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“That bitch wrote me up.” I was sitting in the breakroom when Steve my coworker dropped down in front of me, exasperated. It wasn’t like I didn’t know the reason why as soon as I looked at his face.
“Please, I’m on break.” I didn’t want to go there.
“I was too minutes, fucking late and that little bitch wrote me the fuck up; she was waiting by the time clock when I got in this morning.” I got up walking over to the coffee dispenser, but he followed me over, not taking the hint.
“You going to the holiday party, tonight; it’s after work at five.” I tried to change the suspect.
“Won’t be much of a holiday party with her there; more like a damn Scrooge party, if you ask me. You going to that shit show, huh?” I poured Steve a cup of decaf handing it to him, but he dumped it for the hard stuff.
“Gotta keep up appearances.”
“Shit you’re right; I’ll hang out as long as I’m not sitting in front of that asshole.” We both snickered at the thought.
“Steven Pope.” Our blood ran cold at the mousy sound of her voice.
Dara Vong was leaning between the double doors of the break room watching both of us and there was no telling how long she’d been there. I knew I hadn’t said anything incriminating, but that had no bearing on how she was going to perceive the visual association between us. One thing our diminutive department head had going for her, was one hell of a poker face. Her almond eyes were so tiny, almost unblinking giving her the appearance of a comic strip character. She’d transferred in from our downtown location, appearing happy and perky initially but gradually turned into something of a hard ass. Nothing ever seemed to break her resolve or chirpy outer shell, and on that note, I did find her massively annoying to interact with. Dara Vong was the picture of the company ideal, almost looking like the actors you’ see in one of those power point presentations with actual photos instead of real people. Dara continually espoused her conservative ideology, Christian talking points and the wholesome nature of her courtship and eventual marriage to white husband, Keith Smith.
You see, Dara Vong whose actual last name is Ketthavong, is of Laotian descent. She’d related the story of her formative years growing up in a suburb outside of Portland Oregon, one too many times for my liking or many others in our department. Sometimes, it seemed like everything she talked about revolved around life in a mostly white community and other choice tidbits that I didn’t want to retain. Sometimes I couldn’t tell if she were socially inept or just trolling you during a conversation. I remember her asking me what my grade point average was in college, later verbally doubting I’d even gone. I’d wanted to flip her the bird for that, but kept my mouth shut because the Human Resources department were largely dicks who always sided with management. I don’t think anyone cared about the white husband, but she kept bringing it up in regards to herself. It made some of us feel that she was sorry for being Asian, and this poor guy was her come up, in some regards.
“Yes Ms. Vong?” Steve replied faintly as we both experienced a Dick Jones moment. What is that, you might ask? Well, it’s a scene in the original Robocop where two disgruntled office workers are pissing a bitch unaware their boss is within the room. This results in one guy literally pissing himself. I wondered if Steve felt the slightest bit of piss trickling down his leg at this moment.
“I would like you to come to my office, right now.” She walked away after that, arms folded across her chest, leaving us alone in the breakroom.
“Damn, I fucked up.” Steve commented before walking out.
I still had ten minutes left of my break and I intended to take every bit of it before going back to my cubicle. Dara was somewhat of a hanging judge in the department having already fired four of my coworkers since she took over. I think the most annoying thing about even that, was her resilient cheerful attitude following those terminations. This woman had the nerve to email her subordinates asking if they knew anyone to recommend for the vacant seats that resulted from her actions. Not that Dara actually took any of those recommendations. She’d usually transfer someone in from one of our satellite offices pissing us off even more. There was a bit of monetary recompenses for referrals of a couple hundred bucks, but Dara had that shit locked down. They said management weren’t allowed to receive money for referrals, but a lot of us had other ideas.
Steve’s desk was empty when I returned as I glanced down the aisle finding a few people returning my stare. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised, but it still stuck in my craw something fierce as I sat down in front of my laptop. Some employees known for being office suck ups, were putting up Christmas decorations while everyone else tapped away, but I just stared at the startup screen. I had to log-in when I returned to my desk, but bahis firmaları I just stared at the blank screen. Predictably, Dara stuck her head out of her office looking directly at my face.
