Short story about a downturn in fortune.
Tracy sat in front of her computer, fingers poised, only to realise she didn’t know 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 was 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.
She sat in the only comfortable chair she owned and 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 they’d still speak on the phone as usual, until he came 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 sounded so sincere that she 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, till 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’d caught 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, or I’ll be stuck here for a year. Could you 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, especially when he didn’t give 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 determined to find out the truth, and after doing hours of investigation, she discovered that the photographs ‘Michael’ had sent to her Mum, he had ripped off from a dating site. The profile was that of a doctor from Canada.
Tracy was inconsolable after she found out the truth, he had defrauded her out of $100,000 and 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 trail deleted.
Tracy wiped her eyes. “Stop feeling sorry for yourself,” she muttered, as she stood up from the shabby red chair.
“Righto Lucy, let’s get back to it.” The black Labrador trotted behind her.
Draining the cold dregs of the coffee, walking with a sense of purpose toward the computer and her novel, Tracy felt recharged.
“Okay, Mr James Cameron we’re on to you. Come on Ace, let’s catch this bastard.”