‘New York, New York’
Maya sniffled as she leaned against Richard’s shoulder, holding on to his biceps. She just can’t stopped herself. The scene before her was just so sad, and at the same time, cathartic. She should be used to it by now. This is not the first time she has seen Jean Valjean’s dying moment.
“Honeybun, here.” Richard offered Maya his handkerchief and smiled indulgently at his lovely fiancee, who he discovered is a cry baby when it comes to ‘Les Miserables’.
Watching Les Miserables in Broadway was one of the treats Richard prepared for his fiancee while they are in New York. She loves this musical and have seen it several times, though not in Broadway, as this was her first time in New York. They arrived here three days ago for Cris’s wedding.
Richard’s parents have been here since two weeks ago, with his Tita Susan and Tito Rafael, Tita Pamela and Tito Danny. Mama Esme said, she and Tita Pamela would like to help Tita Susan and Cris with the last minute things that needed to be done before the wedding. At the same time, they wanted to relax a bit. They also opted to stay with Cris’s parents at their big apartment. Most of the other relatives who will attend the wedding are billeted in hotels of their choice. Luke, on the other hand, decided to stay with an old college friend.
Richard had asked Maya whether she wanted to stay in a hotel or in his apartment. He assured her that it was not the same one, where he lived with Natalie. Maya assured him it was not an issue with her if the apartment is the same. She opted for the apartment as she feel more comfortable in it since they will be staying in the city, several days more, after the wedding.
They met Cris and her fiance for dinner as soon as they got settled in Richard spacious apartment in Fifth Avenue, the first evening after they arrived. Maya have met Stephen before when he went to visit Cris in the Philippines. Richard on the other hand, knew him from before, when he was still living in New York.
Cris teased them a lot, saying that the two of them had a tornado-like courtship sa bilis. They grinned goofily and gazed at each other lovingly, momentarily forgetting Cris and Stephen, which prompted Cris to say that they brought all the langgam in the Philippines to New York. Mabuti raw, hindi sila naharang sa airport. They all laughed, and had to explain the inside joke to Stephen.
The two best friends also had some moments, on their own, when the fiances went to the restroom, one after the other. Cris told her bestfriend that she is really very happy that she will marry her cousin. They will not be just best friends now, but cousins too! She also told Maya just to play tourist with her Kuya Ricky for the next several days as everything is set for the wedding. They will just have a rehearsal the following afternoon.
Like Cris suggested, Richard and Maya have been playing tourists the next two days after that dinner. Well, Maya was the tourist, while Richard was more of the tour guide. The first day of their adventure, together, Maya cajoled Ricky into taking one of the double-decker tour buses they saw from Times Square. That way, she said, she will be familiar with most of the New York City sights, fast. They also met the rest of Cris wedding entourage late afternoon, and other relatives, for the wedding rehearsals. Afterwards, they just walked around Central Park, the highlight of which was a romantic horse-drawn carriage ride around the park. They cuddled inside the carriage and exchanged sweet kisses.
The day after that, they took the tour boat to the Statue of Liberty. Maya was amazed at finally seeing ‘the lady’, the symbol of freedom and the symbol of New York. They walked around Liberty Island and took a lot of photos. On the way back, they also stopped at Ellis Island, and the view of the New York skyline was just pretty amazing from there. The rest of the afternoon was spent seeing other sights on Maya’s list – from the Rockefeller Center, to the Grand Central Station to the Radio City Music Hall and so on. They saved the MoMA or the Museum of Modern Art and the Empire State Building for the days they will be there after Cris’s wedding which was the day after that. The evening was capped with this trip to the theater district to watch Les Miz.
“Thank you, Babe.” Maya said as she wiped her tears, then whispered to Richard. “Grabe, ewan ko ba, everytime I see Valjean dying, tapos dagdagan pa ng paglitaw ulit ni Fantine and ng mga namatay sa barricade, I cried talaga. Kahit doon sa movie version. Feeling ko kasi kasama ako sa struggles nilang lahat. I just love the universal theme of this musical – love, unconditional love for that matter, redemptionm idealism, and unwavering faith.”
Richard smiled and held her hand. Maya is showing him a new perspective when it comes to this show, which he had seen before, but didn’t fully appreciate. She is showing him his old city in a new light! They both stood up with the rest of the audience when the cast made their curtain calls. They clapped enthustiastically, cheered and congratulated the wonderful cast.
Several minutes after, Maya and Richard exited the theater, holding hands.
“Babe, thank you very much again for the wonderful treat.” Maya stopped in the middle of the street, and kissed Richard lightly. “I love seeing Les Miz again and seeing Ramin Karimloo on stage was really, really the best treat. He was very good as Valjean. Guwapo also.” She became a fan after seeing him performed as the leader of the student revolutionaries Enjolras at the 25th anniversary concert of Les Miz, in which Lea Salonga was also a part of.
