Tales of food, sex and friendship




Posts Tagged ‘Affair’

Season 4: Episode 6

October 11, 2011

Ana stepped into the elevator at Tom’s office building, pressing the button for the 17th floor.  The lightweight fabric of her Burberry trench coat felt foreign against her naked skin. Underneath, she wore only her favourite La Perla underwear set; a delicate black lace bra and tiny underpants, attached by suspenders to fine, black silk stockings. On her feet, towering Manolo Blahnik stilettos, and tossed casually around her throat was a blue silk scarf that bought out the colour of her eyes.

A smile curled corner of her lips seductively. She had plans for that scarf later.

The other passenger of the lift – a young man in his early twenties with a spot of mustard on his tie from a lunchtime incident – scurried out at the 12th floor, unable to tear his eyes off Ana, who was resting languorously against the rear wall of the elevator. She looked tall, sexy and just a little bit dangerous. She winked at him and he stood there speechless as the doors slide closed and she was gone.

The elevator stopped at Tom’s level and she stepped out, her stocking clad thigh peeking through the carefully buttoned coat with each step she took. She paused outside Tom’s door and looked around. The rest of the office was empty. Everyone must be out at meetings, she thought. She considered knocking, but decided against it. Tom wasn’t expecting her and she wanted to surprise him. She opened the door silently and slid inside, shutting it noiselessly behind her. Since she’d been here last, he’d had heavy drapes installed over the windows. They were pulled down and it took her a few seconds to adjust to the dim light.

A noise to her right startled her and she looked over to see Sarah and Tom standing in front of a velvet couch. They were both had their backs to her and didn’t see her come in. Ana peered across at them. From the back, Sarah appeared to be wearing the exact same coat as her.

Horrified, she watched as Tom reached up and slipped the coat from Sarah’s shoulders. It fell to the floor with a whoosh. Underneath, Sarah was wearing nothing but black underwear and suspenders, her long hair cascading down her back in lazy curls. Tom gently placed his hands on her waist and spun her around so she was facing him.

Although Tom still had his back to Ana, Sarah noticed her straight away. A wicked smile curled the corners of her mouth as she spoke.

“Don’t just stand there,” she said. “Come and join in.”

Ana looked over at Tom, imploring him to step away and tell her it was all a bad dream. But, keeping one hand firmly on Sarah’s waist, he held out his other hand towards Ana.

“This is a pleasant surprise,” he said, his voice thick with lust.

***

Ana sat up in bed with a start. She was drenched in sweat and her heart was hammering away at a million miles an hour. She looked over at Tom, who was still fast asleep, snoring softly. He’d been working late and she hadn’t even heard him come to bed.

The dreams were getting more frequent and Ana now dreaded going to bed for fear of being tormented once more by visions of Tom with Sarah.

She got up and went to the kitchen to get a cold drink and splash some water on her face.

“You OK?” Tom whispered sleepily, as she climbed back into bed.

“Yeah,” said Ana. “Bad dream.”

“Another one?” he sounded genuinely concerned, even though it was 3am and he wasn’t properly awake. “Don’t worry, I’ll protect you,” he said.

He put his arms around Ana and pulled her towards him, stroking her hair. She nuzzled into his body, unable to shake the feeling of dread, but eventually slipping back into a dreamless sleep.

***

Ana got back into the car and shut the door, resting her head against the seat and closing her eyes for a few seconds. She felt completely sledgehammered. The meeting she’d just had with an important client had not gone terribly smoothly. She couldn’t stop thinking about her dream last night. The client had noticed her wavering attention, assumed it was incompetence, and questioned her ability to provide everything required for their 500+ guest wedding. Ana had beamed her thousand-watt smile and assured them she had orchestrated hundreds of perfect weddings and theirs would be no exception.

She knew when she took this job it was incredibly ambitious. Not for the first time, she wondered about hiring someone to help her, but the date was getting too close to get someone else up to speed. Besides, pulling in another person now just looked like she wasn’t capable of doing it herself.

As she started her car engine, a pang of hunger hit her and she realised she hadn’t eaten anything all day. She craved comfort food: Something a bit stodgy and chock full of carbs. She knew this area quite well – it was only a few blocks from Tom’s office – and recalled a particularly good croque monsieur that she’d had from his favourite bakery. They used to go there all the time when she would come and meet him for lunch.

“We haven’t lunch together in ages,” she said out loud, trying to remember when the last time was. Six months ago? Nine?

In fact, she thought, we barely seem to have time for anything together these days.

They had both been so busy with their own work projects, that weeks had gone past without even being able to grab a meal together. The times when they fell into bed, exhausted, seemed to be the only snatches of together time they managed at the moment.

Maybe that’s the reason for all the nightmares, Ana thought.

