Anthrocide is the official website for D.L. Hamilton, author of several Christian novels and essays.

Fond Farewell

Eva had role-played the conversation in her mind a dozen times but that did not make her any less nervous as she steeled herself for the encounter with Joan.

“You’ve got to be more assertive,” her husband Blake kept telling her. “What’s the worst she could do? Fire you? So what? The way she’s abused you it would be all for the best. You could get another job easily and, in the meantime, we can make do on one income.”

That was all true to a point. But prospective employers frowned on candidates that had been fired and, if it came to firing, she was sure Joan would blister her if anyone called for a reference check. It could doom Eva’s career.

Still, Blake had a point. As long as Eva just stood by and took it, nothing would ever change. Joan would continue to demand 60-80 hours per week from her, complain if she ever worked a normal day, and never express satisfaction with Eva’s work no matter how excellent it was.

It had taken all the stealth and courage Eva could muster to apply and accept an interview for an opening at Wesley & Sons. Now she was going to have to take two hours leave for the interview. Joan would grill her big-time but she was determined neither to tell her what she was doing nor to lie about it. Her greatest hope was that she could slip it in so matter-of-factly that Joan would not react. That had about a one percent chance of working.

She took a deep breath and, trying to look casual, sauntered into Joan’s office.

“Joan, I just emailed what I’m pretty certain is the final version of the contract to Davidson. He says he should have it reviewed on his end by tomorrow afternoon.”

“That’s fine,” said Joan without looking up.

Eva swallowed noisily. “Oh, and I have some personal business I need to attend to tomorrow at 10:00. I should be back right after lunch though.”

That got Joan’s attention. “You what?”

“I have to step out for a couple of hours tomorrow morning.”

“To do what?”

“It’s personal.”

“Is this something to do with that kid of yours again?”

“Again?” gasped Eva. “I have only taken one day off for Jordan and two one-hour doctor’s appointments this entire year. That’s only ten hours.”

“You know how many hours I’ve taken off this year? Zero.”

True enough. Eva remembered Joan coughing like her lung was coming up last winter but doggedly refusing to stay home. It was a wonder everyone else in the building was not infected. But, what else would one expect of a thrice divorced workaholic with no family, no social life and, as far as Eva could tell, not a single friend?

“Well,” said Eva, “this has nothing to do with Jordan anyway. Besides, you keep complaining because I’ve got five weeks of vacation accumulated. At least this will make a small dent in it.”

“Yeah, well, too small and poor timing. What if Davidson has questions about that contract tomorrow morning? I’m not willing to risk the entire deal just because of some ‘personal business.’ Request denied.” Joan went back to her paperwork, the signal that Eva was dismissed.

Eva’s lips tightened. “It wasn’t a request, Joan. I’m leaving at ten tomorrow and I’ll be back by one.”

Without looking up Joan said, “If you leave at ten don’t bother coming back; you won’t have a job.”

Eva paused a minute. “I’ll be back at one. If you wish to terminate my employment at that time, well, good luck finishing-up the Davidson contract.”

With that, she turned to leave and Joan called out, “Better hope that interview works out.”

Eva forced herself to just keep walking back to her own office.

It was not unprecedented that Joan would threaten something and then not follow through, so Eva was not certain if her job was on the line or not. Blake said all the right things that night to reassure her, but she was still nervous about it the next day.

The morning went as usual and she left at 10:00 only mentioning it to Carla, the receptionist, as she was leaving. An interviewee can usually tell how an interview is going, and from Eva’s standpoint it went magnificently. She was interviewed by a Mr. Canova and a Ms. Martin, although afterward she could no longer recall which would be her direct supervisor. Either way, they were both very nice, good-humored, and seemed quite impressed with her. Best of all, Ms. Martin had volunteered that the need to work overtime could occur but was fairly rare. Eva did not react outwardly but inside she was rejoicing about the additional time with her family. The interviewers told her they had one more interview that afternoon and would let her know one way or the other no later than Monday afternoon.

