Kara looked up from her desk at the hoarse voice, smiling at the slightly dishevelled, sunglass covered red head before her. "Good party last night, I take it."
"Why are you screaming?" Georgie rubbed her temples as she slowly manoeuvred her way into the office and found a chair to sit on.
"I'm not screaming," Kara whispered, laughing at Georgie as she covered her ears. "And why did you even come into work today if your hangover is this bad? We're not just colleagues, we're best friends, so I think I would have allowed you the day off, this once."
Georgie dared to remove her sunglasses to look at Kara properly, planning to take this seriously. If she made it into work, she will make it through the day. "Because you always say, as reporters, we are never off duty."
Kara smiled. "That's because even when we aren't at work, we should listen out for interesting stories." She stood and walked around the side of her desk perching on the edge, facing Georgie properly. "It doesn't mean come into work even when you have the most ridiculous of hangovers." She placed her hands on Georgie's and pulled her up out of the chair. "Now, go home and get some rest." She gently pushed her out the door.
Georgie swung back around and headed for her desk just outside the office, shaking her head wildly, clearly instantly regretting it when she held onto it like it was going to fall off any minute. "No, I can't just leave you with no PA, there's work to be done." Kara smiled as she sat down and started shuffling papers around, moving the pile on the left side of the desk to the right. "With only two weeks 'til Christmas, we have to get things sorted for our bumper Christmas edition, ready to put out on the shelves on Monday, so we can have some decent time off work."
Christmas ... Kara silently groaned at the thought. At thirty years old she still hadn't found that someone special to spend it with, having to put up with the usual antics of her big family Christmas that was a must, instead. Her mum always insisted on having all her children, their partners and grandchildren over whether on Christmas Day or Boxing Day (if her siblings were with their in laws on the main day). Every year it was a big commotion of her nieces and nephews arguing over games and toys, while everyone else made a point of eating and drinking their body weight. She couldn't deny the food was always amazing – her mum was a star chef when it came to a roast – but the company less so, as she always had that reminder that her life was nowhere as near fulfilled as her siblings'.
Her dream of finding someone to spend Christmas Day with felt so far away and unachievable, that the so-called wonderful time of the year quickly became the one, out of three-hundred-and-sixty-five days, she despised the most. It was no longer the magical time of the year she felt as a kid, where the excitement of waking up in the morning to unwrap all the presents Father Christmas had left was so immense that it was impossible to get to sleep the night before; it was no longer the only acceptable day to bombard your parents at seven in the morning squealing with anticipation that you could finally open all those presents and with luck open everything you ever wanted that year; it was no longer a fun and joyous occasion playing games all day with family as she used to when her and her siblings were older, at the age where Santa wasn't real for them anymore but spending time as a family was just as magical and exciting. Now, with her job, the Christmas holiday was the only two weeks she got off a year, but she'd much rather be at work than be stuck with her family, yet again lying that everything in her life was great.
The whole Christmas experience was dull and pointless to her now, as was all the build-up that always seemed to start at the beginning of November – once Halloween is done and dusted on that one day, all of sudden everyone seems to go into Christmas panic mode for eight weeks as they realise they haven't started any Christmas shopping, for food or presents, and God forbid if they left it 'til the beginning of December to start doing that. Then there's the Christmas music that is always overplayed on the radio and over the shopping centre sound systems – everyone must just have the same CD playing on a loop.
Of course, with her lack of Christmas spirit came the fact that she never shared Christmas morning with someone, never had presents of her own to open - the year she turned twenty-five, she told her parents not to bother when they asked what she wanted; the fact that they did just that shocked her, but after five years of it, it hardly bothered her now. Then her siblings each stopped once they all started having kids so now Christmas was a no present affair which made it the least expensive time of year for her.
Except she couldn't miss her nieces and nephews out – not having children of her own makes them the closest thing she has to her own family so she could never not get them anything. Although she always took the easy way out now, giving them money, as they were all old enough at nine, eleven, fourteen and sixteen, to choose their own presents – she couldn't keep up with their change of taste in music, games, films and books that they liked.
Yet this year, she would have to think harder for her younger sibling, who was due to pop her first child not long after New Year. This year she would have to be more thoughtful in the gifts she gets, which meant shopping in the baby aisles. in theory that should be fun, being able to buy baby clothes again after so long, but at the same time it was just another reminder that she wasn't even close to being able to shop for these things for herself; for her own children.
So, Christmas Day was as ordinary as any other day really. Kara always used to put up a few things in the house from the odds and ends of decorations she collected years before as her parents and siblings threw out old to replace with new, but now she barely bothers with any of it.
When she first moved out at twenty-three, she loved the idea of finally having her own place to decorate for Christmas; finding the perfect spot for a tree, a small one at that, as she never hosted a Christmas herself, but it still made the place festive, and almost cosy and warm. Plus, it gave her a place to put presents for her family, so it seemed that bit more Christmassy, but now, at thirty years old, it was a completely different story.
If she wasn't celebrating the holiday at hers, why bother with the decorations at all? The odd bit of tinsel would maybe come out, mainly if someone was popping in to see her, just so she didn't seem completely devoid of the sentiment of Christmas, but it is usually quickly put away the minute she is alone once again. With no-one with her to share in the joy and excitement of Christmas, what was the point in acknowledging the holiday all together?