“Not any more,” she said, putting the car into gear and heading to the bakery. Today, they could at least spend half an hour over lunch together.

 ***

She pulled the glass door open and let herself into the office. The secretary wasn’t at the front desk, and she couldn’t see any of the other architects around. I suppose it is lunchtime, she thought to herself, an uneasy feeling of déjà vu creeping over her. Maybe I should have called first, she wondered.

She walked down the corridor towards Tom’s private office. His door was slightly ajar, and she could hear laughter inside. She pushed it open gently and stepped in.

For a second, Ana thought she was going to throw up.

In the middle of the office, surrounded by papers, were Sarah and Tom. A picnic basket, its lunch contents laid out on a tea towel, was next to them. Sarah was lying on her side, her blouse falling open ever-so-slightly to reveal a black lace bra. She reached behind Tom to pluck a strawberry from a fruit platter and put it in her mouth, sucking the flesh from the stalk. Tom was too busy reading something to notice that she brushed her arm across his back.

Ana clutched at the wall to steady herself. The movement caught Sarah’s attention and she looked up. Hostility flashed through her eyes and she held Ana’s horrified gaze for a couple of seconds before speaking.

“Don’t just stand there,” she said in a friendly voice. “Come and join in.”

Tom looked up, his face breaking into a wide grin. “This is a pleasant surprise,” he said.

Season 3: Episode 4

June 28, 2011

Tom pulled into the underground car park of his apartment building just as his phone started ringing.

Lilly.

He hesitated before silencing the call and letting his voicemail get it, promising himself that he’d call her back later. His head had been all over the place today and he needed some time to collect his thoughts before speaking to her.

He and Lilly had established something resembling a friendship since they’d reunited a few weeks prior. Lilly had been Tom’s college sweetheart and, long story short, had broken his heart years earlier by leaving the country, without him. He had spent too long pining for her and had eventually been distracted by his burgeoning architecture career and, later, by Ana. He and Lilly had touched base a few times since she’d moved back to Melbourne, but his heart had been too preoccupied to invest in a friendship with his ex-girlfriend.

But then, everything had changed. Seeing his fiancée at a function talking to the very man with whom she had an affair made something in Tom snap. All the repressed anger he felt towards Ana had surfaced. For reasons unknown even to him, his immediate instinct had been to call his ex, get drunk and then try to make the moves on her.

To her credit, Lilly had turned him down.

But she hadn’t turned him away and for the last few weeks they’d been hanging out almost constantly, slipping back into that comfortable routine that you have with someone who you’ve known for years and years. Tom found it so easy being with her. He started to question if what he and Ana had was worth all the drama. He still loved her, of that he was sure. But was that enough?

And to complicate matters even more, Lilly had made it quite clear that if things were ever really over with Ana and that if he tried ‘it’ again, she would be quite receptive to the prospect of a – ahem – more intimate reunion.

Tom and Ana had never actually spoken about her affair in detail, both assuming that if they ignored it long enough it would just eventually not be a ‘thing anymore’. Tom had told himself he was fine with it and that he was big enough to just let it be.

You know what they say about pink elephants though.

And now Tom found himself in the situation where he spent more time talking to the previous love of his life, rather than the current one. Both these amazing women had told him, in no uncertain terms, that it was his decision as to what happened next in their respective relationships.

Tom sighed as he picked up his laptop and walked towards the lift to take him to his loft apartment. Lilly or Ana. Ana or Lilly. Even though it was only three pm, he poured himself a large glass of red wine as soon as he walked through the door. The wine hit his empty stomach like acid and he realised he hadn’t eaten a thing all day. He wandered to the fridge and perused the limited contents: Half a block of Gruyere, a wedge of Parmesan (if he cut the mould off, it was sure to be fine) and a whole cauliflower that, miraculously, still looked remarkably fresh. He sniffed a carton of milk to make sure it hadn’t gone off, poured another glass of wine, and set about making creamy cauliflower cheese – a favourite of his as a kid and a recipe that he knew by heart. Tom found cooking incredibly cathartic and allowed himself to be lulled into rhythmic trance as he watched the white sauce bubble lazily on the stove, hoping that the popping bubbles might magically reveal an answer.

When the meal was ready he sat on the couch and thoughtfully ate through several bowls, pondering his situation. He eventually came to the realisation that he’d known what he wanted all along and that he couldn’t keep on pretending anymore. For one thing, it was totally doing his head in, and for another it wasn’t fair on Ana or Lilly. He picked up his landline, dialling the number from heart.

“It’s me. Can you come over now? We need to talk.”

***

He buzzed the front door to the apartment complex open thirty minutes later and waited anxiously by the front door, propping it open with his foot. He suddenly realised that he was exceedingly nervous, his stomach flip-flopping everywhere. What if she’d changed her mind and didn’t actually want him?

