"What?" I shouted down the phone, "You mean now?" I jumped up with a mixture of surprise, delight, fear, and anticipation. At that exact moment, Janet walked through the door with one of the pool girls. I stared at her wide-eyed and scared witless.
She put a hand to her mouth when she realized what was happening. Dropping everything on the desk, she grabbed my coat from the hat stand and helped me struggle into it as I listened to the hospital on the other end of the line. Holy shit balls. It was happening. Think, Dumbo, think. "Alright, okay, yeah," I nodded.
I glanced up at the clock on the wall, "When did it start? Is she alright? Uh, not sure. Depends on traffic. Twenty minutes or so I guess. Yeah. Did she bring her things? Is her friend Melissa with her? Not sure. Last week. Blood and stuff. I AM calm. On my way!"
I slammed the phone down and ran to the door with Janet pushing me from behind and the pool girl standing there bouncing up and down on the spot clapping. "Good luck!" she squealed as I turned and looked at the older woman standing next to me.
Janet was beaming from ear to ear as she grabbed me by the lapels and kissed me on the cheek. "Didn't I always tell you that thing of yours would get you into trouble?" she winked as she made sure I was properly wrapped up against the cold.
I laughed at her and gave her a hug.
"Go on," she urged, "Go see what that wife of yours has been making for you."
Sleigh bells ring are you listening? In the lane, snow is glistening. It's a wonderful sight so happy tonight walking in a Winter Wonderland. Gone away has the bluebird...
There was a knock on my office door. Jimmy opened it and stood there posing in the doorway covered with tinsel and various colored baubles. "Hey Boss," he grinned seductively, "How do I look?"
I glanced up at him briefly before turning my attention back to my paperwork. "You're not that good looking and I'm not that desperate. Sorry."
"There speaks the voice of a curmudgeon," Jimmy sighed as he clutched his heart and skipped into the office, "With no sense of occasion," He waved his arms around, "Look at this place. The last working week before Christmas and not a decoration or tree in sight. Did Rudolph crap on your lawn or something?"
HO HO HO. I put my pen down and sat back in my chair. This week was always like this. Make merry on the clock. I glanced through the window to my left where the troops had their noses to the grindstone and saw the room decked out with streamers, ribbons, miniature Christmas trees, cards and a whole bunch of other useless crap.
Jimmy perched himself on the end of my desk and pointed at me. "You're problem, Boss," he said firmly, "Is that you don't live in the moment. You're always trying to think two steps ahead of the game. Always trying to find an advantage. Christmas doesn't work like that. Christmas is the here and now. Make the most of it. I mean, aren't you even going to the party on Friday?"
The Christmas party?
There was more chance of me sleeping with his Mother than me going to something like that. Christmas would be done in my own way. A last minute shop on Christmas Eve then a drive upstate to spend the big day with family and the intention to be back in my own apartment by six that same evening.
Bah humbug and all that.
"Some people just don't know a good thing when they see it," said Jimmy as he hopped off my desk and looked at his watch, "Speaking of which. Any minute now..."
The door suddenly banged open and in walked Janet carrying a big box followed by one of the new pool girls who was arm in arm with Heather with the pair of them holding a 3-foot green plastic fern between them.
The hell is this?
Janet put the box on a chair and began to take out various decorations and ornaments as the other two girls stood there laughing.
As always, my gaze was drawn to the girl with rusty colored hair who was whispering and giggling with her companion in arms. She was dressed in a red sleeveless vee necked sweater, cream blouse, black knee length skirt and black stockings and ankle boots.
"Er," I said, "Hang on. What are you lot doing?"
Janet leaned across the desk and rang a tiny bell in my face. "Making merry, Mr. Sloane," she laughed, "It's about time someone showed you how a little Christmas spirit is good for the soul."
"I don't do Christmas," I muttered as I sat and folded my arms watching them decorate my office.
"Everyone does Christmas!" said the new girl.
Heather waved her right hand in her general direction. "This is Phoebe," she grinned, "She's from the second floor. She works in records. Don't you, Pheebs."
Phoebe, a tall, skinny thing with what looked like a ginger poodle-permed afro gave me the thumbs up. "I sure do. Pleased to meet you, Mr. Sloane," she said cheerily as she looked through the office window at the rest of the department taking their mid-morning break, "Wow, I always wondered what the tenth floor looked like. Scary."
I gave her a nod and flat smile.
Janet stood holding the bare tree. "Now where can I put this?" she wondered as she looked around for a suitable spot.
