The Fight Before Christmas

Submitted into Contest #21 in response to: Write a short story about a work Christmas party that goes... awry. ... view prompt



This was not the first Christmas party Sienna attended at Frost Payments. She accepted the position as Director of the Underwriting Department four years ago and had attended every party since. It was the only time she could recall that an office party had broken down into a physical altercation. Sure there had been wars of words aplenty at other gatherings, but guests had kept enough sense to rein their darker impulses in before matters got personal. It didn’t surprise Sienna in the slightest that it was Craig and Justin who had broken the harmony of the evening. The two men had been needling each other on all night.

Craig leaped from the desk on which he stood like a drunken pirate and tackled Justin. Both of them crashed through the plate-glass window of Sienna’s office. Why did they have to crash through her office? She heard that it was difficult to damage plate-glass, but that would seem to not be the case when two gorillas clashed.

The annual Christmas party of Frost Payments was a chance to relax and decompress from another year of facing the constant challenges of the payment processing industry. The night started out with people gathering together for drinks, good food, and holiday cheer, but had now degenerated into a street-fight.

Craig rose to his full height and pointed down at Justin. “Stay away from her, Loser. Winter isn’t for the likes of you. Stay with your own kind.” He gestured to the section of the office occupied by the Underwriting Department and there was no doubt as to his meaning.

Winter settled into the chair of a nearby cubicle. A glance passed between her and Sienna as she hid her head in her hands. Sienna shook her head. Both Justin and Craig made Winter the focus of their drunken brawl. She doubted either of them saw Winter as a person. She was just a prize for whichever of them remained standing. Winter deserved better than either of them.

Justin moaned amidst the broken glass. He wasn’t feeling much pain though; as ever since arriving at the party, he inhaled whatever alcohol he found. Craig did too. Now the party guests became unwilling spectators for their conflict.

Justin laughed like a madman as he struggled to his feet. He brushed bits of glass from the blue sports coat he wore. It was a good thing he’d worn it too; the thick material saved him from the worst of the glass shards when he landed on them. He slipped off his jacket and black tie then cast both items aside. Justin’s eyes tightened as they locked onto Craig with laser-like focus. This was a face of Justin his co-workers hadn’t seen.

“You’re just jealous because I care more for Winter than you ever did. News flash, she doesn’t want to be with you anymore and that sticks in your craw don’t it?”

Craig snarled, stepped forward, and delivered a solid punch to the bridge of Justin’s nose. There was a sickening crunch of cartilage, leaving his nose crooked, and blood spurting from it. Justin didn’t back down though and buried his fist in Craig’s stomach. The bigger man doubled over as all breath left his body, and Justin followed up with a stiff uppercut to Craig’s jaw sending him flying back onto the shattered glass.

Maureen turned away. Sienna didn’t blame her. Seeing someone you were interested in getting the living hell beaten out of them by a friend’s soon to be ex-husband was not something anyone wanted to see. Justin didn’t deserve Maureen’s affections any more than he deserved to Winter’s. The carnage traumatized Winter and Maureen 

The Clique was interested in the fight as was Todd the Vice President of Sales. The Clique were a group of snobbish people from the Operations Department who felt that their department was better than any of the others. Frost Payments comprised such clannish departments, and though she and other managers had tried their best to change those ways, people like the Clique refused to let them go. It disgusted Sienna that instead of stopping the fight, Todd let it drag on. His silence was his approval. The Clique and Todd both agreed Justin was getting what he deserved for not knowing his place and staying there. Winter was one of them and Justin was an outsider. They cheered Craig for teaching Justin to stay on his own side of the building.

“Beat the hell out of him, Craig!” Danica yelled.

Todd’s little butt-kissing buddy David started taking bets on who would win. Claire the Customer Service Manager was the first to chime in betting twenty dollars on Craig. Danica too offered twenty. Todd surprised everyone by agreeing to match the final pot. This only encouraged the hungry mob even further to feed off the violence. They gathered around in a circle, each hoping for a ringside seat. Someone needed to end this before Craig and Justin hurt each other or someone else, but no one made a move to break it up. It was both sickening and heartbreaking.

Sienna steeled herself and climbed up on a nearby desk. It wasn’t as easy as it looked in a sequin dress and stiletto heels. Once she was sure of her footing, she straightened so everyone could see her, pressed her fingers to her lips, and let loose with an ear-splitting whistle.

