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Authors can share their short stories (less than 2000 words please) or poetry, and it won’t cost you a penny!  The stories or poems need to be about Christmas this time, but please keep them reasonably family friendly.  On 27th December I will pick my favourite one and share the link in my newsletter and on my Facebook and Twitter pages.  I look forward to reading your efforts.  Winners will receive this laurel to add to their story:

SHORT STORY LAUREL December

Please add a link to your story in the comments section of this blog.  Thank you.  You have until Christmas Eve to submit your stories.  When I have enough winning stories, I will promote them in a free anthology (with the consent of every author involved of course!).

Here’s another short story of mine below, just in time for Christmas:

THE OFFICE PARTY, BY STEVIE TURNER

Danny straightened his tie and fastened his waistcoat, leaving the last button undone.  He took a grey matching jacket from his wife’s outstretched hand and gave her a wink.

“How do I look?”

Sandra smiled and then shifted uncomfortably as the babies kicked inside her.

“Like an undertaker.”

“Cheers for that.”  Danny grimaced and pulled his belt in one more notch. “Are you sure you don’t want to go?”

“To your office party looking like I’m about to explode?”  Sandra shook her head. “No thanks.  I’m going to sit in front of the TV with my feet up.”

Danny picked up his car keys and opened the front door.

“I won’t stay late, just long enough to show my face.”

“See you later.”  Sandra blew him a kiss. “Don’t walk under the mistletoe.”

He was smiling as he pulled off the driveway, still hardly able to believe how his life had changed in such a short space of time.  No longer the devil-may-care stud with an eye for the ladies, he was now a responsible but happy husband and homeowner with two babies on the way, eager to sell his sub-woofers in order to make space in the boot for the twin pushchair.

He couldn’t hear much carousing as he stepped through the familiar doors of the Finance Department.  A Christmas tree twinkled in one corner, somebody had draped tinsel over the computers, and a large sprig of mistletoe hung above the water cooler.  Colleagues stood around in awkward groups making small talk, nibbling peanuts, and clutching near-empty glasses as the same old tired Christmas tunes played in the background.  He made his way to the makeshift bar, where Steve from Private Patients doled out mulled wine from a large receptacle Danny had last seen in the canteen the previous day.

“Hey Danny.”  Steve lifted a full ladle of wine. “Want some?”

“What happens if I spill it on my suit?”  Danny wrinkled his nose. “Will it burn through to the lining?”

“Cheeky sod.”  Steve ladled the wine into a glass and pointed it in Danny’s direction. “Get it down your neck.  Watson insists there’s to be only this or orange juice.”

“Blimey.  Somebody had their hands in the petty cash?” Danny took a sip of wine. “We had beer last year.”

He stepped back to allow Sharon Costello up to the bar, making a point of not focusing on her bountiful décolletage.

“Ray’s brought a few bottles of stuff with the money we all put in.”  Sharon’s eyes looked Danny up and down appreciatively. “He’s keeping them in the storeroom in case Watson turns up, but you know how he’s always at work early.  He would have arrived by now.”

Danny nodded.

“Cheers. I’ll have a look in a minute.”

The mulled wine had left a bitter aftertaste.  Danny jettisoned his glass and made his way to the storeroom, acknowledging a few people he knew on the way.  As far as he was concerned it would be a quick drink of beer, a few nods and laughs with the lads, and then he’d head off for home.

***

The storeroom was in darkness, and Danny fumbled for the light switch.  The fluorescent bulb fizzed into life and illuminated a crate of beer and several bottles of spirits and mixers over by the far wall.  As he made his way towards the crate, a click of somebody opening the door and then turning the lock caused him to turn around.

“Relax, it’s only me.” Sharon shrugged. “I fancied a vodka and tonic.”

Danny pulled the ring from a can of beer, took a sip, and sidled past Sharon towards the door.

“Help yourself.”

“Hey! What’s the rush?”  Sharon tossed back her mane of chestnut hair and backed up to stand rather too close for comfort. “How’s your wife?  How much longer until the twins arrive?”

“About another month.”  Danny breathed in her musky perfume and wished he’d stuck to orange juice. “They’ll induce her early I think.”

He managed to look away as her eyes bored into his.  He’d often wondered if the lads were telling the truth about her.  Sharon bit her lip and her fingers fiddled with the bottom button of his waistcoat.

“You’ll be feeling a bit lonely then?”

“Not at all.”  Danny stepped back in alarm and took a glug of beer, trying to quell the disquiet in his loins. “I’ve got Sandra.”

He escaped as fast as he could from the storeroom, leaving her standing open-mouthed amongst the dusty files and folders.

***

“Can I have a word please, Danny?”

Danny paused logging on, and looked up as Eric Watson’s face loomed over the top of his computer screen.

“Sure.”

He followed his manager past Lorraine and Sue dismantling the Christmas tree into Watson’s little cubbyhole of an office.

“Do sit down.”

Danny decided not to show any curiosity, and waited patiently.

“I’ve had a formal complaint about you from Sharon Costello.”

“Complaint?”  Danny sat up straighter in his chair. “What sort of complaint?”

Eric Watson shifted uncomfortably in his seat and fiddled with his pen.

“That you touched her inappropriately in the storeroom at the Christmas party.   Miss Costello is quite adamant that she received unwanted sexual advances from yourself, and that you locked the storeroom door from the inside.”

Danny’s heart began to race in his chest.

“Whatever she’s told you is a lie, in fact it was the other way around!  She came on to me and locked me in!  This is madness!”  He shook his head. “There’s no way I’d put my marriage at risk.  Yeah I’ve done my share of fooling around in the past, but not this time.  I’m going to be a father to twins in a couple of weeks!  Do you think I’d put everything I have at risk for a quick fumble in the storeroom?”

Breathing heavily with indignation, Danny stared squarely at Eric Watson, waiting for his answer.

“Why were you both in the storeroom in the first place?”

Danny could tell that the older man had not believed a word.

“We’d all put some money in and Ray had brought a few beers and spirits in earlier that day and kept them in the storeroom.  None of us are too keen on mulled wine, and I’d gone in there to get a beer.  Sharon followed me in there.”

Eric Watson sighed.

“I’ve been looking at your personnel documents.”  He donned his glasses and opened a buff folder in front of him. “Apart from that unfortunate Facebook status six months’ ago, we haven’t had any trouble from you.  However, this complaint will have to go on your file.  It’s obviously your word against hers, but we haven’t got any firm evidence of wrongdoing from either of you.  Miss Costello isn’t going to press charges, so let this be a lesson that you need to be more careful in the future.”

With an almost audible sigh of relief, Danny rose from the chair and shook his manager’s hand.

“Thanks for listening to my side of things.  It’s not always the guy’s fault, you know.  Sometimes he’s the victim instead of the perpetrator.”

Eric Watson nodded sagely.

“Next time stick to the mulled wine.  Now go and do some work.”

As Danny left Watson’s office he passed by Sharon Costello’s desk.  His eyes bored into the side of her head, but she kept her gaze fixed firmly on the monitor in front of her.  Danny felt like punching her into next week, but instead smiled benignly, chalked it up to experience, and silently vowed to stay away from empty storerooms and ladies with bountiful décolletages.