Wondering about her husband’s disappearance, she wrapped herself in the blanket he left on her and followed the glowing floor line.
Sniffles intensified while she let the brightness escape. Oliver sat—fully dressed—on the tiles by the sink. In his hand, a bouquet of roses. His tears flowed down the petals.
“Ollie.” The girl kneeled beside her husband, befuddled by the scene. Her thumbs erased the drops from his face, but moisture stayed.
“I’m sorry I’m like this.” He turned his head away.
She brought his chin toward her. “No, you can be vulnerable with me.”
“While you were asleep, I got you these flowers, and I questioned how they could ever fix anything. I’ve hurt people I love: my parents, now you.”
The wife pulled her husband into her chest. “Stop blaming yourself for things out of your control. I cried because I was hurting. That doesn’t mean it was your fault or that I blame you. It wasn’t as pretty as the books described, but you comforted me. And when you stroked my hair and kissed me, it was so good I fell asleep. I love you for that.”
“I have the kindest wife. I love you, Pudica Darling.”
“Pudding,” she corrected him. “My name is Pudding Darling.”
He smirked and sucked on her upper lip. Small kisses, big kisses, and the ones in between, she cherished them all. She came down to his neck, taking control. The taste of his skin was heavenly.
She dropped the fabric that covered her and tugged him upward. For a second, he stood still, ogling at her bareness.
“Make my body quake, Mr. Darling,” she requested.
Oliver spun her around and clamped his chest to her back. One hand played with her breasts and the other massaged her womanhood. The darkness of the room aided the feeling of privacy.
“My beautiful wife,” he whispered into her ear as he kneaded her softly. “You are mine.”
“Yes,” she moaned.
“You saved yourself for me—the only one who’s ever touched you.”
“The one I’ll forever love.”
“Say it louder.” His hand jerked faster.
“The one—” Words couldn’t form as her pleasure was too great. She whined. Her limbs fighting to function.
It wasn’t like when she touched herself. His fingers teased her enough to keep her wanting more; always taking her a level below ecstasy, but closer to it every time.
She held onto his arms, then his neck; anything to keep her from plummeting to the ground. She was wet, sticky, and hot, and she yearned to stay like that forever. Pressure built in her head and groin.
The young wife didn’t resist, trusting her husband fully. After failing to finish the sentence, her body quaked in his arms. Her toes curled and her eyes rolled upward.
Oliver helped her climb into bed.
“I’m ready,” she said.
His lips made a line of kisses down her thigh. His index finger scouted her entrance. Pudica’s breasts swelled, moaning as a digit penetrated her.
“How’s this?” he asked.
“So good,” she said while her belly danced slowly. Introducing another finger brought her knees farther apart. All of her focused on that feeling.
She arched her spine at the stretching of her walls. There was a pause. Oliver removed his clothes.
“I can’t wait to be inside you.” He kneeled on the mattress and lifted her ankles up to her shoulders.
“I’m all yours.” She sent him a smirk. Butterflies fluttered in her stomach as she received him.
Agape, she held his torso. The stream between her legs turned into a sea. Their expressions of fulfillment added to their vulnerability. Nobody had seen them in their most intimate poses. They weren’t afraid to let their bodies synchronize to their groans.
“I can’t hold it,” he cried, inhaling deeply and releasing all of his energy inside her. Abdominal muscles twitched while sweat slid through swinging hair strands. Though he had his eyes close, she still saw a bit of his rotating eyeballs.
He was handsome. She took pride in his reaction as he made love to her.
The lovers rested in each other’s essence, blending into one soul. To untangle their arms was inconceivable. They pondered over their lives and how incomplete they had been until the day they found one another.
Thumps got Oliver to spring out of bed and find his pants. Pudica blew her disheveled hair away from her face. The mirror glinted with morning rays.
“Did we sleep through dinner?” she asked.
“And through the night,” said Oliver.
“Oh, my God.” Pudica gasped. At the constant knocking, she jumped into her clothes.
The couple scampered around the room, folding sheets and preening each other.
“That must be Aunt Betsy,” blurted Oliver. “I told her we would stay here. The taxi should be waiting for us.”
Pudica grabbed Oliver’s phone to check the time, then opened the door with a smile. Her eyes widened.
Three police officers shoved her aside and crowded into the room. Oliver only had a chance to scowl before they snatched his arms.
