Good Morning, Cupcake
by Robert J. Sodaro
Good morning, Cupcake
Kara Anne Moss stared at her phone, and the message displayed on the screen. It was the same message she had received most mornings for the past several years. She knew who sent the text, and the thought of him brought a smile to her face, as it always did. Needless to say, the smile — as was the memory — something of a guilty pleasure. At 49, Kara Anne didn’t often have many things that could bring a smile to her face, so when something caused her to grin, and feel good about herself, she allowed herself to indulge in the fleeting moment of the experience.
She was still luxuriating in the moment when her 28—year—old daughter, Becca, entered the bedroom carrying two mugs of steaming coffee. As her daughter entered the room, Kara Anne hugged her phone to her chest, hiding the screen from Becca.
Climbing into bed next to her mother, Becca kissed Kara Anne on the cheek as she passed her mother one of the mugs. “Momin’ Mama,” she said sweetly
“Hey there Baby.” Kara Ann replied, kissing Becca back.
Taking a sip of her coffee, Becca said, “That Cupcake Man?”
Becca tapped her mother’s phone. “Your friend. ‘Good Morning Cupcake’ Is that him?”
Kara Ann looked at her daughter. Surprised that Becca knew of her secret crush. “How do you know?”
Becca took another sip, then gave her mother a knowing look. “Oh please, Mama, you’ve been chatting with him for what, 10 years now, how could I not know?”
“You’ve known? Why didn’t you say any...wait, you know that we’re just friends...right?”
“Oh, please Mama, that’s what’s bothering you? Why would I care? You deserve someone in your life. You should be happy.” She said, smiling.
Kara Anne put her hand on her daughter’s arm. “I am happy, Baby.”
“Now, maybe, but not in a long time.”
“What would make you say that?”
“Because I’ve lived here my whole life, and I have eyes.”
“What do you mean by that?”
Taking a deep breath, Becca turned to face her mother. “Dad hasn’t been an active presence in our lives since I was 10. He’s been dead almost two years now, and whenever he was here, he was well...” Becca looked down, staring into her coffee. “...abusive.”
Startled, Kara Ann shot back, “Your father never struck me!”
Becca heaved a sigh, “Mom, abuse doesn’t have to be physical, he was emotionally and spiritually abusive to you.” Placing her coffee on the nightstand, she turned towards her mother and said, “Mom, you’re a poet, and a beautiful spirit, and for the entirety of my memory, you’ve put up with Dad’s crap. You deserve to be with someone who truly appreciates you, and I believe Cupcake Man is that guy.”
“You don’t even know him. How could you say that?”
“I, I met him once.”
“You did, when, where?”
Realizing her tactical error, Becca buried her head in her hands, then, sighing again she uncovered her face and continued. “I, I ran into him a couple of years ago, at that show in Cambridge. He was looking over my art. I recognized him and introduced myself.”
“You recognized him? How?”
At this, Becca chuckled. “Mom, you have like three shelves full of his books. He has photos in most of them, how could I not?”
Struck by the absurdity of it all, Kara Anne blushed, and smiled at her daughter. “I don’t have an answer for that.” Placing her coffee on her own nightstand she embraced Becca. “Oh baby, I never did like how smart you are.”
“Well, that one IS your fault.”
After giggling uncontrollably like a pair of schoolgirls they disentangled, recovered their coffees, and settled back. Kara Anne asked, “So, how’d that meeting go?”
Wiping a stray tear from her face, Becca, attempted to compose herself. “I spotted him wandering around the gallery. So, I approached him, introduced myself and told him who I was. We chatted for a bit, he bought a couple of my paintings, and we wound up going to dinner.”
“You went to dinner?”
“Mom, the guy really likes you; and I know you like him. You should invite him over.”
“Invite him over? When?”
“Saturday, after your poetry reading. I had Aunt Lydia reach out to him.”
“Aunt Lydia? My literary agent?”
“I have another Aunt Lydia?”
Making a ‘serious’ face Kara Anne said, “You know she isn’t really your aunt, right?”
“Turns out she’s his agent also.”
Looking directly at her mother, Becca said, “Mom, he’s wicked cute, and he likes you.”
“He told you that?”
“Yeah, he actually did. He said he enjoys chatting with you.” Glancing at her watch Becca continued. “Can talk about this later, I’m going for a run with Lindsey.” Leaning over, she kissed her mother’s cheek, and hopped out of bed. Calling out an ‘I love you’ over her shoulder.
“Love you too. Give Lindsey a kiss for me.”
