Tales of food, sex and friendship




Season 5: Epsiode 10

March 20, 2012

Ana sighed, frustrated, as she crushed fresh mint between her palms and put it into the tea pot. Back in the old days, she would have been lucky to find time to shove a tea bag in a mug and add water, yet here she was, in the middle of the working week, preparing Moroccan mint tea from scratch. Ever since the evil S girl – whose name she had forbidden from being spoken in the house – had ruined her career, Ana seemed to have nothing but time on her hands.

She’d tried everything she could to salvage her shattered business, but the grapevine had been working overtime and it seemed every single person in Melbourne had heard the initial rumour that Ana had stolen from a client. It didn’t matter that it was not in the least bit true; people had a tendency to believe the first thing they heard.

So, Ana found herself with no clients and in a whole heap of debt, paying for an office space that wasn’t being used. As an absolute last resort, she’d borrowed a significant amount of money from her parents to ‘tide things over’. She hated being in debt to her parents. She felt as though it was yet more evidence she had not succeeded in the ways they had wanted her to. Even worse was the fact that she had been forced to move back in with them for several months.

The ringing of the doorbell startled her and she walked quickly down the hall to answer it, loathing herself for finding this tiny distraction the high point of her day. Her jaw dropped when she opened the door to find Phyllis, her mother, standing there, resplendent in Ralph Lauren. Her blonde hair was pulled back into a perfect chignon and she wore a strand of pearls around her throat. Ana recognised it as her ‘casual’ look.

“What are you doing here?”

“Can’t a mother spontaneously visit her daughter?” Phyllis retorted.

In all the years that Ana had lived in this house, Phyllis had been to visit her a grand total of once, and it most certainly had not been spontaneous. But, she invited her mother in and led the way to the kitchen, putting the finishing touches to the mint tea as Phyllis surveyed the eclectic room with a single raised eyebrow.

Ana glanced sideways at her mother, wondering what on earth she was doing here. Phyllis and David – Ana’s father – had never seemed particularly enamored with their only daughter. Sure, they helped her out with cash when she was desperate, but god forbid she’d ever need a shoulder to cry on or a hand to hold. Ana always suspected she had been a product of keeping up with the Jones’ – everyone else was having kids, so her parents did too. Only one though. No need to go overboard.

They had embraced parenthood by enrolling her in horse riding lessons, French classes, Ballet, sailing, summer school; anything and everything that would keep her out of their perfectly coiffed hair. There seemed to be the unspoken understanding that they would give Ana what she wanted and she would do her best not to embarrass them.
When, at the age of thirteen, Ana got busted for smoking and making out with one of the summer camp leaders behind the craft shed, they threw their hands up in despair. They had given her everything and this was how she repaid them? As their form of punishment, the horse riding and sailing lessons were withdrawn. Ballet was off the agenda and French classes were a thing of the past. She was swiftly, and without a scene, removed from her exclusive private school and hand-delivered to the local public school, where she would see out the rest of her education without the eyes of the Melbourne bourgeois watching her every move.

Ana was thrilled. Her parents were not.

“Any other young lady would kill for your life,” Phyllis had said, taking a languorous sip of Pimms as she relaxed after a tennis lesson with her coach, Adolfo. She could barely manage to take her eyes off his firm buttocks as he wandered around the court collecting balls. “I just don’t understand it,” she sighed.

Ana never knew whether she was referring to Adolfo not falling for her cougar charms or her daughter not wanting to follow in her mother’s footsteps.

Years later, Ana slept with Adolfo in her parents bed, making sure her mother found out. It was her final fuck-you before she moved out of home.

***

“How is life treating you?”

Ana looked at her mother, exasperated. What kind of question was that? She knew exactly how life was treating her. Ana had – after all – been living with her parents for the last few months due to that psycho Sarah hijacking her old room, Tom booting her out of their house, and Ana not being able to afford a place of her own on account of her career being in shambles. At least now, with Sarah gone, Ana had moved back in with Mia and Willow.

