Tales of food, sex and friendship




Archive for February, 2012

Season 5: Episode 7

February 27, 2012

Mia slammed the door behind her, hands shaking. She felt sick. Gulping lungfuls of air, she closed her eyes trying to rid her brain of the horrible encounter she’d just had. How could he? And with Sarah? With any other guy she could easily believe such infidelity. In her – quite limited – experience men were nothing but lying, cheating assholes… but Tom? He had been the ultimate pin-up husband as far as they were all concerned. He’d been supportive of Ana’s delusions way past the point Mia and Willow had been. They didn’t blame him for wanting a break from her. Ana was the one they thought had lost the plot, constantly talking about how Sarah was scheming to steal her husband.

It was starting to look as though Ana had been right though.

Mia walked out of the gate, her mind still reeling. Her immediate instinct was to call Ana, but she paused. Should she tell her? This would surely mean the end of Ana and Tom forever. Did she want to be responsible for such a monumental break up? Her hesitation was only momentary. Ana had a right to know and if Tom was going to be stupid enough to shag someone in – of all places – Ana’s house, then he was really asking to be caught.

If it was me I would want to know, Mia thought as she dialled Ana’s number.

Ana answered on the third ring. She sounded as though she’d just woken up. Mia could almost hear her heart breaking as she told Ana what she’d seen.

“Are you OK?” Mia said gently after Ana had been silent for about fifteen seconds.

“Fine,” said Ana. “I’m fine. Really.”

Then she started sobbing.

Mia glanced at her watch. Shit. She was already running late, but work would just have to wait. This was way more important.

“I’m coming over,” Mia said.

“Thank you,” said Ana, between sobs.

***

The cab had just pulled up outside Ana’s parent’s house when Mia’s phone rang again. She looked at the caller ID. Work. She took a deep breath before answering.

“We were just wondering if you were planning on gracing us with your presence this morning?” Felicia, her boss, inquired cooly.

“I’m so sorry,” Mia said. “A friend is going through a rough time and…”

Felicia cut her off. “That’s a new one.”

Mia gulped.

“Last week it was family drama and the week before… a death in the family wasn’t it?”

Mia cursed inwardly.

“If I’m not mistaken these are all metaphors for a hangover?”

“No! My friend has just…”

Felicia cut her off again. “Mia, I thought we’d talked about this. I expect to see you walking through this door in under an hour, understand?”

Mia agreed and hung up. An hour would give her enough time to see Ana, have a cup of tea with her and then grab another cab to work.

She was surprised to see Ana so calm when she answered the door, the only sign of the earlier hysterics were slightly red eyes. She followed Ana through the grand entrance hall – complete with indoor tropical forest – into the huge, modern kitchen. Mia had been there a couple of times before, but was still awestruck by the huge mansion that Ana’s parents called home.

“Breakfast?”

“Sure,” said Mia feeling suddenly very out of her depth. These situations made her uncomfortable and she had no idea what to do or say. It was a shame that Willow wasn’t here. She was so much better at dealing with stuff like this.

Ana switched on the custom espresso machine and the rich smell of coffee wafted through the kitchen. She toasted some homemade crumpets, smothering them with butter and jam.

They ate slowly and in silence. Mia was sure that the crumpets and coffee were delicious, but she couldn’t taste a thing. Ana’s calmness was making her even more uneasy. She glanced at the clock wondering how soon she could leave. It wasn’t that she didn’t want to help her friend. It was just, well, she didn’t know what to do.

“Mia,” Ana said, turning to her. “Can I ask you a huge favour?”

“Anything,” said Mia, grateful that Ana had broken the silence.

“I want you to watch something with me,” she said. “I’m… I’m not proud of this but…”

“But?”

“I don’t think I can look at it alone.”

Mia had no idea what on earth she was talking about, but obediently followed Ana to the guest wing of the house. She would watch whatever Ana wanted her to, then rush to work. Fine.

Ana had her laptop set up on a large mahogany desk. She typed in a web address and a picture appeared on the screen. It was a grainy picture of a bedroom and there was someone asleep in the bed.

