‘Save the date’
Maya parked her car the at the alloted parking space inside the compound where this beautiful 1930s art deco house was the focal point. For the dinner with the Lims and her family, Maya suggested to Richard that they do it at this beautiful ancestral home, converted into a fine dining restaurant, she likes very much. She discovered it while doing an article on the best restaurants in the city. She fell in love with the house and the dinner presentation. It was like going back in time.
Maya opened the door for her mom, who also looked at the place with awe. Her sister Patty got of the car as soon as it stopped, very excited to see the place after reading some very interesting information about it from the restaurant’s website. Her sister, and her mom, are looking forward to meeting Richard’s family. She and Richard visited them the day after they returned from Ilocos and have dinner with them.
Richard and Maya, aside from their parents, also invited their immediate families to the dinner to formally announced and celebrate their engagement with them. From the Lims, they invited, Cris’s parents, Tita Susan and Tito Rafael, and also Luke’s parents, Tita Pamela and Tito Danny, and Luke Andrew of course. Maya invited her Tito Gabriel, her dad’s only brother and his wife, Tita Minerva. Mommy Tessie also asked her sister, Editha, to come, as well as her husband Fernando.
When Maya and her family reached the entrance of the place, they saw Richard. “Ricky, babe! O bakit nandito ka? Nasaan na ang parents mo, and also the titos and titas?” Maya asked as she gave Richard a chaste kiss on the cheek, getting conscious with her mom and sister there.
“Good evening Honeybun, good evening po, Mommy Tessie, Patty.” Richard greeted Maya’s mom and sister. “Nandoon na sila sa main dining room na pina-reserve natin. Sinamahan na sila ng staff dito. Sabi ko kina Mama and Papa, hintayin ko na kayo here. By the way, Mommy Tessie, nandito na rin po sina Tito Gabriel and his wife and also your sister, Tita Edith, and Tito Fernando. We introduced each other na rin since I saw them waiting in the living room of the house. Kamukha niyo po kasi ang sister niyo kaya, hayun, I introduced myself na rin, also my parents. They also got to meet na my aunts and uncles, and also Luke.”
“Oh good. Pasensya na at medyo late kami. Natagalan kami ng kaunti. Na-traffic kami diyan sa may Osmena Highway.” Mommy Tessie said. “O akyat na tayo. Patty halika na, mauna na tayo.”
Mommy Tessie and Patty went ahead, giving the couple a bit of privacy.
“Sa wakas!” Richard said with a naughty grin, then kissed Maya lightly on the lips, seeing that they were the only ones by the base of the grand staircase of the house. “I missed you very much, my love.”
Maya smiled sweetly. “Ikaw talaga, Babe, missed mo na ako kaagad. Parang ang tagal nating hindi nagkikita. Kagabi nga, gabing-gabi na tayo naghiwalay ah. Tapos kanina, ang tagal pa natin sa phone. Baka nga akala ng mga employee mo, hindi na nagtatrabaho ang CEO nila.”
“Basta, I missed you pa rin.” Richard said lovingly.
“Sabagay, ako nga rin. Hindi ako masyadong makapagsulat. Naiisip kita and this dinner.” Maya admitted. “Halika na, let’s go up at baka akalain nila bigla na lang tayong nagtanan, Babe.”
“Hmmm, not a bad idea, Honeybun. That way, sure na sure na ako na Mrs. Lim ka na kaagad, instead of waiting. For sure, ang mga mother natin, would want a big wedding.” Richard said with a smile.
“Parang Las Vegas wedding lang ang peg natin, Babe.” Maya said as they continue to go up, to the main dining room of the house.
“Why not? May kakilala akong judge.” Richard remarked, as if thinking about it seriously.
“Mr. Lim, I don’t think papatawarin tayo ng mga mom natin kapag ginawa natin iyan.” Maya said, lightly pinching Richard on the cheek. “Saka may paperworks din iyon!”
“My Mrs. Lim-to-be, gusto ko lang agad-agad na maging Mrs. Lim ka na.” Richard countered, then whispered. “Malay mo, my Richard or Maya Junior na on the way. You know, we have been doing it a lot and..…..”
Before he could finished with his teasing, Maya shushed him with a finger on his lips which he promptly kissed, and pinching him lovingly. “Babe, marinig ka nila.”
Richard grinned, then turned serious, and said lovingly, “There is nothing more beautiful than seeing you big with our child, Honeybun.”