“I’d like to see you in my office.”
It was awkward getting up knowing many sets of eyes followed me to her office sure it would be my last appearance. Dara had a fairly large office situated at the head of the aisle that made up our department. I can’t relate the amount of anxiety an employee felt when getting up to get coffee or take a bathroom break, knowing she was already clocking them the moment they stood up.
“Close the door and have a seat.” It was already strange seeing her sitting behind her desk because of her smaller stature. She was probably four foot twelve inches in height, so the visual was akin to seeing a kid sitting at the teacher’s desk in grade school for lack of a better analogy.
“Uh, yes ma’am.” Dara sat there with this hybrid expression that seemed designed to confuse. It appeared somewhere between a preppy smirk and what amounted to a displeased glare of sorts.
“You’ve been sitting there for approximately four minutes, fifty seven seconds past your log-in; is there a problem?” There was a noticeable glint in her eye.
“Uhm no; I was trying to remember my password.”
“Oh, well I can help you with that.” She smiled turning to her computer, tapping up my password before writing it on some stationary.
“No worries; but I hope this situation doesn’t have anything to do with Steven Pope. I suspended him for the rest of the year, although it’s only seven days until new year. Does that upset you?” She finished writing but held onto the slip of paper.
“Uh, no ma’am.”
“I suspended him for disparaging talk and gossip; it’s against company policy. I realize you’re friends with him and I didn’t intend to upset you. As a member of the management team, it’s my responsibility to uphold company policy.” I betrayed myself by looking away as she spoke, probably giving her what she was looking for.
“Yes ma’am, is there anything, else?” Dara leaned back in her seat staring for a few seconds.
“Look, it’s okay if you’re upset about Steve; I know you guys were really tight and I encourage that aspect of what we do here. I think, maybe you guys should have aired out your grievances in the men’s restroom; I can’t legally go in there.” At this point, I didn’t want to look at her face. Canned holiday music wafted through the office muted by the closed office door.
“We were just talking.”
“Sure, of course.” Again she made with that muted half smile, half smirk thing on her round, almost nondescript face.
“Is there anything, else ma’am?”
The top of her desk was kept meticulously neat with everything occupying a predetermined space. Dara even had a coaster for her coffee mug, this soft pink cup that read Future Mommy in a sloppily drawn heart. A picture of Dara and hubby sat at the corner, one of those mall photos that depicted the happy couple against a blue background, hugged up.
“Take some Christmas candy; and leave my door open on your way out.” She tossed a baggie of candy to me. There was a medium sized cardboard box next to her desk full of treats. The bag in my hand was something homemade, a miniature mesh bag with a candy cane and red bow sticking out of the top. I shuffled back to my desk feeling defeated. I tossed the bag on my desk logging in while Dara appeared moments later walking up the aisle handing out the bags. I noticed a bag on Steve’s desk, later.
Four hours later, Dara came out of her office to let us know that we would all be able to leave early to get ready for the holiday party later that evening. The sight of her made me angry as she walked up the aisle glancing at her subordinate’s monitors with this self-satisfied smile while some of my social climbing coworkers made polite conversation. I was thinking of blowing off the holiday party when Dara announced that shew would take it as a personal offense if everyone didn’t show up. It was meant to sound like a joke, but I knew she was deadly serious. I didn’t cotton to all the faux holiday cheer but resolved to make an appearance none the less if only to keep the dogs off my back, namely Dara.
Some hours later I found myself sitting at the open bar in the rented banquet hall of some old dinosaur of a fading hotel brand rented by our office. Steven’s suspension and a likely shit canning was the dominant conversation among my peers, but I had nothing to add. My opinion of affairs wasn’t going forth in public so that one of these lapdogs could catch a few thousand brownie points snitching me out to Dara. I found this verbal iteration of tossing quarters so distasteful, that I slid out in front of the hotel to catch a smoke and check my phone. I didn’t mind the biting cold and wet sidewalks, preferring it to the fake people waiting to kiss ass inside. kaçak iddaa I was considering chucking it all and catching a taxi home when a Range Rover skidded to a stop on the curb outside the hotel entrance. I thought it was reckless as flecks of ice cold rain started peppering my face. The valet didn’t look like he wanted to leave the heat lamps and relative shelter of his desk to open the door when it swung open hard of its own accord. I could hear some sort of heated conversation inside.
