"Okay," said the host. "David's team, I'm going to need to push you for an answer. Was Sally's first acting job voicing a toy commercial?"
As the camera panned over Sally and then cut to David on the television screen, Emilia snuggled against Kim's chest, popping more popcorn into her mouth as she did.
"What do you think?" mumbled Emilia between chews, eyes locked on the screen.
"I think it's true. Like, everyone did ads when they were starting out," Kim supposed, grabbing some popcorn for herself.
"Well," began David, his voice trickling out of the TV speakers, "My team and I think that it might be true. I mean, we all did work we regret early in our careers."
"I haven't!" laughed the host with a tone of mock offense, and a ripple of laughter ran through the crowd.
"Let me rephrase that," replied David dryly, "Those of us who take pride in our work did. But, we think it's true."
"Well," the host began, stunned by the retort as the crowd bawled with laughter, "Sally, true or false?"
"I hate to say it, but it's true!" giggled Sally as the audience applauded, and the panel started to laugh.
"Fantastic. Yes, it's true, Sally's first acting job was doing the voiceover for a toy commercial!" said the host. "And, we have a special treat for you all, as we managed to dig up that ad. Let's give it a look!"
The screen cut to decades-old footage of several girls playing with a doll as a disembodied voice spoke over it. "Lovely Lilly is ready to dance at the ball," spoke the voice as Emilia's eyes went wide.
"I remember that doll!" she exclaimed, wiggling under the blanket. "I wanted it for Christmas when I was a kid."
Kim glanced over at Emilia, then back at the screen. "Did you get it?" However, the second the words left her mouth, Emilia's body language changed. Her relaxed contentment suddenly morphed into anxiousness. She looked up at Kim, obviously trying to find the words.
"Well, Mom didn't have much money," she mumbled, "that, and asking for dolls was kinda taboo. Because, well. You know," she said, tears forming at the corner of her eyes.
"Oh gosh," gasped Kim as she rubbed Emilia's hair, instantly realizing that she had hit a sore spot, "I'm sorry, sweetie. Yeah, I understand," she said softly, "I didn't think."
"It's okay," replied Emilia as she forced a smile, obviously pulling herself back. "It is a silly thing to get worked up over after all this time."
"Not at all. If it hurts, it hurts, and it's fine to feel sad about it," Kim said with a comforting tone. "You know I'm here for you. However, you feel," she said as she leaned down and kissed Emilia on the cheek.
"I know, I know," Emilia responded softly. "I appreciate it." She went to speak again, but as she opened her mouth, her eyes were drawn back to the screen. "Oh, they've given Lee an object to lie about. This is going to be good!" she said, losing her train of thought as she did.
However, as Emilia returned her focus to the show, the cogs in Kim's brain started to turn as a plan began to form. Even if she didn't want to push the matter now, she couldn't let Emilia's words fall on deaf ears.
On Christmas morning, Emilia jumped out of bed. Her head was spinning with excitement. She looked around with confusion; she never usually felt this awake in the mornings. But today, Emilia felt amazing, like she had just drunk a coffee and finished a workout. It was like she was floating across the ground as if she had become lighter than air.
She threw the bedroom door open only to find Kim just on the other side. "Good morning!" chirped Kim as she adjusted the Christmas-patterned apron she was wearing over her clothes. "How are you this morning?"
"I feel," started Emilia, trying to find the words to describe her situation. "Weirdly. Hyper?" Replied Emilia after some thought, "Like, I'm wired, and I don't know why."
"Well, that's the Christmas spirit," chuckled Kim. "It gets into all of us!"
"But," mumbled Emilia. "I don't usually feel like this. Its. I feel," she murmured. "Like, also a little dumb? Like I'm not thinking straight." Before she could say another word, Emilia spotted a pile of wrapped gifts under the tree.
She instantly lost her train of thought as a wave of excitement washed over her. "Presents!" she shouted before running over to the tree and sitting on the floor next to the gifts.
"Oh yes," nodded Kim.