He could see the lift doors slide open and she stepped out, her eyes on the ground and her arms wrapped around herself protectively.

She stopped in her tracks when she saw him. Their eyes locked, knowing exactly what the other was thinking. They ran to each other and embraced, holding on as though their lives depended on it.

“I was such a fool for letting you go the first time,” she whispered softly into his ear, before kissing it gently and sending tingling waves of pleasure through his body.

He held her tight inhaling her familiar scent, all his feelings of anxiety dissipating, and knew that he’d made the right decision.

Season 1: Episode 13

February 22, 2011

Ana hummed to herself as she kneaded the pasta dough. Since she’d quit her job (and her lover) a week earlier, she had transformed herself into a domestic goddess, whipping up delicious meals for her housemates to come home to. Each night she sat with them while they ate and asked them about their lives and loves, genuinely interested for the first time in what felt like years. At first Willow and Mia had responded with raised eyebrows and sidelong glances, but as the week wore on they realised this change in their friend seemed to be permanent and that Ana was happier than ever.

Tonight, however, was different. Tonight, Ana had asked that they make themselves scarce. Tonight, Tom got home from Sydney.

Ana was nervous with excitement. Apart from the odd text message here and there, they hadn’t spoken to each other in a week. Ana’s brow furrowed as she thought about this again. She’d tried not to obsess over it – after all, he was busy with work – but she did think it was odd that he hadn’t once tried to call her, just texts saying that he was flat out and they’d talk when he got home. She reasoned that their relationship was still in its embryonic stage and that it was unrealistic of her to expect constant contact. She didn’t want to be one of those girlfriends, anyway.

She had felt slightly uneasy at having not yet told Tom that she’d quit her job, but she really wanted to speak to him in person and explain everything.

Well, not everything exactly.

Although Ana had fully intended to tell Tom about Marc, as the week progressed her resolve had lessened, and she now thought it much simpler to keep out the minor detail that she had been having an affair for the entirety of their relationship. She felt horrible that she’d lied to this wonderful, brilliant man, however she thought the truth would hurt him too much. Much better to focus on the future, she convinced herself.

She turned her attention to the ravioli: walnut and sage with garlic and ricotta. Taking a sharp knife and slicing carefully through bulbs of garlic, she pushed all uncertainty out of her mind and concentrated, instead, on all the wonderful things about their relationship: the way Tom’s eyes sparkled when he looked at her; how she felt like anything was possible when he was around; the luxurious lovemaking sessions that they enjoyed together. She sighed in contentment. She couldn’t wait until he got home.

***

Pacing up and down the hallway, Ana checked her watch for the sixth time.

7:45pm.

He was late. She had looked up his flight on the Qantas website; his plane had landed on time. Picking up her iPhone she made sure that he had received her text – “Welcome home! Come straight over from the airport. I’ve missed you.” His reply had been a simple “OK”. Christ, she thought, I know you’re busy but how hard is it to add: “I’ve missed you, too”?

Wandering back into the kitchen she checked, again, that everything was perfect. A large pot of lightly salted water was ready to be put on as soon as he walked through the door. The plump parcels of ravioli sat on the counter, covered in a damp tea towel. A bottle of Petit Chablis was cooling in the fridge along with a large green salad of radicchio and witlof, which just needed to be tossed with some olive oil.

The doorbell rang. Startled, Ana smoothed her perfect blonde hair as she walked to answer it. The sound of her heeled sandals echoed through the empty house. “I’m so nervous anyone would think this was a first date,” she muttered to herself.

Opening the door she drew breath sharply. Tom looked awful – he’d lost weight and looked as though he hadn’t slept the entire week. As she leaned in to kiss him she could smell alcohol on his breath.

“Rough week?” she enquired, jokingly.

“You don’t know the half of it.” Tom walked inside and dumped his case by the door.

Ana smiled at him brightly, feeling suddenly very uneasy. “Well, I’ve got a lovely cold bottle of white and food, if you’re hungry.”

Taking his hand, and noting how limp it was in her own, she led Tom to the kitchen.

“Drink?”

Tom nodded in agreement. Her hands were shaking slightly as she took two glasses from the shelf. Pouring the wine, she handed a glass to him. Tom drained his before she had savoured her first sip.

“What’s going on?” she asked softly, stroking his shoulder. She could feel his muscles tense up under her touch.

He looked her straight in the eye. “Why don’t you tell me?”

Moving over to the stove, Ana busied herself with dinner preparations. Laughing lightly, she said, “Well, quite a lot is going on with me, actually.”

Tom’s eyes narrowed. “You mean at work?”

Ana nodded. “I decided I want to start my own agency, so I quit my job!” She turned around with a flourish – her smile didn’t quite carry to her eyes.