“Knock it off!”

Everyone looked at Sienna. Todd glared at her. She would get an earful on Monday, but someone needed to put an end to this.

“What is the matter with all of you?”

She looked around the room, her brown-eyes to boring into each of those in attendance. Several people looked away in shame, embarrassed that they had become part of an unruly mob. A few such as the Clique and Todd stared at her undaunted; they saw nothing wrong with two people trying to kill each other and everyone else cheering it on.

“They were just letting loose a bit of steam, Sienna. No need to get all dramatic.”

She turned on Todd. “We’re here to celebrate the holidays. This is not the place for a fight. We could have been anywhere else tonight, but we came here for a special time together, not tear each other apart.”

Todd dismissed her with a sneer. Oh yes, they would most definitely have loads to talk about Monday. Todd would not let her get away with making him look like the incompetent, uncaring fool he was. He would seek to write her up for overstepping her authority. Sienna would oppose him on it though, just as surely as Craig and Justin would fight each other again. She was fighting to restore order and salvage the lingering fragments of the Holiday Spirit.

Sienna slipped down from the desk, and much to her surprise both Craig and Justin assisted her. Each offered her their hand to help her. They had been trying to kill each other only moments before, and even though barely restrained rage flickered in their eyes, they still cooperated.

“Thank you, gentlemen.”

It worried Sienna that they would go at each other again, so she stood her ground between them.

“It’s not my place to tell any of you how you should behave. So if you still insist on killing each other, or watching them kill each other — while profiting off it — be my guest. Just not here, not now. This is a time to share the holiday spirit with each other. It’s a time of peace and goodwill. Don’t let the night end like this.”

Winter emerged from the cubicle where she had hidden when the fighting started. Tears stained her face both from Justin embarrassing her with his public declaration of love and Craig starting a fight over her. She stepped forward and put her hand on Craig’s shoulder.

“Let it go,” she said, “for me.”

Maureen too emerged from the crowd. Tears marked her face as well. Sienna guessed she had been crying for hearing Justin profess his love for Winter. Monday would be profoundly interesting for everyone in the office, it seemed. Maureen handed some napkins she had gathered to Justin.

“There’s been enough bloodshed.”

Justin took the proffered napkins and held them to his still bleeding nose. His eyes lingered on Maureen. Perhaps Justin truly saw her for the first time. With his broken nose, puffy eyes, and enough alcohol coursing through his body to tranquilize a horse who knew what he was seeing? He nodded, turned to Craig, and extended his hand.

Winter looked at Craig. He looked at her, dropped his eyes, and gritted his teeth as he turned to Justin. He did not like Justin. Whether that was from Justin saying he loved Winter, or for some other reason wasn’t clear. He didn’t smile as he took Justin’s hand and offered a lukewarm apology.

“Sorry about your nose.”

“Ditto for your eye.”

They apologized to Sienna and to everyone else for their actions. They didn’t hug or anything mushy. They still didn’t like each other, but for the moment they retreated to their neutral corners. It was an emotional scene more powerful than the fight they’d just witnessed.

While Winter and Maureen took care of the two men, the other guests regained their senses too and helped clean up the aftermath. Most helped out of feelings of shame, but also a desire to help repair the holiday spirit that lay like the shattered glass on the floor. Naturally, the Clique and Todd recused themselves. Their holiday spirit went only so far, and they were too good to engage in labor fit only for the cleaning staff. In no time at all, few traces remained of the momentary lapse in goodwill.

Everyone spent the rest of the night with laughter, games, songs, and Christmas cheer. The Clique left soon after, as did Todd. Craig and Justin never warmed up to each other, but they remained cordial with Maureen or Winter playing referee when things started to spiral out of control again. Sienna mingled with the rest of the crowd who praised her for her actions. She hadn’t been seeking praise or attention when she stopped the fight; she had done it because it was the right thing to do. 

Sienna would forget many things in the coming years, but neither she nor the others in attendance that night would ever forget the fight before Christmas.

©2019 Gary Phillips

December 28, 2019 04:40

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.


Bring your short stories to life

Fuse character, story, and conflict with tools in the Reedsy Book Editor. 100% free.