ONE BITTER DAY
It was the beginning of June and the weather in Bayport was perfect for
summer. The sun was shining and there were some write clouds drifting
across the sky. The house that stood on the corner of Elm and High streets
was quiet and it was no wonder since it was only morning.
In the kitchen of the house was a dark-haired brown-eyed young man who was
sipping coffee from his cup. No, it wasn't Frank Hardy, it was the Hardys'
friend, Douglas Newman, a famous surfer from the Hardy brothers' Wipeout
case. 4 days ago he won a surfing competition in Miami and had 2 days
before he had to go to California to participate in another surfing
championship. He decided to spend these 2 days with his long time friends,
Frank and Joe Hardy, who lived in a small town situated on the Atlantic
Coast of the US. Mr. and Mrs. Hardy celebrated their 19th anniversary a
week ago and now they were in Acapulco for their 19th honeymoon. So at the
moment there were only 3 people in the Hardys' house: Frank and Joe and
Today was the day when Doug had to leave for Los Angeles, so he woke up
early to pack his things. His plane was leaving at 10 in the morning and
now it was only 7.30. The brothers were still asleep.
Minutes later Doug heard someone go downstairs. No doubt it was Frank, Joe
would never get up so early. A second later he saw Frank Hardy, an 18-year-
old young man, come into the kitchen.
"Good morning, Frank," Doug said. "Mind if I have a cup of coffee?"
"Morning, Doug," Frank replied and, yawning, sat down on one of the chairs.
"You're already having it, right? So why ask then? But I don't mind
"Anytime. Need coffee not to fall asleep?" Frank yawned again.
"Kind of. I didn't sleep well, but I need to be awake."
"You have some hours to spend on plane, why not try sleeping there?"
Doug shook his head, "I could never sleep while flying. Don't know why. I
just can't relax when I'm aboard. I've always been afraid of height."
"I see," Frank nodded and looked at his watch. "It's already quarter to
eight. When are you leaving?"
"In 30 minutes."
"Okay, I'll go get my brother up. He sure wants to see you off. But he'll
be sleeping forever if I don't wake him up," Frank smiled and stood up.
"Don't be too cruel with him, it's summer after all," Doug told him.
"Besides, people who are not fully awake can be aggressive."
"I'll make a note of it," Frank said and disappeared.
When he returned 5 minutes later Doug had already finished his coffee and
was standing up to wash his cup in the sink. "Is Joe going downstairs?"
Frank grinned, "He hates to wake up early, especially when it's summer."
"And who likes it?" Doug smiled back, washing the cup, and turned his face
to Frank. "I was..." he stopped in his mid-sentence when the cup slipped
out of his hands, fell down and smashed into pieces. "Oh, damn it.." He
swore to himself and started picking up the splinters. "Sorry," he muttered
"Don't worry, it's just a cup," Frank replied.
"I'm so clumsy these days.. Ouch," one of the splinters cut into Doug's
palm causing blood to ooze down his fingers.
"Wait a moment," Frank said and rushed to get some tissues. When he got
them he rushed back to Doug, grabbed his hand that was cut and pressed the
tissues down on Doug's palm which was bleeding. "Is the cut deep?" he asked
as he took the tissues away to see himself.
"No, I don't think so, there may be some tiny vessels cut, but I don't
think it's something serious," Doug shook his head and took some more
tissues to put them on his palm. "Don't worry, it should stop bleeding
"Okay, I'll get a first aid kit," Frank said and went to wash his hand
which were smeared in Doug's blood. Once done, he went to get first aid set
to get bandage and iodine.
While he was dressing the wound, Joe came into the kitchen. When he was
told what had happened, he agreed to take care of the splinters. He threw
them away and poured himself and Frank 2 cups of coffee. When his hand was
bandaged, Doug said he didn't want any more coffee and went upstairs to
make sure he was fully packed.
20 minutes later they were in the brothers' van, taking Doug to the airport
where their friend thanked them for hospitality and left.
Four months have passed since then and it was already rainy October. Mr.
Hardy was in Nevada on a case and Laura went to visit her mother in St.