Tom slowly refilled his glass. “It had nothing to do with your boss?” His voice was like steel. “Marc, isn’t it?”

Ana dropped the pan she was holding. It clattered loudly to the floor and made her jump.

She answered warily. “Why would you think that?”

“Because I saw the two of you kissing.”

Ana couldn’t believe how calm he sounded as he said it. That explains why he didn’t call, she thought to herself.

“Do you deny it?”

Ana lowered her head. “No” she said softly. “But it wasn’t how it looked!”

Tom held up a halting hand and sat down heavily on a chair. “I don’t even think I want the answer to this. But I need to know. It’s been killing me all week.” He ran his hands through his hair. “Are you having an affair with him?”

Ana paused before answering. She could lie, and pretend that Marc had just grabbed her? No. She had lied to Tom for long enough. She owed him the truth.

“I was having an affair with him.” Her voice was so quiet it was almost inaudible.

Tom was silent. It seemed like an eternity. When he finally spoke, she wished he hadn’t. “How long?”

It was Ana’s turn to take a long drink. “About a year.”

Tom looked at her, incredulous. “A year? So, you were with him before we even got together?”

“If you just let me explain…”

He cut her off. “Explain what? That I was your second choice? That the whole time we’ve been together it’s him you’ve wanted?”

Ana’s mind raced – how could she make him understand that it was over? That being with Marc had only made her realise how amazing Tom was and how lucky she was to have found him?

But it was too late. Tom had read her silence as confirmation of his worst fears.

Tears streaming down his face, Tom whispered, “I loved you! I thought you were the one, Ana,” before walking purposefully out of the house.

Her hand shaking uncontrollably, Ana picked up her wine glass not even managing to take a sip before bursting into tears.

***

When Mia and Willow arrived home hours later they found her sitting on the floor against a cupboard, a full glass of now warm wine next to her, crying silently.

Season 1: Episode 11

February 8, 2011

Ana took a deep breath as she stood outside Marc’s door. She had been successfully avoiding him for weeks now – ever since she’d decided to get serious with Tom. Well, apart from the run-in by the elevator, of course. Replaying what he’d said later in her head, Marc’s words still hit a nerve a week later.

“What do you see in him?” he’d snarled. “He’s a boy scout. You need a real man, Ana. We both know he’s not right for you.”

This past week Marc had been attentive – too attentive – inviting her for lunch, sending her flowers to the office and to her home, and texting and calling at all hours of the day and night.

“We’ve got a really important job on,” she’d explained to Tom, barely able to contain her anger that she’d been forced to lie to him while Marc repeatedly phoned during a romantic dinner.

It’s ridiculous, Ana thought to herself as she stood outside Marc’s office, that I have to break-up with my married boss to be with my boyfriend.

She knocked on the door.

“Come in.”

Ana walked into the familiar office. She knew every inch of it.

She couldn’t look at his mahogany desk without remembering the way Marc would bend her over it, lifting her skirt with one hand whilst firmly gripping her breast with the other and pushing into her from behind. She remembered the first time it had happened. They’d been working late on a project. The tension between them had been palpable and, well, one thing had led to another. She had been wearing her most ‘sensible’ underwear that day and was mortified when Marc had pulled them off her and held them up with a bemused expression.

“Ana. Always full of surprises, aren’t you.”

From that day on she had made sure it was nothing but lace everyday. She became the Imelda Marcos of lingerie. She had changed so much of herself for him.

Ana looked at the photo on his desk of his wife, Nancy, and – as always – felt a pang of guilt. Shaking her head in remorse, she directed her attention at him.

“I was hoping we could have lunch today, Marc.”

He laughed. “You’ve come to your senses, then, have you?” Checking his watch he added, “I’ve got an hour free now. Let’s go.”

Ana inhaled deeply to calm herself. What had she ever seen in him?

* * *

Tom had been pacing outside the jewellers on Little Collins Street for about 15 minutes. He had told Ana that he had to fly to Sydney that morning for a week of client meetings, but there was something he wanted to take care of first, something he didn’t want her to know about. Tom had made a decision. He knew that he was probably being rash and impulsive, but he loved Ana and wanted to marry her. More than anything he’d ever wanted, he wanted to marry her! He beamed in delight at the thought. Pushing open the door to the boutique jeweller, he stepped inside.

* * *

Ana and Marc sat in silence in the small Italian café, tucked just off Little Collins Street. Ana had wanted to go somewhere where they wouldn’t run into anyone she knew. She pushed her pumpkin risotto around the plate. Marc had ordered it for her – without consultation. Ordinarily, she would have loved it: the sharp tang of Parmesan cutting through the sweetness of the pumpkin.

Marc ate hungrily, putting large forkfuls of risotto into his mouth. “Not hungry?” he asked putting his hand on her thigh.

