‘May I love you?’
Richard unlocked the door, turned on the hall lights and ushered Maya inside his penthouse serviced apartment. He likes living in this place as he can come and go as he wishes. He does not like to have a live-in househelp either, used to being on his own, so this is the perfect set-up for him. Since his family owns the serviced apartments company, the top two floors were reserved for the family. Richard’s parents prefer living in the family home in a nearby gated village, and Rafi is in the US with her family, so he was the only one who opted to live in one of their two penthouse serviced apartments. It is too big for a bachelor, but he loves the space it offers.
“Maya, make yourself comfortable, and feel at home, ha.” Richard told Maya as he walked around the place, switching on floor lamps which gave the room a warm and cozy glow. “Do you want anything to drink? Coffee? Wine? Juice?”
“Hmmm, coffee and water, please. I can make it, just point me to where your kitchen is.” Maya offered, as she put her small bag on the console table by the entrance.
“No, no, I’ll do it. Just have a seat, please.” Richard said, then went to the kitchen. Maya can hear him rummaging around. It sounded like he does not know his kitchen very well. Soon after, the smell of coffee brewing wafted in the air.
Maya looked around the spacious apartment. She likes the fact that it is uncluttered, and yet looked very much lived-in, with comfortable sofas, window seats, bookshelves containing books of different genre, and a glass cabinet filled with Richard’s DVD and CD collections. She took a look at the labels of the DVDs and saw a lot of movies that are also in her collection. She was surprised, though, to see the same DVD sets of Lovers in Paris which he gave her. So, he did buy himself a copy, hmmm, she mused. She never thought that Richard will watch it too! But it looked like he did. She also saw DVD sets of Downton Abbey, from Season 1 to Season 4 and all its Christmas specials! In a corner, near one of the floor to ceiling windows, stood a grand piano, well-used, judging by the sheet music still propped on it.
She also noticed a staircase going to the second level of the apartment which she surmissed leads to Richard’s room, as well as some guest rooms. She walked to one of the big windows of the apartment, and fell in love with the view. She can see the whole city! Yes, she can just see the lights glittering from a distance, but it looked so peaceful. She looked down and saw that the streets are still very well-lit with headlights of vehicles still trapped in the monstrous traffic created by the downpour earlier. She was still staring at the view, but was about to take a sit in the very welcoming window armchair, when Richard returned to the living room.
“Maya, here’s your coffee.” Richard stood beside Maya and handed her a cup. He also made himself one. “I put your glass of water on the small table by the sofa.”
“Thank you very much Ricky. You have a lovely place! ” She smiled at him, and took a sip of her coffee, which Richard made perfectly – with just enough sugar, and no cream, as she prefers it. “Hmmm, the coffee is just the way I like it. You know, if this is my view every evening, I will surely feel very relaxed after a gruelling day at work.”
“Thank you, Maya. I love this place very much. It is too big for one person, I guess, but I like the big open space it offers. Like you, I love the view. I spend my free evenings here listening to music, having coffee, and just looking out, trying to de-stress. Same thing, during weekends.” Richard said as he sips his coffee. He also indicated to Maya that they should sit in the armchairs by the window, with the coffee table in between them, and the view on the side.
“You are lucky to have these.” Maya added, gestured to the view and the whole expanse of the big, airy and very inviting apartment.
“I know. I can give you a tour, if you want. I know you are into house stuffs because of your work. Maybe, you can help me also decorate the place. I feel it needs a woman’s touch, your touch. Come, please, let’s start upstairs.” Richard stood up and assisted Maya up to the base of the stairs going up. He put his hand on her back solicitously when they were going up.
The stairs led to another smaller, but very inviting living room, with what would be a stunning view of the city during daytime as three parts of it are floor to ceiling windows. The other side lead to three bedrooms. Richard showed Maya the two guest rooms first, then his bedroom. It is a masculine room, but very nicely done also. Adjacent to his bedroom is his office, and beyond it, is a small gym.
They went down again and proceeded to the big kitchen, obviously, it is not very much used, then to the dining room, a breakfast nook, then back to the living room. Maya saw the piano again and remembered that she was going to ask Richard something.
“Do you play, Ricky?” She asked, curious, gesturing to the grand piano in the corner.