Louis. Once again the brothers were alone in the house. Joe was in Frank's
room, looking for something interesting in the Internet, and Frank, booted
out of his own bedroom, was in the living room watching local news. It was
evening and everything was okay until the phone started shrilly ringing.
The phone call that started it all.
"Hardy residence," Frank said into the receiver.
"Hello, I need to speak to Frank or Joe Hardy, please," a soft male voice
"It's Frank, who's speaking?"
"Frank, it's Doug, Doug Newman," Frank thought his friend's voice was
"Hey, Doug," Frank smiled even if Doug couldn't see it. He was pleased to
hear from his friend. "Sorry, I didn't recognize your voice. Glad you
called, it's been awhile. How are you doing?"
"Frank, I would like to say how much I am pleased to hear you, but I am
not," Doug said.
"What's wrong?" Frank frowned.
"Frank.. I have something to tell you. Please, don't interrupt me while I'm
speaking, okay? It's something very, VERY important.." Doug swallowed and
took a deep breath in. "I didn't feel well recently and so I went to a
doctor. He couldn't find anything wrong with me and all the analyses were
fine. But there was one doctor who advised me to make a blood test, because
it could be HIV.." He stopped for a couple of seconds to catch his breath.
"Frank..It's positive.. I have HIV."
Those words were like a bolt from the blue. Frank didn't know what to say,
he just couldn't imagine that anything like this could happen with one of
his friends. "Doug..I.." he started, seeking for the right words, but..
What could he say?
"I haven't finished yet," Doug continued. "The reason I am telling you this
is that, well, remember when I stayed with you almost 4 months ago, I
dropped that cup and cut myself and you helped me.. Frank, I am very afraid
that I could infect you."
Those words almost knocked Frank out. He could feel his head growing heavy
and his hands becoming numb. Infect me?
"Frank, I swear I didn't know back then that I had HIV.. I got the results
only 2 days ago," Doug went on, his voice wavering. "Try to remember, did
you have any cuts or scratches or anything else of that kind on your hands
Frank's mind was far away, he heard Doug ask a question, but he didn't have
voice to speak. All that came out when he wanted to say that he didn't
remember was a squeak. He refused to think that he could be HIV infected..
He didn't want to be.
"I.I don't remember.." He finally said in a weak voice. He couldn't
remember anything about his hands, he sure didn't have cuts, but what if he
had a tiny wound and Doug's blood got on it? Or what if the virus seeped
through his skin and into his blood system?
"Frank.. I am so sorry.." Doug's tearful voice said, it was if he was close
to crying. "Please, you have to believe me that I didn't know, I swear I
didn't.. I would tell you if I knew."
"Doug.. Are you sure you're HIV-positive? Maybe the test was wrong.." Frank
just wanted to hear that it could be a mistake that Doug had HIV, he wanted
to know that there was no reason for him to worry about getting infected.
He heard tears in his friend's voice, "Yes, damn it, I am sure, I made 2
tests, both were positive.. I'm calling everyone who had a contact with me,
I want to be sure that I didn't infect anyone else.." he replied.
"Catherine is fine," he said, referring to Catherine Dombre, his French
girlfriend. "And I didn't sleep with anyone else.. I'm only afraid that I
could infect somebody."
"How did you get infected?" Frank asked. He was almost sure he'd hear a
story about how Doug got drunk one day and slept with somebody whom he
The story was far worse than that.
A year ago, when Doug and his friends celebrated their victory, they had a
little party. There were only 4 people, 2 of whom played guitars - Doug and
another guy, who later discovered he was HIV-positive. The guy played so
hard that he skinned his fingers against the strings and Doug was the next
to play. He flayed his fingers too and that's how his friend's blood mixed
"This is so unfair.. and stupid.. and.." Doug bitterly chuckled.
"Doug..I.." Frank didn't know what to say. He himself felt absolutely
dumbfounded. He had no proof that he was HIV-positive, but he already felt
"But I called you not to complain. Frank, please, I'm begging you, make a
blood test and call me when you know the result. I have to know that you're
not infected. Please."
"Yeah.. I will. Of course I will make it."
"I am sorry I can't talk, there are a few people who must know about it.
And one more thing.. God.. I hope you'll be fine," was all Doug could say
before, even without saying goodbye, hanging the phone down.
