The Gift

                Exert From
                                             "Our Burden"

While they were looking around, another man entered the store.  He was wearing a long dirty trench coat.    he  aimed a sawed-off shotgun at the clerk behind the counter and bellowed for him to give up the money. When the clerk didn’t comply immediately, the man shot at the wine bottles.  Terrified, the clerk dropped down on his hands and knees, shredding them on broken glass.  He punched a small button that would alert the police of the robbery in progress. Quickly he got back up at stuffed the money that he had into a small, brown paper sack.  Three was only about seventy in small bills and a couple of twentys.  He was trying to stall so that the police could arrive in time.  He really wasn’t worried about himself; it was Alexandria and Danté that he was worried about.
      Maybe he telepathically communicated with the trench-coat man because he turned around suddenly looked as though he was searching for something.  Danté and Alexandria were crouched behind one of the back aisles.  The wouldn't even have been spotted iff that mirror hadn't been above them.   the gun was aimed straight at them.  With a quick burst of adrenaline, Danté shoved Alexandria out of the area of impact.  He was hit in the chest.  It shattered at least three of his ribs before a bullet bounced off his clavicle and embedded itself in the surrounding muscle.  It was about three inches from his right lung.  .
    "Alexandria..." he mumbled weakly.  He couldn’t warn her who the gunner was. It was Carl.
    She was in shock.  She couldn’t seem to move.  After Danté gurrg;led her name out one more time before couching wetly, she shook herself out of her daze.  The gunman actually seemed to be surprised that he shot someone.  He’d only meant to scare them a little bit, not to kill them.  Panicky he told the clerk to hurry it up.  The clerk had just got finished he shoved the clerk back in the bottles, grabbed the bag and skidded towards the door.  That was when Dantés father bounded through the door.
    "Stop! " He growled.  
     Backing up and entering two more shells into the gun, he aimed at Alexandria who was still trying to keep Danté conscious.  She looked up, using her eyes to try and communicate with him.  Maybe Carl never saw the pleading look she was giving.  Maybe he had reached the last threshold of sanity.  A hard gleam came into his eyes and he fired.  The slug invaded her neck.  Seemingly unaware with what was going on, Alexandria blacked out.  Carl, like a frightened rabbit ran and left out the backdoor.  Dantés father skidded after him like a rabid dog.
    With tears running down his face, the clerk saw that he could do nothing for the dying Alexandria, but he tried to help Danté.  He seemed to have lost a lot of blood, and his lips were turning a deathly bluish tint.  Danté was still frantically trying to catch his breath, but his eyes were fading and turning glassy.  In his mind he kept asking if Alexandria was all right.  A great sigh was starting to seep through his body.  The clerk kept even pressure on his chest until the paramedics came.  At the hospital, Danté was immediately taken to surgery where surgeons worked on his half-alive body for nine hours.  Then he was put into intensive care.  When he woke up, the first thing he saw was his father’s haggard and drawn face.
    "Is Alexandria ok?" He choked out.
    "I’m sorry son.  She didn’t make it." His father said, hating himself for sounding like an emotionally deficient drone.
    "Oh my God.... Oh my God...." He murmured over and over again.
    The convenience store clerk was in another chair opposite of his father. He kept bubbling that it was all his fault.  
    "It wasn't your fault," Dantés father said.
    "I know the robbery wasn’t my fault, but what I’m about to tell is," he replied back with his voice full of regret.  His eyes were cast downwards.  " I’m HIV positive."
    "What's that have to do with me?" Danté asked with apprehension.
    "I had my hands on your chest so you wouldn’t loose so much blood.  My hands were bleeding from cut glass at the time.  Our blood mixed.  I’m sorry."  He really was sorry.  Sorry for all the grief that was thrown in Dantés face.
    Danté didn’t say anything for a minute or so.
    "Now I’m dead in two ways." He finally said
"Why are you dead son?  You’re very much alive." Dantés father replied with apprehension.  He thought that he already knew the answer.
    " Alexandria and  were thinking about getting  engaged.  She was going to marry me!"  Danté said with tears streaming down his face.
    Trying to keep from crying himself, the clerk interrupted by saying Carl had been caught shortly afterwards.  Carl had been robbing the store on a random impulse.  
    "I hope that he got what he wanted," Danté monotonously said.  Three hours later, Danté slipped into an irreversible coma.  There was no real medical reason why his body gave up.  His father figured it was because he had no reason to live anymore. Just as Danté said.
    Danté never once blinked an eye or twitched a muscle in the year that he was in the hospital.  The hospital finally pulled the plug on his life support on his birthday because it was what his father had wished for in his will.  Mr. Vierno had died three months before.  The convenience store clerk and Salina was present when it was unplugged.  Just before Dr. Riley did it, the clerk could swear that that Danté whispered Alexandria's name.  But of course no one believed him.

                                                      Crystal Marie Hubbard

                    Copyright © 2000-2001 Crystal Hubbard