When she was sure Davis had left, Suzan came out of the kitchen and joined Ellen in the sunroom. She still wore her lab coat, having worked most of the morning in the cellar, or rather the state-of-the-art laboratory that Ellen had generously equipped for the doctor’s special research.
“You heard it all?” Ellen asked as she returned to her chair.
“Oh, yes.” Suzan took the seat her former lover had vacated, the cushion still warm. “Thank you for your help, Ellen. I’m sorry but I just couldn’t face Davis. Our last encounter didn’t go so well.”
“I certainly understand. Would you like some tea?”
“I had a glass in the kitchen while you two talked out here.” With a pinched expression, Suzan replayed Davis’ words in her mind. “Despite his effort to appear sincere and impartial, I know Davis too well. On the surface he appears cool and calm, but underneath he’s writhing in agony over the breakup and seething with jealousy, too. He can’t or won’t abide by my decision to leave him...and for a woman. So, if necessary, I’ll speak to him again, if only to make him understand that we wish to be left alone from now on.”
Leaning forward, Ellen placed her hand on Suzan’s arm. “Wait until you’re strong again and you can meet him face to face with dignity and purpose—and most importantly, without guilt. In the meantime, I’ll pick up that box with your belongings.”
Suzan shook her head. “Take the box to the nearest thrift shop. What I left behind, Davis gave me as gifts. He probably doesn’t even remember giving me the ski boots and sweaters. Funny, we never did go skiing.”
Ellen offered a ghost of a smile. “Men are such strange creatures. Of course, I’ll do as you wish and take the box to a charity outlet.”
Anxious to move on, Suzan gripped her lover’s hand and exuded the excitement she had been holding back. “Now I have good news, no, great news! I have something wonderful to show you.”
Ellen’s smile blossomed. “You’ve found the missing element?”
“I think so. Come and see.”
Ellen held on to Suzan’s hand as they made their way to the cellar, now a fully-equipped laboratory. Ellen had sold her painting and some other of her antiques to pay for the equipment and supplies, but assured the doctor it had been well worth the expenditure. Suzan just hoped she could live up to her benefactress’ expectations. Now at her work table, she adjusted a slide on her state-of-the-art microscope and welcomed Ellen to take a look. Of course, to the layperson the molecules suspended between the glass slips meant nothing of importance, but to a scientist like Suzan that molecular structure meant a great deal, a breakthrough in her quest to find the one link needed to achieve an immortal state without the loss of its properties in later years.
“I’m not sure what I’m seeing,” Ellen stated, squinting to focus on the group of molecules, a random pattern of little daubs, much like a splatter of rose-red paint. When Suzan replaced the slide with another one much like it, Ellen squinted further. “Tell me, what is it I’m looking for?”
Suzan explained, “What you see, or don’t see, is the difference in the molecular structure of your blood and that of Charles’. You have an additional enzyme that he lacked. When I isolated the enzyme I found that it is a byproduct of the pituitary gland’s ability to control aging, or the HGH hormone.”
Ellen straightened with a puzzled look. “What does HGH mean?”
“It’s the human growth hormone.”
“Unfortunately, I don’t see any difference.”
“Well, it’s not readily apparent unless you’re looking for a difference in the makeup of cells. HGH also controls the aging process. In Charles’ case, the hormonal makeup experienced a rapid breakdown after a certain period of years. Why, I can’t really say, but the bridge that holds it all together was lacking, or even broken. If I construct a strong, permanent bridge, or link, then the process can be sustainable, hopefully forever. Does that make sense?”
Ellen’s expression segued from thoughtful contemplation to bright understanding. “Yes, it does now!”
“When I discovered the anomalies,” the doctor continued, “I made a thorough comparison and analysis of the individual components, what was there, what wasn’t there. Now I feel I’ve found the answer through the isolation of the key components. I made a serum out of the enzyme and hormonal extractions which should be injected intravenously for the greatest effect.”
Ellen beamed at the doctor. “You are a genius, my darling!”
Suzan managed to control her enthusiasm and return to clinical mode. Her discovery hadn’t been tested or verified yet; but with the presence of Ellen to spur her on, she felt positive that her work had proved successful.
“Well, not yet. What I just told you sounds great in theory, but it’s just that, a theory, an experiment that may or may not work. I have no way of testing it unless I inject myself with the serum at the same time I take the elixir.”
To show her benefactress the result of her efforts that had consumed her for two weeks, Suzan held up a slim vial filled with a cloudy, pale yellow substance and capped with a red plastic stopper. “Maybe this will work; maybe not.”
Ellen eyed the serum with a rapturous expression, although she tempered her feelings when she stated, “I realize what you have here is experimental, and I’ll understand completely if you don’t wish to put it to the ultimate test. You will be taking a precarious and dangerous chance by doing so. The serum might fail and you may become like the rest of my dear ones, or, it might prove successful and you’ll join me in life eternal. But you—and you alone—must make that decision. I’ll accept whichever choice you make.”
With a quick intake of breath, Suzan returned the serum vial to its resting place, a wooden box padded with cotton. She had another vial like it secured in the cold storage unit, just in case something happened to this one. What she had here—what had taken her days of research and experimentation to create—was too precious to leave to chance. Of course, she knew all along that it would be a fifty-fifty proposition. She had no way to test the serum in advance, so it would either work or fail. And if it failed, there would be no turning back, no recovery, no safeguards of any kind, only rapid aging and death.
Suzan let out her breath and then announced, “I have made up my mind, Ellen. I want to be with you—forever.”
“Oh, my dearest!” Gathering her lover in her arms, Ellen planted grateful and joyous kisses on Suzan’s lips, cheeks and forehead. “You have made me so very, very happy! Tonight will be the night of your transformation! We must celebrate before and after your rebirth, for it will be our miracle and the bonding of our lives forever.”
“I have only one favor to ask,” Suzan murmured as she pressed her burning cheek to her lover’s soft, cool hair, both their bodies hot and flushed with the fevered pitch of excitement.
“Yes, my darling,” Ellen whispered, her tone promising and provocative, “whatever you wish.”
Suzan pulled out the woman’s embrace and stepped back, a bit dizzy. “I don’t want you to tell me when and how you plan to kill me. Just do it quickly and quietly.”
Ellen smiled sweetly. “As you wish, my love. You won’t feel a thing. I promise.”
In her mind, Suzan tried to put aside that aspect of the transformation process. When she asked Ellen if it was necessary to die in order to be reborn, her lover told her that it was the most important and pivotal part of her passage to immortality. But Ellen also tried to soothe Suzan’s fear by letting her know that her death would be done painlessly and quickly. Still...
The doctor steered her focus back to clinical details. “Now I’ll prepare the syringe with the serum. It should be administered at the same time I drink the elixir.”
“I’m all goose bumps,” Ellen said with a delightful shiver. “This will be an evening neither one of us will ever forget.”