Frank absent-mindedly reached out his hand to put the receiver down on its
place, but because his hands were shaking he did it only after the forth
He thought that he had died and that he didn't know what to do from now on.
Oh my God, what if.. What will I have to do if..
His hands went, there were colored dots in front of his eyes. To make
himself think he rubbed his temples with his numb and ice-cold fingers.
He remembered all those times when he, being in hospitals, saw all those
posters about AIDS and HIV. And he always was careful when he and Callie
were alone. He wasn't one of those young men who hoped that luck would
always follow them if they were not careful themselves.
That morning it didn't even occur to him that Doug might be infected with
Frank knew how HIV virus was spread, but he couldn't suspect his friends
all the time. That morning he helped a friend and now he could be HIV-
positive. To think that his friends may be a cause of HIV all the time was
impossible, let alone.
Oh no! Joe! Flashed through his mind. What if he is..
Frank feverishly remembered all those times when he could have infected Joe
as well. In his mind he saw himself touching, accidentally or not, his
brother. Frank forgot about himself, all his thoughts were about Joe.
At breakneck speed he ran upstairs to Joe's room and literally stormed into
Joe jumped in his chair as the door snapped open. "Jeez, Frank," he grabbed
his chest. "I of course understand that you were rushing to help me with
trigonometry, but there's no need to scare me to death!" he joked. His
smile, however, vanished when he saw Frank's face. "Frank, what's wrong?"
Only now that he was standing in front of him, Frank didn't know what to
say to Joe.
"Frank, you look like you're just from a crypt. What happened?" Joe asked
again, standing up.
"Doug..it's Doug." Frank replied, standing where he stood. He was even
afraid to breathe in Joe's direction.
"Has something happened to him?" Joe asked. Much to Frank's relief, he
stood on the same place.
Frank nodded. "Joe.. He was diagnosed HIV positive."
Joe grabbed the edge of the table so not to fall down. "What?.HIV?"
Frank bit his lower lip, looking at the fear-filled face of his brother.
"This is not the scariest thing, Joe."
Joe stared at him, pop-eyed, "Is there anything else scarier than that?"
"Remember when he was leaving.. That morning.. The cup?"
Joe, unable to stand, sat down on the chair. He wanted to say something,
but words failed him. All he could see was an image of his brother
bandaging Doug's hand.
"Frank.." Joe hoarsely whispered. "You couldn't.. Could you?" Joe couldn't
even think about Frank being HIV-positive after helping a friend. He
remembered Doug, and felt anger rise inside of him. "Why didn't he tell us
anything?? How could he not tell us about it?"
"Joe, calm down, he got to know it only yesterday," Frank replied. "It's
not the right time to be angry at him or to blame him for something.."
Joe took several deep breaths to calm down. His head was going round and
round. "Did you have any..any cuts or anything else of that kind on your
hands?" he asked, not knowing what to do if the answer will be positive.
"I don't remember, I didn't think about HIV or AIDS or anything else back
then.." Frank whispered. "And you? Did I ever touch you when there were any
wounds on your body or.."
Only now Joe thought that he could have gotten HIV as well. At first he was
so scared about his brother that he'd forgotten about himself. His head
grew dull as he thought that they both could be infected with HIV. "I..I.."
he remembered the times when he had any cuts or scratches or anything more
serious, but, in his opinion, there were little chances he could get
infected. He always covered his scratches with plaster or bandage when
"As far as I remember." he shook his head, still remembering,
Frank felt a weight off his mind. Joe could have got infected, but he had
fewer chances than Frank anyway.
"Oh my God, Frank.." coming to his senses, Joe rushed to his brother.
Before Frank could do anything about it, Joe threw his arms around him.
Even though all he wanted now was for Joe to hold him close, Frank pushed
him away, "No, Joe, please, don't.."
"Frank, why.? You know that HIV is not spread by touching." Joe said,
realizing what was bothering Frank. "Besides you can't be sure in
anything," he added, determination in his voice. "We have to make a blood
test, you can't know before you make a test.. I can't know it either."
Joe's certainty brought Frank back to the real world, his brother's words
gave him strengths. "Yeah. You're right," he nodded.
"Finally once in a lifetime you admitted that!" Joe smiled.
