Alone For Christmas(5)

By: Ashley John

Noah tossed back the rest of his drink and dumped his glass. He thought about going over to Amy, but he didn’t want to be the reason she had to wait another year to kiss Steve Banks under the mistletoe. He checked his watch, and it was only passing nine in the evening, which meant there were three hours left of a free bar to take advantage of. Deciding Christmas parties were for getting drunk and doing stupid things, he headed back to the bar and hoisted himself up on a stool.

As he drank his third glass of free wine, the party busied around him, and the noise levels rose above the music as the drinks flowed. More than once, he heard people talking about Chip Harington, but he decided to tune it out.

The empty stool next to him was suddenly occupied and he was surprised to see Clark from Finance.

“Good party, right?” asked Clark as he waited to catch the bartender’s attention. “Is it like this every year?”

“Chip always puts a lot of effort into the Christmas party,” said Noah, noticing the slight slur in his voice. “He takes care of his staff.”

“Shame he’s not here,” said Clark, who seemed to lean in closer to Noah. “Can I buy you a drink?”

“It’s a free bar.”

“Can I get you a free drink, then?” he chuckled softly.

Noah drained the last of his third free wine, totalling five glasses altogether. He looked over to Amy, who to his shock, was successfully making out with Steve Banks, and all without the aid of well-placed mistletoe. Knowing that he had lost his best friend for the evening, he accepted Clark’s offer of a drink.

As Clark ordered two glasses of wine, Noah stared at the accountant’s face. Clark was cute, in a geeky sort of way, but he wasn’t Chip Harington. Noah wondered if he could look past that for the sake of a fumble at the Christmas party. He wondered if Beth’s gossip about Clark having a crush on him were true. He could almost hear Amy telling him to go for it.

Clark handed Noah a glass of wine, which quickly found its way to his lips.

“So, you’re in Legal?” Clark asked as he sipped what seemed to be his first drink of the evening.

“Contracts, small print,” he said with a nod, “that sort of thing. It’s super boring, but it pays the bills.”

“I’m an accountant. Boring is my middle name.”

They both shared a laugh, and for a moment, the thought of taking Clark back to his flat didn’t seem so farfetched. He knew Clark might not want to, but even Noah could pick up on the subtle leaning and lingering eye contact. He didn’t know if it was the wine, or the knowledge that the one man he found attractive didn’t share the feeling, but he didn’t mind the attention as much as he usually would have.

When he was about to finish the last of his wine and he had finally plucked up the courage to ask Clark back to his flat, an eerie silence shuddered through the party. Clark looked up from his drink, and the easy smile on his lips suddenly vanished as he adjusted his glasses in the direction of the door.

“Fuck me,” Clark whispered. “He actually came.”

Knowing exactly who Clark was talking about, Noah spun around on his chair so fast, he tumbled backwards, with nothing to grab hold of.

Wine mixed with a sharp pain in the back of Noah’s head when he opened his eyes. He looked up into the crowd of faces as they blurred and divided. Blinking hard, he tried to steady his thoughts as two sets of arms grabbed him on both sides, pulling him up to his feet.

Suddenly feeling incredibly sober, Noah attempted to shake away the embarrassment that was rushing through his body as he realised that all eyes were on him. Amy pushed her way through the crowd and grabbed his shoulders.

“Are you okay?” she cried over the music.

“I’m fine.” Noah shrugged off all of the hands holding onto him and touched the back of his head, which seemed unaffected after colliding with the slate tiles. “I’m an idiot.”

“A clumsy idiot,” said Amy as she lifted his face up to the light. “How many fingers am I holding up?”

“Leave off, Amy,” he said, batting her fingers away. “I’m fine everyone, honestly.”

He saw a mixture of amusement and concern in the eyes of his co-workers as they turned away from him, most likely grateful for the new topic of conversation.

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