Tales of food, sex and friendship




Season 8, Episode 8

January 8, 2013

pastry

Sunlight streamed through the curtains in Willow’s room. She could already tell it was going to be one of those typical San Francisco winter days, where the sun fooled you into thinking it would provide any warmth and then left you shivering in your poorly chosen jacket. But Willow was so excited that she didn’t think she would feel the cold anyway. Today, she and Fred were launching their portable coffee and cake business!

She sprung out of bed and threw on a thick robe before heading downstairs to triple check that all the cakes, pastries and tarts she had spent the last day baking were ready to be loaded onto the carts. Fred was due over in an hour, when they would load everything into the car and head to his place, where the custom-made cart had been delivered. Willow hadn’t seen it in the flesh yet – a friend of Fred’s who lived an hour out of the city had made it for them – but she’d seen photos and Fred had assured her that it was as handsome in the flesh as in the pictures. She and Fred had both been taking coffee-making classes, and between them could make a mean macchiato, cappuccino and latte. And Fred had mastered the quintessentially Australian flat white so perfectly that even the most prolific Melbourne coffee snob couldn’t find fault with it.

***

Mia was sitting in the kitchen drinking a cup of tea and reading the paper when Willow came down. Willow leaned down and rested her hands on Mia’s barely there belly. “Good morning baby,” she said.

Mia rolled her eyes, but couldn’t hide the grin. “Are you guys going to do this every morning for the next five months?”

Willow grinned back. “Yup.”

Johnny and Mia had broken the news to them the night Johnny had proposed. Willow and Ana had promptly burst into tears, which in turn had made Johnny and Mia start blubbering too. The crying was then followed by a prolonged session of jumping, squealing and hand-clapping. Ana and Willow had started referring to the bump as ‘our baby’ and had subsequently come home each day with yet another trinket for the kid – a hat, some socks, a toy – anything they found on their travels that the newest addition of the household might like.

“This kid has more crap than we do and it’s not even out of the womb,” Johnny would grumble good naturedly as yet another package was delivered to their room from the doting ‘aunts’.

***

At five minutes to eight, the entire household were gathered excitedly in the kitchen, ready to spring to action as soon as Fred rang the doorbell. They all wanted to help Willow on the first day of her new venture, and had self-appointed tasks that they seemed to be taking very seriously.

When Fred hadn’t turned up at ten past eight, Willow tried calling him. She was met with a loud beep and a recorded message: “The number you have called in not in service. Please check the number before dialing again.” She frowned and pressed the number again. The same message.

“I’m sure it’s nothing,” Ana said.

Willow nodded. She smiled brightly at her friends. “Of course. Everything is fine, I’m sure.”

“What if he slept through his alarm?” Mia said suddenly. “And… his phone was cut off because he forgot to pay it. Willow, why don’t you and Johnny get a cab over to his place and Ana and I will wait here in case he turns up.”

Willow nodded grimly and pulled on a jacket. She was feeling light headed. Giddy. When the cab pulled up in front of Fred’s place, Willow felt her stomach lurch.

A huge sign out the front proclaimed: For Lease.

She jumped out of the cab and peered through the front windows. The entire place was completely empty. “This cannot be happening,” she said, almost under her breath.

“Did he move in with his girlfriend?” Johnny said uncertainly.

Willow swallowed hard. I will not cry. I will not cry. She directed the taxi driver to Marjorie’s house. As they pulled up, she couldn’t hold back the tears anymore. Same real estate company, same sign.

“Let’s get home,” Johnny said, his voice shaking.

***

For hours, they called everyone they could think of, retraced the steps of every place Fred had ever been, trying to find some clue of where he had gone. The real estate agent had no forwarding address and the bank informed them that Marjorie had resigned suddenly a few days prior.

“I’m sure there’s a reasonable explanation still,” Willow said, her voice hysterical. She looked frantically at her friends. “Right?”

“Willow, he’s stolen all your money,” Ana said gently. “I think it’s time to call the police.”

Willow shook her head. “I can’t,” she said with a sob. “Not yet.” She sighed and wiped her tear streaked face. “I need to lie down.”

“Willow, we…”

“Just give me a few hours,” she said cutting Ana off. “Please. I just need some time alone.”

***

Willow was curled up in a ball on her bed. More than a few hours had passed and the tears had dried up long ago. She sat staring glumly at a blank space on the wall. There was a quiet knock on the door. Willow ignored it. She didn’t feel like seeing anyone yet. The knock again, this time louder.

“Willow?” The door opened a crack and Ana stuck her head through. “Willow, there’s someone here to see you.”

“Unless it’s Fred with my million dollars I’m not interested,” Willow said flatly.

“No.” Ana paused. “But I think you might want to come downstairs.”

Willow sighed. “Ana, I appreciate you trying to cheer me up, but I’m really not in the mood for any…”

“Just put some clothes on and come down,” Ana said gently but firmly. “Please Willow.” She pulled the door closed and Willow heard her footsteps pad away.

Sighing, Willow heaved herself off the bed and threw on a sweatshirt and some jeans. She walked downstairs, pulling her hair back into a ponytail as she went. Her eyes were red and raw, puffy from so many tears. She paused outside the living room. Muffled voices came from inside. She pushed the door gingerly open. Mia was sitting on a chair, Johnny perched on the edge. Ana was hovering near them, obviously too jumpy to sit down. They all turned at once and face her, concern etched on their faces.

“What’s going…” She stopped. There were two other people in the room, sitting awkwardly on the couch. They stood as Willow entered.
Willow blinked. One of the men looked almost exactly like Bryn, the guy she’d had dinner with at Fred and Marjorie’s: the guy who had seemed interested in her, and then had totally clammed up. It couldn’t be Bryn, Willow told herself. Apart from the similarity in features, he looked totally different to the preppy guy she’d met previously. This guy was dressed in a well-fitting suit, glasses on his face, with his short hair combed neatly back.

He smiled at her.

Willow blinked again. Hang on, it was Bryn.

“What are you doing here?” she said finally.

“Hello Willow.” Bryn said. He looked tired. “This is Samuel.” The other man – who was dressed in a similar dark suit – nodded at Willow and didn’t smile.  “Would you take a seat?” Bryn continued. “We need to speak to you about Fred and Marjorie.”

***