Incandescence (Part I)

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The rest of the week went past at lightening speed. Between meetings, discretely monitoring the Accounts Department, trying to follow-up ex-employees and working on strategies to improve staff morale; I really had no time for breaks or anything for that matter.

Whilst closely analyzing some personnel files, I heard a gentle knock on my door. Looking up I saw Jacob standing there with a bunch of flowers and a nervous smile on his face. As soon as I saw Jacob I immediately jumped up and ran over to him, momentarily forgetting that we were no longer a couple, I embraced him in a hug. I realized at that moment just how much I had missed him.

‘Are you OK?’ Jacob asked when I finally let go.

‘Absolutely. So what have you planned?’ I quickly asked so as to avoid any awkwardness.

Just as I asked, I found Bradley suddenly standing in my office. Considering we had spent the week successfully avoiding each other; his sudden presence caught me off-guard. It was as though he had a sixth sense that was fine-tuned into trying to make me miserable.

‘Mr Salvatore, we were about to head out for lunch, is there anything I can assist you with?’ I asked.

Without answering me, he looked at Jacob, and extended his hand ‘Bradley Salvatore, nice to meet you’ to which Jacob introduced himself.

Bradley then looked at me and said ‘Work can wait a moment, but lunch sounds great, where are we going?’

Jacob and I exchanged glances at each other before Jacob said ‘Poppy’s Café down the road, it’s always been our go to place’.

‘Excellent’ said Bradley ‘I’m famished, let’s go’.

I quickly took the flowers from Bradley, left them on my desk, grabbed my handbag and walked out of my office with Jacob and Bradley in tow. Looking behind, I spotted Jackson standing in his doorway watch us.

To say this was going to be uncomfortable was an absolute understatement. To my left was my ex-boyfriend whom I hadn’t seen in over 3-months and to my right was my socially inept and arrogant boss.

I called the waitress over and immediately ordered myself a Latte, both Bradley and Jacob ordered Espresso's. I figured the easiest way to get through this lunch-break would be by discussing work. Looking at Jacob I asked how everything was going with him at work. Jacob was great, he spent a good 10minutes talking about his workplace and issues they were experiencing; both Bradley and I nodded and commented along the way.

The waitress returned with our coffees and took our orders for lunch. I was beginning to relax knowing lunch would be served soon, we’d then eat and return to work – this awkward lunch date would soon be over. I took a sip of coffee just as Bradley asked Jacob whether we were a couple. Talk about being direct, I cringed internally and looked at Jacob to see how he would respond.

Jacob, being Jacob just smiled and said ‘We’re on a break from being a couple; but as Tori knows, I’ll always have her back no matter what’. Cryptic yet perfect, I thought!

‘Right, so you’re saying Tori broke up with you and you’re trying to make amends’? Bradley asked as if it was his business to know details of our relationship.

‘Mr Salvatore, my relationship with Jacob is a private matter, I’d rather not discuss it further’. Bradley seemed somewhat annoyed that I wasn’t prepared to delve into my personal life over lunch. I don’t know why, but something in me just clicked, and suddenly I found myself asking questions I usually wouldn’t dare ask.

‘Tell me Mr Salvatore, now that you know a little about my private life, how about yourself. Is there a future Mrs Salvatore in the horizon’?

‘No Tori, there isn’t’

‘Why is that. You’re handsome and successful in your own right; surely you have women throwing themselves at you?’

Both Jacob and Bradley’s jaws dropped at my comment; clearly neither of them expected me to be so forthcoming.

I took a sip of my Latte waiting for Bradley to respond, but as luck would have it lunch was served. Bradley casually commented on how lovely our lunch looked and Jacob agreed; it was as though everyone was too afraid to speak in fear of another awkward moment. Needless to say we ate in near silence. As we all finished our lunch, I asked the waitress for the bill and handed her my credit card. Both Bradley and Jacob offered to pay, but I was happy to just fix the bill and get back to work – as far away from this situation as possible.

As I got up to leave Bradley asked why I was in such a rush; he really was a bizarre character. I politely stated my lunch hour was almost up and that I needed to get back to work. Bradley just laughed and smugly reminded me that it was his business and that seeing we were on a business lunch, there was no need to rush back to work.

I could see Jacob trying to make sense of what was going on and I was hoping that he could understand Bradley, as I was really struggling. Who in their right mind crashes someone's date and then refers to the gathering as a business lunch?

Jacob got up, gave me a hug and offered to walk me back to the office. I thanked Jacob for organizing lunch and as we were about to leave, Bradley asked Jacob to stay. I could tell Jacob was questioning Bradley’s motives, but I didn’t want Jacob leaving with me; I didn’t want to lead him on. I knew I would regret my decision, but I found myself encouraging Jacob to accept Bradley’s offer. I bid them farewell and told Jacob I’d call him after work.

Walking back to work I had a terrible feeling in the pit of my stomach. Why did Bradley invite himself to lunch when he had intentionally avoided me all week? Why did Bradley ask Jacob to stay on after I had left? What game was Bradley playing? So many questions and no answers.

Heading up to the 8th Floor I couldn’t shake off the bad vibes in the pit of my stomach. Walking into my office I was greeted by none other than Jackson, could this day get any worse!

‘So’ he smiled; ‘how was lunch with your boyfriend?’

‘Great’ I lied, but I just wanted to get away from him.

‘You know, if you ever need a shoulder to cry on, I’m right here’ I could tell he was trying to be charming and had anyone else made that offer it would have been thoughtful; but with Jackson, it just felt creepy.

I smiled a quick ‘thanks’ as I didn’t want him to see me cringe at the thought and then made my way to my office pretending to be busy. As soon as he left I drifted off into the unknown; wondering what exactly was being discussed at Poppy’s Café.

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