There is a lot I adore about writing the character of Brittany. So much of her strength is a tribute to the many women I admire who have faced a diagnosis that seemed to be insurmountable, but in turn, made it their mission to live their life to the best of their ability. For as many people who tell me they are turned off by reading about a woman who is HIV positive, there are so many more who take inspiration and strength from reading of the triumphs and struggles of a woman who wants it all and is done making apologies. So am I.
Brittany will be facing incredible hardships in the upcoming book. She will come face to face with the reality of her disease and the harsh struggle she will need to face simply because this virus lives inside of her. It’s something many people deal with every single day, and I thank them for their strength and courage.
This scene is one of the few I wrote that dealt with Brittany finding out about her diagnosis. I struggled with writing it because I truly hated that she faced something so profound and crushing while she was all alone. It was important for her to share this story and I hope to write more of these flashbacks soon.
This appeared in “One Final Kiss”
Stephanie was working in Paris and volunteering at the clinic for battered and abused women. They had a special group dedicated to working with people newly diagnosed with autoimmune disorders, and Stephanie’s own battle with Multiple Sclerosis helped her to connect. She and Nikki had arrived a few months before and Stephanie was in her first year of an accelerated pre med program at the University. Nikki was making a name for herself in the fashion industry and Stephanie knew it would only be a matter of time before her friend hit it big.
Nikki had begun dating a guy named Josh who Stephanie had a really bad feeling about. He was possessive and rude and Stephanie could see something in him that just rubbed her the wrong way. She knew it was early, so she decided to reserve judgment.
“Stephanie? There is a woman here who asked to see you. She won’t talk to anyone else,” a nurse broke through her thoughts.
“Did she give you a name?”
“No. She seems in bad shape.”
“I’m on my way,” she hoped this wasn’t another domestic violence case. It broke her heart to see so many women who felt stuck in situations that were so horrible. She went to the room and opened the door, stopping in her tracks when she saw who it was.
“Barb?” Stephanie cried as she saw a shell of the friend she had grown up with. “Sweetie is that you?”
The frail teen looked at Stephanie and pulled her hat off, allowing her long red hair to spill out and she nodded.
“I didn’t know where else to go,” she said in a tiny voice and Stephanie rushed to her. She pulled her into her arms and Barbara cried out in pain. Stephanie rushed back.
“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry,” Stephanie said, her eyes filling with tears. She helped her friend to the chair in the room and sat next to her.
“What the hell happened to you? You said it was no big deal. You said you were just bruised after a fan got too rough.” Stephanie saw the bandaged hand and the faded bruises and knew it was worse, but the most horrific part was her friend’s eyes. They were simply hollow.
“I need help,” Barbara said and Stephanie nodded.
“Tell me what happened,” she went to take her hand when Barb pulled it away.
“I got this a few days ago and I don’t understand what it means. Can you help me?” she handed Stephanie an envelope and she took it, recognizing it as test results. She opened it and her heart crumbled. She looked into her friend’s eyes.
“It’s the results of an HIV test.”
“Am I going to die now?”
“No, sweetie, you aren’t. Barbie why didn’t you call me? Why didn’t you tell me the truth? Have you been all alone?”
“Please don’t call me that ever again. Please don’t,” her chin quivered.
Stephanie nodded. “Did anyone come with you? Where are your people?”
“They all left. I came alone. I’ve been alone since I woke up in the hospital.”
Stephanie took a deep breath. “Were you raped?”
Stephanie felt her tears fall as she smoothed her friend’s hair down. “I’m so sorry. What can I do to help you? Should I call your grandma? Nikki?”
Barb looked at her and shook her head.
“I don’t want anyone to know. I just wondered if you could help me with the meds? I don’t know what I’m supposed to do and I didn’t have anyone to help me. I can’t trust anyone but you.”
“We have a great doctor here who can help you. I’ll get her in a minute,” she took Barb’s hand in hers and held it. “Were you examined?”
“Yes. I was in a coma for three days. They did whatever they needed to do.”
“When you woke up, who helped you?”
“Nobody. I left after and flew back to London. My grandma is in a nursing home and she doesn’t know anything. I need to figure out what to do next.”
“Will you stay with me and Nikki? We can help you.”
“No. I have a flight back this evening. I just wanted to see you and thank you for being my friend.”
Stephanie wiped her eyes and shook her head.
“Barb, you can’t leave. I don’t want you to be alone.”
“I’ll be okay. I’ll stay in touch and let you know what I decide. Can you get the doctor?”
Stephanie sighed and did as she asked.
A few hours later, Barbara sat alone in a plush hotel suite in Paris. She didn’t have a flight back for another couple days, but she didn’t want to talk. She didn’t know what to say or do. She locked the door and walked into the bathroom, removing her clothes and looking at her body. The remnants of deep bruising were all over, but she had to look hard to see it. She had long ago stopped crying. She had long ago stopped feeling. Everything about her was cold.
She was cold to Stephanie. She hadn’t meant to be, but it was almost like she didn’t know how to talk to people. She felt badly about it, but even that seemed distant.
Her hands ran over her naked body and she wondered if there was a part he didn’t touch. What he did to her body was nothing compared to what he did to her soul. She died in that cabin. She actually felt her soul leave and what was left now was a shell, a carcass, a used and defiled carcass.
She walked to the counter and took the pair of scissors she had purchased. She took her long red curls and chopped them off. Her eyes were empty and cold as she took the hair and put it in a bag. She took another shower and pulled on baggy clothes before she crawled into the bed and looked at the pamphlets Stephanie had given her.
How much time did she have? How much time did she even want? What did this mean for her? She closed her eyes and knew one thing for sure. This meant what happened to her would never truly go away. She was forever damaged.
She lay there for hours, not sleeping, not moving. There needed to be a decision made. Maybe she could look for her mother? She knew nothing of her and even less about where to start. She could overdose on pills. Another teen star taken too soon. She could see the headlines and the outpouring of support. Rolling over, she rested her head on her arms.
She didn’t want to die; she just didn’t know how to live.
Another few hours went by and she got up, knowing she had to eat something. She ordered room service and when it came, she looked at the food and the newspaper delivered with it. Eating without tasting, she looked at the paper. She couldn’t read French, so it was pointless, but she looked at the articles. Flipping through the pages she came upon a picture of herself. There was an article about her disappearance and she tried to figure out what it said, but couldn’t. She could come forward and tell everyone she was okay. She could continue her life as it was.
The problem was it wasn’t okay. The problem was that she was changed. She swallowed her food and brushed her now short hair. She would start over. She would stay in London and figure things out. She had money, so that wasn’t a problem. Her life needed to begin again, and she would make it happen.
Her resolve didn’t last and she soon found herself huddled again in the fetal position on her bed.
She just wanted her daddy.