"I thought you'd slap me or bite me by now," he said after a long stare. He licked his upper lip, hoping his words came true.
Pudica's lips turned into a dot. Her nostrils widened. Her palm swept sharply onto his cheek.
Oliver's head rotated some degrees. It stung so good he began heaving. His forehead dropped on her breasts. His fingers moved farther between her thighs, gripping at them. The frustration by his inability to do more, poisoned his veins as his body begged to take her savagely.
A scalding energy surrounded them? That slap was too weak to count as anger. Let her be the one to stop him.
He lifted his head and prised her mouth with his lips. Her arms stretched on his shoulders, embracing the collision. Her soul melted on his hands. Despite her privates being much higher than his penis, his hips made quick thrusts. If he could poke her again, it would appease him.
Against his own wishes, he stopped.
Certainly, he was not taking her in the bathroom. He was aware of some details about virgin women, such as their first time was bloody and painful.
“Is this supposed to be happening? These feelings I'm having for you—am I stupid?" she said.
"Life is never the way we expect it to be." He lowered her onto the floor. His right palm firm on her waist as his left hand rotated the shower head.
As he found her gaze again, he caught her staring at his rampant phallus. Her face turned promptly and blushed.
"Come into the tub with me." He made a half-smile.
Pudica wrapped the blanket over her chest. "I better go change and get you a towel."
Oliver went inside the bathtub and closed the curtain. Cool water did nothing to pacify his aching core.
Pudica bent over the inflatable bed in the tiny office her hosts had prepared for her and shoved a pillow in front of her groin. Her breath slowed down in meditation, praying for God to stop her hands from sinning. Oliver's hand lingered on her skin. The memory of his voice filled her with goosebumps.
“No." She had promised to never touch herself again. Doing the right thing required labor.
Mind the culinary arts, Pudica. You love doing that.
Those forbidden thoughts, sometimes she loved more than cooking. Doomed was the girl.
The office door opened, not giving her a chance to cover herself fully. Who was it, but Oliver?
"Knock, idiot." Her beaming heart was irritating.
"What were you doing?" He smirked.
"Nothing." She lifted her sheets up to her neck.
"Why are you naked then?" He bounced on the inflatable bed.
"I'm waiting for my clothes to dry. My stuff burned down, remember?"
"Right, those cute shorts. Pudding, you're a millionaire. Buy yourself a new wardrobe."
"I can't. Department stores are closed."
"Order from your phone. I'll show you later."
"Kay, thanks. Now, shoo." She flapped her arm toward the door.
"Actually, I have to talk to you." He rubbed his knees.
The dialogue she begged to avoid, especially when she was naked and aroused. He was about to suggest they kiss again or worse. However, he had been mad at her the night before for mentioning his parents. Tonight, he was acting as if she had accepted being his girlfriend.
"This morning I visited one of my employees; Mrs. K's an elderly widow," he said. "She was immensely grateful for the check I gave her, and she explained why she needed the money. If I hadn't paid her for the month, she'd be in extreme financial trouble. I had to install a toilet bowl in her bathroom."
"That's where the smell came from." She raised an eyebrow.
"No. She thanked me for the help, and while we were deep in conversation, she brought her worries about other elderly employees to my attention, so I drove to see them. Turns out Juan had no food at home because he didn't know how to buy groceries online. Leo was depressed because his daughter wouldn't let him tend to his garden."
"Ah, that's why you reeked of mulch."
Oliver nodded. "And Rosita's baby did one on me."
"I realized how important the money was for some of my workers," he said. "They didn't use it only to pay bills. It won't solve all of their problems, but it's enough to get through this virus. And I have you to thank."
The satisfaction of having done a good deed was better than buying luxury. Giving was one thing Pudica's mother taught her well.
"It was the least I could do for you after I forced you to marry me."
"You didn't force me." He scooted close to her.
"Does that mean you're not mad at me?"
Oliver softened the muscles around his eyes. "Pudding, I want you to reconsider being my girlfriend."
There was his overture again, making her guts twist. She was afraid of God and her mother, even though the latter wasn't present anymore. More than that, failure to achieve her happily ever after terrified her.
"Ollie, you should've figured out by now that I'm unsure about everything. How can you be so sure about me, when we’ve just met? To be a wife on paper is weird enough."
"Sometimes all it takes is a feeling, and I know you feel something for me." He aimed at touching her thigh, but drew his hand back. "You think your ignorance is a disadvantage, but I see it as a clean slate."
How preposterous. A man his age assuredly favored a woman who could satisfy him in every area.
"My ex-girlfriends, they had their hearts broken before I met them," he said. “So we broke our hearts again. We would have never hurt each other if we weren't so bitter about previous relationships. I constantly looked for cues that warned me not to trust them, and they always compared me to their exes. But you don't have those issues because you've never had a boyfriend."
"I've belonged to no one, true," she said. "But you used to belong to someone. There's a possibility you won't leave your bitterness behind."
"Yes, but you're unlike any woman I've ever met. Your innocence is the assurance I need to know you'll be mine and nobody else's."
The longer the silence, the more she noticed his Adam's apple. If he wanted a different person, perhaps he could meet her demands.
"If I accept, you must be a gentleman."
Oliver raised his right hand and traced an X over his heart with his index finger. "Absolutely."
Pudica chuckled at his excitement.
"Okay." She blushed. The butterflies in her stomach didn't let her say more.
He leaned forward. Her cheeks burned, expecting his lips. But instead of kissing, they frowned at the pessimistic whispers coming through the wall.
"Is that Aunt Betsy?" she said. "Sounds like she's crying."
"And Robert. I don't think I've ever heard them argue before," he replied.
The murmurs became louder and more intense. Oliver and Pudica raised into the hall. They tiptoed by the windows, following the distorted voices.
"Who's fighting at this hour?" Sutton yawned behind them.
The couple jumped in surprise. Oliver shushed him. Then, the door to the guest room opened, and Robert rolled his suitcase into the hallway.
"Baby, let's talk about it." Aunt Betsy held onto her husband's wrist with both hands.
"I said, don't touch me!" the doctor yelled, waking the rest of the house.
Aziza and her husband, Damon, hurried out of their bedroom.
At the discovery of an audience, Robert panned around the room until he found Pudica. The girl's pupils dilated, encountering her uncle's villainous bearing. His nose huffing and his jaw trembling.
"Rob—" Betsy called him again.
And bullets flew through the window.
"Pudica." Oliver forced his wife’s toward the floor and pulled Betsy away from the glass.
As Pudica crawled without direction, screams overpowered the shattering noises. Sheetrock dust coated her eyes. A sharp pain spread from her side into her abdomen.
Outside, an engine revved, and the bullets stopped. After a temporary pause, screaming resumed. Pudica looked in front of her as Betsy laid over her husband. Blood covered Robert’s chest.
Oliver commanded Sutton to get towels and brought his phone to his ear.
"Yes, I need an ambulance. My god-father’s not responding. And-and-and my girlfriend's also hurt."
Pudica frowned at Oliver's palm pressed against her side. Red liquid pouring between his fingers.