Working Vacation

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"You're not taking your work with you on vacation, are you?"

Mary peered over the little partition separating our work spaces, her eyes following my hands as I shoved my laptop into my already plump bag.

"What else am I supposed to do over a long weekend?" I answered with a twisted smile. "While everyone else is enjoying their turkey leftovers, I'll be finishing the Allen report and getting a head start on the McKenzie project."

After clipping my bag shut and appreciating my impressive packing skills, I looked over at my coworker and found a slight frown pulling at her lips and raising her eyebrows. I always struggled to read her expression. She used every muscle in her face to convey some point that she just wouldn't say out loud. It made conversation frustrating and if she wasn't so damn good with numbers, I would have made more of an effort to find a different statistician for my team.

At the time, I could only assume the discontent I saw on her face had been developed out of shame or maybe embarrassment for not also getting a head start on work over the break. Whatever it was, I knew I put it there and despite my inability to gel with Mary's personality, she was a good woman and a hard worker. She deserved a nice holiday. Everyone in the office did. So, I took a deep breath and twisted my lips into a toothy grin that felt awkward on my face. "Not that there's anything wrong with people enjoying Thanksgiving. It's why we have the days off in the first place. But since I'm not celebrating..."

"You can still come over to my house. You're welcome over any time." In her eagerness, I realized that frown wasn't some sort of feeling of inadequacy, but pity. It was a conversation that never seemed to die. Ever since she learned that I lost my only family — my grandmother — seven years ago, Mary, the overworked mother of four, still found it in her to offer me a spot at her table for every holiday and very often, any given weekend as well. I appreciated it at first, but at that point I was getting tired of feeling like a broken record.

"It's very kind of you to offer...again," I said with a smile that started to hurt my cheeks. "However, you'll be happy to know that I'm not spending this Thanksgiving at home."

"You're not?" she asked, sitting up straight as a pleasantly shocked smile lit her face.

"No," a bit of pride brightening my words, "I'm actually on my way to the train station. Heading up to a little town in the mountains. They even have a nice lake and lots of skiing." I handed her the brochure I had on my desk for Hereford Hills, which featured a collage of all the activities offered by the cheerful denizens of the country town. "It's big with outdoor enthusiasts so it's a bit of a tourist trap," I said with a shrug.

"You ski?"

"Uh, no no." A small laugh shook my head and I waved away her conclusion with a flick of my hand. "I'm not doing any of that stuff, but I thought you might like to know that they tend to be pretty festive in town for the tourists so I'll at least be surrounded by, I don't know, turkey sculptures or something. I guess maybe they'll have Christmas stuff up already..."

"What are you doing up there then?" she asked, that motherly frown returning to her face. "You're not going to try to work at like a spa or something?"

"No spa — though, that would be nice one of these days. No, I'm going to my great aunt's BnB."

"Your great aunt?" Now Mary's mouth stretched into a long O shape and the wrinkles brought on by one too many sleepless nights with sick kids and curfew-breaking teenagers had all but disappeared in her state of shock. "You do have family then! That's so great Lyn. Well, I'm just so happy to hear you'll be with family for Thanksgiving."

She popped out of her chair and went in for a hug, put I placed my hands out in front of me and returned her kindness with a sheepish grin.

"Oh no, you misunderstand. My great aunt is dead. She died like last month apparently. Her lawyer only just found me. I was named full benefactor of her estate so off I go to check out the property."

"Oh, I'm so sorry." Despite having prevented the first attempt at a hug, I was unprepared for Mary's renewed effort and while distracted with grabbing the strap of my bag, my doting coworker wrapped me in her arms, pressing her chin against my shoulder and swaying slightly as she patted her hands on my back. "I can't believe you gained a member of your family only to have her snatched away the instant she enters your life. I'm so sorry Lyn."

I heard her sniff in my ear and I pushed her away. A wide smile hid the burning of my cheeks. "Can't be upset losing something I never really had, right?"

Mary looked at me for a moment, that disapproving sulk pulling down her lips and darkening her eyes. I couldn't hold her gaze.

"I guess so," she finally answered.

"Anyway, this house she's been using is apparently quite a stunning manor home with several acres of land to sit on." I kept my eyes to the floor as I hefted my bag over my shoulder and retrieved my suitcase from under my desk. "Initial reports from my appraiser look good for getting a chunk of change out of it so I can finally renovate my condo."

"Sure, Lyn. I'm glad you can do that for yourself." Her voice reminded me of how my friends' mothers used to sigh and nod whenever their daughters got ahead of themselves in a relationship destined for ruin or some other such nonsense. I didn't understand why they couldn't be forthright. I had no problem telling them that their crushes were immature boys and chasing them was a waste of time. I was grateful for my grandmother's ability to be honest with me, even at a young age, and I didn't understand why Mary thought it was appropriate to speak to me as such now.

"Well, I need to catch the train." I pulled the handle from my suitcase and flashed a quick smile at Mary as I attempted to scoot the rolling bag between her and my desk chair. Once free, I set off at a brisk pace for the elevator, only for Mary to hesitate my steps.

"Have a happy Thanksgiving Lyn."

I stopped for a moment and turned to look at her from over my shoulder. "Happy Thanksgiving Mary." We both shared painfully fake smiles and then I was back on my way, ready to enjoy a holiday alone.

***

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