Lounging on the sofa, Willow flicked through the television channels. Then her phone pinged an incoming message from Jason.

Heya, Willow. How goes?
Wachew up to?

They’d met while Willow and her family visited her grandfather in Durban over her spring break, during her final term at culinary school.

Jason! Long time, Mr Architect.
Day off; bored at home. How goes everyone?
We’re still getting an invite to
the wedding, right?

They’d remained in contact since their holiday romance, and him visiting in Cape Town. They had agreed back then that they were too young to commit to a long distance relationship.

All good this side. Got a surprise for you.

They were still catching up when a sharp rap on the front door startled her. Ag man, now what? I’m not expecting anyone, she thought. She trudged to the door and pulled it wide open. “Yes, wh–”

Jason flung his hands up in the air. “Surprise!”

Willow stood shell-shocked for a few seconds, then she squealed and shrieked, and jumped up and down on the spot. “Jason! Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, you’re here!”

“Hey, open up the security gate and let us in. What happened to that Cape Town hospitality you’re supposed to be famous for?”

Willow fiddled with the lock as her hands rushed to unlock the gate. “Hey, you said ‘us’. Are you and your crew hiking the heck out of our neck of the woods again?” She pushed the gate aside and before she could grab Jason into a hug, he reached out to his left and tugged someone into view.

“Willow, this is my lovely wife-to-be, Anusha. Anusha, meet my crazy friend, Willow, who I’ve told you all about.”

Willow stood rooted to the spot, her mouth moving, but no sound came out.

Jason chuckled as he placed an arm around Anusha. “I think she’s in double shock.”

Willow recovered when Jason prodded her shoulder. She blinked, then grabbed Anusha by the hand and pulled her into a hug. “It’s so great to finally meet you.” Then she slapped Jason on the shoulder. “This is the best surprise, ever. But–”

“But where are your manners? Aren’t you gonna invite us in at least?”

Willow chuckled, stepped aside and flung an arm in toward the house. “I’m so sorry. It’s all your fault ― you could have given me a clue you were coming. I could have picked you up at the airport or something.”

“And ruin my surprise? I can’t wait to see Lucy’s face.”

* * * * *

Willow skipped into the kitchen at the restaurant. “Lucy, great you’re here.”

Lucy’s head spun around at the sound of Willow’s voice. “Hey, what you doing here? Missing work?” Lucy chuckled, as she ticked off items from a delivery receipt. “And you call me a workaholic.”

“Ag, shut up and go check outside. Something arrived for you. Hey, Christian.” She’d seen his head stick out from behind the ovens. “I need you to cook something special for someone special.”

Christian’s eyebrows shot up. “Someone special?”

“Yep.” Willow beamed. “All the way from Durban. He’ll go nuts over your hot and spicy dishes.”

Christian’s eyebrows collided in a scowl. “Why didn’t you take your boyfriend somewhere romantic?”

Before Willow could answer, Lucy returned to the kitchen. “Oh my goodness, now that’s what you call a surprise. And not just one: two. Christian, you absolutely have to prepare something romantic for the couple. ”

Christian spun around, his eyes darting from Lucy to Willow. “Couple?”

“Yes, our friend Jason, from Durban, and his fiancé, are visiting. It’s the first time we’re meeting her. This is so exciting.”

“Fiancé.” Christian’s face split into a huge smile.

When Lucy and Willow stepped out of the kitchen, Lucy tugged Willow to a standstill. “Are you still not seeing it?”

“Seeing what?”

Lucy shook her head and clicked her tongue. “Christian was relieved when he heard Jason isn’t your boyfriend.”

“Ag man, you’re imagining things.” Willow linked her arm into Lucy’s. “Let’s not spoil Jason’s surprise with thoughts of Christian Stevens.”

“Hmm, interesting …”

“What’s interesting?”

Lucy grinned at Willow. “You just called him ‘Christian Stevens’.”

“So? That’s his name, isn’t it?”

“Oh, that’s his name for sure, but you, Willow Jenkins, you always call him ‘Christian McPutrid’.”

***

Tell us: Does poor Christian stand any chance with strong-willed Willow? And is it wise to remain friends with an ex, like Jason?