t exactly forthcoming in your feelings, you know.”

“Can you blame me?” Mia said. “Given everything that I know about you?”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“You’re not exactly a saint, Johnny.”

“That’s not fair!” he protested, sitting up in bed. “So I had a few indiscretions, but I’m here now. I love you.”

“I know you do,” Mia said slowly. “But you’re going to be a father. To another woman’s child. How do you think that makes me feel?”

“How do you think it makes me feel,” he replied, exasperated. “Look Mia, I don’t love Cecelia, I never have and never will. I’ll agree that it’s a fucked up situation, but we’ll make it work. I know we will.”

Mia nodded thoughtfully. “So what happens now?”

“We go home,” Johnny said. “Start over.”

“Home?”

“Yeah, back to Melbourne.”

“But…” Mia’s head reeled. “I can’t go back there.”

“Why not?”

“I don’t have a job, a house…I don’t have anything there anymore.”

“You’ll have me,” Johnny said.

“I know, but…” she trailed off.

“But you don’t know if I’m enough,” he finished bitterly.

“That’s not it at all,” Mia said quickly. “It’s just… well… I can’t be in Melbourne right now. I think it’s important for me – for us – to have a fresh start. To be somewhere without all the… history.”

“It’s a nice dream, Mia,” he said. “But I can’t exactly pack everything in and leave. I have a business, a house. A kid on the way.” As soon as it was out he immediately regretted the last sentence.

“As if I needed reminding,” Mia grumbled. She pushed herself off the bed and pulled on a robe, crossing her arms in front of her chest. “Why can’t we go somewhere new? To give us a real chance?”

“You don’t think we can do that in Melbourne?”

“No,” she said. She looked closely at him. “And I don’t think you do either.”

Johnny stood up, walking over to Mia and putting his arms on her shoulders. “You understand why I can’t leave there though?”

Mia nodded, blinking back tears. “And you understand why I can’t stay?”

Johnny shook his head, his shoulders slumping. “It seems we’re at a stalemate again.”

“It seems so,” Mia said sadly.

Johnny pulled her into his arms again, hugging her tight. “It shouldn’t be this hard, should it?”

No, thought Mia, as tears started to run down her face.

***

Season 6, Episode 7

May 29, 2012

Spaghetti Dreams

Willow saw Mia through the crowd at the airport. She looked tired and – for the first time in her life – older than her thirty two years.

Willow gave her and quick hug. “Have you heard anything else?”

Mia shook her head, her mouth set in a firm line. “I’ve called the hospital, but I thought I’d wait until you got here to head over there.”

“But…she’s…she’s….” Willow gulped. “She’s alive?”

Mia squeezed Willow’s hand gently, offering a small smile. “Yeah, she’s alive.”

***

They followed the nurse down the corridor of the hospital, their shoes squeaking loudly on the floor. Neither of them could believe that they were on her way to an intensive care ward where someone they loved was lying unconscious, barely alive. For Willow especially, it was just a bit too deja vu.

Please don’t let this be Robert all over again, Willow thought to herself. It had been her silent prayer since Mia’s phone call only half a day ago. Half a day. It felt like forever.

The nurse ushered them into Ana’s room quietly. It smelled like disinfectant and stale air; not a happy combination. Mia and Willow clutched at each other as they saw Ana lying, motionless, in the bed. Her head rested on a narrow pillow, her face expressionless. She looked peaceful, calm, almost happy. Crisp white sheets were tucked up to her chest and her arms sat lightly outside the covers, a drip from her hand attached to a machine distributing a clear liquid into her arm. She looked thinner, the hint of a tan the only colour on her otherwise pallid skin.
The room was stark and impersonal. No get well soon cards or other such paraphernalia around the room. Nothing, in fact, that indicated the person there had anyone who loved and missed them.

I’ll have to get some flowers, Willow thought desperately. The thought of Ana waking up and seeing such a cheerless space upset her.

If Ana woke up.

A young doctor arrived, shaking their hands and muttering greetings. His pen had leaked in the pocket of his white jacket and a blue stain was just starting to spread.

“Can you tell us what happened?” Mia said, fighting back tears. She was resolved to remain stoic, given how hard she knew this would be for Willow.

The doctor sighed; a heavy sigh reserved for the most serious medical conditions. “She was fished out of the water the other night by some locals. She was unconscious and not breathing, but she can’t have been under that long as they managed to resuscitate her.”

“She was in the ocean?” Willow said, confused. “In the middle of the night? Alone?”

The doctor nodded.

“Why on earth was she swimming in the middle of the night?”

“She had a large amount of ecstasy and alcohol in her system,” the doctor said. “She might have wandered away from her friends at one of the nightclubs and wound up at the beach. Her clothes and bag were found further down the sand. She could have swum out and got caught in a current, or…”

He didn’t finish the sentence, but they had all been thinking it.

What if she had done this on purpose?

“Suffice to say she’s very lucky to be alive,” the doctor said after a few moments of silence.

“Will she wake up soon?” asked Mia.

“It’s hard to tell,” he said. “She’s experienced significant trauma to her entire body. It was touch and go for a while there, but it seems as though she’s going to pull through.”

“She’s going to be OK?” Willow said in a small voice.

The doctor smiled for the first time. “It would seem so.”

That was the last straw for both the girls who both broke down and started sobbing, hanging on to each other as tears of relief streamed down their cheeks.

“What the fuck are all the hysterics for?” The voice was croaky and faint.

“Ana?” Willow’s mouth dropped open. “Ana!” She rushed to the bed, throwing herself onto her friend. Mia followed suit, taking up the other side of the bed, folding herself on top of Ana and engulfing her in a huge hug.

“You’re squashing me,” Ana said, her voice muffled.

They peeled themselves off their friend, and dragged chairs to either side of Ana’s bed.

“Where on earth am I?” Ana said, looking around. “Why is this room so… depressing? And why am I so hungry?”

***

The girls recounted the events that had led up to this point. They skimmed over some of the details, but they needn’t have bothered. Ana’s memories came flooding back.

“Oh my god, I’m such and idiot,” Ana groaned, holding her face in her hands. “I can’t believe that I did that. What was I thinking?”

Willow shrugged. “I don’t know that you were.”

Ana shook her head, embarrassed. “And Mia. Gorgeous, wonderful Mia. Can you forgive me for the horrible things that I said to you?”

Mia shrugged, grinning. “Forgotten.”

