Tales of food, sex and friendship




Season 6, Episode 10

June 19, 2012

By the time the three girls managed to check back into the Langham in London, Willow felt as though she were a nanny in charge of two sullen children: Ana was feeling very sorry for herself and the general state of her life; Mia hadn’t resolved anything concrete with Johnny – who had flown back to Australia a few days earlier – so was in a particularly foul mood too. The two of them had spent the day sniping at anyone and everyone – air hostesses, taxi drivers, the concierge, even each other – and Willow was looking forward to a long bath and having some time – and space – to herself.

The suite they’d booked last time – but didn’t really get to use – had already been taken by someone else, so they stayed in a smaller suite, equally lavish but with slightly less space. They could have arranged for separate rooms, but Willow wanted the three of them to stay together, at least for a little while, until she was sure that Ana was doing a bit better.

As soon as they got into the room, Ana and Mia plonked themselves on either ends of the couch, sighing simultaneously. Mia kicked off her shoes and tucked her toes underneath her as Ana picked up the remote, flicking aimlessly through channels until she came across a movie. George Clooney’s face filled the screen and Mia and Ana both let out a little sigh.

“I truly believe,” Ana said, “that our lives would be one hundred percent better if we could just meet George Clooney.”

“Oh yes,” Mia said. “I agree.”

Willow smiled and rolled her eyes. She had never understood the George obsession that most females tended to have. “Do you guys mind if I head out for a little walk?” she said.

She took the grunted response to be in the affirmative and walked out of the room in search of some piece and quiet.

***

It was raining outside and so Willow decided to say within the hotel. The concierge had pointed her in the direction of a small, secluded bar, that was reserved for special guests. Willow took that to mean guests who were paying stupid amounts of money for their accommodation.

As it turned out, the bar was perfect.  It was at the top of the hotel, affording an incredible view of the twinkling city below, and was empty aside from a barman cleaning glasses and a guy softly playing the piano. Willow ordered a glass of champagne and took a seat next to the window, getting lost in the maze of alleys and lights, wishing that Robert could have been there to share it with her. She took a sip the champagne, the bubbles popping lightly on her tongue as the cool liquid slid down her throat. It should have been a happy moment, but she was overwhelmed by a sadness so exhausting that all she could do was give into it. She been bottling it up for the last few days, trying to keep a happy face on when she was around the others. Out of nowhere, tears sprang to her eyes and she started crying. They weren’t uncontrollable sobs, but delicate hiccups of tears. She cried for Ana’s divorce and Mia’s relationship that seemed destined for failure. And she cried for Robert, her beautiful man who she would never ever see again. She barely even noticed when the pianist stopped playing mid song and walked over to her.

“I’m no concert pianist, but I didn’t think it was that bad,” a kindly American voice said.

Willow smiled thinly. She was not in the mood for small talk. “The playing is beautiful. Please don’t stop.” And please leave me alone.

“Well if it’s not the playing, then is it something else I can help with?”

“No thanks. I’d just like to be on my own.”

“How about another drink?”

“Oh for gods sake,” Willow said angrily. “Can’t a girl cry over her dead boyfriend in peace?” She immediately regretted shouting at the man. He was just the piano player, after all. She softened. “I’m sorry. That was very rude of me. I apologise.”

“No need to apologise,” he said. “I shouldn’t be sticking my nose in other people’s business, but when I see a beautiful girl crying…”

Through her tears,Willow gave him a scathing look.

He laughed. “OK, I get it. At least let me buy you a drink though. To apologise. My girlfriend would never forgive me if I didn’t try to make amends after offending someone.”

Willow sighed. “Oh, OK them. A champagne please.”

A bottle of French champagne appeared at the table minutes later. “They don’t do the really good stuff by the glass,” the man said, shrugging. “You don’t have to finish the whole thing.”

Willow laughed and shook her head. “You may as well join me then,” she said. “I couldn’t bear to see good champagne go to waste.”

***

As it turned out, the man was a very good listener and sat silently while Willow recounted – what felt like – her entire life story. It was so good to talk to someone about it though, someone who didn’t know her or Ana or Mia or Robert or Johnny or Tom. Someone who would just listen and not offer advice.

“I thought that leaving Melbourne would help me forget,” she said after she had been through the entire sage. “But it hasn’t.”

The man took a thoughtful sip of his champagne. “What would you do to make yourself feel better if you were at home?”

“If I was at home?”

“There must be something that you do when you’re feeling sad. Something that you can only do at home. For example, I like to get into my oldest pyjamas and climb into bed with a huge stack of newspapers and a plate of toast and not worry about getting crumbs on the sheets.”

Willow grinned. “Well, if I was at home, I’d bake. I’d keep baking until there was nothing left to bake. Until I’d used every single cup of flour and gram of butter in the house and every single surface was covered in cakes!”

“Baking, eh?” The man smiled at her. “Wait here.”

He sprang up and spoke quietly to the barman who made a phone call and then nodded at the gentleman.

“Follow me,” the man said, waking back towards Willow.

“Where are we going?”

“The kitchen.”

“The kitchen?”

“I know it’s not your own one, but it might help a little,” he said, weaving through a maze of corridors. “Ah-ha. Here we are.”

Another man, dressed in an impeccable black suit, pushed open a door and ushered them into the biggest, shiniest, most beautiful kitchen Willow had ever seen.

“It’s all yours until the breakfast shift, Mr Clooney,” the man in the impeccable suit said as he walked back out.

Willow turned around sharply and looked at the man in front of her carefully. Tall, dark, handsome, well dressed, American…
“Errr… What did you say your name was?” she asked slowly.

“I didn’t, but it’s George.”

“Right,” Willow said, feeling like a prize idiot. “George. As in, George Clooney.”

He shrugged, smiling, and pulled on a white apron. “Tell me what to do, Chef.”

***

Even Willow wouldn’t have been able to bake her way through all the flour and butter that this kitchen had to offer, but she did her best. Hours later, the counters were lined with croissant, cakes, pies and breads. As it turned out, George had proven to be a very good assistant, even licking the mixing bowls clean when she’d made up the batter. Willow hummed happily as she washed up the last of the crockery and put it away.

George yawned. “Well, not even my jet lag is going to keep me awake for much longer, Chef. I think I might turn in.”

Willow looked at the clock. It was nearly time for the breakfast crew to start preparing anyway.

“I might take some of these though,” he said, filling a container with fresh croissant and danish. He winked and gave Willow a small wave as he walked towards the door.

“George?”

He turned.

“Thank you,” she said sincerely.

***

Willow opened the door to her hotel room quietly. She was smiling to herself and for the first time in weeks she felt completely at peace. The TV was still on in the background, both the girls asleep on either ends of the couch.

Ana sat up groggily as she heard the door close.“Whatimeisit?”

“It’s still early,” Willow whispered, so as not to wake Mia. “Go back to sleep.”

Ana stretched and rubbed her eyes. She peered at Willow. “You look different,” she said. “Happy.”

Willow grinned. “You were right,” she said. “All I needed to do was meet George Clooney.”

***