Time in Willow Creek: 2 weeks, 5 days
Juliana didn’t run far. She had no idea where she was going. There was a park bench by the river just a few yards away. She decided park herself there for the night. After almost three weeks, this routine of finding places to spend the night never got 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 at 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, her father was murdered in the middle of 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. Mrs. Sepulveda was too. She reached her breaking point and could take no more of it. Her family was no different from anyone else’s. Why should they have to continue to suffer through those perilous times? As Juliana approached her 18th birthday, Mrs. Sepulveda made a plan. She gathered all the money she could for six months, and at the end of the six months, she bought Juliana a ticket to as far as the money would travel. Spending every cent 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 certainly 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 place she never heard of alone was out of the question. Juliana begged her mother not to send her, but her mother just kept telling her over and over again she loved her. “I love you! God be with you,” she repeated over and over again until she was out of sight. Juliana was a blubbering mess. Her mother had to get some of 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 sea sick. 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.
Juliana 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. For one thing, she hated the outfits her mom picked out. When she was “abducted,” she was wearing her school uniform which was the best outfit she had. Her mom packed one of her dresses she wore all the time, one pair of pajamas, a shirt and lounging pants, a bathing suit, and a random top and skirt to have another change of clothes. 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, as she was meandering, she came upon the town’s center and found the park, library, gym, club, and museum. Juliana was grateful for the park because there was always free food laying about. It was comforting to see other people sleep there, and she made Magnolia Blossom Park her main homestead. She also enjoyed it for its people watching. 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. It was her wish to become a great painter one day 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. Everything was getting to be too much. How long could she continue at that rate? When would she stop being scared and make strides to get help? For the moment, she wasn’t living the dream her mother sent her to live, and she knew it would take some time. But, when would things turn around?
As the moon began to dip into the clouds and the sun began to rise, she got desperate. The emptiness in her stomach was a little bit too deep that night, and the grip fear had on her mind was a bit too tight. She had been uncomfortable for too long and decided to take control of the situation at last. There were many excuses she used in the past to prevent herself from making that decision–not speaking much simlish was the main one–but, it was time for her to begin living the life her mother put their family in a dangerous situation for. The 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.