Incandescence (Part I)

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Friendships

I spent my whole weekend trying to distract myself from work. Saturday I caught up on housework and groceries; so I decided to spend Sunday with my parents. It had been three weeks since we last caught up and I was missing their company.

We discussed my new job before they shifted their focus on relationships – which was very typical of my parents. They made it their mission to see me find someone and settle down. Needless to say, they were devastated when I told them Jacob and I were no longer together. All they wanted was for me to settle down and be happy; if only they could understand I was happy.

‘Explain to me again, what was wrong with Jacob’ mum asked over lunch.

‘Mum, I’m not in love with him, there’s no spark, I can’t be with someone I’m not in love with. I can’t settle down with my best friend’ came my honest reply.

‘What about this Bradley fellow?’ Dad asked

‘What? He’s my boss. Seriously Dad!’

‘You’re dad’s right. You've spoken more about Bradley these past few hours than you have about anything or anyone else' mum chimed.

I couldn’t believe my parents. There I was spending quality time with them, telling them all about my new job and somehow they managed to turn everything around.

‘There’s nothing to tell. He’s my boss. He can be friendly one minute and a total ass the next. Much like any boss really.’ I said while mum made her way to the kitchen to make us tea.

‘Oh Robert, you’ve got to see this’ mum yelled as she ran from the kitchen. She handed dad her phone and said ‘Look. This is Bradley Salvatore. He’s been named most eligible bachelor for 2 years running. Tori, why are you holding out on us?’

Both my parents looked at me and I just shook my head. ‘Yes, he’s good-looking. But he’s my boss. There's nothing happening; that would be unprofessional. I’m in HR; we set policies against workplace relationship; I’m hardly going to go against these policies pursuit a colleague let alone a boss. Mum, Dad, you know I love you both' I paused briefly, looking at them both before continuing.

'But your obsession with finding me a soulmate needs to stop. You need to understand that right now, at this exact point in my life, I’m happy. I’m loving my job, I’m loving my freedom and believe it or not I actually enjoy being on my own. Can you please just respect my wishes and drop this obsession with finding me a suitor?’ At this point I was pleading with them.

Mum looked at me disappointed, slowly shaking her head saying ‘As you wish’ but wouldn’t stop looking at her phone and the Goggle images of Bradley.

‘Good heavens mum, put that phone down and let’s have that cuppa you promised me’ I laughed and joined mum in the kitchen.

As mum finished making tea I quickly sent myself a reminder ‘Check Company Policy Manual – Workplace Romance’ knowing this could be very useful when dealing with Jackson and the Accounts Department.

Just as I put my phone down it buzzed.

1 New Message from Leonard
Leonard: I know this is unprofessional, but I was hoping to meet up later today. I have a work dilemma that I don’t want to discuss in the office. Happy to meet at your place, I’ll bring the Donuts

Me: Not a problem. I’ll be home after 3.00pm – does that suit?

Leonard: Perfect. See you then

I put my phone down and spent the next few hours chatting with my parents and avoiding all things boyfriend related. We were so engrossed in conversation I totally lost track of the time. Looking at my watch I realized it was already 2.20pm. Not wanting to be late for my meeting with Leonard, I gave my parents a hug and kissed them farewell before heading home.


I arrived home a few minutes before 3.00pm and just as I had taken my shoes off, there was a knock on the door. True to his words Leonard had brought with him a box of donuts. Wasting no time I invited him in and made us both a cup of coffee.

‘So Leonard, do what do I owe this pleasure?’ I wanted to know what his dilemma was, but didn’t want to come across as intrusive.

‘I’m sorry to bother you with this on a Sunday. It’s just I needed to talk to you before tomorrow’s Executive Meeting and I didn’t want to leave our conversation until right before it’.

‘It’s fine Leonard. But now you’re starting to worry me. What’s going on?’

‘Don’t get upset’ Leonard started ‘But Jackson called me today demanding I cancel your Staff Retention Event next week. He wants me to announce the cancellation at tomorrow’s Executive Meeting’.

‘I don’t get it. Why do you think he’s so determined to have this event cancelled?’ I asked, wondering what else Jackson was trying to hide. I wasn’t sure where this conversation was heading and I didn’t want Leonard knowing anything about the conversations I’d been having with his ex-employees; so I decided to keep this information to myself for now.

‘Here’s the thing Tori, Jackson is engaged to be married and he told me in confidence that you had tried asking him out. He’s afraid things are now awkward between you two and he doesn’t know how to handle the situation; which is why he called me’

I almost fell off my chair when I heard this. I couldn’t believe just how manipulative Jackson was; and for him to go running to one of the Directors with this fictitious story. This was obviously a ploy so I knew I had to handle Jackson’s allegations carefully. Clearly Leonard and Jackson had some sort of friendship, otherwise Jackson wouldn’t have called Leonard on the weekend to discuss this.

