For anyone who ever felt like giving up.
You are strong, and you can do this.
Have a little faith even when things are bleak.
This world needs you.
This world loves you.
Don’t give up.
It was official. I was completely and utterly broke. I had seventy-two pence in my purse to last for the entire week.
“You have to be exaggerating, Abby,” my cousin, Lacey insisted, touching up her already perfect lipstick in the bathroom vanity as I sat on the bed watching her.
“I honestly wish I was. But as of this letter arriving, I’m skint, on the brink of destitution. I may need to stand on a street corner and sell my soul to the devil.” I hated lying but the truth was my life had taken a serious nosedive into the depths of debt-hell months ago. The letter just added to my impending doom.
“Honey, I doubt you’d be lucky enough to meet the devil, just some creepy old guy with rancid breath and sweaty balls.”
“Eww.” I shuddered at the thought, but I couldn’t help the small giggle that escaped at Lacey’s demonstration of the man she just described. She came out of the bathroom and headed over to me.
“Hey, sweet cheeks, suck my wrinkly old cock for a tenner. If you can find it within the hour, I’ll double the price.” She grabbed the back of my head and thrust her hips at me, groping her non-existent junk. I squealed at her to stop, trying hard not to laugh when my life was spiralling.
“You know I’ll help you out. Give me the bill, and I’ll pay it on my way to work.”
It was so tempting to do that. To take her money and stop the mounting interest I was accruing from my non-payments. Living without electricity and gas was harder than I would ever have imagined. Lying to my best friend felt worse. I knew if I confessed to what was happening, she would take out her cheque book and clear my debts, but I refused to let her do that. It was my problem, and I would find a way to fix it.
“Without any means of paying it back, I can’t take your cash, Lace.”
“I earn enough that I won’t miss it right away.” She sat beside me, pulling on her ridiculously high-heeled boots. If I was to wear heels that high, I’d end up spending the night in accident and emergency, if not the morgue.
“What is it you do exactly?” I’d been asking this question for over a year, and she was always vague about her profession. I knew it was in the super illustrious building on the outskirts of York, the one you couldn’t even enter without a security pass and dental record. “Are you a government spy?” I was beginning to think it was highly likely.
“Yeah, I’m an incredibly beautiful one.” She laughed.
“I could be a spy.”
Lacey all but choked. “You would be the worst spy ever in the history of secret services. You talk too much.”
“But that could be the thing, no one would expect me to be a spy, because I say far too much.”
“You need to stop watching Spooks.”
“Hmm...but you have to agree it would be amazing to be interrogated by Rupert Penry-Jones.” I waggled my eyebrows at her.
“True. But you need to catch up. Also he hasn’t been in it for the last three seasons.” She again made her way into the bathroom to perfect her already immaculate hair. Tall, blonde, and incredibly stunning with big blue eyes and pouty lips. She was every man’s fantasy and a total sweetheart.
“What am I going to do? McDonalds won’t even employ me.”
“You hate McDonald’s food.”
“Probably not the best thing to have said during your interview though.”
“I was only being honest. The guy questioned what I liked most about the company. On a positive note I did say the restaurants were nicely decorated.”
“You’re hopeless at interviews. Telling a few lies sometimes comes in handy. You know, like when you had an interview at the pet store and you told the shop manager it was overpriced and people can get the products cheaper elsewhere.”
“He asked what could be improved.”
“Again, babe, bend the truth a little.”
“Well, their stuff is overpriced,” I huffed. “I’m beginning to think prostitution is my only hope.”
“Yeah, I really dread how your honesty in that department would go.”
“I’d probably be the first prostitute ever who was required to give a refund.”
Lacey chuckled. Her expression danced with amusement before dulling.
“You could always sell the house.” Her voice was taut; she knew she would be causing me physical pain with those words.
“I can’t.” A lump formed in my throat and threatened to choke me.
“You have to let go. Your mum would understand.”
I could only shake my head as I stared at the debt collection notice in my hands. I refused to let the house go, and if that meant making money in less than savoury means, I would. Living in a semi-detached house in York was crippling me financially, but I had no choice. My home was the last thing I would give up. It was all I had left.
As if sensing my pain, Lacey stopped her primping and sat beside me on the bed. “Abby, let me help. Just until you find something.”
The crushing defeat becoming too much to tolerate, I dipped my chin in a weak nod. Why was it possible to fail so epically when you tried your damned hardest?
She wrapped her arm around me, pulled me into her side, and pressed a kiss to my temple.
“I just wish I wasn’t such a fuck up.”
“You’re not. Not in the slightest. You’re one of the strongest people I know and not many could have done what you did. You’re behind with one bill, babe. It isn’t the end of the world.”
“Most people would have done it.” It’s more than one bill too. I’m destroying rainforests with the damn things.
“No, I guarantee I wouldn’t have. Neither of my parents deserve the devotion you showed Aunt Sal. Neither do I have the stamina for what you dealt with.”
The pain of her words, the constant reminder I wasn’t only failing myself but my mother too, was crushing me. I think it was hard for Lacey to understand my need to hold onto the house because of her fraught relationship with her own parents.
She jumped up and started going through her bag. She was so sudden in her movements I almost tumbled from the bed.