“That looks exactly like Sar… I mean, your old room,” Mia said. She peered closely at the screen. “Wait, that is your old room!”

Ana nodded.

“How do you have a picture of your room?”

Ana didn’t say anything and clicked on a link. The picture changed slightly. It was still Sarah’s room, but this time it was empty. A small set of numbers in the corner indicated that this footage was from the previous day.

“You put a camera in her room,” Mia said, her heart sinking. This wasn’t going to help Ana’s case one little bit. If she confronted Tom about it, he would probably accuse her of spying and Sarah would undoubtedly go to the police this time. Having sex with someone else wasn’t a criminal act; setting up a hidden camera was.

All thoughts of getting to work on time vanished and Mia watched, horrified, as Ana started fast forwarding through the video. She stopped when Sarah came into the room and started getting changed. Mia looked away, embarrassed, as the image of Sarah admiring herself in the mirror dressed only in lingerie appeared on the screen.

“I knew it,” Ana said under her breath. “The lingerie.” She froze the video and Mia looked at the flicking girl in front of them. She was dressed in some dark coloured underwear, but the image wasn’t clear enough to prove it was the exact set that Ana accused her of buying with the stolen credit card. At least, Mia didn’t think so. The video started again and they watched as Sarah pulled on a white shirt and jeans, throwing her head forward to muss up her hair.

Ana fast-forwarded again until they saw the door swing open. This time there were two people on the screen. Sarah and Tom. Mia heard Ana inhale sharply as the couple on the screen embraced passionately.

“You don’t have to do this,” Mia said gently. “We know what’s going to happen. Isn’t watching it going to make it worse?”

Ana didn’t reply.

Sarah pushed Tom onto the bed. He lay perfectly still – like he was asleep – and she pulled off her shirt and sat next to him. She put her hand on his chest and ran it down to her belt buckle, slowly undoing it. All of a sudden, Tom leapt up and pushed Sarah off him. He was a bit wobbly on his feet and there was no sound, but the wild gesticulating indicated he was furious with her. As soon as he started though, he seemed to lose steam and collapsed back on the bed. Sarah poked him and he pushed her hand away. She went out of the room and came back a few minutes later with a bottle of wine, a glass and her handbag. They watched as she poured the wine and then pulled a small bottle out of her bag, glancing at Tom to make sure he wasn’t looking before putting some of it in the drink. He sat up in bed and obediently drank the wine before falling back down, dropping the glass in the process.

“That… that… bitch!” Mia said, her mouth falling open. “Did you see that? She drugged him! She put something in his drink!”

Ana nodded grimly. This wasn’t what she’d been expecting either. It was better in some ways, but so much worse in many others.

The rest of the video played out much as they expected: Tom lying passed out on the bed, still mostly clothed, as Sarah tried everything she could to rouse him. Eventually, she settled for tugging his clothes off, placing them strategically around the room for that flung-off-in-passion look and climbed into bed. She read a book for about thirty minutes before turning the light off and falling asleep.

Ana closed her laptop screen. Her hands were shaking slightly and her mouth was set in a firm line.

“You can’t let her get away with this,” Mia said. “What are you going to do?”

“I don’t know,” said Ana. “I really just don’t know.”

Oysters with Chilli and Lime

February 23, 2012

Nothing beats sitting outside on a warm summer evening with a crisp bottle of white and a dozen oysters. Bliss.

A dozen oysters

1 large red chilli

1 tspn honey

2 tbsp lime juice

1/2 tspn lime rind, finely grated

1 tbsp lemon juice

1 tspn fish sauce

pinch of salt

Remove the seeds from the chilli and finely slice it. Mix this together with the rest of the ingredients and refrigerate for a couple of hours, to let the flavours combine. Serve each oyster in its shell with some of the sauce on top.

Season 5: Episode 6

February 21, 2012

The elevator doors slid open and Sarah walked in, her heels clicking against the stone floor. She was early today and the lift, which was usually full of people, only had one other occupant.

“Ninth floor, isn’t it?”

“It is,” Sarah said, surprised, turning to the gentleman who had spoken.