Ana squeezed her hand and smiled at her, mouthing I’m sorry once more.

“Now what about some food?” Willow said. “If you could have anything in the whole world, what would it be?”

Ana pondered the question, a look of intense concentration on her face. “I would have… a huge bowl of fresh pasta, with your homemade tomato sauce, that delicious garlic bread you make with way too much butter, and a mountain of Parmesan cheese!”

The doctor – who was still standing in the room – looked up, a horrified expression on his face.

“But maybe I’ll settle for something a little less… solid for now?” Ana said, grinning at him.

He looked relieved. “I’ll see what I can arrange.” He let himself out of the room, leaving the girls on their own.

“Oh god,” Ana said suddenly. “I have to phone Johnny and tell him what an idiot I am.”

“I’m sure he already knows,” said Willow cheekily.

The door to Ana’s room opened quietly.

“What on earth are you lot going to get up to next?” a voice said.

The girls swung around. Mia froze. Willow jumped up and ran to the door, wrapping her arms around the visitor. “I’m so glad you came.”

“Of course I was going to come. How is the patient?”

Ana smiled and waved from the bed, sheepishly. “On the mend.”

Mia managed to pull herself together enough to stand up, her shaking legs somehow managing to hold her body up.

“Hello Johnny.” Her voice sounded shaky, unsure.

“Hello Mia.”

They stared at each other across the room for what felt like forever before Johnny rushed towards her and pulled her into a tight embrace. He held her trembling body close, stroking her hair as tears streamed down her face.

“Oh Johnny, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry,” Mia said.

He held her face in her hands, looking deep into her eyes. “What are you sorry for?” he said. “I’m the one who should apologise. I fucked up, Mia.”

“You were just trying to do the right thing.”

“I was lying to everyone,” he said. “Especially to myself.” He wiped tears from her cheek. “It’s you I love Mia. Always has been. Always will be.”

He leaned forward and pressed his soft lips onto hers. Mia melted into his strong, warm body, marveling once again at how right they felt. Willow and Ana let out a little cheer.

Johnny broke the embrace for only a second. “I’m never going to let you go,” he whispered into Mia’s ear. “Never again.”

Then he kissed her again.

Season 6, Episode 6

May 22, 2012

Breakfast Breakdown


ONE WEEK EARLIER…

“Where are we going?” Mia said, as the black, shiny limousine – complete with chilled champagne and strawberries – whisked them silently towards the centre of London.

Ana smiled secretively. She’d won an astronomical amount of money playing poker on the plane and obviously had plans on how it was going to be spent. “Have some more champagne,” she said, popping another bottle open.

Mia and Willow shook their heads. They were tired and light headed from the plane trip. Ana was still on her winning high and shrugged, filling up her own glass, and kept the bottle next to her.

***

“I know you were going to shout us breakfast,” Willow said, turning slowly in a circle and taking in the enormous suite that Ana had booked for them at the Langham in Regent Place “but this is…ridiculous! We don’t need to spend this much on a hotel room, surely?”

A flicker of annoyance crossed Ana’s face. “I won the money and this is how I want to spend it.”

The concierge, who had personally showed them straight to their room, cleared his throat.

“If I could just have your credit card,” he said. “I will complete the check-in process for you.”

Ana leant across and whispered to Willow. “Can we use yours? Mine is maxed out and all my money is in cash.”

Willow hesitated, a frown flickering across her face. “How much is it going to cost?”

“I’ll pay in cash when we check out,” Ana said, ignoring her question. “But they need a card to keep on file.”

Willow reluctantly handed her card to the concierge.

“Oh, could you book a table for us in the restaurant for breakfast,” Ana said. “We’ll be down in about thirty minutes.”

“Very good Madam,” he said, slipping silently out of the room.

***

The restaurant was half full when the girls traipsed down, freshly showered and hungry. Ana immediately ordered a bottle of chilled champagne and coffee.

“I feel like eating something fresh. With berries,” she told the waiter, as he opened a bottle of bubbles and filled up three glasses.

“Excellent,” he said. “Shall I leave the chef to recommend a few dishes for you?”

“Fine,” Ana said. “Just bring out whatever is good. We’re starving!”

A younger couple took a table across from them. They looked around at the luxurious surroundings, awestruck. Bright gold bands flashed on their ring fingers. They grinned at each other, and held hands shyly over the table.

Willow leaned in to Mia and Ana. “I bet they got married yesterday,” she said, nodding towards them.

“They’re so cute,” said Mia giggling. “They look so out of their depth.”

Ana took a swig of her champagne and grinned.

“Excuse me,” she called across to them.

The couple looked up, horrified expressions of people who had done something wrong but didn’t know what.

“Did you just get married?” Ana asked them.

“Y…y…yes,” the boy stuttered. “How did you know?”

Ana shrugged. “Wild guess.” She took another sip of her champagne. “Are you having a champagne breakfast to celebrate?”

“Oh no,” the boy said turning bright red. “I don’t think we could aff…”

He received a kick from his new wife under the table.

“Err, I think we’ll just have tea.” he finished uncertainly.

“Nonsense!” Ana called the waiter over. “A bottle of your most expensive champagne for this couple,” she said. “On us.”

***

A breakfast parfait – served in a delicate crystal glass –  of thick, greek yoghurt layered with fresh berries, coconut flakes, honey toasted oats and caramelised nuts was served first.

“And another bottle of champagne,” Ana said as she took a mouthful of the parfait.

“Ana do we really need to drink more?” Mia said, groaning. “I’m tired and already tipsy.”

“Humour me,” Ana said. “We can go straight to bed afterwards. And just think how well we’ll sleep.”

Mia nodded reluctantly and drained her glass as the fresh bottle was bought out.

***

Several bottles later, and all three of the girls were giggling and talking nonsensically. Jetlag and champagne – a wonderful combination.

“Thank god we’re not in Melbourne anymore,” Mia slurred, leaning back in her chair, contentedly drunk.

“Why were you so keen to get out?” Ana asked. “I mean, I’m getting divorced and Willow… well, that was just shit. But what’s your deal?”

Mia regarded her friends. Maybe now was the time to tell them the truth about why she absolutely had to leave Melbourne.

“I thought that I was…falling for Johnny,” Mia announced. “But I was wrong. I just needed to get away and clear my head.” Well, it’s almost the truth, Mia thought.

Ana and Willow looked at her, shocked, for about thirty seconds, before Ana burst out laughing.

