Nikki wasn’t just trying to find a husband, she was looking for love. Or, rather, she was interviewing to find it – on first dates, twice a week. At the same restaurant. At the same table. With the same rehearsed lines and questions. But with different men. After a year, she was a pro at first dates and judging which men were right for her: none.But then it happened. Nikki actually asked a guy out on a second date. Was she finally on the path to love? He was, after all, dashing, funny, confident, and empathetic – easily checking all of her boxes.But then it happened … again. This time by happenstance. A second date with a different guy. He, too, was dashing, funny, confident, and empathetic – but in a different way. Nikki was in trouble. That lofty goal of finding love had backfired. Now, she was in love with two different men.Love is the sweetest adventure. One with more ingredients than just check-boxes. But when faced with two different recipes for love, which one will Nikki choose?
There are really only a handful of moments in life which could be considered truly defining. The birth of a child. The loss of a loved one. Your wedding day. A first kiss. A first job. A job loss – or even a job change to avoid the ritualistic pattern of daily life. Out of all of the time in life spent searching for meaningful moments, really there may only be a handful of actual defining ones.
But Nikki wasn’t searching for a defining moment. Instead, she was searching for a fulfilling one: one of those incredibly unique moments where it makes all of life – the hard moments and the mundane ones – completely and unequivocally worth it. Nikki was searching for that rare moment where she discovered love, or, rather – that moment where love discovered her. She knew that once she found the type of unequivocal love which she was looking for, that she’d want nothing more than to hold onto it for the rest of her life. So, simply put, she wasn’t just searching for love, she was also searching for her future husband.
To say that Nikki sought out love would be correct, but not totally accurate in describing her approach. She wasn’t just seeking out love, she was actually being so bold as to be interviewing for it. And since she knew that she’d eventually marry that love when she found him, this meant that Nikki’s quest for love also resulted in her actively interviewing to find her future husband. But the fact that her dates were really interviews for a husband wasn’t her goal – that was just the byproduct of what she really wanted in life: love.
Nikki knew that her lifetime of love existed in the world somewhere. And until she found it, she made the decision to actively be engaged to discover it. She figured that she had to because the whole world was full of candidates. So, if she was going to find him, she had to get going!
To Nikki, her faith that she would eventually find love never wavered. She knew it was just a matter of numbers. Love was somewhere out in the world – and she hoped that it happened to be in her backyard of New York City.
Nikki always knew that she’d recognize her future husband – the love of her life – almost immediately upon meeting him. And she knew that he’d recognize her back as his equal. It wasn’t really a pie-in-the-sky or knight-in-shining-armor dream for Nikki, either. If she remained single for the rest of her life, that was fine. She knew that she would have given it the best shot she could, and that was good enough for her. But since she didn’t prefer it that way, Nikki took action. It was a modern-woman approach, for sure.
And there was definitely a basis for Nikki believing that she’d eventually find love. She’d had several friends over the years who would be single one week, and then suddenly engaged the next. Just like that. And when Nikki asked them each how that happened, each of her girl friends would similarly remark how they just suddenly met him and knew. So, this type of sudden love existed – both for those other girls and in Nikki’s mind as well.
Nikki knew it was also going to happen to her. Why wouldn’t it? After all, she was an attractive, accomplished blonde woman in her early thirties living in the largest city in the nation. She maintained a schedule of working, going to the gym, seeing friends and family, getting out into the city, and … interviewing for her future husband.
Nikki’s interviews in her search for love occurred via dates which normally took place twice every week. The first date was mid-week every Wednesday evening. The second date was every Saturday evening. If the Wednesday date went well, then she would invite the guy back for a second date that same Saturday. However, that was just her plan - so far, it had never actually happened.
Since she began this schedule for first dates, no guy had ever actually advanced to the second date. Not yet. Nikki was picky and didn’t want to give a guy a second date just for any reason. She had good reason to be picky, too, since she’d experienced the unfortunate result of what happened when you dated the wrong guy. But that was a subject from her past which Nikki no longer wanted to dwell on. She’d moved on. Even after her prior experience with the wrong guy, she kept an earnest, upbeat attitude that she’d know love when she met him.
