Tales of food, sex and friendship




Posts Tagged ‘sex’

Season 1: Episode 10

February 1, 2011

Ana rolled over and looked at the clock beside her bed. By her calculations she had exactly 2.5 minutes to get up if she wanted get into the office early enough to go over the material for her meeting that morning. For the past week she’d barely made it in on time most days. It was getting harder and harder to drag herself away in the mornings from the wonderful man in her bed.

Tom.

She didn’t know why she had pushed him away for so long; why she had tried to keep him out of her life. Well, she did, of course, but that was all behind her now. Not that she’d exactly told Marc, mind you. She was doing her best to avoid him and hoping that the emails and text messages would eventually stop coming without the need for the two of them to have some kind of confrontation. Everything about Marc was complicated.

But with Tom, everything was so… easy. There was no pretending, no sneaking around. It just felt so right.

She gently unwrapped herself from his arms, trying not to wake him. She had just managed to sit up on the edge of the bed before she felt a strong pair of hands around her waist.

“Good morning,” Tom said groggily, pulling her towards him and nuzzling her neck.

Ana turned around and smiled at him, kissing him gently on the nose.

“Come back to bed,” he pleaded. “It’s so early.”

Ana tried to wriggle out of his arms, laughing. “I can’t. I have to get to the office.”

Tom pulled her closer. “Call in sick,” he mumbled between kisses.

“I’ve got a meeting…” She clenched the crisp cotton sheet between her fingers as Tom started drawing circles in the small of her back with his tongue. Ana arched her back. God, that felt good!

He slowly ran his fingers up the inside of her thigh. “I suppose I don’t need to be there for an hour,” she sighed.

At the exact moment that Tom’s fingers started gently stroking between her legs, Ana’s mobile rang. It was Jennifer – Ana’s assistant.

“Ana?” She sounded panicked. “The clients have called and the flight was early. They’re going to be here in 30 minutes!”

Ana groaned. She turned to Tom sheepishly as she hung up. “Rain check?”

Tom smiled in understanding. “Only if you let me buy you lunch today.”

***

Tom was waiting in the shade of the building with his back to the door. There were people milling around everywhere on their lunch break, but Tom seemed oblivious, instead looking intently upwards towards the tops of the buildings.

“Always the architect,” teased Ana, coming up behind him.

Tom grinned and held out his hand for hers. “I thought we could have a picnic in the park”, he said gesturing to a wicker hamper sitting on the ground.

***

They had chosen a secluded spot, directly beneath a large willow tree. The drooping branches allowed for dappled light to spill through, but made them feel as though they were separated from the rest of the world. The air was warm and heavy and Ana could feel a small trickle of sweat run down her back.

Tom laid out the picnic he had brought: Fresh sourdough, wafer thin prosciutto, hand-made dolmades, plump organic vine-grown tomatoes and a colourful salad of watermelon, feta and mint. Magically, he’d produced a chilled bottle of Piper-Heidsieck from his bag and popped the cork ceremoniously, toasting Ana’s success at that morning’s meeting.

Tom had some exciting news that day, too.  A design job that he’d pitched for in Sydney had been approved and he was flying over next week to go through the finer details with the client. “It’s such a brilliant project,” he said with excitement. He paused.

“But I’m really going to miss you, because….” He moistened his lips nervously, “because I’m completely in love with you.”

Ana, her eyes shining, leaned over and kissed him so tenderly, so deeply that he knew she loved him, too – before she whispered it back.

***

Slightly tipsy from the Champagne and filled with a giddy feeling that she could only describe as pure love, Ana leaned back against Tom and closed her eyes. She could hear his even breathing close to her ear and was acutely aware of his muscular body.

Tom ran his fingertips up Ana’s arm. Moving her hair gently to one side, he kissed her neck, lightly at first and then with more intensity as he felt Ana responding to him.

Her whole body felt electric. She closed her eyes tighter and pushed back closer into him, feeling him grow hard underneath the pressure of her body.

Tom slipped his hand inside her blouse, gently teasing her nipple as he continued to kiss her neck. Ana’s breath was shallow as she let out a small moan. “Don’t stop,” she gasped, her palms pressing hard onto his thighs.

Very slowly, his hand moved to her legs, gently but firmly pulling her thighs apart. Even if she had wanted to, Ana was powerless to resist. His hand slipped underneath her skirt and trailed over the front of her silk underwear.