“I work on the fifteenth. Lawyer.” He grinned, half apologetically, half proudly. “I’ve seen you around.”

“Oh?” Sarah raised a carefully manicured eyebrow. She liked this game. He was undeniably handsome and had the self confidence that came from wearing a perfectly tailored suit and expensive aftershave.

They stared at the changing numbers above the door, casting sidelong glances and pretending to ignore each other until the lift reached Sarah’s floor. She gave him a smile before turning to walk towards her office.

“Hey,” he called after her, “do you want to get a drink tonight?”

She looked back to see his foot jammed against the door to stop it closing. “Sorry,” she said. “I’m actually seeing someone.” Or at least I will be soon, she thought, as soon as he gets over his bitch of an ex.

The guy shrugged and grinned easily again. Sarah noted he didn’t let the door close straight away, and she could feel his eyes on her as she sashayed down the hall in her figure-hugging tailored skirt and shirt. A smile played around the corners of her mouth, knowing that her strategically chosen outfit was doing its job.

All she had to do now was get the person she wanted to notice her to see it.

***

She stuck her head into Tom’s office before going to her own desk. She knew he’d be there. He was always there.

“You look exhausted,” she said.

“Haven’t been sleeping well,” Tom said, rubbing his eyes.

She noted the three empty coffee cups already on his desk. “What’s up?” she said lightly, knowing exactly what it was. Always the same shit. Ana, Ana, fucking Ana.

“I don’t know,” he said, sighing. “This whole Ana situation… I just don’t know if I’m doing the right thing.”

Sarah feigned concern and, gritting her teeth, made an appropriate generic comment. She’d run out of original things to say on this particular topic a while ago. It dawned on her that Tom was never going to realise everything he needed was right in front of him.

I think it’s time for a little… encouragement, she thought.

“Tell you what,” she said. “Everyone is out tonight. You should come over and I’ll cook you dinner. You can have a few drinks and relax. Take a night off being stressed.”

“I don’t know,” Tom said. “I’m not great company at the moment. I’m sure you’re sick of listening to me whinge”

“Of course not,” Sarah said. “After all, isn’t that what friends are for?”

“Well…”

“I won’t take no for an answer,” she said. “Come at seven. We’ll have fun, I promise.”

***

Sarah turned back and forth in front of the mirror. The La Perla black lace underwear set caressed her soft curves. She was relieved that she had been wearing the underwear the day Ana decided to ransack her room. Ever since then she’d kept it very carefully hidden, which was lucky given that Ana had broken into her room again, looking for it.

She pulled an oversized white men’s shirt over her bra, opening the buttons at her throat until a hint of lace showed through when she bent over. She pulled on a pair of tight blue jeans that clung in all the right places and emphasised her small waist. She mussed up her hair so it fell around her face in a wild tangle of waves. She looked good; effortlessly sexy.

***

Tom arrived at exactly seven. She let him in and padded down the hall in bare feet, making sure her hips moved just a little more than normal.

“I like your jeans,” Tom said.

Sarah suppressed a smile. “Wine?”

“Sure,” he said. “Better make it a small one though. I’m driving.”

“You could always crash here,” she said. “On the couch. You need a night off, Tom. You need to let go.”

He smiled sadly and shook his head. “Think I’d prefer my own bed.”

***

Sarah settled him in the back garden before seeing to their drinks. The weather was perfect for an outdoor dinner. It was a little bit muggy, the air heavy from the rain of the previous day, but the sun was still out and there was the lightest whisper of a breeze. Sarah had put together a tapas style dinner, the pièce de résistance being a dozen fresh oysters she’d picked up on the way home from work. These were to be complimented by a homemade lime and chilli sauce and a very nice crisp white she’d selected.

Tom’s nod towards sobriety was a bit of a spanner in the works. It was a hell of a lot harder to seduce a sober man, especially one who was still moping over his ex.

But all was not lost. Sarah had a plan B. She was sick of waiting and tonight nothing was going to stand in her way. She was finally going to get her man.

She made sure that Tom was still seated on the patio before extracting a small vial of clear liquid from her handbag. She put a few drops into his glass of wine. She paused and then added a few more.

