The following is a work of fiction. The story may contain profanity and references to gay sex. Any relation to similar events or persons, fiction or real, is completely fortuitous. If such content offends you please leave now. The author retains all rights to the story. Do not copy or use without written authority from the author. Write Bobby at firstname.lastname@example.org with your comments.
Have you forgotten all I know, and all we had?
You saw me mourning my love for you
And touched my hand
I knew you loved me then
I believe in you
I'll give up everything just to find you
I have to be with you, to live, to breathe
You're taking over me
Taking Over Me © by Evanescence, 2003
Control. It's extraordinary the tactics people employ to obtain it. Some rely on deception while others engage in outright trickery. Then there are those who resort to extortion. Why do we fight so hard for control? Because we know to lose it is to put our fate in the hands of others. And what could be more dangerous?
© by Marc Cherry, 2005
Work was painfully slow, like, I'd-rather-be-in-school kind of slow. Not a single customer has come in over the last hour. I know it's a Tuesday afternoon, but come on. I'm working the front by myself today with the manager in the back office. There's nothing to clean, nothing to sort; I've already done all that. Ben doesn't even come in today. How utterly tragic. I must've wiped the counter hundreds of times by now. Does the sign in the window say closed?
The manager, David, came from the back and commented how barren it was. He asked if I had done all of my duties. It was hard not to say something snide, but I managed to remain polite and respectful.
"This is the slowest day we've had in months." David said thoughtfully. "What time are you off again?" Being the manager, he should know, especially since I'm the only employee here. In the short time I've worked here I've come to realize he has a memory problem. I don't know what his deal is, but it can be annoying sometimes.
"Four," I said, biting back more snide.
He looked at his watch. "Well, only another hour."
"Yeah," I said, praying it would start to go by faster or more customers would come into the café. Thinking on my feet, I whipped out my phone and texted Claire, telling her to come down for a drink. Seconds later she replied she was on her way.
Meanwhile, I began prepping her drink. She orders the same thing every time so there's no point in waiting for her to arrive. I poured in the exact amount of coffee, half and half, white chocolate hazelnut syrup, and ice, then blended to a smooth consistency. Only for Claire, I pumped in two shots of espresso and blended again until everything came together. Pouring the mixture into a large cup, I topped it with a load of whipped cream and chocolate shavings. She only lives ten minutes from downtown here so any minute now she should come barreling through the door.
I have so much homework to do tonight. For oceanography, the professor assigned chapter seven's entire key term bank, consisting of over twenty terms, due Thursday. After that I have to get caught up on section outlines for the test next week. English is even worse. An essay that's due next week is still in its rough draft stage. I really need to crank that out, but the topic is quite boring. Before the essay can even be started, though, I have to finish reading three chapters of the stupid book that the essay is based off of. And tonight I was hoping to spend some time with Ben, but that's looking nearly impossible if I don't want to fall behind. Although, I could invite him over and do homework at the same time. The only setback with that is he hasn't been officially introduced to my family. I'm not sure how he'll feel about that. It's only been a few days since our incredible date, and we hung out over the weekend, but nothing serious and no sex. Is it even time for him to meet the family?
Tyler has been pestering me to invite Ben over. He wants to meet the kid that managed to elude him in his own house. He keeps saying, "Have him over for dinner. Come on!" All weekend I had to hear that. Jared even wants to meet Ben. I don't understand what the big deal is. Are they just overzealous because I'm seeing someone finally? I'd love for him to meet everyone, but ultimately the decision is up to him since he'll be the one under the spotlight.
"I hope my drink is ready!" Claire said, rushing into the café.
I grinned. "Here you go, ma'am,"
"Thanks, doll," She handed me a five dollar bill. "So, I can't stay for long. I have an appointment to donate blood."
"You donate blood?" I was shocked to hear this bit of news.
"I do it every once and a while. Hey, you should come with me!"
As I handed her back the change, I snickered. "Me? Needles? Blood? Lightheaded? I don't think so."
She groaned. "Oh, come on, puss!"
"No! Besides, I have barely less than an hour to go before I'm off. I'd hate to make you late."
"It's not technically an appointment. I can wait for you." Not even giving me a chance to object, she continued, "Good. It's settled. You're going!"
I began washing the blender that I dirtied.
"Fine. But if I pass out you're explaining to Tyler why."
"Deal! So listen, there's a small kickback going on Thursday night. Lizzie and Olivia can't make it, leaving just you." I only had to shoot her a sarcastic look for her to go on the defensive. "Now, before you say no, it really is just a small deal. You don't have to drink. I don't even think there will be music."
