AMARA woke up to the continuous ping of her phone’s messaging app. She looked at the clock hanging by the wall with eyes half-closed. It was already past eleven in the morning. It’s not that she overslept, her writing shift was from night to dawn.
She left the sofa where she fell asleep and sauntered toward the dining table, where she left her phone before she slept.
Amara looked down and saw her cat rubbing its body against her leg.
“You’re hungry?” she asked.
She put her phone down and picked her cat, and then sauntered to the cabinet where she kept its food. The moment she opened the cabinet, the other cats came to her. She put their bowls on the table and filled it with kibbles. Her cats eat happily, and she was happy too. She sat on a chair and watched them eat.
And then she heard the continuous ping again. Ah, right, she almost forgot.
Amara was surprised when she saw their group chat’s head on the screen. It already has over a hundred messages. She opened it and read the conversation thread. The first message made her blood rise up to her head.
She tapped the video call button.
“Hey…” she said when the call was connected.
“We’re in big trouble, Louise,” said Stella. She was talking to her. Writers addressed one another by pen name.
“I have read your messages, and yes, we’re in trouble,” she said.
“We tried reaching Ann Margaret since early this morning, but she’s not responding.” Yasha heaved a deep sigh. “Gals, seriously, I have a bad feeling about this. She scammed us!”
She shut her eyes and breathed exasperatedly.
Amara, Stella, Yasha, and Ann Margaret met through a publishing house. One day, they decided to build an indie publishing, hoping that they could earn more from writing their stories to selling it on their own. They were doing great for the last couple of months. They sold out the first batch of their books, and now they were about to publish stories from other writers. Everything was fine until problems started to arise.
Book production was put on halt because their outsource printer encountered a problem with one of their machines. Their books could not make it on the date they promised their buyers. Some of the buyers already made a fuss about it and wanted to refund the money. So far, Amara made her best to explain their side and manage to gave a temporary solution to the problem. But then, they have to face a bigger problem now.
Yasha found a way to resume the book production, and that is to transfer the production to another printing press. They all agreed to that, and the owner was generous enough to pick up the outputs by themselves. But then, Ann Margaret lied to them. There were no outputs to transfer because she told the owner not to print the books yet. She could not send half the amount of the production cost to the printer for the downpayment. And despite their problem, she was out there somewhere, couldn’t be reached.
“First, we must assure the buyers that they will get what they paid for,” Amara told the two.
“But how? Ann Margaret has the money, and she’s not paying the printer when we told her yesterday.” She saw Stella pinched the bridge of her nose.
“Because the money’s gone!” Yasha insisted. “Believe me, we got scammed!”
Amara’s phone buzzed when someone messaged her. It was Ann Margaret.
“Wait… she replied to me.” She opened the message. “I am sorry, I couldn’t receive your messages and calls on time because my phone was on airplane mode, and I have been translating my stories. I couldn’t go out yesterday because I was busy,” she read aloud so that the other two would know. She shook her head afterward. “Fuck it, I wouldn’t buy her alibi. When I called her yesterday, it was ringing.”
“The call would drop if she’s on airplane mode. What a liar! Ask her to give you the money,” said Yasha.
“I already did,” she said. “I even forwarded her my bank details.” Amara massaged her forehead. She had been stressed out for days now.
“Listen, if she doesn’t send the downpayment today, we got scammed. But first, we must do something for the buyers.”
“Right,” she agreed to Yasha. “Tell Miss Fae that I will take charge from now on… I’ll find a way,” Amara said somberly.
“We will help, we’re all in this together,” said Stella.
“Thanks… Please take charge of answering the buyers’ queries. I’ll be back later,” she said.
Amara hung up and went to her room. She opened her drawer and brought out her jewelry box. She took a gold bracelet that she had been keeping. It was a gift from his father. Now she was left with no other choice but to pawn it. Amara doesn’t have a huge amount of money in her pocket. Living independently, when you are a writer, is as hard as being homeless. You only get to earn money when your manuscript got approved by the publishing house. And as of the moment, she was broke. All her manuscripts got rejected recently. What she has was enough for her to live for a month. And that tragedy happened. She wouldn’t deny it anymore. She and her co-writers were scammed by Ann Margaret!
Amara sat on the bed, folded her legs, and hugged them as she cried. If truth be told, she didn’t know what to do. The amount of money she would get by pawning her jewelry wouldn’t be enough. Even her co-writers helped her, that wouldn’t be enough. They need hundreds of thousands of money to cover all the expenses of book production and shipping. Where the hell would they get that?
Her phone rang. When she looked at the screen, it says ‘Mom’ on the caller ID.
“Hey, are you coming home today?” her mom asked when she answered the call.
Amara was living independently, but she comes home to her parents’ house every weekend to spend some quality time with them.
“I-I’m sorry, Mommy. I think I can’t go home for the weekend,” she said in a hoarse voice. “I need to do something important.”
“Oh… I see. Why is your voice like that anyway? Are you crying? Do you have a problem? You know that you can always tell me.” Her tone was so motherly, it breaks her heart even more.
She wanted to tell her what happened, but she couldn’t. Amara doesn’t want to give them a burden. Out of her parents’ love for her, they invested a big part of their savings in her business. They wanted to help her business grow. She couldn’t tell her parents that the money they invested in her company got scammed, or else they’ll have a heart attack. They were too old, and she didn’t want to stress them out. Amara, together with her business partners, will face the problem like a real adult.
“Nothing. It’s just an itchy throat,” she lied.
“I told you to take care of yourself. Why do you insist on living there when you could live here with us?”
Yeah, right, her father told her that she could live there as long as she’s not married.
“But I need to stand on my feet. How can I learn if I always depend on you?”
“I got your point. Then, see you next weekend. `Bye.” Her mom ended the call.
Amara put her phone down and cried again.