Note: I was working on this story on the side. It was, sort of, ‘writing itself’. I started this after ‘Doors’ but put it in the back burner. Then, suddenly, I saw it, and just sort of finished this chapter, while I was mulling over the last couple of chapters of LCC, which I still owe you guys. 🙂 I hope you will like this as well. Cheers and good vibes always! 🙂
Maya was running late. She was supposed to be at her friend Cristina’s house an hour ago. But she woke up late from her nap. Arrggghhh, Maya Dela Rosa, this is what you get from reading romance novels until the wee hours of the morning – a whacked sleeping pattern, she castigated herself! But she can’t help it! She likes getting lost in the lives of her noble and dashing heroes and beautiful and feisty heroines! One day, she told herself, a guy, especially designed by God for her will come along. A loud beep pulled back Maya from her reverie. Oh, a cab, shoot, she will be super late na, she realized as she was jolted back to reality.
She flagged a taxi, at the same time, a tall guy was doing so. They ended up getting into the cab from opposite sides.
“Manong, Sunflower Subdivision in Fairview, please.” They both told the driver.
They looked at each other.
“Hey, this cab is mine.” Maya insisted to the guy whom she noticed for the first time. He is chinito and has eyeglasses. He looks kinda cute, Maya thought, nah, not kinda, he is cute, and not just cute, guwapo! Maybe, around 35 years old, she guessed, or around seven or so years older than her.
“Would you mind getting out, please. I flagged the taxi first. As it is, I am very late na for a a friend’s despedida.” Maya stressed to the guy who was settling comfortably in the cab.
“Oh, that is debatable, since as far as I know, I was the only one who flagged the taxi. Wala naman akong nakitang iba, then suddenly you are here,” the chinito guy countered. “I, too, is running late. I need to be at my cousin’s house. Any other time, miss, I will just say yes to you and give in, but it is really important that I get there too! I am late na rin eh! Please.”
Before things escalated to a full blown ‘taxi fight’, the taxi driver intervened!
“Mam, Sir, ipagpaumanhin niyo po, makialam na po ako. Suggestion lang po, pareho naman po yata kayo ng pupuntahang subdivision, bakit hindi na lang po kayo magsabay para mabilis na tayo. Pagkatapos po kasi nitong biyahe na ito, gagarahe na ako.” The taxi driver suggested. “Promise, cross my heart, no extra charge, at saka safe kayo pareho makakarating sa paroroonan niyo, lalo na po ikaw, Mam.”
Maya was just about to tell the driver that she will think about it, when the chinito guy spoke.
“How about it Ms….?” The chinito guy said. “I’m Richard Lim, and here’s my driver’s license to prove that is really my name and that it is safe for you to ride with me. In fact, you can hold on to that until we reach our destination. You can even took a picture of my license and send it to your friend so you will feel safe.”
Maya took the driver’s license. Looked at it closely, then gave it back to her ‘taxi-mate’.
“No need to take a photo, sige na nga, and please, hwag kang loloko-loko, may pepper spray ako sa bag ko.” Maya rummaged in her bag, got hold of the pepper spray and showed it to the chinito guy.
“Saka, Mam, heto po ang ID ko para mas makampante kayo.” The driver offered Maya his ID.
Might as well, Maya thought, mahirap na sa panahong ito. Mabuti na ang nag-iingat. She took a picture of the driver’s ID, the name and plate number of the taxi and sent it to Cristina via MMS, with a short text saying that she will just explain things later. She didn’t ask for Richard’s license back to take a photo, the less she talk to him the better. Besides, she does not think na magkakilala sila or magkakutsaba sila ng taxi driver.
Throughout the more than one hour trip, Maya looked out of the window, holding her pepper spray, seemingly more interested in the passing sceneries than her taxi companion. The truth was she was just trying to distract herself. She was very much aware of him. Not only he is gwapo, mabango pa and looks so neat in his blue polo shirt, jeans and loafers. She is also attracted to guys with glasses. Parang si Superman lang.
Richard on the other hand, was very curious about this girl he ended up sharing a cab with. She refused to give him her name. But she is beautiful, with her heart-shaped face and slim built. But he tried to dampen his curiousity and awareness of her. Suplada eh, he mused. Hindi niya talaga nakitang pumara rin ng taxi ang beautiful girl na katabi niya. Baka masyado lang siyang na-focus sa paghahanap ng empty taxi at the same time, inis sa cousin niya na hindi nagbalik ng car niya on time.
When the taxi was near the subdivision, Maya gave the taxi specific directions as to where she is going.
“Wait, wait, you are going to 1145 Blue Street?” Richard asked with a tinge of surprise. “I’m also going there. Despedida ng cousin ko.”
Maya looked at him closely, remember the name he told her and then….
“Oh my, oh my, OMG, you are Kuya Ricky, Cristina’s cousin!” Maya blurted out, suddenly remembering Cris telling her many times about her favorite cousin who manages his family’s businesses – from an airline, to magazine publications, and shipping. He returned to the country after several years of living in the States, and for some reason, they have not crossed path before, except this time, considering Maya met most of Cristina’s cousins who are very close to her.
