Archive for January, 2015

Windblown – Chapter 7

Beautiful Sunday

Since she got home late the night before, Maya woke up a bit later than usual the following morning. She looked at the clock and saw that it was already 10 o’clock in the morning. She certainly slept a long time! Then, while she was trying to shake up of remnants of sleep from her system, she remembered her wonderful time with Richard the night before. She grinned. Welcome to another beautiful morning in the Philippines, Maya Dela Rosa, she told herself! She never thought, when she packed her bags and left Macau for good that this would be what awaits her, another ‘chance’ with Richard! She is very happy.

Maya took a quick shower, several minutes after, then dressed in her most comfortable pair of jeans, t-shirt, flip-flops and then she was off to the nearby shopping district. She wanted to hit the shops early to avoid the crowd later on as it was the weekend before Christmas. She just needed some things for her place and something to bring to her dinner with the Franciscos in the evening. Maybe, if there are not so many people, she can also check other shops. She needs to furnish her place and she had been putting off buying the big ticket items for it until after the holidays. But she could check what she could get.

But before she does all of that, she needed her caffeine fix, and breakfast too! Her tummy is grumbling already. Maya entered the cafe she usually frequents when she is in this area, and was about to order when someone called her name.

“Maya!” Richard called from one of the tables, a big smile on his face. He looks to happy to see her. And to her, he looks so handsome in his faded jeans, t-shirt and sneakers. He looks boyish and so appealing.

“Ricky!” Maya said, with an answering big smile too. The morning just got brighter, she thought. Tama nga siya na another beautiful morning ang araw na ito sa Pilipinas!

Richard was thinking the same. Matapos ang unforgettable evening niya with Maya, heto, a beautiful morning naman ang kasunod. He can’t believe his luck when he saw Maya entering the cafe.

“Good to you see here, Maya! Please join me. What would you like to have? I will just get it for your. I insist, please.” Richard said.

“Oh! O sige na nga. Pero next time, ako naman ha. I would just like the big caffe americano and a tuna and cheese sandwich.” Maya said after looking at the cafe’s menu board. “Thank you very much, Ricky.”

“Okay, your food coming right up. Wait for me na lang at my old table. Naiwan ko pala doon ang laptop ko.” Richard said.

Maya went to the table where she saw Richard earlier. On it, she saw the same type of coffee she ordered and a half-eaten club sandwich. Richard was apparently combining breakfast and work.

“Here you go, Maya.” Richard put Maya’s food in front of her after several minutes, then he sat across her.

“Thank you again, Ricky. What a coincidence naman that I saw you here!” Maya remarked as she put three sachets of brown sugar into her coffee. “Medyo tinanghali na nga ako ng labas ng place ko today.”

“Well, considering the late night we had, ako rin late na nagising this morning. Wala namang pasok so, it was okay. I hope you slept well.” Richard said, gazing at her intently. She was the one he was thinking about before he finally succumbed to sleep. “I’m glad to have ran into you here. Parati ka ba dito?”

“Yes, halos every morning simula nang lumipat ako sa unit ko. I like their coffee and there is a pasta here that I like as well.” Maya replied. “Too much effort to brew coffee at home kung ako lang naman. Saka, I don’t know, parang mas masarap ang coffee sa cafe kaysa sa gawa ko.” She added smiling.

“I agree. I gave up brewing coffee at home too. Marami namang masasarap na coffee ngayon sa mga cafe na in recent years, nagsulputan. Kaya hayun kung coffee machine ko hindi na nagagamit.” Richard said, then asked,  “What are your plans for the rest of the day? Di ba mamaya ang dinner mo sa family mo? Saan pala nakatira ang aunt and uncle mo?”

“Yes. They live in Dasmarinas Village.” Maya took a sip of her coffee and enjoyed the initial rush of caffeine into her system. “I’m just buying some stuffs for the house diyan sa shop selling all kinds of containers and organizers, then go to the bookshop I think, tapos will buy chocolates lang for my aunt. Ikaw?”

“Hmmm, I’m free din today.” Richard remarked and when he saw Maya looking at the papers on the table and his laptop. “Oh, I just brought this since I’m passing the time.” He explained. “Pero, mamaya I will have dinner too at my parents’s house.”

“Oh, it was last Sunday nga pala when we saw each other again, and you were with your mother! Magdi-dinner ka rin sa kanila that day?” Maya asked.

“Oo. Kapag libre ako, I usually go to their house in Quezon City.” Richard said, then smiling, he narrated, “That was one of my best Sundays, seeing you again. Of course, today is another best Sunday! My mother got very surprised when I thanked her for dragging me to S & R! Considering that I tried talking her out of going there dahil baka nga maraming tao. Mabuti she is stubborn, lalo na kapag na-fixate siya sa isang bagay or task na kailangan niyang ma-accomplish, like the stuffs she wanted to buy there!.”

“Really, your Mom is like that!” Maya smiled at that, then somehow imagining Richard’s mother’s expression when he thanked her. It seems too, that Richard is not yet done with all his revelations. Maya felt very happy at that moment.

“Yes, she is. Pero sanay na kami ni Papa sa kanya. My Mama is a very lovely person, and very jolly.” Richard said, his love for his mother obvious in his tone of voice.

Richard and Maya ate and chatted as they enjoyed their brunch. Richard, upon Maya’s proddding, talked about his parents and Richard also asked how’s Mamang as a parent.  Maya forgot that she was supposed to be hitting the shops early as she enjoyed Richard’s company. They shared anecdotes about their families. And just like last night, they got into talking about all kinds of stuffs too.

“Maya, would be it be okay if I go around with you? Sasamahan na kita sa shops. Unless you prefer to be alone, of course.” Richard asked after a while, gazing at Maya with a hopeful expression. “You know, I could be your taga-bitbit.” He added with a grin. He does not want yet to part with Maya. In fact, he wanted to spend the rest of the day with her.

Maya looked at Richard, her heart beating fast again. Hayan na-exercise na naman ang puso. Grabe na ang mamang ito, sobra na akong pakiligin, she mused.

“Sure, Ricky! I would be happy to. Kung sure ka na wala ka namang gagawin at kung okay lang na umikot-ikot. I know guys don’t like doing that.” Maya said smiling. “Pero promise, kaunti lang ang bibilhin ko.”

“Well, I’m not most guys!” Richard said, teasing! “I like your company, Maya. I’m sure being with you as you flit from shop to shop will not be a chore.”

“Thanks a lot, Ricky.” Maya is now definitely feeling warm and giddy again. Imagine, the rest of the morning and the rest of the afternoon with Richard! Kahit makpagsiksikan pa sila sa mga tao, okay lang. Kayang-kaya. “Shall we get going?”

They left the cafe and then walk to the first shop on Maya’s list. She bought soap dispensers and organizers for her stuffs. Along the way, they also entered a house furnishing shop that has interesting displays. They looked like a couple out on a shopping trip for a new home. Richard was very solicitous of Maya. He held Maya’s elbow at times to assist her and so that she does not get jostled by people passing by, in a hurry too. However, later on he took complete hold of her hand when, in the volume of people hurrying from all directions almost separated them. Maya liked the feeling of their hands together.

In the book shop, Richard and Maya browsed through the shelves happily. After 30 minutes, Maya had five books in her hand, aside from several children’s books, as well as cute notebooks, and other stuffs. Richard on the other hand, was holding two hardbound books. They paid for their purchases and since Maya needed to get ready for her dinner with her family soon, they went to the chocolate shop that was last on her list for the day.

Maya bought a box of sugar-free chocolate for her Tita Lulu, regular ones for the rest of the family. Richard, when they came out, was also holding several bags from the shop.

“Maya, how are you going to your aunt and uncle’s house with all the stuffs you bought?” Richard asked when they were in his car going back to her place. Maya told him earlier that she found some books for Cho too. She can’t just resist buying them.

“I’m going to take a taxi. Hindi kasi ako madadaanan nina Ate Cris dahil by now, nandoon na sila. Then si Kuya Jeff naman may kausap pa this afternoon bago ang dinner.” Maya said. “I’m planning to get a car naman, pero hindi pa ako maka-decide kung ano. Saka inuna ko na munang ayusin ang house. Kuya Jeff promised to go with me rin pero busy pa siya.”

“Hmmm, I think it will be a tall order in this area, lalo na ngayong last weekend na ng mga tao to shop for their Christmas needs.” Richard said. “I can take you there before I go to Quezon City.” He offered.

“Ricky, sobra-sobra na naman yata akong spoiled sa iyo today. I’m taking up too much of your time na. Heto, sinamahan mo na nga akong mag-shop, pina-brunch and coffee pa.” Maya protested.

“No, Maya, you are not taking up my time. In fact, I’m making up for lost time, seven years to be exact!” Richard said meaningfully. “Let me just do this please.”

“Ricky, what do you mean?” “Maya asked as he remember him saying something along that line before.

“Well, like I have mentioned before, us getting to know each other is long overdue. Seven years in the making nga eh, if you come to think of it.” Richard said, then taking a deep breath, continued, “Maya, I was drawn to you from the moment I saw you. Di ba sabi ko naman sa kagabi, I wondered about you and I can’t explain why. The thing is from the moment you entered that stage I was drawn to you. Hindi ko maipaliwanag, pero my heart was beating faster than usual that night.”

“Really, Ricky!!!!” Maya said, very surprised at another revelation, and before she could stopped herself as she was very happy by this revelation, she blurted out, “Ako rin, ganyan ang pakiramdam ko ng makita kita.” Then she realized at what she has revealed, and blushed profusely.

Richard gazed at Maya intently, happy with what he just heard. He gave her a big lopsided smile. “I’m so glad, Maya. Thank you. Hindi pala ako nag-iisa.”  Then added, “You know the only reason why I attended that after pageant party was because I want to find out what drew me to you.”

“Ricky…..!” Maya blurted out, very surprised again and at the same time, her heart was beating double time.

“Yes, Maya! So we can we make up for seven lost years together?” Richard asked, gazing at Maya meaningfully.

Maya felt like she can’t breath, and only managed to say “yes” very softly.

They gazed at each other for several minutes, until a very loud honk broke their silent but momentous connection. It felt like their ‘getting-to-know-each-other’ has shifted to a new phase with that admissions on both their parts.

Maya realized then they were in front of her building and they were blocking the driveway.

“Oh….” Maya exclaimed.

“Oh….” Richard said too as he realized that he just automatically stopped the car in front of the building and got so lost in the feeling Maya was evoking in him. ‘Wait, Maya, I will just park at the guest parking and accompany you to your unit.”

“Ricky, better siguro itabi mo na lang doon sa may side, then I will get my stuffs na lang. I can manage. Di ba uuwi ka pa muna and babalik for me!” Maya suggested, still recovering from that revelation.

“No, I will accompany you upstairs. Marami kang bitbit.” Richard insisted.

Before they entered the building, Richard got something from the big bag from the chocolate shop. “Maya, for you.” He handed Maya a beautiful arrangement of chocolates.

“Oh, ito iyong gusto ko sa shop kanina and thought of buying the next time I’m there! Thank you very much, Ricky.” Maya said, appreciating Richard’s thoughtfulness.

“You’re welcome. I saw you looked at it, twice pero iniwan mo rin. I just thought of getting it for you.” He said, smiling.

