Archive for November 16th, 2014

Only Love – Chapter 9

Note: Errr, double treat! 🙂 Pambawi ko sa inyo! 🙂

Chapter 9


Richard Lim strode through the busy airport, unmindful of the people, especially women, who were taking a second look at the handsome, confident man with eyeglasses, wearing jeans and a polo shirt, in their midst. He looked serious and in deep thought.

Home! Richard mused as he waited for his luggage. It is good to be back. He had been pretty restless lately. He didn’t know if it has something to do with the death of his Papa and being the new CEO of LHI. He does not think so. The truth is, he had been restless and unsetttled for eight years. It felt like a big part of his life stopped after the painful incident that happened eight years ago. Maybe, this is better, he mused. Taking the reins of the company will keep him very busy that he will not have time to think of the unresolved issues from his past. Besides, he will at least see his mother more often, especially now that she can’t seem to get over his father’s death. There were times that he had a hard time understanding his parents’ dynamics. For him, his father was very strict and forceful, and yet his mother loved him so much until the end. His father seemed to be very devoted to his mother too. Such contradictions!

Richard was about to exit the terminal with his luggage when he saw a seemingly familiar figure. His heart skipped a beat. He can’t breath all of a sudden.

“Maya!” He muttered.

The lady turned, as if she had heard him. And with it, came another disappointment. It was not Maya, the one and only woman he loved, still loves, he admitted. When will he stop yearning? Maybe, it is about time he confront the past and his big role in hurting her. Even if she can’t forgive him, isn’t it better than this? He tried to forget, but he was unable to do so. He avoided finding out about her in an effort to forget and let her be, after what he did, after what happened, but there were times when he found it so very difficult to do so. In hindsight, he knew that there were things he could have done, but it was just in hindsight. What had happened, happened and no matter how much he wanted to go back and change it, he can’t anymore. He needs to move on. Maybe, it is time to confront the past and laid it to rest.

“Sir Richard, Sir Richard!” Joma, the Lim family driver, called Richard’s attention several times before he reacted and looked at him.

Joma rushed to Richard and helped him with his luggage. “Welcome back, Sir.”

“Thank you Joma, it is good to be home. It has been a while.” Richard got in the front seat of the car, then looked straight ahead.

If Richard had looked sideways at that moment, he would have found out that after so many years imagining seeing Maya in a crowd, he would have finally found her! At that moment Maya was also coming out of the airport. She just came back from Bangkok, meeting her UNICEF colleagues there.

“Rafael, hola! ?Que tal?” She greeted her longtime friend, Rafael Rodriguez. They met each other when they were both stationed in Geneva, in between assignments. When she was assigned to the Philippines, Rafael soon followed. He is a doctor working for WHO.

“Bien, Maya! And you, how are you? Did you have a nice trip? How’s Lizbeth and the rest of the team in Bangkok?” He asked as he took care of her luggage and guided her to his waiting car.

“It was great. We can sync our projects. I just need to meet with our private sector counterpart here and finalize our project and its implementation.” Maya told Rafa.

What she was not telling him was that, the counterpart she mentioned would bring her to the same world inhabited by the one and only man she loved, especially now that she knew he is coming back to the Philippines for good. For the past months, she had been working closely with the head of LHI Foundation who happened to be Mrs. Esmeralda Lim, Richard’s mom, for a literacy campaign. At first, she didn’t know she is Richard mom, until they got to know each other more and she told her that her only son was in charge of the LHI office in New York. Then she mentioned that her son Richard is still single. It seemed that Mrs. Lim was trying to matchmake between her and her son. Maya, at that time, didn’t know whether she would disclose that she knew Richard. She was saved by one of her colleagues who arrived and the discussion shifted on to another topic. Thankfully, Mrs. Lim has not mentioned Richard since then.

Maya asked Rafa if he would like to come in when they reached her house in a nice subdivision in Quezon City. She knew a house an impractical choice as she is not home much, but she wanted a house of her own. She came to a point that wherein she wanted a permanent base after eight years of living everywhere. She wanted to settle in the Philippines too, and not in the States. Lately, she had been thinking of leaving the UN and establishing a non-governmental organization that would help people living in the countryside, but she haven’t made up her mind.

“Thank you, Maya. Maybe another time. I have to be at the office later for a meeting.” Rafa said. “How about lunch tomorrow?”

