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She woke up with her head throbbing, her nose blocked up and her throat raw, gasping for breath. She groped across her bedside table for tissues and a drink, then looked at the time on her phone.

It was eight o’clock.

She groaned, and got out of bed, pulling on her dressing gown and staggering downstairs to the toilet. The expedition left her breathless and exhausted, and made her decision for her. She called in sick to work, and went back to bed.

She slept fitfully, her dreams strange and disturbing. She dreamt of strange rustling creatures, of monsters made of jingling bells which thumped and knocked behind her.

Eventually she woke up again, groping once more across the bedside table, blowing her nose and looking at the time.

It was nearly five; she had slept almost all day. She didn’t feel hungry, and didn’t expect to taste anything, but she got up anyway because she thought she ought to eat something. It might make her feel better. There was probably some soup in the cupboard.

As she reached the top of the stairs, she stopped. There was a faint glow coming from the sitting room. She went downstairs slowly, cautiously, and leaned around the doorway to look.

The fire was lit, its flames reflected in the gleaming metallic baubles of the Christmas tree which had appeared in the corner of the room. Lights sparkled and twinkled through the tinsel and glitter; garlands hung from the ceiling in elegant loops.

“Surprise!”

Her best friend stood up and smiled at her.

“I heard you weren’t well,” he said, “And I thought it would be nice to cheer you up.”

She stared. “You did all this today?”

“Yep,” he said with a smile. “While you were sleeping.”

She sniffed and blew her nose. She still felt dreadfully ill, but all of a sudden she felt great.

© Kari Fay

(Author’s Note: Yes, I still have this stupid winter cold. It makes it very hard to think straight and write 😦  but at least I got here in the end.)

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