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Archive for December, 2012

Season 8, Episode 7

December 18, 2012

pots

Mia opened the door to the apartment quietly. She paused in the hallway, listening for signs of life. For the last week she had come and gone from the house as quiet as a mouse. She had been avoiding them all – Ana, Willow, Johnny. Especially Johnny. Not that he had been going out of his way to spend time with her, she thought angrily. They’d barely exchanged ten words since he’d found out she was pregnant and freaked out.

She walked upstairs and dumped her bag in her room. She paused in front of the mirror and turned sideways, putting her hands on her slightly round belly. She was wearing a lot more loose fitting tops these days, keeping the slight bump hidden from her housemates, but it wasn’t going to be long before those weren’t enough anymore.

She’d gone over the scenario in her head so many times, playing out how they might react. She’d been so far off the mark with Johnny though, she really didn’t know what to expect anymore. Mia had hoped that she and Johnny could tell them together. But the longer Johnny was silent about it, the more Mia realised that this was something that she was doing on her own. She’d already made her decision: even if Johnny wanted nothing to do with this kid, she was keeping it.

She wondered if he’d go back to Australia. He’d have to move out, at any rate. Or maybe she would have to move out, she thought suddenly with panic. It’s not like Ana and Willow were really going to want to deal with a crying baby at all hours of the day or night.
Mia closed her eyes and rubbed her temples. She considered curling up in bed and going straight to sleep, but she hadn’t eaten since much earlier that day, and she knew the incessant grumbling in her stomach wasn’t going to get any better.

She wandered downstairs, surprised when she heard noises coming form the kitchen. Pots and pans clattering, followed by a yelp and a string of swearing. It was Johnny. She considered disappearing back up to her room, but realised she couldn’t hide from him forever.

He looked at her, startled, as she walked into the room. “What are you doing here?”

“I live here,” Mia said, not even trying to keep the disdain out of her voice. She surveyed the state of the kitchen; dishes piled in the sink, ingredients over every available surface.

“What on earth are you doing?” she said.

“Cooking,” Johnny said with a sigh. “Well, trying to. But I’ve just overdone the kale and burned the lentil stew.”

Kale? Lentil stew? These weren’t exactly Johnny’s favourite dishes. Mia looked at him with suspicion.

“I was trying to make dinner for you. As a surprise,” Johnny said sheepishly. “I didn’t think you’d be home for a while longer.”

Mia’s face softened involuntarily. Johnny smiled gingerly at her. “Hi,” he said gently. “How are you?”

Mia felt suddenly exhausted. “Not so great,” she said, smiling wryly.

Johnny nodded slowly and pulled out a chair for her to sit down on. He opened the fridge and pulled out a bottle of apple juice. “A nice drop of white?” he said with a grin.

Mia gratefully accepted the juice and drank it in three gulps.

“We need to talk,” Johnny said. He pulled another seat opposite her and sat down. “I’ve been trying to think of how to say this all week but I wanted…” he paused and sighed. “I just wanted the right time.”

“Now seems as good a time as any,” Mia said. Here we go, she thought. The beginning of the end. It had been fun while it lasted.

“I’m so sorry,” Johnny said. “When you told me about the baby, I was over the moon.”

Mia snorted. “The reaction you had was hardly what I’d call over the moon!”

“Honestly Mia. I really was,” Johnny fiddled with the sleeve of his jumper. “But – call it stupid or antiquated or whatever you want – I don’t want to have a baby with you if you’re not my wife.”

“That is so… traditional!” Mia said, angrily.

Johnny smiled and shrugged, but didn’t offer an explanation.

“So what you’re saying is that because we’re not married, you don’t want to be a part of the baby’s life?” Her voice was strained, as though it might crack any minute.

Johnny reached into his pocket, pulling out small black box, and knelt down on one knee.

Mia blinked. “What are you…?”

“Mia, will you marry me?”

For a few seconds, Mia didn’t say anything. She just stood there, looking from the sparkling diamond ring nestled in a small black box, to Johnny’s expectant face.

“But…but…” She started crying. “God Johnny! You leave me thinking that you don’t even like me anymore, that you don’t want to be part of my life, and then… this!”

