Archive for September, 2014

Crossroads – Chapter 8

Chapter 8
Their very special way

The honking of cars and the merry chatter of families and friends reuniting, and happily greeting each other, finally penetrated Richard and Maya’s world. They slowly broke apart. Richard looked at Maya with so much love. He gently touched Maya’s lips with his thumb. Maya, a bit dazed, blushing, heart skipping a beat, just gazed at Richard, giving him a shy smile.

“Welcome home, Honeybun. I really missed you a lot.” Richard gave Maya the full wattage of his lopsided smile. “I hope you are not mad at me for doing that.”

“Thank you, Babe. I missed you, too.” Maya said, suddenly feeling shy. After all it was her first kiss, and it happened in a busy airport, to boot. She was not mad. She actually felt swept off her feet with that kiss. Parang iyong sa mga romance novel lang na binabasa niya. But she teased Richard a bit. “Hmmm, and what would you do If I’m mad pala?”

“Well, I will just say sorry for doing it too soon, and for surprising you with it, but I am not and I will not be sorry that I kissed you.” Ricky said seriously, gazing at Maya meaningfully, at the same time holding her chin, looking deep into her eyes.

“Don’t be, Ricky. I’m not sorry too that it happened. Yes, it was a spur of the moment thing, but I don’t regret it either. It takes two to kiss and dalawa naman tayo doon. I kissed you back.” Maya said, straightforward, putting her hand on Richard’s forearm.“Let’s go home na nga. Baka mapagkamalan na tayo ritong sina Miggy Montenegro at Laida Magtalas.”

“Who are they?” Richard asked, apparently clueless on local movies and pop culture.

“Iyung mga character nina John Lloyd Cruz at Sarah Geronimo sa trilogy nilang movies. Doon kasi sa last one nila, iyong super kilig scene, sa airport din.” Maya explained, smiling. Emman dragged her to see those movies, as he is a big fan of John Lloyd and Sarah. Maya enjoyed watching those movies too.

“So kilig pala ang pag-kiss ko sa iyo? Parang movie you mean, Honeybun?” Richard teased Maya.

“Hmmm, I’m not sure, Babe. Pag-iisipan ko.” Maya laughed.

“Gusto mo ng another one, para you can decide better.” Richard bantered. “Importante ang pagiging informed sa decision-making.”

“Ricky Lim, ikaw talaga, nagsisimula ka na naman,” Maya laughed, then dragged Richard by the arm affectionately. “Halika na nga, uwi na tayo. Saan ka ba nag-park?”

They shared a smile. Richard got hold of Maya’s hand and intertwined their fingers as they proceeded to the parking lot. Maya let it be. She liked the feeling of their hands touching. She knew that they have a lot of things to talk about, but it can wait until they get home. The kiss changed things between them for sure.

Richard was also thinking what Maya was thinking. He felt that this is the right time for him to declare his feelings for her. He is very, very sure of what he is feeling. Maya, being away for several days, and only several days at that, made him realized how important she had become in his life.

Richard and Maya chatted on the way to Eastwood, as if they have not been talking every evening on the phone. However, there was a tacit agreement between them not to discuss the kiss they have shared until they are in a more private place. Instead, they discussed their work and other stuffs.

Maya asked Richard how were things at Lim Corporation and how’s Manang Fe. He mentioned in one of their phone calls that his mother agreed to have Manang Fe move with him. Richard told Maya that Manang Fe is settling in well in his place. She moved earlier than their agreed period para raw may mag-asikaso na sa kanya. Richard also told Maya of his company’s plan of expanding its shipping operation to include a local cruise line. Maya, on the other hand, mentioned to Richard her next assignment for a lifestyle magazine that would take her to Vigan for a week, two days from that Saturday.

When they reached Eastwood, they decided to go to Maya’s office at Cafe M first to check on how things are, and so that they can have coffee and talk.

“Ricky, please go ahead to my office. I will just get us coffee and touch base with Eleonor.” Maya told Richard as soon as they entered the busy cafe. Maya can see several of their regulars, who waved at her. “The usual for you, Ricky?”

“Yes please. Thanks.” Richard said.

Maya waited until Eleonor was free before asking her how things were while she was away. Eleonor told her that everything went well. They had a lot of customers as always. Emman was at the cafe everyday also, except today, as he needed to do some research on the book he is trying to write. Maya asked Eleonor to prepare hers and Richard’s favorite brew while they talked and touched base. Eleonor pointed to Maya where they put all the books and magazines that Richard donated to the cafe. Maya was amazed. Richard brought a lot of books and judging by the titles, they will be big hits with their ‘bookworms’.

Maya thanked the barista and carried the coffee to her office. Ricky stood up, when he saw Maya, got the tray from her and put their coffee on the table by the window. He seated Maya, then went back to where he was sitting. They looked at each other, and the atmosphere changed. Maya felt herself blushing, getting a bit conscious, her heart beating faster. Richard  felt a bit nervous, but he is determined to tell Maya what he feels. This is it, their moment of truth, after that kiss that shifted their relationship to the next level.

“Maya…..”

“Ricky….”

Maya and Richard uttered at the same time. They laughed, nervously, and suddenly, both feeling self-conscious. Then Richard told Maya to go ahead with what she was about to say. Maya insisted that Richard should talk first. But instead of talking right away, Richard put his hand on top of Maya’s.

“Maya, I know the kiss at the airport was a spur of the moment thing on our part, but I meant every feeling I put in that kiss. I just felt this overwhelming desire to connect to you when I saw you coming to me, with that smile that lit up your whole face and made you so beautiful in my eyes. I missed you. I was just glad to finally see you, instead of talking to you on the phone.” He started, took a sip of his coffee, gathering his thoughts, then he took a deep breath and plunged in.

“I know we haven’t known each other very long, and I have not properly courted you, but I want you know that I have fallen for you, very hard. I love you Maya.” Richard said gazing at Maya with all the love he felt.

Maya’s heart somersaulted upon hearing those words from Richard. “Ricky…..”

“Maya, I just want you to know how I feel. You don’t have to say anything right away. Let me court you properly. As I have told you the evening we met, I would like to do that. Let me show you how much I love you.” He said earnestly to a still dazed Maya, trying to recover from finally hearing Richard declared his feelings for her. “I know you just got back and it maybe too much to take. Take your time. We have all the time in the world.”

Maya put her hand on top of Richard’s too, then looked at him deeply. “Ricky, I’m so happy to know that you have feelings for me, that you love me. Despite all the romance books I have read and got addicted to, I never thought that love would happen to me so sudden, so unexpectedly. I never imagine it would be like this. Yes, I also have feelings for you. I have fallen for you hard. I love you, too.”

Richard, at first, thought that he misheard Maya. Then what she said sank in. He smiled, a smile so big. “You love me too?” He asked incoherently.

“Yes po. I love you, Babe!” Maya said, looking at Richard lovingly. “And I don’t need time to think about it. One thing I learned from my Dad’s death, is that life is too short, and too uncertain, not to enjoy it every moment we could. Live! Seize the day! Love! Of course, with love, you don’t know when it will come. But I know, this is it, for me. And I don’t want to waste time not telling you that I love you, because I do. Then we can journey together, ‘discovering’ each other along the way.”

“Really, really, really, Honeybun.” Richard said, with a goofy smile on his handsome face, still having a hard time believing that Maya said yes and that she loves him too.

Oo na nga. Yes. Si.” Maya replied. “Hayan, ilang languages na iyan, Babe. Pero, I want to be courted pa rin.” She added, smiling.

Honeybun, you made me the happiest guy. Promise, manliligaw pa rin ako. Susuyuin pa rin kita. Be ready, Ms. Maya Dela Rosa. I want to show you how much I love you.” Richard promised Maya, turning serious as he lifted her hand to his lips and kissed it tenderly.

“Dapat lang, Babe. Kung hindi, babawiin ko iyang ‘oo’ ko. Saka, I will check pa my list and see kung pasadong-pasado ka na sa criteria ko.” Maya said, teasing Richard. The truth is, all she had on her ‘list’, all she wanted and prayed for, is a guy who will love her more than life itself, who will cherish her, who will be her friend as well as her love, who will always be there for her, to make her laugh and hold her hand when she is sad, and someone to share wonderful memories with. And even if she just started her journey with Richard, she know in her heart that he is the one.

“Hmmmm, since tayo na, dapat yata palitan na natin ang TOE natin. Parang pang comedy act iyong ‘Babe’ and ‘Honeybun’ natin.” Maya told Richard they as smiled at each other lovingly.

“Hmmm, do we have to? I kinda like it. Parang kakaiba and we have built a memory na around ‘Babe’ and ‘Honeybun’. But you are the boss, Ms. Maya Dela Rosa. Kahit ano pa iyan, agree ako.”

Maya smiled. “Kahit tawagin kitang ‘Munchkin’, ‘Pumpkin’, ‘Babykins’, ‘Honeykins’?

“Errr, wait. Sabi ko sa iyo, doon na lang tayo sa ‘Honeybun’ and ‘Babe’.” Richard said, laughing.

“Pag-iisipan ko, Babykins. Kind of nice, yata ito.” Maya said, teasing Richard.

Richard just looked at Maya, happily. “I love you, Honeybun.”

“I love you too, Babe.”

Maya and Richard just sat there, enjoying their wonderful moment, gazing at each other in between sipping their coffee and sharing a cheese cake.

“Maya, thank you for loving me back. I never thought I would still find love. I was on the verge of not believing in it, thinking that there is no such thing as enduring and all-consuming love.” Richard said after a while. He wanted Maya to know about Natalie upfront and early on in their relationship so they can start with a clean slate. “It was such an elusive and abstract concept for me, until you.”

“Bakit naman? May kinalaman ba ito sa muntik ng pagkadulas ni Luke doon sa party ni Cris?” Maya asked, remembering Luke’s slip and something Richard hinted on when they were talking about his move to the Philippines from the US. “Though, you don’t have to tell me about it. I think it was in the past na naman.”

“No, Maya. I want you to know.” Richard replied. “Meeting you was like a breath of fresh air in my life. I have never been happier since I met you. I have smiled more the past week, than in all the months since I came back. I turned serious then and I guess, very disillusioned after my bad experience with someone I thought I love, or at least cared about. Even at the beginning, I was not convinced that it was love. I was willing to settle for less.”

Richard told Maya about Natalie and their failed relationship. He told Maya that he was glad that he discovered Natalie’s scheme as if he did not, he would have been tied to a loveless marriage. He said, now he know that there is such thing as wonderful, all-consuming love, and that what he is feeling for her.

“Oh Ricky.” Maya said, then she stood up, went to Richard’s side and hugged him tight. “I’m so glad that you never closed yourself off love, that we found each other. But are you really sure? We haven’t known each other long.” She just needed to ask, as that moment felt like a very sweet and wonderful dream she might wake up from.

Richard stood up and hugged Maya back. “Maya, I have never been so sure of things than at this moment. At my age, and since I had past relationships, I know when it was just infatuation, attraction or real love. Real love, I haven’t felt before, until you, Maya. I know what I feel for you is the real thing. I never felt like this before.” Richard told Maya, cupping her face.

Maya can see the love and sincerity in his eyes. At that moment, Maya was completely sure, she had found the love that is especially for her. Without really looking, she found what she dreamt of, never thinking that it will actually happened this soon. She touched Richard’s face too. They looked at each other deeply, lovingly and because they can’t help what they were feeling, they kissed. They poured all their feelings in that kiss. Maya opened her mouth to let Richard in. Their lips locked heatedly. Richard moved his lips and started kissing Maya on the neck. Maya put her hands on Richard’s nape and caressed it.