“Babe, you know, I want it too.” Maya touched her fiance’s face lovingly. She felt happy thinking about the kids and she Richard will have. Siguro kasing cute ng Babe niya ang magiging little boy nila. Kapag girl naman, Maya hopes na kamukha niya or nila ni Ricky. Basta, healthy, super thankful na, Maya mused.
“Richard!” A beautiful lady said. She rose from the sofa in the living room of the grand house, adjacent to the main dining room that Maya and Richard reserved for their dinner party, interrupting their tender moment. “I thought it was you.”
Richard looked at the statuesque girl, who approached them. His expression a bit indifferent. He never thought that this is where they would see each other again after all this time. But he knew that at some point, their paths would have crossed anyway, since they move in the same circle.
“Oh hi, Natalie. Fancy meeting you here!” Richard greeted his ex-girlfriend politely. “ I thought you are based in New York. When did you return to Manila?”
“I returned here for good, several months ago. I opened my own fashion design company.” She explained, looking at Richard and seeing that he is as handsome as ever. “I got tired of living in New York. My heart is here rin.”
Richard pulled Maya closer to him, then intertwined their fingers.“My love, this is Natalie Tan. Natalie, this is my lovely fiancee, the love of my life, Maya Dela Rosa.”
Natalie then took a closer looked at the girl Richard was gazing at with so much love on his handsome face. She felt a tinge of sadness in her heart, a double dose of regret for what she had done, and what she had taken for granted.
“Please to meet you, Maya.” She said, trying to smile brightly. “Congratulations. to both of you.”
“Thank you, Natalie. Nice to meet you too.” Maya said politely. She knew then that this must be the Natalie that Richard mentioned before.
“My love, let’s go. Kanina pa naghihintay ang mga family natin.” Richard said. “Excuse us please, Natalie. Enjoy your dinner. Good luck on your fashion design company.”
Richard felt lighter after seeing Natalie again. It completely closed a chapter of his life that taught him a lot of lessons. He was sincere in wishing her well. He realized that he does not even feel hurt and slighted anymore for what she did. It is because of the beautiful, loving lady he was holding hands with. His fiancee. He ushered Maya to their waiting family and completely forgot about Natalie.
Natalie returned to the sofa, where she was waiting for her friend, whom she will have dinner with, to arrive. She was looking aimlessly, earlier, when her gaze zeroed in on the beautiful couple who was exchanging a tender moment at the top of the stairs. When the man turned, her heart beat faster. It was Richard. The biggest regret of her life, her biggest mistake, was taking him for granted and orchestrating their relationship with that hidden agenda. She was so immature. If only, she had approached their relationship honestly. What she told Richard before they parted ways was true, she fell in love with him. How much, she only realized after they broke up. She regretted hurting a very wonderful man. He looked so in love and happy with his beautiful, poised fiancee. It could have been her! But it is way too late now.
“Natalie, sorry I’m late!” Maggie rushed to the living room, air kissing Natalie as she sat down to catch her breath. “Why do you look so glum?”
Maggie knew what happened in New York. After her family’s fortune dwindled down, Maggie was among the few friends who stuck with her.
“Richard is here!” She simply said. “He and his fiancee are holding an engagement dinner party for their families, I think.”
“Oh, Natalie.” Maggie touched her friend’s hand to comfort her. She also knew that one of the reasons Natalie returned to the Philippines was to find out if Richard is still single and maybe, see if he has forgiven her, enough for her to hope that she can win him back.
“It was just that, Maggie. I just have to live with everything I did, the bad decisions, the mistakes I made. Me, being blinded by maintaining the status I was born and had lived with most of my life. Besides, seeing him with his fiancee, the way he gazed at her, I don’t really think he had loved me at all.” She said in resignation. “Halika na nga, let’s have dinner and let me deal with my sorrows another time.”
Natalie looked one more time to the dining room, where she can see Richard and Maya being greeted by their families, then went to the table she reserved at the smaller dining room of the house.
“Richard, Maya, congratulations.” Donya Esmeralda, greeted the couple, as soon as she saw them entering the dining room. “Balae and I introduced each other na. Di ba, balae?” She asked Mommy Tessie, who was sitting beside Don Roberto.
“Oo nga, Maya, Richard. Bakit ang tagal ninyo?” Mommy Tessie asked. “ I thought kasunod lang namin kayo ni Patricia.”
“Naku, bayaan na natin balae, baka kailangan ng private moments nitong mga anak natin.” Donya Esmeralda said with a smile. “You know….”
Maya’s mom laughed then teased the couple. “Sabagay, para maaga tayong magkaapo.”
“Mommmm….” Maya said. “Ito kasing si Ricky, may nakitang beautiful girl diyan sa labas. Na-delay tuloy kami.”
