A Night of Christmas

*another old story from Fictionpress cleaned up.

This is bad.

Horrible.

What do I call this? How can I even describe it?

It’s beyond my vocabulary. Please, someone lend me a dictionary.

This place…

Is suffocating me.

“Yeah, so like I was saying—”

“I know, right? And then he just went berserk after I told him that he—”

“You’re going to drink more? Holy cow, you can really hold it in—”

“Wow, the meat here is really crispy—”

“And that damn bastard didn’t even show! Aren’t you supposed to show some respect to your elder, for fuck’s sa—”

A girl to my right. A guy to my left. In front of me, even more people. All around me, people. I was surrounded. There was no escape.

Grilled meats. Beer. The wafting smells blanketed the room with its stench, swirling, swirling, swirling. All of it smelled delicious, but the scent was heavy. It clung onto my shoulders like a little kid, crushing me with its weight until I wanted to cry for mercy. The chatter was coming from all sides, shooting into my ears like rockets. Bang, bang, bang! The moment I’d hear one person speaking, another voice would smack me from the other side. They were jostling me with their elbows, poking me, trying to talk to me all at once.

I couldn’t take it. I was being overwhelmed. This was damn exhausting.

This is why I hate parties. I hate mixers. I goddamn hate this company for planning this. They should go bankrupt. I don’t care if I’m out of a job. At least that bastard of a manager will suffer just the same. Actually, it’ll be worse for him since he has a family. Being single has its benefits after all.

Someone passed me a glass of beer. I drank it without hesitation, not even caring that I had already consumed four mugs. The alcohol burned its way down my throat and settled like mud in my stomach.

“Woah, Satoshi! I didn’t know you could hold your drink that well.”

“Shut up, you degenerate. Pass me another one.”

I took the second mug, which was really my sixth one, and drained it just as easily. I didn’t even notice the alcohol anymore. I was just drinking so that I didn’t have to talk. My co-workers would be amused enough with me tossing glass after glass and then I could just conk out before any of them tried to make conversation.

I didn’t want to talk to any of them. I didn’t have anything to say. I wasn’t in the mood. I didn’t even want to be here.

I should just leave. This is too tiring.

I guess the drinks were getting to me. I didn’t even notice that my head had slammed down onto the table. The people around me were asking if I was ok. I waved them off and asked for another drink. The mug was passed to me again, but this time, it was filled with water. Whatever. I’ll take it.

“What a load of shit.”

My ears perked up at this voice of reason. I turned my head towards the source and saw another co-worker with her head in a similar position to mine. She mumbled again with her mouth pressed against the tabletop.

“Yeah, this sucks, doesn’t it?” I said in a low voice.

The girl ignored me and tilted her head up to take a sip of beer.

“What an idiot.”

“What?”

The words had come suddenly from her mouth. It didn’t even register in my head until after I had responded, but once I had it down, I followed the girl’s gaze to the guy in front of her, who was happily piling pieces of fried chicken into his mouth.

“Yeah, he looks like a total slob—”

“I mean you, moron.”

My mouth opened to respond, but this time, the phrase got through my alcohol-clouded brain more quickly. Still, the fog was only momentarily disturbed, so I took several moments to turn my head towards her and reply.

“Huh?”

I wanted to slap myself. That was the best I could think of?

“Spoken like a true idiot,” said the girl, leaning on her arm while she sipped her drink.

“What’s the matter with you?” I said with a slight slur. “I’m just trying to make some conversation.”

“Well, I don’t want to talk.”

“Yeah, well, I never wanted to talk to you in the first place,” I said, my head nodding.

“That’s why you’re an idiot.”

“What do you mean by that? Stop calling me an idiot!”

“Moron.”

“Don’t call me that either!” I said, struggling to keep my head from bobbing.

“Mmm, sure,” said the girl, draining the rest of her glass in an instant. A slight flush was creeping up her face. For some reason, I thought this was extremely attractive. I ended up unconsciously stretching my hand out and touching her red cheek.

“What are you doing?” she asked as I caressed her face.

“You look like those baboons. With the red butts,” I said, smiling happily at her.

