‘Come on, Jay, you’ve never liked amusement parks. Why all of a sudden do you want to go to MagicWorld now?’ Tessa turned from the sink where she’d been rinsing out the coffee pot and faced him. She raised her left eyebrow in that way she had when she didn’t believe a word Jay was saying. He was going to miss that.
‘I don’t know. It could be fun. We haven’t been there and you know, it’s not all just for kids. They have shows and things too.’
Jay hoped desperately that she’d go for this idea. MagicWorld was only an hour’s drive away, and it would be the perfect place to do what he had to do. With so much noise, so many people, and so much to see, nobody would pay any attention to one ordinary-looking guy and his wife. And it wouldn’t be anywhere near their home, where too many people might get too curious.
‘I don’t know,’ Tessa was saying. ‘I’ve got a lot of stuff to do around here.’ She gestured towards the glass-topped dining table where her students’ papers were laid out ready for marking. ‘For one thing I need to give these back on Monday.’
‘Come on, it’s just for a couple of hours.’ Jay gave her his best pleading look, stepped closer and took her hand. ‘It’ll be fun and besides, we haven’t been out in a while. I just wanted to, I don’t know, do something fun.’
Tessa relaxed just a little and smiled. ‘You know, that might be a good idea. You’ve been so tense lately, and we could both use a break.’
‘That’s my girl,’ Jay smiled back. ‘Consider it an apology for being such an ass lately.’ He kissed her lightly and ran upstairs to get ready.
He was right, Tessa thought as she finished with the coffee pot. Jay’d been impossible to live with for the last couple of months. At first she’d thought he was having an affair, but that wasn’t it. None of those telltale signs that a lot of women like to ignore. He’d just been so edgy and nervous, jumping when the ‘phone rang, snapping at her for no reason, those kinds of things. He said it was just work pressure, but she was sick of it. Maybe a fun ‘kid’ day at MagicWorld was just what they needed.
She went upstairs to put on her own clothes and makeup, choosing her most comfortable pair of jeans and Rolling Stones T-shirt. Then she pulled her medium-length strawberry-blonde hair into a ponytail. Jay came out of the bathroom just as she was putting on the finishing touches of her makeup.
‘Lookin’ good, good-lookin’,’ he said.
‘Not so bad yourself,’ she answered. But he did look awfully stressed. His normally sparkling blue eyes were a little dull, with just a hint of shadow under them.
Jay felt a little uncomfortable under her gaze. He shifted a bit and said, ‘Come on, let’s go.’
Ten minutes later they were on the road. As they drove, Jay dropped his left hand into the Chevy’s map pocket. Yes, the knife was there. He’d chosen a small one with a very sharp blade. Small enough to slip into his pocket, and sharp enough to do the job. God, how he wanted not to be doing this. There was just no choice at all. Not after what Glenn had said last time they’d talked. If Jay didn’t solve his money problem, Glenn and his boys would solve it for him. Tessa’s insurance policy was the only chance he had at enough money to pay off his debts. Yes, that paper was in the map pocket too, where he’d hastily stuffed it yesterday. He didn’t want to forget to make a copy of it to show Glenn tomorrow.
‘You’re being awfully quiet,’ she joked.
‘Sorry, just thinking.’
He smiled at her. ‘About what a perfect day it is.’ It was, too. The sky was a brilliant blue with puffy white clouds, but it wasn’t very hot. Ideal for a day at MagicWorld.
When they got there, Jay found a parking spot and he and Tessa got out. ‘Are you going to use your card for the tickets?’ she asked. ‘I brought mine just in case.’
‘Don’t worry. I’m paying cash.’
She shrugged and took his hand. ‘Let’s go pretend we’re kids,’ she grinned.
And for an hour and half, they did just that. He even bought her pink cotton candy. After they got off the MegaWheel bumper cars, Tessa said, ‘I’m hungry. Ready for lunch?’
‘Yeah, OK. How about that hot dog stand over there?’
They bought hot dogs and soda and sat down at a circular table near an artificial pond. Jay watched her as she ate. This was going to be too hard for him. No, he had no choice at all. None. Then he looked again at the lake. At least he wouldn’t have to use the knife.
After they ate, they crumpled up their trash and tossed it in a nearby bin. Then Jay said, ‘Let’s check out the ducks on the lake.’
They walked out across the ornamental bridge that spanned the water. Jay looked quickly around. Nobody was there. They must all be at the song-and-dance show in the park’s main pavilion. He swallowed hard, stepped behind Tessa and threw his arm around Tessa’s neck, pulling back hard with his forearm as she struggled. At least she wouldn’t feel herself drowning. And he didn’t have to look at her face. Five minutes later it was done. The water closed quickly over Tessa as she sank.
He hurried as quickly as he could back to the car before his legs gave out. Now all of the bright, cheery blues and yellows and reds of the park seemed garish, and all of the faces seemed to be staring at him. He made it to the car without retching, although he came close once or twice.
Now, as he leaned against the car, he drew a few ragged breaths. All this for some goddamned betting! But at least it was over. He’d start again. Do something right for a change. As he opened the car door, he remembered the insurance policy paper. He pulled it out and looked at it. He turned white as he went over it carefully. Yes, he’d read it right: he wasn’t the beneficiary! What the hell? Her sister Marti was. Marti with those two obnoxious kids. How could she do this to him?
He spun around when he heard a voice call his name.
‘How’re you doing, Jay?’ It was Glenn.
‘I – I – just…’
‘Me and Ian here thought we’d pay you a visit this morning. We showed up just as you were leaving and decided to tag along.’
Glenn’s voice grew fuzzy as Jay’s legs buckled under him.
‘What’s the matter, Jay? You get too much heat or something?’
*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Lou Reed’s Perfect Day.