Tales of food, sex and friendship




Archive for August, 2012

Season 7, Episode 6

August 28, 2012


Mia stretched languorously in bed, the sheets bunching around her bare legs. She turned over and wrapped her arms around Johnny’s torso, burying her face into the back of his neck.

“Morning,” he mumbled as she gently kissed him behind the ear, running a hand through his hair. He rolled over, so his body was pressed against hers, and inhaled deeply. Mia smell. Best scent in the world. He pulled her closer, covering her lips with his, letting his hands roam her naked body.

“I have to get ready,” Mia groaned.

“Don’t go,” Johnny mumbled. “Skip it.”

Mia laughed pushing his hands away from her and springing out of the bed. “I can’t be late for my interview.”

“I know, I know,” Johnny said, propping himself up on his elbows. “But you can’t blame a guy for trying. I mean… look at you!”

Mia blushed. Her body had changed since she’d left Melbourne. She wasn’t exercising as obsessively and was more carefree with her eating (celery sticks, begone!), but mostly, she was happy. And it showed. Her normally androgynous form had filled out slightly, giving her fuller breasts, a more defined waist and a bottom that stopped grown men in their tracks… even in San Francisco. She threw Johnny a final, longing look before wrapping a towel around her body and heading for the shower.

***

Johnny sat on the grass in Dolores Park, reading a paper and sipping on a very decent espresso. He’d kicked of his shoes and scrunched the grass between his toes, feeling the sun radiating on his back. It was still early, so the gusting winds hadn’t picked up yet. He glanced at his watch. Mia would be done soon.

He desperately hoped that this one would work out. When Mia had started looking for potential employers in San Francisco, she had been astonished at just how many Pilates studios there were.

“One of them will want me,” she had said happily.

“All of them will want you,” Johnny had answered. “You’ll be fighting them off!”

Not so, as it turned out. Every interview went pretty much the same. They were impressed at her teaching ability, her strength and agility. She was personable, articulate and passionate. Every quality they could possibly want in a new instructor. Everything except the citizenship, that is.

“It’s really easy for me to get a visa,” Mia would plead with them. “You just need to sign the paperwork. I’ll do everything else!”

But, they could get any number of other Pilates instructors – without having to jump through bureaucratic hoops.

The look on Mia’s face as her long legs strode up the grassy hill towards where Johnny was sitting told him that this interview had been no different.

“I’m sorry,” he said, as she sat down.

Mia shrugged. “Doesn’t matter.”

But they both knew it did.

***

They sat on the grass for a while longer, killing time. Johnny had an appointment to look at a potential space for the restaurant at lunchtime. He’d asked her to come along, but Mia wanted to head home and look for more jobs.

“Why don’t you work for me?” Johnny said casually as they stood up to leave. It was something he’d been thinking about, but was waiting for the right time to bring it up.

Mia raised an eyebrow. “Oh really,” she drawled. “For you?”

Johnny smiled. “All right, maybe I phrased that wrong. Why don’t you work with me?”

“What do I know about the restaurant business?”

“I’ll teach you.”

Mia screwed up her face and shook her head. “I don’t want to be slinging plates and filling glasses.”

“You can do something else,” Johnny said. “Managing. Planning. Hiring. We’d find something that you liked.”

“I don’t know, Johnny. That’s your thing. I don’t think it’s for me.”

“How do you know until you’ve tried?”

Mia gave him a withering look.

“At least come and look at this space with me,” he pleaded. “I need a second opinion.”

“OK,” Mia said reluctantly. Job hunting could wait. “That I can do.”

***

The space was on the second floor of a old building, owned by a guy called Vince who ran the corner store downstairs. He had hefted himself off his stool when they arrived, dragging his eyes away from whatever daytime soap was playing on the portable television set next to the cash register. He took the stairs slowly, leaving a faint trail of cigarettes and chewing gum in his wake. He unlocked the door and handed them the key. A few beads of sweat had gathered in his upper lip.

“Bring it back when you’re done,” he said breathlessly, before making his way back downstairs.

Johnny pushed the door open and walked in. His heart skipped a beat.

This was it! This was the place!

