The sounds of traditional Christmas music, intermixed with more conventional party fare, filled the air as the employee Christmas party at Hanson Brothers Auto Mall entered its fourth and final hour. As company parties went, this one was better than most, despite the fact that it was taking place in the temporarily emptied showroom, as opposed to one of the restaurants or rental halls that most other companies in town booked for the occasion.
Hanson Brothers was a fairly good-sized business, consisting at one time of four different dealerships. It had been in operation in one form or another since just after the Second World War, having been founded by the father and uncle of the current owner. With the changes in the economy over the last few years, Hanson Brothers had to downsize a little, closing one of its franchises. Still, George Hanson was determined that the fifty-nine people that worked for him would still feel appreciated at Christmas.
If anyone minded the change of locale, no one was heard to complain about it. After all, the food was great, the drinks free and plentiful, and for the most part, the companionship quite enjoyable. All these things passed through Tracy Smith's thoughts as she stood in a far corner, next to an already depleted buffet table, and nursed the eggnog she had been drinking. After almost two hours of non-stop dancing, the twenty-four year old redhead was content to watch others fill the makeshift dance floor.
Originally, since she had only been with the company for a few months, Tracy had planned to skip the year-end celebration. The receptionist had changed her mind at the last minute, partially due to some old fashion begging and pleading from a few of her male co-workers. Since the male to female ratio at Hanson Brothers was over two to one, they needed every girl they could get at the party. In the end, she was glad they convinced her since she had done more bonding with her fellows in the last three hours than in the last three months.
Some of that had been due, understandably, to the not inconsiderable amounts of free booze that had been indulged in by the partygoers. Libations on that scale tended to break down most barriers. Some of them, perhaps a little too much, she thought as she reminded herself of the three cases of roving hands that she'd encountered on the dance floor. In two of those, a simple relocation of the wandering hand had proved sufficient.
Why was it, she asked herself as she brushed back her short hair, did some guys just assume that being willing to dance with them also entitled them to other liberties as well. Still, it had been a distinct minority of the number she'd been with so maybe it was best to just chalk it up to the overly festive atmosphere.
It wasn't that she was a prude, far from it. Tracy thoroughly enjoyed the touch of a man in many an intimate place. She just liked to be able to control the who and the when.
In keeping with her desire to stay in control of things, the woman in the green party dress had stopped drinking alcoholic beverages halfway through the party in order to give her body plenty of time to burn away any detrimental effects. Back in her college days, she had learned the hard way that she didn't make great decisions under the influence. Thankfully, it had been a very long time since she'd woken up in a strange bed and she wanted to keep it that way.
"Merry Christmas, Tracy," the obviously inebriated man in the Santa Claus suit said to the younger redhead as he suddenly appeared in front of her and moved to give her an affectionate hug.
"Merry Christmas, Mr. Hanson," Tracy said as she returned his hug in such a way as to restrict the movement of his hands. She had heard from one of the saleswomen that while a nice man when sober, the sixty-something store owner wasn't above copping a feel when he was in his cups. Three times in one night had already been quite enough.
"Please, how many times have I asked you young people to call me, George," the white haired man said with a smile. "You make me sound so old with that Mister Hanson nonsense."
"Merry Christmas, George."
"Now that wasn't so hard, was it?" George said as he pulled his hands back and gave her an even friendlier smile.
It seemed that the information that had been imparted to her earlier had been in error. Santa was quite satisfied with a kind word, a brief embrace and a chaste kiss on the cheek before he moved on to the next partygoer. Tracy was glad he hadn't copped a feel because she really liked the auto mall owner. When she had lost her job at Datatech when the company folded, he had been only too glad to hire her as a receptionist even though she was vastly overqualified for the position and would undoubtedly leave the moment something better came along. What was more, he came right out and told that to her, saying that if she found something better he expected her to grab it. After all, she'd be foolish to waste all that education she worked so had to get.
Turning back to her view of the dwindling crowd of dancers, Tracy almost wished someone had made a serious pass at her tonight. Not Mr. Hanson of course, but there were a number of cute, unattached guys that worked in various departments. Unfortunately, most of those that weren't married seemed to have brought dates of their own or else were already matched up with other women from the dealerships.
Up until a little over two weeks ago, Tracy imagined she would be going to the party with Tom Jackson, her boyfriend of the last nine and a half months. That was of course before her former associate at Datatech had proven himself what her little sister, Karen, liked to call a VC boyfriend. The sort that you meet just after Valentine's Day and breaks it off just before Christmas, thereby avoiding the two biggest gift days of the year. Tracy really didn't think that was the case with Tom, but it did seem awfully coincidental. Especially since she had spent the night before his coming to the revelation that they just weren't right for each other by screwing what little brains he obviously had out.
But that was the past, and if there was one thing she had learned for sure in her short life, it was that there was nothing that you could do about things that had already happened. If she had to spend the holidays alone, well there was always her little battery-powered friend that she kept in a locked drawer of her night table. It was a wonderful age to live in, she told herself, when you could replace a lousy boyfriend with a simple piece of technology.
"Oh Jesus, just what I need!" Tracy suddenly thought as her focus shifted from modern wonders to Neanderthals when she spotted Michael "Monk" Webber coming toward her with a smug look on his face.
The office rumor mill hadn't gotten wind of her break up with Tommy more than a few hours before Monk had first tried to hit on her. She'd lost track of how many times she tried to make it perfectly clear to the former high school jock that she just wasn't interested. Monk had been an all county fullback who had several colleges' offering scholarships until an injury during senior year had ended his running days. He had taken a job at Hansons, arranged in part by his father who had once worked there while he went to the local college, in the hope that the former athlete would follow in his footsteps.
Instead, the six foot one blond had tossed aside any idea of higher education and demonstrated an inborn talent as an auto mechanic. In that at least he had succeeded, now holding a position as one of two assistant mechanics. Unfortunately, in other areas of his life, specifically his relationships with women, old number thirty-one still saw himself as the star around which cheerleaders and other adoring fans just swooned. Which was not a bad way to see yourself at seventeen, but not at twenty-nine when your glory days were a decade behind you.
It had been Monk, who after cutting in on her dance with another employee, that Tracy had earlier had to use more than a suggestion to avoid an unwanted touch. Even then, he didn't take the hint and she wondered if his head was as thick as the muscles he still cultivated three nights a week at the local gym. The song ended right after that and she quickly put distance between them.
"Hey Tracy, baby," Monk grinned as he moved up to her, "I was hoping that I'd find you here."
His comment didn't make sense to the smaller woman in the little thought she gave to it. Tracy's more immediate concern was how to finally drum into his thick skull that she just wasn't interested. She wondered if a swift kick in the balls would really be out of place in this season of peace on earth and goodwill towards men.
Thankfully it never came to that as a woman dressed in black slacks a white top and a matching black jacket stepped in-between Tracy and her tormentor. Despite being a full head shorter than the former football player, as well as less than half his weight, the thirty-one year old Hispanic woman stopped him literally in his tracks.
"I was here first, big boy," she said in a strong, but still feminine tone. "You'll just have to wait your turn."
The new arrival was Nina Castro, who was without question, the top saleswoman in any of the dealerships. Like Monk, she had been a local star during her high school days, in her case, winning several state track competitions. Also like Monk, an injury had prevented her from getting the scholarship she deserved. Unlike the mechanic, she had still managed to finish college and get her degree, even if it took her twice the normal time since she was also holding down a full time job. She had her sights set on nothing less than taking over as general manager when Mr. Hanson retired.
.... There is more of this story ...