Several minutes later, they were in front of Maya’s unit, looking at each other. What they admitted in the car was very much in the air.

“Pasok ka muna and have something to drink.” Maya asked.

“Thanks Maya, next time na lang. You will get ready pa for your dinner di ba. Baka makapos ka sa time. What time should I return to pick you up?” Richard asked.

“Hmmmm, how about 6PM. Malapit lang naman dito. Pero ikaw, hindi ka pa ba hihintayin ng parents mo. Sa Quezon City pa iyon.”

“It’s okay. I will call Mama and tell them that I will be there a little past 7PM. I think kaya naman. Don’t worry about me. Loose naman ang arrangement namin ng parents ko every weekend. I’ll see you in an hour.” Then Richard did something Maya was not expecting. He kissed her on the cheek. “Bye for now.” He said sofly, the gave her a heart melting smile, and off he went back to the elevator.

Maya was not sure how she managed to open her door. Inside, she walked like she was in a trance and just dropped her parcels. They hit the floor with a soft thud. Good thing there was nothing breakable in those. She touched her cheek, felt very warm, then she grinned.

Richard was also grinning foolishly as he took the elevator down. He was not really planning on giving Maya a kiss on the cheek. But he just felt so compelled to, especially after her admission that she was drawn to him from the beginning too. His throat constricted and he felt a shortness of breath as his heart beat double time when he heard those words.

Both Maya and Richard are looking forward  to seeing each other again in an hour or so even if they will have to go on their separate ways for the evening. Still, they will be together again. Making up for seven lost years, indeed!

 

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Crushing On You – Chapter 17

Loves That Last A Lifetime

The beautiful bride, wearing a knee-length vintage ecru lace dress, holding a bouquet of red roses, walked down the aisle accompanied by her two beautiful daughters, and her cute and bubbly grandchild. The handsome groom waited by the altar, gazing lovingly at his bride. His son-in-law and soon to be son-in-law waited with him, huge smiles on their faces, looking at the beautiful ladies whom they love very much, walking beside the bride.

Teresita Dela Paz-Dela Rosa felt like she was transported back in time at that moment. It was in this very church that she had married her childhood friend and sweetheart, Arturo, 35 years ago. She didn’t know how she managed to get through that ceremony as she felt like she was floating from sheer happiness, thinking that finally, she and her beloved will be joined by God. The faces of their families and friends then were like a blur to her. Looking at the people inside the church now, she was happy to see that most of the people who shared their special journey were here with them again on this special occasion in hers and her husband’s married life.

In that instance, Arturo Dela Rosa was also thinking of the time he was nervously waiting for his beautiful bride where is standing now, more than three decades ago, a wonderful lifetime ago. There was that feeling of anticipation, that finally she would be his, and they will be together finally to start their journey as husband and wife.

Now, their marriage as strong as when they started it, they are renewing their vows in the presence of their two wonderful and beautiful daughters, grandchild and the additions to their family, the wonderful and good men that their daughters chose to be with, and their families and friends who have been with them most of their married life, through thick and thin, sadness and happiness.

Teresita, Maya, Cristina Rose and Cho reached Arturo, Richard and Jeff several minutes after the wedding march started and they walked through the length of the San Nicolas Church bedecked with all kinds of roses. Maya and Cristina Rose entrusted their Mom to their Dad, who took hold of her hand to lead her to the waiting priest, Father Ronaldo.

It was also the sisters and the men in their lives cues to find their seats to witness this momentous occasion in their parents’ lives. Jeff assisted Cristina Rose and Cho to their seats. While Richard gazing at Maya lovingly, intertwined their hands while they were walking to their designated seats, beside Roberto and Esmeralda Lim who were also invited to the renewal of vows of the Dela Rosas, when they found out that they would like to go with Richard and Maya to Mindoro to meet them for a pamamanhikan.

Richard smiled, seeing his parents holding hands too when they approached them. Probably his Mama and Papa were also remembering their renewal of vows years ago. His father looked at his mother with so much love, which he finds amazing after all these years, and the challenges they faced together. His mother was the same, very much in love with his father despite all her loving complaint that sometimes he forgets the important dates in their lives. Richard guess a love that lasts a lifetime is like that. You love the whole person and that marriage is a two-way street which also involves compromises, adjustments and meeting each other halfway among other aspects. He would like something like that with Maya. He knows that is what he would have with Maya. Soon!

Maya was teary-eyed as she looked at her parents in front of the altar. She hopes she and Richard will be able to do that also during their lifetime, celebrate not only their 25th, 35th, 40th wedding anniversary, but their golden one as well. She looked down at their intertwined hands and felt so very happy. Soon it will be hers and Richard’s turn to be bound by God in marriage.

Richard lifted his and Maya’s intertwined hands and kissed her hand lovingly, then gazed at her with all the love he is feeling. “I love you, Sweetheart.” Richard whispered. “Soon it will be us there.”

“I love you too, Sweetheart.” Maya whispered back. “I’m counting the days.”

They gaze lovingly at each other, and continued to hold hands while they witnessed the renewal of vows of Maya’s parents.

Richard and Maya have already decided that they too, will get married at this very beautiful and very old church in San Nicolas.

The Lims, Maya and Manang Fe arrived at the Dela Rosa Farm in San Nicolas, Mindoro two days before the wedding anniversary celebration of Maya’s parents. Mommy Tere put the Lims in the beautiful guest cottage beside the main house. That very same evening they arrived, the Dela Rosas hosted a dinner for the Lims.

While having dinner both families talked about Richard and Maya’s upcoming wedding. It was then that Maya and Richard told their parents that they would like a small, private wedding with only family and friends, and that they want it to be held in the church in San Nicolas. Manang Fe will be one of the principal sponsors, a gesture that touched the heart and made Maya’s old nanny cried in happiness.

Mommy Tere and Daddy Arturo were very happy with their decision to get married in San Nicolas. Donya Esme and Don Roberto also assured the couple that they are okay with their decision to have a private wedding and in Mindoro.

Don Roberto offered to take care of the logistics. He said the company plane can be used to fly all the guests who are coming from Manila.  On the other hand, Maya’s dad said, he will take care of the accommodations for the Manila guests as one his friends own the newly-built hotel in the area. All the guests can be accommodated by his friend’s hotel, he assured. He then offered the use of the guest cottage again to the Lims.

Donya Esmeralda thanked Daddy Arturo but said they it would be better if stay at the hotel para hindi magkita accidentally ang bride and groom before the wedding, as per tradition.

“Mama, hindi naman ako tatakas para silipin si Maya sa room niya.” Richard teased his mother. “Makakapaghintay naman ako, promise.”

“Hahahaha, son, I know pero mabuti na ang sigurado. Saka para makasama ka namin pa ng Papa mo sa last night mo bilang bachelor.” Donya Esmeralda said affectionately.

“O sige na nga po.” Richard said, grateful and happy for the love of his parents. “I love you Mama, and ikaw din Papa.”

Both Mommy Tere and Mama Esme then asked Maya what help would she need pa for the wedding preparations. They insisted on helping even if Maya and Richard had hired a wedding planner.

Maya thanked her mom and future mother-in-law. With Manang Fe, they discussed what needs to be done. Maya and Rafi has agreed on the design of her gown. She and Richard had already picked their wedding rings. She told her mom, Mama Esme and Manang Fe that what is left would be the food for the reception and where it would be held.

Mama Esme, Mommy Tere and Manang Fe told Maya to leave that to the three of them. Everyone stayed up late that night,  with the exception of Cristina Rose and her family as Cho was feeling sleepy already. Manang Fe also asked to be excused as she felt tired from the trip. The Dela Rosas and the Lims chatted and got to know one another again over desserts, cups of coffee and bottles of wine. They talked about common friends and at the same time, took turns in teasing their son and daughter about making sure that they will have an apo soon after the wedding.

“Oo nga naman, son.” Mama Esme said. “Buti nga ikaw, Balae Tere, may Pocholo na. Kami nitong si Roberto, wala pa.”

“Ma, don’t worry, Maya and I will work on it double time.” Richard said grinning. It earned him a loving pinch from his blushing bride-to-be.” Ouch, naman, Sweetheart. Gusto mo bang ma-dissappoint sina Mama at Papa, saka nina Mom and Dad.” He added naughtily. Maya’s parents asked him to call them that. In the same manner that Donya Esmeralda and Don Roberto told Maya, after they got engaged, to call them Mama and Papa na.

“O sige na nga po. Apo kaagad kung apo.” Maya said laughing.

“That’s the spirit, hija.” Mama Esme said, smiling at her future daughter-in-law.

“Sana girl ang una niyong anak, Maya, Richard. Di ba, Balae Esme?” Mommy Tere said. “Pero on the other hand, boy or girl, basta, healthy, happy na kaming lahat na mga magulang ninyo.”

“I agree, Balae.” Mama Esme said. “Saka kapag boy ang una, eh di try ulit for a girl. I wish nga na merong kapatid itong si Ricky, kaso hindi na kami pinalad pang magkaanak muli ni Roberto. Di bale, malapit na akong magkaanak ng babae. Kapag nakasal itong mga anak natin.”

“Mama Esme, I’m so touched naman po.” Maya went to her future mother-in-law and hugged her affectionately. “Thank you po ulit. I’m glad na magkakaroon ako ng isa pang nanay.”

“I should be the one thanking you, Maya. You made my Ricky very happy and us too.” Richard’s mother told Maya.

Seeing this exchange, Mommy Tere thanked God again that her daughter is marrying into a good family and that she would be very much loved too. She is very happy for her youngest.

Maya and Richard walked around the huge farm the second day of their stay there, having their own Richard and Maya moment amid the preparation for the special occassion the following day. The two families also had a wonderful and fun-filled picnic by the stream at the edge of the property that day. Don Roberto kept telling Maya’s parents and Donya Esmeralda that he wanted something like the farm’s set up when he finally retires from LC. He also looked pointedly at his son while saying so.

“Papa, I know.” Richard said with a smile. “More than one year na lang naman!” His father will turned 60 by then and by that time, he knows he can already and he is more confident in taking the reins from him. “I promised I will take over. I will do my very best para wala ka nang iintindihin kapag naging gentleman farmer ka gaya ni Daddy Arturo.”

“Thank you son.” Don Roberto said as he patted his son’s shoulder affectionately.

When they returned to the house, Emman was already there. Maya had asked him a favor, to host the wedding party of her parents as Emman is very good at it. He was not able to travel with them the day before as he had a prior commitment. The two friends updated each other. Mommy Tere put Emman in Cristina Rose’s old room.

The morning of Arturo and Teresita Dela Rosa’s renewal of vows everyone at the farm was in a festive move. The workers set up the tents that would be used for the party afterwards, very early. Early that afternoon, the caterers also set up the chairs and table all over the lawn and garden of the main house. In every table they placed a vase of red roses, the flowers that Daddy Arturo gave Mommy Tere when he proposed to her.

Now, as Richard and Maya listened to Daddy Arturo and Mommy Tere’s vows for each other, like everyone present, they were teary-eyed, feeling the love these two have for each other after all these years. Maya’s parents finished their vows with the promise, that God willing, they will be back in that very church to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary.

