Time in Willow Creek: 1 year, 2 months, 1 week, 1 day
It was 6:30, and Kevin was waiting for Juliana and the Humphries family’s arrival at the address he sent to her the previous day. When Harold was turning into the parking lot, they all took a gander at the building. Juliana knew what they were there for, of course, but she didn’t want to steal Kevin’s thunder. He was waiting for them at the front entrance and waved as they passed by. He must have come immediately from work as he was still wearing his snappy suit.
Harriett turned to Harold as she took off her seatbelt. “Didn’t this used to be the soda shop we met at?”
“This was that soda shop?” Hillary asked. “How cute!”
“Juliana,” Harriett sang, “Kevin sure looks sharp in that suit!”
“Mama, leave her alone.”
Juliana smiled at her in thanks.
“But he really is kinda hot in that suit,” Hillary whispered.
Juliana nodded and giggled quietly.
“Thank you all for coming,” Kevin said when they entered the building.
They came in slowly and wandered around, probably trying to figure out why they were there. Juliana stood near Kevin smiling.
Kevin clasped his hands together. “So, I don’t want to keep you all in suspense, so let’s get on with it. I’m not sure how much you know about my proposal, so I wanted to get you all together and give you the details all at once. I don’t want there to be any confusion or speculation about what we’re doing–well, mainly what I’m doing, I guess–so as much as possible, I’d like to keep all of you informed, ok?”
Watching him address her family, Juliana imagined him at work as he engaged with partners, briefing them on his latest investment strategies on how he would capitalize and reduce risk. She didn’t know why, but she was proud of him and glad to be able to see him in action.
“We are going to open an art gallery and feature Juliana’s work!”
Hillary gasped. It was the first time she and Harold heard of the venture.
“I’m sure you know that it’s been her dream to be in a gallery. That’s easy enough to do. I know art curators. All it would take is one phone call. But, I want to take that dream a step further. Why have her art in a gallery when she can own the gallery and profit from not just her own work, but everyone’s work!”
There were various nods of approval around the room. Juliana loved how he used his hands to drive the point home. He was totally in his element selling her dream to them.
“We are here because this is the building I want to buy. You know this bar has been empty for ages. The neighboring businesses want it torn down or remodeled, and the bank just wants to be rid of it. We can get this place dirt cheap, and I have a vision for how it can be made over.”
“What’s the price?” Harriett asked.
“What? That’s near nothing!” Harriett said.
“Right?” Kevin seemed pleased they were happy with him making that decision on his own.
“Who’s paying for this?” Harold asked.
“Good question! Under normal circumstances, there would be a pool of investors who contribute various amounts so no one person has to foot the bill. However, this is a pet project for me–
“Pet project?” Harold looked offended.
Hillary chuckled. “Like a passion project, daddy. He doesn’t think Juliana is a kitten.” She winked seductively at Juliana.
Kevin laughed nervously. “Yes, thanks, Hillary. I guess I haven’t explained myself in this yet. Forgive me. I’m an investor. I’ve worked for big Fortune 500 companies my entire career. It’s fast paced and high pressure and very risky. I’d like to think that I am intelligent and good at my job, but I diversify my income for the inevitable day that it is my head on the chopping block. I’m always looking for the next great business idea, but eventually I want to leave the corporate world and do something I’m passionate about. Something meaningful. I spent many years searching for that one idea. When Juliana told me about her dream, it hit me!”
Juliana was touched. She had not heard the entire story of how he arrived at his proposal. It made her even more grateful that she decided to go her own way.
Kevin continued. “So, because this business is so special to me, I don’t want anyone else involved. I want Juliana to be able to make decisions without having to answer to a group of people who are only looking to get a return on their money. I’m gonna foot the bill for this. I have the money; I may as well put it to good use.”
Harold grunted. “Must be nice.”
“Now, getting started is fairly simple, and we could get started on this tomorrow if we wanted to, but we can’t set up the business side how I want it yet.”
