Darlings, I could not rest at all that evening. After all, the future of my place of employment was on the line, and a dear friend was in danger of making a fool of herself. But that was not all. I knew I'd have to bake something special for the staff meeting, and I just couldn't decide. Of course, anything store-bought was out of the question, as was anything using Mallow Crème. I knew, mes amis, that Carl Sittenzeplatz was high-class, and that meant I'd have to bake something high-class. Heavens, maybe he didn't even eat sweets. Perhaps rich people imbibe only mineral water and vitamins!
I sifted through my recipes. Obviously, I couldn't bake something too pretentious, like the Rose-water Puddings with Candied Violets. Mr. Sittenzeplatz would certainly smell a rose-scented rat. And the Death by Double Chocolate Decadence spiked with Kahlua just didn't seem appropriate for a morning business meeting. I finally decided upon a cranberry streusel muffin recipe- not too sweet or gourmet or health-nutty. They were something a professional person might bake and consume, something that connoted a moderate and reliable personality. Some people dress for success; I bake for it.
The next morning, I rose early to bake the muffins, and by the time I folded the cranberries into the batter, I felt better about the situation at Hancock Fabrics. Could it be that I had worked myself into a tizzy for naught? Mr. Sittenzeplatz wasn't out to ruin us, and Suzette wouldn't throw herself at a complete stranger. I have a tendency, my pets, to assume that people lack common sense. Perhaps that comes from living with a darling man who has been known to attempt sneaking economy-sized boxes of Froot Loops and multiple jugs of Tampico into the movie theater. But, it's one of the tasks of my life to learn to trust the judgments of others and refrain from arranging every little thing.
I was the first one at Hancock Fabrics, so I opened everything up and got the store ready for the morning. I was setting my platter of muffins out with care when Lois arrived. "Ready for the big meeting?" she asked, practically gulping for air as she juggled purse, file folders and a Tupperware container. So she was stressed out too. "What treat did you bring?"
"Cranberry muffins," I replied.
Her face immediately fell into a fleshy puddle of defeat. I stood to help her with her things and perform CPR if I had to. "Why, what did you bring for the meeting?"
"Cranberry muffins," she groaned.
"Oh, dearie, let's not worry about it. I'll just put my muffins away, and we'll have plenty without them."
Taffy bolted into the store, shouted "I think I'm preggers again, guys" and headed straight for the restroom. When she reappeared, she still looked pale, but she had a smile on her face. She picked up the bag she had dropped by the front door and brought it to the snack table.
"Don't tell me," said Lois, "cranberry muffins?"
Taffy looked from Lois to me, with her eyes narrowed in suspicion. "How did you know?"
"It's something in the air, dearest," I whispered, and I put my arm around her shoulder. "Congratulations, by the way. Do you feel all right?"
"Oh, good enough. I won't barf on Mr. Wienerschnitzel, or anything."
"That, my precious, is all we ask," I whispered as I gave her a little squeeze. Lois, of course, disagreed and shot Taffy a warning glare.
"Actually, guys, cranberry muffins are the only things that taste good to me right now."
"Well, then. You'll eat well this morning." At least I knew that all these muffins would find a good home.
Suzette was the last to arrive, and thank goodness, she was in charge of beverages this week. Even with Taffy's situation, one can only deal with so many cranberry muffins. She lugged in two big jugs of orange juice and took her place. I could see that she had dressed with special care and had even had her hair highlighted. The cinnamon-scented peace I had attained earlier in the morning began to ebb away.
Lois had us all sit at the cutting table and handed us each a sheet of paper. "Before Mr. Sittenzeplatz arrives, I want you all to read this over. We need to be on the same page when it comes to the plans of this store."
Taffy nudged me and whispered, "We certainly are on the same page when it comes to muffins, anyway."
When I finished reading Lois' outline, I looked up and saw that Suzette's attention was elsewhere. Her eyes followed a shiny black Mercedes as it parked across from the door. The games were about to begin.