Chapter 48: Poison Ivy
by Brian Mark
Up until now, Pamela's life had been rather turbulent, to say the least ! Now, one of the world's most beautiful women, she had been born ugly and disfigured. Inside, she was still ugly and disfigured. She was beautiful now, only because of a personal tragedy, that had killed her mother, and left her Father only half the man he was before. And, what had cured her of her terrible skin disease ? Poison Ivy, Toxicodendron Radicans, something people choose to avoid, a metaphor for her earlier life, when she was something people chose to avoid, more an object than a person. And, to add to the turbulence, she had discovered she had a sister. Her father had told her, some time after the fire. She had been one of identical twins !
Both had suffered with the same disease. Her Mother could only cope with one of the girls. The other was put up for adoption, but no one ever wanted Penelope Eisley. Yes, she was fostered by two different couples, but their inability to cope with her psychological response to the disease, that bedeviled her, led to them reluctantly returning her to the orphanage, that was to remain her home for eighteen years, resulting in even greater feelings of rejection. The day Pamela first met Penelope, the Pamela, who had at least had loving Parents, met the Pamela, who hadn't had parents at all.
Like Pamela, Penelope had never been informed she had a twin sister. It was confidential information, and with good reason, as you can imagine. It had come as a tremendous shock for Pamela to learn about Penelope. How much more of a shock for Pauline to learn about Pamela, and a Pamela, who was extremely beautiful ?
At the St. Francis Care Home For Girls, there was much deliberation as to how Pamela would meet Penelope. Should someone break the news to her beforehand, and, if so, who ? Pamela felt it best to be the one herself, to tell her in person, and her opinion prevailed:
- Hello, Penelope ?
- That's right. Who are you ? If you're selling something, I'm not interested. .. What's that you are carrying ? It looks like a present.
- It is. It's for you.
- I don't want no present from no stranger.
- Penelope, this will come as a real shock to you. But you will find, that I am no stranger.
- What the hell are you talking about ? .. Why don't you just leave me in peace !
- Penelope, there is no easy way to tell you this, but believe it or not, I'm your sister.
- I aint got no sister. ... Look, who do you think you are, coming in here, looking so pretty, and coming up with an idea like that ?.. Sister Theresa !
- ( Sister Theresa ) Yes, Penny.
- Would you mind showing this girl the door. .. She has only gone and told me, that she's my sister.
- That's right. She is your sister, Penny, and, what's more, she's your twin sister.
- My God. That's impossible. What the hell are you saying, Theresa ?
- I'm saying, that you don't have to feel alone ever again, Penny. You have a sister here, who wants to see you, and who wants to go on seeing you. Isn't that right Pamela ?
- You better believe it !
- What the hell are you saying, ... that you were given up for adoption, too ?
- ( Theresa ) Actually, Penny, no. I am very sorry to say, that your real parents felt that they could only keep one of you, and that was Pamela.
- Yeah, the real pretty one, right ? .. The one that didn't have leprosy !
- (Theresa to Pamela ) That's what she calls her skin condition.
- Actually, Penelope, I was born with the same condition as you. That's why our mother felt she couldn't cope with the two of us.
- ( Becoming hysterical ) No, I can't take this. No. get out the pair of you. Leave me alone. Leave me alone ! Get out ! ! !
Both leave straight away !
Two weeks later, Pamela gets a phone call from Sister Theresa, to say that Penelope is now willing to see her:
- Hello, Penny.
- If we were born with the same disease, how come you look so beautiful ?
Pamela is at first really taken aback by the abrupt, out-of-context response to her greeting. Then, after a few moments, she realizes, that she understands it completely:
- I discovered the cure.
- ( Incredulous ) YOU ... discovered the cure.
- Did the Sisters here explain to you what happened to our Mother ?
- Well, that night, I climbed down through a whole lot of Poison Ivy. It was the only way I could escape the fire. Something in the plant was enough to eradicate the toxin that causes the disease. I have successfully isolated the enzyme responsible. I want to give it to you... Penny, it stands to reason. If it cured me, it should cure you !
- ( Really animated ) Do you think so, Sister ?
- I reckon I know so, .. Sister.
- What's that under your arm ? .. I see, you've brought that goddamn present with you again.
- Here, open it.
Inside, there is a small glass bottle containing the enzyme, and a large amount of Poison Ivy, all tightly squashed.
- My God. What do you call this ?
