Time in Willow Creek: 1 year, 9 months, 1 week, 4 days
Juliana never wanted Kevin to know exactly how Trish mistreated her, so she suffered in silence for fear of how he would react. Although she knew she could lay all her burdens safely at his feet, this particular one she kept to herself. It would upset him a great deal, and he’d probably try to do something about it on top of having a few words with Trish as he was doing when she ran out of the office.
“Juliana is legal here and works a hundred times harder than you EVER will!”
His voice had grit almost like a growl, and his face reddened the louder he yelled. She had never seen him so upset before. It scared her a little but made her feel safe and warm that he stood up for her. She knew he would, but seeing it happen refreshed her conflicted soul.
“With everything that’s happening in our society right now, this is how you choose to act? People don’t tolerate that attitude anymore!”
She tried to pull him away. “Kevin, it’s–“
“I’m handling this, Juliana!” He broke away from her and got in Trish’s face. “You hate working here so much? Quit!”
His loud voice echoed throughout the tiny building like a clap of thunder in a storm.
“If you don’t quit, you’ll be fired.”
What on earth had gotten into this man? He had no authority to do that, and Juliana was certainly not comfortable with it. This display was exactly what she wanted to prevent and why she kept all of it to herself. She knew he’d get involved some kind of way and would try to make her do something about it before she was ready.
Trish laughed. “She can try and fire me if she wants to. I’m pregnant!”
Juliana gasped. Deep down, she wished she could blame the pregnancy for the nastiness. Hillary had her moments but never on this scale. Unfortunately, Trish was just that hateful, and the hormones would probably make her worse.
Trish sneered at the pair of them as if she had backed them into a corner, but Kevin had a smirk even more devilish than her’s.
“The community you’re serving isn’t going to care about your baby once they learn you’ve been using hate speech in here.”
Trish still seethed while she took a moment to come back with a response.
The situation conflicted Juliana. On one hand, despite feeling conflicted and afraid, Juliana felt there may have been divine intervention that night. Kevin showed up at the perfect moment, and all she had to do to be rid of her problem was agree with him. But, on the other hand, she had a feeling his well-intended operation would go south.
“I was having a private conversation! You were eavesdropping!”
Kevin snorted. “I can’t eavesdrop on something that occurs in public, Trisha.”
Juliana didn’t quite know what they were talking about, but she wanted it to stop. She didn’t need another reason for Trish to hate her.
“She can’t fire me. I have rights!”
“What kind of a fool do you take me for? This isn’t the public library, Trisha! You don’t work for the government! You work for Juliana, and according to her, you’re not suited for this role!”
Kevin slid closer to Trish like a snake hypnotizing its prey. “Quit,” he whispered.
The conflicted feelings tied Juliana’s stomach in knots. Could he really make her quit? It felt wrong.
“Quit, or we’re gonna ask you to leave, right sweetie?”
Kevin continued glaring at Trish while she shot daggers at Juliana, trying to bully her into being on her side. Juliana’s eyes bounced between the two, and she wanted to disappear. She couldn’t envision a scenario that ended well for any of them. If she let Trish bully her, and she stood up to Kevin, she’d have to live with Trish taunting her for the foreseeable future. Agreeing with Kevin to fire her if she didn’t quit would temporarily solve her problem, but what would happen in the future? Trish could come back and sabotage her some kind of way. Or, maybe she would try to hurt her. Things like this never ended well back home.
Why did he have to put her on the spot like that? He thought it was a no-brainer, but he had no idea what position he put her in.
“Juliana, tell Trisha she will be unemployed tonight one way or another!”
Kevin often took certain liberties with her, but he never commanded her to do anything. There was no use trying to get out of it. He wasn’t going to let this go. Bouncing her eyes between them, she remembered Harriett’s words from a while ago. Juliana needed to do what was right for herself. Those words meant so much to her in recent weeks. Her upbringing conditioned her to be dependent on others. When Harriett died, she felt so alone and unprepared for real life. She hated that feeling and never wanted to be that vulnerable again. If she fired Trish or agreed she must quit, things could go bad. But, what if they didn’t? She could have sunny days again and wouldn’t have to walk on eggshells all day or watch her back. She’d have to work twice as hard until she found a replacement, but it’s not like Trish was any help to her anyway.
Her eyes settled on Trish. “I’m sorry.”
