Time in Willow Creek: 2 years, 3 months, 2 weeks
Author’s Note: Hi! You guys know the drill by now. Just pretend the dialogue is in their language. No need to have you guys copy and paste this whole thing into Google Translate LOL. Enjoy!
After lunch, Juliana hopped in the shower to wash away the travel ick and attempt to calm herself. Returning home had been positively overwhelming. She almost couldn’t handle it and needed a brief respite from the excitement. Being in the tiny bathroom again brought back so many memories. Many anguished tears were shed in there. At least this time they were tears of happiness. The shower left her feeling fresh and rejuvenated as the epic plane ride took a lot out of her…and frayed her nerves. She could sleep any time, but at that moment, all she needed was what she came for: her mother’s love.
They retreated to the backyard for some much-needed mother-daughter time alone. The sun had begun its descent and took the warmth with it though it still lingered. Resting in her mother’s arms, words gushed out like water from a fire hydrant as she recanted the details of every story she ever told in her letters. She felt an urgency as if she only had nine minutes instead of nine more days to spend at home. Mamá didn’t stop her or encourage her to save her breath. She simply listened and stroked her hair. The stories of Trish’s hatred got her a bit worked up, but Mamá squeezed tight and encouraged her.
“Shhhh. Only a weak person would speak ill of another. Kevin was right. You shouldn’t hear from her again.”
“I hope so.”
Many nights, the feeling Mamá’s arms hugging her body invaded her dreams–those evil little teases. But, this was no dream, and if it was, she’d bite off the head of anyone who woke her.
The soothing sounds of the stream lapping on the bank behind the property brought her back to the center. Mamá was such a beautiful woman. Still so young but getting older every day. “Old woman” wasn’t an appropriate description for her yet, but soon it would be. No one in their family ever lived a comfortable life, but Juliana would make sure she got that chance.
“Yes, my child.”
She reached into her pocket and pulled out an envelope. “I want you to have this.”
“What’s this?” Juliana gestured for her to open it, so she did. Her jaw dropped, and she reached for her heart. “Juliana! What is this?”
By American standards, it wasn’t a ton of money, but it was more money than she had ever seen in her life. She thrust the envelope into Juliana’s lap as if they were playing Hot Potato. “I won’t take it.”
“I appreciate him bringing you here, but this? This is charity! I won’t accept it.”
“And to use you to do it!”
Juliana couldn’t help but laugh. “Mamá…he can’t even talk to you.”
She joined her in the laughter when she realized how silly her accusation was. “That is true. Look…I know he loves you. You may be in some sort of relationship now, but he is not–“
“Mamá…please! Listen to me.”
She took a deep breath and nodded.
Her eyes widened.
“I’ve been saving money to move out, but I want you to have it.”
Her chest fell, and her eyes glistened with tears. “Oh, my sweet child… You worked so hard for it! And, you should be able to live on your own if that’s what you want. I don’t want to take your money.”
Did Kevin feel this way whenever he attempted to help her and she rejected him? Though she was patient with her mother, she was determined to make her see things differently. The situation made her giggle inside as she realized where her own stubbornness came from.
“Mamá…you worked really hard too. You put the family in danger trying to save me. I just want to help. Please…take it.”
She peered into Juliana’s lap. At first, a look of relief washed across her face, but then she looked away. “No. I’m your mother. I’m supposed to make those kinds of sacrifices! You shouldn’t have to deny yourself for me. I sent you over there to live! How are you going to live if you keep sending everything over here? No. You keep it. Do what I asked you to do.”
Juliana understood, but the situation was so frustrating. “What’s the point of me prospering if I can’t help my family? You sent me to make a life for myself so I could do well? You never wanted me to pay it forward and share my success with you?”
“I told you…I never expected to hear from you again.”
“But you did! We’ve been writing back and forth for a year and a half! You still expect me to make a name for myself? What kind of a person doesn’t help her own family? And, I’m not a fool, Mamá. This isn’t all my money. I can take care of myself and take care of you too. What if Andres wants to try out for the football team again next year? Or, what if Vittoria or Mara want to dance or play something other than the piano? And Adrianna! You shouldn’t have to fret over buying her a silly tube of lipstick, Mamá!”
Her heaving chest and balled fist startled her as she realized how worked up she had gotten. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to yell.”
Mamá patted her hand.
“I don’t think it’s right for me to prosper while my family suffers. Please, Mamá. Take my money.”
She reached over, took the envelope and chuckled. “…They say it’s hardest to raise the children who are just like you.”
Juliana rolled her eyes.
“You’re still doing that.”
“I love you, Juliana. You’re so loyal to us. Our family will finally rise from the ashes because of you.”
She shook her head. “Because of you.”