“Oh sorry, I can’t. I’m meeting Mrs. Lim in BGC.” Maya said. “Anyway, let’s check if we are free by Friday night, would that be okay? We can go out with Emman and Edselyn.” Like her, Emman returned to the Philippines and is now working for a public relations firm. His cousin Edselyn is currently in Manila at the moment, visiting for two months.

“Hmmm, can we just go out, the two of us, I mean, on a date?” Rafa suggested. He made his intentions known to Maya, but until now, she had not given him any indication that he likes her beyond friendship.

“Rafa, about that, can we just be good friends for now? I’m not still sure if I’m ready for a relationship.” Maya said carefully.

“But Maya, I have known you for five years and all those times, I haven’t seen or known you to be with anyone. I know it is your life, but maybe, it is about time you open your heart again.” Rafa pointed out. He knew he can speak frankly with Maya as they have been friends a long time. “Give me a chance. That is all I’m asking.”

“Rafa, Rafa, please give me time. It is not fair to let you hope when I can’t give my 100 percent to you. Let’s just be friends for now, okay.” Maya pleaded.

“Okay, Maya. I respect your decision. I will get going. Take care of yourself.” He said, resigned to the fact that it seems, he is destined to be just a good friend to Maya.

“Thank you, and thank you for being a wonderful friend.” Maya said, then wave at Rafa as he got into his car.

“Ma’am Maya, welcome back!” Sabel, Maya’s kasambahay shouted from the door.

Maya smiled at Sabel. “Sus, Sabel, parang ang tagal ko namang nawala this time, para ilang araw lang ah!”

“Naku, Ma’am Maya, kapag mag-isa ka lang naiiwan sa bahay gaya ng nangyayari sa akin kapag wala ka, parang taon ang dating sa akin.” Sabel quipped. “Si Sir Rafa po ba ang naghatid sa inyo? Sayang hindi ko man lang nasilayan ang kaguwapuhan niya ngayon.”

“Yes, siya nga.” Maya replied.

“Ma’am, hindi mo pa po ba sasagutin? Aba eh, saan ka pa ba makakakita ng boyfriend-material na kamukha ni Antonio Banderas, saka nung tennis player na paborito niyong panoorin.” Sabel said. She knew she can tease Maya as they had known each other for quite a number of years na. She was one of Maya’s playmates when she visited Mamang in San Nicolas. When Maya moved back to the Philippines, Mamang asked Sabel if she would like to work for Maya. Even if Maya kept on insisting to just call her ‘Maya’, Sabel insisted on using Ma’am!

“Si Rafael Nadal! Ikaw talaga, Sabel! Halika na nga. Anong dinner ba ang inihanda mo?” Maya asked.

“Naku, masarap na masarap na kare-kare po.” Sabel replied.

Maya suddenly stopped walking. Sabel had cooked kare-kare in the past, but this time, hearing the word, the memory of her last day with Richard came rushing back. She flinched a little. Maybe the article she had read about Richard opened the floodgates of the past for her.

“Bakit po, Ma’am Maya? Ayaw niyo po ba? Magluluto na lang ako ng iba.” Sabel looked worriedly at Maya.

“No Sabel, it is okay. May bigla lang akong naalala. Halika na, ipaghain mo na ako. I will just bring my things upstairs.” Maya said.

“I wonder if he here is now.” Maya mused as she plopped down on her bed to catch her breath before she goes back downstairs.

“I wonder where she is at the moment.” Richard mused while he was on his way to his family’s home in Makati from his condo unit in BGC. He just dropped his things and decided to see his mother whom he hasn’t seen since his father’s funeral.

Since he left the Philippines in 2009 for good to head their international operations, a year after the divorce with Alexandra, he was rarely in the country. His trip got more frequent, though, when his father got sickly and he had to take over his responsibilities. He was in the country for the funeral of his father, but returned to New York the day after it, while the board was deciding if he will be the CEO or his Uncle Patrick. Ryan informed him that he was the one the board picked, several minutes after the final voting.

“Ricky, hijo!” Esmeralda Lim greeted her son as soon as she saw him walking towards the front door after parking his car in the driveway. Joma had told her earlier that he dropped off his Sir Richard first at his condo unit. He also informed her, as per Richard’s instruction, that he will have dinner in the family home and stay the night. “I missed you a lot, son.” Donya Esmeralda hugged her son tight.

“I missed you too, Mama! How have you been?” He asked.