Richard smiled at his fiancee. “Mas guwapo pa sa akin, Honeybun?”
“Well, patingin nga.” Maya pretended to check Richard from head to foot.
“Sus, hamak namang….” She started.
“Mas guwapo siya sa akin?” Richard interrupted Maya, teasing.
“Babe, patapusin muna kasi ako.” Maya complained, smiling. “Sabi ko, hamak namang mas guwapong-guwapo ka sa kanya. Lamang na lamang ang Babe ko sa Ramin na iyon. No comparison at all. Hands down, ikaw na ang winner na winner.”
Richard laughed. “Silly! But thanks Honeybun, for being so loyal to your fiance. Halika na nga, I’m hungry na. Saan mo gustong kumain?”
“How about the restaurant that offers Chinese, Thai and Japanese cuisine we saw earlier, sa may Times Square ba iyon? One of the streets parallel to this one, di ba?” Maya suggested.
“Okay, they have good food nga there.” Richard agreed. “I think, it is this way.”
They walked several streets to the Asian restaurant Maya saw on their way to the theater. She remembered it as it was mentioned in an article she read before about going to the theater in NYC. She let Richard ordered. She was really very hungry. And Richard ordered a lot of food.
“Kaya ba natin iyang ubusin, Babe?” Maya asked, seeing plate after plate of mouth-watering food on their table.
“Hmmm, kaya iyan, Honeybun. We need all the energy later, for you know….. Richard smiled, wanting to get a rise out of his fiancee.
“Babe, one track mind ka naman.” Maya sweetly pouted.
“Hahahaha, Honeybun, di pa kasi ako tapos, assuming ka na.” Richard teased his fiancee. “I mean, energy for walking and walking later. We can walk around after our dinner. After all, this is the city that never sleeps, as they say.”
“Ikaw talaga, Babe. Aminin mo, double meaning ang statement mo.” Maya insisted.
“Hindi ah, walking lang talaga ang nasa isip ko….
“Really, really, Babe???”
“Weh…..” Then she stuck out her tongue to him.
Richard laughed. “Let’s eat na nga.”
Like what Richard said, they walked, walked, and walked some more after dinner. They chatted most of the way and looked at the well-known landmarks they passed by. When they got tired, they took a taxi to Richard’s apartment.
“Home away from home.” Richard remarked as he turned on the lights.
“Yes, I really like this place, Ricky.” Maya said, gravitating towards the floor-to-ceiling window.”It’s a good thing you didn’t sell or sublet this apartment when you returned to the Philippines.”
“i thought of that. But I kind like this place a lot. Beside, sabi ko sa sarili ko before, I might come back here din, to visit.“ Richard said. “Well now, I’m glad that I didn’t. We can use this as our home away from home since I think someone fell in love with New York!”
Maya smiled. “Thanks, Babe! I did. I love the city, and especially the theater district. So many things to see, absorb and experience!”
“We can always take a vacation here, then travel to other nearby states like New Jersey and Pennsylvania. I think you will like Philadelphia, in particular.” Richard said, as he went the stereo system and the melody of ‘Unexpected Song’, the beautiful song from the musical ‘Song and Dance’, started filling the air.
“May I have this dance, Ms. Maya Dela Rosa, my Mrs. Lim-to-be? Ngayon may music na.” Richard asked, looking lovingly at Maya.
“Of course, my Mr. Lim.”
Maya and Richard danced to the beautiful melody and lyrics of the song.
I have never felt like this
For once I’m lost for words
Your smile has really thrown me
This is not like me at all
I never thought I’d know
The kind of love you’ve shown me
Now, no matter where I am
No matter what I do
I see your face appearing
Like an unexpected song
An unexpected song
That only we are hearing
“I love you very much, Maya.” Richard whispered to Maya’s ear as they danced as close as two people can be, sometimes, with his chin on her shoulder, and Maya’s cheek pillowed on Richard’s broad chest. “The song is apt. I never felt like this before. I wouldn’t tire of telling you that.”
“I love you too, Ricky. My heart is so full of love for you, it is immeasurable! You are the best thing that ever happened to me.” Maya looked at her fiance with so much love. “Thank you for loving me so much.”
Maya and Richard gazed at each other with so much love in their eyes. They sealed it with a sweet kiss. The song ended. Richard carried Maya to their bedroom and made sweet love to her. They went to sleep sated, still in a very tight embrace, as if they didn’t want to let go of each other, even while sleeping.
“Ricky. Babe, wake up na, we need to get ready na.” Maya has been trying to wake up Richard the past several minutes the following morning, late morning, or noon! They overslept. She shook him a bit on the shoulder, to no avail, so she started giving him a kiss and tickling him.