It was brilliant. Smaller than a warehouse, larger than an open-plan apartment, it was big enough for a decent amount of tables, without being claustrophobic. It had large circular windows that looked out over the Mission giving it a whimsical, detached feeling. Up here, you were in your own little world. It had been used as a restaurant previously, and so needed nothing more than a coat of paint and some new furnishings to make it worthy of the place Johnny wanted to run.

“Wow,” Mia said walking in behind him.

He grinned at her.

“I mean… Wow!” Mia wandered around, looking behind the bar, poking her head into the kitchen. “It’s perfect,” she said excitedly. “You can put the tables here and you could have someone playing music on weekends over there and then you could set this area up for drinks, so if people didn’t want to have a meal they could still sit and enjoy the space and…”

Johnny was resting against the bar, a smile playing around his lips. “Come here,” he said, pulling her towards him and putting his mouth on hers. He kissed her urgently, running his hands over her body. “You are so sexy when you’re excited about something.”

Mia smiled slyly. “Yeah?”

“Yeah.”

“Am I sexy when I do this?” She peeled off her jumper, followed by her singlet.

“Oh yes,” Johnny said. “Definitely sexy.”

“What about this?” She slowly rolled her leggings down her long legs, kicking off her shoes. She stood in front of him wearing nothing but a pair of black lace underwear.

“Uh-huh.” Johnny’s voice wasn’t the only thing thick with desire.

She knelt down and undid his jeans, pulling them around his ankles, her eyes not leaving his for a second. She kissed his thigh gently and he shuddered, a small groan escaping his lips. She stood up again and took her underwear delicately off. Johnny lifted her up and Mia wrapped her legs around his waist as he gently pushed inside her again and again and again. They cried out in unison, not caring if the whole neighbourhood could hear them.

“OK,” Mia said, breathless.

“OK what?”

“I’ll help you out.”

“You’ll work at the restaurant with me?”

Mia nodded.

Johnny grinned. “This is going to be awesome,” he said. “You’ll see.”

***

Season 7, Episode 5

August 21, 2012


There was a knock at the front door. “I’ll see you guys in a few hours,” Willow called to the others, receiving a chorus of “goodbyes” and “goodlucks” from towards the back of the house.

She  hummed to herself as she ambled towards the front door, glancing in the mirror on the way through, tucking a stray strand of hair behind her ear and smoothing her silk blouse. It was a big day today and she wanted to look groomed. Professional. Ana had lent Willow a gorgeous navy light woollen suit and had done her hair and makeup. To complete the outfit, Willow had put on a pair of heels for the first time in… she didn’t even know how long. She felt a bit like a little kid playing grown-up – after all, what did she know about the big wide world of commerce? – but she held her head up high as she pulled the door open, a bright smile on her face.

“Wow, you look great,” Fred said. “I should have made more of an effort, huh?”

Willow glanced down at his loose fitting jeans and too-big sweatshirt. Seriously? That was what he was going to wear to a meeting with the bank?

“It’s fine,” she said, trying not to let the disappointment show on her face. She wondered momentarily if he actually owned any other clothes. “I’m probably a bit overdressed.”

“I’ve never been very good at clothes and fashion and stuff,” he said, as Willow closed the door behind her and they walked to his car.

“I’m a bit nervous,” Willow laughed as she did her seat belt up.

“Don’t be,” Fred said with confidence. “The numbers are totally solid. I think we’re in with a really good chance.”

Willow nodded. Fred was right. In fact, he’d been right about a lot of things. Ever since they had met a couple of weeks ago, it had been all systems go for the new business partners. Thanks to Fred’s many years experience working in the hospitality industry, they had drawn up an exceptional budget and business plan. The numbers were good. Even if they did the minimum amount of business that they had anticipated, they would still be able to pay off the loan in a couple of years at the most. And that was worst case scenario.

Willow glanced sideways at Fred’s profile as he drove, wondering again why she hadn’t told him about her inheritance from Robert. If nothing else, it might have saved her mounting stress about their meeting with the bank. Initially, Willow had assumed she would use it to start the business, but then Fred started talking about loans and all kinds of other financial mumbo-jumbo, and Willow realised that she might not need to touch Robert’s money after all. Well, not much of it anyway. She’d need a small amount – about two hundred thousand – to match Fred’s initial startup costs, but the the bank would finance the rest and they’d pay it off over time. It solved the visa issue too, as Fred could sponsor Willow through the business.

