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.
> 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.