“I want to sleep some more.” Richard said sleepily. “Maaga pa naman, I think.” Then he grabbed Maya back to the bed, and started kissing her hotly.
“Babe, we will be late. I have to help Cris pa. I’m the maid of honor, baka nakakalimutan mo, Mr. Lim.” Maya protested, half-heartedly.
Richard looked at the clock and saw that it was just around before noon, then grinned naughtily, “We have plenty of time pa, Honeybun.”
They finally made it out of the house two hours later. Just in time to go to the place where all the members of the entourage will prepare for Cris’s wedding. Maya changed into her maid of honor gown.
By four o’clok that afternoon, Cris walked down the long, and beautifully-decorated aisle of the magnificent St. Patrick’s Cathedral in a lace gown made by Monique Lhuillier, to her handsome waiting groom, Stephen Roberts.
The ceremony was beautiful. While everyone’s eyes was on the bride and groom, Richard’s eyes were on his beautiful fiancee, thinking that their moment like this will come soon and he is so looking forward to it. More than a month more and it will be his and Maya’s turn. Their parents, Maya, and the wedding planner have made a lot of headway already with the preparations. His dad finished arranging the logistics of them going to Ilocos, a week after the engaegement dinner. The church was also booked. The invites have all been sent.
The wedding party travelled to the harbor from the majestic cathedral after the picture taking. For the reception, the newlyweds, chartered a yacht that would cruise along New York Harbor for five hours.
“Congratulations, again, bessie, and Stephen.” Maya hugged Cris, and then Stephen.
“Cousin, congratulations. You too, Stephen.” Richard also said, hugging Cris and shaking Stephen’s hand.
“Thank you bessie, cousin. The next one will be yours!” Cris said. “By the way, good news, Stephen and I can be there. I can be your matron of honor! We revised our honeymoon plans to include the Philippines.”
“Yes, Maya, Richard. We did. I suggested it to Cris since I know she wouldn’t want to miss your wedding. She said she felt like she played Cupid to both of you.” Stephen added, smiling. “Besides, I think I would like to see Palawan.”
“Oh, thank you so much, bessie, Stephen.” Maya was very happy that Cris can come. “This means a lot to Ricky and I. And Stephen, you will love Palawan! I can recommend a good place you can stay.”
“Thank you, Cris and Stephen, for this.” Richard added, happy for his Honeybun. He knew how much she wanted Cris to be at their wedding, but understood that she may not be able to make it due to her scheduled honeymoon in Hawaii.
They were about to chat some more when the hosts called the newlyweds for the reception ceremony. When it was time for the garter throwing, Richard, Luke and several other male Lims, and Stephen’s cousins and friends lined-up. Richard got the garter and grinned. He wish Maya will get the bouquet. Then he remembered Cris’s statement about deliberately throwing it to Maya.
Cris called all the single ladies, which included Maya and all her bridesmaids, her New York friends, some friends from the Philippines and cousins living in various parts of the US for the bouquet throwing ceremony. For this, she had another bouquet made, a replica of the one she carried in church, which she would like to preserve for posterity. Cris threw the bouquet, and landed on Maya who instinctively caught it. Everyone clapped and Richard said a loud “Yes,” which made the Philippine contingent to the wedding, laughed and ribbed him.
Richard, grinning, slowly put the garter on Maya’s leg, with matching subtle caresss on her leg that was not visible to the audience, but Maya can feel it so much. When the garter was up to her thigh, they stood up. People egged them to kiss which they did, enthusiastically.
Soon after, the dancing started, and they joined the newly-weds and a lot of the guests, including Donya Esmeralda, Don Roberto, the aunts and uncles, and Stephen’s parents, on the dance floor. It was a fantastic and fun-filled celebration.
Several dances after, Maya told Richard that she would like to catch her breath. Rchard told Maya he knew the best place for it. They went to the aft of the yacht. Maya brought with her the wedding bouquet she caught, not wanting to leave it inside.
“So, Honeybun, feeling ko naman hindi na magiging pressed flowers ang bouquet na nasalo mo since nakatagpo ka na rin ng Prince Charming and your ideal man.” Richard teased his fiancee, pointing to himself, reminding her of that conversation the first day they meet which felt like a lifetime ago.
Maya smiled, remembering that too. Teasing Richard, she said, “Hmmm, pinag-iisipan ko pa iyong Prince Charming part.”
They both laughed.
“Yes, Babe.I did find my Prince Charming, my ideal man. You are more than what I wished for.” Then she touched his face lovingly. “I love you very much, my Babe.”
“I love you too, very very much, my Honeybun.” Richard said with all the love he is feeling.
Richard lowered his head, and give Maya a tender kiss. Amid the backdrop of the New York skyline, they affirmed their love and commitment to each other.