“Now, where did we leave off this morning,” he murmured into her ear as his fingers slid down the front of her underwear and teased her with excruciatingly slow strokes. She inhaled sharply as his fingers entered her – stroking and probing. Not able to contain it any longer, Ana let herself go, convulsing against Tom’s body as he held her.

***

They walked hand-in-hand towards Ana’s office in a comfortable silence, sneaking sideways glances at each other; unable to wipe the grins off their faces.

“Ana?”

As she turned, Ana’s stomach lurched into her throat. It was Marc.

She hastily dropped Tom’s hand and regained her composure. “Hi Marc. This is Tom. Tom, my boss Marc.”

Tom held out his hand enthusiastically. “It’s great to meet you. Ana speaks very highly of you.” She hadn’t, of course, told Tom anything about Marc.

Ana hoped that Tom didn’t notice the slight raise of Marc’s right eyebrow.

“Likewise,” Marc said curtly. “Ana, if you’ve got time now I’d like to be briefed on this morning’s meeting.”

Ana dipped her head in acknowledgment and gave Tom a smile good bye. She walked into the lift with Marc and he pressed the button for the 14th floor. Tom waved as the doors closed.

“So, that’s why you’ve been avoiding me,” Marc said acidly.

Season 1: Episode 9

January 25, 2011

Ana felt two arms reach around her waist, a strong body pressing up against her.

“Well, that went ok,” Tom said, holding her tentatively as he gave her a kiss on the neck. “Are we friends again?”

Ana turned away from the sink where she’d begun to wash the dishes. She looked up into Tom’s smiling face, his clear blue eyes shining down at her. He was gorgeous. He was in his usual uniform of faded denim, plain T-shirt and trainers. At 29, he could pass for a first-year university student but Ana knew better. The jeans were EVISU, the shirt Dsquared2 and the trainers were Yohji Yamamoto for Adidas. Try as he might, Tom couldn’t mask the fact that he was an architect earning a six-figure salary.

And somehow, despite its beginnings, tonight’s dinner had been unexpectedly wonderful. Willow seemed to sense the tension in the air when she arrived but, typically, pushed right through it. And her good mood had rubbed off on everyone. She’d brought home some hand-pressed olive oil from an estate in Italy that only released 200 bottles a year. Who knew where she found such things? And Mia had baked a loaf of spelt bread, which – although it broke Ana’s rule about no more than one carb per meal –  had complemented Ana’s wild mushroom and goat’s cheese pasta beautifully. Mia’s secret? A splash of maple syrup to help the yeast activate and provide a subtle sweetness throughout the loaf. As always, Johnny had come through with terrific wine.

The girls seemed to love Tom and even Johnny was smitten – particularly when Tom discovered Johnny had played guitar in one of his favourite teenage rock bands. For the rest of the night Tom couldn’t stop raving about some set Johnny had “shredded” back in the 90s. Ana was thankful for Willow and Mia’s discretion. She knew they’d been watching her and Tom most of the night – how could they have forgotten the past two weeks of her behaving ridiculously because of Marc – but they’d been nothing but supportive. She felt lucky to have them in her life and couldn’t believe how irrational she’d been with Tom earlier.

Were she and Tom friends again? “Sure,” Ana said, smiling back at him.

At her response he touched her face, slowly rubbing the back of her neck. Leaning in to kiss her, he pulled her close and enveloped her in his arms. Ana was finding it difficult to resist him – and why should she? Marc had lied to her. He’d said he couldn’t spend New Year’s with her because he had to go to a dinner party, but then he’d phoned her from the airport. He needed more time for his family, he said, and was taking his wife on a two-week holiday to the Maldives. Marc was a fantasy, but Tom – he was real.

Tom reached under Ana’s blouse, all the while kissing her lips, her ears, her neck. She leaned back slightly as he cupped her breast. He unbuttoned her shirt; she could feel him hard through his jeans. She raised one leg around his hip and the other he grabbed, lifting her on to the wooden kitchen bench top.

“Are you sure?” he said, pulling away for a moment and resting his forehead on hers, breathing heavily. “What about Willow and Mia?” She responded by undoing his jeans and slipping her hand down his boxers. “They’re heavy sleepers,” she whispered, nibbling at his ear lobe. He didn’t need any more encouragement.