Better to be safe than sorry, she thought grinning wickedly.

***

“Wow,” Tom said. He was already slurring ever so slightly. “That wine has gone to my head.”

“Just relax,” Sarah said. “Here, let me help you take your shoes off.”

Tom didn’t protest as Sarah knelt on the grass and pulled off his shoes and socks. She glanced back up at him and noticed that he was looking at her with a strange expression.

“What?” she said, smiling.

“You’re really shexy,” he said, his voice thick. “I mean, sexy.”

Sarah batted her eyelashes and giggled shyly. Now this was more like it.

“Oh Tom,” she purred. “You don’t mean that.”

“No, you are,” he said. “Why don’t you haveaboyfriend?”

“I’ll let you in on a secret,” she said. “There actually is someone that I’m interested in, but I don’t think he likes me in that way.”

“Ridiculous!” Tom exclaimed. “How could he not? Wantmetotalktohim?”

“The thing is,” Sarah said softly, leaning forward and resting her chin on Tom’s knee. “It’s you.”

“Me?”

She nodded.

“Why would someone like you like me like that?” He thought about the sentence for a second, knowing that it wasn’t quite right, but having neither the ability nor inclination to improve it.

“Oh Tom,” said Sarah breathlessly. “You the most wonderful man I’ve ever met.”

She leant in and kissed him softly. He closed his eyes, letting his lips melt into hers. It felt so nice, but…

“No!” he said suddenly, clawing at a memory that was deep in his brain. “I love Ana!”

Sarah sighed, trying to remain calm. “No you don’t,” she said gently, taking his hand and putting it on her breast.

He closed his eyes and inhaled sharply. Somewhere deep down he knew that whatever was happening probably shouldn’t be, although the reason why was getting fuzzier and fuzzier. A… Ana.  “Are you Ana?”

Sarah unbuttoned her shirt slowly, revealing the black lace bra. She brought Tom’s mouth to her nipple, her body shuddering as he licked it, moaning gently under his breath “Tonight,” she said, leaning in further and rubbing her body between his legs, “I’m anything you want me to be.”

***

Tom awoke early the next day. His head was pounding and he had no idea where he was. He looked around him. The room looked familiar but… it wasn’t his, was it? He turned and saw Sarah, still asleep next to him.

It took a couple of seconds for the situation to register.

Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck. Tom felt tears spring into his eyes. You idiot, he cursed inwardly. He must have had way more than the one drink he’d planned too. He literally couldn’t remember anything from last night, although the available evidence gave him a pretty good idea of what had happened.

Fuck! If Ana ever found out about this then there would be no chance of ever working things out.

He very carefully slid out of the bed. He found his boxers and pulled them on, bundling up the rest of his clothes. He’d put them on in the bathroom, so he didn’t wake Sarah up. He silently opened the door and let himself into the hallway, breathing a sigh of relief that he’d escaped.

Just as he closed the door the Sarah’s room, Mia’s bedroom door opened. She was fully dressed for work. She did a double take when she saw him.

“Tom…?” She looked from Tom’s semi-naked body, to the bundle of clothes in his hand, to Sarah’s bedroom door. The penny dropped.

“What the…?”

“Shhhhh!” he said, pleading. “I can explain,”

“I don’t want to hear it,” Mia hissed. “You men. You’re all the same.”

Before Tom could stop her, she stalked past him and left the house.

Lemon, Almond Meal and Ricotta Cake

February 16, 2012

This cake is zesty, creamy and delicious; perfect for when unexpected guests drop around!

Serve with whipped cream or ice cream. Serves 10-12.

2 cups Almond Meal
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
3 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups fresh ricotta
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 1 lemon

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C  (350 degrees F).

In a large bowl, combine almond meal, baking powder, sugar and salt. In a separate bowl, combine the wet ingredients and mix well. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients a bit at a time and stir until smooth.

Pour mixture into oiled 9-inch cake tin and bake 50-55 minutes until the cake is solid (i.e. doesn’t wobble when you move it) and it golden brown. Cool cake completely and thoroughly chill in fridge before serving.  Cake remains very  moist and is even better the next day.

