Maya hugged her knees, trying to comfort herself somehow. Remembering the past filled her heart with both sadness and happiness. She felt sad with the way things ended that summer. But despite that, she will always treasure the happy memories and her unforgettable 18th birthday celebration. She sighed. She was unable to explain why her mind sought the past more often these days. She did not really intend to take another trip down memory lane that morning but there she was, lost in the past again, while she was in Richard’s office! This time, the memories were triggered by one of the books she saw in Richard’s bookshelf. It was the same book he had given her on her birthday!
Minutes after Richard left, Maya took him on his offer to look for books to read or movies to watch. She entered the room that Richard indicated, humming to herself, feeling so happy with the way the morning turned out. She immediately fell in love with the lovely, cozy room that she saw. It has floor-to-ceiling windows on two sides, while another side has a floor-to-ceiling bookshelf filled with books and DVD, and at the fourth side, a big, minimalist, clutter-free table and a comfortable chair were placed, facing the big windows, taking advantage of the magnificent view.
By one of the floor-to-ceiling windows, two comfortable looking, oversized armchairs faced each other, with a coffee table in the middle. For her, they were perfect for relaxing, drinking coffee, and reading a book, especially on a rainy day or a quiet morning like the one she was having. They are positioned to take advantage of the view and the light filtering in, with an unencumbered view of the cityscape thrown in. She scanned the bookshelf, and noticed that she and Richard have similar tastes in books, and differ a bit when it comes to movies. To her delight, she found among the books, a book which she had been wanting to read but unable to find a copy in the bookstores in Negros. She took it, and was about to head to the armchair when she saw the travel book. She took it as well.
Maya settled into the armchair, holding both books, with the travel book on top. She thumbed through the travel book and noticed that it was well-read, with markings on some of the pages. She unconsciously caressed it as she looked out of the window and stared into nothing in particular, remembering that special moment when she received the same book from Richard. Despite what happened, she still had the book, and Richard’s card. She brought it with her to Spain, and even brought it back to the Philippines when they returned. She left in Talisay, though, whispering to the book that they will travel together soon, the way she wanted to travel for so long, and not the short, accompanied trips she had while she was living in Europe.
Maya sighed again, stretched her arms on top of her head, then decided that she had enough of thinking of the past and what had happened. She got up, intending to get a cup of coffee before she start to read the book she chose. She was crossing through the living room to go the kitchen when the front door opened. She was a bit startled, then she remembered that the housekeeper was coming to clean the place. She saw an older woman by the door.
“Magandang umaga po, Ma’am! Sorry po at hindi na ako nag-doorbell. Akala ko po kasi walang tao. Kayo po siguro iyong bisita ni Sir Richard. Ako po si Manang Sol, iyong housekeeper niya,” Manang Sol said by way of introduction. She seemed surprised too at seeing her. However, she gave Maya a friendly smile as she held on the grocery bag she brought with her.
“Oh, hello po Manang Sol. I’m Maya po. Ako nga po iyong bisita niya na dumating kahapon. Nice to meet you po. Nabanggit nga po ni Ricky na darating kayo ngayon,” Maya said smiling, offering her hand to the older woman. “Maya na lang po pala ang itawag niyo sa akin.”
“Nice meeting you po Ma’am Maya!” Manang Sol said, smiling, taking Maya’s proffered hand. “Ma’am Maya na lang po kung okay lang sa inyo. Hindi po ako sanay ng walang “Ma’am.”
Maya smiled at that. “Kayo po ang bahala, Manang.”
“Err, Ma’am Maya, pwede po magtanong?” Manang Sol asked hesitantly.
“Sige po, ano po ba iyon?” Maya asked her.
“Girlfriend po ba kayo ni Sir Richard?” Manang Sol blurted, then she probably realized that her question was too forward, inappropriate and too personal, so she apologized. “Ay sorry po, Ma’am Maya, pasensya na sa tanong ko.”
Maya was actually startled with the question. But the older woman seemed to have asked it out of natural curiosity so she smiled to put her at ease. “Okay lang po, Manang. Hindi po ako girlfriend ni Ricky. Mag-best friend po ang mga Mama namin ni Ricky and magkatabi ang bahay namin sa Negros. Mag-best friend din po sila ng Kuya ko.”
“Ganoon po ba. Pasensya na po talaga, Ma’am at hindi ko napigilan ang sarili ko na magtanong. Kasi po kayo pa lang kasi ang naging bisitang babae ni Sir Richard dito, maliban kay Ms. Liza na nagdadala ng mga paper kay Sir, minyan-minsan.” Manang Sol explained. “Akala ko po talaga may nobya na rin sa wakas si Sir Richard nang makita ko kayo ngayon. Ang ganda-ganda ninyo po pati, and bagay kayo ni Sir. Ay, pasensya na Ma’am Maya. Tigil na po talaga ako sa kadaldalan ko, promise!” Manang Sol added, her face turning red.
Maya laughed. She likes Richard housekeeper. “Sige po, Manang, okay lang talaga kahit para kayong showbiz reporter.”
The two of them shared a laugh.
“Basta, Ma’am, bibilisan ko na lang po ang paglilinis para di ko kayo masyadong maistorbo. Nagpapahinga po yata kayo. Baka pagod pa kayo sa biyahe, Ma’am Maya. Pasensya na sa abala. Baka hindi kayo makapag-concentrate dahil sa ingay ko,” The housekeeper said very fast.
“Naku, okay lang po, Manang Sol. Nagre-relax lang talaga ako ngayon. Mabilis lang naman po ang biyahe ko kahapon and hindi naman kami masyadong na-traffic from the airport ni Ate Liza,” Maya assured the older woman. “Magtitimpla lang po sana ako ng kape.”
“Basta po kung may kailangan kayo, sabihan ninyo lang ako. Magluluto na rin po para sa inyo,” Manang Sol said, as she put out the contents of the shopping bag she was carrying earlier on the kitchen table. “Ako na po ang gagawa ng kape ninyo. Ihahatid ko na lang po. Saan po kayo nagpapahinga? Sa office ni Sir? Masarap nga po na maglagi sa bahagi na iyon ng bahay, maganda ang view.”
“Thank you Manang. Okay rin naman po na hindi kayo magluto kasi marami kinain na breakfast ni Ricky. Medyo busog pa po ako. Ako na rin po ang magtitimpla ng kape kasi nakapag-brew naman po ako kanina. May natira pa,” Maya said, as the two of them headed to the kitchen.
“Okay po, Ma’am. Lutuin ko na rin and pwede ninyo naman po initin na lang para hindi na kayo magluto. Okay po ba sa inyo ang kare-kare? Especialty ko po iyon, Ma’am Maya,” Manang Sol said,
“Naku, Manang Sol. Favorite ko po iyon. Thank you po. Matagal-tagal na rin nga akong hindi nakakakain ng kare-kare,” Maya exclaimed. Come to think of it, she was craving for it at that moment. She poured herself another cup of coffee.
“Opo Ma’am Maya. Sige po, ito na lang ang lulutuin ko para sa inyo and magluluto na rin ako ng extra para kay Sir Richard. Paborito rin po kasi niya ang kare-kare. Sige po, maiwan ko muna kayo. Tawagin ko na lang po kayo kapag handa na ang lunch ninyo.” Manang Sol, opened the dishwasher and seeing that it has enough for a run, started it.
“Sige po, Manang. Lalabas na lang po ako when I get hungry para di na kayo maabala. Doon na lang muna ako sa office ni Ricky. I like the view there. Tama po kayo, iyon ang pinakamagandang part ng bahay,” Maya said smiling. “Thank you po Manang. Looking forward to eating your kare-kare.”
Back into her now favorite armchair, Maya started to read the novel she got from the shelf. She got lost in it until she felt her stomach growling and noticed that it was already past 1PM. She went to the kitchen and Manang Sol served her the best kare-kare she ever tasted. She cajoled her in joining her for lunch when she found that she haven’t eaten yet, and the housekeeper relented. The two of them chatted a bit and she found that she had been Richard’s housekeeper since he returned from the States and took over the family business.
With another cup of coffee with her, she went back to her place by the window. She can really stay there for a day and not move a bit. She finished the book, as she really reads fast. She was thinking of what to do next when her mobile phone rang. It was Richard.
Hi Maya! I hope you are having a relaxing time. I just need to review documents and sign some papers, then I can head home to pick you up. I think I will be there around 6:30PM or so.
Yes, I’m doing great! I hope your day is not too hectic. I love your office. I have been staying here since this morning. Should I dress up for dinner? Where are we going, if I may ask?
Good to know, Maya. Feel at home please. My day, ah let me tell you about it later. For dinner, casual is okay. I hope you will like the place I will take you. One of my favorite places in the city. Surprise iyong place, hahahaha.
Hahahaha, okay. Looking forward. But welllll, I’m the same with surprises and wrapped gifts, like when I was 18. By the way, baka you are too tired na to go out to dinner, Ricky, you sound tired na. We can just stay at home. I don’t mind not going out. Manang Sol cooked kare-kare. She said that it’s your favorite too!
She did? I would love to take you to dinner, Maya. No worries, I’m okay. See you later. Looking forward to having dinner with you and hearing out what you want to tell me.
Okay then! See you, Ricky. Looking forward too, as well!
Maya found herself smiling widely after they ended the call. She has a nice feeling about the evening ahead. She was keeping her fingers crossed that Richard will agree to her proposition. She was unable to concentrate after that. She stood up, stretched her arms over her head, then looked out of the window. Richard really has the best view from this room in the house.
Richard found himself smiling too as he put his phone down after calling Maya. He settled back into his office chair, trying to alleviate the tiredness he was feeling at that moment. He was tired, but he wanted to take Maya to dinner and besides, he will get to relax with her. He had a long day, attending to various business concerns that needed his immediate attention. He spent most of the day in meetings and negotiation.
Richard looked at the mountains of papers on his desk, and sighed! And now these, after all the meetings, he mused. He ought to delegate what he could to his next in command. The problem was, he felt he needed to tie all the loose ends his father’s untimely death had left before he can do so. He took a deep breath. He checked the time. He still have several hours before the dinner with Maya. But first thing first, he needed a cup of coffee and a bit of recharging so he can finish everything that needed to be done. He stood up and walked towards Liza’s desk.
“Excuse me, Ate Liza, may I have another cup of coffee, please?” Richard asked, poking his head out of his office door.
“Okay, Richard. Would you like some pastries too?” Liza asked. “I bought a new batch from the shop you like.”
“Thanks, Ate Liza, but coffee will do. I’m not hungry,” Richard replied. “Besides, I’m having dinner with Maya later, di ba?”
“Okay, I’ll just get you a cup of coffee then.” Liza stood up to make her boss a cup of coffee from the pantry in between their offices.
Several minutes later, she knocked lightly on Richard’s door. She found him burrowed into his big armchair that looked a bit out-of-place in the office. Liza knows that the armchair is the same one as the ones he has in his office at home. She was not surprised that she found her boss there and not at his desk. She always found him there every time he asks her to bring him coffee after a long and tiring day.
“Coffee, Richard.” Liza put down the coffee on the table in front of her boss. “By the way, your dinner reservation is at 7PM ha. Rafael will be there this evening. He was the one who picked up the call when I phoned.”
“Thanks a lot, Ate Liza, for this and making the reservation,” Richard said, holding the cup to his lips and taking, what for him, was a like a life-sustaining sip.”Rafa will be there? That would be nice! I haven’t seen him since he returned from Madrid.”
“Sabi nga niya. O sige Richard, I’ll be at my desk lang if you need me,” Liza said.
“Okay. Thanks again. You can go home at 5PM, Ate Liza. I’ll just leave all the signed papers and the documents I managed to review on my desk.”
“Noted, Richard. Thanks. I want to watch a movie nga with my daughter. Enjoy your evening with Maya.” Liza waved at her boss, then went back to her desk. She is very curious about her boss’ guest and family friend. Especially, as her boss, hasn’t taken any female friend in that restaurant he likes very much. Well sa pagkakaalam lang naman niya! His friend Rafael was also surprised that Richard was bringing someone there, when she made the reservation for her boss.
When he was alone again, Richard looked out of his window, staring out absentmindedly, sipping his coffee. He was really curious on what will Maya discuss with him. Is it about the past? Should I talk to her about it? Is it about time we put the past to rest so we can start again?