“That’s hilarious! You nearly had me there!”

“It’s what happened,” Mia said, puzzled. This wasn’t the reaction she was expecting.

“Yeah right,” Ana said, in between giggles. “You and Johnny? As if!”

Willow regarded Mia closely. “Ana, I don’t think she’s joking.”

Ana wiped her eyes. “You mean… you actually thought… you and Johnny? Our Johnny?”

Mia nodded.

“You haven’t slept with him or anything, have you?”

Mia hesitated. “No,” she lied.

“Well that’s a relief.” Ana filled up her glass. “You’re so not his type. I mean, it would never work.” She looked at Willow. “Right?”

“It’s an unusual couple,” Willow said, carefully, “but, you know, stranger things have happened.”

Ana snorted. “Oh come on! You and I both know that he would eat her alive!”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Mia said, angrily.

“Well, you’re you and Johnny is… well, he’s Johnny. He’s not into girls like you.”

“Girls like me?”

“You know. Good girls. Girls who don’t like to take risks.”

“How would you know?”

Ana rolled her eyes. “Most of Melbourne knows. He’s not exactly a monk.”

“Wait…” Mia’s mouth fell open. “You mean… you’ve slept with Johnny?”

Ana shrugged again. “Sure.”

“What?” Now it was Willow’s turn to be shocked. “When?”

“Years ago,” Ana said. “When we all worked together.”

Silence. “When I was going out with him?” Willow said, icily.

“We were drunk,” Ana said. “It was no big deal. Besides, you always told me that you weren’t officially an item and that you didn’t even really like him in that way.”

“That doesn’t mean it’s OK to just sleep with him!”

“It was ages ago,” Ana said, exasperated. “But my point is that Mia wouldn’t last five minutes in a relationship with Johnny.”

“Well it doesn’t matter anyway,” Mia snapped. “Because he’s marrying someone else.”

Again, Ana and Willow stared at her, speechless.

“I’m calling him,” Ana said suddenly, pulling out her phone.

“No!” You can’t!” Mia tried to get the phone from her, but Ana pushed her hand away.

Johnny answered almost immediately.

“Johnny, are you getting married?”

“What? Who told you that?”

“So you’re not getting married?”

“Ana, who told you I was getting married?” Johnny sounded exasperated.

“Mia did.”

“Mia’s with you? Can I talk to her? I need to… explain something.”

Ana held the phone towards Mia. Mia shook her head. She had tears in her eyes. “Hang up the phone! Please! I can’t speak to him.”

“Why on earth not?” Ana said. Then realisation dawned. “Oh my god, you did sleep with him! And now you’re in love with him!”

“Please hang up the phone.” Mia’s voice was desperate.

Ana ignored her and blasted Johnny down the phone. “Of all the people you could have slept with… Do you love her? Do you even like her?”

Johnny sighed. “Ana, just put Mia on.”

“Well?” Ana demanded. “Do you?”

“What’s it to you?” Johnny snapped.

“I knew it,” Ana said, drunken triumph ringing in her voice. “You’re incapable of loving someone as nice  and normal as Mia.”

“Just let me talk to Mia,” Johnny said, exasperated. “I can expl…”

Mia finally managed to wrestle the phone from Ana and hang up the call.

“I guess it’s better to know now, that he’s not in love with you, right?” Ana said. “Better to know than keep wondering?”

Mia looked shocked and stood up. She fled from the table, tears streaming down her face.

Willow groaned. “Ana, why did you have to say that?”

“It’s the truth,” Ana said, angrily taking another sip of her champagne. “And if she can’t handle it then that’s not my problem.” She turned and pointed a finger at Willow. “And why didn’t you back me up? You know that Johnny wouldn’t be into her. Isn’t that what friends are supposed to do? Tell each other the truth?”

“How’s this for truth then,” Willow said. “You’re being a total bitch and I think you should go and apologise to Mia. Now.”

Ana regarded Willow coolly. She pushed her chair back from the table and stood up, her napkin falling to the floor. She turned and stalked out of the restaurant without a backwards glance.

The waiter – having watched the others leave – walked up the Willow. “Can I get you anything else?”

“Just the bill,” Willow said wearily.

The waiter handed her a shiny leather folder.

Willow’s mouth feel open. “Three and a half thousand pounds!”

She pulled her credit card out. She’d have to get Ana to pay her back later. The waiter disappeared again and Willow stared out of the window, lost in thought. They all needed a good sleep. Things wouldn’t seem so bad then.

A movement outside caught her eye. She saw Ana walk out the front door of the hotel, dragging her suitcase erratically, and hail a cab.

“What the hell…?” Willow stood up, but the cab sped away, with Ana in it.

I guess I’m stuck with the room bill too, Willow thought furiously.

***

Season 6, Episode 5

May 15, 2012

Rice Crispy Forgiveness

Willow wandered through The Lanes, slowly meandering past the quirky stores, buskers and street merchants, selling everything from crazy hats to candy. She liked Brighton a lot. In many ways, it reminded her of Melbourne. The way people dressed, the food they ate, the weather. You could even order a better-than-decent flat white from any number of Australian or New Zealand baristas that had seemingly taken over the coffee making trade here. In and around The Lanes, vintage clothing shops were outdone only by an abundance of cafes, stocked with delectable fresh cakes, salads, soups and breads. It was Willow heaven.

And today, the sun was shining and people were smiling. She’d slept well and only shed a small number of tears for Robert. All in all, it was pretty close to a perfect day.

Almost.

If she could only shake the feeling in the pit of her stomach that she had lost her two best friends. She assumed they were both still in London. She’d heard nothing from Mia, but Ana had tried calling a few times. Willow hadn’t picked up the phone. She needed a few more days to get her head around what had gone wrong before she could face them again; start making (or receiving?) apologies. The whole situation was discombobulating, to say the least.

She felt her phone buzz in her handbag.

Number withheld. She toyed with the idea of not answering it, but decided to be brave. What if it was her parents trying to reach her? Besides, if she didn’t want to speak to the person, she could always pretend the line was bad and hang up.

“Willow, thank christ! I’ve been trying to reach one of you for days!”

The voice was familiar… oh shit. Johnny.

“Hello? Hello? I can’t hear anything. I’m going to have to hang up. It’s a really bad line,” she lied.

“Don’t you dare,” he said, his voice stern. “Remember, I know all your tricks for getting off the phone.”

Busted. “Er…Hi Johnny.”