“It’s far less risky than investing all the money ourselves,” he said. “Besides, it’s not like either of us have half a million dollars just floating around, is it?”

Willow had laughed, but hadn’t said anything.

***

A woman in about her mid-forties walked into the bank’s customer waiting area.

“Willow? Frederick? I’m Marjorie,” she said, holding out her manicured hand in a limp handshake. Her eyes flickered over Fred’s outfit, her lips pinching slightly in distaste. “If you’d like to come into my office?”

Willow and Fred followed her without a word into the small, airless glass cubicle. She closed the door behind them and offered them a seat.

“Lets have a look at what you’ve got,” she said, holding out a hand for the file Willow was clutching.

She flicked through the spreadsheets, spending no longer than a couple of seconds on each of the pages that Willow and Fred had spent hours and hours preparing. Willow sat in tense silence barely even daring to breathe.

“I’m sorry,” Marjorie said. “But I can’t offer you a loan at this time.”

There was a few seconds of silence.

“Why not?” Willow said eventually.

Marjorie shrugged. “It’s too much of a risk.”

“A risk?” said Willow. “But, the numbers are solid! Just take another look at the…”

“I’ve seen enough.” Marjorie said, cutting her off. She folded her hands over each other and rested them on the desk, her eyes not wavering from Willow’s.

“Isn’t there someone else we could talk to?” Willow said.

“My decision is final.”

“But what about…”

Fred put his had on Willow’s arm. “Let’s go,” he said gently.

Willow stood up and took the folder of papers from Marjorie’s outstretched hand.

***

“She was a total bitch!” Willow said angrily as soon as they were outside.

“She was just doing her job,” Fred said gently. He steered Willow into a cafe that was next to the bank.

“She didn’t even look at the work that we did,” Willow exclaimed in disgust. “She didn’t read any of this.” She dumped the folder containing the precious paperwork on a table and collapsed into the chair, folding her arms across her chest.

“I guess she knows what she’s looking for,” Fred said. “And we weren’t it.”

“I just can’t believe there was no one else we could speak to about it,” said Willow.

“That’s the way the banks work over here, I’m afraid.”

Willow exhaled loudly. “We could have fought for it a bit more.”

“We don’t want to burn our bridges though. What if we need them further down the track?”

“Couldn’t we try another bank?” said Willow suddenly.

“They’ll all say the same thing,” Frank said. “Everyone is being cautious. What with the way the economy has been, the sub-prime crisis, unemployment. No one wants to back a losing horse.”

Willow sighed. He was probably right. She’d read similar things in the paper. “But we’re a winning horse,” she mumbled, crossly.

Fred smiled sadly. “That we are. Now, can I get you a cup of tea?”

Willow watched Fred as he stood at the counter, shoulders hunched. She felt so sorry for the guy. This was the last thing he needed, after his wife leaving him for his best friend. Like Willow, he’d come to San Francisco for a fresh start, but he’d seemed to have setback after setback. Perhaps it’s time I came clean, Willow thought. Do us both a favour.

“I guess it’s back to the drawing board,” Fred said sadly when he reappeared with the tea. “We’ll have to start looking at private investors.”

Willow took a deep breath. “Not necessarily,” she said.

“Oh?” Fred looked puzzled.

“I haven’t been exactly forthcoming with you,” Willow said. She took a deep breath. “The thing is Fred, I have money.”

Fred still looked puzzled. “I know. We discussed this. We both have the initial startup investment. But we are going to need close to a million dollars to really get this thing rolling.”

Willow shook her head. “No, I mean, I have enough money to finance the whole thing.”

Fred’s eyes opened wide in surprise. “To finance the whole thing?”

“I’m sorry I didn’t tell you,” Willow said. “I’m not sure why I didn’t.”

“You didn’t know me at all,” Fred said. “You didn’t know if you could trust me, I suppose.”

Willow nodded slowly. She tried to gauge Fred’s response, to see if he was angry or upset, but he didn’t seem to be at all.

“I know I can trust you now,” she said. “So I’d like to invest the full amount of money to get us going.”

“Well, hang on,” Fred said, looking slightly panicked. “I mean, don’t you want to think about this? This isn’t a decision you just… rush into. There are still other options we haven’t tried.”

“I have thought about it,” Willow said. “And like you said, people are being very cautious about what they invest in. It might be months before we get an investor interested.”

