Liz is about to send cash to Brian when she notices something odd with photos he shared.
‘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. I have no one else to talk to, just you. Please… can I call you.”
It’s a message from Brian and I am stumped as to how to respond. On the one hand, I would hate to be the person who abandons him when he and his father are truly in need.
On the other hand, there’s the fantastical story Fatma has just told me. What to do, what to do?
I chew my lip as I pick up the phone and decide to at least establish some facts. Brian answers on the first ring. “Hello?” he breathes into the phone. “I’m so glad you’ve called me. I was starting to despair.”
“Have you been crying?” I ask.
His voice breaks. “I mean… it’s just… it’s my father. I don’t know what to do, Liz…” his voice tapers off into a soft sob.
I feel my heartstrings ping ever so slightly. If he’s lying then he’s really quite excellent at it. “What do you need?” I ask gently.
He sniffs again and clears his throat, as if to compose himself. “The hospital says they need half a million [shillings] to continue treatment… He’s been in ICU for the past two weeks and the bills are just rising,” he only just manages to finish that last word before he breaks into a full-on sob.
Then, silence. Then he clears his throat again. “Anyway, I’ve called everyone I know and no one wants to help. Liz, I can’t just watch my father die…”
Oh, there goes my heartstrings. I understand exactly where he is. And… I believe him. “Half a million, you say?” I ask him.
He confirms the amount. “Ok, let me speak to the hospital tomorrow and I will wire what I can and see if I can fundraise for the rest.”
“No,” he says quickly. “You know not all of it is for the hospital. There are external caregivers who are also owed; I need to pay them independently.
"And the consultant also says we shouldn’t pay through the hospital, we should pay him directly. Is it possible that you kindly transfer the money directly to my account? I can text you the number and bank branch right now.”
“Well, ok, I underst-,” I start to say. And then suddenly, I remember who I am dealing with. “Wait, no,” I tell him.
“It would be easier if you just send me the details of all the people you owe so I can pay them directly. It’ll reduce the bank transaction fees, you know?” I am grasping for an excuse not to give him the money directly.
“Oh my God,” he gasps, sounding as if I have said something mortally wounding. “You don’t trust me, Liz.”
He starts sobbing again, and now I am a conflicted mess. “I know Fatma has probably spoken to you. I have heard the things she’s been saying. You know that jealous bi-,”
“Hey!” I cut him off. “She’s still my friend and if you want this conversation to proceed you will not call her any ugly names.”
He pauses, takes a deep breath. “She’s jealous, Liz. She knows how I feel about you. She’s been wanting me all this time, giving me money and her car so I can stay with her and not talk to you.
"But it’s you my heart beats for, Liz. It’s you I want, Liz. In fact, she’s been bad-mouthing me to everyone she thinks is in competition with her. I can get a few other girls at her office to tell you what she said.
"Liz, please don’t believe her. She’s lying, malicious. I had to block her; she wouldn’t leave me alone.”
“Oh…” my hand flies to the place on my chest where my heart is situated. “This is a bit much for me to deal with,” I murmur.
“Please, Liz, please don’t let Fatma’s ugly rumours get in the way of helping me, Liz. My father is dying unless I find a way to help him!” And now he’s full-on sobbing. Oh heavens, what do I do?!
“Okay,” I say. “Send me your bank details. I’ll wire the money right away.” And then I hang up. If he’s lying, then the burden will be on his soul instead of mine if he just happens to be telling the truth.
And then, while I am waiting for his text with the details, something strikes me…
The pictures! There’s something off about the pictures he has sent! Oh no… He’s lying! And I have the proof!