Tales of food, sex and friendship




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.

***