Pudica Darling. #SOScuba

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Chapter 6

Pudica's eyelids opened enough to let light through. A plastic object covered her mouth and nose, but she was breathing fine. Her body ached. She wiggled her toes in discomfort. She turned her head. Her neck weighed a thousand pounds.
A figure in a plump white suit frightened her although she could not react.
"Ms. Alma, I'm Dr. Gonzalez. We've been taking care of you. Sorry I can't take off my mask. You have a highly contagious coronavirus called COVID-19."
Pudica pulled the plastic cone off her face momentarily. "Am I going to die?"
Dr. Gonzalez helped her put it back on. "You are young, so you have a high chance of survival, but your underlying condition puts you at a higher risk."
"Condi—?"
"You have an iron deficiency which is slowing down the recovery."
Another white suit appeared to her left. "Pudica, it's Uncle Robert. Nod if you can breathe all right," Uncle Robert pulled the skin under her eyes and shined a light on them. The girl nodded.
"Pupils are dilated," he addressed Dr. Gonzalez. "Vitals?"
"Blood pressure is too high," replied his colleague. “Fever's been the same for two days."
Two days. Pudica heaved. She saw a sadness in her uncle's semblance. She was dying. The pools in her eyes flooded her face. She had done everything right. She had listened to her mother.
"Pudica, be a good girl, and God won't punish you," Mami used to say. "You won’t like hell. Trust me."
That's where Pudica's soul headed. She knew why—her unholy desires. They started a long time ago, but as she turned seventeen, they became hard to ignore.
It was raining, and she was reading a romance novel. In the book, the main characters kissed under the rain. No, no, no, she didn't choose to read that one. It was for a school assignment. She would have chosen the Bible, of course! Mami wasn't home, and it was so quiet, her mind unpredictably imagined she was the protagonist.
As she closed her eyes, a slashing crept from the inside of her groin. It was so good she raised her hips a little. When they continued, she scared herself. Mami had talked to her about these feelings; she had to suppress them if she wanted God to let her into heaven.
To take her mind off of them, she skipped the kiss and read the next chapter. The boy was dreaming of the kiss, hoping to meet the girl again. And Pudica dreamed of the boy, too. Her knees separated by themselves. Her heart went a million miles an hour. She stared at the ceiling, rolled on her stomach, and covered herself with a blanket, so that God didn't notice and Satan couldn't see her.
The feeling was still there. She pressed her hips against her mattress, making it worse. Her grip was now under her thigh. Two inches and she would know herself. If she placed her hand there, it was like washing it under the shower.
Moisture secreted from her insides, causing the hairs in her body to rise. Her clitoris was beating at the same pace as her heart. Her palm slid to the center of her hips, curious about the gooey substance.
It was wrong. It was wonderfully wrong. Her middle and index fingers warmed up as she rubbed her vulva sideways, adjusting to the movements.
She shut her eyes and tightened her leg muscles. Then, she let go. Each stroke was better, wetter. She wished to have a million hands touching every part of her body. Her rapid breath forced her jaw down. Her eyeballs rolling upward. So good, so forbidden. This is what Mami didn't want her to experience.
She wanted the boy from the book, even when she knew he wasn't real. That's when she thought she was going blind and crazy because her hips trembled and her spine had multiple spasms.
Faster.
She peed, but there was no liquid. After, she was floating in a cloud as the slashing lingered for a minute. But when it was gone, she recoiled into a ball and started crying.
She didn't want to stare into her mother's disappointed eyes or look up to the sky and witness the lord's wrath. If she ever died, she would never see Mami again. Mami was in heaven, and she was going to hell.
On top of that, she had seen a naked man and had offered to commit another sin.
She needed redemption. Her time on Earth was over, but perhaps, she could save her sister.
"Get Oliver." She held her uncle's gloved hand.
"Sorry? I thought you said Oliver." Uncle Robert frowned.
Pudica nodded firmly and raised her voice. "I need Oliver."



Oliver propelled down the hallway, into the living room as he heard Betsy on the phone with her husband. Because Pudica had the coronavirus, he and Betsy had to quarantine themselves at home for fifteen days to make sure they didn't have it, too. He hoped Robert told her it was okay to leave the house. He had been a week away from the outside world and he feared for his business.
In the news, government officials debated on shutting down businesses to stop the spread of the virus. The infection rates grew every day at higher speeds. If he didn't close the gym, the locker rooms risked being a hotspot for transmission. The interchange of bodily fluids on the benches, sauna, and massage areas added to the problem. Many could fall sick.
If he closed, his employees had no job, no livelihoods. Some were war veterans who knew no other life than lifting. Others were ex-convicts who made mistakes in the past. Where else could they find a decent paycheck? The survival of their families fell on his shoulder.
"Uncle Robert, I’m fine," Oliver yelled into his god-mother's phone.
"Muchacho." Betsy pushed him, annoyed at the interruption.
"Sorry, can we leave the house now?"
The god-mother raised her index finger at him and pressed her phone back to her ear. She seemed focused. Oliver heard Uncle Robert mumble, then Aunt Betsy followed that statement with "hmm, ya, and hm."
"What is it?" Oliver whispered.
"Okay, I'll tell him." Betsy hung up the call and turned to him. "Pudica insists on seeing you."
Aunt Betsy's voice went brittle. "They are not letting family inside the rooms, but she's too upset for them to continue the treatment."
"Why me?" He frowned.
"Robert says she's delirious from the fever. She might think she needs to borrow something from you. The hospital is sending someone to get you."
"I don't mind going. I hate being stuck here, but what do I say to her?"
"Tell her I love her even though I've just met her," she had a saddening smile.
Oliver nodded.