“Where the hell have you been? I’ve tried calling Mia and Ana about a thousand times, but Mia’s phone is disconnected and Ana isn’t answering.”

Mia had insisted on changing her number as soon as they got to the UK. “Too much emotional baggage with this one,” she’d said lightly. Willow and Ana hadn’t understood at the time.

“Is Mia with you? Can I speak to her?” Johnny said urgently.

“No.”

“Oh come on Willow, I need to talk to her. I need to explain…”

“I’m not sure where Mia is,” Willow said as gently as she could. “But I suspect she’s somewhere in London.”

“London? What the fuck…?”

“Yeah, we all came over as part of our trip.”

“What trip?” Johnny sounded genuinely perplexed.

Willow sighed, realisation dawning. “Mia didn’t tell you we were going, did she.”

“No. She did not.” Johnny’s voice was stony, hurt.

After they’d booked all the tickets, Mia had offered to tell Johnny and a bunch of their other friends while Ana and Willow sorted the logistics. Everyone had popped past to say goodbye and wish them well. Everyone, except Johnny.

“You know what he’s like,” Mia had said, laughing. “Probably shacked up with some girl and forgotten already that we’re going.”
Willow hadn’t thought much about it after that. Too much else to do.

“What the hell is going on Willow?” Johnny said. “I’ve been going crazy since that weird phone call last week.”

The phone call to Johnny. The source of all their problems. Willow explained as best she could what had happened; how what was meant to be a celebratory breakfast had turned into a cat fight, with some pretty wild admissions and accusations.“Is it true?” Willow said. “That you’re getting married?”

Johnny hesitated. “It’s a long story. One that I need to explain to Mia first, OK?”

“OK.” Willow understood. “You really love her don’t you?”

“Yeah, I really do.”

She could hear the goofy grin in his voice.

***

After she hung up the phone, Willow had the desperate urge to be by herself. The Lanes were packed with the lunchtime crowd and she wandered slowly towards the Brighton seafront, wanting nothing more than to look out over the ocean and get lost in her own thoughts. Although the sun was out, there was a cold wind, licking at her hair and giving her goosebumps. She watched as it caught the choppy ocean, sending white spray through the air. Her head was reeling and, before she could stop them, fat tears started rolling down her cheeks. Why had everything come to this? It was meant to be a fun trip, a way for her to forget and move on. Not a way to screw up everything else in her life. She rubbed her nose on her sleeve, sniffing loudly.

“Excuse me.”

She turned to see and elderly gentleman, dressed in an old fashioned suit and tie, complete with hat, holding out a handkerchief to her. In his other hand he clutched a square Tupperware container.

She sniffed again. “I’m OK, thanks.”

“I’ve got another one,” he said. “Take it. Please.”

She hesitated but then took the crisp white linen square, pressing it to her eyes.

“Do you mind…?” he gestured to the seat next to her, sitting down when Willow shook her head.

“I don’t mean to intrude, but I couldn’t help noticing how sad you looked.” His voice was very proper, with a hint of northern England.“I thought perhaps you needed someone to talk to.”

“It’s nothing,” Willow said. “Just a…a silly fight.”

“Ah.” He nodded wisely. “Boyfriend?”

“Two best friends, actually,” Willow said.

He nodded, staring out to the horizon, seemingly lost in his own thoughts.

“Are you from around here?” Willow prompted after a while. It was weird enough taking the old guy’s hanky. She didn’t need him vaguing out on her too.

“I’m from Northampton,” he said. “But I’m meeting my son, David, here today.”

“He lives around here?”

The man hesitated. “I’m not sure, actually. I haven’t seen or spoken to him in twenty years.” He shook his head sadly. “We had a fight and he left. I was too proud to follow him, to apologise for my part in it. An now…now I don’t even know if I’ll recognise him.”

Willow looked awkwardly at her feet, scuffing her shoe on the ground. “I’m so sorry to hear that.”

The man looked wistfully at the horizon again, before pulling himself together. “Oh, now look. I’m being very rude.” He peeled the lid off the Tupperware container resting on his lap and offered it to Willow. “Rice Crispy Treats.”

“I haven’t had those since I was a kid,” Willow said smiling, and taking one of the pieces.

“They were David’s favourite,” he said. “I found the recipe in Mary’s cookbook – God rest her soul – and thought that I’d make them for him.”

“I’m sure he’ll love them.” She took a bite. They were overly chewy and a bit too sweet. “Very good,” she said, smiling encouragingly.

He blushed proudly. “I’m not much of a cook, but these didn’t seem to hard.” He pushed the container towards her again. “Have another, there are plenty.”

Willow took another out of politeness, resting it on her knee. “Do you mind it I ask you a question,” she said.

“Fire away.”

“What made you get in touch with your son again?”

“His wife sent me a letter,” he said. “I didn’t even know he’d got married! Imagine that! She gave me their phone number. ‘Just in case’, she said.”

“And you called him?”

“And I called him.” He leant towards Willow. “My advice,” he whispered, putting the lid back on the Tupperware container. “Pick up the phone. Whatever you fought about, it can’t be bad enough to ruin a friendship, can it?”

Willow took another bite of the rice crispy square. “No, I guess it can’t.”

“Dad?”

Willow and the gentleman looked up. Standing a few feet away was a younger man – a couple of years older than Willow – dressed in jeans and a shirt. The old man pushed himself off the chair staring at the younger version of himself.

“David.” It came out as a whisper. He put his arms towards his son, tears in his eyes. “David!”

The man walked forward and fell into his father’s arms. “Dad!”

They embraced for ages until the old man pulled away, reaching inside his pocket for more handkerchiefs, handing one to his son and dabbing his eyes with another. Apparently he’d come prepared.

“Dad, there’s some people I want you to meet.”

David turned and beckoned to a woman and a small girl who were standing a couple of meters away. The little girl approached slowly, hiding behind her mother’s legs.

“Come on,” said her mother. “Don’t you want to say hello to your grandfather?”

The little girl shook her head and hid further behind her mum.

“Well now,” the old man said, bending down and peeling the lid off the Tupperware. “Why don’t you have a look in here? There might be something for you.”

The child peered cautiously into the box, staying as close to her mum as she could. Her face lit up. “Rice Crispy treats!” she squealed.
She detangled herself from her mother’s legs and gave the old man a hug before filling her fists with as many of the sweet squares as she could manage. The old man turned and winked at Willow, before putting his arm around his daughter in law. The family started walking slowly towards the pier, all talking and laughing at one.

