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.
The ground thaws
The rain falls
The grass grows
The seeds root
The flowers bloom
The children play
The stars gleam
The poets dream
The eagles fly
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.
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.