Shopaholic Takes Manhattan

Page 29


“Well… that was a while ago, wasn’t it? And maybe you’ve built up a few debts since then.”

“Since June?” I give a little laugh. “But that was only about five minutes ago! Honestly, Suze, you don’t need to worry. I mean… take this one.” I reach randomly for an envelope. “I mean, what have I bought in M&S recently? Nothing!”

“Oh right,” says Suze, looking relieved. “So this bill will just be for… zero, will it.”

“Absolutely,” I say ripping it open. “Zero! Or, you know, ten quid. You know, for the odd pair of knickers—”

I pull out the account and look at it. For a moment I can’t speak.

“How much is it?” says Suze in alarm.

“It’s… it’s wrong,” I say, trying to stuff it back in the envelope. “It has to be wrong. I’ll write them a letter…”

“Let me see.” Suze grabs the bill and her eyes widen. “Three hundred sixty-five pounds? Bex—”

“It has to be wrong,” I say — but my voice is holding less conviction. I’m suddenly remembering those leather trousers I bought in the Marble Arch sale. And that dressing gown. And that phase I went through of eating M&S sushi every day.

Suze stares at me for a few minutes, her face creased anxiously.

“Bex — d’you think all of these other bills are as high as that?”

Silently I reach for the envelope from Selfridges, and tear it open. Even as I do so, I’m remembering that chrome juicer, the one I saw and had to have… I’ve never even used it. And that fur-trimmed dress. Where did that go?

“How much is it?”

“It’s… it’s enough,” I reply, pushing it quickly back inside, before she can see that it’s well over £400.

I turn away, trying to keep calm. But I feel alarmed and slightly angry. This is all wrong. The whole point is, I paid off my cards. I paid them off. I mean, what’s the point of paying off all your credit cards if they all just go and sprout huge new debts again? What is the point?

“Look, Bex, don’t worry,” says Suze. “You’ll be OK! I just won’t cash your rent check this month.”

“No!” I exclaim. “Don’t be silly. You’ve been good enough to me already! I don’t want to owe you anything. I’d rather owe M&S.” I look round and see her anxious face. “Suze, don’t worry! I can easily put this lot off for a bit.” I hit the letter. “And meanwhile, I’ll get a bigger overdraft or something. In fact, I’ve just asked the bank for an extension — so I can easily ask for a bit more. In fact, I’ll phone them right now!”

“What, this minute?”

“Why not?”

I pick up the phone again, reach for an old bank statement, and dial the Endwich number.

“You see, there really isn’t a problem,” I say reassuringly. “One little phone call is all it’ll take.”

“Your call is being transferred to the Central Endwich Call Center,” comes a tinny voice down the line. “Kindly memorize the following number for future use: 0800…”

“What’s going on?” says Suze.

“I’m being transferred to some central system,” I say, as Vivaldi’s Four Seasons starts to play. “They’ll probably be really quick and efficient. This is great, isn’t it? Doing it all over the phone.”

“Welcome to Endwich Bank!” says a new woman’s voice in my ear. “Please key in your account number.”

What’s my account number? Shit! I’ve got no idea—

Oh yes. On my bank statement.

“Thank you!” says a voice as I finish pressing the numbers. “Now please key in your personal identification number.”


Personal identification number? I didn’t know I had a personal identification number. Honestly! They never told me—

Actually… maybe that does ring a slight bell.

Oh God. What was it again? Seventy-three-something? Thirty-seven-something?

“Please key in your personal identification number,” repeats the voice pleasantly.

“But I don’t know my bloody personal identification number!” I say. “Quick, Suze, if you were me, what would you choose as a personal identification number?”

“Ooh!” says Suze. “Um… I’d choose… um… 1234?”

“Please key in your personal identification number,” says the voice, with a definite edge to it this time.

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