Time in Willow Creek: 1 year, 5 months, 1 week, 2 days
Trish prowled around the library like a lioness protecting her cubs except she didn’t have any. Just her bruised, fragile ego. There was no way either of them could have known what their predicament would be, but still, her hatred puzzled Juliana. Trish had to have known she would never be in charge; she knew Community Library was privately owned before she got hired. She acted like she wanted to see anyone but Juliana at the head of the table. What had she done to deserve to be treated so poorly? Was she a hateful person? Did she think she was better than her? Day after day, she barraged Juliana with petty jabs. First, she berated her for spending too much time in the children’s section.
“You’re in charge now! You have better things to do than babysit these hellions!”
Then she started attacking Juliana’s appearance.
“Hmph. Harriett should have left you instructions on how to dress! You wanna ruin your Harriett’s legacy? Keep wearing your street clothes in here!”
Trish nagged her endlessly about the new program Harriett started planning but never completed. Juliana knew she had no interests in doing anything for the children. She was just making trouble. That seemed to be her new favorite hobby.
To make matters worse, she began demanding a raise. Juliana knew she was only doing it because Trish knew she had no idea how to handle it.
Juliana would never admit it, but she hated her job. Trish made life miserable, and some days all she could do was hide in the office and cry.
She hated doing that because it was exactly what Trish wanted. Every day felt like her number one goal was to sabotage and break Juliana, and it was working. She didn’t handle the pressure well and was not up to the task. Poor Juliana wasn’t sure what to do, and closing time became her favorite part of the day. She practically ran home every night, breaking free of the oppression she had been under all day. It felt a lot like being back at home except now she had a handsome friend to rescue her.
Kevin had been coming by more regularly since Harriett’s death. She didn’t ask him to, but given his experiences, he probably knew it was needed. His supportive companionship was so needed and appreciated. He distracted her from internalizing the events of the day and going into a mild depression. Sometimes, as she walked down the sidewalk with a dark cloud hanging overhead, she would see him waiting for her on the porch. Her smile was so bright, and she felt so much joy, she could almost burst into tears. He would offer to take her out to dinner. Most times she declined and took him up to her room to hang out. After being humiliated in public all day, the last thing she wanted was to be surrounded by people all night. While he visited, he would sit with her when she didn’t want to talk, offer his shoulder to cry on, and made her laugh when she seemed decidedly anguished. She always knew she needed Kevin, but in those days, she discovered exactly how much. Every day he showed her exactly why she decided to transfer the title of “best friend” to him.
He did an exceptional job distracting her from the thorn in her side. She hadn’t told him about the drama yet. It wasn’t healthy to keep it to herself; she knew that. But, she lived with it all day and wanted it out of her mind at home. He worried about her far too much already to heap another layer of concern on his plate. Even though the goal was to not think about it, sometimes she missed it. That night, he was going on about something, but she was trying to psych herself up about another day of work.
“…if you’re feeling up to it, we could go next Thursday,” he said.
“Huh?” She felt bad about not listening to him.
“The art festival downtown next Thursday?”
Why did that day sound so familiar? “I don’t think can go,” she said.
“Oh. Whatcha got going on?”
As soon as the words exited her mouth, she remembered what was happening on Thursday. He wasn’t going to like it, and she wanted to lie. They were having such a good time, and the truth would ruin it. Besides, she didn’t want to go there with him again.
“Nothing important,” she said and hoped he would leave it alone. But, this was Kevin with Juliana. When did he ever just leave it alone?
“Oh. Boring library stuff?”
She tried not answering in hopes he would catch a clue and move on.
“Soooo…not boring library stuff?”
She sighed and shook her head while she tried to hide the eye roll. “I don’t want to say.”
He narrowed his eyes. “Why?”
“Because you will get mad.”
His face scrunched up. “Ok, now you’ve really gotta tell me.”
She looked at him, silently begging him not to go crazy although she knew it was inevitable. Her face, however, gave her away. After all, he only ever got mad at her for one reason.
“No,” he said.
She turned away from him.
“Juliana! Why are you doing this again?”
She concentrated on the nearest painting her eyes could find. There was no way she was going to make eye contact with him.
“This isn’t smart! Do you actually like this idiot?”
She closed her eyes and breathed deeply while concentrating on not retaliating. His assumptions about her non-dates with Axel, and the insults, were unnerving and annoying, and she wanted them to stop. But yelling at him would solve nothing.
“He doesn’t care about you!”
Words escaped her lips before she had a chance to form them. “You don’t know him! You don’t know anything!” So much for trying to stay calm and be the bigger person.
She startled him, and he recoiled just a bit. “Ok, ok, I don’t know him personally, but I know his type! He’s just using you to feel better about whatever guilt he has with his mother!”
His behavior was not becoming, and she didn’t like this version of Kevin. What right did he think he had to tell her who she should or shouldn’t hang out with? Why did he care? According to him, they were just friends although the evidence against that pile of baloney stacked as high as the tallest building in uptown. Still, if things had changed, he should have been brave enough to tell her. It wasn’t right for him to keep her at arm’s length while trying to control her at the same time. She was done with the conversation. He insulted her intelligence, slandered Axel, and proved what a jerk he could be when things didn’t go his way.
“I don’t want to talk about this anymore,” she said.
Kevin, on the other hand, was not done with the subject. “Why are you even considering this? Don’t be with someone like that!” His arms flailed like he was pleading with her. “Be with someone like me who actually loves you!”
She gasped and her eyes flew open as wide as they could get. At first, he looked at her like he didn’t know why she was surprised. When he realized what came out of his mouth, he covered it as if he could chase the words back in. She was stunned and couldn’t move. Despite what she thought about him needing to be brave and tell her how he felt, she didn’t want him to do it so soon. She expected one day he would say those words to her, but not that way. Not over some stupid jealous rant. He chose the wrong moment. None of it was right, and she wanted him to leave her alone for the night. He looked like he was trying to fix it and kept starting sentences and ending them before they even came out of his mouth. Just as she was about to ask him to leave, Hillary called for her from the next room. Her shrill voice startled Juliana, and she flinched.
“I think you should go.”
He was still hesitant. “I’m…look, I didn’t–“
She sounded like she was in pain. The baby was not due for another week, so she couldn’t have been in labor. That only made her even more worried about what was going on behind that wall, and she jumped to her feet in response to more painful moans.
“I’m sorry,” she said and dashed away.