“Oh yeah?” said the girl, her eye twitching. Her hand suddenly grabbed mine in a crushing grip. “I’m very sorry about that.”

“Ow! Ow! Ow!”

“Not far from what I expected from you though,” said the girl as she flicked my hand away. “After all, you’re Tanaka Satoshi. That idiot from the web design team.”

“What?”

“Everyone knows you. The worthless retard that can’t even warm up a cup of coffee correctly. How did you get this job? You’re even more useless than the interns.”

“…”

“You’re really a piece of work. A week doesn’t even pass without you screwing something up,” continued the girl, a malicious smirk growing on her face. “Ah, it’s getting annoying hearing the web team complaining to me everyday. ‘God, that fucktard Tanaka! Doesn’t even know how to access the DOM.'”

“Ah, I remember you now,” I said, rubbing my face. “Hinode Sumi. That bitch from planning.”

“Hah? Trying to get under my skin now? How pathetic,” said Hinode, gulping down another glass.

“As if I can take you seriously. After all, you’re that stuck-up slut that criticizes everyone, right?”

“What did you say?”

“Seriously, what kind of gap is that? You give everyone else the cold shoulder, but you like getting passed around by the corporate hotshots, don’t you?”

“Heh, you must’ve been really riled to make up shit like that,” retorted Hinode.

“I don’t see why anyone would go for you though. I mean, you’re as flat as a board. What kind of service do you give? Maybe you’re really good with your hands?”

“I guess this is what I deserve for talking to a grade-one dumbass,” said Hinode, turning back to her beer. “Why don’t you just shut your mouth if you can’t think of anything better than turning a woman into a whore.”

“What, and I thought it was a compliment. I’m not good enough for you, cum dumpster?”

“I said shut the fuck up!” shouted Hinode, her hands banging onto the table.

“Why don’t you make me, you bitch!”

“Alright, I think you guys had too much to drink.” Someone reached over and tried to take our glasses.

“Shut up, you piece of shit!” we yelled simultaneously, whipping around so fast that we ended up dumping all of our beer on the poor guy behind us.

“…”

“Manager? What the hell are you doing standing behind me?” I said, lifting the glass up to my mouth. Sadly, there was no beer left inside it.

“…That’s enough for both of you.”

After letting us drink some ice water to sober up a little, the manager kicked us out of the restaurant and we ended up walking out into the freezing snow. I inhaled sharply as the cold bit at my hands, forcing me to stuff them into my coat pockets.

“I can’t believe this. I endured that shitty crowd for three hours just to make a good impression, but one fucktard was enough to ruin everything.”

“Hey, don’t try and pin this all on me! It’s all because you started talking shit

“Ah, just shut up, you retard! Haven’t you done enough today?”

“That’s what I want to say! God, if you can’t fucking control yourself, then don’t drink at all!”

“Hah? Who was the one slurring all his lines inside, dumbass!”

“Even if I was slurring, I was in total control! You were the one crossing lines! This is all your fault!”

“You’ve got to be shitting me…” said Hinode under her breath. She finished wrapping her scarf around her neck and started walking away.

“And seriously, what kind of girl talks like that? You’ve got one dirty mouth!”

“What, did I ruin your virgin fantasies?” said Hinode with unfettered disgust. “Just go die in a ditch, dipshit. The world will do better without you.”

“Again! Where did you come from, a prison?”

“A better question would be why the hell are you following me!?”

It was only then I realized that, for the past ten minutes, I had been walking side by side with this brute of a girl. Noticing how close we were, I instinctively moved away and coughed to cover myself.

“I’m just going the same way,” I mumbled, tucking my chin into my own scarf.

“Oh, really? You better not say something like ‘We’re actually neighbors and neither of us knew until today,'” said Hinode with a chilling laugh. “If that’s true, then I might as well just hang myself.”

“You hate me that much!? And as if that kind of cliched crap would actually happen!”

“Then, where do you live?”

“Huh?”

“I asked you where you live, dumbass,” said Hinode with an air of barely-tolerated patience.

“Why should I tell you? Why don’t you tell me where you live?”

