Time in Willow Creek: 10 months, 2 weeks, 1 day
Juliana and Hillary kept to themselves for the rest of the evening. Hillary felt terrible for how she treated Juliana, but she couldn’t understand why she lashed out at her in the first place. Her sweet, young friend had done nothing wrong and simply wanted to spend time with her—something she too had wanted. Ever since the fight with Jase, Hillary’s life had become an emotional roller coaster. She wanted to make up with him too but knew it would be near impossible for things to go back to the way they were. They opened a door that could never be closed.
Juliana cried a lot that night. She had never seen her friend in such a state, and it made her wonder where those thoughts came from. She knew it was more than the usual teasing because Hillary used the same words she always did but in a completely different tone. She spoke the words with malice. If words could kill, Juliana would have died that night. Did Hillary resent her for spending time with Kevin and the art club? Did she really think Kevin was her boyfriend? Was she jealous? What did it mean? When Juliana went to sleep that night, she was sad. But, when she awoke, she was mad. Everything she thought the previous night that began with “how could she” turned into “how dare she” that morning.
At breakfast, Harriett and Hillary were eating in the kitchen when Juliana came in to help herself. Harriett eyed her two girls, watching expectantly to see how it would play out. Hillary’s puppy eyes darted toward Juliana with her bottom lip quivering. Juliana had a scowl on her face. She grabbed her food and took it back upstairs to her room. Hillary wanted to settle things right then.
“Uh uh,” Harriett said. “Let her go.”
“But, mama, I just—
“Let her go.”
Hillary slumped in her chair and tossed the food around her plate like defiant four-year-old.
“You’ve got to give her time, sugar pie. Whatever you said to her must have hurt pretty bad.”
That situation was all too familiar to Harriett. She had become an expert on dealing with an angry Juliana.
Tears suddenly spilled out of Hillary’s eyes. Not even she was expecting them. “God, mama! I keep hurting everyone!” She stormed away from the table, ran up to her room, and slammed the door.
Harriett was transported back to memories of Hillary’s teenage years. She shook her head in hopes that whatever this feud was between the two young women would amount to nothing like those awful, emotional years. “Lord, help us.”
Juliana stayed in her room for the rest of the afternoon. She painted a little, read a lot, and practiced writing in Simlish. She felt a little better, but she was still hurt. Unfortunately, her hurt feelings didn’t go away by time to leave for art club. For the most part, Kevin tried to get off work early on art club nights so they could go together. On the days he couldn’t, he arranged for a cab to pick her up. He paid the driver in advanced so Harriett wouldn’t have to keep bearing that expense week to week. There was a bit of traffic on the roads that day, and this particular driver thought he could outsmart the traffic with alternate routes. True, there were no cars on the other routes, but they were certainly no faster and Juliana arrived 20 minutes late. Everyone was already at the easels when she arrived. She took a deep breath and plastered a smile on her face and greeted everyone but Kevin saw that it was fake. He didn’t say anything at first; he kept watch. It concerned him because he had never seen her like this before. She was usually so cheerful and encouraging. Juliana was always a passionate painter, but that night her strokes were a bit more sharp; he could hear the sound of her brush scratching the canvas all the way across the room. When he looked up and saw that scowl on her face, he knew something was terribly wrong. He walked over to her and asked what was wrong.
“Nothing,” she said forcefully.
He knew enough about women to know “nothing” meant a whole lot, and he was unsure of how to go about getting it out of her. He stood there and watched her paint for a minute or two before he tried again. He noticed she used a lot of red and made many sharp lines. “Juliana…you can tell me, you know.”
“I am ok,” she yelled.
Kevin looked around and saw that the others were trying to mind their business but were clearly concerned about her. He didn’t mean to laugh, but the irony of situation amused him. “Ummm, the scary, red monster you’re painting thinks otherwise.”
She didn’t think it was funny, but it was enough to take her out of the zone she was in and realize how she must have looked to him.
“You look like you need to talk. You wanna get out of here and go somewhere?”
She took a deep breath and spoke just above a whisper. “Ok.”
“Ok…let’s go.” Paul Goodson was nearby, so he decided to alert him. “Hey, ummm… Juliana’s not feeling well. We’re gonna go ahead and get outta here, Ok? We’ll see you guys next time.”
“Ok. Have a good evening,” Paul said. “Tell her I hope she feels better.” He knew Juliana wasn’t sick, but he went with it. He had come to care about Juliana like a little sister and hoped that whatever the problem was Kevin would be able to help her work it out.