He returned to his desk after finishing the coffee, still, unable to decide on how to approach the evening. One thing he resolved was that he would just see how things are, and go with the flow. He plowed through the documents he needed to attend do. He managed to finish earlier than he expected so he decided to head home early so he can still change for dinner.
Thirty minutes after, he was home. The place was quiet when he arrived and Maya was nowhere to be seen on the first level of the house. Richard presumed she was resting or getting ready for their evening ahead. He proceeded to his own room and got ready too. When he was finished, he went down to his office to inform Maya that he will be waiting for her there. He spotted the travel book on the armchair by the window when he was about to settle on that spot to text and wait for Maya. He looked at it and like Maya earlier, he stared out of the window, looking at the city bathe in twilight as he caressed the book absentmindedly.
Maya was unaware that Richard was home. She was in deep thought as she was getting ready for the evening.
Should I bring up the past too? Maybe, this would be the right time to bring up the past, for us to clear the air and start anew? We are seven years older now, after all, and we are in each other’s world again. What happened in the past is an unfinished business between us. Yes, I wanted to know why the Richard I saw after my birthday was the complete opposite of the Richard I have gotten to know several days before. Would he help me with my current predicament?
Maya checked the time, and saw that she has more or less 30 minutes before her agreed meet up time with Richard. She presumed he would send her a message when he is downstairs. She took a deep breath and she felt nervous and yet, ready for what the evening will bring – it will either be Richard’s opposition or cooperation with regard to her plans, and either resolution or more confusion with regard to their shared past. But she believed then that whatever it is, it is better to know where she stands so she can take it from there. She was ready to meet things head on.
The place resembled a magical garden that balmy evening. Sunflowers, tulips and roses adorned the open-air pavilion, which is like a work of art itself due to its very distinct and beautiful architecture. Strings of tiny blinking lights were wrapped around, and dropped from, the big branches of century-old trees that dotted the club house where the party was being held. Seeing the place from a distance, it looked like hundreds of fireflies were fluttering by inside a magical place. Music and conversation flowed freely. Everyone was having a wonderful time, dancing, chatting, touching base, eating the sumptuous dinner prepared by a famous Negros chef, celebrating Maya Dela Rosa’s coming of age.
Taking a breather, when the party was winding down bit, from the bench placed under one of the huge trees, Maya looked around and thought to herself that what her mother planned for her 18th birthday wasn’t so bad at all, wasn’t so bad at all. She admitted to herself that she was having a wonderful time. She felt very happy. She saw some of her friends still dancing and just having a merry time, not tiring at all, as well as some of her cousins who came all the way from Spain to celebrate with her, and the older generation were in groups chatting. Her mother was right, you only get to experience this once in a lifetime, so enjoy and embrace it! She did and she was glad to do so. She also admitted to herself that the celebration was made extra special by someone.
Maya’s gaze zeroed in on that ‘someone’, the guy holding a glass of wine and chatting with her brother and some of his friends. Richard Lim looked so handsome in his evening clothes. He tilted his head and smiled as he gestured with his left hand. Suddenly, she remembered their kiss the day before. She unconsciously touched her lips. She blushed and covered her face, feeling giddy remembering the kiss. The heady feeling she was experiencing at that moment was completely alien to her. It was the first time her heart beat like this!
When Maya looked up, she blushed crimson as she saw Richard gazing back at her. It felt like they were in their own world again, much like when they did the 18 roses ceremony earlier. Richard ended up as Maya’s last dance. The moment he gave her the rose, then held her, and led her around the room, she felt like she was transported to a place where the only ones present were her and Richard.
Maya smiled. Richard smiled warmly back, his eyes disappearing almost, into tiny slits. She felt a shortness of breath, a seemingly common occurrence in the presence of this guy! She lowered her gaze, suddenly feeling very shy, and in doing so, in her peripheral vision, she saw her brother looking intently, first at Richard and then at her. Her Kuya Seth frowned. She got nervous all of a sudden. Not that her brother meddled much into her life, but he was very protective of her when it comes to boys. Since she was about to turn 18, he had been lecturing her on being careful with boys and would give some guys who had shown interests in her the third degree.
Oh no! Did Kuya Seth notice something between me and Ricky?
Maya felt that her brother was suspicious of her and Richard’s closeness so soon after they met! Her Kuya Seth was waiting for them when she and Richard returned from their wonderful sightseeing trip. They were laughing about a favorite scene in a movie they both liked very much while climbing up the stairs, with Richard holding on her elbow to guide her, when Seth spoke from above, asking them where they have been. Her brother has always been very observant and that evening was no exception. He looked at them closely. But then, he seemed to have change his mind, and greeted Richard warmly and dragged him to his room to catch up. That was the last she saw of Richard the night before, until she caught a glimpse of him sitting with his mother at the start of the party, looking so dashing and so handsome, making her heart all fluttery all over again.
Maya really felt an instant connection to Richard, like one soul recognizing the other. Ah maybe, she was overdoing the description because of all the romance novels she was into, or that reading those voraciously affected her perception and judgment, but it was the best she could describe the feeling she was having. Yes, after the kiss, they kind of got shy with each other. She was flustered naturally, as it was not only because she was not expecting it to happen, but that it was also because it was her first kiss. They just stared at each other after their lips parted, until they were interrupted by another group of tourists, wanting to check the beautiful garden too.
Both of them were initially silent while navigating the road back to town. It was Richard who broke the silence. He started saying something about the kiss. The blood, sort of, went to her head all of a sudden, and her heart beat so fast. As a knee-jerk reaction, she had cut him off and told him, that they shouldn’t dwell on it. She didn’t know how to act, really. Richard looked at her for a long time, seemingly wanting to say something, then nodded to himself as if coming to a decision. He changed the topic. It was like he was trying to put her at ease, seeing her reaction. Before long, they were back to conversing naturally. She and Richard spent the rest of the day chatting at a beautiful and artsy cafe in town, getting to know each other more. The feeling generated by the kiss hovered in the background. She was aware of him in a different level. They headed home when it started to get dark.
Maya’s reverie was interrupted by one of her closest friends in college, Emman. Both of them were taking a bachelor’s degree in a university in Bacolod.
“Maya Dela Rosa, baka matunaw na ha! Kanina ka pa tingin ng tingin diyan kay divine Mr. Richard Lim,” Emman quipped with a big, teasing smile as he approached Maya. “In fairness, bagay kayo, sa lahat ng mga nag-dance diyan sa 18 roses mo. Para nga kayong may sariling mundo. Grabe ang titigan ninyo, friend. Boyfriend mo na ano? Bakit hindi mo nababanggit iyan sa akin dati. Nagtatampo ako friend ha.”
“Uy Emman, ano ka ba? Hindi ah. Family friend lang namin is Richard and best friend nga ni Kuya Seth, di ba. Nabanggit ko na siya sa iyo dati. Kahapon ko nga lang siya na-meet in person.” Maya pinched Emman lightly, then she grinned mischievously. She is used to her gay friend’s way with words and straightforward talk. “Pero totoo nga? Ganoon rin ang tingin sa akin ni Ricky?” She asked giddily, unable to help herself.
“Sus, Maya Dela Rosa, pa-demure ka pa kunwari kanina. Kinikilig naman pala talaga ang beauty mo. Kung hindi mo nga lang crush na crush iyang si Richard Lim, and ah ah, huwag ng mag-deny, kilala kita, aangkinin ko iyan!” Emman teased, looking at Richard admiringly, and sighed exaggeratedly. “Sana may kapatid siya, pinsan pwede na rin. O kaya naman is brother dear mo na lang ang sa akin. Parang mas gusto ko yata ang mukhang bad boy ang image.”
“Ikaw talaga, Emman. Bad boy ba ang image ng brother ko? Hindi naman ah,” Maya remarked, looking at her older brother fondly. “Suplado lang nga minsan!”
“You got it right, sister, kanina pa nga ako no pansin niyang si brother dear, kaya balik na lang ako kay Richard Lim. Pero siya sige since best friend kita and birthday mo naman, iyong-iyo na siya,” Emman said, teasing.
Maya laughed and shook her head at her incorrigible friend.
“O bumalik ka na sa mga bisita mo. Baka hinahanap ka ng Mama mo. I’ll just go to my car to get a charger. Ito kasing si Belinda, na-drain ang phone. Alam mo naman iyan, can’t live without her phone!” Emman said, referring to one of their friends from school.
“Okay, five minutes pa here,” Maya replied. “Sakit na kasi ang mga paa ko rito sa shoes ko. Hindi talaga ako sanay ng naka-heels.”
“Talagang ganyan friend, tiis-ganda. Kung ganyan nga lang ka-dainty ang feet ko and ka-beautiful ang legs and built ko, di sana naka-heels din ako. Rampa kung rampa. Pang-Miss U lang ang peg!”
“Emman, ikaw talaga, walang kakupas-kupas sa mga punchline mo. Sige na, pumunta ka na sa car mo! Naghihintay si Belle!” Maya shooed Emman away playfully. He made an exaggerated beauty queen exit which had Maya grinning and shaking her head again.
Maya was still smiling minutes after Emman left. Remembering that her mother might be looking for her, she tried to stand, but sat down abruptly. Her shoes were pinching her feet. It really hurt. They were like on fire. She removed the dainty shoes with the deadly heels, and started to massage her feet.
“Hay, I should have not talked Emman into buying this monstrous thing!” Maya muttered to herself as she tried to move her aching feet.
“Maya are you okay?” Someone asked from behind her.
Maya looked up, and saw Richard approaching her from the direction of the parking lot, with concern on his face. He was carrying a bulky paper bag.
“What happened? Do you need help?” Richard sat down beside Maya, putting the paper bag on the bench, then looking at Maya’s feet. “They looked red,” he remarked.
“I’m okay, Ricky. I’m not just used to wearing shoes with this much heels nang matagal.” Maya assured Richard. “I can manage. Don’t worry. Pabalik na rin ako sa party. Baka hinahanap na ako ni Mama.”
To show him that she was really okay, she put her shoes back on. She stood up, and winced again.
“I don’t think you are okay. Stay here muna. I can just talk to Tita Tessie.” Richard stood up, moved to go back to the pavilion.
Maya grabbed his arm. “No Ricky, I am really okay. Kakayanin ko na. Patapos na naman itong party. I will just sit again when I get in the pavilion. I don’t want any fuss pa. Knowing Mama, she will when she finds out,” she pleaded.
“Okay, okay. If you say so. Ganito na lang, hold on to my arm para less pressure sa feet mo.” Then he added teasingly, “I don’t think you will agree to me carrying you like a princess o kayo naman, piggy back ride!.”
Maya grinned. “Nice, but no need, Mr. Lim. That would be more of a spectacle than me declaring my feet are hurting or walking barefooted inside!”
Richard grinned back, then offered his left for Maya to hold to. They made the short walk to the pavilion, chatting a bit.
“Ricky, I will just sit where I was sitting before,” Maya said when they were inside.
“Okay, then rest lang ha. I will just tell Tita Tessie where you are. I saw her talking to Mama earlier bago nagpunta sa parking lot.” Richard guided Maya to the seat she indicated. He made sure that she was comfortable. He was about to leave, when he stopped.
“Oh, and this is for you. Happy birthday Ms. Maya Dela Rosa. I hope you will like it,” Richard said, giving Maya the paper bag.
“Thank you, Ricky.” Maya said, smiling happily at Richard. Curious on what he got for her as the paper bag was quite heavy. Unable to help herself, she asked him, “Can I open it now?”
“Sure,” Richard said, smiling indulgently.
However, before she can do so, their moment was interrupted.
“There you are Maya. Mama was looking for you!” Seth said, looking curiously again at her and Richard. “Bro, nawala ka kanina. Halika may ipapakilala ako sa iyo. The lady has been asking for an introduction.”
Before Richard could say anything, Seth dragged him away from Maya. He waved at her apologetically, mouthing ‘Happy Birthday’ again, smiling warmly. She smiled back, feeling so happy and giddy. The last part of her brother’s statement didn’t register until days later.
That was the last glimpse she had of Richard that evening. Her brother really had a habit of dragging Richard, never to be seen again for the rest of the night. Soon after, her mother and some of her friends sat with her, and chatted. The party ended an hour after that.
Maya plopped down her bed as soon as she had entered her room, wanting to rest her poor, tired, sore feet. But before that, she needed to do something first – open Richard’s gift. She had been dying to do so.
