Before replying, Holly took a long sip of her coffee since it was a decidedly cold and windy day along the river.
“I’m not sure what that means,” she admitted, “but I’m just going to have faith and ask you to continue.”
Even though she was way more than six feet away on her bench on the other side of the path, she returned her mask to the ready position. Cases had been steadily increasing in Maine over the past two weeks, and she was all for complying with the Governor’s order to wear a mask when out in public.
“This time of year, I’m usually craving my huge, introvert’s Thanksgiving feast,” he explained solemnly. “Right now, though, with all that’s going on, I haven’t had my usual obsessive thoughts about turkey, stuffing, and all that gravy. I’m not sure whether to be trouble or relieved.”
“Why would it trouble you?” his best friend asked sincerely.
Aaron shrugged, took a quick sip of Snapple, and then adjusted his mask.
“I don’t know,” he admitted. “Could a lack of desire to stuff my face with food appropriately named stuffing be a sign that I’ve come down with the virus?”
Holly’s stomach jumped. She knew he wasn’t sick, but even the mere thought of his contracting the virus frightened her.
“A lack of enthusiasm for an enormous feast during challenging, scary times is a sign of your being aware of your surroundings, not that you’ve caught Coronavirus,” she assured both him and herself. “To be honest, I’m not really looking forward to Thanksgiving, either, and you know how I love to cook.”
He nodded in understanding.
“True,” she replied with a giggle. “Something to be thankful for this year.”
They sat in silence on their opposite sides of the path and allowed the gravity of the conversation to sink in a little.
Life was different now, but that didn’t mean it had to be a bad thing.
“I’m thankful that you’re my best friend,” he confessed. “I know it sometimes comes across in these short stories that I’m mean to you, or don’t appreciate you, but I would be absolutely lost without you, Holly.”
She was grateful for her mask because it prevented him from seeing how deeply she was blushing at his comment.
“That’s very sweet,” she gushed. “I’m well aware that you care for me just as much as I care you for. I long ago realized you were socially awkward, and had a tendency to say whatever popped into your head without giving any thought to the consequences of the weight of you words. The big difference now, though, is that I understand your brain is faster than your heart, and your honest, unfiltered thoughts aren’t intended to hurt.”
Aaron hung his head in shame because even though what Holly had said was positive, the truth of it still hurt.
Holly nodded reassuringly.
“I know you very well,” she promised. “A gushing, ranting Aaron is a happy, positive Aaron. Even if the words tumbling out at an incredible rate of speed sometimes sting. When you’re quiet and withdrawn, that means you aren’t in a good place and you’re making a conscious effort not to hurt someone you care about by saying the wrong thing.”
He rose to his feet and gave her a thundering round of applause, to which she felt she had no choice, but to respond to with a bow.
“You really do get me,” he told her once he was seated again.
“I’m not saying it wasn’t a challenge at first,” she quipped, “but I’m glad I took the time and put in the effort because it was definitely worth getting to know you.”
“I’ll never have absentee best friend feelings for you, Holly!” he declared. “Happy Thanksgiving!”
He raised his Snapple in salute, and she did the same with her coffee cup.
“Happy Thanksgiving, Aaron!”