1. 8 PM
Red sweater dress. Light grey leggings. Shimmery gold flats. That's the outfit I wore to my office's holiday party in the hopes of impressing Jonathan.
Jonathan, the guy in a striped blue shirt and a goofy Rudolph tie, who was currently walking through the doorway with me.
"Oooh. Looks like we caught another one," Judith, the boss' pet, said when she saw us. She pointed above our heads with a hand that was already holding a wine glass.
I looked up at the same time as John. Of course. Mistletoe. The office frowned upon coworkers dating coworkers, so hanging that crap up made zero sense.
Sure, I'd daydreamed about kissing Jonathan when I was driving to work, or sitting at my desk, or touching myself--but I never pictured that kiss taking place in front of our entire office.
"I got Kiss Cam-ed at a Lakers game with my sister once and it was less embarrassing than this," he said, just loud enough for me to hear.
I didn't find the comparison to his sister all that funny, but I forced a laugh anyway. Then I stared at him, along with a dozen other eyes, waiting for him to move. When he did, he simply pressed his lips against my cheek and was done with it.
A chorus of 'awws' filled the room. The sound of disappointment.
"What a ripoff," Judith whined at us, clearly already drunk on her wine. "I wanted some tongue action. At least a peck for goodness sake. What are you guys, twelve? Actually, at twelve I already had better kisses than that."
"Nice to see you too," I said, shuffling away from the doorway. Whenever I saw her outside of work, it was a shock. Inside of the office, she wore her curly red hair in a pony, covered her double Ds with turtleneck sweaters and her long legs with slacks. But now, she wore a skintight, sleeveless purple dress with bare legs and loose hair.
I was a little jealous of her perfectly smooth skin and even more jealous of the way John was looking at her.
"Well, come on now, put your presents down," she said, leading us over to a table of assorted gifts.
I placed mine into the mixture.
"So who's your Secret Santa?" he asked, nudging me with his arm.
"It's a secret," I said, because I wasn't about to spoil his surprise. Besides, originally, I'd gotten Steven. But then I'd swapped Steven out for Tara, because i knew i could swap her out for Jonathan. It sounded a little creepy, but I had the perfect gift in mind for him, and we weren't super close friends yet, so it would be weird if i gave him a gift on my own. That's why i orchestrated the whole Secret Santa thing.
He pouted his lips. "Well. Then I'm not telling you mine, either," he said over his shoulder as he made his way across the room.
Only seconds after John walked away, Steven popped up behind me. "Merry Christmas! You look like you belong on the top of a tree."
I was too busy staring at John to pay attention. "Huh?"
"Just that. You uh. You look good. Really pretty."
"Oh, thanks," I said, even though I didn't believe it. Not after seeing Judith. She was going to steal the show. Steal my John.
Judith was handing out the presents, one by one. She no longer had a wine glass in hand, but now she did have a Santa hat on her head.
I wasn't even waiting for my own gift. I was just watching John unwrap his. A signed, first edition copy of his favorite book. Our favorite book. It was the first thing we'd ever spoken about. On his first day, I'd told him how I wanted a tattoo that represented the book, he'd told me how he'd always dreamt of meeting the author.
He tore open the wrapping paper (with penguins on it. His favorite), raised an eyebrow, and then scrunched his face up. I couldn't hear him from across the noisy room, but I could read his lips: "I already have this."
That wasn't the point. The point was that it was a first edition. A limited copy. A signed copy. I would've kept it if I knew he'd react that way.
Judith was standing in front of me now, holding out a small, square box that wasn't even wrapped.
"Thanks," I said, trying to ignore the urge to look back at Jonathan. Then I opened it to find a pair of green cutout mittens with an elf on them.
"I hope you like them," Judith said. "I bought the same pair for my niece."
"Oh." I faked a smile." So you got me?"
"Technically John did. But I just did his shopping for him. You know how men are."
I blinked. Then I blinked again. "I'm sorry, are you..."
She placed a finger against her lips. "Don't want the boss to get mad at us for breaking policy."
"Oh." I felt like an idiot. "I'm happy for you two." So so stupid. "How long have you been--"
"Sorry to interrupt," Steven said, cutting me off by handing me a small, flat gift.
"It's no problem," Judith said, looking between us and giving me a wink.
Once she had walked away, I looked down at the gift and asked, "What's this?"
"I wanted to be your Secret Santa, but I wasn't. But I'm a rebel, so I got it anyway. Well, made it, technically."
He was waiting for me to open it, so I did as expected. When I lifted the lid, I saw a beautiful sketch of a stack of books wrapped with an olive leaf.
"You always talk about wanting a tattoo of that book series you like," he said. "So I read them to see what they were all about. And this is what I came up with. It needs some work, but--"
"It's incredible," I said. And just like that, as soon as I looked up at him, I realized I was looking at him like I used to look at John. "Thank you. Really. Thank you."
And I thanked him once more on our way out, when I made sure to stop him under the mistletoe.
** Sometimes you're so obsessed with one guy that you don't see how wonderful other men are! That's the end! I hope you enjoyed the story! Happy holidays, everyone! **