"I never to got to kiss you"
Rica hated lack of hygiene.
Well no one ever really does right? But Rica absolutely despised not just the lack of it, but the presence of unhygienic people and germs. Just the slightest chance of her physically touching a “dirty” person chills her spine.
She refused to drink from another person’s, avoided sharing food with others even amongst her family and peers. She would be utterly disgusted by people who talk loudly whilst sprinkles of food mixed with saliva spew out from their mouths.
But out of all disgusting things in her list she hated saliva the most. First, there are millions of germs, sicknesses and diseases that one could get from ingesting a body fluids such as snot and spit from another person. Second, just thinking about that warm, sticky smell makes her feel sick in the stomach.
And because of this attitude people somewhat had a “snobbish” perception of her. Sure she worked hard to be the nice, pretty, smart and dependable girl in school to make up for this little anomaly of hers— but she did not really have someone to call true friends.
One time she was in an elevator with a stranger and his face morphed into a semi-yawn, his nose red and nostrils enlarging, eyes watery— she knew what was going to happen and half-ran to the farthest corner as the man exploded to a sneeze. She inched her face to the wall as close as possible.
When she looked back at him, he was staring at her, disbelief apparent on his face due to her overreaction. When the lift finally came to her floor she hurriedly walked out to the nearest restroom, palms covering her hot-red face.
All her life she had hated this body fluid (as if she does not have it and does not need it for digesting food). Still, she is very aware of what people think of her but she just can’t help it. So instead of trying hard to be normal, except from her family she avoided making friends. Until she met a boy.
Rica instantly liked Caleb. A wide-eyed city boy with a nice smell and didn’t talk when he has food in his mouth. He didn’t like him for only those qualities though, he listened intently to everything she said. They got to know each other better when she toured him around campus and ate lunch together everyday. A few days later hung out after school, sharing each other’s taste in literature, movies and music.
Before she realised it she was falling for him. Hard. But until then he did not thoroughly understand her thing with germs and saliva.
It was a Friday afternoon and their last class just ended. Caleb taps Rica’s shoulder and whispers to her ear to come with him after school somewhere, as he had a surprise for her. Rica’s heart flushed, she had been waiting for this moment all along. Is he going to confess? Will he finally ask me to be his girlfriend?
Excited girlish thoughts ran through her mind but she exudes modest behaviour. As much as he like him, she didn’t want him to think that she’s an easy girl.
She agrees to come with him. They rode Caleb’s truck and drove off to a nearby somewhat secluded lake. Like a gallant knight he escorts her out of the vehicle and lead her to beautiful lake. Caleb puts his jacket on the ground for her to sit on and they picnicked by the waters. He thanked Rica for everything she’s done for him, adjusting to a new school and new town was pretty scary for him he said, but with her being there, he said he could cope.
Rica blushed, it was far from a confession and it was enough to have struck a chord in her heart.
Caleb although not much obvious is dazzled to be with this charming girl. A mischievous idea formed in his head. He stood up and took off his shirt and pants then dives into the water. Rica was dumbfounded then she smiled. She watched him swim, his lean torso coming in and out of the water. He calls out to her, saying how fun it was.
She wanted to but she didn’t like getting wet plus she did not think the lake is as clean she would want it to be. She watched as he swam further into the deeper parts, her heart mildly stopping whenever his head did not pop out of the water to catch air too soon.
“Caleb let’s go back!” Rica yells. But he seemed to not hear her. To get a closer look, she goes knee-deep into the water, raising her skirt up. Gosh it’s cold. She calls out to him. Nothing. Then she realised it’s been minutes since he last caught up air. Is he… drowning?
Rica desperately called out his name and sprinted closer until the water’s at her chest level. Caleb would not emerge from the water. Tears were forming on her eyes when a figure, from her peripheral vision lunges at her.
Rica screams as Caleb tackles her down giggling. She cries out in shock and chides on him, seeing that she’s genuinely terrified he’s overcome with guilt and apologises to her. In his hand he shows her a drinking straw he used to breathe underwater to prank her.
Calmed knowing that he’s safe and enjoying the way his hands protectively held her arms, Rica laughs beside herself and soon the two teenagers are swimming and splashing at each other. For the first time Rica’s genuinely having a good time without a care in the world.
When it was time to go home Rica was the first one to come out of the water. Caleb on the other hand was still swimming, she remembered how his eyes sparkled when told her he loved to swim, and that he always hung out with his dad on a nearby beach where they used to live. She smiled at the thought of him sharing this piece of his life to her.
Her eyes went to search for him on the area. She spots him pretending to drown. “Rica! Rica! Help I can’t swim!” She chuckled at his silliness. He still yelled like he’s really drowning.
“I’m not gonna fall for that one Caleb!”
Rica picked up her phone and looked at what time it was, 5:45. Great. My mom’s gonna kill me. She thought. “Caleb Let’s go!” He on the other hand is still “drowning.” Rica decides to wait and see until when he’s gonna put up with his prank. She sits down idly watching Caleb “drown.” Sure enough he’s gonna sink and use the drinking straw to breathe underwater.
Rica sighed contentedly. She could not help but fantasise what the next day would be for the both of them. Tomorrow will be different. Much different. She can’t wait to get home and text him good night, hopefully things between them will be taken to the next level.
The colours of twilight borders into the distance and this time. Rica stretches her back and as her palms supported her she touched something on the ground. Something long and plastic. She picked it up. It’s a straw… Caleb’s drinking straw.
