If you had asked Phoebe a year ago where she’d be on this particular day, she would have confidently told you how she would be chilling and enjoying the breeze on the beaches in the Bahamas because she’d be on her honeymoon. This detail was crystal clear in her mind since together with her fiancée, Paul, they had planned how they’d say their vows in a grand wedding ceremony and head straight to their dream honeymoon destination. But life happened.
As she washed the dishes, she did so very sluggishly as she has been doing every other chore since the day Paul did her dirty. That betrayal drained every ounce of energy that Phoebe had.
Had I ignored any signs of Paul being fake?
Every other time, her mind would zone off to a place where she thought through their life together. Other times it would be grilling herself over what she thought to have been carelessness. She had heard before that money was a sensitive issue when it came to relationships. As per the advice given to her, she was to be extra cautious if the discussion to put money in a joint account came around. If she had heeded this advice, could she be in this deep pain right now?
Maybe that could have saved her money since Paul could not have access to it. However much she tried to recreate scenarios of how she could have handled the relationship between her and Paul before Paul conned her over half a million, the more she realized there were many blindspots that made it possible for her to be conned.
Paul had not taken the money with difficulty from her. It had been one easy task, with bits of benefits. They had dated right from campus. When they each landed their first jobs, they figured out they were both on the same page regarding what they wanted from their relationship. They wanted to take things to the next level. Paul and Phoebe decided that they wanted to get married.
It seemed timely, but they did not have much to facilitate the whole thing. They were a year and a half into their respective jobs and they had barely enough in their accounts to get married and settle. Financially, they needed to plan themselves. Paul came up with a suggestion.
“What if we saved a certain amount every month for a year and a half as we plan to make that day a success in a grand way?”
Phoebe thought about it and without taking much time, she accepted. She was a lover of grand things, weddings included. She wanted a huge wedding. In 18 months they’d be ready for their dream wedding, both psychologically and financially.
Every time Phoebe remembers how she fell for this plan, she wonders how someone can seem so genuine at heart yet carry so much ill within them. While still deliberating on how they’d keep the money, Paul suggested a joint account. He said it in a way that took Phoebe down a fantasy lane of how their married life would be.
“You know, we can open a joint account that we can be sending the specific amount to every payday. This account would not be for the wedding money only, it will be our family joint account that we will occasionally use for mega projects, our wedding being the first. What do you think?” Paul had asked.
Phoebe was excited by this idea, She was happy about it and definitely, it was a yes to this idea. That day, they went and opened a joint account and that month became the first they saved towards their wedding.
As she dissects every bit of how her fiance played her dirty, trying to see how different everything could have turned, every time she reflected on the whole thing she realized that Paul had played her properly. Everything sounded and seemed so genuine that not in her wildest imagination could she have sensed there was a hidden motive.
‘How could I have known that all the plan that only seemed to work to bring us together in our marriage, was indeed a trap?’ She wondered. This had been the question she asked herself every day for the last two months.
Everything had been smooth for fifteen months. The two had sent money to their joint account faithfully on payday. Challenges that could have made it hard to stick to this commitment had arisen, but they fought through and stayed committed. At this point, on the fifteenth month, the two only had three months to achieve their ideal wedding amount.
Their love life had blossomed. They had even told friends and family of their intention to get married, and their savings toward achieving that goal. All their friends and family had to do was to come and witness and celebrate their love on that big day.
On the other hand, Paul had also been doing some investments here and there. Given that he did not have a lot of responsibilities, after sending the wedding contribution he remained with a good amount that he put to good use. He got into deals, where he could buy a car or goods that he would buy and sell, making some good profit. Occasionally, Paul would tell Phoebe of a deal gone well, or a deal he was waiting for, that would make him good money. At other times, Paul went ahead to show Phoebe the money he had made. Through these deals, they had gone on vacations in Mombasa, Lamu and Zanzibar.
One thing Phoebe did not understand was why they had to continue saving every month when Paul seem to have gotten a good flow of cash from his deals, and he could just make the whole thing happen.
One day, she asked him about it and Paul responded in a way that left Phoebe wondering why she even had such a thought, to begin with.
“You know babe, this wedding is ours. We are making things happen, as a team. We both can make our day a success, don’t you think it’s a good thing to always work as a team? As for the money I make from these deals, it will go to our family investments so that our children get to have a good life. Meanwhile, we make memories as we go.”
“Okay, that sounds like something I’d love for our family,” Phoebe said naively, approving this plan.
On the fifteenth month, Paul took her on a dinner date. After the usual pleasantries, and toward the end of the date, Paul dropped an uncomfortable request.
“I have a car deal that requires 2 million, money that I can’t access immediately from my bank. I was thinking I use our wedding money and then refund it immediately after this deal.”
Phoebe was first shocked. This was a very uncomfortable conversation. She wanted it to be a joke.
“You are joking, right?”
“No babe, I am not. We have 1.8 million and I need 2 million, I can get the rest of the remaining amount from the bank or even friends. Then I repay before the end of the week.” Paul elaborated on his plan.
“I don’t know babe. Is this the last option you got?” Phoebe inquired, hoping there could be another source because no way she was comfortable with what Paul proposed.
Every time she remembered this bit where she was uncomfortable and almost said no, she wished that she had stuck with what her instincts were trying to tell her. However much she wished, she remembered that their love had been strong and that this strength came through at a time she had doubts. That love pushed her to overcome her genuine doubts and fears and facilitated her being conned. Doubt that Paul had seen and played along with it.
“You don’t have to fear anything babe, the deal will go through and we will have our dream wedding, as we had planned.”
“I know and I am sure that everything will go well. Only that this money has been almost like sacred to us so that even when we have personal financial challenges we sought other means.” Phoebe had tried to reason with him.
“It is an urgent deal babe, by tomorrow afternoon I need to have gotten all the 2 million otherwise I will lose this deal. If it was something that happened let’s say a week from now, I would not have asked you, I know how uncomfortable it may feel from your end.”
Phoebe accepted. They then wired the money to his account. All the money they had saved. It felt so off to Phoebe, but again, love. We can do anything for the people we love. Sometimes, we can go ahead and do the most uncomfortable of things all in the name of love with the hope that all will eventually be well.
Later that evening, they had drinks, and Paul dropped Phoebe at her apartment. Paul looked so happy, and calm in a very unusual way. The calmness of a still, deep, river.
Phoebe went into her house and freshened up before going to bed. She called Paul as usual, they chatted for a while and then she slept.
The next morning, Paul was unreachable. At noon, Phoebe realized that it was weird for Paul to be off for that long. Something was off. In the evening she left work to go to his house to check what was happening.
Paul lived in a town thirty minutes away from Phoebe’s. She prepared and went down there. To her shock, the house was vacant.
She tried to think of how they had been together the previous weekend in that apartment, only to be told that the house had been vacated two days before. Where had he been sleeping? She wondered.
As she was still scrolling through her WhatsApp trying to distract herself from the shock, she came across a picture that made her scream out in rage. George, Paul’s friend, posted a photo of a traditional wedding of someone. She wished her eyes had seen things wrong but nope, they hadn’t. It was Paul as the bridegroom.
Her joints became weak. She sat down and started sobbing. Right there and then, she knew the worse had happened. Her hard-earned money, and the dream of a forever after had all had slipped from her hands and there she was.
As Phoebe finished washing the dishes, she was completely replaying the ordeal. She went back to the couch, to try to watch something. Something that would distract her mind from thinking about what had happened to her.
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