“Hmmm, a bit. My mother dragged Rafi and I to piano lessons when we were kids. She is a very accomplished pianist among other things. She would like us to learn as well. Maybe, Mom thought we will be another Gerard-Lea Salonga sibling act. But much to her disappointment, we didn’t have talents like their caliber! Rafi, has talent to some extent, maybe, but she didn’t have the discipline.” He said, smiling, remembering how he tried to avoid those lessons. “Actually, I found out that I enjoy playing the piano. It is relaxing. But not while I was taking those lessons. I learned to like it after Rafi left me her beloved piano, this one, when she went to study in the States. When I have time, I play a bit, especially after a hard and trying day at work, or when I needed to think, or when I just want to get lost in the music. Do you play too, Maya?”
Maya grinned at Richard, then told him, just like dancing, she is terrible in playing the piano! Mommy Tessie hired someone to teach her and her Ate Cris, but she never learned properly. Mommy Tessie gave up, eventually.
“But I do like to hear, and watch, someone play. I find it very soothing. The hands on the keys, I find it very graceful.” She added. “So, Mr. Lim, can you play for me, please?” She said with a ‘pretty please’ pleading expression that Richard found endearing. He gazed at her, then smiled.
“Hmmmm, are you sure, Ms. Dela Rosa?” He teased. “Are you sure you are ready for my world-class performance?’
“Yes, please, Mr. Lim.” Maya said, liking Richard’s playfulness.
“Eh anong kapalit nitong pagko-concert ko at this time of the night?” Richard asked Maya teasingly.
“How about…..” Maya started…
“How about, ano, Ms. Maya dela Rosa.…” Richard teased back.
“How about dinner tomorrow night at home? I will cook.” Maya offered. “Mom and Ate Cris are going to Batangas with Abby to visit my grandparents. Tapos it’s Ate Sabel’s day-off naman. You can have dinner at home. See, you will not only not eat alone, you don’t have to cook either. Judging by your kitchen, you don’t anyway.” Maya teased Richard.
“Hmmm, baka naman sa hospital ako pulutin after I tasted your cooking.” Richard teased Maya again, trying to goad her to react. “Saka, I cook naman, hahahaha, when I’m super starving na.”
“Ha, Mr. Lim, baka makalimutan mo ang name mo after mong kainin ang luto ko. Pang-chef yata sa hotel ang cooking skills ko.” Maya said, smiling and playfully pointing at herself, and bowing.
“Hmmmm, bragging much Ms. Maya Dela Rosa?” Richard smiled, then tweaked Maya’s nose.
“Telling the truth, Mr. Lim, nothing but the truth.” Maya countered.
True, Maya has not cooked for Richard before. There was no opportunity to do so with the many restaurants to choose from every evening, and with Sabel in Maya’s house. But she is really cooks well. Her mom taught her. If her Ate Cristina had excelled playing musical instruments, Maya’s forte is cooking. She finds it relaxing, just like her sketching or some other creative activities she indulge in, using her hands.
“Okay, it’s a deal. What do you want me to play?” He asked Maya.
“Up to you, Ricky. Surprise me.” Maya said as she setlled in the comfortable sofa beside the piano.
Richard took his seat, did a mental check on what he can play. He took a deep breath, touched the keys and the melody of “As Time Goes By” from Casablanca started filling the big apartment. Maya mentioned to him that Casablanca is one of her favorite movies. He segued to the theme of An Affair to Remember, another of Maya’s favorites. He also played pieces from their favorite musicals, like ‘Some Enchanted Evening’ from South Pacific. Maya clapped and cheered every time Richard finished a piece. He does play beautifully! They were having fun that they did not notice the passing, or the lateness of the hour. They didn’t feel the need to sleep either. Maya was so happy to be here with Richard, like this.
Richard thought too that the moment was perfect and he could stay like this forever, with Maya by his side, listening to him play, playing for her. He gazed at Maya with love in his eyes, from to time to time, while he played for her beautifully, and with so much feelings. The moment is just perfect for him to pass, and he feels this is the perfect time to declare his feelings. Suddenly, he also know the perfect way to do it. He started studying that piece on a whim, thinking that at some point, he will play it to Maya. He remembered, her telling him, it was her favorite scene in Lovers in Paris. Due to her influence, he also bought DVDs of series she raved about, wanting to know why loves those so much. He liked that scene too, when he got to watch it.