More than an hour later, after the picture taking, everyone traveled back to the Dela Rosa Farm for the wedding party. The place looked magical at twilight. More so when it got dark and all the lights placed by the workers that morning twinkled like stars in the night. After everyone has eaten the sumptuous food prepared by Mommy Tere’s friend Elizabeth, Emman announced that Maya and her sister Cristina Rose prepared a special video presentation for their parents. Everyone stopped chatting to watch it.

The sisters made a movie of the milestone in their parents lives with Emman’s help. Maya and Emman edited the whole thing several days before they left for Mindoro. It was Cristina Rose’s job naman to scan old photo albums and e-mail it to Maya. Everyone happily went back in time with Arturo and Tere with the video the sisters made. Mommy Tere and Daddy Arturo were very touched at their daughters’ effort. They thanked their daughters and also everyone who were sharing that special day with them.

Emman announced soon after that the floor is open for dancing. Everyone had a merry time dancing with the music he and Maya, together with the DJ they hired, selected, which included Maya’s parents favorite songs and music from the 70s, 80s and early 90s. The first time the music shifted into a slow love song, Richard asked Maya to dance.

“Happy, Sweetheart!” Richard asked Maya softly.

“Of course, who wouldn’t be! With you here with me, celebrating my parents’ milestone, I’m so happy.” Maya whispered back as she and Richard danced with nary space between their bodies. “I wish we will be as happy as our parents in our married life.”

“We will be, Sweetheart. We will work on it.” Richard assured Maya as he gave her a gentle kiss while they were swaying to the music, lost in their own world, looking forward to their journey towards forever in two months time.

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Crushing On You – Chapter 16

Giving Back

“Sweetheart, is this the place?” Richard asked as he slowed down at the gate of a sports complex in Quezon City, around four o’clock in the morning, the following Saturday, a week after they got engaged.

“Yes, I think this is the place Diana told us. Dito raw ang assembly ng convoy natin, di ba.” Maya replied. “Drive ka na sa loob, Sweetheart, then I will call Diana na lang to ask kung nasaan sila, exactly.”

“Hello Diana! I’m here na with Ricky. Nasaan kayo?” Maya asked her doctor friend when she picked up the phone. “Okay, sige, doon na lang tayo magkita. Bye.”

“Sweetheart, nandoon daw sila sa may left side. Hayan, turn ka lang diyan, please.” Maya told Richard.

Richard and Maya saw more than 10 vehicles of varying models parked at the place where Diana indicated. There were also two mobile clinics. Richard found a parking slot behind a Toyota Fortuner. The car looks familiar and he managed to confirm who it belongs to when the owner stepped out of his vehicle at that moment.

“James!” He greeted LC’s COO and Maya’s friend. “Sabi ko na nga ba, sa iyo ito. Maya mentioned that you are joining this outreach program also.”

“Richard! Maya!” James greeted them with a big smile. “Ito kasing si Maya, pina-guilty ako. Birthday gift ko na raw sa kanya. Feeling ko naman hindi na niya kailangan at wala nang makakatumbas sa birthday gift mo sa kanya, Richard, di ba college BFF?”

“James, ikaw talaga. A promise is a promise, di ba. Saka, pagkakataon mo na itong magpakitang-gilas with you-know-who.” Maya teased her friend.

“Hahahaha, Ms. Maya Dela Rosa soon-to-be Mrs. Richard Lim, ganyan ba talaga ang mga in love at newly-engaged, gusto niyo lahat ng tao ganoon din.” James teased them.

“Siyempre naman, di ba, Sweetheart?” Maya said, then turning to Richard for affirmation.

“Of course! Being in love is the most wonderful feeling, James!” Richard told James, grinning.

“Hahahaha, Atty. Lim, nahawa ka na talaga rito sa college BFF ko.” James said, laughing, teasing them. “Let’s go, papakapehin ko na lang muna kayong dalawa habang hinihintay natin iyong isa pang lawyer na sasama sa atin sa outreach program na ito.”

The three of them proceeded to the small canteen inside the complex.

James found out about Richard and Maya’s engagement as soon as he had arrived from work that Monday after Richard proposed to Maya. He found Maya waiting for him at his office. She had a big grin on her face. Then she showed him her ring, telling him that she got engaged with Richard. At the same time, she asked if she would be part of her wedding entourage. He readily agreed and congraulated her.

“Have you set a date for your wedding?” James asked the couple while they were walking towards the direction of the canteen.

“In three month’s time.” Maya replied. “Iaayos pa namin with Mom and Dad and Ricky’s parents pag-uwi namin sa Mindoro next month. Hindi ka ba talaga makakasama sa amin?”

“Maya, Richard, I would like to. Pero I need to fly to Singapore on that weekend.” James said regretfully. “Sayang, I would like to be there sana talaga when Tito Arturo and Tita Tere renew their vows. Please tell them I’ll make it up to them.”

“O sige na nga, ha. Basta sa wedding namin ni Ricky, kapag nawala ka, I will not forgive you.” Maya said, teasing James.

“Hahahaha, as if, I will. Takot ko lang sa iyo. Heto nga oh, nandito ako sa outreach na ito para sa iyo.” James retorted.

“Ha, James Ventura, you are not really here for me.” Maya teased. “Mabuti nga kinulit kita.”

“Maya naman…..” James protested.

“Sweetheart, tigilan mo na nga itong si James o, namumula na.” Richard said smiling, then added, “Baka naman, lalong hindi makapanligaw iyan, Sweetheart.”

“Richard! Pareho na talaga kayo!” James said smiling. “Ano bang sinabi nitong si Maya sa iyo?”

“Wala naman, but I have eyes. I saw where you were looking earlier before you told us that you will treat us to coffee. I just put two and two together.” Richard said. “Good luck, Pare.”

“In that regard, match na match talaga kayo ni college BFF!” James replied, smiling. “But thank you, and wish me all the luck. Nakakahawa talaga kayong dalawa!”

The three of them shared a laugh. Richard and James became closer since he and Maya became a couple. The morning after James found out his and Maya’s engagement, James sought him out and offered his congratulations. He also told him to take care of his college best friend and admonished him not to make Maya cry or he will answer to him.

Richard told James that he is glad that Maya has a good friend in him. He said to him that Maya is the great love of his life and he will strive to make her happy always. In the end, James told Richard that he wish he will find a love like theirs also.

The three of them were about to order coffee when one of Diana’s doctor friends, Michelle told them they will leave now as the last member of the group is already there.

“James, sumabay ka na lang kaya sa amin ni Maya. Mag-isa ka lang ba? Balikan na lang natin ang car mo dito mamaya.” Richard offered.

“Thanks Richard, I’m good. Iiwan ko lang naman talaga iyang sasakyan ko dito. Sasabay ako kay Diana at doon sa ibang doctors sa van para tipid sa gas.” James said.

“Really!” Maya asked, her eyes round as saucers and with a teasing glint on it.

“Maya Dela Rosa, stop that, hahahahaha. I know that look.” James said, putting his hands up.

Soon after everyone left the compound one after the other. Each group or vehicle was issued a map and a detailed direction of the place where they will do their community service.

Maya and Richard were the only one who rode in the 4 x 4 pick-up truck that Richard decided to use for the occasion. There was not much space anyway, as the vehicle was filled with books, toys, and food for the little children of the barangay in Aurora they will go to. Diana’s group is going there on the request of one of their members who is from the area.  Richard thought it would be a nice treat to the kids so he sent Liza to organize those.

Earlier, when Richard picked up Maya, and she saw the stuffs inside the pick-up, all she managed to say was wow. Richard asked if the stuffs are okay. Maya cupped his face and told him, it would be great and that he is a very wonderful and giving fiance.

Throughout the trip, Richard and Maya chatted about their upcoming wedding and remembered the week they had since their families, friends and colleagues found out that they got engaged.

Liza and Emman squealed with delight and hugged each other when they noticed Maya wearing a beautiful engagement ring. Richard and Maya chanced upon the two when they boarded the elevator at the ground floor of LC after having breakfast. Both felt they had a big hand in their bosses love story. When Minerva found out naman, in her delight, she hugged Maya and Richard tight and got teary-eyed. She told them she was just very happy as she saw their love story unfolding before her very eyes.

Since the news of their engagement spread like a wildfire at LC, it was difficult to concentrate at work that day. A lot congratulated them, from the officers of the company to Richard’s and Maya’s staff. Since Richard was so happy, he treated his whole department to pizza, pasta and drinks, as well as Maya’s employees. They went home very happy that night. They dined at Maya’s home as Manang Fe prepared a sumptuous dinner for them, galing daw sa kanila ni Fely, pakiki-celebrate sa engagement ng alaga niya at ni Richard.

The following day, a Tuesday, Maya finally met Richard’s cousin, Rafi, her husband Charlie and their cute daughter Abby.

“Chard, hello. Hi Maya, at last we have finally met!” Rafi greetd them effusively, giving Richard, and then Maya, a big hug, as soon as she saw them walking towards the main house from the driveway of the Lim family home. Mama Esme asked Maya to dinner that evening to meet Richard’s closest cousins, aunts and uncles.

“Rafi, good to have finally met you too! Though, I have seen you having lunch with Richard one time.” Maya said, smiling at Richard’s exuberant cousin.

“Hmmm, about that! I have been meaning to find out something. I hope you don’t mind me asking ha.” Rafi said, looking at Maya and then Richard with mischief in her eyes.

“Sure!” Maya said. “Ask away.”

“Oh no, Rafaella. I know what you will ask.” Richard said.

“Chard, let me na. Sabi ni Maya okay lang. Di ba, Maya?” Rafi said.

“Okay, okay, fine.” Richard said smiling, remembering that day.

“Maya, were you jealous of me that day? I didn’t think you know Chard was having lunch with a cousin.” Rafi asked. “Sabi ko kasi sa kanya parang nagselos ka sa akin.”

Maya laughed, remembering that day too, the text message she sent to Richard and the outcome. She looked lovingly at Richard, then looked back at Rafi. “Ah errr, yes, a bit!” She admitted, turning a bit red, then giving Richard a loving smile, which he returned. They forgot Rafi for a while, remembering that afternoon.

Rafi looked at her cousin and Maya. Hmmm, there is a story there that I don’tknow yet pero parang nakakakiilig, she mused. “See I’m right, Chard?”

Now it is Maya’s turn to get puzzled. “Bakit ka tama, Rafi?”

“Come, Maya, let me tell you about it. That is after you tell me too what happened after that lunch.” She got hold of Maya’s hand and dragged her inside the house, chatting along the way.

However, it took a while before Maya and Rafi had that chat, as when they got inside the aunts and uncles asked to be introduced to Richard’s beautiful fiancee. At the end of the evening, Rafi also had her cousin and Maya’s promise that Abby will be the flower girl at their wedding.

Rafi was also very touched when Maya asked if she could design her wedding gown. She already like her soon-to-be cousin-in-law very much. Natasha is not even a fourth of the person Maya is. She is very happy for her cousin, she told Richard so, the day after that dinner.

Maya smiled remembering Rafi and her whirlwind-like personality. The rest of the week passed by like a blur for the two of them.

Diana called mid-week and reminded Maya about their outreach program. She checked if Maya will be able to join. Maya told her that not only she is joining, but James too. Diana was surprised to know as she never thought James would be interested in activities like this. She got a bit flustered too and that is when Maya confirmed that maybe, there is a romance in the offing for her two best friends.