"I," mumbled Emilia as she swayed back and forth on her butt. "I feel funny," she said softly. "It's hard to word it," she continued, but as she did Kim reached behind the pile and produced a long, ornately wrapped present and handed it to Emilia.
"You should open this first," she offered. Emilia grabbed for the box and quickly tore a strip of paper off without thinking. What she saw underneath it made her heart skip a beat. Under the wrapping sat a very familiar doll, one she had thought about for years.
"Lovely Lilly!" gasped Emilia as her bottom lip started to wobble. "How did you?" Without waiting for a response, she pulled the rest of the paper off and hugged the doll to her chest.
"I'm good at searching, and I may have called in a couple of favors here and there,” Kim answered with a grin as Emilia looked on at her doll.
"This is just so kind of you. This is the sweetest gift anyone has ever given me."
"I'm glad you like her. You two make a cute pair.”
"I," mumbled Emilia as she squeezed the doll again, the look in her eyes making it clear that she was trying to phrase a thought. "My head feels. Overwhelmed. I'm giddy. Just happy, but so much more." She gently rubbed the doll's hair. "I can hardly contain myself," she continued, her voice turning into a whimper. "Just, this is so kind of you."
Kim smiled as she wrapped her arm around Emilia. "I might not have been around to give you the experiences you deserved as a kid, but I'm here to help you have them now."
Emilia looked up at Kim, several emotions dancing on her face as her eyes started to water. "I don't know what to say," she gasped as she buried her head into Kim's chest. "I'm all turned upside down."
"Well," chuckled Kim. "That's partially my fault. The other day, your brain and I had a little chat," she said gently before tapping Emilia's temple. "And, we decided that as you have nothing important or responsible to do today, then you don't need a lot of your complex thoughts. So, we decided to turn them off so you can have a nice, carefree Christmas. And, so you can enjoy Lilly without anything else bothering you."
"You hypnotized me to think less," giggled Emilia, "Really?"
"While I may have learned hypnosis for evil, kinky reasons, that doesn't mean I can't use it for nice things now and again," laughed Kim. "I'm allowed to be good one day a year. It's in my contract," she added as she continued to pet Emilia.
"But," began Emilia between giggles and sniffles, "This is still more than I ever expected."
"That's okay, I want to do it," reassured Kim as she reached into her pocket. "And I have another surprise," she explained as she pulled her phone out of her pocket and opened up a messaging app.
Emilia squeezed the doll again before looking at the phone, the wetness in her eyes making the words blur together slightly. She recognized the group chat as it was one both she and Kim were in. However, she had never seen the channel Kim had opened.
It was titled "Christmas Traditions," and the first message in the chat was from Kim. "I'm throwing a surprise for Emilia, so I need your favorite childhood Christmas traditions, go!" read the message. The rest of the channel was full of replies from Kim and Emilia's friends, all of them describing their family's traditions.
"How have I never spotted this," she started, only for her thoughts to immediately answer her own question.
"Hypnosis," spoke Kim and Emilia in unison.
"I wanted to make this as magical as possible, so I did some market research!" explained Kim as she continued to rub Emilia's hair. "As it turns out, there are just so many traditions to experience!"
"Oh gosh," whispered Emilia, tears rolling down her cheeks, "You're so kind."
"Oh no, I can't take all the credit," chuckled Kim, “ I want to make sure you have the best day possible. You deserve it."
"I," stuttered Emilia as she squeezed the doll tight against her chest, "I'm so happy."
"And that makes me the happiest woman in the world," replied Kim as she kissed Emilia's cheek. "Why don't you open the rest of your presents? I've got pancakes to make. Sasha's mom's recipe is surprisingly exact!"
"Okay," agreed Emilia with a nod before looking up at Kim, "Thank you for this. I can't put my love into words right now."
"You don't have to," Kim said, smiling as she kissed Emilia on the forehead. "Love you, too." She tightened her apron strings and made her way to the kitchen. "I just know you're going to love what I've got planned for the day," she teased as Emilia squeezed Lilly and picked up another present, allowing her mind to sink into the excited fuzzy warmth of the day.