She brushed him off and forced herself to eat a mouthful.

Grow some balls, she chided herself angrily, just tell him it’s over!

* * *

It didn’t take Tom long to pick the perfect ring. As soon as he saw the 1.25 carat brilliant cut diamond nestled in the simple platinum band he knew it was the one.

“And may I ask the lucky young lady’s name, Sir?”

Tom smiled as he thought of her.

“Ana.”

***

Marc had finished eating and had ordered himself an espresso.

Ana was folding and re-folding her napkin. “Marc,” she began nervously. “I don’t think that we should see each other any more… romantically.”

Marc stared at her, as though she was speaking another language.

“It’s just… I don’t think it’s fair on your family…”. She stammered on for a few more seconds as Marc sat there in silence, watching her with steely eyes.

Suddenly, he exploded. “Fair?” he hissed. “Fair? Well, you thought it was pretty fair when you were seducing me at the office drinks with my wife in the next room. You thought it was fair when I left my family on Christmas Day so I could come and fuck you. What’s changed, huh? Why is it now suddenly unfair?”

Ana looked around her, mortified. Thankfully the lunch rush had died down and the waiter was in the kitchen.

“I’ve just been spending more time with Tom and, it’s not fair on him either…” she whispered.

Marc grabbed her wrist, his eyes narrowing. “What’s not fair, Ana, is selling yourself short for a guy like that.” He let out a cruel laugh. “Is this punishment for the Maldives? Come on, Ana. We both know that you are never going to leave me. You can’t. You don’t know how.”

Ana shook her hand loose and shakily walked towards the door of the café, gulping huge breaths of air as she plunged into the street, wiping away tears. Seconds later, Marc followed her out.

She didn’t see Tom standing on the other side of the street, obstructed by a group of school children. But he saw everything.

***

At first, Tom didn’t understand what was going on. Why was his Ana having a fight with this man? Then he saw the man grab Ana and pull her into a passionate embrace, kissing her neck. At that point, Tom turned around and stumbled down the street.

He’d seen enough.

***

Ana used all her force to push Marc off her. Wiping her mouth, she felt back in control.

“Don’t ever do that again,” she said in a dangerously low voice.

Marc tried to grab her around the waist. She fended him off.

“Ana. Babe. I know, I’ve been neglecting you, and this is you punishing me. I get it. Look, why don’t I take you away for the weekend. I can make it up to you just the way you like.”

Ana looked at Marc, not even trying to conceal the disgust in her eyes.

“It’s over. I don’t want you to call me and I don’t want to see you.” She felt remarkably calm as she added, “Oh, and I quit. Effective immediately.”

***

Ana dialled Tom’s number as she left her office, a box of personal belongings under one arm. She wanted to arrange a time to tell him everything face-to-face. About quitting her job, about the idea of starting her own agency, and about Marc. For the first time in her life, Ana wanted to be completely honest with the man she loved.

Tom’s phone went to voicemail. She sighed, left a quick “Call me back. I love you” and hung up.

Ana felt a pang of melancholy when she remembered he’d left for Sydney that morning. Well, she thought to herself, I guess it will just have to wait until next week.

***

Standing on Little Collins Street, the engagement ring in his pocket, Tom stared at his phone, a message telling him Ana had called.

How could he have been such an idiot?

 

Season 1: Episode 6

January 4, 2011

 

It had been more than a week since Marc had called to tell Ana he was taking his wife on a surprise trip to the Maldives.

“You don’t mind supervising the overseas account while I’m away, do you?” he’d asked.

Ana had taken the news calmly but, truthfully, she was furious. The problem was, she didn’t know who she was angrier at: Marc – for asking her to do his job so he could romance his wife in paradise, or herself – for falling in love with a married man?

“Shit!” she yelled out to her empty house.

She was sitting in her living room, alone, shoes kicked off and legs tucked up under her on the sofa. Her toes were absently tracing the stitching of the cushions. It was a Thursday afternoon and neither Willow nor Mia was home from work yet. It was rare for Ana to be back so early but today she’d just had enough.

Marc had swanned in to the office mid-morning looking tanned and relaxed. He had called her in straight away, immediately grabbing her around the waist and pulling her close as soon as the door clicked shut behind her.

“I’ve missed you,” he breathed into her hair. She closed her eyes and leaned against him for a moment, inhaling his distinctive aftershave. I’ve missed you, too, she thought. She could still smell the ocean in his hair.

Ana shook herself away from him. Their short time apart had given her some perspective. She was just the mistress and always would be; an easy, erotic escape from the demands of his real life. She had to get out soon or it would be too late. Already (probably) in love with him, she didn’t want to fall further under his spell.

Muttering something about an important appointment, Ana had escaped his office, picked up her handbag and told her PA to cancel the rest of her day.

She needed time to think.

