Tales of food, sex and friendship




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.”

***