For the most part Cheryl Peterson was a practical woman. She lived in a modest house in a modest neighborhood. Her husband, David, had died years earlier leaving her a young widow. With his life insurance and some good investing she was able to maintain a simple lifestyle. At first, after his death, she wasn't interesting in remarrying. In the years since his death, she managed to slowly grow accustomed to living alone. Even though she would now welcome male companionship, at 43 she felt she wasn't very ~marketable~.
Fortunately, Nicole West moved into the house next door only days after Cheryl's husband's death. Nicole was around the same age as Cheryl and they made fast friends. Nicole, although much more outgoing and apt to date, never settled down with anyone. Cheryl always wondered why Nicole didn't take advantage of her looks and personality and find someone before it was too late. After all, she couldn't expect her youthful looks to stay forever! Cheryl was surprised at the number of eligible bachelors that Nicole would discard just as things seemed to be getting serious. But in a small way Cheryl was selfishly glad that Nicole had stayed unattached.... If Nicole would have gotten married Cheryl was afraid she'd lose her best and only real friend! Nicole seemed just as fond of Cheryl. To everyone they seemed the perfect match of personalities... Each, for their own reasons, afraid of a serious relationship.
As with all friends, some things went unspoken. Cheryl had heard rumors of Nicole coming from a family with money. Even though her simple home didn't seem to imply that she was rich, Cheryl always wondered about her source of income. She didn't have a job and yet usually managed a week long trip once every couple of years. She never offered her destination or details of the trip. Cheryl figured it was related to her family but never pried. Nicole, likewise, let Cheryl have her own space and never asked about her late husband or details of her finances.
During the last few years, as Cheryl quielty started hoping that maybe she could find someone, she took more interest in her appearence. And that is when she started getting curious. A few questions here and there but nothing direct. Never a real serious answer.....What she wanted to know was: How Nicole seemed to stay so young looking?!
It wasn't too obvious at first. Both were in the mid 20's when they met...and looked it! But as they approached their 30's Cheryl's looks seemed to be fading. Nicole, while looking a little older, never looked to be near 30! To this day there are people who don't guess Nicole to be yet 30 even though Cheryl knows she has to be in her 40's!
On this day, Nicole appeared modeling a new dress that she had purchased. Cheryl only wished that she could wear a dress like like that! It was short, and obviously designed to show off Nicole's firm and lean body. Nicole's light hair cascaded down her youthful looking shoulders. Her face was barely lined and her skin seemed almost flawless! Her breasts were firm. Her legs were long and perfect, and accented by her high heels.
'You like?' she asked as she twirled around.
'How do you do it?' Cheryl asked.
'Manage to look like THAT at our age!?'
'I don't know...Good genes and dieting, I guess' She answered sheepishly as she tugged on her skirt trying to cover a little more thigh.
'Well, you're going to have to tell me about that DIET! I need to start on it right away!' Cheryl replied.
Both women laughed. 'Hey, speaking of diet... You want to grab a bite to eat? I saw a new place had just opened up.'
Cheryl quickly agreed. It was perfect timing actually....she had just started sorting through her selection of TV Dinners.
Nicole grabbed a light sweater to cover her shoulders while Cheryl grabbed a frumpy blouse to replace her worn out T-shirt. She found her eyeglasses and they then drove to the new restaraunt.
It was here that Cheryl finally had to face something to had been bound to happen sooner or later....
After taking the women's order for cocktails the waiter asked to see Nicole's ID 'I'm sorry Miss but I hafta see your ID. I know you have to be of age and all... but it's a rule and all and my manager is watching. Pretty stupid rule cuz I'm sure you wouldn't be here with your Mom if you weren't old enough!'
Nicole's eyes widened and she didn't know what to say. She'd been carded before.... but never had anyone suggested that Cheryl was old enough to be her mother! The waiter didn't even really bother to read the ID. He just glanced at it and smiled and handed it back.
Before Nicole could say anything, Cheryl got up without a word and hurriedly walked out. Nicole chased after her.
'Wait! Cheryl! Wait!....'
Cheryl finally stopped. The creases in her face were filled with tears.
'He's just a dumb kid! He wasn't paying attention! He just saw how we were dressed and....' Nicole tried to explain.
'Exactly... ~How~ we were dressed! I'm ~old~...... and you..... you.... How? How? Nicole, tell me....Why do you look so much younger than me???' she cried.
'Ummmm I'm sorry... I just.... It's not your fault.... Don't do this to yourself!'
'Noooo.... It's not right! You hardly look any older than when we first met. Have you got a picture of yourself in the attic or something?'
'No...Not exactly. Let's not talk about. Maybe if you diet and workout?'
'I DO! What is it? Is it surgery? Is that it? Is that where you go sometimes? Tell me, Nicole! TELL ME!'
'No... I...I..I can't.....'
'You can't or you won't???'
'I'm sorry. There's nothing I can tell you. I stayed too long. Can't you just ignore this incident? Please.....'
'Stayed too long?'
'Uhhhh That's not what I meant exactly. Just forget it. OK?' I don't want to argue just because of some dumb kid!'
'But he's right, Nicole! And he might be the first to make that mistake but he won't be the last. I've noticed before.... I just never realized how much.... ' Cheryl couldn't finish the sentence. Tears started flowing and she took off running. Nicole started to chase after her but then realized there was nothing she could say or do if she caught her!
Nicole returned home and began packing her suitcases. Cheryl found and bench and sat crying for hours. She finally collected herself and slowly made her way home. On her way she saw a shooting star. She made a futile wish to be young again. She smiled a little as she realized just how impossible that would be....
