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'I'm Well-Paid, But I Steal Hundreds Of Pounds From My Parents'

Anonymous; Artwork by Zoya Kaleeva
·6-min read
Photo credit: Janna Yotte
Photo credit: Janna Yotte

220139 my fingers tapped assuredly into the dial pad. A red warning sign flashed up: 'Access denied.' I tried again, 220139, Granddad’s birthday, the number she always used. Maybe I was typing the numbers in wrong, surely she wouldn’t have changed it? She’d only reset it if there was a reason to. I took a deep breath and typed more determinedly this time. 'Access denied' and an additional warning sign, 'One attempt left before your account is suspended'.

'Sweetheart,' my Mum’s voice floated into the conservatory, 'My online banking app says there’s one try left to log in.' I swallowed hard, trying to think of a response. I’d left her phone where I’d found it in the kitchen.

'Chuck it here, I’ll have a look,' I said. She came in and handed me the phone. 'What’s your code again?' I asked, hoping my voice sounded casual.

'Grandad’s birthday plus 33 at the end.'

22013933, no flashing red sign this time. I told her she must have put the wrong number in too many times.

'Must have,' she replied.

I paid the vet like she wanted me to before asking if I could transfer myself the '£100' for yesterday’s shopping. As always, the response was, 'Of course sweetheart.' And as always, I added extra. That’s the closest I’ve come to being caught.

Photo credit: Janna Yotte
Photo credit: Janna Yotte

It’s hard to pinpoint when I started taking money from my parents. I don’t think I even thought of it as stealing to begin with. At first, it was just shrapnel from the pot where cash for babysitters and taxis was kept. A few pounds here, maybe a fiver if there were notes lying around. No one ever noticed. I told myself that if I asked my parents for the cash they’d say 'yes' anyway. They gave me an allowance and paid for everything I needed, I was just cutting out the admin.

Maybe it’s not that unusual for people to nick a bit of a cash from their parents, but every time I think about them finding out the extent of my habit, my stomach turns. You see, apart from the obvious fact that it’s an awful thing to do, they are truly upstanding members of the community. They are involved with the church, local schools and charities. They are two of the 'good ones'. I wouldn’t be able to live with the shame of them discovering that they’d bought up a thief.

My parents always had cash on them when I was growing up, notes in their wallets, secret stashes in drawers. They sound like drug dealers - maybe they are - but I think it’s just an old-school thing. The secret stashes were also not so secret. They would regularly ask my brother and I to ‘grab £20 to give to the cleaner’. One day on such a mission, I pulled out the requested sum and I slipped an extra tenner into my pocket. I was coming to the end of that month’s allowance and I was going out that weekend. I’ll tell Mum later I told myself, but the truth slipped my mind as easily as I’d slipped the money into my own purse.

Quickly, this became a regular habit of mine, slipping myself an extra 10 or 20 quid every time I was asked to fetch money. And the really sick part? I felt exhilarated every time I slipped another note between my fingers. My heart raced, my ears were pricked for the sound of footsteps, there was a real thrill to the possibility of being caught, and then getting away with it.

I left home, went to university, got a well-paid job, rented a flat, paid for dinners, clothes and holidays. I wasn’t on-the-property-ladder rich but I was by all accounts financially independent. Except I wasn’t. I still found myself obsessing over ways to get this 'free' money that I’d become used to. But as the world became more digital so did my parents. The wads of cash in pockets and drawers ceased to exist. My source of extra income had been severed. So I began to get creative with ways I could dupe them out of money.

Photo credit: Janna Yotte
Photo credit: Janna Yotte

I’d offer to fill the car up with petrol and then lie about how much it cost when they paid me back, upping it by £30 or so. I’d do the same thing whenever I went to the supermarket. Dad would always pay me back, and then some. And then, the game changer - internet banking. Both my parents hated using their phones and would often ask me to send emails or texts, so it was no different when they asked me to show them how to send money online. Bingo, I now had access to far more than £10 stuffed into a sock.

I haven’t lived at home for 15 years, but whenever I visit I find an excuse to use my parents' phones and transfer myself some funds. It’s usually only when they ‘owe’ me and I add a bit on, but once or twice I’ve sent myself hefty sums of a few hundred pounds. It all adds up. It’s definitely over £1,000.

I honestly couldn't tell you how they haven’t noticed, maybe they have and feel too awkward to bring it up. They’re not absurdly rich, but they don’t need to keep an eye on their bank balances. It would never cross their minds that someone they know, love and trust, would steal from them. They go to church every week and truly live by the 10 commandments. To know I was stealing from them would be to shatter their own moral compass. They would blame themselves for my downfall, and that’s the shame I couldn’t live with. Yet I continue.

Why? I can’t quite work it out myself. I’ve never been short of cash, so it’s not like I need it. Maybe it’s my own private rebellion against the controlled, cosseted life my parents created for me. My life has always been controlled by doing the 'right' thing, by following the well-trodden path of normality and crucially, pleasing my parents. This dirty secret of mine allows me to take the control away from them, the power is mine for a few seconds and it’s a buzz. The only good thing about Covid-19 has been that I have barely seen them over the past year and definitely haven’t had an excuse to be using their phone. When the world goes back to its old habits though, I’m afraid I’ll go back to mine.

If you've got a story that you think would work for The Secret Lives of Women, please email secretlives@elleuk.com

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