“What’s this about?” The wife yelled in Spanish.
“Pudica, ask them why they’re doing this,” said her husband, juddering his shoulders.
One cop kicked him and shouted at him.
“What’s he saying?” Oliver asked as he fought.
“He’s just cussing,” the girl answered. She shook her fists and screamed at the men to let her husband go. When they ignored her, she ran into the bathroom and found Oliver’s backpack. Her hand aimed for the front pocket.
“Pud—” her husband muffled her name, and a hand clamped her mouth and nose.
“Ninel says ‘goodbye,’” the officer whispered, aiming a firearm to her temple. Fear filled her stomach, but Oliver clanged the thug’s hand against the sink. He wasn’t strong enough for the two that sent knuckles at his body.
Pudica’s fingers trembled as she opened the bag and picked up Oliver’s handgun.
“Stop!” She shook the barrel at the criminals that grappled her man. Oxygen entered her lungs as fast as it left them. The armed cop fixed his weapon in his palm. He seemed ready to use it.
Pudica’s pupils covered the hazel shade of her eyes. Her heart exploded into her ribs and her bladder ceased to work, so she pressed the trigger five times. Each bang recoiling through her arms. The three men plummeted with holes in their chests.
The girl stared at the gun in disbelief. How could an insignificant shape cause so much damage? But it was her hand that wielded it. She was a murderer.
Then she saw her husband, looking just as shocked as she was. He propelled toward her and parted her fingers to take the weapon.
“Ay, Dios.” Cari squeezed her head, staring at the men. Murmurs came from the hallway flock.
Aunt Betsy and Uncle Robert hurried inside. They hopped backward, taken aback by the scene.
“They tried to shoot us. I had to do it. I killed them,” said Oliver, wiping blood from his chin.
Pudica blinked, hearing her husband take the blame for her.
“They’re cops,” said Betsy in horror, pacing around the room.
“No, they’re not. Ninel sent them,” said Oliver.
Cari buttoned her doctor’s coat and darted outside, screaming.
“We have to leave. She’ll turn him in,” Robert said of Cari’s reaction.
Betsy shook her head, peeked outside and whispered, “No, she’s telling everyone there’s a virus outbreak in the hotel. They’re going back to their rooms.”
Cari came to the door and told Betsy something. The god-mother approached an ottoman and grabbed a blanket.
“Robert, get Oliver’s things. Pudica’s friend will take him through the lobby.” She swung the sheet around Oliver’s shoulders.
The medical student returned with a cloth mask and offered it to Oliver.
“Put your face,” she said in broken English.
“Wha—what—what are we doing?” Pudica recovered her speech.
Police sirens and lights flickered through the window.
“You’re coming with me and Robert,” answered Betsy. “Cari will pretend Oliver is a coronavirus patient. This way we’ll cover the blood with the blanket.”
What blood? Pudica glanced at her husband again, registering the red spatter on his shirt. She had shot the men at extensive range, but Oliver had been too close to them. No time to change or wash. Robert and Betsy were already pulling her out of the door.
Pudica and her parents were waiting for Oliver and Cari to arrive by the kiosk market. The exit from the hotel was nerve-wracking. The police ran upstairs while they were in the elevator. Once on the first floor, they had to stroll through the reception as if they hadn’t seen the commotion.
“They made it,” said Robert, watching Oliver and Cari torpedoing out of a taxi. He didn’t have the blanket anymore, and he wore a clean t-shirt.
The young wife threw herself onto her husband and sucked on his nectar lips.
“To the beach?” said Cari. Everyone agreed.
It had taken hours to get to Gibara town without being recognized. For such a big island, the news of the murders traveled fast. They had ridden two buses and Pudica had expressed little other than she was thirsty or hungry. Flashes of three bodies plummeting and the ringing of her ears remained.
Betsy spoke to a man in a horse carriage and had everyone get in it. Robert and Oliver took pictures with their phone cameras to appear as if they were real tourists on vacation.
“Smile.” Cari tapped Pudica on the leg.
Pudica responded with a fake grin. She squeezed her husband’s hand.
Betsy couldn’t have the coachman take them near the isolated beach or it would have raised suspicions. She pretended she and Cari were tourist guides, giving Oliver, Robert, and Pudica the ultimate Cuban experience. The coachman interpreted that as they were cowgirls because those were like grains of sand on the island.
