Leila nearly ran to the taxi stop. All she wanted was to be home and talking to Hardy all night through messaging. She knew he was real. She didn’t care what Mphoentle thought or what any of them thought. She and Hardy had shared lots of things with each other. He was not lying, making some false persona to capture her in some way. She knew it! She might not have any facts to prove it, but she knew in her heart. And more importantly, she was sure she knew Hardy’s heart.
On Monday when they were back at work, to Leila’s surprise, Dikeledi, Alletta and Mphoentle were waiting for her at her desk deep in the storeroom.
“Good morning,” Leila said warily. “Did you all have fun at the birthday party?”
She could tell by their faces that they were not here to talk about how the party progressed after she left. They knew her secret; they all knew it. She slumped into her chair and waited to see what that was going to mean for her. But Leila knew – it was not going to be good.
Alletta pulled up chairs around Leila’s desk and they all sat down. They all wore faces of concern.
“We’re worried, Leila,” Alletta said.
“About what? I’m fine.” She gave Mphoentle a dirty look.
“They forced me to tell them,” Mphoentle said. “Honest, Leila. I didn’t want to.”
“It’s because we care about you,” Dikeledi said.
“Leila, this Hardy person is going to take advantage of you. I know about these things,” Alletta said. “You’ve never even had a boyfriend. This guy can sense that. That’s how this thing works.”
Dikeledi and Mphoentle nodded their heads. Leila looked away. Her eyes were filling with tears. Could they be telling the truth? Was Hardy just ‘caring’ about her and saying all of the lovely things he said just to get something from her? Was it all a lie? Maybe she was too trusting, too naïve. She felt sick to have to think it though.
“Give us your phone,” Alletta said.
“Why?” Leila asked.
“We want to check out this guy,” Dikeledi said.
They were wearing her down. Maybe they could find out what Leila couldn’t. She handed them her phone. They copied down his details and handed the phone back to her.
“Okay then,” Alletta said. “We’ll get to work on this scam artist.”
“But he’s not asked me for anything …” Leila said weakly.
“Not yet!” Dikeledi said. “We know these types.”
They left and Leila let her head fall on the desk. She felt sick but she wasn’t sure why. Was it that she feared Hardy would be found out to be a catfish and all that they had between them would disappear in a cloud of lies? Or was it that she felt she’d now betrayed him? Whatever it was, she wasn’t looking forward to what would come of it.
Tell us: Do you think you could fall in love with a person you had only ever texted with?