“Well Mother, everything is just peachy,” said Ana sarcastically.

“And Tom?”

“He’s just great!”

“There’s no need to be snippy,” Phyllis said. “If you want my advice…”

“I don’t.”

She ignored the interruption. “…then you’ll take Tom back. And soon.”

“What do you care?” Ana snarled. “All of a sudden you’re taking an interest in my life?”

Phyllis smiled sadly and put her hand over Ana’s. “I know that I haven’t been a… great mother,” she said, “but Tom is a good man who loves you and who will always love you. Don’t give that up for anything.”

“Is that why you and Dad stuck it out for all these years?” Ana said bitterly. “Unwavering love for each other?”

Phyllis laughed. “Oh my dear, your father stopped loving me a long time ago, if indeed he ever loved me at all.”

Ana squirmed uncomfortably on her chair. She’d never heard her mother be so candid about her  own life. Ana had always assumed she liked the way it had turned out; that it was exactly as she had chosen it to be.

“Of course he loved you. Loves you,” Ana said, although she didn’t really know that it was the truth.

Phyllis waved her hand dismissively. “What I’m trying to say is that I don’t want to see you make the same mistake I did.”

“What mistake?”

“Letting go of the one person who will make you happy for the rest of your life.”

Ana frowned. “What are you saying?”

“I let my arrogance and stubbornness tear me away from the one man who could have made me truly happy.” She paused, wringing her hands. “It doesn’t matter now, of course. My life is as it is. But I would hate to see you end up… like me. Despite what you might think Ana, I’ve only ever wanted what is best for you. I just didn’t know sometimes what that was.” She smiled and patted Ana’s hand, then stood up and smoothed her already-perfect hair, thanking Ana for the tea. “I’ll show myself out,” she said as she disappeared down the hall.

***

A few hours later, Ana arrived at Tom’s house. The conversation with her mother had been replaying in her head all afternoon. Phyllis had said that you shouldn’t let go of the one person you love with all your heart; the person who will make you happy for the rest of your life. Ana agreed. What this afternoon had made her realise was that, for her, Tom wasn’t that person.

Tom opened the door, the smile lingering for only a few seconds before disappearing. He sensed why she had come. “You’re leaving, aren’t you.”

Ana nodded.

“Please Ana.” His voice was choked. “I’ll do anything. Please just forgive me.”

“I do forgive you,” Ana said. “What’s happened to us… It wasn’t your fault, Tom. The whole Sarah thing wasn’t the root of our problems. She was just the catalyst who brought them to the surface.”

“But if I’d just believed you,” he moaned, “then this would never have happened.”

“Who’s to say that another Sarah wouldn’t come along in the future?” she said. “What would we do then? Go through exactly the same thing all over again?”

“No, it would be different.”

“It wouldn’t,” Ana said with certainty. She sighed. “I’m as much to blame as you for this whole mess, Tom. We rushed into this marriage. You were still angry at me for my affair with Marc and I was trying to prove that I was committed to you. We just thought that getting married would fix our problems.”

“But it didn’t,” Tom said miserably.

Ana shook her head sadly. “No.”

“Give me…us… another chance.” He took her hands gently in his own. “Please?”

Ana looked up into his eyes; his gorgeous, blue, sparkling eyes. “I can’t,” she said softly. It was everything she could do not to fall back into his arms, sobbing. “I’m sorry. I just can’t.”

After a few minutes, Tom pulled his hands away and let them fall limply on his lap.

“I know,” he said finally. And, deep down, he did.

She smiled at him briefly and stood up. Her mother had been right about one thing. If you find your one true love, you should never let them go. But Tom wasn’t that person and in order to have some hope of one day finding them, she had to let him go.

“Goodbye Ana,” Tom said. He kissed her on the cheek, feeling the salty, wet tears slide down her face.

Ana lifted her hand in a final farewell, letting herself out of his apartment, and his life, for good.