The grape seed exfoliating scrub awakened a desire in Lucy to shed everything old and unnecessary. Everything Bert. Irene had been right. This was the life. The only thing Lacy was responsible for was flipping over at the appropriate moment or showering off one treatment to allow a new one to begin. Off with the detoxifying algae wrap and on with the humidifying yogurt. Adjust the thermal blanket to the perfect setting. Beautify.
“Madam?” said Greta, the clinician. “Hallo? I give you this robe, okay? Then you relax on the terrace. Madam feels fine, yes?”
“Wonderful and woozy.” Lacy achieved the vertical position and accepted the thickest terrycloth robe she had ever seen. She folded the collar along her neck. Soft as cashmere, just as Irene promised. Greta set satin slippers at Lacy’s feet and then led her through the glass doors leading outside.
There waited Irene, generous Irene, who had barely aged in the twenty-five years since high school. Just over Irene’s shoulder, the Swiss Alps crested above the heavenly Lake of Geneva. Lacy could die right now. Even the air seemed luxurious. She opened her eyes after several deep breaths, noticing how similar the guests appeared, almost penguin-like with their slicked hair and padded walks. Her own toes were curled inside the cushioned slippers to keep them from falling off as she made her way along the porcelain tiles toward Irene who was clapping and smiling as if Lacy was taking her first steps.
“Ooh, you look beautiful. How do you feel—great, I bet. You are radiant—glowing from head to—let me see your foot.” Lacy complied. “—toe. Didn’t I tell you this was the cat’s meow? Come-on-come-on-come-on—tell me all about it.” Irene patted the stool next to her. “I ordered you some pomegranate juice with a wedge of peach. Drink up.”
“Thanks—for everything, really.” The bar provided leverage for Lacy’s quivering muscles as she lifted herself into the seat. A slipper dropped, but it would have to stay dropped. She drained her glass in a single breath and sat panting.
“That’s only round one, Lacy. When they’re finished, you won’t recognize yourself.”
“So when I jog it won’t feel like my butt’s an extra appendage?”
“Nope. All regions—especially the upper ones—arms, legs, back—taut as a drum. And the face—you’ll lose twenty years. When you go back to Omaha, you won’t need Bert the Mechanic with the rough hands. You’ll get anyone you want.”
“His hands are rough. They’ve snagged most of the fine sweaters you've sent. I wish I'd married a German pharmaceutical hotshot, too. Does Helmut have brothers?” Lacy laughed lightly, but guilt pinged her like a small pebble. She did feel sorry for Bert, ignorant soul that he was, but she’d outgrown him. Who could judge her for that? She plucked the straw from her glass and chewed the end for a moment.
“Are we being self-indulgent?”
“We’re maintaining. So we can go out and do good in the world.”
“Europeans sure appreciate the finer things. We don’t have spas like this in America, do we?”
“Fraid not. Americans are squeamish. Too many hang-ups with nudity, government, and the Great Moral Dictator in the sky—meaning God, Lacy—don’t look so confused; it’s bad for the face. Anyway, nothing gets approved over there, but they’re making progress—won’t be long. Now listen, you’ve got your face consult next.”
“Oh, right.” Lacy’s other slipper fell to the tiles and her feet which earlier had been warm and pampered, were left to rest on the cold, metal bar. Something larger than a pebble began thunking her fuzzy brain. “Are these treatments more than Botox or liposuction?”
“Botox? Child’s play. We’re talking about total rejuvenation. Tissues and organs. Only one thing does that—embryonic stem cells. Nothing else like it, Lace. Not just for your looks, but all your aches—gone. That arthritis starting in your joints—a memory.“
“Oh,” she said.
“It’s okay, Lacy—completely safe. Hey, don’t worry. Now where’s that smile?”
But Lacy felt as frozen as the embryos she was suddenly picturing solidified in petri dishes and stored alongside the algae and yogurt treatments. How could she be so stupid? She and Bert were similar after all. Someone was taking her hand then. It was Irene, generous Irene, and Lacy followed obediently, saying not one word.
She’d been wrong.
They weren’t penguins.
They were lemmings.
She hoped God would forgive them.
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