“HUH? Me, tell you? Do you think I’m insane? No, better yet, you must be the insane one! As if I’d ever tell you where I live, you damn pervert!”

“What kind of assumptions are you making about me!?”

“Assumptions, schumptions. It’s obvious that if a girl as cute as I am gives away her address, she’s just asking for a stalker!”

“Stalker? ME?”

“Don’t think I didn’t see through your scheme, shitface!”

“I have a name, damn it!”

“Ok. I understand, Tanaka. Read my lips: NICE TRY, LOSER.”

“I didn’t even ask for your address! All I’m asking for is a general location! Like, five stops away from the nearest train station or something!”

“You never know what stalkers are capable of these days.”

“I’m not a stalker!”

“Go back to 2chan, you worthless bum!”

“What’s your problem!?”

“My problem is you’re a super ultra stalker!”

“Don’t use a cool-sounding prefix when you’re trying to insult me!” I yelled. Damn it, this was getting nowhere. I sighed and took a deep breath, trying to regain my composure. “Ok, whatever. I’ll just tell you where I live.”

“I don’t want to know.”

“Then why’d you ask in the first place!?”

“Ahhh, fine, fine! Just tell me already!”

So. Damn. Annoying!

“I’m taking a turn here at the fork and going to the subway. I’m one stop away from work.”

“…!”

“…What?”

“…Me too.”

“Huh?”

“I’m one stop from work too…”

“What? You can’t be serious! Are you saying that

“To the south.”

“THAT’S THE COMPLETE OPPOSITE DIRECTION, DAMN IT!”

“Why are you getting mad at me!?”

“That’s because you

“Because I what?”

“AGH! Just forget it! Look, I live to the north, in

I quickly detailed the name of my apartment complex and my address to Hinode Sumi without a care in the world. I suppose I should have been a little more withdrawn with my personal information, but I was still slightly drunk, so it all spilled off my tongue like a river.

“…You know, you’re just asking for someone to come kill you at night.”

“S-Shut it!” I slurred, feeling my head throb. God damn it, this was getting bad. If I spent anymore time with this exhausting woman, I’d probably find myself sleeping on some trash bags when morning came.

“Damn it…I guess I’ll eat the cake tomorrow…”

“Cake?”

“Yeah. My mom dropped some Christmas cake at my place.”

“Your mom…?” said Hinode with a sinister smile.

“W-what? Is there something wrong with that?” That smile was really annoying to see.

“As I thought, you’re just a momma’s boy,” said Hinode, spreading out her hands in an understanding gesture. “I guess you have to hurry home before your curfew, right little Tanaka?”

“…What are you trying to say?”

“Nothing, nothing. Oh, I’m sorry I called you names, Tanaka. Big sis didn’t know before, so no hard feelings, ok?” cooed Hinode in a sweet, girly voice.

“…You’re pissing me off.”

“What’s with that attitude? Big sis is giving you plenty of affection and you’re being rude.”

“Why are you the older sister!?”

“I am older than you, that’s why,” said Hinode with a flip of her long, black hair.

“How do you know how old I am

“You’re a co-worker. Knowing that much from gossip is expected.”

“Wait a minute. So you’re older than me?”

“That’s right.”

“Oh okay. So, you’re just an old hag the

“WHAT WAS THAT!?”

“Hey, don’t blow up on me here! We’re outside in public

“Take that back, asshole!”

“Why are you so angry? It’s true, isn’t it

“SHUT UPP! SHUT UP!” roared Hinode, pummeling at me with her small fists. Unfortunately, those small fists were packing some serious power, so I started making a run for it as soon as I felt bruises popping on my skin.

“OW! OW! What the hell is with these Donkey Kong punches?”

“I don’t want to hear a dickless, virgin loser calling me an old hag, that’s all!” shouted Hinode as she continued running after me.

“You know, for the past hour, you’ve been calling me a virgin like it’s an insult! Even with all those rumors about you, I bet you haven’t even had a boyfriend yet, have you?”

“I’ve had one, you fucking jerk!”

I ended up doing a spit-take from the sheer shock that jolted through my body.