“Ricky…”

“Maya, what you do to me.”….He muttered.

They would never know where the heated kisses would have led if they were not interrupted by the ringing of Maya’s phone.

“Ignore it.” Ricky said, still dazed with passion.

“I can’t.” Maya said, breathlessly, fighting off the fog of passion, remembering Cris and their scheduled meeting. “I think that’s your cousin. Remember I’m supposed to see her later.”

Richard let Maya go, then tried to rein in his emotion and raging desire. Maya looked for her phone inside her bag. She was still catching her breath when she found it.

“Hello, Cris.”

“Maya! Are you back?” Cris said. “O bakit parang you are catching your breath. Tinakbo mo ba iyong phone?”

“Errr, hindi naman. Yes, kadarating ko lang.” Maya replied. “What time are we meeting?”

“Is 7PM okay? Tapos change of plan pala. Can you just go to my house. There is a family dinner, with Mom, Dad, Tito Roberto and Tita Esmeralda, and Kuya Ricky, plus Luke and his parents. Hindi na kasi namin na-schedule ito. I’ve been pretty busy the past days.” Cris requested. “Kilala mo naman na silang lahat, except for Tito Roberto, di ba?”

Maya looked at Richard and he mouthed ‘what’, when Maya creased her forehead, thinking. She mouthed, ‘later’ to him . “Okay, sige, I will just go to your house, then.”

“Thank you Maya. You aret the best. Dito na ka rin matulog, please, since last night na nating makakapag-girl talk.” Cris requested her friend.

“Okay, for you Bes. Basta ikaw, ang lakas mo sa akin eh.” Maya agreed. “See you later.”

Maya put her phone down and smiled at Ricky.

“O anong sabi ng cousin ko?” He said, hugging Maya.

“Well, she asked me to join the dinner with the family later since wala na siyang time na i-meet ako. She also told me to stay the night since last girl talk na namin ito.”

“Oh good, we can go there together. You can also meet Papa.” Richard said, smiling. His cousin’s plan is working his way, except that he would have to leave Maya there. “Hmmm, parang alam ko na kung sino ang topic sa girl talk na iyan.”

“Sino sa palagay mo, Mr. Lim?”

“Eh di ako, Honeybun.”

“Ha, ha, ha, marami pa kayang topic maliban sa iyo, Babe.

“For sure, Maya Dela Rosa, ang guwapo, mabait at mapagmahal mong boyfriend ang topic niyo ng pinsan ko.”

Maya laughed. “Hay naku, kapag nasamid ka, ikaw na nga siguro ang topic. Saka boyfriend na ba kita, hindi ka pa nanliligaw ah. Sabi ko lang I love you.”

“Maya Dela Rosa!”

“Okay, okay, fine Mr. Lim. Halika na nga so we can rest pa before the dinner. Saka, baka better pala na huwag mo muna akong ipakilalang girlfriend mo sa Mama and Papa mo. Baka mabigla.”

“Naku, they will be glad pa. Baka nga may mother will ask you na when is our wedding!”

“Wedding! Speedy naman yata iyan ng sobra-sobra.”

“Why not!”

“Ricky, let us enjoy this relationship first. Besides, manligaw ka nga muna.” Maya said, back to teasing him, as she opened the door of her office. “Saka mo na lang ako ipakilala sa kanila as your girlfriend.”

“Okay, okay. Bagong-bagong sa relationship, ‘yes’ boyfriend na agad ako. Let’s just have dinner with my parents before you leave for Vigan so I can introduce to them my lovely, wonderful, and the best girlfriend in the world.”

“Hmmm, thank you sa build up, my love.” Maya smiled at Richard lovingly. “Okay. I will also introduce to you Mom and Patty, pagbalik ko.”

Richard grabbed Maya’s hand and held it with his while walking the length of the cafe, waving at a gaping Eleonor.

“OMG!!!!” Eleonor uttered a silent scream. Sila na! And her heart melted at the sight of her boss and her handsome boyfriend (she is very sure of that now) passing by. She sighed and wished that she will also find a love like that.

Richard didn’t go of Maya’s hand while they rode the elevator with Maya’s things, to her floor.

“I’ll pick you up at 6PM?” Richard said while standing at Maya’s door. He told Maya he will not go in dahil baka hindi na siya umalis, which earned him a loving pinch from her.

“Okay.” Maya nodded.

They looked at each other, smiled, and kissed one more time before they parted, temporarily.

Maya plopped on her bed, fully-clothed with a huge smile on her face. She doubt she can rest much. She was so full of wonder at what an extraordinary homecoming she had. Richard loves her! He is her boyfriend now. Richard rode the elevator whistling ‘Can’t take my eyes off you’, counting the hours until he will see his love again.

 

 

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Crossroads – Chapter 7

Chapter 7
Twists and turns

Maya was enjoying the cool breeze blowing from the nearby Chao Phraya River while waiting for Phailin in the riverside restaurant they like. Phailin had to work today so Maya went around Bangkok on her own, armed with a map Phailin gave her and a list of places written in Thai in her small notebook that she can show to the tuktuk drivers or the cab drivers, so they know where to take her. It was actually fun doing that and the people she met were so nice.

For her last night in Bangkok, Maya and Phailin, agreed to to meet at the restaurant they have been to on her first evening here.  She liked the place. It’s so peaceful, the view is wonderful, especially with the bridge she can see from a distance, and the twinkling evening lights along the riverbank making it almost magical. The food was one of the best she had tasted in Bangkok.

It has been a wonderful vacation. Phailin insisted she stayed with her during this trip. so they can have a lot of girl talk. She agreed. Despite them not seeing each other very much, most of the time, years, Phailin is one of Maya’s closest friends. She even flew to the Philippines when her dad died five years ago. Maya believes that like love, friendship transcends time, distance, nationalities, and cultures.

Phailin showed her a side of Bangkok only a native could. Phailin steered her away from the usual tourists places as she told her, she wanted to experience Bangkok like a native this time. They took boat trips where she was among a handful of tourists on board, or sometimes, she was the only one. Like Phailin, she also ate food from stalls in the street near her place, they were more like the carinderias in Manila, but the food tasted good. She and Phailin seldom ate at fancy restaurants as the food at those simple places tasted better, especially their Pad Thai. Even the restaurant she was in at that moment is not a fancy one, but it is clean, nice, relaxing, and offers a wonderful view as well.

The best part of her mornings in Bangkok was drinking coffee with the local residents under the trees in Phailin’s neighborhood. Phailin and she usually ordered a steaming cup of coffee for her and tea for Phailin before they hit the streets for the day. She also went to see the temples and other sights she liked the first time she was in Bangkok, years ago. Phailin took a vacation so she can take her everywhere.

She got to meet some of Phailin’s other friends the first evening she arrived since it was her birthday. Maya liked Phailin’s friends and some of them have been to the Philippines too. At the close of the evening, they left ahead of them as they had a bit of travel home. She and Phailin stayed a bit longer in the same restaurant. While they were waiting for the bill, and as she looked around the wonderful and relaxing view, she suddenly missed Richard. She told Phailin she will just send an SMS to a dear friend in the Philippines. One message turned into several without her noticing it. After she put her phone down, she got teased by Phailin about her dear friend from the Philippines eyes’ sparkling after that series of text messages. Phailin remarked that it must be a special friend she was sending messages to, to make her glow like that.

She smiled at Phailin and started telling her about meeting Richard. She told her about their ‘Honeybun’ and ‘Babe’ act, which made her smile a lot. She also told Phailin about the feelings she is starting to feel, or already feeling for Richard. She also admitted to her long-time friend that she is falling, fast and hard, for the first time in her life. She said she just met Richard, but she felt that instant and very strong connection to him that is hard to explain. She just feels so happy to be with him and feels sad when they part. She thought of him and their moments together, so far, all throughout the three hours flight to Bangkok. It made her very happy. Phailin told her, she is happy for her and that she should let her feelings be, go with the flow of things, that falling in love is the most wonderful thing, and that not all people are lucky to find the one for them.

Since that evening, Maya and Richard also got into a pattern of sending messages to each other, or calling, before they retire for the night, sharing how their day had been. It was Richard who initiated the calls after he complained, good-naturedly, that it was easier to do so than type words after words on his phone. Maya told him that overseas calls are expensive and Richard’s said, he does not mind and that what does working is for, if you can’t spend your hard earned money for something you love or enjoy doing. So, after that, Maya stopped protesting and just enjoyed their hours long conversations into the night. She felt closer to Richard during those phone calls.

“Excuse me. May I sit with you, please.” A tall, good looking, Caucasian guy, interrupted Maya’s thoughts. He was holding a glass of beer and was smiling at Maya with a friendly manner. “It seems like you are alone, like I do. I’m Jeremy, from England. Maybe we can be each other’s company for dinner.”

“Oh! Hello.” Maya greeted since he seemed friendly enough. “I’m so sorry, I have to decline as a I am waiting for a friend. She is just running late.” She finished politely and in a way that would dissuade the other guy without sounding rude.

“Oh, too bad.” Jeremy said, quite disappointed. He had been observing this beautiful lady for quite sometime now. When no one approached her or shared her table, he decided to approach her, hoping to get to know her better. “Sorry for bothering you then.”

“Maya, so sorry, I was late.” Phailin said as she rushed to Maya’s table, then noticed Jeremy. “Hi, Jeremy. You and my friend Maya here know each other too?”

“Hi Phailin, fancy running into you here!” Jeremy smiled at Phailin, glad to see her. “No, I don’t know your friend ‘Maya’. She didn’t give me her name. I just approached her, hoping to share a table with her. Beautiful ladies shouldn’t be left alone, you know. But she gave me a brush-off.” He said with a smile. “My poor heart is still reeling.”

“Ha, ha, ha, you and your glib tongue, Jeremy.” Phailin laughed, teasing Jeremy, who is one of the nicest guys she know. “Maya, this big oaf here, is Jeremy Sanderson, one of the foreign correspondents currently based here in Bangkok. Jeremy, this is my very good friend Maya Dela Rosa from the Philippines. She used to be one of us, until she abandoned us for the sweet life of travel writing and blogging.”

“Please to meet you, ‘again’, Jeremy.” Maya offered her hand to Jeremy. “Don’t believe Phailin here, I’m still one of you. Just took a different road.” She said with a smile. It has been a running gag between her and Phailin, her switching to blogging and travel writing.

“Nice to formally meet you, Maya.” Jeremy said with a big smile. “I better get going and leave you two to your dinner.”

“Oh, you can eat with us. I’m sure it will be okay, isn’t it Maya?” Phailin offered Jeremy. “Anyway, we will just grab dinner, then head home. Maya is flying home tomorrow.”

“Yes, join us please, Jeremy. Sorry, I was just a bit standoffish earlier as I don’t really know you and I thought you were ‘picking’ me up.” Maya told Jeremy. “Sorry for being straightforward.”

“Oh, you don’t have to apologize, Maya. I prefer directness. I know it is not the Filipino way, though. I had friends from the Philippines too and they sometimes, can’t tell me things straightforward for fear of offending me or causing slight.” Jeremy said as he pulled the chair for Phailin. “Thank you for inviting me to dine with you. I’ll take you two on that offer. I really hate eating alone.”

The three of them ordered their dinner, mostly seafood, and then they chatted about cultural differences and how one deals with those. Jeremy also regaled them with his adventures as a correspondent. He had been everywhere. Sometimes, he had Maya and Phailin in stitches with his funny stories and his bloopers. They also felt crying with his heartbreaking stories of miseries and triumphs of the human spirit amid great odds, he had seen. He is a very good storyteller. The three of them didn’t notice the time. It was already quite late when they decided to call it a night. Before they left, Phailin excused herself to use the toilet.

