Anne opened her eyes, yawned and stretched. Mmm, there’s something I have to do today. Whatever was it? Oh yes, I’ve got to go back to Tesco with that ticket. I wonder what he’ll say. He looked so grim when I went and bought the ticket. Perhaps it’ll cheer him up that I’ve won something. On the other hand perhaps he was grim because he’s hard up. In that case my win would make him even grimmer – he’d think “Why couldn’t it be me?” Still, if it’s a decent amount – a thousand pounds would be wonderful – I could give some of it to him to cheer him up.
On her way downstairs Anne passed the open door of the quantity surveyors’ office. ‘Hello Maggie, you’re in early.’
‘Hello Miss Bunting, yes, I am early. I had a row with my boyfriend and rushed out in a huff. But I might say the same about you. You’re not usually out at this hour.’
‘Sorry to hear that, dear. Why don’t you ring him and make it up. I’ve just got to go back to Tesco for something.’ Better not say why, it might just be £10 and then I’d look a fool.
Crossing the Middleway by the tunnel as usual, Anne enjoyed watching the giggling groups of brown-clad girls on their way to the College down the road. Never having had children of her own, Anne found the young a mysterious race. Somehow she had missed out on fun in adolescence. In her parents’ home, a run-down vicarage in Sparkbrook, opportunities to kick over the traces had been few, and she had conformed dutifully to the conventions of a holy household.
How I would have enjoyed the life they seem to live nowadays. I would have loved to go round the world, back-packing, see what there was to see, do what there was to do. Mind you to look at some of those binge drinkers they showed on Panorama the other night, I may not have found it as enjoyable as all that. A small sherry at Christmas and a glass of wine with dinner on special occasions do you a world of good. But I don’t fancy behaving like some young people you see being sick and fighting and the like. I like to be in control, thank you very much!
Hauling herself up the ramp to the entrance to Tesco Anne started to feel a bit nervous and fluttery. Calm down girl – it’s not likely to be much and you don’t want to be disappointed. Life doesn’t dish out fortunes to the likes of me.
The grim-faced man brightened as he caught sight of yesterday’s sweet little old lady limping towards him. ‘Hello Petal. What brings you back so soon – do you want another ticket for Saturday?’
‘No, young man. I’ve come to see what I do with this. Do you think I’ve won anything?’
‘My dear, the odds are about a billion to one that you haven’t – some people have been playing for years and never won more than a tenner. Give it here and I’ll see.’
‘Do be careful with it. The machine won’t swallow it will it? I know I have the same numbers as the man gave out last night, but they’re probably in the wrong order or something.’
The ‘young man’, who must have been all of fifty, put the slip of paper into the slot and pressed the button. ‘Jackpot’ came up on the screen. The man jerked to attention. It couldn’t be. Could it?
‘What’s that? Have I really won?’
‘Yes my dear. Let me see now,’ fiddling with the keys. ‘Oh my God! You’ve won more than eleven million pounds.’
‘Don’t be silly. I couldn’t have.’
‘It’s true, you really have.’
‘I don’t understand it. How could they afford to give out that much when the ticket only cost a pound?’ The kiosk man blenched.
‘Because millions of people pay a pound. That’s how. And nobody’s won the jackpot for two weeks. That’s why it’s called a triple rollover.’ He was fuming to himself – why couldn’t it have been he who had won? ‘Now then, you fill in the back with your name and address and phone number and I stamp it and enter the details into the computer. When they come with the cheque, you have to give him your ticket, so guard it safely.’
Anne’s legs suddenly felt like jelly. There was a rushing sound in her ears and the shop started to revolve. She was about to faint. But she was made of sterner stuff. Mind over matter. Deep breaths. You can’t pass out here girl; …in…out…in…out. Ah, that’s better. The concerned salesman opened the flap and brought his stool out from behind the counter and she flopped onto the seat, leaning against the counter.
‘If it really is true, you’d better not make a fuss. I don’t need the whole of Birmingham to know my business.’
‘In that case we’d better tick this no publicity box.’ A few minutes later, the formalities completed, Anne left the shop in a daze, despite the concerns of the salesman. He’d wanted to get her a taxi.
‘Don’t be ridiculous. I only live fifty yards away. There’s no need to waste money.’ Her mind whirling and whizzing, Anne made her way slowly home, passing under the gridlocked pollution-belching traffic. The ramp seemed less steep than usual and her step was lighter. The reality of riches beyond her wildest dreams had failed to penetrate. I can get that heater and buy a carpet. I can invite the great-nieces and nephews to come and see me and I can pay for their tickets and a hotel. That would be wonderful. But I suppose they wouldn’t want to come and see an old woman like me. I could maybe go and visit them, but not until my eyes and hip have been sorted out and Goodness knows how much longer I’ll have to wait for that.
Meanwhile, the lottery man, Malcolm Pitkin, was mulling over the events of this extraordinary morning. He’d never had a big winner before. He thought his customer had been incredibly calm. He would have yelled and leapt about in joy. But then his situation was getting desperate. His wife Joanne just about qualified for the term shopaholic. She had been so foolish. Her credit limit long exceeded, she had begged Malcolm to take out a loan so she could pay off her card, and he had really had no alternative but to go along with that. His credit rating could hardly be worse. They lived in a rented flat; his income was not exactly generous even taking into account his extra two nights a week behind the bar and her part-time job in the florist’s shop. His account at the bank was precariously overdrawn at the end of each month. Who would lend him money but the sharks?
Malcolm was not a weak man but Joanne was his angel and it was his responsibility to look after her. He had denied her nothing. How could he have explained to her that they weren’t in the league of designer clothes, expensive perfume? She bought every new gadget that came on the market. Inevitably, at last he had been forced to put his foot down and had taken her credit card and cheque book from her. He was struggling to pay off the loan. The exorbitant terms were crippling him – he owed more now than the original amount. He expected at any moment that the loan company would lose patience and send in the enforcers. He put his head in his hands, crushed by the burden of his money worries, while across the way that little old lady was going to be seriously rich.