(I am trying hard to write this story from a woman\’s prospective. I need your feedback to improve what I have written. Thank you in advance for your help.)


Happy Birthday to me.





A high pitch tone from the black alarm clock on the bedside table suddenly interrupted the quietness in the sparsely furnished one bedroom apartment on Falcon Drive. Debra Henry pulled the teal comforter back and slowly sat up on the side of the full-size bed. She reached and turned off the alarm on the clock. Slowly walking into the Exquisite Pink colored bathroom, she stopped to sing to her reflection in the full length bathroom mirror. “Happy birthday to me; happy birthday to me; happy birthday to Debra; happy birthday to me, today is your 39th birthday. Girl, you still got it.” She smiled at her reflection and continued with her daily routine.



After enjoying a brief hot shower, Debra started her dialysis treatment. In 2004, she was diagnosed with Chronic Kidney Failure. At the same time, she was informed that she tested HIV positive. The doctor believed that the HIV infection resulted in the kidney failure. A few minutes later, she was admitted to Mercy General Hospital on Lakeshore Road. By this time, she lost all of her weight and had been sick for months. Regardless, she came a long way since that first day. That is why today she is so glad just to be alive.



As she sat on the side of her bed doing the daily dialysis treatment, she started writing in her journal. She wrote, ‘Thank you, Lord; I am another year stronger and another year wiser. Most importantly, you have kept me safe though the worst of my illness. I thank you, my heavenly Father. I will celebrate this birthday with thanksgiving just because of you. I feel like I am at peace with who I am and with my diagnoses. Thank you, Lord because it was only you that kept me alive. Lord, you made me whole. Please continue to allow me to learn the purpose of these illnesses. Please allow me to understand your plan for me. Well, that is all for now. I have to get going.’



Since today was her birthday, she decided to go shopping at the McCord’s grocery store on the corner of Juniper Street and Falcon Drive. Everything was close enough to Debra’s apartment where she could walk since she did not have a car. This was one of the main reasons she moved to this part of town. It took her twenty five minutes to go to the store, buy everything she needed and return home. She was planning on celebrating her birthday with a homemade cake. Later on that night, she poured herself a tall cold glass of milk and ate a piece of the home baked strawberry birthday cake. Afterwards, she crawled under the covers with the television remote and watched a few old movies until she drifted off to sleep.  



The next morning, Debra slowly walked into the kitchen and stared at the medicine tray on top of the microwave. She says aloud, ‘Man, this is a lot of pills I have to take everyday. But, I am going to trust that God will bring me through this.’ She slowly picked up the tray and took the daily regiment of medication. Four years ago, Debra was informed that she was HIV positive. Later that same month, she had kidney surgery. Because of everything she was going through, Debra became aware that God was working in her life. She realized that her existence was not by chance. God had a purpose for her.    



The past year was not an easy year for Debra. Sometimes, she just wanted to stop taking the medications altogether. Some days, she felt like she really wanted to die. However, she finally came to the conclusion that dying was not the way out. After bouts of self piety and crying Debra decided that she actually wanted to live her life abundantly. Debra wiped the tears from her eyes and prayed, ‘Because of what I have read in the Word of God, I know I am healed. Isaiah reads, “The chastisement of our peace was upon Him and by His stripes, we are healed.” Since the Word of God says I am healed; I choose to believe I am healed. God, I will constantly renew my way of thinking and living because of the faith I have in you. Because of my diagnoses, my life is no longer about me. It is all about you. I will give you all of the glory and all of the praise for keeping me alive.’



During one of her monthly office visits, Doctor Bradley Smith discovered an enlarged nodule on the right side of her neck. He suggested that she have thyroid surgery. He thought it would rule out cancer. However, Debra did not feel that the surgery was necessary. She decided to place her trust in God and continue to believe that he would heal her. She knew that God would not leave nor forsake her.



I must have faith



The next morning was the beginning of another good day for Debra. She could feel the Spirit of God move over her as she prepared for church. She retrieved the black and lime green dress from the closet. After putting on her black pumps, she waited for the church bus to come and pick her up. When she arrived at church, she was ready to praise God. The church service turned out to be really good. The choir performed a few special Christmas songs for the occasion. The children also recited the traditional Christmas speeches they rehearsed all week.



Debra slowly looked around the small church. The church could hold two hundred people. She counted sixty-five people for this Sunday’s service. More people were present today than usual. She thought to herself, ‘The holidays brought a lot of people out to church. I wish they would come every Sunday, but at least they are here today.’ Bridget Moore walked into the sanctuary and spotted her and waved.



‘Hi, girl,’ Bridget said while holding onto the hand of her three year old boy. She quickly gave Debra a hug and roughly pulled the young boy up off the red carpet. ‘Boy, I told you. If you get that suit dirty, I will spank you.’ Without taking a breath, she continued, ‘How are you doing? I thought I was picking up you up for church?’



