Time in Willow Creek: 5 months
A few days after Juliana, Hillary, and Kevin met at the Newcrest Museum of Art, Kevin called Juliana with some information on the art club he mentioned a couple of weeks prior. The club was going to be getting together in two days, and if Juliana wanted to go, he would accompany her. He said he would love to drive her there, but he would still be at work when the gathering was supposed to begin. However, he would try to leave early and get there as soon as he could. He wanted to be there with her to make sure she felt comfortable. Of course, Juliana was excited to meet these new people, but even more excited to see Kevin again. He gave her the address to give to the cab driver, and said he was looking forward to seeing her in two days and hung up. In order to get some money for the cab, Juliana had to share this news with Hillary; she wasn’t looking forward to the teasing that would come with it though. However, to her surprise, there was no teasing. Hillary was more impressed with the huge step she was taking in her life.
“Oooh! You’re going all the way to Windenburg by yourself?” She felt proud. “I don’t have that kind of money at the moment, but I’ll ask mama when she gets home from the library.”
When Harriett got home, she retreated to the kitchen to get dinner started. Hillary grabbed Juliana to go make their request.
“Yes, sugar pie?”
“Juliana needs some money.”
“Oh? What for?”
Hillary looked mischievously at Juliana. “She has to go to Windenburg to see her boyfriend!”
Juliana’s eyes flew open in shock. Then she saw the perplexed look on Harriett’s face. She wanted to let her know Hillary was just kidding, but she was so flustered she couldn’t get her words together. All she could think to say was, “No! No boyfriend!”
Harriett looked disappointed and confused. “So what’s this trip to Windenburg about?”
Hillary was about to answer for Juliana—like she always did—but Harriett waved her away and wanted Juliana to answer. She was so nervous. She knew she wasn’t in trouble, but that’s what it felt like and made it hard to focus on getting nouns and verbs, syntax and grammar, verb tenses, and all of the elements correct that Harriett had been teaching her. “Art club,” was all she could muster.
“Who is this boy she keeps talking about?” Harriett’s hands were on her hips now.
“Oh, he’s not a boy, mama. He’s a man,” Hillary said, fanning herself.
Juliana wished she could make Hillary stop talking. Harriett was still waiting for an answer.
“He…he’s a…a friend?”
Hillary had her fun and decided to bail Juliana out. “Ok, ok, mama. Calm down. I was just playing. Juliana met this nice man who happens to be really gorgeous, and he’s gonna introduce her to some people so she can have some artsy friends. They paint together and stuff.”
Harriett looked slightly relieved, but she still had concerns. “Well… It would be nice for her to have her own friends. She has to go all the way to Windenburg by herself? Don’t you want to go with her?”
“Honestly? No. What am I gonna do while they paint all night?”
“There’s all kinds of stuff to do in Windenburg, right?” Harriett asked.
“HA! It sounds like you’re giving me permission to go party while I wait for Juliana, mama!”
“You know what I mean!” She looked back at Juliana who was watching their exchange silently. “I know you’re more independent now, but I don’t know if I like you going so far by yourself, puddin’.”
Juliana loved and appreciated her concern. Honestly, she had her own concerns about it. Frankly, she didn’t care if she went accompanied or unaccompanied as long as she was able to go. She was going to let Hillary and Harriett fight this one out.
“I get it, mama, but she’s grown! We can’t keep treating her like a child!”
“She’s still a child! She might not be my child, but she’s someone’s child. I’m just trying to take care of her! If you were off in some foreign country and somebody took you in, I would want them to take care of you too!”
“I know, mama. I know. And you’re doing great! I’m sure Juliana told her mama how good you’ve been to her.”
Juliana smiled and nodded.
Hillary continued. “She needs to find her own way. I’m sure she doesn’t wanna live here forever.”
Harriett sighed in defeat. She knew Hillary was right. She had to let Juliana go at some point. “I know. All right. She can go. But I want to talk to this friend!”
Juliana gave Harriett Kevin’s number. Harriett called and grilled him for about 20 minutes. First, she made sure he wasn’t a womanizer or running around on a wife. Next, she found out about his employment; he was an investor at Dewey, Cheatem & Howe. Then she asked about his residence; he lived in the “high rent” district in Oasis Springs. In so many words, she asked him why he took an interest in Juliana. He said they had a lot in common, and that’s when he explained about their mutual love for the arts. He told her he works with a charitable organization called SLAWW (Sharing Love of Art With the World). They aimed to make the world a better place by bringing art to the poorest parts of the world. He had been to Juliana’s country several times with this organization and knew about the things her family faced. He explained that he felt connected to her for that reason. When Harriett had sufficient information and decided Kevin wasn’t a serial killer, kidnapper, or rapist, she let him go.