“How do you want it, and why not?” Harriett asked.
He looked at Juliana like he was weighing words. “Well, I want Juliana and I to be partners, but…well, the thing is…she’s illegal…”
Everyone looked as if the thought never occurred to them. Even Juliana.
“She has no identification, no documents. She can’t apply for a business license or anything,” he said. “She’s a ghost.”
The Humphries looked defeated. They knew it wasn’t the end of the world, but the thought of having Juliana’s dream delayed was disappointing. She had a feeling in the pit of her stomach too, but then she remembered something.
“I have my birth certificate.”
Kevin’s eyes lit up. “You do?”
“Mamá send it to me a while ago.”
“I’m sorry,” Hillary said, “this is probably a dumb question, but what can she do with a birth certificate?” Hillary asked.
Kevin smiled at Juliana and said, “Well, she can do whatever she wants. Get a green card, a driver’s license, an ID card… She’ll be not be illegal in no time!”
“That sounds like something that’ll take a long time,” Harold said.
“Yeah. It is usually a lengthy process. But I know people,” he said proudly. “I’m sure I can pull some strings and get things sped along.”
“But, what’s involved in that process?” Harriett asked.
“I’m not sure of the order of events, but there is an interview at the immigration office, she’ll have to do a medical exam…lots of paperwork, of course. The most important thing is the affidavit of support.”
“What’s that?” all the Humphries asked.
Juliana giggled quietly. She loved how she didn’t need to ask any questions. Getting the family involved was clearly a great idea.
“Well, on a basic level, you need to have a reason to emigrate. Contrary to what we all believe, on paper our country is not as open as most of us think. You need to be able to show that you will be a contributing member of society and not a leech. So, you can come if you already have family here who will support you, if you have a business already that you can easily relocate here…you know, those kinds of things. Basically you need sponsorship…someone who can vouch for you, so to speak.”
“We can do that,” Harold said.
Kevin smiled. “That’s a really nice thought, Harold, but it doesn’t work that way. You’re not related, she’s not employed by you, she’s too old to be adopted, and there aren’t any special circumstances. The best thing she can do is get a job and get sponsorship through her employer. It’ll help her case because it shows she’s already contributing in society and supporting herself. It may take a little time because her employer would have to be willing to do this, but it’ll be worth it.”
“I’ll hire her,” Harriett said. All eyes were on her. “I don’t know how I’m gonna make it work with the budget the way it is, but I’ll do it. I’ll hire her and we get to sponsor her anyway.” She smiled at Harold.
Juliana was beaming. She knew they loved her, but the support they showed that evening astounded her. She went over to Harriett and threw her arms around her.
“I love you, Harriett.”
“Aww! I love you too, puddin!”
“Thank you, Harold.” She embraced him too.
She couldn’t leave Hillary out of the love fest. Kevin stood back and watched the scene. He looked proud.
“Thank you, Harriett,” he said. “That’s so awesome. I’m sure we’re all much more comfortable with that arrangement.”
Everyone seemed to breathe a sigh of relief and agreed.
“So, here is what I’m going to do. Once Juliana and I decide on a name, I’ll apply for the business license just to get the ball rolling. I’m gonna have to do it as a sole proprietorship since Juliana isn’t prepared right now. As soon as she has that green card, I’ll file whatever I need to file to change it to a partnership.”
He paused to make sure everyone was ok with that. “I’ll also see what strings I can pull to get her the interview and the medical exam quickly. In the meantime, I’m going to purchase this building, get the license, petition the zoning folks to reclassify this lot as a gallery, and start looking for a contractor!”
“It’s so much,” Juliana said.
She knew there wasn’t much she could contribute at the time, but she wanted to do something.
He shrugged. “Cost of going out on your own.”
“You know what will be a faster way for Juliana to get her residency?” Harriett waited until she had everyone’s attention. “You two could get married!”
Juliana and Harold shot her not-so-pleasant glances. Kevin looked like he wanted to disappear.
“What? I’m just sayin!”