Kara blinked rapidly as something wet trickled down her face. She wiped her mouth with the back of her hand, hoping to God it was only water. She looked up to see Georgie staring at her, filled with concern, and looking a little bit more sober because of it, glass in hand. That's where the water came from then. "Did I miss something?" She asked the question, not bothering to reprimand Georgie on the water-throwing. At least, not yet.
"Uh, yeah!" Georgie stood, a little unstable, but Kara pretended not to notice. "You completely zoned out on me while I was trying to show you pictures from the awesome Christmas par-tay I went to last night," Kara smiled and leant on one hip as Georgie stood. "Plus, you missed the cute delivery guy, who came by with our coffees and pastries from the bakery down the road."
"You had pastries and coffee delivered? Since when do any bakeries around here deliver? We practically live in the middle of nowhere." Kara shook her head, the smile still lingering.
"Well, okay, I made Jacob run down to the bakery to get them. Same diff." She flicked her hair behind her shoulders as if it was nothing.
"A-ha!" Kara folded her arms. "Seems he would do anything for you." She raised an eyebrow making Georgie blush which was a rare sight indeed.
"I don't know what you mean." Georgie shied away, focusing on her computer screen, her hangover seemingly non-existent.
Kara headed for her office, all dreaded thoughts about Christmas gone for now. She stopped in the middle of the room before swivelling around and marching back out to stand in front of Georgie's desk. "Wait a minute, if I was out of it long enough for you to get snacks delivered, then Jacob saw me staring into space like a loon too?"
Georgie pursed her lips before speaking. "Please! He never even noticed you were there – why would he, when I'm around?" She flicked her hair again with a wink and raise of her eyebrow.
Kara shook her head before resting her arms on the desk. "Oh, and about the water throwing..."
"Won't happen again!" Georgie raised her hands in defence.
Kara tapped the desk, nodding her head towards her, ending the conversation there, as there was work to be done. She headed back to her desk, hopefully ready to start sifting through the seemingly interesting, funny or serious stories that people propose are worthy of making it into their magazine.
"Hey, I'm heading out for lunch. Do you want me to bring you back anything?" Georgie stood in the doorway of Kara's office, looking a lot brighter than she did this morning, and a little overdressed for just picking up lunch too.
"No, I'm good, thanks." Kara stared at Georgie with a knowing smile, widening it when she got a look of confusion back.
"What are you staring at?"
"Nothing." Kara looked away briefly and pretending to check something on her computer. "Just thinking that maybe that outfit's a little too much just for getting food to bring back here."
"Well, okay ... maybe ... I might be ... sort of ... going on a lunch date with someone."
"Knew it!" Kara laughed, but it wasn't all there. "Have fun." She tried to sound genuine but knew it wasn't her best attempt at hiding the truth. She kept her gaze on her blank computer screen, moving her mouse around as if she was doing something, trying desperately to ignore the fact Georgie had headed closer to her and was now leaning over her desk.
"What gives?" Georgie asked, watching Kara closely for any sign that her instinct was right. "Come on, Kara, talk to me."
Kara found the strength to look at Georgie and smile. "Just go. Have fun on your lunch date. Whoever he is, he is a lucky guy."
"I'm not going anywhere, until you talk to me." Georgie perched on the edge of her desk. "What did I do wrong?"
Kara couldn't help but laugh, quickly adjusting her expression when Georgie sat back slightly hurt. "Sorry, but it's nothing you did, I promise. I just have some ... issues, I'd rather not discuss. It's not important."
Georgie smiled sadly. "Everything is important. Every single thing about every person I love is important. If it bothers you, then it will bother me. If it makes you sad, then I'll be sad with you. If you wanna shut that door and cry and shout until there's nothing left inside, go for it! Lay it all on me like it's my fault – it might make you feel better."
Kara looked away again and swallowed hard, not sure she could confide in Georgie how she really felt. She knew she'd just hear the whole: 'Don't be silly. You're not the only one who hasn't found the one yet. Some people never find the one, but it doesn't mean they aren't happy. They find other ways to have a fulfilling life – it doesn't always have to be about getting married and having kids.' And then she'd be forced to agree and pretend that what that person just said was completely right and that maybe she was just one of those people who weren't destined to fall in love and have their own family. Except the idea of ever accepting that seemed completely impossible to her and even just the idea of never having that happen, caused her throat to burn so much she had to swallow back the tears and endure the pain to keep up the pretence that everything was fine, because no-one in her life would ever truly understand how she felt. No-one except her.
"I'm fine." She looked at Georgie, pretty sure she didn't believe her, but she just needed her gone. She needed this next hour to herself so she could get lost in her own thoughts and give herself a pep talk to get back on track and act like nothing was wrong with her life; that nothing was wrong with the picture in front of her. "Go. Don't keep him waiting." She smiled and nodded over and over, until Georgie eventually admitted defeat and headed out the door, but not without one last look back at Kara who had seemingly slipped into her own, desolate little world again as she stared out the window.
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