But it wasn’t just the scheduling of her dates which she maintained on a strictly consistent basis. She was also extremely consistent with the location and time of them. Each date was exactly the same and began with a dinner date.
She would meet each guy at 6:00 p.m. at Fate’s Kitchen in Manhattan. The restaurant was named after its owner and chef, Joey Fate. And although Nikki had gotten to know Joey and his family well over the last year or so, she still preferred this modern, sit-down restaurant for its name. She was hoping that meeting at Fate’s Kitchen would somehow allow fate, if it existed, to intervene in her love life.
Of course, if a second date happened with a guy, then Nikki would have to plan to go somewhere else. Ironically, down the street from Fate’s Kitchen was an off-Broadway theatre named Second Chance Theatre. Due to its name, she obviously kept that in the back of her mind for if a second date was to happen. But that would be a bridge to cross when it happened. And as to meeting so early in the evening at 6:00 p.m., that was also intentional. If the date wasn’t going well, then she could always use a fictitious previously-planned engagement to end the date early. She had it all planned out.
But incredibly, she took this strict routine about her first dates even a step farther.
During her dates, she would ask the exact same questions. She’d often make the same exact off-handed jokes as well. This was done with well-rehearsed precision so as not to give away the fact that she was actually interviewing each candidate. The purpose behind this act was simple: to better compare each guy to each other. By eliminating as many variables between the dates as she could, she was able to see each guy’s personality traits and tendencies more clearly. She figured this would help her know love more easily when it manifested. She wasn’t sure if it would come from one guy being unique from the others, or if it would be depicted by his sincere interest in her being reciprocated. But, either way, Nikki figured that having this routine was beneficial. Or, maybe, she was just so actively looking for love that she didn’t want to have to plan so many different dates out! That was possible, too. Either way, it was her plan – and a well-rehearsed one at that.
Of course, she sought to shroud her interview technique in a veil of light-hearted conversation. She had to - to try and make her interviews look off-handed and unrehearsed. It was, after all, still a date where she was searching for love instead of merely filling the position of a husband.
If she had wanted just a husband, Nikki knew that she could easily have found that by now. There were enough men on both ends of the social spectrum – from desperate to conceited – who would pick up the first attractive and willing blonde that they could find. This was New York City – a concrete jungle of intentions. No, Nikki wanted more. Love was her lofty goal, and she knew it took work. Again, to her, it was a numbers game. It would happen, eventually.
Her dating technique naturally required precision and experience. By now, this was a well-rehearsed performance to Nikki. She’d become a pro at reading each different situation and speaking with energy and engagement to make it sound as though she had not been through the process countless times before. And by the end of her first summer doing this, Nikki had enough experience to read each situation, each date, and each guy like a well-studied play. So much so, that she could often predict how the date would end. And it never ended with a second date – yet - for a multitude of differing reasons.
Finding new guys to take on dates was never an issue. After all, New York City was the largest city in the nation. It was an endless well of candidates. She’d found setting up dates extremely easy, too. In this day and age, men often welcomed a woman stepping up to show initiative to ask him out – especially a spunky, personable, caring, and attractive woman. And Nikki checked each of those boxes.
The field of candidates was scheduled from a multitude of sources. Dating apps were no doubt prevalent, but she didn’t stick to just those due to men on them often having intentions which were not conducive of really finding love. And those intentions of the men from dating apps were not among the traits that would make Nikki want a second date with them. She wanted to find love, not lust. So instead of using dating apps as her main source to meet men, she’d also meet guys through friends or family, from the gym, and just generally from being out and about in the city. But most frequently, she’d meet guys through her work.