Inside the bag was a beautifully-wrapped gift. She was loath to destroy the beautiful wrapper, but what can she do, she was too excited to see what he gave her. She closed her eyes, then ripped the wrapper. Inside the box, she saw a book. She inspected it and exclaimed her delight when she saw the title. Richard gave her a book detailing down the places one must see in one’s lifetime. She found a card tucked inside the book.
Happy birthday! Wishing you a lifetime of adventures! Enjoy life’s moments always! Live your life! Be happy.
Maya was touched. She never thought that Richard will give her such a thoughtful gift! He remembered all her prattling about traveling and the grand adventures in her head. She looked for her phone and not really realizing that it was late, she texted him to thank him, just wanting to connect to him at that moment.
Ricky, thank you so much for the travel book! I love it!
Putting the phone down, she realized how late it was and she might have disturbed Richard’s sleep. However, her phone beeped a minute after.
You’re welcome Maya. I’m glad you like it. I saw it in a bookstore in Bacolod this morning. Bakit gising ka pa? How’s your feet?
Maya quickly typed in a reply.
I can’t seem to sleep, Ricky. The body is tired but the mind is still active. Adrenalin rush, I guess! I’m okay now that I’m not wearing those heels.
I’ll say good night now so you can rest Maya!
Good night Ricky. Thank you for making my birthday a very memorable and happy one.
Happy to be a part of it Maya. Good night and sweet dreams!
Maya clutched her phone to her chest, feeling like she could fly! She stared at the ceiling and remembered again all the beautiful moments she had shared with Richard so far, and the wonderful feeling they evoked in her.
That night, Maya didn’t have an inkling that those treasured moments were the last happy ones she would share with Richard that bittersweet summer.
Extremely exhausted, so bone-tired, due to the grueling day he had, compounded by his skipping lunch, not eating a proper dinner, and developing a splitting headache afterwards, Richard staggered to his feet, towards his place that evening. He just wanted to plop down on his bed, go into deep sleep, or better, zonk out for two straight days! Proper sleep and rest seem like precious commodities these days, he muttered tiredly! Ah, he was looking forward to some peace and quiet.
However, as soon as Richard stepped into his flat, he felt like he got lost somewhere, and ended up in someone else’s place. Loud music assaulted his ears. Then, something else assaulted his nostrils. He sniffed, just to be sure, and yes, definitely, there was a distinct smell wafting from his kitchen, a smell he dislikes very much! It was the smell of newly-fried dried fish!
“What the…????” Richard exclaimed, as he rushed to turn off the electronic dance music blaring out from a music player he saw on his coffee table. Luckily, that thing was not pass code protected. He heaved a sigh of relief as soon as the last beat faded from the player. He put it back where he found it, and was about to check on who messed up his kitchen, when he felt a presence behind him. He turned, and was about to speak sharply to whoever it was, but lost the stinging rebuke he was about to utter when he saw who emerged from his kitchen. He caught his breath, and felt like his heart literally stopped for several precious seconds.
Richard saw a girl wearing ripped denim shorts, sleeveless, loose white blouse, hair cascading down her back, and upon his quick, cursory inspection, barefooted. It also registered on his poor, tired, brain that she was a vision of loveliness even if she was not wearing any make-up. He was stunned when he finally connected the person before him to a name!
Whoa! This is Maya Dela Rosa now?
The girl he knew years ago has grown into a beautiful woman! Richard gulped and didn’t even realize he had been staring intently, without saying anything for several long seconds. He wished then, that, he had at least had checked online, so that he would at least have an inkling that she would look like this now. But at the back of his mind, he knew too that no photos will do justice to the vision before him.
“Kuya Richard, Kuya Richard, Hello, Kuya Richard….!!!” Maya said several times as she waved her right hand in front of a seemingly shell-shocked Richard Lim, trying to call his attention. She was waiting for him, and knew that it was him when she heard the door opening, but still, there was a part of her that was unprepared to seeing him again like this after all the years that had passed since that momentous summer.
Richard snapped out of the state he found himself in. He was confused for a moment and unable to explain what had just happened to him. Then, he suddenly remembered why he wanted to rush to the kitchen. Richard frowned, his eyes turning into tiny slits. Instead of saying a cordial hello to Maya, he snapped at her before he can stop himself. She so unsettled him in such a short time they were sharing space again.
“What have you done to my kitchen? Ano iyang niluto mo? Gabing-gabi na. My whole place will reek of that terrible smell!”
“Kumain ka na ba, Kuya? I cooked us dinner. I brought danggit for you. Niluto ko na rin. I also brought dried pusit. Would you like that instead?” Maya asked Richard with a mischievous grin, ignoring his outburst. She knew that he hated the most the smell of dried fish and the likes. He reacted like she expected him to react. Her plan is, indeed, into motion.
“I did. Besides, I don’t like dried fish and pusit, di ba?” Richard told Maya even if he can feel his stomach starting to grumble. He only had a clubhouse sandwich before he left the office. He thought also that maybe, Maya forgot about his dislike of fried dried fish and squid. It was a long time ago after all. He tried to calm done and deal with the situation the best he could.
Richard took a deep breath and summoned whatever little patience he still had after his killer day. Hearing her calling him “Kuya’” to his face somehow irritated him, yes, he admitted, more than the smell he dislikes. “Please go ahead and have your dinner and after you’ve eaten, put away those things, please. Just give away the rest of the fish and squid you brought to Manang tomorrow. Somewhere in one of the cupboards, there should be a room spray or something to mask that awful smell,” he added distractedly.
“Yes, Kuya Richard,” Maya replied, a bit subdued, seeing that Richard was trying to be calm about the whole thing. She felt a bit guilty with what she have done, seeing that he did look very tired. But still, sigh, very handsome. He took her breath away and she barely managed to hold it. “I’ll clean your kitchen, top to bottom, as if nothing happens, promise. Cross my heart, hope to die!”
“No need for that, please. Just make sure to put away everything after you have eaten and follow my instructions, especially regarding that awful smell. Manang will come tomorrow to clean,” Richard said as he grabbed a bottle of water from the fridge.
“Yes, Kuya Richard, I will, promise talaga,” Maya assured him as she sat down to eat her late dinner. She was not really hungry, and the food was more to irk Richard but now, she had to eat some of it now.
“Errr, do you need anything else?” Richard asked Maya, deciding to let things slide. She must have forgotten, after all, tt has been years. “Are you settling in, okay? Did you call your mother?”
“Oh, wala na naman Kuya Richard. Ate Liza took care of that earlier. Thank you. Yes, I have called her and told her I’m doing fine here.” Maya replied as she looked closely at Richard and noticed him wincing, as if in pain. Before she can stop herself, she asked him, “Are you okay, Kuya Richard? Is there anything I can do for you?”
“I’m okay,” Richard said, despite the fact that it was the opposite. He didn’t have the energy to explain things to her. “If you don’t need anything else, please excuse me, I will just go and rest. I had a long day.”
“Of course, Kuya Richard. Good night. Have a good sleep,” Maya said brightly. Then unable to help herself, she grinned charmingly at him, wanting to cheer him up somehow, or probably annoy him some more, she was not so sure which. She should really stop. “Are you sure you don’t like any of this yummy food?”
“Maya…..” Richard started, then smiled a bit as he saw some of the impishness of the old Maya into this grown-up version.
“Okay, okay….” Maya replied, raising her hands in mock surrender.
“Good night, Ms. Maya Dela Rosa!” Richard said with emphasis.
“Good night, Mr. Richard Lim!” Maya bantered back.
Thinking that he was out of earshot, she added softly while pulling a chair, “Sweet dreams, Ricky. Good to see you again, after all these years. In fairness, que quapo mo pa rin talaga ha!” Then, Maya giggled at her silliness.
Richard, who was about to go back to where she was to tell her to leave the hall light on, smiled at hearing that. Suddenly, he felt lighter and happy. So, he is ‘Ricky’ to her when she is alone ha. Hmmmm…
“Thank you, Maya,” he whispered to himself. Then, clearing his throat, he told her, “Errr, Maya, please don’t turn off the hall light, please.”
Maya looked at him in surprise. Her face heated up. Did he hear what she just said? “Oh, you are still there, Kuya Richard!” She said with emphasis. “Sure, I will leave it on. Good night,” she managed to say.
Richard smiled at her. Maya had an inkling that he heard the whole thing. But what can she do. She just acted clueless. As Richard climbed the stairs to the second level, Maya can hear him humming.
“Humming pa, ha!” Maya muttered to herself. This can’t be. He should stay mad at me and irritated and unhappy, not feeling chirpy all of a sudden. Better go back to your plan, Maya dela Rosa and no more feeling guilty.
She cleaned the kitchen after she had her dinner. At loose ends afterwards, she made herself a cup of coffee, got her stuffed toy cats from the room she was shown by Richard’s assistant, Ate Liza earlier. She noticed a light seeping out of the room besides her and only then she realized that she was given the room next to Richard! She felt a flutter in her belly knowing that, for reasons she can’t yet fathom. She tried to shrugged it off, went downstairs again and plopped on the sofa facing the floor to ceiling window, hugging her toys for comfort. Since she didn’t want to be lost in her thoughts, she thought of listening to some of the songs in her current playlist. She didn’t realize later on, that she was singing loudly, swaying to the music too! Suddenly, she felt a presence.
“Maya Dela Rosa, please, no more music at this time of the night.” Richard told Maya in a tired, resigned voice, seeing that she was lost in the music. He also removed one of her ear buds. “Rest, please!”
Maya jumped, surprised. She saw a Richard, clutching his forehead, as if in pain. She felt so guilty that she was doing this to him, especially when she knows that he had done nothing to deserve this. She reddened. She almost relented and offer to massage his forehead, like she does to her mother at times, when she has migraine attacks.
“I’m so sorry, Ricky.” Maya said contritely, really meaning it this time, and not noticing that she had called him ‘Ricky’ in her agitation. This last one, she wasn’t really deliberately annoying him. She just listened to music like that.
“I’ll go to bed.” Then muttered to herself to hide how ashamed she was feeling at the moment. “Nasaan na ba ang mga iyon?”
Richard saw Maya crouching on the floor, seemingly looking for something. “What are you looking for?”
“Errr, I’m looking for Whiskey and Brandy,” Maya explained distractedly.
“ You still brought them! I told you not to!” Richard said in a loud voice, barely holding on to his sanity, his head throbbing wildly. “Where are they? They will be going back to Talisay first thing tomorrow! I thought Liza will take care of them. She assured me.”
“Oh, there you are my babies,” Maya crooned happily, not realizing initially that Richard really thought she bought pets into his place. When she did, clutching her stuffed toys, she looked sheepishly at Richard, and admitted, “Errr, here are Whiskey and Brandy.”
“Toys, they are stuffed toys!!!” Richard said incredulously, and it looked like he wanted to wring Maya’s neck for deliberately misleading him. However, he didn’t really have the energy to do so. “Oh, never mind. Go to bed, Maya. I don’t have the energy for this now.”
With that, he left Maya standing in the middle of his living room, feeling extremely guilty. She wanted to go after him and apologize but she was rooted to the spot she was in.
Isn’ t this what you want Maya!
But why, oh why, she felt very guilty and ashamed at what she was trying to pull on Richard. Even if they had a bad history, he didn’t deserve this! Maya, shoulder slumped, trooped back to the room beside Richard.
Maya plopped on the bed, still hugging her stuffed toys. Seeing Richard again after all these years, evoked a lot of feelings in her. It was easy to think of ways to make him blow his fuse, that would hopefully means, him complaining about her to Tita Esme, and then Tita Esme calling her mother to tell her how a terrible houseguest she is. Simple logic in her head, though she also knew, it was childish, immature, and mean. But she was at the end of her rope when she thought of all of that.
However, deep in the night, after tossing and turning and being unable to sleep , she kept remembering how tired Richard was, and his extreme patience to her earlier. She felt very guilty and immature. She realized she didn’t have the heart to make him miserable just to get what she wanted. Before she finally succumbed to a fitful sleep, she made up her mind on what she will do come morning.
Unlike the night before, a wonderful, mouthwatering smell, wafted from the kitchen when Richard walked to it to make coffee the following morning.
“Good morning, Ricky,” Maya chirped happily, with a big smile on her face, as she took out the slices of bread from the toaster. She was quite determined to make amends. She still has a situation to deal with, but she realized that taking it on Richard is unfair and not the way to address it. Besides, maybe, she can do it another way. She needed Richard’s cooperation for her new plan.
