Tales of food, sex and friendship




Season 4: Episode 15

December 13, 2011

The champagne arrived and Willow held her breath as the waiter expertly popped the cork. It was all she could not to squeal in excitement. What a wonderfully perfect evening! Well, it would have been far more perfect had Robert actually been able to join her, but it was as close to perfect as she could imagine without him.

She was about 99.99% sure that she had fallen head over heals in love with Robert and was 99.98% sure that he had undergone a similar, dizzying and wonderful transformation. Just thinking about him sent butterflies exploding in her stomach and shooting through every last inch of her body.

They’d tiptoed around the L word, neither of them being quite brave enough to just come out and say it; Willow still smarting from the last time she’d let her feelings get the better of her and Robert not having felt anything even remotely close to this since his wife had died many years earlier. Willow was pretty sure that Robert was going to tell her tonight how he felt and she would have no hesitation letting him know that she felt exactly the same way. She smiled giddily as she took a sip of the champagne and let the bubbles roll over her tongue and down her throat.

“Can I get you something to nibble on?” the waiter asked.

Willow shook her head. He smiled and vanished back into the main restaurant area, leaving Willow alone again. She checked the time, frowning slightly; Robert should have been here by now, surely.

***

Robert looked up and down the street for a taxi. He tapped his foot impatiently and looked at his watch. He’d been waiting at least ten minutes on this stretch of road. He momentarily contemplated calling his driver, but the gridlocked Friday night traffic wouldn’t have been conducive to a quick trip. He wondered about getting the tram. It had been years since he’d caught public transport. He checked his pockets and found a five dollar note. He guessed that a tram ticket would be about a dollar or so and that the conductor would have change. It had been a long time since he’d been on a tram, but they couldn’t have changed that much, would they? He checked the road and stepped out to find a tram stop.

***

Robert’s secretary, Claire, returned to her desk and sighed. She was meant to be having dinner with friends tonight, but had called and said that she’d meet them for a drink later because she was stuck at work. Her half eaten takeaway had congealed so she threw the container in the bin. The meeting room door was still closed, which meant they were still slugging it out over the details of the merger. If only Robert would just leave so she could go home. She was pretty sure that he didn’t even need to be there for the final negotiations, but in typical Fortescue fashion he liked to be involved in every part of the deal.

“How can I expect to run a successful company if I don’t understand everything about it?” he’d said to her on many occasions.

She contemplated sticking her head in the door to see how much longer they were going to be, but decided against it. If she broke the flow it would probably take six times as long.  She picked up the phone again and dialled her friends. May as well just reschedule completely. It didn’t look like she was getting out of here anytime soon.

***

Willow was getting impatient. She had passed the threshold of excited and was moving into pissed-off territory. Seriously, she thought, don’t organise something like this if you’re not even going to be here! She knew Robert was busy and had a lot of work on at the moment, but really, this was getting ridiculous. She sighed and took another sip of the champagne, drumming her fingers on the table.

***

The trams were packed and Robert hadn’t been able to get on the first one that had come past. Some kind of sporting event was going on and the tram was filled with people wearing team jumpers and sporting scarves, even though it was summer. He’d never understood the Melbournian obsession with all things sport. He stepped out and looked down the road again, not seeing another tram anywhere. Dammit. Over the other side of the road a taxi stopped and a gaggle of girls got out, tottering on their towering platform heels. Robert held up his hand.

“Hey!” he shouted, waving to the taxi. “Hey, wait!”

The taxi driver started to pull out, but then saw Robert and stopped, motioning for him to cross the road. Robert grinned and waved his thanks waiting for a break in the traffic. He ran out into the road. There was a screech of brakes and the stomach curdling sound of crunching metal and smashing glass. No-one heard the dull thud of Robert’s body being tossed into the air and then landing in the middle of the road.

***

Robert wasn’t answering his mobile. As a last resort, Willow dialled his office number. She’d spoken to his secretary once before, but didn’t want to come across as one of those girlfriends and therefore never phoned him at work. His secretary answered after two rings.

“He’s still in a meeting I’m afraid,” she said apologetically. She knew about Robert’s plans tonight and felt bad that this girl was waiting. She seemed nice. Still, if she was going to date Robert, she’d better get used to evenings of cancelled plans.

“But he called and told me… Oh, never mind,” Willow sighed. Robert must have gone back into the meeting after he called her. Was it so hard to pick up the phone and let her know?

***

The ambulance rushed Robert to the Alfred hospital. He was unconscious and every part that could be broken, was. The paramedics looked at each other grimly. This one didn’t look good. Not good at all.

***

Finally, at 10:30pm everyone filed out of the meeting room. They looked exhausted. Robert’s secretary waited for him to emerge.

“Where’s Robert?” she asked one of the lawyers who had been in the room.

“He left hours ago.”

Claire groaned and packed up her bag. It was unlike Robert to leave her hanging unnecessarily at her desk.

***

After several more fruitless attempts at getting hold of Robert, Willow finally gave up. She tipped the last drop of champagne into her mouth and stood up, quite drunk by now from the lack of food and the copious amounts of champagne. She apologised again to the waiter and left an overly generous tip, slinking out of the restaurant feeling embarrassed. As she was leaving her phone rang. She snatched it up, her heart sinking when she saw it was Ana – not Robert – calling her. She let the call go to voicemail. She was too grumpy and tired to talk to Ana now.

The house was quiet when she got home. She wasn’t tired and padded into the kitchen to make a toasted cheese sandwich. On any other day she would have laughed at the irony of making a cheese sandwich dressed head-to-toe in a brand new Chanel outfit, but not tonight. Not now.

The pissed-off feeling had gone and was replaced by gut-wrenching worry. Where was he? What if something had happened to him? She didn’t know who else to call; she didn’t know any of his friends yet and when she’d tried the office again it went to voicemail.

Even the molten cheese and fresh sourdough that was sizzling in a pan – thanks to a generous nob of garlic butter – didn’t help her shake the feeling that something had happened.

She’d only been asleep about thirty minutes when her phone rang at 2:30am. She answered without properly waking up.

“Willow? It’s Claire.”

Claire? Who the hell was Claire, Willow thought sleepily.

“Robert’s secretary,” the women said, as if reading her mind.

Willow sat bolt upright in bed. She suddenly felt sick. Her heart was beating fast and her palms started sweating uncontrollably. She didn’t want Claire to be calling her at this time of the morning. She didn’t want to hear what she had to say.

“What is it?” she managed to whisper.

“It’s Robert,” Claire said, her voice catching in her throat. “He’s been in an accident. They don’t know…” she started sobbing, unable to talk. “They don’t know if he’s going to make it,” she finally managed.

Willow ran to the bathroom and vomited before throwing on some clothes and rushing to the hospital.