“Maya, I have something for you. I have been studying this piece for quite sometime, now.” He said, gazing at her with love in his eyes. “I hope you like this.”
Richard started playing the opening notes of Maya’s favorite song from Lovers in Paris. Maya’s heart skipped a beat. For her, one of the most romantic scenes in the series was when Ki-joo played the piano and sang for Tae-yeong in a hotel bar, wanting to cheer her up after the very bad day she had. This time, Richard did not just play, like the character in the series, he too started singing the Korean song. She loved the melody of that song, too bad she does not know Korean. But judging by the subtitle on the DVD he gave her, though it was probably not the perfect translation, the song is indeed, beautiful. He played and sang, with all the feelings in him.
The door is opening, and I see you walking in
I knew from first sight that you’d be my girl
You walked to me with a sad face
But you were so beautiful, I thought you seemed familiar
My heart was skipping a beat, and you took my heart away
I want to confess my love for you
I’ll be courageous
May I love you from this day on?
I never felt this way
I don’t want to let this feeling go
Love is approaching me
I always want to give you the best things in life.
Somewhow, you seemed familiar
My heart is skipping a beat, and you took my heart away.
Since I endured, so many breakups and tears,
I was gifted with someone as beautiful as you.
May I love this girl sitting infront of me?
I want to give you the best things in life.
May I love you from this day on?
May I love you from this day on, Maya?
Richard looked at Maya with so much love on his eyes, when he sang the last line of the song, then the sound from the piano faded into the night.
The room got very quiet, with Maya just saying “Ricky!”
Richard stood up from the piano and then walked slowly to where Maya was, sat beside her, held her hands, looked her into the eyes, and then said, “I love very much, Maya. Will you let me love you?“
“Ricky, you love me? ” Maya managed to say, with wonder in her voice. She thought that this day may come, but she never imagined that it would be this evening, and that it would be like this. Her heart is galloping. She touched Richard’s face caressingly. He in turned put his hand on top of hers.
“Yes, I do, with all my heart, with all of me. I have been in love with you for quite some time now. The first time I saw you, I was immediatey drawn to you. I can’t get you out of my mind. I even returned to the coffee shop several times, hoping that I will see you again. Then, by a stroke of fate, we met in Denmark. It was there that I started falling for you. I was just very happy and content to be with you. I waited to tell you because I want you to be sure of my love. I wanted to show you first how I love you. I want you to be sure enough to overcome your fears. I want to allay those fears. I will always be here for you Maya, to love and treasure you. I will show it to you, if you will let me.” Richard vowed.
“Ricky, I, I…..” Maya gulped, and tried to still her galloping heart….
“Maya, I just want you to know my feelings. You don’t have to say anything at the moment, except say please that you are giving me a chance to show my love for you.” Richard said earnestly, thinking that Maya needs time to process his declaration.
“No, Ricky.” Maya said, stopping Richard, with a hand gesture.
“No? You don’t want me to show you? You don’t love me?” Richard asked, surprised.
“Ricky naman eh, let me finish.” Maya protested good-naturedly. “No, I don’t need time. That was what I meant!”
“You mean….I mean…you do…?” It was Richard’s time to stammer.
“Yes, Mr. Richard Lim, I love you too.” Maya said, then gave Richard the brightest and most loving smile.
Richard’s heart jumped with so much happiness. He hugged Maya very tight, at the same time caresses her hair. “Maya, thank you. I love you very much.”
Then he held her face, looked deep into her eyes. “I promise I will not make you cry, that I will be here for you always, that I will hold your hand and we can face your fears together. That I will love you completely, with all of me.”
Maya got teary-eyed and so overwhelmed with Richard’s promise. “I will hold you on that promise, Ricky. You know, by just being you, you made me strong enough to take a chance, to open my heart to loving you. I now know if the person who came knocking on your door, is the one for you. One just know, in here,” pointing at her heart.
Maya and Richard looked at each other with so much love, and they sealed that love with the sweetest and most loving kiss they can give each other.