Tales of food, sex and friendship




Season 6, Episode 5

May 15, 2012

Rice Crispy Forgiveness

Willow wandered through The Lanes, slowly meandering past the quirky stores, buskers and street merchants, selling everything from crazy hats to candy. She liked Brighton a lot. In many ways, it reminded her of Melbourne. The way people dressed, the food they ate, the weather. You could even order a better-than-decent flat white from any number of Australian or New Zealand baristas that had seemingly taken over the coffee making trade here. In and around The Lanes, vintage clothing shops were outdone only by an abundance of cafes, stocked with delectable fresh cakes, salads, soups and breads. It was Willow heaven.

And today, the sun was shining and people were smiling. She’d slept well and only shed a small number of tears for Robert. All in all, it was pretty close to a perfect day.

Almost.

If she could only shake the feeling in the pit of her stomach that she had lost her two best friends. She assumed they were both still in London. She’d heard nothing from Mia, but Ana had tried calling a few times. Willow hadn’t picked up the phone. She needed a few more days to get her head around what had gone wrong before she could face them again; start making (or receiving?) apologies. The whole situation was discombobulating, to say the least.

She felt her phone buzz in her handbag.

Number withheld. She toyed with the idea of not answering it, but decided to be brave. What if it was her parents trying to reach her? Besides, if she didn’t want to speak to the person, she could always pretend the line was bad and hang up.

“Willow, thank christ! I’ve been trying to reach one of you for days!”

The voice was familiar… oh shit. Johnny.

“Hello? Hello? I can’t hear anything. I’m going to have to hang up. It’s a really bad line,” she lied.

“Don’t you dare,” he said, his voice stern. “Remember, I know all your tricks for getting off the phone.”

Busted. “Er…Hi Johnny.”

“Where the hell have you been? I’ve tried calling Mia and Ana about a thousand times, but Mia’s phone is disconnected and Ana isn’t answering.”

Mia had insisted on changing her number as soon as they got to the UK. “Too much emotional baggage with this one,” she’d said lightly. Willow and Ana hadn’t understood at the time.

“Is Mia with you? Can I speak to her?” Johnny said urgently.

“No.”

“Oh come on Willow, I need to talk to her. I need to explain…”

“I’m not sure where Mia is,” Willow said as gently as she could. “But I suspect she’s somewhere in London.”

“London? What the fuck…?”

“Yeah, we all came over as part of our trip.”

“What trip?” Johnny sounded genuinely perplexed.

Willow sighed, realisation dawning. “Mia didn’t tell you we were going, did she.”

“No. She did not.” Johnny’s voice was stony, hurt.

After they’d booked all the tickets, Mia had offered to tell Johnny and a bunch of their other friends while Ana and Willow sorted the logistics. Everyone had popped past to say goodbye and wish them well. Everyone, except Johnny.

“You know what he’s like,” Mia had said, laughing. “Probably shacked up with some girl and forgotten already that we’re going.”
Willow hadn’t thought much about it after that. Too much else to do.

“What the hell is going on Willow?” Johnny said. “I’ve been going crazy since that weird phone call last week.”

The phone call to Johnny. The source of all their problems. Willow explained as best she could what had happened; how what was meant to be a celebratory breakfast had turned into a cat fight, with some pretty wild admissions and accusations.“Is it true?” Willow said. “That you’re getting married?”

Johnny hesitated. “It’s a long story. One that I need to explain to Mia first, OK?”

“OK.” Willow understood. “You really love her don’t you?”

“Yeah, I really do.”

She could hear the goofy grin in his voice.

***

After she hung up the phone, Willow had the desperate urge to be by herself. The Lanes were packed with the lunchtime crowd and she wandered slowly towards the Brighton seafront, wanting nothing more than to look out over the ocean and get lost in her own thoughts. Although the sun was out, there was a cold wind, licking at her hair and giving her goosebumps. She watched as it caught the choppy ocean, sending white spray through the air. Her head was reeling and, before she could stop them, fat tears started rolling down her cheeks. Why had everything come to this? It was meant to be a fun trip, a way for her to forget and move on. Not a way to screw up everything else in her life. She rubbed her nose on her sleeve, sniffing loudly.

“Excuse me.”

She turned to see and elderly gentleman, dressed in an old fashioned suit and tie, complete with hat, holding out a handkerchief to her. In his other hand he clutched a square Tupperware container.