Maya also took that opportunity to invited Diana to a dinner with her and Richard and asked her to be her maid of honor. Diana said yes and she and Richard clicked right away. They also got to discuss the outreach program and where they will meet.

“Sweetheart, nasaan na tayo?” Maya asked when they reached a long bridge after exiting SCTEX towards the direction of Nueva Ecija.

“I think we are in Santa Rosa, Nueva Ecija.” Richard said. “Then we will just go straight and take the road through Fort Magsaysay, according to the direction Diana gave us.”

More than an hour after that, they have entered the beautiful, mountainous town of Dingalan and from the road that goes up and up, Maya caught a glimpse of the sea from the distance. The place reminded her of Bukidnon. Thirty minutes more and they have arrived at the barangay where they will have the outreach program.

The covered court of the barangay was teeming with people, checking out the services available to them. Each booth has a sign on it. Richard and Maya approached the booth with the sign Legal Services. There was already a lawyer sitting at one of the two desks there, writing something. She looked up when they approached.

“Richard, fancy seeing you here!” Josephine greeted Richard with a big smile, happy to see him. Her smiled dimmed a bit when she saw Maya beside Richard.

“Ghie! Nandito ka rin.” Richard politely said. He had a feeling that Ghie was the last member of the group they were waiting for earlier. He didn’t see her beforehand. He also remembered that James said they were waiting for a lawyer pa. That must be her. “You remember, Maya? My fiancee!” He added.

Josephine thought she heard wrong. “Fiancee?”

“Yes, Maya and I will get married in three months.” Richard said, then looked lovingly at Maya.

“Oh!” Josephine managed to say, then swallowing hard, she tried to regain her composure. He is getting married! “Congratulations then to the two you! I guess we better work. There is a line forming in front of us.” She said abruptly.

“Sweetheart, I will see you at lunch.” Maya said, smiling sweetly at Richard. “I will just assist Diana. Nice seeing you again, Atty. Ghie!” Maya politely added. She kissed Richard on the cheek and then she was off.

Josephine’s gaze followed Maya. Lucky girl, she thought. “Member ka rin pala ng group nina Diana and Michelle? I have not seen you with them before. Pero I have not joined them for quite sometime na rin. Ngayon nga lang ulit ako nakasama.”

“Not really! Diana is Maya’s college bestfriend, together with James Ventura. When I heard that they do this, I volunteered to go. Friend ka rin pala ni Diana?”

“No, ni Michelle, iyong isa pang founder nitong group. Friends kami since our high school days.” Josephine said, then she excused herself and attended to their first client.

By lunchtime, Richard and Josephine managed to help quite a number of residents with their legal problems, mostly involving properties and land dispute. Richard spent a lot of time with Mang Boni who needed help with the land dispute between him and his siblings. Richard’s heart went out to the older guy since he seemed to be too kindhearted to be saddled with that kind of problem. He gave Mang Boni his card, just in case he needed more help. Soon after, Maya returned.

“Sweetheart, lunch time na! May tent doon sa may likod for the lunch. Then afterwards pala, we can distribute the food, toys and books for the children. The barangay captain is gathering all the small kids.” Maya said. “Iniayos na namin ni Diana kanina habang busy kayo ni Atty. Ghie here!”

“Thanks Sweetheart.” Richard said smiling. He is really happy to be here and to be helping people in his little way. He had been meaning to continue doing this when he returned to the Philippines. He wanted to, somehow, made good of his vow to help people in legal troubles after he was unable to help Abraham, an old guy he knew in the States, because the tides was against him at that time. It was the reason he missed his dad’s 58th birthday party.

“You two, go ahead. I will wait for Michelle.” Ghie said.

Maya and Richard went to the food tent. Then after lunch, they met the kids. They did a storytelling, then distributed the books, toys and food to them. One of the little girls hugged Richard tight and asked to be carried by him. He looked at the older woman who was with her.

“Naku, Attorney, okay lang po ba na kargahin niyo iyang apo kong si Anne. Nakakapagtaka nga po, kasi mahiyain ang batang iyan.”

“Wala pong problema. Di ba, Anne. Halika, kargahin ka ni Tito Richard. Since tapos na naman tayo, gusto mo bang makita iyong office ko dito?” Richard said. “Okay lang po, ‘Nay?…..”

“Milagring po. Mister ko po iyong isa sa humingi ng tulong sa inyo kanina tungkol doon sa lupang pinagtatalunan ng mga kapatid niya.”

“Oh, kayo po pala ang maybahay ni Mang Boni. Sana nga po, maayos na. Mahirap po kasi iyang nag-aaway-away ang mga magkakapatid nang dahil lang sa lupa. Basta po kung kailangan niyo pa po ng tulong, may iniwan po akong contact information sa card na ibinigay ko sa kanya. Inilagay ko rin po roon ang personal cellphone number ko.”

“Maraming salamat po ulit sa iyo Attorney. Malaking tulong po kayo sa amin.” The old woman told Richard gratefully.

“Wala po iyon, basta makakatulong.” Richard, then looked at Maya. “Sweetheart, gusto mo kaming samahan ni Anne sa pag-ikot. Baka kailangan pa ni Ghie ng tulong.”

“Sure, tayo na po ‘Nay Milagring.” Maya said. She can’t help but imagine Richard with their own little girl, seeing him like this, so caring for the cute little girl who seemed to trust him instinctively. He will surely be a good father to their children. She is also seeing another facet of Richard’s wonderful, caring personality today. She is very happy to be sharing this part of her life with him too.

They all went back to Ghie who was only attending to handful of people. She assured them that she can handle the rest. The thing is Ghie was not so sure, she can concentrate with Richard and Maya beside her. It reminds her of what could have been. Well, what she wished could have been!

The outreach project closed at around 4 o’clock in the afternoon. Everyone trooped back to their vehicles, with James riding again with Diana. They were inseparable earlier. James became Diana’s ‘receptionist’ and unofficial patients’ ‘entertainer’. He made the people waiting laughed with his antics and his jokes.

On the way back, Maya asked Richard how was his first outreach program. He told her it was very fulfilling and that he would like to do it, if their schedule permits, as often as they could. Richard also told Maya about that Abraham, his case that somehow left a mark on him. On how he was unable to help him no matter how he tried. Maya told him, he had surely helped others a lot and he should just think of those instead.  Then she held his hand to her cheek, comforting him. Richard told her, she is right of course. Then they shared a loving smile. Richard mouthed a ‘thank you’ lovingly to her.

Several hours later, they arrived back at the Dela Rosa residence.

“Sweetheart, would you like to come in? Have coffee before you go home.” Maya asked, while unfastening her seat belt.

“No na, Sweetheart. I will just pick you up for our lunch with Mama and Papa and our meeting with the wedding planner tomorrow afternoon. Doon na rin daw pupunta iyong friend ni Mama na gagawa ng wedding rings natin.” Richard said, then he too, unfastened his seatbelt, went out of the car, to Maya’s side.

“Come, I will walk you up to the garden.” Richard said as he assisted Maya out of the car.

“Okay!” Maya was puzzled why he wanted to accompany her up to the garden, as usually either he went inside or up to the gate only if he is not coming in.

When they reached the garden, Richard stopped. “I have been wanting to do this the whole day and I want some privacy to do this, finally.” He said, then cupped Maya’s chin, lowered his lips to hers and gave her a long and tender kiss. They kissed and kissed amid Maya’s beautiful flowers.

“I love you very much, Sweetheart. Thank you for today. I will never get tired of saying that you are the best that happened to me. Soon mine, and I, yours, my wife-to-be!”

Maya smiled brightly. Her fiance really never fails to make her feel so loved and so giddy with happiness. She touched her beloved’s face. “And you are the best that happened to me too. I’m so lucky and so blessed to be getting married to a very wonderful guy! I love you very much too, husband-to-be. Soon!”

Richard told Maya to go in and that he will lock after himself. They gazed at each other lovingly one more time, then parted for the night.

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Unexpected Love – Chapter 5

Chapter 5

Marianne Montenegro arrived home around lunch with Manang Doray and Dr. Tristan Mendoza. She and Manang Doray saw Tristan in town when they stopped to buy supplies for the house. When Tristan  found out that they just commuted from Calapan, he offered to take them home. Marianne initially declined as Tristan might be busy with the clinic. Tristan insisted.

Marianne told him that Pippa is home. Tristan said taking them home means he can say hello to Pippa too, like hitting two birds with one stone. Marianne then suggested that he stays overnight if he is free, so that he and Pippa have more time to visit as the childhood friends haven’t seen each other for quite sometime. Tristan said he will since he and his clinic partner, Dr. Joshua Carlos are not that busy at the moment. If there is an emergency he can just come back, he told Pippa’s mother.

The clinic was started by Marianne’s husband Dr. Tomas Montenegro and Tristan’s father, Dr. Benjamin Mendoza more than 20 years ago, with Marianne as their nurse. When Doc Tommy died five years ago, Doc Benjie as he is fondly called by the residents of the town, continued on with the clinic with Marianne.

However, when Marianne said she wanted to retire from the clinic three years ago to concentrate on running the resort, Doc Benjie said it was about time he does as well and pass the torch to the young ones. Tristan took over and after a year, his friend, and a classmate at the University of Santo Tomas Faculty of Medicine and Surgery, Joshua joined him. They hired two new nurses, and a medical technologist, and they have been running the practice since.

Tristan is several years older than Pippa but since their parents are friends, they too became very good friends since they were kids. He, Pippa and Belle were inseparable when they were growing up. He was like a big brother to Belle and Pippa, growing up, as the cousins were both only child.

“Tristan, you can have the room you occupied the last time you were here.” Marianne said when they were in the living room. “Maghahanda lang kami ni Doray ng lunch natin. For sure, walang naluto si Pippa since walang masyadong laman ang refrigerator kahapon kaya nga kami naghinto sa bayan.”

“Sige po, Tita Marianne, I will just bring my bag up, then help you.” Tristan said. “Nasaan po kaya si Pippa, parang sobrang tahimik nitong bahay.”

“Naku, baka natutulog pa iyon. Minsan ganyan ang batang iyan. Gawa nga siguro ng nature ng work niya.” Marianne replied.

“Sige po, hintayin na lang natin siyang magising. Aakyat na po ako, Tita Marianne.” Tristan said.

Tristan opened the room he occupied before, the one beside Pippa’s, and got the surprised of his life when he saw two people sleeping in the bed.

“Pippa!”…. Tristan exclaimed before he could stop himself.

Pippa was jolted out of sleep for the second time. But this time because someone called her name quite loudly. She opened her eyes and checked her surroundings. She realized that she feel asleep in the room where Ethan is staying and that during the course of the night, she and Ethan ended up in the middle of the bed. Ethan’s arms were around her, and she was half-lying on Ethan’s chest.

“Tris! What are you doing here?” Pippa asked, suddenly very much awake, surprised to see her childhood friend inside the room.

Beside Pippa, Ethan stirred, opened his eyes and realizing that there is another person in the room, he too sat up, shaking off sleep. He noticed too that he and Pippa ended up sleeping very close to each other. They must had sought each other’s body’s warmth while sleeping.