Frank smirked. Then he looked back at his sibling and, after swallowing,
said, "We should call Dr. Bates."
Dr. Bates was their family doctor who worked in Bayport Memorial.
"Well, it's only 6 p.m.," Joe said as he glanced at his watch. "Probably
he'll be able to receive us today."
Frank nodded, "I'll call him now, then. Come downstairs," he turned to
leave, then stopped and turned back, "Joe?"
Joe gave him an inquiring look, raising his eyebrows, "What?"
Frank couldn't say what he intended to say, he shook his head, "No,
nothing." He left.
They were in Dr. Smith's office 20 minutes later. Frank finished telling
the doctor his story and looked at Dr. Smith whose face was concerned.
There was a moment of silence before he spoke, "Well, guys.." He said,
looking from one brother to the other. "How much time has passed since that
"Almost 4 months," Joe replied.
The doctor nodded, "Then we can make a blood test today. During the first
three months or so it's impossible to detect the virus in blood," he
"And when will the results be ready?" Frank asked, licking his parched
"Tomorrow, in the evening," Dr. Smith replied. "Have you already told your
Joe shook his head, "No, we haven't. They both are out of Bayport, and we
haven't called them yet..and probably we won't call until tomorrow's
evening when we know the results," he looked at his brother to see if he
"Yeah, probably it'll be better. If the results are.are positive," Frank
shuddered at that thought, "we'll tell them."
"Okay, as you like it," Dr. Smith agreed. "How are Vanessa and Callie?"
Frank looked at him, "They're fine."
"You understood me," the doctor pointedly said.
"Me and Callie are always careful," Frank replied, avoiding looking at Joe.
They never talked about something this private and intimate.
"Same here," Joe said, feeling as embarrassed as his brother.
"Perfect," Dr. Smith commented and rubbed his tired eyes. "Then we'll make
that test now, after that you'll go home and rest, and tomorrow we'll see
what to do with both of you," he stood up from his chair. "Follow me."
After taking a shower, Joe went into his room to get his PJs. While putting
it on he caught site of a plaster on his left hand. It was placed on where
a nurse had taken his blood for that blood test. Joe said a little prayer,
hoping that he and Frank would be all right.
He put his PJs on and switched the lights in the bathroom off when he
accidentally glanced at the door that led to Frank's bedroom. Frank had
already gone to bed and there was no light coming from under the door of
What is he thinking now? Joe wondered to himself.
He quietly went to the door and listened, everything was quiet. Very slowly
and noiselessly he opened the door and peeped in to see if his brother was
sleeping. Frank was lying in his bed, his eyes closed, but he wasn't
sleeping because he was massaging his temples.
"Hey, Frank, mind if come in?" Joe quietly asked.
Frank's eyes snapped open and he looked into his brother's direction.
"Sure, what's up?" Frank asked as he raised himself on his elbows.
Joe closed the door and went to sit on the edge of the bed. He looked at
Frank in the darkness, "I just.. We haven't talked about it.. Wanna tell me
Frank tiredly threw his head back, "What is there to say?" he bitterly
"I don't know.. I know that probably there's nothing wrong with me, and I
hope that there's nothing wrong with you, so.. You're acting so weird, like
you know the results already. But, Frank, I don't care if you're infected
or not.. Please, talk to me."
Frank laid back in his bed, his eyes opened. He stared at the ceiling.
"Honestly, I've never been so afraid before. I just can't bear a thought
that the result may be positive.. What am I going to do then?"
"People live with HIV.." Joe tried to argue, knowing that it wouldn't
comfort his brother anyway.
"Yeah, until they get sick with AIDS," Frank bitterly chuckled. "Joe.. It's
not that I am afraid of death, I could have gotten killed many times
before.. I don't want my own body to kill me, that's what scares me."
"Frank.." Joe leaned down and put his arms around his brother. This time
Frank didn't push him away. They rarely were too emotional with one
another, but when Joe really felt like hugging his brother he always did
so. Now was one of those rare moments. "You know that I'm gonna be there
for you anyway, don't you?"
Frank also put his arms around Joe and nodded, "Yeah, I know.. Thank you."
