The office party

By Pam Keevil

Published on 8th December 2015

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Office parties are not my favourite places in the festive season but they are a necessary evil. This year, though I had put my foot down. Father Christmas would be absent as no one could be cajoled into dressing up in a red suit that resembled a onesie with a thick beard and long white hair that would ensure the wearer was melting within seconds. Derek from accounts had officiated for years but he had retired and the younger members of staff preferred sartorial elegance over tradition although in the super-heated atmosphere, any resemblance to smartness or fashion would have disappeared by the end of the evening, along with inhibitions and respect for the boss. The latter now included me, since my promotion to Deputy Team Manager. Besides, who really wanted a tacky visit from the Big Claus, accompanied as it was by a cheap box of chocolates and a flabby kiss on the cheek?

So on the last Friday before the enforced close-down, I had spread a table with a cloth decorated with robins and enough paper plates, plastic glasses and cutlery to grace a picnic. The obligatory calorie laden party food had been delivered by local caterers (no cheap crisps and sawdust laden sausage rolls this time) and there was wine, beer and cider. OK, I may be a party pooper but home-made punch which strips the enamel from your teeth is not a delicacy I enjoy and last year it cost a fortune to clean vomit from the photo copier not to mention the carpet.

But we never got to that stage. After precisely thirty five minutes of enforced jollity- yes I was timing how many agonising minutes I’d have to be there, a screaming fire alarm ripped through the building. ‘Keep calm folks, let me check the console. It may just be a false alarm.’ The role of Deputy Team Manager also meant I was the Fire Marshall. The alarm had been triggered in another part of the building. ‘Just grab your bags and let’s get out,’ I said and ushered everyone down the fire escape. We assembled at the designated point. Within a couple of minutes a fire engine swooped into the car park and a tall fire-fighter with the biggest brown eyes I’d ever seen came forward. ‘Any one left inside?’
‘No. We’re all out of our section but I don’t know about the rest of the building.’ I’d managed to retrieve the emergency folder before we left the office and so was now attired in my fluorescent yellow Marshall’s top.
‘Well we’ve been told it’s deserted but we have to check. ‘They went into their well drilled routine and as I watched I wondered what it would be like to be picked up in a fireman’s lift by Mr Brown Eyes. Thirty minutes later it was all over. The alarm had been set off by a fault but by now, no one really wanted to go back and restart the party.
‘It’s all ready for you to return.’ Brown Eyes came over and despite the voluminous clothes, his chiselled cheeks and chin suggested a slim figure that worked out.
‘I bet you get loads of these at this time of year?’ I looked up at his face. The lines round his eyes suggested he laughed a lot. I liked that.
‘At least I’m off duty now,’ he said and the face creased into a smile.
‘So it must be party time for you?’ I know I was fishing but good looking men don’t come my way that often and I’ve always liked uniform.
He shook his head. ‘Nope. I’m doing a favour for a mate at the local hostel.’
‘Josh? Debrief?’ Another fire fighter called him.
He nodded. ‘Enjoy the party’ and he was gone.

The party never did get restarted. The local wine bar was more enticing so everyone drifted off. I stayed behind to lock up and tidy away. At least when we reopened after New Year it would be to start work in a clear office. I popped my head into the wine bar, said a quick goodbye and headed off home. I was knackered, starving and wanted a hot bath, a glass of wine and a warm bed.

I was driving out of the town at about half seven when I saw a figure in red up ahead. It was Father Christmas with a huge bag on his back, trudging along. Yes I know. I couldn’t believe it either. As I slowed to pass him, he stuck out his thumb and looked in my direction. I knew that face. ‘Josh?’
‘How do you know my name?’
‘You were my knight in shining armour that came charging in on a fire tender.’
‘You’re the lady at the office party?’
I nodded. ‘Do you need a lift?’
He checked his watch. ‘Please. I’ve got to get to the hostel for the carol service and the car died on me. I’ve left it in the lay-by back there.’

So I drove him to the hostel and even volunteered to help him hand out a present to everyone (yes, you’ve guessed it, they were boxes of chocolates). After we’d exchanged phone numbers, he leaned forward and planted a kiss on my cheek. Do you know what? It certainly wasn’t a flabby kiss and I was looking forward to one that ventured closer to my lips. Who knows, perhaps there’s something in this Santa Claus lark after all?

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