“Darling, do I seem different, look different? I certainly feel different, more alive, happy, free, and even younger!” Ellen had been carefully examining her face in the mirror of her dressing table, her fingers smoothing, stroking and prodding flesh and features.
“I think it’s too soon to tell.” So far, Suzan offered only a neutral, wait-and-see attitude as she jammed her fists into her lab coat. She could only hope for the best. Her earlier, ecstatic feelings had quickly dwindled when she returned to the problem of the serum, frantic to come up with a viable formula. She ran several computer analyses and built a comprehensive digital synthesis of the serum’s elements, her calculations precise. When she finally felt satisfied with her efforts, she filled a syringe with the new serum and offered it to her lover.
“Still we should celebrate, darling!” Ellen had provided a chilled bucket of champagne, her favorite Boizel Brut Rèserve. From the start, she was certain that the serum Suzan had injected in her would unleash its miraculous powers and free her of the wretched need to consume human blood.
But Suzan hated the fact that Ellen possessed a strong faith and trust in her abilities as a doctor when she herself had questioned her own capabilities. Suzan had never wanted to play God, not even in all her years as a physician. The power to heal, to give and take life was awesome, too incredible even to comprehend, and yet she had accepted that very role out of her love for Ellen Lambert.
Suzan snapped back to the present when Ellen pressed a flute of bubbly in her hand.
“Here’s to us, my love!” Ellen held up her glass, her smile wide and bright with excitement, hope and anticipation. “To success and good fortune, to love, affection, happiness and abiding companionship, may we have it all forever, together.”
“To us,” Suzan murmured, “and our future forever.” As she touched the rim of her glass to Ellen’s, the corresponding clink of glass sounded like the breaking of huge chunks of ice to her ears. She closed her eyes and shivered when she thought of a possible cold, uncertain future ahead, of icebergs splitting apart in the dark, frigid sea of her doubts and uncertainty.
But here was Ellen, just as warm, alive, and vibrant as she had been the day Suzan had met her, Ellen who would continue to captivate and enthrall her—Ellen who would love her forever.
The champagne made quick work of Suzan’s emotional knots, untying them completely so she could relax and enjoy the evening. Ellen had recently turned the dressing area next to their bedroom into a spa with a whirlpool bath and a small Zen garden. Since Suzan’s arrival, Ellen had wanted to redecorate the entire townhouse to please her new lover, but Suzan preferred the house as is, considering it a beautiful, elegant reflection of its owner.
Now they retreated with their champagne to the pool’s warm, therapeutic bubbles, their naked bodies floating along with the churning currents and their laughter echoing off the Italian-tiled walls. It had been a long time since Suzan could throw caution to the wind and enjoy even the simplest of moments, to laugh and love with abandon, to forget the long-range uncertainties and focus on the here and now, the real and tangible.
“Let’s take a trip,” Ellen suggested as she drew Suzan into her arms. “A cruise, perhaps, anywhere in the world you want to go.”
“Sounds wonderful,” Suzan murmured, totally content.
“Quit your job,” Ellen suggested. “Take an early retirement. I can provide everything you could possibly need and want. In fact, how do you feel about relocating?”
Her gaze misted, Suzan smiled. Why not? She had nothing to hold her here. “I like the idea. Where shall we go?”
Ellen stroked the doctor’s cheek with a tender hand. “Anywhere you like. Here in the states or even out of the country. Have you ever been to Europe?”
“Once,” Suzan told her, “when I was about twelve. My parents took me to England but I found it too stuffy...and cold.”
Ellen laughed. “I agree. How do you feel about Paris? I haven’t been there since the beginning of the Twentieth Century when Paris was alive with artists and writers, quite famous ones like Picasso and Hemingway.”
“You’ll have to tell me all about your experiences.”
“I’ll do better than that, I’ll show you if some of those places still exist and I can find them It’s been quite a few years and Paris has changed dramatically. But that won’t stop us!”
With a golden glint in her eyes and a well of excitement in her voice, Ellen went on to describe their plans. “Now we can sell the house and some of the artwork, and take a charming pied-à-terre on the Left Bank. Don’t worry about the language; you’ll be speaking French like a native in no time. And we must change our names. I think I’ll be Elaine and you can be Suzanne.”
“I like that, Elaine and Suzanne.” Cocking her head to the side, Suzan sampled their new names and then laughed lightly. “How about Bouvier for a last name? Elaine and Suzanne Bouvier, so chic, bon vivant, and cosmopolitan.”
“C’est magnifique!” Ellen had been smoothing down her lover’s wet hair, and now ran her fingers through the curls that had unfurled to wavy strands of vermilion reeds. Her smile faltered for a moment. “But just in case, darling: I have left everything to you, the house, my art, and my investments. In addition, I have signed your name to my bank account and made you the executrix of my will should my will be necessary to establish legal ownership. You will find the names of my accountant and attorney in my address book. You can trust them explicitly, although I don’t foresee any problems.”
“Ellen!” Suzan shot up, unprepared to accept such startling news let alone digest it. What had happened? One minute, they were happily talking about their future together, a new life with new identities in a new country, and the next Ellen introduced the prospect of their separation, of finality...of death.
“Please, my love,” Ellen countered as she coaxed the doctor back into her embrace. “Since we cannot predict the future and nothing is a sure bet, I always plan for the ‘what ifs’ in life. And since you’re my one and only, I want to do this. I also want you to do something important for me: read my journal. It’s in the top right-hand drawer of my desk. In it, you will discover details of my life and the process of my transformation. And through my words, I hope you will understand my thoughts and desires.”
Suzan nodded. “I’ll read your journal, and I’ll understand.”
“I know you will, my love. That’s why I want to secure your future should anything untoward happen to me.”
“No,” Suzan countered as she placed a finger on Ellen’s lips. “Not you! I want to make plans, too, and I plan to make sure you stay very much alive, that we will always be together.”
“Forever and always,” Ellen said tenderly. “But if anything should happen to me, my dearest, I want you to live on. Promise me that, please!”
Yes,” Suzan murmured, “I will, I promise.”
Her lover’s generosity brought tears t her eyes. In fact, they both wept and laughed as they went to take a shower, toweled each other, and applied scented lotion to their pliant bodies with loving strokes. In another unexpected move, Ellen had strewn the bedroom with pink mimosa petals and made their bed with new sheets of rose satin. The old tulle veils over and around the bed had been replaced with yards of white silk, giving the room a lovely, dreamy quality.
And Suzan moved within that beautiful dream, entwining her body with her lover’s and falling into the rhythm of their love.