“Are you sure it’s okay that I sit here?” Holly asked with trepidation as she stood at her end of the bench and waited for his answer.
“Yes, Holly, you can sit there,” Aaron replied like he was a bit put off by the question.
“I just wanted to be sure,” she explained. “I know how you are about your COVID precautions.”
He took a sip of his Snapple while she settled in to her usual seat. There was definitely a tension in the air, but maybe that was just the crisp November weather that had finally arrived in Maine.
“I appreciate it, but you don’t need to tiptoe around me,” he assured his best friend.
“I figured you might still be stressed over the events of the week, and I didn’t want to make it any worse,” she told him and then took a long drink of her coffee.
She nodded. She definitely wanted all the details, and had patiently waited for their Sunday get together to hear them.
“When the CDC person told me I’d had close contact with someone who had tested positive for COVID, I called him a liar,” Aaron confessed. “I told him the only person I allow close enough to me for any period of time is my best friend Holly, and if she had tested positive, I would have been the first person she’d call. So I told him to shove his crank call where the sun don’t shine, and then hung up on him.”
Holly’s beautiful face lit up in a smile. “Thank you for knowing me that well.”
He shrugged like it was no big deal. “You would have been scared to death to tell me, but I know you would have been up front about it. And you would have delivered the news face to face, all be it from well over six feet, because you’d want to be there for me to deal with my meltdown.”
Holly chuckled and took a sip of her coffee.
“So how did the CDC finally convince you that the contact was real?” she asked.
“They had someone from work inform me, and that person also set me up for an immediate COVID test,” he replied with a sigh. “I didn’t have any symptoms, and I’m never around anyone without a mask, but it still scared the crap out of me. I figured with my luck, I’d be the one person whose vaccine and booster made him more susceptible to catching the virus.”
Holly flashed a caring smile. She knew how much anxiety he dealt with on a daily basis, and could only imagine the overload this news had caused.
“I’m glad everything turned out okay,” she said sweetly. “Thank you for letting me know the second you got your results.”
“You were the only one I wanted to talk to about it, and I also needed you to be aware since we do spend time in close contact without masks,” he replied. “I wish I could have been as calm about it as you were, but you did talk me back from the ledge several times between my testing appointments when the stress levels got out of control.”
“There’s no way I would have let you agonize through that alone,” she assured him with a comforting smile. “And I wasn’t worried because I knew that you take every precaution, and would never let me sit this close if we weren’t sure we were both safe.”
“Why can’t I be normal like you?” Aaron whined and hung his head. “I’m so sick of being so anxious all the time. It’s exhausting.”
Holly reached out to put her hand on his shoulder. Aaron had to struggle not to squirm from her touch as the goosebumps suddenly sprouted up all over his body.
“You are normal,” she corrected him. “Everyone handles stress differently, and whatever the reaction, that’s the status quo.”
Aaron looked over at her and laughed.
“Clearly, you weren’t a Psych major, and that makes absolutely no sense, but I do appreciate the effort. You’re very good at soothing the savage beast within me.”
Holly blushed. “I take my job as the Aaron Whisperer very seriously.”
“Thank you for your service,” he replied with a wink that made her blush a little deeper.