It doesn't have a clinical smell like I expected. In fact, there's nothing clinical at all about 'Posi+ive', the HIV/AIDS support centre that I've just walked into. No – instead the place looks comfortable, filled with lounge furniture and open spaces with offices off to the side and coffee, snacks, and resources spread throughout.
I can see Prim being comfortable here. I hope, at least.
"Hi! Can I help you?" The voice startles me as I stand in the doorway to the centre - though it probably shouldn't - I'm taken off guard by the high pitch and the assault on my senses that is the woman's attire. It takes me a moment to orient myself to her expectant look.
"I – uh, hi?" I stutter, gripping my hands around the pamphlets I have. My eyes flicker over the woman's shoulder and catch on the striking blue eyes that stare at me from behind the reception desk. Inadvertently my stomach flutters and I have to look away at the ground and avoid both of these people. "Sorry." I mumble and step backwards towards the door.
I'm ready to run. I thought I could do this today – I thought I was ready to help, but being here in this place, knowing what it represents, is getting inside too fast. My feet are carrying me to the door as I stumble through more apologies before hearing the ring of the bell as I slip back onto the street. I make it a block before my body shudders and the tears rush to my eyes and I'm forced to lean against a building for support.
That's where the man from behind the reception desk finds me with my head pressed to the cold brick and my jacket wrapped up around my ears. I don't hear him for the first minute that I assume he's talking to me – too caught up in my own head to notice. But when he taps my shoulder and hands me another pamphlet (that makes five in my hands today alone) I take it willingly and mumble a quiet "Thanks".
"Look, I know it's hard and Effie can scare you off at first, but if you give it a shot, you'll find what you're looking for here," He continues and I finally look up from my hands full of paper to meet his gaze. He's smiling, bright and wide, as his blue eyes sparkle in the cool spring air. He's not wearing a coat – that's foolish of him.
I watch as the smile slips just a little and I realize that I've said it out loud. "Dammit – sorry. I'm not your mother. Just, it's cold out. Why are you out here?" I question, finally wording what I don't particularly understand about why he would chase the crazy girl down the street.
"Because I know what it's like to come face to face with it all and I wanted you to have someplace safe to come. Everyone needs somewhere safe." He pauses and I see him look across the street to the sputtering traffic passing us by. When he looks back, he extends his hand towards me and the smile is back in full force. "I'm Peeta."
It's now or never, I can't help but think. Despite the way my hands are shaking and the sour taste in my mouth, I know that I need to do this for Prim. We need to find her the best support system, the best people, to help us get through these first few months because surely I won't be enough and Mum won't do anything.
"Katniss – I'm Katniss." I murmur and he smiles even wider, if that were possible. My stomach flutters again at the sight of it and I bite my lip to bring me back to ground level.
"Well Katniss, are you going to come back so I can give you the tour or has Effie really scared you off?" He jokes brightly. Shifting on my feet I look at my car down the road and back at the centre up the block before taking in the pamphlets in my hand.
I can't do this alone.
"Let's go take a look."
AN: So, here it is, a little glimpse at the next bit I'm working on. It might be slow to come but I'm trying to get back in the groove of writing frequently. Hopefully you'll be interested. On a special note, I'm not a doctor, I'm not even in the medical field, this story is being written by someone who has not experienced HIV but has worked within volunteer organizations involved in sexuality and HIV/AIDS awareness. I am not perfect, but I want to address the subject matter honestly and hopefully respectfully while giving you guys something worth reading. If you have facts, ideas, concerns, please please please contact me to discuss them.