Tales of food, sex and friendship




Season 8, Episode 3

November 13, 2012

Willow hiked the bed-covers further up over her legs and pulled her big woolen cardigan around her shoulders. The pillows behind her back had started to fall down the crack between the mattress and the bed frame, but she couldn’t be bothered rearranging them. What was the point? They’d just fall back down again. She looked down at the page of the book she was reading. It was the same one she’d been on for the last forty minutes. She blinked. Who the hell was Charmaine and where had shecome from?

Closing the book, she tossed it on the ground next to her bed. It landed spine down with a dull thud on the carpeted floor, pages splaying open and the bookmark falling out. Didn’t really matter. It wasn’t like she had any idea what was going on up to that point anyway. She reached her hand out for the cup of chamomile tea she’d made. It was stone cold. She tentatively took a sip anyway, wondering if it would have the same calming properties. It tasted bitter. She made a face and put the mug back on the bedside table. Sliding her body further underneath the blankets, she switched her reading light off and rolled over. She listened to her own breath, even and steady. Couldn’t get comfortable. She fussed with the pillows and rolled over again, finally giving in and switching the light back on. Her usually faithful buddy, sleep, was being particularly evasive tonight.

Swinging her legs out of bed she tip-toed towards the kitchen, pulling the door silently behind her before switching on the light. The house was deathly silent, the others having gone to bed hours ago. The clock on the oven told her it was nearly six. She turned the kettle on and got out a fresh mug. She opened a cupboard, searching for another camomile tea bag. Her gaze rested instead on an open bottle of sherry she used for cooking. She pulled it out and poured a slug into the mug. That would probably help her sleep more than the tea, anyway. She sat heavily on a stool and rubbed her eyes, wincing at the saccharine flavor of the alcohol as she took a healthy swig. She waited until the cloying taste had dissipated and took another gulp. Wasn’t too bad after the initial shock.

Her laptop sat at the other end of the bench, antagonistic in its presence. She hadn’t opened it for days. Not since she had seen Fred and Marjorie (or, as Willow preferred to call her “that bitch from the bank”) walking down a pier in Sausalito, hand in hand. That day had been the start of the niggling feeling in the pit of her stomach; a sensation of dread that wouldn’t go away.

She polished off the mug of sherry and went back for seconds. Truly, it got better the more you drank!

She knew once she opened her laptop she would go straight to her internet banking business account. She didn’t want to do that. She was terrified of what she would find. Or, rather, what she wouldn’t find. She was sure there were many explanations as to why Fred would be out with that lady, but she couldn’t stop dwelling one one: That he was playing Willow. That he had duped her into giving him all her money and was in cohorts with Marjorie (if that was even her real name!) and they were going to abscond to Hawaii or Costa Rica and live happily ever after while Willow had to survive as a pauper, not able to pay the rent, or get a job, finally ending up on the streets living out of a cardboard box and…

She lifted the mug to her lips. Empty again. Time for another refill.

Now, where was she? Oh yes. Pauper. Cardboard box.

Emptying the rest of the sherry into her cup she eyed the laptop again. The sherry had taken the edge off and she felt wonderfully blurry, a sense of possibility creeping in where previously she had felt only doom. So what if Fred had screwed her? She could still make it work. She could find another investor and do it all over again. And it would be all the sweeter when the business worked because she would have done it off her own steam, not relying on other people. Besides, there were some very decent cardboard boxes out there, so if it all fell through, there was nothing to say she couldn’t live a very respectable existence. Hell, she could even have a vacation cardboard box set up somewhere warm to spend Thanksgiving and Christmas! Something Romney could be proud of, you know?

She glanced at the clock on the oven again. 6:30am. The others would be up soon. It was now or never. She pried the lid of the laptop open and fired it up. She logged into her bank account and, squeezing her eyes shut for only a moment, looked at the screen.

For a second, it didn’t register. She blinked and looked again, to make sure she wasn’t imaging it.

The money was still there. All of it.

“What the hell…?”

Instead of relief, Willow just felt more confused. If Fred wasn’t scamming her, then why had her intuition spiraled out of control? And why was he hanging out with Marjorie?

So, Willow did the only logical thing one can in such a situation. She put on a hat, some dark glasses and a trench coat, and set off to stake out Fred’s house in order to get the bottom of it all.

***

She followed him to a large coffee shop and took a seat in the far back corner, so she could see him and he couldn’t see her. She didn’t understand what all the fuss with spying was. Seriously, it was a doddle! She smiled smugly to herself. Best spy ever.

“Willow?”

Fuck. Worst spy ever.

“Oh, hi Fred. I didn’t even see you there.”

“Are you OK? I’ve emailed you a few times, but you haven’t responded.”

“I’ve been… sick. Yeah, really sick.” She coughed pathetically.

Fred sniffed the air. “Can you smell… sherry?”

“Cough medicine,” Willow said quickly. “I’ve had lots of it.”

Fred sat down opposite her. “And why are you wearing sunglasses inside?”

Willow snatched the sunglasses off her face. “Sensitivity to the light. From being sick.” She coughed again.

“Right.” Fred looked at her a little strangely. “Anyway, I’m so glad I’ve run into you. There’s something I need to talk to you about. I feel really terrible that I hadn’t told you this earlier, but… well, I’ve met someone.”

“Oh yes?” Willow said weakly.

“Do you remember the lady from the bank? The one who couldn’t give us the loan?”

“Um, yeah. Sort of,” Willow mumbled.

“I ran into her at the grocery store the other week and we started chatting about the dry grown tomatoes… Have you tried them?”

“The tomatoes?”

“Yes.”

“No.”

“Ah. Well they’re good. Very good. Anyway, we were talking about the tomatoes and she said that she had a great recipe for gazpacho and I told her how I loved gazpacho and then she invited me over and… well, what I’m trying to say, is that… we’re kind of going out now. I was too scared to tell you because I didn’t think you liked her very much.”

Willow suddenly felt exhaustion surge through her. That was it? Fred had started seeing someone that he didn’t think she’d like?

“That’s great Fred. I’m really happy for you.” She stood up and slung her bag over her shoulder. Bed was definitely calling. “I really should get home.”

“We should all get together for dinner sometime.”

“Sure.”

“I’ll get her to make gazpacho.”

“Sounds great. Bye Fred.”

Willow hailed a cab and went home. She fell into bed without taking her clothes off and slept until late that afternoon, waking up with only the mildest of hangovers.

***