Alone with her thoughts Kara Anne allowed her mind to drift back to when she first met Willem Grey A.K.A. “Cupcake Man.” It was a casually brief meeting some 15 years ago at a writers’ conference in Seattle, as they rode an elevator to their respective floors. They had chatted amicably, and then bumped into each other at breakfast. Over the course of the weekend, they kept crossing each other’s paths, and wound-up exchanging emails.
Willem was nearly 15 years older than her, and a muchly published novelist, who was going through a bitter divorce at the time. He had two grown children, loved cats, and wore his greying hair in a longish ponytail. Kara Ann found him humorously wry, and quite engaging. It was clear to both that were smitten with each other, but he was still married, and she was faithful to her estranged husband, so nothing ever came of their friendship.
They remained in contact over the next few years mostly via email, then about 10 years ago, Kara Anne hit it big with a children’s book entitled The Cupcake and the Sugarpie that became a bestseller. That’s when Willem began texting her, “Good Morning Cupcake” to which, she would reply, “Good morning Sugarpie”. This became so normalized that she looked forward to receiving it, and it never failed to brightened her day.
They often arranged to attend the same seminars and conferences so as to get together. When they talked, either electronically, by phone, or in person, they would generously share about their respective lives. Talking about their marriages, children, and personal and professional struggles. There was hardly anything about each other that they didn’t know. Still, they hadn’t seen each other in a few years, and the fact that he was going to be in her hometown in two days to hear her read poetry amped her natural anxiety into the stratosphere.
Ignoring Willem’s text for the moment, she dialed Lydia’s cell.
“You’re calling me before 10:00 a.m., girl, are you already wigging over Saturday’s reading? Aren’t you about 24 hours too soon for this?” Came Lydia’s Brooklyn-born New York voice.
“Why didn’t you tell me you were Willem Grey’s agent, and how dare you invite him to my reading?”
“So, Becca let it slip, did she? I’m surprised she keep the secret as long as she did.”
“You have to disinvite him.”
“No can do, Chickie, he’s flying in from a book signing of his own on the Left Coast.”
“Don’t change the subject. Why didn’t you tell me you repped Willem Grey?”
“You never asked. And why are you getting worked up? It’s not like you never met. You’ve been coffee-dating him for years. The man’s a mensch and besides, everyone knows you’ve got the hots for him. He certainly thinks the world of you.”
“What do you mean by that?”
“He has copies of all your works and owns several of your daughter’s paintings. The guy is smitten by you. Listen, Cupcake, you’ll do fine. I’ll see you Saturday. Gotta jet.” And with that, Lydia was gone.
Kara Anne stared at her phone in disbelief that her college roommate hung up on her like that before realizing that she still hadn’t responded to Willem.
I understand I’ll be seeing you Saturday.
A moment passed
Not to worry. I’ll just have my nervous breakdown early.
You’ll do fine. I’m flying into NY today, will see you in Granby on Sat. It’ll be fun!
And then Willem was gone as well. Sighing, Kara Anne decided to face the day, so she got up and began to dress. Picking out her clothes, she caught sight of herself in the mirror on the wall. Seeing herself with an overly critical eye, she saw how much older she was; grayer hair, more wrinkles (laugh lines), heavier (What did Becca call it? “Flooby?”) Saturday was going to be a disaster; of this she was certain.
After two days of much consternation, the afternoon of the reading finally arrived. Kara Anne found herself standing off in the wings of the Granby library’s great room, scanning the crowd. Already nervous of the day’s event (she hated public readings and was never sure why she allowed Lydia to talk her into them). So far, the good/bad news was that she couldn’t spot Willem. She was sure she was going to completely melt down when she felt the comforting presence of Becca.
Becca slipped an arm around her mother’s waist pulling her close. “You’re going to do great, Mom.”
Smiling Kara Anne melted into her daughter’s side. “So glad you say that Sweetie. Even if I don’t believe you.”
Smiling, Becca said, “I’ll introduce you. You’ll come out, read the poems we’ve selected from your new collection, take questions for 15 minutes, then we’ll move into the outer rooms for refreshments. If your throat dries up, there’s a pitcher of water on the table to the left of the podium.”
“Thank you for telling me that, Sweetie. It’s not like we haven’t gone over it a hundred times already. Oh, but I do have one question. If I do need the water, do I pick it up with my right or left hand, and then pour the water into the glass, or drink straight for the pitcher?”
“You know, Mamma, you are very irritating, and I don’t like you.”
“Oh, you like me plenty.”
Kissing her mother’s cheek Becca responded, “You don’t know that.” Then, she released Kara Anne and walked to the podium. Once there she addressed the audience.
