Brian resurfaces and calls Liz. She snobs at first. He texts her a sob story complete with evidence. Should she call him back?
“What you need is a plan,” I tell Fatma. We’re still sitting on my balcony. I am digesting the story she has just told me as she sits in contemplative silence, the glass of juice in front of her untouched for a while.
I observe the sediment settled at the bottom of her glass, leaving clear water towards the top of it. “You need to get that money back. And he needs to learn a lesson. I wish Jo was here, she would really know what to do,” I chew my lip in thought.
And then we look at each other and as our eyes meet, there’s a moment of clarity. “I’ll call her,” I laugh as Fatma nods, confirming that we got struck by the same brainwave.
A few minutes later Fatma is giving Jo the cliff notes of her story on speakerphone as I add a few colourful names for Brian into the conversation.
“What? Half a million?” she gasps when we finish our narration. “How on earth…”
“Yea, he’s that slick,” I tell Jo. “You should see him. So what do we do?”
“Well, we need to lure him to a location so you can get him arrested and charged,” she says.
“With what?” Fatma frowns. “I gave him the money willingly, so…”
“Oh, that’s simple,” Jo says reassuringly. “Obtaining money under false pretences. And if you can get together with any of the other women he has scammed, you can make a solid case.”
I nod. “Do it, Fatma!” I urge.
“Well… It’s just that it seems a little… excessive,” she sighs. “Like, what if he thinks I am punishing him because we broke up?”
Jo issues a hefty eye-roll. “Do you want your money back or not?” “I do,” Fatma confirms.
“Then let’s get that money back. Let’s meet tomorrow afternoon at my house and make a plan.” And then she hangs up.
Fatma sighs deeply but this time, it sounds to me like the kind of sigh that indicates the lifting of a huge burden. Then she turns to me.
“Liz, I don’t know what to say. I’ve been so nasty to you lately…” A tear rolls down her cheek, but because she’s smiling, I suppose it is a happy tear.
“Aw, come here, you,” I say, standing up and stretching my arms out for a hug, which she steps into gratefully. “So, now more inter-company fighting now, okay?” I smile. She smiles back.
“Okay. Now I need to head on home, I’ve taken up enough of your time,” she says as she picks up her handbag.
I let her know it’s never a problem – I will always be here for her if she needs me, and then I gently shut the door behind her after we say our goodbyes.
As I head back to the balcony to pick up our glasses and deliver them to the kitchen, I notice my phone vibrating. I pick it up.
Lo and behold! It is Brian calling. Didn’t Fatma just tell me he’s been unreachable on his phone? Well, given how much he is available to me, it is quite clear he is avoiding her.
I bite my lip as I contemplate whether to answer. But I know myself – no way will I be able to keep from exploding in anger over Fatma’s story if we speak.
I set the phone back down on the kitchen countertop and decide not to engage for now. Then I get a text message notification.
‘Liz, I need your help and I don’t know who else to talk to. My father has just had a heart attack. He’s in hospital. I am really worried. Have no one else to talk to, just you. Please… can I call you?” From Brian.
Such sad news… and for a minute there, I am tempted to call back. And then I remember that he is a con and con men will say anything to worm their way into your purse.
I ignore my phone and make my way to the balcony, pick up the glasses and come back to the kitchen, to find a notification that I have received a photo.
I pick up my phone and open the messaging app. It’s from Brian. It’s a picture of an old man in a hospital bed, wires protruding from his chest and head and hooked up to a complicated-looking machine next to him.
Oh no! His father really is in hospital, I think to myself. Perhaps I really should call Brian back…