My best friend at the time (same age as me) was my neighbor who lived with her mother and grandmother 3 houses down from mine, we had been friends since we were babies, we grew up together, went to the same school, moved in the same social circle, went on vacation together, shared clothes, cds, food, we were basically sisters, our families were close, etc.
Her mom, early 30s at the time, was a single mom working as a secretary, they didn’t have it bad, between her salary and the grandmothers pension they lived comfortably and without any major setbacks.
Her mom started seeing a foreign guy who was in the country for business, he claimed to be from Spain but he had a funny accent, as if he was originally from Italy or another non-Spanish speaking country. He was supposedly rich, despite staying in a rinky dinky hotel (the hotel did have a pool tho, lol) he would often show pictures of himself in a very luxurious residence, he said it was his house in Ibiza, pictures of him driving a red sports car, a picture of him in front of the Eiffel Tower (oh god, how innocent were we) and so on.
After a month and a half or so of dating, my friend’s mom said they were leaving the country in perhaps the next 6-7 months. She was in love with him and he had promised her a life of luxury in Europe and everything was going to be perfect, the country they were moving to: Spain. Her and her daughter. The grandma couldn’t come. at least not yet, she was supposed to meet them in the future after they had settled in (but at the same time, wasn’t he rich? so many red flags).
This is where I come in, since I was such good friends with Maritza, the guy had told Maritza’s mom to bring me along for vacation, that it would be good for Maritza, make the transition easier, etc.
I was, of course, thrilled, a month in Europe with my best friend who was moving away, and the idea of going to see her every summer and stay at her step father’s mansion, it was a dream. My parents of course weren’t so thrilled at first, but as they got to know him they liked him and eventually he won them over too.
Eventually I even got a little weekend job as a waitress at my uncle’s restaurant to help my parents with the plane ticket and other costs, we got my passport, we were ready to go. As the months went by, it became evident that I wasn’t gonna be able to go, the money I had saved wasn’t enough, it didn’t even cover half of the ticket, and my parents couldn’t come up with the money for the rest of the trip.
A week or so before they left, the guy came to my house and talked to my parents, he offered to pay for my plane ticket. My parents politely declined. I was fuming, I swore I would never talk to my parents again, I didn’t come out of my room for days, eventually I got over it and when it was time to go to the airport to say goodbye to them, I did, we cried, we hugged, we promised each other we would meet up next summer, by then I would already have the money saved. They left. We never heard from them again.
The days went by and nothing, I remember the grandmother, the pain on her face, the nights she went on without sleeping, home alone without her daughter and granddaughter who were supposed to call her as soon as they arrived in Spain, and yet they never did. Eventually they were reported as missing, surprisingly enough the guy had given out his real name and last name the whole time, so after the cops got involved turns out he had this huge record in Spain and Italy, and had been in jail for drugs, prostitution, kidnapping, extortion and god knows what else. The police told their family that they were most likely sold into a human trafficking ring, that this was very common and that sadly there were too many cases like it, there was nothing to do but wait. Last time anyone saw them or had any register of them was at the airport in Seville when they arrived. Nothing else.
It breaks my heart even to this day, and to think that if my parents had said yes, I wouldn’t be here today, sends chills down my spine. Sometimes I look Maritza up in facebook, in hopes that I’ll find her, maybe she regained back her life and her freedom, but nothing ever shows up. The grandmother died in 2013 too, sadly without ever seeing or hearing about her daughter and granddaughter again.