Yes, I know. Christmas is over, the decorations have been put away, and the shops will soon be selling Easter eggs, but I actually started this story in the party season.
It was so well received I had to do a follow up for the back to work repercussions. That also went down well and I’m now working on Part three, so it’s about time you caught up. 😀
Part one below. Part two to follow during the week.
The e-mail advised us of the date for the Christmas party. The chairman and directors wished us all a Happy Christmas and thanked us for our hard work during the year.
The following day we received another round robin e-mail, this time informing us that due to the current financial climate only nominal bonuses would be paid this year. The heads of section would advise each employee individually of their entitlement, which would be included in the December salary.
Not surprisingly the gossip in the kitchen and rest room revolved around the option of ditching the Christmas party and just putting the money saved into our pay packets.
The next day we received a follow-up e-mail giving more details of the party. No excuses. We were told that unless we had a doctor’s certificate it was compulsory to attend the Christmas party. Only holidays already booked would be honoured, no requests for leave incorporating Friday 18th December would be sanctioned.
Transport had been arranged for mid-day to take us to the venue where we would be obliged to stay until five p.m. Anyone staying for at least an hour after that time would be able to claim expenses to cover the cost of getting home. Employees were reminded that thanks to the generosity of the Directors the party would be during normal working hours, and a free bar would be available until midnight.
Great, rub it in why don’t you. As it was a top London hotel the drinks bill alone would probably be more than my annual salary. What made it worse was the fact that we had a mole amongst us. Someone must have relayed the general grumbling of the staff to top management.
The e-mail went on to say that as we would be representing the company, staff were requested to dress appropriately for the occasion. Jeans and casual wear were not acceptable and would merit a written warning on their file, with the appropriate loss of bonus for the year. Suits, or preferably dinner jackets for the gentlemen, and cocktail or evening dresses for the ladies were compulsory in order to comply with the hotel’s standards.
It sounded as if it was going to be a fun, fun evening, with the chance for the Hoi Polloi to suitably grovel at the feet of the deity being the highlight of the evening. I could already guess which Mr Brown-noses would be sucking up to the Chairman’s P.A. to try to wrangle a seat at the executive dinner table. They were welcome; the rest of us were exerting similar pressure to be placed as far away from the top table as possible. Poor girl. Sometimes I didn’t envy her the job despite the exorbitant salary she earned.
The big day arrived and after an hour or so of pretending to work we skived off to the ladies to put on our slap and finery. The coaches turned up and half an hour later we were deposited on the steps of the luxury hotel. Start as you mean to go on was the order of the day. I enjoyed a drink on a night out but Champagne cocktails were not my normal lunchtime tipple.
At first people were standing around like wooden ducks, but as the drinks kicked in so the inhibitions melted. By the time we had finished the first course, a salmon mousse, washed down with the appropriate wines, the conversation began to flow more easily. We had been issued with badges showing just our first names, and I was seated at a table of twelve with no one I recognised. It seemed to be an unspoken rule that we were not allowed to mention work, but I had an interesting discussion with the elderly gentleman on my right about modern art.
A band had been playing soft background music, and as the waiters cleared the tables the M.C. announced that we would all be given a random ticket, and were to move to the seat indicated prior to the main course being served.
There was about ten minutes of confusion as people wandered about, glancing at the number and trying to find their new places. You wouldn’t believe such a simple instruction could prove so difficult to what were supposedly the best brains of one of the most successful companies in the UK.
This time I actually recognised someone. The nerd from the I.T. department was seated opposite me, and I remembered he had come on to me when I first joined the company. Gary? Graham? Peering at his name badge I saw it was Gavin. I wished I had worn my glasses as he noticed me looking and recognised me. From then on I had no peace as he hogged the conversation and droned on and on until I was almost at screaming pitch. I had no chance to even say Hello to anyone else, and couldn’t wait for the main course to be over.
Finally I escaped to the ladies to freshen up, and by the time I returned there was someone in my seat. She handed me a ticket and I found myself on the table nearest the band, the only female on a table full of men. The one on my left I actually recognised as a member of the board, but although he seemed to have had a skinful he seemed friendly enough. We chatted for a while but then he got a bit too friendly as I felt his hand going up my skirt. In other circumstances I would have wacked him round the face, but endeavouring to keep a bit of discretion I resorted to twisting his fingers back as far as I could before once more escaping to the ladies.
What an evening, or rather afternoon; it wasn’t even four yet. I was sorely tempted to give it up as a bad job and just go home. My bonus would be up the swannee anyway if the drunken pervert recognised me or knew my name. I’d drunk much more than I usually did and now I was desperate for some coffee.
I returned to the banqueting hall just in time to hear the announcement that we were now at liberty to sit wherever we chose while coffee and liqueurs were served. Plumping myself down at the nearest empty table I was on my second cup of coffee before a group of four very drunk colleagues settled themselves on the side farthest from me. Ignoring the coffee and cheese board they giggled as they summoned the waiter and ordered a bottle of Champagne.
Before long the two boys and two girls were kissing and fondling each other, oblivious to their surroundings, and with any sense of decorum long gone. I’d had enough. To hell with it. I couldn’t stand another hour of this even if the band had now started playing some dance music. Just as I stood up to leave a waiter passed me a note. Intrigued I read it then glanced around to see a drop dead gorgeous man on a nearby table beckoning me to join him.
