There's nothing more magical than London in December. Every inch of its frost is warmed up with glowing Christmas lights. It doesn't matter where you are, you can still hear the jingle jangle of Jingle Bells echoing from somewhere in the distance, and surprisingly for grumpy Londoners, everyone is friendly. There's an ambiance that always feels like home and dispite the cold, you can't help feeling the warmth. You fall in love with it. And it's also the best time to fall in love.
I don't care what people say. I swear to you, falling for someone feels different pre-Christmas than it does at other times of the year. Perhaps it's the dawning of the new year filling you with optimism that adds to the tingly feeling. Or it's London. Or, it's because you've had so much mulled wine that that tingly feeling is probably from numbness. Nethertheless, I strongly recommend falling in love in December.
This particular December I was feeling especially optimistic. I had a date with Noah, and as I filled my apartment with tinsel and crowded the tiny Christmas tree with fake snow, I couldn't help but smile. This time my luck would be different and I would encounter my first, totally fabulous, date.
I met Noah while we both worked at a small sales company. Among the bottle blondes, the expensive aftershaves and fake smiles, Noah was the only one that was truly helpful. It's hard being the new girl without feeling completely out of place as well, but Noah made sure I fitted right in.
"Morning," I greeted everyone at work and sat down at my desk. I got a grumpy hi from Carl, a grunt from John and just a sneer from Tiffany. Gosh, I'm so glad this is only a temp job.
"Have you done the list I wanted?" Lucy walks over and sits on my desk. I almost choke as her perfume surrounds me. What does she do, marinate herself in the stuff?
"Yes, I'll email them over," I tell her but that's still not enough for her to leave. She's towering over me as if she's building herself up to say something.
"...So..." she begins and I breathe in ready for her sting. Lucy has this horrible ability to be intensly malicious without trying. "...I hear you and Noah are sitting in a tree. K I S S I N G!" and she sings the last bit.
I smile politely. "What on earth are you talking about, Lucy?" I reply, playing the innocent card.
"We've all noticed it," she looks around the room pointing to a couple of people with her perfectly polished fingernails. "I've seen the way you look at him," she clicks her tongue and smiles.
I don't reply but just dismiss her by carrying on with my work. "Just emailed the list to you," I tell her. She jumps off the desk with one swift movement and crouches down to my height.
"I've been here for three years," she tells me. I nod because I have no idea what to say. "I've been told I have great potential," she looks like she's about to cast an evil spell. "Yeah, you know Eric? The owner? Well, he told me I'm next in line for a career boost! And there's always been a spark between me and Noah..." she rotates on her heel and walks away.
Ah, I see. She's clearly a career slut looking to sleep with someone for a promotion. Why do women like her even exist? Surely survival of the fittest should have wiped them out by now?
I don't think about Lucy and her burning desire for a payrise for the rest of the day and look forward to going out with Noah. That thought really gets me through the day. I'm nervous, of course, but before-date excitement is too overpowering. I watch the clock as it tick tocks away to half five, and before I know it everyone has wrapped up warm and are leaving the office. Noah smiles at me and stands with the door open so that everyone leaves one by one. Everyone except Lucy who is still sitting at her desk typing away.
"Not finished yet?" I ask.
"No. This bloody manager won't pick up his phone and I need to make a deal before he buggers off to Spain," she informs.
OK, it would be rude to say to her, "Lucy, love. Can you please leave now so that I can have my date with our boss? Perhaps you can go and torture small children, or eat live bunnies, or whatever you do in your spare time!" But I refrain and look over at Noah to tell him, "I tried,"
"You honestly don't have to finish now," he tells her. "I'm sure the deal will still be fine when he gets back from Spain,"
"Just five minutes, Noah. Just five minutes and I'm sure he'll pick up the phone and I'd have made this company some money," she cackles like a witch - probably because she is one.
But five minutes go by and she still hasn't budged. She's still punching in the phone number every couple of minutes, holds it to her ear for a few seconds and then slams it on the cradle.
"I'm so sorry about this," she apologises to Noah. "But I think it's vitally important for the company that I do this deal." She then pretends to only just notice me. "So, why are you still here?" she asks.
"Well, I promised I'd give her a lift home," Noah jumps in and I nod in agreement.
"Oh, well I shan't keep you waiting much longer," her red lips spread across her face to form a smile. She looks more like the Joker, to be honest.
"Look, just leave it for today. We're all tired and need to get going," Noah tells her and goes to the coat rack to grab her jacket. Lucy flinches in action and immediately picks up the phone again.
"Just once more," and grabs the phone. Well, at least now we can leave, I think. "Hello? Mr Hunt?" she says down the phone and Noah and I look at eachother in disbelief. "It's Lucy Mead. I'm calling about the order you placed and just wanted a confirmation. What's that? Call you back in fifteen minutes? OK, Mr Hunt. Bye bye," and the phone is back on the cradle.
The coniving bitch. He never answered the phone! She clearly just wants to disrupt the date.
