Time in Willow Creek: 6 months, 3 weeks
There was a man who was always at the museum when the art club met. He even painted with them, but Juliana did not know him. At first, she thought he was a member of the club. But, when he didn’t show up to hangout with them outside of the museum, she figured he wasn’t. He was a nice guy though, and no one ever made him leave, so she stopped wondering about his membership status. Juliana had natural talent when it came to painting, but she never had any advanced formal training. Her own inspiration could only take her but so far; that was one of many reasons why she loved the art club. They inspired her to experiment and try new things. One night, it occurred to her that she never painted live subjects. She preferred abstract works, but she had done landscapes and still life before. That night, she was feeling a bit cheeky and decided to paint the mystery man next to her.
She studied him for a few seconds and quickly painted a rough outline of his body and hat. Every now and then, she would look over at him to fill in more details. He could see her out of the corner of his eye.
“Are you painting me?”
She snickered and kept on painting. He shook his head and laughed too.
She worked the paint brush all over the canvas, leaving no corner untouched. After a few minutes, the man had finished painting his piece and wanted to leave.
She smiled and looked up from her canvas.
“I gotta go…is that ok?”
She laughed and nodded her head.
“See you next week. And, hey…make me beautiful, now!”
“Ok.” She was still laughing.
She saw Kevin walking back and forth again—not painting as always. The last time she saw him, he had gone into the other room. There was nothing in there except old junk, so she figured he was hiding out again to keep his feelings from everyone. She finished her painting, and she was quite proud of herself. Her fellow member, Paul, was watching her and was also proud. He enjoyed watching her social progression from when she first arrived until now.
He walked over to see what she was so proud of, and they both laughed when he saw what she painted.
“You know him?” she asked.
“Nah. He seems cool though. I don’t know why he doesn’t just join our group. I mean, he’s here all the time. Nice job though. This looks great. You should give it to him.”
They laughed again.
She left Paul to go find Kevin. He was still in the storage room hovering in the corner.
She startled him and he jumped. “Oh. Hi, Juliana.” He sounded tired and mildly depressed.
“Why are you sad?”
“I’m not sad,” he said quickly—too quickly. She was looking at him with expectation. One of his lame excuses wasn’t going to work this time. “Ok,”—he sighed—“I might be a little sad.”
He opened his mouth a few times to answer her, each time the words escaped him. “This building,” he said finally. The words came out slow and awkward. “I used to paint here long time ago. I think I told you. Being back here… It just brings back a lot of sad memories for me. It’s nothing to worry about. Please don’t worry about me.”
She knew there had to be more to this mystery, but it was clear he didn’t want to talk about it. Instead, she offered one piece of advice. “If you paint, you might feel better, yes? When I feel sad, I paint and I feel better.”
A tiny smile crept on his face. He loved her simple solutions to everything. “Perhaps. You might be right. I’ll think about it.”