Christmas On Dutybyoggbashan©
Copyright Oggbashan December 2012
Minor edit December 2013
The author asserts the moral right to be identified as the author of this work.
This is a work of fiction. The events described here are imaginary; the settings and characters are fictitious and are not intended to represent specific places or living persons.
This story is set in the 1960s, long before texting and mobile phones.
Our office party was set for Christmas Eve starting at one o'clock. As with every year our managers had a problem. The office had to appear to be operational right up to the last hour even though everybody would be at the party. They couldn't afford to have a phone call routed through to the party because the caller might be answered by someone drunk, or even if not, would hear the revelling in the background.
As with every year, they asked for volunteers to look after the telephone switchboard. The work wasn't difficult. All the volunteer had to do was answer the very few phone calls, and take messages. Any personal messages for staff members would be written down, enveloped, and put on the notice board by the main exit. If it was an official call and a reply was needed, the volunteer could answer it from their own knowledge or consult the director's secretary who could summon a senior manager from their sedate sherry and mince pie gathering. The criteria for the volunteers were that they should be junior managers, reasonably experienced and possessing enough common sense to decide whether any call should be referred to a manager.
The benefits for the volunteers were a couple of hours time off in lieu during January, credit for helping the company, and the knowledge that if they were selected they were considered by their managers competent to make decisions. Being on duty at Christmas could be an indication that the volunteer was eligible for promotion.
This year I had put my name forward to be on duty. On Christmas Day and a few days afterwards I would be staying with an uncle and aunt for this year's family get-together and I needed to be sober for the evening of Christmas Eve for the long drive there. My parents would be in Germany staying with my older brother. After a few years of office parties I would be pleased to miss the event because too many people drank too much and said and did things they shouldn't.
I was pleased that I was selected but surprised by the other choice. Belinda 'The Body' would be on duty with me. My surprise was not that she was inexperienced. She wasn't. She was a competent supervisor and intelligent. But she was the leader of the in crowd at the office, the organiser of social events and the ultimate party girl. She was called 'Belinda The Body' openly and appeared to glory in the title. It described her. Belinda was curvy, well developed and emphasised her considerable assets with fitted clothing. Men found it difficult to look her in the face because her cleavage, even when covered, was so prominent.
I was slightly concerned that Belinda had volunteered. I couldn't understand why she would want to avoid the office Christmas party. It didn't seem in character.
Whatever her reasons for volunteering, I was confident that she would be capable of dealing with any crisis that might arise and her experience and mine were complementary. If I didn't know what to do, she would.
As usual every Christmas, the chosen volunteers were briefed by the Director. This year the message was different.
"Alan, Belinda, you were chosen for duty because you will be representing the company on your own. All the senior managers have been asked to attend the Board's event. None of them will be here, nor available. You will have to answer any queries from your own resources. Is that OK?"
Of course we agreed. This was serious recognition of our competence.
"Thank you. Neither of you will regret it."
We looked at each other as soon as we had left the Director's office.
"There's a promotion board this year, isn't there?" I asked Belinda.
"There is, Alan, and I think we stand a good chance. Do you know who they turned down for duty?"
As we walked down the corridor passing several people Belinda quietly told me a short list of names, many of whom I would have thought more likely promotion prospects than either of us.
"Wow!" I replied.
"Wow indeed, Alan. I'm glad I volunteered," she said.
"That's been puzzling me," I said. "Why DID you volunteer?"
Belinda looked sad. Just then one of her group of friends passed and waved. Belinda waited until no one else was around.
"Not here. Not now. I'll tell you this afternoon when we're alone."
She went to her office. I went to mine. At a quarter to one we relieved the telephonists. They went off to change for the party.
"Well?" I asked.
"Well what?" Belinda replied.
"Why are you here?"
"Did you know I was going out with Henry?"
"No... But he's..."
"...Married? Yes. He is. He told me that he was separated and... It doesn't matter what he told me. He lied. He was using me and we broke up two weeks ago. He intended to be at the party with his wife. That's why I don't want to be there. I might make a scene and tell her what a bastard he is."
"I'm sorry, Belinda."
"Sorry for what, Alan? Sorry that you're probably the only one in the whole office who didn't know that Henry was fucking me and cheating on his wife?"
"No. It's not surprising that I didn't know. We aren't in the same circles. I'm sorry that you have been hurt. You didn't deserve that."
"Didn't deserve? Some people are happy that Belinda The Body has been brought low."
She was on the point of tears. I stood still but opened my arms. She came between them and leant against my shoulder. I hugged her gently as she sobbed quietly. Eventually she reached into her handbag, took out a handkerchief, and dried her tears. She sat down on a telephonist's chair.
"Happy now, Alan? In our first couple of minutes together you've brought me to tears."
"I thought you needed someone to cry on, and why not me? I'm almost a stranger to you. You can forget this and ignore me from today onwards and no one would notice. It can help to talk. Do you want to?"
I looked at the clock. We had five hours to go.
"We have hours ahead of us. If you want to rant, rave, call Henry all the names under the sun, moan you've been ill-treated, betrayed? You can do all that and I'll listen without repeating a word to anyone."
"You'd do that for me?"
"Why not? You need a friend. I'm not one of your group but I know enough about you to respect your professional expertise, your judgement..."
"...except of men," She interrupted.
"One man," I replied.
Belinda looked at me as if she was seeing me for the first time.
"Do you really respect my expertise and judgement, Alan?"
"Most men don't look further than these," she said, lifting her breasts with her hands.
"I respect them too."
"They don't get respect. They get pawed."
"Not by me, Belinda."
"Why not? You're different, Alan. We've been speaking for a few minutes and except when I nearly pushed them in your face, you've been talking to my face, not my breasts. Don't you like them?"
