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Orson Scott Card's trip to Jakarta, Indonesia

Stories from students at Jakarta International School

George Harris stared over the top of his glasses at Lily Nivine. His eyes had an evil glint, and his hands rubbed together under the desk. Finally! He would fire her! His heart burned with anger. Over the last few weeks, he had noticed her taking time off. She had taken lots of time off, which had left him constantly without a secretary.

Once, when she had been absent, he had gone to her house in the off chance of her being sick. It wasn't like that at all. He had peered through her window and had been welcomed with a happy sight. Lily Nivine sitting in the middle of a circle which was composed of her children. Comforting them, stroking them. He didn't have kids anymore, thanks to some serial killer out there. They had been killed, along with his beautiful wife! Now, if she was his wife, she would never have done anything like that!

"Mrs. Nivine," he said over the intercom. "Please come to my office. I have some disturbing news to tell you."

She rushed in. "Is it about Peter, Tommy, Jane, Kate, or Fred?" she asked frantically.

"Actually," he told her, glorifying in the moment, "it's about you."

"Me?" she laughed, running her hands through red hair that stood on end. "Why would I be of any consequence?"

"It's just a little matter of your job," Harris replied coolly. "As of now, you don't have one."

"But . . ." A look of shock registered on Lily's face. "I'm fired?"

"Here's your letter of recommendation," Harris said quickly, shoving it into her hands. "Good luck."

"Kids, I have some bad news to tell you," Mrs. Nivine said sadly. "Today, I was fired."

"Oh, Mom!" cried Kate. "How could he?"

"He did," she replied flatly. "I'll go job hunting tomorrow."

The next day, Mrs. Nivine's efforts proved to be useless. She went to job, after job, after job. Every time she got the same line. "We're very sorry, but we cannot hire you for reasons we may not disclose at this time."

After the fifth time, Lily finally lost her temper.

"What's the matter?!" she exploded. "What are these reasons? I have five kids, and no job! That's a very bad combination!"

The representative of the United States Embassy (she was interviewing to be a secretary) softened, seeing Mrs. Nivine's expression.

"Have you looked at your letter of recommendation?" she said under her breath, then smiled. "You do not seem experienced enough for this job," she said in a voice that was too nice for Mrs. Nivine's liking.

"Thank you," Mrs. Nivine said, in a sweet voice. "I'll see other places with jobs that I can do."

At home, she desperately called a friend.

"Margaret, is that you?" she asked the person on the phone. Hearing the reply, she said, "Good. I need you to fake a resume. Say I've worked at the United States Embassy. You do work there, don't you? Good. When they call, say that I worked there for five years, at least. I got laid off because of financial problems, with the embassy that is. They needed to cut a bit of the budget, so they laid me off. Got all that?"

"I hope you know I'm only doing this because you have five kids. I couldn't have them starve," Margaret replied dryly

"Yes, I worked at the United States Embassy for five years," Mrs. Nivine said, cultivating her carefully constructed lie. "It was a wonderful learning experience."

"I highly doubt that," came a voice from the next office. George Harris stepped out.

"And who are you?" Mrs. Nivine said, knowing that her efforts were futile.

"You know who I am, Mrs. Nivine," George Harris said in a tone that was barely hiding contempt. "I am your former boss. Remember me?" he mocked.

Her interviewer looked puzzled. "You're from the embassy?" she asked Harris.

"No," he replied. "I work for Wal-Mart. Mrs. Nivine used to work for me. She never worked for the U.S. Embassy. Her letter of recommendation is fake." His voice had a nasty tone to it now. "Her resume is fake."

The interviewer turned to Mrs. Nivine. "Is this true?"

"Never!" Mrs. Nivine said, shaking her head furiously. "I never saw this man in my life. I never worked for him!"

"I have proof!" Harris practically snarled. He turned to his briefcase. It wasn't there. Somebody had taken it. "I do!" he protested. Then it hit him like a shock of lightning. He had taken all the evidence that Nivine had worked for him in his briefcase. If someone had taken it, he had no proof. Computer files, her old resume, even her jacket that had been left hanging on the back of her chair was there. Without it, she might as well have been working for the embassy.

Behind his back, Mrs. Nivine smiled as she saw Margaret wink at her. She was the one who had taken his briefcase, with all the evidence.

"I'll be back later with proof!" he snarled.

Later, in his office, he thought about what had happened. Who had taken his briefcase? Why? He turned a question over and over in his mind. Why am I angry with Lily? What did she do? Then he knew. She had reminded him of his family. His wife, his three kids, all died by the hands of a serial killer a month or two before. His wife, Heather, had had the same red hair, the same loose curls. The same defiance. He had never forgiven her for dying, and leaving him without a wife, kids, a family. The very serial killer that had killed her had been her brother, whom she had known was mentally ill. But she had insisted that he visit them when George's flight was canceled. He had never forgiven Heather for letting her brother, whom she had known was dangerous, visit them. It had been all her fault!

What have I done? He thought desperately, then realized there was nothing he could do that would repay the debt he owed to Lily Nivine. He had ruined her life, left her kids to starve, and been absolutely impossible. Just because she reminded her of Heather! In return, he had openly snarled at her, and given her a letter of recommendation that was less than recommending. In fact, he had openly castigated her use of time, her constant 'holidays,' and her lack of experience. Now wonder she had had to get that person to fake a resume! There was only one thing he could do for her.

He began typing:

Dear Mrs. Nivine:

Enclosed is a new letter of recommendation. I realized that I have given you the wrong one. No wonder you couldn't get a job. This one is more flattering. Dreadfully sorry.

Yours truly,

George Harris

P.S. I'm sorry for my earlier behavior. It was terribly rude of me. Forgive me.

His anguish was over. His debt had been repaid.

By Leilani Uyehara


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