“Maya, it was really lovely meeting you.” Jeremy said as they were standing at the entrance of the restaurant waiting for Phailin. “Too bad, you are going home tomorrow, or the three of us can have dinner again, or something. Probably, I can also take you to some other places, in case Phailin is busy.”

“I’m glad to have met you too, Jeremy.” Maya said. “Yes, I needed to go back. I have a new assignment for a lifestyle magazine that I need to finish as soon as I get back. Then, there’s my cafe.”

“Oh, yes. Lovely idea you have there. Maybe, I’ll end up in Manila one of these days and I can see your cafe-library.” Jeremy said, then he gone a bit quiet as if choosing his words first. “Maya, I hope you don’t mind me saying this so soon after meeting you, but may I get to know you better?”

“Ha, get to know me better?” Maya asked, not wanting to be presumptuous.

“I like you a lot, Maya. Not only because you are very beautiful. So, I would like to know you better, you know.” Jeremy said, looking at Maya with admiration. “Long distance relationships are not as difficult as it used to, in this digital age.” He added.

“Jeremy, thank you. I’m flattered but….”

“But there is someone else!” Jeremy finished for Maya.

“Well, not exactly a boyfriend. I like someone a lot, too. He is a very dear friend.” Maya simply said. “You never know. For now, we enjoy each other’s company. Where it would lead us, we are still in the stage of finding out.”

“Oh well, I guess I should have expected it, seeing how lovely you are, not only by the way you look, but by the way you are.” Jeremy said. “But may I be your friend then?”

“Of course, Jeremy. And thank you.” Maya smiled. “Keep in touch and give me a call when you find yourself in Manila.”

“I will.” Jeremy smiled at Maya. “Tell your special friend that he is a very lucky guy.”

Maya smiled, a smile that lit her face and which had Jeremy envying the lucky guy in Maya’s life. “Thank you again for a wonderful evening. Take care and I hope to read more of your stories. I always go to your company’s news website. Take care. Don’t get yourself killed, okay.”

They smiled at each other. Maya know she has a new friend in Jeremy.

“Maya, Jeremy, sorry for taking so long. There was a bit of line in the toilet.” Phailin said as she returned to where Maya and Jeremy were.

“Oh, no worries, Phailin. Maya and I had a lovely chat while waiting for you. So, may I take you two home.” He offered.

“Thank you, Jeremy. I have my car with me.” Phailin said. “See you around.”

“Jeremy, keep in touch. Thank you. Nice to have you as a friend.” Maya offered her hand to Jeremy, but instead he gave her a big friendly hug.

“You too. Have a safe flight home.” He said, then waved goodbye at them before half-jogging to his car.

Maya and Phailin watched Jeremy leave, waving as he drove off.

“Why do I get the feeling that someone got his heart broken.” Phailin started with a smile.

“Phailin!” Maya said smiling, blushing. “How did you know?”

“Well, he was looking at you most of the time we were eating and chatting. You know, really looked. The fact that he approached you was an indication also. I know Jeremy enough to know that he does not usually do that. Considering, how handsome he is, a fact that I don’t think you notice at all.” Phailin explained.

“He is, sort of. I think.” Maya shrugged. Jeremy is good looking, but he does not make her heart beat faster like Richard does.

“See, you just thought he is okay, when so many of the female reporters here are crushing on him.”  Phailin said, as they got into her car and started the journey to her apartment.

“Really! He does seem to be a wonderful guy, though not for me.” Maya simply said.”We agreed to be friends.”

“Ouchy.” Phailin said. “But I guess, Jeremy will bounce back. He is a very upbeat guy and a very good friend, once he becomes your friend.” Phailin as she navigated the late night traffic. “And your Richard is really a very lucky guy. Imagine, you are not yet boyfriend and girlfriend and you are already very loyal to him.”

Maya and Phailin arrived at her place thirty minutes after. After they parted, and she was settling in for the night, Maya looked for her phone, to say good night to Richard even if it was already late. They never agreed to do that every evening or at a particular time of the night, but they had fallen to doing it.  The first thing she notice when she opened her phone was her two missed calls and five messages. Richard was asking how she was and requesting her to text her as soon as she can.

Maya promptly sent Richard a message and before she can even put her phone down to lie on the bed, it rang.

“Hi Ricky, you are still awake? I thought you might be sleeping already.” Maya said.

“Hi Maya, glad to hear from you. I can’t sleep until I know you are okay. I got a bit worried when you didn’t reply.” Richard said, happy to hear from Maya. “I know we didn’t agree on checking with each other every evening, but I’m happier that we do, that you do.”

“Sorry, Ricky. Phailin and I were not really planning on staying out late, but Jeremy joined us for dinner, and we didn’t notice the time.”

“Jeremy?….” Of all the things Maya said, that was the only thing that registered first in Richard’s brain. Another karibal?

“Oh, Jeremy Sanderson. He is a foreign correspondent based here in Bangkok, a friend of Phailin.” Maya said, then she told Richard how she met Jeremy.

“Hmmm, looks like I have a new karibal, Honeybun.” He said, half-jesting.

” A new karibal?….”Maya asked.

“Yes, may Tristan ka na, tapos ngayon naman, Jeremy? Dumarami na sila.” Richard said.

“Ha, ha, ha, Babe. Tristan is just a friend and Jeremy is also a friend.” Then it just slipped. “Basted na nga.” Ooops, she did it again.

 “Oh, see may plano nga pala ang Jeremy na iyon.” Richard said, heaved a sigh of relief. “I’m glad he is basted na, Honeybun.”

“Ikaw, talaga, Mr. Ricky Lim, puro ka kalokohan. Bayaan mo ipapakilala kita sa kanya kapag nagawi siya sa Philippines.” Maya said, then can’t resist teasing him too. “He is actually a wonderful guy….to be…a friend.

Honeybun! Mabuti, tinapos mo ng maayos. Akala ko, maoospital na itong puso ko.” Richard said grinning.

“Naku, Ricky Lim, corny ka talaga! Pasalamat ka at nandiyan ka sa Pilipinas, kundi na-pinch na kita.” Maya said, happy at their banter. “Wait until I get there tomorrow.”

 “Looking forward to seeing you again, Honeybun. I’ll be at the airport, bright and early.” Richard said. It has been a long five days for him, though the nightly phone calls and messages helped.

“Me, too, Babe. O good night na. Mas late na diyan. I’ll see you tomorrow. Thanks for picking me up.”

 “Good night, Honeybun. Sleep tight and take care.”

The following day, Phailin took Maya to Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport, two hours before her flight. The two friends promised to see each other soon. Phailin said she will go to the Philippines for Maya’s birthday, and was not able to resist teasing Maya one more time – that maybe it will not be Maya’s birthday the reason for the trip, but rather, Maya’s wedding to her ‘Babe‘. Maya blushed, grinned at her friend, and slapped her on the arm affectionately. They hugged one more time, then she looked for her boarding gate.

More than three hours later of, thankfully, uneventful flight, Maya’s plane smoothly landed at NAIA Terminal 2. She quickly exited the airport after getting her luggage, which was much heavier than on the way to Bangkok, with the stuffs she was not able to resist buying. She scanned the area, looking for Richard. She saw him near the coffee shop where he obviously passed the time while waiting for her.

“Ricky, good to see you!” Maya said with a bright smile that lit up her whole face and making her achingly beautiful to the guy before her. He really missed her a lot. She rushed to him.

Richard also rushed to Maya, meeting her halfway. He has a huge smile on his face. “Maya, I’m glad you are back.” He then give her a big, tight hug. Maya hugged him back, equally tight.

They loosen their embrace a bit, then just gazed at each other, smiling, so happy to be together again. Then, maybe because they missed each other so much or the feeling of seeing each other overwhelmed them, they did something very spur of the moment.

Richard lowered his head and swooped in to Maya’s lips to give her a very tender kiss. Maya, her heart beating so fast, returned the kiss. Amid all the people in the airport, Maya and Richard, unmindful of them, shared a long and tender ‘welcome home’ kiss.

Note: Happy Sunday (again)! 🙂 It felt like I just said that, Sunday na naman! Time really flies fast.

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Letting Go

This song, kind of, reflect what I feel at the moment. It was sung by a father whose daughter is getting married. From one of my favorite musicals.

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Crossroads – Chapter 6

Chapter 6
Back roads and detours

Richard was sitting at the lanai in his parents’ house, enjoying the quiet of the night. Dinner was finished more than two hours ago. His parents had retired for the evening as they needed to wake up early the following day for their trip to Cebu. He was waiting for Sabel and Doris, their two long time housemaids, to finish packing the stuffs he needed to bring with him, the books he promised Maya. In the meantime, he thought of passing the time in the lanai where it was very cool and quiet.

He wondered how Maya is doing in Bangkok. She has arrived there several hours earlier. Thailand is one hour behind the Philippines, so she and her friend were probably still eating dinner by that time of the night. He hoped she is having fun.

“Ricardo, heto ang kape mo.” Manang Fe, Richard’s long time nanny, handed him a steaming cup of coffee to and put a serving of his favorite rice cake on the table. “Pinabili ko ito kanina kay Lem kasi alam kong dito ka maghahapunan.”

“Maraming salamat po, Manang Fe. The best talaga kayo. Hindi niyo nakakalimutan ang paborito ko.” Richard said smiling. “Sama na po kaya kayo sa akin doon sa condo ko nang may nag-aasikaso sa akin. Medyo settled na ako doon sa nilipatan ko.”

“Sa akin hijo, walang problema. Sabihin mo sa Mama mo.” Manang Fe told Richard.  She does not mind moving and taking care of him. Richard is like a son to her since hindi na rin naman siya nakapag-asawa.

“Talaga po, Manang! I will tell Mama, ha.” Richard is happy and touched that his long time nanny is willing to move, for him. “Manang wala nang bawian ha. Susunduin kita next week ha. I’m sure papayag si Mama.”

“Oo. Ikaw talagang bata ka. Pumayag na nga ako, di ba? “ Manang Fe smiled at her old alaga. Hindi pa rin nagbabago ang batang ito, malambing pa rin. “Matatapos na nga pala sina Doris at Sabel sa paglalagay sa mga box ng mga libro mo. Saan mo ba dadalhin ang mga iyon?”

“Ibibigay ko po kay Maya, for her coffee shop sa building namin. May small library siya sa cafe, to promote reading.” Richard replied, not knowing that the mere mention of Maya’s name, triggered his nanny’s curiosity.

“Maya? Parang ngayon ko lang narinig ang pangalang iyan sa iyo. Nobya mo?” Manang Fe asked. “Ikatutuwa ko ng husto kung nobya mo na siya.”

“Naku, Manang. I wish! Pero, I just met her.” Richard said smiling. “Best friend siya ni Cristina. I went to Cris’s despedida party for her friends yesterday and that was where I ‘officially’ met Maya. Officially, kasi Manang, nagkaagawan kami ng taxi sa harap ng tinitirhan naming building. Tapos iisang house pala ang pupuntahan namin. We got along pretty well when we found out na siya ang best friend ni Cris na ikinukwento sa akin at ako naman ang cousin na madalas ding ikwento sa kanya. Tapos it turned out,  we live in the same building pa pala.”

