I had already decided to break up with David when the pumpkin shaped cupcake appeared on my desk.
Ten minutes before the bell rang, I meandered into my classroom and spotted the cake, staring back at me with shiny black candy eyes and a mockingly sweet sugar smile. Ms. Robertson’s sly smirk told me all I needed to know about who had surreptitiously gained access to the classroom in the wee hours of the morning and secreted the pumpkin onto my desk.
David was my second real boyfriend, the first being a senior who had only been interested in sticking his tongue down my throat. I left him and a score of other painful memories behind when my family moved across country my junior year of high school. David was in my AP English class, fourth period, just before lunch. He was smart; sardonic and ironically romantic. He liked history; he liked me. But more important than all that was that he made me feel attractive for the first time in my life. Having resolved to make the most of the chance to reinvent myself in a new town, I boldly handed David my phone number after class one day with nothing more than a wink and a smile. We flirted via text for about a week before he officially asked me out.
I was thrilled to have a boyfriend, but it quickly became clear to me that I was more excited to be somebody’s girlfriend, than I was in being David’s girlfriend specifically. I liked him very much, but in love with him I was not.
I waited these feelings out for an uncomfortable few months, feeling like a liar when I wasn’t immersed in the glow of his attention, hoping that I would start to fall in love with him soon. By October I realized that it was just not going to happen. I was reluctant to break things off at first, but I soon realized that cool, snide David would be barely affected by my rejection. After all, nothing affected him much.
That’s when the cupcake appeared.
It was my first Halloween in a new town, and no one had warned me that teens smashing every carved pumpkin they could find was a customary way to celebrate the holiday. I was honestly and unexpectedly devastated the morning I went out to the bus to find my carefully crafted witch pumpkin in pieces on our driveway. I had never before experienced a pointless act of destruction like that and I told everyone at school about it, including David, in an attempt to make some sense out of the senselessness. The next morning, I found the pumpkin cupcake, with a small handwritten note under it saying, “A sweet replacement for the one you lost”.
I sat down at my desk, speechless, staring at the bright orange, frosted mass. The cupcake was an act of pure sentimentality, a trait I had not suspected David of possessing. Its only purpose was to make me feel better; not to make a joke at my expense or make him feel like a good boyfriend. It was only for me.
It had never occurred to me before that moment, before the pumpkin cupcake, how much I was actually going to hurt him.
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