- I call it the enzyme and Poison Ivy, that's going to make you well again !
- What do I do with it ?
- ( In an almost joking tone, mocking the skin care advertisements on TV ) Rub the Ivy all over your body to begin with, then rub this liquid in after two hours, and you could look like me in ten days !
- And you produced this 'enzyme' yourself ?
- Yes, I'm about to start studies in Biology and Bio Chemistry at the Rhyker Institute in Lucerne, Switzerland.
- I'm hoping to start University too, in California. I won a scholarship there.
- Well, would you believe it, Penny ? It looks as if brains run in the family ! What do you want to study ?
- Bomb-making !
- What ?
- I want to blow the whole world up. But, if I can't study that, I was planning on taking physics and chemistry, with a little computing thrown in.
- Phew, for a moment there, I thought you might be serious ! ... Well, we've got a hell of a lot of catching up to do, but we have years ahead of us to do that. First, let's get started with your first treatment. ...
Within the ten-day period, specified by her sister, Penelope Eisley was indeed cured of her skin disease, and did indeed look like Pamela ! They did all their catching up in four weeks ! But, taking into account that Pamela herself had a real axe to grind against certain sections of Society, Penelope felt even more strongly than her. At times, Pamela feared that Penelope's character bordered on the pathological.
Pamela feared that such a rapid transformation into a beautiful young woman, after all she had been through, might cause all kinds of problems, not least in the social skills department. Significantly, the different choices they had made, concerning their university education, meant that, for the second time in their lives, they had to go their separate ways. Penelope Eisley was definitely going to prove a loose cannon, but Pamela wasn't going to be around to tie herdown ! All she could do was phone and text her as regularly as she could.
One thing's for sure. she never told her Stepmother about Penelope. Victoria Bross had never known about her Twin Sister, and Pamela planned on keeping things that way. She dreaded to think what might happen, if Victoria tried to interfere in Penny's life.
While in Switzerland, Pamela looked to develop every skill she would need, if she wanted to advance the cause of plant biology in medicine, and protect endangered species. In this regard, she spent a summer at the Royal Botanical Gardens, near Kew, in England, where some 30,000 rare plants reside, and 650 scientists operate. She was fascinated by the fact that there were over 7 million preserved plant specimens there, invaluable to such an up-and-coming stellar Research Student !
Victoria Bross had done very well financially out of her divorce settlement with Cadbury Hawkes, and had the money to send her all around the World on fact-finding trips. She especially spent time with the World's unofficial experts on plants, people like her Father, but much more knowledgeable ! Native tribesmen, Aborigines, ancestors of the Incas and the Aztecs, all gave her invaluable additions to her store of knowledge. Very soon, she had become the best and most promising student in the best Bio Chemical Institute in the World !
When it came to boys and men, especially those she met in academic circles, her intellectual acumen accounted for nothing, only her looks and her legs ! When she was a young girl, she had hoped that boys would be attracted to her, as a person, and see past her ugliness. Now she hoped that they would be attracted to her as a person, and see past her beauty.
Her very first excursion as Poison Ivy was when she was involved in a research project in Philadelphia. A rather plump professor in his mid-forties wanted to get fruity with her, shall we say. She had to fight him off, and vowed she would teach him a lesson. Lying about the date she was leaving, she stayed on an extra day ! She donned the slinky green cat suit and spangled mask, that was to become her trademark. She made a cat-of-nine-tails with fine rope, interwoven with ivy, and attacked him with it, in the relative darkness of a night plant chamber. He had been investigating the behavior of vines at night First he saw Poison Ivy, then he didn't !
- My God ! Who was that, and where did she go ?
All of a sudden, he felt his vines had come to life, and were attacking him ! He felt them pulling him to the ground, and then beating him, no, more like whipping him ! Before long, he was lying hopeless and helpless on the floor. Just before leaving, Poison Ivy appeared in the light once more, in front of him:
- I'm Poison Ivy, boy ! .. I'm like a Goddess. Even your vines obey me ! Goodnight Professor. Remember to be good to your plants, and they will be good to you !
And that was that. She was up and running, but the way, that she had toyed with her victim that night, gave her an idea. What if there were two Poison Ivies ? She could replicate the tactic she had employed with that professor, and then some ! She would have to reveal what she was to Penelope, but she reckoned, that in her sister she had found a kindred spirit, and that here was a perfect way for them both to vent their anger ! Yes, she could team up with her Twin Sister, and bamboozle the World !