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Rated: E · Short Story · Contest Entry · #2240575
Harry has some food for thought.
He sneered. His eyes narrowed as he glanced at his cousin.

‘’I’m sure you do,’’ he said.

A bit crestfallen, the smile originally on the sides of her face drooped downwards. Slowly, she began to gather up the little bits of paper on the table, and quietly left the room.
Harry let out a short laugh. Too sensitive, he thought. Some people just couldn’t handle a joke. He took a drag out of his cigarette, and tapped the end of it against the ash tray that lay on the table. He didn’t understand his cousin, one minute she was fine, and then the next she was getting butt hurt over everything he said. She was sensitive, he knew, but sometimes he felt like she just simply had no sense of humour.

Snowflake syndrome, he thought to himself. Wanting everyone to treat her with extra care. He laughed quietly to himself again, as he took one final drag. It was 2pm, and even though it was nowhere near evening yet, the sky outside had already resigned to a dull, colourless grey. Wispy, thin clouds covered the sky and it looked like it was about to start raining. Harry stood up, and walked into the living room. He was staying at his aunt’s place for Christmas, and she had set out a place for him to stay while there. His aunt was someone who had regularly looked after him when he was small, and he felt a pang of affection for her as he looked around the room. Family portraits adorned the walls - pictures of his aunt, her now late husband and his cousin. His aunt never had more than one child, and it was always just him and his cousin Holly when he was growing up. It’s not that he didn’t get along with her, but it just seemed that ever since they both graduated and started working, they had somehow drifted apart, and the little time they did spend together during holidays was always marred by some sort of argument, or with Holly walking away in tears, hurt and offended over some nasty thing that he apparently said. Today was the 31st of December, and he was due to leave the day after New Year’s. He didn’t know if he would see much of Holly before then, but either way he wasn’t too bothered. She was so boring these days, working in her 9 to 5 office job, then coming home just to get upset at everything he said.

Snowflake syndrome, he repeated to himself as he walked out of the living room and into the hallway. A huge Christmas tree stood in the middle of the hallway, shimmering with tinsel that was carefully draped across the leafy green. His aunt liked to use clips to pin up some childhood photos of him and his cousin on the tree too. He paused now to have a look at them. One of the photos was of him and his cousin when they were small, both of them sat on a toy horse as the carousel went round and round. Another picture showed him holding a gigantic teddy bear, and Harry felt something thumping in his chest as he remembered that day - he had been so ecstatic to win that day, and his beaming smile stared back at him now as he held the photo in his hand. His eyes settled on the next photo, again of him and Holly. This time they had their arms around each other, each holding a giant stick of candy floss, the wispy strands of sugar seeming to go on forever and ever. Those days were less complicated and Harry missed those times. His relationship with Holly wasn’t what it used to be. But that was part of growing up, he told himself. When people get older, they drift apart. That’s normal. He looked at the picture of them again, the one with their arms around each other. Everything was so much simpler then. With a sigh, he let go of the photo.

‘’You’ve really upset her you know’’

Harry turned, his aunt’s small frame was propped up against the doorway to the living room. Her face was creased with concern, and her arms folded across her chest.

‘’I was just joking,’’ he told her.

‘’She just can’t take a joke.’’

‘’Enough!, his aunt said. You two have never been the same since-

‘’Since what?’’ Harry answered back, egging her on.

‘You know what I mean’’ his aunt said. Her face looked tired, and she took a deep breath, before turning around to walk away.
‘’Look, just go apologize to her okay? It’s Christmas and I really want this holiday to be special. Remember how close you two used to be? Why can’t you be like that again?’’

Her voice faded as she walked further and further away from him. Harry stared at her back, frustrated, and not knowing what to say. What was he supposed to do? It’s not his fault his cousin somehow lacked a backbone. The world was full of people saying all sorts of things, and they weren’t always nice. It wasn’t his job to coddle his cousin just because she somehow couldn't cope with the world. Not his job at all.

Harry thought about what his aunt said. It was Christmas, she said. And she was right, it was a special time of the year. Maybe he should cut his cousin some slack. Harry looked over at the photos on the Christmas tree again. Ever since they grew up, he’d let his work pressures get in the way of their friendship, and he’d become cynical, bitter, and hateful of life. He’d acquired a habit of taking out his frustrations on the people closest to him, one of them being his cousin.

Harry straightened up. He decided there and then he’d try to change.

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