Short story about a downturn in fortune.
Tracy sat in front of her computer, fingers poised, only to realise she didn’t know how what to write.
“I’d rather be a bird than a fish.” She wrote in desperation, trying to get her brain into gear.
This was happening more and more these days, and she worried her publisher may lose patience, and even demand the return of the large advance she’d received. She was at a vital point in her novel. The serial killer, James Cameron, had escaped capture, but the protagonist, Detective Chief Inspector Ace Law, was hot on his heels.
Tracy sighed. Getting up from her desk, she went to put the kettle on the stove.
Lucy, her black Labrador, heard the rattle of the biscuit tin, and padded over into the shabby kitchen.
Tracy had been planning on using the proceeds of this latest book to renovate her old cottage, she shivered as the wind blew through the gaps in the windows and under doors.
Sitting in the only comfortable chair she owned, she sipped her coffee as she reflected on how she’d reached this point in her life. Lucy laid her head upon Tracy’s knee, her soulful eyes watchful for a piece of broken chocolate biscuit.
Life had taken a strange turn a year ago, when she’d gone from being a successful author, to a sad, destitute, lonely woman.
Tracy’s husband died a few years earlier after a long illness. She missed him, and although she had adult children, she was lonely and turned to a dating site to find a friend to fill the gap in her life.
She met ‘Michael’ on line. The photo he supplied, showed a clean cut, middle-aged man, sitting on a motorbike. In another photograph he was paddling a canoe, waving to the camera, a huge smile upon his handsome face. He explained that he lived in Cairns, but he often visited Sydney, where Tracy lived.
They spoke on the phone sometimes three or four times a day. One day he told her he was going to South Africa for work, but that they’d still speak on the phone as usual. Soon he’d be home and they could meet at last, in person.
The day he was to leave Tracy received a beautiful bouquet of red roses and a card which said, “I want to look into your eyes and ask where you’ve been all these years. I’m so sorry I will be away, but please know I’m returning and that our future has already begun.”
She was hooked.
On one of their long telephone calls he told her, “I want to marry you.”
He’d sounded so sincere that she’d said, “I want that too, I love you.”
A few weeks later there was a worrying call from him. “The banking system over here is absolute rubbish,” he said, “I’m not able to bank my pay, I’ve had to pawn my watch.”
“Oh, that’s terrible can I help?”
“If you could send me a few hundred dollars, just until I can sort this mess out, that’d be great.”
He told her how to send it via Western Union, to bypass the bank.
That was the start of numerous amounts of money Tracy sent, always with his promise they were loans, and he’d repay her, after he’d sorted things out.
It took sometime, because poor Michael became ill. He had contracted Malaria.
Tracy was so worried. She begged him to come home straight away; she wanted to take care of him.
“I want to come home, desperately, but it means breaking my contract, Could you possibly send twenty thousand dollars? Or is that too much to ask?”
He sounded weak and vulnerable.
Tracy’s daughter, Frances, tried to warn her mother that maybe Michael wasn’t who he said he was, and insisted that she spoke to him personally.
Michael answered Frances’s concerns when at last he spoke to her, but couldn’t convince her, he was genuine, especially when he didn’t give her his address in Cairns, saying he’d text it to her later.
“Stop worrying Darling. I know what I’m doing, you’ll see.” Tracy tried to reassure her daughter.
Frances was determined to find out the truth, and after doing hours of investigation, she discovered the truth. The photographs, ‘Michael’ had sent to her Mum, had been ripped off from a dating site. The profile was from that of a doctor, from Canada.
Tracy was inconsolable after she found out the truth. He had defrauded her out of almost $100,000. She felt an absolute idiot.
Forced to sell her home, she could only afford to buy the rundown cottage in Sydney’s western suburbs.
“I miss his voice. I miss his laughter. He’s not real, but at the time he was very real.” Tracy cried in her daughter’s arms.
‘Michael’ escaped capture, his online profile now deleted.
Tracy wiped her eyes. “Stop feeling sorry for yourself,” she murmured. Standing up from the shabby red chair she pulled herself together.
“Righto Lucy, let’s get back to it.” The black Labrador obediently trotted behind her.
Draining the cold dregs of the coffee, Tracy walked with a sense of purpose toward the computer and her novel. She felt recharged.
“Okay, Mr James Cameron, we’re on to you. Come on Ace, let’s catch this bastard.”