The next few months were hard for Julia and Rick, with the side effects from the HIV medications, telling their parents, dealing with the rumors at school and the guilt. Out of everything, the guilt was the worst for them. It felt like it was eating them alive. They blamed themselves for what had happened and what was still happening to Julia.
Julia thought it was her fault; she knew that if she had gone home instead of to that bedroom none of this would have happened. She would still be able to give herself to Rick like they had promised each other, she wouldn’t have gotten HIV and, worst of all, she wouldn’t be worrying about standing trial against her attacker. Rick told her it wasn’t her fault, it was his. He should have been there, should have protected her. The guilt ate at both of them, continuing to take a bite out of them each day. They couldn't stop the guilt from getting to them. Neither of them blamed the rapist as much as they blamed themselves. Both of them were determined to take the fault for their lover's troubles, though they hated it, they felt that they needed to.
Rick had been able to help Julia with her medication and the trial a lot more since he had moved in. His parents kicked him out of their house because he refused to break up with Julia. They had been trying to convince him to leave her for a long time, and when he said “no”, they told him to leave and not to come back until he came to his senses and left Julia. Rick moved out, almost eagerly. He never liked that his parents wanted Rick to "find someone better for him." Rick was positive about Julia, and he would stay by her side.
Julia’s parents knew that Rick was essential for Julia's recovery, so they let him move in. Her dad was against it at first, a 17-year-old boy moving in with his 17-year-old girl friend, but Julia’s mom told him that it would be alright. She knew that with the HIV, they didn’t have to worry about things like sex. Julia wouldn’t risk Rick’s life. So, after much grouching and arguing, her dad finally agreed.
It was hard for Julia at school. Everyone knew that she had HIV and they avoided her like the plague. If they saw her walking down the hall they all moved out of the way, if she walked into the bathroom, everyone else walked out. But that wasn’t the worst part, the worst was the rumors. They flew so quickly from one student to another. Nobody believed that she was raped. They would rather think she was a whore, craving anyone to lead her to pleasure, than believe that the pride and joy of the school had raped her. So that was the story that everyone told, and believed. They said Julia slept with him, that he didn’t need to rape her because he could have any girl he wanted. Julia tried to tune it out, but it hurt. And, like the guilt, the rumors ate at her until she felt raw. She loved Rick, and she would never betray him like that!
Even Julia’s friends had abandoned her, but this was what she had expected. Even with time to think about it. Every sleepless night, worrying what people would think, she knew that it was inevitable. She knew her friends would leave her. But why did it hurt so badly? They no longer talked to her at their lockers, ate with her at lunch, or even emailed. If it were not for Rick, Julia would be alone. He walked her to her classes, changed his lunch period so that she didn’t have to eat alone, and, now that they lived together, he drove her home so that she didn’t have to ride the bus with everyone. Rick was truly her knight in shining armor, saving her --the damsel in distress-- from some of the worst pain imaginable. She had no idea that he had been suffering from similar abuse; Rick had been being ridiculed by his "buddies" in the locker room for weeks. But Rick didn’t want Julia to know about that, he knew it would only hurt her more then she was already hurting. He couldn't stand to see her in any more pain.
Even though everyone at school had exiled Julia, she was very busy. Her parents had pushed her to press charges against Justin and, ever since she had agreed, things had been hectic. They had taken Julia down to the police station to file the report, the police had Julia go see a different doctor so that they could be sure she had HIV, Julia had to tell her story to three different officers and a psychiatrist. Her parents got her a lawyer and she had to tell her the story too. And in just a few months she would have to get up in front of everyone and tell her story again.
Julia didn’t like the attention, she didn’t like everyone looking at her and knowing all of her business. This should be private. She'd wished people would butt-out. And she knew her little sister Keira was jealous of all the attention Julia was getting. Julia didn’t want her little sister to know why she was getting this sudden attention, she didn’t want her Keira to know that her sister had been raped. She would rather her sister think that she had done something wrong, besides, that is how Julia saw it anyway. And the guilt ate.
On top of everything else, Julia had to deal with the fatigue, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain and headaches from the HIV medication she was taking. Some days weren’t so bad, but others were torture. Some days she couldn’t even get out of bed it hurt so bad. As if the pain had paralyzed her, every time she tried to move, a sharp pain would hit her. In her head, in her stomach. On those days Julia actually felt like she was dying, sometimes she wished the end would come sooner. She wanted this torture to end. Those days didn’t hurt just Julia either, they hurt Rick just as bad, only for different reasons. Rick was terrified of losing her and on those days, it seemed completely possible. Rick may have only been 17, but he knew Julia was the love of his life. He knew that he would never find a girl like her, even if he searched for one hundred years. A million years. Forever. He knew that there wasn't, and would never be, a girl quite like Julia. That’s what kept the two of them going, the love that they had for each other. Even seeing Julia's face crumpled in pain, her hair pulled back into a knotted ponytail with sweat making the front strands stick to her forehead....When Rick looked into Julia's eyes, whether the expression in them caused him pain, or made him fly, his love was doubled. Tripled. Multiplied everyday, so it would never end. And the same for Julia.