Richard smiled while telling his nanny his adventures with Maya yesterday. Manang Fe noticed something different in her alaga. He sounded very happy when he was speaking about this girl. Mabuti naman, she thought. She knew that something must have hurt Ricardo a lot while in the US. She knew her ward and he looked sad, very serious, and rarely smiled, like he used to, when he moved back to the Philippines after his Papa requested him to. Alam niya na hindi naman ang paghawak ng mga negosyo nila ang sanhi ng kalungkutan nito. Sabi sa kanya ni Donya Esmeralda, hindi naman pinilit ni Don Roberto si Richard na umuwi at pamahalaan ang mga negosyo. Hiniling lang niya kay Richard ito kasi nga gusto na nitong magretiro.

“Nakakatuwa naman. Sadya kayong pinagtagpo ng tadhana.” Manang Fe told Richard. “Kailan ko naman makikilala si Maya at ng masuri ko kung karapat-dapat dito sa guwapo kong alaga ko.” She teased Richard.

“Manang Fe, I’m sure, 101 percent, magugustuhan mo siya.” Richard smiled at his old nanny. “Bayaan mo, when you move in with me, makikilala mo siya. She is in Bangkok at the moment. Inihatid ko nga siya sa airport.”

“Ricardo, natutuwa ako. Ngayon lang kita ulit nakitang ganito kasaya, hijo. Noong bagong dating ka kasi dito, hindi ka man nagsasalita, bakas ko ang lungkot mo.” Manang Fe told Richard. “Hindi na ako magtatanong kung ano man iyon at mukha namang okay na okay ka na.”

“Salamat po, Manang Fe.” Richard said. “Tapos na po ang chapter na iyon sa buhay ko. I never thought I would be like this again, that I would believe in love again, pero, biglang heto, suddenly, I do.”

Manang Fe smiled at Richard and touched his hand, to give comfort. “Talagang ganyan, Ricardo. Minsan ang pag-ibig, dumarating kapag hindi natin inaasahan, at wala ring pinipiling lugar at panahon. Saka kung kapalaran mo talaga, pagtatagpuin kayo ng tadhana kahit anong mangyari. Kung minsan nga lang, nakakaranas din tayo ng sakit bago natin matagpuan ang talagang para sa atin. Minsan, marami rin tayong kailangang daanan at pagdaanan, bago tayo makarating sa ating paroroonan. Bahagi iyan ng buhay natin.” The old lady told Richard.

“I know that now, Manang.” Richard said thoughtfully. “I have learned a lot from a very bad experience. But in a way, I don’t want that to completely colored and affect my life, in the long run. I’m glad that I am finally being able to move on and be happy again.”

“Tama iyon hijo. May tamang panahon para sa lahat ng bagay. Ang importante, maging bukas ang puso at isipan natin sa lahat ng mga maaaring mangyari.” Manang Fe added. “Samahan mo rin ng panalangin sa nasa itaas.”

“Sir Richard, Manang Fe, excuse po, okay na po naming ilagay sa mga box iyung mga libro.” Doris said, interrupting their conversation, followed by Sabel who was holding some coffee table books.

“Sama pa po ba ang mga ito, Sir Richard?” She asked.

“Yes, please.” Richard replied. “Pakisabi na lang kay Mang Lem, ilagay sa kotse iyong mga box. Then, I will bring those coffee table books, Sabel. Thank you sa inyo ni Doris.”

Doris and Sabel smiled at their amo. Guwapo na, mabango pa, at sobrang bait sa kanila kahit medyo tahimik noong unang dumating kaya inakala nilang suplado. Kaswerte naman talaga nitong mamahalin ni Sir Richard, they both thought.

“Manang Fe, aalis na po ako.” Richard kissed his old nanny on the forehead.”Next week po ha, susunduin ko kayo. And thank you po for the words of wisdom.”

“Naku, bata ka, walang anuman. Ingat sa pagmamaneho.” The old lady accompanied Richard up to his car.

Richard parked his car in front of the coffee shop, more than an hour later. He went inside and saw Emman and another barista.

“Hi Emman, good evening.” He greeted them, carrying the coffee table books.

“Hi guwapong friend ni Maya, este Richard pala.” Emman said. “Mabuti, napadaan ka. Maya is in Bangkok.”

“I know Emman. I took her to the airport this afternoon.” Richard said conversationally. “Books pala for the cafe. I promised Maya I will bring these.”

“Inihatid mo si Mayabels sa airport?” Emman was surprised. Wow, parang tama ang kutob niya sa dalawang ito. He took the books from Richard.

“Yes. She was going to take a cab kasi so I insisted that I will just bring her to the airport.” Richard replied. “I have several boxes of books pa in the car. Maybe, someone can help me unload, kasi I’m double parked in front of the cafe.”

Emman, shook himself out of his thoughts of Maya and Richard, and the something that he is sure is blossoming between them, to attend to the task at hand. “Of course, of course. Thank you for these Richard ha. Malaking tulong sa cafe and our campaign. Allen, Dane, please help Richard.” He told the barista he was talking to earlier and another guy in the counter. “I will just put these books in the shelf.”

Richard parked his car in his slot, then took the elevator to his penthouse unit, after he and the cafe employees unloaded all the books. He told Emman one of their messengers will bring the magazines from his company the following day.

He got himself a can of beer from the fridge and went to his window seat, his favorite place in his living room, to relax a bit. Normally, he likes the solitude but suddenly, he felt lonely. He looked at the dark penthouse unit across his, and felt lonelier, missing Maya. He never thought he would missed someone like this, especially after Natalie. His conversation with Manang Fe made him remember the woman whom he thought would be the one he would share his life with. He couldn’t be more wrong.

He met Natalie through his American friend John, in a gallery opening he managed to drag him to. Natalie is Filipino-Chinese like him, beautiful, poise and classy. She was studying fashion design at that time. Her family was based in Cebu. They got along okay on first meeting. However, he didn’t think of her as someone he was really attracted to. She was just someone he met, a friend of a friend.

The following day, he got a call from Natalie, inviting him to dinner.  At loose ends at that time, he agreed. They seemed to have many things in common, aside from them being both Filipino-Chinese, when they got to chat longer. At that time, he was also tired of the casual dates he had, of women more interested in what he could give them and how good they look together in parties they like to frequent. He thought that Natalie was different. After that night, they started dating. By the third month, they were living together in his apartment in Fifth Avenue. While it was not all-consuming love, he was content and happy since Natalie’s life seemed to revolved around him. He thought he loved her in his own way. He also thought she loved him. They were compatible in bed, too. He thought those were enough and that all-consuming love probably just existed in books, in romance novels, and in the imagination of Hollywood scriptwriters.

By the sixth month of living together, he was ready to make his and Natalie’s arrangement more permanent. He thought that it was about time he settle down. He thought that her being a Filipino-Chinese would sit well with his parents, too. Not that they were compelling him to marry one. After his business trip to Washington, he was planning to propose to her. He was home one day early and it proved to be fortuitous. He heard Natalie talking to someone in the patio of the apartment. He overheard her telling the other person, who turned out to be her sister, that she would live like a queen when Richard finally propose to her and she becomes Mrs. Richard Lim. She told her sister she felt he would ask her to marry him soon, that she got him hooked and can’t escape. She even told her sister that Richard being very good looking was a big bonus, and that made up for him being serious and a bit boring, in her book as he was not much into parties and hitting the clubs. However, Richard’s main attraction for her, and the only thing that mattered, was the fact that he is the heir to the Lim fortune in the Philippines. He felt like the rug he was standing on was forcefully pulled out all of a sudden, and he fell without any support. He never thought that he had been played.

Natalie saw him from the doorway and she lost all the color from her face. She asked him what he has heard and whatever it was, she didn’t mean it. He told her he heard enough. She pleaded with him, up to the point of saying that it all started like that, but that she had grown to love him in the process. That she loved him very much. He found that hard to believe, and told her it would be better if she pack her bags.

He drown his sorrows in alcohol. But when he managed to think things through, he realized that he was more hurt that he was duped, that he was that gullible, that he had let his guard down to someone he thought he loved, than being so brokenhearted. He went back to their time together and he remembered signs that she was not being true to him. But in his infatuation with Natalie, blinded by her beauty and the charm she had shown him, among others, he failed to see those at that time. Besides, she was very good at hiding things.

He learned from John later on, that Natalie asked specifically to be introduced to him. John thought that Natalie was just attracted to Richard. She was a friend of John’s then girlfriend. John also learned from his girlfriend, who admitted it to him because she felt guilty to being a party to the whole thing, that he was a ‘project’ to Natalie. She wanted a rich husband so that she can continue the lifestyle she got used to and to continue to be a part of the Philippine social set in New York and in Manila. Her family in the Philippines lost their fortune in a series of bad investments. She ‘studied’ him, his likes and dislikes and what made him tick. He was targeted to fall for her, which he did.

Since that incident, he shied away from serious romantic entanglements. He doubted his ability to love, find real love and thought that true love didn’t exist really. He went back to his casual relationships. He was pretty straightforward with the women he dated that he was not into something permanent. But after a while, that too, bored him. He was reaching a state of ennui, when his father visited their offices in New York and talked to him. He told him he had plans of retiring and maybe it was about time he took over the reins of the company from him. He agreed promptly and returned to the Philippines. Still, he shied away from the dating scene and romantic entanglements. He had stopped looking for love, until he met Maya.

Maya is like a breath of fresh air to his staid and colorless life. Cris mentioned her several times, but he didn’t really pay attention in the beginning until he came across an article Maya had written for one of his company’s magazines. He found her prose very engaging, full of life and fun. Then he got to read her blog and learned a bit about her and her way of thinking. He also knew there is more depth to Maya than what was coming across her writing. He started asking Cris a bit about her, like where they met, what course she took in college and what was she like as a friend.

When he was riding with Maya in the taxi, there was an instant awareness, which strengthened as he spent more time with her. He likes her a lot. And as if there is a strong force drawing him to her. In all his relationships, including the one with Natalie, he has not felt this way, especially with someone he just met. Maya was fun to be with, especially when they did the ‘Babe’ and ‘Honeybun’ act! She made him smile again and he felt his old, laid back self, coming out to the fore . He also admitted to himself that he is starting to have feelings for her, strong ones. He was serious about courting her, of finding out, if they have something to build on. Despite his experience with Natalie, he is ready to take a chance again. Maya is different, he believe so. He feels so. There was an instant connection between them that he very much wanted to explore and pursue so that they will end up together. He can and wants to take things slowly this time.

Richard’s quiet introspection was disrupted by the beeping of his phone. A text message from Maya, which he read promptly.

> Good night, Ricky Got here safe. Just finished dinner with Phailin and some of her friends. Having fun. Hope the dinner with your parents was okay. 

Richard smiled, a smile that lit up his whole face. He typed a reply.

> Nice to hear from you, Honeybun. I’m glad you are having fun. Dinner with the parents was okay, just the usual Sunday night family dinner. Nice to see Papa and Mama. Now, drinking alone at home. 😦

The reply from Maya came promptly.

> Oh. 😦 Di bale, pagbalik ko diyan, sasamahan kita sa pag-inom para hindi ka na alone, Babe. 🙂

Hmmm, he likes the sound of it.

> I will hold you on that, Ms. Maya Dela Rosa. Got the books for you pala. Dropped the boxes at the cafe.

Maya smiled.

> Thanks a lot, Ricky. See you in several days, Babe. 🙂

Richard just can’t resist adding it.

> See you. Enjoy your vacation. Missing you a lot, my dearest Honeybun.

Maya grinned and blushed, and as her friend Phailin will tell her later, she looked like a woman in love at that moment.

> And I’m NOT missing you at all, Babe! [ wink, wink]    🙂 

Richard grinned. He is going to bed happy. Maya is still grinning when she put her phone down.