“Hello, Kuya Ricky, errr, Richard, I’m Maya dela Rosa, Cris’s best friend and….
“….and her travel blogger friend who also freelances as a travel writer for some magazines.” Richard finished for her, grinning. He also noticed how really very lovely his cousin’s friend is, especially when she blushed and offered him a tentative, shy smile.
“Yes, and she mentioned it din pala to you!” Maya said, smiling more confidently now.
“She did, and I also read some of the pieces you have written. They were very engaging and you really have a knack in taking your readers to the places you have been!” Richard said as they walked towards the gate of his cousin’s house. He had admired Maya’s work and has recently followed her travel blog, Viajera.
“Really, thank you!” Maya said. She really likes Cristina’s cousin.
“Sorry about earlier, Maya. I really didn’t see you flagging the taxi at the same time. Saka medyo low na ang patience when I flagged the taxi.” Richard smiled sheepishly. “But I don’t regret ended up sharing a taxi ride with you. It was interesting and surely livened up my dull day.”
Maya also smiled at Richard. “Naku, wala iyon. It happens. Sorry nasupladahan kita. Nagmamadali rin kasi ako. It turned out, pareho pa pala tayo ng pupuntahan. Tapos kulang pa ako sa tulog since I was puyat. Kung hindi ko nga lang matanggihan ang cousin mo, I would have stayed at home and sleep.”
“Well, I’m glad you really exerted the effort to be here, otherwise, hindi kita makikilala.” Richard said, giving Maya a heartstopping lopsided smile.
While they were grinning and taking a closer look at each other, laughing at their earlier experience, someone called them.
“Kuya Ricky, Maya, at last, nagpakita rin kayo. Late as always!” Cris said. “Teka, sabay kayo, and magkakilala pala kayo?”
“Bes, sorry I’m late, alam mo naman ako and my bad habits when I get hooked on a book. Hindi ko mabitawan hanggang madaling-araw.” Maya explained. “Hindi kami magkakilala nitong si Richard. Nag-agawan kami sa isang taxi diyan sa may Eastwood dahil sa kamamadaling makarating dito. Tinamad akong mag-drive eh. Hindi ko naman akalaing mahirap mag-taxi. I forgot na it is a Saturday and payday pa kahapon.”
“Hello, cousin. Sorry I’m late rin. Luke borrowed my car and until the time I was leaving, hindi pa ibinabalik. Hay, and he didn’t even text. I’m a bit worried nga rin, but knowing our cousin, he will surface, apologetic. Wala rin si Mang Lem, ipinagmaneho si Mama kaya hindi ko napapunta sa condo to driver me here. Had a hard time looking for a cab. Tapos inagawan pa ako ni Maya!”. He explained and at the same time, also teased Maya about it.
“Hindi kaya, nauna talaga ako ah. Buti nga ang nice ko, isinabay kita, kundi lagot ka dito sa pinsan mong matampuhin!” Maya countered.
“Eh ako kaya…”
“Hep, hep, Kuya Ricky, Maya, stop na. Baka kung saan pa mauwi ang asaran niyo. Sabi ko na magkakasundo kayong dalawa.” Cris refereed between the two. She also notice the sparks flying, even if these two are not aware of it yet! Sabi na nga ba eh. She is right! “And Maya, iyon pala ang ibig sabihin ng MMS mo kanina.”
“Tara na nga pasok na kayo sa loob at ng makapag-dinner na. For sure, gutom na kayong dalawa. “ Cris told her cousin and her best friend.
“Maya, let’s go na nga. Napagod ako kaka-argue sa iyo sa taxi. Tapos you were suplada pa, ignored me the whole time!” Richard jested as he escorted Maya in the garden of Cristina’s sprawling house. Cristina is moving to the States for good. She will get married to her long-time American boyfriend.
“Grabe ka, ang bait ko kaya!” Maya bantered back. “What happened to your car and is Luke, Luke Andrew? I met him once.”
“Yes, one and the same. May pupuntahan daw siyang importante at medyo mahirap mag-commute, hayun he borrowed my car. His is in the casa, getting a periodic check.” Richard explain as he and Maya went to the buffet table to get some food.
Richard directed Maya to one of the empty tables in the garden after they got food. He pulled the seat for her.
Wow, gentleman, Maya thought.
“Maya, what would you like to drink? I will go get us some drinks.” Richard asked Maya.
“Hmmm, white wine please.” Maya replied. “Thank you, Richard.”
“Okay, white wine it is. And please call me Ricky.” He told Maya before he walked to the bar.
“Parang magkasundong-magkasundo kayo agad ng pinsan ko.” Cris remarked as she sat beside Maya. “Normally, aloof iyan, saka suplado. Kasi naman kung maka-flirt ang mga girl sa kanya.”
“Talaga. Well, in fairness, guwapo iyang si Richard….” Before Maya can finished Richard returned with their drinks.