Willow looked down at the handkerchief still in her lap, picking it up and wiping her eyes again.

It was time.

She puled her phone out of her bag. As soon as she did it started ringing. It was Mia.

Weird.

“It’s like you read my mind,” Willow said. “I was just about to call you.”

“Oh Willow!” Mia sounded like she was crying. “Something terrible has happened. It’s Ana.”

***

Season 6, Episode 4

May 8, 2012

Eurail Crème Brûlée
Mia uncomfortably tugged at the too-tight waistband of her jeans as she scanned the selection of food available at the Gard Du Nord cafe. She’d been in Europe for less than a week and voila! Love handle central. She had hoped that her rapid departure from England – on the wonderful National Express bus service, overnight London-Paris (wouldn’t be doing that again in a hurry) – would reverse the kilos that had magically appeared as soon as she stepped off the plane in London. She had been sorely disappointed. Now in Paris, the home of croissant, baguette, fromage and a whole heap of people who dressed well and didn’t seem to ever put on weight, she was rapidly increasing the size of her arse, decreasing the size of her bank account and not managing to forget the things she longed to.

On a whim, she’d booked an overnight train to Berlin. She knew, realistically, that her money wasn’t going to stretch too much further and she’d have to go back to London soon. She just couldn’t face it yet; not at the moment. She assumed Ana and Willow were both still there, the brief phone call with Ana the only contact she’d had with them since the breakfast disaster. She shook her head, trying to get rid of the memories. Even thinking about that morning made her furious. Some friends they were.

She gazed wistfully at the pastry selection in front of her, forcing herself to settle on a sad looking fruit cup containing pale melon and slightly browning apple, for the grand total of…

“Eight Euro!”

Excusez-moi?” The lady behind the counter ambled over.

“Er…nothing…I mean, nada, I mean…” How the hell did you say ‘nothing’ in French?

Mia ran her eyes over the prices of everything else. Why was the sweet, buttery stuff always the cheapest?

She sighed. “Crème brûlée.”

Screw the weight loss. Soon she wouldn’t be able to afford any food at all and then the kilos would just fall off her, no problem. Her stomach grumbled in protest as she shoved the pudding in her backpack. Should save it for later when she was really starving.

***

Mia shifted uncomfortably in her seat, thinking poisonous thoughts about all those people who could afford a bed in the sleeping car. The air was stifling in the carriage, thick with stale sweat and perfume. She felt nauseous, wishing the windows opened. She rested her head against the cool glass and peered into the dark countryside, the landscape rushing past in a blur, illuminated by a bright moon. The man next to her was snoring loudly and had somehow managed to take the entirety of his own seat and about two thirds of hers. She gently nudged his leg but he was out cold.

The train shuddered. The landscape gradually came into focus as the train slowed, eventually coming to a complete standstill. She looked around the carriage, wondering why they had stopped. Everyone else seemed too busy sleeping to notice. Very carefully, she stepped over the man next to her. Shoving her phone in her pocket and picking up the package containing her not-so-healthy dinner, she walked quietly through the carriage full of sleeping people.

At the end of the carriage, one of the doors was ajar. The train had stopped next to a tiny station – it wasn’t even as long as the train. She peered outside and saw a man standing on the edge of the platform, his back to her. The orange glow from a lighter illuminated the air around him as he lit a cigarette. A wooden bench and a dilapidated ticket booth were the only other things on the platform.

Mia glanced around. There didn’t seem to be anyone to stop her, so she squeezed through the door and onto the platform, grateful for the fresh air. The man turned at the noise. She’d seen him earlier – in Paris – as they were boarding. He was about her age, dressed in a scruffy denim jacket and dark jeans. He had a scarf knotted casually around his throat and his hair was cut in the latest fashion. Over his shoulder was slung a canvas bag.

Bonjour.”

Mia nodded in greeting. “Hello. Bonjour.”

He took a long drag on his cigarette, blowing the smoke out slowly. “English? American?”

“Australian.”

His eyes flicked up and down Mia’s body and he nodded in what seemed like approval. He took his cigarettes out of his pocket and offered one to her, shrugging when she declined.

“Jean-Pierre,” he said.

“Mia.”

He took another drag of his cigarette.

“Do you know why we’ve stopped?” Mia said.

“Cows.”

“Cows?”

“Escaped from a pasture. They’re blocking the track up ahead. We’ll be here for a few hours at least.” He spoke almost perfect English, with a lovely, lilting French accent.

“Are we supposed to get off the train?” Mia said, looking around anxiously.

He shrugged. “Why not.”

“Well…maybe we’re not allowed to…?” Mia’s voice trailed off.

“Do you always do what you are told?” Jean-Pierre said.

Yes, thought Mia. Usually. “No.”

Jean-Pierre glanced around. “Come with me,” he said.

He went to the back edge of the platform and jumped down, stretching out his hand towards Mia. She hesitated then lowered herself down. There was an overgrown road leading away from the station but she couldn’t see anything else except flat countryside for miles.

“We’ve got ages,” he said, smiling at her concerned expression and opening his canvas bag. Out of it he pulled a full bottle of whiskey, a plastic cup and a small tin.

“Shouldn’t we wait on the platform” Mia said. “What if the train leaves without us?”

He gave her a withering look. “Relax. We will hear when the train gets ready to move.” He shoved the bottle of whiskey towards Mia, saying “pour,” as he opened the tin and started to roll a joint.

Mia sighed and poured a cup of whiskey. When in France…

***

Half the bottle later, Mia stood up. “I need to pee,” she said, wavering on her feet.

“I won’t look,” Jean-Pierre said, pretending to cover his face.

“Very funny,” Mia laughed. “Come on, we should get back on the train now.”

Jean-Pierre rolled his eyes, but reluctantly stood up. They clambered back onto the station, the whiskey making them giggle like school girls.

Mia looked at the train tracks in front of them. Sobriety rushed through her. “Jean-Pierre, wasn’t there a train here not long ago?”

Jean-Pierre’s mouth dropped open as he looked up and down the empty tracks.

Merde!”

***

“There’s no phone reception,” she said, groaning and putting her head in her hands. She was dangerously close to tears. Everything she owned was on that train, including the rest of her money which she’d stupidly left in a bag next to her seat.

Jean-Pierre didn’t seem to be listening. He pointed to the paper bag that Mia was still holding. “What’s in there?”

