Incandescence (Part I)

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Thursday and Friday went by without drama.

When my parents visited me on Friday, I told them that I was moving in with Bradley. They were certainly intrigued by the news but I could sense a level of disappointment in mum's voice.

After a few hours of talking, mum finally told me that she was hoping I’d stay with her as she really wanted to take care of me. I felt terrible, but this wasn’t an option as I didn’t want any harm coming to my parents. As a compromise, Bradley told mum that he had to go into the office every Wednesday and Friday, and asked that she spend those days at his house taking care of me.

Everyone seemed happy with the arrangement and before my parents left, I asked that nobody tell Amelia or Jacob that I was living with Bradley. I explained that considering my history with Jacob, and the fact he and Amelia were beginning a new relationship; I didn’t want my new arrangements impacting them. I told my parents that I’d be telling my friends and colleagues that I’d be staying out of town for the next few weeks whilst recovering. It took some explaining but in the end my parents came to the conclusion that Bradley and I didn’t want our relationship made public, and with that, they were happy to keep my secret.

‘Looks like I’m not the only one that can think on the run’ Bradley chuckled after my parents left. The sneaking around and lies was not something I’d ever done before, but there was something about this that I was loving – the lure of getting away with deception.

It was around 7pm that evening when Dr Clark paid me a visit. As was routine, various checks were conducted and I was told everything was progressing well and that I could be discharged in the morning.

That night I didn’t sleep well, I was afraid. There were so many uncertainties facing me. Most obvious was my psychotic stalker. But I also stayed up thinking about the lying and sneaking around I was doing. Then my thoughts shifted to my job; how could I eventually go back to the place where I almost lost my life. My thoughts then shifted to Bradley, what was I thinking agreeing to move in with him? His rationale made sense, but I knew this move could end in disaster. What if we ended up as more than friends? What if Bradley was only doing this to help a friend knowing we could never be anything more? The more I thought the more anxious I became.

Not being able to sleep, I alternated between Facebook and watching Bradley sleep. Considering this was his 5th night sleeping on the chair in my hospital room, not once did he complain. I could only assume Bradley had the best of everything and sleeping in a chair for 5 nights would have been torture. No one would torture themselves for a colleague, I tried to rationalize my earlier thoughts. And there I was back to square one.

Fortunately after 4.00am I managed to finally drift off to sleep. It was 8.00am when I woke and Bradley had already arranged the discharge papers; once signed, I was officially free to leave.

I went to the bathroom to freshen up and Bradley returned my papers to the front desk. I decided to wear the strapless baby doll dress that mum had dropped off the day before, anything else would have required assistance as I still didn’t have use of the left side of my torso.

Bradley was standing in the doorway waiting as I stepped out of the bathroom. Walking over to me he gently guided me out of the room whilst carrying our bags and belongings. We made our way to the carpark using our private elevator and true to Bradley’s word, there was a hire car waiting for us.

Bradley opened the passenger side door and I took a seat; it took a bit of adjusting, but once comfortably seated he reached across and secured the seatbelt over me. The thoughtfulness of Bradley’s actions had me instantly regret the negative thoughts that had kept me up all night. He then placed our bags in the boot before making his way to the driver’s side.

We exited the carpark and made our way to Bradley’s house in a Hyundai SUV; so as intended, we blended perfectly on the roads.

I sat quietly as Bradley drove. A few minutes passed before he glanced at me ‘Is everything OK? You hardly slept last night’ he questioned. How did Bradley know I stayed up? I was certain he slept.

‘What makes you think I didn’t sleep?’ I asked, wondering if there were security cameras in my room.

‘You kept moving, I pretended to sleep so that you could lie still for long enough to actually get some sleep.’ I felt awful after hearing Bradley say that; I honestly thought I was being quiet, but I did a miserable job.

I couldn’t help but think how lucky I was that he didn’t see me watch him as he pretended to sleep. ‘I’ve just got a lot on my mind. Hopefully you’ll have a better nights sleep tonight in your own bed’ and before I could say anything else, we had arrived at what could only be described as an ultra-modern waterfront apartment complex.

