Tales of food, sex and friendship




Archive for September, 2012

Season 7, Episode 10

September 25, 2012

Ana was sitting in the living room staring absently at the page in front of her. She’d read the same paragraph four times and sighed, frustrated, closing the book and tossing it onto the sofa.

“You OK?” Willow was perched at the table doing some kind of spreadsheet for her business.

“Yeah,” Ana said. “Just bored. And restless.”

Willow smiled sympathetically. “No news from any of the jobs you applied for?”

“Nothing,” Ana grumbled. “Not even a rejection email.”

Willow closed her laptop. “Why don’t we do something today,” she said suddenly. “Head out of town somewhere?”

“Like where?”

“How about that place over the bridge. The one everyone seems to go for lunch on the weekends. What’s it called again?”

“Sausalito?”

“That’s it!” Willow exclaimed. “We can hire a car for the afternoon and drive over. What do you think?”

Ana shrugged. It’s not like she had anything better to do. “Sure.”

***

As it turned out, the didn’t hire a car, but ended up going down to Fisherman’s Wharf and catching the ferry across. They sat outside on the deck, sunglasses, suncream, scarves and heavy jackets firmly in place. San Francisco. The ultimate city of contradiction. Even more so than on dry land, out here in the middle of the bay it felt as though two completely different temperatures were battling for supremacy: The icy wind competing with the fabled Californian sun. At this stage, both girls felt as though the wind were winning easily, the huge ball of fire in the sky waging no more than an anaemic campaign.

Ana bought them each a cup of hot tea, more to warm their frozen hands than to drink, and they watched as the landmark rich landscape slipped by: Alcatraz, Golden Gate Bridge, Coit Tower, the funny pointy building that neither of them knew the name of…

“Excuse me ladies?”

Willow and Ana looked up. Standing in front of them were two affable yet predictable looking chaps dressed in sensible clothing, eager expressions on their college-boy faces. Baseball caps proclaiming allegiance to what the girls’ supposed where sporting teams were perched loyally on their heads.

“Mind if we take a seat?” one of them said. He had a drawling mid-west accent, so in actual fact it sounded as though he’d said “Mahnd if way tayke a sayt.”

Ana and Willow looked around at the almost-empty deck of the ferry. There were about fifty other chairs they could have occupied.

“We’re on vacation,” the friend – with similar tonality (“way’re on vay-cay-shon”) – said, as if that would explain their desire to sit in such close proximity to Ana and Willow.

“How pleasant for you,” Ana said calmly, “and as much as we hope you enjoy your vacation, we don’t, in fact, wish to play a significant role in shaping it.”

“Huh?” The two boys looked at each other. One scratched his head, as though that would somehow arrange the words into a semblance of order for him.

Willow coughed to try and hide the laugher that bubbled up in her throat.

“What I’m trying to say,” Ana continued patiently, “Is that we think you would probably enjoy yourselves a lot more without our company.”

The boys looked a bit put out but had the good grace to know when they were fighting a losing battle.

“I thaynk thay must be les-bee-ans,” Willow and Ana heard one of the young men whisper to the other as they walked away. The two boys turned to look back with curiosity and Willow waved coyly, putting her hand on Ana’s knee, trying not to laugh when one nudged the other and gave him a look: ‘I told you so!’

“You didn’t want to be fawned over by college boys today did you?” Ana said. “Because if so, I wouldn’t have told them to leave us alone.”

“I don’t think I ever want to be fawned by anyone ever again,” Willow said, with far more brevity than she had intended.

Ana smiled at her and gave her hand a quick squeeze.

“Do you ever think about Tom?” Willow said suddenly.

Ana looked at her surprised. “Of course I do.”

“You never talk about him,” Willow said. “I just wondered…” she shrugged.

“I can’t stop thinking about him,” Ana admitted, sighing. “But I know that he wasn’t making me happy, so in that regard it was the right thing to do.”

“Who do you think will make you happy?”

