My family is the kind you envy. I grew up in a big landed house, with two maids and a driver. Even when I was a little girl, I loved to go shopping with my mother – we could spend all day doing it!

To give you an idea of how much we shopped, assistants at the designer boutiques used to phone us when a new shipment came in, so we would get the first chance to buy the best pieces.

My father willingly paid for our sprees. I was always daddy’s girl and he spoilt me. When I wanted a sports car, he paid. When I wanted to study overseas, he paid.

But I didn’t just love my father because he paid for everything – I loved him because he took good care of us. He had inherited a family business from his father and built it up into something much bigger. Sometimes he would talk about the business, or he would come back tired from a trip, but if mum or I asked about the business, he would just laugh and change the subject.

Now I wish I had paid more attention. Because about six months ago my father had a heart attack and died. It was so sudden and shocking. But then it got worse.

We had barely finished with his wake and funeral when the phone calls started coming from lawyers and creditors with claims that our father owed money. They said the business was not solid and some of them were really rude!

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We were so angry, we spoke to our lawyers… and gradually the terrible truth came out. The business had been in trouble for a while. My father had borrowed large sums of money from institutions, from friends – and even from some family members.

To cut a long story short, my family is not rich anymore. In fact, we are bankrupt. We will have to sell our home, our furniture, the cars… everything.

My mother is completely devastated. She has not just lost her husband, she has lost her entire life. She feels helpless and lost, not knowing what is going to happen next. She feels she cannot go to hi-teas with her “tai tai” friends anymore, or dress up and attend charity galas. For one thing, we don’t have the money! She is too ashamed to show her face, so she just stays home and looks at the walls of the house she will have to leave soon.

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I know this makes me sound very spoilt, but I have never had to count every cent before. It’s been very hard on both of us – and it’s even harder not being able to tell anyone what is happening.

My mother has made me swear to save face. So we pretend we are ‘choosing’ to live a more ‘simple’ life now. I told one friend who asked me to lunch that I preferred just coffee instead. I joked that I worried about getting fat from too many lavish meals. I didn’t tell her the real reason – latte is cheaper.

Maybe the truth will come out eventually… perhaps when we move out of the house? In just a few months, my life has become like a bad TV drama!

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Sometimes I wish my father had confided in me. I’m not sure what I could have done, but maybe I would have spent less? Now, when I go into my walk-in wardrobe and see rows and rows of designer bags and expensive clothes, I just want to scream.

(Salient details changed to keep the story anonymous)

Photos: Pixabay, / posed by models

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