***

Ana woke to the smell of coffee. She opened her eyes and looked across the bed where she saw Tom laying a tray of croissants, jam and a plunger next to her. He saw she was awake and leaned in for a kiss.

“Good morning,” he said. “Hungry?”

She couldn’t believe how different it was waking up with him. Marc was like a motionless corpse most mornings (or afternoons) when she left,  but Tom brought her breakfast in bed. Ana sighed to herself. What had she been doing ’til now? And where did he get that amazing looking jam from?

She snuck a look at Tom, who was now poring over her modest collection of books. His strong, tanned forearms – hard with muscle through years of rock climbing – were visible under his rolled-up sleeves and dark blonde hair hung across his stubbled face. Here was this good, loving man who only wanted to make her happy, and all she could do was lie to him. Ana knew Tom wanted to get serious. He’d been brought up in a traditional home where all his family members still talked to each other. Hell, his parents probably still loved each other. It was normal for him to get domestic and play house, but it wasn’t for Ana. No, what was normal for her was sneaking around with a married man and feeling bad about herself the whole time. What was normal for her was treating a great guy like rubbish because she was holding out for some arsehole who would never, ever leave his wife. She made up her mind.

“Hey,” she said softly, “about our fight last night.”

Tom sat on her side of the bed and played with her hair. “Don’t worry about it,” he said. “I’m sorry if I’ve been wanting to spend too much time with you. I’ll step back a bit, I promise. I just love being around you, no matter how often. Just let me know what you need.”

“No,” she said, “that’s not it.” She leaned across his lap and picked her handbag off the floor. Reaching inside she pulled out her spare set of house keys and handed them to him. “Here. Seeing you last night with the girls and Johnny… they’re the most important people in my life. I want you to feel like you’re a part of that, a part of my home. I don’t want to see less of you, I want to see you more.”

Tom looked at her, then at the keys in his hand and squeezed them tight. Ana waited for him to say something. Instead, he pulled the covers over both of them and, working up her body, he showed Ana just how grateful he was.

 

Season 1: Episode 7

January 11, 2011

Running his hands through his dark, tousled hair, Johnny’s velvety brown eyes surveyed the interior of Medina. The tapas bar where he was sommelier and part-owner was empty.

In fact, the whole of Melbourne still seemed to be in that peaceful, post-holiday daze. Not that his business was suffering, mind you. Another brilliant write-up last week in one of the city’s best food guides had seen hordes of tourists and locals flocking in to sample Medina’s innovative Middle Eastern menu and spectacular wine list. Tonight, though, the rush had come early so, even though it had only just hit 11pm, the place didn’t have a soul in it.

Opening a beer, Johnny wandered through to the small kitchen to check in with his business partner and head chef, Franco. He’d already sent the staff home and when it was quiet like this Franco would usually cook a late dinner for the two of them – something that wasn’t on the menu – and they would sit for hours eating and drinking and reminiscing about their days sweating it out as kitchen hands and busboys all across Melbourne.

“I had a feeling about tonight!” exclaimed Franco as Johnny sauntered through the kitchen’s swinging doors. “I’ve been marinating this incredible piece of aged porterhouse for 12 hours. I got it on my last trip to Gippsland. I was going to put it on the menu, but I just had this feeling that we could enjoy it instead.”

Johnny laughed. It wasn’t the first time that Franco had saved the choicest morsels for them to enjoy. This was a man passionate about his food.

He wandered back into the bar area, taking another sip of beer. Crouching in front of one of the bar’s many wine racks, he started perusing the selection for a bottle of red to match the steak.

“Hello?” a voice called into the empty space. “Are you open? I didn’t see a sign on the door…”

Johnny looked up to see a woman standing in front of the bar. If a customer came in at the end of the night he would usually have turned them away, but there was something about this one. She was a little older than him – pushing 40, perhaps – and stylish, not a single dark blonde hair out of place. His eyes travelled slowly over her body as he stood up, taking in the straight, dark pencil skirt that hugged her round hips and the pink silk shirt that clung to her torso. Johnny liked older women.  Well, no. To be fair he liked all women – but he’d found that, like a good wine, more complex inner flavours were often brought to the surface with age.