“Have a seat, please. Breakfast is ready. I hope it is okay that I messed up your kitchen again.” Maya said as she busied herself with pouring coffee into two mugs she found in one of Richard’s very neat cupboards, after putting the bread on the table. She saw him dressed for work despite the fact that he got home quite late at night.
Richard, fighting of remnants of sleep, especially as he hasn’t had his first cup of coffee yet, looked at the beautifully set table and the mouthwatering array of dishes before him. She must have woken up early to do all of this, he thought to himself. He was a bit puzzled at Maya’s behavior the night before, but with his lack of sleep and extreme tiredness, his brain was unable to fully process it.
“Oh, you don’t have to make breakfast for me, Maya. I can eat in the office. I just need to have my cup of coffee before I go.” Richard managed to say, as he sat down on the chair she indicated.
“It is okay, Ricky. I don’t mind and I would like to make amends for all the ruckus I caused last night,” Maya said with a bright smile, looking sheepish.
“Oh, don’t think about it,” Richard assured her. He thought it was just part of the adjustments he and Maya had to do to live together for a while. Besides, she looks kinda cute contrite.
The two of them proceeded to eat their breakfast in companionable silence. Richard enjoyed the food as what Maya prepared were all quite delicious and his favorites. Maya felt happy that he was eating, enjoyed eating, most of the food she prepared.
When they were into their second cups of coffee, Maya took a deep breath, and asked, before she can change her mind. “Do you have time to talk, Ricky or are you in a hurry this morning?”
Richard looked at Maya closely, and saw that she was quite serious about something. Unfortunately, he was pressed for time that morning as Liza scheduled another long meeting. But still, it must be important and might explain a lot so he said, “Liza scheduled a meeting this morning and I need to be on the road the next half hour if I want to make it. I can also reschedule it a bit later if what you want to discuss is that urgent.”
“Oh no, no, it can wait until later.” Maya assured Richard, realizing that she should have waited anyway. Her and her being impatient, sometimes! He is a very busy person after all. “I have something to discuss lang sana. It can wait.”
“Sure?” Richard asked, curious on what Maya would like to discuss, at the same time, thinking of the important meeting he was supposed to preside on that morning.
“Yes, Ricky, just go to work. I know you are very busy. Tita Esme mentioned it.” Maya assured him, and it was only then that Richard noticed that Maya reverted to ‘Ricky’. Somehow, he felt happy hearing his name on her lips like that.
“Okay. We can have dinner later. What are your plans for the day?”
“I think I will just stay here for today. Pahinga muna. The enrollment for my class is tomorrow pa,” Maya replied. “Sige, let’s have dinner.”
“I’ll call you when I’m done and pick you up for dinner,” Richard said, then added teasingly, “No more messing up my kitchen na ha. Baka pati neighbors ko magreklamo na sa amoy.”
Maya laughed, feeling lighter. Richard felt happier and more alive with Maya in his house, sharing breakfast with her. They gazed at each other, and seemed to have reached an understanding.
“Good bye for now, Maya. Thank you for the breakfast,” Richard said a short while later, smiling at Maya warmly. “If you need anything, ask Manang or text me. There are books and DVDs you can borrow. Nandoon sa office ko. That’s the room beside the living room.”
“Thank you Ricky, I will check later.” Maya replied softly, giving Ricky a sweet smile, appreciating the fact that he seemed ti have adjusted already to her intruding on his private space like this, despite her shenanigans the night before. “Have a good day.”
“You too, Maya. Have a good rest,” Richard said, smiling at her warmly.
Richard was humming while driving to work that morning. Maya, on the other hand, felt like twirling around Richard’s huge living room. Both of them felt happier that particular morning!
Hi everyone! It has been ages! Hopefully, I’m back for good. Chapter 6 of Two to Tango is almost done. My apologies again, and thank you to all of you who still visits my little corner in cyberspace from time to time. For now, my goal is to update and finish all my current stories, then I’ll take things from there, (mulling over some content changes).
Good vibes as always. Happy weekend!
P. S. I’m tinkering a bit. My apologies also if you got notifications on some very old posts! Don’t know what happened! 🙂
I feel very rusty. I haven’t written anything in more than two months!
One of the things that I have really missed the past months is writing. It was just not possible to pick it up due to the crazy times I had. My mind felt numb, my creative juices, seemingly frozen.
My apologies again for the lack of updates. When I started blogging, and writing fan fiction specifically, I promised myself that I will not have huge gaps between my updates, but alas, it didn’t happen that way despite my best intentions!
But, I am back! Thank you for still checking on me. Have a wonderful and blessed Sunday with your loved ones! Good vibes as always.
Stop! Don’t go in there! Don’t go in there! Enough! Enough!
Maya whispered those words to herself like a mantra, hoping that it would bring to an abrupt stop her runaway trip down memory lane. But she was unable to. She careened back to that moment, when Richard Lim’s lips touched hers, and everything in her young world shifted.
Yes, he was her first! Richard Lim was Maya’s first kiss. He was also her first heartbreak, something that her young heart, she must admit, albeit reluctantly, had never recovered from. On hindsight, and sometimes, she felt a twinge of guilt on the way she reacted to everything, up to the point that she and Richard Lim fought like cats and dogs for weeks and him earning the ‘SSS’ moniker from her. But there were times when she would remember the bad stuff and affirmed to herself that how she acted was what Richard deserved at that time.
Now that she would see Richard, Richard, Richard Lim, (she refused to think of him as Ricky as it would mean dredging up long-felt bittersweet emotions) again after all these years, she felt ambivalent. However, regardless of what she feels, the only important thing is she needs to do what she needs to do so that her parents will, hopefully, finally set her free. With that resolve in her mind, she fell asleep at last! The last image in her head, Richard Lim sporting his charming, lopsided smile.
Like Maya, the deluge of memories also kept Richard Lim awake that night. Once the floodgates were opened, he was unable to stop the rush of memories. Like Maya, he made a supreme effort to block the events that follow after that kiss that shook his world. Like Maya, he didn’t succeed.
In more than 24 hours, he would see her again after all these years. He was very much curious on how she looks like now, after all the years that she had stayed in Europe. Did Europe changed her a lot? He thought of checking if Maya has a social media account, who hasn’t in this day and age, he mused, but there was something that stopped him from doing so. There was a part of him that would rather know when they see each other again. He guessed he would also like to retain in his mind the Maya that he remembers, just in case the woman she is now is totally different from what he remembers.
Meeting her again, that’s another matter to think of! Past is past, and both he and Maya are seven years older. But still, they parted as ‘enemies’. Look at how he reacted when his mother brought out the issue of Maya staying with him. He acted like his 28 year old self! He acted like the last time he saw Maya. Sighing, Richard decided to grab a can of beer, and stayed at his balcony, looking at the lights still dotting the blackened night of the city, as he sipped slowly, and contemplated life and what would the future has for him, his mother, their company, and Maya. When he became bone-tired, he went back to sleep and had a fitful sleep.
The following morning, Richard was woken up by a message from his mother.
Good morning, son! Don’t forget, Maya is coming tomorrow. The arrangement for her, please don’t forget. Here’s her number son, send her a message. Have a great day!
Rising from his bed, groggily, crankily, Richard muttered. I doubt, Ma! He just replied, ‘Okay, Ma. Thanks. You too!’ That was all he can manage that morning. He felt so tired at the same time, unsettled. He sighed. Before he headed to shower, he decided to send Maya a message, to get it out of the way.
Frowning, but not really thinking straight, Richard sent the message to the number his mother sent him. He decided to have coffee first before taking a shower as he badly needed a cup! It is going to be a long day!
Like Richard, the alert of her phone, woke up Maya that morning. She groped for it, plopped back to bed and slid her phone open. Curious to see who would send her a message very early in the morning when her phone had been pretty quiet since she returned to the country. Her eyes opened wider, and remnants of sleep disappeared from her system when she had seen who the message was from. Her mother gave her his number the night before. Her heart started beating faster and erratically.
Hello, Maya. This is Richard Lim. I’m sorry I can’t pick you up myself. I’ll send my EA, Liza and driver. Just give her a call after you landed. Here’s her cellphone number!
Reading Richard Lim’s message left Maya lost for words to describe how she felt at that moment. The message seemed so…, so…formal and clinical!
But do you expect Maya? You didn’t exactly part in the best of terms! See, he even avoided seeing you after that disastrous summer. Did he even go with his parents when they visited your parents in Barcelona! He even missed Seth’s funeral! Isn’t this better? Now you can execute your plans without qualms! No guilt, Maya dela Rosa! No guilt at all!
“… and Maya Dela Rosa, you should stop talking to yourself!” Maya muttered as she got out of bed. She had started to put her phone down, when an idea suddenly popped into her head. Hmmmm, why not, she thought. Maya smiled to herself with mischief in her eyes, then typed something on her phone, and before she changed her mind, she sent it.
OMG!!! I’m so looking forward to staying with you, Kuya Richard Thank you so much for letting me stay. I will bring Whiskey and Brandy! I’m sure you will love them.
On his way back to his room, a steaming cup of coffee on his left hand, Richard heard his phone beeped. His heart jumped, somehow knowing who the message was from. He grabbed the phone and upon seeing the text, he frowned, then, somewhat annoyed, he read it again, thinking he had read it wrong the first time.
“She called me, Kuya, again, and why ‘Richard’ I was ‘Ricky’ to her! She knows I hate the fact that she called me Kuya. She sounded giddy pa with the fact that she will be staying with me!” Richard read the rest of the message. “Whiskey and brandy, what for? Love them?”
He quickly typed a reply.
Thank you, Maya. But there’s no need to bring me whiskey and brandy. I don’t drink that much.
Maya giggled when she read Richard’s message, liking what she had started, and now for the clincher, Mr. Richard Lim. Smiling naughtily, she typed quickly.
Oh, but I am not bringing liquor for you. Whiskey and Brandy are my cats.
Richard was really annoyed after he read Maya’s latest message. “No way, she can’t bring pets here!”
Maya, no pets please! You know I don’t like them, especially cats. Besides, my building does not allow pets! Again, NO PETS!
Maya was unable to help herself when she read Richard’s reply, she laughed a hearty laugh, the first one she had in days! Of course, she knows he hated cats. He told her that, a long time ago, when everything was bright and beautiful between them. She remembered his story about his cat phobia. Of course, she does not have any intention of bringing pets to Manila. She does not have pets. She has two stuffed toy cats and those were what she was going to bring with her.
Maya deliberately misled Richard because, partly she was miffed by Richard’s text, and she had realized it was a good opening salvo for her campaign to make herself, Richard Lim’s most hated guest. She wanted him to give up on her and tell it to his mother, then her parents. She felt a twinge of guilt at what she was doing, but she was desperate.
Maya deliberately shut down her phone. She didn’t have any intention of replying to Richard Lim. He might call, so to avoid that, she turned off her phone.
Richard sipped his cooling coffee while waiting for Maya’s reply. He wanted to be sure that they understood each other. But no reply came in the next several minutes. He checked the time and saw the he needed to get going so that he will have plenty of time to fortify himself for the difficult day he will have. He thought that Maya will just reply later.
Half an hour later, the first thing that Richard did when he got out of the bathroom was to check if Maya had replied.
Maybe, she was in the bathroom too like he was! Richard drove to work, and for a while, forgot all about Maya as he had to deal with a lot of stuff and issues as soon as he reached his office. Around lunchtime, he remembered Maya and her ‘pets’. He checked his phone. Still, no text and messages from that girl! He thought of calling his mother, but the fact that she will ask a lot of questions and would probably talk a bit, stopped him. He needed to concentrate on his meeting that afternoon. He just hoped that Maya would be sensible enough and would heed his warning not to bring her pets.
Richard also informed Liza that she needed to pick up Maya from the airport. He also gave her an emphatic instructions about Maya’s ‘pets’.
“Okay, Richard. I will go to the airport early to avoid traffic. Tomorrow is Baclaran Day so there will be a bit of traffic in the area.” Liza said, reading the information that Richard handed to him on a piece of paper. “I got everything here.”
“Thanks Ate Liza. And oh, by the way, if you see that girl…..errr, Maya, holding two cats, please let her know that she better send them on the next flight to Negros or else, they will be boarded in a place that boards animals like those and she will not like it.” Richard stressed to his assistant, firmly, and for the third time.
“Noted on that Richard. You have mentioned it several times. I’m sure it will be okay. If not, I can take care of the cats. I have several as you know and I can take care of Ms. Maya’s pets. Brandy and Whiskey, right!”
“I think so. Why would she named her pets after liquors!” He said, frowning.