Season 5: Episode 5

February 14, 2012

Willow opened her eyes and stared at her bedroom ceiling. As usual, the sick feeling in the pit of her stomach didn’t kick in straight away. But then she remembered. She always remembered. She rolled over and felt the tears well in her eyes, not even bothering to wipe them away as they tumbled down her cheeks.

Every morning, she allowed herself thirty minutes of feeling unbearably sad. Once that time was up, she didn’t dwell on it anymore for the rest of the day. It was a shit situation. There was nothing she could do about it. Life, as they say, went on.

***

The house was empty by the time she padded downstairs to the kitchen to make a late breakfast. She was glad that she hadn’t gone back to work when the school term had started a few weeks ago. She wasn’t quite ready to be there yet. The school had been great – very understanding – and organised a substitute teacher for the first few weeks of term. She had desperately wanted to take half a year off – travel, explore, take her mind off Robert – but she couldn’t do that. She needed the money too badly. Her parents had lent her some in order to cover the rent, but she was thirty-four, for goodness sake; too old to still be borrowing from her folks.

There was nothing inspiring in the fridge, so she decided to hit up the local grocery store for breakfast supplies.

That, as it turned out, was not a good idea. She had forgotten what the date was. 14th February. Fucking valentines day.

Willow hated valentines day at the best of times, but since her boyfriend had been killed in a very unfortunate accident not that long ago, her loathing for it was off the charts. She gritted her teeth as she stalked past long stem red roses, boxes of chocolates, and cheap looking stuffed animals that lined the entrance of the store. Thoughts of breakfast had disappeared and she knew there was only one thing that could make today bearable – a non-stop, epic, unadulterated baking frenzy. Willow bought candied fruit, dried fruit, preserved fruit, icing sugar, brown sugar, white sugar, dark chocolate, milk chocolate, white chocolate, soft cheese, hard cheese, almonds, pecans, cashews and anything else that could potentially be mixed with flour and cooked in the oven  – she couldn’t really afford any of it, but damn the expense, this was an emergency! By the end of the the day she wanted cakes of all shapes and sizes on every available surface of her house, flour over every item of clothing she was wearing, and egg sticking to her hair.

The cashier – a young man, giddily in love with the girl from the Deli section – had a huge smile on his face when Willow approached with her laden trolley.

“Happy Val…”

“Don’t even think about it!” Willow held up her hand and looked at the boy sternly.

His face fell and he quickly rung up her purchases.

***

It was only a short four block stroll home, but Willow was struggling with the shopping bags, having to stop every couple of metres to rearrange them.

“Do you want a lift?”

She turned to see a silver Mercedes glide up next to her and stop. The door swung open and Robert’s sister Marion stepped out.

“I’m fine,” said Willow, trying to remain calm. Robert’s sisters had been anything but friendly to her, accusing her – in not so many words – of being a money grabbing whore. They had barely spoken two words to her at the funeral.

“I was on my way to see you anyway,” said Marion, picking up some of the bags by Willow’s feet. “It’s no problem.”

Before Willow could protest again, the bags – and her – were loaded into the car.

***

“I brought these for you, from our garden,” Marion said once they were in Willow’s kitchen. She handed over a bag of fragrant lemons. “As an… apology of sorts.”

Willow didn’t say anything, but accepted the bag.

“I really am very sorry for the way we treated you,” Marion said. “It was the shock and… oh, just everything that was going on was too much. I’m so ashamed and I hope you can forgive me.”

Willow looked at her. Marion seemed as though she were genuine enough.

“Do you mind if I bake?” Willow said finally.

***

They didn’t talk at all while Willow carefully made an almond meal and ricotta lemon cake. It was only after the kitchen was filled with wonderful, warm smells of baking vanilla, honey and citrus that Marion finally broke the silence.

“I have something else for you.” Marion reached into her handbag and pulled out a small turquoise box, placing it on the counter in front of Willow. “Robert had it on him when he died,” she said softly. “It was for you.”

Willow’s heart began to pound. She knew what came in boxes that size and colour. She shook her head. “Take it away. I don’t want it.”