She cocked her head to one side, a smile playing at the edges of her lips. “So, do I pass?”

Busted! Johnny grinned sheepishly. “What can I get you?”

She looked at the bottle in his hand. “A glass of that would be nice.” Crossing her legs elegantly as she sat on a bar stool she said, “I don’t suppose the kitchen is open? I’m ravenous!”

Johnny shrugged. Why not? This woman intrigued him.

***

Franco winked at Johnny when he came back into the kitchen. “Luckily I’ve got three pieces,” he said, gesturing to the porterhouse. “And I think I’ll have mine to go.” In truth, Franco – who was married, with his second daughter on the way – wanted nothing more than for Johnny to settle down and be as sublimely happy in domestic bliss as he was. And the woman at the bar was seriously beautiful. Not to mention mature. Unlike the usual young girls who stayed way past closing time hoping for the handsome, brown-eyed bar tender to notice them.

***

Johnny and the woman ate in silence, side-by-side, slowly slicing into the tender pieces of meat, the steak juices flowing onto their plates and mingling with the pepper brandy sauce. Johnny reached across the bar and refilled her glass. She leaned in to him as he did so.
They chatted – idle banter – he had seen enough of interest in the small tapas bar to never run out of anecdotal material. A few glasses later, he locked the front door and switched off the house lights. The woman made no move to leave. His heartbeat quickened a little as he picked up their half-finished bottle of red, took her hand and silently led her to the staircase.

They were halfway up the stairs when she suddenly grabbed him, pulling him towards her in a smooth embrace. They moved together as one mess of arms, hands and lips. As she fumbled with his belt, he stopped her by grasping her wrists firmly in his free hand.

“Not yet,” he whispered.

He pointed her up the stairs again, and gently pushed her towards the second floor.  She would soon understand why – one of the rooms was dimly lit, with an inviting set of couches. On the table was a very decent bottle of Pinot and a couple of glasses. Johnny almost laughed – Franco had obviously seen where this was heading.

Johnny pulled her towards him and kissed her deeply.  She moaned and leaned her head back as Johnny lifted her shirt, exposing a delicate lace bra.  Pushing him back onto the couch, she straddled him and unbuttoned her skirt, revealing matching underwear.
Then she got back to his belt.

For what seemed like hours – certainly for several bottles’ worth of time – the two alternated between tastes of the flesh and the grape.

***

Johnny slowly opened his eyes. Judging from the light coming through the windows, and the morning chorus of rubbish trucks and street sweepers, he guessed it was about 6:30am. He heard a tap running in the restaurant. Throwing on his jeans, he went downstairs.

Putting down her glass of water, the woman smiled. “Good morning,” she said. She looked a lot fresher than Johnny felt. “I didn’t want to wake you. I can show myself out.”

He wasn’t hurt, exactly, but he had to admit it was a weird feeling. He usually had to beat them off with a stick! Still, he wasn’t in any hurry for a relationship, intriguing as this woman was. Reaching into his pocket he produced his keys. “Ah, but you need these to open the door,” he said. “You can’t escape so easily!”

Sunlight hit him in the face as he pulled open the door. He held up his hands to shield his eyes and stepped outside.

A bemused voice cut through the glare. “Johnny?”

It took his eyes a few seconds to adjust to the light and see who had spoken.

Mia?

Johnny was suddenly very aware that all he was wearing was jeans.

“Mia, what are you doing here?”

His friend shrugged, “I’m on my way to work. I didn’t realise you slept at the restaurant sometimes. Must have been a busy night!”

Before he could answer, the woman from the bar stepped through the door and, blowing a kiss over her shoulder, walked away down the small cobbled laneway.

Mia’s eyebrows shot up. “A very busy night!” She’d heard stories about Johnny’s antics from the others, but had never actually caught him in the act, herself.

For the second time in 12 hours Johnny felt like he’d been busted doing something he shouldn’t have. “I can explain…”

Mia looked at the ground, flustered, before laughing awkwardly. “What you do is your business. You don’t have to explain yourself to me.” She turned and walked quickly away from the restaurant.

No I don’t, thought Johnny. So why do I feel like I want to?

 

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.”

Season 1: Episode 2

December 7, 2010

Mia mounted the stairs to the Pilates studio two at a time. Her long limbs, which usually made easy work of the climb, felt heavy and slow. It was still dark outside but, even though she was exhausted and could have quite happily stayed in bed for hours, she was determined to get in a good workout before her first client arrived.