Richard smiled. He knew Maya will be full of questions when they are alone, on whether the lady was the ‘New York Natalie’. “Selos ka, Honeybun?” He teased her.
“HIndi ah.” Maya protested.
“Hmmm, selos ka yata eh.” He teased. “Huwag kang mag-aalala, ikaw lang ang nag-iisa dito sa puso ko. Wala na akong ibang nakikita.”
The whole table oohhed and aahhed.
“Naku, ang dami ng mga langgam hindi pa man tayo nagde-dessert. Parang noong nasa bahay lang namin ang mga ito.” Tito Rafael teased.
“Talaga, balae, kwento ka naman.” Tito Gabriel said. He was glad to see his pamangkin, his dear Kuya Arturo’s eldest, settling down with a good man and marrying into a wonderful, loving family, judging by the interactions between them he had observed so far.
“Bago ang kwentuhan na iyan, let’s have dinner na muna mga balae.” Donya Esmeralda said.
When everyone was about to eat, Don Roberto tapped his fork against his wine glass.“I would like to offer a toast to my son and his lovely fiancee.” He said as he raised his wine glass.
“Richard, anak, congratulations for finding yourself a wonderful woman. Maya, welcome to our family. You are the daughter, Esmeralda and I were not able to have. Thank you for having our son. God bless your union. I’m so happy to see the two of you so in love with each other. Here’s to a long, happy, and loving life together.”
Everyone seconded Don Roberto and raised their wine glasses to Richard and Maya. Both families were very happy for the newly-engaged couple. Richard and Maya went to Don Roberto and Donya Esmeralda, and hugged and thanked them. They also embraced Mommy Tessie.
The dinner was a lively affair, with the Dela Rosas and the Lims, either by blood or marriage, chatted as they enjoyed, course after course, the lovely and mouthwatering food the staff served them.
“Do you have a date na pala, Maya, Richard, for your wedding?” Tita Susan asked while they were having coffee and dessert. “Mukhang mauuna pa kayo kay Cris sa bilis ng mga pangyayari.” She teased.
“Honeybun, ikaw na magsabi sa kanila, what we agreed on.” Richard said, touching and caressing Maya’s forearm.
Maya gazed at Richard lovingly, momentarily forgetting everyone around them. He did look very handsome in his pale blue dress shirt.
“Ehemmmm, earth to Ate Maya.” Patty teased her sister, seeing her staring at her Kuya Richard with a goofy smile. Luke elbowed her, good-naturedly. She and the youngest Lim had hit it off, finding they both love online games and photography. Besides, they automatically gravitated towards each other since they were the youngest ones in the gathering.
Maya blinked and smiled. “Ooops, sorry.” She said sheepishly.
“Ikaw naman kasi Honeybun, don’t stare at me, baka matunaw akong gaya nitong dessert natin.” Richard teased. “I know naman na guwapong-guwapo ako. Di ba, ‘Ma?”
“Ikaw talaga Ricky Lim, hayan ka naman. Maximum ang confidence level ah.” Maya laughed. “Mama Esme, itong anak niyo po o.” She told her future-mother-in-law. The first thing Donya Esmeralda asked when she spoke to Maya after their engagement was to call her that or simply ‘Mama’, and ‘Papa’ or ‘Papa Roberto’ for Richard’s dad.
Donya Esmeralda laughed. She is getting used to the antics of her son and his wife-to-be. “Hija, guwapo naman ang anak ko. Para sa isang Mama, walang anak na pangit sa paningin. Kaya for me, si Ricky ang pinakaguwapong son.”
“Ma, so ibig sabihin, hindi talaga ako guwapo. I’m hurt.” Richard bantered, with a pretend forlorn, ‘lost little boy’ expression.
They all laughed and the older Lims talked about how Richard was when he was a baby and a child, much to Richard’s consternation and Maya’s glee. Then, Mama Esmeralda laughingly asked them to stop as her son, she said, was already red in the face.
“O hija, going back to the wedding, kailan ba ang target date niyo, so Tessie and I can help with the preparations in any way we could.”
“Mama Esme, Mom, Papa Roberto, Titos and Titas, Luke and Patty, Ricky and I decided that we will get married in three months. Paunahin na po muna namin si Cris. Para the whole family can concentrate on her wedding. Moment niya ito. Kami naman, we can wait.” Maya said, gazing lovingly at Richard.
“Oh, okay, that is good then.” Tita Susan said. “Thank you Maya and Richard. I’m sure, kahit mauna naman kayo matutuwa rin si Cris ng sobra-sobra kasi feeling niya siya ang Cupid niyong dalawa.”
