23: Lunch and Lullabies

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C H A P T E R    T W E N T Y T H R E E

Lunch and Lullabies

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                  "THE SNOW'S COMING down. I'm watching it fall."

                  Harry smiled and nodded encouragingly at Olivia, who bravely offered to take the solo for this song two weeks ago. This was their first time running through the entire thing, and she kind of looked like she wanted to run away and never return, but she was doing well.

                  "Lots of people around," she continued. "Baby, please come home."

                  Harry was stood at the front of the group again, this time with Ella at his side, and they were both helping to direct everyone who wasn't Olivia. Almost everyone who agreed to carol with them showed up for practice today; it was the largest group they've had yet, and Harry couldn't direct every single part by himself.

                  "The church bells in town, they're ringing a song. What a happy sound. Baby, please come home." Olivia closed her eyes and a small smile graced her lips. Harry felt like he was intruding on maybe one of her Christmas memories. "They're singing deck the halls, but it's not like Christmas at all. I remember when you were here and all the fun we had last year."

                  When they finished that one, they ran through Yes, Virginia – the only flaws occurring because of those who missed the last few practices, but they were quickly remedied. After that, Ella called time and everyone began to depart. Due to some sort of scheduling conflict, practice was held in the morning before a lot peoples' shifts at the hotel, so it couldn't run very long. Still, a lot more people showed up than usual, so Harry began considering a permanent time change on his way over to Olivia, who was pulling her jacket on and adjusting her scarf near the door.

                  "You sounded great today," Harry told her, offering her a hand with her gloves. She hadn't put them on before pulling on her coat, so she couldn't tuck them into her sleeves on her own. "Really solid. The song works well for your voice, I think."

                  She was always very shy, no matter how many times Harry tried to interact with her. But she was nice, and Harry suspected she wasn't bothered by his persistent attempts at a friendship. "Thank you. I'm not a stranger to caroling, though, I have to admit."

                  "No?"

                  "No. My, uh... My dad was really into Christmas when I was younger. Haven't seen him in years, but even after, I liked to carry on our holiday traditions for my younger siblings. It's just a nice time of year, you know? Of course you know," she laughed. "You're the first person I've met I think who loves Christmas as much as him."

                  "Your dad?" Harry wondered, surprised. Perhaps he misjudged her. Maybe she isn't so shy anymore. Maybe he finally cracked her walls a bit.

                  She nodded, clearing her throat, and Harry could tell that was about all she was going to say on the matter. But he was curious.

                  "Even after," he began, furrowing his brow. "Even after what?"

                  "Hm?"

                  "You said that you haven't seen him in years, but even after, you made Christmas special for your siblings. After what?"

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