"Try the bin," I said helpfully.
"Shush you," she laughed, "Oh, I know. Why don't we put it right here."
Right here was right on the corner of my desk. I gave up. Okay. Do your worst. I held my hands up. "Alright, you win," I sighed, "I'll set fire to the thing later."
Sometimes I say the right things at the wrong times.
A good ten minutes later, we all stood by the door looking at their efforts to get a little bit of the old festive spirit running through my veins.
Heather whispered to her friend.
"Uh uh, it's better. Definitely better. The tree is pretty and everything." she replied as Janet opened the door.
"Small steps and all that," she nodded, "Everything worth doing takes time. Maybe even one day he'll come to the Christmas party."
Phoebe looked shocked. "You don't even do the Christmas party?"
Oh, good grief.
Janet put her arms around the younger girls shoulders. "Mr. Sloane's idea of Christmas is to find a nice quiet pub and be sat at the end of a bar with a drink in hand."
Phoebe looked at me with a frown. "You sound like my Dad," she sighed feeling sorry for me, "He was a proper Grinch. He used to spend most of Christmas Day in his shed with a crate of beer."
"Alright ladies," clapped Janet, "Job done. Back to work!"
As all three women turned to leave, I walked over to the box which was still on the chair and looked inside it for no particular reason at all. There amongst the empty plastic bags and paper packets, something caught my eye. Something Janet had forgotten to add to the decorations already put up in the office. Curious, I reached in and picked it up.
I smiled slowly when I saw what it was. Oh, Ho Ho.
"Wait," I said to them, "Uh, I'd like a word with Miss. Macallister. Can you spare her for a few minutes, Janet?"
Janet stared at me for a moment then nodded. "Yes, of course," She put her hand on Heather's arm and whispered to her. Heather carefully took two steps to her right so that she was standing in the corner of the room next to various filing cabinets.
"Don't worry," I said, "I'll bring her back down when I've had a word with her. You two run along now."
Janet glanced between us as she and Phoebe turned and left the office as I walked to the door and slowly closed it after them.
As I walked over to my desk, I saw her head slightly turn as she listened to me moving around in front of her. She was probably wondering why I had asked her to remain behind and I could see she was pensive and unsure. I leaned back against the edge of my desk staring at her as she stood there with both hands clasped in front of her and twiddling her thumbs.
She swaying gently with her face turning to her right as she listened to the sounds coming from the main room where everyone worked on the tenth floor next to my office. I glanced to my right and looked through the dividing window seeing that no one was taking any notice of us.
"Mr. Sloane, I um," she frowned, "There isn't anything wrong is there?"
No, Miss. Macallister. There would never ever be anything wrong to me as far as you're concerned. I eased up and went to the window separating my office from the rest of the department and slowly pulled the blinds shut to leave us both standing there alone in our own little private space. I walked over to stand in front of her watching the rise and fall of her chest as her breathing quickened.
"Where are you?" she asked.
I bent forward slightly until my face was close to hers.
Heather gave a gasp of surprise and stepped back to find herself up against the office furniture. She raised her right hand and reached slowly forward into space before she touched my face. "Oh!" she smiled as her fingers traced my jaw, "There you are."
There I am.
I held up the mistletoe.
Here we are.
Just you and me and a little luck.
"What are you doing?" she asked quickly as she dropped her hand.
I slowly reached forward with my right hand and wrapped my arm around her lower back which made her mouth drop open with surprise. "What do people usually do when they find themselves under the mistletoe?" I asked her as I drew her to me until her body was close to mine and I could feel her trembling in my arms.
Her hands rested against my chest as I lowered my face to hers.
"They kiss," she breathed as she pressed herself firmly against me and I could feel the way her body responded to the anticipation growing between us.
I watched as she tilted her face up so that my lips could find hers. Their first touch was light and tender. A soft caress like butterflies playing on a warm breeze before we finally gave in to the restrained passion we both obviously felt for each other.
Heather gave a low, happy, guttural moan of deep pleasure as I reached behind her head with my right hand and gripped her thick lush hair to hold her still. Even through my shirt and her sweater, I could feel the hammering of her heart as I pressed on with the kiss. Firmer. More insistent. Until our lips clashed fiercely in some sort of wanton duel that left us both gasping for breath as I suddenly let her go and stepped back.
The blind girl stood there panting as she tried to gather herself. She swallowed hard twice and brought her right hand up to her bruised lips. Then she groaned and looked up to where she imagined I was standing staring at her.
