He eased her back onto the bed until she was reclining and then laid down next to her, their bodies touching. His hand found its way underneath her shirt, his fingers brushing her bra as he kissed her again. His mustache felt so soft and inviting against her skin, his hands were hot with anticipation. Charm bit her lower lip, something she rarely did, when she felt his hand slid under her jeans.

“There’s something I need to tell you,” She murmured, her own voice heavy with arousal. Darius looked at her quizzically, as she continued. “I have an STD,” she said, plainly. He stopped. Sitting back and looking at her in confusion.

“Which one?” He finally asked.

“Herpes,” she bit out.

“Oh,” was all he could manage. He laid back on his side, no longer touching her. Charm looked up at him, unsure of his next move. He seemed too stunned to respond to her.

“So, this complicates things a little,” she said, softly. Although she had the feeling that she didn’t need to say it.

“How long have you had it?” He finally asked.

“Since I was 24,” she said. He sat up and she followed suit, already sensing that this night was over. “I was infected by someone who told me he was clean. We had sex once without a condom and it happened,” she added when he was silent.

“Right on,” he said, which seemed at the time to be nothing more than a vocalized pause. “What happened after you found out?”

“He blamed me for it, but I knew I didn’t have anything before him. I’d been tested and I had always been careful,” she shrugged.

There was silence. Charm quickly glanced at Darius, still unsure of what was he was thinking. He looked deep in thought.

“I’m sorry, this is just really big,” he finally muttered.

“I know,” Charm agreed. “Take your time.” She looked at him again as he continued thinking. “If we use condoms you’ll be perfectly fine,” she added after a few seconds.

He looked at her with an unreadable expression. Silence fell again. “I really don’t know what to say,” he finally admitted.

“I understand,” Charm nodded. She wanted him to say it didn’t matter and they could use condoms and it would be fine. She wanted him to make love to her that night and finally make her feel like she hadn’t completely lost her sexuality. She wanted him to hold her like he had earlier that night and kiss her and touch her face like he had done only moments before. She wanted to feel the warmth of his body against hers. But as the silence stretched on, she knew the odds of that happening were dwindling by the second.

“I really appreciate you telling me about this,” he finally said. He placed his hand on her knee, in a comforting manner. “I mean, that shows a real strength of character.”

Charm could only manage a weak smile. She didn’t care about her character at this moment. She could have the worse, most terrible character just in order to not have to have this conversation for all she cared. It didn’t matter how great of a person he thought she was, she needed him to be able to overcome this. She needed to experience hope again.

“I had to,” she finally said. “I think it’s a legal matter. But even if it wasn’t, I wouldn’t want to be a giant douchebag.” And she didn’t. She wanted to give someone the ability to take the risk and have all of the information that she was never given.

“I… I can’t sleep with you right now,” he said, after a few more seconds of silence.

Charm just nodded. “To be honest, I’m not even sure if I’m ready for sex right now,” she said. And it was true. During the entire movie that they had just watched she had gone back and forth over whether or not she wanted to have sex with him. She definitely did, physically, the only thing she was worried of at this point was her mental state. She still wasn’t past the scars from her previous relationship, she was nervous about having sex with someone un-infected, and as much as she detested it, she seemed to become emotionally bonded to whomever she had sex with and since he had already told her that he was moving in a matter of weeks, it seemed silly to bother becoming involved with him anyway.

But when he had touched her, earlier, while waiting for the movie, she had felt something that had long been dormant in her. After shackling herself to someone that she wasn’t physically attracted to and suffering through interactions that made her skin crawl, she had finally felt the way that she remembered feeling around men; alive, and sexual, and amazing. And she didn’t want it to stop. She just wanted to have a positive sexual experience. Even if it was just once with him. She just needed to know that it was possible for her.

“Do you just want to hang out?” he finally asked. “We can go back outside,” he suggested.

Charm agreed, trying to sound pleasant. They had walked around the marina outside until the movie had started. There, on a bench in front of the marsh, they had first kissed. Charm had been waiting for him to kiss her all night. She had wanted to kiss him as soon as she saw him to just get it out of the way and satisfy her curiosity of what he tasted like.

But as they were seated on the bench, his arm around her, with her resting her shoulder against him, she looked up at him as he spoke to her and a second after he stopped speaking, she realized that he was leaning into her. Charm had been all too eager to kiss him. The kiss was just what she had needed. It was all she could do to stop herself from grabbing him with both hands and holding him down until she could prize every last kiss from his lips.

As they walked Charm just started talking. Seconds after words left her mouth she forgot what they were. She kept up the conversation about trivial matters, things she wouldn’t even recall later, but it soon became clear to her that he had completely lost physical interest in her. Charm felt frustration welling up inside of her. She would be more angry with him if she didn’t agree with him about it the matter so much.

