“Rachel!” He looked across three rows of tomatoes at me, looking no different from when he was eight years old and I had caught him with his hand in Mum’s purse.

“What are you doing here?” My voice was low and I was keeping my temper in check, for the moment.

“That’s a nice welcome.” He smiled the lopsided smile which I am sure worked wonders on women who were not his sister. “I wanted to see you.”

“People who want to see me usually knock on the front door, not skulk about in my greenhouses at a quarter to one in the morning.” I raised an eyebrow at him.

“Not your greenhouses; this is still the family business.” He turned to face me.

“Not since I bought Dad out. These are all mine. You should watch your step; I bought Dad’s guns too.” I met his glare with one of my own. We had always been good glarers, as a family. “So, if you’re here to collect on your inheritance, there isn’t one. The farm was on the brink of bankruptcy when I bought Dad out, and I’ve turned it back into something worth having, on my own, so you can go back to wherever you’ve been the last twelve years.”

“I’m sorry I wasn’t here when Mum and Dad died. I should have been.” He at least had the grace to look as though he was genuinely sorry. I believed none of it, but I nodded anyway.

“Back to my question. What are you doing in my greenhouse in the middle of the night?” I looked around me. “Have you stolen my crop?” I watched his eyes. This was more than just a few bags of tomatoes. His eyes slid sideways. “Looking for possible escape routes?” He froze. “I’ve worked really hard to build this up. I had to borrow to build each one of these greenhouses. I start early every morning and finish late every night, but I’m turning a corner. I’m paying the loan and just about keeping everything going. I can’t afford you messing it up. Please, Liam.”

“Look. Rachel, I know we were never close, but I found this thing that makes loads of money, but I don’t know how to do this stuff, and you clearly do.” He put his hands out to his sides, taking in the whole greenhouse full of strong robust plants.

“You never listened when Dad talked to us about how plants grow.” I huffed, remembering my brother skulking off while I listened to Dad explain about how it all worked.

“You did, though. You’re good at this.” He tipped his head sideways. “Please help me, Rachel. I’ll split the profit with you, half each.” He chewed his lower lip. “It could help you, with the loans and everything.”

I thought about it. The loan payments were huge. I needed money. I was so tired of working so very hard. I was running uphill with my feet glued to the floor, and I was doing the best I could, but it was so difficult.

“Show me. I’m not promising.” I followed him to the back end of the greenhouse, where he had moved my tomatoes sideways, and in their place stood 20 of the scrawniest plants I had ever seen. I ran my hand over one of them. “What have you done to them? They look sick.” The soil in the pot was dry to my touch, and the leaves were rolled in on themselves.

“I put the seeds in the soil, like the book said. I watered them and I thought that would be enough.” He shrugged.

“They’re drugs, aren’t they?” I smelled my hands. The heavy oily smell hung on my skin.

“They’re cannabis.” He whispered.

“I should call the police.” I told him.

“I’ll only disappear if you do, and they are, after all, on your land.” He smiled. “Who knows how many other plants there are for them to find?”

“You really are a shit,” I told him. “How long is it supposed to take to harvest?”

“Once they are mature, the book says every six weeks.” He held out a well-thumbed paperback.

“I’ll get them to the first harvest for you, then you and they disappear. Once you pay me half.” I held my hand out to him; it was the only deal I was offering. “Or they die, and they will, quite soon.” He took my hand and shook it.

Luckily for me, out of my five greenhouses, the one my brother had been in had no tomatoes ready to be picked, so it was easy to keep the two girls who picked for me out of the way. I filled the trough at the end of the greenhouse and plunged the pots containing the scrawny plants into the water until bubbles came out, so that I knew the water had found its way into every gap. I added them into the irrigation line along with the tomatoes and turned on the mist as I left the greenhouse. I left it on for a few hours and then turned it off, and, as the sun went down, I carried on picking the tomatoes in another greenhouse and loading the boxes ready for the morning. My crop went to the markets and were mostly bought by restaurants. Supermarkets were interested in cheap fruit and vegetables, available all year round, not too worried about the taste. Mine were sweet and picked perfectly ripe. They were in the market before the bloom was off them. They were also expensive. I also grew blueberries and raspberries and some strawberries.

Before I went to bed, I checked in on his plants. They already looked a little more cheerful. The leaves had unfurled and spread into their well-known palmate shape. He was standing on the doorstep when I got back to the house.

“They’re looking better. I’ll phone you when the buds arrive.” I nodded and opened the door.

“Can I come in? Cuppa?” He looked rumpled.

“Cuppa,” I confirmed.

“Thanks, Rachel.” He followed me into the kitchen and watched me make tea. I put the cup in front of him and slipped bread into the toaster. When the machine popped, I buttered the toast and pushed it across the table to him. I’m no chef. It was as close to a dinner as I would get most days. He ate. Me too. “Can I stay?” I closed my eyes. I had been waiting for this.

“You can stay tonight. Your old room. There are blankets in the cupboard.” I watched him think about it. “I am doing this to help both of us, but that doesn’t make me happy about it.”

The days ticked past in the same way they usually did. Early starts, picking, packing. Cutting out extra shoots to encourage the tomatoes to grow. Late finishes. My brother was gone for a few weeks, then turned up late one night. His plants were getting big and fat. The leaves were thick and plentiful, and the start of buds were pushing out. He whistled low in the gathering darkness.

“Rachel. You have a way with you. They look just like the ones in the book.” He gently stroked the leaves through his fingers. It made me catch my breath; he looked so like Dad. He stayed for the night, in his old room, and he was gone when I came back to the house for lunch.

The day that they were ready, the buds fat and oily, I picked them and lay them out on tissue paper in a greenhouse where the strawberries had already been picked and the air was dry. I pruned back the leaves and laid them out as well. I called him and told him he had a few days to wait.

On the Saturday, he arrived and bagged what I had dried. He left to meet the buyer. I waited, sitting in the kitchen, and I think a part of me knew that he would not be coming back. I smiled when the hands on the clock hit midnight. My brother was a short-term sort of guy. He had never been ready to do the work, day in, day out. I knew that, and so had my parents.

I pulled my phone out and dialled the number I had taken from his phone on the last night he had stayed over.

“Hello.” There was a grunt on the other end. “Liam dropped you off something today?” An affirmative sort of grunt. “I’m the grower. If you want more, I’ll have some available in six weeks, or thereabouts.”

“Liam gave you my number?” he asked.

“Yes. Is that a problem?” I asked.

“No. Phone me when you’re ready.” He took a puff of whatever it was he was smoking. “And every six weeks after that?”

“You have a deal,” I told him. Long term. That’s always been my way.