LAURENCE HART was a man of average height and weight, with short dark hair and bright blue, almond-shaped eyes. He was the type of man people enjoyed being around. He was kind, easygoing, hardworking, and a good listener. He had a handful of close friends, was well liked by his coworkers, and though he was not what some might call traditionally handsome, he had no shortage of potential suitors.

That was the type of man Laurence was… in his twenties. Now, at age thirty-three, Laurence was… well….

“Hi, Larry,” Millie Sparks, the office intern, said as she entered his work cubicle. She reached into the box she was holding, removed a cardboard cutout of a decorated Christmas tree, and pinned it to a small cork message board, just as she had in all the other office cubicles. “Just spreading a little holiday cheer.”

He stopped his work, swiveled his chair to face the Christmas decoration, and in a low, controlled voice said, “My name is Laurence.” He then pulled the tree from the board and fed it through the shredder sitting to the right of his desk. He turned back to his computer and resumed his work without bothering to look up at her expression.

Millie started to say something but found herself being ushered away by Amanda, a very large woman in her late forties who sat in the cubicle to the left of Laurence.

“That’s right, dear,” Amanda said to her. “Lots more trees to hang up.”

“I only have Santas left.”

“Okay, on you go.” She gave Millie a little shove down the aisle before turning to glare at Laurence.

He knew she was there—he could feel it—but he refused to look up.

“You could have at least waited until she was on the next aisle,” Amanda scolded.

He sighed loudly. “It’s bad enough it’s been all over the building since the day after Halloween. I don’t want it in my personal space.”

As much as she wanted to tell him what a jackass he was, she knew it would do no good. He acted the same way every year. She took a look at her watch, saw it was lunchtime, and logged out of her computer.

“All right, Scrooge, I’m heading to the mall for lunch. You coming?”

Laurence logged off, grabbed his jacket, and walked beside Amanda as they made their way out of the building.

Half an hour later they sat in the second-floor food court eating Chinese food and discussing the latest office gossip. While Amanda found herself occasionally humming along with the blaring Christmas music coming from the holiday display just below them on the first floor, Laurence did his best to block it out.