I was about to go for her again when she held up her hand to stop me.
"No," she gasped, "Wait. Stop. Don't," She was breathing hard with her breasts thrusting forward like some emotional battering ram that would drive me insane.
I stood there staring at her with my hands balled into fists in front of me. Holy shit. It felt like she had ripped out my heart and only put it back when she was done with it. What was she doing to me? It really felt like I had been there and back again. I swear to God, I'd have taken her there and then if she'd of let me. Right here in my office. Spread-eagled over the desk. Next to that damned Christmas tree.
"You're scaring me," she said suddenly.
I blinked with surprise. What? She said what? It was like someone had dumped a bucket of cold water over me. I scared her? Okay. That was the last thing I had expected her to say. I took another deep breath trying to regain my composure as I stared at her in bewilderment and shock.
"Heather," I started to say when there was a sudden knock on the door and Jimmy bounced in holding a stash of folders against his chest.
"Hey, Boss," he said brightly, "Need you to take a look at.."
He stopped when he saw us both standing there and did a little pirouette on the spot as he pointed in several different directions at once, "Ah, uh, Okay. Think I'll come back later," he muttered as he turned to the door.
Heather stepped forward. "Jimmy?"
"Er, yeah," he said awkwardly, glancing at me as I retreated to lean back against my desk, "That's me."
She raised her hand and he came forward so she could touch him. "Um, can you take me back downstairs?" she asked him, "Right now?"
"Sure, sure," he nodded as he came to her side, "No problem. Here, take my arm." He walked her to the door and as they were about to leave he looked at me over his shoulder with a "what the fuck?" expression on his face.
I said nothing as they left the office and he closed the door behind them.
What the fuck, Mike?
Seriously, what the flying fuck are you doing here?
The fallen snow swirled and swooped as a stiff breeze blew through the canyons of the concrete jungle which echoed to the sounds of traffic on the move during the rush hour.
The last working week before Christmas had passed and the sense of release that Friday evening brought could be felt through the whole city as people made their way home or headed off for the traditional works shindig.
I sat at the bar in O'Malley's pub, a traditional Irish themed establishment, across from the looming shadow of the Company offices which were still lit up like a Christmas tree as most of the staff had stayed behind to prepare for the party.
I took another swig of my beer. And here you are. In a pub. Alone. Drinking grog. As you always did at this time of year while everyone else was having a good time.
"Let me guess," said the Bartender, a thick set fella with a bald head and impressive goatee with his Irish brogue rolling off his tongue, "It's either money or a woman," He looked me up and down as I concentrated on my beer, "And that's an expensive suit. So.."
I raised my grog and shrugged with a smile, "Remind me not to play poker with you."
He laughed, picked up a wet glass and got to polishing it with his cloth. "Part of the job, my friend," he said, "I've listened to so many sad songs over the years it's become second nature. So which is it?" he asked, "Love, lust or loss?"
I stared at my tankard. "Right now, feels like all three."
"Mmmm," he nodded, "Which one matters the most?"
"Loss probably," I muttered.
He put down the clean glass and grabbed another one. "Is that loss because of love or because of lust?" he asked, "Because the former is far more important than the latter. Take me, a good old Dublin boy who once upon a time met a fair Donegal lass. Thirty years we were married. Thirty years. Then one day it all changed. One second she was here. The next she was gone. Loss is the worst thing but at least we had those wonderful years together. I'd say loss because of lust is a fleeting thing because your heart isn't in it but loss because of never having shown her the love that you feel will leave you with a lifetime of regrets."
I glanced up at him. "You sound like my Mother."
He started to laugh. "That's what Mother's are for. They always know the truth in the end. Take it from me, friend," he said as he took the grog out of my hand, "If she is as special as I know you think she is then don't try and complicate the questions you're asking. The answer is as simple as you want it to be."
I put a hand in my pocket and fished out some loose change to pay for my drink. I looked over my shoulder and saw streams of partygoers heading towards the Company canteen where the Christmas party was being held. I knew through the work grapevine she would be there.
I gave the bartender a nod. "Actually," I smiled, "I was wrong. You're worse than my mother. Thanks for the advice. Sometimes some things just need to be said out loud for them to make sense. Merry Christmas," I told him as he tapped the side of his forehead.
I wrapped my scarf around my neck, buttoned up my long black coat, and left the bar as the first flakes of fresh snow began to fall from the darkness overhead.
