The Perfect Day

Submitted into Contest #138 in response to: Write a story about an afternoon picnic gone wrong.... view prompt


Romance Sad Contemporary

This story contains themes or mentions of physical violence, gore, or abuse.

Kevin found himself caught on a breeze. The soft, cooling wind floating through him and around him as if trying to embrace him. He felt as if the zephyr would go on forever, never limited by the same gravity that seemed to tie Kevin to the earth. From his gusty hilltop he could see towns and villages amongst the valley’s slopes, their metal and brick buildings sticking above and amongst the green treetops. Civilization was ever present, but it was also an eternity away.

Nearby trees moaned slightly, and their leaves rustled as the same whiff of air that held Kevin spread to embrace the nearby foliage as well. There was no distinct smell, but the mixture of earthy and ethereal fragrances couldn’t help but whisper to Kevin of the early spring. The setting sun cast a slight warmth on Kevin’s face, combating the subtle chill of the breeze and creating a comfortable equilibrium.

It was a perfect day.

Yet Kevin had a nagging feeling, the feeling of something being ever so slightly ‘off’. But he couldn’t put his finger on it. It was there and not there, like the breeze that embraced him. A feeling he could scratch with the tips of his fingers, but not actually grasp.

A voice broke him out of his own mind, and he came plummeting back to reality.

“Hm? Sorry?” Kevin said, half aware.

“I was asking if you wanted to go for a walk, digest some of this food.” Said a melodious voice.

Kevin looked to the source of the voice, Helen. Her auburn hair was being lifted from her shoulders slightly by the same breeze that had seduced his thoughts. Her soft brown eyes looked into his with the unspoken question of ‘you weren’t here with us on Earth, where did your mind take you?’

“Sure” Kevin responded as his mind came back to him more and more. “No one else is in the park so we can probably leave the picnic here.”

“What about the ants?” She retorted.

 “Not worried about it, it’s only fair they get some of the amazing food you prepared.” Helen gave him a smile as a response to his compliment, and wordlessly stood up from her kneeling position and grabbed him by the arm. Just as wordlessly they began walking to nowhere in particular. For either five moments or five minutes there was silence, an eternity of heartbeats.

“Now that I think about it, since when did you become a five-star chef? Usually you leave the cooking to me.” Kevin inquired, genuinely curious as to where this hidden talent had come from. Helen chuckled.

“A lot of practice I suppose.” She replied. Kevin returned with his own baritone chuckle.  

“Really? Correct me if I’m wrong but I’ve been the one making our meals lately. Including the salad, we had last night, and the ziti before that.” He said.

 “You mean the salmon we had last night?” Helen said instinctively. Kevin cocked an eyebrow.

“Er, no. We had salad. With the strawberry dressing, remember?” Kevin asked. Helen paused before responding.

“Ah yeah. Right. Of course.” Helen admitted. Kevin got another strange feeling, the same feeling he couldn’t quite grasp a few moments earlier. Before he could dwell on it, Helen was beginning to gain speed on him and nearly drag him.

“Either way, I’m glad you enjoyed it.” Helen began. “What shall we do next? We could go for a swim in the nearby lake. See a movie. Go home and ditch the clothes. Anything you want to do.”

Kevin thought about it. All of them were good options, especially the last one. As he considered them one by one, and the merits of all of them, a thought popped into his head. On their way out of town there had been a fruit stand. Helen hadn’t said anything, but she had a “thing” for small independent fruit stands. It wasn’t an obsession he shared but the day had been rather focused around him, so it seemed the perfect way to partially even it out.

“There was a fruit stand on our way here, why don’t we head there and grab some fresh strawberries then take option three?” He said with a smirk.

“Or we can skip the strawberries and just get to the really fun part” Helen said with a mischievous tone. Kevin blew air out of his nose.

“Please, I know how much you love strawberries and fruit stands. And this one looked way less sketchy than the one in Harberton, it’ll be fun.” Said Kevin.

 “I really don’t want strawberries; we can skip it.” Helen said with an edge of annoyance, Kevin wasn’t sure where that came from, it struck him as distinctly ‘odd.’

