“Are you sure you’re feeling all right?”
Seth Morrison couldn’t help but smile as he watched Jason nervously touch the right side of his glasses, using the earpiece to press the heavy black frames closer against his face as if that would bring a more understandable world into his view. It wasn’t that the motion itself was all that funny; Seth must watch Jason do that over a hundred times a day.
But the fact that Jason forgot he was holding the flimsy plastic cup of white wine in his right hand and almost poured it over his face before he realized what would happen – and somehow managed to switch hands at the last minute – now that was pretty high up there on the amusing list.
Seth didn’t laugh at him though; just let his hips keep moving in time with the brisk rhythms of the music, silently counting out the beats in his head as he answered. “Yeah, I’m fine. Why?”
Jason Cantrell and Jackson Samuels, his co-workers down in Tech Support, looked at each other and then looked back at him. Their dark, shaggy hair and wide, unblinking eyes behind the dark frames of their glasses lent them a striking resemblance to each other that was only accented by their matching wrinkled khakis and navy polo shirts.
The two of them managed to perpetuate practically every stereotypical myth regarding absentminded computer geeks. Seth’s smile widened as he wondered if they called to coordinate their outfits each morning or if they had just worked together for so long they had melded their separated consciousness into one of those hive mind things they talked about so much.
“Well, you’re… uh… smiling,” Jason said first, his voice implying that such an action was totally unheard of.
“And… uh… you’re dancing,” Jackson said next, completing their shared thought. He jerkily motioned toward Seth’s gyrating pelvis, the white napkin under his plastic glass escaping from his grasp and fluttering toward the carpeted floor.
“I’ll get that.” Seth bent down and caught the fleeing paper product in his left hand, handing it back to Jackson with his smile intact and without missing a beat of the loud music. He had never found “Jingle Bells” all that danceable before, but the band had announced this was the “Jingle Bell Rock,” so that must be something different all together.
“It’s a party, guys.” He smiled again, his lips moving as he unconsciously counted out the beat – one and two and three, one and two and three – and let his gaze travel over the crowded hotel ballroom. The air was heavy, thick with the mixture of aromas from the guests’ perfumes and the candles rich with holiday scents. At least no one was smoking. That would have made things unbearably stuffy.
Seth had never realized just how many people worked in this division office; it was kind of cool to see everyone gathered together. He also didn’t see the one man he was looking for among all his other co-workers, but all good things came to those who wait. His grandmother used to tell him that.
In Seth’s mind, he had been waiting more than long enough, but he had to say it was really sweet the way Oscar was trying to protect his reputation from the relentless gossip mill at the office, even if that meant Oscar had decided they shouldn’t be seen together tonight.
Of course, just because Oscar decided something, well, that didn’t mean Seth planned to go along with it. The least Oscar could do was give him a holiday dance. Seth had been practicing with his next-door neighbor, a rather salty sixty-six-year-old widow, and he was ready put his newly learned skills to the test.
“But Seth,” Jackson tried again. “It’s the work holiday party.”
“Yeah, I know.” Seth stopped dancing just long enough to cast an exasperated eye over his co-workers. “So loosen up already. Come on.”
“You don’t like work holiday parties, Seth.” Jason huddled closer to Jackson, seeking comfort in the familiar in light of Seth’s unexpected and irrational joie de vivre. “And you did a line dance with those girls from the word processing pool. And you don’t dance!”
The music changed, the band switching over to “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus.” Seth quickly found the rhythm to that song as well, his hips adding an extra little swing as he stood there. From Jason’s tone of voice, Seth might as well have hacked someone to death with an axe.
“It’s called the Hustle, guys.” Seth smiled at the memory of the sweaty and exuberant dance the ladies from word processing had taught him. “You ought to try it. Especially you, Jackson.”
“Me?” Jackson’s eyes widened behind his thick glasses, and he used his left hand to push them closer against his face. It was the mirror image of Jason’s earlier motion. Sometimes Seth wondered if it were really possible for the two men not to be related; their looks and mannerisms were so similar.
Of course, just a few short months ago, Seth himself had been a matching third in their little pea pod. Now with contact lenses, a decent haircut, and the recent application of an iron to his new and carefully chosen wardrobe – designed to show off his naturally slim build – Seth not only felt like a whole new man, he looked like one too.