It was one of those do I do or do I not do moments.
I stood looking up at the rows of different colored lights which hung from tree to tree and above the entrance to the building. All around me were people laughing and enjoying each others company as the canteen loudly wondered why Mommy was kissing Santa Claus.
Well, Sloane, here we are. What are you going to do? One step forward or two steps back into the old routine? Time to make a choice.
The canteen was packed.
All the tables and chairs were arranged in a circle around the outside with people already dancing or whatever in the center. At the far side of the room, a platform had been set up with a DJ in a Santa outfit enthusiastically bouncing behind his turntables with flashing strobe lights and glitter balls either side of him. Loud didn't come close as I looked around trying to see where the bar was.
But more importantly where she was in the crowd.
"Hey bozo!" someone shouted to my left, "Sloane, over here!"
I turned and saw Brad and some of his buddies swaying on temp bar stools as they waved their drinks at me. Looks like I had found the bar. I walked over and saw that Jimmy was with them.
"Well, look who we have here," slurred Brad as he slapped me on the shoulder, "If it isn't old Scrooge Mcfuckingduck!" he blurted as he waved his glass of bourbon under my nose, "Never thought I'd see the day when horn dog Sloane would show up at something like this. What happened?" he winked, "Looking for some festive fanny?"
He gave Larry, one of his bum chums, a nudge.
"Still not getting any, Brad?" I smiled at him, "Should have stayed married, dude."
Even pencil neck Larry laughed at that one.
"Hey, Jimmy," I said as I took a spare stool next to him and caught the bartenders eye.
I took my drink and we both sat there in an awkward silence. He had been away most of the week assigned to another department so we hadn't really had a talk about what happened.
"It's not what you think," I finally said to him.
Jimmy shrugged. "And what do you think I'm thinking?" he said as he glanced at me.
"Did she say anything?" I asked.
"Did you expect her too?"
I looked at him.
"The answer is no," he said, "And you know why?"
I continued to look at him. Go ahead, son. Chew me out.
"Because she has something about her. Because she wouldn't want to make a scene or cause any problems. That's why." he said firmly before taking a slurp of his beer, "She said it was nothing."
I turned back to my drink.
Of course she would say that.
"Is she here?"
It was his turn to look at me.
"Leave her alone, Mike," he warned me, "Unless you're going to do something about it."
I downed what was left of my drink in one as I put my face close to his.
"I intend to," I told him. Damned straight, "Just you watch me."
With A Little Luck, We Can Help It Out. We Can Make This Whole Damn Thing Work Out. With A Little Love, We Can Lay It Down. Can't You Feel The Town Exploding? There Is No End To What We Can Do Together. There Is No End, There Is No End. The Willow Turns His Back On Inclement Weather. And If He Can Do It, We Can Do It, Just Me And You.
Most everyone was up and dancing as the music blasted out from the speakers as I made my way amongst them looking for her.
The room swooned under the rotating lights and bathed the place in a kaleidoscope of multi-colored shapes that bounced off the ceiling and floors as Bruce told everyone that Santa Claus was coming to town.
Where was she?
I had already looked around the tables on the far side but there was no sign of her. She was probably somewhere in the crowd dancing with her friends. I had no doubt Janet was keeping a close eye on her. Which kind of made me happy in a way.
Then at the rear of the canteen, I saw her and my world became completely focused on the laughing girl in a figure-hugging scarlet dress with its daring v neck and slits up to her hips revealing her bare legs. Her hair was loose and swirled around her glowing face as she shook her head this way and that to the beat to the music.
She was in a small group. Janet was there dancing like my Gran used to and I noticed someone I hadn't seen before holding onto Heather's hand to support her as she bopped and jived away. Maybe that was her housemate, Melissa. They looked a similar age.
I stopped as people glanced in my direction as they danced around me as I stood there. I could feel my chest tightening as I tensed up with my heart pounding away like a jackhammer. Knowing what I had to do was a whole lot easier than actually doing it. In front of everyone.
But I knew this was it.
I made my way to the group and waited as I continued to stare at the blind girl who was doing a pretty good impression of the twist as Wizard rocked the room and every man in the place watched their baby jive.
It was the strange girl who saw me first.
She leaned across and whispered to Janet who had her back to me as she wriggled that nice ass of hers to the music. She turned her head, saw me, and was about to come over when I held up my hand to stop her.
Sorry, Janet. This dance was going to be on me.