‘I am sorry, Bridget, I forgot.’ Debra replied, ‘Anyway you got four children to get ready. You do not have time to pick me up and get to church.’ She moved out into the aisle to let her and the children take a seat.



Bridget led the three children through the small space between the pews and took a seat. She placed her daughter beside Debra and her two boys on the other side of her. She said, ‘Now, if I have to tell you three to behave, you will not watch television for a week. What you mean four children, Dee? You know I only have three.’



Just then, David walked down the aisle with the choir. ‘Hi, Dave,’ Debra said and waved. The children turned excitedly to see their father wearing his purple and gold choir robe. They children waved and laughed when he stuck out his tongue at them. Debra looked at Bridget, raised four fingers, and laughed. The choir continued to walk to the choir stand. Moments later, they opened the services with the usual rendition of the hymn, ‘Praise God’. Pastor Marcus Mitchell walked to the pulpit twenty minutes later. David sung a stirring solo before the pastor preached a very inspiring message. The Scripture came from Matthew 9: 35-36. The sermon talked about three different types of people. He said ‘There are people that make things happen. There are people that watch things happens. Then there are those that are clueless to what is happening. In 2009, I pray that I can become a person that make things happens. I will no longer sit back and watch life pass me by.’



Thirty minutes into the services, Debra leaned close to Bridget and whispered, ‘Are you ready to give me a hand in the kitchen?’



Bridget whispered her reply, ‘Okay.’ She did not have to worry too much about her children not behaving because their grandmothers were ushers at the church. She turned to her daughter and instructed her to watch her brother and to let her know when the speeches are finished. After every Sunday service, everyone came to the family life center for fellowship dinner. Each week, two of the members cooked the dinner. Today was Debra and her turn to display their cooking skills for everyone. The main dish was roast beef with mash potatoes. They also prepared sweet corn, French cut green beans, dinner rolls and sweet potato casserole. She prepared the meat at home last night and only needed to put it into the oven. The rest of the dinner they cooked during the service and the Christmas program.



The two best friends worked well together in the large kitchen preparing everything. Bridget worked as a paralegal for a lawyer in Bentonville. In 2005, she met Debra as they rushed her into the emergency room to have David Jr., her last baby. Debra was there because she was having problems with the dialysis treatments. They talked for a while as they waited to be seen by their doctors. Later after they were assigned to their rooms, Debra convinced one of the nurses to take her to the maternity ward to take a look at Bridget’s new baby boy. They have been close friend since.



Suddenly, Bridget’s daughter, Alexis burst through the door to the fellowship hall. She was closely followed by Matthew, her eldest son. ‘Mom, the program is almost over. Matthew was pulling on Keisha’s hair in the choir stand the whole time they were singing. I think he is in love,’ she said as she taunted her brother. Matthew quickly punched her in the arm and ran. Before they could start running around the empty room, Bridget directed the children to sit over in the play area with their brother, DJ. After the Christmas program, everyone came in and gladly enjoyed the meal that they prepared for them.



Later that afternoon, Debra sat in her small apartment writing in her journal. She wrote, ‘I am really glad that I went to church today. I have to agree with what the pastor said. He said, “You can not praise the Lord like you need to at home. There will always be something to stop you from truly praising God. You have to go to the house of God for real praise.” When I became too sick to get out, I tried to praise God at home. To me, it is alright but it is not the same. Especially on days like today. I really enjoyed cooking for everyone and seeing them enjoy it. I just wish I had someone to cook for here at home. ’



Debra decided to turn on the computer later on that night. She has been alone and lonely for a while. Two years ago, she divorced her husband after he was convicted and sentenced to twenty five years for dealing drugs. He contracted the disease from one of the many women he slept with while married to her. That was how she became HIV positive. For a while after the divorce, she would not talk to anyone or allow any man to approach her. She was scared of being hurt again. But lately, she yearned for the closeness that companionship brings. So, she decided to search for a friend of the opposite sex. Since she was HIV positive, she decided to use the poz.com dating website.



Slowly, she carefully searched through the various profiles on the site to see who was available. Debra was not desperate by any means; she was just tired of being lonely. She slowly searched through the profiles of the men on the site. She noticed that most of them were gay or were from Africa. She was just about to give up when she spotted Robert Ward’s profile on the website. Carefully, she read through the information. The poem, The Rock, was exceptionally good. However, he did not have a picture so she could not see how he looked. His profile said that he was a Christian and that was one of the qualities she was searching for in a friend. She thought to herself, ‘what the heck; I will give it a try. I will email him.’