“Heto, I get by. I still misses your Papa a lot. Pero tanggap ko nang wala na siya. Life has to go on.” Donya Esmeralda said. “I just keep myself busy, hands on na hands on ako ngayon sa foundation natin. Doon nalilibang ako and fulfilling naman ang work.”

“It is good to know, Ma. Tama iyon.” Richard was glad to know that his mother is moving on. “What’s your latest project?”

“Tungkol sa literacy! Tamang-tama, di ba, you are staying the night. You can come with me to my meeting with the UNICEF Communications Officer here, sandali lang naman iyon, tomorrow. Please, son.” Donya Esmeralda pleaded. “Di ba sa susunod na araw ka pa magre-report sa LHI.”

Richard knew that when his mother take that tone, he better say yes, so he did. Besides, he wanted to indulge his mother, especially now that he only had one parent left. He does misses his father, despite the fact that he could be exacting and that he had a hand on how things turned out differently from what he wanted eight years ago.

“Okay, Ma, I will go with you.” Richard agreed.

“I’m glad son. Come let’s have dinner. Fe cooked your favorite food, kare-kare.” Donya Esmeralda chatted on.

Upon hearing the word, Richard stopped and thought of the last night he had been with Maya. It was the food she cooked for him lovingly, and how he repaid that with what happened afterwards.

“Ricky, hoy Ricky, is something the matter son? Ayaw mo ba ng kare-kare? Di ba, tama ako, favorite mo ito.” Donya Esmeralda had to call Richard several seconds more before he reacted.

“Oh, I’m okay, Ma. May naalala lang ako.” He said simply. “Halika na. I want to see Manang Fe too. Na-miss ko rin siya ng husto.”

Mother and son went to the dining room. Upon seeing her alaga, Manang Fe got teay-eyed and hugged him. “Ricardo, kumusta ka na?”

“Mabuti po Manang. Ikaw talaga, Manang, parang ilang linggo pa lang ulit tayong hindi nagkita ah.” Richard said affectionately.

“Iba naman iyon, anak. Ngayon natutuwa ako na dito ka na ulit sa Pilipinas titira.” She said.

“Me too, Manang. It seemed right po na bumalik na ako dito.” Richard said as he pulled the seat for his mother. “Manang, sabay ka na po sa amin ni Mama.”

“Oo nga naman, Fe. Saluhan mo na kami nitong si Ricky.” Donya Esmeralda added. “Huwag nang magpaka-others.” Fe is like a friend to her, though, when she insists that she eat with her, she refused.

“Sige po, Ma’am. Na-miss ko nga ang mga kwento nitong si Ricardo.” Manang Fe finally agreed and sat across mother and son.

The three had a nice dinner. It was Donya Esmeralda who mostly talked. Manag Fe noticed Richard getting silent at times and looking at the kare-kare intently, as if remembering something. Later on, after dinner, Donya Esmeralda excused herself and said she need to make some phone calls. Richard walked to the veranda.

“Ricardo, kape o.” Manang Fe handed Richard a steaming cup of coffee.

“Thank you po, Manang. The best ka talaga.” Richard said, smiling at his old nanny.

“Naku, wala iyon. May gusto ka bang pag-usapan, anak?” She asked. Manang knew what Richard went through with Alexandra and felt that there was something he didn’t tell anyone, even to her. All the time he was married to Alexandra, she can see that he was just half-alive. Parang walang sigla sa buhay. “Napansin ko kasi na tahimik ka kanina at parang may iniisip. Naisip ko rin naman na baka pagod ka lang sa biyahe.”

“Meron nga po akong iniisip Manang, Pero saka ko na po sasabihin, Manang, kapag naayos ko na ang lahat.” He simply said. “Ikaw po and si Mama ang unang makakaalam, promise.”

“O sige, basta, nandito lang ako kung kailangan mo ng kausap.” The old lady said.

“Maraming salamat po. Magpapahinga na po ako, Manang.” Richard said as he put down his coffee cup.

“Okay, sige, ayos na ang dati mong room. Pinalinis ko ng husto iyon kay Lea kahapon.” Manang said. “Good night.”

It took a while before Richard fall asleep. There were so many thoughts in his head, but it was not about work, it was about Maya.

The following day, mother and son arrived at the restaurant where Donya Esmeralda will meet the UNICEF officer she mentioned the night before.

“Naku, son, mabuti, we are early. Halika doon na lang tayo. Parating na siguro iyon.” Donya Esmeralda sat on the chair facing the door so she can see the coming and goings of people. She was ordering coffee when the door opened, she looked up and smiled.

