This morning, I stared at my empty cupboard and wondered who had eaten the last of the Special K with Red Berries. (Um, I live alone, so that wasn't such a difficult question.) I opened up the fridge and found the aromatic dregs of a half gallon of milk. I dug in the freezer for a bagel, but only found an ice-encrusted plastic bag. I remembered the Pop-Tarts in the pantry. And then, I remembered that I'd eaten the last one yesterday.
So, I did the only thing a girl can do in that situation. I went to Cake Walk.
"Good morning," I said, as I straightened the "Walk On In" sign on the door.
"Good morning," Melissa answered, pushing my favorite mug toward me.
"How did you know I was coming?"
"You told me yesterday that you were eating your last Pop-Tart."
"I might have gone grocery shopping last night." I tried a smile that I thought might be winsome, but Melissa only shook her head. "Mmmm," I said, looking at the cake plates piled high with breakfast treats. "Is that a Best Date Ever?"
Melissa placed the pastry on a small dish. "Do you want some cream cheese frosting with it? I have some left over from the Bunny Bites."
It's a wonderful thing, when your best friend in the entire world owns a bakery.
I glanced at the calendar over Melissa's shoulder. A giant red X sliced through yesterday. Red marked Melissa's First Date nights. She was determined to find the man of her dreams by the time she turned thirty, a deadline that was rapidly approaching. My baking friend, however, remained undauanted. She continued "rotating her stock", selecting potential mates from such varied sources as FranticDate.com, Washington Today (a magazine read mostly by lawyers, lobbyists, and other upwardly trending intellectuals), and Dedicated Metropolitan Singles, (a do-good group of volunteers who hoped to find love while saving the world.)
I nodded toward the X. "Where did you find last night's guy?"
Melissa shrugged. "There won't be any second date."
I took a sip of the oolong that had cooled to the perfect temperature. "Why not, this time?" OK. Maybe that wasn't the most supportive thing a best friend could say. But let's face it. There was only so much First Date cheerleading that any one friend can do. Even if she cheers in exchange for the most delicious pastry in all of Washington. I smeared a dollop of cream cheese over my breakfast and helped myself to a monstrous bite before waving a hand for Melissa to continue.
"We'd emailed back and forth a few times. I had proposed grabbing a cup of coffee. He suggested dinner."
I smiled. "Well, that sounds good -- upping the ante."
"That's what I thought," Melissa grimaced. "I suggested Sala Thai. You know. Welcoming to vegetarians, to adventurous diners, to sticks in the mud."
"You're always thinking, you."
"He suggested Tabard Inn."
I raised my head from my oolong. Tabard Inn was a funky hotel on a quiet downtown side street. It had a wonderful, dark lounge, filled with couches and conversation nooks. It also had a fantastic restaurant that boasted organic food and divine desserts (not that any desserts could be as divine as Melissa's own.) At night, the restaurant was shadowed and intimate -- the sort of place that seductively whispered romance. Switching from Thai to Tabard was upping the romantic ante into the stratosphere. The fact that the inn had guest rooms upstairs only made the potential that much greater.
"Did you go?"
"And we had a lovely dinner."
"And?" I prompted again, letting a little of my impatience spill over into the single word.
"And we had great conversation."
Melissa settled her palms against the glass counter, as if she needed to brace herself to deliver her next words. "He truly felt that we had a connection. We had so many things in common. I was the easiest-to-talk-to-person that he'd meant since moving to D.C. In fact, he felt comfortable enough that he was able to share his deepest, darkest secret."
"You heard me." Melissa harrumphed and started to rub away her fingerprints from the glass counter.
"But the escalation! From coffee to dinner! From Thai to Tabard!"
Melissa sighed. "My thoughts exactly."
"And his running the ad in the first place?"
"He thought that he was ready to change. That he was ready to 'convert.'"
"I take it you're out of the conversion business."
"I was never in it," Melissa said, topping off my hot water. "Never in it at all."
The bell above the door jangled as a trio of lawyer types came in. I settled back on my stool and ate the rest of my Best Date Ever pastry in silence, shaking my head over Melissa's rotten luck.