Time in Willow Creek: 2 weeks, 6 days
Juliana slept soundly for the first time in three weeks. The cushy, soft bed she was in made her dream of home and all of the good times they had in the valleys between mountains of bad times. The birds singing outside her window called to her in her dream as if they were bidding her not to sleep too late. She lingered in bed for a few minutes and looked around the little blue and yellow room. It was all still so incredible and almost beyond belief. She thought she may have conjured it all up in another dream, but it was all very real, and she was so grateful to Harriett for the kindness she bestowed upon her. Juliana was finally on her way to living the kind of life her mother always dreamed for her.
There was a door in the bedroom leading to a small balcony. She wanted to go out there and see what she could see, but she was afraid to. Because of the language barrier, Juliana didn’t understand that Harriett intended for her to live there as long as she needed to and that this bedroom was now her own. She didn’t want to do anything that would displease Harriett, so she settled for looking out the window instead. Willow Creek looked like a very warm and inviting town from the safety of the inside of the house.
It was about 4:30 in the afternoon, and Juliana was hungry again. She tip toed to the door and put her ear on it to listen for nearby voices. When she didn’t hear anything, she opened the door and slowly made her way to the bathroom to shower. It was so refreshing to wash her hair again. She ran out of shampoo her second week, and she hated the kind that was provided by the gym. Whoever that bathroom belonged had all kinds of products: moisturizing shampoo, conditioner, hairspray, styling gel, and all the things she never used before were at her disposal. She felt like royalty. After she finally emerged from the bathroom, she found Hillary waiting for her in the hallway.
“How are you feeling?”
Juliana paused for a moment. She didn’t understand the question and was distracted by Hillary’s necklace.
“You like my necklace?”
Juliana lifted hers up so Hillary could see she had the same one. “Mi papá.”
“Your daddy gave you that? My daddy gave me this too!”
Juliana was happy to discover they had something in common.
“I’ll bet you are hungry. You missed lunch! Oh, actually, it’s almost dinner. I’ll make you something.”
Juliana followed Hillary downstairs to the kitchen. Luckily for her, Harold was parked in front of the TV in the living room as usual. She sat in the same chair she was in hours ago but in a completely different mood. It seemed like a lifetime ago that she was homeless, hungry, tired, and afraid to ask for help. Now, she had a place to stay, all the food she could eat, was rested, and loved.
She watched Hillary assemble a cheese sandwich and fry it in butter. Her mother used to make a similar sandwich for them.
“I’m not much of a cook, so this will have to do. It’s hot, ok? Uhhh, caliente? Oh, let me get you some juice too.”
“Thank…you,” Juliana said.
“You learn fast! You’ll be speaking Simlish in no time.”
Juliana ate her dinner, and then Hillary walked her to the library to meet her mother. Before they got inside, Hillary thought she would try her hand at teaching.
“This here is the library,” she said pointing to the library like she was Vanna White. “Library. Can you say it?”
They walked around the Community Library looking for Harriett. They finally found her upstairs in the study lounge. Juliana liked that library. It was nice and cozy and had more places to sit and read alone. Although she enjoyed being in the presence of books, she felt the Willow Creek Archives was too big and open. That’s why she always sat upstairs in a dark corner.
“There y’all are! I was starting to think y’all forgot. I’ve been looking for this stuff all day, but I finally found it. We had just started an S.S.O.L. program right before I left the school system.”
“What’s S.S.O.L., mama?”
“Simlish for Speakers of Other Languages. You know I kept a lot of that old stuff. I never taught those classes, but I figured it may come in handy one day, and look what happened!”
“That’s so awesome, mama!”
“Harold say anything to her?”
“No. You know exactly where he’s at.”
“Good. Ok, well, I’ve got her now. You can go on home. We’ll be back later.”
“Ok. Bye. Bye bye, Juliana!”
“You catch on, don’t ya? Ok. Sit right here. Now, let’s see if you know your ABC’s.” Harriett placed a workbook in front of her. “Do you know our alphabet?”
Juliana looked at the workbook and nodded.
“Ok. Go ahead and read for me.”
Juliana opened the book, looked at the letters, and pointed at them as she took her time to pronounce them as best she could. “Eh, bee, see, dee, ee, ehf, gee, ehch…”
Harriett let her struggle with the next letter for a few seconds before she stepped in. “Eye!”
“Eye, jeh, keh, ehl, ehmeh, ehneh, oh, pee, qu, ahr, es, tee, yu, vee, dahbulyoo, ex, wahy, zee.”
Juliana was very proud of herself and happy that the few lessons she got finally came in handy.
“Ok. I’m glad you know your ABC’s. That makes things easier for me! I can get you reading now. Wait right here.” Harriett went downstairs brought back some books and thick folder crammed with plastic letters. She showed Juliana a picture of a cat. “What is this?”
Juliana looked at it and said, “Gato.”
“Oh, is that what you call it? In Simlish, this is a cat. Cat. Say it. Cat.”
“Good!” Harriett placed three huge letters on the table in front of Juliana under the cat. “C-A-T spells cat. C-A-T. Cat,” she said pointing at the letters as she spelled.
“Good job!” Harriett showed her another picture. “Dog. This is a dog.”
“Dog,” Juliana repeated.
“D-O-G spells dog. D-O-G. Dog.”
“Good. Now, let’s make it harder,” she said and took the letters and pictures away. Harriett showed her the picture of the cat again. “What is this?”
“Yes! We’ll work on your accent later.”
Harriett spent an hour with Juliana who turned out to be a very quick learner. She was so very pleased with her progress, and couldn’t wait to begin communicating with her. Harriett so desperately wanted to know who Juliana was and how she got into the predicament she was in. Later on that evening, they both went home happy.