Kevin and Juliana left quietly. He recalled something she said long time ago that time they met at the park, so he drove to the Modern District and hoped she appreciated it. He parked near Hare Square Park, and they walked toward Discothèque Pan Europa: the largest, hottest nightclub in all of Windenburg. It was located in the southeast part of the city on the coast. Juliana thought the area was gorgeous and the views were breathtaking. She simply wasn’t in a state to enjoy it all. There were so many elaborate fountains and water features to gaze upon, easels to paint on, and benches to sit and think. It was the most creative space she had ever seen, and she was glad Kevin took her there. As they neared the nightclub, Kevin found that his plan was working. Juliana stopped and looked out into the ocean and collected her thoughts. He gave her some space.
After a few minutes, Juliana sighed and looked away from the water. Kevin thought she may have been open to talk and closed the gap between them. “Feel like talking?”
She nodded. “Hillary…she is angry with me and I don’t know why.”
He found it hard to believe that anyone would have a reason to be upset with her. “What did she say?”
“She say…” She paused and thought about how she could tell him without mentioning the parts about him being her boyfriend. “She is angry because I go to art club and hangout with you.”
“I see. Sounds like she’s just jealous. Doesn’t she have her own friends?”
She shook her head. “Jase…and me.”
“Did she say anything else? She seems to have really upset you.”
Having to recall everything pinched a little nerve. Her face began to get warm. “She…I ask her to hangout and she start yelling and calling me things.” She began to get flustered. Her brain was going too fast for her to think about how to form the sentences she needed. Everything came out in her native tongue instead. “¡Dijo que soy ingenue! Élla no sabe lo que dice! Ella me sigue molestando diciendo que eres mi novio y yo le sigo diciendo que sólamente somos amigos pero créo que ella lo cree. Despues me dijo que élla ‘no es plato de segunda mesa para nadie.’ ¡Yo nunca díje que lo éra! No es mi problema que no tenga otros amigos para pasar el tiempo! ¿Cómo se atreve?!”
Kevin couldn’t help but laugh again. He had never seen her so animated before. She was almost like a different person. “I’m sorry. I swear I’m not laughing at you. She must have made you very mad.”
Juliana managed a small laugh when she realized he didn’t understand her. She was glad though; she didn’t want him to know anything about the boyfriend business. “She is my friend. I don’t want her to be angry with me. I don’t know why she yell at me.”
Kevin knew he couldn’t help her feel better about Hillary until they worked it out, but he still wanted to make her feel better somehow. He changed the subject just a little. “Yeah, I know what you mean. I wouldn’t want my friends to be mad at me either. Hey…do you know who one of my friends are?”
Juliana smiled and averted his eyes.
“It’s true! You don’t understand what you’ve done for me, but I’m very grateful to have you in my life.”
She was still blushing. “I don’t know what to say.”
“You don’t have to say anything. You’ve already done enough.”
They stood there smiling at each other for a few moments, but Juliana began to wonder what she had done that was so important to him. She couldn’t recall consciously doing anything special.
“I, ummm…I think it’s time for me to tell you what’s been bothering me these past few months. I haven’t been completely truthful with you, and I’m sorry. I wasn’t trying to be deceitful, but I just wasn’t ready to talk about it yet. Is that ok? Can you forgive me?”
She nodded and was anxious to hear about what had been plaguing him.
“I…I used to paint…a lot. When I was in college, I wasn’t that good. But, I met this girl who was really good. She was beautiful… We fell in love and we painted together. It was our thing. We got married, and life was amazing. But, she got sick, and…sh-she died…”
“I’m sorry, Kevin.”
“Yeah. Thanks. I was devastated. We were only married two years. I couldn’t paint anymore. Not without her. I loved painting before, but it took on new meaning when she and I did it. I think, then, I painted to connect with her. I had forgotten how much joy it brought me. So, with her gone and no painting, I had no joy in my life. But then I met you! And, little by little, you brought painting back into my life. You brought the joy back, Juliana. You made me remember how much I enjoyed painting and how it enriches my life. It’s been a process, but I’ve come to accept that painting wasn’t just something I did with my wife. Painting is something I do to express myself, and it’s ok to experience it with other people. I’m not, like, betraying her by doing it with you guys. So… Yeah! That’s how you’re important to me, my good friend.”
Juliana was moved to tears. The story of his wife was beautiful, but no one had ever expressed those kinds of feelings to her before. To know that someone held her in such high regard—especially Kevin—overwhelmed her. In that moment, she saw him in a different light. It had nothing to do with her schoolgirl crush. Her mind was far from there. She realized that they had helped each other in similar ways and they were both positive influences in the other’s life. She decided right then that if she were never more than just his good friend, that would be enough.
He wasn’t expecting her to get so emotional, but he was touched. “Awwww, come here.” He embraced her.
She inhaled his scent as their bodies pressed together. It was musky and a little bit sweet. She couldn’t deny that she felt a spark when they hugged, but she was done trying to create moments and make things happen. The best things, like their friendship, happen naturally, and that was the way she wanted things to happen if anything were to happen. She took that feeling and filed it away for another time.