 

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Crossroads – Chapter 5

Chapter 5
Roads diverging

Despite the fact that she went to bed at past 2AM, Maya woke up at around 9AM. She smiled, remembering her wonderful afternoon and night with Richard. She never thought, nor expected, that it would turned out to be the best day of her life when she dragged herself out of bed yesterday to go to her best friend’s house. Amazing that it all happened in less than 24 hours! And in several hours, she will see him again.

Since she he can’t sleep anymore, maybe due to the feeling of anticipation of seeing Richard again, she got up to have coffee and light breakfast.  She called Cafe M and asked Emily, one of the baristas on duty to bring her a tall Americano and two slices of French toasts. The staff will not be surprised with her call as she has a habit of doing that every morning due to her abnormal sleeping hours. Several minutes later, Emily rang her bell. She thanked her, then went to the coffee table by the window for her ‘morning ritual’.

While sipping her favorite brew, she opened her Mac and went online, checking on the latest news from the news websites she had bookmarked. It was a habit she got from her old job. While she had left that job more than four years ago, she never shook off the habit of being news savvy.

When Maya finished reading the headlines, and the entertainment section of the news sites, she finished her breakfast. While about to sip her coffee again, she unconsciously stared at the unit in the other tower, Richard’s. She smiled, remembering their jokes about opening the window and waving each other. While possible, she doubted whether they can see each other that well as there is a big open space in between the towers, where the huge swimming pool and a garden was built, on the 5th level of the building.

The sound of her mobile phone beeping interrupted Maya’s thoughts. It was Richard, checking if she is awake already. Looks like she was not the only one who woke up relatively early considering their late night. Richard wanted to know what time they will meet as they forgot to agree on  a specific time they will meet for lunch. On impulse, and as a way of thanking him as he is taking her to the airport, and since she has time for it, Maya told Richard, they can just have lunch at her unit. Her phone suddenly rang.

“Hello, Honeybun, good morning.” Richard said, smiling as he moved a little bit on his bed, finding a comfortable spot, having just woken several minutes ago. The first thing he did, was to look for his phone and sent Maya a text message. She was his last thought when he went to sleep, smiling and his first thought when he woke up.

“Hello, Babe!” Maya said, smiling. “Ang aga nitong asaran natin ah.”

“Ha, sinong may sabi na nang-aasar ako. Serious endearment iyan Ms. Maya Dela Rosa.” Richard bantered.

“Ha, ha, ha, ha, parang hindi naman. Walang kalambing-lambing.” Maya teased.

“Hindi pa malambing iyan, Honeybun. Sige, mamaya kapag nagkita na lang tayo.” Richard felt happy that he will see Maya soon. At least, he will, then five days of not seeing her!

“Enough na nga, Ricky.”  Maya told him, still grinning. “Can we meet at 11AM? That way, we have plenty of time to eat, then have ample travel time to the airport. Dito na lang sa unit ko. I will cook a special brunch for you as a way of thanking you.”

“Really, you will cook for me?” Richard asked, but glad to know that Maya will do that for him. For him, it is so much better than eating in a crowded and noisy restaurant as today is a Sunday, family day. “Hmmm, on a scale of 1 to 10 Ms. Dela Rosa, gaano kasarap ang luto mo?” He teased.

Maya smiled. “Mr. Richard Lim, 11. Off the scale kaya! Hindi lang pang-fastfood take out itong beauty ko. Kapag sinisipag naman ako and when I feel like it, I can cook.”

“Okay, okay Ms. Dela Rosa, I will take your word for it.” Richard is looking forward to tasting Maya’s cooking. “I’ll see you in two hours or so.”

“Bye, Ricky. See you.” Maya gathered her things after putting the phone down. Then she check her pantry if she has enough ingredients for the food she wanted to cook. Luckily, she went to the supermarket the other day.

By 11AM, everything is set. Right on cue, the bell rang. When Maya opened it, her heart galloped and she suddenly felt breathless. Richard looked so handsome in his shirt, jeans and loafers. He gave her a brilliant, lopsided smile that made her heart doubly aflutter.

“Hi Maya! Tama lang ba ang dating ko?” Then he gave her a big bouquet of roses and sunflowers.

“Thank you very much, Ricky.” Maya smiled happily. “I love sunflowers!”

“Really! I just thought of sunflowers all of a sudden when I was ordering flowers for you. Thought it fits you, and your sunny personality.” Richard was also  happy he followed his hunch.

Richard looked at Maya’s place and liked what he saw. The place looks homey and happy with the decors and the colors she chose. It looks inviting and relaxing. It has the same lay-out as his place, but Maya managed to make hers a home. Her view is the opposite of his, so it is interesting to see an unencumbered view of Rizal from her side of the building.

“I like your place, Maya.” He remarked.

“Thank you. Too big for one person, like yours I think, but I like the big, open space.” Maya said. “I can think better this way, uncluttered. I also feel like I’m in a world of my own, with just the sky and the view of the mountains. I fell in love with this place and the view the first time I saw this. My mother was not so keen in the beginning, but she relented in the end.”

“How long have you been here?” Richard asked.

“I think more than four years, just after the building was finished.”  Maya replied as she led Richard to the dining table.

Rchard nodded. A pattern was emerging. It seems like all the major changes in Maya’s life happened after her father died. He understood that on a level,  the need to  make all these changes when something bad or sad happened.

“Come, let’s eat. I hope you are very hungry. I ended up cooking a lot.” Maya said.

Richard pulled the chair for Maya first, before sitting on her right.

“Naku, I think it will be sulit since I skipped breakfast. Hindi na yata ako naka-breakfast sa excitement sa cooking mo.” Richard said with a smile, suddenly feeling very hungry with the wonderful smell coming the dish on the table. “Wow, that looks good.”

“I hope you like this. One of my specialties. Baked potatoes with mushroom, tomatoes, bacon, cream and pork chops.” Maya proudly said. She likes to cook, though with just her, she sometimes gets lazy, and just go to one of the restaurants in the area to eat. Or there were times, she just whipped something simple. “Sorry, no salad.”

“This is perfectly fine, Maya.” Richard said, then said thank you when Maya heaped a big serving on his plate. “And I’m not much into salad din naman.”

“What would you like to drink?” Maya asked after putting some food on her plate. “I have mango juice, wine, beer and some soda.”

“Just water, please, since I will drive.” Richard said.

Maya got a pitcher of water from the fridge and put it on the table. “We can just have coffee again in Cafe M before we hit the road.”

“Oh, that would be perfect. That I need. Thank you, Maya.”

Maya and Richard ate companionably. They chatted a bit. Maya told Richard that she will visit her friend Phailin in Thailand as she promised to be there for her birthday. Richard was glad to find out that the friend is a girl Maya met in one of the seminars she attended in Malaysia while she was working as a reporter. They became fast friends as they both like to travel and read romance novels.

“That was very, very good Maya. I’m stuffed. I never realized I was that hungry.” Richard said, his tummy groaning. He and Maya finished everything.

“I’m glad you like the food. Iyon na ang pinakamagandang compliment sa aming mga mahilig magluto.” Maya said smiling. “Minsan nga lang nakakatamad magluto kapag mag-isa ka lang kakain.”

“Well, you can surely invite me anytime you feel like cooking. Just open your window and wave.” Richard offered, half-serious. He likes spending time with Maya.

“Hmmm, that’s a thought Mr. Lim. Humanda ka nang tumaba with my cooking.” Maya said as she started gathering the plates they used.

“Basta, ba ikaw ang magluluto, okay lang akong tumaba.” Richard said, grinning, then offered to help Maya do the dishes. Maya shooed him away to the living room. She told him she will take care of everything as it is faster that way.

Thirty minutes after, they locked Maya’s door. Richard took hold of her suitcase, then they took the elevator down to the coffee shop.

“Good morning Ms. Maya, Sir Richard.” Eleonor greeted them. Wow, magkasama na naman sila. She is happy for her boss, but hmmm, wait. This should be interesting.

“Good morning, Eleanor.” Richard greeted the girl, remembering her from last night.

“Good morning, Eleanor.” Maya smiled at her. “Duty ka na ulit?”

“Yes po, Ms. Maya. Maysakit po kasi si Allen. Tinawagan ako ni Sir Emman.” Eleonor explained. “Okay lang naman po since I live nearby. ”

“Thank you, Eleonor, for pitching in. I will have the same pala. How about you, Ricky?”

“I’ll have the same. Thanks.” Richard said as he took out his wallet to pay for the drinks.

“Ricky, hwag na. I’ll take care of this.” Maya stopped him.

“But Maya, you paid for our drinks last night. Then you fed me lunch today.” Richard protested.

However, Maya prevailed. Richard let it pass. He will just take Maya to a nice dinner when she returns. Hmmm, a proper date. He likes the sound of it. He knows of a special place to take Maya.

“By the way, Ms. Maya….”Eleonor started saying, but she was not able to finish.

“Maya!” A tall, handsome, mestizo guy called Maya, then approached her, not noticing Richard. He gave Maya a hug. “Good to run into you here. I was hoping I would.”

“Tristan! Anong ginagawa mo rito sa area?” Maya was surprised as Tristan lives and works in Makati. In fact, neighbor ng mom niya ang parents ni Tristan sa Bel-Air.

“I went to Antipolo to play golf. One of our valued clients invited us. Naisipan kong dumaan dito sa coffee shop on the off chance na nandito ka. Eleonor mentioned that you were here late last night. I was still thinking whether I will call you to let you know I am here when I saw you.” He finished, then noticed the guy with Maya.

“Oh, you were with someone, pala.” Tristan looked at the silent guy whose hand was on Maya’s elbow.

“Yes. Ricky this is Tristan Romero, the one I mentioned last night. Tristan, this a good friend of mine, Richard Lim.” Maya introduced the two. She didn’t notice them sizing one another.

“Nice to meet you Tristan.” Richard said politely.

“Richard Lim? Do you happened to be the son of Mr. Roberto Lim? Tristan asked.

“Yes. He is my Dad.” Richard replied at the same time, he can’t remember if his Dad mentioned a Tristan Romero.

“Our fathers are friends. Tito Roberto mentioned you the last time he was at our house with your Mom.” Tristan said. “You just moved back from the States, di ba?”

“Oh, okay. I haven’t met your parents, though.” Richard nodded., thinking that his parents might have met the Romeros when he was in the States. “And yes, I just moved back late last year.”

“Small world naman! Magkakilala pala ang parents niyo. I mentioned you to Ricky last night, Tristan, when we were talking about the coffee shop.” Maya said as she picked up the coffee that Eleonor put on the counter.

“I still think this cafe is not a good business, Tiny, but it’s your money.” Tristan said, slipping into Maya’s childhood nickname in their neighborhood as she was really small when she was a kid, compounded by being name after a small bird.

Richard’s eyes narrowed with the nickname and Tristan’s familiarity with Maya, but kept quiet.

“Tristan, Maya please. You know I hate that nickname.” Maya said. “Would you like to join Richard and I for coffee, or tapos ka na? After kasi nito, ihahatid niya ako sa airport.”

Tristan took a closer look at Richard Lim. Hmmm, looks like I have a new competition, he thought. Mukhang kanina pa rin sila magkasama ni Maya. He would like to stay longer and check him out, but his mom just called, she needed a favor.

“Oh, maybe next time, Maya, Richard. My mom needed me to run errands for her. You know, Mom, Maya. May kakulitan. Saan ka nga pala pupunta. You and your itchy feet talaga.” Tristan said with a hint of disapproval in his voice.