“But it’s yours,” Marion said, confused. “He bought it for you.”

“I don’t care.” Willow’s voice was raised and she was starting to feel slightly manic. “This is hard enough as it is. I don’t want to know that… I just don’t want to know.”

“You don’t have to keep it,” Marion said. “I know that Robert would have wanted you to do something with it. You could sell it and use the money for something that you’ve always wanted to do. Here…” she rummaged around in her bag. “This is the name of the store that he got it from. I’ve spoken to them and they are happy to buy it back – not for the full price, of course, but…”

Willow just sat there shaking her head. Marion sighed. Any doubts she had about Willow’s genuine intentions towards her brother had totally disappeared. I mean, who turns down an antique Tiffany ring?

“I told Sam this was found on Robert’s body,” Marion said. “He knew already. He knew that Robert was going to…propose. He was the one who insisted that you – and no-one else – should decide what happens to it.”

Willow felt tears running down her cheeks again. Dammit! She didn’t want to feel like this anymore.

“Please Willow,” Marion said gently. “Accept it. It’s what Robert would have wanted.”

Marion picked up her bag and walked out the front door, leaving Willow alone with the box.

***

Once seven cakes had been made and were cooling on the table, Willow finally felt calm enough to to open the box.

Inside was the most ludicrously large diamond she had ever seen, surrounded by other ludicrously large diamonds and sapphires, set beautifully into a platinum band. It looked antique – art deco probably – but not old; someone had obviously taken very good care of it. She slipped it on her finger without realising what she was doing. It fitted perfectly and looked… well, perfect. It was the perfect Willow ring.

***

She allowed herself one night of wearing the ring before she took it to the jewellery store Marion had suggested. It was the most beautiful thing she’d ever seen, but she knew that if she kept it she would never be able to get on with her life. It was a hard choice, but it was the right one.

The store was one of those ones that had more security guards than people. They had to buzz her in and out.

“Ah yes,” the jeweler said, giving Willow a sad look. “The Art Deco Tiffany ring. Would you like to browse while we make the arrangements?”

Willow shook her head and went to have a coffee while she waited for them to do the evaluation and draw up a cheque. She suspected the ring was worth a bit – thousands probably. Maybe she could take some more time off work, after all?

***

She was handed an envelope when she came back to the store.

“Do you want to make sure the details are correct?” the jeweler asked when she made no move to open the envelope.

Willow shook her head again.

It wasn’t until she was sitting in the botanical gardens, the sunshine on her back, with a bottle of Robert’s favourite champagne that she let her attention be drawn to the envelope. She carefully opened the flap and looked at the figure written on the paper inside. Placing it back in her bag, she silently poured herself a large glass of champagne.

***

Lentil, Cranberry and Caper Salad

February 9, 2012

There is an inverse correlation between the deliciousness of this dish and the effort it takes to make (i.e. on a deliciousness scale it’s an 11; on an effort scale it’s a 1). More hearty than your regular salad, this is a dish that will impress anyone, guaranteed.

Serves 2 as a main or 4 as a side

Salad

350g dried red lentils

1/3 cup capers

1/3 cup dried cranberries

Large handful fresh parsley, chopped

Dressing

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

3 tblspn balsamic vinegar

2 tbspn apple cider vinegar

1 large tbspn honey

1 tspn ground cumin

1 tspn curry powder

1 tspn hot mustard

1/4 tspn ground nutmeg

1/4 tspn ground cinamon

Salt and pepper

 

Rinse lentils until water runs clear, removing any hard stones that float to the surface. Fill a large saucepan with water and bring to the boil.

While you’re waiting for the water to boil, mix the dressing by putting all the ingredients in a jar and shaking vigorously until combined. Add more vinegar/oil/cumin/honey as desired until it tastes just right for your palate (some prefer it more ‘bitey’, others sweeter).

Put the lentils in the boiling water and stir well until they come to the boil again. Boil until they are cooked but firm, which only takes a minute or so. If they turn to mush (which they can do in a matter of seconds) the salad will be a disaster. I suggest taste-testing every 30 seconds or so after the water has heated up again, so that you get the consistency right.