The phone rang before I could answer. I dealt with the caller who only wanted to know the company's postal address. Belinda answered another call and took a personal message for the notice board. There were several more phone calls before we could talk again.
"Well? You didn't answer my question, Alan? Do you like my breasts?"
"Yes, Belinda. I do. They're part of you."
"Part of me?"
I became serious.
"Belinda. I like you. I think you are far more than a pair of breasts, however delightful they might be. If someone playing with your breasts turns you on, why not?"
"Turns me on? But they don't work for you?"
"Of course they do. But if we were in a relationship, which we're not, I would be more interested in getting to know what you wanted, what you like to do, than just grabbing a copious handful..."
"They are a handful, aren't they?"
"I think the whole of Belinda is possibly more of a handful than I could manage. At the moment you're hurt. If you want to talk and flirt with me, why not? We have plenty of time to waste. If at the end of it you feel better about facing the next couple of days, I'd be satisfied."
I'd said the wrong thing. Her face fell.
"What's up?" I asked.
"Henry and I were going to go to a hotel over Christmas. That's what finished us. I thought he was separated and there would be no problem. He was going to tell his wife he was away on business, stupid sod. Of course she couldn't believe that, so he didn't even try. He only admitted that it wouldn't be possible two weeks ago. Then he said his wife would be coming to the office party..."
"No. She heard about Henry and me. I don't know who told her. It might even have been Henry himself. It doesn't matter. He's not here either. I could have gone to the party."
"But then you wouldn't have known that the Director trusts you."
"No. I wouldn't have known, would I? But do I really care? Do I want promotion and a career if I've lost the man I loved?"
"Don't think like that. You haven't lost the man you loved. You've lost a man who was cheating on his wife, who was lying to you. You've lost an illusion."
"You make it sound so simple. I loved him, or the person I thought he was. Whether that was an illusion or not, it was real to me. Now I'm alone."
"Alone? Belinda The Body alone? I don't believe it. You just have to snap your fingers, wiggle your hips, shrug your shoulders to make your tits jiggle, and you'll be surrounded by admirers."
"Who look at my tits and not me. Except you, Alan. Why are you alone? We've been talking about me. What about you? Why no girlfriend? Don't you like women?"
"Yes," I sighed. "I like women. I loved one. We were engaged. That's why I'm here. She didn't like the conditions of my old job as a basis for marriage..."
"I would have been travelling too much, too far for too long. She wanted a husband who would come home at six o'clock every evening, not be sending her a telegram from Austria, or Australia. So I resigned and took a job here."
"And then what?"
"She decided she didn't want a commuting husband either. She didn't want to live in a London suburb. She wanted to live in her home town. But I couldn't get a job there, only in London."
"There must be more?"
"Yes, there's more. While she was thinking about our future, she met a Royal Marine. His job means travelling too much, too far, for too long, but he was there and I was here. She ditched me for him. A couple of months later he was posted to Singapore and he ditched her. We're both unhappy but it's over between us. Her priorities and mine no longer match."
"I'm sorry, Alan."
"I'm sorry for you too, Belinda. Both of us have lost the loves of our life, but we probably deceived ourselves. We were each in love with someone that didn't exist. It still hurts, doesn't it?"
Belinda stood up and walked over to me. She kissed me on the forehead.
"Yes, Alan, it hurts."
I turned my face up. We kissed, a slow soft kiss. She snuggled on to my lap with our lips still locked together.
A phone rang. I answered it. It was for me.
My aunt was ringing to say that her grandson had developed spots, possibly chicken pox. The family get-together was postponed or even cancelled. We might meet up in the New Year, maybe. I thanked her, hoped that the grandson would get better soon and wished her as happy a Christmas as would be possible with a poorly grandson.
I was working under difficulty. Belinda was squirming on my lap and kissing my neck. Her hand pulled my free hand to one of her breasts. As I finished the call she said:
"See? It's a handful."
"It's more than a handful. So are you. My aunt would have been horrified if she could have seen us."
"What was she calling about?"
"The Christmas get-together. It's off. Her grandson has probable chicken pox."
"So. No office party, and no Christmas either?"
"Apparently. I'm as stuffed as the turkey I'm not going to eat. There's no food in my flat because I was going to leave straight from the office. My parents are away so I can't go there even if I still had a key which I haven't. I'll have to see if there are any shops open when we finish. Or else I'll survive on ancient tins from the back of the cupboard. What a boring Christmas!"
Belinda leant back and looked at me.
"How do you like the idea of being Mr Jones for the next four days?"
"Eh? What do you mean?"
"Could you be Mr Jones to my Mrs Jones? In a hotel over Christmas? I paid for Henry and me to go away. I can't face the hotel on my own, so why not with you?"
"Are you sure, Belinda? You don't know me that well."
"Four days should remedy that, Alan. So? Are you Mr Jones? Or aren't you?"
I hugged her.
"For you, I'm Mr Jones. Where is this hotel we are going to?"
"In the country near Tunbridge Wells. Shit! We have to be there before eleven tonight. Henry was driving me there and I haven't got a car."
"I have. It's parked outside, loaded with my suitcase for a long weekend away. I can drive us there. Where is your suitcase, Mrs Jones?"
"Over there." Belinda pointed to a corner of the room. "I wasn't sure whether to go or not. A romantic Christmas in the country sounded great for a couple. On my own I'd probably have drunk too much and been too sorry for myself. But as Mr and Mrs Jones we could enjoy ourselves and drown our sorrows in each other and alcohol."
"That sounds like a wonderful Christmas, Mrs Jones."
It was. The only one under the name of Jones but the first of many as Mr and Mrs.
This was a last minute entry to the Winter Holidays Contest 2012. Any comments and votes would be appreciated.