“Good afternoon, everyone, I’m Becca Moss, and I’d like to thank you all for coming out and being part of this wonderful event. So, since none of you are here to hear me, I want to introduce you to the most wonderful, brilliant, and talented mother I’ve ever had. Kara Anne Moss.”
Kara Ann walked out to the podium, kissed Becca and whispered, “Told you, you liked me.” Turning to the audience she began; Over the next 45 minutes she read half-a-dozen of her poems, answered questions, then finally adjourned to the reception.
Wading through the well-wishers, she made her way to Becca and Lindsey.
“Thank Hera, someone I recognize,” she said, greeting them.
“You did great, Mom,” Becca said, handing her mother a glass of white wine. Kara Anne swiftly downed the glass, passed it back to Becca, then taking hers, consumed that one as well.”
“Ah, you need mine as well, Kara Anne?” Lindsey asked, sheepishly.
“I should be fine now, Sweetie.”
“Good afternoon, Cupcake,” came a male voice from behind her.
Without looking, Kara Anne swapped glasses with Becca’s girlfriend and downed that one as well. Turning, she found herself facing Willem. Smiling broadly, she embraced him, saying, “Hey Sugarpie, you made it.”
“I was here all along. I hid in the back. I know how you get.”
“Thanks for that,” she said, giving him a quick kiss on the lips. “I have to hang here for a while, then we can go for dinner.”
“Sounds great. Where we going?” Willem inquired.
“Aunt Lydia is having dinner catered at our place.” Becca chimed in, much to her mother’s surprise. Kara Anne glared at her daughter. “I’m gonna need more wine.”
It was a couple of hours ‘til they made it back to the Moss’. It was nearly dusk, and there as a brilliant full moon on the rise just above the tree line. Gazing at the moon as everyone exited Kara Anne’s SUV, Willem inquired, “You get any WereWulves out here?”
A startled look came over Becca’s face. “Wait, what?”
“Werewolves?” Becca chimed in.
Kara Anne playfully “Gibbs-Smacked” Willem in the back of his head. “Oh, don’t listen to this goofball. He’s talking about a graphic novel a friend of his wrote.”
Looking from the cresting Full Moon to Willem, “Graphic novel?” Lindsey inquired.
“Oh, it’s like a comicbook, but with more pages, and more expensive.” Willem explained. “Sort of like the difference between a short story and a book.”
“A comicbook about werewolves?”
“Not all comics are about spandex-wearing, muscle-bound, rage machines. Sometimes they take a different tact, offering up more nuanced, adult fare.”
“Well, OK then.” Lindsey responded. As the group approached the Moss’ front door.
Entering the Moss residence, the noticed that Lydia was already there, overseeing the caterers. When she observed Kara Anne walking in with Willem she remarked, “So, the Isolation Queen invited you back. How brave of her!”
“Lydia, I love you dearly,” Kara Anne said, hugging her old friend, adding, “And I’ll get you back if it’s the last thing I ever do.”
“Of course you will, Honey. Now let’s eat.”
As they moved into the dining room Lindsey buttonholed Kara Anne and whispered, “Becca is right, this guy is a hunk, and he so clearly is ensorcelled by you.”
Still a little tipsy from the several glasses of wine, Kara Anne giggled and replied, “It goes both ways, as I’m pretty entranced by him as well.”
“Sweet, maybe you’ll get lucky tonight.”
“Oh please, I’m a bit past my prime for that sort of thing.”
“Oh no you’re not, and you’re fortunate I don’t swing that way, and already spoken for, or I’d jump him myself.” Which caused both women to burst into giggle-fits.
“Hey, what’s going on over there?” Willem asked.
“Yeah, no secrets you two.” Becca added.
Struggling to keep straight faces both women walked to the table and took seats, but not before Kara Anne leaned in and gave Willem another kiss. “Wouldn’t you like to know?”
When dinner was over, everyone moved to the living room, where — much to the surprise of everyone (and Willem’s delight) — Kara Anne deposited herself on the couch next to Willem, where she allowed herself to cuddle.
Conversation ranged from the literary aspects of poetry and long-form storytelling, to press tours, to having one’s work adapted, to interpersonal relationships (Lindsey and Becca dating, Willem’s divorce, Kara Anne’s marriage).
As the evening wore down, Lydia stood and announced that she was off to bed. Whereupon Willem announce that he too should get going.
“Where are you staying tonight, Willem” Lindsey asked.
“I’m driving home.”
“To Warwick? That’s crazy, it’s like three hours away. You can’t do that!” Becca blurted.