“Good morning to you Tristan!” Ethan greeted the doctor calmly. He had met Tristan through Tita Marianne when he accompanied her to town one time. They never got to talk much, but he seemed an okay guy, apparently well-loved by the people around here, and the girls around are crushing on him and the other doctor, according to Belle. He also noticed that Belle’s tone of voice changes when she speaks of Tristan. He thinks she has feelings for the doctor.

“Good morning, Pippa, Ethan! I’m sorry for barging in and disturbing your sleep. I didn’t know the room is occupied.” Tristan said, trying to regain his composure and be nonchalant at what he thought he saw. Pippa and Ethan are both grown-ups and single, even if the last time he talked to Marianne she mentioned that Pippa has a boyfriend in Manila. He felt like he was kicked in the gut when he saw Pippa in bed with another guy.

“This was the room I used the last time I was here, ilalagay ko lang sana ang bag ko. I’ll get going then. Excuse me. Oh by the way, Pippa, your mom is downstairs, making lunch. Nakita ko kasi sila sa bayan kanina.” He added.

“Oh, Mom is back then. Okay, I will go with you and say hello.” Pippa said, getting out of the bed, wanting to talk to Tristan alone and explain what he saw. “Ethan, I’ll see you downstairs.” She told Ethan, suddenly turning shy and a bit self-conscious in the light of day.

Ethan gazed at Pippa, intently, gauging her mood, but unable to.“Okay, Pippa, I’ll see you and thank you for keeping me company this morning when I had a nightmare. I really appreciate it. I guessed we just fell asleep while watching The Avengers.” He said  not only for Pippa’s, but for Tristan’s benefits. He does not want him to think negatively of Pippa. He knows that Pippa and him sleeping like that, even if nothing happened, is not the norm where they are.

Pippa got what Ethan was trying to convey, and she appreciated it very much. “Oo nga, last thing I remembered was The Avengers battling the Chitauri in New York.” She said smiling, then looked at him and mouthed a silent thanks. “See you downstairs. Halika na, Tris.”  She gave Ethan one last glance and a sweet smile, then closed the door with Tristan in tow.

“Pippa….”

“Tris….”

Pippa and Tristan spoke at the same time while they were in the corridor in between the rooms. They looked at each other and shared an uncomfortable smile, both unsure on how to proceed.

“You go ahead, please, Pippa.” Tristan finally said.

“No, you go, please. What was it you want to say to me?” Pippa insisted.

Tristan took a deep breath and said his piece. “Pippa, I just want you to know that whatever I saw in that room stays there. It is yours and Ethan’s business.”

Tristan wants to reassure Pippa, the childhood friend whom he would like to look at him as more than a friend, somehow, wanting her to know that he is not passing judgment or drawing a conclusion at what he saw, or that he would tell her mother about it.

“Thank you, Tristan. But the thing is, that is what I wanted to talk to you about. While what you said is correct, that is mine and Ethan’s business, nothing happened in there beyond us sharing a bed. We ended up sleeping while watching DVDs, which I think now, you have left behind in that room. On how I ended up in that room instead of mine, was like what Ethan said, he had a nightmare. I just kept him company.”

“Pippa, hindi mo naman kailangang mag-explain to me, pero thank you pa rin for telling me. I hope you understand that I am not passing judgment on you and him earlier. I believe in the adage ‘live and let live’.” Tristan assured Pippa.

“I know that you didn’t. We have been friends long enough for me to know that.” Pippa said with a smile. “Thank you. Please go ahead pala, I’ll just take a quick shower and then I will be down too.”

Pippa went down 30 minutes after. When she went to the kitchen, she saw Tristan having coffee with Ethan and her mom.

“Mom!!!!” Pippa said with a big smile, then went to her mother and hug her tight while giving her a big kiss on the cheek. “I super missed you! Mabuti nandito ka na. Naaayos ang car ng maaga?”

“Pippa, anak! Naku, mabuti naman at nauwi ka.” Marianne said. She is happy to see her only daughter. She also knows that there must be a very compelling reason why she is home all of a sudden. Hindi nga nito nakuhang tumawag sa kanya na uuwi pala siya. Normally, Pippa calls days before she visits to let her know.

“Hindi pa nagagawa ang kotse. Iniwan na lang namin si Manong Ben sa Calapan. Nag-commute lang kami ni Doray kasi nga gusto ko na ring makauwi at makita ka. Nag-worry din ako na mag-isa ka rito. Mabuti pala at sinamahan ka nitong si Ethan.”

Mommy Marianne continued, unaware of what happened upstairs. “Ito namang si Tristan, nakita namin ni Doray habang nasa bayan kami. Nag-offer na ihatid kami. Para nga rin daw magkita kayo.”

While she was chatting, Ethan stood up and poured Pippa a cup of coffee. Pippa thanked him with a big smile. The scene did not escape Tristan’s notice. He is only human and he was wondering how come the two of them were already very close when apparently, they just met yesterday, according to Tita Marianne.

“Sandali na lang itong lunch, mga anak.” Tita Marianne said, cutting into Tristan’s thought.

“Errr, Tita Marianne, I’ll go to the cottage for a while to take a shower.” Ethan said putting down his cup.

“O sige, pero bumalik ka agad, Ethan at ng habang mainit pa itong sinigang, makain na natin.” Marianne told her friend’s son. Ethan is like a son to her also, even in the short time she had known him, parang si Tristan.

“I will. I’ll be back in a jiffy.” Ethan said with a smile. “I’ll see you in a while, Pippa. Tristan, Manang Doray, see you.” Then he was off through the back veranda.

“Bakasyon mo ba ngayon Pippa? Mabuti pinayagan ka ng boss mo.” Mommy Marianne asked her daughter.

“It’s a long story Mom. But yes, I can stay for several days. Katatapos rin lang naman noong isa kong project.” Pippa replied obliquely. While she had decided now that she wanted to tell her mom the whole sorry story, she wanted to do it when they are alone.

“Mabuti naman. I missed you.” Marianne said. “Medyo matagal-tagal ka ring hindi nauwi. Kapag kami lang ni Doray dito, kakalog-kalog itong bahay. Mabuti nga, kapag libre itong si Tristan, dumadalaw. Nadagdagan pa nitong si Ethan. Nabanggit ba niya sa iyo na anak siya ni Virgie?”

“Yes, Mom. Nagkakwentuhan na kami kahapon. We also went down to the resort last night. Nag-hello kay Belle and spent some time by the beach.” Pippa replied.

“I’m glad na nagkasundo kayo kaagad.” Marianne said. “Doray, pakihanda na nga ang mesa.” She told Manang Doray who was then making a pitcher of juice.

“Okay, Ate Marianne.” Manang Doray replied. Then she proceeded to set the table. Pippa offered to help, but Manang Doray told her to just chat with her mom as she really misses her company.

“Bayaan mo Tita Marianne, I will also visit more often, kapag libre ako.” Tristan promised.

“Oo nga, anak. Isama mo si Josh nang makapag-beach naman iyang kaibigan mo. Mula nang dumating dito, aba eh iisa lang beses ko palang yatang nakitang nag-relax.”

“Sige po, sasabihan ko. Ewan ko nga po doon sa mamang iyon. Lumipat nga ng Mindoro dahil ayaw na raw niya ang buhay-hospital sa Maynila.  Mas gusto niya raw na mas relax ang work environment niya, but the thing is, workaholic naman kahit nandito.”

“Talaga, Tris! Sabihan mo yang si Josh na hinay-hinay lang.” Pippa added.

The three of them talked about the clinic and then Pippa’s job while waiting for Ethan to return so they can eat.

When Ethan returned, he saw Pippa talking animatedly about something, with matching gestures, which made her mother laughed. She was so full of life and she looked like, at that moment, without worries. She also looks more beautiful today in his eyes.

Ethan’s gaze then shifted to Tristan and was surprised at what he saw. He was looking at Pippa with tenderness. So, that is the way the wind is blowing, huh! The doc has feelings for Pippa, which she seemed very unaware of!  For some reason he can’t explain, finding that Tristan likes Pippa that way, bothered him.

“O heto na pala si Ethan. Kain na tayo.” Marianne said, when she saw Ethan standing by the back door.

Pippa looked at Ethan and her heart beat faster at what she saw. Ethan looked very nice in his faded jeans and t-shirt, freshly shaven and his hair still wet for the shower. He was also giving her a bone melting smile again. “Pippa and I’s first real meal, since yesterday!” He remarked.

“The two of you didn’t eat?” Marianne asked surprised.

“Mom, itong si Ethan, feeling hunger strike kasi wala kayo ni Manang Doray, peanut butter sandwich lang ang dinner kagabi. Hayun, mabuti na lang may nakita akong eggs, cheese at bacon sa ref. Nagluto ako ng omelette.” Pippa said.

“Tita Marianne, you know me and the kitchen, we are not exactly friends.” Ethan said with a self-deprecating smile. “Mabuti na lang, Pippa saved me. That was the best omelette ever!”

“Sus bola, gutom ka lang kasi.” Pippa teased. “Compared to the peanut butter sandwich you were eating, mas masarap talaga iyon.”

“Hindi ah! Honest, it was really delicious.” Ethan said, grinning engagingly. “Crossed my heart!”

“Sige na nga. Thank you.” Pippa said with a smile.

“O siya, siya, kayong dalawa, tama na iyan. Kain na tayo. Doray, halika na. Huwag sabihing hindi ka pa sasabay sa amin.” Marianne said. She ushered everyone to the dining table. She noticed the easy camaraderie between her daughter and Ethan. They seemed to have really gotten to be fast friends in a very short time.

Ethan pulled the chair for Pippa. They shared a smile. Pippa thanked him. Ethan sat beside her, then started serving her food. A sight that didn’t escape Marianne Montenegro’s notice, nor Tristan’s.

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Windblown – Chapter 6

Revelations and Intentions

“You looked for me after the pageant?” Maya asked Richard, very surprised at this revelation. She never thought that he did. But knowing that he did, her heart beat faster. She was also feeling warm, elated, and giddy all of a sudden.

“Errrr, y-yes, I did, sort of. You know, just thought of it since you left abruptly. I have been wondering what happened to you.” Richard stammered, said lamely, feeling his face getting warm too with his admission. He was not planning on admitting it this evening. However, it just slipped when they were talking about his first resort project.

Maya had asked him how he had been since they last saw each other at the pageant. He told her that from the manufacturing, transportation and communications side of Lim Corporation he moved to property developments and formed Emerald Hotels and Resorts Corporation, as a subsidiary. It is his field of expertise anyway as he is an architect and a structural engineer.

He told her of his first project, the resort in Mindoro. He also told her of going back to Mindoro after the pageant to supervise the construction of the resort. It was while there, he said, that he found out she was not in Mindoro anymore. Having said that, Maya asked him what he meant, so he admitted that he looked for her while overseeing that project.

“You really did! When exactly?” Maya is very much interested to know.

“I think it was two weeks after you have moved to Manila permanently. I found myself in San Nicolas so I asked some of my contacts about you. They know your family, especially your Mamang, whom I learned died the morning after the pageant.” Richard said. “My heartfelt condolences, Maya, even if has already been seven years. Had I known, I would have gone to the wake. I also left San Nicolas the morning after the pageant. I didn’t know also where you moved.”

