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Justin's Awakening
by N. H. Adams


"Justin! Justin! Wake up! You're late for class!"

Justin rolled over and stretched, his eyelids fluttering. "Huh? No classes on Friday."

Mrs. Taylor frowned. "But it's not Friday. It's Thursday!"

Justin sat up instantly and tried to focus on the calendar beside his alarm clock. Suddenly he grinned. "Oh, I see. April Fool's Day!"

"Gotcha good, too," his mother chuckled.

"Yeah, but I'll get you back," Justin warned. "Now, if you don't mind, I'd like to go back to sleep."

"Can't. You have a doctor's appointment in an hour."

"Aw, Mom."

"Don't 'aw, Mom,' me. You missed your last checkup."

Justin piled out of bed and padded to the bathroom. He splashed cold water on his face and studied himself in the mirror. His eyes were red as burning coals and felt just as fiery. Oh well, a little Visine would take care of that.

An hour later, he was sitting in Doctor Thurman's office flipping through People Magazine. When the nurse called his name, he tossed it aside eager to get the exam over with since he had plans to meet Michael at the tennis court.

"I'm afraid this doesn't look good," Doctor Thurman said after the examination.

Justin's eyes widened. "What doesn't look good?"

"Let me study the test results first."

"But what do you think? I mean, give me a clue."

"Best to wait. Might be nothing at all."

No amount of pleading garnered further information from the doctor. Somewhat dejectedly, Justin left the doctor's office and drove to the college.

Michael was waiting at the tennis court. "Where you been? You said eleven. It's almost noon."

"Got tied up at the doctor's office," Justin explained.

"You sick?"

"Don't know. He made some tests."

"Aw, you're fine. He's just running up the bill. C'mon, let's play."

Justin was slow at first, his thoughts lingering on the doctor's prognosis. A half hour passed before the activity of the sport occupied his full attention.

"Whew!" Michael exclaimed when they finished. "That was a work out! Let's grab a burger."

They drove to MacDonald's and ordered burgers and fries. "Umm," Justin said. "Didn't realize I was so hungry." He picked up a hamburger and took a large bite.

"Ewww," Michael exclaimed suddenly. "Spit it out!"

"What?"

"Spit it out! There's a roach in it!" Justin spewed out food frantically, his eyes seeking the detestable bug. Michael only laughed. "April Fools!"

"Dang it, Michael! That wasn't funny. I'll get you back!"

Michael just laughed harder.

"I gotta go to the bathroom," Justin said. He slid out of the booth, pilfering Michael's keys from the table as he did. When he returned, there was a satisfied grin on his face.

"Hey!," Michael said when they finished eating. "My keys are gone!"

"Probably in your pocket," Justin suggested.

Michael frantically searched every pocket. Justin watched with interest as Michael searched the bench and retraced his steps looking for the missing keys. He finally threw his hands up in exasperation.

"Drive me over to my house. I have a spare set."

Justin nodded. He led the way to the door, then stepped aside and let Michael go first, suppressing a grin when his friend's eyes grew large.

"My truck! Someone stole my truck!"

"I'll be," Justin snickered. "Now what?"

Michael slumped against the building shaking his head. "I must have left my keys in it. I never do that. Can't believe..."

"Oh," Justin grinned. "You mean these keys?" He held up Michael's key ring. "April Fools!"

Michael snatched the keys, his eyes spearing Justin. "Very funny. Now where did you park my truck?"

Justin was still grinning when he reached his house. At least he was even with Michael. But what could he do to get back at his mother?

Mrs. Taylor met him at the door, her face drawn and distraught. "Thank goodness you're back!"

"What?" Justin asked.

"It's your father. He's had a heart attack. Hurry. You have to drive me to the hospital."

"Yeah, right," Justin said. "You've already fooled me once, Mom."

"This is no April Fool's Day trick, Justin. It's true."

Justin didn't know what to say, just allowed his mother to spin him around in a whirlpool of motion. Into the car, out of the driveway, and down the road Justin sped. At a traffic light, he turned to his mother, but there was no time to question her.

Whump!

A speeding car slammed into them sending Justin's car skidding through the light. It careened into another car before coming to a crushing halt. Justin felt consciousness slipping away, but was powerless to hang on.

He came to in the emergency room, hazy figures bending over him. "Mom?" Justin managed to ask, his tongue thick and dry.

"We're working on her," one of the interns replied. "Try to move your legs."

Justin tried to lift his legs, but no matter how hard he tried, he couldn't budge them. Panic flooded him drenching him in sweat. He passed out again.

"Justin? Justin?" It was Doctor Thurman's familiar voice.

Justin opened his eyes. For a few seconds he couldn't remember anything. Then, tears began to pool in his eyes. "Mom?" he asked. "Is she all right?"

Doctor Thurman shook his head. "I'm sorry, Justin. But if it's any consolation, she didn't suffer."

The dam broke and tears spilled from the pools in Justin's eyes. Doctor Thurman squeezed his hand, but there was nothing he could do or say to ease Justin's grief.

"I'm afraid I have more bad news for you, Justin. Those tests.... you 're HIV positive, but I'll do everything I..."

"No!" Justin screamed. "You're wrong. I'm not even gay!"

"You don't have to be gay. There are other ways to get it."

Justin closed his eyes, unwilling to hear more.

"Your friend is here," the doctor said. "You want him to come in?"

Justin nodded. He and Michael had grown up together, been best friends for twenty-one years. Their friendship was all he had to hold on to right now.

Doctor Thurman dropped Justin's hand and left the room. Michael came in immediately, his dark eyes misting with tears. "I don't know what to say," he said looking down at Justin. I'm sorry about your mom and dad."

"Dad?"

"You didn't know?" Michael asked. "Heart attack. D.O.A."

Justin choked back the groan rising in his throat. More tears streamed down his face. "Just me and Bandit now," he managed to get out.

Michael shook his head slowly. "I stopped by your house. Bandit was in a dog fight. He...he..."

"Not Bandit, too!" Justin screamed. "Not my dog, too!" It was more than he could bear. Numb with shock, Justin retreated back into unconsciousness.

"Justin? Justin? You're going to be late for class."

Justin tentatively opened his eyes. Standing there beside his bed, as pretty and fresh as a morning in June, was his mother. He sat up instantly greatly relieved to realize he had been dreaming. "Aw, heck, Mom. I told you class was canceled today."

"You're sure? I mean you pull such awful stunts every April Fool's Day."

Justin just grinned. "Not this year."

"Really? Why?"

"It's a long story," Justin replied.






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