Time in Willow Creek: 2 years, 3 months, 2 weeks, 1 day
Kevin was a master at beating jet lag. His airtight strategy deserved prestigious awards from the world’s most respected thought leaders. He always scheduled international flights at night and took something to make him sleep for about eight hours. By the time he woke up, the flight would be just a few hours from landing. Local time would be roughly early afternoon, and he’d be fit and ready to seize the day without needing to stop and nap. This flight, however, he did not employ his strategy for he wanted to be available in case Juliana needed him. In the days leading up to the trip, her nerves were beyond frayed. She didn’t sleep well, and her appetite often disappeared. As much as he wanted to be there for her, he wouldn’t be able to keep her calm for twelve hours. He bought her a tablet and showed her how to download movies, books, games, and whatever else she would need to occupy herself. The take-off frazzled her a bit, but he held tight, kissed her forehead, and whispered reassuring messages in her ear. After the jitters passed, and they had their first meal, she took out the tablet and read. Sleeping while she occupied herself was a good plan, but his concern for her kept him awake. What if she got scared again? Or, what if she felt sick? Sure, she could wake him up, but what if he went into a deep sleep? Staying awake would be easier. Despite all his worrying, she did not need him. After a bit of reading, she got tired and slept for a bit. When she awoke, she read again. That woman could read like no one he’d ever met and devoured books like chocolate cake. How could she stand to keep her eyes on the screen for so long? His would get tired, and reading in moving vehicles made him sick.
Bunking with Juliana’s brother was weirder than he expected at first. They sat on their beds, smiling nervously with no means to communicate. But then, Andres asked to see his phone. At least that’s what it sounded like. Luckily, some of their words were similar to Simlish words. If he paid attention to their body language and context clues like they did when he taught them to play paper football, perhaps he would be able to communicate with them after all. He took out his phone and opened the photo gallery–at least he assumed the boy wanted to see his pictures. Kevin wasn’t a selfie kind of guy or someone who took pictures of everything, but he had a few pictures of him and Juliana, Downtown, his cars, scenes from his travels, and even old pictures of his house back when he first bought it. Andres was especially fascinated by the house.
By the time they got into bed, it was 1 a.m. Despite being very drowsy, his body wouldn’t let him sleep because it was still on Oasis Springs time; it was only 7 p.m. there. Ugh. He wanted to pull out his phone and find something to pass the time until his body let him sleep, but the light might wake Andres. At some point, he did sleep, but not for long. He kept checking the time for fear of Cecilia considering him a rude house guest for sleeping the morning away. Finally, around 7:00, signs of life came from another room. He waited and listened to make sure it wasn’t just a quick bathroom visit that ended in returning to bed. A second person also got up and went downstairs. Although he’d be a zombie, getting up was better than laying there trying not to sleep too deeply.
Vittoria was dressed and doing chores to his surprise. What a great kid. “Mamá’s little helper” was what Juliana always called her. She was such a cute kid; they all were. Her innocent, curious eyes were as green as his. If he and Juliana ever had kids, would they all have green eyes? Despite Juliana’s brown eyes, green was a dominant trait in her family.
She stared at him a lot and probably had a hundred questions about who he was and why he was in her house. Juliana never said anything about her being shy, but maybe she just needed some time to get used to him being around.
At the table, the other little sister ate a slice of cake in her PJs. Oh yeah…this family was his kind of people. They knew how to enjoy life. How was there still cake left though? Between him and the children sneaking slices when Cecilia wasn’t looking, surely it should have disappeared already. Hopefully at least one more slice remained so he could join Mara with the breakfast of champions.
It seemed too much of a coincidence for both of them to be shy. Did he say it wrong? Languages were not his forte, but the phrase didn’t seem hard. Juliana made certain he knew how to say it before they left. They couldn’t be shy. Not after all the fun they had yesterday. Maybe this was payback for him smacking her in the face with the football. Yes, that was more probable than stranger danger. True, he was a stranger, but he was practically family. They were too young to understand though.
The staring had gotten to the point of ridiculous. No one in their right mind should ever challenge Mara to a staring contest because she had the staring thing down pat. Had the football thing upset her that much? It couldn’t have hurt. Surely she knew it was an accident. Besides, she laughed with everyone after she got over the shock of being hit.
“Uhh…I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to hit you.”
Mara, the baby, was the family comedian, apparently. In just one day, Kevin observed Juliana’s siblings’ personalities in contrast to each other. Juliana, Vittoria, and Andres were quieter and more dutiful than the other two who were the wild ones. Mara had so much energy. She seriously needed to be involved in sports for that tiny house could not contain her spirit. Adrianna had definitely passed the age where boys were annoying and had cooties. She looked at him sometimes, smiling and blushing. Knowing they probably discussed him and their relationship was a bit weird, but that’s what girls did. Heck, guys did it too. If he and Andres could communicate verbally, they’d probably talk about the girls in his life if there were any.
Kevin didn’t grow up with a large family. He was the only child of an only child, and his father was not close with his family. Kevin never had the luxury of growing up with cousins, aunts and uncles, and grandparents. Loneliness had always been part of his life. He had such a large capacity for love and always wanted his own family because of it. Children were part of that dream, but he never thought about them and what they would be like until meeting Juliana’s siblings. Hopefully, they would continue to grow together, and the family which only existed in his mind would one day be a reality…with her.