Mia had forgotten all about the Crème brûlée. “I guess it’s our dinner,” she said, immensely grateful that she had at least bought that off the train. They wouldn’t starve. She split the dessert and put half in the lid, handing it to Jean-Pierre. He took a bite and promptly spat it out.

“What is this…offense to French cuisine!”

Mia bristled. “Crème brûlée. I got it from the station.”

“No, no, no,” Jean-Pierre said, taking the container from her and throwing it as far away as he could.

“Wait! That’s all I’ve had to eat since breakfast!”

“You would rather starve that eat that,” he said with certainty.

“For your information,” Mia said through clenched teeth, “I would NOT rather starve than…”

He cut her off, handing her the whiskey bottle again. “Drink.”

Mia was about to object, but decided against it. “Oh, Fuck it.” She lifted the bottle to her lips and downed a huge gulp, her eyes burning and her throat scorched by the alcohol. She coughed.

Jean-Pierre nodded satisfactorily and sat down, patting the ground next to him. “When my grandmother makes it she uses fresh eggs and real vanilla,” he said. “And she serves it immediately, not from some paper bag. The caramel is crispy and hot. Not like that rubbish.”

“Please don’t talk about food,” Mia said, her stomach grumbling loudly.

“Suit yourself,” he said. He took the bottle from Mia and had a sip. “What about sex?”

“Excuse me?”

“Well, we should be close together,” Jean-Pierre said. “For warmth.” He took off his jacket and wrapped his arms around Mia, pulling her close. She could smell whiskey and pot on his breath.

“Touch me again and I’ll fucking kill you,” Mia growled, shoving him away.

Jean-Pierre grinned and shrugged. “What is it you say? Can’t hurt for trying?”

He rolled up his jacket to use as a headrest and promptly fell asleep.

***

At some point in the very long, cold night, Mia must have fallen asleep, because when she opened her eyes it was daylight and there was an old man standing over her. He removed his cap and scratched his head, looking very confused.

She shoved Jean-Pierre who woke with a start. He rubbed his eyes.

“He will give us a lift to the town,” Jean-Pierre said, after they’d exchanged a few, fast words in French. “But we have to ride with the chickens.” He pointed towards an old truck, the back stacked with chicken coops.

Mia groaned. Seriously, could this day get any more ridiculous?

As they bumped along the uneven road, Mia could feel her hangover growing worse by the second. Somehow, Jean-Pierre had managed to fall asleep – again – propped up on one of the cages à poules. Opposite, a chicken turned its head quizzically to the side, and stared at her.

“What are you looking at?” she muttered.

The chicken let out a squawk but didn’t look away.

She could feel something vibrating in her pocket. Her phone! She had reception! We must be nearing civilisation, she thought happily, pulling it out of her pocket.

It was Ana again.

She hesitated, but decided to answer. Being stuck in the countryside with a narcoleptic French man, a bottle of whiskey and a some chickens had a tendency of putting things in perspective. Maybe it was time to forgive her friend.

“Hi Ana.”

There was a pause at the other end of the phone and then a man’s voice spoke. “We are trying to find a family member of Ana.”

Mia’s heart skipped a beat. “I’m her sister,” she said, not exactly sure why felt the compulsion to lie.

“This is Detective Gomez.” A sigh. “I’m afraid I have some bad news.”

***

Season 6, Episode 3

May 1, 2012

Burgers and the Beach

The whiskery snoring next to her right ear stirred Ana from the clutches of the confused sleep she had fallen into at some point only a few hours ago. Her head was pounding mercilessly and she groaned, keeping her eyes squeezed shut, as though opening them was an acceptance of how horrible she was really feeling. Perhaps that final drink last night (whatever it might have been) hadn’t been such a great idea? She tried to swallow, but her mouth felt like an overzealous dental assistant had been let loose in it with one of those saliva draining machines.

After a little while of willing herself – unsuccessfully – to fall back asleep, she eventually dragged one eye open, closely followed by the other, and blinked a few times to get her bearings. A movement on the other side of the bed startled her, and she saw a broad, tanned back wrapped in the white sheets.

Who the fuck is that? She thought to herself. She glanced around the room. Unfriendly sunlight was seeping through cracks in the curtains that had been carelessly drawn. And where the fuck am I?

Patchy memories came wafting back. A huge club. Thousands of people. Too much booze. Lots of girls in white bikinis.
She groaned, the same sinking sensation she’d had every morning for the last week filling her stomach.

Ibiza.

She wondered again which part of her had thought it was a good idea to come here in the first place. The part that needed to get the fuck out of London, she reminded herself, and away from Mia and Willow.

But, there was no time to dwell on that now. Right now, she had to focus on getting out of here without waking up whoever that was, and back to her own hotel to take some aspirin and go back to sleep.

She pushed herself slowly up on to her elbows, making as little movement as she could. On the bedside table, an empty bottle of cheap whiskey was keeping three shot glasses company.

“What the hell did I do last night?” she mumbled to herself, wiping the dried saliva off the side of her face. She really hoped it was hers.

Her stomach, which up until that point had been surprisingly placid, gave an alarming lurch and the contents – which she assumed to be whiskey and not much else – threatened to make a hasty exit through her oesophagus. She took a few deep breaths to steady herself before swinging her feet underneath her, grateful for the solid floor. She was relieved to see an empty condom wrapper discarded on the ground…wait, make that….four condom wrappers…?

“What the hell didn’t I do last night?” she mumbled again, quite glad at this point she couldn’t remember.

A noise in the en-suite startled her. She flung herself back into bed and did her best I’m-fast-asleep impression. She heard footsteps approach the bed and then a rush of cold air as the covers were pulled back and the person gently climbed in. She could smell toothpaste and his body – for she could ascertain it was a he – felt damp.

She groaned inwardly. Three shot glasses. Of course.

It took, what seemed like, an eternity for his breathing to regulate. She poked him with her elbow to make sure he was asleep. He whimpered quietly, rolled over and farted.

It’s now or never, thought Ana.

She held her breath and very slowly made her way under the covers towards the end of the bed, breaking through the wall of tangled duvet and the stench of something ungodly. She found her clothes scattered around the room, her underwear hanging from a light shade, her shoes in the garbage bin. They all smelt like stale alcohol and BO. She gave one last glance towards the two beaus and silently exited the room.

