Time in Willow Creek: 2 years, 5 months, 4 days
Hillary entered her room and found Juliana and Abigail still playing. They were the cutest pair. Juliana, the cool, young auntie, loved the little sweet pea, and Abigail loved her “Ju-nah-nah.” The little girl had all kinds of people in her life that Hillary never had. So many positive figures and people who cared. If down the line, in her teenage years, she fell into a nobody loves me phase, Hillary will have a thing or two to say about that.
“Hey sweet pea!”
“Mamaaaaaaa,” she screeched at an uncomfortable decibel.
Hillary laughed and sat at the computer. The child’s birthday was coming up soon, and some of the details needed firming. Just before the celebration of the first year of life would be the memory of the first year without her dear mother. It was such a conflicting time, celebrating life and death almost in the same breath. But, she had no time for tears; she’d save them for a visit to the cemetery. For the moment, she needed balloons.
Juliana loved children so much. She would make an excellent mother to a tribe of children. Heh, she seemed like the type who would have four, five or six. Hillary snickered at the thought of Kevin dealing with half a baseball team. He didn’t seem like a kid person, but he was rich so they could have all kinds of nannies and stuff. Juliana wouldn’t need them though. When would she be ready? She was only 20 years old, but she was so mature. And, her parents basically raised her to be someone’s wife, so what was the real deal?
Abigail was so lucky to have Juliana in her life. If anything ever happened to Hillary, Juliana would be the first one on her list of potential legal guardians for sure. She was just so dang motherly! And, even though Hillary often clashed with her mother about the things she attempted to teach her, she found value in them now; Juliana could teach those things to Abigail. She was sweet and gentle, but when it came down to it, she wouldn’t let Abigail get away with much. At only 11 months old, she seemed to have a level of respect for Juliana that didn’t exist with her. It was amazing how even babies knew when to push the limits.
The cuteness behind her was too attractive to ignore, so she stuck a pin in the birthday business to join her daughter and friend. “How are you feeling?” It had been three days since Juliana’s accident.
She sat on one of the poufs, and Abigail ceased treating Juliana like a jungle gym and attempted to climb the other one. “Abigail.” She wagged her finger at her.
“I’m fine. My head hurts only sometimes, but–“
The child burst into tears as if her favorite toy had been snatched away. She plopped on her butt and sat in a pool of her own tears. Hillary rolled her eyes and shook her head. If Abigail behaved that way then, what would she do in the terrible two’s?
Juliana scooped her up and let her cry it out on her shoulder. “It’s ok. Don’t cry. You have to listen to mama.”
“Here, let me have her. She needs a nap anyway.”
This would be bad. The girl would scream bloody murder until she lacked the energy to even whimper, but she needed to learn. For their own sanity, however, Hillary put the flashiest, nosiest toy she could find in the crib with her. It would be annoying but much more bearable than the baby’s cries for rescue.
“So, you’re still having headaches?”
“Sometimes. The light bothers me sometimes, and I get a little dizzy, but it does not last.”
Hillary loved Juliana’s outfit. She saw it in the store she worked in months ago and immediately thought it looked exactly like her. Knowing the probability of Juliana wearing skinny jeans was slim to none, she got the outfit anyway and some cute sandals to go with it. Juliana wasn’t a child anymore and needed to stop dressing like one. Besides, Kevin would love to see her in fitted clothing. Maybe they could finally get somewhere in their relationship. He probably still saw her as a child. Or, did he? They had been looking at each other like two horny teens lately. In moments of idleness, Juliana played with her hair, running her fingers slowly through it and tossing it over her shoulder. True, if Hillary had as much hair as Juliana did, she would play in it too. But, this was a recent behavior, and she couldn’t ignore it. Maybe she liked the way it felt when she used the flat iron, but she had been straightening her hair for a while never played with it before. And then, there was Kevin’s cryptic explanation of how she got injured. Just playing around was what he said. Hillary had some ideas of what it really meant. Now Juliana finally wore that outfit. Could it be? At long last? Whether Kevin made a home-run or not, something happened because Juliana was definitely feeling herself.
A bit of reconnaissance was in order. “So…how was it staying at Kevin’s?”
“It was fine,” she said, playing in her hair.
For someone who never spent the night at her boyfriend’s house before, she was mighty casual. “I heard you gave him a hard time.”
She pouted and nodded.
She wasn’t going to give up the goods. Time to be direct. “Juliana…why don’t you just move in with him? I know you want him.”
She rolled her eyes. “No.”
Heh, she walked right into that trap. “No, you don’t want him?”
She looked away, but that hand still stroked that hair. Hillary laughed at the rogue hand which gave her away. Even the way she crossed her legs sitting there on the floor was a bit less Juliana-like. And her makeup! Lately, her mascara had been perfect, and she wore this lip gloss that totally worked for her. She finally created her own style and looked darn cute. She must have thought so too.
Why was she so difficult? “Juliana…come on, I’m sorry. I’m just trying to understand. I really do want to understand. It just doesn’t make any sense to me! Y’all are madly in love and have the hots for each other. He’s rich, so you won’t have to worry about anything. Y’all have this business together. And did I mention y’all have the hots for each other?”
Juliana blushed and shifted on the floor. At least she didn’t try to hide the lusty business. Leaning up against the dresser with her eyes on the ceiling, she took a moment to answer.
“My life is always about someone else… I had to care for my brother and sisters while my parents worked. I cooked and cleaned and made sure they did school work and chores. My parents…they always talked to me about who I should marry and how I should be and what kind of life I will have… I never had choices.”
And Hillary thought her parents were controlling. They seemed relatively normal compared to what Juliana went through.
“I love Kevin and I know it would be easier, but if I live with him, my life will be about him. That is not bad, and I want that one day. But, for now, I want time to live for me.”
“Wow. I knew your life was hard, but I didn’t realize you were so…repressed.”
“It doesn’t feel that way at home, but I think I always wanted a choice on the inside. I want to know what living on my own feels like.”
“I understand now.”
Juliana smiled and nodded, probably glad to explain herself for the last time. If she would have said all that the first time, she wouldn’t have had to keep repeating herself. “You still thinking about moving downtown then?”
She nodded. “Kevin is getting an apartment for me.”
“Whaaaat? Juliana’s gonna have a dee-luxe apartment in the sky!”
She laughed. “No! I don’t want fancy.”
“Mmm hmm. What seems fancy to us is normal for him. Your place is going to be really nice.”
Juliana simply shrugged and smiled. Who was this woman? Either she was getting really good sex or she was growing up finally. Whoever she was, Hillary was proud of her.