“I’m going to Bangkok for several days to see a friend.” Maya said. “O paano, Ricky and I will go to my sitting room na. Nice to see you and hello to Tito Frank and Tita Loida.” She hugged Tristan, who hugged her back. “Take care and ingat sa pagmamaneho.”

“You too. Enjoy your vacation.” Then Tristan looked at Richard and offered his hand. “Nice meeting you, Richard.”

Richard shook the other guy’s hand. “Nice meeting you too, Tristan.”

Maya told Richard to go ahead, as she needed to discuss something with Eleanor before she leaves. Richard offered to carry the coffee and went ahead.

“Eleonor, bahala na kayo nina Emily sa cafe ha, habang wala ako, and kapag wala si Emman.” Maya instructed Eleonor. “Basta if there is a problem, just call Emman. I will be back in a couple of days.”

“Enjoy your vacation, Ms. Maya. Hwag po kayong mag-aalala. Kami na ang bahala rito.” Eleonor said. “Ms. Maya, by the way, Team Richard ako.”  She added smiling.

“Team Richard????” Maya asked puzzled.

“Team Richard. Mas bagay po kasi kayo ni Sir Richard, kaysa kay Sir Tristan.” Eleonor said, then put her hand in her mouth, then checked if her boss got mad. “Ooops, sorry po!”

Maya laughed,. “Ikaw talaga, Eleonor. Pero friend ko lang si Richard. Baka naman may pustahan na pala rito sa cafe tungkol diyan ha.”

“Naku, Mam, wala po. Nadulas lang ako. Natutuwa lang po kasi ako sa inyo ni Sir Richard.” Eleonor said, relieved. “Nakakakilig po kasi kayo.”

“Hahahaha, o sige, I would like a slice pala of our lava cake. Ipapatikim ko kay ‘Team Richard’.” Maya teased Eleonor, who also laughed as she got Maya a slice of their bestseller cake.

Maya was still smiling when she went to her office.

“O bakit ka naka-smile, Tiny?” He said as he pulled the chair for Maya.

“Ha, ha, ha. don’t call me that. It is my day to be teased ba talaga. Pati si Eleonor, eh.” Maya said as she cut Richard a piece of the cake she brought with her.

“Hmmm, eh kasi naman hindi lang pala ako ang may TOE sa iyo, Honeybun.” 

“Naku, Babe, wala iyon. Mas gusto ko na ang Honeybun kaysa sa Tiny. I hated that nickname.”  Maya artlessly said, which made Richard happy. “O kain ka na lang nitong bestseller naming cake.”

Richard and Maya enjoyed their coffee time, like the previous time they were there. Soon after, Richard took Maya to NAIA Terminal 2. On the way to the airport, Maya called up her Mom to let her know that she was about to fly. She also promised to see her and Patty when she returns.

“Ricky, thank you talaga for taking me to the airport.” Maya said, holding on to her trolley, while standing at the Departure Area of the terminal.

“The pleasure is mine, Maya. I’ll pick you up when you return since it is a Saturday naman.” He stated.

“Naku, hwag na. Baka Emman is free naman noon. Magpapasundo na lang ako.” Maya protested. “This is more than enough, Ricky. Thank you.

“No, Maya I insists please. I want to see you as soon as you land, Honeybun.” He said, adding that last bit to tease her.

Maya smiled. “O sige na nga, Babe. Thank you again.”

They hugged each other.

“Enjoy vacation, Maya. I will miss you a lot.” Then he kissed her on the cheek.

Maya felt that the kiss was iba. It made her heart beat faster. She just looked at Richard, who was just gazing at her. They shared a warm, tender smile.

Maya entered the terminal. When she looked back one more time, Richard was still there, gazing at her. She waved. He gave her his lopsided smile and waved back, then gestured for her to go in.

Maya usually feels excited every time she is in the airport as it would mean, new places to see, new adventures, new experiences, and new people to meet. But this time, she has ambivalent feelings. She admitted to herself that she is already missing Richard. She mused, how can someone you just met had that much impact in your life in such a short time. She just took comfort in the fact that she will see him again after five days. She is looking forward to seeing her Babe again. She smiled, the endearment growing on her.

Richard waited until he can’t see Maya anymore, then boarded his car. He already missed her and she was just about to fly! It will be a very long week despite his busy schedule. But he does look forward to her return, very much. He had never felt like this, before, even with Natalie. He is already missing his Honeybun a lot!

 

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Crossroads – Chapter 4

Chapter 4
‘Getting to know you’

Maya and Richard entered the coffee shop on the ground floor of their building more than hour after they left Cristina’s house. The cafe, which is open 24 hours, was still doing brisk business at that time of the night. It has a good location as there is a continuous flow of people from the nearby shops, offices, and ‘gimik’ places in the area. The coffee shop was also set up like a very inviting living room of a country home with comfortable sofas, throw pillows, big windows, and with a floor to ceiling open bookshelf filled with all kinds of books and magazines.

“Good evening po, Ms. Maya.” One of the baristas greeted Maya as soon as she and Richard entered the cafe.

“Good evening, Eleanor. How’s everything?” Maya smiled at the barista, who had just finished taking the orders of two customers.

“Okay naman po, medyo maraming tao. Aside from our usual Saturday night crowd, umulan po kasi ng malakas so marami ang nagpalipas muna ng time dito, nagbasa and also borrowed books.” Eleanor chatted with Maya as she prepared the orders of the previous customers.

“That’s good to know. I would like to have my usual cafe Americano, please, after you are finished with those orders. Ricky, what would you like to have?” She asked Richard who was just listening to Maya’s conversation with the barista. “By the way, Ricky, this is Eleanor, one of our most efficient, hardworking and longtime baristas here. Eleanor, this is my friend, Richard Lim.”

“Good evening po, Sir Richard. Welcome po to Cafe M.” Eleanor said. “What would you like to have po?”

“Hi Eleanor, nice to meet you. I’ll have cafe Americano, please.”  He replied.

“When you are free, Eleanor, can you just please bring our coffee to my office. Thank you.” Maya told the smiling barista.

Eleonor’s curiosity was piqued. Her boss, except for Sir Tristan, has not brought any male friend to the coffee shop before. Ang guwapo ng friend ni Ms. Maya, she thought to herself. Mukha pang nice and ang bango-bango. Saka parang iba this one, unlike Sir Tristan. Iyon talaga parang wala silang ka-chemistry-chemistry. This one, para silang mag-boyfriend na. Ay, better make those coffee, Eleonor kaysa i-analyze ang lovelife ng boss mo! “Sige Ms. Maya, will do.”

“Ricky, let’s go. I have a special space here.” Maya led Ricky to the a door behind the bookshelf and they ended up in a small private sitting room, with two cozy armchairs, a coffee table and a nice view of a small garden from the big window. The place also has an office table, a Macbook, and other office paraphernalia.

“Wow, this is really very nice!” Richard exclaimed, not expecting something like this. “I presumed, you own the coffee shop and this is your office?”

Maya smiled. “Yes. The coffee shop is my baby. I also wanted to own a bookshop, so I combined both. Though, the books you saw earlier are not for sale, but for the members of our book club to borrow. I want to cultivate rin a love of good old-fashioned reading. Nawawala na kasi, what with all these social networks and gadgets. Besides, maraming hindi na mahilig magbasa. Gusto ko ulit na maging interested sila. They don’t know what they are missing by not reading!”

“That is a great idea actually. It is very commendable, Maya.” Richard likes Maya’s idea a lot. “Those books outside, were they all yours at some point?”

“Yes, most of them were. Actually, the idea started with me seeing my books gathering dust in the shelves at our family home. Sayang naman. I believe kasi that books are meant to be shared kaysa naman naka-display lang, so I thought of incorporating it with the cafe. The minimal membership fee we charged is being used to buy more books. Saka we need to keep a record of who borrowed kaya nagpa-member na lang kami.

We also need to keep track of books. Minsan, may books na hindi na naibabalik kaya kailangan ding mag-replenish. Okay lang din naman as long as those persons na hindi na nakapagbalik enjoyed reading the books they borrowed. Kung may hindi nakakapagbalik, meron din naman na nagbibigay ng books. Some of our regulars also liked the idea so they started dropping off books they have read already, so hayun, our collection is growing pa rin naman.” Maya explained and Richard can see her passion and love for what she is doing. Her face lit it. He admire her more.

“I also like it very much. Sige, ako rin I will bring books. I left those in our house in Alabang when I moved here. I’ll have dinner with my parents tomorrow evening and I’ll see what I can put in some boxes for you. I read mostly detective and crime novels. I also have some business books, travel books, and coffee table books from our company. Then I can also give you copies of magazines we publish. Okay lang ba ang mga iyon?” Richard asked.

“Of course! More than okay and more than enough. We will be happy to have them. It would be a great addition to our collection. Thank you very much, Ricky.” Maya liked that fact that Richard approved of her cafe and library concept.

“I’m really glad you like this Ricky. Tristan wasn’t so keen when I brought him the idea the first time. He said it will not earn me much money and it does not make good business sense. Pero, this is really something I’m passionate about so I prevailed upon him.” Maya smiled, remembering the moment Tristan gave up and greenlighted her project. “Hindi lang naman profit ang purpose ko for this kasi.”

“Tristan…?” Suddenly Richard wanted to know, his ‘competition radar’  is acting up.

“Tristan Romero. He is my family’s investment banker, and a very good friend also.” Maya said by way of explanation. “I have known him for so long since we grew up together in Mindoro, though he is a bit older than me. Naku Ricky, please have a sit. Kanina pa pala tayo nagkukwentuhan ng nakatayo.”

“Oh, okay. I don’t think I know him. Cris mentioned that you are from San Nicolas, Mindoro. Nagkakilala kayo sa first year niyo sa university. Nandoon pa ba ang family mo?” Richard asked, pulling the armchair and sitting Maya first, before he sat in the other armchair. He wants to know everything about Maya.

“Not anymore. When my dad died  five years ago, my mom moved back to Manila. Nandito rin kasi most of her family. Iyong iba naming business, nandito na rin. She just moved to Mindoro before because of my dad. She lives in Makati with my younger sister Patricia. Patty is still in college. Medyo malayo ng kaunti ang age gap namin. Mom had me kasi when she was 21. Maaga silang nagpakasal ni Dad, then got busy with building the businesses they inherited from my grandparents, Dad’s parents. Mom had Patty 10 years after me pa. My sister is a mommy’s girl and I was a daddy’s girl. Though we both love them naman, I just found it easier to tell things to my dad.”

“You still miss your dad.” Richard said, a statement, not a question, as it was obvious that Maya still feel sad losing her dad.

“Every day. He was only in his early 40s when he died. So young. I have accepted that he is gone, but I missed him a lot. Kapag nalulungkot ako, I just think that he is somewhere, like nasa isang beach place, palakad-lakad and masaya. Naka-smile sa akin and waving. Suot iyong favorite clothes niya. Tapos I just remember all our good memories. My dad was like a barkada to me. He was a cool dad. Sa kanya ko nga nakuha ang love ko for every thing old, like movies and music. Then also the love of reading. He always teased me that I get lost in the pages of whatever book I was reading, lalo na romance novels that I got hooked into when I was a teenager and having the usual crushes.

I do read other genres, pero ang mga romance novel ang stress reliever ko. Those romance books are my escape-from-reality default books. Kaya hayun, parati akong puyat like this morning! Natarayan tuloy kita sa taxi!” Maya said, smiling. Kahit paano naka-move on na rin siya sa pagkawala ng dad niya. Her Dad also told her before he died to live life the fullest and that what she is doing at the moment.

