Fiona opens another bottle of Mezzo Mondo, their new vin ordinaire, at only eight bucks a bottle. Thank goodness, she thinks, or Trish would be drinking us out of house and home. I wonder if she has a problem? I wonder if we do? She pours slightly less wine than usual into their glasses.

—   Cheers! says Trish. A friend told me that if you don’t make eye contact when you clink glasses, it means seven years of bad sex.

They pop their eyes open and stare at one another, then laugh.

—   Hey, I wanted to ask, says Fiona, are you still going to New York City with Yvette and John?

—   Oh, gawd, Charles is raising a big stink about it, says Trish, pulling her wavy reddish hair back into a ponytail.

—   He doesn’t want me to go at all now.

—   You’re kidding! What’s it to him? Why would a boyfriend even have a say?

Trish gets up to stir the veggie chili*.

—   Yum, this looks great. He was okay with it until I told him John and I used to be lovers.

—   Trish! Are you crazy? Why’d you do that? Don’t you remember what The Book of Love said? I thought we agreed to never tell your squeeze about past lovers, it always ends badly.

She never listens to me, Fiona thinks. Then again, she’s only twenty-five. She has to make her own mistakes.

—   I know, I know I broke the rule, says Trish. But Charles was being so sweet about my meltdown over that lousy D in French. Why did I ever take that course? A death wish? Anyway, he helped me write the letter to the Dean and everything. Then we were talking and he asked how I knew Yvette and John…and well, it kinda popped out.

—   Oooh, bad call. But I know how that goes. I have chronic foot-in-mouth disease. I get so impatient with people. So, did you tell him why you want to go?

—   Yeah, yeah, of course. I told him how we were staying with Yvette’s dad, Trevor Magnum, one of my favourite writers, and how I was dying to meet him and how it might help my career. But Charles wasn’t impressed.

—   So he’s pissed now?

—   Let’s just say he hasn’t touched me in two days. Not even a peck on the cheek. Then yesterday, he tells me he regrets poking his nose in. Says he should have sat back and just let the cards fall. So I ask him why and he says it would have given him a better of indication of how I feel about him. Then I say: so, you want to sit back and see what I do and judge me? And, get this, he actually says Yes!

—   What! You’ve got to be kidding?

—   Oh and it gets worse. Later he says that if I do go, he demands, demands no less, that I tell him if anything happens. Then he gives me a deadline, until Tuesday, to make my decision.

—   I’m speechless, says Fiona. He’s behaving like a mad man. Why would he use the word “demand”? Who is he to set ultimatums? What are you, his property?

Her quibble with Luc over control suddenly seems very lame. But then again, Charles’s an extreme. In dire need of therapy, judging from what Trish’s told her over the months.

—   He doesn’t trust me, says Trish.

—   That’s for sure. And you telling him about John fuelled his fears. Now he thinks he has the right to set demands! It’s so controlling.

—   Base element of men, says Trish.

—   Most women too, come to that, says Fiona, thinking of her talk with Luc about the house, about her own insistence on how things ought to be done. She shakes her head: I’ve got to loosen up.

—   It’s a no win for me, continues Trish. If I go, there’ll be a big fight, and if I don’t, he’ll think he’s won. And I’ll be pissed at myself for missing out on a great chance.

—   Do you think he’s jealous? asks Fiona.

—   He says he thinks Magnum’s work is derivative. What isn’t? I mean there are only what, seven basic plots?

—   Really? Do you know what they are?

—   My English 312 prof was just talking about them: overcoming the monster, rags to riches, quest, voyage and return, tragedy, comedy and rebirth.

—   You’re a good student! says Fiona, who is impressed and rather surprised.

Have I underestimated her? she wonders. Is that the curse of a beautiful woman? The assumption that they’re not so bright?

—   Anyway, back to Charles, says Trish. What do you think?

—   What about this, says Fiona, tell him that you won’t go, just as a token of good faith, not because he’s in control. But the caveat is that he has to learn to trust you, has to give you the space to have your own life. Distrusting you is hurtful, especially after four months of being together.

—   But then I won’t get to go!

—   No, I’m not finished yet. I’m thinking it might be a wake-up call for him. Here you are, being so understanding and magnanimous, it might make him question his behaviour and decide he’s being unreasonable.

—   So, get my way by giving in…. And if it doesn’t work?

—   If he doesn’t realize there’s something wrong with his attitude then there’s no hope, is there? He’ll keep on distrusting you and he’ll keep on making you miserable. Call it a passive-aggressive ultimatum.

Trish sips her wine.

—   I’ve got nothing to lose at this point. I’ll try it. Hey, do you think that chili is ready yet? I’m starving.

*Veggie chili

Serves four

1 cup tomato juice
1 cup raw bulgur
4 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
½ cup onion, chopped
1 cup each, washed and chopped: celery, carrots (peeled too), green pepper
2 teaspoon ground cumin
2 teaspoon basil
3 tablespoon chili powder
Dash of cayenne
Salt and pepper to taste
Juice of ½ a lemon
2 cans kidney beans (19 oz) drained
2 plus cups chopped tomatoes (or 1 large tin)
3 tablespoons tomato paste
3 tablespoons dry red wine

  1. Boil juice and pour over bulgur in a small bowl. Let stand 15 minutes.
  2. Sauté onion and garlic till translucent.
  3. Add carrots, celery, peppers and spices; cook until tender.
  4. Add lemon juice, kidney beans, tomatoes, tomato paste and red wine.
  5. Heat gently, simmer for an hour or so (if you have time).
  6. Serve on rice, topped with cheese, parsley and raw onion, alongside a big green salad.