“Did you eat all the stuffing your little heart desired?” Holly asked as she settled in on her end of their usual bench overlooking the river.
Aaron returned the cap to his bottle of Snapple, and placed it on the bench between them.
“Not only did I eat all the stuffing my little heart desired, I also had all the stuffing my big, fat tummy desired,” he replied with a grin.
Holly giggled and reached out to pat his belly, which was neither big, nor fat.
“I’m glad you had a good Thanksgiving,” she said with a smile that lit up her beautiful face.
Aaron, still covered in goosebumps by her surprise pat of his stomach, reached for the Snapple and took another long swig to help him recover.
“How was yours?” he asked softly.
“I’m sure they missed having me around to tease,” he conquered.
Holly shrugged. “All I know is that I wish you had been there. Sometimes, it’s the best friend’s duty to draw the fire so that the disappointing daughter/niece/grandchild doesn’t have to be bombarded with non-stop questions about when she is going to get married and have kids…”
She took a long drink of her coffee, and Aaron gave her a reassuring pat on the shoulder.
“I should have been there to protect you and absorb the heavy blows,” he admitted. “I won’t let you down the next time.”
“Thanks,” she whispered.
“But seriously, though, when are you settling down and having kids?” he demanded with a mischievous grin on his handsome face. “You’re not going to have those looks and that figure forever, so you’d better lasso someone now before you have to settle.”
Holly turned and punched him so hard in the shoulder that he actually had to bite his tongue so as not to yelp in pain. He’d never give her that satisfaction.
“I guess that makes you Beavis,” Aaron countered and stuck out his tongue.
Holly made another fist and cocked her arm. Aaron quickly threw up both arms to protect his already aching shoulder.
“Truce!” he demanded.
“Fine,” she relented and lowered her arm.
“Open your hand,” he demanded.
Holly gave him a dirty look, but then unclenched her fist. Only then did Aaron release himself from his defensive posture.
“Someone called me weird the other day because I said that I enjoy spending Thanksgiving alone,” he confessed glumly.
Holly immediately forgot she was fake angry at him for the needing to find a mate comment, and went right into overprotective mode.
“Who the hell was this? And what gives them the right to decide what’s normal in your life? You know I punch hard, so just give me a name, and I will make this person regret saying that!”
Aaron chuckled. “Easy, killer. She was just someone who always has something to say about anything going on within earshot.”
Holly growled. “Sounds like the best thing she has to offer society is her opinion, and that’s unfortunate because everyone has one of those. It’s been my experience that people who find it necessary to share their unsolicited insights into the lives of others are the ones who most need some self-reflecting.”
Aaron nodded in agreement. “It’s no big deal. It stung a little at first, but that’s only because I’m sensitive to anything I remotely perceive as a personal attack.”
Holly was clearly more worked up about this than Aaron was, and he appreciated the way she came to his defense, even though it was days after the fact.
“There’s nothing remote about it!” she answered. “Someone who barely knows you made a snap judgment about your character based on her biased set of personal values. I agree that you are very weird, but there’s nothing odd about an introvert wanting to spend a holiday alone. People like that really make me hate people.”
Aaron smiled. “Now you’re talking like me. I might make an introvert out of you yet.”
Holly smiled and then took a long sip of her coffee. She hated when people messed with Aaron’s self-confidence. They said these off the cuff comments and then walked away, but she was the one who had to clean up the mess later.
“That’s a hell of a lot of badges,” Aaron quipped.
“You see?” she quickly pointed out. “Most people would shy away from admitting they had a list of quirks longer than Santa’s Naughty & Nice Lists, but you own it. If you want to spend Thanksgiving on your own, stuffing your face with stuffing, then that’s your normal. Don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise.”
Aaron nodded and let that one sink in for a moment as he stared out at the river.
“Do you think they call it stuffing because the person who invented it knew we would all be stuffing our faces with it?” he asked.
“You are so weird,” she replied and then let out a loud laugh that caused Aaron to laugh as well.