Time in Willow Creek: 1 year, 1 month, 3 weeks, 5 days
Harriett appreciated Juliana’s love for the library. She never intended for her to spend her days there like an employee, but whenever Harriett went, she went…and even if she didn’t. She always assumed that one day Juliana would tire of it because the job wasn’t terribly exciting. Besides, the girl had much more going for her. Surely she’d want to pursue something else. She thought about hiring her so she could actually get paid for what she did but had recently hired a new assistant before Kara went out for maternity leave. It simply wasn’t in the budget.
Juliana operated autonomously in those days, sorting through returns, putting books back, helping patrons, and creating accounts. Harriett even taught her how to flag outstanding accounts to send collection letters for late fees. Perhaps one day something would change and Juliana could have the title and pay for what she did so well. Even though she didn’t require much supervision anymore, Harriett couldn’t help but check on her every now and then. Good thing she basically owned that library otherwise what Juliana was doing would be illegal.
“Hey, puddin! Everything going well up here?”
Harriett loved how much Juliana was learning simply by being out and observing the ways of their world. She never told her to call her that and didn’t think it was necessary. But if Juliana felt it was, she wasn’t going to argue with her.
“Ok. Just checkin.” She started to walk away, but there was something else on her mind. It had been so hard for her to stay out of Hillary and Juliana’s personal lives, per Harold’s advice, but she knew she needed to. “Forgive me for prying… I just can’t help but notice Kevin hasn’t been around in a while. Is everything all right?”
If she would have blinked, she would have missed it. Juliana never rolled her eyes at her before. It worried her. She hoped he wasn’t playing games with her but decided to leave it alone. However, there was something else she was hesitant to ask.
“I know I shouldn’t be asking you this, but… Well, I just don’t know what else to do!”
Juliana relaxed a bit.
“Do you know what’s going on with Hillary and Jase?”
Juliana shook her head.
“Oh dear.” It’s worse than I thought.
Harriett felt defeated. Hillary and Jase were both tight lipped. If Juliana didn’t know, no one did, and she would never find out what was going on.
“Why do you like Jase so much?”
“Well… I guess because he’s like a son to me. I practically raised him myself!”
Juliana looked intrigued. “Where are his parents?”
“Well, his daddy ran off before he was born, and his mama…well…she’s a real piece of work!
“Mmm hmm! She was one of my students when I was still with the school system. There was something about her… I wanted to keep in touch with her after she graduated. She and her poor excuse for a man got married a few weeks after school and they got a cute little house and everything. Ten months later she shows up at my door with Jase! She said her husband left and she didn’t know what to do! I helped her out from time to time. I babysat when she was at work and had her over for dinner on Sundays. Sometimes she would bring him over to stay for a while when things were really tough. He’d stay or a week and sometimes a month, but she always came back for him. When he got to high school, she met this high falutin man. They were rolling in high cotton! But he didn’t want Jase. She dropped him off at my house and never came back!”
“I haven’t heard from her since except a letter she wrote me once thanking me for taking care of her son and apologizing for leaving him. It’s a wonder how he came out to be so sweet with all the back and forth she put him through!”
“Mmmm hmmm. Anyway, he and Hillary grew up together, and they were always so close. He’s so good for her, you know? It’s just a shame…” She looked away shaking her head at the predicament. “I just wish they could work it out somehow.” She knew Jase was the only person Hillary truly trusted and felt like she needed him more than anything. It pained her so much to see her without real love in her life. However, it was neither the time nor the place for Harriett to slip into the rabbit hole of mommy guilt at work. “But that’s not for me to decide.” She sighed. “I’ll be in my office if you need me.”