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Archive for July, 2011

Sticky Rice and Mango

July 28, 2011


Although Mango isn’t readily available in Australia during Winter, you could serve this sweet, sticky rice with your favourite poached fruit (for example, pears poached in red wine) for a perfect winter desert.

Serves 2-4.

1 cup sticky rice (available at Asian food stores)

1 3/4 cups water

1-2 ripe mangos, cut into bite-size pieces

1/4 cup + 1 Tbsp. brown sugar (for a natural sweetener substitute maple syrup)

1 tin coconut milk or cream

1/4 tsp

1 tsp vanilla essence

2 tsp cornflour, dissolved in 2 Tbsp water.

Soak the rice in 1 cup water for 20 – 60 minutes (longer is better, but if you’re short on time then 20 is fine). The sticky rice can be steamed or made in a pot. To make it in a pot: add 3/4 cup (more) water to the rice, plus 1/4 can coconut milk, 1/4 tsp. salt and 1 Tbsp. brown sugar. Stir this into the rice, lifting any rice grains that have stuck to the bottom of the pot. Bring to a gentle boil, then partially cover with a lid (leaving some room for steam to escape). Turn the heat down to low. Allow to simmer for 20 minutes, or until the water has been absorbed by the rice. Remove the pot from the heat, place the lid on tight, and leave to “steam” cook for 5-10 minutes.

Warm the rest of the can of coconut milk together with 1/4 cup sugar, a pinch of salt and 1 tsp. vanilla essence over medium heat (5 minutes). Add cornflour (dissolved in the water) to the sauce and stir to thicken it slightly. As it thickens, turn down heat to low. When thickened, remove from heat. Do not boil! Adding more sugar if desired. If too sweet for your taste, add a little more coconut milk. Place a potion of rice in a small bowl and top with Mango and sauce. Enjoy!

Season 3: Episode 8

July 26, 2011

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

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

“John,” he said.

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

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

“Uh, sure. OK”, said Mia hesitantly.

“Great. That’s just great. Thanks.”

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

Perhaps not so similar to Johnny, after all?

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

She could tell that he meant it too.

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

***

Hi Ana and Willow!

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

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

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

“You ready?”

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

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

 

 

Fresh Mango, Pineapple, Lime and Chilli Smoothie

July 21, 2011


Mia became addicted to these on holiday in Bangkok. You can recreate them in your own home though for a tropical getaway without leaving the house!

Serve morning or afternoon as a refreshing treat. Serves 2

1 x cup fresh mango

1 x cup pineapple, diced with core removed

Juice of 1 lime

1/4 tsp grated ginger

1/2 chilli, seeds removed, chopped finely

1/2 handful fresh mint

1 cup ice

In a blender put all ingredients and blend until smooth. Serve immediately.

Season 3: Episode 7

July 19, 2011

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

Hello to my two favourite ladies!

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

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

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

Miss you!

Mia xxx

Ps: Ana, give my love to Tom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

“Hello again.”

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

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

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

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

He was the absolute spitting image of Johnny.

 

Parsnip and Lemon Soup

July 14, 2011


It may sound unusual, but this soup is really truly delectable. Even if you’re not a fan of the humble parsnip, the lemon and sour cream give it a beautiful flavour that will leave you wishing you’d made double the amount!

Serves 4-6.

2 tblspn olive oil

1 onion, sliced

1 leek, sliced

2 sticks celery

1 clove garlic, crushed

4 small parsnips (2 large), chopped

1 cm slice ginger, roughly chopped

1.25 litres chicken or vege stock

1/2 lemon

2 bay leaves

Sour cream

Salt and pepper to taste

In large saucepan heat oil and cook onion, leek, celery, garlic, parsnip and ginger for 5 mins. Pour in stock and add lemon half and bay leaves. Cook for 20-25 mins until vegetables are soft. Remove lemon half and bay leaves and puree until smooth. Serve into bowls and add a dollop of sour cream and black pepper to each. Enjoy!

Season 3: Episode 6

July 12, 2011

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

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

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

Mia nodded. “Sure.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Johnny answered on the second ring.

“Mia?”

“Hi Johnny. I have…”

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

Mia glanced at Ana who was looking at her expectantly.

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

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

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

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

“You want me to come over tonight?”

“Ana does,” Mia said between clenched teeth.

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

“No, Ana’s having a dinner party.”

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

“No, you should come.”

Ana was straining to hear parts of the conversation.

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

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

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

“Why would I be mad with Ana?”

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

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

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

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

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

“Err, absolutely. See you tonight!”

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

Mia nodded.

“Oh goody. This is going to be fun.”

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

***

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

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

“Ahem. We have an announcement to make.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

 

Hottest Chocolate

July 7, 2011


Nothing is as warm and satisfying on a blustery winter day as a Hot Chocolate. Willow got this recipe from her friend Chloe Rose. Too delicious!

Serve with Marshmallows or whipped cream. Serves 3.

4tbs Cocoa

4tbs Caster sugar

3 cups milk

8 squares bitter dark chocolate (the 80% stuff)

1 Red chili, crushed with the back of a wooden spoon

Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

Mix everything in a deep saucepan and simmer until the milk is hot and the chocolate melted (make sure the milk doesn’t boil over). Remove chili and serve.

Season 3: Episode 5

July 5, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Bed?” He asked, stretching his limbs.

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

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

**

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Hello?”

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

“Yes?”

“This is Robert Fortescue.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He cut the line suddenly and was gone.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Willow accepted the flowers speechlessly.

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

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

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

“Sign here please.”

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

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

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

“So, will you have dinner with me?”

She could hear the laugher in Robert’s voice.

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

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

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

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

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

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

This time she hung up the phone first.