“Mrs. Lim, good afternoon po. I think I’m a bit late this time.” The woman greeted Donya Esmeralda. “Pasensya na po.”

Upon hearing the voice, that voice, Richard suddenly whipped round to face the woman who greeted his mom. He needed to be very very sure, but he knew he couldn’t be wrong.

“Maya…..!” He said with wonder and with a huge smile on his face.

“R-ricky….!” Maya uttered, realizing who is the man sitting with Mrs. Lim, not being able to say anything anymore.

“You know each other?” Donya asked, very surprised at this turn of event. Yes, she had an ulterior motive when she asked her son to go with her. She wanted him to meet Maya. She really likes this young lady and is hoping that she can matchmake between her and her son. It is about time her son smiles again. She wants him to be happy.

Donya Esmeralda’s question fell on deaf ears as Richard and Maya only had eyes for each other. The years just fell away, and all the bad things that had happened suddenly forgotten, as they both looked at each other with longing and yes, love.

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Only Love – Chapter 8

Chapter 8
‘Without you’

Several days after Alexandra’s visit to his apartment, Richard was still reeling from the effects of the bomb she detonated on him. He was nowhere close to finding a solution to the whole situation. Here he is, walking and walking the streets of New York after taking Maya home, trying to think clearly on what he will do next, thinking of a viable option to the mess he is in.

Richard has not heard from Alexandra since then but she had e-mailed him her schedule at a clinic in two weeks time. Despite all her faults, he never thought that she is capable of doing this, torturing him this way, and terminating the life of her baby, of their baby. He thought she loved him or they at least cared for each other when they were together, but this is downright obliterating whatever good was left of their previous relationship.

Maya, he thought, noticed his preoccupation with something. She asked him several times this evening if something was wrong. But he didn’t have the heart to tell her and mar her happy mood. She was so happy with the way her work at the United Nations is turning out. She had tons of anecdotes about her adventures in the diplomatic world. He didn’t want to ruin their night together. It was the first time they have seen each other since she started working. She just had a lot of things to do and had cancelled on their dinner the evening after she first started working.

Richard understood Maya and the demands of a new profession. They had to settle on chatting on the phone as soon as they both got home each evening. This evening, they had dinner at La Signora again. Before she went inside the apartment, Maya touched his face lovingly, and told him that she is just there to listen if he needs to unburden on whatever was causing him to stare off when he thought she was not looking. She was that intuitive and he almost told her. However, he vowed not to drag her into this situation.

He was going crazy, and he needed someone to talk to. He fished out his phone.

“Hey Richard! What’s up man? Is there a problem at work?” Timothy asked, one after the other when he picked up Richard’s call.

“Hi Tim! No, everything is okay at LHI.” Richard assured his good friend and colleague. “I know it is a bit late, but would you like to go for a drink in the bar we like, the one near Broadway?”

Timothy sensed that Richard was inviting him to something more than a drink. He sensed that Richard was preoccupied about something big the past several days, and no, he does not think it has something to do with the lady who made him happy the past month, Maya. She seemed like a very nice girl. That was his impression when he finally met her one evening at a place where she and Richard were having dinner. Besides, Richard was the happiest guy the past weeks because of her.

“Okay, give me 30 minutes. I will meet you there. I’m just at home, working on a projection for Time Airways.” He said, as he saved what he was working on and logged off his computer.

Tim found Richard at the bar, drinking vodka like it was water.

“Hey buddy, how much of this have you had?” He asked as it looked it was not Richard’s first in the last 30 minutes since he phone.

“Hi,Tim. What would you like?” He asked, evading his question. He was not yet drunk, but he is getting tipsy. “John, my friend, give my buddy Tim here a drink.” He told the bartender.

Tim asked for a beer and he knew then that he better make it last, as it looks like he will need to be sober for Richard and him.

“Have you had something to eat?” Tim asked Richard.

“Yes, I’m fine on that aspect. I had dinner with Maya earlier.” Richard replied as he took another gulp of his vodka.

“How is Maya? You had dinner with her and then here you are drinking. Did you two had a fight or something?” Timothy asked, then said, “And, maybe, slowdown on the vodka, my friend. It will not  do you good.”

“No, we didn’t fight. We are okay. She does not have any idea that because I love her, I think I will hurt her.” He said sadly.

