Callie called Cara from the car and Cara was delighted to have her come back to the farmhouse. “I’m making pies, would you like to help?”

Callie cheerfully agreed, so shortly after she arrived she found herself in the kitchen slicing apples. Callie told Cara about Mina helping Daniel and Cara nodded approvingly. “Sounds like a girl who likes to get things done.”

“That’s Mina. Is this enough for the apples?”

Cara glanced over from where she was rolling out piecrust. “Um, another cupful I think.”

Callie went back to slicing. It felt so good to sit here in the kitchen, being useful. She thought of what Mina had said – “like family.” She didn’t realize how important that was … until it was gone.

“Are you going to bring Mina to church on Sunday?”

Callie looked up in surprise. “Uh, well, I guess.”

Cara moved the rolled-out crust to the pie pan. “You didn’t go to church much in Charleston, did you?”

Callie didn’t detect any censure in Cara’s tone, but she still felt a little guilty admitting, “No, ma’am.”

Cara was silent for a moment, trimming the edge of the crust. Then she asked quietly, “Why not?”

Callie scooped some of the sliced apples into a bowl, thinking before she answered. “I don’t know. I went to church in Ware with Mom, but when I went off to college … well, most of the kids I knew didn’t go, so I didn’t either. And then when I moved to Charleston, it just didn’t seem that important.”

There was more to it of course. She didn’t feel comfortable in church. Mina asked her just about every week to go to church, and she always avoided it. She’d never thought much about why.

Cara started rolling out another pie crust. “I remember hearing somebody say, ‘If you feel far from God, who moved?’”

Callie carefully sliced more apples. She’d never felt that God had abandoned her. And it wasn’t as if she didn’t believe in God. She prayed to Him a lot in the aftermath of not-Wes. So why did she feel so uncomfortable? She remembered in college, when she suggested going to church, her new friends just laughed. Then when she moved to Charleston, most of the people she knew there weren’t exactly what you would call churchgoers either, except for Mina.

She remembered Pastor Austin’s sermon. “He will try to reach you, He will knock on your door. But it’s your choice.” He was knocking with Mina’s invitations. He knocked again with the pastor’s invitation to attend church. Which of her choices had turned out better?

Tears welled up in her eyes and she put down the knife. She felt Cara’s arms fold around her and hold her firmly. Callie hugged Cara as she wept, her thoughts all jumbled. She thought of all the times her mother invited her to come home and how Callie was always too busy. And now Mom was gone….

In time the tears stopped falling and she took a big gulp of air, trying to pull herself back together. She straightened and Cara brushed Callie’s hair back with a loving hand. “You’d best go wash up,” Cara told her gently. “Will and Hank will be back from fishing soon.”

Callie wiped her eyes with a shaky laugh. “I must look a sight.”

Cara smiled. “You do. But it’s nothing a little water and soap can’t fix. Go on now.”

Callie nodded and went to the bathroom to repair what damage she could. When she came back, the pies were in the oven and Cara was washing dishes. Callie took over rinsing and drying without saying a word; they worked together in companionable silence to get everything washed, dried, and put away. They sat down at the clean kitchen table with mugs of hot coffee. The aroma of apple pie baking in the oven filled the large room, mixing with the scent of the hot coffee. Callie laughed and Cara looked at her with a question in her eyes. “Well, I’m just so silly. I really haven’t done anything, but I’m sitting here feeling so satisfied with myself!”

“You’re a good worker,” Cara said with approval and Callie felt her spirits lift even higher. “I’d say you got a lot done today. So what are you going to do over the next few days?”

“Spend time with Mina, but she’ll be busy part of the time working with Daniel Alverson.” She explained what had happened earlier.

“Well, you might talk to Melissa Dancer,” Cara suggested. “Your mother worked with her part time and led the book club for Melissa. And of course you’re welcome to come out here any time. It’s about time for spring cleaning and I could use a hand.”

Callie brightened. “I would love to help you with spring cleaning! At least I have more experience with that than baking.”

“Good! Come back out tomorrow morning as early as you like, and we’ll get to it.” Cara looked as pleased as Callie did.

“Okay, how about 8 or so? Do I need to bring anything?”

