Danielle lives with her adoptive father, Andrew, who found her in a back alley on his way home from work one day. He was passing by as he did every day, when he heard a baby crying and saw movement in a pile of trash heaped up beside the dumpster. He would have walked by if he had not wondered why a baby would there in the first place. His curiosity saved her life that day, but that was only the beginning. Andrew took her to the hospital to make sure she was all right when the doctors diagnosed her as HIV-positive. It was only safe to assume that her mother, or whomever, had abandoned her that fateful day, probably for the very same reason. Andrew didn’t feel comfortable committing the same “crime” as whomever had “disposed” of her.
Andrew did what he could for her; he learned about taking care of a baby, and all he could about HIV and AIDS. He asked his mother to lend a hand. She answered any questions he had, but she refused to assist physically. She felt the same way he did. This poor child needed something good in her life and she simply did not want to “catch anything.” Andrew worked as a prestigious lawyer, which allowed for greater opportunities and better drugs to help her. Danielle, named after Daniel in Bible, this innocent girl, so small, was now would be fighting her lions with Andrew’s help. Also, Andrew had connections with government officials. Perhaps he could find her mother; what he would say or do when he did, he would leave that to Danielle when she was old enough to understand.
The years passed by quickly. Danielle grew up going to a new school almost every year but not by choice. Though it would be discrimination to remove her from school because she was born with a disease, it didn’t stop her from being kicked out as a “health risk to the other students.” Eventually, Andrew gave up on the public school system and hired someone with knowledge about HIV infection to home school Danielle. She excelled and soon totally forgotten what she went through in public school.
When Danielle turned sixteen, Andrew decided it was about time to have a talk, and she learned what had really happened. She had always wondered where her mother was, having always assumed that Andrew was her real father. Now she understood how her life was different from her friends’ lives. New emotions rushed through her: the fear of dying so young and the anger at her biological mother for abandoning her. Andrew tried to comfort her, her head leaning on his shoulder as her tears ran down her cheeks. What was she to do? What did she have to look forward to when her life could be taken away so soon? How could she go to medical school if she might not live long enough to get her degree?
Andrew did what he could for her, he even offered the services of a counselor at the AIDS clinic, but she refused, if she was going to make it through this she was going to have to find her own way. Eventually she did find comfort in an activist group for HIV and AIDS. She worked to make treatment drugs more affordable for those suffering, more education on the issue and free testing. Rallies, cook-offs, competitions, fundraisers filled her schedule and she assured Andrew she wasn’t avoiding her problem she was simply trying to help others like her. She needed to stop the cycle, promote safer sex . . . by saying no, stop the stereotype that you can catch HIV with a simple touch and help those who did not have anywhere to go because they had been kicked out of their homes by family and friends.
It was one fateful day when Andrew had stumbled on to his long awaited confirmation. Danielle had been visiting an older women, Amy, in the hospital who was in her final stages of AIDS. Her body was no longer able to fight the infections because her immune system had been so degraded. The hospital staff avoided her if at all possible, making it difficult for Amy to get what little medical attention there was. Danielle did what she could to make her comfortable during her final hours. One of Amy’s last requests was that she file a confession to a great grievance that she had committed earlier in her life. Only moments after the confession was filed, Andrew was called by a friend who worked at the police station.
The next time Danielle went to visit Amy, the doctors said she would not make it through the night. Andrew came with Danielle and asked her if he could go in first to talk to Amy for a minute. He came in and sat at Amy’s side. She stirred ever so slightly from the exhausted state of her condition; she was covered in boils and symptoms of other sicknesses her body had stopped struggling to fight off. He struggled between genuinely feeling sorry for this poor woman, the slow and painful way she was fading away, and being angry at her for what she had done. Obviously she regretted what she had done, if she had finally confessed to it after all these years. He greeted her softly and told her he came here after hearing of her confession and wanted her to meet her little girl. He got up, opened the door and motioned for Danielle to come in and Amy realized who it was, the nice young lady who helped her these past months. She began to cry as she looked at Danielle who came over to comfort her and all Amy could say was how she was sorry, so sorry for leaving her, for abandoning her. In that moment Danielle realized what she was saying. All the anger she had felt all those years against her mother washed away. Danielle hugged her and held her tight as they shared their tears of grief and sadness.
It was in that moment of finding peace with herself that Amy moved on, her limp body falling back to the bed, her face, serene.