“Call me conventional, but usually the finance-to-be have to give a yes or no answer,” he whispered.

“But you’re only doing this because of the baby,” she said. “You don’t have to do this.”

“This is all I’ve wanted since the day we first kissed,” he said. “Maybe even before that.”

Mia wiped the tears from her face and looked at him quizzically, just to make sure he wasn’t having her on. The earnest look on his face assured her he wasn’t. “Well… I mean… as long as you’re sure…?”

“Is that a yes?” Johnny said quietly.

“Yes!” Mia said slowly. Her face broke into a brilliant smile. “Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes!”

Tears welled in Johnny’s eyes as he took the ring from the box with shaking hands. He held it towards Mia.

“Fuck the ring,” Mia said, rolling her eyes. “Kiss me you fool!”

And so Johnny did. The deepest, sweetest most sincere kiss either of them had ever experienced.

“Now hand over that bling,” Mia said with a cheeky smile.

***

Season 8, Episode 6

December 11, 2012

Willow perused the beautifully stocked shelves of her local wine merchant. She loved this store, with its eclectic mix of crowd pleasing varietals and slightly more obscure labels. She would often get lost in here, reading the lofty descriptions and tasting a drop or three (the owner had come to know her quite well by now and always had a dusty bottle tucked away somewhere that he would insist she try).

But tonight, her heart just really wasn’t in it. In fact, Willow was in an uncharacteristically petulant mood. She had run out of excuses for not having dinner with Fred and Marjorie, and had eventually succumbed, agreeing to meet them tonight at Marjorie’s house. Marjorie was, apparently, going to make with that bloody gazpacho that Fred hadn’t shut up about. Willow knew it was petty to be so vehemently opposed to a woman who she really didn’t know, but there had been something about Marjorie that she had immediately disliked when she met her at the bank.

And to make matters even worse, Marjorie had invited someone else she knew – some guy – as an ill-disguised attempt at finding a date for Willow. Fred had been slightly embarrassed about it, but had persuaded Willow to come with an open mind.

“You never know,” he said. “You might end up actually liking him.”

Willow had decided at that very moment that she would absolutely not like this person, regardless of any extraneous factors.

Glancing at the time, she saw she was already running late. She stopped in front of a Cabernet she knew was passable – and cheap – deciding she wasn’t prepared to go for anything fancier for a dinner she didn’t even want to go to in the first place. It was obviously very popular choice, because there was only one bottle left. Before she could reach out and take it though, an arm came from behind and plucked it off the shelf.

“Hey,” Willow said turning around. “I was going to buy that!”

The man who was holding the bottle looked at her in surprise. “I’m so sorry,” he said. “I thought you were browsing still.”

The frown on Willow’s face softened slightly. Even her stony heart and disagreeable temperament couldn’t miss the fact that this guy was gorgeous! Crisp green eyes, tanned skin and short brown hair. His clothes were trendy without being pretentious and when he smiled at her, he displayed a set of Americanly white, uniform teeth. Very conservative looking, Willow decided, like he’d just stepped out of the army. But there was definitely something…

“Here,” he said, thrusting the bottle towards her. “Take it.”

“It’s fine,” Willow said. Apparently he was a gentleman too! “Really. I’ll grab something different.”

“I insist.” He practically took her hands and wrapped them around the bottle. “But on the proviso that you can suggest anything else.” His voice had a slightly flirtatious edge to it.

“What’s the occasion?” Willow asked. The playful tone of her question wasn’t intentional; apparently, that was what her speech did when she was talking to a gorgeous man. Wasn’t she meant to be sullen and cranky tonight?

“Just dinner with friends,” he said, shrugging. “No big deal.”

Willow looked over the shelves with a serious eye, casting sidelong glances back towards the man. He was watching her with a small smile. “This one,” she said finally. “It’s delicious. One of my absolute favourites.”

“Why aren’t you buying it then?” he asked.

Willow smiled and lowered her voice conspiratorially. “Because I don’t really want to be going to the dinner party tonight that I am, and I am being particularly spiteful and making my wine choice accordingly.”

He laughed a warm hearty laugh. “It’ll be our little secret then.”