“Guwapo? Sino? “ Richard asked, and Maya blushed. “Wala, si Richard Yap, doon sa Be Careful With My Heart na TV series,” was the first thing that Maya thought of saying. She just blurted it out.
“Hmmm, sino ba iyon? Maybe I should check online. Kamukha ko raw. Tinatawag na nga akong Ser Chief ng secretary ko.” He said, smiling, teasing his cousin and Maya. He did hear Maya said ‘Richard’ and he believed it is not the actor she mentioned. But he didn’t want to embarass her further. Saka, he does not consider himself guwapo. Pero sure siya ang pinag-uusapan ng magkaibigan na ito.
“Ha, ha, ha, you wish, Kuya Ricky.” Cris teased back her cousin. “In fairness, magkamukha kayo……ng salamin.”
Maya laughed at the cousins banter. “Ricky, let’s eat na nga. Hayaan mo na itong cousin mo at matagal-tagal din nating hindi makikita.” Maya said.
“Oo nga. I will miss you cousin. Di bale, nandoon naman kami sa wedding mo.” Richard said. “For sure, nandoon ka rin Maya since feeling ko ikaw ang maid of honor nitong si Cris.”
“Yes, I will be her maid of honor.” Maya confirmed. “Basta bes, huwag mo sa akin ihahagis ang flowers ha.”
“Why is that? You don’t want to get married yet?” Richard asked, curious.
“Hindi naman. Hindi ko pa kasi natatagpuan ang dream man ko.” Maya said, smiling. “Sayang naman ang flowers kung sa akin lang mapupunta. Baka pang pressed flowers na ang peg, wala pa akong nakikitang groom. Besides, I am not in a hurry naman to find one, I want to enjoy life muna.”
“You’ll never know naman Maya, sis. Baka naman nakilala mo na. Hindi ka pa lang aware na siya na iyon.” Cris said cryptically. Her intuition is strong and she felt something is unfolding before her between her cousin and best friend! “Kasi naman ikaw, sobrang ideal man ang hinahanap mo kababasa mo ng romance novels na iyan. In real life, it is not like that.”
“Ha, ha,ha, Cristina Rose Uy, hindi naman siguro masamang maghanap ng ideal man. Bakit swerte rin naman ang mga guy sa atin. Why set your standards low. Saka, malay mo talaga namang katulad ng mga hero sa favorite books ko ang matagpuan ko. Saka, ikaw nga, natagpuan mo ang dream man mo kay Stephen.” Maya argued good-naturedly with Cristina. “Iyung sinasabi mo na baka nakilala ko na, malabo, wala naman akong nakilala recently, so sino iyong sinasabi mo.”
“Ako…” Richard said suddenly.
“Ikaw….?” Maya gulped, surprised and her heart galloped.
“Ako, hindi ko pa rin nakikita ang only one for me.” Richard finished, not noticing Maya’s surprised expression, nor Cristina’s grin. “But it is a long story bakit hindi ko pa mahanap dati.” He finished cryptically.
“Basta, ang masasabi ko lang Maya Dela Rosa, malalaman mo ang sinasabi ko kapag na-in love ka na ng todo-todo. “Cristina, said and didn’t elaborate anymore. “Kuya Ricky, Maya. Maiwan ko muna kayo rito, enjoy your dinner and each other’s company. Hayun, dumating iyong iba ko pang friends sa work.” Cris said as she waved to a group of ladies, and one of them zeroed in on Richard.
“Naku, nandiyan pala si Celeste!” Richard cringed when he saw the tall, voluptuous girl with Cris. “Maya, sakay ka lang please. I will be forever grateful to you if you do this for me kahit bago lang tayo magkakilala. I think I know how to make her stop pestering me without sounding very ungentlemanly, and without telling her off straight. Kasi kahit paano naman, officemate siya ni Cris.”
“Hi Richard.” Celeste said with a bedroom voice. “So nice to see you here.” She said, when in fact the only reason she was there was the thought that Richard will not miss his favorite cousin’s despedida. She tried to give Richard a beso, but he deflected it.
“Hello, Celeste. Ah yes, I wouldn’t miss my cousin’s despedida for the world.’ He said politely. “Please meet my girlfriend, Maya Dela Rosa.” He said as he interlaced his fingers with a surprised Maya. But she decided to play along. She understood what kind of favor Richard wanted.
“Hi Celeste! I think we met each other once, at Cristina’s office.” Maya said cheerfully, while trying not to feel conscious of the feeling of Richard’s hand in hers. “Babe, get Celeste a drink too.” She told Richard sweetly. Two can play at this pretend game.
Celeste looked at Maya and Richard’s interwined fingers, then she looked at Maya with a barely concealed annoyance. “Yes, Richard, be a darling, please do get me a shot of vodka. I feel like I need a drink, badly.”
“Honeybun, I will just get the drink, ha.” He told Maya, then to her surprise, he kissed her hand before letting it go. Maya blushed and Celeste gave her a dagger look. Richard grinned on the way to the bar. He was not able to resist teasing Maya that way. He knew, he will pay for it. But he has never felt so alive than at this moment. There’s hope for him after all. Who would have thought!