The pros and cons of this situation are basically equal. The only pro to going would be to get out of the house and socialize. The only con would be the horrible memory of my last party. I'd definitely have to lie to Tyler. There's no way he would let me go to another party. Ugh, yeah, fuck it.
"I'll go, but I don't want to be out all late and shit. Maybe Ben will want to go."
"Yes! I'm dying to meet your mystery man, especially since he puts out on the first date." She had a huge grin on her face.
I rolled my eyes. "Right,"
Eventually it was time to clock out. Claire told me to down a big cup of water so that I'd be well hydrated for the donation. I followed her instructions. I don't want a nurse poking me forever trying to find a vein to drain.
Claire drove us to the blood donation center, which had been recently renovated to accommodate a larger occupancy and to look more up to date. When we walked in I was surprised at just how modern everything looked. As Claire signed us in I took notice of my surroundings. She handed me a clipboard with some papers attached.
"I hate filling out paperwork," she groaned softly.
"Really? I actually don't mind." I sat next to her in one of the surprisingly comfortable office chairs. Is this what tax money goes to? Or private donations?
It only took us ten or so minutes to finish the required medical pages. The questions were standard, like if we're allergic to any medication or if we know of any sexual diseases we may have. I was surprised to see that the policy is to test us for STDs before they actually draw the blood. That makes more sense, though, instead of collecting however much blood and then testing it only to find it's contaminated. What a waste of a precious resource.
"Ah!" she quietly screamed. "I'm so excited we're doing this! We can officially say we're good people!" Someone's excitement was much greater than mine.
"Yeah, woo," I mocked. "I just want to get this over with."
"Are you done with yours?" she asked, standing up from the chair. I handed her my clipboard and she returned them to the front desk. "Oceanography wasn't all that bad today. I learned some stuff I've never heard of before."
"I find the entire class fascinating so congratulations for finally being able to stay awake for the whole lecture."
"Anyways, I'm actually looking forward to going back on Thursday. Oh, by the way, regarding the whole kickback on Thursday night, guess who else is going to be there?" I didn't even bother trying to figure out whom. "Jake! I'll have to work my magic for you so you can get some." Her enthusiasm was a bit too much in the blood bank's waiting room. Thankfully, the other handful of people waiting were spread out away from us.
"I am getting some. From Ben. Remember?"
"You and Ben are not official and you barely know him. Having options doesn't hurt, Travers."
"I'm not that kind of person. I'm pursuing Ben, not every hot guy I come across."
"Oh, poo, you're no fun."
"You pursue Jake if you're so interested."
"You have dibs,"
A thought suddenly occurred to me. "What happened with that guy you went out with?"
She sighed. "I don't know. We're not as steady as you and Ben are."
"Because we're not,"
"But he's kind of quiet for me. You know how much I love to talk. He just sits there and listens."
I chuckled. "God forbid you find yourself a good guy."
"He's just quiet. Otherwise, I think he's totally hot and he has a good job. He's going to school for his Bachelor's in aerospace engineering."
"Wow, that's intense. They probably make amazing money. The guy sounds like a catch, Claire! He already has a good job apparently and he's going to school for the ultimate job. Come on!"
Just then, a nurse came out of the office and asked both of us to follow her. Claire was first to follow, seemingly not nervous at all. Breathe, Travers, breathe. It's just a little blood donation. It could help save someone's life. The nurse led us to two separate cubicle type areas. There were several in the large room. They all had a white curtain adding privacy to each. Claire went in one and I went into the other. The nurse attended to Claire and told me another nurse would be in shortly to assist me.
Soft, classical music played from the speakers in the ceiling. The only things in the small cubicle were a desk and this barber style chair I'm reclining on. My heart was threatening to burst out of my chest at any moment. I'm way too nervous to do this. I was about to back out when the curtain was pulled back and a nurse stepped into the cubicle.
"Hi, Travers, I'm Jan and I'll be helping you today." she said kindly. A bright, white smile lit up her small face. I quickly caught the light scent of her perfume, instantly putting me at ease.
I returned her smile. "I'm a bit nervous,"
She looked at her clipboard. "Ah, first timer I see,"
"Yeah," I laughed nervously.
"Well, not to worry. First thing we're going to do is go into a different room and give you a mini physical, okay?"
"Okay, sounds painless so far," I sighed.