She walked into her office at quarter to one and everything appeared to be normal. She stayed there and worked on the Lansford account until an email arrived at 1:30 that required her to go to Joan’s office. She took a thick sheaf of paper with her.



“I just got an email from Davidson. They have accepted the contract as is and said if we will get a signed copy to them, they will both send a digitized copy and courier back the original with their signatures on Monday. So, if you will sign here…” She laid the papers in front of Joan.

“Excellent,” mumbled Joan but, as always, the tone suggested she was pleased with the outcome, not that she was complimenting Eva in any way. She signed in all the designated places and started to hand the sheaf to Eva then hesitated. “Have a seat for a moment, Eva.”

Eva sat and her mouth became noticeably dry.

“Eva, I’ve heard the names people around here use to refer to me when they think I’m not nearby; some of them even rhyme. And I’ll admit I’m not the easiest person to work for—or with. But when I first started in this business my boss gave me some advice. He said that, especially as a woman, I could not just let people push me around; I had to push back. Well, he wasn’t quite right. I have learned the hard way that you have to push first if you’re going to survive. So, yes, I do a lot of pushing. And I also know that I’m not very good at expressing thanks or giving pats on the back. I never got them and never needed them. I always felt like employees are hired to do excellent, profitable, mistake-free work, so why should they be congratulated for doing the job they’re paid for?

“Nevertheless, I realize that not everyone has a shell as hard as mine.” Joan’s voice and demeanor softened more than Eva had ever heard it. “You’ve worked here for over four years and you’ve done everything I’ve asked of you, and done it well. In fact, you’re among the best I’ve ever worked with. My suspicion that you have been on a job interview has started me thinking. We are comrades working toward the same goal. There should be some, well, camaraderie between us. More of a spirit of teamwork, y’know? I mean, not that we need to hang out together; you have your family and all, but once in a while maybe… I don’t know… Um…”

“Maybe have lunch together?” suggested Eva.

Joan thought about it for a second. “Yes, that would be a start, I think.”

Eva smiled. “I think that would be fine. It would give us a chance to get away from the office for a bit and maybe talk about something besides work.”

Joan looked introspective. “Sort of like the way I hear you and Carla chatting about clothing sales and TV shows when you think I’m not listening.”

“Joan, employees are workers, yes, but they’re also people. And people are relational creatures who need each other. Everyone needs friends. No one can focus just on all work all the time.” She suddenly realized that might not have been the most appropriate thing to say given that it pretty well summed-up Joan’s life.

There was an awkward pause and Joan held out the contract. “See that these get to Davidson ASAP.”

That weekend Eva thought a lot about her conversation with Joan. It sounded like she had been reaching out, trying in her unaccustomed way to build a relationship with Eva. Kind of sad, she thought. I might be the closest thing to a friend she has in this world, and I scarcely know her and don’t particularly like her. But she decided that she should at least try responding, as an act of kindness.

Monday morning things seemed normal enough. Eva’s only conversation with Joan was that the digitized copy of the contract had arrived and that they would have the original couriered over by 2:00. At noon Eva wondered if today might be a good day to lunch with Joan. But Joan was on a lengthy phone call behind closed doors so Eva ate at her desk and worked through lunch as always. At 2:05 Joan intercepted her as she was returning from the ladies’ room.

“Where’s that contract?”

“On its way, I assume.”

“You assume? Do you know how much money is riding on this? And you’re just going to assume?”

Eva was taken aback. “I’ll call them right now and make sure it’s on its way.”

“You’ll do nothing of the kind. You’ll go pick it up in person. Right NOW.”

Eva knitted her brows in confusion. “You want me to drive over to Davidson’s even though the contract may be en route?”

“Drive over, fly over, take a dogsled over, I don’t care just go get it.”

Eva shrugged in exasperation. “O-kay. You’re the boss. I’ll go get my keys.”

Joan rolled her eyes and shook her head as she stormed off to her office.

