Thursday, December 4, 2008

Friday Fiction for December 5th, 2008

As promised, for this week’s Friday Fiction , I have an original story. This is one I’ve thought about for a while, and decided this was a good time to write it. This story takes place within the time frame of Cardan’s Pod, and occurs at Christmastime that first year Josh has settled in with the Pod. As the owner of Cardan Pharmaceuticals, though, Josh still has business obligations to attend to, one of which is the annual Holiday Party. Hopefully, I’ve succeeded in crafting this scene such that it stands alone well enough without you needing to read Cardan’s Pod first.

Be sure to check out the other submissions this week, and feel free to leave comments.

Away from the Mistletoe
By Rick Higginson

The open door revealed a crowded room, where holiday music played over the sounds of conversations and laughter. The hotel staff had done a terrific job, decorating the room and setting the atmosphere, and from the smells that wafted through the air, the caterer had likewise delivered on all that had been promised. He stepped into the room and surveyed the scene from beside the door.

He worked his way around the room, shaking hands, extending holiday greetings, and making generic small talk with his employees and their families. As duties went, it was a pleasant enough one, and while no one had forgotten the events of the previous summer, at least for the evening, there were no questions raised about it.

He finished the circuit by the hors d’oeuvre table near the Christmas tree, and watched the festivities while snacking on some crackers with cheese.

“Mr. Cardan, you are not being very cooperative tonight.”

He turned towards the voice. “I didn’t know I was supposed to be cooperating with anything, Tina.”

She walked her fingers up his arm. “How is a girl supposed to get you under the mistletoe if you’re not going anywhere near it?” She reached to set her drink cup on the table and missed. “Oopsy,” she said, and laughed at her clumsiness.

“Just how much have you had to drink already?”

She gave him a pouty look. “It’s a party; aren’t I supposed to have fun?”

“Fun, yes; I just hope you’re not planning on driving yourself home tonight.”

The pouty look turned just as quickly to a teasing smile. “I was kinda planning on just staying here tonight.”

“I think that would be an excellent idea.”

“So, how’s about that mistletoe?”

“You do know, Tina, that I’m seeing someone, don’t you?”

“Oh, right,” she said, and made a weak attempt at a whisper. “You don’t wanna be seen flirting with other women, do you?”

“No, I really don’t want to flirt with other women, and I don’t want to get under the mistletoe with anyone but her.”

“Gotcha,” she agreed, leaning even closer to him. The mixture of perfume and liquor created a rather unappealing aroma. “I’ll catch you later, Mr. Cardan.”

She sashayed away, glancing back to make sure he was watching.

Maybe next year we’ll have the party in-plant, he thought. That way, maybe we could get through one holiday without at least one employee getting so drunk they embarrass themselves. The standing rule of no liquor on company premises would make for a convenient excuse to not have an open bar at the party.

Glancing at his watch, he wrestled with the question on whether he’d made enough of an appearance, or if he needed to stay around a little longer.

He picked up a slice of sandwich from the buffet table, and quietly walked out the nearest exit. Waiting to eat it until he arrived back at his room, he placed it on the desk and fired up his laptop before removing the tie and dress shirt. He started the coffee maker, and then kicked off his shoes by the bed and stepped out of the dress slacks. He put on a soft, terry robe, and settled into the chair at the computer.

Playing solitaire while eating his sandwich, he decided an early bedtime wasn’t such a bad idea.

There was a gentle knock on his door, and he quickly finished the last bite of sandwich before walking over to look out the peephole. Seeing who was outside, he returned to his laptop, made a few quick clicks, and then went to open the door. “Is there a problem, Tina?” he asked.

She giggled and tugged at the robe belt. “Only that you’re ready for bed in there and I’m still out here,” she said.

“I’m ready to go to bed alone; I told you that I’m seeing someone.”

“Uh huh; but she’s not here, and I am.” She licked her lips. “I know you want to keep up appearances, but now we’re all alone, so no one has to know anything.” She reached her hand to wrap behind his head.

He directed the hand away from him, deflecting the kiss attempt. “There’s nothing for anyone to know.”

“Of course there isn’t,” she agreed. “And tomorrow morning, I’ll sneak away. Your ‘someone’ won’t have to know a thing.”