As I sat down he introduced himself as Steve, and apologised for interfering but felt that I might have needed rescuing. At last, a human being in the midst of the madness. Although he’d obviously taken advantage of the free bar he seemed to be one of those men who were able to hold their drink, and be relaxed but not obnoxious. In fact he was the perfect gentleman, charming, attentive, and a good conversationalist.
He seemed to be interested in what my job involved, and asked what I thought of the party so far. The drink had loosed my tongue and he laughed when he saw the expression on my face. ‘That bad, huh,’ he smiled. ‘What would you have done?’ For the next ten minutes I regaled him with how it could be improved until I realised I had been hogging the conversation and abruptly shut up.
‘You mentioned you like dancing,’ he said, standing up and offering me his hand. ‘Would you care to risk it with me?’ The smouldering look in his eyes sent a shiver up my spine as we moved to the dance floor just as the band changed to a slow, smoochy song. He gently pulled me in closer to him and I could feel that he was enjoying the contact as much as I was. Whew, it was getting hot in here.
After escorting me back to our table he excused himself for a few minutes, and I had time to cool down a bit. I wondered if he had deserted me but a waiter appeared with a fresh pot of coffee, two cups and two Zambuccas. He asked me if he should light the liqueur now, or if I would prefer to wait until the gentleman returned. I told him I would wait, and felt a tinge of satisfaction at the implication that Steve would be coming back.
I was just pouring myself a coffee when he reappeared, and asked if I liked the drink, or if I would prefer something else. ‘It’s what I would have chosen,’ I smiled. ‘All it needs now is a cigarette, much as I hate to admit it.’ With a wry smile he admitted that he had popped outside to have one himself, and to get his breath back.
Without thinking my gaze dropped to his manhood, which now seemed more under control. ‘The ladies wish is my command’ he grinned, taking my hand and leading me out of the banqueting hall towards a side entrance. On the way he stopped to speak to a waiter, then escorted me into a delightful, partially hidden conservatory. Although part of the roof was open, there was a marquee covering the majority of the area, and hidden heaters made it warm and cosy. All around were comfortable sofas and pot plants giving it the feel of being indoors/outdoors.
I noticed that the small side tables held ashtrays, and just as I realised it was a smoking area the door opened to admit a waitress carrying our drinks and a fresh pot of coffee. Soft music was playing in the background and we had the place to ourselves. Steve had sat next to me on the settee, and as we talked he put his arm around my shoulders.
The conversation and drinks flowed, and it was only when we surfaced from a passionate, erotic kiss that I glanced at my watch and realised it was already well past midnight.
‘Look at the time,’ I said when we came up for air. ‘I need to arrange for a cab home.’
‘There is another option,’ he suggested quietly. ‘There’s no work tomorrow. We could stay the night, and even do a bit of sight-seeing tomorrow, unless you’ve got someone waiting for you.’
I’d had various boyfriends over the years, but a one-night stand within a few hours of meeting someone was new to me. ‘Do you think they will have a room free?’ I asked before engaging my brain.
With a melting smile he produced a key-card from his pocket and without further ado led me to Room 229. The night finished up a lot better than the day had started, and was everything I could have wished for. I woke the next morning to the sound of a knock on the door announcing room service. Steve was already up and semi-dressed, with his hair still wet from the shower.
‘I wasn’t sure what you liked so I ordered a bit of everything,’ he said as I grabbed a robe to join him at the table. Surprisingly I didn’t feel embarrassed, and the conversation flowed as easily as it had the night before. We spent the rest of the morning wandering around the shops looking at the Christmas decorations before having a light lunch. When we finished Steve hailed a cab, and after I had given my address, paid the driver, gave me a quick kiss goodbye, and that was it.
As I was riding home I realised how little I knew about Steve, not even his surname. He hadn’t asked for my phone number and I wasn’t sure he had heard me give my address. The only thing we really knew about each other was that we worked for the same company, and both liked 60s and 70s music.
It was odd that we hadn’t bumped into each other in all the years I had worked there. I’m sure I would have remembered him, so perhaps he had only recently joined the firm.
Monday at work was full of the Christmas party, who had got bladdered and who had ended up in someone else’s bed. Eventually we settled down to work although it was fairly quiet, until a last minute rush on Christmas Eve. Many of the employees adjoined to the local pub before ten days of freedom until after the New Year.
The fifth of January rolled around all too soon, with the need to get back into working mode. Mid-afternoon another round robin e-mail rolled into the inbox. The management wished us a Happy and Prosperous New Year and hoped we had all enjoyed the Christmas party. Staff were reminded they needed to submit their receipts for travel expenses before the fifteenth, which would then be processed with January salaries.
Due to information received, the next Christmas party would be in a brand new format. Further information would be provided in due course. The input from those members of staff who had provided the appropriate feedback was acknowledged.
The company were delighted to announce that after extensive negotiations, with effect from the 1st January we had become part of the ABC-D Corporation. Our new M.D. Mr Steven Holden looked forward to getting to know us all personally over the coming months.
I was so gobsmacked as I looked at the accompanying photo of ‘my’ Steve I almost missed the final paragraph.
‘In accordance with the paragraph above will the following staff please report to the boardroom on the dates and times indicated.’
Opening the attachment I was horrified to find my own name amongst the list of a dozen others, known to all and sundry as the ones who would fawn over and try to curry favour with the management.
Rereading the paragraph about the provision of feedback, my heart sank as I tried to remember exactly what I had said to Steve about the things wrong with the company. Office gossip was one thing, tongues always wagged at the Christmas party as the barriers came down, but I had never considered myself an informer.