***

The sound of the front door opening startled Ana out of her contemplative state. Mia entered the hallway and almost walked straight past her housemate as she flipped through the mail. Glancing into the living room, she did a double-take when she saw Ana huddled on the sofa in the corner.

“Ana?” she asked, immediately concerned. “Why aren’t you at work? Is everything all right?”

Ana looked up, then burst into tears.

***

Mia and Willow had tried to be supportive. On hearing of Ana’s affair with her boss – and the subsequent holiday debacle – they had tried reasoning and sympathising with her, but Ana was incredibly stubborn and believed showing emotion was a sign of weakness. Instead, she had done what every heartbroken woman would do. She’d thrown herself into an unhealthy pattern of eating and sleeping too little, drinking too much and working as though her life depended on it – even though most other offices were still shut down for the Christmas break.

Mia and Willow felt helpless as they watched their friend suffer, and nothing they said seemed to help. All they could do was wait until Ana fell apart completely and be there to help put her back together again.

***

“Better?” Mia asked.

Ana had entered the kitchen. Freshly showered, her red-rimmed eyes were the only sign of her earlier hysterics. She nodded shyly.

Mia gave her a smile. She was in the process of tossing fresh rocket, watercress and radicchio in a salad bowl and had dressed it simply with olive oil, salt and pepper. She hesitated over the chopping board for a moment. Apples? Yes, she thought, and sliced some thin batons from the Pink Lady she’d been nibbling. Maybe some crushed walnuts, too.

The kitchen was filled with sun streaming in through the skylight. It danced across Mia’s olive skin and bounced off the stainless steel appliances; a riot of colours and shapes on every surface.

“The first thing we need to do is feed you a decent meal,” she said to Ana. “You’re wasting away.” Mia gestured to a cling film-covered china bowl, resting on the bench-top. “Fresh prawns with some butter, chilli, garlic, lime and palm sugar,” she said. “I thought it’s such a nice night we could barbecue them and sit outside.”

Their house had a small but very pretty outdoor courtyard. Ana didn’t spend a lot of time out there, but Willow and Mia had created a garden that was brimming with fresh parsley, thyme, chives, oregano and an array of other fragrant herbs. Climbing up the back fence was a spectacular jasmine plant that filled the warm summer evenings with its sweet scent.

Ana went to the fridge and pulled out a bottle of ice-cold Tasmanian Pinot Gris. After pouring it into two wine glasses, she sipped thoughtfully at the cool liquid. Ana realised this was the first time she had actually managed to taste the beautiful wine rather than treating it as her own, personal anaesthetic. She looked at Mia who was working quickly and delicately behind the barbecue. Her friend was radiant in the afternoon sunlight, Ana thought. As Mia looked up at her, Ana raised her glass and simply said: “I’m sorry”.

***

Mia had set the outside table and its crisp white tablecloth struck a contrast with the dusty pink of the prawns and the verdant green of the salad; the colours intensified in the late sun.

Ana nibbled at a prawn and, suddenly, uncontrollably, felt her appetite come raging back. She reached for another, biting into the firm, creamy flesh. The juice ran down her fingers and stained her T-shirt, but she didn’t care. She was gripped by hunger.

She devoured one prawn after another, sucking the meat from the tails, using her tongue to find any last morsels hiding in the extremities. The palm sugar had caramelised the outer layer, while the lime and chilli had permeated deep into the flesh. Tiny slivers of garlic had encrusted themselves along the body and become so crisp from the barbecue it was as if the prawns had been dipped in a kind of fine, pungent tempura batter. Mia laughed with delight at the sight of Ana poring over her plate.

With each succulent mouthful Ana could feel her problems fading away.

When they had finished, Ana and Mia’s mouths glistened with butter and tingled with chilli. Ana ran her tongue slowly over her lips, savouring the high intensity of the spice. She placed her fingers into her mouth one at a time, lazily sucking off any remnants of the feast. She looked across at Mia, who had her eyes closed and was leaning back in her chair, face turned up to the sun.

“A golden goddess,” Ana murmured under her breath, looking at her housemate, as if for the first time.

But then, for the second time that day, she was wrenched out of her contemplation. Her phone was ringing. She looked at the number and frowned. It was local. It looked familiar…

“Shit.”

Mia’s eyes fluttered open and she looked at Ana inquisitively.

Ana held her gaze. “It’s Tom,” she said. “He’s back.”

The serenity of the afternoon evaporated as suddenly as it had arrived.

 

Season 1: Episode 5

December 28, 2010

 

Mia jammed the last bottle of sparkling white in the fridge and hurriedly closed the door just before her haphazard stacking came undone. She just had to remember not to open it again in a hurry. Although her salary didn’t afford ‘real’ Champagne, she had splashed out and bought several bottles of a beautiful vintage brut from Tasmania that she knew Willow liked.