The girl glanced at her friend. I shook my head and put a finger to my lips.
She blinked and nodded as Heather was in her own little space doing her hip swinging thing as she laughed and giggled with her hands outstretched and waving around happily.
Oh, look at you. You sweet perfect thing.
You have no idea what's coming.
I stood in front of her for a moment just enjoying the sheer elation on her flushed face as she danced in front of me oblivious to my presence. My gaze dropped to her figure as she bobbed her head forward with her hair flailing around her in waves of copper.
Yeah. She was everything. She was more than enough for me.
Now was the time to tell her.
I carefully reached up with my right hand and took her left in mine. She gave a little jump at my touch but didn't stop moving to the rhythm and mood of everyone on the floor.
Both Janet, Melissa, and the rest of their group stepped back to watch what was going to happen as I led Heather towards the middle of the floor. Some of those already there had begun to notice something unusual was going on and gave us some space.
Heather was still wriggling around but she frowned slightly when I took hold of her hand properly and not just by her fingers.
"Melissa?" she shouted above the din.
I moved closer to her so my mouth was next to her left ear.
"Hey, you," I whispered.
Heather froze and jerked up straight but she didn't let go of my hand.
"Wait," she blushed, "Mike, Mr. Sloane. What are you.."
"I'm asking for the next dance, Miss. Macallister."
I couldn't keep a straight face at the shocked look on hers.
She looked around confused and I could tell she was trying to figure out where her friends were. Well, they were all over by their tables standing there watching us.
Then the next song began to play...
Dance with me, I want to be your partner. Can't you see the music is just starting? Night is falling, and I am falling for you so Dance with me.
I took her other hand and brought them down so that she came closer as she let me move her in a slow circle as the music played. Her face was close to my right shoulder and I smiled as I saw her glance up at me.
Dance with me. I want to be your partner.
I put a cheek against her hair and closed my eyes as we became as one and everyone and everything around us faded away. Neither of us noticed the crowd slowly step back until it was only the blind girl and me dancing on the floor.
It was then I saw a tear fall from her eye and I gripped her hands tighter and slowly pulled her to me as she rested her head on my chest.
Without truly knowing what I had been looking for I realized I had finally found it as the record ended and there was a strange silence that had settled over everyone in the room.
I let go of her and stepped back.
"Wait here," I whispered to her as she stood there lit by the silvery beam of an overhead spotlight. She looked positively angelic and ethereal as she nodded.
I turned and walked to the platform where the DJ stood watching us with a grin on his face. I nodded towards his microphone and he handed it to me as I walked back to where the girl of my dreams was standing waiting.
I blew into the business end to make sure it was working. Then I looked at Heather.
"Miss Macallister," I began as my words rang out from the speakers causing her to jump with her eyes wide open in surprise. Okay. Not so loud," Would you do me the honor of coming out with me. On a date. Uh, a proper one this time."
Heather lifted her head. She was probably thinking I had lost my mind and realized everyone was now watching us.
She licked her lips. "You mean a DATE, date?" she asked. Her bare arms were down by her side as she clenched and unclenched her fists and I could see she was shaking.
"A DATE date."
She raised her head slightly and those sightless sea green eyes looked at me.
Time stood still.
I raised the microphone to my lips. Everything I ever was and would be finally merged into this defining moment of my life.
"Because I love you, Heather Macallister," I said softly, "That's why."
There was an audible murmur that rippled around those watching. I glanced at Janet who stood there biting her lip looking like she was going to cry.
The blind girl didn't say anything. She had a frown on her face and her lips were firmly pressed together as she probably had a million different thoughts and emotions running through her head right now.
Then she held out her hand.
I stepped forward and gave her the microphone. I smiled as she blew into the end causing the feedback to echo around the room which made her jump again. Finally, she deliberately lowered her head so that it was against her open mouth.
"And I know I love you too, Mr. Sloane," she breathed as the hand holding the microphone dropped to her side with the other covering her mouth as she stared at me with tears filling her eyes.
It was her turn to step forward. A step into the darkness which she had always known and I waited for her to come to me so I could hold this precious girl and begin a journey filled with unlimited hopes and dreams.
I gathered her to me and we kissed as the rainbow lights swirled around us with neither of us hearing a soft ripple of applause break out from the friends and people we worked with who were watching us.
Nothing would ever come between us.
Our lovers kiss ended and I took her hand in mine. She hugged me close as we turned and made our way out of the canteen and into whatever future awaited us.