He always hated the Christmas celebration in the office. Most of the workers in the office were a bit stressed by the time it started. The normal work had to be done while the working hours were two hours shorter. And after that everybody would go like meek sheep to the canteen. The ugly furniture would be stacked up against the wall and some obligatory Christmas ornaments would be hanging on the walls. The management would “spontaneously” mingle with the common workers and would show their fake comradeship for one whole hour before sneaking out.
He hated himself even more to be taking part of it today. For years he had come up with brilliant excuses to be able to flee from it. Why on earth did he have to tell his co-worker that his wife and children were away this weekend, visiting auntie in the North. Now he couldn’t refuse to go along with Fred. He could get on with Fred quite well though they were completely the opposite. Fred was the party animal in the office, he even took part in decorating the miserable canteen.
Things went like he remembered it from the first years he had been working. After ten minutes there was the usual parading in ofthe complete management and their staff, the big boss walking in front with a smile that almost tore his face in two. The man turned half around and gave a nod and immediately the procession behind him split apart. He was just bringing two new beers to the table on the far end upon Fred and he had taken a good position. He understood why Fred wanted to sit over there. It gave a good view on the growing crowd. Like every year the girls had taken a lot of work to be dressed nicely. Some must have been ages in the toilet rearranging their clothing and make-up. They knew they had to, because there was a great danger to be named Miss Rags or something like that in the talks of the gossiping office. It should not be too sexy either, the risk of being considered an office whore was there too.
When he reached Fred again his place was taken by the secretary of his manager and her friend. She worked as a secretary too, but in the other side of the building. He didn’t even know her name.
He gave Fred his beer and asked the girls if he could get them something.
When he came back with two red wines, there was only the secretary left on the table. Fred and the other girl he could see in the crowd, being in a sort of desperate dance. Their hands were waving in the air, to and from. Some others were joining in. Probably this was a popular song.
So he sat next to the secretary. She thanked him for the wine and they started some small talk. She didn’t feel like dancing today.
Lea was much nicer than he expected. After a few more drinks he hardly noticed the dancing pack any more. Sometimes Fred and the other girl came back for a sip, Fred brought new drinks too. Fred danced with the secretary once while he had to dance with the other girl. He noticed how sweaty she had become. When they got back to their table, he wiped his hands on his trousers.
He noticed that the management and staff had disappeared except for the duo Fred and he were with. Fred and the other girl ran off for another dance. This one was quite slow and their dancing became even slower. They were whispering in each others ears and their hands were wandering.
He got another drink for Lea and him. He placed the drinks down next to Lea and went to the toilet.
While he was peeing he could hear the voice of a woman and Fred pleading her to be quiet. They had to be in one of the cubicles.
When he got back to Lea she jumped off the table. She wanted to leave, go to a nicer place and searched with her eyes in the canteen for her friend. He told her the friend would be busy for some time. So they decided to leave together.
She had her bicycle in front of the building and asked him to sit on the back. He protested a bit, this was not very gentleman like. But she insisted and off they went.
In a few minutes they reached a small café. Besides two old men sitting at the bar it was completely empty.
They sat down at a table at the window.
Lea told him more than he normally would ever hear from her. It proved he didn’t know her at all.
Her older sister had committed suicide at the age of 13, her father got cancer very soon after that and died within year. In her opinion he died from grief. Since then she had lived with her mother who was showing mild signs of dementia. She expected to be bound to her for quite some more years, didn’t want to leave her.
Because of the tears in her eyes he tried to bring on nicer subjects. They chatted about nothing special after that. He never had noticed before how lovely her eyes were. In fact she really was quite attractive.
She brushed some dust from his knee and it almost felt like her hand was burning through the fabric. He took a look at the clock in the café. Almost nine already, so he was drinking five hours. No wonder he felt so weird. He told Lea he had to go, he was going to order a taxi to the station.
She talked him out of that, she would bring him to the station on her bike after a last drink. While drinking this last one, she suddenly observed him sharply. She asked him to keep his face still, held it in one hand and very careful picked something from under his left eye. It was a little hair, almost in his eye, she said. Laughingly he thanked her for saving his life.
The station was nearer than he expected. He got off the bike and thanked her. He wanted to kiss her on a cheek, but suddenly her mouth was on his. It was not by accident, her tongue was sliding in his mouth and soon the taste of red wine was everywhere.
He should withdraw, he thought. What about his wife and children? What would he do if she asked him to spend the night. It would feel very rude to refuse, but on the other hand: he was married and loved his wife and children dearly. He was in total confusion, guilt and lust were competing in his head. And the kiss went on and on, he could not bring himself to stop it.
In the end it was Lea who withdrew. “Say hi to your wife!”, she said with a sweet smile. She got on her bicycle and rode off. Once she looked back and waved at him. He waved back when she already had disappeared.