It was hard to believe New Year’s Eve had arrived already. She and Willow had both decided to give the big New Year’s celebrations a miss this year. Mia had never been one to go in for a big party, preferring to stay home on her own. She’d never felt it before, but for the first time she had a pang of missing out on something. She was, once again, alone on the last night of the year.

Well, not totally alone. She had Willow. And food. So much food.

Willow was going through a pie phase, and Mia had noticed at least four different types of pie in the fridge that she had tried her best not to squash with the bottles. She had watched Willow with intrigue as she had baked these amazing creations. Not content with the standard meat or apple pies, Mia had seen Willow placing ingredients such as salmon, porcini mushrooms, goat’s cheese and passionfruit into different dishes, with toppings like polenta and sticky date crumble replacing the traditional pastry. Willow had even made Mia a special pumpkin pie, which she had assured her was (mostly) guilt-free and delicious.
“There is no better way to start the New Year than with a pie,” Willow had said when Mia questioned her on the pie frenzy. “From the outside it looks the same as all the other pies, but it’s not until you’re into the middle of it that you realise just how different it is!”

The unique philosophy of Willow. It made sense. Sort of.

***

Mia was surprised when Ana ambled into the kitchen at 4.30pm.

“You’re home already!” she exclaimed.

“Finished early,” Ana replied. She surveyed the cupboard to see what was available before she went for the fridge.

“Don’t open….!” shouted Mia, just as several bottles of sparkling came rolling out and across the tiled floor.

“We’ll just have to open one, now” Ana said, as she tried unsuccessfully to fit them all back in. She popped a bottle unceremoniously and emptied her glass before Mia had even taken a sip.

Ana was in a foul mood.  She’d just found out Marc was not going to be at the same New Year’s Eve ‘do’ she was going to. She had deliberately knocked back all other invitations under the assumption that Marc would be going to the exclusive party that one of their best clients held every year. She was positive he’d said he was going.
“My wife will come with me to the other party,” he’d said running a hand down Ana’s arm after one of their lusty afternoon lovemaking sessions, “but she always leaves early so we’ll still be able to see the New Year in together.”

She should have been turned off by him at that point, but she was smitten.

Ana had stopped on the way home to collect a gorgeous navy blue silk dress that she had bought during the week. It didn’t leave much to the imagination, clinging to every perfect curve and hanging dangerously low down her back. Marc knew her body better than anyone and Ana knew he would love the dress. Even more so crumpled on the floor – but she had planned to drive him wild before they reached that point.

So much for that plan.

Well, if he wasn’t going then she sure as hell didn’t want to go! Her forehead creased with pain as she tried to imagine what he might be doing instead.

“So, what are your plans tonight?” asked Mia, taking a sip from her glass. She could tell that Ana was in a mood.

“Big fat nothing. I’m going to be one of those losers who stays home on New Year’s.” She took another gulp of the sparkling. “You?”

Mia was a bit hurt. “Just staying in,” she said lightly. Ana wasn’t exactly the most tactful person at the best of times, but lately she had just been downright thoughtless and rude.
To her credit, Ana did look genuinely sheepish as she took another gulp of her drink.

Luckily, Willow arrived home before their silence became too awkward. “ Hello!” she sang, as she closed the front door. She waltzed into the kitchen humming a song and carrying a large bunch of red roses and a bottle of Moët.

“For you!” she said presenting them to Ana. “They were by the front door.”

Ana immediately knew whom they were from. There was no card and no delivery address, which meant that he had dropped them off himself.

It doesn’t make it OK that he’s deserting me, she thought to herself, but at least it shows he cares.

The Moët was already chilled and she wasted no time downing the rest of her glass and opening the new bottle. “Time to move onto the grown-up stuff, ladies.”

Willow caught the hurt expression on Mia’s face. “Don’t be such a snob, Ana!” Willow chided as she went to the fridge. “Yum! My favourite!” she said as she caught sight of the bottles that Mia had bought. “Thank you, Mia!”

Mia smiled tightly, hoping that Ana would get bored and go out with some other friends. She was in an aggressive mood that Mia didn’t fancy dealing with all night.

***

Willow was getting the pies out of the fridge when Ana’s phone rang. Ana looked at the screen and then quickly left the room.

When she returned ten minutes later, she looked as if she’d been crying. Her housemates were worried. Nothing ever rattled Ana.

“What’s happened?” Willow asked gently, putting a hand on her friend’s shoulder. Ana shook it off and turned to face them, her eyes fiery.

“He’s going to the fucking Maldives.”

Willow and Mia looked at each other. What was she talking about?

“He’s taking his family to the Maldives for two weeks instead of going to the party. Couldn’t even tell me to my face. What a coward.” Tears were streaming down her face again.

