Wednesday, September 7, 2016

My Best Friend Stole All My Money

I had just graduated from high school and the family who had generously treated me as their own for ten months of year 12 were gently pushing me out of the nest.  It was time to leave their gorgeous home and find my way in the world. My only options were to go back to living in my absolutely chaotic, small (and very full) family townhouse with my mum and siblings; or move in with one of my best friends, who had just inherited her dad's apartment and small fortune after he died of lung cancer.
I met her at bible camp. Here's us on the 70's/
80's theme night. She's in the green.

Lidi and I met when we were adorable, awkward 14 year olds at a summer camp in Canada. All through our high school years we kept in touch. For the first couple years it was just letter writing and seeing each other at camp or one off youth activities. We probably started attending the same youth group around the time we were 16. From there it was always me, Jenn (in the red dress) and Lidi hanging out. We dated the boys in our youth group on Fridays (or didn't), went to bible studies on Tuesdays, and met up on Sundays in church where we'd have saved each other seats. Our bibles sat in our laps staring back at us with the covers we'd so cooly decorated and personalised.

We were about as close as friends can be, sharing everything. Which led to us eventually sharing the room of her inherited, one bedroom apartment on the east side of Vancouver.
To afford rent I quickly found a job as a switchboard and reservations operator at a hotel downtown.
The public transport from the apartment was great. I didn't make much but it was enough to buy $20-$30 of groceries a week, and set a little bit aside. I was the kinda girl who'd go out to the club in freezing temperatures without a coat just so I didn't have to pay for the coat-check. Cheap.

I decided when I was 19 I would go off to Australia and join a cult. Well, sort of. No one ever decides to join a cult knowing it's a cult, do they? I thought I was just doing a christian missionary training school;  and because it was a missionary thing that I was doing I had people in my life and church who generously donated money to sending me on this school. The school included a third world country missionary "outreach"  for the last month or two of it (*cue photos of white girl with cute thai children). I was overwhelmed with the support of people who gave, some of it anonymous.

Being 19 years old sometimes means making stupid decisions. With financial support coming in the forms of cash and cheques into my mailbox I decided I should probably make my personal bank account joint with Lidi. Why? Lidi answered our door and picked up our mail, and I trusted her. I thought that if people wanted to deposit money to me while I was away then I needed someone to have access to my account. I did not know that anyone could deposit into my account and did not need her assistance. I was naive. Apparently I missed the course on basic banking 101.

I completed my missionary training school and around 8.5 months later I was back in Canada. I had completely succumbed to cult recruitment and was making plans to go back to Australia in a matter of months to join the organisation as a staff member. During my absence I'd organised for my younger sister, (who was dying to move out of our mother's place), to fill my spot as Lidi's roommate. I was able to move back into the apartment because Lidi had cheated on her boyfriend, (the one she was always talking about marrying), and was off travelling in Thailand for the unforeseen future with her new boy.
                                      Me hanging in our apartment. Pretending I can play guitar.

Returning back to your homeland with no job is a bit frightening (especially after a spiritual awakening that leads to copious amounts of self-righteousness, and  old friends who just don't understand the new you). I was glad I had my savings of $1,500 in the bank to help me through. My little safety net. It was all the money that poor little 20 year old missionary had in the world. When I went to get a little out of the bank it was gone. I thought there was some mistake. A hundred thoughts crossed my mind. Did I overdraw from overseas? No, I didn't use that account while I was gone.  Hmmmm. Did Lidi accidentally take my money using the wrong bank card by accident?

I wanted to think the best of her. She was one of my longest and closest friends. I wrote to her in Thailand, panicking, asking if that's what happened. At first she denied taking any money out of my account so I went to the bank again and asked them to print me a transaction record. All signs pointed to her. All the money was pulled out of bank machines, using the bankcard she was given when I made the account joint. It was her. I wrote her back with this new information. Then she said she must have done it on accident. Okay, once maybe would be believable? But over and over. And no word about paying me back? Then her mum got involved. She called me up, acting all friendly like she wanted to help me out. Then she came over and looked at the transaction records. She did not want to believe it was true. Neither did I but there it was in black and white.

Then the horrible emails came. She had admitted by this point she had taken the money but when confronted on when she would pay the money back her response was something like this:
"After everything I've done for you. Gave you a place to live when you had nowhere to go. Let you pay a low rent (well she chose the rent rate not me, and I was sharing a bedroom). I was there for you when you would cry your eyes out over your breakup with your ex (Um, what friend isn't?)."

Ohhhhhhhhh, I get it now. So because she'd been a friend to me and done "friend" things for me, I  actually owed her that $1,500 she stole from my account? Ahhhh.

To top it off I had a good friend of mine, who I'd lost touch with during my time in Australia, finally reach out to me when I was back. He was hurt. I didn't understand why he was upset and distant. He explained that he'd dropped off a few hundred dollars to Lidi for her to put into my account for me while I was away. He was hurt that I never said thank you...  It was the least I could do. He gave me money even though he wasn't a christian. He gave me money even though he didn't understand why I was doing a christian school. He was just being generous and loving. My jaw dropped. I told him I never got that money, she stole that too.

I have never seen a cent from her. When I asked my cult leader if I should take her to small claim's court he wisely stupidly told me that because she was my christian sister I shouldn't take her to court. He used some bible verse to convince me.

So kids, what did we learn from this?
1. Don't join a cult (or try not to)
2. Don't trust close friends (become bitter and suspicious of everyone instead).
3. Don't get a joint account just for deposits.
4. Don't listen to stupid advice from a cult leader.

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