“Shouldn’t you talk to your friends about it? I wouldn’t want them thinking that I was taking you for a ride, or something,” he said anxiously.

Willow laughed. “I’m the one who suggested it. Besides, no one could think that about you, Fred.”

Fred shrugged. “Still, it would make me feel better about it.” He picked up his mug and blew across the top before he took a sip of tea. “But I still think we should exhaust our other options. This is a business. Fifty-fifty is what we agreed on.”

Willow nodded, amused. “If it would make you more comfortable I’ll sleep on it and talk to my friends.”

A look of relief crossed his face. Willow shook her head and smiled as she watched him take another sip of his tea, lost in thought. He was such a funny man. Earnest,  hardworking and honest; the type of guy that you’d call on if you ever needed help. She liked him a lot – not in a romantic way; she just knew that he was one of the good people.

“Can I ask you something?” he said tentatively, looking up from his tea.

“Of course.”

“I don’t mean to pry, but …” he paused. “How do you have that much money?”

Willow smiled slightly. It was time to tell him. She leaned forward and recounted the whole story, managing to hold back the tears. She knew deep down that Robert would have liked this funny man. She knew that Robert would have supported her decision unequivocally. Like her, he would have trusted Fred with everything.

***

Season 7, Episode 4

August 14, 2012

The hustle and bustle of the downtown San Francisco lunch rush wasn’t doing the job that Ana had hoped: Getting her out of the funk that she had woken up in. For the last few weeks the early morning blues had persisted long past the normal pre-caffeine and breakfast fix. She couldn’t quite pinpoint why. It seemed to be a combination of factors – the loved up couple who barely made it out of the bedroom, the constant singing and laughter than echoed around the walls, the positive energy that radiated from every pore of everyone in the house. Everyone except her.

She was glad for Mia and Johnny, of course, but the nagging jealously – certainly not one of Ana’s many virtues – just wouldn’t go away. Why couldn’t she have a relationship that just worked? (She had a convenient amnesia when it came to the trials and tribulations that Mia and Johnny had been through to get where they were.)

And now with Willow floating somewhere around cloud fifteen about her new coffee and cake business, Ana felt like she was the only one who was… well… a bit lost, really. Being out of the house – a lot – seemed to be the best way of dealing with it for now. It was just way too sunshine, lollipops and rainbows there at the moment. Ana preferred it when there were a least a few grey clouds on the horizon. Kept things interesting and made her feel less… inadequate.

Failed marriage, failed business, failed social life. I’m quite the catch, Ana thought to herself bitterly as she dodged people dressed in suits and skirts, hurrying about with pre-packaged sandwiches and their Starbucks excuse for ‘coffee’. She had a brief moment of nostalgia for her previous life, where she was the one grabbing a meal-on-the-go between meetings. It seemed like a lifetime ago now.

Maybe if I found a job things would look a bit brighter, she thought.

She found a cafe that didn’t look like a chain and joined the long queue to get another coffee, taking her place behind two impeccably dressed women, one with brilliant flame-red hair and the other with glasses that were almost too fashionable. They made an incredibly striking pair and Ana tried not to stare at them. Not that they would have noticed – they were deeply ensconced in their own conversation.

“I can’t believe Jenny left,” Ana heard the the glasses woman say. “That’s… what… the fourth consultant since the start of the year?”

The redhead rolled her eyes. “I swear there’s something in the water. They all start and then – bam! – pregnant within a month.”

“So what’s he going to do?”

The redhead shrugged. “Advertise again. Hire a new senior PR consultant.”

Ana’s ears pricked up.

“I just hope he does it soon,” the redhead continued. “We’re swamped.”

Before she knew what she was doing, she had tapped redhead on the shoulder. “Excuse me,” she said quickly. “I didn’t mean to eavesdrop, but I worked at one of the top PR firms in Australia, but I moved over here and now I’m looking for a job.”

The women looked her up and down.

“I don’t normally dress like this,” Ana said, suddenly embarrassed by her oversized t-shirt and loose-fitting jeans.

“I love your accent,” the redhead said.

“Er, thanks.”

“Where did you say you were from?”

“Melbourne. Australia.”

The redhead nodded, thoughtfully.

“She looks like the sort of person Chad would like,” glasses said, with an almost-sneer.