She sniffed again. “I’m OK, thanks.”

“I’ve got another one,” he said. “Take it. Please.”

She hesitated but then took the crisp white linen square, pressing it to her eyes.

“Do you mind…?” he gestured to the seat next to her, sitting down when Willow shook her head.

“I don’t mean to intrude, but I couldn’t help noticing how sad you looked.” His voice was very proper, with a hint of northern England.“I thought perhaps you needed someone to talk to.”

“It’s nothing,” Willow said. “Just a…a silly fight.”

“Ah.” He nodded wisely. “Boyfriend?”

“Two best friends, actually,” Willow said.

He nodded, staring out to the horizon, seemingly lost in his own thoughts.

“Are you from around here?” Willow prompted after a while. It was weird enough taking the old guy’s hanky. She didn’t need him vaguing out on her too.

“I’m from Northampton,” he said. “But I’m meeting my son, David, here today.”

“He lives around here?”

The man hesitated. “I’m not sure, actually. I haven’t seen or spoken to him in twenty years.” He shook his head sadly. “We had a fight and he left. I was too proud to follow him, to apologise for my part in it. An now…now I don’t even know if I’ll recognise him.”

Willow looked awkwardly at her feet, scuffing her shoe on the ground. “I’m so sorry to hear that.”

The man looked wistfully at the horizon again, before pulling himself together. “Oh, now look. I’m being very rude.” He peeled the lid off the Tupperware container resting on his lap and offered it to Willow. “Rice Crispy Treats.”

“I haven’t had those since I was a kid,” Willow said smiling, and taking one of the pieces.

“They were David’s favourite,” he said. “I found the recipe in Mary’s cookbook – God rest her soul – and thought that I’d make them for him.”

“I’m sure he’ll love them.” She took a bite. They were overly chewy and a bit too sweet. “Very good,” she said, smiling encouragingly.

He blushed proudly. “I’m not much of a cook, but these didn’t seem to hard.” He pushed the container towards her again. “Have another, there are plenty.”

Willow took another out of politeness, resting it on her knee. “Do you mind it I ask you a question,” she said.

“Fire away.”

“What made you get in touch with your son again?”

“His wife sent me a letter,” he said. “I didn’t even know he’d got married! Imagine that! She gave me their phone number. ‘Just in case’, she said.”

“And you called him?”

“And I called him.” He leant towards Willow. “My advice,” he whispered, putting the lid back on the Tupperware container. “Pick up the phone. Whatever you fought about, it can’t be bad enough to ruin a friendship, can it?”

Willow took another bite of the rice crispy square. “No, I guess it can’t.”

“Dad?”

Willow and the gentleman looked up. Standing a few feet away was a younger man – a couple of years older than Willow – dressed in jeans and a shirt. The old man pushed himself off the chair staring at the younger version of himself.

“David.” It came out as a whisper. He put his arms towards his son, tears in his eyes. “David!”

The man walked forward and fell into his father’s arms. “Dad!”

They embraced for ages until the old man pulled away, reaching inside his pocket for more handkerchiefs, handing one to his son and dabbing his eyes with another. Apparently he’d come prepared.

“Dad, there’s some people I want you to meet.”

David turned and beckoned to a woman and a small girl who were standing a couple of meters away. The little girl approached slowly, hiding behind her mother’s legs.

“Come on,” said her mother. “Don’t you want to say hello to your grandfather?”

The little girl shook her head and hid further behind her mum.

“Well now,” the old man said, bending down and peeling the lid off the Tupperware. “Why don’t you have a look in here? There might be something for you.”

The child peered cautiously into the box, staying as close to her mum as she could. Her face lit up. “Rice Crispy treats!” she squealed.
She detangled herself from her mother’s legs and gave the old man a hug before filling her fists with as many of the sweet squares as she could manage. The old man turned and winked at Willow, before putting his arm around his daughter in law. The family started walking slowly towards the pier, all talking and laughing at one.

Willow looked down at the handkerchief still in her lap, picking it up and wiping her eyes again.

It was time.

She puled her phone out of her bag. As soon as she did it started ringing. It was Mia.

Weird.

“It’s like you read my mind,” Willow said. “I was just about to call you.”

“Oh Willow!” Mia sounded like she was crying. “Something terrible has happened. It’s Ana.”

***