“I don’t think I’m ever going to find a guy that makes me completely happy,” Ana said. “I’m now convinced that I’m going to end up all alone. Maybe with lots of cats.”

“You hate cats.”

Ana shrugged. “Perhaps I’ll learn to love them because I’ll be incapable of loving a man.”

Willow laughed. “Tell you what, we can be spinsters together – with or without the cats – because I don’t think I’m ever going to be ready for another relationship.”

Ana solemnly lifted her paper cup with the now lukewarm tea in it. “Here’s to us,” she said. “Two spinsters in the making.”

***

They had lunch in European style pizza restaurant overlooking the water. It was next to a small yacht club, where the Sausiltians – or honorary weekend Sausilitians – keep their marine craft tied to a long wooden jetty when they weren’t using them. Over here, the warm sunshine reigned supreme. The  food was delectable – the pizza crust wafer thin, the toppings fresh and flavoursome and both Ana and Willow felt a sense of peace fall over them as they sat, listening to the waves lap gently against the jetty, slowly eating their food.

Ana was about to take another bite of pizza when she looked up and paused. “Willow, isn’t that Fred?”

“Where?”

“Over there.”

Ana pointed out towards the end of the jetty, where a man was walking slowly back towards the shore. He had a jumper tied over his shoulders and he carried what looked like a picnic basket.

Willow squinted. “Yeah,” she said. “I’m pretty sure it is.”

Walking next to him was a woman, her short auburn hair gently caressed by the wind. She carried a pair of shoes in her hand, treading carefully over the wooden slats of the jetty with her bare feet. She threw her head back and laughed at something Fred said.

“Who’s the lady with him?” Ana said. “His sister or something?”

They watched as Fred put the picnic basket down and wrapped his arms around the woman, embracing her in a long, passionate kiss. He whispered something in her ear, to which she smiled, staring deeply into his eyes for a moment, before pulling him back towards her, and kissing him again.

“I really hope that isn’t his sister,” Ana said. “That would be too gross.” She paused and took a bite of her pizza. “I didn’t know he had a girlfriend. You never told us.”

“I didn’t know he did,” Willow said. She was as surprised as Ana. Fred had never mentioned any woman, except his ex-wife. But she was still in his ex-house in New York bunkered up with his ex-best friend.

“I would have sworn that he had the hots for you.”

Willow rolled her eyes. “Well hopefully now you can see that’s not true.”

“Maybe he’s a polygamist,” Ana said mischievously, “and he’s grooming you to be his next wife?”

Willow groaned. “I don’t think that’s likely.”

As Fred and his companion walked along the jetty, closer to where the girls where sitting, Willow raised her hand to wave at them.

“Oh my god,” she said, almost under her breath, a frown creasing her face. She dropped her hand.

“What? What is it?”

“I know her!”

“Who?”

“The lady that Fred’s with.”

“You’ve met her?” Ana said. “Who is she?”

“She’s the lady from the bank,” Willow said slowly. “The one who wouldn’t give us the loan.”

“Seriously?” Ana peered at the woman. “Are you positive?”

Willow nodded her head.

“What the hell is Fred doing kissing her then?” Ana said furiously.

“I don’t know,” Willow said, shaking her head in bewilderment. “I have absolutely no idea.”

 

***

 

Ravenous will be taking a break for a few weeks. We’ll see you soon with Season 8. Thanks for reading.

Season 7, episode 9

September 18, 2012

“Wake up! Wake up!”

Johnny stirred, opening his eyes. Someone was knocking on the door to their bedroom. “Yeah?”

Willow poked her head in. “It’s almost ten,” she said. “We’re going to have a picnic in Dolores Park, so you guys have to get up!” She stopped and looked around. “Where’s Mia?”

Johnny rubbed the sleep from his eyes. “Bathroom?”

Sure enough, the running tap down the hall stopped and Mia stepped out of the bathroom.

“You OK?” Willow asked. “You look a bit pale.”