“He seemed like a wonderful guy. Now I know, hindi sa romance books galing ang ideal guy standards mo, kundi sa dad mo.” Richard said. “Naku, poor me, hindi yata ako makakapasa.” He said to make Maya smile.

“Hmmm, may point ka diyan Mr. Lim.  Teka, parang napunta na ang usapan diyan sa intentions mo, ha.” Maya smiled. She knew Richard is trying to cheer her up. “Pag-iisipan ko kung papasa ka.”

“Patingin kasi ng list para malaman ko what am I up against.” Richard said. “For sure, I can already put a check in some criteria in your list.” He added, teasing Maya.

“Hmmmp, confident much, Mr. Lim.” Maya said smiling at Richard’s kakulitan. “Nope, feeling ko puro ‘X’ ka sa lahat.”

“What are the standards ba kasi, Babe?” Richard asked, grinning, liking this exchange.

“Ha, I don’t want to tell you, Honeybun! ” Maya also had a huge grin on her face, bantering with gusto.

Honeybun? Babe?” The guy in the doorway blurted out then covered his mouth. “Ooops, sorry, sorry”….

Then waved at Maya, a bit embarrass for barging in. “Hi Mayabels, Hi handsome Honeybun, este Maya’s friend. Sorry sis, hindi man lang ako kumatok. Na-excite lang ng malamang nandito ka at this time of the night. Hindi rin kasi tayo nag-aabot, lately. Walang nabanggit si Eleonor na may kasama ka palang, boyfriend???”

“Sir Emman, kasi, di ko na nakuhang sabihin sa inyo kasi bigla na lang kayong umalis to go here nang malaman niyong nandito si Ms. Maya.” Eleonor put the tray with Maya and Richard’s coffee on the table between them. “Ms. Maya, Sir Richard, here’s your coffee na po. Balik na po ako sa labas kasi Belle will take a break na.”

“Thank you, Eleonor.” Maya said. “Ricky, please meet my other best friend and my business partner, Emman Castro. Emman, this is my good friend Richard Lim. Cousin siya ni Cristina. Hindi ko siya boyfriend. Nang-aasar lang itong si Ricky.” She clarified, then tapping Richard in the arm affectionately.

“Hello po, Mr. Lim. Nice to meet you.” Emman said, turning timid all of a sudden. Still, he can’t get out of his head the scene he saw earlier. Akala niya talaga may boyfriend na si Maya. Ang sweet kasi nila nitong si guwapong-guwapong Mr. Lim.

“Nice to meet you too, Emman. Just call me Richard.” Richard said smiling at Emman.

Oh my, ang guwapo naman talaga nitong friend ni Mayabels, killer ang smile, was Emman’s bubble thought when he shook Richard’s hand. Hmmm, he can feel something between these too. ‘Woman’s intuition’, he insisted to himself.

“Mayabels, Richard, please excuse me. I will just go back to the counter and help out. Enjoy your coffee.” Then with a big wave, he was gone.

“Emman seems like a very cheerful friend.” Richard remarked, smiling at Maya’s friend reaction earlier. “Matagal na kayong magkaibigan?”

“He is. We worked together in a media company before. When I told him I was leaving to do the things I really wanted to to, he told me sama raw siya. Lalo na when I told him I will be opening this coffee shop. We became partners and share the day to day management of the cafe. It works well naman kasi I travel a lot. Si Emman naman, he is working on his novel. Pangarap iyan ni Emman to be a published author kasi.” Maya told Richard as she served Richard his coffee, unconsciously putting two sachets of brown sugar, and stirring it as she talked.

“Good for you and him. Looks like you two are living your dreams.” Richard said as he took a sip of the coffee. “Hmmm, this tastes good. You stirred it well. Bakit ang sarap ng coffee mo. Thank you,”

Maya smiled. “I just put two sugars and stirred ah. But masarap talaga ang coffee namin. Then added, “I guess, in a way Emman and I are living our dreams nga, but it was not always like that.”

“How about you? How’s everything at Lim Corporation? Cris said you returned to manage your businesses here.” Maya asked as she noticed she was the one doing all the talking and Richard just listened intently.

“Well, the companies are doing well. Dad was happy to retire. He was not getting younger na rin daw. Hayun, pa-golf-golf na lang. I’m glad naman that he trusted me enough to run the business well. Mom was also happy that Dad has more time for her now. My mom is makulit also. I think you will like her when you meet her.”

“I think I did. Your mom’s name is Esmeralda, right? Kasama kasi siya one time ni Tita Susan noong nagpasama sa amin ni Cris sa Sunday Market sa Salcedo.”

“Yes, that’s her.” Richard confirmed.

“She was fun.” Maya smiled as she remembered Donya Esmeralda’s stories. “I like your Mom a lot.”

“Oh good.” Richards simply said. Hmmm, they know each other. I’m pretty sure, Mom likes Maya, he thought.

“Pero di ba you were well-established na in the States when your dad asked you to return.” Maya remembered that from Cris’s kwento. For some reason, they got into talking about the change in the management of the magazines of Lim Publications, then napunta ang usapan kay Richard, the new CEO.

“Yes. I was handling our operation in New York. But it came at a time that I wanted a change in my life, when I needed a change, so I packed my bags and left my life there, and head home.” Richard didn’t elaborate. He feels it is too early to tell Maya about the whole reason why he grabbed the opportunity his father was offering him. He was no stranger to the corporation’s operation so he only needed a bit of adjustment when he took over.

Maya felt that there is something Richard is not telling her with that statement, but maybe it is not the right time to probe about it. Who hasn’t something that at times you can’t tell another person right away, especially if it concerns your inner feelings and stuffs that affected you profoundly or had shaped the direction of your life. Oppps, Maya Dela Rosa, you are getting too serious again, lighten up!

“Good that your dad have you and that you are back here for good.”

“True, otherwise we would have not met.” Richard said, gazing at Maya, making her heart beat faster.

Maya just smiled sweetly at him. He did the same and they silently sipped their coffee. Happy in their quiet time. Then, they resumed chatting like very old friends.

“Ricky, naku, halos 2AM na pala! Baka wala na tayong maitulog.” Maya said surprised, when she noticed the time.

“O sige, uwi na nga tayo. Halika na, I will accompany you to your unit.” Richard stood up and held out his hand for Maya to take so it would be easier for her to get up from the armchair.

“Naku, hwag na. Elevator ride lang naman ito, hanggang taas. Ikaw nga, you needed to cross pa to the other tower.” Maya said.

Richard insisted on taking Maya to her penthhouse unit.  He also told her, he had the penthouse unit too at the other tower. They both smiled and teased each other about opening the windows and waving at each other.

“Good night, Babe, I have fun.” Maya said smiling, was not able to tease Richard one more time. She really did and she can’t remember when was the last time she was this happy.

“Good night, Honeybun.  Enjoy your vacation in Bangkok.” He said, then remembered asking, “Who will take you to the airport?”

“I will take a taxi. Mabilis lang naman ang biyahe since it is Sunday.” Maya replied. “Kaunti rin lang naman ang dala kong clothes kasi ilang araw lang naman ako doon.”

“I will take you.” He said. “Ihahatid na kita.”

“Naku Ricky, thank you. Pero hwag na. Rest ka na lang.” Maya protested, but touched, at his offer.

“I insist, please, and if it will make you feel better, from the airport naman I can go to Alabang na to see my parents.” He told her. “Lunch na rin tayo please before we leave Eastwood.”

“O sige na nga. Thanks a lot. I’ll see you tomorrow. Tulog na tayo. Good night.” Maya capitulated, at the same time feels happy that she will see Richard again in a couple of hours.

“Good decision, Ms. Maya Dela Rosa.” Richard is also grinning, happy at the turn of events. “Good night, Honeybun.”

“Good night, Babe.” Maya bantered.

Maya went inside, with a smile that lit up her whole face. Richard on the other hand, went to the elevator banks with spring on his steps. This has been the best day he had in a very, very long time. The best day he ever had.

 

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Crossroads – Chapter 3

Chapter 3
Down the road

The rain has stopped. Most of Cristina’s guests have left for the night. Maya and Richard were the only ones left as Luke texted more than an hour ago to say that he will just bring Richard’s car at Cristina’s house. Richard asked Maya to wait with him as he insisted that he will take her home. When Maya initially refused, he pointed out that like him, she commuted to go there. He also said that it is not safe for her to take a cab at that time of the night. What if she encounters a bad cab driver, unlike the one they found earlier.

Maya agreed that Richard has a point and it was one of her mom’s conditions when she finally allowed her to live on her own – that she will always take good care of herself, be safe, especially here in the metro. Besides, indeed, it was already late and she feared that it would be doubly harder to find a cab now, as the case is, every time it rained in the city.

“Uh, oh, Maya, prepare for interrogation. Here comes, Cris.” Richard warned Maya teasingly. They were able to avoid this earlier as Cris was waylaid by one of her friends when she was approaching them.

“Kaya nga, maghanda ka na Mr. Lim. Ikaw kaya ang mahaba-haba ang ipapaliwanag.”  Maya elbowed Richard and whispered, “Sino kaya ang nadulas sa ‘Honeybun’ na iyan. Mabuti pala umuwi na si Celeste. Safe ka na.”

“Yeah, nakahinga na ako ng maluwag.” Richard acknowledged. Though he is thinking that if he sees Celeste again and she still acts the same way, it would be better if he just let her down gently, politely, and directly, if that is possible. But the way Celeste was acting so far, it will be a tall order.

“Cousin, success ang party mo ah. I think your colleagues had a lot of fun at the impromptu video session.” He said by way of greeting his cousin again after she came back from accompanying the last group of guests to the gate.

“Oo nga. Mahilig kasi talaga ang mga iyan sa kantahan at laman ng paborito naming sing-along bar diyan sa Timog halos every Friday.” Cris said. “Pero, pati kayo nitong si Maya, enjoy ah. I thought you hate singing in public, Kuya Ricky? Kamuntik na akong mag-faint when I saw you grabbed the mic and sing, ha.”

“Hahahaha, Yes, I still do. Kasi itong si Maya, sabi baka raw boses palaka ako kaya ayaw kong kumanta. Hayun, I got challenged, napakanta tuloy.” Richard said with a smile, gazing at Maya meaningfully. “Sabagay, okay lang namang maging palaka, para the princess can kiss me and turn me into a prince.”

“Ha, ha, ha, Kuya Ricky! Iyan na yata ang corniest joke mo so far.” Cris laughed. “Fairy tale lang ang peg mo?”

“Oo nga, Ricky, wala na yatang mas corny pa diyan sa punchline na iyan. Eh sino naman ang princess?” Maya asked.

“Sino pa ba, eh di ikaw.” He jested, trying to get a rise out of Maya. He was not wrong, she started turning red in the face. “Please turn me into a prince, Ms. Maya Dela Rosa.”

Maya slapped his arm gently, pretending to be mad. “Ikaw ha, nakakarami ka na. Tinulungan na nga kita. Heto pa ang napala ko.”

“Maya, sorry, I can’t resist it. Huwag ka nang magalit. Biro lang. I’m thankful for your help.”  Richard said, trying to appease Maya, baka nga napikon na. “Sorry na. Cross my heart, stop na ako sa biro.”

“Hay naku, ikaw kasi, may pa-honey, Honeybun ka pa diyan, Babe!” Maya said, still pretending to be mad at Richard. She does find him funny and easy to get along with. Baka kung ibang guy siya, nasupladahan na niya or napagkamalang malakas ang dating. She likes Richard’s sense of humor and she enjoys their repartee.