"Anytime," Joe let go of him. "You know, we shouldn't worry about it now
that we don't know anything. There's no point in worrying about something
that you're not sure about."
"I just can't stop thinking about it," Frank quietly said. "Every time I
try to think about something else I can't do that. I just can't.."
They went silent, both trapped in their own thoughts.
"Want me to stay with you overnight?" Joe offered. "I know, I toss and turn
while sleeping so I'll be a trouble, but if you want.."
Frank shook his head, "No.. No, I want to stay alone."
Joe reluctantly agreed, although he didn't want to leave Frank alone,
"Okay.. Good night then."
Frank couldn't sleep that night. Most of the night he had spent tossing and
turning in his bed, his anxiety wouldn't let him relax and drift off to
sleep. He couldn't take his mind off Doug and that morning when he'd helped
him. He had tried not to think about it, but, even when he thought about
something else, later his mind would bring him back to his problem.
At 3 in the morning he stood up and went to the adjoining bathroom. He went
towards the sink and rested his arms on it. This isn't right. I don't know
anything, but I feel like I'm infected.. Maybe, it's because I am? Maybe my
own body makes me think I am?
He put his hands on his face and closed his eyes. His hands were so cold..
As he looked at his reflection his eyes went wide and his mouth opened: he
saw his hands covered in Doug's blood.. Oh my God. what the hell..
He turned the water on and grabbed a piece of soap. He started rubbing his
hands with soap like mad. He saw that they were clean, but that
What's going on with me? He asked himself, slightly trembling with fear. He
looked back at the mirror didn't see anything else but him as he was, his
hands clean. I started seeing things.. I'm going mad..
10 minutes later he walked out of the bathroom and went into the kitchen to
get sedative. He wanted to fall asleep to forget about everything and only
sedative could help him.
He fell asleep at 4 in the morning, mostly because of physical and
emotional exhaustion mixed with medicine, luckily, he didn't have
nightmares, but 3 hours later he awakened anyway, feeling even more worried
than before he went to sleep.
Once again he went into the bathroom to take a shower. When done, he went
to shave. He felt tired due to the lack of sleep and wasn't too accurate,
so with the very first move he cut himself. A red stain appeared on his
cheek. Hang it all! He swore to himself and gave it up. He threw his razor
away, toweled his face and left the bathroom.
Joe woke up to the sound of crash coming from downstairs. He sat upright
and listened. All was quiet. Joe glanced at his alarm clock - 8.15. Not
fully awake yet, he stood up and went into the corridor to make sure his
mind wasn't playing tricks on him. He passed Frank's room, the door to
which was ajar, and he saw that his brother was not there. He came
downstairs and into the kitchen.
"Frank, is everything alright?" Joe asked, rubbing his eyes. "I heard
"Oh, sorry, did I wake you up?" Frank managed an apologizing smile. He
stood near the sink and his hands were wet. "A saucepan fell down."
Joe didn't say anything. Even though Frank looked like normal, he could
read his brother like a book. Now he could easily see how nervous and
tensed Frank was Joe decided to play up to Frank, "It's okay, it was time
to wake up anyway. What were you going to do with that saucepan?"
"I wanted to boil potatoes for breakfast," Frank said in an 'everything-all-
right' tone, rubbing the fingers on his right hand with his left hand.
"For breakfast?" Joe raised his eyebrows in surprise. "Since when have you
started eating potato for breakfast?"
Joe read confusion on his brother's face. He decided that Frank started
doing strange things just to keep his mind off the call. "Whatever," he
said, waving his hand in the air. "Do me a favor?"
"Make me fried eggs while I'm the shower? Please?"
"Erm. Sure," Frank nodded his head and turned away.
Joe looked worriedly at his back. He had a feeling that Frank was trying to
Today was Saturday and thus they didn't have school. For the first time in
his life Joe regretted it. Studying could take Frank's mind off his
When he came back to the kitchen 15 minutes later he smelled something
burning. "Frank, what is it?" he asked, seeing smoke above the stove.
"Well, your fried eggs.. Sorry." Frank apologized showing him a black mass
on a flying pan. "I don't know what I was thinking about."
