Time in Willow Creek: 4 months, 2 weeks
Early one evening, Hillary got a phone call from her niece, Sloane.
“There’s supposed to be a party at the gardens, but I can’t go,” Sloane lamented.
Hillary laughed and said, “You’re not pregnant are you?”
“Girl, please. I am not my mama! I ain’t gettin knocked up by every man I sleep with…or any man!”
“Uh huh. Keep telling yourself that.” Hillary snorted. “I don’t know if I wanna go all the way to Windenburg tonight, though.”
“Oh please go! Tell me if anyone was there. Take Jase or that girl with you.”
“That girl has a name, you know.”
“Yeah yeah. So will you go?”
“I guess.” Hillary sighed. “But, if Juliana doesn’t wanna go I’m not going.”
“Oh goodie! If there are any cuties you don’t like, make sure you give them my number.”
“Why? Aren’t you seeing someone?”
“Girl, please. Ain’t no man gonna tie me down!”
“Heh, no wonder you and Axel are so close. You’re two peas in a pod! All right then…let me go see what Juliana wants to do.”
“Ok! Have fun! And tell me all about it.”
After Hillary hung up, she went upstairs to find Juliana who was on the balcony painting. “Hey there! Well that’s interesting.”
She watched her paint for a few minutes. Hillary had not a creative bone in her body, but she admired everyone who did. “Hey…do you want to go to a party tonight? It’s kind of far away, and we don’t have to go if you don’t want to but—
“I like to party,” Juliana said.
“Oh! Ok.” She wasn’t expecting her to be so excited about it and was halfway hoping she would decline. “Well, it’s outside and kinda casual, so you don’t need to get dressed up. We can leave after dinner.”
Juliana was very excited about this. She knew it was going to be different from any party she had ever been to, but that was half the excitement. Back home, she loved attending the village festivals and dancing with her friends on warm summer nights. They loved to dance so. She missed it.
After dinner, Hillary told Harriett where they were going. Harriett contested a little bit based on recent history, but Hillary assured her it wasn’t “that” kind of party, they would be safe, and it would be fun. When Juliana announced she wanted to go, Harriett relented. She felt better knowing Hillary hadn’t talked her into it, but she was also secretly disappointed. She would never admit this to anyone, but she wasn’t terribly thrilled with the way Hillary was turning out thus far and didn’t want Juliana to be like her. Hillary was 22 years old. When Harriett was her age, she was already married with a small child. Rebecca shared the same story. Harriett thought Hillary would follow in their footsteps. It would be different if Hillary had a career she was throwing herself into, but day after day, she sat around the house waiting for…. Well, no one knew exactly. It’s no wonder Harold always harped on how much money she spent. That moment in Harriett’s life was strange. She had a daughter and a granddaughter who were very close in age, and Juliana was about six months younger than Sloane. She couldn’t decide if having Juliana around was like having another young daughter or having a grandchild live with her. Either way, Juliana was someone else’s child, and Harriett was going to finish raising her as best as she could even though Juliana was already grown according modern society.
Hillary and Juliana didn’t say much on the hour ride to Windenburg. Juliana was too excited and Hillary was too tired. When they arrived at the Von Haunt Estate, Juliana couldn’t believe her eyes. It was the most grand thing she had ever seen in her life. Her jaw was dropped as they exited the car.
“Ain’t that something?”
Juliana had nothing to say.
“The party is in the back. You wanna come back here some time and look around? There’s a lot to see.”
Juliana smiled and nodded. She couldn’t believe the estate was open to the public. Most grand estates in Monte Vista were walled to the hilt for fear of common folks gawking at it. They walked along the stone path to the gardens behind the estate, and the music got louder and louder with each step they took. Juliana’s heart raced as the vibrations from the bass pulsed through her body. She was used to live music in her village, but she wasn’t so sheltered to think no other kinds of music existed; she did listen to the radio. But, of course, the music she knew the most was the music from her homeland. When they got to where the party was, she stood in front of the DJ booth and watched the man turn those tables and bump those beats. It was like magic. Hillary was amazed at how interested Juliana was in the DJ. She never considered how music was made and never thought about watching the DJ before. She tried for a little bit, but it didn’t do anything for her. However, the DJ had Juliana tangled up in the waves of quarter notes and bass clef, pizzicatos and allegros, DC al coda to dubstep, electronica…all of it enveloped and made her move and respond approvingly to Mr. DJ. Hillary was surprised. Somehow she didn’t expect her to like it so much.
It was clear Juliana was having a fabulous time, so Hillary figured she’d stopped staring at her and join in the fun. Someone else had the same idea except he was still staring at Hillary. She saw him, but she didn’t pay him any mind at first. She came there to get down with her friend, and that’s exactly what she did.
The DJ was on point. He had everyone out there one, two steppin’ and spin, snap, swayin’. They loved him, and he gave them a little something special in return. “How ‘bout a little purple haze! Don’t be scared…it’ll wear off in a little bit.”
“I feel funny,” Juliana said.
“Don’t tell mama about this!”
Just like the DJ said, their daze went away after a few minutes and they kept on dancing. Hillary’s admirer kept strategically getting closer and closer throughout the night, and she figured it was time to acknowledge his presence. “If you dance any closer, people might think we’re Siamese triplets!”
“Being attached to you would be an upgrade,” the man said. “I’m Jesse.”
When he looked up, she got a good look at his face. She thought he was gorgeous and felt all tingly inside. “Hillary.”
“The pleasure is all mine. You come here often?”
“Nah. It’s a bit of a drive from Oasis Springs, but I figured I’d check it out once.”
“Oasis Springs? Now there’s a place I frequent. I like to go to The Warehouse,” she said.
“Oh do ya now? You live there too?”
“We’re practically neighbors then,” he said.
“Howdy neighbor,” she flirted.
“It’s so nice to have such friendly neighbors,” he flirted back.
“So…there’s a lounge I’ve never been to in Willow Creek. It’s not the kind of place I want to go to alone. You know what I mean?”
“That’s the story of my life,” she said.
“Oh certainly not. I’m sure there are plenty of people who would love to accompany you.”
She shook her head. “Not a soul.”
“We can’t have that now. That changes right now. I’m your guy! I’ll go with you anywhere.”
“A handsome gentleman like you wants to hang with me? Now who’s gotten the upgrade!”
“So, ummm, now that I’m your ‘hangout guy’ and all…I would love to take you to that lounge.”
“The Kissing Llama is it?”
There was only one lounge in Willow Creek.
“That’s the place!”
“Hmmm…will you be taking cues from the llamas?”
“Well, heh, only if the lady wants.”
“You’re a real gentleman, huh?”
“My mother wouldn’t have it any other way!”
“I see. She should be proud.” Hillary took a piece of paper out of her pocket, wrote her number, and slid it in his hand. “Nice to meet you, Jesse.”
He got a gentle grip on her hand before it slipped out of his palm. “You’re leaving so soon? But we were getting to be so neighborly.”
She liked Jesse. Not only was he gorgeous, but also she thought he seemed genuine. She couldn’t be sure, of course, but she felt there was something there. “If I don’t drag my friend home, I think we’ll be here all night. A girl needs her beauty rest!”
“Ahhhh, so that’s your secret? I suppose I’ll let you go then. I don’t want to disrupt the beautification process.” He winked.
“You’re funny you know.” She looked at him one last time before she left his presence for good. “Goodnight, Jesse.”
“Goodnight, Hillary.” He let her hand slide from his grasp.
She stepped away from him smiling and tapped Juliana on the shoulder. “Come on, Juliana. We have to go.”
“It’s almost midnight. Mama will kill me if I keep you out any later.”