“I have wondered about you.” Richard admitted. He might as well come clean, tell her about this since he slipped. Maybe this is the opening he needed. “Difficult to believe or explain, isn’t it, as the only words we have exchanged that night was my question to you in the pageant! Don’t ask me to explain why, I  have no answer too.” Richard said with a smile, at the same time gazing at Maya intently. “Maybe, there is a higher force at work. See, we even met again after all those years and felt like we have known each other long.”

“Thank you Ricky. That was very heartwarming to know. I’ll be honest, I did think of you too through the years, for some reason beyond me. I do feel like I have known you for a long time, when this is our first one-on-one interaction.” Maya admitted, then looked at Richard shyly. She wanted to be honest too as he had been. They smiled at each other, sharing a silent understanding.

Then Maya continued, “Mamang had cancer and that night of the pageant she had turned from bad to worst, then died at dawn. That was the reason why I missed the party afterwards. She was very happy to know that I have won. It was Mamang’s dream to join beauty pageants but her parents refused to allow her. I was just living her dream for her since I wanted to cheer her up. Ease up her suffering by focusing on something she enjoys very much. Kung alam mo lang kung gaano ako ka-nerbyos that night!

Mamang followed all the major pageants in the country and she as an encyclopedic knowledge of them. I missed talking to her about it and every time I would see a beauty pageant on TV, I missed her most, I missed that time with her.” Maya said, getting teary-eyed all of a sudden.

There is still a pinch in her heart when she remembers Mamang and all the wonderful memories, because she would then realized that they are just memories now, as she is forever gone from this world.

“You have been a good grandchild, Maya. Not everyone would do that to make their grandmothers happy.” Richard said gently, seeing Maya’s teary-eyed expression. “I gathered from your answer to my question at the pageant that you looked up to her and that she was an important figure in your life.”

“She was both my beloved grandmother and mother. My parents died in a car accident when I was very young. Instead of me ending up with my Tita Lulu, my mother’s only sister and her husband, Tito Mario, they are Ate Cris’s parents, Mamang insisted on taking care of me. We were each other’s source of strength as we dealt with the lost of my parents.”

Richard’s heart goes out to Maya. She had known so many lost in her young life already. “I hope there was someone who was with you too, when your Mamang died. I know it must have been very devastating for you.”

“My aunt, uncle, Ate Cris and her brother Lino became my family then. They were there for me. Wala rin kasi kaming alam na masyadong relatives ni Dad! Tita Lulu insisted then that I will live with them kahit sabi ko kaya ko nang mag-isa. She offered when my parents’ died but Mamang said nga na siya na lang mag-aalaga at magpapalaki sa akin.” Maya said.

“They really treated me as one of their own. In fact, Ate Cris is more like a sister than a cousin to me. Si Lino naman parang baby brother ko na iyon.”

“I’m glad that they are good people, that they took care of you.” Richard remarked. “Kaya pala when I asked around, wala na raw kayo sa Mindoro. Isinama ka pala nila sa Maynila.”

“Yes, we sold Mamang’s businesses kasi walang mag-aasikaso from Manila, and the farmlands, we left in the hands of a caretaker. Nandoon pa rin ang mga lupa. In fact I’m going there before the New Year, bago ako mag-work sa Emerald. Dadalawin ko sana ang puntod ni Mamang. Matagal na rin kasi akong hindi nakakadalaw sa kanya. Tapos I will check on one of her properties na pwedeng i-develop.” Maya told Richard. “For sure hindi ko na ito magagawa kaagad when I start working. I want to concentrate also on building a career with your company after the holidays.”

“Really, when exactly are you going there?” Richard asked, suddenly very interested.

“On December 27, I think, para maiwasan ko pa ang mga taong for sure, bubuhos sa Batangas Port patawid ng Mindoro for the holidays. Di ba may pasok pa sa 29, so baka hindi pa ganoon kadami ang mga pasahero sa pier.” Maya said.

“Sumabay ka na lang sa akin.” Richard offered all of a sudden.

“Ha? What do you mean?” Maya asked, surprised.

“I’m going there myself to do a periodic check of our resort there. It is due for renovations again. We usually check it every year para malaman kung ano ang mga kailangang improvements na major.” Richard hastily explained. The truth is he has not really scheduled the visit, though it was in his list of work to do. This is a very good time as any. Besides, he wants to spend more time with Maya.

“I’m taking the company chopper. That way, hindi ka na makikipagsiksikan sa Batangas Port. Saka baka marami ng umuwi at i-vacation leave na lang ang 29.” Richard added trying to convince Maya. “Mag-isa lang naman akong pasahero.”

Maya looked at Richard, then weigh in his offer. Besides, she likes the idea of spending more time with him too. “Are you sure, it will be okay? Teka, baka magsuka ako sa chopper, hindi pa ako nakakasakay noon.”

“Don’t worry, Maya, I’ll be there for you.” He assured, then teased, “I will hold the barf bag and your hand kapag nasuka ka. Then I can also pat you in the back when your tummy is heaving.”

“Ricky….” Maya said, getting self-conscious, then smiled at his teasing. “Sige ka, I will take you up on that.”

“Sure na sure, Maya Dela Rosa, crossed my heart.” Richard said, putting his hand over his heart and giving Maya a devastating smile, just to convince her. “Saka, para mapanatag ka, magaling ang pilot namin and taga-Mindoro rin.”

“Okay, sige na nga. Thank you, Ricky.” Maya said.

“Saan ka nga pala tutuloy sa Mindoro?” Richard asked.

“I think I will just look for an inn or a hotel sa San Nicolas.” Maya replied. She was planning to check online the best place to stay. “Medyo matagal na kasing nakasara iyong house namin doon. Hindi rin maasikaso nina Tita Lulu and Tito Mario nang madalas. Too much effort naman if I will ask the caretaker of the farmlands to open it up when I will only stay for several days there.”

“Why don’t you stay with me?” Richard offered.

“Stay with you?” Maya repeated, clarifying whether she had heard him correctly.

“Yes, you can also stay at Emerald’s Resort. That way, mas comfortable ka. I can also take you to San Nicolas. Hindi naman ganoon kahigpit ang schedule ko.” Richard said. “I can use one of the company cars there.”

“Ricky, too much abala na naman iyon sa iyo.” Maya protested, getting overwhelmed and touched by Richard’s offers and generousity.

“Maya, it is really okay. Saka if it is okay with you, I would like to go with you when you visit your Mamang’s grave.” Richard asked suddenly.

“Ha, you would like to?” Maya asked, wondering why Richard would want to do that. Dami nang surprises and revelations that she was experiencing that evening.

“Well, I want to ‘meet’ the most important person in your life and also to somehow thank her. Kasi kung hindi ka sumali sa beauty pageant, we will never meet!” Richard said, smiling, then looked at Maya intently, making her grab her glass of water, swallowing a gulp. Parang he was implying something na naman, she thought.

Then regaining her poise, Maya smiled and remarked. “I should thank your mother too, then, kasi kung hindi ka niya pinapunta sa pageant, our paths would have not crossed.”

Richard smiled. “You can do that the next time you see her. I’m sure Mama will be glad!” He said enigmatically.

Richard and Maya gazed at each other after that, both realizing what they have implied to each other, the messages they seemed to have been telegraphing to each other, but not really verbalizing. They smiled at each other, not breaking contact, as if they have silently communicated something to the other.

“So, are we set, Maya? We will go together to Mindoro? And you will be staying at Emerald’s?” Richard asked again, anxious for her answer.

“Okay, to everything, pati na rin sa pagbisita kay Mamang.” Maya said smiling. “Thank you in advance ha.”

“No worries, Maya. I’m happy to.” Richard said.

They stayed an hour more in the garden, drinking coffee and chatting. Maya told Richard of her plans to develop the property in Mindoro into a small beach resort. Richard offered to help. He insisted, so Maya said yes. Richard promised to give a recommendation after they have seen the beach property.

“Where are you celebrating the holidays?” Maya asked Richard when they were driving back to BGC.

“Dito lang siguro sa Maynila, with my parents and immediate family.” Richard replied. “Iyong New Year, hindi ko pa sure kasi Mama and Papa are planning to go out of the country then. Ikaw?”

“Christmas would be with my family rin. This is my first Christmas back in the Philippines after so many years so susulitin ko na. Iba pa rin talaga ang Pasko dito sa atin, di ba?” Maya said. “For New Year, I’m not sure yet din. I will ask the family what their plans are. Baka out of town trip din. Though, it would depend on Ate Cris’s condition.”

“It would be nice nga rin to get out of the city during New Year. For sure, sobrang lalakas na naman ng mga paputok kahit anong campaign ng government. Worse, the stray bullets.” Richard said.

“I agree. Dati nga pati dog namin nagtatago sa bathroom kapag malakas na ang putukan.” Maya added. “I will ask my Tita Lulu what the plan is. I will see them tomorrow. May pa-dinner sila sa akin. Celebration para sa new job ko.”

“Really, how nice of them.” Richard said as he parked in front of Maya’s building. “I think they are also very happy that you are back in the country.”

“They are, very much. Nandito na pala tayo.” Maya said when she finally noticed where they are. “Thank you for a very wonderful evening, Ricky. I’m glad we have seen each other again.”

“Thank you very much too, Maya. I had the best time this evening.” Richard said gazing at Maya in a way that makes her feel very special. “I’ll be seeing you soon. If there’s a way I can help you with anything, please just give me a call. I’m just two buildings away remember.”

“Sobrang thank you na talaga.” Maya said, giving him a smile that lit up her whole face.

“Wala iyon, Maya. Basta para sa iyo.” Richard replied, gazing at Maya. “By the way, let’s do this again soon please. Before we leave for Mindoro or before Christmas? Dinner or coffee?”

“S-sure.” Maya stammered a bit. He would like to see her again, so soon. Oh my heart, Maya thought. “Let me know when. I’m libre naman since I’m not working yet.”

“Great. Let’s just check with each other.” Richard said, then he got out of the car, went to Maya’s side and  opened the door for her.

“Thank you, Ricky.” Maya said, then the two of them walked towards the elevator, chatting animatedly until they reached Maya’s unit, Maya asked Richard to come in and have coffee.

“I better get going, Maya. Thank you. I would like to go in pa sana pero baka hindi na ako makatulog kapag nag-coffee pa ulit. As it is, it would be difficult to sleep, remembering this memorable night.” Richard admitted, looking at Maya meaningfully.

Maya smiled at that. They feel the same yata talaga! Oh my, she thought. “Me too. O sige, good night na nang may maitulog pa tayo. Have a good sleep.”

“I will for sure, you too.” Richard said smiling. “Good night. Sweet dreams.”

Richard waited for Maya to open her door before he walked back the elevator. He wanted to be one hundred percent sure that she is safe, inside her unit before he leaves. He was humming happily while waiting for the elevator.

Inside her unit, Maya had a silly, giddy grin on her face, clutching her heart as she leaned against her closed front door. She just felt so happy at that moment. Several minutes later, while she was turning down her comforter, her phone beeped.

Ricky: Good night, Maya. Thank you for one of the happiest night of my life.

Maya: Thank you too Ricky for a very wonderful time. I never felt this happy in a long time. Good night.

Richard and Maya both went to bed that night with big smiles on their faces, staring mindlessly at the ceiling, remembering their wonderful evening together. Both are looking forward to their next date, errr, meeting.

