Tales of food, sex and friendship




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.

***