It was cold. Fourteen degrees by Holly’s last check of the temperature. She didn’t like the quiet, but she could tell by Aaron’s mood that he needed a little time to process his anger.
Aaron stared out at the river. His ever present bottle of Snapple sat unopened next to him on the bench. There was something in his eyes that screamed to leave him alone.
Well, a different something than the usual stay away message.
Holly had waited for as long as she could, but now her coffee was empty and she could no longer feel all of her toes.
“Is this about your birthday?” she finally asked.
“Of course it’s about my birthday!” he exploded up off his bench in response, arms flailing, cheeks red, but invisible under his mask.
“I thought you said you wanted to keep it low key,” she reminded him.
Holly sighed and shrugged.
“It’s not like we had any control over the actions of the Orange Menace and his Cult of Rabid Mongrels,” she pointed out.
“It doesn’t matter,” Aaron persisted angrily. “You don’t try to overturn the democratic process simply because you’re a delusional sore loser who can’t accept defeat.”
“And you most certainly don’t do that when you are the man entrusted with protecting the republic, its citizens, and the Constitution. There is so much that pisses me off here, but it didn’t help that these animals chose to riot on my birthday.”
Holly nodded like she understood. Aaron was very complicated, so it didn’t surprise her that his anger was boiling over on so many different levels.
“You’ve spent your life dealing with a birthday that was in the shadow of Christmas,” she added to show she got what was bothering him.
“Not only that, but there was a girl in my class with the same birthday, so I didn’t even get the special day to myself,” he grumbled. “To make it worse, my frugal stepmother would never send me to school on my birthday with treats for my classmates. Hell, I was lucky if I got a cake at home. But the girl who shared my birthday always brought in cupcakes, or brownies, or some other awesome treat that made everyone love her, and give me dirty looks.”
Holly made a sad face that Aaron could not see because of her mask.
“Oh, it’s going to be worse than that!” Aaron predicted. “The way this lunatic and his followers work, he’ll probably institute some sort of Hunger Games as punishment for the states that did not back him in his overturning the election. They games with begin every year on the anniversary of this failed coup, so my birthday will forever be Hunger Games Day.”
Holly nodded again. When the rant started to go off the rails, it was best to stay clear of the tracks and just allow Aaron to get it all out of his system.
In addition, she knew this wasn’t really about his birthday, or the fact that he believed the country was headed down the path that had befallen Panem. He was truly upset about the events of Wednesday afternoon, and this was how he processed it.
“He’s only got ten days left in office, and I doubt he could organize a Hunger Games in that time,” she tried humor just so he remembered she was part of the conversation.
“Fine,” he conceded with a wave of his hand as he finally opened his Snapple. “Then maybe he’ll just institute The Purge. After all, that bullshit they pulled at the Capitol had a definite Purge vibe. You can’t deny that.”
Something truly horrific had happened in their country on Wednesday, and it was like something out of a movie.
A movie directed by a hack, reality TV vet.
“Thank goodness I had your cake,” he said with a smile that she could see because he had lowered his mask to sip his iced tea. “Even though I was freaking out over what I was watching, I had a little bit of you right there to offer me some comfort.”
Beneath her mask, Holly beamed and blushed. He had found the silver lining in the madness, and that silver lining had been her…