This time of year always presented a challenge to Mia. She had a very precise lifestyle; a routine that she rarely deviated from. Structure permeated every aspect of her life: what she ate, what she did, where she went and with whom she went. She didn’t like to think of herself as stuffy and uptight, but, well… she didn’t exactly cut loose that often. So the month of December was a nightmare for her sense of control and order. She tried hard to make it to the endless Christmas parties and pre-holiday catch-ups, and she always enjoyed them when she was there, but every late night and cocktail she had seemed to stimulate a little voice in the back of her mind: You’re going to regret this tomorrow.

She opened the appointment schedule to see who her first client for the day was going to be. She really hoped it was one of the many retirees she regularly saw. Instead of a fully charged workout, they were usually more interested in a chat and some light stretches, which was about the tempo that Mia felt capable of today. Her heart skipped a beat as she saw the name filling the slot.

Nick!

Generally, Mia knew exactly when Nick was going to visit the studio. He must have phoned yesterday, after she had gone home, and booked the session. How typical that he – of all her clients – would be coming for an unexpected class the day she’d woken up late, on a morning when she hadn’t even bothered to wipe off the small amount of makeup she’d put on last night, and when she was wearing her single most unattractive outfit.

Nick was charming. He was attractive and funny and had all the older ladies at the studio wrapped around his little finger. He had become her client about eight months ago as part of his rehabilitation for a nasty back injury he’d received cycling through the French Alps. As you do. But even after eight months of weekly visits, at which she’d pushed his injured body to the limits with Pilates, Mia still got butterflies when she saw him. Now, she was aching with anticipation.

Anticipation of what, she didn’t know.

She hadn’t told her housemates about Nick. She knew they wouldn’t understand why she didn’t just ask him out on a date. She wished she could be more like them. They were always taking men out for drinks or dinner; the epitome of empowered, modern women. Although, not so much Ana these days, Mia thought. Ana had been seeing someone for a few months now. Although the relationship seemed serious (in Mia’s mind, dating someone for a few months was commensurate to being engaged!), Ana had never introduced him to her housemates, leaving Mia and Willow to assume the nights that Ana didn’t come home she spent at his place. Either there or at work.

* * *

Mia focussed on getting prepared for Nick’s arrival. She hadn’t eaten breakfast at home, bringing instead a take-away tub containing her homemade muesli and a water bottle filled with organic soy milk. With slightly shaky hands Mia transferred her breakfast into a bowl. She didn’t cut any corners with her muesli and it was rich with whole hazelnuts, puffed rice, dried orange, almonds and cranberries. A few ripe, cut strawberries were thrown in for good measure.

She knew she had to work off some of her nervous energy, so she lay down on the Pilates Reformer machine, carefully placing the bowl of muesli next to her. This gave new meaning to the term working breakfast! She put her foot on the support bar and gracefully lifted her right leg towards her at the same time as pushing the carriage away with her left. The spring-loaded machine allowed her to both stretch and strengthen at the same time. She took in a deep breath as she pulled her leg closer towards her, increasing the intensity of the stretch. The butterflies were back with a vengeance. She exhaled slowly, bringing the Reformer carriage back to neutral and trying to calm her mind.

Why does he have this effect on me?

She closed her eyes, breathed in slowly, and pushed the carriage away once again.

* * *

Someone was gently stroking the sole of her foot. Inhaling through slightly parted lips, she opened her eyes and found Nick gazing at her. He slowly ran his hand down the inside of her leg and rested it on her inner thigh.

She exhaled.

Without taking his eyes off her, Nick’s firm touch travelled up her torso. He paused slightly, cupping her small but firm breasts. Her whole body felt electrified. She inhaled and arched her back slightly, longing to feel him closer. He brought his mouth close to hers and, teasing, gently caressed her neck. Mia clutched the side of the bench and used it to arch her body up further towards his.

In his hand he held a segment of strawberry, plucked from the bowl by Mia’s side. He gently placed it in her belly button, letting his hand forge a lazy trail between her legs before running his tongue along her stomach to collect his prize. Moving his mouth closer to hers, he transferred the strawberry to her swollen lips with his own.

