It could be you
Angela bought the scratchcard on a whim. Having bought it, she shoved it into her handbag with her purse and instantly forgot about it. It was only a couple of days later, as she was digging through her bag for her house keys, that she found it again. She kept it in her hand as she opened the front door and sat down at the kitchen table to scratch off the little silver squares. The prizes ranged from £10 to £10,000.
She read the rules through carefully so as to be sure of what she needed to do and then started with the square in the top left hand corner. The symbol revealed could win her £1,000, as long as she found two identical symbols and scratched off no more than five squares in total. There seemed little point in deliberating over her next choice since there was no way of knowing where the symbols were hidden, so she quickly scratched off two more squares and found one match. Then she paused again wondering which of the remaining nine squares to choose. Shaking her head in amusement at herself she scratched off another square at random and then looked at the symbol.
She had won. In the space of a couple of minutes, she had become £1,000 richer. Not an enormous amount of course, but potentially useful. Her head was suddenly full of things that it could be spent on - things that she had not realised she even wanted when she found the ticket. None of that really mattered, now, though. What mattered was that she had that money and it was hers to spend.
Her mind was still full of happy daydreams when she heard her husband's key in the lock.
"Tom! Guess what?" she gushed as he appeared at the kitchen door.
"Your mother's coming for the weekend?"
"Next door's cat has learned not to use our garden as a litter tray?"
"There's tuppence off the price of fish?"
"Tuppence?! How old are you?"
"Well, that's my three guesses. I give up."
"I've won a grand!"
She batted his arm gently. "Will you be serious for a minute? I've won a thousand pounds on a scratchcard."
"Really? Let's see... Yes you have. Clever you! You treat yourself to something nice," he told her giving her a quick squeeze, confident that, being the generous person she was, she would also buy him something nice.
"Oh, I intend to really treat myself. There are lots of things I need! I just need to decide what to spend this on."
The next day, he reminded her that it was his mother's birthday in a week or so. His wife frowned. "Don't think I'm spending any of my prize money on her."
He gaped at her, surprised by the sharpness of her tone. "Who suggested spending your precious 'prize money'? I only mentioned that it was her birthday soon. We'll use the 'presents and emergency fund' like we always do."
"Well why bring it up, then?"
"Because I don't want us to forget about it and have a mad panic, like we did last year. Geez, Angela, calm down, will you?"
Looking a little shame-faced because it was her fault for the mad panic the previous year, she muttered something like, "That's fine then," and changed the subject.
A little later, Tom spotted the ticket lying on the mantlepiece and picked it up. "Hey, make sure you keep this somewhere safe!" he said with a smile. "You don't want to lose it."
Angela was looking up spa treatments on the internet. As soon as she saw that he was holdig the ticket, she ran over and snatched it out of his hand. "Don't you touch it! I knew exactly where it was. Just leave it alone."
Taken aback by her reaction he held his hands up in mock surrender. "OK, OK. I won't touch it again."
The next day the ticket was still on the mantlepiece. He was almost afraid to mention it but he could not bear to think that she had missed out on her treat through carelessness. "There's a time limit on cashing those things in, you know?" he told her. "Don't leave it too long, will you?"
"I know what I'm doing, thank you."
"OK. Just don't say I didn't warn you."
"I know what you're up to. You're only worried I'll miss the deadline because then you won't get anything out of it. Well, I'm taking your advice; I'm spending all of it on myself."
"My advice? What advice?!"
"You told me to treat myself to something nice."
"Oh, that. Well, yes, I did say that. I didn't expect you to spend the whole lot on yourself, though. I thought you were looking at those flights to New York so that you could take your sister along."
"She wouldn't be able to afford it."
"Exactly! I thought you'd pay for her to go, too."
"But I've already told you that I'm spending this money on me!"
Tom frowned a little. "You know that your generosity is one of the things I love most about you. I would've thought you'd at least get everyone a little present."
"Why? I won this money, not you or my sister."
"You won... Angela, you scratched off a few little silver boxes. It hardly took much effort, did it?"
Now it was her turn to frown. "What are you suggesting? That I don't deserve to treat myself a little?"
"Of course not," he replied, exhausted by her strange behaviour.
They hardly spoke for the next couple of days. The ticket still sat on the mantlepiece but his wife seemed intent on deciding how to spend the money before she actually claimed the prize. On one occasion he found her looking at a website that sold hand-made wooden cots and quickly exited the room again. But he found himself becoming increasingly worried about her.
On Sunday morning, he got up early and made her breakfast in bed. He carried the laden tray carefully up the stairs and pushed the bedroom door open with his shoulder. She was already sitting up in bed, hunched over her laptop.
"Breakfast is served, m'lady!" he proclaimed, grandly.
She glanced at him with an irritated frown. "Just put it down, somewhere. I'll eat it in a minute."
"Well, actually, I thought we might eat together. A radical idea, I know..."
"Can't you see I'm busy?!" she snapped.
"Busy! Busy doing what, exactly? Trying to spend money that you don't actually have yet or trying to drive me out of the house?"
"What are you talking about?"
"Your behaviour ever since you 'won' that money. You've changed, Angela."
"What do you mean I've 'changed'?"
"You've grown mean. You're not the woman I married."
"I'm not mean! I told you to take as much money as you needed for that stag do."
"Only when I reassured you about ten times that I wanted to be able to dip into the savings and not that blasted scratchcard money! Oh, forget it. I'm taking my breakfast downstairs to eat it before it gets cold. If you're hungry, you know where it is." Without another word, he turned on his heel and stumped off down the stairs.
A few minutes later, he heard Angela follow him down. She went into the living room and then joined him in the kitchen. The ticket was in her hand.
"I've been thinking about what you said, and you're right. Something came over me, something really strange. I can't explain it... I just became obsessed with spending that money on myself. I told myself that there wasn't enough to spend on anyone else, not if I was really going to treat myself. But there was no pleasure in it. Whatever I'd have spent it on, I wouldn't have enjoyed."
"Well, I'm glad you've come to your senses. Now come and eat your breakfast and tell me about all the nice things you're going to buy me," he said with a cheeky grin.
"I'm not going to buy you anything."
"I'm not going to cash it in. Unclaimed prizes go to charity. I'd rather it went to someone who really needs it than throw it away on something trivial." With these words, she slowly and deliberately tore the ticket into tiny pieces, then threw them into the air so that they fluttered around her like confetti. "There, I feel much better, now! Didn't you say something about breakfast in bed?"
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