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Unexpected Love – Chapter 4

Chapter 4

Ethan saw Pippa shivered. They have been sitting by the beach for more than two hours already. The wind has gotten stronger and the night cooler. He and Pippa have nursed two bottles each of the drink of their choice while chatting about anything and everything under the sun, except about very personal stuffs. As if by silent agreement, they avoided talking about love and relationships that night.

“Pippa, are you cold?” Ethan asked solicitously.

“Yes, a little bit. Medyo lumamig na ang gabi.” Pippa said, trying to rub her arms to keep warm.

Ethan rubbed his hands together, creating fiction, making them warm, then he gestured for Pippa to put hers in between his. Pippa did and she her cold hands felt relief. She felt warmer.

“Better?” Ethan asked, enclosing her hands in his, totally. “I used to do this when I felt very chilled after I was out walking in the cold.”

Pippa nodded. She likes the feel of their hands together. Pippa, she scolded herself, no relationships for now, remember. “Thank you, Ethan. I don’t think I will survive living in a country with winter. Madali akong lamigin.”

“That’s what some of my mother’s family also said when they visited us for Christmas. But they survived. It is a matter of putting on the right clothes, I guess.” Ethan said. “Humas do adapt and adjust to the environment thy found themselves in.”

“Hmmm, you have a point. Hindi ko pa rin naman kasi na-try. When I went to New York before for a study grant, hindi naman natapat na winter.” Pippa said. “I think we better head home.”

“I guess, we should.” Ethan agreed. He stood up and brought back the empty bottles to Belle. He told her that he and Pippa are heading back to the main house. Pippa also waved and said good night at her cousin. She felt very sleepy by then.

Pippa and Ethan walked back to the house, holding hands like they did on the way to the bar, debating about languages, on whether it is easier to learn multiple languages as a child or when one is older. The conversation shifted to Filipinos and the talent for learning languages, even accents. Ethan also told Pippa of having to use hand gestures when he was in a place where English was not spoken at all. Pippa laughed at Ethan’s anecdotes. Before the two of them realized, they were already at the veranda of the main house.

“Ethan, thanks a lot for the company this evening.” Pippa said. “You’ve helped me. I’m sorry if I can’t speak about it yet.”

“I had fun too, Pippa. You are a very fun person to be with. Thank you very much as well for the company. I had a lovely evening.” Ethan said, looking at Pippa intently. Then as if hesitating a bit, then making up his mind, he spoke again. “I have a proposal, and don’t get me wrong please, would you allow me to sleep in the main house this evening? I will feel better that you are not alone in this big house. Hindi rin naman ako makakatulog sa cottage with you alone in here.”

Pippa, thought about what Ethan is proposing, and while she is used to being alone, she does not want to be completely alone that evening too.

“Okay, you may stay here!” Pippa said. “Wait, I will check if the guest room beside my room is okay. Baka kasi magulo.”

“Thanks Pippa! I’ll go up with you then.” Ethan said. The truth is he does not want to go back also to his lonely cottage.

They checked the room and finding it in order, Pippa went to her room. She dug into her cabinet and found one of her oversized t-shirts. She knocked back at Ethan’s room.“Ethan, here, you can borrow one of my old t-shirts for sleeping.” Pippa handed Ethan the t-shirt.

“Thanks a lot Pippa. Now I can definitely take a shower before heading to sleep. Tita Marianne has put a complete set of toiletries in the bathroom.” Ethan said, smiling, while getting the t-shirt from Pippa. “I already checked.”

“That’s Mom! May pagka-OC!” Pippa said smiling. “I’ll say good night then, Ethan. Sweet dreams.”

“To you too, Pippa! Good night!” Ethan said giving Pippa a bright smile.

Pippa and Ethan both went to their respective rooms, preparing for bed. Pippa felt better that Ethan was just in the next room. Ethan was happy that he was still, somehow, with Pippa.

Several hours later, Pippa was jolted from sleep as she heard someone shouting. She listened and realized it was coming from the room Ethan was occupying.  She grabbed the letter opener from her study table instinctively, and proceeded to check what was it all about.

“Claudia!!! No please, Claudia!!! Why did you do this? Why?….Why?….” Pippa heard Ethan saying over and over when she opened the door. His body was tangled in the bed sheet and he kept shaking his head. She deduced then that Ethan was having a nightmare.

“Ethan!!! Ethan, wake up! You are just dreaming. Wake up, please Ethan!” Pippa said urgently, going near Ethan but not touching him. She was afraid to make an overt move as she does not know how Ethan will react if she touch him while he is still in the throes of that bad dream. After her several tries, he opened his eyes.

“Pippa?” Ethan was startled to see Pippa by his bed. “What are you doing here? May emergency ba?” He also checked the time and discovered that it was three o’clock in the morning.

“Ethan, are you okay? You were having a nightmare, I think. Sumisigaw ka kasi kanina.” Pippa said. “You were shouting a name, Claudia?”

“Oh” was all Ethan managed to say. So he was back having the same nightmare! It has not happened since he moved to Puerto Galera a month ago. Maybe, meeting Pippa brought it back to the surface since he is attracted to her and that he thought about relationships again.

“I haven’t had this since after I moved here.” Ethan remarked.

“You mean, you’ve had this nightmare before? Sobrang balisa ka kaya kanina. I almost panic kasi parang sobrang sama ng panaginip mo! May I ask who is Claudia? Is there any way I could help.” Pippa asked, one after the other. She did get worried seeing Ethan like that, pain contorting his face as he called on Claudia.

Ethan, at that time, almost tell Pippa that not only he was having a bad dream, it was like reliving all over again something that had happened seven months ago. He thought he was dealing with it well, until the recurrence of the nightmare this evening.

“Claudia was my girlfriend.” Ethan finally said softly. Since Pippa heard him shouting her name and because she is already a friend to him in the short time he had known her, she ought to know what he could tell her at that moment. “She died seven months ago. I’m sorry, Pippa if that is all I can say for now. As you have probably sensed, there are unresolved issues in my life. But if I will tell it to anyone, it would be you. I have known you in less than 24 hours but it does not feel that way. Parang matagal na tayong magkakilala.”

Pippa was touched at what Ethan said. She feels the same and she understands. “Thank you for telling me Ethan. And I completely understand. Basta, nandito lang ako if you want to talk. I also have stuffs to deal with and I appreciate you not prying about it last night.”

“Thank you very much, Pippa. I appreciate it.” Ethan said. “Ditto! If you feel like you need someone to talk to, I’m just here.”

“No worries. Thank you also. Diyan ka muna, I will get you a glass of water ha.” Pippa offered. “Or would you like a glass of warm milk. It was what Mom used to give me when I had a bad dream.” She added smiling.

“Pippa, I can do it.” Ethan objected, getting out of the bed, wearing the t-shirt Pippa loaned him and his boxers shorts.

“I’ll do it, Ethan. Iinom din ako ng water.” Pippa said. “Dito ka na lang. What would you like pala, water, milk or something stronger? I think I can find something at the bar by the veranda.”

“Oh, nothing like that. Just water, please.” Ethan said. “Many thanks, Pippa.”

Pippa returned several minutes later with a glass of water which she handed to Ethan.

“Thanks a million, Pippa.” Ethan said again smiling at her. Then he drank the water in one gulp.

“You’re welcome. Sige, I will go back to sleep na.” Pippa said, getting Ethan’s empty glass also with the intention of putting it back to the kitchen before heading back to bed. Sleep will be difficult now, but it is still  very early, even by Puerto Galera standards to get up and walk around. “Good night, Ethan. I hope you will sleep better.”

Pippa was almost at the door of the room when Ethan called her back. The thought of being alone in the room was getting to him. He doubts if he can’t sleep with the nightmare in his mind.

“Pippa, would it be okay if you keep me company?” Ethan asked from the bed. “I doubt if I could sleep soon. That is, if it is okay with you. I promise to be a gentleman.” He finished, wanting to assure Pippa that he has no other motives, just wanting her company.

Pippa looked at Ethan and his pleading expression. She also saw a vulnerability in him which she thinks he normally hides from the outside world. In the short time she had known him, she feels comfortable with him. For reasons she can’t fathom yet, she trusts him.

“Okay.” Pippa said, smiling.

“Thank you, Pippa!” Ethan said, happy. He also moved to give Pippa a space on the bed. “I promise, I’ll be good. Gentleman’s honour! And in my Mum’s name!”

Pippa took a deep breath when she approached the bed. She got a bit self-conscious. This will be the first time she will share a bed with a guy, no matter how innocent it is. She has never been alone with Martin like this, nor was she in a situation like this with her boyfriend while in college. But she believes Ethan.

“Okay, and beside, kapag nagloko ka, I still have my letter opener pa pala in my pocket.” Pippa teased him, fishing out the letter opener and showing it to Ethan. “Akala ko kasi someone was attacking you kanina.”

“Feel free to use that on me, Pippa if overstep the line.” Ethan assured her. “And thank you for your concern, Pippa. Pero be careful also when you hear a noise like that in the middle of the night kapag mag-isa ka lang. Di ba you told me you live alone? Your safety is more important.”

“Yes, I will. I’m normally cautious, and brave like that too. I can’t not check. But I get what you are saying.” Pippa, then sat on the bed, and like Ethan made herself comfortable by leaning against the headboard. “You know, we can watch a movie!” Pippa suggested. “Meron yatang mga DVD by the TV there!”

“Okay, we can do that.” Ethan agreed, then settled more comfortably into the bed.

Pippa found a DVD of The Avengers among the DVDs stacked by the TV and she loaded it. “Hmmm, I wonder who left the DVDs here. Hindi naman mahilig si Mom sa ganyang mga movie, lalo naman si Manang Doray. Meron pa ngang The Hobbit and Thor. We can watch either of that after this one, kung hindi ka pa antok.” Pippa said.

“Baka, it was left behind by one of your mother’s guests.” Ethan remarked. “Have you seen these movies before?”

“Yes, I did, but I wouldn’t mind seeing them again. I enjoyed watching those.” Pippa said as she too got under the blanket as the room becomes chilly. There was a respectable distance between her and Ethan as well as, by accident, a pillow in the middle.

They watched in companionable silence. In some instances, both were conscious of each other’s presence and that they were alone in a big bed in the middle of the night, but they tried very hard to get the thought out of their heads. By the time The Avengers were battling the Chitauri and Loki in New York, they were both nodding their heads off, until they fell into deep sleep. During the course of the night, or early morning, both of them unconsciously ended up in the middle of the bed.

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Unexpected Love – Chapter 3

 Chapter 3

“Martin, I already told you, we have nothing to talk about. Hindi pa ba sapat ang nasaksihan ko! I hope this would be the last time you will call. Please lang, kung may natitira ka pang respeto sa akin, leave me in peace!” Pippa calmly said.

Martin knew then that Pippa is at her most angriest. She had been like that since he had known her, the angrier she is, the more soft spoken she becomes, as if it is her way of controlling her emotions.

“But, Pippa, Honey, please listen to me. Sabi ko naman sa iyo, wala lang iyon, di ba?” Martin said, trying to convince his girlfriend of six months. “Siya naman kasi ang lapit ng lapit.”