“Why not?” Willem asked.
“Because it’s crazy and you’re not doing it.” Becca repeated.
“Fine, then where should I sleep? In my car? It’s not like there’s a hotel in town.”
“You could stay here in the guest room.” Becca offered.
“Lydia’s in the guest room.” Kara Anne responded.
“She can sleep in my room.” Becca returned.
“And what about you?” Kara Anne asked.
“She’s with me tonight.” Lindsey interjected. “Lydia can sleep in Becca’s room, and Willem can sleep in the guest room.”
“Works for me. I’ll move my bags.” Lydia said, standing up. She then hugged her friend and went upstairs.
Becca stood, kissed her mom, saying, “I’ll grab some things.”
“Thanks so much for dinner, Kara Anne,” Lindsey said standing. Kara Anne also stood and embraced the younger woman. “You’ll give me details,” Lindsey whispered to Kara Anne.
“Hell no!” Kara Anne whispered back as she swatted Lindsey’s bottom, shooing her out of the room.
“What was that all about?” Willem asked, as Becca bounded down the stairs grabbed Lindsey and they headed out.
“Nothing, they’ve been together since college. Let me show you your room.” Taking Willem’s hand, they walked upstairs to the guest room. “There’s towels and stuff in the bathroom, and, ah, I guess I’ll see you in the morning…” Kara Anne’s voice trailed off as she noticed how close she was to Willem.
They stood, facing each other for a moment in silence, when finally, Kara Anne raised herself on tip toes to, for the third time that day, kiss Willem, only this time it was a longer, more intimate kiss. Suddenly, she broke it off, backing away. “Ah, sorry, I think that was just a little too much wine for me.” She then turned leaving the room, closing the door behind herself.
Willem stood for a moment, then undressed, turned out the light and got into bed, where he lay in the dark going over the day’s events. Some 15 minutes later, he heard the door open and close.
“You awake?” Kara Anne asked.
“Yes.” He said reaching for the light.
“Please, don’t turn on the light.” She said as she moved towards the bed in the gloom of the darkened room. Willem then heard the rustling of clothing, as she climbed into bed.
“I didn’t expect to stay. I’m not wearing anything,” he said sheepishly.
“It’s okay,” she replied, “Neither am I.” Then she moved closer to him, and they embraced.
* * *
The following morning Kara Anne awoke, alone in bed, her nightgown draped over the club chair next to the bed. She was still a little buzzed from the wine and last night activities, when she realized that she was still in the guest room. Suddenly remembering how the evening ended, she quickly jumped out of bed, pulled on her nightgown, and hurried to her own room.
Dressing, she went downstairs finding Willem already dressed and making breakfast.
“Morning, Cupcake. Lydia’s already up and gone.”
“You have to know that was so unlike me,” Kara Ann stammered. “I can’t even blame the wine, as I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that was something I’ve wanted to do for quite a while.”
“It’s all right, Cupcake, I’ve been wanting it too.” Willem said, moving closer.
“No, you don’t understand, it’s just too much for me. Intimacy has never been easy for me…My marriage was a train wreck from the get-go, you know that...it’s just...I don’t…” She could feel herself unraveling.
Willem’s expression went blank.
“It-it’s just still too soon, or too late for me too…” Her voice trailed off once again.
Willem looked at Kara Anne for a moment, sighed, shook his head, turned off the stove, and without looking at her, said. “I’ll let myself out.” Then walked past her and left.
An hour later Becca returned home and found her mother still sitting at the breakfast table, the food long gone cold.
“Mom, what’s the matter? Where’s Willem and Aunt Lydia?”
“Both gone, Sweetie.”
Sitting next to her mother, Becca looked into her mother’s tear-stained eyes. “Why, Mom? Why is Willem gone?”
“I just can’t do it honey; it just can’t work for me. It’s too late.”
“What do you mean?”
“I don’t love him like that.” She said with a sad finality.
Becca stared at her mother, finally saying, “In the entirety of my life, that’s the first time you’ve ever lied to me.” She then got up and exited the house. Leaving her mother to all her ghosts.
Two weeks later Willem was back in his Warwick home. He had just gotten back from a morning run, showered, and was in the process of making breakfast when the doorbell rang. Walking to the front door, he opened it to find Kara Anne standing on his porch. Before he could react, she wrapped herself around him whispering into his ear she said, “I’m so sorry. I’m such a fool. Please forgive me my love.” Then she kissed him deeply on the lips, pausing only to say, “Good Morning, Sugarpie.”
# # #
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