“What? How the hell did you snag a guy with that kind of personality

“HAH? Shut up, you stupid cherry boy! I don’t want to hear that from someone who’s probably going to end up spending the rest of his life crying in his room every Christmas night because he’s forever alone!”

“Forever alo you know that meme?”

Hinode’s face suddenly burned red in response. She ducked her head in embarrassment, but then began to chase after me with even greater speed.

“AHHH, SHUT UP, SHUT UP, SHUT UP!” she screamed, riding on my heels.

“Hey, wait! Stop! Look where you’re goin!”

“Wah!”

Hinode’s foot landed on the back of mine, causing me to seize up with pain, which then resulted in Hinode barreling into my back. We rolled forward and crashed onto the ground, my face planting into the hard sidewalk.

“…”

“Nggh…” winced Hinode. “Why did you stop, you moron?”

“Mmph…”

“What?”

I tilted my head to the side and spat a couple particles of dust from my mouth.

“Get those soft, white panties off my head.”

“!!!!!”

Hinode’s already-red face grew even more crimson, seeming to heat up like a tea kettle as she let loose one long, loud scream. The next second, she gave me a heavy smack in the back of the head, knocking my nose back into the sidewalk.

“DIE! DIE! PERVERT! LECHER! CROSSDRESSING MANWHORE!”

“That last one’s not true at all!”

“DON’T LOOK HERE, PERVERT!”

Somehow during our chasing session, we had ended up at the fork that split the path to our respective homes. Fortunately, it was also quite late now, so no one had seen our ridiculous spectacle. The way we had been going, we might’ve been arrested for indecency and disturbing the peace. That’d be a great way to show up to work tomorrow.

“God, this is the worst,” said Hinode, her hand clamped over her face.

“You’re telling me,” I said, looking at my dirtied suit. “This is going to be a pain to clean…”

“I can’t believe this slimebag caught a look at my underwear…”

“It’s your fault in the first place…”

“Shut up! How are you going to take responsibility for this, huh?”

“What? Responsibility? What, you want me to be your boyfriend or something? Are you even single?”

“Yeah, I’m single! Is that a problem?”

“I never said it was!”

“Then what are you trying to say!?”

“Nothing! I’m just making conversation to gloss over an awkward moment!”

“Then stop it! Look at where your ‘conversation’ has gotten us!”

“That’s not my fault, that’s completely yours!”

“Me? How could you even know that considering you’re piss-poor drunk!”

“I’m drunk? I think you’re the one that’s more drunk, you bitch!”

“Ah, really? I’m not the one who’s been slurring every other word in his so-called ‘conversation,'” said Hinode with a sarcastic laugh.

“Just how much did you drink, anyways? Even if you’re not drunk, that’s probably only because you drank like two mugs or something

“I drank twelve, prick!”

“Twelve!? What the hell!”

I took a moment to examine Hinode Sumi. Actually, I hadn’t gotten a good look at her until now, since I hadn’t really paid attention to her looks the past couple of hours and I rarely saw her at work. Hinode Sumi was a slender woman with long black hair that cascaded down her shoulders like a glossy waterfall. She had dressed in a clean white blouse and a black skirt underneath a beige coat. She had also worn some black pantyhose that surprisingly had only a few holes from all the action it had received earlier. From what little I could see underneath her bundle of clothing, her skin had a lively, slightly delicate color. She wasn’t well-endowed, but her figure was quite adequate and proportioned well. It was a good thing that I had been drunk when I started talking to her. Her beauty was a complete trap for her nasty personality.

“…What are you looking at?” said Hinode with a strong tinge of suspicion in her voice.

“Uh…nothing. I was just thinking you’re an amazing drinker…” I said, saying the first thing that came to mind. But it was true. Although Hinode Sumi wasn’t a tiny girl, she was small enough that two glasses seemed more than enough to put her under the table. But, if my memory was still working properly, she really had seemed to have drunk more than I had.

“Oh…thanks,” muttered Hinode. Looks like my tactic to distract her from her rage had worked.

Suddenly, I noticed the extreme fatigue that had gradually built up in my body. It was a wonder that I was able to stand right now. Being chased by Hinode Sumi and enduring her countless verbal accusations had worn me out on every possible front.