She exhaled slowly, every part of her body tingling with desire.
She could wait no longer. Their bodies entangled, rhythmically pushing and pulling, pushing and pulling as she…

“Mia!”

Mia jumped, unsettling her bowl of muesli and spilling it all over herself and the Reformer machine as she scrambled to get up. A lone strawberry tumbled across the floor, only coming to a stop when a hand reached down to pick it up.

“Late night? You were sound asleep.”

Mia looked up to see Nick standing a few metres away. He tossed the strawberry in the air and caught it.

“I… err… I…  yes. Late night,” she stammered, her face bright red. Oh my God, please don’t tell me I was talking in my sleep!

He winked at her. “You looked like you were dreaming about something good, at any rate.”

* * *

Mia closed the front door behind her. It was good to be home. She ran her hand through her hair, finding a rogue seed that had obviously planted itself there during the breakfast mishap. Since her morning session with Nick she hadn’t been able to think straight all day. Every time their hands met she’d jumped back as if electrocuted. She was terrified he’d been able to tell what she had been dreaming about. She liked him, but wasn’t quite sure what she’d do if he actually liked her back.

There she was, completely out of her depth.

As she walked further down the hall she was surprised to see a large bouquet of flowers on the hall table. Her heart stopped.

They couldn’t be from him! Could they?

She peeked inside at the attached card, hopefully.

Ana. Thanks for this morning. M.

“M?” Mia was confused. She thought Ana’s boyfriend was called Tom? She let disappointment wash over her for only a second before closing her eyes and rewriting the card in her head: Mia. This morning was incredible. Yours, Nick.

 

Season 1: Episode 1

November 30, 2010

Ana pushed at the ornate wooden door of Medina and crossed the threshold. The smells wafting from the kitchen were alive with foreign spices, triggering memories of the summer she spent travelling through Spain and Morocco too many years ago. Her eyes took a moment to become accustomed to the dim light as she peered around the unfamiliar space. Low tables were surrounded by tasteful chairs, which were almost all occupied by small groups of people talking and laughing over cocktails. It was more like someone’s living room than a bar. Intimate and inviting.

She searched the well-dressed crowd for her housemates. They’d strategically arranged to meet here – a bar where their friend Johnny was part-owner and sommelier. But it wasn’t the prospect of free drinks that had lured them. It was more that, being Johnny’s workplace, he wouldn’t (or couldn’t) be late.

Tonight, however, it was Ana who was running hours behind time.

Six months ago she’d snagged a coveted job as a consultant at one of Melbourne’s most exclusive public relations firms. She knew, when she signed on for that hefty pay cheque, that her social life would be all but obliterated. The work days were long and often ended with client functions, which meant that sometimes she barely even saw the inside of her own bedroom. Her life, essentially, had been whittled down to rapid costume changes between work-related activities.

Initially, Ana had insisted to herself that she would rigorously maintain some sort of work-life balance – time to go to the gym, have coffee with her friends, establish a healthy and loving relationship with a boyfriend – but now, when she wasn’t at work, she was making up excuses to go back just so she could spend more time with him. Marc. Her gorgeous, charismatic, sexy and – utterly, tragically – married boss.

The attraction had been mutual right from the start. On that first day, when she had walked into the office, Marc had strolled over to her desk.

“Welcome,” he’d said. And that was all it took.

Bam! It was as though someone had sucked the air right out of her body. Thank goodness he’d been on vacation during the interview process; Ana didn’t think she would have been able to string a sentence together with those cool grey-blue eyes boring into her soul. Still, they’d managed to keep their hands off each other… for about three weeks.

Ana hated the fact that their being together could potentially ruin so many other lives. But then Marc would kiss her deeply on the lips and all the doubts she had about whether they should be together evaporated. How could something that felt so unbelievably perfect be so wrong?

Tonight she would blame her lateness on their ‘management meeting’ running over schedule. In reality, Marc had started undressing her as soon as she had walked into his office three hours ago. Slowly peeling off her silk blouse, he’d handled her as if he was unwrapping some kind of exquisite chocolate – then devoured her with the urgency of someone who feared she might melt if left exposed for too long.  Somewhere in the midst of their lovemaking – on the desk, his chair and the floor – she’d somehow managed to construct a strategy for dealing with a troublesome client and explained it to him between groans of pleasure.

