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We have recently established, my muffin lady and I, more of a regular customer/muffin lady relationship. She no longer expects that I will faithfully visit her shop each weekday morning, and I no longer pretend I won't stray. But it has not always been this easy.

I first started getting muffins and coffee back in April of 2001, when I started working downtown again. Every day, faithfully, I would walk into the muffin shop and order their muffin and coffee special. After a few weeks, I walked in and she looked up, smiled, and said, "Blueberry muffin?" I nodded yes.

After that, I didn't even have to speak. It was great! I’d walk in and smile, "Hello," as I dropped my $2.00 on the counter, occasionally leaving a tip as well. My muffin lady and her husband (coffee man) would smile back and hand me my blueberry muffin and a 12oz cup of coffee, with room for cream. We were a very polite and well-oiled machine back then.

Of course, it couldn’t have lasted, and I confess that it was all my fault. I’m the one who changed everything, but perhaps it was for the better. I mean, I couldn’t keep going there day after day. After about six or seven months, I grew tired of muffins, and I discovered that the bagel place down the street has better coffee. And BAGELS. I couldn’t resist the temptation – a whole new world of breakfasts had opened up to me, and I was not going to shut that door. So I strayed, fickle woman that I am.

I didn’t think it would be that noticeable, really. Sure, we got along well, and there was that one time during the summer when my muffin lady tried to set me up with one of her other customers (another story entirely), but I was a customer, and I thought my obligation was, as such, fairly minimal. I found out how wrong I was one week when I didn’t make it into the muffin shop until Friday. Four weekdays had gone by, so when I showed up, my muffin lady did not look all that pleased to see me. In fact, she was downright rude to me. "Muffin?" she asked me. I was shocked because my order had not varied in months.

"Yes, please."

"What kind?"

Now she was just being bitchy. She knew damn well what kind of muffin I wanted. Bemused, I wrinkled my brow. "Blueberry," I told her, perhaps a little dejectedly, for I was tired and uncaffeinated. I could not quite figure out what was going on, but I knew in my heart that it had something to do with the fact that I’d been cheating on her. I’d had bagels and croissants, and pumpkin bread all week. I was guilty, batting for the other team.

I was a pastry whore.

Monday, I couldn’t bear the thought of skipping out on my muffin lady again, so I went to her shop. Without my saying anything, she told me she had been tired on Friday. She seemed to be trying to make an excuse for being so weird to me. It was then that I knew for sure she had been angry with me. Otherwise, she wouldn’t have thought anything of it. She wouldn't have brought it up. My suspicions were further confirmed when she asked, "So, where’ve you been? I haven’t seen you around." Suddenly, I was in the middle of a John Hughes breakup scene.

"I-I’ve been busy," I stammered. "I was out of town on Monday and then work has just gotten crazy busy."

This was ludicrous. At the same moment that these words came flying out of my mouth, I was thinking, "This is fucking crazy. I am lying to my muffin lady about the reason I hadn’t come to her muffin shop."

"I’m cheating on my muffin lady," I told my boss when I got to work.

"You have a muffin lady?" he asked.

I explained the story to him. A co-worker who overheard suggested that I just take her some flowers and apologize, but I decided to let her down easy, if possible.

The truth is, I chickened out. I never really broke it off with her, and I still go into her shop a couple of times a week. But I have made it clear that I need my space. Though our relationship has a future, it will not be exclusive. I just can’t commit to one pastry for the rest of my life.

It was a difficult adjustment at first, but she’s slowly come around. She even gave me a free cookie the other day – something she only does for her favorite customers, so I am back in her good graces.

My only worry now is about the lady at the bagel place. When I walked in this morning, she looked up, smiled, and said, "Sesame bagel and a cup of coffee?" I nodded and handed her the correct change.

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