“Crikey! You’ve used that posh tea set your mother gave you. Did you have visitors today?”
”Yeah I did. Some very unexpected ones … it was pure luck I wasn’t still in my pyjamas. Why don’t you wash up and I’ll get the dinner on.”
“Um, aren’t you going to tell me who they were then?”
“It’s kind of a long story Martin, let me do the dinner and I’ll tell you after.”
“Why don’t you just say who it was …or is there a reason you don’t want me to know?”
“Alrighty then, it was a Nigerian Prince and his … um … retinue I guess you’d call it. He was re-paying me for a loan I gave him about 10 years ago.”
“Yeah, yeah, really funny!”
“I’m serious Martin … and your reaction is exactly why I was loathe to tell you!”
Bashing the pots and pans crossly in the kitchen, Leah thought back to that day. It was an easy one to remember for it was the very day she’d met Martin. Fresh from the sticks, she’d been the new girl in the office, totally naive and ready to believe the best in people. Nervous about her first job, Leah hadn’t been able to sleep. Up before the lark, breakfasted, booted and suited, she’d still had ages to go it was time for the walk to work.
In an attempt to control her nerves, she’d sat down at her desk to have a go at clearing her in box before work. She rarely plumbed the depths of the spam folder but that’s where she came across the fateful message. The English was both formal and stilted – exactly as you’d expect it to be from a foreigner – and that’s exactly who the guy writing it said he was; more precisely he was a Prince from a State in northern Nigeria who’d lost all his money in a scam and didn’t have enough to buy a ticket back home. Leah didn’t have much, but after checking the cost of a one-way ticket to Lagos from Heathrow, she was able to scrape that much together. So, feeling she’d done her good deed/pay forward thing for that year, she’d sent him the money and headed off to work with a warm feeling in her chest.
Once at work, Leah was thrown straight into a busy new staff induction programme. She was starting to relax and enjoy her day when the subject turned to internet security. The talk being delivered by one of the guys from the IT department was pretty routine and a tad dull to be honest, until the words “Nigerian money scam” causing Leah to look up in alarm. As she listened, Leah realised she’d fallen prey, not only to a scam, but one that everyone in the room – apart from her apparently – seemed to know about. Flushing beetroot, she’d started to shake. When her neighbour enquired if she was OK, she’d felt the tears coming and bolted for the door.
Realising she couldn’t hide in the Ladies loo all day, Leah had given her self a good talking to in the mirror after splashing her face with cold water to repair the damage. He’d been on his way in for an interview when she’d nearly knocked him down in her rush to exit the Ladies. When she’d looked up to bleat an apology, he’d said “Are you alright, your face is all blotchy” which – unsurprisingly- started her off again. He’d hurried to apologise for being a right twerp, even managing to produce a clean handkerchief to wipe her tears away. Somewhat charmed by the handkerchief, Leah had accepted when he’d asked to buy her coffee to apologise properly, arranging to meet him on Saturday morning at the nice coffee place in town. They’d been together pretty much ever since and he’d always said it was her delightfully uncynical nature which sealed the deal.
But when Leah told him the story, there in the kitchen, he’d called her a complete and utter dork. Shocked, Leah realised the boyfriend she’d assumed was her forever guy had just mercilessly mocked her. Reminding him what he’d said about loving her uncynical nature, she’d visibly recoiled when he’d guffawed. Just a line … apparently.
A couple of hours later, Martin was stood in the hallway, his bags packed, a mate hovering awkwardly to provide him with a ride and a bed. Foolishly, he’d tried to talk Leah out of it, not realising quite how angry she was, even giving her the “this is it – your last chance to change your mind” speech.
It wasn’t till he’d given back his keys and was walking out of the door that Martin thought to ask “So come on then, how much did your Nigerian Prince re-pay you?” barely bothering to hide the sneer in his voice.
“Five hundred thousand pounds – in cash – and these keys to that brand new Porsche 911 on the pavement outside. He was ever so apologetic it had taken so long to track me down and hoped he’d added sufficient interest to the five hundred quid I’d loaned him.”
Watching Martin’s face crumple, she added “Shut the door behind you – this dork won’t be giving you the keys to that Porsche now. ”
© Debra Carey, 2019