“Didn’t sleep well,” Mia said. “Still tired I guess.”

“Well perk up! We’re going to have a picnic!”

“Oh, cool,” Mia said with as much enthusiasm as she could muster. “Let me just have a shower and throw some clothes on.”

“Hurry,” Willow said. “It’s such a gorgeous day at the moment, but who knows how long it’ll stay like this.”

***

Thirty minutes later, the four friends were loaded up with blankets, suncream, an esky (although, over here it was called a cooler) and a picnic basket, which Willow had heaped full with delicious goodies. They walked to Dolores Park, enjoying the sights and sounds of San Francisco on a sunny weekend.

They found a perfect spot towards the top of the park, the slope of the lush green grass giving them a spectacular view across the city and out towards the bay. Mia and Johnny set up blankets as Ana and Willow started unloading everything.

“Crap!” Willow exclaimed, having searched through all their bags. “I made a chocolate cake, but I’ve left it at home.”

“Oh well, we can have it for afternoon tea,” Ana said, pulling the lid of one of the containers and looking inside. Kale salad. Yum!

“But now we have no dessert!” For Willow, a meal was not a meal without at least one type of dessert.

“It’s OK,” Ana consoled her. “It’s not the end of the world.”

“No, no. You guys unload this stuff and I’ll run over the Bi-Rite and grab something.” Willow leaped up and, throwing her handbag over her shoulder, headed down the hill towards the compact gourmet store on 18th. The others shrugged, knowing that you could not reason with Willow when she had a strategically planned meal in her head.

***

Willow was so focused on the task at hand that she didn’t see the young man walking slowly in front of her until it was too late. She collided with him and they both fell to the ground, the man dropping the basket he was carrying.

“I’m so sorry,” Willow said, scrambling up.

“Hey, not to worry,” he said, smiling affably at her. He picked up the basket, examining the contents, smiling when they were obviously undamaged. “You don’t want to buy some brownies, do you?”

“Brownies?”

“Yeah, chocolate brownies. I make them myself. They’re special brownies.”

Willow raised an eyebrow. She doubted this young – albeit very cute – man could make brownies that were anywhere near as special as her own, with their gooey centre, crispy shell and surprise explosions of dark chocolate and hazelnut. But she had just run into him, and she did need dessert.

“What kind of brownies?”

He looked at her puzzled. “Like I said, they’re special brownies.”

“I meant what flavour are they,” Willow explained. Seriously, American vernacular was sometimes really weird.

“Oh right, I dig it. Chocolate.”

She looked into the basket at the individually wrapped brownies. They did look pretty good, she had to admit. Moist and rich.

“Ok then,” she said. “I’ll take… eight.” They weren’t huge, but two each should be enough, she reasoned.

“All right!” The guy smiled goofily again as he piled eight of the brownies into her handbag. “That’ll be twenty-four dollars.”

Willow was a little shocked at the price, but she justified it by telling herself she was supporting a local sole trader and, to be fair, ingredients were dearer here than in Australia.

She smiled again at the young man before heading back up the hill to her friends.

***

After a feast of salads, bread, cheese and homemade dips, Willow unwrapped the brownies and laid them on a plate, handing them around to the group.

“They’re good,” Ana said. “But… they taste a bit weird, don’t they?”

“They’re probably just American,” Willow said, munching happily on hers. “Different ingredients and stuff.” She popped the last bite into her mouth.

Johnny – who had polished his off in one mouthful – picked up a spare one from the plate and sniffed it. He burst out laughing. “Willow, where did you get these from?”

“A guy was selling them,” she said. “He said they were special…” Her voice trailed off. “Oh my god!”

“What? What is it?” Mia said, looking from Johnny who was in hysterics to Willow who was shaking her head in disbelief.

“Special brownies. They’re hash brownies.”

