Monday – Chicken Crimpies
For Alex, it was a toss up between pizza shapes and chicken crimpies at the Northcote servo the day he met Sabine. If he had deliberated for longer, things might have turned out differently, but luckily he had the munchies. He was in his towelling robe and ugg boots, as he was every Monday night that autumn, his chin prickly with ginger stubble. Sabine was in her favourite pale skinny jeans and a mauve pashmina that sat loosely across her shoulders. Alex didn't see the grape Chuppa Chup she snuck into her back pocket. They had both been waiting for what seemed like a long time while the attendant argued with a man in a grey hoodie in the forecourt.
“Prepay sir. It's on prepay sir.” The attendant was shaking his fist at a guy in the forecourt as he held the microphone too close to his mouth, his turban lopsided.
“Excuse me. I just want these. I have the exact change,” Alex whispered, sliding the chicken crimpies across the counter slowly. But the attendant was distracted by his argument.
“Excuse moi. Monsieur. I just have these. Merci. Just these ones. Sorry.” Sabine leaned forward, her pashmina falling off her shoulder slightly. She looked over at Alex and shrugged, placing her items on the counter next to the crimpies: a small carton of eggs, a packet of caster sugar and a bottle of vanilla essence. She ran her hand through her long dark hair in frustration. The attendant smiled, ignoring the orange box of processed goodness and tilting his head toward Sabine with a half smile.
“It comes to twelve dollars and--” suddenly there was a voice from behind them: “Put your hands in the air! Now!” Alex just had time to rescue the box before he hit the ground. He heard them breaking. Next, down went Sabine, but thankfully not the eggs. Screams from the attendant. A single gunshot. Something heavy falling to the ground behind the counter. There was a smell of expensive perfume so close that Alex could have almost tasted it. If he hadn't been so hungry for chicken crimpies.
* * *
“Are you sure it is ok for me to be here? I still, I can't believe. I can't believe it. The guy, he was so…I've never seen anyone who is shot before. Ooph. I don't want to know about it.” Sabine was swaddled in Alex's robe on his couch, cradling a cup of black tea with shaky hands. Her cheeks were dappled red from crying.
Alex thanked the policewoman and closed the door. A beautiful women on his couch. A french women.
“Ooh la-- The macaron. I forgot the ingredient. When I left, I forgot,” she looked up at him, chewing her lip. “At these times, in Brittany, we say, only haute cuisine can fix things. Oh I feel so bad for that man!” Alex looked into her hazel eyes for a second, then looked away.
“I know what you mean,” he said, rubbing his temples. Sabine stood up and went to open the fridge.
“Do you mind...” she asked trying to open it.
“No. Yes. I mean, I'm so sorry,” Alex blocked her way, covering the bulldog clip of Aldi mailers with his forearm.
“Do you have any-”
“No. Sorry. It's ten. I have work tomorrow. But it was great to meet you.” Alex guided her toward the door, forgetting about the robe, his stomach growling. Crimpies! Au revoir!
Tuesday – Heinz Extra Cheesy Baked Beans
“You mean to tell me you had a hot french girl in your lounge and you didn't even get her number! Dude. What were you thinking?” Alex's workmate Sun-Jin elbowed him in the ribs, through his Fitzroy Bowls polo shirt.
“Ow! It was a different situation ok? I don't just invite women into my apartment,” Alex protested. “In France they don't just eat normal stuff, they eat cuisine dude. She tried to open my fridge,” said Alex, spiking a salt and vinegar chip packet on the green, his stomach growling. “I need preparation for that shit, ok?” he said, glaring at his friend.
“Do you think you'll see her again? ‘cause if you're not interested...I make a mean kim chi...” Sun-Jin suggested, staring off into the distance.
“F off Sunny!”Alex retorted.
“Well actually it's 5pm. So I might just do that. Same time tomorrow?” Sun-Jin asked, poking out his tongue and sauntering away.
This is perfect. Alex surveyed his studio apartment. A stain on the couch cushion caught his eye and he flipped it over. Perfect. He had just peeled back the lid on a can of baked beans (it was a toss up between cheesy, extra cheesy and smoky bacon), when there was a knock at the door. What the f--. She's early!
“Ello? It's Sabine. I have your jacket. Your robe?” Alex looked through the peep hole and back to the microwave where the cheesy smell was starting to emanate.
