It was bitterly cold along the river, and the six inches of snow did absolutely nothing to make it any warmer.
She took a huge gulp of her coffee, and then broke the silence.
“There’s really only one item on the agenda today, so can we get to it before the frostbite gets to me?” she pleaded.
Aaron sipped his Snapple, smiled, and then returned his mask to the ready position.
Even though they were seated across the path from each other, Holly could sense his excitement. She just ignored it because she was too cold.
“My birthday is this week,” Aaron stated with nonchalance. “Is that what you were referring to by chance?”
She rolled her eyes at her best friend.
“Unless the Coronavirus is eradicated by Wednesday,” he quipped. “Otherwise, the huge gathering that such a celebration demands would be a major violation of social distancing protocols.”
And when Aaron said it would be a violation of protocols, he was obviously referring to the strict set of rules he’d established. Rules that quite often went beyond what the Governor and the CDC required.
Holly tapped her boots on the blacktop again because she really wanted to keep all her toes once this meeting was done.
“Is my homemade birthday cake still allowed?” she asked.
She really hoped it was because she enjoyed nothing more than baking Aaron’s favorite cake for him every year. It touched her that he requested that over any other possible cake option on his special day.
“Most definitely!” he declared with a fist pump to emphasize his point. “No pandemic is going to prevent me from enjoying your world famous chocolate peanut butter cake on my birthday.”
Holly was thankful for her mask since it kept him from seeing that his compliment had made her blush.
Aaron shook his head vehemently.
“As much as I appreciate your offer, I’d like to keep my birthday low key this year,” he told her solemnly.
He took a sip of his Snapple, and Holly used the break in the conversation to study him. It wasn’t like Aaron to downplay his birthday, even with a pandemic raging. Since his birthday fell so close to Christmas, he’d always made a big deal of his day so that it wasn’t forgotten amidst the celebrations of the Holiday Season.
Then it hit her. “This doesn’t have anything to do with the bold prediction you made on your last birthday, does it?”
He hung his head, which told her she was on target.
“You got me tipsy…”
“It was your birthday. You needed to cut loose a little,” she clarified.
“And I stupidly boasted that I would do whatever it took over the next year to ensure that I was no longer pathetically single on my next birthday,” he continued without acknowledging her clarification.
“You can tell me that until you’re blue in the face, and for the record, you look a little blue right now. Do you wan to borrow my scarf?”
Holly pulled her hood over her head in an attempt to get warm.
“You can tell me that as often as you want, but I’m still going to think of myself as a loser who no one wants to date,” he grumbled. “I don’t care what you argue to the contrary, Holly, the constant in this equation is me. I’m the quirky weirdo that no one wants to love. I’m doomed to be single forever.”
Holly no longer had to worry about the cold because her blood was boiling. She hated when Aaron got down on himself like this, but she hated herself even more for never being able to find the right thing to say to convince him otherwise.
“None of that is true,” was the best she could mumble in frustration.
“And to think, you could have put an end to this problem, but you turned me down after one date…”
He lowered his mask to reveal a smile, which was something of a relief.
“One horrible date, many, many years ago,” she corrected him.
“I never should have told you that,” Holly countered with a chuckle. “In my defense, I did come back to the table, and gave you every opportunity to redeem yourself. You can’t fake chemistry.”
Aaron laughed and took a long sip of his Snapple.
“I left enough of an impression that you still wanted to talk,” he reminisced. “Something about my unparalleled wit and sense of humor…”
“I never used those words, but I do remember thinking that I enjoyed talking to you, and stimulating conversation wasn’t easy to come by,” she told him.
“Just not the right kind of stimulation,” he teased and stuck his tongue out at her before returning his mask to its proper position.
“It took a while, and I remember some awkward moments where you tried to hit on me,” she added. “But we finally found our groove and became best friends. Girlfriends come and go, but best friends are forever.”
“Agreed,” Aaron conceded with a nod.
“Especially best friends who make the world’s greatest chocolate peanut butter cake…”