“Who?” asked Willow. “Tom?”

“Not Tom! Marc. It’s Marc!”

She turned and fled the room, so distraught she forgot her glass of Champagne.

“Who the hell is Marc?” asked Mia, bewildered.

Then she remembered the flowers in the hall – Ana. Thanks for this morning. M. – the late nights, having to work on Christmas Day… The penny dropped. “Oh my God. She’s having an affair with her boss!” exclaimed Mia.

Willow slowly nodded her head. “I think I need some pie.”

 

Season 1: Episode 4

December 21, 2010

Here she was again, face down in a mix of cushions and groaning in exquisite agony. He was teasing her, his face buried between her legs, licking and kissing from behind as she arched her back. Ana sighed with pleasure as he turned her over. She was addicted to this man; to his hands, his lips, to the way his thumb traced a line across her mouth as he ran his tongue over her stomach. Here he stopped, playing her again, nibbling and kissing and knowing that she was maddened with desire for him. His hand reached to the box of figs that he had given her. It was an unusual gift, but Ana could now see what he had in mind when he got them.

“Merry Christmas, Ana,” he’d said, presenting her with the gift box containing 24 plump, ripe figs, individually nestled in fine tissue paper. She’d looked at him questioningly, as he’d placed the box on the floor and gently pushed her down onto the couch.

He slowly ran one of the figs across her moist, parted lips. She tried to bite it but he moved it away too quickly. He offered it to her again, this time allowing her to suck the tip of it, the purple skin exploding and the wet, ripe fruit covering her mouth and chin.

He kissed her, the sticky seeds spilling from her mouth into his.

She groaned in his ear.

He smiled. She knew he loved seeing her like this, frenzied and on the brink of losing control in a way she never would when they were in the office. She hated him for that but, God, did she love how it made her feel.

Ana felt half-crazed as he leaned in again to kiss her. He tasted salty and sweet. Sometimes it was like this. Sometimes she felt as if she could never get enough of him, and he seemed to think so too; the two of them clawing at each other’s bodies until they would eventually lay gasping and motionless, too exhausted to say much at all.

She knew she shouldn’t be here, especially on Christmas Day. Marc was her boss and, more than that, he was married. He should have been at home with his family, opening presents or eating turkey or whatever it was that families like his did on days like this. But, instead, here they were after he’d sent her a text that morning.

The client needs an answer now. Meet me at the office.

She couldn’t help it. She was lost.

***

“Who goes to work on Christmas Day?” Willow had shouted after Ana as she rushed out the door of the house, leaving Willow up to her armpits in chicken and red wine. Ana had mumbled something about international clients and deadlines.

Before she’d even arrived at the office this was where she’d hoped they would end up. Ana had recognised the hunger in his eyes as soon as she’d walked through the door.
“Drink?” he asked after they had placated their overseas client on the phone. It was still Christmas Eve in Chicago.

In truth, Ana knew Marc didn’t need her here for work. This was something he could have done from his office at home.

“Yes,” she had said. “Yes, I think so.”

He led her into his private boardroom, where a bottle of Moët and the large box of figs were already waiting.

* * *

Ana looked at her watch and squeezed her eyes shut. “I’ve got to go!” she groaned.
Marc muttered something in reply, a muscular arm flung across her chest, his face muffled by a sofa cushion. Retrieving her clothes, Ana smoothed her blonde hair and reapplied her favourite MAC lipstick. She walked over to the sofa and gave Marc a lingering kiss on the shoulder. He didn’t stir.

***

Willow had left several messages on her phone and Ana knew she was pushing it to be home in time for Christmas dinner.

“Shit!” she exclaimed. Ana had forgotten that she had promised to make dessert for Christmas dinner with her friends. Grabbing the remnants of the box of figs she raced out of the office and hailed a taxi. She made a quick stop at a convenience store so she could pick up some mascarpone.

She was starving and snuck a fig out of the box, smiling secretly to herself as she sucked the moist fruit from its skin. She was hurriedly licking her lips as the taxi pulled up to the terrace house she owned but which they all shared. Her phone rang.

Tom.

“Hi sweetheart! Merry Christmas,” she answered, the headache that had been building in the cab suddenly intensifying. She touched her forehead.

Not a great believer in the festive season, her boyfriend Tom had been overseas for the past few weeks doing some volunteer work in Cambodia – or was it Laos?

“I know, I know, I’m sorry I missed your calls. Would you believe that I’ve been stuck at the office today?”

Cradling the phone on her shoulder, she unlocked the door to the house and stopped to breathe in the unmistakeable smells of melting butter, red wine, bay leaves and slow-cooked chicken.

“I’ve just got home so I should go and help Willow get dinner set up,” she said. “Merry Christmas, darling…can’t wait to see you, either.”