“Just a second!” he yelled. He grabbed the evidence and stuffed it into a cupboard quickly, beans spilling in the process. There was a bottle of lavender air freshener by the windowsill and he quickly sprayed it toward the microwave, coughing. He swiped at a long trail of sauce on the cupboard door with his hand.
“Mmm what is that smell? It smells deliceux. I mean delicious. Mmm...” Sabine commented, closing her eyes. She swept her glossy fringe across her forehead, her long silver earrings showcasing her elegant neck. She crossed her ankles in her high-heeled boots.
“Oh but you spray somesing?” she asked.
“Thanks for bringing the robe back. It looks better on me. I mean, you looked great in it too. I mean...It's just...it's my favourite,” Alex stuttered, changing the conversation.
“Do you always wear a robe to go out?” Sabine smiled up at him, looking over at his white muscle shirt and boxer combo. Alex looked down, mortified. Oh shit.
“It's ok. I think it's sexy. More men should wear this manly stuff. Your physique, it's nice,” said Sabine. Alex stood rooted to the spot. His stomach was full of knots. He could hear the baked beans sizzling and popping in their bowl.
Wednesday – Tuna snack pack
Sun Jin wasted no time as Alex made his way through the staff entrance to the bowling green the next morning. He grabbed Alex's umbrella and shook it out before pointing it at him.
“Where is your regulation polo shirt young man?” He faked a stern look at his friend. Alex ran a hand through his dripping fringe.
“Forget that. The french chick. Oh my god – so she came back with my robe last night.” Sun-Jin dropped the umbrella with a thud.
“What the heck? Dude – she is into you! What the f-- man. Look at you. I'm the alpha male. What is happening?” Alex shook his head.
“No way. She just dropped off the robe. But she did also...” he trailed off, grinning. “Also what?” Sun-Jin shook Alex by his shoulders.
“Have you ever had macaroon biscuits? Oh my God you have to taste these things. It's cuisine. I'm going to propose,” Alex gushed. Breaking away and grabbing a broom, he fell to his knees.
After locking up at the green, Alex walked across to the carpark shared by the trendy shops and cafes of North Fitzroy. He was carrying a plastic bag of food shopping: a six-pack of beer, a six-pack of sausages and a tuna snack pack (with basil and tomato).
When he slipped on the curb, it was this prized possession that rolled under the wheel of a sleek, black Volkswagen. God Damn it! At the risk of being run over himself, he reached for it, but it was too late. He heard the sound of plastic cracking, followed by a hideous squelch. He tapped on the driver's window, slick with rain. Oh no. Sabine!
“Hi! This is so funny. I'm so sorry, I mean, not funny. I could have hit you. You are ok no?” She asked, motioning for him to get in. “What 'appened?” she asked.
“Oh. I...ah, I saw you, so I wanted to say hi,” he said, looking at the mangled tuna snack out of the corner of his eye.
“I was waiting for you to ask me out. I thought you wouldn't ever ask. Where shall we go?” she asked, opening the passenger door and beckoning him to get in. Alex took one last look in the rearview mirror as they drove away, and his heart sank.
“Not tonight. Tomorrow – come round tomorrow night,” he said.
Thursday – The Butter
What am I doing? Alex picked up a cushion and repositioned it for the seventh time, when the phone rang. It was Sun-Jin.
“Sunny! Look mate, she's going to be here in ten minutes and I haven't even had dinner. Call me later!” Alex whispered, as if Sabine was within earshot.
“Dude, yeah sure, but you better have a story for me on Monday,” Sun-Jin answered.
“Ok bye!” said Alex, strongly.
Satisfied with his decorating efforts, Alex threw some white bread into the toaster and took a deep breath. He pulled the butter out of the fridge, where it was perched on the top shelf – a strange yellow lump, coated with crumbs. At first attempt, all he could get on his knife were small slithers. It was rock hard. I need more than that.
He stabbed the middle of the lump in frustration. Thirty seconds should do it, he thought, placing the lump with the paper still on it into a bowl and tapping the microwave timer. Damn it! The doorbell rang. Double damn. At least I'm dressed properly this time. He smoothed the front of his shirt and then tucked it into his new jeans.
* * *
“I brought popcorn. It's my favourite one – salty and sweet. Do you like it?” Sabine asked, smiling at Alex from the hallway and biting her lip, holding an extremely large bag of organic popcorn.