“Wala lang iyon Martin! Sa akin, hindi.” Pippa said, trying to hold on to her temper. “There’s nothing we can say to each other that would change the situation, what I saw with my two eyes! Let us part civilly, Martin. Alalahanin na lang natin whatever it was na maganda sa relationship natin.”

“Pippa, I love you!” Martin insisted. He does love her very much in his very own way. Yes, he had strayed, but he justified it in his mind, insisting that it was nothing serious. It is still Pippa he loves.

“You should have thought of that when you went to bed with someone else.” Pippa said. “Good bye, Martin!” Then she pressed the off button of her phone. She is not expecting any calls or text anyway. Luckily, she had finished her current project and her team is just about to plan the next one.

Like a scene from the movies she had seen, and in the romance books she sometimes read, she literally had caught Martin with someone else in his condo the night before. He was with the model who starred with him in his latest commercial for a beer company. They have not seen each other much the past month as she was busy. To make it up to him, she wanted to treat him to dinner the night before, finding herself with some free time, finally as they have finished editing the episode for their last week of airing. When he was not answering her phone, she decided to go to his place since it is in the same condominium complex where she lives.  She knew he was home as he texted her earlier saying that he will just stay at home because she is not free to go out with him.

Pippa pressed the bell at the door of the unit. No one replied. It was then she noticed that the door to Martin’s unit was ajar. Fearing the worst, even if it is a secure condominium, she pushed it gently. It was then that she noticed the scattered clothes all over the living room. She felt nervous, dreading what she would discover, though she knew already. When she neared the bedroom, she heard sounds coming through it. She stepped backwards in surprise and crashed into Martin’s stationary bike. She howled in pain. In the process, she accidentally kicked his mountain bike which crashed loudly to the floor. It seems it was enough for the occupants of the room to stop what they were obviously doing. Martin opened the door with just his boxers on. He was followed by Cassandra Ledesma, wearing his discarded shirt.

“Pippa…..” Martin, blurted out, so surprise to see her. “It is not what you think.” He said, trying to placate her.

“I don’t think we have anything to talk about. I already told you that there is one thing I can’t tolerate in a relationship, you being unfaithful to me!” Pippa said, looking Martin in the eyes. She refused to look at Cassandra. It takes two to do this and not just one person. For now, her concern is Martin and what he had just done to her and their relationship.

“But this is nothing! This is just a fling! She had been coming on to me since we did the commercial.” Martin insisted.

Pippa was about to say something to Martin when Cassandra beat her to it. “So wala lang din ito sa iyo! After I made you happy, more than what your girlfriend can do, as you told me earlier. What was the term you used, that she is a cold fish!” She said insultingly. “Wala namang pilitang nangyari kanina matapos nating magkita sa bar. In fact, we ended up in your place and had so much fun inside.”

“Cassie, stop.” Martin shouted. “You know that you have been sending me all these signals. What can a guy do!”

Pippa looked at the two of them. She decided then that she had given her love to the wrong person. The way she and Martin started, she thought, it was for keeps as he pursued her relentlessly until she had said yes. At that time, she felt flattered by the attention he showered her, his attentiveness, him making her the center of his world. Now, she is wondering if Martin just felt challenged so he pursued her, and when in the end he was not able to get what he wanted, at the time he wanted it, he got bored.

“I guess you two have something to sort out. I’m out of it, out of this place and out of your life, Martin! Good bye! I hope in the future, you will find a person you will truly love at hindi mo pagtataksilan!” Then Pippa walked  out of the apartment, still holding her tears at bay, her head held high.

She ran back to the elevator and hoped that it would come soon. She can hear Martin calling her, telling her to wait up for him. Luckily, the elevator opened. She ran back to her condominium unit, which is a building away from Martin’s as they found that they live in the same condomiinium complex the day he invited her to dinner. Only then that she gave way to tears!

Pippa, with tears blinding her, went inside her unit, hastily packed her bags and took a taxi to Cubao where she can take a bus going to Batangas Port. She ignored the calls Martin was making. She shut down her phone and dropped it into the bottom of her bag.

“Pippa, are you alright?” Ethan called from the sliding door that leads to the veranda, jolting her back to the present and away from the painful memories of a love affair gone bad and betrayal from a person she trusted very much with her heart. The light from the kitchen illuminated his tall frame and from what she could see, he is quite concern. “You were in there so long, so I thought I would check on you.”

“I’m okay, Ethan. I just need to collect my bearings. I’m okay. I should be okay. It’s not worth it to be not okay!” Pippa said. “Sorry if I’m not making sense. Thank you for the concern, but I’m handling this.” Pippa was tempted to tell him, but stopped herself as she is not yet prepared to share what happened with anyone, even with her Mom. She just want to be here where all her happy memories were and where she feels comforted.

“It is okay, Pippa. And if you need to unburden yourself, sorry I can’t help but overhearing a bit of your phone call, just before you went out, I’m just here to listen. Sometimes, it helps.” Ethan offered, though saying that, he feels like a fraud as he was also unable to do that after what happened to Claudia.

“Thanks, Ethan!” Pippa said, grateful for the offer. But she also feels that Ethan has his own demons to fight. Ayaw na niyang dagdagan pa. “Since maaga pa and I doubt if I could sleep after the long nap I took, I think I will just walk down the next beach and help my cousin Belinda at the bar.”

“Oh, but it is dark already!” Ethan protested, thinking of the dark, probably deserted road Pippa will take to go there.

“I’ll be okay. I grew up here, remember. People knows me.” Pippa insisted.

“But do the drunk and unruly tourists you might encounter know you too? I have seen a bit of them here since I came. Come, I will walk you there. And I insist, no arguments please.” He stressed, smiling at Pippa winningly. “Come on, let me play Sir Galahad since ayaw mo ng tulong ko sa ibang bagay.”

Pippa smiled, and Ethan was happy to see her doing so, unlike the forlorn sight he saw when she was sitting alone in the dark earlier. He saw her expression before she can masked it, when he opened the door and the light from inside spilt i to where she was sitting.

“O sige na nga!” Pippa smiled.

They got a flashlight each, then walked towards the road, off to the next beach. The gate of the house by beach just led only to the beach as there was a hill separating the two places, which was a good thing as it make the Montenegro beach a bit private, so they can’t go through that direction.

Ethan held Pippa’s hand while there were walking so as to be sure that she does not trip and fall. The road could be tricky at night, base on his experience. Pippa, at first startled when he did so. Ethan, then explained about the road. She nodded and allowed him to continue holdng her hand. It has a nice feeling to it. She felt safe and cared for. They walked in companionable silence.

Several minutes later, they entered the brightly-lit bar made of native materials. It was fronting the beach, and behind it are the cottages the Montenegros are renting out to tourists. Pippa’s mother insisted on retaining the cottages made of native materials even if other places beside theirs opted to ‘modernize’ and built concrete structures, which she had said were ugly. Marianne Montenegro said, yes maintaining the native huts are more costly but they look so much better and it is in keeping with the atmosphere of the beach place.

Pippa’s cousin Belinda was busy serving quite a number of customers when they arrived. When she looked up, she noticed Pippa and her friend Ethan, walking towards her.

“Pippa! I didn’t know that you are home! Kailan pa dumating?” Belinda greeted her cousin as she gave a Caucasian guy the beer he just ordered. “Nandiyan ka rin pala, Superman!” She added with a big smile, teasing Ethan.

“Hi Belle! Kumusta, parang ang daming customer this evening! Kanina lang ako dumating.” Pippa said. “And why are you calling Ethan, Superman?”

“Pippa, don’t mind your cousin. Belle has been teasing me since I arrived.” Ethan said with a smile. “Belle, stop that na, please.” He good-naturedly pleaded.

“Hahahaha, why should I. Kasi, Pippa, di ba kamukha niya si Henry Cavill, kaya Superman ang tawag ko sa kanya.”

“Belle!…..” Ethan suddenly felt embarrassed and self-conscious with Pippa looking at him intently as if she is checking if there is really a resemblance between him and the English actor.

“Oh, hindi naman Belle. Kamukha niya kaya si Matthew Goode!” Pippa said, teasing Ethan, seeing him getting uncomfortable, she stopped. “Sorry, Ethan! Belle tama na nga, cousin.”

Seeing the humor also, and seeing that it made Pippa smiled and animated, he joined the teasing. “O sige na nga, kamukha ko silang dalawa. Gusto niyo ng autograph. Kayo talagang magpinsan.”

“Sure!” Pippa said.

The three of them laughed. Then another customer called Belle’s attention.

“Pippa, what would you like to drink, my treat! It’s the least I could do after you cooked me dinner.” Ethan asked. “We can sit at the log table by the beach. It just got vacant.”

“Oh!” Pippa looked at the direction Ethan indicated and then looked at Belle. The spot does look inviting. Maybe, she should just forget all her troubles and have fun for once that evening.

“Go Pippa, I don’t need help.” Belle said, seeing her cousin indecisive. “I can manage. Nandito naman sila Andy and Melissa.” pointing to their two employees. “Saka feeling ko, paunti na ang mga customer. Kanina mas marami. You know how it is kapag long weekend, maraming nagpupunta dito. Nasabayan pa ng peak season ng foreign tourists. Go lang, cousin, I can manage talaga.” Belinda also sensed that Pippa might be going through something. Tita Marianne has not mentioned at all that Pippa is coming home. It is not also her usual time to be home too. So, baka kailangan talagang mag-unwind ng pinsan niya.

“Okay, I will have a Tanduay Ice please.” Pippa said. “Thank you Ethan!”

“Just go and save our space. I will take care of the drinks.” Ethan said.

Pippa did as he told. She sat on the bench facing the beach. While she can’t see anymore beyond the water lapping the shore as it was very dark already, she still find the place soothing and beautiful. She feels her body relaxing, and her spirits slowly lifting up.

“Thanks Belle.” Ethan said as Belle handed him a San Mig Light and a Tanduay Ice.

“No worries, Ethan. Take care of my cousin. You, two seemed to have hit if off right away, ha!” She remarked. “If not for the fact that I know you just met her today, I would say that you’ve known each other long.”

“Well, Pippa is nice. She cooked pa nga dinner for the two of us when she saw me eating a peanut butter sandwich.” Ethan simply said. He does not want to analyze this feeling of wanting to be in Pippa’s company despite the fact that he was still reeling from the aftermath of his relationship with Claudia and the unresolved issues in his life.

Belle let it be. She has a feeling that Ethan and her cousin would be good for each other. She hopes Tristan and her will be like that to! But for so long, it is only Pippa that Tristan sees.

“Here you go!” Ethan handed Pippa her drink.

“Thank you Ethan.” Pippa said. “Nice to be out here, di ba? Nakaka-relax at nakakatanggal ng worries.” She remarked.

“Yes, that’s why stayed and no plans of moving yet.” Ethan said, then before Pippa can ask for more details, he said, “Cheers!”

“Cheers, Ethan!” Pippa said smiling. Maybe, they should just enjoy each other company and the evening, enough of all her questions. Maybe, one day, he will trusts her with his secrets, in the same manner that she will, maybe, find herself confiding in him. For a while, she got tempted earlier, but it was just for a split second.

Ethan and Pippa gazed at each other, smiled, then both reach for their drinks, and started enjoying the evening with each other, setting aside all their worries and the unresolved issues in their personal lives.

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