It was time to end this.

“Peace,” I said, holding out my palm. Hinode blinked at my hand quizzically. “Let’s call a truce. I’m completely worn out.”

“…That should be my line,” muttered Hinode.

“Ok, ok! It was my fault, alright?” I said, sweat pouring down my face. Holy shit, I was out of shape.

“Mmh…” mumbled Hinode, averting her eyes. “No…well…it was sort of my fault too…”

A stretch of silence passed between us after that. Having spent half the night shouting at each other, this sudden peace was disturbing to both of us.

“You know, you’re pretty different from work,” I said abruptly.

“Huh? Oh…am I?”

“Yeah. Well, I don’t know actually. I don’t see you that much…”

“Heh. Then how can you compare?” said Hinode with a small smile. “Different from the slut you heard about?”

“Uh…well…”

“Just to make it clear, I’m not that kind of person.”

“Yeah…it’s pretty obvious now.”

Hinode stared at me for a moment in response, then turned her head to her hands and breathed gently on her fingers. The warm mist surrounded them for a second before fading away into the bitterly cold air. It was as delicate a sight as any I’d seen, a sight of such fragile timidity that, for the slightest of moments, I wanted to just stuff Hinode in my coat and kidnap her.

This woman was incredibly dangerous.

“What?” said Hinode, realizing for the latest time that I was staring at her.

“I was just wondering…”

“About what?”

“…Well…how do I say this…”

“What? Just spit it out.”

“…What are you still doing here?”

Once again, I was able to see Hinode Sumi’s flustered expression as her body jumped like a pair of cat ears. It was incredible how smoothly her blood ran through her body to color her face, and yet, she still didn’t look the slightest bit affected by the alcohol she had consumed earlier.

“W-What! I can’t stand around or something anymore?”

“No, that’s not what I meant. I was just wondering why you’re still standing out here in the cold.”

“W-Well, I could ask the same of you!”

“…Well, I don’t really know either.”

“…Are you an idiot?”

“Maybe I really am…After all, I’m just the idiot from web design…”

“You’re still hung up on that?” asked Hinode incredulously.

“…I knew before you told me. I’m just a lucky guy who got into a company with a big head on his shoulders. Spent four years in university grabbing my degree and I ended up just being a burden to my seniors when I actually got into the workforce. I really am the worst. I’m just a no-good bum that’s trying to pretend like he’s good at something.”

The way I was feeling at the moment, a horde of black thunderstorm clouds could’ve been hanging over my head.

“…I never said anything like that,” said Hinode, in an attempt to console me.

“But it’s all true, isn’t it? And getting drunk in front of those same seniors and acting like a complete clown, I must really be asking for it.”

“…Hey.”

“Maybe I should just quit.”

“Don’t say something like that,” said Hinode, stepping towards me.

“Why not? I’m just an idiot…”

“Hey! Listen up, rookie!” said Hinode, grabbing me by the necktie. “Making mistakes, being a burden on your seniors, that’s completely normal, ok? It’s part of being new to the job. You think everyone starts out just breezing through everything like it’s no problem? There’s no way that kind of shit happens! Part of our job is to give you shit and bitch! You’re supposed to take the shit we give you, learn from it, and improve! Do you get it, you dumbass?”

“…”

“…And I was exaggerating a little. Those web design guys don’t really dislike you. They understand that you’re new. It’s just stress. It’s easy to unload it all on the new guy,” mumbled Hinode, her voice getting smaller as her tirade ended. She finished by gently letting go of my tie and pulling away.

“Anyways, do you get it? You’re a burden, yeah! But you just have to work at not being a burden and we’ll help you! Then, when you stop making mistakes, you can do the same thing to the next new guy. It’s just a cycle of life!”

“Cycle of life, huh?” I said, smiling unconsciously.

“What?”

“Heh…nothing. I was just thinking you sounded like a real senpai there.”

“I am your senpai, idiot,” said Hinode matter-of-factly.

“Yeah, I guess you’re right,” I replied. In the end, she had still called me an idiot, but her lecturing had pushed away some of the doubts lurking inside me. I didn’t know what to say about her now; on one hand, she was a brash, foul-mouthed bitch. On the other, it seemed like she at least took the other person’s feelings into account.