“Sorry, sorry, come in,” Alex offered, ushering her inside. Alex surveyed Sabine's outfit, a simple white collared shirt and jeans, her hair tied back in a sleek ponytail. Beautiful.
“What? It is nice popcorn? Hmmm” Sabine said, laughing and doing a little twirl.
“I downloaded some shows,” Alex said, grabbing his laptop. He turned around for a second when he smelled something. Sabine was opening the microwave. Too late!
“What happened to this?” she asked, laughing. Alex could feel his face growing warm. The microwave looked like a yellow bomb site. The lump of butter was sitting in the bowl, crumbs and all. A yellowy white mote had formed around it.
“You're funny,” said Sabine, giving him a peck on his now-red cheek.
Friday – Tommy the Tomato
“I don't usually meet girls two days in a row. It's kind of my rule,” said Alex, picking at his salad.
“Oh, I feel special then. It must be meant to happen, you know. Who knew you worked here? It is so close to my carpark,” said Sabine, carefully cutting a piece of pizza with her cutlery.
“I thought french women only like cuisine. I mean I didn't think you would eat pizza,” said Alex, watching Sabine as she elegantly moved extra vegetables onto her plate from their bowl.
“I like food. I don't know, eating is my pleasure, you know, especially haute cuisine,” she said, winking at Alex. She placed her hand on the table - a cue for Alex to take it. He grabbed it suddenly and pretended to eat it as if it were a giant piece of KFC chicken. “Delicious!” he declared, smacking her lips. Sabine burst out laughing. An elderly woman threw them a look from the table opposite. But Alex didn't care, except that he was starting to feel a bit unwell. He picked up a baby tomato and made a slit across it with a butter knife. He pulled it out from behind his back.
“My name's Tommy and I don't feel so well. Aaarggh!” He squeezed the tomato, letting the insides ooze out onto the plate. Sabine snorted with laughter.
“No really. I don't feel so well,” said Alex, holding his stomach.
“Oh sorry! You think you ate something not so good?” Sabine asked, concerned. She rolled up the sleeves of her blazer and touched his forehead with the back of her hand.
“I'm fine. But I need to go,” said Alex, stumbling to his feet. He had large wet patches across his polo shirt.
“You have a fever. Let me take you. I can drive you home. Come on!” She ordered, putting her arm around him and sending shivers up his spine. God she smells so-
“Oh God I'm so sorry. Those are the nicest shoes!” said Alex before he hit the floor, slick with vomit.
Back at Alex's apartment, Sabine put down the plastic bag containing her freshly rinsed high heels. She helped Alex take off his sneakers and his jacket as he groaned. She peeled off his polo shirt and threw it into the laundry hamper.
“Look at your chest hair. It's so red. I like it,” she said. Alex groaned again. She lay down beside him on the single bed, stroking his hair gently, until he fell asleep.
“No more tomato for you young man,” whispered Sabine.
Saturday, Sunday, Monday – Oat Cuisine
I hope she doesn't wake up just yet. Alex carefully prized Sabine's arm from across his body and wrapped his robe around her as she stirred softly. He padded to the kitchen in his jeans and bare feet, closing the bedroom door behind him. He opened the cupboard. Now what was it again?. He carefully took out a tupperware container of oats from the back, followed by a half-empty bag of brown sugar. Turning on the kettle, he grabbed the nicest bowl he could find and ran a tea towel across it.
“Alec?” Sabine asked from the bedroom, her voice husky.
“Stay there! I've got a surprise for you,” said Alex, frantically looking for a saucepan that wasn't blackened.
“Close your eyes,” he said, carefully pushing open the bedroom door and steadying a tray against his body with his free hand. Sabine, nestling under the covers and covering her eyes. She peeked through her fingers.
“You're cheating!” Alex complained.
“Ok, ok. Oh my goodness, it smells like porridge, yum!” she said, stretching.
“Ok you can open them!” said Alex, putting the tray down on the bedside table. There was a small purple flower in a peanut butter jar of water, a cup of steaming black coffee and a bowl of lumpy looking oatmeal, coated in brown syrupy sugar.
“Oat cuisine!” declared Alex, handing her a spoon. Sabine bit her lip, laughing. “Haute cuisine. Oat...You are a sweet man,” she said, planting a kiss squarely on his mouth.