Wednesday: Mary

She was 14 and immature with it. Her thoughts were only about herself, what she wanted, what she needed. Oh, on some level she knew that her parents were struggling. Her father, a software engineer, had recently been laid off, but he still got up every morning, put on his uniform of a white short-sleeved button-up, a skinny patterned tie and khaki pants to head to job interviews. And every night he returned home, disappointed and discouraged. That he got up and repeated the same routine took a kind of courage – the kind of which his daughter was ignorant.

Her mother worked two part-time jobs: mornings as a receptionist at a law firm, afternoons as a cashier at a department store. For her mother, the jobs were just that – jobs. She didn’t feel a passion for either, though she appreciated the discount at the store. When it came down to it, money was money. And they didn’t have any, only bills. So she worked, kept a pleasant attitude, and sacrificed for her family. She was a mother.

Unfortunately for her parents, Mary didn’t share their values of determination, perseverance, hard work. No, she lived for one thing: popularity. And for Mary, popularity could be found in things. Materialistic to the core, she wanted anything that would gain her access to the inner circle of the cool kids. So she did what any selfish, self-absorbed teenager would do: she stole her parents’ credit cards.

It was such a rush, sneaking downstairs to ease her mother’s wallet out of her purse, click it open, slide out the shiny plastic card. Once upstairs in the safety of her room, back to the door, heart beating at her deception, she would boot up her computer. Pink, stickered and with a desktop of the latest teen heartthrob, Mary’s computer was her portal to popularity. She spent lavishly at online sites: designer purses, expensive clothing, make-up, jewelry. It was all hers. She only needed to click the mouse.

She hadn’t yet graduated to shoplifting, but it was the next step. Her desire for stuff and the rush of sneaking around couldn’t be beat – at least until she could sit at the popular table at lunch time. And when her parents opened their monthly Visa and Mastercard statements, she felt no guilt, no remorse. It was just money, after all. It didn’t mean anything. Her parents could go make more. What was the problem?

And her parents sat in their bedroom, shaking their heads, betrayed by their daughter’s greed. This was not their little girl, not Mary. No, this teenager, she was someone else. Soon, her recklessness would force her parents to file for bankruptcy. They would lose their house; their cars would be repossessed. But Mary, she would only be furious that her parents had lost the trappings of financial success. What losers.

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