***

Freshly showered, and back in her own hotel room, Ana stared at the screen of her mobile phone. Pride had stopped her from calling Mia or Willow up to this point, but she figured she didn’t really have any of that left anymore. Taking a deep breath she dialed Mia’s number.

“It’s Ana.”

Mia took a deep breath. “What do you want?”

“I…I…” What did Ana want? Forgiveness? “I just wanted to say hi,” she said eventually.

“I don’t really want to speak to you at the moment,” Mia said, her voice icy.

“Mia, I’m sorry,” Ana said. “I didn’t mean what I said…”

“Yes you did,” Mia snapped. “And as usual, you didn’t really think about how your opinion might hurt other people.”

That stung.  “That morning, I’d had a lot to drink,” Ana said feebly. “I didn’t know what I was saying.”

“Yes you did,” Mia said. “You always know what you’re saying.” She paused, sighing into the phone. “Ana. I really don’t want to speak to you for a while. Please leave me alone.” She hung up.

That went well, Ana thought to herself bitterly. She hadn’t thought what she did was that bad.

She dialed Willow’s number next, hoping for a less icy reception. No Answer. She tried again, in case Willow had just missed it. Nothing. She tried four more times, getting increasingly desperate, but Willow was not picking up the phone.

Ana felt tears well in her eyes. If only she hadn’t won all that money on the stupid poker game. If only they hadn’t gone for a champagne breakfast. If only she hadn’t had quite so much to drink. If only she’d kept her stupid mouth shut. If only…if only…

Ana curled up into a little ball on her bed and cried herself to sleep.

***

When she woke it was nearly 10pm. She could hear the distant thud of bass and the shouts and laughter as people wandered around the streets. This was the time when the town came to life.

Ana dragged herself out of bed and went straight to the mini-bar. She felt like drowning her sorrows. Again. She scowled at the empty fridge, remembering the ‘do not disturb’ sign she’d hung on the door earlier. Pulling on some clothes, she padded down to the bar, ordering a martini. She realised she hadn’t eaten anything since…she didn’t even know when, and picked the first thing on the bar menu.

She sat at the bar methodically sipping her drink. The food arrived: Mini sirloin burgers with Stilton cheese and onion jam. She nibbled tentatively on an edge. They were incredibly delicious – tender and juicy, with the perfect balance of rich, creamy cheese and sweet onion jam. Her stomach growled with hunger and she wolfed them down, feeling immeasurably better by the mouthful. The martini was doing it’s job too, relaxing her, making her not care so much.

“You here alone?”

Ana turned to see who had spoken. He was tall, tanned and gorgeous, his copper eyes flecked with gold and a sexy smile on his face.

Ana nodded, smiling back.

“We’re going clubbing,” he said, pointing to a group of friends. “You should come with us.”

Ana shrugged. Why not? She finished the last of her drink, delicately wiped her mouth with a serviette, and left the hotel lobby with her new friends.

***

“…so, I’m getting divorced, and now my best friends won’t talk to me,” Ana shouted over the music. “My life is officially shit!” She downed the last of her vodka and red bull and waved to the barman for another. The rational part of her knew she should slow down – the room was already spinning – but she dismissed it and finished half of her fresh drink in one gulp.

The guy – Jack? Jim? She couldn’t remember – smiled at her. “Sounds awful,” he said, stroking her hair. “But I’ve got something that might help.”

He reached into his pocket and produced a small plastic bag full of little pills.

“What are they?” Ana shouted.

“They’ll make you forget,” he said, taking one of the tablets and placing it on her tongue. It tasted sour, chemically. She swallowed. He smiled again and leant forward, kissing her deeply. Ana closed her eyes. Try to forget, try to forget, try to forget.

***

Ana looked around the dance floor, momentarily wondering where her new friends had gone. The lights above were bright and colourful and there were people everywhere; touching, laughing, dancing. Everything was blurry. Out of the corner of her eye, she caught a fleeting glance of Mia, disappearing into the sea of people. Ana craned her neck, searching the crowd desperately for the familiar face, but it had gone. Then she thought she saw the back of Willow’s head, but it too was swallowed up by the mass of sweaty bodies,

Why does everyone keep leaving me? she thought desperately, searching around for someone – anyone – she knew.

A wave of nausea hit her and she felt suddenly claustrophobic and needed to get out. She pushed her way through the people and outside, gulping fresh air.

“You OK?” A bouncer came up and put his hand on her shoulder.

Ana nodded and brushed him off. She needed to be alone. She stumbled down the street, oblivious to the curious glances she was getting from passers by.

Water, she thought to herself, I need water. She turned up a side street and saw the ocean sparkling in front of her, the clear water glistening in the light of the moon. She stumbled forward onto the sand, kicking off her shoes. She stretched her arms out wide, bathing in the glow of the night. There was not another soul to be seen. She closed her eyes, listening to the gentle lull of the waves as they broke on the shore. The soothing sound was interrupted by the faint thud of music in the distance. Ana frowned. A moment of clarity.

I need to get away from here, she thought to herself suddenly. Now.

She scrunched her toes into the sand and looked out to the vast expanse of the ocean. She smiled.

Of course.

Peeling off her dress she started to wade out into the water, further and further, until her feet didn’t touch the ground and she was nothing but an insignificant white speck – a trick of the eye – from the shore. She shut her eyes and let the water close around her.

Peace, at last.

***

Seaon 6, Episode 2

April 24, 2012

Mia drained the last drop of champagne from her flute and set it on the table, sighing contentedly. “Another?”

“I’ll go,” Ana said, standing up. “You went last time.”

“Get snacks too,” Willow called after her.

The three of them were sitting the business class lounge waiting for their flight to be called. The lounge was fairly quiet, a couple of people plugged into their laptops desperately trying to finish off last minute reports, and a group of three guys who had been monopolising the space by the bar for ages. Willow, Mia and Ana had made a snap judgement that they were arrogant, misogynistic losers, which was confirmed as soon as Ana returned with the champagne glasses balanced in one hand and a plate of crackers and goats cheese in the other. She was fuming.

“That guy just said to me ‘great legs, what time do they open’.”

Mia and Willow turned around subtly to get a better look at the guy, feeling justified in their previously unfounded assumption of him.

“Oh my god. I know him,” said Willow, taking a bite of the luscious, creamy cheese. “I mean, I don’t know know him. But I recognise him. He’s that actor who was in that bad dance movie – about the girl who falls in love with the guy from the wrong side of the tracks. You know the one.”

