The Christmas Party

By: Carole Matthews

The Day of the Christmas Party





Chapter One

‘You need to have eyes in the back of your head with that one, Louise Young. You mark my words.’ Karen from Customer Accounts gives me a meaningful look and inclines her head towards my dear boss’s office. ‘There was a scandal involving his last personal assistant, you know.’

I didn’t.

She leans forward and checks that no one’s listening. Quite unlikely when there are only the two of us here.

‘There was talk all over the office about an affair.’ The last bit is whispered, feigning discretion while she clearly relishes sharing the gossip. ‘She was a nice girl too. By all accounts.’

I’m sure she was.

‘Everyone called her Knicker-Dropper Debbie after what happened.’

‘Wow.’

‘Oh, yeah.’ Karen flicks the tinsel she’s wearing as a feather boa and examines her nails. Her reputation as the office oracle is a source of great pride to her. I only met her a few weeks ago, when she kindly helped me with a query about one of Tyler’s clients, but I already feel as if she’s been a good friend to me. She’s been showing me the ropes at Fossil Oil and I’m glad of her insights. There’s nothing she doesn’t know.

So I’m also hoping that Karen is my best bet in relieving my current plight. It’s fair to say that I’m experiencing certain difficulties at Fossil Oil, and up to now I’ve been trying to handle them by myself, but I can’t hold it in any longer. Anyway, I’ve finally taken my courage in both hands and spilled the beans, confiding my woes to Karen. She doesn’t look surprised at all, which worries me even more.

Deep breath. Here goes. I hate to admit it but my boss, Tyler Benson, takes every opportunity to touch, grope or brush against me. I’ve never encountered anything like this before and I’m at a loss. I just don’t know how to deal with it. He’s my boss, my senior here. I should be looking up to him, learning from him. He should be mentoring me, teaching me. I shouldn’t spend my days running round my desk to keep away from him like I’m in a Benny Hill comedy. It’s got to stop and I’m hoping that Karen, as she clearly knows the score here at Fossil Oil, might have some bright ideas.

Besides, who else can I tell? I’m the new girl and I don’t feel I can go running straight to Human Resources the minute something goes wrong. What would that look like? They might think I’m too weak to manage my job. I’m a responsible grown-up and have to show that I can stand up to Tyler and sort this out myself. But, believe me, I think I’ve done all I can to communicate to him that I’d rather he kept his distance and didn’t paw me. However, it seems to be like water off a duck’s back to Tyler. Which is tricky, because on the one hand I love my new job and really need to maintain a good relationship with him. But on the other hand I don’t want things to carry on like this.

‘You need to tread carefully with Tyler,’ Karen warns. ‘He’s such a slimy toad, everyone knows that, yet he can do no wrong in this place.’

‘Why?’

‘Brilliant salesman. That’s all this company is bothered about.’ Karen deals with the tea she’s brought from the vending machine for us both, stirring this way and that with a plastic spoon in a ponderous manner. ‘I can’t stand him, but you can’t deny that he knows how to play the corporate game.’

I think I realised that on day one.

‘When it all blew up, poor Debbie was the one who was squeezed out, not Golden Balls.’ Tea dispensed, Karen continues to play with her tinsel adornment. ‘You don’t want that.’

I most certainly don’t.

Karen and I had a tea-break date to meet up in the staff canteen but at my request she’s come to my office instead. If I don’t use this short time to put up some Christmas decorations in here, there won’t be any at all. Tomorrow is Christmas Eve and I need to get a move on or I’ll miss the boat completely. There are some fabulous, outsize baubles hanging in the main atrium of the building, but the rest of the place is bare. I’d hate it if I didn’t mark Christmas at all in my own office. How miserable would that be?

‘I don’t know why you’re bothering,’ Karen says, nodding towards my stash of decorations as I blow up yet another balloon.

I pinch the top closed and take a breather. ‘It’s Christmas. I want it to look pretty.’

Karen waves a hand at my decorations. ‘Christmas a-go-go.’

‘Likey?’

‘Lovey. They’re too good for this place.’

They’re actually mostly bits and bobs that I brought from home. Mum and Dad have boxes and boxes of the stuff in the loft, lovingly gathered over the years. They are the king and queen of Christmas junk and they didn’t mind me pinching a few bits to liven this place up. I think Mum was quite relieved that I was taking some of it off her hands. Our loft must be like the Tardis. She’s accumulated so much Christmas stuff over the years, there’s barely room for the humans once she gets it all out. Still, I have to say that they don’t look too bad at all.

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