Drain the lentils and run cold water over them for a second or two. Place them in a large bowl and put the dressing straight on while they are still warm. Mix through. Add in the capers and cranberries. Just before serving, toss the parsley through. This can be served warm or cold, and keeps very well for days afterwards.

Season 5: Episode 4

February 7, 2012

Mia cracked her neck and rubbed her temples. She sipped gingerly on a sports drink hoping that the electrolytes would be a miraculous cure for her hangover. She couldn’t remember ever having one this bad. The headache that had been ceaselessly pounding at her temples since the alarm went off this morning had amplified as the day wore on. At least she’d stopped vomiting. At times like this, you had to be thankful for small mercies. Going shot for shot with John’s English backpacker buddies until 3am this morning, when she had to get up again at 6am to get to work, was not the best decision she had ever made. Not to mention the joints that had been liberally making their way around the room. Since when did she even smoke?

“Mia?”

Felicia poked her head around the corner of the break room, trying to hide the shock of seeing Mia’s blotchy pale skin and the huge bags under her eyes. Mia always looked so… healthful. She was the one with the glowing complexion and boundless energy that everyone always envied. But now? The change had been gradual, over the last month or so, and Felicia wasn’t the only one who had noticed. Mia looked worn out all the time. For weeks now she had been consistently late for work, and when she was here she seemed like she was somewhere else. On more than once occasion she had smelt like stale booze. Her behaviour was erratic, at best, and it had got so bad that several clients had complained. Felicia had spoken to Mia about all of this and Mia had seemed genuinely apologetic and embarrassed; like she hadn’t known how bad she was. Obviously it had fallen on deaf ears though.

“Everything all right?”

Mia nodded. She just needed to get through the rest of the shift, get home and sleep. She did not need a concerned pep talk from the owner of the studio who wanted to get all in touch with her emotions and shit. She smiled – grimaced really – and nodded her head.

“Mia…” Felicia took a deep breath – were those cigarettes she could smell? – She closed the door behind her. “I thought that we talked about this.”

“I’m fine,” Mia said as calmly as she could. Why wouldn’t this woman just leave her alone?

“I’m sure you are,” Felicia said, her patience starting to wear thin. “But at this point its more the reputation of the studio that I’m concerned about.”

Mia rolled her eyes.

“Did you just roll your eyes at me?”

“No,” Mia said sheepishly. Oops.

“Mia, we’ve tried to be supportive to whatever it is you’ve got going on, but it’s apparent that you don’t want any help.”

“There’s nothing going on.”

“So you keep saying. But the fact remains that you need to pull your socks up or I’m going to have no choice but to let you go.”

The words were like a slap in the face. They were going to fire her?  “No, please, you can’t do that!”

Felicia sighed. “I don’t want to. You’re one of the best Pilates instructors I’ve got but…”

“I’ll be better,” Mia pleaded. “I’ll be on time and I won’t be… tired all the time.”

Felicia nodded and turned to leave the room. “Oh and Mia? You’re 2 o’clock is here.”

***

Mia closed the door behind her and leaned against it, relieved  to finally be home. What a day! She walked to the kitchen, dumping her bag unceremoniously on the bench, and opened the fridge. She automatically reached for a half full bottle of white wine and was just about to pour a glass when she stopped.

No.

Today had been a wake up call.

She begrudgingly put the wine back and pulled out chilled water instead, surveying the contents of the fridge for some dinner inspiration. When was the last time she’d eaten anything remotely healthy? Lunch today had been half a packet of chips and her normal dinner for the last few weeks had been toast and a bottle of wine. Things had to change.

The fridge was disappointingly bare. What with Willow away and Sarah working so much, no one had done any shopping. Mia missed the days when Ana lived here and they’d take care of each other; taking turns to cook dinner, sitting around and gossiping about the day. And the dinner parties, with Tom and Johnny.

Mia sighed.

Oh, Johnny. She’d barely even let herself think about him for the last month.

At first she was furious, vowing that she wouldn’t even answer the phone when he called to beg her forgiveness. But he never called, and soon the anger gave way to a sad realisation that it was over. Before it had even begun. At least she hadn’t properly fallen in love with him or anything silly like that.