As Cheryl approached her house she saw Nicole was packing the car. At first she started to confront her about what she was doing.... then she remembered some of what Nicole had blurted out: '....Stayed too long....' And then she began to get curious. Finally, she decided to follow Nicole. Waiting on a good chance she pulled her car around the block and then waited for Nicole to pull out. She then followed a safe distance.
It was a long drive, nearly using a full tank of gas! They finally ended up in a highly wooded area. Cheryl began to wonder if she was losing her mind. It did seem really strange to follow someone throughout the night to the middle of nowhere for now good reason! Now her gas tank was almost empty and she had no idea where they were. Still, she was curious where Nicole might be heading. Finally, Nicole turned into a gated driveway. Cheryl drove on past hoping not to be noticed. In the mirror, she could see Nicole enter the gate. She pulled off to the side of the road and walked back to the gate. She could see a large mansion at the end of the driveway. She walked across the road and hid amongst some her the overgrown grass and trees while waiting to see Nicole return. The sun began to rise and a few more cars arrived. A couple of vehicles left but none were Nicole. Strangely, she thought a couple of the people in the cars looked familiar.... like famous people from TV and movies.
She finally decided it was time to investigate. Another car approached and entered the gates. Before the gates could close she darted through them! She ran from tree to tree trying not to be detected. Even on the grounds of the estate the brush was very high. Almost like they didn't want the estate to be easily seen from the road. Just as she started to run into the clearing in front of the mansion she was grabbed from behind!
'Hey!' she screamed.
'Who are you and what are you doing here?' One of her captors asked.
'I'm Cheryl and my friend Nicole is here and ummmmm she uhhh invited me here!'
'Invited?' the man asked.
'Uh huh' She lied.
One of the men spoke quietly into a walkie-talkie and then ordered her brought inside.
'Where are you taking me? Let go!' she complained to no avail.
Once inside a woman stepped out to meet her. 'Cheryl, is it?'
'Sooooo Nicole ~invited~ you?'
'Umm yeah...' she answered not sounding very convincing.
'That's really strange, you know? Inviting someone here is against the rules.'
'Maybe she didn't know?' Cheryl asked now afraid she was going to get her friend in trouble. 'But, anyway, what's with these goons?' she asked as her anger grew at being treated like a criminal.
At about that moment the door opened and a young lady walked in. She had long blond hair and was wearing a white robe and slippers. She looked to be no older than 20 or 21.
'What the hell are you doing here?' she asked the older woman.
Cheryl turned around 'None of your business, kid! Just keep your little nose.....' her voice wilted. She suddenly recognized the young college girl. It was Nicole! It was now Cheryl who was speechless!
'Cheryl...You shoudn't have come here! It's a secret place. Very expensive. You....' Nicole was cut off as she tried to explain.
'NICOLE! You've caused enought trouble! Quiet!' the other woman in the room ordered. 'You're now in default of our agreement!'
'Noooo....I didn't mean to.... it's not my fault...really! I tried.....'
'SILENCE!' the woman barked 'Take her upstairs while I decide what we're going to do' One of the men grabbed Nicole and took her away.
'What is this place?' A confused Cheryl asked.
'None of your business!' the woman snapped. 'Take her to ~the room~, gentlemen' the woman finally ordered.
The men grabbed Cheryl and took her upstairs and into a very plain looking room. They strapped her to a table. She tried to kick and pull herself free but the men were too overpowering. Soon, the woman entered and pulled out a large syringe.
'What are you doing????' a terrified Cheryl asked but got no answers.
The woman jabbed the needle into Cheryl's body as she cried out 'Noooooooo...Stop!'
After what seemed like forever, the needle was removed.
'What...did..you do...to me?' Cheryl asked through her sobbing.
No one answered her. They simply left the room. Cheryl tried to pull her hands free but the straps were too tight. Escape was impossible. Finally, the door opened and Nicole walked in.
'Cheryl...I'm sorry. I stayed too long. That's part of the deal. That is why I tried to sneak away. We're not supposed to let anyone seriously notice the effects of the treatments. It was getting TOO obvious and you were getting curious. They made me this young so I could start all over some place else. '
'Treatments?' Cheryl asked.
'Youth treatments. It's very exclusive.... and expensive. Only people with money are invited to to use them. I had to let them have control of all my assets from my inheritance in order to participate. They let me have enough money each month to survive on while they keep the rest. That's how they guarantee I don't tell anyone about this place. Some of the movie stars just pay the price straight out but then Ms De Leon threatens not to let them use the treatments anymore if they tell. Ms De Leon is who you met. She's very protective of the process...'
'So, what is she doing with me?' Cheryl asked.
'I don't know.... But you're getting younger.'
'I ~am~?' Cheryl asked sounding a bit excited.
'Yeah.... ' Nicole replied as she saw her friend re-enter her 20's. 'Don't you feel the tingles?'
'Wow... I guess I do' she answered in a younger, clearer voice. Cheryl didn't mind getting younger at all!
Once again Ms. De Leon and the guards entered the room. Without answering any questions they grabbed Nicole which allowed Ms. De Leon to plunge a syringe into her flesh. Nicole knew better than to complain. Whatever Ms. De Leon decides is for the best.
An obviously teenaged Nicole sat at a bus stop in a small Florida town. 'Cheryl, this'll work out. I'll see to it. Ms De Leon says if I'm quiet that she'll let me start treatments again when I'm older. It was all my fault. I'll get a job....somewhere. You'll see! I'll make it up to you. I'll be the best mommy ever!' she said as she rubbed her stomach.
Just then the bus pulled up and opened its doors. 16 year old Nicole stepped onto the bus alone. No one else was at the stop.
She took a seat and rode off into her new life.