Odd or not, Kevin’s pride kicked in. He knew for a fact that if there was one thing Helen was never sick of, it was strawberries. This was doubly true when it came to independently picked strawberries, even if they were out of season.

“No, we’re going to the fruit stand” he said, in a mockingly defiant tone. Helen stopped walking and turned to Kevin, her eyes looking up at him with a penetrating gaze.

“I really don’t want to, there’s so many other things to do, let’s…” Helen began before Kevin cut her off.

“We’re going to the fruit stand.” He repeated with a firm tone. Helen looked hurt when he said it. He was surprised by that; he hadn’t thought he used a harsh tone. But he didn’t mean to hurt her feelings, quite the opposite. He wanted to treat her. He grabbed both of her hands and looked deep into her eyes. He could get lost forever in those infinite brown opals.

“This has been a perfect day Helen. The breakfast, the bookstore, the drive, the picnic. Absolute perfection. But it’s also so focused on what I’ve wanted to do, and we haven’t gotten to do anything you wanted to do. I know how much you love fruit stands, so we’re going to the fruit stand.” He said it with kindness in his voice but still maintained a gentle firmness.

He couldn’t be sure, but it seemed like Helen was about to say something, and then resigned herself. What was off was how sad she seemed to be about it, and that niggling feeling came back.

“Okay.” Helen relented.

They walked back silently towards their picnic site. The silence was noticeable, but not altogether uncomfortable. The more Kevin thought about it the surer he was of his actions. Helen may be a little upset right now, but she’d come around. Helen got like this occasionally, so focused on trying to spoil Kevin that she wouldn’t let him spoil her in return. Her mood would pick up once they got to the strawberry stand. After all, she could never be upset while eating strawberries.

As Helen had predicted and Kevin had allowed, the ants had started to work on the leftovers. Upon returning to their picnic site they shook off the bothersome insects to start their endless cycle of “find, eat, repeat” somewhere else and packed up the tupperware.

The two of them grabbed their bags and headed back to the car. Kevin wasn’t wrong in his assessment; the parking lot of the park truly was empty as he had said. How people could not come to the park on such a beautiful day was beyond him.

They packed their things into their car and left the park, Kevin driving towards the spot where he had seen the fruit stand.

After a few minutes of driving in awkward but companionable silence Helen spoke up.

“Was it really a perfect day?” She asked self-consciously. Kevin nodded without even having to think.

“Absolutely, I don’t think I could ask for a better one.” Helen smiled at his response, but he couldn’t help but feel like there was a sadness in it. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah” she said quietly. “Just lost in thought.”

They got closer to the fruit stand. It was on a small patch of dirt on the side of the road with no place to park amongst a heavily forested area. Luckily, there was a small parking lot also made of earth across the road from the stand. The road twisted just past the fruit stand, back down the hill towards civilization. The road was surprisingly busy, with cars darting over the poorly painted crosswalk at an impressive rate.

Kevin pulled the car into the abandoned dirt parking lot and turned off the car. He unhooked his seatbelt and grabbed his wallet, ready to buy a ton of strawberries to prove a point. For some reason the phrase “pride goeth before the fall” shot into his head, and he got a temporary worry about whether the stand would accept his credit card. That would be a fun conversation if not.

Helen and Kevin got out of the car, Kevin locking it behind them. He began to head towards the crosswalk, assuming that Helen was behind him.

There as a tug at his right hand as Helen grabbed him and turned him around to face her. She was looking up at him with...apprehension? Worry? He couldn’t quite tell. She was really taking this strawberry thing personally for some reason.

“You know I love you, right?” Helen said, a question and a reminder. Kevin’s chest fluttered and warmed as if someone had lit a comfortable fire in it, and he couldn’t help but smile.

“Of course, and I love you too.” He said. “Come on, let’s go get some strawberries.” His spirit lifted as he realized she was finally warming up to the idea of strawberries. He crested a small dirt hill and made his way into the crosswalk.

Kevin didn’t see the car that slammed into him going nearly 90 miles an hour. In fact, he wasn’t even sure what had happened. One heartbeat he was crossing the road towards the fruit stand, the next his entire body was numb, and his mind was filling with flashing white lights and going into shock so quickly his brain didn’t even register what had happened.