She delicately tactfully wrote her email, ‘I hope you had a good day at church today. I am in search of a friend of the opposite sex, Christian preferred. I came across your profile and thought, what the heck; I\’ll give it a try. So, here I am. I am not desperate. I am just tired of being lonely. In my spare time I like to Scrapbook. I am really good at it, people ask me to do albums for them. So I do that on the side to make some extra money. When can I learn more about you? Send a picture with your email, please. Have a good evening. Dee.’ Then she sent it and continued to surf the internet.



Surprisingly, Robert emailed her back ten minutes later. He wrote, ‘Hi, There is not much that I can tell you. I moved to Florida recently. I am trying to renegotiate the mortgage on my mother\’s house. I am going through a divorce. I have no children. The rest can be found on my profiles on my web blogs. I am looking forward to hearing from you again.’



Good news



Debra bubbled over with joy as she left Doctor Smith’s office. Last night, she met someone on the internet and today her doctor gave her some very good news. The doctor said that the recent lab results were good. Her T cell counts continued to increase and her body was healing from the surgery. He also said she was well enough to return to work. This really made her happy. Because of how sick she had gotten recently Debra was just thankful to have a job. She took off on the 3rd of October when the doctor put her on temporary disability. It was now the end of December and she was ready to finally get out of that lonely apartment and go back to work.



Debra penned in her journal, ‘Alright, I get to go back to work. I went to the job right after leaving the doctor office and organized my work area. I am so excited about this good news and I can not wait to share it with someone. The only one I can tell is my friend Bridget. I know she will be excited to hear I am doing better. I do not even think about talking to my ex in laws. When Walter was jailed and I became sick everyone in his family and all our friends found out and abandoned us. None of them comes around much because they are afraid they will get infected. However, I could share my joy with my family. I am so glad that I was not rejected by them when I told them. They accepted me but everyone lives so far away in D.C. It is hard being in so far from my family, but thank God for Bridget.’



Around noon, Debra sat at the computer wondering if she should email Robert. She wrote and rewrote the email but did not send it. She was scared that he would think that she was being too aggressive. But, she wanted to know what he was looking for in a friendship. She read his profiles on the internet; however a profile only says so much about a person. She wanted to talk to him, but he does not write much. His emails are always short. She wondered to herself, ‘Is he so busy that he can not email me.’ She decided to just email him her phone number. She prayed, ‘God, I hope he calls.’ 




Since Debra did not have to work on the weekend, she decided to just relax and take it easy. She made a few phone calls to family in Washington D.C. They had not chatted for a while and she wondered how everyone was doing. After the long conversation with Mona, her sister and Carrie, her mother, she turned on the television. There was nothing on that she wanted to watch so she decide to watch some movies. She fell asleep on her bed for a short nap around 2:00 p.m. When she woke up, she checked her email. 



She received a lot of email. Most of it was the usual junk. AT&T sent here her monthly statement. She received another email from Robert. Debra became excited as she waited for it to open. Earlier, she read his testimony that he posted on the profile. Again the email was short. It just said, ‘Good Morning. Here is a poem to let you know that I am thinking about you.’ The poem was called I think of you. She really liked the poem but, wondered why would he write such a moving poem to her? They barely knew each other. However, it is nice gesture. He also sent a picture in the email with the poem. Unfortunately, it was too small to view. She tried to enlarge it, however, it became too out of focus to see.



After reading the rest of her email, Debra turned off the computer and reclined on the sofa. She pushed the on button on the remote control and the flat screen television came on. The old Mission Impossible series was on the television as she started to write in her journal. She wrote, ‘I can not believe that he has nothing to talk about. If this is true, I do not know how people get to know him? He is a writer, so he should have a lot to say. I invited him to call me since he does not have much to say by email. When will he call?’ Hours later she turned to television off and slowly walked into the bedroom.



Debra really loved taking hot bubble baths. However, she could not sit down in the tub because of the dialysis tube in her stomach. It could not be submerged in water because it was not airtight. So, she took a long hot shower instead. Right before Debra climbed under the covers of her bed, the gray cordless phone rung. ‘Man, right when I get in bed someone has to call,’ she complained as she walked to the living room to retrieve the cordless phone. She looked at the number on the caller Id to see who it was. It read unknown caller. ‘Who would be calling me this late?’ she wondered. ‘Hello,’ she answered.


The voice on the other end replied, ‘Hi, may I speak to Miss Debra Henry. This is Robert Ward calling.’ The moment she head his strong masculine voice something inside of her started to tingle. She really liked the authoritative tone of his voice. She answered, ‘This is her. How are you doing?’ They continued to talk for hours. She really liked the sound of his voice. She also enjoyed the fact that he was straight forward about what he thought. He had a strong personality that she liked. Around 3:30 that morning, she slowly placed the telephone on the base and returned to the comforts of her bed.

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