"Just come with me," I followed her out of the cubicle and out of the room. She opened the door to an actual check-up room and ushered me in. As I sat on the lone chair in the room she explained, "I'll need to take your temperature first." She reached into a drawer and pulled out a thermometer—the kind they swipe across your forehead. "Perfect temp. Your blood pressure is next." On a hook, she grabbed a typical blood pressure device. After she was done she wheeled over a tray that had a few things on it. "Okay, now how good are you with needles?"
"I'm not squeamish,"
"Great," she grinned. "Makes my job a little easier. Okay, so, what I'm going to do now is take a blood sample. Our lab is going to look for your hemoglobin level and HIV. I'm also going to have you urinate in a container so they can test that for other STDs. Are you ready?"
I took a deep breath, then said, "Prick me,"
The nurse laughed. She felt around on the bend of my arm in search of a good vein. I'm glad Claire advised me to down a huge cup of water like she did so that I'd be hydrated enough for them to easily find a vein.
"Travers, can I have you make a fist a few times?" Jan said. I did as told. "Great, thanks. Found a good vein here." She took an alcohol swab and wiped the area. I turned away as she slid a needle into my arm. I'm not squeamish, but I sure as hell don't want to watch. The insertion was almost painless. "Perfect. That should be enough." Taking out the needle, she immediately placed a cotton ball on the entry, using a bandage to hold it in place.
"How long should the test take?" I asked.
Jan placed a cap on the needle, then replied, "They shouldn't take more than fifteen, twenty minutes. We're slow today so probably sooner. And, come to think of it, I probably should have had you provide the urine sample first." She handed me a small plastic cup with a lid and my name on it. "The bathroom is two doors down on your left. Fill this as close to half as possible, then you'll see a very small metal door. Put the cup in there and return to your cubicle, okay?"
"I'll come get you as soon as your tests are done."
I thanked her, and went to the bathroom. Filling the cup halfway was no problem; I've had to pee ever since we got here. It was so weird pissing into a cup, like, for real. I can't imagine having to work with urine. How disgusting. Anyway, I put the cup inside the metal compartment and washed my hands. Back in the cubicle, Claire came over and asked how it went. We chatted for a while before her nurse told her she was cleared for donation. I was left alone with anxious little thoughts. Thank God the extraction only lasts a short period. Ten minutes is what Claire told me, I think.
"Travers?" Jan said, moving the curtain. "We're gonna go back into the patient room for a minute. Follow me," I found this weird. Did they mess up one of my samples or something? Hopefully it's not the urine one because I have a zero urge to pee. We went into the room and I sat in my seat. "So, as I told you the lab tested both your blood and your urine for any anomalies. I'm sorry to inform you, but the HIV test came back positive."
Tingling chills coursed over every inch of my body. I felt my heart skip a beat, fluttering in shock and confusion. Had she just implied I'm HIV positive? That's not possible. That can't be possible. I've never had unprotected sex, other than with Trevor. I always used a condom during every penetrative sexual encounter before him and after him. I could feel the color drain from my face.
"But . . . but . . ." I mumbled.
"I know this is difficult to hear. Sometimes these rapid tests can be false positive. The center highly recommends going to a medical clinic and get retested to be absolutely sure." Jan kept talking, but I fazed out.
First Trevor breaks up with me. A devastating blow to my psyche. Then I go to a party and am partially raped. Now I'm HIV positive. And as if those things weren't horrible enough I have to tell Trevor. I have to call my ex, the person who destroyed my soul, and admit to him that I'm HIV positive. The only thing worse than that is having to tell Ben. This is unbelievable. I never thought this would happen to me. I don't deserve this.
My eyes suddenly filled with tears. "I can't be positive," I buried my face in my hands and cried softly.
"Please go to a clinic and get retested. This could be a false positive. The sooner you go to a clinic the sooner you will know for sure. Believe it or not this happens more often than you think. We will refer you to the Planned Parenthood on the corner of Packard and Saturn." Jan placed a hand on my knee. "I'm so sorry."
"I have to go. Thank you," I stood up and walked out of the room. I didn't care about a stupid referral. I only want to lie down right now. Lie down and sleep.
When I made it to the entrance I realized Claire drove. She should be almost done with the donation, but her recovery takes several minutes. Damn it. I knew I should've driven myself. There's no way I could even walk back to the café. Figuring the best and really only option is to wait, I plopped in a chair and searched for resources for people living with HIV.
