A romp down the road from matrimony to murder…without a single good intention in sight!
Tessie luxuriated in the warm, swirling waters of the hotel Jacuzzi. She’d just taken a refreshing dip in the unheated saltwater pool, and the contrast in temperatures was delightful. Tessie was pleased with the way she filled out her new bathing suit, a cute little animal-print tankini with strategically positioned cutouts. No one would know I’m a day over 35, she thought with relief. Confident in the sleek impression she made reclining there, she allowed a sense of delicious well-being to wash over her. Even the surrounding palm trees seemed to wave in approval as they swayed in the breeze. The Bougainvillea vines and tropical hibiscus bordering the courtyard were blooming in a riot of calypso colors. Tessie smiled brightly at the buff pool boy as he brought her another drink. Those Bahamas Mamas had to be super-fattening, but what else are vacations for?
“Would you rub some lotion on my back, Tessie? I’m starting to burn.”
Reluctantly, Tessie wrenched her gaze from the pool boy, whose youthful sinew rippled when he bent over to hand the tourists their drinks, and looked at her husband sitting across from her, his legs dangling into the Jacuzzi. She felt suddenly weary as she took in his tall, gracefully aging physique with the slight softness around the waist, graying chest hair, and weathered facial features, made more patrician by a receding hairline. Something about the vulnerability of his now scrawny legs, once so toned and agile, brought up a tinge of tenderness in her, which she instinctively suppressed.
“Jeez, Garrison, you’re high maintenance today! I was just starting to relax.”
“Testy, Tessie,” Garrison crooned, sliding into the whirlpool’s bubbling waters and stepping toward his wife, playfully splashing her. He leaned forward to kiss her neck. His lips moved deliberately - sensuously - over the familiar reaches of her tanned, supple skin, tickling her in a maddening way both familiar and exciting. Tessie felt a constriction in her loins, which never failed to lighten her mood.
“You know how draining my allergies are - kept me up all night sneezing! Too much blooming around here. Oh, all right. Give me that lotion,” she said with mock sternness. Laughing playfully now, she reached over, running her fingers through her husband’s damp, wavy hair. They embraced under the roiling water. Tessie glanced around the sun-baked courtyard. The other vacationers were too busy relaxing to pay much attention to a little Jacuzzi foreplay. Garrison moved his mouth up to linger over Tessie’s ear. His warm, erratic breath tickled, making her squirm. Garrison caressed Tessie’s thighs under the water then took firmer hold, pulling her abruptly closer. Tessie had a moment to gasp with pleasure before Garrison began plying her open lips with urgent kisses. He pressed the robust blossoming of his arousal firmly against her.
“Let’s go up to the room,” he whispered, his voice hoarse with passion.
Before she could answer, she was startled by the sound of someone clearing his throat loudly nearby. It was the pool boy.
“Sorry to interrupt,” he said in a distinctly unapologetic tone. ”My shift’s almost over. May I settle your account? That is, if it’s not - inconvenient.”
Tessie disengaged herself from her husband’s grip and quickly rallied her composure. With lightening efficiency, she wiped her smeared lipstick, smoothed her disheveled hair, and realigned her swim suit, which Garrison had yanked indecently askew. To the casual observer, she may well have been flicking away a rogue sand fly.
“Don’t give it another thought, Young Man,” she purred, pushing Garrison away with one hand as she leaned back to grab her beach bag, which rested behind her on the Jacuzzi ledge.
“Tessie,” Garrison exclaimed in disbelief! “You’re paying the bill now? We were busy.” Garrison glared at his wife, and then at the pool boy, who remained expressionless except for the picturesque twitching of his muscles.
Tessie didn’t answer her husband; she was too intent on getting ahold of her bag, which was just beyond her grasp. She considered asking the pool boy to get it, but opted instead to dazzle him with the limber range of her backbend, which she’d been perfecting in yoga class. A less driven woman might have turned around to secure her wallet more easily, but Tessie had worked too hard on her core muscle group to take the lazy way out. Instead, she continued straining to reach backwards. Her long hair flowed behind her like a Grecian water nymph’s or Isadora Duncan’s tunic (so Tessie imagined). She’d once seen a photograph of the alluring dancer in one of Garrison’s coffee table books. He’d yammered on about a trailing silk scarf entangling with a sports car axle – beauty and art tragically cut short.
Tessie stretched back a little farther – her fingertips grazed the bag.
Suddenly her head snapped back with an excruciating jolt. A strangled gasp escaped Tessie’s throat, as she tried to struggle to her feet. With horror, she realized that she couldn’t stand; her hair was caught somehow. Panicked, she threw her head from side to side and strained with every fiber of her being, but couldn’t rip free. Cold fear seeped through her, numbing her flailing limbs as she fought to keep her head above water. Still something kept pulling her under with the torque of a powerful winch. Water rushed over her fluttering eyelids, engulfing the stinging tears.
“Help!” she croaked, spitting desperately as her mouth filled up. Garrison stared down at her in slack-jawed amazement.
“Oh, God!” his wife, now mostly underwater, gurgled. Garrison just stood there like a glistening statue.
“Hey,” the pool boy shrieked. “Mrs. Hand, are you OK?” With a speed that belied his beefcake build, the pool boy leapt into the water. He grabbed Tessie’s head and tried to jerk it free. She burbled and sloshed in terror. The pool boy whipped a pocket knife from his Hawaiian board shorts. “Damn this old tub - I thought we fixed that motor,” he muttered, as he hacked the blade through Tessie’s hair, releasing it from the spinning mechanism. He reached down and pulled Tessie, now limp as a rag doll, out of the water. As she lay, moaning and sputtering, in his arms, the pool boy squinted quizzically in Garrison’s direction. “You OK, Dude?” he said under his breath. “Everything all right there?”
A gathering commotion swarmed around them, and Garrison remained standing stock-still at its core. Hotel staff and ogling tourists rushed the Jacuzzi. As the pool boy lifted Tessie to safety, a bystander yelled, “She’s alive.”
A paramedic jumped into the water and threw a towel over Garrison’s shivering shoulders. “This guy’s in shock. Help me get him out of here,” he yelled. “It’s OK, Sir. Your wife’s gonna be - just fine,” the paramedic said soothingly, as he helped Garrison onto the courtyard.
Garrison fell into a beach chair and covered his face with his hands. His body shook as he choked down waves of muffled, bitter laughter.
A Novel by Allison P. Basile