“You’re a pretty good person, aren’t you Hinode?”

“Huh!? Of course I am, stupid! Youyou can’t have possibly been thinking I was a demon or something this whole time, right?”

“Uh…well…would you get mad if I did?”

“This little shit,” seethed Hinode, cocking her fist back. I impulsively closed my eyes, waiting for the blow to come.

A soft tap knocked against my chest.

“…You better get it right from now on.”

Hinode looked up at me with a slightly upset expression as she said this. Oh jeez, she was becoming too cute.

“Thanks, Hinode.”

“!!”

I didn’t think a small phrase of gratitude would get her face boiling like that. With the hue that was saturating her face, I probably could’ve caused an intensely congested traffic jam.

“W-Whatever, noob!” said Hinode, whipping away from me. “S-Since you’re all good now, I’m going to go home!”

“Noob…?” I said to myself as Hinode began marching away. She really was a piece of work. Thinking that, an unbelievable line came to my mind. If it had been any other time, I probably wouldn’t have said it. But, right now…

“Hey, Hinode!”

Hinode stopped at my call, but didn’t turn around.

“What?” she said without looking back.

“Want to eat some cake?”

It came. That little jump from Hinode that seemed like she had received a jolt of electricity. She still didn’t turn around, although I could tell that her ears were focused completely on my speech.

“…W-what kind of cake?” she asked shakily. She was clearly trying to hide her eagerness.

“Sponge cake with strawberries. And lots of cream,” I said enticingly.

“…”

Hinode’s body shook a little as she considered it. Well, it was free Christmas cake so I couldn’t really see her turning it down. Not to mention since she was single, she probably had nothing better to do. The restaurant affair was supposed to have lasted till late in the evening, so I’m pretty she had her schedule cleared like I did.

Still, it was pretty fun watching her battle with herself.

“…Strawberry with cream, right?”

“Yeah, that’s right,” I said. One more push would be enough to break her down. “I’ll include hot chocolate with that too.”

The jump this time was a lot more noticeable. Well, well. Seems like she’s a real girl after all.

“Nngh…” grunted Hinode, wracked with indecision. I was thinking maybe another half a minute before she gave in.

“That cake…”

“Hm?”

“…Ngh…”

Hinode’s body tensed up as she yelled her answer:

“I DON’T WANT IT!”

“Eh!?” I said reflexively. This was unexpected. Even if she was being dishonest with herself, how could she turn away free food on a cold night like this? “Why not?”

“Why would I go eat cake at your house?” yelled Hinode, turning to me at last. “You super stalker!”

“That again!”

“I’ve seen through your scheme twice now, you mega stalker!” said Hinode, pointing her finger at me. “Don’t think you can get me into your place that easily!”

“I don’t have those kinds of intentions! And I’m mega level now!?”

“Say whatever you want. I can’t trust a horny virgin enough to eat food with him all alone, especially when that food could be drugged!”

“Like hell it would be!”

“Anyways, the point is, I’m not going to your house! And I d-don’t want your cake either!”

She totally stuttered.

“Fine, fine. I get it,” I said, rubbing my face. “Guess I’ll just eat that cake alone then.”

“Yeah, g-go eat it alone! Loser! Bum!”

“I wonder how I’m going to finish all those fresh, juicy strawberries on top,” I said loudly, turning away and starting off in my direction. I looked back and saw Hinode biting her lip with immense frustration.

“I-I don’t care!”

“And that cream looked really smooth too…might be too rich for me since I had a lot to drink,” I continued, slowing my pace.

“Ghhhh…!”

Hinode turned away in a huff and started running in the opposite direction. I could hear her anguished crying from quite a distance away. I had to give her credit. She could be pretty damn stubborn.

“Well, I guess I’ll be alone this Christmas too,” I said quietly as Hinode vanished from sight. It was something that happened every year and something that always made me feel a little depressed about myself. But, even though this was a pretty sorry state for a guy my age to be in, this year, I wasn’t feeling too bad about it.

I guess it was because I had Christmas cake to look forward to this time around.

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