Two days later, Harriett saw Juliana off on her first solo cab ride. Juliana was excited to be doing something major on her own, but she was a little bit nervous too. She had never met new people without Harriett or Hillary around. What if they didn’t like her? What if they weren’t patient with her and the language barrier? What if Kevin didn’t show up? One thing that eased her mind was the scenery. The last time she was in Windenburg was at night, and she couldn’t see much. She thought it was a beautiful city and wanted to spend a little bit more time there to see it. Before she knew it, the cab driver had stopped. She looked out the window and saw the beautiful edifice where she would spend the next few hours. She paid the driver, got out, and waited for Kevin. About midway through her trip there, Kevin sent her a text. He said he had managed to get out of work a little early and told her he would arrive about 15 minutes after her. He arrived right on time.
“Hi,” he said. “I see you made it in one piece!”
She was glad to be getting the hang of Simlish, but she knew it would be a long time before she understood many of the idioms and expressions people threw around flippantly.
“Are you ok? How was the ride?”
“It was good. Very beautiful,” she said.
“Right? Windenburg is a very beautiful city. There’s so much to see here too. If you ever get a chance to go sightseeing, I think you’ll love it.” He looked around at the people who were milling about. “Like I said, I haven’t been here in years. I don’t think any of the people I knew are here anymore. I told them we would wait here so they could meet us. I’m sure they still meet upstairs though… I suppose we could just—
“Are you guys here for the art club?”
Kevin turned around and saw a teenage girl addressing them. “Oh, yes. I’m Kevin Garland, and this is Juliana. She is here to paint. I’m here to make sure she’s comfortable and take her home.”
Juliana was surprised. “You will take me home?”
“Of course! It doesn’t make any sense to travel separately. It’ll save you some money, and I think Harriett would appreciate it.”
Juliana chuckled. Harriett would definitely appreciate it.
“Your accent is beautiful,” the girl said. “Where are you from?”
“Oh cool! We learned about Monte Vista in school last week. That’s where pizza comes from, right? Oh! I’m sorry. I haven’t introduced myself. I’m Colleen Simon. It’s nice to meet you.” She took Juliana by surprise with her affirmative handshake.
“Nice to meet you too,” Juliana said.
“Most of us are already here, so you guys can come on in if you’d like.”
Juliana and Kevin followed Colleen to the top floor of the museum. Back in the day, the third floor was just a storage space. Present day, half of it remains a storage facility, but the other half was transformed into a common area for public use. Various art groups met there, and community art classes are taught there a couple times a week as well. When the trio reached the third floor, the smell of oil paints and fresh canvases greeted their noses. Kevin sat on the couch, and Juliana joined him. Colleen went to go talk to the other members. Juliana looked around. She thought it was a nice space. It was so cozy and hard to believe she was in a museum.
The other group members began trickling toward the easels.
“Well…looks like they’re ready to get started,” Kevin said.
“You paint too?”
“Nah, not today. I’ll be around though if you need me.”
“Ok.” She nervously walked over to the rest of the group. Luckily Colleen came to her rescue.
“Hey everybody! This is Juliana. She’s from Monte Vista, and she’s gonna hang with us!”
The group let out various expressions of approval of Juliana’s presence. She admired the young girl’s assertion and wondered if she was really in charge. Colleen introduced everyone. “This is Camden, Selina, and Paul!”
They greeted her as their names were called. Juliana smiled and waved. “Hi.”
“Here, Juliana! You can paint on this easel,” Colleen said. “Paint whatever you want!” Colleen left her and retreated to her own easel, and Juliana thought about what to paint.
Kevin had gotten a bit restless and got up to grab a ball of clay to play with while he waited for the gathering to be over. While he was up, he casually walked by to check on Juliana. She was engrossed in her painting and didn’t even notice him. He loved how passionately she painted and was glad he introduced her to the group. He felt like she needed people around her who felt like she felt and enjoyed the things she enjoyed.
When Juliana had finished painting, everyone gathered behind her to see what she had created. They did that for everyone, but because it was her first time, they admired her work first.
They loved it. Because her piece was abstract, they wanted to know what her inspiration was. She simply said, “happiness.”