Rica stood up. She couldn’t see him. Not a splash or a gurgle. She goes into the water, “Caleb! Caleb! Caleb!…” Then something brushes against her thigh.
Rica stumbled back and splashed into the water. Fear, shock and confusion froze her. He’s not moving, his eyes shut, mouth slightly open. A couple seconds pass before she moved even a finger. She gathered what little strength flushed out of her to pull Caleb into land. He’s not breathing. Placing an ear on his chest she hears his heartbeat. He’s still alive, thank God. Recalling what she knew in first aid training class, she compressed his chest multiple times.
But her hands are too timid and she really didn’t have much energy. Nothing. The water just wouldn’t come out. Wait, I didn’t check his mouth.
Yet before she can even touch his face what she saw appalled her. There are weeds inside his mouth, they looked sticky and covered with… saliva.
Rica held her breath. I-I need to save him. But h-- it, just looked so, so… disgusting. She mustered some courage and removed them from his mouth with her hands. She also noticed how some of his teeth were crooked. Did they always look like that? She never noticed that before, probably because she’s too busy staring at his big brown eyes.
This is no time to be noticing that now Rica. She scolded herself.
As her fingers plucked out each weed, she felt that warm, slimy feeling she hated. Rica felt like gagging.
Suddenly Caleb opened his eyes and started wheezing, coughing. His eyes shot red and they bore into hers. Rica was surprised and backed away on instinct. Greenish water drizzled down Caleb’s mouth, coughing. Like a fish stranded on land.
Rica looked away, she wanted to help him let it all out but she can’t move. She cannot bear to look at him. Rica stayed still as a statue until he could not purge out any water anymore. She takes a peak and her eyes automatically lands at his mouth, disgust visible on her face as her, fixed at the the liquid drizzling down the corner of Caleb’s mouth.
No, this can’t be happening. Please, no. She looked away again, covering her ears this time. A few seconds passed. Rica shuddered, but not because the cold wind blew against her wet body. Because Caleb stopped moving and stayed absolutely still, his eyes never left where she is.
That’s when she started crying.
News of a teenage boy drowning in a quiet suburban town caused an uproar amongst media channels. Investigators believed that the boy had cramps when he was swimming in the deeper part of the lake. Others, disregarding what the real cause of the drowning, blamed the parents and/or school for lacking supervision. Some questioned why the girl did not call for help when the boy drowned.
For weeks Rica did not get out of the house for fear of being caught up in all the media storm the tragedy has brought upon their town. Her parents are especially worried. She's a top student and she’s falling behind her class. During all this she spent most time in her room sleeping or listening to music.
Physically, the trauma emaciated her and caused disinterest in things she usually liked. Every night her parents would tuck her in and she would pretend to fall asleep fast as not to worry them.
Tonight like the other nights her parents left the room and turned off the lights. Rica only until then opened her eyes and cuddled her favourite teddy bear tighter. If only she could fast asleep instantly then she wouldn’t have to see Caleb’s lifeless body laying on the ground on her mind.
If only she protested against going to a lake unsupervised.
If only she did not laugh at and encourage his pranks.
If only she could forget how despicable she was for not believing him when he shouted for help.
I only she wasn’t so scared to save him.
If only she wasn’t little-miss-germaphobe Caleb wouldn’t be--
The sound came from her study desk. A leg chair shifting due to the weight of a person sitting.
Her heart stopped for a moment and then she listened. She had trouble sleeping and it is possibly just her tired mind playing tricks on her… she sighed, displeased with herself for entertaining such horrid thoughts. How could she think of Caleb in that way? She remembered his expressive eyes, the little creases on the corners, that appeared when he laughed. His lips that always formed a half-smile whenever he talked but shut completely, waiting in earnest when she spoke. She loved those lips and often thought how they would feel against her own.
Drop. Rica felt something wet drop on her cheek. With her eyes still closed she brushed it off with the sleeve of her shirt. But then it was followed by another one, then another… multiple drops of liquid on her face. As she touched it with her fingertips she felt that familiar, slimy, sticky feeling on her fingertips.
“I never got to tell you, Rica.” A voice said.
From what little light the night shew from her window, she saw his bloated face-- all features of a charming boy gone. Rica opened her mouth but a wet slimy hand covered her screams. Caleb hunkered down closer on top of Rica, almost covering her entire body. She could feel his entire body’s soaking wet as drops of liquid and green lake plants soiled her white blanket. She grasped for breath under his clammy hand but she did not want to open her mouth.
Caleb lowered face to hers, eye level and he put his mouth close to her ear. “I never got to tell you, that I liked you…”
Rica struggled against his weight and is trying to scream for her mom and dad but he held her mouth shut even tighter. “I know you liked me back too, then why couldn’t you?…” He looked at her with such confusion and pain.
“People told things about you but I didn’t listen to them, because you were really nice to me, but still why couldn’t— why didn’t you save me?” Rica shook her head, trying to tell him it wasn’t like that, that she was sorry, truly sorry.
A tear fell on her cheek and Caleb wiped it. A wave of pure terror traveled across Rica’s body when he spoke again.
“I never got to kiss you too.”
Caleb lowered down himself much more until his face almost touched her. Rica started to squirm and thrash but it was no use. She fought against him but he is just stronger.
“A kiss from a fair maiden,” Caleb removes his fingers covering her full lips and before she could protest he covered her mouth with his.
She tried to push his face away with her hands, her fingers—clawing at him but she couldn’t. His slimy sticky tongue forced its way into hers. A kiss so passionate it almost killed her.