Yes. Multitasking was definitely one of her fortes.

***

“Ana!”

Ana looked over to a corner table and spotted her housemates, Willow and Mia, sitting with Johnny, who tapped his watch and arched an eyebrow.

“Oh, please!” Ana snorted. “Like you’ve ever been on time for anything.”

Johnny shrugged in a good-natured way. He had many exceptional qualities, did Johnny. Punctuality was not one of them.

Ana blew kisses to her housemates, not wanting to get too close in case the perfume she’d applied liberally in the cab hadn’t managed to cover Marc’s scent. “This is a great place,” she said, sitting down and taking in the surroundings.

Johnny smiled broadly and blushed a little. “Yeah? You like it?”

“Careful,” teased Willow. “You almost look like you’re proud that you’ve achieved something.”

Johnny took a sip of his beer, trying to hide the smile. That was the price you had to pay for being a handsome – in a five o’clock shadow, black denim kind of way – 36-year-old former rock god. You could never be punctual or look too interested in anything.

“I think you should be proud,” Mia said, softly. “It’s wonderful.”

They weren’t the only ones who thought so. Although it had only been open for a few weeks, it was obvious that the Melbourne hipsters had already staked claim to Medina as their favourite after-work drinks establishment. The casual restaurant/bar had received glowing reviews from all the major press, with Johnny’s carefully selected wine list being touted as “unparalleled” and “a triumph” by the city’s leading critic. His friends never knew how Johnny had developed his talent for sourcing unusual and distinctive wines. All they ever saw him drink was beer – aside from the odd glass of red. In fact, despite having known him for close to 13 years, not one of them could claim they had him figured out. But Mia, Willow, Ana and Johnny had been friends for so long that the girls accepted his enigmatic ways as normal. Johnny was Johnny.

“So, really, what is your excuse for such appalling tardiness?” Johnny said in a mock stern voice, turning to Ana.

“Work,” chorused Willow and Mia, without giving Ana an opportunity to answer.

“Management meeting,” Ana said, ducking her head to hide her slightly crimson cheeks. It was getting harder and harder to lie to them, and she didn’t need her oldest friends reading her face tonight. “What are you drinking?” she said quickly, changing the subject.

“Champagne cocktail,” Mia said, handing her glass to Ana so she could try it. Ana took a slow sip. The Champagne bubbles tap-danced across her tongue and left behind an alluring hint of lychee and mint. She inhaled and caught a whiff of elderflower right at the end. The overall effect was smooth, sweet and brilliantly summery. Just what she needed to clear her head.

“Another four of these?” she said as she stood up for the bar.

“Beer for me,” called out Johnny. “And tell Franco to bring us some food.”

***

When the food arrived, the four friends jumped on it as if they hadn’t eaten in days. First, fresh bread – still steaming from the oven – and parmesan-infused olive oil for dipping. The peppery flavour of the locally produced oil almost masked the cheese infusion, but Johnny encouraged them all to savour its taste, to roll the oil over their tongues a few seconds longer to appreciate the subtle harmony of flavours.

Next, the kitchen sent out a parade of small plates. Freshly podded broad beans dressed with slivers of prosciutto; mushrooms slow-cooked in butter, sherry vinegar and a splash of cream; Kurobuta pork meatballs with a rich tomato ragu; and grilled haloumi between slices of fresh pear, topped with a drizzle of pomegranate molasses.

Ana bit slowly into a piece of the charred, salty cheese. She loved the way it squeaked against her teeth. The tart green pear and liquid molasses was a terrific match; the sharpness cutting through the fat of the haloumi and leaving her mouth alive with flavour. She watched as the molasses moved lazily down her fork and ran down her hand. Closing her eyes, Ana used her tongue to remove the thick treacle-like substance, imagining Marc slowly licking her and bringing her to the brink of pleasure – and then over the top – again and again.

 

***

No one spoke until all the plates had been wiped clean with bread and sticky fingers.

“So,” Mia said, after a suitable pause to pay reverence to the delicious meal. “Christmas. We’re still on, right? I’ve already broken the news to my parents that I’m not coming home, so there’s no backing out now.”

