OK. DON’T PANIC. Don’t panic. It’s only a VISA bill. It’s a piece of paper; a few numbers. I mean,
Just how scary can a few num-bers be?
I stare out of the office window at a bus driving down Oxford Street, willing myself to open the white
Envelope sitting on my cluttered desk. It’s only a piece of paper, I tell myself for the thou-sandth time.
And I’m not stupid, am I? I know exactly how much this VISA bill will be.
Sort of. Roughly.
It’ll be about. . . £200. Three hundred, maybe. Yes, maybe £300. Three-fifty, max.
I casually close my eyes and start to tot up. There was that suit in Jigsaw. And there was dinner with
Suze at Quaglinos. And there was that gorgeous red and yellow rug. The rug was £200, come to think of
It. But it was definitely worth every penny – everyone’s admired it. Or, at least, Suze has.
And the Jigsaw suit was on sale – 30 percent off. So that was actually saving money.
I open my eyes and reach for the bill. As my fingers hit the paper I remember new contact lenses.
Ninety-five pounds. Quitea lot. But, I mean, I had to get those, didn’t I? What am I sup-posed to do,
Walk around in a blur?
And I had to buy some new solutions and a cute case and some hypoallergenic eyeliner. So that takes it
Up to. . . £400?
At the desk next to mine, Clare Edwards looks up from her post. She’s sorting all her letters into neat
Piles, just like she does every morning. She puts rubber bands round them and puts labels on them saying
Things like “Answer immediately” and “Not urgent but respond.” I loathe Clare Edwards.
“OK, Becky?” she says.
“Fine,” I say lightly. “Just reading a letter.”
I reach gaily into the envelope, but my fingers don’t quite pull out the bill. They remain clutched
While my mind is seized – as it is every month – by my secret dream.
Do you want to know about my secret dream? It’s based on a story I once read in The Daily World
About a mix-up at a bank. I loved this story so much, I cut it out and stuck it onto my wardrobe door.
Two credit card bills were sent to the wrong peo-ple, and – get this – each person paid the wrong bill
Without real-izing. They paid off each other’s bills without even checking them.
And ever since I read that story, my secret fantasy has been that the same thing will happen to me. I
Mean, I know it sounds unlikely – but if it happened once, it can happen again, can’t it? Some dotty old
Woman in Cornwall will be sent my humongous bill and will pay it without even looking at it. And I’ll be
Sent her bill for three tins of cat food at fifty-nine pence each. Which, naturally, I’ll pay without question.
Fair’s fair, after all.
A smile is plastered over my face as I gaze out of the window. I’m convinced that this month it’ll
Happen – my secret dream is about to come true. But when I eventually pull the bill out of the
Envelope – goaded by Clare’s curious gaze – my smile falters, then disappears. Something hot is
Blocking my throat. I think it could be panic.
The page is black with type. A series of familiar names rushes past my eyes like a mini shopping mall. I
Try to take them in, butthey’re moving too fast. Thorntons, I manage to glimpse. Thorntons Chocolates?
What was I doing in Thorntons Chocolates? I’m sup-posed to be on a diet. This bill can’t be right. This
Can’t be me. I can’t possibly have spent all this money.
Don’t panic! I yell internally. The key is not to panic. Just read each entry slowly, one by one. I take a