She was pretty certain that she would never have sex with someone infected with an STD, condom or not. It wasn’t fair. Why did she get this disease out of the millions of far more deserving people in the world? Why was she now having these awkward conversations with people when having unprotected sex once was the thing that had done her in? Why had she been assured that she was in no danger, only to find out that she has handed a lifelong sentence with no appeal?

When they ran out of sidewalk, they turned and walked back. A few seconds later, Darius remembered that he had a meeting in the morning. Charm played along with his sudden remembrance of this meeting even though, at this point, she was relatively sure that he was just trying to get rid of her. When they got back to the room, Charm knew what she had to do. She had to leave.

Gathering up her things, she tied her still damp hair in a ponytail again and told him that she was taking off. She tried to keep her tone light, but she could barely look him in the eyes as she left. She said goodbye as the door was closing and walked to the elevators without looking back. Punching the button to go downstairs Charm felt the need to cry. But she didn’t.

She knew if she had to break down, it couldn’t be in the hotel. She had to at least wait until she got to her car. It had always been safe to cry in there. Fishing out her phone, in an effort to look busy, just in case he came after her or she had forgotten something in his room, Charm looked over her Facebook alerts, only half paying attention. She really didn’t care at this point.

Frustration and hopelessness had been building up in her the past week and as a result she had been posting things on Facebook that she usually wouldn’t have posted, but now she didn’t care about any of it. It didn’t matter. She was once again rejected and once again alone. It occurred to her that this had already happened to her earlier that week.

She had been talking to another man, Kurt, that had been highly interested in her. After kissing on their first date, he had spend all of the second touching her in some way. She had been thinking about sleeping with him as well. But after the second date, their text message conversation had turned to sex, and she just typed out the horrible truth about her STD status. He had said that it was fine and she had felt relieved.

But then they went on their third date and he hardly wanted to be near her. Where as he had constantly been kissing her, stroking her, finding any excuse for his skin to make contact with hers, now he didn’t even want to put his arm around her after she asked him to and had chastely kissed her lips before dropping her off. Charm knew what it meant. It was over. He wasn’t interested any longer.

And that saddened her. Even if he didn’t want to sleep with her, there was no harm whatsoever in kissing her or holding her. He wouldn’t have caught anything by doing that, but that seemed even too much to ask. Charm looked back at the elevator that still wasn’t there. What the fuck was taking it so long?

She decided to take the stairs. She just wanted to go home and try to forget that this entire thing had ever happened. Walking down the stairs she saw the doors to the third and second floor and kept going, looking for the first. But when she reached the bottom of the stairs, there was only a fire door that was marked as having an alarm that would go off if opened and another plain door that was locked.

Annoyed, Charm climbed two flights back to the second floor and went to the bank of elevators there, passing a family that was debating on how to get into the fitness center. She pressed the elevator button and waited again, her heart pounding from a mixture of anxiety and all of the stairs that she had just climbed. She still felt like she needed to cry but the tears simply weren’t coming. She was too disheartened and exhausted to cry.

After waiting far longer than she had hoped, an elevator finally came and Charm stepped on. She pulled out her phone in order to avoid any contact with the man that was already in the elevator. Once it got to the first floor, she exited and left the building, headed for the parking structure. Once she reached her car, Charm threw her bags in and retrieved her phone to access the GPS. The screen told her that it would take her 38 minutes to get home. She gritted her teeth at the thought of all that driving when she already didn’t feel well.

On the interstate, she listened to her music loud, sitting stone-faced the entire time. She wanted to be angry at Darius for rejecting her over that, but if she was in his position she was quite sure that she would have done the same thing. She was angry at herself for allowing this to happen to her in the first place, but she knew that she hadn’t allowed it happen at all. She had been lied to.

A feeling of hopelessness settled over her. Was this going to be her life from now on? One rejection after another? Men losing complete physical interest in her after she told them what she had to tell them? Just how many more was she willing to go through? How many more would she have to go through?

Charm tried to tell herself that this was just a temporary setback. Like all of the other temporary setbacks she had encountered lately. Anyone that couldn’t be with her because of this wasn’t the right person for her and she would just have to go through all of the wrong people in order to find the right one. But the truth is that she didn’t even want a right person. She wanted someone to make her feel human again.

After she got home, Charm sat on the couch, staring at the blank TV for far longer than she thought was healthy. She didn’t know what to do. She was getting so little interest in her dating profile as it was, then to compound it with this burden that she had to tell people about, dating just looked completely desolate. But there wasn’t anything she could do about it either. She was stuck with this disease. Charm balled her hand into a fist as a tear finally rolled down her cheek.

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