But the past was the past and now was not the time to dwell on it. Not when she had a cracking hangover and an empty stomach. She heaved her body off the kitchen chair and flung open cupboards, looking for anything that could be used to concoct some kind of nutritious meal.
She put water on the boil, rinsing some red lentils and cooking them quickly so they were still firm. She added a few spoons of capers (they never went off did they?) and some slightly floury dried cranberries, smothering the whole lot in a rich, spice-infused dressing.
She was about to put a spoonful in her mouth, when her phone rang. It was English John. There was a lot of background noise. He was at the pub. Again. She felt a wave of irrational anger towards him. It was his  fault that she had become the way she was.

“I’m at the pub,” he shouted over the noise.

No shit, thought Mia.

“Come down!”

“I can’t.”

“Why not?”

“I’m… I’m too hungover,” she said. That was a far easier explanation than I’m reassessing my whole life and I’m not sure that the pub fits into my plan.

His reply was drowned out by a loud cheer.

“What?” shouted Mia into the phone. “I cant’ hear.”

“I’ll come over then,” he shouted back.

“No, I don’t want…”

He had hung up before she could respond.

***

“Oh, you poor thing,” John cooed as Mia opened the door to him. He pulled her into a hug, slipping his hand under her jumper and feeling the smooth skin of her back.

“Ugh, you stink like beer,” Mia said pushing him away.

John frowned. Since when did Mia care about that? He followed her into the lounge and plonked on the couch next to her.

“I bought you wine and chocolate” he said, holding up a bag. “Thought they might clear that hangover?”
“I don’t want any bloody wine or chocolate,” Mia said through clenched teeth.

He held up his hands in defeat. “Was only trying to help.”

“Well, you’re not helping.”

“What is wrong with you tonight?” he said. “You seem really cranky.”

“Maybe I’ve just had enough,” Mia snapped.

“Enough of what?”

“Of this!”

John looked hurt, but not surprised. “Of me, you mean.”

Mia didn’t reply and picked at a loose thread on the couch.

“I came to Melbourne for you,” he said.

“I never asked you to.”

“No, but… I thought that you were starting to really like me,” he said. “I mean, we’ve had fun, haven’t we?”

“Yes.” She sighed. “I do like you John, it’s just…” she trailed off. How to explain?

“There’s someone else, isn’t there.” It wasn’t a question.

Mia shook her head quickly. “Of course there isn’t.”

John uttered a small laugh. “I kept telling myself that you didn’t like him, but you do, don’t you?”

Mia’s stomach flipped, the lentils suddenly not feeling so great. “Who?”

“That other guy,” he said. “Johnny.” He spat out the name.

“Don’t be ridiculous!” Mia exclaimed, putting her hand on John’s arm.

He shook her off. “You know Mia, it’s one thing to string me along if you’re trying to figure out your feelings when you know I’m in love with you, but it’s another thing entirely when you’re in love with someone else.

“No, you’re wrong, I’m not…”

He held up his hand. “The only reason you’re with me is because you don’t have him. That is just…” he shook his head sadly. “That is just cruel and cowardly.”

“No, that’s not…”

But he wasn’t having a bar of it. “I thought you were better than that. Goodbye Mia.”

He got up and left, pulling the front door closed behind him.

Then, quite suddenly, the realisation hit her. John was right.

She was still in love with Johnny. Completely head-over-heals, bonkers, crazy in love with him.

Shit.

Tangy Citrus Dressing

February 2, 2012

You can’t make friends with salad? Pfffft! This dressing tends to disagree. Tart up any salad with this super tasty, very simple dressing. Pour over a light summer salad of fresh greens or a warm winter salad of roasted vegetables and nuts. Yummo!

1 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup fresh squeezed orange juice

2 tbspn fresh squeezed lemon juice

2 tbspn fresh squeezed lime juice

2 tspn chopped garlic

1/2 tspn salt

zest of 1/3 orange (zest only – no pith!)

Put all ingredients in blender and mix until combined. Test dressing for flavour, adding more salt if desired.