Joy answered her land-line at eight-thirty in the morning. It was the month of January and bitterly cold. Holding the phone and pulling her dressing-gown around her, she wondered why her bank was asking for details. It must be important. They wanted her security number and her card was handy, so she fetched it from her coat in the hall. There didn’t seem to be anything wrong, so Joy left it up to them to sort out what the problem was and curled up in bed for another half-hour, while the heating warmed the shower room.
Later on that morning, she jumped on the train and made her way to Marks and Spencer to buy new trousers and some underwear. When she offered her card, the girl asked if she had another one as the machine refused the one she had given her.
Joy was astounded.
“I’m afraid I don’t. There must be something wrong with your machine.”
“Sorry,” said the girl, giving Joy back her card and folding the garments to leave at the side.
Joy left and stunned by the outcome, phoned the bank. She was told that today her bank account had been emptied and if she needed a loan, she should come in and see them.
It was as well that she used cash to buy a return rail ticket to allow her to return home. As she left the station, she saw smoke and flames coming from her house. There was a noise of a fire engine coming under the railway bridge and it stopped outside her house. Shock derailed her. She couldn’t walk. She stood as people ran towards the railings, not knowing that the house belonged to her. A neighbour whom she hadn’t noticed on the train put a hand on her shoulder to comfort her said, “Come with me and have a cup of tea, while the firemen do their job.”
I muttered that I didn’t have any fire insurance because the house is too near the river. What am I to do? Not only that, but I’ve been told I’ve no money in my bank account only this morning. I believe I’ve been hacked.”
“Never mind,” said the neighbour. “Your family will look after you.”
“I don’t think so. What you won’t have heard, is they are going to Australia to start afresh and I won’t be joining them, not at my age.”
After the firemen had gone, Joy discovered that her kitchen had been destroyed and the room above. When she entered the front door, she picked up her mail and sat on the bottom stair. She absentmindedly opened the first letter. It was from a solicitor and she thought it was more bad news. It was. Her favourite uncle had passed away, but he had left her his house and everything in it, along with a tidy sum of money, that would see her to the end of her days.
Sarah Reid is a retired teacher and novelist.