For once, I am quite happily tucking into the neon yellow goop with a side of hard, white grit that passes for Weston Norbett’s Secondary School Friday curry lunch. For today is my birthday. And that means that not only have I had Happy Birthday sung to me four times before lunch (once at home over breakfast, once in registration, once – less enthusiastically – in French and once at the end of Maths as an impromptu chorus started by Isabelle Harris that I suspect was primarily to distract Miss Ingleberry for asking about last night’s homework), but also and MUCH more importantly that Mum has baked The Birthday Cupcake for pudding.
A sumptuous chocolate sponge topped with a large, thick cone of blue bubble gum flavoured icing and sprinkled with chocolate buttons, gummy bears, foam bananas, fizzy cola bottles and hundreds and thousands of Hundreds and Thousands. This mouth watering mountain of yummy goodness is roughly the size of my head and more than worth the 364 day wait since the last one.
The Birthday Cupcake sits in pride of place in the middle of my, Eric and Rani’s lunch table following a slow and careful removal from its mammoth Tupperware. I watch with delight as all the other kids file past respectfully, noting the envy in their eyes. I field questions left, right and centre about toppings, fillings and flavourings, filing away any good suggestions for next year and chuckle openly about the more ridiculous ones (‘Cherries? Get out of here you foolish child.’ ‘Liquorice? You make me sick.’)
I am on top of the world as I slide my plate of “curry” away from me and pull The Birthday Cupcake into its place before me. Nothing can ruin my mood as I lean forward, mouth straining to open wider and fit as much cupcake into one mouthful as possible.
Well, almost nothing.
At this exact moment, Snoopy Dawson is making his way across the dining hall towards us. As he approaches from behind, I am only aware of his presence because of the change in the way that Eric and Rani are looking at me. Their eyes widen from expectation through fear and into panic, their mouths dropping from manic grins to slack jawed horror, and their hands move to cover their faces. It all happens so quickly that it isn’t until they are moving to duck beneath the table that I really register that something is wrong and only a split second before Snoopy’s hand comes towards me, I instinctively tense my body.
Snoopy laughs cruelly as he knocks The Birthday Cupcake towards my face. My tense, wooden arms act like springs and send it sailing over my head in a low arc. I jump out of my chair, diving to save it but Snoopy anticipates my move and trips me up with a well placed foot. I skid to a stop, spread-eagled on the floor next to the remains of The Birthday Cupcake, my hair smelling sugary sweet, filled with bubble gum icing and sprinkled with hundreds and thousands of Hundreds and Thousands.
‘Oops, sorry, I must have slipped,’ says Snoopy, barely containing a nasty smirk and faking a wild trip for good measure.
He’s not sorry, not yet. But he will be.