“Any time is fine and no, you don’t need to bring a thing,” Cara assured her. “Just remember to wear old clothes and sensible shoes.”

“No problem,” Callie answered cheerfully.

“Good, I’ll –“ a noise outside interrupted Cara and she smiled. “That will be the menfolk. I hope they had good luck, so we can have fresh fish for dinner. You’re welcome to stay.”

“Oh, I can’t. I have to go pick up Mina and then we were going to eat at the house tonight. Do you think the house is ready enough for us to go there?”

“Yes, they’re all done.” Cara laughed at Callie’s startled look. “Ginny called while you were in the bathroom. Everyone is finished.”

The men came in then, having put all their fishing equipment in the mudroom. Will gave Cara a quick kiss on the cheek as Hank immediately looked at Callie, raising an eyebrow slightly in question. She smiled happily to let him know she was fine.

“Got plenty of fish, woman,” Will was saying to Cara. “We’ll get ‘em cleaned for you.” He turned to Callie with a welcoming grin. “Now there’s a sight for sore eyes! Good to see you, Callie.”

“I got invited to help make pies,” she explained and Will nodded approvingly.

“You’re learning from the best,” he told her, giving Cara another kiss. “Are you going to stay for dinner? We have plenty.”

“No, in fact I was just about to leave. The ladies from church were packing some things up for me, and I have a feeling they did a whole lot more.”

Will chuckled. “Give Ginny an inch and she’ll take a mile.”

Hank added, “I got a text from the pastor. He and some of the elders moved your boxes and some of the furniture over to the storage facility. I know I said I’d do that for you, but the pastor beat me to it.”

“Oh that’s all right,” Callie assured him, “but was there room enough in the space I rented?”

“No, we had to rent another one. The pastor put it in your name and left the paperwork at the house.”

Callie’s stood up, reaching for her tote bag. “That was so nice! I’ll have to make sure I pay him for the rental fee.”

“Whatever,” Hank shrugged. “He’s not worried about it.”

She looked at him closely and he looked back innocently. Callie sighed – she knew Hank had paid for it. “I’ll make sure he gets repaid,” she told him firmly.

He had the audacity to grin at her before turning to his grandmother. “Is that apple pie I smell?”

“It is, and you may get some if you behave yourself,” Cara said sternly, with a twinkle in her eye. “Now, show this girl you have the manners you were raised with and walk her out to her car.”

“Yes, ma’am!” he replied cheerfully and turned to Callie. “Ready?”

“Mmhm. Cara, thank you so much for having me this afternoon. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“It was my pleasure,” Cara smiled. “Don’t forget, old clothes!”

“I won’t forget,” Callie promised happily, going out the mudroom door Hank was holding open for her.

Out in the yard, he also opened the car door for her. “You’re coming back out tomorrow?”

“Umhm," she beamed. “I get to help with spring cleaning.”

He shook his head with a grin. Then he looked at her eyes and asked, “How are you doing, Callie?”

“I’m better,” she told him, looking down. “I’m glad Mina is here. And your grandmother is so good to me.” She hesitated and looked away. “I can’t explain it, but every time I see you … it makes me feel better, stronger. So I have you to thank too. I want you to understand I haven’t forgotten all that you did for me.”

“Callie.” She looked up and he was smiling at her. It warmed her and lightened her spirits at the same time. “I meant what I said.”

“I know.” She smiled back, her heart overflowing with gratitude, and on impulse she threw her arms around him. “That meant so much to me.”

“You are welcome,” he responded, sounding startled, stepping back when she released him. “Drive carefully now.”

“I will,” she nodded. “Will you be here tomorrow?”

“Sadly, no,” he replied with a teasing smile. “So don’t get any ideas involving mops and brooms. I might stop by for lunch though.”

“Okay, I’ll probably be here all day.” She knew she should get in the car, but she didn’t want to … she just wanted to stay and soak up some of that calm assurance Hank had. Mina’s waiting, she reminded herself. “I have to go,” she said suddenly, more to herself than Hank. She slid into the car seat.

He closed the door and waved – she buckled up, started the car, and waved back.

She noticed he stood there watching the car, until she couldn’t see him anymore.