But these men that she’d met through work weren’t co-workers. Nikki worked in catering, a field dominated by women. She’d received her culinary arts degree with her sights set on opening her own kitchen. But not just any kitchen – one focused on specialty pastries, and desserts, and cakes. Even though Nikki truly believed she would encounter love by happenstance with hard work, she had the opposite opinion of actually opening her own specialty dessert and cake business. She just didn’t think it would ever happen. Opening her own business was too impractical, especially for having chosen to live in the most expensive city in the nation.
So instead, she took a well-paying job in catering. She figured that it was at least related to her real interest. And it even got her close to her dream. She’d constantly help cater and serve at a wide range of events from reunions, work parties, corporate functions, and bah mitzvahs. But her absolute favorite events were weddings. Hands down.
It wasn’t just that weddings were full of men whom she’d meet and easily schedule into her weekly interviews. And it also wasn’t that weddings radiated love, which Nikki sought like a desired treasure. Rather, weddings were Nikki’s favorite part of her job because of the one thing that was always at each one: the wedding cake.
Sometimes wedding guests would catch her staring at the cakes. Many times, this resulted in the bride feeling complimented about the cake, having incorrectly assumed that Nikki was gawking at how fabulously it was done. Nope. That was definitely not why Nikki would be caught staring at them. Rather, she would easily drift off in dreams about how she wished she had been hired to design and make the wedding cakes. She desperately dreamt that she was a professional, full-time wedding cake and dessert chef instead of being stuck in the remedial position of server and caterer. And she knew that she could match – if not exceed – the way each of the cakes at the weddings looked.
Unfortunately, Nikki’s employer was never hired for the pastries, and especially not for the wedding cake. Nikki had once tried to approach her boss to allow her to start a cake-making service to include within his catering business. But he declined. Apparently Nikki was too valuable at what she already did for her to branch her time out elsewhere.
Once, at a wedding, Nikki had overheard a bride tell her guest how much she had paid for her wedding cake. It’d left Nikki speechless. It was a significant amount, which Nikki assumed was because weddings in New York City were big business. This added fuel to Nikki’s dream of one day opening her own pastry and cake business. And this was even more fuel compared to the confidence that Nikki already had in knowing that she could easily make the wide range of decorated cakes that she’d been caught staring at. But still, she had bills. Real life responsibility. And those all kept her from taking the leap to start her own company.
So, Nikki had two dreams in life: to find love, and to actually become a dessert chef. To her, though, one of those dreams was realistic, while the other was unattainable. Luckily, she figured that love was the realistic one. This was because if she had to choose between those two goals, she easily chose love. That was why Nikki kept her routine of interviewing to find it – she knew it would happen eventually.
Being Wednesday evening, Nikki entered Fate’s Kitchen and waited at her usual table right next to the restaurant’s large window. She knew the owner from having catered his son’s graduation party, so she had the fix for her twice-weekly table in the happening restaurant.
And just like every other time, Nikki arrived about twenty minutes early. She also did this on purpose. Just as an interviewee who was truly interested in a position would arrive a little early, Nikki did the same thing for her dates. One benefit to her table always being right next to the restaurant’s large front window was that it looked out at the sidewalk. This way, she might be able to spot her date in his natural state before he entered the restaurant. So, being early was key. But mainly, Nikki’s early arrival was to actually see if the guy was so interested that he’d be early. And sometimes, they actually were early. That always checked a box for Nikki and gave the guy a head-start at showing his potential.
But not tonight. As the minutes approached 6:00 pm, it became clear that this guy wasn’t going to be arriving early. That never rubbed Nikki wrong, though. She always wanted to remain open to each guy being the one, so she did everything she could to give each man his fair chance. Tonight was no different.
No matter how many times she’d done it before, one thing always remained the same: Nikki’s anticipation was through the roof. She really did want to find love – and, for all she knew, tonight could be the night.
Her heart skipped a beat when she saw the man approach her table. He was definitely cute. Extending his hand to shake hers, the man introduced himself.
“Hi Nicole, I’m Lucas.”
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