Tales of food, sex and friendship




Posts Tagged ‘Garden’

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.