Joe was almost sure Frank did it on purpose just not to have any contact
with him. Relax, relax, he doesn't need you to be angry with him, don't
upset him, Joe told himself. "Don't worry, I'll fix myself a sandwich and
coffee," Joe replied and went to the refrigerator. "What are you going to
"I don't know. I think I'll read something."
"I have a better idea. What if we call our friends and go to Mr. Pizza or
elsewhere?" Joe offered. "I just don't want to stay home today. It's such a
good day, look, the sun is shining, and it may be the last warm day. What
do you think?"
"You go if you want, but I'll stay here, I don't feel like going anywhere,"
Frank shook his head. "Besides, Dr. Bates can call any minute."
"Frank, he said in the evening," Joe said. "Be reasonable. And stop
thinking about it. You're acting as if you already know the result. First
of all, you don't know it, secondly, it's gonna be negative anyway."
"How do you know?"
"Like your intuition is going to make me feel better," Frank replied and
Later that day Joe, while walking past Frank's room, noticed that Frank was
biting his nails as he read an article from the screen of his computer. He
never had such a habit!
Joe tapped on the doorframe, "Hey, what are you doing here?" he cheerfully
asked. "Having fun on the Internet or what?"
Frank looked back over his shoulder and closed the Internet Explorer
window, "Nothing.. I just read something.."
Damn it, he never hid anything from me. What is he reading there? Joe
wanted to take a look, but Frank just kept looking at him as if telling him
to go away. How can I help him if he doesn't want me to help him? Joe
sighed, "Frank, remember that the results will be ready only in the evening
and that I'm here if you want to talk to me, okay?"
Frank was in the living room watching TV, so Joe had some time to.spy on
his own brother. He sneaked into his room, connected to the Internet and
clicked 'history' folder. Frank must be so absent-minded today that he even
forgot to delete these files. Joe's heart sank when he saw that Frank was
reading information about HIV and AIDS. Every site he visited today was
devoted to it.
He heard steps coming from the staircase. As quickly as he could he clicked
'favorites' folder and chose the first site he saw. Next moment the door
opened. "What are you doing here?" Frank asked, seeing his brother at his
"Can't I use the Internet? I haven't been to this site for ages," Joe
innocently replied, turning around to see his brother.
As Frank looked at the screen he couldn't help but smile. Joe looked at it
as well and his cheeks became red. The site was about country music.
As the day went on Frank was becoming more and more nervous. Joe couldn't
help but feel that his own brother was trying to reject him. Frank didn't
let Joe approach him and if Joe came too close Frank would instantly made a
step back from him.
Joe wanted to make Frank talk about it, he wanted to do anything to make
him smile. But he didn't want to force on him. Frank had a lot on his mind
Joe tried to imagine what he would do if he were in Frank's shoes in order
to understand what Frank wanted and what he needed. To imagine that wasn't
that difficult, because there was a possibility that Joe could have gotten
infected as well. Joe had only to think about that to understand the state
his brother was in. He quickly got rid of that thought. He couldn't be as
tensed as Frank today.
He thought about what if the results came back positive. He was ready to
accept Frank with any diseases and weaknesses, but Frank.. He didn't want
to be accepted. And that would become a problem if the worst came to the
Joe was pacing his room back and forth. He looked around to see if there
was anything that could keep Frank busy and saw a perfect thing. He grabbed
his algebra book and went to Frank's room through the adjoining bathroom.
Just as he entered the bathroom he saw Frank stand near the sink with a
piece of soap in his hands. He was washing his hands too often this day. Of
course, to keep his hands clean was Frank's good habit, but what was the
point in washing hands once every 10 minutes? Besides he was rubbing them
so zealously as if they were covered in something that couldn't be washed
Joe couldn't help but feel that Frank was becoming squeamish about himself.
Somebody help me keep him sane!
Frank looked up at his brother, "What?"
"Erm. Well, you're good at maths and I'm not," he showed his book to Frank.
"Can you become my tutor for today?"
Joe saw confusion in Frank's eyes. "Joe.Maybe not today?" Frank asked. "My
head is going round and round and I don't think I'll make a good tutor
"Please, Frankie.." Joe pleaded. "Mr. Williams is a real torturer. If I
don't start doing it today tomorrow I won't be able to finish everything
and he'll kill me on Monday."
