Title: POSITIVELY ANONYMOUS
Genre: New Adult Contemporary
Word Count: 55,000
Small town waitress Tanya Rivers has just received unthinkable news: she’s HIV positive. Unable to accept responsibility for the mistake that infected her, she tries to avoid scrutiny by keeping her diagnosis under wraps.
Even in 1993, Boniface, IL–located east of the Mississippi and south of everywhere exciting—has remained untouched by an epidemic decimating the rest of the world. That’s what Tanya thinks, until she begins attending a local support group.
The participants are surprisingly diverse, and at first Tanya isn’t sure she has anything in common with them. As she begins to understand their difficulties and relate them to her own experience with AIDS, Tanya feels more comfortable with her new acquaintances than her lifelong friends. The group helps her cope with the disease, even as her mysterious behavior confuses those closest to her.
Between regular meetings and crippling side effects from the medication keeping her alive, Tanya fears it’s only a matter of time before someone uncovers her secret. The question is: how can the people she cares about come to terms with the illness she refuses to acknowledge?
My name is Tanya Rivers and I’m HIV positive. That’s how it will all begin. Say you’re HIV positive, and most people here need a moment to figure out what you mean. Use the word AIDS and there’s instant understanding, not to mention fear.
Then again, HIV has different connotations. Maybe you’re on medication, handling your disease to the best of your ability. No longer a total risk to society. Having AIDS—especially in 1993 in small town Boniface, IL—means you’re dying. Horribly, in most cases, a drain on the health care system and a burden to everyone around you. Nobody wants to think about that.
For the past week, I’ve been doing my best not to. Strange how that length of time spans both an eternity and the blink of an eye. If it weren’t for my nosy best friend Delia, I could go on pretending. Instead, I’m forced into a different charade, where I have to act like I’m done with the first stage of the grieving process.
I’m late for a meeting, stuck in the kind of traffic Boniface only has when I need to be somewhere. Behind the wheel of my old Chevy, I can’t do much more than adjust the volume on our one good radio station and curse the drivers inching through the light on the edge of downtown.
Downtown always reminds me of skyscrapers and crowds and stores, things I’ve only seen in Chicago or St. Louis a handful of times.