Time in Willow Creek: 2 weeks, 5 days
On the sixth day, Harriett rested.
She gave up the ghost. She wanted so badly to help Harold come out of himself and live his golden years in peace and harmony, but she had to give in and learn to accept his stubbornness. The next day, busied herself away from the house. She didn’t want to be around Harold much as she was trying to figure out how to cope with her decision to leave him be.
Harriett spent a lot of time at Community Library; she owned it. Many Willow Creek citizens didn’t recognize that it was a private library and completely separate from Willow Creek Archives on Main Street. It actually used to be a one-room school that Harriett and Harold attended. When she graduated, she became a teacher at the public school. Sometime between her formative and teen years, Willow Creek had undergone some social and political changes. The government adopted many popular ideas around that time, and one of them was a centralized school system. Instead of everyone traveling to one building and being taught together, the age groups were split into separate schools. When the town grew, those schools were duplicated by location. The collection of schools became the Willow Creek school system.
Naturally, there was no need for the one-room school, and it was decided the building should come down. But, Harriett and a few of her classmates were the last graduating class from the school and had strong feelings about the razing the building. She rallied the community, and they fought to save the building. It took many years and many public hearings, but finally, the government officials decided not to tear down the building. It stood empty for many years. Harriett and friends were proud they could save their school, but there were no next steps. The building not only needed saving but also it needed saving. It was falling apart and, quite honestly, it needed to be condemned. To buy them some time until they figured out what to do, Harriett and team got the building to be declared a historical site that way it became the city’s responsibility to upkeep.
Finally, Harriett came up with a brilliant idea that would keep the building in use for many years and also maintain the spirit of the original purpose. She decided to turn it into a library. It was a very long multi-year project as funds had to be raised to pay for it. She taught in the school system for 15 years and retired as early as she could. She wasn’t even 35 years old yet. It was perfect timing because she needed something to distract her from grieving her son and also wanting another child. Because she invested the most money, legally, she became the owner and the library became part of her estate. But, in her heart, the library belonged to the community.
The library did have staff on the payroll, so Harriett never had to manage the day to day operations. But, she spent much of her time there anyway reading to the children, helping the patrons and whatever else she could do to support the community.
That night, as she was locking up, she left through the back door and found someone painting on the porch.
“Good gracious alive! You liked to put me in my grave,” she yelled.
Once she got a better look at the girl, she recognized her. “Hey! You’re that girl from the museum…and the library! You get around! Don’t you have a home to go to?”
The girl looked at her blankly.
Harriett was old school and wasn’t used to young people ignoring her. “Well?” She still did not receive a response. “I’m sure there’s somebody out there looking for you. It’s gettin late, honey.”
The girl smiled and walked away.
“Hold on, now! Where are you goin?”
There was something intriguing about the girl, and somehow she knew wasn’t trying to be disrespectful, but she still wanted answers. The girl kept walking, and Harriett went after her.
“Wait just a minute!”
The girl stopped.
“Where ya goin, honey?”
She shrugged sheepishly.
The girl seemed too old to be having stranger danger issues, but perhaps she didn’t like talking to strangers.
“I’m sorry, honey. I’m so rude. No wonder you ran off! My name is Harriett Humphries. I run this here library, and I live right just there. What’s your name?”
“Oh! Well, that’s a funny accent! Where are you from, Juliana?”
She shrugged again.
“You don’t know where you’re from?”
Juliana remained silent.
“Ok…where do you live?”
Juliana smiled politely, and Harriett thought she was may have been crazy.
“You’re not one of those dope addicts are you?”
Her silence was getting ridiculous, and Harriett was far too curious to leave it alone. A cloud of mystery shrouded the girl, and she was going to figure her out if it was the last thing she did.
“What’s the matter, honey? Cat got your tongue? You don’t have to be afraid of little ol me!”
Harriett stopped interrogating her long enough to look into her confused eyes and saw she was just a sweet, innocent girl who had no idea what she was talking about.
“You don’t understand a word I’m saying, do you?”
Juliana shrugged and ran away.
“What a strange little girl.”
Thank you, Carewren123, for this beautiful library and the inspiration behind its history!