Ana looked at the partially eaten brownie in her hand and then back at her friends, grinning. “Oh well,” she said, popping the rest of it in her mouth and chewing. “When in Rome…”

***

Not long after, the friends had been joined – or maybe they had joined? – a much larger and extremely eclectic group of people. Johnny had borrowed a guitar from someone and was playing anything by Pink Floyd that he could remember, a couple of others raucously singing along, banging tambourines and clapping sort-of in time to the music. Ana discovered that she could remember how to braid hair and so had taken it upon herself to make sure every member of the group – male, female or other – had a carefully orchestrated plait running the length of their heads. Some people – those whom she deemed worthy – even had small flowers woven through, which she had gone and picked from neighbouring front gardens. Mia was spouting the virtues of Pilates training to anyone who would listen, and had started her own little floorwork class just to the left.

“Imagine that you are peeling you’re spine off the ground like each vertebrae is stuck down with toffee and you have to get it off before the next one will move!”

This had incited peels of laughter and then a sudden need for toffee, so half the ‘class’ had gone on a mission to see if anyone in the park had homemade toffee they were selling.

Willow had cornered the young man who had sold her the brownies and they were exchanging recipes. He was, it turned out, quite the avid chef, and not all his recipes required the addition of marijuana, although all of them could be adapted to suit this purpose if needs be. Willow was fascinated by his ‘special’ roast lamb recipe.

“Great if the in-laws or your boss are coming over for dinner,” he said with a wink.

***

They stayed in the park until well after dark, managing a few more brownies each – “on the house” – and sure enough, when they got home, a huge, delicious chocolate cake was waiting for them, which they devoured in minutes, before piling themselves into their respective beds and falling into deep sleeps, filled with multi-coloured dreams.

***

Mia woke with a start. A faint, watery light was just peeking through the curtains. The rest of the house was still quiet. She felt slightly disoriented for a second, forgetting where she was and what she was doing there. Next to her, Johnny was breathing heavily.

She climbed out of bed as quietly as she could and walked quickly to the bathroom, throwing herself onto the floor and only just managing to lift the toilet seat before the contents of her stomach ungraciously upended themselves. With a shaking hand, she flushed the toilet, sitting on the ground with her back against the wall, her head in her hands. She brushed away the hot tears that were running down her cheeks.

Must have been from yesterday. From the brownies, she reasoned with herself. Standing up, she looked at herself in the mirror. The colour was starting to come back to her cheeks, but the sinking feeling that she’d had for almost a week now was stronger than ever. So what was the explanation for throwing up the five mornings before that?

***

Season 7, Episode 8

September 11, 2012

It was all systems go at the little blue house in San Francisco recently inhabited by four Melbournites. Willow had been up since the crack of dawn stirring, whipping and mixing together all kinds of delicious ingredients. She could barely contain her excitement and it showed: the feast being prepared was fit for a king, queen and their entire extended family, in-laws included.

Willow hummed to herself as she layered delicate slices of fresh stone fruit over flan bases filled with homemade custard. On the other side of the kitchen bench, Ana was carefully icing Willow-baked cupcakes and Mia was cutting up fruit for a luscious fresh fruit salad, to which Johnny was adding finely chopped mint. In the oven, several quiches – filled with mushroom, goats cheese, French ham and thick cream – were browning perfectly, the smells wafting across the kitchen and throughout the rest of the house.

“Did I tell you about the great idea that he came up with about how we’re going to move to coffee carts around?” Willow gushed breathlessly, as she carefully placed the final piece of peach down.

“Oh, only about six or seven times,” Ana said good-naturedly. She shared a quick smile with Mia and Johnny, who were doing their best not to laugh.

“Sorry,” Willow said sheepishly. “I’m a bit excited I guess.”

“We’re excited too,” Mia said. “We finally get to meet your mystery business partner!”

“You’re going to love him,” Willow said confidently. “He’s smart and funny and, well, just…”

“Perfect!” they all chorused together.

Willow blushed. “I’ve mentioned it before, huh?”

“Anyone would think you had a crush on him,” Johnny teased.