"I'll just wait a while," and she sits back on her chair crossing her legs. "I'm so sorry, Noah," she apologises.
I move over to the window and glance outside at the vast city. Oh, I want to be out there having a pre-Christmas date. I want to be hearing Carol singers even though they're highly annoying. I want to walk past a crepe stand with Noah and buy a crepe even though I probably won't eat it. I want to sit in a lovely restaurant, drinking red wine. My mood lifts just at the thought of it, but it comes crashing down when I'm reminded that Lucy is unfortunately Lucy.
Noah has now gone back to his office and Lucy is at her desk filing her nails. "It's been fifteen minutes," I remind her.
"Sorry, what?" she casually lifts her head up.
"The phone call?"
"Oh, of course," and springs back into action. "It's ringing," she tells me. "Still ringing," and a second later the phone is back down.
"Perhaps it's best to just leave it for today. Try again tomorrow," I suggest.
"It's Saturday tomorrow! Gosh, it's things like that that mean I'm better suited for a high flying career," she snorts.
Noah steps out of his office. "Are you done yet? I need to lock up," but Lucy just shakes her head.
"He didn't pick up," she says 'annoyed'.
"Look, it doesn't matter. Let's leave it for today," and gestures Lucy to leave her desk.
"I'm so sorry Noah, but you know how much of a perfectionist I am. I can't leave here until I get the job done," and the phone is once again in her hand. "Mr Hunt? It's Lucy Mead again," He clearly hasn't answered. That much is obvious. She laughs as if he's said something funny. "Yes, I just need you to confirm your order. It won't take long at all...oh, you're still busy? Honestly, I just need a confirmation of your card details and it's all done. Oh, I see. OK, Mr Hunt," the phone is down again. Noah and I are looking at her waiting for her to speak.
"He'll ring back in five minutes," she smiles.
We look at eachother and smile and it sends shivers through me. Oh, he's so gorgeous. His eyes sparkle when he talks and faint laughter lines are developing just beneath them. He's leaning against the wall looking though some papers. His tie is loose and the top button of his shirt is undone. Every now and again he ruffles his hair with his hands. I want to kiss him.
I avert my eyes away to see that Lucy's are hooked on me. She's staring like her eyes have lazers. She clearly hates me, but that's OK. Can't say I think much of her either.
"Has he phoned back yet?" I ask.
"Not yet, but any minute now," she tries to look hopeful but it comes across like she's constapated.
Another hour goes by. Noah has been in his office now for half an hour actually doing work, and I'm texting my friends, telling them that I'm still at work. I almost get angry that Noah is so soft when it comes to employees. If I were him I would have told her to do her work when it's actually time for work. She's still sitting there, now flipping through a magazine, occassionally lifting her head and saying, "I met Johnny Depp once," or "That Sienna should have never left Jude,"
I want to scream. It's late. It's really late and I'm fed up. The phone has not rung once, because Lucy invented an imaginary friend. Her life must really be pathetic if she has nothing better to do on a Friday night.
Noah emerges from his office again.
"Lucy," he now seems cross. "I'm tired. I want to go home. Please get up from your desk and leave. You do realise I can't pay you for this overtime?"
She finally moves. "Oh, of course Noah. I'm just doing it because it would have made so much money if Mr Hunt bought the main deal," she's putting her coat on.
The main deal? What is she talking about? I sold that a few days ago. I rummage through the pieces of paper on my desk and there it is - a bright, shiny sheet saying that the main deal was sold to Regi Hunt on Wednesday.
"I don't mean to burst your bubble," I try not to gloat, "but Mr Hunt already confirmed that order on Wednesday," I lift the sheet up. Noah looks up and Lucy's face has turned puce.
"That can't be right," she begins to defend herself. "I told you to email me the list of all confirmed sales," she begins to get defensive.
"I did this morning. You saw me," I fight back.
Noah takes the sheet from my hand and scans through it.
"Well, you clearly didn't include that sale then, did you?" her hands are on her hips. "There's just no way I would have made a mistake," she takes the printed copy of the list I emailed and scans through it. I watch her and almost want to laugh at her facial expression when she notices the name. Noah has noticed it too and I can see his face wanting to crease into a smile.
"Just an oversight?" he says mockingly.
"We all make mistakes, Lucy," I say.
But she has nothing to reply with. She's just wasted two hours of her boss' time over absolutely nothing.
Noah briefly goes back into his office.
"Well, you're not going on your little date now, are you!" she tells me as if she's ordering me. "There's no way you're getting promoted over me!"
How can someone be so cocky even after they've made a fool of themselves in front of their boss?
"Yes I am," I begin. "To be honest, I'm quite thankful you've kept us here this long. It just means we skip the dinner and all the boring bits and head straight into the good stuff," I smile.
"Whatever," she charges out of the office.
Noah comes out and leans against his office door. His arms are crossed and one foot is casually tapping the other.
"It's a bit late," I say and he nods his head.
"Some other time?" he calls out as I'm leaving and I turn and confirm.