Shoe Box

by Rachael McGill

‘I splashed out a bit on the wine. Made a bit of money today. Wait till I tell you how.’ Francisco winked as he filled Cristina’s glass. A warm feeling crept up her throat. He’d started talking to her about his work. It made her feel like a real person.

‘A client you wouldn’t believe,’ he said over the baby squid salad. ‘Old guy. Came in wanting to invest his life savings. Guess how much his life savings were?’

‘More than a million?’

Francisco snorted. ‘Eight thousand Euros. He was a farmer or something. He’d been keeping his cash under the bed. He actually brought it in and put it on my desk. In a shoe box!’

Cristina’s hand flew to her mouth.

‘He was from the north, some middle of nowhere place. I kept having to ask him to repeat himself. Horrible accent.’

Cristina’s toes curled involuntarily inside her impractical spike-heeled sandals. Francisco had probably forgotten she was from the north. She’d been in Lisbon so long even she felt she was from there.

‘I sold him the Venture Capital CFD, just for the hell of it. Well, not just for the hell of it, also because I was on 99 and I needed one more buyer to get the bonus. It’s a nice one. Hence the wine. What do you think?’

‘It’s a kind of betting isn’t it, not a savings account?’

‘The wine, darling! What do you think of the wine?’

‘It’s very smooth,’ said Cristina. ‘Shouldn’t you have given him a savings account?’

‘He didn’t ask for a savings account,’ said Francisco. ‘He used the word invest. He could make himself a lot of money.’

‘Or he could lose it all.’

‘It’s not that much to lose.’

‘Did he understand what it actually – ?’

‘Who understands that kind of product? I barely understand it myself. He signed the paper. This is the hilarious bit. He signed it with a cross.’

‘What?’

‘Guy was illiterate!’

Cristina gulped like a fish. She saw a slip of paper, a list, a thick black cross at the bottom. Her grandfather’s monthly bill that she’d been trusted to take back to the farming supplies shop for him, with a fistful of notes.

‘I did it by the book,’ said Francisco. Read him the whole five pages of terms and conditions. Can you believe it? People in this country who still can’t read and write!’

Cristina went to the bathroom. She fixed her gaze on the hand-painted tiles around the mirror as she tried not to vomit. She needed a cigarette, but she’d given up. She took deep breaths. She had to go back to her fiancé, their food. Her phone tinkled. Her best friend Ana: ‘found your perfect wedding shoes!’ Cristina clicked the image. Ana was right, they were perfect. Cristina leaned on the edge of the sink and cried with happiness.

Rachael McGill is a translator and playwright.

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