Tiger's Eye Café Happy Birthday, Charlie
He showed up to work on his birthday. It wasn’t like he had much else to do. And he’d almost caught up on their expense reports for last month. Which means he could start this month’s and finish on time. The bell dinged and he waved at the employee behind the counter. The friendly wave didn’t quite pass as he wasn’t smiling. But at this point, he wasn’t sure if most of the employees had actually seen him smile.

Those muscles hadn’t been flexed much lately.

He yawned as he walked to the back office and flicked on the light to see a cake on his desk. A little orange tiger with his name scrawled on the tray in frosting. He stood there for a second and just stared at it, his frown taking a turn that reflected more in his eyes than the muscles around his jaw.

A heavy sigh sagged his shoulders down and he pulled out his chair to sit down in front of the little cake. Charlie pulled a plastic fork out of his desk drawer and hesitated. It felt wrong to eat it. Like the cake itself was something to be displayed. A gift from someone who felt like his only friend when their dreams swelled then deflated. As he stared down the cake, he caught the flash of white from the note nestled beside it.

A promise of dinner when their schedules lined up.

He propped an elbow heavily on the desktop and laid his brow across one hand to just…do what? Cope. The quiet celebration of another year of life ticking by. He was very good at putting things into boxes. But he was running out of room in the storage shed in his brain. Heaving a sigh, Charlie just sat up, managing to just…move on. And he ate the cake in silence.
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