“Cute naman the names ah.” Liza teased, smiling, and a bit curious seeing her unflappable boss, agitated.
“Ah, basta, I thought that girl will be more matured by now.” Richard muttered massaging his forehead.
Liza opted to keep her counsel. She had never seen her boss agitated and this bothered even in the most challenging moments he had faced seen assuming mantle of his father’s company. She had a feeling that there is a lot of history between him and this ‘family friend’!
“Oh well, let’s see tomorrow! You may go and eat lunch Ate Liza. I’ll just prepare for my meeting later. Everything is set?”
“Yes Richard. Wala namang nag-cancel. And I can pick lunch for you. Skipping meals is not healthy. Your usual?”
“Okay, Ate Liza. I might as well eat. Thanks a lot.”
He was about to go back to his papers, when he remembered something he forgot again to do. “Errr, Ate Liza, favor please, can you call Manang Sol and ask her to come to my place today, and prepare the bedroom for my guest. I have been meaning to, but I forgot!”
“Sure Richard, I will take care of it.” Liza assured Richard. “I’ll get going.”
Richard attended to his paperworks, barely reacting when Liza returned with his food. He ate a quick lunch, then got ready for his meeting.
The afternoon turned out to be gruelling one. One of the possible investors for his new project that he met at that very important meeting seemed to be hellbent on being difficult, a Filipino-Spaniard, Jaime Ventura IV. He barely held on to his patience. He didn’t know how he did, but he survived the afternoon with Jaime Ventura without losing his cool.
Returning to his office several hours later, he plopped down his chair and grabbed the phone he left there. He checked if there was a message from Maya. Still nothing. His head started to throb. He took a deep breath, trying to calm himself. He worked several hours more, then headed home when he realised that it was already close to midnight.
He saw a note propped up the table by the door when he arrived him. It was from Manang Sol.
Sir Richard, naayos ko na po ang room para sa bisita ninyo. Hindi ko po alam kung alin doon. Wala pong nabanggit si Ms. Liza. Inayos ko na lang po ang room na tabi ng sa inyo para po makapag-bonding kayo ng husto.
Richard slapped his forehead. He forgot to specify which room should be made for his unexpected guest! He walked around his spacious living room, thinking. There’s a part of him that wished that Maya was put in the room farthest from him. He had a feeling even then that Maya would somehow wreck havoc to his system, like she did eons ago. At the same time, he felt this excitement that he can’t explain, with her just a wall away from him.
“Oh well, what’s done is done!” He shrugged, and headed to his room to take a shower before retiring for the night.
If he had inkling on the hellish night he would experience 24 hours later, he would have made the room farthest from himself, for his guest!
Half an hour later, despite his body being bone tired from his long and gruelling day, and just like the night before, he was unable to sleep. He found himself at his balcony again, nursing a cold can of beer and just trying to relax.
Maya Dela Rosa, what are you doing to me! I can’t afford to be this distracted. Maybe, things will return back to normal when I see you again!
How wrong he was! But of course, he didn’t have an inkling of what was to happen!
Like Richard, Maya was unable to sleep. After an hour of tossing and turning, she decided to make herself a glass of milk. Glass in hand, she went to her favorite place – the azotea. Maybe the cool breeze will relax her. She should have been tired because of the busy day she had. After shutting down her phone, she spent the day helping a friend with her day care center. Running after kids for several hours, on top of double checking the things she will be bringing to Manila and going to town to buy some pasalubong and other things, should have worn her out, but didn’t! She was too keyed up to sleep, with the thought of going to Manila, to be on her own, sort of, and yes at the thought of seeing Richard again, swirling in her head.
Maya wished then that she was not planning to make his life hell. But she felt that her parents didn’t leave her with other choices. She just wished that Richard will forgive her eventually. Besides, he might be the same obnoxious person he was when they parted and she shouldn’t feel any guilt at all!
She downed the rest of her milk, then smiling she went back inside and fell into a peaceful, happy sleep, excited on her adventure and yes, as sleep claimed her, in seeing the handsome chinito from her past.
Richard did the same. He can’t explain why, but he felt excited on what tomorrow will bring.
Note: Hi everyone! I hope all of you are doing well. I’m back. I miss this. I’m rusty, though, my apologies. Have a nice day/evening. Cheers and good vibes as always! 🙂
Maya felt her heart jumped, and for a moment, she can’t seemed to breathe, as she and the chinito guy, standing by the entrance leading to the azotea of her family home, gazed at each other intently. He was dressed in a white polo shirt and khaki shorts, wearing glasses, looking so handsome and neat. It took a supreme effort for Maya to appear calm and collected, especially after he bestowed her a lopsided smile, which also seemed to convey an apology for intruding into her private space and private time.
Maya knew who he was. She had stared enough times at his photos pinned on the cork board in her brother’s room. She was curious about him and every time she imagined how the hero of the romance book she was reading at that time would look like, his image was the one she conjured up. Weird, that his photos had made that much of an impact on her psyche!
Standing just off the steps, he looked like the handsome earl from the pages of the period romance novel she was engrossed with before he shattered her peaceful existence by his mere presence.
“You must be Kuya Richard, Tita Esmeralda’s son, and Kuya Seth’s friend in the States!”
Maya stood up, good thing her knees didn’t buckle! She walked towards him, clutching her book like a lifeline. She gave him a smile, which she was unaware of, had lit up her whole face, making her look more beautiful to Richard. “I’m Maya. So glad to finally met you, Kuya Richard.”
“Y-you know who I am?” Richard stuttered a bit, which surprised him a lot, as he never ever had done that or appeared not confident in the presence of a beautiful woman. She was actually more of a girl, come to think of it, as she was just about to celebrate her 18th birthday, Richard thought. He collected himself.
“Hello, Maya, nice to finally meet you. Please call me Ricky! Family and friends do. Mama only called me Richard when she is mad at me, and when I have done something bad.” Richard said with a smile.
“Yes, Kuya Seth has some photos of the two of you in his room.” Maya said, smiling back. “Please come in. Kanina ka pa ba kumakatok? Sorry I didn’t hear you. Nalibang ako rito sa binabasa ko. Wala rin kasing nabanggit si Mama or si Manang na may darating kaming bisita. May usapan ba kayo ni Kuya Seth?” Maya asked as she gestured for him to go with her to where she was sitting when he arrived. “Kailan pala kayo dumating ni Tita Esmeralda?”
“Wala naman. I just thought of checking if he is still here. Alam ko na may office siya today. I just wanted to ask sana if I can ride with him to Bacolod since I am at a loose end.” Richard looked where he would sit as there was only the day bed where Maya was sitting earlier. He decided to sit beside Maya, keeping a bit of a distance, because at it was, he was already very much aware of her. “We arrived yesterday. I’m going to check on our office in the city, but that can wait until next week. I’m on vacation the next couple of days.”
“Oh, he left early today. Sayang! Papa asked him to go with him to Victorias. Bibisita sila sa milling doon. Ako lang ang nandito kasi Mama went to Silay. She will meet one of her amigas for lunch.” Maya informed Richard. “Would you like something to drink, Kuya Ricky?”
Maya was about to stand to go inside the house to get Richard something to drink as their kasambahay was in the market, when Richard stopped her instinctively, with his hand touching her arm lightly. He felt his heart jump at the contact, not realizing that a simple unintended touch would cause a strong reaction in him.
“Thanks a lot Maya. Katatapos lang din namin ni Mama na mag-almusal. I think I will go ahead na, baka may gagawin ka pa. I will just go around town na lang siguro.” Richard managed to say. He started to move towards the direction he came from. “Pasensya na for disturbing your rest.”
“Oh, di ba matagal ka nang hindi nauuwi rito?” Maya asked, still feeling somehow branded by Richard’s touch, because as far as she knows, and remembers, Richard has not been to Talisay in the past 18 years. “Would you be okay? And okay lang that you drop by. Really, I was just passing the time.”
“I think so. I know matagal na akong di napupunta rito, pero I think I can find my way around.” Richard said, smiling. “Saka kung maligaw ako, I can just call Manang or Mama.”
“Hmmmm…” Maya said, thinking, then impulsively and before she can stop herself, she heard herself saying, “Ganito na lang Kuya Ricky, I’ll tour you around na lang. I can drive you around Talisay and also Bacolod if we have time pa. I don’t have school today.”
“Thank you, Maya, pero baka may iba kang plan. Saka parang this is your day to relax. Really, you looked so serene earlier sitting there and reading your book. Ayaw na nga kita sanang i-disturb. I can manage on my own. I remember na mababait naman ang mga tao rito. I’ll just walk around town and familiarize myself again with everything. Also, I’m thinking of seeing some of the sights. I can just take the motorcycle I saw in the garage.”
“Wala rin naman akong gagawin, Kuya Ricky, and besides, pa-thank you ko na ito sa iyo since Mama said you agreed, kahit last minute, to be a part of my debut tomorrow.” She said. “I’m sure, like Kuya Seth you protested, di ba?” She said, teasing him.
Richard smiled sheepishly, feeling guilty for protesting too much to being a part of her 18 roses ceremony, and the bad thoughts he had earlier. “Errrr, I’m happy to do it for you, Maya.” He managed to say, saying a silent sorry to her, and promising that he will make it up to her to atone for the bad thoughts he had earlier.
“See, you didn’t deny it. Tama ang hula ko, di ba?” Maya teased. “ Basta, I’ll show you around, it is the least I could do. I can drive you around. Let’s just take the car, para kapag umulan, hindi tayo mabasa. Medyo unpredictable ang weather recently. Saka tingnan mo, morning palang ang init na!”
“Okay. Thank you Maya.” Richard said, acquiescing to Maya, after she gave him one of her beautiful smiles again.
Richard, on hindsight, didn’t know why he readily accepted. All he thought at that moment was that he likes to know her better, regardless of the fact that she was his best friend’s younger sister and she was too young for him. He was unable to help himself, but to go with the current that pulled him towards this beautiful, poised, vibrant girl. So different from the way he thought he would be since his mother twisted his arm to be part of her debut. He wanted to spend time with her and get to know her more.
Like Richard, Maya didn’t know what also made her offer to show him around. He was really someone she just met even if he was a family friend and the best friend of her brother. She was just planning on staying at home and doing nothing. She even declined her mother’s invitation to go with her to Silay and have lunch at their favourite restaurant there with her Tita Susan. When she woke up that morning, she just wanted to laze around the house!
Maya just knew then that she wanted to spend more time with her brother’s handsome friend. She was drawn to him, in a way she can’t explain. Sure, she had met handsome guys in Negros, they courted her, but they didn’t move her the way he moved her, by just standing there, by just giving that bone-melting lopsided smile, by the way he talked and his gentlemanly manners.
She never thought that she would react that way when she finally see him in person. She was very, very curious of course, as he was always mentioned by her older brother, aside from being drawn to his photos. He seemed to be full of life, and as crazy as her kuya, in those photos. But she has not had the chance to meet him as her parents decided to base themselves in Negros while her elder brother studied in Manila, then in the States, a thing she found unfair as she also wanted to spread her wings like her Kuya Seth did! But being the only girl, and the youngest, her mother said no to her studying in Manila.
“Let me just change get my car key, Kuya Ricky and we can be on our way.” Maya said, standing up and gathering her things. “I’ll be back in a couple of minutes.”
‘Take your time, Maya.” Richard said, smiling, feeling very happy all of a sudden.
Maya was gone inside in a flash. Richard felt his breath returning to normal and the feeling of exhilaration he felt since he arrived at that place, ebbing a bit. It was really strange to feel an instant affinity with a girl, a girl so much younger than him and one that he just met! He who had been pursued by much beautiful and more sophisticated women in Manila and in the States, and he didn’t react this way with them.
Maya returned several minutes after, a sling bag strapped around her upper body. From the azotea, she led him to a parking garage by the side of the house. She told him that they will just take Martha, gesturing to a red sedan parked at the side of the four-car garage.
Richard smiled at that. Her car has a name! He went to the driver’s side with her and opened the door for her. She thanked him giving him a sweet smile before she went in. Richard felt so happy at that moment.
“So, you will turn 18 tomorrow?” Richard said by way of conversation as he settled into the passenger seat, an unusual place for him as well. “How does it feel to finally enter adulthood?”
“Well, actually I’m 18 na.” Maya corrected Richard, smiling, as she buckled up also.
Richard looked at Maya with a confused expression. “But isn’t your debut tomorrow?” he asked, brows knitted.
