Leave Means Leave Episode 11

For a moment Anna couldn’t take in what she was saying. ‘You’ve – what?’

‘I have Munchausen’s by proxy. In fact I have a variation of it. I’m one of only a handful of people with this condition; it’s called ‘Psycho-Munchausen’s’ officially but I call it the Mental Munchies.’

Why was Phyl talking like this? ‘I thought – did something happen? I thought you were going to tell me about your past?’

‘Oh, I don’t think so. Not now.’

‘Then – why did you bring me here?’

Phyl smiled. ‘You really don’t get it, do you?’

There was a silence. Two cups of tea steamed in the chill air.

Then suddenly Anna understood. ‘It was you! You sent those texts! But why?’

Phyl just shrugged. ‘Why does anyone do anything? I just felt like it.’

As explanations went, it was right up there with I don’t like Mondays.

‘I found out you’d had an abusive partner, got hold of your phone number and the rest was easy.’

‘But’ – Anna’s head was reeling – ‘but how did you manage all that? Who told you about – about my past? Who gave you my number?’

Phyl just laughed. ‘Oh my dear, you really do have a lot to learn. It was him! He told me you were coming here! It was because of you that I came on the course in the first place. I’m way out of my depth here – I’ve only got a GCSE – but I can talk the talk, and that’s what matters. Soon as my acceptance came through he gave me your phone number and that was that. He left the rest to my imagination.’

This was too much to take in. ‘So he – like, recruited you?’

‘You simpleton! I went to him! I’d seen him around, knew he was beating up his girlfriend – ie you – so I made friends with him, told him I was a legal secretary and I could get him a solicitor. I told him most of them don’t like defending nasty domestics but I’d make sure he got a decent one. Not true but I’m a good actor, in case you hadn’t noticed – he fell for it hook line and sinker.’

‘I don’t understand.’

‘Understand what? It’s pretty simple, even for you.’

‘If he’s not making you do this, then why? What do you get out of it?’

Phyl just shrugged. ‘I guess if you have to ask, you’re not going to understand, are you?’

Enough was enough: Anna stood up. ‘I’m going now.’

Phyl laughed again. ‘So you can put in a call to your Little-Miss-Headscarf? I don’t think so. You see I don’t give a damn about him and his control-freakery, all I care about is the chance to do some damage. And here you are, delivered into my bosom. So to speak.’

The alarm! With one hand she rummaged discreetly in her bag. Phyl looked almost bored. ‘I really wouldn’t bother – no-one will hear you. The building’s empty, I made sure of that. Told them I had mental health issues which meant I had to be alone. The delicious irony is – it’s true!’

Anna sank back in her chair.

‘Oh, come on – you must have a sense of irony.’

‘So you’re not even a Chemist?’

Phyl threw back her head and laughed. ‘Me! It’s a good job you didn’t ask me any questions – I’d have been completely stumped. Well, not totally – I am an excellent bullshitter after all.’

‘What are you going to do now?’ Anna’s voice sounded dull to her own ears.

Phyl sat back in her chair and curled an arm up behind her. ‘It’s pretty simple. I’m just going to talk to you.’

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