As he patted his neck with his towel, she bent down and dried off her legs with her towel. As he watched her, he remarked, “Your backhand today was the best I’ve ever seen it.” As he waited for her reply, he reminded himself that he was the luckiest man alive to have a woman like this in his life.
She stopped what she was doing and looked up at him but didn’t smile. Instead, she asked in a steely tone, “What in the hell do we do now, Jerry? I mean, he told you today was your last day as my tennis instructor.” She put down her towel and moved closer to him. “Will we ever see each other again? Who knows how long this stupid ‘shelter in place’ is going to last, anyway?”
He suggested that they sit down for a moment. He had something he wanted to run by her. Away from the sun, under the umbrella, Jerry leaned close to her and asked, “Do you love me as much as I love you?”
“You know I do,” she said, kissing him gently. “I’ll do anything to be with you. Anything. But my husband is rich, powerful and has almost complete control over me. My God, he’s eighty-three and I’m forty-two. What was I thinking?”
He took her hands in his and told her he had a plan. “This pandemic might go on for months. Who knows how long you’ll be pent up in that mansion of yours with that old goat? But I think I can solve our two problems at the same time. You interested?”
She nodded vigorously as Jerry continued, “Okay, that can of tennis balls over there looks pretty normal, right? But the three balls inside are infected with the virus. Don’t ask me how. But they are. Are you following me?”
“You want me to infect my husband? Is that it?” she asked tentatively.
Jerry looked around before continuing. “Yes, but now here’s the hard part. I want you to infect yourself and then make sure you pass it on to him. That way it won’t draw any suspicion on me.”
She sat still, not saying anything at first. Slowly, a smile crept across her face as she responded, “I like it. The young wife survives the virus but the old decrepit husband dies. And the murder weapon is a tennis ball. Jerry, you’re a genius. And a soon-to-be-rich one, at that!”
He hugged her and told her he was thrilled she liked the plan. “And I will give you some of that medicine combination that Trump was touting, but just enough for you. Once you start feeling yourself getting sick, take it and it will minimize your symptoms. By the time you’re up and better, the old man will be dead or dying. And I will just be the simple tennis instructor who was let go several weeks before. Who’s going to suspect me, you, or both of us?”
They ordered drinks and discussed additional details. By four o’clock, Jerry was gone and she was headed back home in her Jaguar, the can of tennis balls in her workout bag on the passenger seat. About a mile from home, she popped open the can, took out a ball, rubbed it on her lips and threw it out the car window. She did the same with the other two balls and as she drove up the long entryway of her palatial home in Brentwood, she could see her husband standing out in front, supported by his walker. She waved, parked the Jag and walked towards him, a broad smile on her face. “Hi, honey, ready to start our lonely vigil together?” she joked, as she hugged him and gave him a kiss. “I know I am.”
That night at dinner, the two of them sat at opposite ends of a large dining table. Dinner had been brought in and was left on the front porch. Walter, her husband, had been to the wine cellar and had retrieved a special wine for their first ‘shelter in place’ dinner. He told her he wanted to make their seclusion as painless as possible. “By the way, how was your tennis class today, dear?” the old man asked, taking a sip of wine.
She sighed and told him that she was going to miss her daily tennis workout, but that she knew it was absolutely necessary for them to remain separate from the world for a while. “How long do you think it will be like this, dear?” she asked innocently.
The old man got slowly up from his chair and replied, “I’ve asked the best minds in my company for that answer. They say to be prepared for at least four months, minimum.” He watched her wince a bit as he walked towards her. “But to relieve your burden, I had this made for you,” he said as he laid a jewelry box down on the side of her dinner plate.
She eagerly opened the box and inhaled sharply, saying, “Oh my God, Walter! This is magnificent! Here, help me put it on, will you?”
As the old man moved behind her to secure the necklace, he bent down closer and added, “And I have another surprise for you, my dear. It won’t be just the two of us here for the next four months.”
She turned her head as he fumbled with the latch on the necklace. “What do you mean, Walter? Who else is going to be here?”
Walter stood straight and proudly announced, “Your children Ben and Mary, from your first marriage! Their colleges have shut down suddenly and what with Mary’s Lupus and Ben’s diabetes, I thought this was the perfect solution. And I’ve always wanted to get to know your kids better.”
She stammered something but Walter was insistent, “You know me. Once I’ve made up my mind, there’s no going back.”
As she pushed her chair away from the table and quickly got up ready to tell Walter ‘No!’, she saw the door to her right open and her two children limp to her side, their arms open and their faces beaming.
“Surprise, Mother!” they yelled, hugging and kissing her.
Walter stood still, watching, his fists clenched.