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This couldn’t be happening. Although my accountant was reciting the facts and figures that proved it, there had to be some way out of it. I just didn’t know how we could make such large losses and not realise it. I felt sick. Why me? I had everything I wanted in life – how could it be ripped away from me? I just couldn’t believe it was true. This was some type of sick joke, right? Yet somehow, I knew it was real.

All of the ‘expenses’ he was talking about, I remembered them vaguely. A couple of thousand here, a few tens of thousands there… I didn’t realise what it would all add up to in the end. £5 million. In debt. And by the end of the month that figure would go up to almost £7 million. I would have to sell everything, and even then it might still not be enough. Then a thought struck me – what would I tell Beverly and the kids?

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I looked at my husband Charles, who was sat beside me looking very uncomfortable. And so he should be. This was all his fault after all. When he first told me, I hadn’t believed him. After all, how could he have allowed it to happen? But it was true. And he hadn’t just let it happen – he’d made it happen.

We were sitting in the auction room stiffly, formally. Nobody spoke; we wouldn’t have known what to say. To watch our possessions being sold off to complete strangers in front of our very eyes seemed the worst kind of torture. Once the auction began, I tried to tune it out. Words drifted randomly into my consciousness: “This fascinating item…”, “…from the market town of Knaresborough”. Then our things came up and I sank down into the wooden seat, holding my head in my hands. I shot Charles a venomous glance, full of anger and hatred. It was all his fault.

My thoughts turned to the children, sat innocently watching their lives being auctioned away. I wondered how they would cope in such a different environment. They would have to leave private school, and all their friends, behind. Annabel was older, and more sensible. She would get through it. But James – he was still young, and didn’t know how to stand up for himself yet. I could only hope he would keep on the right track.

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“Go on, do it! Go on, James!” They were egging me on. I looked at the knife in my hand, and at the boy on the ground in front of me. He already had a number of knife wounds criss-crossing over his face and arms. He was from a different gang, who lived a few streets away. We’d caught him in our territory, and so were punishing him accordingly as a warning to other potential trespassers that we weren’t to be messed with.

I weighed up my options. Should I do it? Could I do it? Could I end his life? The other members of my gang were encouraging me to do it. I looked at the boy, quivering on the ground, begging me for mercy. He looked so pathetic. I was just making his suffering shorter by killing him now - he was probably going to bleed to death anyway. At least, that’s what I told myself as I plunged the cold, unforgiving blade straight into his heart.

It was then I saw the woman in the window. She had a phone in her hand, and as she saw me watching her, she very deliberately dialled three numbers and put the phone to her ear.

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Losing everything has ruined our family. We weren’t close before, but at least we noticed each other’s existence. Now we might as well be strangers. We move like robots around our tiny flat, not speaking.

We all have our own unique ways of dealing with the loss. Mum blames Dad for our situation. She just floats around, or lies all day in bed complaining of headaches. Mum does nothing to help our problems; she says that Dad should sort out his own mess.

But Dad has his own problems. He’s turned to drink, and now can’t get through even a couple of hours without a couple of cans of beer, usually more. I suppose it’s his way of blocking out the pain. His drink problem is causing trouble at work too – if he turns up drunk again, he’s going to be fired. And if he’s fired, we’ll have no income whatsoever. I looked for a job in the local paper the other day, but there isn’t much opportunity for a young girl like me.

James is never home anymore, preferring to spend time with his ‘new mates’. They’re in a gang, and I don’t like the sound of them to be honest, but there’s not really anything I can do about it. I do not like to worry Mum and Dad about it, but I heard a rumour the other day about a gang warfare stabbing. I just hope James had nothing to do with that.

Whilst they have tried to hide from the problem, pretend it doesn’t exist; I’ve gone the other way. I can see now how superficial my old life was, and how really, my ‘charmed’ life wasn’t as good as it seemed. Everything was all about money, and people only liked me for my riches. We needed money like an alcoholic needs drink, and its taken losing it to make me see that it wasn’t making life any better. If only I could get the others to see that too, and if they face up to the truth I’m sure we could hold the family together. We weren’t ready to deal with the harsh reality of normal life, which is why we fell apart as a family when faced with it. I hope and pray that we can get through this, if we confront our problems and remember that life isn’t always about riches and wealth.





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