My heart was just as heavy the next morning when I went to the supermarket, but it was about to get heavier still. I loaded up my trolley, as usual, and packed the shopping into bags, as usual, and paid, as usual, with my debit card. The flat expression on the checkout girl's face hardly changed at all as she droned,
''It's not gone through.''
This was not as usual...
''Sorry?'' I asked.
''Your card don't work. It's not authorised. It's failed. Have you got another card?''
Well I did, but not on me. I'd just slipped the one debit card into the pocket of my jeans before coming out. I rummaged in my other pockets, just in case I'd accidentally left a spare twenty, or even a spare ten, in there by accident. It had been known. Not this time though. The best I could come up with was a gum wrapper.
I said sorry to the girl, and the very disgruntled people muttering about me in the queue, and went to the car park. As I drove towards the bank, I thought, Must have used the wrong PIN. There's loads of dosh in that account. But the card processing machine had said PIN correct...
In the bank, I handed over my card, and told them what had happened. The young guy behind the counter looked at his monitor,and, as he shook his head, I started to shake. I was beginning to have a bad feeling about all this.
''Sorry, madam, your account is empty. All the money was withdrawn, three days ago.''
''But, but...'' I couldn't continue. Somehow, I knew he was right. Everything fell into place. I'd been such an idiot. Such a trusting, lovesick fool.
I must have gone pale, because one of the bank clerks came out from behind her window and led me to an office - well, more of a cubby, really. She said she'd send the manager through when he was free.
I sat there and thought of Nicos. I remembered the times when I'd seen his face light up: when I first mentioned the compensation claim; when I'd received the cheque; when I'd agreed that it would be a good idea to get a joint account. And I remembered how happy he'd looked when I'd seen him off in the departure lounge. Then I remembered the times his face had fallen: when I'd talked about having babies; when I'd talked about plans for our wedding; when I talked about our future at all, in fact. Oh, he tried to hide it, he smiled, but behind the smile, his eyes were hard and cold.
I thought of the ten magpies on the lawn, last night.
No time of joyous bliss for me, then. I'd been happy before all this started. I just hadn't appreciated it.
But... I could be happy again. My children loved me, maybe even Dennis would forgive me, in time. I didn't need to look at magpies anymore.
The manager walked in. I stood. The shake in my voice belied my confidence.
''I'm fine now. I'll just go home.'' I said. ''I'll call the police from there.'
T H E E N D