Design-wise, she had done her best with the limited possibilities presented by the apartment block, sticking to her rule of sourcing furnishings as close to where she was working as possible, and she had been pleased with the final result. She’d even been cautiously keeping her fingers crossed that, though she suspected they wouldn’t sell, when the whole complex was finished she might look forward to the apartments being let to holidaymakers and bringing her in some much-needed income.
But now she had received this worrying, threatening letter, from a man she had never heard of before, insisting that she fly out to Thessalonica to meet him. It stated that there were ‘certain legal and financial matters with regard to your partnership with Basil Rainhill and my cousin Tino Manos which need to be resolved in person’, and included the frighteningly ominous words, ‘Failure to respond to this letter will result in an instruction to my solicitors to deal with matters on my behalf’. The letter had been signed Ilios Manos.
His summons couldn’t have come at worse time, but the whole tone of Ilios Manos’s letter was too threatening for Lizzie to feel she could refuse to obey it. As apprehensive and unwilling to meet him as she was, the needs of her family must come first. She had a responsibility to them, a duty of love from which she would never abdicate, no matter what the cost to herself. She had sworn that—promised it on the day of her parents’ funeral.
‘If this Greek wants to see you that badly he might at least have offered to pay your airfare,’ Ruby grumbled.
Lizzie felt so guilty.
‘It’s all my own fault. I should have realised that the property market was over-inflated, and creating a bubble that would burst.’
‘Lizzie, you mustn’t blame yourself.’ Charley tried to comfort her. ‘And as for realising what was happening—how could you when governments didn’t even know?’
Lizzie forced a small smile.
‘Surely if you tell the bank why you need to go to Greece they’ll give you a loan?’ Ruby suggested hopefully.
Charley shook her head. ‘The banks aren’t giving any businesses loans at the moment. Not even successful ones.’
Lizzie bit her lip. Charley wasn’t reproaching her for the failure of her business, she knew, but she still felt terrible. Her sisters relied on her. She was the eldest, the sensible one, the one the other two looked to. She prided herself on being able to take care of them—but it was a false pride, built on unstable foundations, as so much else in this current terrible financial climate.
‘So what is poor Lizzie going to do? She’s got this Greek threatening to take things further if she doesn’t go and see him, but how can she if we haven’t got any money?’ Ruby asked their middle sister.
‘We have,’ Lizzie suddenly remembered, with grateful relief. ‘We’ve got my bucket money, and I can stay in one of the apartments.’
Lizzie’s ‘bucket money’ was the spare small change she had always put in the decorative tin bucket in her office, in the days when she had possessed ‘spare’ change.
Two minutes later they were all looking at the small tin bucket, which was now on the kitchen table.
‘Do you think there’ll be enough?’ Ruby asked dubiously
There was only one way to find out.
‘Eighty-nine pounds,’ Lizzie announced half an hour later, when the change had been counted.
‘Eighty-nine pounds and four pence,’ Charley corrected her.
‘Will it be enough?’ Ruby asked.
‘I shall make it enough,’ Lizzie told them determinedly.
It would certainly buy an off-season low-cost airline ticket, and she still had the keys for the apartments—apartments in which she held a twenty per cent interest. She was surely perfectly entitled to stay in one whilst she tried to sort out the mess the Rainhills had left behind.