Time in Willow Creek: 1 year, 1 month, 3 weeks, 6 days
It was after 8 p.m. when Harriett’s phone rang. She was washing dishes at the time and looked at her phone on the counter like it was diseased.
“Who in the…” She dried her hands. “Hello?”
“Good evening, Mrs. Humphries.”
“Kevin?” She looked around to see who was listening. The girls were upstairs, but she tip toed outside anyway. “Uhh, hey how you doin?”
“I’m…ok. I could be better, heh.”
“Oh? Is everything all right?”
“Not really. Look, Mrs–
He chuckled. “Harriett…I need your help. I know this highly unorthodox, but can you come to my house? I really need to talk to you.”
“Oh my. This must be serious!”
“Yeah… I think it might be.”
She thought he sounded so depressed. “Ok. Well, let me finish up my dishes and everything, and I’ll be right there.”
“Ugh, I’m an idiot. I didn’t even ask you if this was a good time. I’m sorry.”
“It’s all right. I’ll be there shortly.”
“Thank you, Harriett. I really appreciate it.”
She got his address and finished her chores after she hung up with him. Before she left, she told Harold she would be back but not to wait up for her. Within an hour and a half, she arrived at Kevin’s address, and she was impressed.
“Welcome to my home, Mrs–uhh–Harriett. I’m sorry. It’s a habit.”
“A good one to have!” She walked in and looked around. “My! You live in this big ol place by yourself?”
He shrugged. “It comes with the territory I guess.”
“Awww, don’t say that! You know it isn’t true.”
He changed the subject slightly. “Would you like a tour?”
“You know I would!”
“Ok! Let’s go out through the living room first…
“I have a gathering space in the front, and across here is the gym. It’s detached from the house. Downstairs is the regular gym equipment and upstairs is a meditation room.”
“Not really.” He chuckled nervously. “But, it’s there if I want to. Or, if…whoever joins me in the future wants to.”
Harriett smiled. He was such a conflicted man. On one hand it seemed he thought he would be alone forever, but on the other hand he so desperately wanted companionship. It was no wonder he was confused about his feelings for Juliana, and Harriett hoped that would be the subject of the mysterious chat.
Kevin guided them back inside to the kitchen. Harriett thought the house was beautiful, but it was so cold and sterile. It desperately needed a woman’s touch.
“There’s a bathroom through there.” He pointed at the door in the back of the kitchen. “After you,” he said as he held the patio door open for her. “Here’s another gathering place…pool, bar, you know.”
And there it was again. That desperation. She could hear it in his voice and the lackluster way he was showing her around. Well, if he’d get his act together, I’m sure Juliana would love to live here one day! “You certainly have a lot of water! All these fountains and a pool in front of a lake?”
He laughed. “I like water. It’s very calming to me.”
She had no doubts that he often needed to be calmed. He’s probably always fighting with himself!
“Ready to go upstairs?”
“You have to come outside to go upstairs?”
“I’ll never understand these modern homes!”
“I like to do yoga in the mornings, so I put some mats out here.”
She noted there were two of them just like there were two of everything else in that house. Poor guy.
Harriett looked both ways. “It’s a hallway.”
He laughed again. “Yeah, it is. There’s only two bedrooms, and I don’t do much working from home, so it didn’t make sense to make it an office.”
He motioned for her to go into the room ahead of them. “Guest bedroom.”
She noted the two beds, presumably for the two children he hoped to have one day.
Across the hall was the bathroom.
“And the master,” he said.
“Why the pink accents?”
“My decorator said the house was too black and manly.”
They both laughed. The painting above the bed stole Harriett’s attention. It wasn’t the most amazing thing she had seen, but the love that was poured into could be felt all over the room. It was the most real thing in the house. She walked closer to get a better look. Kevin respectfully let her take her time.
“You did this?”
“Oh, no. I’m not that talented. It’s, ummm, m-my wife.”
Harriett’s jaw dropped and she suddenly felt betrayed. She hadn’t heard of Caroline before. But when she spun her head around to scold him for lying to her, she saw that look in his eyes and was ashamed.
“I’m so sorry!”
He motioned toward the door, and they went back downstairs. As she followed, it became crystal clear why Kevin was so conflicted, but there was nothing she could do about it. She had to stop meddling in people’s lives, and this was something he was going to have to figure out for himself. When they arrived back in the living room, he offered her the couch, and he joined her.
“So,” she said with some authority, “I take it this has something to do with Juliana.”
He breathed a sigh of relief. “Yes. So, you know?”
“Know what?” She tensed up.
“W-why she’s been avoiding me?”
Good heavens! It’s her? I thought for sure he done screwed up. “She’s avoiding you?”
“Yeah… You don’t know anything about this then, do you?”
“I noticed you hadn’t been around in a while, and she’s been acting a little funny lately… And…I hear her crying sometimes, but… I’m sorry, Kevin. I’m trying to learn not to get tangled up in my children’s lives.”
Kevin was nodding, but he looked disappointed. She wished there was something she could do for him.
“So, you said she’s been avoiding you? For how long?”
“A little more than a month now.”
“Oh dear. And you have no idea why?”
“None. Out of the blue she ignores me, and when I proposed–
“Business proposal. Business.”
“Oh! Ok. So, what’s this about?”
“Well, you know I’m a business man. For years, I’ve been trying to come up with the idea of all ideas. I don’t want to be in the corporate world forever. I want to do something I’m passionate about. When Juliana told me it was her dream to have her work in a gallery, it didn’t occur to me at first, but then it hit me! She and I could open an art gallery and we could feature her work! It’s the perfect situation. She gets to achieve her dream, I get the satisfaction of being part of it, and we’ll both profit from it.”
Harriett’s jaw was almost in her lap. “She said no to this?”
He nodded. She thought it was strange. Why would she accept everything else he’s done for her but reject this? Was there something else he wasn’t telling her?
“Kevin… You’re a sweet man. Kind and generous. Juliana is lucky to have a friend like you. But, why are you doing this? It seems…well, it’s a bit outlandish! I’m not too sure I would accept it either!”
He shrugged. “I just want to help a friend.”
She chuckled. “Son, usually friends just loan each other $50. What you’re doing just ain’t natural!”
He chuckled too. “I know. I understand, Harriett. I do. I live in a different world, and I know it. In my world, this isn’t strange at all. We loan each other hundreds of thousands of dollars all the time except we don’t call it a loan. It’s an investment. But, remember…I haven’t always lived in this world, Harriett. I remember quite distinctly how things are. Yeah, I could totally do this with someone else, but it would be so much more amazing to do it with Juliana! This is her dream! Who knows if she’ll ever get an opportunity like this again. As a friend, I can’t just sit by idly when I know I have the means to help. I just want to help. That’s all. If it doesn’t work out, ok, but I at least have to try.”
Harriett was touched. She looked around the beautiful home in light of all she had just learned. “My! It must be nice…”
He smiled sheepishly.
“Well, I’ll tell you what, Kevin…even though I’m not supposed to be meddling, I think I’ll make this one exception. I’ll talk to Juliana and see what’s going on, but I’m not gonna make any promises.”
“I wouldn’t want you to. Thank you, Harriett. Truly.”
If they never become more than friends it’ll be a shame!