With her back already turned to her coworker, Sydnie didn't bother hiding her grimace. It was more difficult to keep her ears from sagging. "I'll do my best," she promised with as much cheer as she could muster, slipping her hands into her pockets and heading for the door. "Good evening."
"Have a good one."
Once outside, the Tam-illee foxine leaned against the cold wall of her building. She stared morosely at her reflection in a nearby window, a humanoid shape bundled in heavy clothing, her almost completely human face and eyes betrayed by the slight hint of gold fur and the vulpine ears. She turned her gaze to the overcast December sky.
"'I'll do my best'," she said to herself. "Ha! I'll be doing my best if I even show up."
The corner of Hope and Tammerlane glittered in the sunset, snow freshly arranged in skirts around the office buildings of the city's tech corridor. A golden or silver light burned in every window, and many of the skyscrapers' lower floors had been decorated with evergreen boughs or strings of colored lights. Absently aware of how her breaths left her flared nostrils in ticklish plumes, Sydnie began to walk along the half-buried sidewalk. Faint music plagued her sensitive ears, ferreting beneath the scarf's inadequate protection; her golden fur stood on end in the chill, even beneath the heavy woolen coat.
Sydnie studied the IRISc skyscraper as she trudged through the snow, admiring the tasteful arrangement of pinpoint white lights against the cool gray marble of its facade. It reminded her of the decorations at the Esterby House, where she'd roomed for the four years of her education. Memories of helping 'Mama' Joanna drag in the Christmas tree brought a smile to her very abbreviated muzzle, and the Tam-illee suppressed a chuckle. By the time all her 'sisters' had finished adding their holiday paraphernalia, the house could have sauntered out of a religious nightmare. They'd managed to marry the yule log, menorah, and celestial quadranta, but Relashcha's weapons altar had seemed quite out-of-place beside the holographic starfield and the icon of Mother Mary…
The sharp tang of spruce resin almost choked her when she gulped in her unexpected, dejected whine. Embarrassed at her lapse into self-pity, Sydnie quickened her pace. Despite her determination, walking to Ecliptic Arms required an extra ten minutes with snow and holiday traffic. Lead weights could have been attached to her legs by the time she pulled herself up the stairs to her apartment, knuckles aching as they grasped the frosted metal of the banister.