“I turned 18 two days ago, actually, Kuya Ricky. We had a small celebration. It would have just been enough for me, but Mama insisted on having this party. Sabi niya, minsan ko lang mararanasan to have a debut. Siya kasi wala siyang debut before. Namatay ang Lola ko one week bago iyong birthday niya. I’m not much for ceremonies, mas gusto ko pa ngang mag-Asian trip na lang with my friends o kahit go to Ilocos siguro, or sa Manila! But for her I will endure this debut and its trappings.”
“Oh, I didn’t know that. Belated Happy Birthday, Maya!”
“Thank you, Kuya Ricky.”
“Well, your mother has a point, you know.” Richard said, settling into his seat. “And yes, while it is nice to travel the world as you would like to do, it can wait. Bata ka pa naman.”
“Yes, I can’t wait to finish school Kuya Ricky, so I can spread my wings, you know, what I mean, I’m sure. I love Mama and Papa but they are kind of very protective of me. See, only Kuya Seth was allowed to study in Manila! He was even allowed to study in America. One day, I’ll roam around New York too, on my own, for one!”
“Just give your parents time, Maya. Maybe, while you are finishing your studies. After you graduated, then you can do the things you want to do. Plenty of time for that, you are still young.” Richard said, somehow, feeling protective of this beautiful girl. “Believe me, sometimes the only way to stop parents from directing our lives is to try it their way first.
“I think tama ka naman diyan, Kuya Ricky.” Maya gave him a beautiful, mischievous smile. “Plenty of time to be on my own and find my place in the sun. It feels like a long time, though, Kuya Ricky. Hay…” She finished, sighing. Somehow, she found it so easy to open up to her brother’s best friend about her hopes and dreams.
Richard smiled. Then realizing that she had called him ‘Kuya’ several times again, he said, “Maya please just call me Ricky. I prefer that, please. Drop the ‘kuya’ please even if I’m the same age as your brother.” He finished, giving her a winsome smile.
Richard knew that being her brother’s friend and a family friend, it was perfectly okay for Maya to call him Kuya. But for some reason he does not want her doing that. To be honest with himself, he was not feeling brotherly towards her. He was attracted to her despite his brain saying to him that he shouldn’t and that it was too soon and unexpected. He also found it easy to talk to her. He forgot for a while that she is a girl of 18!
Maya looked at Richard and saw the way he was gazing at her. She felt herself blushing, her heart beating fast and erratically. Somehow, calling him by his first name, seems so familiar and so different. She felt like she needed the distance of ‘Kuya’ from him.
“E-rrr, yes of course, Ku…este Ricky.” She managed to say, getting self-conscious. She liked the sound of his name on her tongue.
They just gazed at each other until a sound brought her back to the present. She realized that she has not started the car.
“Oh, we should get going.” Maya said with a start, shaking her head to dispel the feeling she was experiencing at that moment.
The two of them went around Talisay first, explored an ancestral home there that has been turned into a lifestyle museum! That house never fails to fascinate Maya. Every time she goes there, it felt like she was seeing it for the first time. After taking photos of the house and themselves, they headed towards the direction of The Ruins, with Maya keeping a running commentary of the interesting places along the way. Ricky was content to listen to her. She has a very sweet and melodious voice. He could listen to her the whole day!
Several minutes after driving through a lot of sugarcane fields, they arrived at their destination. They entered the gate. Maya parked the car. Ricky paid for their entrance fees and walked towards the still magnificent shell of a house built-in the early 1900s with its immaculate gardens.
“Wow!…” Richard said, with reverence in his voice as he stared at the facade of what must have been a very beautiful mansion in its heyday.
Maya smiled, hearing the awe in Richard’s voice. “That was my reaction too, the first time I saw it the first time I saw it when I was a little girl. Come, let’s go inside before exploring the grounds.”
They walked towards the grand staircase of the mansion which was actually more of a skeleton, but still it evoked a feeling of romanticism. When they reached the stairs, Ricky cupped Maya’s elbow to guide her.
Maya was unable to hide her surprise at Richard’s gesture, but she recovered fast, blushing, she thanked Richard shyly.
They made a thorough tour of the house, with Maya explaining a bit about the house’s history to Richard. She had been there several times as sometimes when her father’s business partners’ wives go with their husbands to Bacolod, she and her mother usually take them around the sights while the men meet and hammer out business deals. She enjoyed doing that. However she has done it recently as she got busy with her studies.
Richard liked listening to the cadence of Maya’s voice. It sounded like music to his ears. He was also wondering what was happening to him at that moment. He felt like he was on the verge of something and was looking at everything happening around him with anticipation.
“Ricky, let’s go towards the back. That’s my favourite part of this place.” Maya said, breaking into Richard’s thoughts. She also unconsciously took hold of his hand to drag him towards the direction of the huge lawn of the mansion.
Richard, with laugh, allowed himself to be swept away by Maya’s exuberance. He half-walked and half-ran after her, conscious of her touch.
“Di ba, it’s worth it!” Maya asked with a brilliant smile, moving her right hand in an encompassing motion, towards the huge landscaped garden. Then she let go of his hand, and ran.
“Wow!” Richard managed to say as he looked around him. The view was incredible. The place lovely. But the girl twirling around with her hand outstretched, her face tilted towards the sky, unmindful of the intense sunshine, seemingly soaking in the beauty around her, was the image he would remember most of the place. She looked so happy and carefree as she did her dance. He was enthralled by the exuberance and seemingly, love for life of this beautiful girl. He smiled and started to move towards her.
“Maya…..!!!!” Richard shouted when he saw her tumbled and fell on the soft grass when he was just several steps away from her. He ran towards her.
Richard grasped Maya’s arms to help her stand. “Are you okay? Did you hurt yourself?”
“Ricky, I’m okay.” Maya answered breathlessly, at the same time staring at Richard’s worried face. “I managed to break my fall, and beside the grass is soft.”
If you only knew. That you are the reason why I got off-balance. Catching you looking at me like that, smiling like that. It was enough to send this simple, and maybe just fanciful, girl’s heart to stratosphere!
“I’m glad you are okay, Maya.” Richard managed to say, still catching his breath. Somehow, the idea of this beautiful, vibrant girl getting hurt unsettled him a lot.
They gazed at each other. Then as if in a trance, or as if he was witnessing himself having an out-of-body experience, and because heaven help him, as he can’t really seemed to help himself, Richard cupped Maya’s chin, then lowered his head to her waiting lips.
It has been more than three months since I was last here! Hay, so many things happened. Real life beckoned, for one, and I have been to the other side of the world and back, so to speak. But I am good, so is my family.
I travelled, really travelled. It was one of the most enjoyable and memorable trips I had in recent years. It was a ‘me’ time on a grand scale, though I was not alone, as I traveled with a friend.
Now, I am back! I just I’m trying to find my way back here. I miss writing and I miss interacting with you. I already found my way back to my favourite creative hangout, and discovered new ones as well. Now, just give me a little more time to update my stories! 🙂
I hope all of you are doing well. Cheers and good vibes as always. Be back soon!
Richard Lim scanned the area where he was supposed to meet Seth Dela Rosa for a drink, looking for a parking space. It was difficult enough driving in the city after being away for several years. It turned out, looking for a parking space was more challenging, especially on a Friday night, at the current ‘in’ watering hole of yuppies and the idle rich kids.
He was about to call Seth to suggest a new place, when suddenly someone left, and a parking space right in front of the bar got freed up. He parked his father’s BMW carefully. He knew he would not like it if even make a tiny dent on his beloved car. He still have not gotten around to getting his own car even after several months back in the country. Anyway, his father has several cars so Richard didn’t see any need to immediately acquire one of his own.
Richard was really planning on making a life in America after his studies, and he had started to, when his father asked him to return. He wanted to groom him as his successor. He told him he is the future of the company. Richard thought it was exciting. It was a challenge he wanted to sink his teeth into, so he packed his bags and left a promising career in Wall Street to return to the land of his birth.
However, his expectations and ideals were turning to be different from reality. He had discovered that his father’s management style and business practices were completely opposite of his. But since, it has just been several months, he still would like to give his father the benefit of the doubt, so to speak. He hoped that he and his father will find a common ground soon. Otherwise, he would be left with only one option – go back to America and forge his way into the business world on his own.
Deafening music and loud conversation assaulted Richard when he entered the popular bar. It was his first time there. He rarely went out since his return as he got busy with Lim Corporation. He only goes out when Seth persuades him. He had already declined him twice in the week. But since that night was a Friday, and he sensed a desperation in Seth, he had said yes.
Seth Dela Rosa is a childhood friend. His best buddy! Their mothers were childhood friends in Negros. They went to the same boys high school and both of them went to a university in California for their business degrees, and Harvard for their post-graduate studies. While Richard stayed in the States after their studies, Seth returned to the Philippines to manage his family’s business. He would have liked to have stayed in America like Richard, but his father would not have it. As an only boy – though he has a sister who is ten years younger than him, and which Richard hasn’t met yet – his father, like Richard’s would like him to take over the family business when he retires.
Richard scanned the huge, dimly lit bar, unaware of the interested stares he was getting from the ladies. He found his friend sitting at the bar, with his arm slung over the shoulders of a skimpily clad girl. He thought his friend would be alone. He said he wanted to sound him off on something.
“Seth bro, I’m here.” Richard said tapping his friend’s shoulder to call his attention over the din of the current rave music shaking the place.
Seth looked at Richard with glassy eyes. “Ricky, bro! I’m glad you are here. Have a seat. By the way, this is….” Then he stopped, lost for words. “What is your name again, honey?”
The girl who looked like she had a bit of a drink too, pouted. “Awww, Seth, sweetie, you forgot already. It’s Giselle!”
“G-giselle….Beautiful name, honey, meet my friend Ricky, my best buddy, my bro.” He slurred. “Ricky, this is Giselle. She is a dancer, right darling, on TV? On that popular show, can’t remember the name, sorry sweetie!”
Giselle looked at Richard, noticed how extremely good-looking he is, and his uninterested gaze. She deemed it a challenge to make him react to him like most males she met. Instead of accepting his proffered hand, she hugged him tight and gave him a smack on the lips. “Nice to meet you, Ricky, so very nice.” She said in her kittenish voice, but there was no reaction from him.
“Giselle, baby girl, I thought I am the love of your life this evening.” Seth complained, kissing Giselle on the neck, which made her giggled, in what Richard would describe as a grating manner!
“Of course, darling boy, you are. Just want to be friendly, also with your handsome friend. In fact…” Giselle gestured for Seth to lowered his head. She whispered something to him which had him smiling naughtily. He nodded.
“What?” Richard asked his friend, his brows knitted. He had taken an instant dislike on that flirty girl with Seth. He had his share of conquest and one night stands when he was into clubbing in New York, but he lost the taste for it when he returned to the Philippines. He had read her type right away.
“Well, my girl just offered to make us happy, together at my place.” Seth said, grinning. “You know….”
Richard stared at his friend and the girl with a coquettish grin besides Seth. “No, I’m not interested and I’m not into that. You had so much to drink, Seth. Come, I think it better to take you home.”
Richard got off the bar stool and was about to escort his friend out of the bar, when Giselle stopped him. “I’m going home with him. Di ba, darling boy?” She said in a determined manner, then kissing Seth on the lips.
“Yes, Ricky, she is going home with me. When did you enter the priesthood?” Seth taunted Richard. “You used to be so much fun. Now, you are prig and a prude.”
Richard let it passed. He knew that his friend was not in complete control of his faculties and this was not the first time this thing happened since he returned. He also had an idea on what set off his friend again. Not wanting to make a scene, he offered to drive Seth and his lady friend for the night to his place. It was the best he could do. At least, he will be safe home, to indulge in whatever he wanted to indulge with that evening.
Several minutes after, they have arrived at Seth’s building. It was a relief to be there as Seth and his lady friend had started to make out at the back seat of the car. The girl’s giggling was already giving Richard a headache. Seth drunkenly thanked him when he and Giselle got up. While Giselle on the other hand, tried again to persuade to go up with them. He looked at her with a stern face and told her an emphatic NO.
That was the last he saw of Seth for two weeks. Until one evening, when he received a frantic call from him, asking him if he could stay in his place. He agreed.
Several minutes after he got into his place in BGC, Seth spilled the beans. He was in trouble, big, big trouble. Giselle, in turned out, is the mistress of a powerful and notorious businessman who had entered politics in the last election. He told Richard the name, and even he agreed that Seth dug a big hole for himself by tangling with that guy. The guy found out that Giselle spent days with him and he was fuming mad. He dragged Giselle out of his apartment and threatened to kill Seth.
