Joined: 31 July 2009
Joined: 07 August 2009
Joined: 30 June 2005
Joined: 04 September 2009
Joined: 31 July 2009
Joined: 31 July 2009
Joined: 31 July 2009
OK. DON'T PANIC. Don'tpanic. It's only a VISA bill. It's a piece of paper; a few numbers. I mean,
just how scary can a few numbers
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 thousandth
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
meher 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, Meher has
And the Jigsaw suit was on sale—30 percent off. So that was actuallysaving 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 supposed
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, Veera 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 Veera
"OK, Heer?" 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 around it
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 inThe 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 people,
and—get this—each person paid the wrong bill
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 Veera'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 supposed
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
deep breath and force myself
to focus calmly, starting at the top.
WHSmith (well, that's OK. Everyone needs stationery.)
Boots (everyone needs shampoo)
Our Price(Our Price?Oh yes. The new Charlatans album. Well, I had to have that, didn't I?)
Bella Pasta (supper with Caitlin)
Oddbins (bottle of wine—essential)
Esso (petrol doesn't count)
Quaglinos (expensive—but it was a one-off)
Pret Manger (that time I ran out of cash)
Oddbins (bottle of wine—essential)
Rugs to Riches (what? Oh yes. Stupid rug.)
La Senza (sexy underwear for date with James)
Agent Provocateur (even sexier underwear for date with James. Like I needed it.)
Body Shop (that skin brusher thing which Imustuse)
Next (fairly boring white shirt—but it was in the sale)
Millets . . .
I stop in my tracks. Millets? I never go into Millets. What would I be doing in Millets? I stare at the
statement in puzzlement,
wrinkling my brow and trying to think—and then suddenly,
the truth dawns on
me. It's obvious. Someone else has been using my card.
Oh my God. I, Heer Maan, have been the victim of a crime.
Now it all makes sense. Some criminals pinched my creditcard and forged my signature. Who knows
where else they've used it? No wonder my statement's so black with figures! Someone's
gone on a
spending spree round London with my card—and they thought they would just get away with it.
But how? I scrabble in my bag for my purse, open it—and there's my VISA card, staring up at me. I
take it out and run my fingers over the glossy surface. Someone must have pinched it from my purse,
used it—and then putit back.It must be someone I know. Oh my God. Who?
I look suspiciously round the office. Whoever it is, isn't very bright. Using my card at Millets! It's almost
laughable. As if I'd ever shop there.
"I've never even been into Millets!" I say aloud.
"Yes you have," says Veera.
"What?" I turn to her. "No I haven't."
"You bought Harman's leaving present from Millets, didn't you?"
I feel my smile disappear. Oh, bugger. Of course. The blue anorak for Harman. The blue sodding
anorak from Millets.
When Harman, our deputy editor, left three weeks ago, I volunteered
to buy his present. I took the
brown envelope full of coins and notes into the shop and picked out an anorak (take it from me, he's that
kind of guy). And at the last minute, now I remember, I decided to pay on credit and keep all that handy
cash for myself.
I can vividly remember fishing out the four 5 notes and carefully putting them in my wallet, sorting out
the pound coins and putting them in my coin compartment, and pouring the rest of the change into the
bottom of my bag. Oh good, I remember thinking. I won't have to go to the cash machine. I'd thought
that sixty quid would last me for weeks.
So what happened to it? I can't have just spent sixty quid without realizing it, can I?
"Why are you asking, anyway?" says Veera, and she leans forward.
I can see her beady little X-ray
eyes gleaming behind herspecs. She knows I'm looking at my VISA bill. "No reason," I say, briskly
turning to the second page of my statement.
But I've been put off my stride. Instead of doing what I normally
do—look at the minimum payment
required and ignore the total completely—I find myself staring straight at the bottom figure.
Nine hundred and forty-nine pounds, sixty-three pence. In clear black and white.