“No, it’s nothing like that,” Willow said, exasperated. She knew they would all think that. “We just get each other. Professionally. We make a great team. He’s more like a brother than anything else.”

“I wonder if he knows that,” Johnny said, under his breath.

“What was that?” Willow said. “I missed it.”

“We’d better get the table set,” Mia said, changing the subject and giving Johnny a kick in the shins. There was no need to make Willow uncomfortable. “He’s going to be here in about ten minutes.”

***

“I can’t say I love this guy,” Ana grumbled. “In fact, he’s not really ingratiating himself to me at all.”

Johnny and Mia nodded as they eyed the feast in front of them, the food in exactly the same position as it had been two hours ago. They’d waited for Fred, forgiving him being ten minutes late, then fifteen, then twenty, then thirty. After that, they were starting to get a bit antsy. Willow hadn’t let them so much as have a piece of fruit, confident that he would arrive the second they started piling their plates.

“I don’t know where he could be,” Willow said, a tiny frown creasing her forehead. “He knew it was today.”

“Can’t I just have one tiny cupcake?” Ana begged. “Please? I’ll pick the one with the worst icing.”

“Fine,” Willow relented, sighing. “We may as well eat.”

It turned out none of them had much of an appetite anyway and they half-heartedly picked at the goodies on the table.

“He’s probably caught in traffic,” Mia said kindly.

“Or maybe he’s lost,” Ana chipped in. “And forgot his phone.”

“Or been in an accident,” said Willow suddenly. “Oh my god. What if he’s been in an accident? Should I call the hospitals do you think?”

“Lets give it a bit longer,” Johnny said calmly. “We shouldn’t panic just yet.”

“Right. Right. Of course you’re right.” Willow picked up her phone and dialed Fred’s number again. “I’ll just try calling him once more.” But, the same as the other times, the phone rang out.

***

When he still hadn’t turned up another hour later, impatience had turned into collective anger.

“It’s better to know now,” Ana said, drumming her fingers on the table. “Trust me.”

“Know what?”

“That he’s flaky. You definitely don’t want to be in business with someone like that.”

Willow shook her head miserably. “But he’s not flaky. I promise. He’s a really good person. He’d never do this to me.”

Ana and Mia glanced at each other.

“You haven’t put any money in yet, have you?” Ana said warily.

Willow burst into tears. “I did. I put money in.”

Ana gulped. “Err… how much did you put in?”

“All of it,” Willow wailed. “Everything.”

“But you can get it back, right?” Mia said. “Just call the bank and tell them not to release it.”

“I can’t,” Willow said, tears rolling down her cheeks. “The business account is in his name. I couldn’t open one yet because of the whole visa thing.”

“So you gave some guy you don’t know all your money?” Ana was incredulous. Even she would never be that dumb.

“Yes.”

The shocked silence that followed just made Willow cry harder. “I… trusted… him,” she managed to say between sobs.

“We don’t know for sure what’s happened,” Johnny said. “Lets not panic.” But even he had a sick feeling in the pit of his stomach.

Suddenly, the doorbell rang. Willow leaped up, brushing the tears off her face and rushing to the front door. The others jumped out of their seats too, following her.

“I’m so sorry,” Fred gushed when she opened the door. “There was an accident. A guy on a bike got hit, so I took him to hospital and I left my phone at home I think… well, let’s just say the whole thing took longer than I thought.”

As if on cue, Fred’s breast pocket started vibrating.

“Um… I think that’s your phone,” Ana said, raising an eyebrow and crossing her arms across her chest.

“I could have sworn I looked in my pockets,” Fred said, disbelief etched on his face. “I’m doubly sorry now. I’m late and a complete idiot. You must all think I’m a total floozy,” he said, looking towards Willow’s friends who were gathered in the hall.

They looked at the floor, mumbling “Not at all. Of course not.”