They looked at each other and laughed, remembering how that ‘terms of endearment’ started and the fun they had, trying to out-tease each other with that.

“Ehemmm, ehemm, I’m here po. Baka nakakalimutan niyong dalawa.” Cris said smiling. “Sige, tutal nandiyan na rin lang ang usapan. What is this ‘Honeybun’ and ‘Babe’? Kayo na ba?”

“Ha, anong kami?” Maya asked, surprised.

“I mean, nagkaligawan ba kayo at nagkasagutan habang inaasikaso ko ang mga bisita kong iba? I’m happy of course, if that is the case. Single ka naman, Kuya Ricky, and single na single at no boyfriend since birth itong best friend ko. Though, di ba parang ang bilis naman?” Cris said, not realizing that she confirmed something that Richard wanted to know about Maya.

“Bes, binuko mo pa ako, ha. Saka, naku, hindi kami nitong cousin mo.” Maya protested. “Mr. Ricky Lim, magpaliwanag ka na nga rito sa pinsan mo.”

“Maya naman, kung maka-protesta, parang hindi ako attractive maging boyfriend.” Richard said, half-jesting. “Guwapo naman ako, sabi mo kanina, di ba? Saka tanungin mo itong si Cris, mabait naman ako.”

“Ricky Lim!!!! Paliwanag na, please.” Maya told Richard, blushing, remembering her slip.

Cristina looked on and smiled. Hahahaha, they maybe not boyfriend and girlfriend yet, but she thinks  these two will end up being that. Ang cute nilang tingnan, she thought.

“Okay, okay fine, Honeybun!” He said, still smiling. “I asked for Maya’s help. Kasi I saw Celeste na papunta sa amin kanina. I want to let her down gently, so I thought na she will take the hint and stop na if she knows I’m taken. Pinakiusapan ko si Maya na magpanggap na girlriend ko. Tapos she started calling me “Babe’ just to get back at me for not giving her time to say yes for the favor. Sumakay nga, gumanti naman. So I called her ‘Honeybun’ naman, lalo na nung pinakuha pa niya ako ng drink ni Celeste.”

“Awwww, sweet naman.” Cris teased them. “Akalain ko bang magkakasundo kayo ng ganito kaagad-agad, hahahahaha!”

“Bes, stop that.” Maya said, blushing. “Tapos itong pinsan mo, madulas-dulas ba naman at tawagin akong ‘Honeybun’ in public. Eh paano kung makita ko ulit ang mga officemate mo kahit nakaalis ka na, also Celeste, at tanungin ako about Richard.”

“Hmmm, eh pwede naman kasi nating totohanin.” Richard suddenly said.

“Totohanin ang alin?” Maya asked, puzzled.

“The boyfriend and girlfriend thing.” Richard said, half-serious, testing the waters.

“Rickkkyyy Limmmm, stop your jokes na. I only agreed to be your ‘girlfriend’ for the night.” Maya pinched Richard on the side.

“Ouch, Maya, masakit ah. Kita mo naman Cris, hindi pa nga ako sinasagot, abused boyfriend na ako.”

“Sagot? Hindi ka pa nga nanliligaw!” Oh no, I did it again. Maya told herself. “Errrr, erase, erase that.”

Richard looked at Maya and then gave her his heart-melting lopsided smile. “Eh di manliligaw ako. May I court you, Ms. Maya Dela Rosa?”

Maya, thinking that Richard is still trying to egg her, agreed. “Sure, Mr. Richard Lim. Kailangan pagbutihin mo, ha, para sagutin kita.”

“Of course, I will. Promise.” He said, seriously.

“Ha, seryoso ka???!!!” Maya blurted out.

“Yes, I am.” He said simply.

“Ricky naman, stop the biro na.”

“Hindi nga ako nagbibiro. Cris, tell your friend kung nagbibiro ako.” He looked at Cris who was just observing her cousin and best friend in their exchange, liking their banter.

“Naku, Kuya Ricky, ewan ko nga sa iyo.” Cris teased her cousin, then turned serious, to Maya. “Maya, sa totoo lang, I haven’t seen Kuya Ricky like this. Kaya be ready, Bes. Bahala ka if you want to take a chance with my cousin.”

“Thanks cousin, sabay laglag and build up sa akin ah.” Richard told her cousin. Then looked meaningfully at Maya. “I’m serious Maya, may I court you?”

Maya gulped. But before she could reply, Luke arrived.

“Kuya Ricky, sorry talaga for returning your car late.” He said very apologetic. “Sorry rin Ate Cris, hindi na ako umabot sa despedida party mo. Hello Ate Maya.”

“Hello Luke.” Maya said smiling. “Good to see you again.”

“Luke Andrew Lim!!! Pero sa lahat ng kasalanan mo sa akin, ngayon ako thankful sa ginawa mo kanina na hindi pagbabalik sa car.” Richard said. “Kaya lang wrong timing ka naman ngayon! Kaya 50-50 pa if I will forgive you.”

“Ha, bakit naman Kuya?” Luke said, surprised.

“Ricky, stop na.” Maya told Richard with matching pandidilat ng mata.

Richard smiled at her. “Okay, I will, for you Ms. Maya Dela Rosa. Pero may utang kang sagot sa akin.”

“Naku, Kuya Ricky. Enough na nga. Gagabihin na kayo nitong si Maya. Di ba may flight ka pa bukas, Maya?” Cris asked Maya. “Ikaw, Luke, stay here na lang. Bukas ka na umuwi. Bawi ka muna sa akin. I need you to edit some stuffs for me, for my wedding.”

“Yes, pero 3PM pa naman.” Maya replied. “Plenty of time. Nakaempake na rin naman ako. Ready to go na.”

“Where are you going, Maya, if I may ask?” Richard asked. “Work?”

“Oh, to Bangkok. For several days lang. It is not work. I wlll just visit my Thai friend.”

Richard nodded and at the same time wonder if the Thai friend is a guy. He wanted to ask, but he also thought it is too much to ask already since he just met Maya. Wala naman siyang right magtanong. “Oh, okay. Enjoy your vacation, Maya. Let’s get going. Cris, aalis na kami. Ikaw, Luke?”

“I will just stay here Kuya Ricky. Babawi ako kay Ate Cris. Saka baka makaistorbo pa ako sa inyo ni Ate Maya.” Luke said smiling.

“Luke Andrew Lim, pati ba naman ikaw.” Maya pinched Luke’s cheek. The younger Lim is like a brother to her also. Wala kasi siyang kapatid na lalaki.

“Why not, Ate Maya. Bagay naman kayo. Saka para mabawasan ang sungit ni Kuya Ricky , kapag nagka-girlfriend ulit.” Luke blurted out. Then realized what he said. “Oh, I mean, errr….”

“Hay naku, Luke Andrew, halika na nga. Kumain ka muna.” Cris intervened. “Ingat kayo, Kuya Ricky, Maya. Maya, we will see each other pa ha before I leave and after you return from Bangkok.”

“Yes, let’s have dinner at our favorite resto. Darating naman ako the day before you leave for good.” Maya hugged Cris. She let Luke’s slip passed, though, she is curious. It is not the time, nor proper place, to ask or tease about it.

Cris hugged her cousin.”Ingat sa pagmamaneho, Kuya Ricky. Ingatan mo itong si Maya, ha. I’ll see you at the family dinner, when Mom and Dad return from Davao, okay.”

“Of course, cousin. I will. See you.”  Richard kissed his cousin on the cheek and tousled Luke’s hair affectionately, who whispered sorry to him for blurting out something that he thought he was not supposed to.

“See you, Luke. No worries. I’m planning to tell Maya about it if she asks, and also when she gets to know me better. I like her a lot.” He assured his younger cousin. Good thing Maya was still talking to Cris about some last minute plans, and she didn’t hear this.

Luke smiled. “Good luck, Kuya Ricky. Among Ate Cris’s friend, I like her a lot, too. Not the way I think you like her, but as a big sister. Sorry again for not returning your car on time.”

“Maya, let’s get going.” He held Maya’s elbow again as they walked to where Luke parked his car, after waving goodbye to Cris and Luke. He assisted Maya to his BMW. He opened the door for her before going to the driver’s side.

“Where do you live exactly pala, Maya? Around the area where we flagged the taxi?” Richard asked as he started the car.

“Yes, in one of the condominium buildings in Eastwood.” Maya told Richard the name of her place.

Richard smiled, surprised, and very, very glad. “Really, I live there also! In the West Tower.”

“Talaga? Kaya pala nagkaagawan tayo sa taxi kanina. I live in the East Tower naman.” Maya smiled at the coincidence again. “Pero bakit walang nabanggit sa akin si Cris na may cousin siya na nakatira doon or that you live there also?”

“I just moved there kasi. Nahihirapan na akong mag-drive from our house in Alabang to Ortigas, lalo na ngayong I work very long hours, Hindi kasi ako sanay ng may driver, having live without one for so long in the States.”  Richard told Maya as he navigated the still busy road going to Eastwood.

“Hindi rin nabanggit ni Cris na doon ka nakatira. Though, I haven’t seen her in a while and lately ko rin lang nasabi sa kanya that I moved. I guess it slipped her mind since busy siya for her move to the US.”

“Oh, kaya pala. It is a good place naman to live. For me, quite accessible to everything.” Maya said. “Yes, she is quite busy these days. Kahit kami, hindi kami masyadong nagkikita lately. I was also out of town a lot rin naman kasi.”

“Work?” Richard asked.

“Yes, for one of your magazines, actually. The travel and leisure one. They asked me to write on the 10 Best Honeymoon Destinations in the Country, in time for the June issue. I usually checked out the places myself before I write about it, not just interview the owners and the management of those places, so off I went.” Maya said. “I just wanted to get the feel of those places. Di ba, mas authentic that way? Saka, it was an adventure for me as well, kasi. So hayun, I booked myself room in each of the places in the list on my own. I didn’t charge your company for that, ha.” She added.

“Well, I think you should have. Judging by your previous pieces, I think it is topnotch. Do you always do that? Just go where it leads you?” Richard asked curious at what drives Maya to travel and explore places a lot, as if she does not want to be tied to a single place. He glimpsed it from her blog posts.

“Yes, I want to see all the places I can see in my lifetime, experience life, you know, that sort of thing. You never know, suddenly we die tomorrow without being able to do what we want to do. I want to seize the moment. Sorry if I turned serious, all of a sudden.” Maya said and stared out into the night, starting to get lost in thought.

“Hmmm, there must be a reason why you are doing that.”  Richard commented, probing gently.

“Yes, actually. But it’s a long story.” She said, sighed and smiled sadly at Richard. Then she stopped at that, and Richard didn’t pry anymore. Maybe, when Maya gets to know him a little better she will tell him. He meant what he said earlier, he wants to court Maya. She makes him feel alive again, happy. For now, he changed the topic.

They chatted about travel books and places prominently used in movies while navigating the ‘after-the-rain’ traffic.

“Maya, are you tired na? Want some coffee at the cafe in our building?” Richard asked after a while, as he does not want the night with her to end yet.

Like Richard, Maya was reluctant for the evening to end. “Sure. I-park na muna natin itong car mo para dire-diretso na tayo to our own places after.”

“Thank you Maya.” Then he can’t help it, he teased her again. “Para naman masabi ko na sa iyo ang intentions ko.” He said smiling at her.

Maya grinned, taking the light approach as well. “Ikaw talaga, balik pala tayo roon. Well, let’s go Mr. Lim so you can convince me of your intentions.“

They smiled at each other, then continued on their journey home, chatting, and at times, looked at each other, and smiled, just very happy in each other’s company.

 

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