“Chad?” Ana said.

“The president of the company,” red said, fishing a business card out of her bag. “Email me your CV and I’ll pass it on. You never know,” she said with a shrug. “You might get lucky.”

Ana grinned. “Thanks. Thanks so much.”

The women collected their coffee and turned to leave. Red stopped, turning back to Ana.

“Oh, and…?”

“Ana.”

“Ana. Include a photo.”

***

Two days later, Ana was dressed in her favourite Prada suit, Manolo Blahniks, her hair freshly washed and twisted up into fashionable bun, sitting in the foyer of an incredible fifteenth floor office in downtown San Francisco. The company was simply called ‘Bleau’ and they were the one-stop marketing shop for all of San Francisco’s promotional needs. Their clients ranged from tech companies to hospitality to non-profit organisations.

Ana glanced at her watch. Her interview was supposed to start twenty minutes ago. She flipped through an industry magazine, which had a three page spread on ‘Bleau’ highlighting the multitude of awards they’d won in the last year. Ten minutes later a woman appeared and smiled frostily at Ana. “Follow me. Chad will see you now.”

Ana followed her through the impressive open plan office, noting that most of the people that worked there were very attractive women. Alarm bells started ringing somewhere in the back of Ana’s mind. The woman ushered her into a huge office – bigger than Ana’s living room back in Melbourne – and shut the door. It opened again seconds later, and there was Chad.

Ana’s breath caught in her throat as his cool grey eyes locked onto hers. He was tall, with a thick head of dark hair, his bespoke suit emphasising his lean, toned body.

Deja Vu.

It was Marc all over again. Everything about him reminded Ana of her old boss. Her old lover. His appearance, the way he moved, but most of all, the way he looked at her.

“Ana.” He held out his hand and Ana took it. Even though she was expecting the current of electricity that was going to run through her body as soon as their hands touched, it still took her by surprise.

“Sit, please,” he said, indicating to a sofa in the corner of the room. His lips curled into a small smile as he looked at her. “Tell me about yourself.”

***

Season 7, Episode 3

August 7, 2012

The chilly morning sunlight was barely seeping through the curtains as Mia silently zipped her suitcase and gave a final, cursory glance around the room. Aside from the rumpled bed covers it looked exactly the same as when she had arrived only weeks ago: Empty.
She tiptoed out of the room and pulled the door closed behind her as quietly as she could. Carrying her case instead of dragging it so as not to wake the others, she went into the kitchen. The kitchen was at the other end of the house to the bedrooms and she was fairly confident that the others wouldn’t be able to hear her as she made a cup of tea and put some bread in the toaster. She knew that making breakfast was a bit like tempting fate: The longer she spent in the house the more likely Willow or Ana were to wake up and try and stop her.

Maybe I want them to stop me? she thought. Maybe I don’t really want to leave?

If she was honest with herself, she didn’t want to leave. Not really. She felt like going back to Melbourne was a step in the wrong direction – a step backwards – but the thought of not giving it a go with Johnny was something she knew she’d regret more. She knew she was being a coward, leaving like this, but she didn’t want to deal with Ana’s pointed remarks, Willow’s hurt look. She didn’t want to face the inevitable questions that they would ask.

“Why are you leaving?”

“Why not give it some more time?”

“Have you talked to Johnny about it?”

That last one was the kicker. Why haven’t I told Johnny?

The nagging doubt that had been her constant companion for the last few weeks intensified: What if he said “Don’t come”?

Mia sighed, frustrated. “Am I doing the right thing?” she whispered into the tea cup.

Not surprisingly, the curling steam didn’t provide a definitive answer.

***

Ana stretched as she walked into the kitchen, rubbing her bleary eyes. She opened the fridge, pulling out her precious supply of coffee beans. Standing near the sink, she ground them and transferred the spoils to a stove-top espresso machine. She frowned when she saw the white envelope sitting on the counter. It was addressed to her and Willow and wasn’t sealed.
She pulled out the letter and started reading.

***

Security check was done, customs was done. Mia found a seat near her gate, managing to sit still for a grand total of two minutes before she got back up again and started walking aimlessly around the terminal. When she’d passed the same news agency for the third time, she looked at her watch and groaned. She still had hours to kill. The sooner she could be airborne, the better. Once she was on that plane there was no going back, no changing her mind.

