Loving the Celebrity Chef

an excerpt

Chapter One

"Oui, Maman. Non, Maman. Mais, Maman...!" Angelique replayed the conversation in her head as she looked around the small room at the backpackers' hotel in Sydney. Her roommate of the night before had already left and so, it seemed, had Angelique's own travelling gear, money, passport, phone and clothes.

In that last telephone conversation before she left France to embark on her adventure to Downunder, her mother had warned her always to keep her passport and some money strapped to her body in a travel pack. Angelique had said she would. But it was so hot here in Australia in the middle of summer, and the body pack was too uncomfortable for sleeping, so Angelique had slipped it into her backpack and under her bed overnight.

She looked under the bed again in case the backpack was hidden somewhere in the shadows. Nothing. She had nothing. She was on the other side of the world, far away from people she could call on for help and she had nothing--no money, no identification and no bankcards.

She plonked herself down on the side of the bed and willed herself first to breathe and then to think.

With a conscious effort, she was able to bring her breathing under control. She closed her eyes. Inhale. Hold. Exhale. Inhale. Hold...

Right. Next on the agenda were the silver linings. Papa had said that every problem offered at least one silver lining and every silver lining offered a solution.

Number one: she was alive. Solution that it offered: she could survive.

Number two: her skills as a French chef. Solution it offered: she could find a job.

Number three: her travel knowledge. Solution it offered: she could work out how to get help--preferably without needing to contact her mother, who would be distressed.

Number four: remnants of her travelling gear. Solution it offered: she had the clothes she stood up in, her toiletries bag and the plastic sleeve containing her travel itinerary that she had left on the bedside table. But better than that, if she could find an internet café, she could access her travel bookings and thus her passport number and make her way to the French consulate to get another one. Except, she'd need money for that. Hmm.

Without conscious thought, she stood and started tidying her bed. With her brain finally starting to function again, she noticed her sandals were where she had left them tucked beside the bedside table. She had footwear!

She tugged at the pallet-hard pillow that she had been allocated when she had checked into this rather basic accommodation. Her intention was just to fluff up the pillow and replace it on the bed. To her surprise, what she found hiding there was the padding that she had used last night to try to give the pillow some height--the roll of yesterday's clothes that would be today's laundry--cargo shorts, polo shirt, knickers and bra. Silver linings galore!

She shook them out with a smile on her face. Nothing was as desperate as it had seemed just two minutes ago.

She sniffed at the polo shirt checking for any unpleasant body odor. No, it could last today and she'd wash what she could tonight and hope that it would dry by morning.

She gathered up what clothes she had, her toiletries bag and the hostel towel, and made her way down the hall to the communal bathroom.

The shower was strong and hot and she let it flow over her, washing away the remnants of her distress. Lathering her hair with her favorite verbena shampoo, she massaged her head briskly, encouraging her brain to come alive with ideas to solve her dilemma.

Where do you get money when you have no money to go out and find more?

Her mind wandered back to sitting in the communal lounge last night with Bronwyn as they watched a young Italian chef on a cooking show called ‘Rosetti'. The chef, Vincent, was preparing tiramisu and doing it all wrong according to Angelique's perfectionist ideas. If she ever met him she would be sure to show him how to do it properly. But he was good to look at, with a smile that sets hearts fluttering throughout the watching audience, including her own.

With a mental huff of disgust, Angelique had tuned back into what Bronwyn was saying. She had come from somewhere near Wagga Wagga (what strange names they had for towns in Australia) and had opted to try her hand at sex work to make a start in the big city. She assured Angelique that there was plenty of work around.

Angelique's whole being rejected that prospect, though the pragmatic part of her brain was even now storing the information as a last resort possibility.

She stepped out of the shower onto the hard rubber mat and toweled herself dry, and, while she cringed at wearing yesterday's underwear, she had no choice and slid them on. She reached for her blue and white striped polo shirt and pulled it over her head. Next, she took hold of her shorts and was surprised when some coins fell out of the pockets. She used her foot to trap one gold coin as it tried to escape through the crack at the base of bathroom door.

She gathered up all the coins she could find and placed them carefully on the bench before she drew on her shorts. As she went to stow her loot back into her pockets, she encountered some resistance and withdrew a small scrunch of banknotes. She stood, puzzled for the moment, until she remembered buying lunch yesterday and, with her hands full, opting just to shove the change into her pockets rather than trying to juggle her wallet, food and money.

Gathering up her belongings, she hastily retreated to her room. Dumping her gear on her bed, she quickly searched through the other pockets and found her ‘emergency' fifty-dollar note in the buttoned side pocket on the leg of her shorts. Altogether she now had the princely sum of ninety-two dollars and thirty-five cents.

She sat and reviewed her immediate requirements. In four days' time, she'd need the fifty to continue her access to this meager room. She'd need money to locate her passport number so she could take it to the French Consulate. She knew where the Consulate was, in Market Place, because she'd checked in there on her arrival into Sydney. She might even need money to get to the banks to cancel her credit cards, but that shouldn't be much.

Okay! She could have breakfast, a small one. There was no telling how long it would be before she could get hold of any more cash. And then get started. Mentally, she arranged a resume so she wouldn't need to waste precious, costly time on the computer. If she could access her cloud account, it would be even better.

Feeling much more positive, she tidied her space and then glanced across at the other bed. Marianne Bouchard, the girl had called herself, but her accent was wholly Australian. She had looked vaguely familiar but Angelique thought that had more to do with the probability of the other girl's French ancestry than the possibility of them ever having met before.

Angelique moved across to the bed, flicked out the coverings, and pulled them up to leave the bed neat. Although she shared the room with a different stranger nearly every night, it was still where she lived and she was always more comfortable in a tidy space. She pulled off the pillow and shook it out. As she returned it to the bed, a red twenty-dollar note fluttered to the floor.

Caught unawares, Angelique just stared at it as distaste roiled in her stomach. Technically, it was still the property of the other girl, so even to touch it would be an intrusion. Or had it been deliberately left behind to assuage a sense of guilt at leaving Angelique potentially destitute?

After what seemed an age, Angelique retrieved it from where it lay and stashed it into the drawer of the bedside table. If she was desperate, she'd use it, otherwise it could be a bonus for the next tenant of the room.

She gathered up her sleep wear and a bar of soap and headed to the laundry. At least she could sleep in fresh clothes. In this heat, they'd dry while she was out this morning.