There were one too many days where Tori would hide away from the world in her penthouse cum ivory tower. The silence, especially in the evenings when all of the staff had gone for the day, was painfully deafening. This effectively blanketed her depression as much as it did cause her to turn to Kal's flirtations for comfort. In a twisted sense, when the day was done, Tori did have someone close to her, even if he were a person listed on her payroll. Tori knew that this was an unadvisable path toward getting sued or worse, even still Kal was the one to initiate that kind of relationship or so she rationalized it. He had worn her down over the months they were together and with their ill-fated stint overseas behind them, they had an artificial closeness to hold them together. In truth, Tori had never quite gotten over her fallout with Jesse. He had been her introduction to a normal personal relationship. Instead, he became the nail in the coffin for Tori when it came to how she saw her love life, which she now viewed as irreparably harmed. Tori wanted to be loved. There she was in her prime years, yet so alone. Kal was the only man to entertain her occupied thoughts, however much that he was a final resort to Tori in the context of romance.
Time was her biggest drain. Tori felt like time itself was just something to run down until she passed as her father had. She had nothing to look forward to, now that she had gotten everything she had ever wanted at least materialistically. Manners were no matter to her because she could have a restaurant cleared at will. No one could look down on her because she did not depend on them in any way regardless. Tori had no reason to keep up appearances, plan ahead, or be vexed by anything. When all of an individual's problems have quick solutions, there is nothing anymore at all to consider. Thus Tori had to push back against the emptiness of her existence, waiting for her own ultimate expiration with a sick amount of joy she had secretly pinned to it in her mind. It was not until she had a feeling of being left out of a meeting meant to address the handling of her assets, that Tori wanted a higher education. It was the sting of annoyances and embarrassment that jolted her from her mentally checked-out state into being present for the first time in weeks.
With a bit of enthusiasm, Tori began applying to a few Ivy Leagues. Mr. Kenton helped Tori fake her SAT scores after she confided in him that she was never a top student. Tori felt guilty about going through with it though. That is until Mr. Kenton pointed out that she was not the only person to game the collegiate system as elites do so with ease, and often as a show of clout amongst one another. The admissions process was being manipulated to Tori's tolerance until it came to light that the admissions letter she wrote had been thrown out and a ghostwriter replaced her at Mr. Kenton's request. To Tori, it was telling that the people who were supporting her had no faith in her as an intellectual equal. She had hired a tutor and worked on that admissions letter for weeks, all while being told she was as read as any other applicant. Shame and humiliation washed over Tori upon realizing this was not the case. She was shaken in her confidence and withdrew to her quarters no longer wanting to pursue her goal. However, with a few nights' rest, she resolved to be less reliant on Mr. Kenton as a remedy to quell her feelings of inadequacy.
Wanting to put space in between herself and those who were too helpful, Tori went forward with an on-campus tour scheduled with Kal. Both had an agreement to be as incognito as feasibly possible. Naturally, Tori took the time to inform Mr. Peeters of her plans to start school. Taking in the news, Mr. Peeters warned Tori that she would be in dire straights if her financial status was found out and that it was imperative for her to keep a low profile. Tori explained all of this to Kal who gave her a speech about how he was a prior special forces operative for two different nations and that he would obviously protect her. Although Tori appreciated his impressive background, she found that Kal had been slipping in his duties regarding her safety. Kal had become her fattened housecat, more ready to take a nap on her couch than to jump to her defense. To Tori, it seemed like every time Tori brought an issue to Kal's attention he would find a way to sidestep the importance of it. Tori wanted to rely on his expertise and not have to replace him with a different person from the security company, but she felt like Kal was both a comfortable friend and a subpar employee at the same time. They arrived at the rented minimalist house near Tori's dream school in New Hampshire late in the evening as a precaution. Tori immediately noted that Kal was slacking more so than usual as he didn't do any security checks but instead played on a game console all night in the den. Tori wanting to have a sense of normalcy didn't address this outside of asking him his plans for the day after they had their breakfast delivered on their second morning there. This was significant because the expected first conversation of the day between a security team member and the protected party is meant to be about the day's safety protocol, something that Kal had ceased doing entirely.