“Ha? What happened?” Timothy asked puzzled, then said gently, “I’m here to listen. You know, you have done it for me in the past and you got me through my bad break-up with Belinda.” Timothy added. He and Richard went a long way back, since they met each other when they started taking that post-graduate course in Harvard.

Richard, despite Timothy’s advice, took another drink, then started unburdening himself as Timothy gave him an encouraging gesture to proceed.

“My ex-fiancee, Alexandra is in Manhattan. She came to the apartment several days ago. She told me she is pregnant and I’m the father. I refused to marry her since she and I have been over months ago, and we are bad news together. I offered to support her and the baby. I even offered to raise the child if she does not want it. She gave me an ultimatum, either I marry her or she will have the baby aborted.

Then there’s Maya. She just started her life, a new job. I don’t want to drag her into this mess. I love her too much to burden her. I haven’t heard from Alexandra since that night, but she emailed me yesterday her schedule at a clinic near her parents’ apartment. See, isn’t enough to drive a man to drink to oblivion?” Richard finished miserably.

Timothy took a deep breath, and took a big drink. Indeed, the situation is a mess.

“Richard, in all this, have you thought of giving Maya a choice, an option? Isn’t it better that she knows the situation, that she decides for herself where she would like to stand in this situation as it also involves her? From what you told me of her, she is a very nice, sensible and understanding girl. Otherwise, you wouldn’t have fallen in love with her, isn’t it?” Timothy said. “Yes, she will be burdened, but isn’t what love is, being each other’s support in good times and especially so, in bad times.”

“I know, I thought of that. I was tempted this evening. But what if I lose her?” Richard asked. “I can’t bear it. Besides, what about the baby? It’s my child we are talking about?”

“Hmmmm, about that. Are you sure, it is yours? Didn’t you tell me that Alexandra partied a lot during the time you were together. Sorry, I just had to ask that.” Timothy said apologetically.

“For some reason, yes, I believe her on this. Though, in the beginning I had doubts. But if she is telling me the correct weeks of the pregnancy, that it is mine. She told me she stopped taking the pills at some point since she wanted to get pregnant with my child.” Richard assured Timothy as he really felt, Alexandra really wanted to hook him in whatever way she could, and she can’t do that if she just manufactured something.

“Or maybe, the question is, is she really pregnant?” Timothy asked next.

“She seems fuller when I saw her, and there is a slight bump in her stomach. Besides, I don’t think she will go to this length if she is not. She knew already that I really wanted to be as far away from her as much as I could.” Richard said. “I would like to try to reason out with her as much as I could and until my voice gets hoarse, or until she sees reason.”

“That’s the attitude! You’ll never know. Maybe she will see the light. In the meantime, you should think really hard about talking to Maya. Besides, isn’t it better that she learns this from you and not from someone else?” Timothy finished as he patted Richard on the shoulder.

“You are right. I will. I just needed to find the right time to do so. As it is, she has a lot on her plate at the moment. There is a strong possibility that she will be sent somewhere, in a remote part of Asia soon. She speaks a lot of languages among others and they needed her in Kabul.” Richard added. “Thank you for listening Tim. Let’s hope for the best.”

“Richard, anytime! We are friends.” Timothy then stood up. “Come, I will take you home.”

The two friends went home, Richard feeling optimistic again.

That same evening, Maya can’t sleep. She really felt that there is something Richard was not telling her. She had this unsettling feeling that something is about to unfold and it may not be good. She decided to see how Richard is the following evening, cook him dinner and cheer him up. She went to bed, happy with her plan.

The following night, the wonderful smell of food assaulted Richard’s senses when he entered his apartment.

“Ricky, you are home!” Maya greeted from the kitchen. “Dinner is almost ready! I hope you like kare-kare.” She said with a smile.

“Maya, what a nice surprise! So, that is why you were asking me what time I will be home.” Richard said, grinning, so happy to see Maya. He temporarily forgot all his troubles, by her mere presence. “I love kare-kare, one my favorite food! And you can cook that?

“Of course naman. Mamang thought me kaya!” Maya pretended to be affronted, but her smile ruined the whole thing. “Saka mabuti, I found the ingredients, except I am using regular meat and mabuti Emman bought a bagoong in a bottle from the Filipino store near his cousin’s place in Philly over the weekend.”

“Thank you, Maya. For this, and for just being here!” Richard said happily. “Mabuti, you were able to get away from work early.”