Frank knew what Joe was trying to do and deep inside he was grateful for
that. As for Frank himself, he tried to make it appear that nothing was
bothering him at all, but he knew that he wasn't a good actor. Besides, Joe
was too attentive not to notice his brother's nervousness.
"If you don't help me, I'll hide all soap!" Joe tried to threaten him.
Frank sighed. Joe was stubborn and persistent. "What are your problems?" he
"Trigonometry," Joe replied and followed Frank into his room.
Usually during such tutoring lessons they sat on the floor, books and
copybooks on Frank's bed, and today was no exception. Joe waited until
Frank sat down and then sank onto the floor next to his brother. Frank
looked around as if searching for where he could move away from Joe, but
realized that he wouldn't be able to explain anything from the other side
of the room.
It was 2 p.m. when they started. Joe's mission was to keep Frank busy for 2
or 3 hours, that's why even when he had no more mysteries in trigonometry
he kept pretending that he didn't understand anything, but at least he
succeed in disturbing Frank from his thoughts: Frank dinned every detail
into Joe's head.
When Joe felt that Frank was getting angry at his 'stupidity', he took him
downstairs to the kitchen. Joe breathed a sigh of relief when he noticed
that Frank became less tensed and he relaxed a bit. And even though he
still washed his hands with zeal, he didn't try to be a mile away from his
brother any more. What's more, he even smiled a couple of times when Joe
As the evening was drawing nearer Frank became nervous again. Joe thought
that Frank himself didn't understand what he was saying about sinuses and
cosines. In the end Joe stopped listening and the word 'trigonometry' meant
nothing to him. His eyes were closing and to keep them open was becoming
more and more difficult.
"Did you understand now?" Frank asked placing a dull stop after another
solved trigonometric quadratic equation.
"What?" Joe asked, snapping out of his reverie. "Ah, yes, yes, thank you,
Frank, you've been a great help."
"Did you listen to me?" Frank asked, seeing that Joe was half-asleep.
"Of course I did!" Joe seriously said. "Mr. Williams will be delighted to
see me with my homework done."
"Let's hope so," Frank replied and glanced at his watch. "It's already 5
"I don't think he'll call earlier than 6," Joe said.
"Then I'll have time to grab a shower. If he calls.."
"I'll answer. Go to that shower, just leave me some soap," Joe replied. "I
love to feel fresh, too."
"Frank, I kind of understand how you feel, I made that blood test too and I
am waiting for the results either, so we're in this together, remember
"Joe.. Thank you.."
"Go get your shower," Joe said and took his books. "I'll be downstairs."
20 minutes later Frank shut the water off, wrapped a towel around his waist
and stepped out of the shower. Everything in the house was quiet, he didn't
even hear what Joe was doing downstairs.
He toweled his wet hair and looked at his reflection in the mirror. He
didn't like what he saw there, his eyes wore a too worried look and his
skin was much paler than usual. Like I'm sick.. Sick.. What if he looked
like that if he really was sick?
He closed his eyes to collect his thoughts and rubbed his nose bridge. Calm
down, you can't look sick after 4 months, Doug had been 8 months sick and
he looked great.. Poor guy, I wonder how he is bearing up.. I should call
him, maybe, he'll give me a good advice.
He went into his room to take fresh clothes and, to his surprise, saw Joe
sitting on his spiral chair. He didn't say a word when Frank came in and
his face was serious. He silently stared at him, one hand near his mouth.
By the look in his eyes Frank could tell that there was something very
Frank stood rooted to the ground. "Did he call?"
Joe nodded several times, but remained speechless, he put his index finger
between his teeth and began biting it. He never took his eyes off Frank,
waiting for his reaction. Frank's face became chalk white.
"What exactly did he say?" he managed to ask.
"Frank.. I don't want to tell you this, but it'll be better if you know it
from me.. I understand that it's gonna be hard for you to accept it, but
you should try.. You haven't been yourself lately.. I can even see that
your hair started graying because of how worried you've been today."
Frank didn't hear him. He had a strange rumble in his head, so he could
only see that Joe was saying something with a serious face. This something
must have been his sentence. This is the beginning of the end.
