SLCC's Premiere Art & Literary Magazine

Colored Napkins

Sara Hutchins

Something strange was going on.

Like clockwork every morning for the past three months someone has been leaving a single cookie on my desk without fail. Like a little parcel of heaven, the round little baked good would gleam up at me so invitingly.

It was a white chocolate, macadamia nut cookie.

At first, I was highly suspicious. Who put it there? And how could anyone possibly know that I loved cookies? Perhaps someone was being kind? Perhaps someone was trying to poison me? Was I being rewarded for something? Maybe punished? Was someone playing a prank on me to see what I would do? Had someone left it there by mistake?

I left it there for hours but was unable to focus on much work, my mind always trailing back to the little pastry that sat to my left on a bright yellow napkin. I would catch myself whenever I tried to tell myself I could eat it, that it was obviously for me. I even did a walk-by of my coworkers' desks, and there wasn't a single cookie to be seen. What on Earth was going on?

By lunch I was ravenous, and after four hours of justifying it in my mind and being annoyed that I was over analyzing a cookie, I took the damn thing and ate it. I was pleasantly surprised, the little cookie was divine, and I savored it and was relieved to note that no one was watching. Although that did not answer any of my questions, it remained a mystery that kept my mind spinning the rest of the day.

I was both pleased and mortified to find another one on my desk the next day, only this time; it was a chocolate chunk cookie and it rested on a blue napkin. It almost seemed obscene that I took notice of the color of the napkin, of all things. I must be losing it, I thought. However, this little dance continued on for the next three months and became something of a treat for me. No matter what the day had in store for me, I always knew that there would be a cookie waiting for me when I arrived at work.

Strangely, always on a different colored napkin.

It was fun to wonder what variation of the baked good I would be receiving. Would it be a snickerdoodle? Maybe a sugar cookie. Perhaps pumpkin chocolate-chip. Peanut butter? Oatmeal? The possibilities would make me giggle and my friends would roll their eyes and tell me I was insane and should try to figure out who it was.

I thought about it, I honestly did. Perhaps whoever it was, was hoping I would, but for whatever reason, I couldn't do it. As if maybe if I found out their identity it would suddenly stop, and I enjoyed the cookies way too much for that to happen. My need for the surprise and what slowly became something I depended on overrode my sense of curiosity. 

Don't get me wrong, I still wondered who would do such a thing for me. Such a plain and very unassuming person who really didn't have anything special to take note of. I had the tendency to obsess and go in circles, ending up with a raging headache and a sour outlook on things. So I let it go, and enjoyed the treat of the day, a dark chocolate, chocolate chip cookie with a cup of hibiscus tea.

It wasn't until today that things changed.

I arrived a little bit later than usual; traffic had slowed me down, extending my regular commute by a few minutes. I greeted the receptionist with a bright smile, complimenting her new hair color before riding the elevator up to my floor.

The moment I stepped out and into the fluorescent light I knew something was different. A few of the girls were whispering to each other, staring at me as I walked past. I brushed off their stares and picked up my pace, stopping dead when my desk came into view.

Two giant, intricately decorated vases sat on either side of my computer screen, shining like beacons. Each one was filled with a different type of flower, one with white and pink jonquils, another with red roses, yellow gardenias, and the last with white violets.

"Oh my," I whispered with a hand over my mouth. I felt my cheeks heat up when I sensed the eyes of my coworkers on me and could just imagine what they were saying. I quickly took my jacket off, putting it on the back of my chair before sitting down.

I gingerly touched each type of flower in intrigue and felt my lips turn up when I saw the small bag of mint sandwich cookies sitting to my left. I pointedly ignored the whispers that I now knew where meant for me and delightedly picked up the parcel to examine it.

To my surprise, it was resting on what appeared to be a note. I felt my heart speed up, but I pulled it into my hand anyway and saw my name scrawled elegantly along the top. It was definitely for me, certainly not a mistake like I used to think it may have been.

"Anna," it read. "It was certainly harder than I thought to get your attention; I thought maybe these flowers would do the trick. I'm sorry that it's taken me until now to come forward, I thought you would have sniffed me out by now. I even went as far as putting my name and number on the back of the napkins on several occasions."

I gasped, mortified at the near ninety napkins I had carelessly thrown away, never thinking to inspect them for evidence. 

"I also wanted to let you know that I enjoyed seeing your smile when you found those cookies. It was all worth it, and as for the flowers I've left you, each type represents something different, or at least that's what the florist told me. I was hoping to get your input on my next cookie recipe if you are ever willing to allow me the honor of taking you out for coffee."

I laughed and turned the paper over, finding a name and number. I was surprised to realize that I recognized the name.

Who knew?