“Are you OK?” says Clare Edwards curiously.
“Yes,” I gulp. “Yes, fine.”
And now she’s looking at me. Now I can’t just put the phone down and pretend it was a wrong number. I’ve got to talk to him. OK, what I’ll do is be really brisk and cheerful and try and get rid of him as quickly as possible.
“Hi!” I say into the phone. “Sorry about that! The thing is, I was just a bit busy with something else. You know how it is!”
“Ms. Bloomwood, I’ve written you several letters,” says Derek Smeath. “And to none of them have I had a satisfactory response.”
Oh, he sounds really cross. This is horrible. Why did he have to come along and spoil my day?
“I’ve been very busy, I’m afraid,” I say. “My. . my aunt was very ill. I had to go and be with her.”
“I see,” he says. “Nevertheless—”
“And then she died,” I add.
“I’m sorry to hear that,” says Derek Smeath. He doesn’t sound sorry. “But that doesn’t alter the fact that your current account stands at a balance of—”
Has this man got no heart? As he starts talking about balances and overdrafts and agreements, I deliberately tune out so I don’t hear anything that will upset me. I’m staring at the fake wood-grain on my desk, wondering if I could pretend to drop the receiver accidentally back down onto the phone. This is awful. What am I going to do? What am I going to do?
“And if the situation is not resolved,” he’s saying sternly, “I’m afraid I will be forced to—”
“It’s OK,” I hear myself interrupting. “It’s OK, because. . I’m coming into some money soon.” Even as I say the words, I feel my cheeks flame guiltily. But I mean, what else am I supposed to do?
“Yes,” I say, and swallow. “The thing is, my. . my aunt left me some money in her will.”
Which is kind of almost true. I mean, obviously Aunt Ermintrude would have left me some money. After all, I was her favorite niece, wasn’t I? Did anyone else buy her Denny and George scarves? “I’ll get it in a couple of weeks,” I add for good measure. “A thousand pounds.”
Then I realize I should have made it ten thousand — that would have really impressed him. Oh well, too late now.
“You’re saying that in two weeks’ time you’ll be paying a check for a thousand pounds into your account,” says Derek Smeath.
“Erm. . yes,” I say after a pause. “I suppose I am.”
“I’m glad to hear it,” he says. “I’ve made a note of our conversation, Ms. Bloomwood, and I’ll be expecting the arrival of a thousand pounds into your account on Monday 26 March.”
“Good,” I say boldly. “Is that it?”
“For the moment. Good-bye, Ms. Bloomwood.”
“Good-bye,” I say, and put the phone down.
Got rid of him. Thank God.
OCTAGON — flair style • vision
Financial Services Department
8th Floor, Tower House
London Road, Winchester SO44 3DR
Ms. Rebecca Bloomwood Charge Card Number 7854 4567
Flat 24 Burney Rd.London SW6 8FD
9 March 2000
Dear Ms. Bloomwood: Thank you for your prompt return of a signed check for £43.Unfortunately, although this check is signed, it appears to be dated 14 February 2200. No doubt just an oversight on your part.Octagon Shops cannot accept postdated checks as payment, and I am therefore returning it to you with the request that you return to us a signed check, dated with the date of signature.Alternatively you can pay by cash or on the enclosed bank giro credit slip. A leaflet is enclosed for your information.I look forward to receiving your payment.Yours sincerely,John HunterCustomer Accounts Manager
WHEN I GET HOME that night, there’s a pile of post in the hall for me — but I ignore it because my package from Fine Frames has arrived! It cost me £100 to buy, which is quite expensive, but apparently it will give you a return of £300 in only a few hours. Inside the package there’s a leaflet full of photographs of people who make fortunes from doing Fine Frames — some of them make a hundred thousand a year! It makes me wonder what I’m doing, being a journalist.
So after supper, I sit down in front of Changing Rooms and open the kit. Suze is out tonight, so it’s nice and easy to concentrate.
“Welcome to the best-kept secret in Britain. .” says the leaflet. “The Fine Frames homeworking family! Join other members and earn £££ in the comfort of your own home. Our easy-to-follow instructions will aid you as you embark on the biggest money-making enterprise of your life. Perhaps you will use your earnings to buy a car, or a boat — or to treat someone special. And remember — the amount you earn is completely up to you!”