Callie walked in Daniel’s office to find Mina and Daniel at the reception desk, their heads together as Mina explained a filing system she had set up for him. “That’s brilliant,” he said in admiration, then looked up as Callie walked in. “This woman is amazing,” he said, shaking his head. “She makes everything so simple.” He turned back to Mina. “I’m telling you, if you were going to move to Ware, I would hire you on the spot.”

Mina laughed. “Be careful what you ask for.”

“I’m always careful,” he said seriously. “Name your salary and the job is yours.”

“A million dollars,” Mina answered, waving her hand through the air.

“Two million over a 30-year contract,” he countered instantly.

Mina stared at him in astonishment. “You are a very, very good lawyer.”

“So I’m told,” he grinned. “But I am not a very, very good office manager. Think about it, Mina.” He glanced up at Callie pleadingly. “Help me if you can.”

“No fair ganging up on me!” Mina exclaimed, catching up her purse.

“Be back tomorrow?” he asked, raising an eyebrow.

“I’ll be back tomorrow,” she promised, smiling.

Mina and Callie walked out to Mina’s car. “You move fast, woman!” Callie teased her, handing over the keys.

“What can I say?” Mina shrugged. “I suggested he file alphabetically and a whole new world opened up before him! So,” she continued as she started the car and backed out of the parking space, “do you think they’re done at the house yet?”

“I know they are,” Callie confirmed. “Word was sent out on the Ware Information Network.”

“Of course it was,” laughed Mina. Callie had already told her about the town’s fast and efficient way of sharing news.

“I’m going back to the farmhouse tomorrow,” Callie said next. “I get to help Cara with spring cleaning.”

Mina shook her head. “You do like to feel useful.”

“I’m not one to sit around,” Callie admitted. “And she pays in pies and cookies.”

“Oooh, can I help clean too? Please, please, pretty please?” Mina begged.

“No,” Callie shook her head sternly. “Besides, you have to rescue Daniel tomorrow.”

“I know, tomorrow we move into the wonderful world of automated recordkeeping,” Mina grinned. “I might get him up to three million after that.”

Callie said abruptly, “Are you thinking about moving here?”

“Are you?” Mina shot back.

Callie took a deep breath. “I want to.”

Mina’s eyes widened.

Callie tried to explain. “I think … I think I would be happier here, if I did move back. I could find ways to be useful, like Mom did. And Cara and Will are starting to feel like my own grandparents. You should have been at the Sunday dinner I went to at Hank’s parents’ house. Everyone was talking and laughing and teasing each other … it felt so good. I want that, Mina. I want that sense of being in a family, of belonging.”

Mina pulled into the driveway. “Would you be happy being Hank’s sister?”

Callie sat silent for a moment. “The truth?” Mina nodded. “I would be happy being anything, just to be around him.” She took a deep breath. “I don’t know what it is, I just know I feel better when he’s near me.” She added in a voice so low, it was almost a whisper. “Somehow, deep down inside, I need to be near him.”

“You love him,” Mina stated firmly.

“No, I don’t think that’s it,” Callie shook head seriously. “That’s what is so crazy about this. I’ve been in love, I know what that’s like. This is – not that. It’s like … he’s a part of me, and when he’s around, I’m better, and when he’s not … things just seem darker. Emptier. I don’t understand it, Mina! It’s like - oh I don’t know!” Callie exclaimed, throwing her hands up in frustration.

Mina smiled. “Well, I do. So here’s what we do. We go back to Charleston, load up a U-Haul trailer, and drive back it to Ware. You let me stay here at the house and I’ll pay you rent.

“I talked to Daniel. He said that if you stayed at the house, the estate could pay for utilities and give you a small stipend for being a caretaker. That’s only for a year. Then the estate goes through probate and you’re all set.”

Callie stared at her in astonishment. “I can stay.”

Mina couldn’t suppress her grin. “You can stay.”

Callie screamed and threw her arms around Mina. “Oh thank you, thank you, thank you!”

Mina dissolved in laughter. “You’re welcome, you’re welcome, you’re welcome!” When Callie pulled back, Mina took the keys out of the ignition and told her, “You know, I really should be thanking you.”

“How’s that?” Callie asked, puzzled.

Mina smirked as she opened her car door. “You just made me a millionaire.”  

"That Little Thing" Copyright © 2020 by Susan Stafford