‘Is this a hustle?’ I ask, wary.
Not so long ago, I’d been the victim of a scheme. I’d foolishly fallen for a Nigerian prince. I know, you’re rolling your eyes, stifling a guffaw, aren’t you? I was like you once, the kind of person that mutters, How could she be so stupid? Until it happened to me. And until it happens to you, you shouldn’t giggle at me or judge me.
Now, I look up, and up, into his dark, flashing eyes. His brow is creased, black eyebrows raised high. His hands reach for mine. They are warm, soft. I imagine he’s like that on the inside, like a toasted marshmallow.
‘No. I’m not hustling you. This is genuine. I want to exchange that sapphire ring that’s hanging around your neck, for $50,000.’
The ring was my grandmother’s. She gave it to me the night before she died, over thirty years ago. She must’ve known her fate, and wanted to pass on her most valued and sentimental possessions, assuring herself each would be cherished by its new owner. I cried at the time. Her fingers groped for my hand, the gnarled knuckles made her hand look misshapen. Painful, too. While holding my hand, she opened hers and I felt the coolness of metal in my palm.
‘Don’t open your hand until you’ve left my room, Peggy,’ she said.
I wiped my eyes with the back of my closed fist, kissed her on the forehead and walked away. Once in the hallway, I peeked: her engagement ring. A huge sapphire with ten diamonds set around it, encased in a yellow gold band. Exquisite. I would never part with it.
Gosh, I need 50K right now, though. It will solve a lot of my problems. Problems that were caused by the Nigerian prince. Cleaned out my bank balance, he did. He promised me I’d be his princess. Yet, here I am, penniless and without a crown.
‘Alright,’ I say, already undoing the clasp at the back of my neck. I hand it over, the chain making a slinky sound as it collapses around itself and the ring.
‘Pleasure doing business with you,’ he says. He pockets the ring, and runs off into the crowd. I am too stunned to follow. I sink to my knees and begin to howl.
OK, you can giggle and judge now.