“How long before I can expect to see results?”
“You should already be feeling the affects, Mrs. Cross. Can you not detect the tingling, the bubbling sensation in your stomach?”
“I honestly thought it was gas. But now that you mention it, I suddenly feel a surge of energy. Wow, I do feel something. It’s as if I can accomplish almost anything.”
“Yes, that is usually the first sign that the treatment is working,” the doctor said. “Now, be sure to pace yourself, but keep your appointments. The downstairs spa is expecting you for your makeover in fifteen minutes. And don’t forget–you ARE a beautiful woman!”
Dana left the doctor’s office elated. Deciding to sign up for the treatments took a lot of thought. The cocktail was expensive, more than two thousand dollars per visit, not to mention the spa treatments. But her friends had raved about the elixir. They thought they’d found the fountain of youth and Doctor James had become a god to the women who thought they’d lost all chance at beauty, all hope for a second chance at love.
Both Jenna and Susan were living testaments to the success of the program. Oprah herself had interviewed Harold James on her program. He was the latest buzz, the newest guru for restoring youth, refusing to endorse plastic surgery as an option.
“The elixir allows inner beauty to surface. The ingredients are non-toxic, but contain many of the secrets found in the rain forests of Africa,” the doctor told Oprah during the interview.
“Is that why the treatments are so expensive–because the cost of harvesting the ingredients?” Oprah asked.
“There is a great deal that goes into the formula, but of course it is a secret recipe and I can’t divulge specifics.”
With that kind of endorsement, and her friends’ radiant new-found good looks, Dana Cross made an appointment with the doctor.
Her appointments were scheduled each week for three months and then her monthly maintenance program kicked in, an expensive commitment, but one that Dana felt she deserved. Like so many of her friends, she was divorced. Rob left her for a younger woman. After twenty years of marriage, she was bitter, spending months crying and whining to Susan about the injustice.
“I was there. I was the one clipping coupons and making a pound of hamburger stretch, but the minute the business started to flourish, I wasn’t good enough.”
“I know, Dana,” Susan said. “It’s as if we have a shelf life with a date stamp that warns men not to touch after the expiry date.”
The women felt the sting of rejection and the humiliation of reaching middle-age feeling like failures. They joined gyms, bulked up wrinkles with Botox and expensive creams, but nothing gave them back what they each felt they’d lost.
Dana and her friends were ecstatic with the results. Within weeks their days were spent shopping or showing off their new look at art gallery openings and charity events. Soon they were volunteering at the community centre and driving for ‘Meals on Wheels,’ delivering food to shut-ins.
“How about we get together for lunch,” Jenna asked Susan.
“I’m good for Friday, but I think Dana’s tied up until next week.”
With all the new activities, visits to Dr. James’ office and the commitment to the weekly facials and volunteer work, it became so difficult for the three women to coordinate their schedules for time together. Jenna hatched the idea first. “Why don’t we arrange our appointments at the clinic on the same day so we can at least visit in the waiting room.
“Rob wants to get together again. It seems the bimbo dumped him for a richer guy. Talk about poetic justice,” Dana said to Jenna while Susan was getting her treatment.
“You’re not taking that scum-bag back, are you?”
Dana didn’t get to answer. The door from the hallway was pushed open and three armed police officers crowded into the room.
“We have a warrant for the arrest of Harold Cross,” the hulking policeman said to the receptionist.
They didn’t have to wait long. The doctor opened the door from the inner sanctum with his usual final declaration to Susan as she emerged. “Remember, you ARE a beautiful woman.”
As if there was any doubt, all three policemen gave Susan the once over before turning back to the doctor.
“Dr. Harold James, you’re under arrest for grand larceny. You have bilked your clients for hundreds of thousands of dollars in your fraudulent scam, and we’re taking you to the station for booking.”
Only the three women in the waiting room were shocked. The doctor looked up at them as he calmly offered up his wrists for the handcuffs. “Remember, ladies, you ARE beautiful women.”
Without the elixir, the women’s drive and energy floundered. They were overwhelmed with grief and couldn’t believe the charges that their guru, Dr. Cross was facing. Little by little, they gave up their activities, blaming their malaise and lack of the tonic for their situation.
Together they gathered around the television set to listen to Dr. Phil. He was granted an exclusive interview with Harold Cross and sat in front of him in the prison’s visiting lounge.
“There’s no evidence that the cocktail you dished out, defrauding hundreds of women, had any therapeutic qualities. Why then did it seem to have such a positive effect on your clients?”
“I did not defraud the women. They got what they came for.”
“But you’re not even a real doctor. There are outstanding charges against you in four other states for varying scams–all perpetuated against women. Why, knowing you might be recognized, would you accept Oprah’s offer to go on her show?” Dr. Phil leaned closer to the prisoner.
“Dr. Phil, every one of the women that came to me needed to feel beautiful. If they didn’t pay dearly for treatments, they would have diminished their value. They believed in me enough that they began to believe what I was telling them. I made them feel good about themselves. It’s as simple as that.”
“I don’t believe it,” Dana said, reaching for the chips.
“Me either,” Susan piped in. “I felt different–beautiful. There had to be something in that elixir besides carrot juice.
“Is there more wine?” Jenna asked, heaving herself out of the arm chair. Since the arrest, she’d gained twenty pounds and was the first one who swore that the doctor was set up. “He just doesn’t want to reveal the secret ingredients.”
“So you’re saying,” Dr Phil continued, “ it was all a placebo effect.”
“Turn that jerk off,” Dana said, reaching for the fried chicken. “He doesn’t know what he’s talking about.”