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Gina hadn't managed to get any sleep.
The pain just grew and grew in her face, and somehow it seemed to have spread all over her head.
Tears had been running down her cheeks since about 3 o'clock in the morning.
Nothing could take her mind off it; emailing and texting friends until midnight, playing on her brother Mark's PS2, trying to wrap presents for him and her mum.
She'd been dosed up as much as she was allowed to be on paracetamol, but nothing had worked.
She stared out of her bedroom window into the darkness.
The street was dimly lit by a lamp-post, an occasional light was on in houses where someone was getting up to go to work, and a few stars could be seen as clouds drifted across the cold sky.
What sort of Christmas was this going to be now, she'd planned so hard this year.
The first term of Year 10 had gone okay.
She'd saved as much money as she could from baby-sitting for family and friends, plus bits and pieces from dinner money.
She'd even done her maths homework and produced a draft for her English essay as soon as the term was over, so that she could chill with friends, prepare for the big day and help her hard-working mother with the shopping and decorations.
There hadn't been any major arguments, everything had progressed nicely since school had broken up...and now this!
Gina buried her aching face and swollen eyes into her pillow, making herself as still as possible.
Mum and Mark were getting up for work.
She didn't want to worry them by showing she'd been awake all night.
Mark would be in the kitchen at the hotel until he finished work at 9pm this evening.
He was in the second year of his catering course, with ambitions to be a top chef and was grateful for the Christmas work, even if it meant he had to be back in on Boxing Day.
Mum finished at the college admin office at 12 noon, then she would be back for Gina and they'd go.
Somehow she'd dozed for about 40 minutes, but the pain woke her; sharp, throbbing, piercing her face and head.
It would soon be unbearable.
She lay on her back in the half-dark, staring at the pale green ceiling and the round, red paper lamp-shade hanging above her.
Oh please make it stop, just for a while.
She forced herself to stagger to the kitchen for more pain-killers.
Every step sent agonising shock-waves pulsing through her but she had no choice.
She'd splashed her face with cold water, as that was all she could cope with.
She couldn't manage food but had forced herself to sip half a mug of tea when she'd taken her tablets, then dozed again for a quarter of an hour.
Then she'd lain groaning in front of the TV, watching all manner of programmes in an attempt to distract her mind from the excruciating pain. Monkey Life, Nature's Great Events, some MTV, even old episodes of Bargain Hunt and Antiques Roadshow.
The phone rang and Gina dragged herself off the sofa to answer it.
Stifling her sniffles, she lifted the receiver.
"How are you doing, babe?"
She tried to be brave but it was so difficult.
"Okay, I guess...it really hurts, Mum. I can't stand it."
"I know, that's why I'm ringing. My manager let me off work early; maybe there's a bit of Christmas spirit floating around, after all.
You get ready and I'll be back in about half an hour, all right?"
Gina's tears flowed again, Oh please let it end.
Her mother held her hand tightly.
"Come on sweetheart, let's do this," as she pushed against the plate glass entrance door.
Gina lay motionless.
Her mother watched over her child, taking an occasional deep breath and gently stroking her daughter's limp arm.
Her eyelids fluttered, and her mum squeezed her hand.
"Hi, babe, how are you doing?"
Gina's eyes wandered around the living room.
"I feel a bit fuzzy..."
"Well, you just stay on the sofa, keep warm and take your time. Fancy a cup of tea?"
"Yeah please, can I have a biscuit too, one of the Christmas shortbread's?"
"Of course you can, you lie still and I'll be back in a few minutes. If you like you can have a mince pie and cream?"
"Oh fab! Then I'll finish off wrapping the pressies and doing theTree."
Her mum smiled with relief, "Merry Christmas G."
Gina smiled in return, "and you, Mum, thanks for everything."
"No probs, you just take it easy for now."
"Yes my sweet."
"I'm never going to moan about the dentist again, that was the best early Christmas present I could ever have!"
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