Dara half stumbled out curbside wrapped in a calve length, beige raincoat. It looked like she’d nearly fallen from the passenger side of the car, barely able to catch herself by grabbing the door handle. The valet made a gesture to catch her as she stumbled but relented as she righted herself. A small, blue purse followed, flying from the interior of the luxury vehicle onto the curb. There was no way to see the driver because the windows were fogged up, but I was sure it was her husband, this Keith guy. She barely had time to release the handle before he gunned it out of the parking lot, taking the arching road off property as she watched. The valet retrieved her purse, appearing to say something to Dara about the situation as she nodded tightening the sash on her raincoat. She presented the valet with a handful of cash before slinging her purse and power walking into the hotel lobby. It felt like I’d been given an early Christmas present that I wished I could’ve shared with my suspended coworker this fine Friday evening. I smoked another cigarette pondering an argument unseen as the winter rain gradually intensified.
A howling wind went hand in hand with the brewing storm, eventually forcing me inside after watching more of my coworkers arrive with assorted family members in tow. I was tragically single and intended to stay that way until my dying days. I found the lobby sparsely lit as the encroaching evening approached making me think they were trying to save money or something. This area was large, unimpressive and sparsely furnished with some benches lining the walls near the elevators. I glanced around as I made my way inside, noticing Dara talking heatedly into her phone while staring out of a lobby window at the parking lot. She was holding her phone with both hands yelling into it’s face but still far enough that I couldn’t make out what she was saying. I figured she was trying to get her apparently, estranged husband to make an appearance. I lingered there watching for a few minutes, taking in her exposed humanity. What I was seeing was light years away from the self-assured, meticulously chipper department head I’d come to loathe like so many others in our shared workplace.
The banquet hall rented by our office was decorated with all of the attention to detail you’d expect from seasonal employees. I noticed a third of our office opted out of showing up, even though my entire department was accounted for, except Steve. It looked like half of the main ballroom was rented with everything crammed together, even the truncated dance floor. Despite that, some people were making the best of it, getting down on the raised section of tile that had been cordoned off. Predictably, Dara had made her work aesthetic omnipresent here as the seating was assigned. I took a seat after making a plate of holiday snacks, content to kill some time, looking at my phone.
“Shit.” Dara’s place at the table was situated right in front of me conspicuous by the handwritten place holder sitting up in my field of vision.
The table began to fill up gradually with the bulk of the seating taken by a female coworker who seemed to have a brood of grade school children at my left and more of the aforementioned butt kissers at my right. Out of my peripheral vision, I caught sight of some business between coworkers as a light blue object buzzed by, piquing my curiosity enough to look up from my phone. Dara was talking with some visibly disinterested members of management obviously looking to extricate themselves. They were big wigs here to put in an appearance before going off to the real holiday party thrown by the owner. It was one of the worst kept secrets around the office and a source of drone level resentment. It looked like she was doing her best to put on a happy face, laughing and joking with men and women old enough to be her parents. Something dawned on me as I sat watching. Dara had checked the beige raincoat revealing a light blue cocktail dress underneath. It was just above thigh length, revealing a nice pair of legs that caught me off guard.
It was a flimsy looking garment, almost sheer in nature held to her shoulders by thin almost invisible gold tinted chain that matched the golden belt that cinched in her waist. A plunging neckline that went perhaps a little too low, revealed some surprisingly full breasts just over a handful. I didn’t know if it was appropriate for a holiday party attended by the families of our coworkers and some elderly members kaçak bahis of upper level management. My eyes were continually drawn to the what appeared to be the abundant curve of her backside. Leering aside, my gaze followed that backside noticing a curious sway that almost made it appear that she wasn’t wearing underwear. This was a bit much for me as I downed a few glasses of wine, wanting to wash the sight away behind an alcohol induced haze. Fifteen minutes later, I was still watching as Dara drifted off to the unoccupied portion of the banquet hall attempting to contact her better half.
