Only five days before Christmas and there she stood, undecided, as to whether he might better like the Mossy Oak camo cap or the fitted Saints cap. After a few minutes she made her choice and left Belk's with three bags which held all but four of the items on her list.
She eased into the driver's seat and as she did she felt a twinge down below. She thought nothing of it yesterday but this was more discomfiting because it was now painful. She decided to forego her last shopping errand and drive home instead.
She laid the three bags on the bed. In the bathroom she examined herself, looking closely, and was somewhat perplexed because she couldn't recall them being there yesterday. In fact, she was certain they hadn't been there.
The 20-year-old co-ed retrieved her Surface Pro 3 tablet, last year's Christmas gift from him, and logged on. She Googled the key words. Of the many photos displaying its various stages she scrolled down further and there on the far right she saw one that most looked like what she had. If it had not been a biological thing the image could have just as well been an attractive piece of poster art. But there they were, clustered white blistery things not unlike tiny clustered moth eggs. To her they felt more like a scrape from clustered barnacles; the surrounding redness looking and feeling like a second-degree sunburn. Her heart sank.
She made an appointment to see her doctor hoping he would confirm a different diagnosis. From the answers she gave to his perfunctory questions the doctor learned that the couple had intercourse about seven times each month during their three year relationship. Most times unprotected because though he'd been infected himself for 10 years, he was only having one outbreak per year. And they were never intimate during any of his breakouts. To the doctor's question as to whether he had been on preventive treatment for shedding of the virus, she had no knowledge. She would later confirm on her Surface Pro 3 that shedding can be significantly reduced, not entirely, but significantly with preventive daily treatment, which he had chosen to defer in order to save money from his offshore work.
Peering into the tablet's screen she read where viral shedding occurs on 10% of the days and on most of those days the person has no signs or symptoms; that of about 1 in 5 adults who carry this same organism that most acquire it by way of shedding, a phenomenon more often seen female-to-male than from male-to-female. Diligent and careful to avoid encounters during those times when the barnacle-looking things are visible, she realized now how amazing it was that the law of averages were as kind to her as it had been -- her thinking this a strange consolation.
The following day her mood and overall countenance had changed -- from holiday spirit to embarrassment to now disgust and contempt -- even vengeance, which seemed incongruous for such an attractive woman who fit the stereotypical image of the Southern belle. She wished so much to blame him but she knew the truth of the matter was that he had always alerted her to the occurrence or even possibility of an impending outbreak. He had never forced or cajoled her to be intimate. The place of blame was obvious on her. She felt dirty. She felt she needed a change.
That evening her mind continued to race; conversations swirled in her head, her interests now turning to how to live with it. While their compatibility was obviously sufficient for her to consider him as "the one," she now felt trapped, even if some significant incompatibility should arise. She felt no longer free, perhaps the driving thought that moved her to blurt out to the doctor that "Well, he's stuck with me now!". A sort of twisted vow. Because any future relationship with another man presented an undesired complexity that didn't exist before. To her she didn't seem to be as free before now.
Also, as an only child she had always dreamed of having four children, maybe more. She wondered now if she would have to have C-sections and how many could she have. She wondered if she would be free to have more than two, or three. The thought of being a source of infection for her baby was unsettling.
She called her older sister who told her yes she had two suitcases she could use and that yes she could stay at her house for a couple of months.
It took three trips to load the hanging clothes, laying the last bunch on the back seat of the 2013 Honda Civic, a Christmas gift from her parents. She walked back to the apartment and made sure she had left nothing of importance. She left him a note on the kitchen table.
The Saints cap, she laid in his favorite chair.
* * * *
"A physical attraction is often desired above many things but you'll discover it to be short lived. Find yourself someone that gets under your skin, seduces the dusty corners of your heart, and provides you with a mental connection. That is when you'll know true intimacy."
--- M. J. Abraham