“Oh that. Antoine, my French superior, said I can go home early to share the news with my loved ones.” Maya replied. She had hoped to be sharing that news with Richard after dinner. “Mamaya ko na lang sasabihin. Kain na muna tayo.”

Richard suddenly felt nervous. He knew what was coming. On top of everything, the thing he had been dreading in a way, was about to happen. But he knew, all he can do is support Maya and let her fly and spread her wings. He wanted to see her soar beautifully.

Maya put the finishing touches on the table setting. Richard grabbed a bottle of wine from the fridge. He seated Maya and then sat on the chair on her left.

“Wow, this tastes good.” Richard remarked after tasting Maya’s kare-kare.

“I told you. You have no faith, Mr. Richard Lim, eh!” Maya quipped.

They smiled at each other and attacked the food with gusto. In between, they have shared how their day had been. After dinner, in synched, they clean the table and out away the dishes.

“So, what was it you wanted to tell me?” Richard asked, later, when they were sitting by the big window, sipping coffee.

Maya put down her cup, then put her hand on top of Ricky’s. “My love, I’m leaving for Kabul next week. They really need someone to relieve the one currently stationed in our office there. It was supposed to be for January, but she needed to endorse things to me and the senior staffer who will replace her. I will be along as the staffer’s assistant since I am still new.”

“Oh! I never thought that it would be this fast. But of course, I understand. You take good care of yourself there, and I will call you everyday as soon as you get settled.” Richard said, trying to overcome the extreme sadness he was feeling. He went to Maya’s side, held her gently by the shoulder and gestured for her to stand. Then, he cupped her chin.

“Maya, I’m happy the way your career is starting to take off. Please always remember that no matter what happen, I will always love you, only you.” Richard said while looking at Maya with all the love he was feeling. He then lowered his lips to her and gave her a searing kiss, pouring all he was feeling in that kiss. He decided to come clean to Maya this evening, but first he needed to fortify himself.

Maya responded to Richard’s kiss. At the same time, at the back of her mind, she was wondering what brought this on. She felt nervous all of a sudden. She was trying to fight the thought that there is something more to Richard’s impassioned statement than her impending assignment.

“Ricky, my love. There is only you. I love you very much. I hope we will be together forever.” Maya said fervently. She decided to let go of her nagging thoughts, and gave all to the kiss, or kisses she and Richard are sharing now.

“Madam, please, go back the lobby….”

Richard and Maya broke apart when they heard loud voices outside the apartment’s door. They looked at each other puzzled. A loud bang on the door followed. Richard decided to check, Maya followed him to the door, wanting to know also what was the commotion all about.

Richard opened the door and got the surprise of his life. “Alex, what are you doing here?”

“Mr. Lim, I’m very sorry. She just ran past by me while I was attending to the guests of Mr. Masters. I told her to wait, as I was going to give you a call first. I ran after her, but here we are.” Franklin said very apologetic.

“It’s not your fault Franklin. Please go back downstairs. I will take it from here.” Richard replied. “Alex, again why are you here? Didn’t I say in the e-mail to give me time!”

“Well, I can’t afford that anymore, Richard. My parents know I’m pregnant and that you are the father!” She said without preamble, and someone gasped loudly in the background.

“Oh God, Maya….” Richard blurted out, then went to a shocked Maya. She looked like she lost all the colors on her face. “My love, I will tell you about this, this evening. I was about to but….

“‘My love’, so I am right Richard Lim, there is another girl.” Alex said angrily, then looked at Maya insultingly. “Heto lang ba ang ipinalit mo sa akin.”

Richard flared up at that. “Enough, Alex, please! You don’t have to say that to my girlfriend. She much more than you are. She is the love of my life. Maya, let me explain please. Alexandra here was my ex-fiancee. I will tell you about the whole thing this evening. Honest, I was!”

But it seems, Alex hadn’t had enough, even if she can see the tears Maya was trying very hard to stop from falling. “I never agreed to the break-up, and we are having a baby. You know what will happen if you don’t marry me, especially now that my ‘holier than thou’, conservative parents know already.”

“That’s not true Alex. We broke up months ago. And I told you I will support you and the baby but not marry you. You know….” Richard countered, when he felt a hand on his arm.  He saw Maya with tears she was trying to hold  back, putting a brave face.