He fished a bottle of Dom Perignon out of his bag. “Accept this as a token of my humblest apologies so I can somehow diminish my complete embarrassment. I promise I’m not usually so unreliable.”

He seemed so sincere that they couldn’t help but smile.

“We forgive you,” Ana said. “Now let me put that on ice. I don’t know about all of you, but I need a drink!”

Willow grinned, taking Fred by the arm. “Everyone, this is Fred. My extremely generous, thoughtful and trustworthy business partner.”

***

Season 7, Episode 7

September 4, 2012


“Ana?”

Ana groaned and ducked her head, trying to hide behind her latte as Mena, Chad’s assistant, stalked past the small cafe on the ground floor of the high-rise where Ana now worked. All Ana wanted was five minutes’ peace before the onslaught of the day began, but Mena obviously had other ideas. Ana wondered again exactly why she had sought out a job like the one she had in Melbourne. She knew she used to like it, but she just couldn’t seem to find the drive, the passion anymore. Some mornings she wondered if she came into the office for any reason other than the off-chance of getting a moment alone with Chad – to feel the butterflies ignite in her stomach, her pulse quicken, her…

“Ana?”

How does she even know I’m here?

Ana wondered – not for the first time – if Mena had somehow slipped a locator device into her clothing. Ana hadn’t been working at Bleau long, but she knew that Mena on the warpath meant one thing: Ana had threatened Mena’s life-long fantasy of Chad proclaiming his undying love to her and asking her to quit the job as his glorified minder to become his sex-slave/wife.

Ana smiled smugly to herself. Mena feeling threatened meant Chad must have given some indication he felt something for Ana. In fact, maybe he wanted to see her now and… ‘talk’ about non-work related things?

“Hi Mena.”

“What are you doing down here?” Mena snapped. “Your eight-thirty is waiting in the foyer.”

“My eight-thirty?”

“Yes.” She thrust a business card towards Ana. “Jolene Vale from Roots.”

“Roots?”

Mena sighed, looking disapprovingly at Ana. “Chad had me add the meeting to your diary late last night. Don’t you check your diary?”

Yes, Ana thought, but not when I’m sleeping! “I’m coming,” she sighed, disappointed that it wasn’t a one-on-one with Chad.

***

The woman waiting in the foyer didn’t look anything like Ana expected her to. To Ana, ‘Jolene Vale from Roots’ conjured up images of a simpering, middle-aged, religious zealot squeezed into a pastel twinset a couple of sizes too small. This woman, however, was about the same age as Ana and definitely not overweight. Her fitted black jeans and casual top suggested that the closest she’d come to a twinset was if she’d ever dressed up as Jackie Kennedy for a lookalike competition.

“Jolene? I’m Ana.”

“Call me Joey,” the woman said smiling. She had a firm handshake and a confident manner. “Only my parents call me Jolene. Massive Dolly Parton fans,” she added in a stage whisper. She had an interesting accent: the telltale Californian lilt highlighted by a charming Texan drawl. An import – like so many other people in the city – but obviously one who’d been here a while.

“I’m afraid this meeting was added to my diary rather late,” Ana said apologetically. “So you’ll need to bring me up to speed about your company.”

“Sure,” Joey said, folding her long legs over each other at the ankle and sitting back in a chair. “We’re a nonprofit organisation specialising in food education and advocacy. In a nutshell, we help people – particularly low-income or minorities – eat properly. We let let them know that there are foods out there other than twinkies and pizza, and help them gain affordable access. We also do a lot of work with schools. Educate the kids and try to get them to instigate the change. We hope that one day they’ll start demanding healthier options and therefore the schools will be forced to provide it and the government will have to subsidise real food, rather than the crap they currently do.” She laughed at Ana’s sceptical expression. “I know, I know. It’s an uphill battle, but you’ve got to start somewhere, right?”

“That you do,” Ana agreed. “So what are you hoping to get from us here at Bleau?”