“Tina, you’re drunk and you’re not listening. You’re not sleeping with me tonight or any other night. I’ve been on the receiving end of a cheating relationship, and there’s no way I’m going to put her through what I was put through. I’m not going to do anything that I will either need to confess to her, or that I’m going to have to lie about for the rest of my life.”

“Aren’t I pretty enough for you, Mr. Cardan?”

“You’re very pretty, Tina, but that has nothing to do with this. I don’t believe ‘pretty’ excuses cheating.” He pulled his cell phone from the robe pocket, and initiated a speed-dial. “Yeah, Rob; would you send Janice and Tina Kinney’s supervisor up to my room right away? No, no trouble; I just need to make sure someone watches over her so she doesn’t try to drive home. Thanks.”

She gave him a hurt expression. “You’re not going to let me in?”

“No, and I want you to give me your car keys. If this was your idea of staying here tonight, then you’re going to need to make other arrangements.”

The hurt turned to anger. “You’re so worried about your reputation; what if I just tell everyone we’ve already done it? How’s that going to look, huh? You think your precious someone is going to believe you then?”

“You don’t want to play that game, Tina. I’ll give you some slack because you’ve had too much to drink, but if you try that threat on me, it’s going to backfire on you.”

She lowered her face, and let her arms fall limp.

“Your keys, Tina; please. I don’t want you hurting yourself or anyone else driving home tonight.”

She reached into her small purse and extracted the ring, and slapped the keys into his open hand. Standing quietly, she waited.

The ding of the elevator arriving on the floor drew his attention for just a moment, and suddenly, she had her arm back around his neck. She planted quick kisses on his face and robe, even as her other hand tugged the knot from the belt. “Explain that,” she whispered with a triumphant expression.

He struggled to disengage her even as Janice and Tina’s supervisor stopped short, with shocked looks.

“Mr. Cardan?” Janice said. Usually, in her capacity as Executive Secretary, she just called him Josh.

Flustered, he quickly reclosed and tied the robe, and then held the keys out to Janice. “Ms. Kinney has had a bit too much to drink; please make sure she either has a room here tonight, or is taken home in a taxi. Tina, go with Janice and wait for Mrs. Armstrong by the elevator.”

The woman tried to object, but Janice placed an arm around her and ushered her away from the room.

“Mr. Cardan, I’m not sure what to say,” Mrs. Armstrong began.

“Dora, Tina came up here tonight hoping to get in my room, and when I wouldn’t let her, decided to try and make it look like she had anyway. You don’t have to take my word for it; my laptop has been recording everything since before I opened the door, and you’ll have the complete video on your work computer before I go to bed tonight.”

“Are you serious?”

“You’ll have the video; review it yourself.”

“What should I do about Tina?”

“It’ll all depend on what she does when she sobers up in the morning. If she realizes she made a dumb mistake and leaves it at that, then let her know it will be overlooked this time. If she tries to carry through with the deception, though, take the video to HR and let them handle it.”

“Yes, sir, Mr. Cardan.”

Closing the door, he returned to the laptop and stopped the recording, saving the file before transmitting it to Dora Armstrong’s computer. He went to the sink, and washed the smears of lipstick from his cheek. Stay away from the mistletoe,his friend Diego had jokingly warned him that morning. When he’d explained the custom to Marta, she’d reiterated the instruction, and he’d promised her he would.

Apparently, it wasn’t enough to just stay away from the mistletoe.


LauraLee Shaw said...

This was marvelous, Rick. Wow. I never would've guessed he had been recording it. I like it that he didn't tell her and that they were going to let things play out in the morning before deciding what to do.

Your writing was smooth, the descriptions through behavior and action excellent.

I was intrigued and stayed that way. Masterful piece of writing.

Yvonne Blake said...

I haven't been following this story, so I don't know the characters...but now I need to go back and read more!

*smile* When I was a kid and first heard about people kissing under mistletoe, I thought it was some kind of Christmas blanket.
Hee, hee!

BethL said...

I'm starting to admire your Mr. Cardan. I love that he recorded the incident… (what a cool surprise for the reader). Your title is perfect. This stands alone very well.

Joanne Sher said...

This definitely stands alone, Rick. Great characterization and everything. Great stuff.

Unknown said...

Great writing...I want to read more!

Patty Wysong said...

Oh SOOOOO good, Rick!! I was hooked, and it didn't matter that I didn't know any more of the story--there was more than enough there to stand alone and to be GREAT!

That Josh guy is one smart dude! I loved how he handled it--such great thinking!