143. Mystery Cupcake

THE PROTAGONIST - LET'S CALL him Felix – found it at his front door one evening when he returned from work: a cupcake in a plastic tub. On the tub's lid was a note in very neat handwriting, mentioning him by name and referencing a story he’d recently published about a diary, signed with the name of the story’s heroine. There was a post scriptum, too, asking him to get well, with an exclamation mark. Felix lived, with his partner and cat, in an unfashionable suburb. All but one of their friends lived a long way away, and the one friend who lived nearby they didn’t see often, and as far as Felix knew didn’t read his stories. Still, it wasn’t inconceivable someone had happened to be passing through. Under the note, the tub lid had a label with the name of a supermarket in a neighbouring suburb. Felix was amused, yes he was, undoubtedly, it was an amusing gesture, and charming too, but the mystery played on his mind, his desire to know grew more ravenous through the night. He couldn’t imagine who it might possibly be. He texted the two most likely culprits even though he already knew it wouldn’t be them. Sure enough, they replied in the negative. He posted something on Friendspace, trying to make it amusing: Whoever anonymously left a cupcake at my door this morning, he typed, thanks, it was delicious. You’re my first stalker. He then replaced the full stop with an exclamation mark, to make it less likely to be misinterpreted as sarcasm. Actually, it hadn’t been as delicious as all that – it was a bit dry, which led him to wonder if it hadn’t been dropped off much earlier in the day. Still, he gobbled it up – it was late, and he hadn’t eaten. Felix’s girlfriend was at the hospital again, so he would have to thaw some frozen soup. The cat was doing his rounds somewhere. He swallowed the cupcake and sat, as he often did when he came home to an empty house, at the piano, beginning to play a tune that had been running over and over in his head all day. My funny valentine, sweet comic valentine, you bring a smile to my heart… It wasn’t the first time someone had played such a charming prank on him, although it was highly improbably the two were related. The previous occasion – three years earlier – had been soon after he’d started a new job, and had involved a pair of yellow underpants promoting a sporting event and a soft drink. They’d been left on his desk at lunchtime with a cryptic note saying, Your future success is assured – which, it later transpired, was not the case. Felix’s future success was not assured: he’d only lasted a year in the job. And he’d never solved the mystery of the yellow underpants, or at least everyone he'd suspected had denied it convincingly enough at the time. Felix still thought about those yellow underpants every now and then. Looking back, Felix suspected he could guess the prankster’s identity – at the time it had never crossed his mind. Had the prankster been offended that Felix had suspected everyone but them? The truth was he was flattered by the attention, and he wanted to return the compliment by guessing its source. Wasn't that the point of that kind of joke? The following morning, as he lay in bed after his girlfriend had gone to work, he thought about the mystery cupcake some more. The note had ended, Get well! He hadn't been officially unwell for weeks (unofficially he was quite unwell). Perhaps it was a friend from out of town, someone as yet unapprised of his (official) wellness. Or perhaps it was someone who knew him so well that they were aware of his (unofficial) unwellness despite the (official) wellness. He took his pen and notebook and started making a list of possible donors of mystery cupcake, but he abandoned it after writing the first two or three names. He realised his desire to know was related to his unwellness - only that awareness, an instance of an occasional, flickering self-awareness of which Felix was inordinately proud, didn’t make either of them any easier to bear.