The heartbeat after that Kevin’s eyes closed, and he saw and felt nothing more.

Helen felt a cold numbness as she watched Kevin get hit by the car. She didn’t bother running over to him, she knew he was dead. Truth be told so much of what defined the standard silhouette of a person was wrong that, had it been dark, no one would’ve been able to tell his shape was human, the standard profile was bent and jagged now.

She also felt numb as the car that had hit her love swung off the road and smashed into a massive oak tree with enough force to set it ablaze with its driver inside. She felt numb as the ambulances and fire fighters showed up to the scene shortly after and began fighting both the fire of the crashed car and the veil of mortality that had been lain over Kevin. She felt numb as they sat her in an uncomfortable chair at the police station a few hours later and told her they had called her parents as well as Kevin's.

The only thing she thought during the long hours, that in truth felt like one extremely long moment, was “Next time, I won’t protest the fruit stand.”

It was always the fruit stand. No matter how hard she tried or how far they went, they always wound up at that fruit stand. Sometimes it was after going to the park, sometimes after the movies, sometimes after a whole day sleeping in the car. But somehow, they were always dragged to the fruit stand, Kevin insisting on it.

She had tried telling him the truth, but that never worked. Instead he just got worried, decided they needed to go home, but stopped at the fruit stand anyway to cheer her up and “prove her wrong.” She had tried not going anywhere and staying home all day. In those cases, he wound up going by himself, usually discovering the fruit stand on the internet and deciding to surprise her.

She’d tried joining him, walking out with him and sharing his fate. In those cases, he always managed to push her out of the way, or she would escape without a scar. An act the police and fruit stand owner would both call a miracle.

No matter what though, Kevin always went to the fruit stand at exactly the same time, and Kevin was always hit by the exact same incompetent driver.

Helen couldn’t even recall how it had happened the first time, the repeated days blurring together so many times that the first time had become indistinguishable from the rest. They were each separate, but wholly interchangeable in her mind. It had gotten to the point she had begun to forget parts of the days before this ill-fated one.

In the end, the day happened, Kevin died, and eventually and inevitably she would fall asleep; and it would all start over.

She had been confused and sad at first, scaring Kevin awake with her panic attacks. Then she had been angry; no, furious with whatever was causing this to happen. Then she had tried to change things, only to realize she couldn’t. Eventually she had reached the point she had now, though she couldn’t tell how long ago that was. She couldn’t measure time well in this situation. She’s not sure how anyone could.

Helen began to drift off to sleep in the police station chair as she reflected. She had gotten pretty good at it, they always put her in this chair. Its back cushion became optimal for curling up if not for comfort.

Her thoughts drifted off more, a thread being pulled down the inevitable void that was rest. And she was asleep.

An instant later she felt herself slowly being lulled from her slumber. She was enveloped in warmth from the blankets of her bed and all-too familiar body heat.

A hand was caressing her naked thigh lightly, working its way up her sides in exploration. It sent exquisite electricity down her spine. Her eyes opened to see Kevin’s kind and thoughtful green eyes looking back. His dark hair going in all directions as if to escape the fate that his head was destined for in less than 14 hours. Without speaking Kevin pulled her head to his, and their lips embraced each other.

Helen smiled sleepily as their lips locked. This part was always her favorite. The only part that had no chance of being interrupted by the sledgehammer of fate. A small piece of heaven in her life of hell.

“Good morning” Kevin said as he pulled away gently, his voice relaying the fact that he was still waking up as well. “What do you want to do today my sweet?”

There was only one answer. In the absence of autonomy or power in her situation, with no way to stop the outcome or the cycle, she had discovered she could really only think of one thing to do with his quickly waning life and her endless one.

When she spoke, her voice was a mixture of emotions that Kevin would mistake for drowsiness.

“Give you the perfect day.”

March 20, 2022 20:23

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L.M. Lydon
20:47 Mar 27, 2022

What a truly excruciating Groundhog Day scenario, to experience Kevin's death again and again. It's so poignant that all she does is try to give him the perfect day and the fruit stand always appears and kills Kevin every time.


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Alice Richardson
22:16 Mar 26, 2022

An interesting story line.


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