Tori is not sure if she should be grateful for the chance to have a typical disinterested boyfriend or be upset that her employee was shirking his work and went on the campus tour alone after Kal told her that she is being paranoid when she questioned her safety. As Tori walked by herself she realized that even Kal probably didn't know her full net worth, again confusing her as to whether she should be worried or feel freed by that fact. Still uncomfortable with the thought of it, Tori tried to go about her day as if she was just another potential student. It was not long before Tori felt almost comfortable being on her own. Kal for the most part appeared to be right. She was unrecognized and able to go about her day as if she were like anyone else. That is until at lunch in a sandwich shop, Tori was recognized by a fundraiser worker from New York. The woman started out politely asking if she could eat with Tori at her table. Tori had a bad feeling in the pit of her stomach with each of the woman's words as if there was more that she wanted to say, despite the woman's seemingly friendly pretense. Tori made the excuse that she was on her way out and offered the table to the woman as she walked away. This only aggravated her. The woman's emotional tone went from feigning kindness to overt hostility. The woman might not have known exactly who Tori was, but was setting her on a mission to extract cash out of her all the same. As Tori walked away from the shop, she saw the woman behind her out of the corner of her eye, walking quickly to keep up with her. Tori wasn't against giving money to a good cause, but the anger was so off-putting to Tori. It reminded her of the angry administrator who demanded Tori give as much as she could to his charity, which turned out to be a crime front. Tori now associated anger and demands with those who were working in opposition to helping others, and instead only safeguarding their own selfish interests. Tori had hated herself for caving to the administrator and she was not about to throw money at another unreasonable person for a second time. As Tori walked away at a nearly jogging pace, the woman began to yell things at Tori like that she deserved money more than her because she had a harder life and that she was prettier than Tori too. Not knowing what to do Tori made her way to Kal, who she predicted was back on the couch at the rental house. The woman followed Tori there, all the while yelling more hate spewed at her for having more than she ever would. Tori barely got inside as the woman was pulling on her arm so much that Tori was reddened and bruised.
Tori knew that had Kal not been listening to her tell the horrible woman to get off of her as she pushed her away from her at the door. He was less than ten feet away on the other side of the entryway wall, yet totally unmoved. Tori locked the door, with the woman on the other side of it. The wretched woman stood outside screaming and stomping that Tori had scratched her and that she would sue. Not concerned about money as much as the emotional toll of the ordeal, Tori comforted Kal, saying that she needed an actual security guard and that Kal was off her account. Kal was totally unfazed by Tori and simply stared at her as she was almost in tears telling him what happened. When she was finished he went back to eating his bowl of cereal, with each bite he took he spilled milk on the floor. When Tori asked if he had anything to say, he minimized her fears by replying that he had been through worse and that she was overreacting.
Tori went upstairs to cry alone, her arm still in pain from the woman who grabbed her. Tori knew that Kal had her in his pocket, if she had him fired he would bring up their personal relationship and Tori would look incompetent, something that could be troublesome in her position. One wrong move and one of her many lawyers could cry conservatorship, where she could be medicated out of consciousness and locked in a room for the rest of her life. Why did she let things get so out of hand? She tearfully thought to herself. Then she realized that things probably never were in her control from the start. Setting her catastrophized thinking aside regarding a dreaded conservatorship, Tori was hurt the most that Kal did not care. She obviously was going to have him replaced as her primary security guard. Yet, the issue that alarmed her was what she really wanted was for him to have cared that she was scared. She wished he wanted to protect her, not as a paid guard, but as her lover.
While on the cold bed, Tori remembered when she was bullied in middle school by a maladjusted older girl that was held back multiple grades. Tori had confided in Molly that she didn't want to walk to the cafeteria at lunch alone because that was when her bully tended to strike. Molly at the time, walked with her every day after that even though it meant she had less time to eat her homemade lunch. They would sit together and laugh while they shared their meal, it was one of Tori's favorite memories. Tori lamented losing Molly as a friend to circumstance, but she knew that she was more harmful to Molly if she stayed in her life. Molly had shown her that she thought Tori was an "undo" button for all of her actions. Tori could use her money to save her in a situation, but no amount of money could ever undo what had been done. Molly would forever have to fight her addiction. Tori could only be a possibility for relapse if she were to try to help Molly. There were so many things Tori wished she had back. Tori wanted to smile on the bus ride home from school with Molly again and to help her mom put away dishes before bed at night. Thinking about them caused a hurt to well up within Tori that was rawer than any wound a body could sustain. Tori felt as if she were poison to those she loved. It was unbearable to her.
Despite her emotional state she wiped the tears from her eyes, cleared her throat, and called the security company telling them that Kal was no longer with her in a professional capacity and to send a replacement immediately. When she put down her phone she walked to the hallway to see if Kal had done any of his security checks. From her view of him from the top of the stairs, Tori took in the image of a man she now loathed. He was still on the couch with his headphones on as he sat playing the same game console, completely unmoved. He was her problem now, she had to figure out how to avoid any lasting ills of her mistake of involving herself with him. Tori then walked back into her room and scheduled a meeting with Mr. Peeters. He was calculated, cruel, and unfeeling toward her in a humane sense, but Tori trusted him more than any person on the planet at that point. He was the single person who knew her money put a target on her back. Tori finally began to understand that Mr. Peeters feared becoming her more than he wanted to be her. As Tori sat down on the bed alone again, she felt she was changed, she felt she was no longer the same child who walked into this world confused. She was starting to see exactly herself and how she was going to handle her status. Kal, on the other hand, was a stepping stone to learning the ropes of no longer being an innocent fool. Her naive days were now the past. Tori was moving full speed toward the future, and it was not going to be a pleasant place for a person like Kal in her life.