Cari made the coachman stop near a historical site with which she was familiar. The passengers got down on a desolated road and Robert gave the horse guide a twenty-dollar bill.
Everyone fastened their backpacks and began walking into the forest except Pudica.
“Let’s move, cutie pie. The sun’s almost out,” said Betsy.
But her daughter did not advance. Her gaze got lost in the roadway.
“Pudica?” The girl’s father held her hand, trying to bring her back to the present.
“He didn’t do it. He’s not guilty. It was me. I murdered them.” Pudica dropped her backpack and backed up into the middle of the road.
“She’s having a panic attack.” Her father’s voice sounded far away. Now her family was moving their lips, but she heard sirens.
“They found us,” said Betsy..
“We need to go!” screams were louder than the police cars approaching.
The sky had suddenly become pitch black and Pudica was still standing on the same spot.
“Go, go, we’ll catch up,” Oliver told the others.
“No,” said Robert.
“If the lanchero doesn’t see us at the beach, he’ll leave.”
The parents stared, undecided.
“You drag your asses into that boat, you hear me?” Robert stabbed his finger forward at Oliver and Pudica, and pulled the other women into the forest.
“Pudding, listen, police are coming.” Oliver pressed his wife’s hand. “You go. They want me.”
“They want all of us, and if you stay, they’ll kill me because I’m not letting them separate us.”
Pudica looked to her right. She could almost read the letters on the police cars. She nodded at her husband, and they darted between the trees without her backpack.
Twigs breaking, dust fogging the air; the lovers ran away from the voices thundering behind them. Dry leaves cracked as the night breeze violated their ears. Lights danced, hunting them.
Wet sand covered their shoes, and they found Betsy, Robert, and Cari with their knees in the water.
“Where’s the boat?” Oliver asked them, but they didn’t respond. “It should be here. Sutton said it would be here.”
Robert shushed him and pointed far into the horizon.
“Wait for it,” he said. A red beam flickered like a faraway star. “He can’t make it closer.”
“We must swim,” said Betsy, removing the heavier items from their backpacks.
Cari took off her tennis shoes. The red star appeared again.
“Now! Go, go, go.” Robert grabbed his wife’s hand and their legs splashed into angry waves.
The group swam toward the light as shouting increased at the beach. Dogs barking and howling. Bullets breaking the sound barrier above their heads until their toes couldn’t touch the seafloor underneath them.
Pudica just kept swimming, following the red dot on the horizon. The waves blocked her vision, but a hand pulled her up and her father was pushing her into a deck.
“Stay down,” said the lanchero. “Apurate, coño,” he yelled at the rest to hurry.
The girl scanned the boat. There were others in the boat. A woman cried, “Yenifer, where’s Yenifer?” More humans piled up on each other. The lanchero pushed them to make space for more.
Arms wrapped around the nineteen-year-old. It was her husband. Her family and her friend had made it onto the deck.
“Dale, we’re getting the fuck out!” the lanchero turned on the engine.
“No!” the crying woman shrieked from within the turmoil. “My daughter’s missing. She’s only five.”
“It’s too late. And shut up or they’ll find us,” said the lanchero.
The layer of water covering the deck suddenly warmed. The trembling man beside Pudica had peed himself. The sea washed the rafters’ tears.
“Yenifer,” screamed the woman as bullets continued to fly.
“Shut up.” Another woman slapped the frolicking mother.
Out in the water, Pudica noticed two little arms struggling to stay afloat. Without thinking, she jumped out of the deck and swam toward the youngster.
“Ayudenlo.” Two men yelled at everyone to help Oliver pull his wife and the little girl back into the boat.
The mother screamed at her unconscious child. Betsy held Pudica tightly and looked away from the scene. The boat broke through the waves. Everybody held on to each other, but Robert approached Yenifer. He crawled over the rafters’ legs, yet no one complained. He pushed his palms against the child’s rib cage and breathed oxygen into her multiple times. The lanchero told everyone to be quiet, so they had to muffle the girl’s mother. The rest grieved in silence with her.
Pudica trembled in Oliver’s chest, hearing his blaring palpitations.
Yenifer coughed, but nobody cheered. She cried. Robert placed his finger over her lips. He checked her vitals as best as he could under the moonlight and had the rafters return the girl to her mother.
They heard another bang and the boat’s captain’s body fell on the crowd. The thirty passengers squalled in horror.