Tales of food, sex and friendship




Season 5: Episode 8

March 6, 2012

It was quarter to nine in the morning, and Tom had already been in his office for four hours. He rubbed his eyes, as if this would erase the dark circles that seemed to be a permanent fixture these days. He couldn’t even remember the last time he’d had a decent night’s sleep. He took another sip of his coffee, barely noticing it was cold, and tried to focus on the tasks at hand. In the last few weeks he’d fallen behind on some pretty big jobs, and the clients were starting to notice.
Today’s the day I get back on track work-wise, he told himself. At least then he’d feel like he had control over one small part of his life.

To avoid any unnecessary distractions this morning, he’d barricaded himself in his office, locking the door – something he never did – pretending he wasn’t there. He had almost convinced himself that the self-inflicted seclusion was entirely work related, but the tiny niggle in the back of his brain wouldn’t let him forget the terrible thing he’d done. If he didn’t have so much bloody work to do he would have taken a week off and run away somewhere to try and forget the whole mess. That was the problem with owning your own business though: Holidays became luxuries only other people could afford.
The phone on his desk rang and he snatched it out of the cradle quickly.

“Hello?” he whispered, hoping that if there was anyone else in the office, they hadn’t heard it. He could have let it go to voicemail, but he was waiting on an important client to get back to him regarding new sketches.

“Tom?”

He knew that voice. Should have let it go to voicemail, after all.

“Hi Ana.”

“I need to see you,” she said.

Tom gulped. He knew he was being totally chicken, but he really didn’t want a confrontation. Not until he’d figured out what the hell had happened the other night with Sarah and could think of some reason to justify his appalling behaviour. “It’s not a great time Ana. I’m…errr…there’s a project that I need to get done and…”

She cut him off. “Tom, this is important.”

He sighed. He knew that tone of voice. “OK. What about tonight? I could meet you for a drink?”

“I’m on my way to the city now,” she said. “I’ll be at your office in fifteen minutes.”

Shit, shit, shit, shit, shit.

“OK,” he said, as brightly as he could. “See you then.”

He wondered whether Mia had told Ana what she saw. Surely not. Didn’t girls have some kind of pact where they didn’t pass on secrets that might hurt their friends? Or was it the opposite; they always told each other everything? Ana hadn’t sounded mad though, so that meant that she probably didn’t know. Yet.

At least Sarah was coming in late today. Those two going at it hammer and tong again was too awful to think about.
He heard his door handle rattle; someone was trying to come into his office.

“Tom?”

Tom couldn’t decide whether to laugh or cry. So much for the late start.

“Uh, hi Sarah” Tom called, silently pleading for her to go away.

“Why is the door locked?”

“I’m…errr…busy.”

“I need to see you. Just quickly.”

He had to get rid of her before Ana arrived. “Why don’t you…errr…take an early lunch break? A long one. We can talk when you get back.”

“It’s 9am,” she said, puzzled. “Tom, open the door.”

Tom slowly lifted himself off his chair, unlocking the door. Why didn’t he have the guts to just tell everyone to get stuffed?
Sarah looked fresh as a daisy and smelt familiar. Kind of like Ana’s perfume, Tom thought. She walked into the office and closed the door behind her, kissing him on the cheek and letting her hand linger on his shoulder for a moment too long.

“What did you need to talk to me about?” Tom said, escaping behind the safety of his desk. It didn’t work. She followed him.

“I wanted to say thank you for the other night,” she purred. “It was amazing.”

Tom looked uncomfortably at the floor. “About that…”

“Yes?”

“Sarah, you know the situation I’m in,” Tom said. “I don’t think it’s fair for either of us to… embark on anything that we’re not ready for.”

“But we are ready!”

Tom shook his head firmly. “I’m not.”

Tears welled in her eyes. “But you told me you loved me.”

I did?

“Ah, sure, of course, but…”

“But what?”

“It’s, well… just as friends.”

Just at that moment the intercom on Tom’s desk buzzed and the receptionist announced that Ana had arrived. Fifteen minutes my arse, he thought. That had been five at the most. What was she playing at?

“Ana’s here?” Sarah’s voice had changed.

Tom gulped. “Yeah, she needs to speak to me about something.”

“Are you going to tell her about us,” Sarah said.

“Um, no. I don’t think that’s a good idea.”

“Maybe I should tell her? She has a right to know.”

“No!” Tom stood up quickly, steering Sarah towards the door. “I’ll talk to her. Just… do some work.”

Ana walked up just as Sarah was leaving.

“Sarah!” Ana walked forward and embraced her, kissing her on both cheeks. “What a wonderful surprise!”

Sarah looked at her warily. “Um, yeah.”

“How is everything going?”

Sarah looked from Ana to Tom. “Fine,” she said suspiciously.

“So great to see you,” Ana said walking into Tom’s office. “Might see you around. Or not,” she added, shutting the door in Sarah’s face.

Ana turned to face Tom. He looked awful – tired and haggard. Her heart went out to him. “Are you OK?” she said.

