Deck the Halls

Submitted into Contest #178 in response to: Set your story at a work holiday party,... view prompt


Drama American Contemporary

This story contains themes or mentions of physical violence, gore, or abuse.

Twinkling white lights and long red ribbons cascade down the branches of the towering Christmas tree that greets visitors as they ascend the grand staircase to the museum rotunda. I pause at the top of the stairs to admire the grand tree and take in the sight of the vivid mural that adorns the domed ceiling. It depicts the Greek goddess Athena in golden armor and a pale white tunic standing triumphantly over the war god Ares sprawled on the ground beside his plumed helmet and battle sword.

        When I drop my gaze from the mural, a waiter steps toward me holding a tray of crab cakes. Another server offers me a glass of white wine. I accept both offerings and then make my way toward the crowded ballroom. It’s my first holiday party since joining SunDock Technology earlier this year. I’d come straight from the office still dressed in my standard work attire – a black pantsuit and white silk blouse. I’d thought about asking the woman I’d been dating for the past few weeks to come to the party with me, but it felt a bit premature to introduce Sarah to work colleagues. Plus, she taught a cardio kickboxing class at her gym on Thursday evenings.

        I sip my wine and scan the crowd for any members of my team. As the live band begins playing “Deck the Halls,” I spot Ryan and Kendra at one of the cocktail tables.

        “Hey, nice to see you guys. Quite the party here.”

        Kendra looks up from her phone and adjusts the tortoise-shell glasses perched on her nose. “Yeah, it is,” she shouts over the din of the crowd. “Been a good year for Sundock.”

        Ryan raises his mug of beer and offers a toast. “Cheers!”

        As we clink glasses, Ryan’s mischievous smile fades and Kendra’s eyes widen. "It’s Marty,” she whispers loudly. “And his wife.”

        The crowded room suddenly feels like a sauna when I glance over my shoulder and see my boss. Clasping a glass of scotch in one hand and a lavishly dressed woman in the other, he’s talking loudly to a group of guys from sales who are drawn to him like moths to a flame. His wife listens with a tense smile and a dull gaze.

        When Marty turns toward the three of us and waves, I feel my stomach roil. During our last business trip, he’d called me from the hotel bar and asked me in slurred, halting words to join him. When I said that I’d already gone to bed, he mumbled something into the phone about forgetting his room number and needing to pay his bar tab. I told him his room number, said good night, and then double-checked my hotel room door to make sure the deadbolt was locked.

        When Marty and his wife make their way toward us, I feel like a deer caught in the headlights. He slaps his empty scotch glass down on our cocktail table, makes quick introductions, and then excuses himself to go to the restroom. His wife smiles rigidly at us with blood-red lips as plump as sausages. I don’t think her eyebrows ever move.

        “How long have you worked at SunDock?” Startled, I realize that she’s talking to me.

        “Six months,” I stammer as she gives me the once-over.

        Do I have cocktail sauce on my face? Do you know your husband’s a jackass?

She looks past me and smiles wanly. “It was nice to meet you. I see an old friend that I must catch up with.” Relief washes over me when she to steps away from our little group and disappears into the crowd.

“Where’s the ladies' room?” I ask Kendra, who points toward the back of the room.

        I weave my way through the crowd and then follow the directional signs to the restrooms at the end of a long hallway. As I turn the corner, I’m startled to see a couple who are practically pinned to the wall. At first, I think I’ve interrupted a make-out session until I hear the woman say: “Marty, please stop!”

“Oh c’mon baby,” he responds. “Just a little kiss under the mistletoe.”

“Marty, what are you doing?”

My voice sounds small but it startles him enough to look over his shoulder at me with glassy eyes.  The terrified woman tries to slip out of his grasp but he grabs her arm. “Hey babe, where ya going?”

“Let her go, Marty,” I say as calmly as I can while my heart’s beating a hundred miles an hour.

He loosens his hold on the woman as he turns to sneer at me. “Unless you want a threesome, mind your own business, you fucking dyke.”

I don’t know what came over me at that moment. Whether it’s the smarmy look on his face or the terrified one on hers, I curl my right hand into a fist and unload an upper-cut that catches him squarely under the chin. I land the power punch that Shannon taught me in kickboxing class.

His head jerks to the side as he falls against the wall and slumps to the ground. The woman steps over his crumpled body as he moans.

“Oh my God, thank you. I didn’t know what he was going to do. Are you OK?” The adrenaline rush makes my head spin.

“Let’s get out of here,” urges the woman, as she guides back up the hallway toward the loud music and frenetic conversation of the party. The rush is wearing off and my hand is beginning to throb when we slip back into the ballroom.

“Are you okay?” asks a burly security guard stationed at the door.

I hear my new friend answer: “There’s a man who may be in need of medical attention down by the ladies' room,” The security guard calls someone on his radio and asks about camera 34 before hustling down the hallway.

That’s when I realize that museum security has video evidence of me punching Marty.  I don't know whether to feel scared or relieved, but I hope Sarah and Athena are proud of me.

December 31, 2022 03:21

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Graham Kinross
00:35 Feb 06, 2023

Caught out by the camera. So many people forget that we're always being watched. I really enjoyed this. Well done.


Avery Crescent
23:59 Feb 08, 2023

Thank you!


Graham Kinross
01:06 Feb 09, 2023

You’re welcome.


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Hope Linter
05:45 Jan 05, 2023

I liked the tension at the beginning when I didn't know what the history with Marty was. Be careful, Sarah later becomes Shannon.


Avery Crescent
21:03 Jan 05, 2023

Thanks for catching that accidental name change. That’s what happens when you’re rushing to submit a story by deadline!


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Wendy Kaminski
03:08 Jan 04, 2023

Great story! A lot of meaning in very few words and a nicely-placed punch. :)


Avery Crescent
18:43 Jan 04, 2023

Thank you, Wendy!


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