Time in Willow Creek: 2 weeks, 5 days
Juliana didn’t run far. She had never been to that neighborhood before and no idea where she was going. A few yards away, she eyed a park bench by the river and decided to stay there for the night. After almost three weeks, this routine of finding places to spend the night had not gotten any easier. Willow Creek was a much nicer town than where she came from, but it was a bit unnerving not knowing if she would be safe wherever she landed for the night.
The fear of the unknown paralyzed her, and she sat on the bench all night, trapped in her thoughts. She knew why she had to come to Willow Creek, but sometimes it was hard to accept. Her mother did the best she could with what she had, and this was her only option to save Juliana.
She came from Monte Vista: a land of rolling hills, sweeping views, and charm. That’s the part the tourists went to. The Sepulveda family came from the underbelly of Monte Vista: a land full of violence, chaos, and poverty. Juliana was her mother’s oldest living child: number five of twelve. All seven of her older siblings had died from starvation, illness, or senseless violence. Just over eight months ago, they buried her father. He was murdered in the middle of the day in plain sight because he was caught stealing bread from the market so the family could eat. Times were hard, and people were desperate. Mamá was one of them. Her family was no different from anyone else’s. Why should they have to continue to suffer through those perilous times? She reached her breaking point and could take no more of it. As Juliana approached her 18th birthday, she made a plan. She saved all the money she could for six months and bought Juliana a ticket to as far as the money would travel. Spending every cent she had on this one thing would surely put the rest of the family in a precarious situation, but it was a sacrifice she was willing to make. It ensured at least one of her children would make it out of Monte Vista safely and alive with the potential to make something of herself. Juliana would have rejected this plan if she were to bring it to her, so she didn’t tell her about it until they were on their way to the shipyard. Juliana was furious, distraught, and petrified. She had never been on her own before. Come to think of it, she had never even been home alone before. Going to a foreign place she never heard of alone was out of the question. Juliana begged her not to send her away. “I love you! God be with you,” she repeated over and over again until her child was out of sight.
Juliana was a blubbering mess. Mamá had to get some of the dock workers to help her onto the ship. The journey was long and harsh. It took seven days, and she cried for two of them. She sat on the floor of her little room and cried and cried and cried. All the other days, she was seasick. Because her mother spent all of the money on the ticket, there wasn’t any money to buy food and she was hungry most of the time. After dark, she would go onto the main deck and rummage through the trash cans for scraps.
She wanted to hate her mother, but she couldn’t help but love her. She knew she did this for her own protection and security for her future, but she wished she had some say in it. And, she wished she could have gotten a little notice; she certainly would have packed better clothes. When she was “abducted,” she was wearing her school uniform which was the best outfit she had. Mamá packed another dress she wore all the time, a shirt and lounging pants, and a random top and skirt. She had never worn that skirt and top together before, but it did make a pretty decent outfit.
When she arrived in Willow Creek, she walked around for days just trying to figure out what to do. She spoke very little Simlish, so she couldn’t ask for information or even read street signs and billboards. Everything scared her—especially at night.
One day, she ended up in Historical Willow Creek: the center of town. That was when life began to look up for her. She discovered the park, library, gym, and museum. The park was a godsend because there was always free food lying about. It was also comforting to see other people sleep there at night, and she made Magnolia Blossom Park her main homestead. Not only did she find food and a place to lay her head, but also it was a great source of entertainment. There were so many interesting people to watch. It became one of her favorite past times. The library was a beautiful place to Juliana. As a bookworm, she loved to read and be around books. It didn’t matter to her that she couldn’t read any of them. At the gym, she found she could shower in the locker room, and at the museum, she discovered she could paint. She was a very creative girl and loved to paint. It was the only thing that made her remotely happy. If life took a drastic turn for the better, hopefully, she would be able to fulfill her lifelong dream to become a great painter and see her work in an art gallery.
Juliana knew she was sent there to accomplish something she never could in Monte Vista, and the potential her life held excited her sometimes. But, sitting there on that bench, hungry, afraid, and alone, she longed for home. She would have given her right hand for one chance to be held in her mother’s arms again and catch just a glimpse of her little brothers and sisters faces.
She cried all night. The gravity of her situation was too heavy, crushing her spirit and determination. How much longer could she go on like that? Fear controlled her and kept her bound when she needed to be brave and seek help. But, how? Though it would take a while for her life to turn around, she felt like she was a disappointment to her mother. Surely this was not what she intended.
As the moon began to dip behind the clouds, and the sun slowly took its place, the desperation was a tiny bit stronger than the fear. Her growling stomach reinforced her need to act. She had been far too uncomfortable for too long. If she let the fear continue to control her, she would perish and her mother’s sacrifices would be for naught. All the excuses she used to justify her fear were simply that: lame excuses. Somehow, she would find a way to communicate with someone. It would be difficult but not impossible. Mamá’s sacrifice could not be in vain. Juliana dried her tears, took a deep breath, and went to the only place she knew she could get help.