‘Leonard, you’ve only known me for a short while. Do you honestly believe I would proposition Jackson? I’m responsible for Human Resources, why would I jeopardize my career to pursue an engaged Accountant that I work with? I’m stunned Jackson would even make this allegation let alone expect anyone to believe him’ I kept my voice calm the whole time; as devastated as I was that Leonard would even contemplate something so preposterous, I couldn’t have him think these allegations were even remotely plausible.

‘Tori, truth be known, no I don’t believe any of this, which is why I wanted to come to your home and discuss this situation with you face to face before tomorrow’s meeting. But what I don’t understand is why Jackson would make any of this up?’

‘That’s you and me both’ I said while pondered my thoughts momentarily before continuing ‘Leonard, you know I’ve been closely analyzing staff turnover across the company’ he nodded and I continued ‘well I may have slightly mislead the Executive Committee at last week’s meeting with my report. The true staff turnover figures really aren’t as bad across the Company; in some departments, the turnover is actually below industry average. Our issue lies in the Accounts Department where turnover during the past 12-month period is 67%. Leonard, that figure is unheard of. Something is going on in that Department and I’m doing everything in my power to get to the bottom of it. No one in Leonard’s department will speak with me; he watches them like hawks. I need to get them comfortable; I need to earn their trust; I need to get them away from Jackson long enough to get answers. Please don’t cancel the Event. It’s obvious Jackson will stoop very low to hide whatever it is he’s hiding. But I need your help in finding out what really is going on’.

Leonard paused. He didn’t say anything for over two minutes. It was clear he was trying to digest all the information that I hit him with.

‘So, what is your plan and what are you hoping to uncover?’ Leonard finally asked.

I spent the next hour going though details of what I was planning.

‘You really are suspicious of him aren’t you?’ Leonard asked, closely analyzing my face as I replied

'Yes I am and I need your help. If he feels comfortable enough to come to you with a fictitious story of me propositioning him; then he might tell you what's really going on'

‘How do I get him to trust me if I don’t cancel this event?’ Leonard enquired, hoping I had a solution, which thankfully I did.

‘What if you tell Jackson that Bradley wouldn’t let you cancel the event. Tell him you tried, but your brother wouldn’t budge. As a compromise you agreed to having fewer staff in attendance and no Managers.’ With that Leonard nodded in agreeance.

‘Have we really been discussing this for the past 3 hours?’ I asked Leonard when I looked down at my watch.

‘I’m so sorry, I’ve had you working all this time on a Sunday afternoon’ Leonard seemed genuinely apologetic for having encroached on my evening.

‘Nonsense. Thanks filling me in on what was happening, it means a lot.’ I paused before continuing ‘It’s late, how about we get some Chinese delivered for a quick meal?’ surprisingly Leonard was happy to accept my offer.

We chatted about nothing in particularly whilst waiting for dinner to arrive; I was happy we had stopped talking about work. I found I genuinely enjoyed Leonard’s company; he seemed carefree yet genuine and thoughtful.

Whilst eat dinner Leonard asked 'I’ve been wondering since the first time I came here with dad, why do you live in such a large house?’

I couldn’t help but laugh out loud ‘What is it with you, your brother and the size of my house?’

‘What’s Bradley got to do with this?’ Leonard looked at me puzzled.

‘Last week when he was here, he asked the exact same question. It’s just strange you both commented on the size of my house. Do you boys live in a shoe’ but before I could even finish my question, Leonard interrupted me

‘Bradley was here? How did that happen?’ he asked, much like Amelia does when wanting a gossip update.

I didn’t want Leonard thinking I was inviting all the men from work over to my home, particularly after Jackson’s allegations. It was pointless lying as Bradley would tell his brother the truth should he ask, so I blurted everything out ‘It’s not what you think. Bradley met my ex-boyfriend at work and for whatever reason they decided to go out for drinks. Unfortunately, my ex got drunk and Bradley offered to drive him home. Jacob, being drunk and wanting to get back with me, lied and told Bradley he lived here. So Bradley, unknowingly, rocked up at my house in the early hours of Sunday morning. My best friend who was with me at the time and also drunk, thought it would be wise to invite herself, Bradley and Jacob to stay the night; which, as strange as it may sound, they all decided was a good idea. To call the situation awkward would be an understatement’ I said laughing while looking at Leonard who seemed amused by this story.

‘So my big brother spent the night here?’ Leonard asked with a smirk and wink.

Shaking my head and laughing I replied ‘Like all my guests, Bradley had his own room. But yes, he did stay here. So in answer to your earlier question, it would appear I live in a large house so that my friends have somewhere to crash after a night of drinking’. We both raised our glasses, laughed and finished our dinner.

Not long after dinner Leonard left. Knowing I would have a fight on my hands at our impending Executive Meeting, I decided to head to bed and prepare for an early start the next morning.

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