So many results popped up. The most reliable seemed to be from the Center for Disease Control. Reading through the information, my eyes watered up again. I pushed through the impending tears and continued reading. It said that many HIV positive people live a full life, just as they would without having HIV. The site went thoroughly into the treatments for the virus. What worried the hell out of me was that the drugs may not work for everyone and my body could actually build a resistance against the medicine. Wouldn't that be my luck? But should the drugs, called antiretrovirals, prove to be successful, my chances to live a normal life are incredibly high.
I couldn't take anymore. The stress and anxiety were peaking at unsafe levels. No looking up any kind of information. I have to start thinking about getting retested. As much as I don't want to, going to a free clinic is the only way to do it. Jared would definitely be able to test me, but there's no chance in hell I want him to be in on this. If the test comes back negative all this stress will be my secret. If it comes back positive, then I will ask for Jared's help. Tyler will probably have a heart attack. I'm not sure he'll be able to handle something like this. He'll have to be kept in the dark until things get sorted out and I'm put on medicine or something.
"There you are," Claire said, coming into the waiting room. "So, how was it?"
I had to think of a quick lie. She's my best friend, but until I know for sure no one is going to find out about this incident.
"I, uh, couldn't donate today. They said I had a low count of something and to come back in a couple of weeks."
"Strange, but I feel great. A little lightheaded," she said.
"Well, let's get out of here."
I stayed mostly silent on the drive back to the café. Claire was going on about some kind of family drama that's going on right now. Pulling up to the café was the biggest relief ever. Seeing my car was like seeing a port in a storm. We parted ways and I rushed home. Jared's car was in the driveway, but there was no sign of Tyler's anywhere. If he's not home, then I could talk to Jared . . .
Dealing with this alone would be stupid. I feel so vulnerable and terrified. It would be so reassuring to have someone like Jared supporting me. But to mutter the words is so humiliating. How could this honestly have happened? I've been so conscious of my health. I'm made fun of in my house constantly because of how healthy I eat. I even go running at least a few times a week. This just seems impossible.
When I went inside not a sound could be heard. Hopefully he's not napping. With the way I'm feeling right now I just want to blurt the truth out.
"Jared?" I called out. Still nothing. I hurried upstairs to check his bedroom, but he wasn't in there. Then I went downstairs to see if he was swimming or working out. Not there, either. Then it dawned on me. Out back. Tyler's been nagging him to trim the bushes for his cocktail party he's having on Friday.
He saw me, then stabbed the clippers into the dirt. "Hey, Travers,"
"Hi," meekly, I got out.
"You're home late," he pointed out. He stood a few feet away from me as he puffed on a partially finished cigar.
I scratched my head casually. "Yeah, Claire convinced me to donate blood after work."
"Oh, nice. How'd that go?"
"Um, it could've gone better,"
"Wait," he chuckled. "Don't tell me. You passed out?"
"Ass," I giggled, feeling almost a little better. "No, I didn't pass out. It didn't even happen."
"You were so scared you didn't even donate?"
"Not quite," I swallowed my nerves.
Jared eyed me over. "Why not then?"
I sighed heavily. I sat on a patio chair for leverage. Come on, Travers, grow a pair and just tell him! He's a trained medical professional and your dad. It couldn't get much better than that.
"I, um, need to talk to you about something. Something serious." My breathing became shallow, quick, it felt impossible to breathe. A huge weight sat on my lungs.
He pulled up a chair in front of me. "You're trembling," I hadn't even realized it until he pointed it out, but I was indeed shaking. "What's wrong?"
I stared down at the ground. I felt so ashamed and embarrassed. Less than an hour ago I was barely able to comprehend myself that I'm positive, now I'm supposed to tell my dad? It seemed like a better idea in my head.
"Well they screened me to make sure I was a healthy donor and they took a sample of my blood. They tested it for things and one of the tests came back positive." With one last deep breath, I said, "I have HIV,"
"Oh, my God," he sighed, rubbing his eyes.
The sobbing struck like lightning. The tears flowed like a torrential downpour. "I don't know what to do," I wanted to crawl in the fetal position and die. Why postpone it? I'm going to die anyways. I have an official death sentence, a warrant out for my soul.
It took several seconds for Jared to say anything. He was just sitting in his chair, rubbing his eyes and grimacing. Was he ashamed? Was he as humiliated as I?
"It's okay," His voice was weaker than I've ever heard. "There, um, there is so much progress for developing a cure. You have me and Tyler. You know we'll always be here for you. So, don't worry about this too much right now." He leaned forward and enveloped me in his strong, protective arms. "Everything is going to be fine."
And for the time being I believed him.