For thirty seconds I am completely motionless. Then, without
changing expression, I stuff the bill back
into the envelope. I honestly feel as though this piece of paper has nothing to do with me.
Perhaps, if I
carelessly let it drop down on the floor behind my computer, it will disappear. The cleaners will sweep it
up and I can claim I never got it. They can't charge me for a bill I never received, can they?
I'm already composing a letter in my head. "Dear Managing Director of VISA. Your letter has confused
me. What bill are you talking about, precisely? I never received any bill from your company.
I did not
care for your tone and should warn you, I am writing to Anne Robinson ofWatchdog."
Or I could always move abroad.
"Heer?" My head jerks up and I see Veera holding this month's news list. "Have you finished the piece
"Nearly," I lie. As she's watching me, I feel forced to summon it up on my computer screen, just to
show I'm willing.
"This high-yield, 60-day access account offers tiered rates of interest on investments of over 2,000," I
type onto the screen, copying directly from a press release in front of me. "Long-term savers may also be
interested in a new stepped-rate bond which requires a minimum of 5,000."
I type a full stop, take a sip of coffee, and turn to the second page of the press release
This is what I do, by the way. I'm a journalist on a financial magazine. I'm paid to tell other people how
to organize their money.
Of course, being a financial journalist is not the career I always wanted. No one who writes about
personal finance ever meant to do it. People tell you they "fell into" personal finance. They're lying. What
they mean is they couldn't get a job writing about anything more interesting. They mean they applied for
jobs atThe Times andThe Express andMarie-Claire andVogue andGQ , and all they got back was
So they started applying to Metalwork Monthly andCheese-makers Gazette andWhat Investment
Plan ? And they were taken on as the crappiest editorial assistant possible on no money whatsoever
and were grateful. And they've stayed on writing about metal, or cheese, or savings, ever
since—because that's all they know. I myself started on the catchily titledPersonal Investment
Periodical. I learned how to copy out a press release and nod at press conferences and ask questions
that sounded as though I knew what I was talking about. After a year and a half—believe it or not—I
was head-hunted toSuccessful Saving.
Of course, I still know nothing about finance. People at the bus stop know more about finance than me.
Schoolchildren know more than me. I've been doing this job for three years now, and I'm still expecting
someone to catch me out.
That afternoon, Preet, the editor, calls my name, and I jump in fright.
"Heer?" he says. "A word." And he beckons me over to his desk. His voice seems lower all of a
sudden, almost conspiratorial,
and he's smiling at me, as though he's about to give me a piece of good
Promotion, I think. It must be. He read the piece I wrote on international equity securities last week (in
which I likened the hunt for long-term growth to the hunt for the perfect pair of summer
mules) and was
bowled over by how exciting I made it allsound. Heknows it's unfair I earn less than Veera, so he's going
to promote me to her level. Or even above. And he's telling me discreetly
so Veera won't get jealous.
A wide smile plasters itself over my face and I get up and walk the three yards or so to his desk, trying
to stay calm but already planning what I'll buy with my raise. I'll get that swirly coat in Whistles. And
some black high-heeled boots from Pied Terre. Maybe I'll go on holiday. And I'll pay off that blasted
VISA bill once and for all. I feel buoyant with relief. Iknew everything would be OK . . .
"Heer?" He's thrusting a card at me. "I can't make this press conference," he says. "But it could be
quite interesting. Will you go? It's at Brandon Communications."
I can feel the elated expression falling off my face like jelly. He's not promoting me. I'm not getting a
raise. I feel betrayed.Why did he smile at me like that? He must have known he was lifting my hopes.
"Something wrong?" inquires Preet.
"No," I mutter. But I can't bring myself to smile. In front of me, my new swirly coat and high-heeled boots are disappearing into a puddle, like the Wicked Witch of the West. No promotion. Just a press
conference about . . . I turn over the card. About a new unit trust. How could anyone
that as interesting?
i hope u like it.
Joined: 10 June 2005
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