In the beginning, Seth told him, when nothing happened several days after that incident, he got confident and went on with his life until one evening when he got of the bar they have been to in BGC, a group of guys mauled him. They also told him it was just the beginning as their boss does not forget any insult or slight done to him. The evening he called Richard, he saw the same group of guys outside his building.
“Bro, maybe it is better if you lie low for a while. Why don’t you go to Negros? At least, that guy can’t touch you there. You can manage the business from there also, di ba?” Richard suggested to his friend as they drank beer at the balcony of his place.
“I don’t like to do that, bro even if I can do that easily. You know my father and all his impossible expectations. At least, when I’m in the Manila office, I can avoid him.” Seth muttered, sighing and drinking his beer fast. It was his fourth for the night to Richard’s second.
“But what do you prefer, end up in a ditch or lie low for a while?” Richard told his friend bluntly. “You know the reputation of that guy. I hope he will meet his match soon, but not at your expense.”
Seth nodded. He told Richard he would think about it. The following morning, he asked Richard to book a ticket to Bacolod for him. Richard also took him to the airport, just to make sure that nothing happens to him.
For a month, he didn’t hear from Seth. He would have love to talk to him over several bottles of beer also as his father was driving him nuts with his stubbornness. He wanted to get away from him, even for a while. He just needed some time to himself to think things through. He never thought that salvation would come from his mother.
“Son, why don’t you go with me to Negros?” Esmeralda Lim suggested one evening after he had dinner with his parents and he and his father ended up in an argument again. His father retreated to his study. He stayed with his mother and had coffee with her. “You haven’t been there since you were a kid. Come samahan mo na ang Mama.”
“Why are you going to Negros, Mama?” Richard asked. She hasn’t mentioned any plans of going there before. His mother also seldom go the family home there. She was busy playing hostess to Roberto Lim’s numerous parties and business luncheons.
“Oh, I will attend a birthday party. Maya will have her debut in several days! She is the daughter of your Tita Tessie and Tito Arthur, remember. She is like a daughter to me also. Di ba, Seth is there also? Tessie mentioned that he is working at their main headquarters there. You can catch up with him. Take a week off from work. Maybe things will be better between you and your Papa when you return.”
Richard looked at his mother in surprise.
“Son, why look so surprised? I know what has been going on with you and your Papa.” Esmeralda Lim told her son. “Come, it will do you good to relax a little bit.”
Staring at his mother’s beautiful garden, Richard continued sipping his coffee. His mother has a point. Besides, he hasn’t taken vacation or a break in months. He sometimes work weekends too just to keep up with the demands of his father and watch over his actions. Maybe he can also take this time to think, on whether he will continue working for LC or going back to the States.
“Okay, Ma. I will go with you. When do we leave? Where are we staying?”
“We will stay at the family home. I already asked Fe to call the caretakers to open the house. And we leave on Thursday. The party is on Saturday. I will ask my secretary to book us flights. Kasama natin si Fe! Pagkakataon na rin niyang makauwi ang mabisita ang pamilya niya!”
“When are you and Manang Fe planning to return, Mama?” Richard asked, thinking fast.
“Well, I was originally planning on staying a week. But I think I would like to stay longer, around two to three weeks. How about you son?”
“I think I will stay as long as you are, Mama. I can spend sometime with Seth and also check on our office there. I think that would be okay with Papa. That way, wala na rin kaming masyadong maging argument.”
“That’s great son! Meet your Papa halfway please. I know that he could be a difficult person, but just be patient with him. He had been under tremendous pressure from his board to deliver.” Esmeralda implored.
Richard sighed. “I’m trying, Mama. You know how hard I’m trying.”
“I know son. I know.” Esmeralda tousled her son’s head, like she used to do when he was a little boy. “You are a good son, Ricky.”
“Thanks Mama.” Richard placed his cup on the table. “ I should get going Mama since we are leaving in two days, I need to finish all my pending work, meet with Papa on this, and pack.”
“Okay, son. I’ll call you tomorrow for our flight details.”
Richard drove back to his place after saying goodbye to his mother and talking to his father about the trip. To his surprise, he readily agreed to it. He said, he will e-mail him a list of what he needs to do at their Bacolod office.
Early Thursday morning, mother and son, with Esmeralda Lim’s assistant Fe landed at the Bacolod Airport. They were picked up by a company driver and taken to the family home in Talisay. The caretakers where waiting for them by the driveway.
“Salome, Isidro, good to see you again. How are you? How’s everything here?” Esmeralda Lim greeted her family’s long-time caretakers warmly. They have been with the Valderama, her mother’s family since they were newly weds, decades ago. “It is really good to be back.”
“Magandang umaga po Donya Esmeralda, Senorito Richard. Natutuwa po kami at napasyal kayo ulit dito sa Talisay. Medyo matagal-tagal na rin mula ng naparito kayo.” Manang Salome said.
“Naku, oo nga, Salome, masyadong busy. Lalo naman itong si Ricky. Bata pa ng huling mapunta rito. Tingnan mo ngayon, binatang-binata na. Magte-trenta na, ayaw pa akong bigyan ng apo.”
“Mama, ikaw talaga. I’m still too young to get married. I’m just enjoying life muna.” Richard said, smiling. “Hello po Manang Salome, Manong Isidro. I remember you taking care of me when I was young, Manang. It’s good to be back po.”
“Hay naku, hijo, feeling ko may tungkod na ako bago ako magkaapo sa iyo.” Esmeralda Lim quipped. “Tara na nga sa loob at ng makapagpahinga.”
Richard chose the room towards the back of the house. As soon as he got settled, he called Seth, who was very happy to hear from him. They talked for a while. His friend seemed happier in Negros even if he was working alongside his father. They agreed to meet the following day, around dinnertime, in the Fernandez ancestral house, Tessie Dela Rosa’s family’s home for generations.
Richard spent the rest of the day relaxing. It was very nice to be not doing anything for a change. He just enjoyed the quiet. Mostly, he read a book in his room. He loves to read, but lately, due to the demands of his father on his time, he had neglected it. Manang Salome and Manang Fe prepared a feast for dinner with they enjoyed very much.
The following morning, he woke up early. He was having breakfast with his mother when she received a call. She excused herself and returned several minutes after.
“Ricky, that was your Tita Tessie…” Esmeralda Lim started, then forged on. She had an inkling that she needed all her persuasive powers with the favor she will ask of her son. “Errrr, she would like to ask you a favor, a very big favor and she would, and me also well, will be eternally grateful if you will say yes, hijo!”
“What favor, Mama? Of course, if there’s anything I can do for Tita Tessie.” Richard likes his Tita Tessie and he remembered her cooking lots of delicious Filipino food when she visited Seth and him in Boston. She is also his mother’s bestfriend.
“She is asking if you will be one of Maya’s 18 roses ceremony. Nagkasakit kasi iyong isang kaibigan na lalaki ni Maya.” Esmeralda Lim looked at her son beseechingly. “Do it for her na son, please, and also for Maya.”
“Mama, I’m too old na for that. Bakit kasi kailangan pa ng ganyang seremonya!” Richard protested. “Mama, ibang favor na lang please, hwag lang iyan.”
“Ricky son, kasama mo naman si Seth. Hindi lang ikaw ang older guy na nandoon. Kasama rin ang ibang older cousins and mga tito ni Maya. And of course, your Tito Arthur will be a part of it as well.”
“Mama, no….” Richard said stubbornly. “See, dapat tanggalin na lang that 18 roses, wala naman pala siyang makuhang magpa-participate in that.”
“Son, please, please….” Esmeralda said, touching her son’s face with both hands. “For me, please…”
“Okay, I will do it.” Richard admitted defeat. At the back of his mind he also thought, ang arte naman ng Maya na ito!
“Thank you, son. I’m sure your Tita Tessie, and Maya also will be happy.” Esmeralda Lim hugged her son.
He was annoyed but he didn’t have the heart to defy his mother and say no. Besides, it may not be as difficult as it could be if Seth will be there. At least, they were the same age. They can surely indulge his little sister. He resigned himself to dancing with Maya Dela Rosa.
“Mama, I will just go for a walk.” Richard told his mother. He just wanted to get out of the house for a while.
Richard left the house via the stairs in the back. However, when he got to the garden, he was at a lost on where to go. He looked around and saw a path that leads to a small gate in the back. He walked that way and realized that it connected to the ancestral house besides theirs. He remembered that this is the Fernandez’s ancestral house. He forgot that they were connected. When he was a kid, the other house seemed so far from theirs!
On impulse, he approached the house, thinking of checking if Seth has not left for work yet. Maybe, he can just ride with him to Bacolod as he was at a loose end. He knocked on the thick front door, but there was no one. He saw a bell and pressed it, but still no reply. He decided to go around the house as he knew from memory that like their house, there is an entrance there.
Richard ended up at the stairs going to the veranda or rather the azotea of the house. The place was beautiful and very inviting. It was full of plants. He called, but still no one reply. He climbed and when he reached the top, he saw a girl sitting on the day bed there, holding a book. She was wearing a simple blouse and a long skirt. She was engrossed in what she was reading and didn’t notice him so he had moments to observe her.
The first thing that struck Richard was that even in a profile she was a very beautiful girl. She had long, shiny hair, a pert nose, and a slender build. She suddenly looked up and his throat constricted. Suddenly, he can’t seemed to breathe as his heart galloped. Yes, he was right, she was beautiful with her heart-shaped face, long lashes, pouty lips and very expressive eyes. She gave him a gaze that touched his very soul. He hasn’t felt like that before.
It felt like time stood still. It was only them and that moment. Everything else faded in the background.
Richard parked Maya’s car in his designated slot in the underground parking of his building, half an hour after they left her place. After getting out of the car, he assisted and led Maya to a private elevator which opened directly to a foyer leading to the single unit on the topmost floor. He swiped his card, and ushered Maya inside.
“Welcome to my place, sweetheart,” Richard said as he switched on lights, hoping that Maya will like his place. If things go according to his wishes, her agreeing to be his partner in life, his wife, this would probably be their home until they have kids. It is not as homey and brightly decorated as Maya’s but he is sure she can turn this place into their private paradise in no time at all. However, if she would rather stay in her place, he would defer to her. His first priority is making her happy. He can live there too.
“You have a big and beautiful home, Ricky.” Maya looked around, taking in everything at once – the big open layout of the living room, the floor-to-ceiling windows, the white walls adorned only with two big paintings, and the minimalist but very functional furniture. Yes, they have different styles when it comes to their homes, but in its own way, his place is very beautiful and inviting. It has a positive aura too.
“I hope you will consider this your home as well. What is mine is yours, sweetheart,” Richard said softly, guiding Maya towards the sofa by the window.
“Thank you, sweetheart. I will.” Maya walked towards the big floor-to-ceiling window by the living room, instead of sitting down. She looked out, admiring the thousand of lights twinkling like fireflies in the night. “The view is incredible! I like your place, sweetheart!”
“Thank you, sweetheart. I like this place very much. It is home to me for several years now. Like you, not many people have been to this place. My ex-fiancee Lucy had only been here once, and that was with her parents and mine, for dinner.” Richard volunteered as he would like to assure Maya that Lucy had not touched his place at all and that there was no memory of her in that place.
Maya understood right away what Richard wanted to convey with that statement. “Thank you for telling me, sweetheart, I appreciate it,” she said, appreciating his candor.
“It can be our special place too. But of course, your place will always be the most special one.” Richard looked at Maya, remembering all that had happened at her place since they got there the day before, especially the intimacies, not just physical or the act of it, but the emotions and feelings that went with it.
Maya gazed back at Richard, remembering also what he was remembering. Her cheeks flushed. She felt warm despite the air conditioning in Richard’s place!
Richard moved to where Maya was standing, hugged her from behind and nuzzled her neck. Maya gasped and turned. Her senses coming alive again. They looked at each other and without words, their lips met for a searing kiss. It led to another, and another until all their awareness was centred on their fused lips and the effects of those kisses on their highly sensitized bodies. Maya felt a tug on the ribbon of her wrap-around dress. Seconds later, it fell on the floor. She heard Richard gasped and looked at her with so much desire on his eyes. Then suddenly, she was off the floor and into Richard’s strong arms.
