Trevor was, as it happens, Googling angling supplies when the hook first went in. He was mooching in his study after supper when he got an email from his old school pal Rory. It had gone around the whole of the gang, and it was a heart-tugger, for sure.
Rory had always been the charismatic one – but scatty with it. And while Trevor had made his minor mark in publishing, settled into a companionable marriage with Jane, and enjoyed the fruits of her hotshot City‑lawyer career, Rory had sort of drifted in a charming but rackety way. The last Trevor had heard of him, he’d been in Yemen, doing something start-uppy.
But now here he was, back in town, broke but in love. Desperately in love – love-of-life in-love. He wanted to take this new girl, Victoria, out on the date that would win her. Would his old pals chip in to a GoFundMe so he could whisk her to Paris for the weekend? The red wine was making Trevor benevolent. Trevor clicked on the link and sent him a wodge of cash for old time’s sake.
That wasn’t the last such appeal. Over the following months, Rory’s friends were called on to contribute to a number of rather flashy wooing strategies; but each time Rory’s thanks were so warm and genuine – and the photographs of him and Victoria so adorable – that Trevor felt positively pleased to have contributed. He was living a wonderful romance, vicariously, from his office swivel chair.
Indeed, he felt as if he’d been at least in part responsible when Rory proposed and Victoria said yes. That ring had been worth every penny. Facebook lit up. And Trevor lit up, too, when a creamy embossed invitation (he’d helped pay for those) arrived for their wedding in Shropshire (he’d helped pay for that too – Vicky’s parents were brassic, apparently). At last he’d get to meet Vicky. Here was something thoroughly good that he’d helped bring about.
Jane, who’d never warmed to Rory exactly as Trevor had hoped, was a bit less excited. He didn’t tell her quite how much he’d invested in the romance, but he reasoned that she didn’t care about money anyway, and he was worried that if she cavilled at his kindness he would end up thinking less of her.
It was two weeks before the wedding when a different email arrived. It wasn’t from Rory, but from Victoria – who had, apparently, somehow got hold of her fiancé’s mailing list in the aftermath of a frank conversation about her discovering him in bed with her bridesmaid-to-be. The wedding was off. And worse than that: Victoria had put the whole of her meagre savings towards the wedding – she’d assumed from all those dates that he was a man of means, and she’d insisted on contributing too. And he was now denying she’d done any such thing, claiming the money had been a gift.
She was looking to sue him to get it back. And she had set up a GoFundMe appeal for her legal fees. Well, of course Trevor felt awful. He felt responsible. So he chipped in. And chipped in. He felt – what was the word? – invested. He followed the progress of the story now not through lovestruck Facebook updates (Rory had vanished from Facebook and wasn’t answering emails) but through Victoria’s anguished accounts of court proceedings. When she got the money back, and costs, she promised he’d be repaid in full.
And that was how he put it to Jane when he was trying to explain what had happened to a very hefty five-figure sum from their savings. She was not impressed at all – and didn’t regard his failure to consult her as a gallant spousal courtesy or even a mere sin of omission. And, as he had feared, she did not entirely credit as altruistic his concern for young, pretty, abandoned Vicky either. What’s more, he discovered the hard way, over the months after that, that if you’re going to get divorced, it’s best not to get divorced from a wealthy and well-connected lawyer.
In short, he ended up rather lucky to escape with enough money to rent a one-bedroom flat. Or nearly enough money, as it turned out. And so, one desolate January, Trevor swallowed his pride and logged on to his second-hand Chromebook to set up his first-ever GoFundMe account.