“Ricky, I will go ahead.” She said, gently, steadfastly, putting a brave front. She felt her heart would burst from all the emotions she was feeling at that moment, she can’t think straight. “I will let myself out. Here, take this. I don’t think I will be needing this.” She pressed the key he gave her in his hand, then looked at him gently, sadly, lovingly, “Take care.”

“Maya, don’t do this please.” Richard ran after a departing Maya. “I will explain. Please give me that chance. Please.”

Maya looked at Richard distressed face. So, this is what was bothering him last night. She may not know the whole thing, but she knew it was a difficult situation he was in. But at that moment, she didn’t  really know what to think. She needed to process the whole thing. But despite this, she believes in Richard and what they had the past month or so. She nodded. She just can’t speak at that moment.

“Thank you, Maya. Believe in our love. I love you.” Richard said earnestly. “Take care. I will see you when I manage to make sense of everything myself.”

Maya left Richard’s apartment with a heavy heart. Richard on the other hand, had no other recourse but to let her. He needed to pacify Alexandra and deal with her, her parents and soon, he knows, his Papa as well. He does not want Maya to get hurt as she already is.

Several days after that incident, Maya jumped every time her phone beeped or rang. But none came from Richard. She was getting worried, but she was holding on to what he said. When she managed to process everything, she realized that Richard was caught into something that maybe, was not really of his own making. She believed him when he said he and Alexandra had been over months ago. She can’t explain it, but she just do. She wanted to give him time to sort everything out.

However, the trust in him was slowly being eroded by his silence as the days passed. It was the night before she was supposed to start her long journey to Afghanistan, but still no communication from him. Even her mom, whom she saw several times the past days was asking if she has a problem and had asked after Richard. She told her she was okay, and that they were okay. She didn’t want her mother to worry.

The morning of her departure, she woke up early, still no messages, e-mails or calls. Still she hoped, but waited for nothing. Before she left for the airport, tears blurring her vision of the keyboard, she wrote him an e-mail, saying goodbye. She sent it then closed her laptop.

The journey to Kabul took twice as long in her mind, with the sadness she was feeling. She numbed herself, not wanting to think or feel. She just thought of the work she need to do, including learning Pashto and Dari, the official languages of Afghanistan. She does not have time to ‘mourn’ the death of her relationship with Richard.

Soon after her arrival, what she saw was a shock to her senses at first, but she was not in Kabul to sightsee, but to work and help improve the lives of the people there caught in the political upheavals in Afghanistan. At first she refused to open her personal e-mail, for fear of not seeing a reply from Richard. However, when she did, she felt like laughing and crying at the same time as her e-mail bounced! She must have copied the address wrong as she was crying at that time. But still, there was no mail from Richard. She gave him her e-mail address too. She remembered writing it at the back of his business card when they dined at La Signora the first time.

The holiday season came and went and she was just contented to Skype with her family. Her mom, as if sensing that something had happened between her and Richard, did not ask about him. It was the loneliest holiday season she had spent, in a foreign land, away from her family and suffering from a broken heart.

If December was bleak, January was the pits. The emotion she was trying to bottle up, no matter how difficult, burst. The catalyst was a small article in the online edition of a Philippine newspaper. She clicked on it and wished she hadn’t. It was an article detailing the marriage of Richard Lim, heir to the vast Lim family fortune, and the socialite, Alexandra Coronel in New York. It also happened while she was feeling nostalgic and was listening to her ‘Rent’ album, the first show in Broadway she had seen with Richard. The album was a gift from him. She was missing him so much. Good thing it was in the middle of the night and she was alone. She just broke down and cried. The song playing in her iPod at that time was apt, very apt.

Without you

The ground thaws

The rain falls

The grass grows

Without you

The seeds root

The flowers bloom

The children play

The stars gleam

The poets dream

The eagles fly

Without you

The earth turns

The sun burns

But I die without you

Maya knew that she needed to pick up the pieces of her broken heart, alone, no matter how difficult. One thing she also knew at that time, the song was right, she felt she had died a little.

Without you

The eyes gaze

The legs walks

The lungs breathe

The mind churns

The heart yearns

The tears dry without you

Life goes on but I’m gone

‘Cause I die without you…..

She shut down her iPod when she realized the album was still playing on and on. That was the last time she listened to her ‘Rent’ album. Sleep came after an hour or so, fitful as it was, and she woke up with very puffy eyes. She looked out, the sun shining bright. She took a deep breath and forged on, as the song also said, life goes on. She will be strong and rise above this heartache, one day at a time.


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