Oliver's eyes took seconds to adjust to the whiteness of the quarantine room. Rubbing nylon created awkward sounds as he walked in his hazmat suit. Uncle Robert motioned at him to get closer to the bed, where Pudica laid hooked to a variety of monitors.
The girl's face gave him the impression of being neither dead nor alive. The familiarity of her semblance enlarged his eyes with memories. He had an impulse to help her.
"I'll be back later." Uncle Robert left.
"Oli—" said Pudica.
"Do you need the ventilator? Do you need me to call Uncle Robert back?" Oliver snatched a mask connected to a tube and showed it to her.
"I need you to marry me," she spoke in a weak state.
The bewildered man fixed the cables on the ventilator and held the tip of his middle finger between his eyes. Logically, she was delirious. The best he could do was comfort her.
"Let's take care of you, first. Aunt Betsy wanted me to deliver a message. She says she loves you."
"I'm not gon'a make it." She coughed. "We have to get married today, please."
As she said those words again, his chin buried into his neck. The circumstances in which they had met added doubt to the possibility of being her friend. Never did getting married cross his mind. He searched for signs of insanity in her expression, nonetheless she was serious. Marriage must have been part of her bucket list.
“No." He found no excuse.
Her illness didn’t mean he should feed her craziness.
"Yes."
"Uh, no."
"Yes."
"No."
"Yes."
"Okay, stop," he blurted.
"Is that a 'yes'?" She made it impossible not to pity her.
"Listen, pudding. You're so beautiful, I would marry you, just to see what's underneath." He eyed her white hospital gown. "You're gon'a get better and you'll make someone a lucky man with your cooking."
"I. Don't. Care. About that." She clenched her teeth. "I have a lot of money, in the millions. If I die, everything ends up in the wrong hands. But if I'm married, the inheritance goes to my husband."
"Back up." Oliver shook his head. He checked his surroundings for the hidden cameras of a prank television show.
Before he showered her with questions, Pudica pointed at the shelf behind him. "My phone."
He did as she commanded in a robotic motion. Her debilitating fingers tapped on the screen, then he turned it to himself. His skin gave up all color. His eyes moved side to side repeatedly, reading the number in her account. Three-hundred-million—his throat lost power to read it out loud.
"My father left it to me, and it'll be yours after I die," she gasped for air. "Only if you marry me."
Silence.
"This is absurd," he ran outside into the waiting room, took off his mask, and dropped on a chair. Rubbing his face multiple times was the only thing calming him down. Here was an opportunity to pay his debt, save his business, invest. Taking it was dishonorable. He didn't make that money, and if he agreed to marry her, it meant she would die.
Pudica said something about the inheritance in the wrong hands. Everything was a haze. She most likely had some beef with her father's family.
He observed the details of his attire. The nylon rasped as he rubbed his palms together. They were in the middle of a pandemic. The government might force his business to close for an indefinite time. His employees could be in the streets if he did nothing about it. This was his way of helping them.
With his mask back on his face, Oliver walked inside the quarantine room again. Pudica was sobbing, attempting to wipe her face on the pillow as her hands felt too constrained and heavy to reach her eyes.
He grabbed a tissue from a shelf and rubbed the tears off her cheeks with it. "Do you still want to marry me?"
"Ye—yes," she sniffled.




Oliver said nothing to anyone as he took decisive steps toward the hospital's cathedral. A man wearing a clerical received him, and he explained that he and his fiancée wanted to get married as a last act of love before she died. When the father asked him if he loved her, he hesitated, but faked a solid "yes." Convinced, the priest requested a protective suit to accompany Oliver back to his future bride.
"Pudica, how are you?" Oliver asked as if he came on official business.
"Already dressed in white." She smiled.
Oliver nodded at the clergyman.
"We'd commonly use a Bible and witnesses. Egh, let it be all for love," said the cleric.
Pudica coughed loudly. Oliver patted the pillow and pulled up her blanket over her belly to make her comfortable. A machine started beeping.
"Hurry," Pudica cried in pain.
"Do you, Pudica—" the priest frowned. "What's your last name?"
"Alma!"
"Do you, Oliver Darling, take Pudica Alma, to be your wife?"
"I do," said Oliver.
"Do you, Pudica Alma, take Oliver Darling, to be your husband?"
"I—" Pudica heaved, "do." Her head fell back on the pillow.
A group of medical personnel surrounded them. They shoved Oliver and the priest outside. Oliver remained immobile wanting to stay.
"By-the-pow'r-invested-in-me." The priest grabbed onto the frame of the exit door. "I de—bleh bleh husband and wife. Don't kiss the bride! Don't kiss the bride!"
Uncle Robert ran inside and pulled his godson out of the way. As the groom took off his mask, the priest carried a pen. "Sorry, when I file the marriage certificate, how shall I spell your wife's name?"
Oliver stepped back in annoyance. The word 'wife' resonated in his head. "It's Pudica," he thought for a minute, "Darling. Pudica Darling."
He spelled her name as the priest wrote it down on his palm and more staff dashed into the quarantine room.

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