Richard carried Maya to the room nearest the living room. His bedroom. He placed her gently on the bed, and then slowly undressed. Maya looked at him with eyes dazed with desire as he removed his shirt, his pants, and finally his boxer shorts. The bed dipped slightly when Richard joined Maya in there. He started caressing her, driving her deliriously crazy until her only thought, what she sought, was the relief his touch would bring. Richard gave it to her. He moved to join their heated bodies. They flew together. It took a while for them to move after that mind-shattering union.
“So how about dinner, sweetheart?” Maya asked softly as Richard caressed her idly and maddeningly, while she nestled in the crook of his arms, her head pillowed against his chest. She can’t really think straight and just wanted to stay in Richard’s arms forever. She felt boneless.
“Hmmm…” Richard murmured against Maya’s hair. Instead of answering her, he hugged her tighter, moved a bit, and started kissing her on the neck again. She never thought it as a very sensitive part of her body, but Richard’s mere touch proved otherwise. His hand also started moving, seeking the parts of her body which he knew gives her, and him, immense pleasure.
“Food, sweetheart. Dinner at that wine restaurant…” Maya managed to say as Richard increased his assault on her senses.
Richard remained deaf to her softly spoken words. Instead, he suddenly moved, took hold of Maya’s waist, and flipped her over but gently. Maya found herself on top of him, his arms around her. She blushed, getting his meaning. He smiled tenderly, lovingly, beseeching her. She smiled back, and gave him what he wanted, what they both wanted. His instantenous reaction to her every touch, became Maya’s guide. And with that, all thoughts of dinner got forgotten again.
Maya and Richard surfaced from their bliss when their stomachs started grumbling. They giggled. Richard sighed. He got of the bed to get his phone and ordered food from the restaurant in the building that caters to the residents after asking Maya what she would like to eat. They complete abandoned their earlier plan of having dinner in that wine restaurant. He and Maya ate a hearty dinner of dim sum, yang chow fried rice, peppered squid, shrimps, and nido soup.
“Why are you looking at me like that.” Maya asked softly, as Richard looked at her heatedly while she unconsciously licked her fingers after peeling the shrimps by hand. She was wearing one of Ricky’s t-shirts. He was wearing a similar t-shirt and shorts that he hastily put when he got the food from the delivery guy. It hugged his muscled chest. Looking at him, Maya had a hard time concentrating on her food as well. He looked rumpled, his hair tousled, and very handsome. She was very much aware of him and his gazes.
“Well, that t-shirt will never be the same again. I actually envy it at the moment. So close to your body…” Richard said, his gaze heated. The t-shirt was white and thin and he can see the outline of Maya’s beautiful body from where he was sitting.
“Ricky…” Maya protested weakly, blushing profusely, getting self-conscious still despite the intimacies that they have shared. She pulled at the shirt, but it didn’t help.
Richard put his hand on top of Maya’s. He told her gently, lovingly, “You have a beautiful body, Maya. Don’t be embarrassed by it. You are beautiful inside out. I will still look at you like this until we are old and gray. You should always remember that, my love.”
Maya smiled at her wonderful, handsome boyfriend. Old and gray! It very much imply of a future together, and she is very happy with that thought and that possibility. She was really very happy that she had taken the leap with this guy.
“Thank you, sweetheart. I love you very much.” Maya said simply, overwhelmed with emotions.
“I love you very much, too, Maya.” Richard said, his face serious, conveying the intensity of his emotions, He lifted his glass. “To us, sweetheart and a future together.”
“To us….” Maya replied, clinking her glass with Richard’s.
They drank to it, then Richard stood up, offering his hand to Maya and carrying his glass and the wine bottle with his other hand. “Come, sweetheart, let’s be more comfortable.”
Richard led Maya to a couch that faces the floor-to-ceiling window of the unit. He sat and pulled her into his lap. They enjoyed looking at the city at night as they sipped their wine, cuddled together, whispered words of love to each other, and at times just chatted about things they both enjoyed doing.
When he saw her yawning, despite her valiant effort to remain awake, as they savor their wonderful time together, Richard placed his and Maya’s wine glasses on the small glass table by the couch, then carried her to his room. Just like the night before, they ended up spending the night together.
The following morning, Maya was woken up by butterfly kisses from Richard. When she opened her eyes with a big smile, she saw a tray with a single, beautiful sunflower in a glass vase, and bacon, eggs, jams and two steaming cups of coffee, by the side table. They ate breakfast together, then headed to the shower together. The simple and normally mundane act of bathing was turned into an unforgettable one.
Wearing her clothes from the day before, Maya went back to her place with Richard, in his office clothes, in tow. He waited until she changed into office clothes, then they drove together to their offices.
“Sweetheart, dinner later?” Richard asked as Maya parked her car at the drop off point of Richard’s office building.
“Sure sweetheart. Is around 6PM okay?” Maya asked, liking that they will see each other again in several hours.
“Yes, and please, I’ll pick you up this time, I will bring you home and take you to work tomorrow. Di ba, you will be at LC naman tomorrow? Would that be okay?” Richard asked, as he unfastened his seatbelt.
“Sure, sweetheart.” Maya replied. “That would be fine. I will just leave my car in my slot.”
Richard took hold of Maya’s face with both hands, then gave her a searing kiss. “That would have to tide me over until we see each other again.” Richard said, giving her one of his bone-melting lopsided smile.
Maya smiled back, her face lighting up. “Have a great day, sweetheart. See you later.”
“You too. I love you.”
“Love you too. Bye for now.”
Richard got out of the car while he was able to resist giving Maya another kiss. Maya waved one more time before she drove towards the direction of her office. Richard waited until he can no longer see Maya’s car before entering the building. When he reached his floor, he had on a big, happy smile, a fact that didn’t escape his secretary’s notice. She also heard him humming. Richard Lim, humming! She never thought she would witness it!
“Welcome back, Sir Richard.” Liza greeted her boss who seemed to be in the best of mood. it looked like he had a wonderful impromptu vacation in Mindanao. Not only he had acted strangely several days ago, he looked different. He looked happier and if she will hazard a guess…in love? Could it be that he is? Hmmm, the plot thickens, she thought. “How was your vacation, Sir?”
“Hi Liza, thank you.” Then he gave his secretary a lopsided grin, “It was the best vacation ever. Thank you again for all your help. I presumed the office ran well while I was away as I didn’t receive calls from you or from Adrian.”
“Yes Sir, everything was okay. I put all the papers for your signature and review on your table, including the report Ms. Maya had sent after you left for Mindanao.” Liza said, following her boss into his office.
“Thanks a lot Liza. Maya mentioned that to me. She said she had emailed me an initial report. I’ll check on it later.” Richard said absently as he put his things on his table.
Liza looked closely at her boss, and the way he had said Ms. Maya’s name. ‘Mentioned to him’?
“By the way, Liza, can you book me a table at that very nice wine restaurant in Mandaluyong for 7Pm. Can you also order me a bouquet of sunflowers to be delivered here at 5PM.” Richard said as he sat down.
Oookay, someone is really in love! And she thinks she knows with whom. She had seen how her boss looked at the beautiful, events manager the week before. She also saw them going to the Lim private cafe after that meeting. Well, she is happy for him, especially after that witch Lucy jilted him. She likes Maya and she is more beautiful than Lucy.
“I will do that, Sir. Would that be all?” Liza asked deadpanned and trying to hide the fact that she was very curious.
“Yes, and thanks a lot, Liza.”
Liza left after that. She did what her boss requested of her before going back to the papers she was working on before he arrived. Richard, on the other hand, started tackling the stack of papers on his desk before checking his emails. When he had finally gotten around to his inbox, he saw that he had a lot. It was going to be a long day. Good thing he will be seeing Maya later. He had something wonderful to look forward to. He buckled down to work.
While Richard was plowing through the papers on his desk, Maya was walking towards her office at MEP, holding a tumbler of coffee from the cafe at the lobby. Before she reached her office, her cousin intercepted her, as if he was lying in wait for her.
“Cuz!!! Welcome back to the land of the mortals and the land of brokenhearted.” Emman said as he gave his cousin a hug and a beso. “I’m so happy to see you. I miss you.”
“Cuz, how are you? I’m happy to be back. Why did you not wait for me yesterday?” Maya asked as she returned her cousin’s hug. “You could have had lunch with Ricky and me.”
“Cuz naman, I don’t like to be a third wheel kaya! I didn’t want to intrude into your private world yesterday!” Emman quipped with a raised eyebrow. “Pero, cuz, you and Richard Lim almost gave me a heart attack yesterday, though I’m so happy for the two of you. So kiligggg malaga hay!!!! Sana I will find my prince charming na rin like that!”
“Sssshhhh, Emman, your voice.” Maya told her cousin, as she had noticed that they were attracting the attention of their employees! “Let’s go to my office.”
“Sorry naman, Cuz. I just got excited.” Emman whispered, contrite. “We can talk about it over lunch. But I will go with you to your office to discuss some projects.”
“Okay…” Maya nodded then led her cousin to her corner office.
The two of them discussed their current projects and clients. Maya also ran with Emman the execution of her campaign for Lim Corporation’s 50th anniversary as she needed to make a report to Richard and do another presentation to the management committee of LC as per Adrian’s last e-mail to her. It was what she was working on before Richard showed up in Camiguin. It felt like ages ago, when it fact, it just happened several days ago. It was just that so many wonderful things that happened. Emman agreed with most of her ideas, and in some instances, suggested from improvements which Maya liked.
“Thanks a lot, Emman. I think I have everything for the update presentation to LC tomorrow.” Maya told her cousin as she take a sip of her coffee.
“Do you know who will handle the new TVC of LC, in line with this anniversary?” Emman asked as an afterthought when he was about to return to his office.
“Not yet. Adrian said they haven’t pick one the last time we talked. Ricky and me naman didn’t talk about business while we were together, so no idea until now. Maybe we will know by tomorrow!”
“Of course, if my boyfriend is as handsome and as hunky as Richard Lim, I will forget everything except him also. Keber ko sa work!” Emman teased his cousin. “Come, since it is almost 11AM, let’s have an early lunch at that organic restaurant we like. You owe me lunch, dinner, whatever, and a truckload of kwento. Besides, I think I have to settle for lunch. I have an inkling that you are not free for dinner. Am I right?”
“Errrr, yes. Ricky and I will have dinner. He will pick me up at around 6PM.” Maya admitted to her cousin, her whole face lighting up. “Emma, I never thought I could be this happy.”
“I knew it!” Emma exclaimed, then taking his cousin’s hand and playfully swaying it as they walked towards the elevator, he said, “You really deserve to be happy like this, Maya, after all the heartaches. I’m so happy for you. I’m sure if you tell it to Mom, she would be very happy also.”
“Thank you, Emman. Ah yes, I’m planning to tell her about it tomorrow also. I’ll ask her to lunch.” Even before she tells her, Maya knew that Tita Margarita will be happy that she is finally taking another chance at love.
Maya gave her cousin an abbreviated version of what happened since Richard followed her in Camiguin. She omitted in the telling the intimacies between her and Richard. Emman knew that they were intimate but the details, it was just for Richard and her. Her cousin, respecting her privacy didn’t actually ask for details. He just screamed silently and was very giddy as she told him about Richard’s romantic gestures and how they spent the vacation. They returned to the office two hours after, very relaxed and happy. The rest of the afternoon was spent working on their accounts. Tita Margarita was unable to report for work that day so it was just the two of them who dealt with clients.
Maya finished her work around 5 o’clock in the afternoon. She was glad to have some spare time to get ready for her date with Richard. Luckily, she keeps some clothes in her office, just in case she needs to meet clients unexpectedly in the evening. She took out a black sheath dress from the closet and started to get ready.
Richard texted several minutes before six o’clock. He told Maya that he was at the lobby of her building. When Maya got down, she saw him standing by the entrance, wearing a navy blue shirt and dark slacks, looking so devastatingly handsome. It seems, she is not the only one who store spare clothes at work. He was holding a bouquet of sunflowers, her favourite. He saw her, and gave her a bone-melting smile, only for her, while walking towards her. He took her breath away no matter how many times she was bestowed that beautiful smile. She smiled back.
Richard gave Maya the flowers. “For you, sweetheart,” he said as he gave her a kiss on the lips, unmindful of the people around them.
“Thank you, sweetheart,” Maya said softly, smiling, as she surreptitiously wiped the smudges of lipstick on Richard’s lips. They shared an intimate smile.
With hands intertwined, Richard and Maya happily walked towards his car, looking forward to another beautiful evening together.