“Baby it’s cold outside…”
Tis the holiday season and Merry Christmas prep to all! If you’re like me, you don’t understand those friends that already have all their Christmas shopping done. You’re calendar is filling up, and are frantically searching for original cookie ideas for your next get-together. (I refuse to bring just sugar cookies this time.)
So, while I’m in the shower this morning, humming along to Christmas carols on Pandora, an idea came to me; wouldn’t it be fun to have a Christmas story (or any story for that matter) that you could pick what happens next? So, I thought that might be something fun for us to do this holiday season. (Sort of like those “Choose your own adventure books” from when we were kids, except with a social media slant.)
I’m going to start a story today and have two options at the end for what might happen next. The next step will be chosen by popular vote. To vote, all you have to do is comment below with which option you would prefer and why. If nothing else, I really hope you will enjoy the story. Each story will come out on Saturday, with votes closing the Friday night before. The last part of the story will be shown on 31 December. I can’t wait to read your comments!
*** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** ***
The sounds of Christmas carols and clinking glasses fill the gallery. Harried waiters wearing black and white, rushed around the room carrying cocktails or cleaning messes. And while the overall mood of the room could be described as merry, Kathy Stenson’s was anything but.
Standing next to a rather odd painting of a duck wearing slippers, Kathy shoved her curly hair behind her ear while she glanced over her shoulder for what felt like the millionth time that evening. In her hand was the same glass of champagne that she had snagged when she snuck into the party behind a group of rowdy ladies awhile ago. At this point, she supposed, she just needed to wait.
Tugging the red sweater she wore over her grey slacks, Kathy wondered, not for the first time, when she might be discovered. So far, she had been able to stay quietly in the background, but she was sure sooner or later someone was going to wonder who she was and what she was doing there.
“All right everyone, I’ve heard Santa’s on his way! Gather around the dance floor for your chance to get a present!” An older gentleman stood on the stage with the microphone, waving everyone over. Like moths to a flame, everyone started hurrying towards the stage.
Crap! Kathy thought. Should she move to join the others or stay back and hope no one noticed that she hadn’t moved? Figuring that someone would surely notice if she didn’t, Kathy slowly edged away from the wall and walked towards the crowd.
“I heard they’re giving away a laptop,” a guy with large glasses leaned down to whisper to Kathy when she joined the crowd.
Startled, Kathy attempted to nod and smile at the stranger, but was afraid she probably came off looking like some kind of cartoon. While he seemed genuine enough, Kathy didn’t want to encourage anymore conversation for fear of being caught. It was a shame, she thought, beneath the large frames, the man had really nice eyes and his shoulders gave the impression that he did more than sit at a computer all day.
She turned her head towards the stage as “Here comes Santa Claus,” started booming from the speakers and a rather sad looking Santa came out from a back room. His laugh sounded forced, but that didn’t appear to dim the enthusiasm of the crowd. Seeming at random, he began to hand out gifts from his red bag, walking through the gathering and letting out an occasional, “Merry Christmas,” and “Ho, Ho, Ho.”
“I can’t believe they have Jerry doing this,” the glasses man commented. “He was supposed to be fired yesterday.”
Kathy couldn’t care less who Jerry was or the drama of him being fired, but she tried to seem interested, all the while scanning the hall behind her.
“Ho, Ho, Ho, little lady!” came a loud voice to her left.
Kathy jumped and found that Santa Jerry was standing right in front of her holding out a wrapped box. His gaze was fairly direct beneath the fake white eyebrows he was wearing and if it wasn’t for the ridiculous suit, Kathy was sure he would have frightened her. A bright light from the stage was shining her way and everyone was looking at her.
“Oh, uh…” Kathy smiled and could feel her face heating.
“Don’t worry,” glasses guy said from her right. “Gifts are for everyone, not just employees.”
With no idea what else to do, Kathy reached her hand out and took the box. It was pretty heavy and she used both hands to cradle it on her side, careful not to knock the bright red bow on the ground. “Thank you, Santa.”
He nodded and with one last piercing look, headed back towards the stage.
“I really shouldn’t have this,” Kathy said and tried to hand the box to glasses guy.
Shaking his head, “Seriously, don’t worry. Gifts are supposed to be for everyone. I’m actually glad they had gifts to hand out this year. Last year, Frank from accounting took them all.”
Kathy couldn’t tell if he was joking. “Well, I guess I should go put this down.” She gestured back to the wall where she had been standing earlier.
“If you still have your ticket, the coat-checking service at the front will hold it for you,” he said, pointing to the front of the hall. “I’m Sam, by the way. I don’t think I’ve seen you around, have I?”
Kathy gulped staring down at his outstretched hand and then glanced at the exit sign over Sam’s shoulder.
What should Kathy do?
1) Shake hands with Sam and ask his help.
2) Make a break for the exit and hope no one catches her.