‘Is this where you live?’ I asked, blown away.
‘Welcome to your new home’ Bradley exclaimed, clearly proud of his home.

Bradley parked his car and we made our way to his private elevator that took us up to his penthouse suite. To say this place was stunning would do it injustice.

‘Breathtaking’ I exclaimed as I looked out the living room window and across the harbor.

‘Let me show you around’ Bradley said while taking my hand. The rooms in his apartment were open, though the apartment itself wasn’t very large. I now understood why Bradley and Leonard commented on the size of my house.

The apartment consisted of two bedrooms, each with an ensuite, a study, open-plan living and dining room, laundry, kitchen and powder room; and an outdoor area / bar that included a private plunge pool.

‘Your home is beautiful, I’m speechless’ I said taking in my new surrounds.

‘It’s a fair bit smaller than your place, but I do love living here’ he proudly shared. I made my way outside and sat on the lounge, admiring the view. My view was interrupted by the sound of voices; I slowly tried getting up to see who Bradley was speaking with, before hearing Mr Salvatore’s voice. ‘Please don’t get up’ he said as he made is way over to me.

‘Mr Salvatore, it’s so nice to see you’ I said as he sat on the chair to my side. ‘Did Leonard come as well’ I asked as I could hear Bradley speaking with somebody else inside. Before Mr Salvatore could reply, Bradley had joined us.

To Bradley’s right stood a women who was tall, thin and impeccably presented. She eyed me as she approached, giving nothing away. ‘I take it you are Tori, the young lady every male in my family talks about’ she spoke in a manner that was clearly meant to intimidate me.

‘Mrs Salvatore’, I tried to stand up to greet her but Bradley quickly put his hand on my right shoulder to prevent me from moving.

‘Mum’ Bradley laughed ‘must you really give Tori the third degree?’

Without removing her glance from me, Mrs Salvatore said ‘This is the first time in God knows how long that you have a girl in your home, do you really think I’m not going to antagonize her? Oh and it’s Victoria’ she said extending her hand for a handshake.

‘Well it’s lovely to meet you Victoria’ I smiled, accepting her firm handshake.

‘Mum, before you continue, I wanted you and dad to know that I’ve asked Tori to live here for a few weeks. To give her time to recover and our detectives time to figure out who did this’ Bradley added the last part after both his parents gave him a quizzical look. I knew this look all too well, it was the same look my parents gave me.

‘And sleeping arrangements’ Victoria asked trying to catch us out.

‘Victoria, we will each stay in separate rooms. I understand how this looks, but it’s not the case; which is why other than yourselves and my parents, no one will know I’m here. This isn’t an ideal HR scenario and the last thing I want to deal with on my return is office gossip and innuendo.’ I calmly tried explaining.

‘And your parents are happy about this living arrangement?’ Mr Salvatore asked.

‘Truthfully no, mum was rather devastated. She wanted to be the one to nurse me to good health; but they don’t know the truth behind what happened. I told them it was armed robbery. Here Bradley can provide me with security. My parents won’t be at risk and most importantly, no one will suspect I’m here, so Bradley will never be a target.’

‘You believe they’ll be back?’ I heard Leonard’s voice and was startled; I hadn’t heard him enter the room. ‘Sorry if I startled you’ he continued ‘but do you really think your attacker will return?’

‘Leonard, I was shot above my heart, fortunately for me they missed. I have no doubt that they wanted me dead. They know where I live, where I work, when I finish work. They sent flowers and a note to me in hospital telling me to watch out. I have no doubt they’re after me and that’s why I agreed with Bradley proposal; no one is to know I’m here.’

‘I didn’t realise it was this serious’ Victoria said looking alarmed. ‘Do you really believe Jackson is capable of this?’ she asked looking at Bradley then Leonard.

‘Is Jackson a suspect?’ I asked nobody in particular.

‘We have our detectives working all leads’ Bradley responded honestly ‘but I agree with Tori, for the sake of all our security, no one is to know Tori is here’.

Everyone looked sick with worry. To break the intensity that had settled, I looked over to Leonard ‘Are you really trying to make me lose weight?’ I asked him before he started laughing ‘The donuts are in the kitchen. I’ll go and grab them for you’

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