***

“Willow!” Ana threw open the door to Willow’s room. “You have to get up! We have an issue!”

Willow sat bolt upright in bed, not quite awake. “Whassamatter?”

“It’s Mia!”

“Mia?” Willow flung the covers off and jumped up. “What’s happened to her? Is she OK?”

“She’s gone!”

“Gone?”

“Back to Australia,” Ana said. She thrust the letter towards Willow. “Look.”

***

Mia stared absently through the airport crowds, waiting for her flight to be called. Her heart skipped a beat as she caught a brief glimpse of a faded denim jacket, a guitar case, a sandy mop of hair. She half stood, her mouth dropping open, before the stranger was swallowed back into the throng of people coming and going. Mia sank down, feeling stupid. She’d been doing this for weeks – seeing him in crowds, at bars, as she glanced into coffee shop windows. Of course it wasn’t him. It never was.

***

“We have to stop her,” Willow said.

“I know,” said Ana. “Seriously, she couldn’t have picked worse timing, could she?”

“Is she answering her phone?”

Ana shook her head. “And I’ve tried having her paged over the loud speaker at the airport, but no luck.”

“We have to get to the airport.”

“How are we going to get in?” Ana said. “We don’t have tickets anywhere.”

“I’ll buy the cheapest flights I can find,” Willow said, grabbing her purse and flinging on some jeans and a jumper. “Come on, you drive and I’ll book the flights.”

“Wait,” Ana called. “What are we going to do about… you know.”

There was a loud knock on the door. “I guess we’ll deal with that right now,” Willow said.

***

“We’d like to welcome aboard all remaining passengers traveling on Qantas flight 482 to Melbourne.”

The announcement startled Mia out of her daydream. She picked up her bag and made her way to the end of the long line of people, all queuing up to sit in the tin can in the sky for a ridiculous number of hours. She never understood why people always seemed so eager to get on the plane and strap themselves into that little seat. They were going to be there for long enough anyway; why encourage the inevitable? She always waited until the last possible minute to get on.

“Welcome aboard, Ma’am,” an attractive stewardess said as she scanned Mia’s ticket. “Enjoy your flight.”

“Mia!”

She turned. It had been faint but she was certain that she’d heard her name called. She scanned the crowd, but couldn’t see any familiar faces.

“Everything all right Ma’am?” The stewardess looked inquisitively at her.

“Mia!”

There is was again! She spun around again, this time watching as the crowd parted and Ana and Willow came rushing towards her. There was a third person behind them, jogging at an easy pace. Mia blinked. Faded denim jacket. Sandy hair pushed back from his face. For the second time that morning, her heart skipped a beat.

“Don’t get on the plane,” Ana panted, the first to reach Mia.

Mia barely even noticed her. She was staring behind Ana at Johnny. He drew up level with Mia.

“What are you doing here?” she blurted out.

“Franco has taken in some new investors in the restaurant who want Medina to go global,” Johnny said. “He wanted to set up in LA, but I convinced him to go with San Francisco.”

“So, you’re… moving here?” Mia said, processing the information.

“Moved here,” Johnny said, correcting here. “This morning. I was hoping to surprise you at home, but…” He shrugged. “And, look, I don’t want to rush you into anything, so I’ll get my own place and…”

“No,” Mia said quickly. “It’s not rushing.” She blushed. “What I mean is, you can stay with us for a while… or longer… if you want to?”

Johnny grinned. “Yeah, I’d like that.”

“What about… Cecelia and the baby.”

“Mia, you’re the most important person in my life,” Johnny said, taking her hands. “Cecelia finally understands that. I’ll still be in the kids life,” he added, “but from a distance.”

Mia nodded slowly. Willow and Ana were hanging back a bit, barely able to contain their excitement.

“You knew about this?” Mia said to them.

“Only recently,” Willow said quickly. “And we promised not to tell.”

“I’d like to say, for the record, I wanted to tell you,” said Ana.

Mia turned to Johnny “Why didn’t you tell me you were coming?”

“Probably for the same reasons you didn’t tell me you were leaving,” Johnny said in a low voice. “What if you didn’t want me?”

“I want you,” Mia said. “I want you so much it hurts.”

Johnny leaned in and kissed her softly before whispering in her ear. “Well, let’s see about getting you home and taking care of that.”

***