Available balance £2.50. I blink and look again at the ATM screen. Available balance £2.50. This must be a mistake. I pull my card from the machine, and glance at the line of people behind me. They’re just going to have to wait. This is an emergency. Feeling cold, I insert my card and reenter my pin. Available balance £2.50. Has my account been hacked? What will I do if someone has stolen my money?
Snatching my card, I head to a quiet corner of the car park. Pulling out my phone, I call the number on the back of the card. I pace back and forth as I’m forced to listen to five minutes of background music. Finally, a human being comes on the line. After answering her security questions, I try to remain calm as I explain to her that my balance must be wrong, that my wages of £958 are always paid in on the first of the month, that it’s now the third and the money is not showing in my account. More waiting while she checks my recent transactions. The car park is filling up, it’s that time of the evening when people come home from work and stop off to get their groceries. Dark clouds block out the sun. It’s going to rain and I didn’t bring an umbrella. Her voice cuts through my thoughts. “I can see £958 is usually paid in on the first of every month. However, there was no payment this month.”
There’s a gust of wind and I feel a few drops of moisture against my skin. “Are you sure? Maybe there’s been a mistake.”
“Nothing has been paid in. All I can suggest is you contact the personnel department of the company you work for.”
I shove my phone into my bag. Great. Just great. I join the throng of customers who are shuffling through the doors of the store. As I pass by one of the checkouts someone calls out, “Are you back already? You doing an extra shift?” It’s one of my colleagues but I really don’t have the energy to explain, so I mouth, ‘Got a problem.’
Standing outside my boss’s office, I rap my knuckles against the door. At twenty-three, my boss is only three years older than me. He looks up at me as I stand in front of his desk. “Can I help you, Lily?”
He’s a good guy. Like me, he has a degree, and like me he’s putting it to good use by working at a grocery store. Too many graduates applying for too few jobs. At least my day ends at five. Eight hours on the checkout and I’m done. My boss works longer hours and has way more responsibility, for not much more pay. No surprise he’s young, they wouldn’t get an older more experienced person to do this job for the money they pay. I sigh. “My wages haven’t been paid.”
“Not you as well.” He rubs the back of his neck. “There’s been a mix up. Personnel are aware of it and your wages should be in your account by Monday.” My dismay must be obvious, because he frowns. “I can loan you a few quid if you’re short. You can pay me back when you get paid.”
I square my shoulders and shake my head. Owing money makes me anxious. For that reason, I’m one of those rare people who doesn’t own a credit card. I’ll manage. Somehow.
I hear the rain before I even step out into the car park. This day just keeps getting better. Before heading outside I pull my coat up over my head. Water splashes onto my tights as my feet slosh through puddles. Striding briskly, I consider my options. My food cupboards are empty but I have £70 in my purse to pay my electric bill. I could use that cash to buy food and pay the electric on Monday. But, I’ve already received the final notice. I’ll pay the bill. Four days without food won’t kill me. My feet are soaked and rain drips from my eyelashes by the time I reach the Post Office. I delve into my bag for my purse.