“HAPPY HOLIDAYS!!” Everyone at the table toasted, thankfully distracting me from any further visual impropriety on my part. My boss returned to the table with that same chipper smile as a coworker pulled the chair out for her. She joined in a few more toasts before wandering off to check her phone again while we were receiving envelopes containing a meager Christmas bonus along with a coupon for a free turkey.
Throughout the night, my eyes returned again and again to the subtle sway of her buttocks, still wandering what lie underneath. Dara continued onward, barely missing a step as she went the social butterfly route from table to table until I guess she figured everyone had enough of her antics. I was sitting there feeling odd about my behavior and the fact that I’d stayed longer than originally intended.
“Have a drink with me, please.” Dara suddenly appeared at my side, filling two glasses with the remnants of a pilfered bottle from some other table.
“We’re not at work; you can just, be yourself.” She forced a smile as we toasted, taking a seat beside me which made me kind of uncomfortable. I glanced at her cleavage for a second before remembering myself enough to look at her face.
“Uhm, Happy Holidays, Dara.”
“Don’t sound so nervous, we’re two people sharing a drink together.” I noticed a bit of agitation in her voice as we downed a second round.
I did my best not to let my eyes wander, hoping she hadn’t noticed. Luckily one of the old farts from the executive committee caught her eye, whisking her away for another worked bout of brown nosing. I was grateful for the interruption that uncomfortable conversation away with her aspirations to climb the corporate ladder. Still, I lingered making no appreciable connection with anyone or the associated people in their sewing circles. The little dance floor was full of sauced up employees, and others dancing to some Christmas song by TLC. I wasn’t much of a dancer, figuring this was as good a time as any to make my exit. I pocketed my check and the small box containing a gift from my Secret Santa, some guy from the mail room.
Outside the banquet corridor in the hotel lobby, I found a long, sustained line of people, assorted family members and guests waiting for valet to bring their cars around to the main entrance. I supposed the delay was due to a skeleton crew assigned over the holiday weekend. That winter storm I’d encountered in its growing infancy, had blossomed into a full on conflagration of mother nature’s icy rage. The loud howl and whistle were enough to shake the panoramic lobby windows along with the sliding entrance doors. I wanted a cigarette, but not enough to stand outside the building. I drifted off to the side noting some guests down a side corridor were lighting up, so I joined them figuring I could get a few puffs in before security intervened. It was Friday, Christmas weekend and I didn’t actually have to be back in the office until Tuesday, so I wasn’t in any hurry. I managed a cigarette and a half before some crew cut wearing guard decided to notice the smokers. We were given some flimsy excuse about the corridor being closed and ushered back into the main lobby. The line had diminished, but not enough to stand there waiting as I got out my phone to dial up a taxi.
That’s exactly when I noticed her, just sitting there on a bench situated between two guest elevators. Dara was sitting hunched over peering down at the face of her phone between her knees. Her dark tresses hung in a manner that hid her tiny eyes from view leaving the lower portion of her button nose and thin lips visible. She reminded me of some petulant child sitting there like she’d been placed in timeout. I wondered if perhaps she’d imbibed a little too much as several of her subordinates walked casually by without regarding her in the least. I stood there taking the measure of what passed as true holiday spirit and humanity. The winds were picking up making themselves known in case I was too distracted by what was evolving right in front of my eyes. The open toed, spiked heels on her feet were this sort of cheap metallic gold that matched the belt around her waist. Her soles were pointed at one another as the phone dropped to the carpet. Nobody else seemed to notice or care that she was in dire straits. I kept watching pensively waiting for somebody to come to her aid, but everything around her just went on as usual. Dara Vong, my immediate supervisor, my boss was alone. I watched all of the cheery faces, some inebriated file out of the lobby until there was almost no one left. I told myself that I was still waiting.
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