Tom looked at her strangely. Was it a trick question? She didn’t seem angry or uptight. She looked… concerned. Tom’s face crumpled. Right at that second he knew unequivocally that he still loved her and, more than anything in whole world, he wanted to make their marriage work. He knew that he had to tell her the truth.

“Oh Ana,” he said miserably. “I’ve been such a fool.”

Ana raised an eyebrow, but didn’t say anything.

“I hope that one day you can find it in your heart to forgive me,” he said. “But the other night I got horribly drunk and,” he gulped, “slept with Sarah.”

Tom braced himself for whatever was coming next. He hoped it was bad. He knew he deserved it.

“No you didn’t.”

He looked at her, confused. “I did. I had dinner at her house and I thought I only had one glass of wine, but I obviously didn’t, and then I woke up then next day in her room.”

“You didn’t sleep with her.”

Tom still looked confused.

“Tom, she drugged you,” Ana said gently.

Tom looked stunned. “No. Uh-uh. No way. Sarah wouldn’t do that.” Would she?

“Think about it,” Ana said. “You said yourself you only had one glass of wine. How is it that you don’t remember anything of the night?”

“I was exhausted, obviously…”

“Tom, I have proof,” Ana said softly. “She put something in your drink.”

“What proof?”

“Please will you trust me on this. Just this once.”

Tom looked out the window, blinking. Sarah drugged him? His mind whirled, slowly trying to make sense of it all. It would explain a lot of things, like the fact he remembered absolutely nothing of that night. He stuck his head out of the office. “Sarah, can you come in here?”

***

“No way!” Sarah’s eyes opened wide. “I would never do something like that! I can’t believe that you’d take her word over mine, after all I’ve done for you…”

“Oh cut the crap,” Ana interrupted. “We know you did it.”

Sarah’s demeanour suddenly changed. “Listen you little bitch,” she snarled. “You need to deal with the fact that it’s over between you and Tom. He chose me. Stop acting like a sore loser. Besides,” she added cooly, “you have no proof of anything. It’s my word against yours and we all know who he’s going to believe.”

She crossed her arms over her chest and looked smug. That was the last straw for Tom.

“Sarah.” Tom turned to face her, he mouth a furious white line. “You’re fired. Gather up your personal things and get out of this office.”

Sarah’s mouth opened and closed a few times; the perfect impression of an inner urban goldfish.

“And leave the La Perla underwear behind,” Ana added.

Sarah’s face flushed an unbecoming shade of scarlet. “I told you I don’t have…”

“It’s stashed in your bag,” Ana said brusquely, cutting her off. “Game’s up, Sarah. Now who’s the one acting like a sore loser?”

Sarah opened her mouth to protest again, but Tom took her firmly by the shoulders and steered her towards the door. “Go,” he said, so furious he could barely speak.

“Oh, I almost forgot,” Ana called after her. “Willow and Mia passed on that they wanted you out of the house today. They’ve packed your things. You can pick them up this afternoon.”

“You… bitch,” Sarah growled, charging towards Ana.

Tom stepped in front of her and caught her hands. “Get out,” he said. “And if you ever come near me or my wife again I will call the police and tell them exactly what you did.”

***

Tom and Ana regaled Mia and Willow with the story many times over dinner. They had just finished one of those perfect meals, which had culminated in a luscious, rich vegan chocolate mousse served with strawberries, blueberries and toasted coconut flakes.

“Tell me again how she flung the bra at your head when she was storming out of the office,” Willow begged, wiping the tears of laughter off her face. Ana smiled, embellishing the story somewhat for dramatic effect. It was so good to see Willow laughing again she would have said just about anything.

“Oh, I’m tired,” Mia said stretching over the chair. She got up and kissed Tom and Ana on the cheeks, giving Tom a small smile that meant she was sorry for doubting him. He grinned back and nodded.

“I think that’s my cue too,” Willow said. “Leave everything. I’ll clean up tomorrow.”

***

Tom stared adoringly at his wife, tucking a strand of her blonde hair behind her ear.

“I’m so sorry,” he whispered for the millionth time that day.

Ana smiled gave him a friendly punch on the shoulder. “I know. Me too.”

“Will you come home?” he said

Ana shook her head slowly. “I don’t think so,” she said. “Not yet. I need… time.”

Tom tried not to look too hurt. He was hoping that they could forget this had ever happened and pick up where they left off. But he didn’t want to rush her. Right now, he would do anything for this amazing woman, including giving her the space she needed.

“Where will you stay?”

“The girls said I could move back in here,” she said. “Until I’m ready.”

“Any idea how long that will be?” Tom asked. “I’m not trying to rush you,” he added hurriedly.

“I know,” Ana said smiling sadly. “But I don’t know how long it’s going to be Tom. What happened between us was… well, it was pretty full on.”

Tom nodded and took Ana’s hand, kissing it. This was not a conversation for tonight. “Take as long as you need.”

Ana smiled at the handsome man in front of her, wishing more than anything she could forget all that had occurred in the last few months. But she couldn’t. And didn’t know how long it would be until she did.