Bad Girl Gone GoodBy: N. Franko
It’s not much of a dating life, but it was all I had. I hadn’t planned on being an Internet scammer. When teachers in school asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I didn’t respond with “I want to be a con artist and trick men out of their money.” I kind of fell into it. I signed up on a dating site to actually find a decent guy (for once).
When you grow up the way I did (on the streets) and hung around the people I do (strippers), finding a “quality” guy is one notch above impossible. I was—still am—trying to make something of myself, even if I don’t know what that is just yet. I can’t do that with a gangster for a baby-daddy. What I wouldn’t give to have Carrie Bradshaw’s Sex and the City dating woes.
I made an off-the-cuff remark to a guy I was talking to at the time about my rent increasing and he sent me money the next day. Thus, began my life as a catfish. That’s what they call jerks like me who scam people out of their money through dating sites.
I’ve been doing it for almost a year now. It’s a nice side hustle that brings in some savings. It’s anonymous—sort of—and nobody gets hurt. Physically. Emotionally? Well, that wasn’t my problem. Sorry, not sorry. It’s not the most honest living, but when you’re on your own because your parents suck? You’d do anything to survive.
I looked at the clock. It was nearly midnight, and I was getting worried. Colin’s shift at the Chicken Shack ended hours ago and he should have been back by now. He was probably out dealing again. I hate it, but I didn’t interfere. He needed the money for college. It’s part of why I conned men online. I worried about Colin all the time. He’s eighteen now and I really should stay out of his life, but he’s my baby brother. I always protect him. Besides, he’s the smart one. He’s the one with the most potential to make something of himself, unlike me who quit school at sixteen. He’s the one that needs to go to college so that at least he doesn’t end up like our parents. That’s what all this stolen money is really for. It’s for a good cause. Besides, I’m not really stealing. If these guys want to give me gifts, who am I to say no? At least that’s what I tell myself so I can sleep at night.
I picked up my flimsy, dollar-store sketch pad and found a pencil on the floor. Sitting on the couch, I drew. It’s something I’ve done since I was little. When my parents would fight, I would lock Colin and myself in the bathroom with a pencil and paper and doodle. It was something to focus on, a coping mechanism. Now, I need it to take my mind off of whatever Colin was doing. If I found out he was dead, I swear I’d bring him back to life just to kill him again.
At half-past twelve, Colin waltzed through the door. He was carrying a duffel bag stuffed with who knows what. Probably drugs.
“Where have you been? Why didn’t you call?” I tossed the sketchpad aside as I walked over to yell at Colin.
“I was at work,” he said defensively.
“I thought you said six o’clock,” I said.
“My other job.” He emphasized other, and I knew what he meant. He reached into his pockets and pulled out several hundred-dollar bills and handed them to me. “Rent is due tomorrow. Thought I’d help out a little this month.”
“Colin, I told you to worry about getting into college, not paying the rent. I don’t want you hanging around those… people. It’s dangerous, not to mention illegal.”
“Funny how you judge me for doing things illegally.” He cocked an eyebrow. Somehow, my little brother had managed to turn into a full-grown man. His boyish face seemed mature under that smug smirk he gave me. His mess of brown hair was now a stylish tousle that was too far for me to reach and mess up like I used to. He even had stubble on his now strong, sharp jaw making him look older than his eighteen years. When the hell did he become a man? Then again, being tossed from one foster home to the next can age you.
“That’s different,” I said.
“Hardly,” he scoffed as he threw himself into the couch and stretched out. He picked up my sketch book and looked through my work. “This is neat,” he said at the picture I had been drawing. It was nothing more than the lonely, forlorn apple that lingered on our kitchen counter.