Eva stared after her and closed her eyes with a subtle shake of her head. So much for reaching out and acts of kindness, she thought. She was determined to take her own sweet time heading off on this fool’s errand, in hopes that the courier would show up before she had to leave. She went into her office and picked up her purse just in time to hear her phone vibrating inside it. She closed the door to her office as she answered it.

A moment later Joan came blustering up to Carla. “Why is Eva’s door closed? Did she leave yet?”

“I’m not really sure,” lied Carla.

Joan glared at her. “Well did you see her leave or didn’t you?”

Wide-eyed, Carla shook her head.

Joan marched over and threw Eva’s door open.

“Okay, I’ll see you on the first, then,” Eva was saying into her phone. “Bye.”

“You’re still here? And you know I don’t allow personal phone calls. What are you doing?”

“I’m leaving right now,” said Eva. Then she gave a little laugh. “That’s ironic.” She took a sheet of paper that just came out of her printer and signed it.

“Ironic?” said Joan.

“Yes. I’m leaving, but I’m also leaving—permanently.” She handed the paper to Joan. “This is my two-week notice.”

Before Joan could react, Carla walked up with a sealed folder. “This just arrived by courier. I believe it’s what you’ve been waiting for from Davidson.”

Joan tightened the corners of her mouth and snatched the folder from Carla. Then she turned back to Eva. “What firm is hiring you?”

“Wesley & Sons.”

“Humph. More money, I suppose?”

Eva nodded and then smiled gently. “Look, Joan, I know it takes a while to replace a position, so I promise you that before my last day I’ll get the Lansford account all ready to go. And if, after the first, you need me to come back after-hours and help my replacement get oriented, I’ll be glad to do that.”

“No, you won’t,” said Joan. “If you don’t want to be here, I don’t want you here. Clean out your desk and be out of here by 3:00.” With that she spun on her spike heel and strutted back to her office.

For a few minutes Eva was concerned about two weeks without pay. Then she realized that with five weeks of vacation pay owed her, leaving immediately would not be a financial problem.

She emptied a printer-paper box and put her few belongings in it. Joan had always said that desks with too many personal items were unprofessional, so Eva only had one picture of Blake, Jordan, and her on her credenza. She packed that and a few pens and reference books and was done. She gave one last look at her office and headed over to Joan’s to let her know she was leaving with time to spare.

Joan was signing something and then put it into a legal-size envelope.

“Well, I guess this is goodbye,” said Eva. “I know you feel you won’t need my help, but if it turns out you do, don’t hesitate to call. And, I’d still like to have lunch together sometime. I’m sure you’ve got some pointers that I could use. Or even just to swap war stories.”

“Or pump me for trade secrets,” said Joan. “Speaking of which, I trust you don’t have any company property in that box you’re taking.”

Eva tipped the box so Joan could see its meager contents. She was not sure if Joan was joking or not. “Well, goodbye and good luck, Joan.”

Joan said nothing until Eva reached the doorway. Then she called-out to her back, “Oh, this is for you.” She caught up with Eva and handed her the envelope, blank on the outside. Eva thanked her just from habit and turned to leave.

“Bye Eva,” said Joan. “And enjoy your vacation.” Eva gave a half-smile and nodded as Joan went back to her desk.

She said her goodbyes to Carla and several other co-workers and then took the elevator to the parking garage. On the way she texted Blake with the good news about her new job. She loaded the box into her car and opened the driver’s side door. But before she got in, she opened the envelope. It contained her final pay stub, including all her unused vacation pay, plus a letter that read as follows:

To Whom It May Concern:

This is in reference to Ms. Eva Marinovich. Eva has been in my employ for over four years and in my 30+ years in the business I have never had a finer employee. She is diligent, highly-skilled, intelligent, and very hard-working. She will be a tremendous asset to any organization and I would readily hire her back if the occasion ever presented itself.


Joan Bresnahan

Eva pulled out her phone and sent Joan a text:


She could not stop grinning as she got into the car and headed home.

A Short Circuit

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