Time in Willow Creek: 1 year, 4 months, 3 weeks, 1 day
“Looks different, huh?”
Being on the future site of the gallery–her gallery–was surreal. The yard was bare and the bricks replaced with sheet rock. It looked just different enough to make her believe it was finally happening, but she still had trouble believing it. She was so happy he invited her to see how the remodel was going. In the early days of the process, she used to lay in bed and try to imagine what it would look like and how her paintings would fill the room. But now, she had something concrete to imagine.
“I had them take out all those shrubs. We can do our own landscaping.” He looked around the lot as if he were inspecting the work. Slowly, his eyes traveled to the roof. “The roof isn’t staying. It’ll clash with the style. And, who knows when the last time that thing was replaced anyway.”
She too gazed at the roof. There were only two things she knew about roofs. They protected from the elements, and they leaked. Although she had admired many beautiful homes in Willow Creek and the surrounding cities, she never considered a roof could add to a building’s charm. Good thing Kevin put himself in charge of the renovation.
“I also had them take out the windows. We need all the wall space we can get.” He smiled at her and walked toward the door. “The porch can stay, but I’ll eventually get someone to do it over. I want it to be glass to match the front here. Isn’t that chandelier killer?”
Juliana admired him as he spoke. His plans were so detailed and concrete, and she was grateful he knew what to do. When they finished gawking at the chandelier, he showed her the inside.
“I had them put these partial walls up for more space. They divide the room up a bit too.
“Oh, you’ve probably noticed they moved the bathrooms. That room was a nice size and I felt like it could have a better use. We could put in a door and have private events in there, place seating in there…people can have privacy in there when they buy your stuff.” He grinned at her.
She wandered into the room with him close behind her.
She was filled with so much gratefulness as she looked around and tried to envision his suggestions. Every second she stood in the room made it more real, and she grew more and more excited. But, she also felt a little bit guilty. Kevin was doing all of the work, and she felt like she was being a horrible partner. Surely he didn’t mean for her to only paint pictures and collect a paycheck. The sentiment was nice, but it wasn’t what she wanted. She didn’t know much, but she wanted to be more involved and feel connected to the place. It didn’t feel like hers yet.
“I’m sorry I haven’t been helping…”
He looked at her as if she were a wet, hungry puppy on the side of the road. “Juliana…don’t. Please. I’m not expecting anything from you right now. And, there hasn’t been much to do, frankly. I’ve just been filing paperwork and coming here occasionally to check on the progress.”
“I know, but I should paint and I haven’t done that in a long time. I just…I haven’t felt like–”
With just a few, long strides, he closed the gap between them and placed his arm around her waist. His handsome face was serious yet endearing. A different scent filled her nose. It was kind of woodsy. She liked it, but she preferred the sweet and musky. It defined him.
“It’s ok! Don’t pressure yourself. Look…you’ve been through a lot in this past month. I get that you don’t feel inspired right now, and that’s fine. It’s natural. Inspiration comes and goes. I just want you to concentrate on being whole, and when I’m ready for you to do some dirty work with me, I’ll let you know. I’ve got everything under control, ok? Let me handle this for you.” He gave her a gentle squeeze.
She peered into his green eyes and noticed they had little brown flecks in them. They were even more beautiful piercing hers just a few inches from her face. It had been a while since the last time he sent mixed signals. He used to make her nervous when he got that close, confusing her and causing her to doubt her reasons for delaying more. But now, it was such a common occurrence she didn’t think twice about it. He even annoyed her sometimes when he was too close too often.
“Are you sure?” she asked. “I could try harder.”
“Positive. I’m looking out for you. Trust me.”
He never lead her astray before or said something he didn’t mean. He always had her back. Perhaps he was right. Focusing on herself always seemed to be such a selfish thing before, but now she was open to it. As of late, she hadn’t been herself. She had real problems that needed working out, and adding more to her plate was probably not the best thing.