“Thank you,” Willow said. She paused, half waiting for him to say something else, quite glad when he didn’t. She didn’t know if she was ready for dating again yet. “Well… have fun tonight.”

“You too,” the man said, looking more than a little disappointed when Willow walked off without another word.

***

Fred opened the door. “Willow! I’m so glad you could make it. Come in, come in.” He ushered her inside, taking her coat and the proffered bottle. “Marjorie is in the kitchen and Bryn isn’t here yet.”

Willow followed her host down the hall and made small talk while Marjorie put the finishing touches to the famous gazpacho. The doorbell rang.

“That must be Bryn,” she said in a sing-song voice, looking pointedly at Willow.

Willow grimaced and took a big swig her glass of wine. Bryn walked into the kitchen and Willow nearly choked on her mouthful of wine. It was the guy from wine shop!

“You must be Willow,” Bryn said, obviously trying not to laugh at Willow’s shocked expression. “It’s nice to meet you. I’ve heard a lot about you.”

“What can I get you to drink?” Fred asked.

Bryn handed over the bottle he was carrying. “I might have a glass of this,” he said. “Came highly recommended.” He looked at the open bottle that Willow had bought with her and then at the in Willow’s hand. “You should finish that and try this one,” he said. “I have a feeling you might like it.”

***

The night, as it turned out, wasn’t a complete disaster. Far from it. Bryn was excellent company, and Willow almost managed to block out the intense – and unfounded – feelings of animosity towards Marjorie.

After they had imbibed the requisite amount and made the right small talk, Willow decided it was time to go. There was only so much of Fred fawning over the bank woman she could take, after all!

“I should head home,” Willow said. “It’s been a long day.”

“I’ll walk you,” Bryn said, standing up. They said their thank-you’s and stepped into the chilly night air, walking in silence the four blocks to Willow’s house.

“This is me,” she said, scuffing her toe self-consciously on the ground.

Bryn nodded slowly and looked towards the house. He moved a step closer. Willow’s breath caught in her throat.

“I had a really great time tonight,” Bryn said. “I hope it wasn’t as horrible as you thought it was going to be?”

Willow smiled. “No.” She was feeling a bit giddy from the wine and, she had to admit it, the company. Not since Robert had she felt like this about someone. She didn’t want to be, but she was desperately attracted to this man. Bryn smiled and tucked a strand of hair behind her ear that had come loose. His eyes were soft and kind and she felt as though she could have melted right into them.

“Willow, I…” he trailed off, looking down at the ground.

“What is it?” Willow asked.

When he looked back at her, his whole expression had changed. His eyes were deadpan, and they looked straight through her. “Nothing.” He said. “I should go. Goodnight.”

And with that, he turned on his heel and marched off down the street.

***

Season 8, Episode 5

December 4, 2012

The rumble in her stomach interrupted Ana’s train of thought. She glanced at the clock on her computer, amazed that it was already three. No wonder she was hungry! She hadn’t eaten since eight that morning. She was surprised that Joey hadn’t come in to see if she wanted to have lunch earlier – ever since they’d started working with each other, they’d taken lunch together every day. They were like new best friends in high school: Initially a bit shy and reserved, tip-toeing around conversations, trying to ascertain if the other person would think what they liked was ‘cool’, without having to actually come out and ask. But that had passed, and now they practically finished each others sentences.

Ana frowned. In fact, Joey hadn’t come past her office yesterday, either. Probably just super busy.  Standing up from her desk, Ana stretched her arms above her head and then grabbed her coat and bag. She stuck her head into Joey’s office to see if she was about, not surprised she wasn’t, and headed out into the rain in search of something lunch-worthy.

***

She shook her umbrella out and left it in the receptacle by the door of the cafe. It was the closest place to work, and she and Joey came here frequently when they were on a deadline and needed to grab something in a hurry. As she ambled up to the counter she could see that most of the savoury  foods were already sold out. Seemed as though it was going to have to be cake again for lunch. She glanced around the small cafe, empty apart from two other women sitting in the back corner, huddled over coffees. Ana peered closer. One of them was Joey. She smiled broadly and walked towards them.

“There’s just no way it’s going to work,” Ana heard Joey say in slightly hushed tones to her friend. “She’s too… different.”