Mia’s family all lived in Singapore and although she often went back for the holidays, this year she’d decided to stay in Melbourne and cover shifts at the Pilates studio where she was an instructor. Mia had come to Melbourne at 18 and had gained her permanent residency after finishing university. Her parents were upset that she hadn’t wanted to move back home. But ‘upset’ seemed to be their thing, as her biannual visits never seemed to quell their disappointment that she was unmarried (still!) and living with strangers (who were these so-called friends?) in a foreign city.

“I’m in,” said Johnny enthusiastically.  Christmas had never been a major thing for him, so he was secretly delighted to spend it with his best friends, rather than doing what he did every other Christmas day – sitting in his warehouse apartment, smoking joints and listening to vinyl.

On the flip side, Willow loved Christmas with her family. This year, however, she was exhausted and quite pleased that she could stay in Melbourne rather than make the Christmas Eve drive to her parents’ rural Victorian property where she and about 30 other relatives always descended. Willow had started a new job halfway through the year, teaching music at an elite private school in Melbourne’s inner-east, and already felt burnt out. Come the end of term, all she wanted to do was sleep for a month to catch up from the school concerts, intrusive parents and precocious high school students she had to deal with. She loved her job but sometimes she wished someone had warned her what an uphill battle trying to instil teenagers with a passion for anything other than modern music was going to be. If it hadn’t been discovered on YouTube in the last five minutes, they weren’t interested.

“Oh, I’m always in,” Ana said. Ana had a tumultuous relationship with her parents. Despite the fact that, of the three housemates, Ana’s parents were the only ones who lived in Melbourne, Willow and Mia had only met them once or twice. They were rich, snobby and had never played a huge role in Ana’s life. Ana doubted whether they would even notice if she just didn’t turn up on Christmas day. Besides, Marc had promised her a special Christmas surprise…

“Are you going to invite your mystery man to Christmas dinner so we can finally meet him?” Willow said.

“Mystery Man?” Ana said too quickly, looking startled. “I don’t have a mystery man.”

“Um, Tom? Your boyfriend? You know, amazing architect, all-round great guy? The one we are still yet to meet?!” Willow chided.

“Oh. Him.” Ana shifted nervously in her seat. “He’s going overseas. Saving a village with some cantilevered structure. Or something. He invited me to go, but…”

“Work?” Willow and Mia said together.

Ana laughed nervously. “Yeah. Work.” Not work, she thought to herself. Marc.

“I guess the only question left,” said Mia, “is: Willow, what are you going to cook?”

Along with her many other talents – singing, dancing, even knitting – Willow could cook. Boy, could she cook. She made dishes that enlivened your senses in such a way that it didn’t seem possible anything could smell, taste or feel as good. Some people had said her cooking was better than sex.

Well, almost.

“I’ve got some ideas for the main course – nothing too outrageous, but not too traditional, either,” Willow said. “We should all contribute something though. It’s Christmas, after all.”

Ana’s hand shot in the air. “Dessert!”

Mia shrugged. “Vegetables?” She knew that Willow would probably have that covered – Willow only ever envisaged meals in their entirety – but she also knew that ‘Willow vegetables’ were generally swimming in butter or cream. Or both. Aside from the occasional Champagne cocktail, Mia was generally regarded as a health nut and could mentally deal with only so many calories on any given day. Even Christmas.

“What should I bring?” Johnny asked.

“Wine!” the three women said in unison.

***

Several drinks later, the group poured themselves out of the bar. The temperature had dropped significantly and the wind lashed away at the trees.  It certainly didn’t feel as though tomorrow was going to be the first day of summer. Willow was belting out the theme song from Flashdance with great gusto even though she didn’t know the lyrics. Mia had taken her arm in an attempt to stop Willow falling over as she tipsily negotiated the cobbled laneway in her high heels.

As they passed a nondescript apartment building, Johnny stopped. “This is me.”

Willow let out a wolf-whistle and Ana made kissing noises in Johnny’s direction. Mia tried to keep the disapproving frown off her face. Johnny had spent the latter part of the evening texting someone and they all knew what that meant: booty call. The girls had given up questioning him on who his current lover was. He never gave them an answer, anyway. He gave them the finger and laughed as he pushed the glass doors open.

“See you on the 25th,” Willow called out to him. “Don’t forget to bring lots of wine!”

Johnny, his back to them, raised his fist in acknowledgement.

Linking arms with her friends, Ana smiled. “Come on, ladies. Let’s go home.”