“Don’t apologize to her! She should be apologizing to you!”
Trish stepped toward Juliana and put her finger in her face. “You spineless–“
Kevin inserted himself between them as if to break up a fight. Juliana appreciated the shield and hid her face behind his back, wishing she could disappear altogether.
Trish backed down and continued to glare at her. “You’ll be hearing from my lawyer!”
She stormed out of the library for good. Juliana breathed a sigh of relief, but as Kevin turned to face her, the original feelings she had caught up with her.
“Why you make me do that,” she screamed.
He looked confused. “Are you serious? It needed to be done! People like her need to know there are consequences!”
At her core, she was grateful for what he did for her. He slayed Goliath, and she did rejoice. But, there was a bigger issue he didn’t see, and it ate at her.
“You always fix things! How am I supposed to learn anything if you keep doing everything? ¿Será que quieres que dependa de ti? ¿Es que te gusta que la gente necesite de ti? ¡No soy un bebé! ¡No quiero que me sigas como si fuera una niña indefensa!”
His befuddled look spoke volumes. She didn’t realize she slipped into her native tongue again or that the situation upset her that much.
“Juliana…I love you! I just want what’s best for you! I know I shouldn’t have gotten involved, and I’m sorry I put you in that position.”
She believed him, but he always apologized. When would he stop apologizing and start staying in his own lane?
“I promise nothing like this will ever happen again, but I couldn’t just stand there and listen to her say those things about you! She’s so hateful! And she’s sucking the life out of you!”
There was a quality in his voice she never heard before. Almost like he was pleading with her.
“I take you out and try to show you a good time, but you’re still not completely happy.”
“I’m fine! I’m happy!”
“No, you’re not! You’re tired all the time and quiet…you don’t joke around like you used to…I don’t like what she’s doing to you!”
She hadn’t realized he noticed how she had changed. The work drama was emotionally draining, but another reason for the fatigue was all the pretending she had to do. She acted as if everything was fine so no one would worry about her. Feeling like such a burden to everyone, she didn’t want to give them something else to concern themselves with in regards to her.
“I keep waiting for you to get tired of it, but you keep letting her walk over you. I can’t watch people treat you this way and do nothing. It isn’t right!” He stepped toward her and cupped her shoulders. “I know you’re used to people treating you this way back home, but you don’t have to stand for that here!”
That was a point she hadn’t considered before. In a way, she knew she could have stood up to Trish or at least told someone of her troubles, but she was so afraid. She never had those kinds of options before.
“I’m sorry for putting you on the spot. I’m not trying to control you or whatever you think I’m doing. I just want you to be happy because I love you.”
His smile convinced her of his sincerity.
“And, I know you don’t want me helping you all the time, but sometimes you need it. I want you to be successful, and I know things. I just want to help you succeed.”
She sighed and hung her head. “I know…but, you do things fast. I need time. You have to let me go at my speed.”
He nodded. “Ok. I’ll be more mindful of that in the future.”
He embraced her. “Don’t apologize. I was way out of line. I’m sorry.” His lips touched her forehead. “Are you ready to go, or do you need help here?”
The corners of her lips turned up for the first time all night. What a kind thing to ask! “I need to put books away.”
“Easy enough,” he said and grabbed a handful of books from the circulation desk.
She showed him what the codes on the books meant and where each section was before she let him loose. It felt nice to teach him something for a change. He was so smart, it felt like he knew something about everything. It didn’t bother her, of course, but it often led to him doing most of the talking.
Juliana couldn’t get the image of Trish storming out the door from her mind and went to Kevin with her concerns. She found him in the adult section struggling with where to put a book.
He smiled at her. “This isn’t as easy as I thought.”
She took the book from him and put it where it belonged, and he looked impressed. “Do you think she will sue?”
He snorted. “I’d love to see her try. She quit, remember? She has no legal leg to stand on.”
“I’m still scared. What if she says you made her?”
“She’s a coward. I doubt you’ll hear from her again.”
“But…what if she is serious about the lawyer?”
“Let her sue you! I will gladly pay money to get this woman out of your life for good.”
Juliana hoped it didn’t come to that, but his confidence was reassuring. Maybe she worried for nothing.
“Unless, of course, you don’t want my help…”
He smiled devilishly, and they laughed.
“Thank you, Kevin. I love you too.”