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“How long has Clarissa worked for you?” the woman on the other end of the line asked, the final question of a potential new employer for Terry’s right-hand woman and best friend.
Heart in her throat, Terry answered, then added, “And by the way… Hypothetically speaking, of course, if I could say it, I’d tell you that she’s an incredibly loyal, hard-working, honest employee. She’s been the best I’ve had around here.”
Morgan, the woman on the other end, chuckled. “Hypothetically speaking, I’d say she has a new job, then, if I could. Thank you again for your time and your candor. Have a great day.”
The cell phone’s blinked and there was silence, the call now over. Her best friend and only employee had an assured future now. Palpable relief flooded through her. She stared out the window, seeing a raven on the yard fence, its feathers gleaming in the noonday sun. It fixed her with a gimlet stare before cawing and flying away. The day, although bright and sunny, seemed suddenly too stark and harsh… and sad. With the raven gone, other birds’ songs rose to fill the air, their songs as overly cheerful as the sun was overly bright.
Three days later, she stood at the part of her property that they called The Back Forty. Once, it had been forty acres, but now it was closer to about ten. Much of it was used as pastureland. The main ten were nice and flat, perfect for a field of alfalfa. Three years ago, her mother had died. Her father has wasted away and died within two months.
Terry had promised never to plow any of The Back Forty. That was before, though. Now if she didn’t plow it and seed it, the chances were good that this was her last year on the family farm. Sighing, she cranked the engine on the old tractor. With a slight grinding of gears, she set out onto the field, glad that it wasn’t wet–yet. The day promised yet more rain, but for the moment, at three in the morning, the field was dry.
“Wait!” she heard the scream over the tractor engine.
Shutting down, she turned to see Clarissa running across the pasture and sliding through the barbed wire fence. “You can’t do this,” Clarissa said, climbing up the tire of the crotchety old tractor.
Clarissa didn’t know how bad things really were. Terry had hoped not to have to tell her.
“You should get some sleep,” Terry chided her dearest friend. “You’ve got work today.”
“Nah,” Clarissa lied openly, her eyes averted, “I didn’t get the job.”
Terry pulled out her trump card. She used Clarissa’s childhood nickname. “Clairy Fairy, listen to me now.” Clarissa’s eyes met hers, and Terry saw the tears well up in them. Steeling herself, she went on, “I can’t pay you. I can’t even afford to feed you. I don’t know what I’m going to eat. I have no choice. If I’m going to save the farm at all, I have to do this. And you have to take that job.”
Clarissa looked out at the small field. Ten acres upon which the whole of the farm rested.
“You should sue Evan.” Clarissa didn’t try to hide her hate and spite.
“I can’t afford to. Not anymore.”