Ana stopped mid-stride and was trying to decide if she could slip away without being noticed, when Joey turned around and saw her. Her face flushed dark red.

“I didn’t mean to interrupt,” Ana said. “I just saw you over here and…”

“I’m Vanessa,” the other lady said quickly. “Joey’s sister.”

Ana smiled and put out her hand. “I’m Ana.”

“You’re Ana,” Vanessa said, looking Ana up and down. “I’ve heard a lot about you.”

Ana gulped. From both the women’s expressions she knew she’d busted them talking about her. And it didn’t look as though it was anything good.

“I should get back,” Ana mumbled. “It was nice to meet you Vanessa.”

***

Ana couldn’t focus when she got back to her office. Why had Joey been talking about her? And what what had she been saying? Was Ana going to get fired… again?

By five o’clock she could take it no more. “What’s going on?” she demanded, standing in Joey’s door, hands on her hips.

Joey looked at her, surprised. “What are you talking about?”

“I’m not an idiot,” Ana said. “If I’m not working out here, just tell me. Don’t string it out any longer than it has to be.”

Joey looked genuinely puzzled. “You’re not happy here?” she said.

Now it was Ana’s turn to look surprised. “Of course I am. I thought that you weren’t happy with me.”

“What makes you think that?”

Ana sighed. “I don’t know. I feel like you’re avoiding me. And when I saw you today at lunch… just tell me if you’re going to fire me, OK?”

“You think I’m going to fire you?”

Ana blushed. “Yes. No… I don’t know.”

Joey threw her head back and laughed.

“I guess I’m a bit paranoid, huh?” said Ana, abashed.

“You don’t say? Ana, you are fabulous and you are spectacular at your job. I’m definitely not going to fire you.”

Ana smiled sheepishly. “Will you let this paranoid gal buy you a drink tonight in celebration of continued employment?”

Joey smiled sadly at Ana. “I don’t think I should.”

“Oh come on,” Ana pleaded. “Work can wait. Please. It’ll be fun.” She pouted and made her best puppy dog eyes. “I promise.”

Joey hesitated. “OK,” she said finally. “Give me two minutes.”

They went to a small wine bar and made light work of a bottle of Italian white before moving onto a Californian syrah then a New Zealand pinot. Ana felt deliciously blurry, the piece of cake she’d had for lunch doing little to soak up the booze.

“I have a confession to make,” Joey said suddenly, smiling lightly. Her voice was slightly slurred. “It’s what I was talking to my sister about.”

“Out with it then,” Ana prompted, when Joey didn’t say anything further.

“I like you Ana.”

Ana laughed. “How is that a confession? I like you too.” She picked up her glass and took another sip of the pinot.

“I don’t think you understand,” Joey said. The smile was gone and her face was serious. “I like you, Ana. I can’t stop thinking about you.” Joey took the glass from Ana’s hand and put it on the table. She leaned forward slowly, her eyes locked on Ana’s.

Ana could feel her pulse start to pick up. She licked her lips self-consciously.

Joey hesitated, her face inches from Ana’s. In her eyes, a question.

Ana gulped.

Joey pressed her lips to Ana’s, softly at first, their pressure intensifying when Ana didn’t immediately pull away.

Ana felt stars where her brain should have been. Neurons popped and fizzled like sherbet. Everything in the world stopped for a few seconds. But then…

“No. Wait.” Ana pulled away, her hand flying to her lips. They were swollen and wet. “You didn’t tell me… I didn’t know.”

Joey nodded. “I’m sorry. I didn’t want to freak you out.” She laughed sardonically. “Guess it’s a bit late for that now.” She opened her handbag, taking out some money and putting it on the table. “For the wine.” She picked up her coat, slinging it over her arm. “I should go.”

“Joey, no, you don’t have to go. It’s just… I’m not…”

“You don’t have to say it,” Joey said quickly. “I know.” She smiled sadly at Ana, a small sigh escaping her lips. “See you later.”

Ana took her arm. “Joey, wait…”

Joey paused and looked at the hand on her arm. “Don’t make it worse,” she said softly, gently lifting Ana’s fingers off. “Goodnight.”

***