“We got some funding from a private investor who wants us to use it for PR and marketing purposes. I guess I’m hoping to work with you guys and come up with some ideas for things we can do. I mean, we know about posters and ads and that sort of thing, but we want something new. Fresh.”

“Well, lets start throwing around some ideas,” Ana said, “and see what we can come up with.”

***

When they emerged from the meeting room 2 hours later, both the women were talking a mile a minute. Ana’s cheeks were flushed with excitement and her eyes were shining. She couldn’t ever remember being so enthused about a work project before.

“Leave it with me,” Ana said, warmly shaking Joey’s hand as she opened the heavy glass door for her. “I’ll get back to you in a couple of days with some roll-out suggestions and we can take it from there.”

“Perfect,” Joey said. “Thank you. I have a feeling I’m going to really enjoy working with you Ana.”

Ana blushed happily and waved as Joey strode down the hall, remembering now why she had come back into the industry.

“Ana!”

Ana groaned again. What now? “Yes Mena?”

“Chad wants you in his office. Now.”

***

The excitement she had turned to butterflies as soon as she saw Chad’s smiling face. His slightly disheveled hair reminded her of how Marc’s used to look after their frequent, private lunchtime ‘meetings’.

Some psychologist would have a field day with me, Ana thought wryly.

“Ana.”

Even the way he said her name sent a little ripple down her spine. And he seemed to know it as well, his hand lingering on hers a moment too long, his mouth curling in a small smile as she blushed slightly.

“Hi Chad.” To tried to keep her voice light, breezy.

“Ana I…” his eyes locked on hers. She saw his adam’s apple bob up and down and he swallowed. Very slowly, he reached his hand towards her. He hesitated, as though waiting for her to jerk back. She didn’t. Her heart was beating fast. It’s really happening. She hoped her breath didn’t smell and her hair was OK.

He pulled her towards him, covering her lips with his, running his hands through her hair, down her spine and resting them on her bottom for a moment before bringing them to her face. He kissed her hungrily, passionately.

Ana felt desire rush through her body and she pressed herself to him, pressing her hands under his jacket, feeling his muscular back. God, he’s even more sexy than Marc, she thought as she allowed herself to be swept up by his embrace.

But then something happened. She recalled the real Marc: Marc the bastard; Marc the liar; Marc the manipulative asshole who had almost ruined her life.

“No! Stop!” She pushed him away, her breathing ragged and shallow.

“What?” Chad said, disbelief spread over his features. “I know you want me, Ana. You don’t need to play games.”

“No,” Ana said, the familiar revulsion rising up in her. She wiped her mouth. “No. I thought I wanted you. But I don’t.”

He laughed cruelly. “Yes you do. It’s written all over you. The way you look at me, the way you quiver when I touch you…” to demonstrate, he ran his fingers lightly over her shoulder, smirking as Ana shuddered under his touch. He shoved his hand under her blouse, roughly grabbing her breast, pressing himself towards her again. He worked his other hand underneath her skirt, tugging at her underpants.

“Stop!” Ana said, struggling to get away.

“You’re desperate for it,” he added in a husky whisper, not releasing his grip. “I know your type.”

“My type?” Ana glared at him, her eyes burning. With all her strength, she brought her knee up sharply into his groin.

Chad yelled out in pain, doubling over and clutching himself, his eyes narrowed and his mouth hardened into a firm line. “You’re a little bitch,” he snarled. “A classic prick tease.”

Ana took a deep breath. “I quit Chad. I want my full months salary and if you tell anyone about this I will sue you for sexual harassment.”

Chad opened his mouth to complain, but thought better of it. “Fine,” he said tightly. “Get out.”

“With pleasure,” said Ana as she flounced to the door, for the first time in ages feeling like the powerful, take-no-prisoners woman she knew she was.

***

As she wandered home, a cardboard box of her belongings in her hands, she pondered who would take over Joey’s campaign for her. When it seemed that one of the junior assistants was the likely choice, Ana couldn’t help feeling a little bit sad.

***