“Tita Susan, para nga po siyang nasa loud speaker inside my living room when she shrieked over the phone when we told her that we are engaged.” Maya laughed, remembering Cris’s reaction when they phoned her as soon as they arrived back at her place from Ilocos.
“Saka po pala, Maya and I will have the wedding in this very beautiful church in Santa Maria, Ilocos Sur. Medyo po malayo, pero I think very doable naman.” Richard added.
“That’s fine, hijo.” Don Robero assured his son. “We can all take the company plane to Laoag, then travel by land to Vigan. I think the church is less than an hour from there.”
“Thanks ‘Pa. You have been there, po?” Richard asked curious.
“Well, how can your papa forget that church. Eh diyan siya nag-propose sa akin ng biglaan.” Donya Esmeralda added. “Di ba iyan iyong elevated, parang nasa hill.”
“Yes po.” Richard said.
“O iyon nga iyon. Remember that day, Roberto. We were going back to Manila after attending the wedding of a friend in Vigan, nag-by land lang tayo, then we stopped there kasi nga ang ganda niya even from a distance. Hayun, ang papa mo, sinurpresa ako. Pati ang mga friend namin na kasabay namin, nagulat din.”
“Oh, sabi ko na, that church is special.” Maya said, loving the story. Then whispered at Richard, “Pareho pala kayo ng Papa mo, mahilig manggulat.”
Richard smiled. It was a nice story to hear from his parents. He thought all along that his parents’ marriage was arranged between the Lim and Sy families.
“I can take care of the logistics, son. Ngayon pang retired na ako. I have all the free time to do it. I will talk to my compadre in Laoag about transportation and such, from one place to another.” Don Roberto added.
Maya and Richard thanked his dad. Donya Esmeralda and Mommy Tessie chatted about how they can help Maya and the wedding planner. The aunts and uncles offered to help too. While Patty and Luke teased them about being part of the entourage. Maya and Richard told them, they really are.
The families parted when the restaurant was about to close. Everyone had a grand time.
Later that evening, while Maya was sitting on Richard’s lap, in an armchair by her floor-to-ceiling windows, they talked about the dinner and the unexpected meeting with Natalie.
“So that was Natalie, I mean the ex-girlfriend in New York?” Maya asked. She thought the girl was very pretty and judging by her facial expression, she still have feelings for Richard.
“Yes, that’s her.” Richard lovingly said. “You know what, seeing her again, I am really, really, really thankful that I didn’t end up with her. Kasi ikaw pala ang destiny ko.”
“Babe, thank you. Ikaw rin kaya ang destiny ko. Pero you know what, parang may feelings pa nga siya sa iyo. It was the way she looked it you.” Maya remarked.
Maya was not jealous of Natalie. She believes that when you commit to someone you have to give that person you love, your complete love and trust, unless that person breaks it or give you reasons to be jealous. In Richard’s case, he has not given her any reason, nor he has done anything, that would make her doubt his love and fidelity. She told Richard so.
“Thank you for your love and trust, my love. About Natalie, I don’t know about her feeling that.” He replied. “Anyway, like I have told you before, she was part of my past na. I do wish her well. Maybe, she was not as bad I thought she was. Maybe, circumstances just made her act the way she did.”
“She seemed okay. I wish her well too. Hope she finds a love, not just my Babe.” Maya said, closing the conversation. “The dinner turned out well, di ba? We have the best families.”
“Yes, Honeybun.” Richard said as he played with Maya’s hair. “Three months and you will be my Mrs. Lim.” He ia also very happy that Maya is not the jealous kind of girl, not that he will give her reason to be. She is the only one.
Maya smiled, loving the idea of being his Mrs. Lim. Soon! “I love you, Babe. I’m looking forward to that, and us being together for always.”
“I love you too, Honeybun.” He said, then proceeded to give her a kiss, which predictably, as the case with them, turned into something more. “Let’s go to sleep.”
“Dito ka matutulog?” Maya asked surprised, not that she was complaining.
“Yes, please. I already told Manang I will not be home.” Richard said. “I want to be with you tonight, to cap our special evening.”
“Ikaw talaga, Mr. Lim ha, para-paraan lang.” Maya said smiling. “I don’t think sleep lang ang nasa mind mo.”
Richard grinned naughtily, seductively, “Bakit, ayaw mo ba, dear Honeybun?”
Maya just smiled, held out her hand to Richard and led him to her bedroom. True enough, sleep was the last thing on their minds when they hit the bed.