Chapter 3Mature

Leicester saved the e-mail to his ‘drafts’ folder and leaned back in his plush leather chair, dry eyes closed against the sunlight streaming in through his office window. He wondered if the sickness swelling in his stomach was due to lack of sleep or to nerves. Likely the latter, though he would convince himself that his jitters were moot - too much was expected of this day, too much time and too many resources had been spent ensuring the success of the project that no room was left for error or doubt. At least not in his own mind.
A harsh rapping of knuckles on his door broke Leicester from his reverie, and he leaned forward to push the wafer-thin monitor of his computer down into the mahogany desk, where it slid into place with a soft click and the surface of the desk appeared seamless once again.
“Sounds serious,” he called to the impatient noise-maker in the corridor.
The noise-maker did not wait for an invitation. Instead she burst in to the room, her brown hair flapping about her determined face as she marched to Leicester’s desk, where she came to an abrupt halt and stared at him with smouldering eyes, fists clenched.
“Amanda,” Leicester began.
“Shut up,” she cut him off “you must abort this project. I‘ll not stand by and watch as you give life to this… This abomination.”
Leicester’s face darkened as he rose from his chair, keeping his eyes focused on Amanda as he walked around the desk that separated them. He waited until he was inches from her, looking down upon her now upturned face before he spoke.
“Abomination? Abomination? How can you possibly belittle my work this way? All the years this has been in the making, all the lives we will save, and you callously refer to this miracle of science as an abomination?”
“It is an abomination” she said, standing on her tiptoes to bring her face as close to Leicester’s as she could, doing her best to seem imposing against his significant height, “what you intend to do today is wrong and you know it.”
“It is not wrong! Far from it, why are you being so ignorant?” Leicester’s [hurt] was apparent as he grabbed his colleague, his fingers squeezing the tops of her arms, shaking her slightly. Her body remained rigid through his brief fit and her face mirrored his intense glare.
“You are the ignorant one, Leicester. It’s your stubbornness and your blind desperation that won’t let you see past the end of your nose!”
“This is a waste of time! The country is in desperate need of a cure for Protegasis and you waste our time with your own selfish folly!”
“That is not true,” Leicester’s grip tightened on her arms.
“Stop telling yourself you’re doing this for the good of the country when you’re not. You’re not going to bring Eve back and I’ll not stand by and watch while you try.”
“Then why are you here?” Leicester exploded, shaking Amanda more violently, “Why? Why have you spent ten months by my side if you disagree so heartily?”
“Because I love you.”
The sentimental declaration sounded harsh and bitter as it was spat out of her mouth, hitting Leicester with the force of a fist and dazing him for a moment. He realised he was hurting the beautiful woman before him and he relinquished his grip to cup her face in his hands, brushing away a single tear with his thumb. He kissed her, a gentle but firm press of his lips, hoping that his tenderness would be received as an apology.
“You know it’s too late to stop this now,” he said, leaning back against the desk, “and I wouldn’t if I could. But you must understand that this - this is the cure for Protegasis. It is the cure for many things thereafter.”
“I know. I just think that you had two options and you chose wrong,” Amanda chose her words carefully, watching Leicester’s face as he appeared to consider her words.
“I suppose you are right, in a sense. I could have chosen to put my efforts and funding into developing a vaccine. The time frame for that task, though not as predictable, may have been significantly shorter and more cost-effective. But I chose different. Yes, I chose the path that would use more time, more money and more resources, but I know that it is this path that will better the human race rather than merely helping it return to its previous condition, which we know was in need of some improvement.”
“You truly believe you are doing the right thing?
“I am.”
Amanda took one of Leicester’s hands in hers and began to stroke it absent-mindedly. Without looking up she said quietly, “I’m sorry I mentioned Eve. It wasn’t right to throw that at you, no matter what my thoughts on the project.”
Leicester made to touch her face again but retreated as his hand drew close.
“Yes, it’s - it’s okay. Now, Patel will be waiting for us and we have delayed long enough. Are you with me or not? I‘m going to need your expertise.”
Amanda sighed and shook her head, but her answer was more positive than her body language:
“Yes, I’m with you. For now. Let’s face it, you’ll need me to notify you when you’ve gone crazy.”
“Bit late, don’t you think?” Leicester grinned.

The End

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