Meetings and beginnings
Maya busily went from room to room, doing the job she was supposed to do, as a cleaning staff of a hotel in New York City. She learned of this job opening through a friend of her stepdad. She wanted a job in between pursuing higher studies or waiting for a job opening at one of the United Nations’ agencies she applied for, or anything related to the Development Communication course she finished. Her plan was to go back to school if nothing turns up by the time the new semester is about to start. A masteral degree will really help her a lot, anyway, with the field she want to be. She hated being idle so she looked for a job. Besides, since she was finished with university and was back in the States, she didn’t want to be dependent on her mother and stepfather. It was good enough that they sent her to a very good school, paid for her tuition and bought her a place to stay while she was studying.
Teresita Dela Rosa, Maya’s mother moved to America, several years after the death of her father, Arturo, when Maya was around 10 years old. She met an American through a friend, remarried and uprooted them to New Jersey. Maya, even at a young age, expressed her wish that she wanted to stay with her grandmother, Mamang, in Oriental Mindoro, but her mother explained to her that her place was with her and she will get use to the life in their new country. Her stepfather, turned out to be the nicest guy, after her dad. He treated her like a real daughter and it didn’t change, even after her siblings were born. Her Daddy Mark is like a real dad to her. She also loves her half-brother and half-sister, Luke Andrew and Nikki Grace very much. Despite their more 15 years age gap, she is very close to them.
However, home was still the Philippines, for some reason she can’t explain, the pull of the old country was very strong despite her very nice life in the US. She spent most of her summer vacations and school breaks in Mindoro, with Mamang and her cousins, Cristina Rose and Simon, children of her Tito Jose and Tita Pilar. When she finished high school, she persuaded her parents to let her study in a university in the Philippines. She promised them she will return to the States as soon as she finish her course. Maya was happy in the Philippines and living alone was not really a difficulty since she has an independent streak even when she was very young.
Now, she is back, in New York, two months after her graduation, sort of, in a limbo. She tried to enjoy the time in between working or studying again, spending time with her family. But after two weeks, she was feeling house crazy. She told her mother about it. Her dad heard their conversation, understood her restlessness, and suggested asking his friend, Jeffrey, if there is a job opening in the hotel where he was working as a manager. There was, he said after two days, but not in reception but as part of the cleaning staff. Maya told her stepdad that it was okay with her. She applied and got the job.
Maya likes the routine of the job. Besides, she was no stranger to housework as Mamang and her mom taught her to clean after herself and help out in the house. She didn’t grow up as a pampered princess, despite the fact that her stepdad is well-off, and her Mamang is also comfortably off, with all her lands and businesses in San Nicolas. This job suits her fine for now. Her supervisor was nice enough and the hours are okay. She also made fast friends with her colleagues, especially Emman, another Filipino working in the hotel. He is gay and fun to be with. He ended up sharing Maya’s small apartment. She was happy to have Emman as a roommate and it made her parents feel so much better too. Kampante na sila since may kasama na siya sa bahay.
Maya rang the bell of room 1115, checking if the person staying there was inside. This is the second to the last room on this floor. It has the best view and quite spacious. It could pass for a small apartment. In fact, it is much bigger than the current place she is sharing with Emman. She was told by her colleague who was previously assigned to this section that the guest staying there is a very handsome Asian, probably Chinese, very nice and he has been staying in the hotel for quite sometime already. It seemed like Doris, her colleague already had a crush on him, the way she waxed poetic about this guy. Maya just shrugged it off. At that moment, getting attracted, crushing on someone or falling in love was the farthest thing from Maya’s mind. She listed down the goals she needed to accomplish before she is 30 and falling in love and settling down were somewhere in the bottom.
Maya rang the bell again and when no one replied, she opened the door with her card key. She was surprised to see someone on the bed, with the comforter moving a bit. She was about to apologize for disturbing whoever was there when she heard a moan, as if the one who uttered it was in pain. Maya threw away her reservation and approached the bed. It looked like the occupant of the room, a guy, was in need of help.
“H-h-hello, sorry for disturbing you. I thought the room was empty. Are you okay, Sir?” Maya tentatively asked the lone occupant of the bed, his face to the side where she was, but buried under the thick comforter up to his chin. He was shaking.
“C-c-c-old.” was all he said. By now she has a pretty good idea that the guy in the bed was sick. She slowly approached the guy, asked him if she can touch his forehead to check if he is running a temperature as she can’t find a thermometer nearby. He just nodded. She almost recoiled from the heat her hand came into contact with. He was running a very high fever!
“Oh my God, you are running a very high temperature! You need to go to the hospital!” Maya told the guy in the bed.
“No, no, no doctor please or hospital.” The chinito guy stressed. She saw him focusing with much effort on her face and then he appealed to her in English. “Please, could you just get me some medicine. It is on the table. I think I just have flu. I’m very thirsty too, but I feel boneless at the moment. I don’t think I cant stand.”
Maya looked at the direction he pointed out, and saw some tablets on the table. She grabbed a paracetamol among the pile, and gave it to the guy who tried to recline, sort of, against the head board of the bed, still covered up to his chin, wearing his glasses now. She also gave him a glass of water.
“Thank you very much.” He told her simply. He took the medicine from her, swallowed it, followed it up with a big gulp of water. He didn’t stop drinking until the glass was empty. He did look very thirsty.
“You’re welcome. Are you sure, you don’t want to go the hospital? Or at least let me inform the front desk that you are sick so they can get a doctor for you.” Maya suggested to the chinito guy.
