Holly's Christmas Countdown by Suzie Tullett



1





Eight days until Christmas





“What do you think?” I held a yellow, sleeveless shift dress against my body. It had hung in my wardrobe for months; an impulse buy that I still wasn’t sure my legs could carry off. I’d bought it after catching sight of myself in a shop mirror and realising I looked more like a fifteen-year-old Rebel Wilson than the grown woman I was meant to be.

I decided there and then that I needed an overhaul and grabbed the first colourful item of clothing to hand. Hence, the yellow dress. I frowned. Despite any good intentions, that was as far as any supposed change went.

Standing there in my bedroom looking at myself once more, I wished I’d seen that revamp through. With less than a week until my holiday, I looked no different in that moment than I had back in the summer. I sighed, considering whether the dress really merited packing space, before turning to my sister for her opinion. “What do you think, Vee?” I asked.

Out of the two of us, I’d always been the geek, preferring to lose myself in a good book as opposed to some glossy fashion magazine. I tended to live in jeans, T-shirts and pumps, and while my overgrown mop of hair was treated to the odd cut, it had never so much as had a hint of colour near it. I was the same when it came to make-up. Apart from a touch of mascara and lip gloss, I didn’t really bother. Unless I was on a night out. Then I jazzed things up with a stroke of eyeliner.

Vee, on the other hand, had always been a fashionista. Even at eight months pregnant she could have been a model. She was lucky to have inherited Mum’s tall, eat all you want, you won’t gain an ounce physique. It was no wonder Vee made the perfect clothes horse. Unlike me, who took after our father. I looked down at the dress once more telling myself I wasn’t fat, I was big-boned. “Yes or no?” I asked my sister.

Vee sat on the bed next to my suitcase, busy tidying its contents to make room for the handful of books I hoped to squeeze in. It was clear she hadn’t heard me, that her mind was elsewhere. Baby brain, my brother-in-law called it, something to do with lower concentration levels in expectant mothers, which, of course, Mitch would know all about. The man seemed to have devoured every pregnancy book on the market and I wouldn’t have been surprised if he were prepping to deliver the baby himself. When it came to his wife’s gestation Mitch was a walking, talking encyclopaedia, with no qualms about sharing his knowledge with the rest of us. When listening to him, I might have admired his dedication, but the number of times my eyes had glazed over made me wonder if baby brain was catching.

“Vee?” I said, wanting to get on with the task at hand.

Finally, she looked up. “Ooh, yes,” she said, nodding as I indicated the dress. “That colour’s perfect with a tan.”

I wrinkled my nose, still not keen. “You don’t think it’s too short for knees like these?”

Vee glanced at my patella and rolled her eyes. “No, Holly. It’s fine.”

Although not convinced, I still passed it over, preferring to focus on the bronzed glow that Vee mentioned. I saw myself applying sun cream and catching rays as I lay on a sun-drenched beach; and pictured myself swimming in a vast expanse of glistening blue sea. I couldn’t wait to shed my woolly jumpers and cardigans, don my swimsuit, and charge towards the water’s edge ready to dive straight in. Almost able to feel the sunshine on my skin, I knew that time away from Britain’s damp, cold winter weather was just what my body and soul needed. I was about to enjoy a Christmas to remember. The countdown was on.

While Vee folded the dress and put it in the case, I reached into the wardrobe once more. “And this?” I grinned as I pulled out a maxi navy-blue boat neck. Not only was it beautiful, unlike the yellow number, it was the perfect length for hiding stocky knees. It was also my pièce de résistance, which I intended on saving for the last evening of my trip. Just because I had to start my holiday looking like an ugly duckling didn’t mean I couldn’t end it as a swan.

Not usually one for clothes, as soon as I’d seen that navy-blue dress, I knew I had to have it. And after ten days of rest, recuperation, and self-reflection, wearing that dress would be symbolic. Transformation complete, it represented out with the old, and in with the new.

My sister’s whole demeanour sprang to life, as she took in the smooth silky fabric. “Wow!” she said. “That would look fabulous with a pair of flat sandals.” She held out her hands to take it. “It’s gorgeous.”