She received blank stares from the others.

“Oh come on,” Willow exclaimed. “You know it. We watched it together. In the end they save the dance school and her parents finally accept him and they win the competition.”

“Willow, you’ve just described every dance movie ever made,” Mia said.

“Yeah, but this was the really bad one.”

“Oh, I remember that one,” Ana said. “It totally sucked. In fact, it might have been the worst movie I’ve ever seen.”

“I read that he only got cast in it because his mum is some big-time producer,” Willow said in a low voice.

“Well he couldn’t dance, act or sing,” said Ana, “so I suppose that explains it.”

“Shit,” Mia said, ducking. “Don’t look. He just caught me staring.”

Of course, Ana and Willow immediately swiveled around in their seats and stared directly at him. They saw him nudge his friends, pick up a fresh glass of champagne and saunter over to where the girls were sitting.

“I noticed you were staring at me,” he said, a playful grin on his face.

“We were looking out the window behind you,” said Ana. “There was a… er… plane that was interesting.”

Blake laughed. “It’s OK. You recognised me. I get it all the time.”

“No we didn’t,” said Ana stubbornly, crossing her arms across her chest. “Should we have recognised you? Are you famous?”

“I’m an actor,” he said.

“What have you been in?”

“Oh, a few big movies,” he said waving his hand dismissively.

Ana smirked. Obviously he realised how bad the dance movie had been too.

“I’m Blake,” he said, sitting down uninvited on the couch next to Ana. The two friends stood behind him, looking menacing.

“Ana,” she said reluctantly, shaking his hand with disdain.

“That’s Chuck,” he said pointing to one of the silent friends, “and that’s Norris. They’re my bodyguards.”

Mia suppressed laughter by faking a spontaneous coughing fit.

“Willow and Mia,” Ana said. “They make sure I don’t get accosted by losers at airports.”

Blake threw back his head an laughed. “Hard to get. I like that.”

Ana went red. “I’m not playing hard to get, I’m genuinely…”

She was cut off by an announcement over the loud speaker, asking Blake to come to the first class lounge.

“Meeting the pilot,” he said. “Apparently he’s a huge fan.”

Blake stood up and blew Ana a kiss, walking away before she got a chance to give him a piece of her mind.

“I swear,” she muttered, “if those… idiots… are sitting near us on the plane I am switching to economy.”

***

Ana craned her neck from her seat to see if she could see Blake and his ‘friends’. Thankfully she couldn’t. She let out a sigh of relief and settled back into the huge seat, closing her eyes and waiting for take-off.

“Excuse me.”

Ana opened her eyes.

“A gentleman in first class wondered if you and your friends would like to join them after take-off,” a pretty flight attendant said, almost apologetically.

Ana groaned.

“They wanted me to let you know you could be a good luck charm for their in-flight poker game.”

“Good luck charm?” Mia chipped in. “That’s outrageous! What makes them think that we want to sit there and watch a boring game of poker while they oggle…”

“We’re in,” Ana said, cutting her off. “On one condition.” She paused, a smile curling her lips. “That I can play.”

***

As soon as the seatbelt sign was off, the flight attendant led them upstairs to the first class private suites, where Blake and another couple of men in sharp suits were already seated at a round table. Their various entourages stood back, looking bored. Chuck and Norris were drinking beer and trying to get the attention of a very striking woman who was busily writing something on a laptop and ignoring them. Blake didn’t bother introducing anyone.

“So you want in,” he said coyly. “Have you ever played poker before?”

Ana cocked her head to one side and twisted a piece of hair around her finger. “It’s the game where you put bets and have to guess what other people have?”

Blake smirked and the other two men ducked their heads so she wouldn’t see the laughter in their eyes. They was going to enjoy taking her money.

“That’s the one, sweetheart,” Blake said. “It’s ten thousand buy in. Still interested?”

Ana nodded. “I don’t have the cash on me though.”

“Got a bank card?”

Ana paused and nodded again.

“She can do the transaction for you,” said Blake nodding towards the woman with the laptop.

“Willow, can I use your card,” Ana said quietly. “I don’t have enough in my account.”

“You’ve got to be joking,” Willow hissed. “Ten grand? No way!”

“Please,” she whispered. “I’ll pay you back. Promise.”

***

Willow and Mia watched horrified as Ana lost pile after pile of chips. The other players didn’t say much – preferring to sip their whiskey and play in silence – but the girls could see them smirking to themselves, wondering why such a pretty – but obviously stupid – woman would want to play poker against pros like themselves.

“I’m going to kill her,” Willow said though clenched teeth, glaring at Ana.

Ana looked up and gave Willow and almost imperceptible smile and a nod of the head.

“Your deal,” Blake said, giving Ana the cards.

The three men, Willow and Mia looked in obvious surprise on as Ana began to distribute the cards as efficiently and effectively as a Vegas dealer. Blake glanced at his hand and shoved a huge pile of chips into the centre of the table, smiling confidently. The other two men folded. Ana looked at her cards and pushed everything she had left into the centre, rapping the table with her knuckles. Call.

Blake turned his cards over, smiling. He had a full house. Ana frowned, and Blake started pulling the chips towards him.

“I don’t think so,” she said, slapping her cards down, face up. “Four of a kind.”

***

The rest of the game was fantastic. Ana ditched the ditzy schoolgirl persona and showed her true colours as a serious card shark. She won every single hand and fairly soon controlled the majority of the chips. Willow and Mia were laughing and high-fiving each other, watching on in delight as the three men squabbled, not understanding how this girl was getting the better of them.

“You’re a lying bitch,” Blake snarled. “You said you’d never played before.”

“No I didn’t,” said Ana, as she placed a straight flush face up. “And that, gentleman, is the game I believe.” She scooped up the huge pile of chips in front of her. “I’d like to cash out now.”

Blake scowled and downed the rest of his whiskey. He muttered something derogatory under his breath, but nodded towards the laptop woman, who handed Ana several wads of cash.

“Well Blake,” Ana said, standing up from the table. “I suppose you’ll need to call your mummy and see if she can get you cast in another truly terribly dance movie in order to pay for your losses tonight.”

Blake visibly brightened. “Ha! I knew you recognised me,” he shouted after Ana as the three girls left the cabin.

***

A few hours later they landed at Heathrow airport. Ana linked arms with her friends as they stepped out into an unseasonably sunny London morning.

“Well ladies,” she said. “Breakfast is on me.”