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by Theodora-Maria Mrejeru

The Christmas season is here! If you don’t believe it, look at the decorations that are all around town and the huge tree that was set a week ago in the main square. You would think that the snow would stop people from getting ready for the winter festivities, but it didn’t, rather it motivated them to compete against each other to see who can hang the Christmas lights better.

And they say Christmas is all about being good, right? It’s about being with your loved ones. Or is that tradition dead too?

Christmas is also about being generous. It is about being the first one to help the old lady cross the street. It is about being kind to the person who runs into you because they are in a rush. Or maybe it is about the smallest things: those little things that make your soul light up after a long day, those little things that put a smile on your face. Like planning to murder someone. Just joking! Or am I?

Anyway, where were we? Oh yes, we were talking about Christmas. In particular, about two days before Christmas Eve around 12:00, when I was sitting in a café. It was a busy morning. Everyone was running around in the city centre to get last minute presents. You can, of course, be one of those people who actually get Christmas presents in advance, but not Khrione. Nope, not her. In spite of her anxious nature and her concerning obsession with planning everything in advance, she tended to let herself lag behind during the Christmas season. 

After enjoying a well-deserved coffee break, she returned to the hunt ignoring her phone which kept buzzing every now and then with messages about the Christmas party. 

“WHERE ARE YOU? AND WHY ARE YOU NOT PICKING UP?” she heard as soon as she picked up the phone. She had finally decided to talk to Lara after 10 missed calls.

“I am… a little busy at the moment,” said Khrione. She squeezed herself through the crowd to get to one of the shops on her list. The only problem was it was going to take her hours to get inside.

“Are you doing last Christmas shopping again?!” asked Lara, hearing the noise on the other side of the line. “You told me you wouldn’t do this again after last year.”

“I was busy, okay?” responded Khrione with a loud sigh, moving on to the next shop on the list. “I was crammed with work. Do I have to remind you that I don’t have the same luxury you do?”

“It’s your fault you weren’t gifted like me,” teased Lara. “How many times did I tell you to leave that office job and live the artist’s life with me?”

“Too many times,” replied Khrione and they both laughed. 

“I hope you didn’t forget about the party. My place at 8 and not a minute later.”

“I’ll call you later,” said Khrione, before the noise from the people passing by her became too loud.

“I hope you are going to dress-” started Lara, but Khrione had already ended the call. Lara had this habit of reminding her not to come dressed up as a librarian, which she did not. It wasn’t her fault they were always hanging out after work. Not that she was a librarian, not lately at least. 

As every other year, Christmas was going to be spent with her friends, and the friends of their friends, who were actually more than friends. Lara had just got into a new relationship last month “for the ‘Winter Season’”, as she liked to say. Her brother, Marcus, was already in a two-year-long relationship and Philip was bringing another good friend of his. As boring as it may seem, the group had met in college and been inseparable ever since. Especially her and Lara, despite their completely opposite natures. 

After Khrione made sure everything was checked off the list, she headed home to wrap everything in nice Christmas wrapping and ribbons. She was the most excited about the gift she had made for Lara: an album with the photos from their last trip together to France. It was a memorable one and Khrione found herself laughing when she saw the photo of them making silly poses in front of the Eiffel Tower and the photo where Lara was trying to break some of the locks from the so-called ‘Love bridge’ or Pont des Arts.

Sometimes Khrione wished it could remain like this forever, but she knew eventually all of them were going to settle down. She suspected Marcus wanted to propose to his girlfriend at the party, Philip has been telling her about a girl he was talking to at work and even Lara was in somewhat of a relationship. But who needs that ‘special someone’ when Khrione already had the best friends she could ever have, right?

The night of the party, Khrione headed to Lara’s apartment as promised. As she expected, she was the first to arrive.

“What did you buy me?” asked Lara, inspecting Khrione’s bag before she could even enter.

“You’ll have to wait and see,” replied Khrione with a playful smirk. Lara sighed and frowned like a five-year-old. The other guests arrived shortly and, after Lara finally stopped talking about how amazing and charming her new boyfriend was, they exchanged the presents. Lara got very excited about the album and the boys laughed when they found in their bags their new ugly Christmas sweaters.

“I can’t believe this!” said Philip, as he pulled out  a green sweater with a Golden Retriever with a red nose attached to a sleigh. Khrione laughed. However, Marcus and his girlfriend started talking about why they didn’t think about this idea themselves. As one would expect the argument escalated quickly into a fight, so Khrione decided to go pour herself a drink in the kitchen.

“Pour me one of those too,” said Philip, holding his cup towards her. “There is no Christmas without family drama, am I right?”

“You mean without a circus.” Khrione giggled and took a sip of her drink. Suddenly her phone buzzed in her pocket: first one message, then another one and another one.

She reached for  her phone and soon her expression changed.

Unknown number: Enjoying the party, Agent White? It would be a shame if you didn’t since this might be your last.  

Unknown number: That’s why I want to deliver my present for you personally this year. Be ready to smile at me when you notice the red dot. 

Unknown number : Oh yes, I almost forgot: Merry Christmas!

Khrione looked down to her chest and noticed a small red dot glitching. She had made sure her location was untraceable before arriving at Lara's,as she did every time. Still, somehow her lovely enemy had found a way past that. 

Years of enduring Lara’s nagging about why she was working so much seemed like a waste since they all were going to die.

“Khrione? What’s that?” asked Philip, unsure of whether he was imagining the red dot because of all the eggnog he had been drinking.

“Get down!” was the last thing Khrione yelled before a bullet shattered the glass.


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