“No, please, I will really be okay. I just got a bad case of flu. It happened before. Thank you for you help Ms….” The chinito guy asked Maya.
“Oh, I’m Maya Dela Rosa, Sir.” Maya said, really looking at the guy and noticing how handsome he is. Her colleague was right! He looked like to be in his late 20s, several years older than her.
“Dela Rosa? Maya? Filipino-American?” The guy asked again. croaking a bit.
“Errr, yes Sir.” Maya replied simply, still not sure where this is leading.
“I’m Richard Lim, Ms. Dela Rosa. I’m a Filipino too, Filipino of Chinese ancestry.” He managed to say weakly before he winced in pain again.
“Mr. Lim, I think you should rest, and not talk anymore. If you want, I will just come back to clean your room. I can also get you a bowl of soup. It would do you good, I think.” Maya suggested.
“Oh no, no.” Richard said. “You can clean the room. It is okay. I don’t mind. Besides, I like the company. I have been cooped up in this room since yesterday afternoon.”
“You have been sick since yesterday? You should have called the front desk, Sir.” Maya was surprised to know.
“I’m okay. This happened to me before.” Richard said. “And please call me Ricky. May I call you Maya, too?”
Maya nodded, then really looked at him. She saw a wan smile on his still very handsome face, despite being sick. She was instantly drawn to this guy. Magaan ang pakiramdam niya. Her heart also beat faster by just looking at him, which she found strange. She smiled at him. “Oh, okay, Ricky. I will go ahead then and clean your room. I will do it as quietly as I could.”
Maya went on with her task with a graceful efficiency and cheerfulness that Richard like. He was also instantly got drawn to this beautiful girl. Yes, he noticed that even in his sick state. She also seems very nice, kind and caring. But before his thoughts could go farther, he felt a sudden tiredness. He laid down again and close his eyes. Before his head fully hit the pillow, he was asleep again.
Maya finished cleaning the bathroom, then she moved quietly around the room, so as not to wake up Richard, and tidied up. There was not much to tidy up anyway, as the room was relatively in order. She guessed that Richard is a very organized person when he is not sick. When she was done, she tiptoed out of the room, closed the door without a sound and proceeded to the last room she needed to clean before heading home.
However, Maya can’t help but felt worried about Richard’s condition. It looked like he has not eaten since he got sick, judging by what he said earlier. Then, suddenly, she thought of a way of help him out before she leaves for the day. She called up Emman, who was already off duty and was just waiting for her, and requested him to buy a big bowl of ramen from their favorite place one block away from the hotel. Since she knows Emman and all his questions, especially with something out of her usual norm, she also told him beforehand not to ask any question, and that she will explain everything when they get home. Emman arrived with a big bowl of very hot ramen when Maya was about finished with the last room.
“Sis, here. Hindi na talaga ako magtatanong kahit curious na curious na curious na ako kung bakit ka nagpabili nito samantalang pauwi na tayo at saka we just ate. Tapos pinadala mo pa rito. Pag-uwi na lang natin ang million dollar questions ko.” Emman said with a raised eyebrow. “I will wait for you downstairs na lang.”
Maya thanked Emman and then entered Richard’s room again, wanting to quietly place the bowl on the side table so he has at least something to eat when he wakes up kahit medyo malamig na. Richard’s eyes were still close, so he seemed to be in deep sleep pa. But suddenly, he opened his eyes after she put the bowl on the table.
“Maya?” Richard said as he tried to focus on her, and sat up.
“Errr, yes. I thought you might want something to eat. Baka kasi kahapon ka pa hindi kumakain. Pinabili ko ito. This is good. My mom always give me a hot bowl of noodles or lugaw or basta any hot soup when I’m sick.” Maya told Richard hurriedly. She never intended for him to see her leaving the ramen.
“I hope this is okay.” She finished, trailing off.
Richard looked at Maya, touched at her gesture for a stranger, and her caring. He gave her a lopsided smile. He actually felt better after taking the medicine and his nap.
“Thank you very much, Maya, for your kindness. You don’t have to, but I’m very grateful. Your guess was correct, I haven’t eaten since yesterday. I didn’t have appetite din kasi. But now with that mouthwatering smell, I think I can eat something na.
Maya felt a bit self-conscious with Richard’s smile and stare. She can feel the effect of his charm, which he was unconsciously showing her. My God, may sakit pa siya ng lagay na ito, she mused.
“No worries, Ricky, lalo na para sa isang kababayan.” She simply said, thinking that it was very sad din naman to get sick in a foreign land and in a hotel pa, malayo sa mga kamag-anak. “Paano I will go ahead, a friend is waiting for me downstairs. Tapos na rin ang shift ko.”
“Oh okay. Thank you ulit. By the way, how much do I owe you for the food?” Richard belatedly asked.
“Naku, hindi na. Okay na iyan.” Maya stressed, then gave Richard the full wattage of her smile that transformed her already lovely face. “Libre ko na.”
Richard smiled back. “Thank you, Maya. When I get better, it’s my turn.”
“You don’t have to….” Maya insisted.
“Basta, I will.” Richard countered. “And please don’t argue with a sick person, hindi ka mananalo.” He finished with a smile.
They smiled and gazed at each other. When they realized that they have been doing it quiet some time, Maya hastily said goodbye. Richard continued to gaze at her departing figure. He stayed like that even after Maya had closed the door silently. He felt so much better, happier for some reason, he can’t explained at that time. Parang nagka-energy ulit siya. He finished his ramen with a happy smile. Maya, on the other hand, felt like there was spring on her steps when she took the service elevator and ended her shift for the day.