"And to think that you've been so worried.. in vain.."Joe looked at his
brother to see his reaction, Frank was only staring blankly at Joe with
fear-filled eyes. Joe, in his turn, kept a serious face however his lips
were curling into a smile. Obviously Frank hadn't heard him or hadn't
understood what he'd said.
"Frank?" he asked when is brother didn't even move. "Are you alright?"
"And you?" Frank looked at him.
"Is your result positive, too? Did I infect you?"
"How could infect me if you're not infected yourself?"
Frank stared uncomprehendingly at him, "What do you mean?"
"I'm a good actor, don't you think?" Joe finally smiled, but this didn't
have a proper effect on his brother who still looked dully at him. "Frank,
wake up! And smile! You're okay. The result is negative."
"Was I so good at pretending to have bad news?" Joe's grin grew wider.
"Frank, what's with you? Come on, do I really need to say that I fooled
you? Both results, mine and yours, are as negative as they can be."
Fooled me? Negative?
"YOU!!!" he hissed when moments later it finally hit. In the twinkling of
an eye his hands were around Joe's neck. "Do you understand what you did to
"Almost did," Joe corrected him, laughing. "And get your hands off my
throat. You've become too unpredictable lately to trust you that you won't
break my neck."
"Are they really negative?" Frank asked, letting go of Joe.
Frank suddenly just sank to the floor, his hands of his face. "Frank?" Joe
worriedly asked. "Did I scare you?" He kneeled down next to him and took
Frank's hands from his face and saw.tears in his eyes, "Frank..."
Frank didn't say anything, he threw his arms around Joe and held him close,
not saying a word, he just sniffed his nose a couple of times.
"Frank, come on, everything is okay.." Joe said, returning the hug. "Calm
down. Don't cry."
Moments later, when he calmed down a bit, replied, "Joe, I'm just happy
that.. I was so worried and when I saw your face I thought that..I mean
your face told me everything.. Thank God you lied," He playfully punched
his brother on his right arm. "You, little devil. What if I had a heart
attack?" he wiped his tears of joy with his left hand. "Couldn't you just
tell me straight away?"
"That wouldn't have the same effect," Joe mischievously replied.
"Sometimes I hate you," Frank said and stood up, but then he smiled at Joe,
"But not today. Thank you, lil' bro, you kept me sane."
"Anytime, next time you feel like going mad tell me and I'll bring my
algebra book with me," Joe patted Frank on his back, "I don't know what
would become of you if the result was positive. If only waiting almost
drove you mad."
"I am sorry, I just.. This call and everything..I never thought that such a
thing could happen with me and I guess I wasn't ready. I'm so sorry, I was
a pain in the neck, wasn't I?"
"I won't deny that."
"And you. Your result is negative, too, yes?" Frank hopefully asked.
"Please, be serious," he added.
Joe nodded. "It is. Seriously. Now will you calm down and relax?"
"Yes, I think yes.. Ah, I still can't believe it."
"Believe it, sometimes miracles happen."
"Can I ask you a question? I couldn't push my mind off the test today and I
was so worried about it that I almost started climbing up the wall. But you
stayed so calm and cool headed today. How?" Frank wondered.
"Just imagine what would happen if I acted like you," Joe chuckled. "We'd
kill each other for a piece of soap."
Frank only sheepishly smiled in reply.
"Speaking of soap, did you leave any in our bathroom?"
"Yeah.. A small piece."
"Great. Then I'll go grab a shower now and then we'll go to Mr. Pizza where
I'm gonna bring you back to normal life with pepperoni."
"Good idea. I definitely need to relax. I'll call guys and ask them out,
okay with you?"
"Sure. But remember, it'll be your treat."
"Why so?" Frank frowned.
"Because I'm broke and because it's your lucky day, so pay for your
"And what would you do without me with your trigonometry? You know, people
pay for tutoring lessons."
"People also pay for personal psychologists. I've been yours today."
"All right, all right, my treat, it's my turn anyway," Frank agreed and was
about to leave the room for the living room when Joe's voice called him.
"Erm, Frank? Forgive my indecency, but since when have you started walking
around the house being almost naked?" Frank still had only a towel around
his waist. "What would mom and dad say if they saw you?"
"I think they wouldn't understand me," Frank replied, blushing.