Richard parked his dark blue BMW in front of Maya’s building less than an hour after they have parted that afternoon. He just went home to leave his laptop and papers and take a shower. He changed into another pair of jeans and blue t-shirt with collar this time. He texted Maya to inform her that he will be along in a couple of minutes. Instead of him looking for a parking space and going up to her unit, Maya told him that she will just wait for him at the lobby. Maya was not yet there. Richard realized that he was quite early when he checked the time.
However, Richard didn’t wait long. Maya, looking very lovely in skinny jeans and sleeveless top, got out of the elevator several minutes after he arrived, carrying the bags of chocolates for her family and the books for Cho.
“Hi again Maya,” Richard greeted Maya with his lopsided smile which makes her heart skip a beat every time he bestowed that smile on her. “Dapat pala, iniwan mo na lang ang mga ito sa car kanina para hindi ka na nagbitbit!” Richard told Maya as he helped her with the paper bags.
“Hi Ricky! Thank you.” Maya replied, giving him a smile that lit up her whole face. Richard felt his heart beat faster. “Hindi naman mabigat ang mga ito. Saka the chocolates would have melted I think, though hindi naman nga matagal na maiiwan sa car. Saka di ba you helped me with those naman earlier.”
Earlier! And with that word, they gazed at each other, both remembered what transpired earlier. Maya smiled shyly, then blushed. Richard smiled happily. Both got a bit self-conscious, then shared an extra sweet smile.
“Halika na Ricky.” Maya said, trying to calm her fast beating heart. “Ikaw nga ang pupunta pa sa Quezon City after dropping me off.” She thought of inviting him to the dinner, but hesitated since baka he has plans na, and he does nga.
Richard opened the car door for Maya, then closed it when she got settled in. He went to the driver’s side and several minutes after they were navigating the early evening traffic for the short ride to Maya’s family’s home.
“Nakatawag ka pala sa Mom mo? Okay lang sa kanya na medyo late ka?” Maya asked Richard.
“Yes, and she told me I owe her an explanation kung bakit ako late.” Richard said smiling. “I think I will be grilled.”
“Grilled? Why?” Maya asked.
“Eh, she told me, that the person I’m probably with must be very important to me since I haven’t really not arrive early at my parents’ house on Sundays even if our schedule for dinner is, sort of, on the laid back side.” Richard narrated, smiling. “She also said a similar thing to me yesterday when I told her I can’t go to dinner she will have with some relatives.”
“Oh, you mean, you cancelled on your Mom na kagabi so that we can have dinner?” Maya exclaimed.
“No, no, last night was really ours. It was really slated for our special night, as it was our first dinner, seven years in the making nga, di ba. I have planned it since before I went to the Visayas and Bicol. My mom’s dinner plans was the last minute one.” Richard told Maya.
Maya smiled at Richard, hearing what she heard. He is really making her Sunday the best one ever. “I really enjoyed our dinner.” Maya said softly.
“Then let’s do it regularly, please.” Richard said, good thing he was at a stop light. He gazed at Maya intently.
“Sure, no problem!” Maya said. OMG, malapit na yata akong malunod sa kilig, she mused. “Just let me know lang when you are free.”
“Thanks a lot Maya. I’m really looking forward to that!” Richard replied happily. “Hmmm, about Mama, I’m planning to tell her naman about you this evening.”
“You will tell her about me?” Maya asked, wanting to know very much. “What about me?”
“Yes, that I knew you from seven years ago, and that we met each other again last Sunday at S & R, among others.” Richard said, smiling, not elaborating much. He is actually planning to tell his mother a lot about Maya. But he has an inkling his Mama knows that he is very much interested in someone as he is acting differently. He never told her much about the women he dated, even Linda.
“Oh, okay!” Maya simply remarked, but she is very curious to know what exactly will Richard tell his mother about her.
“By the way, Maya, let me know what time will you be finished with the dinner so I can also pick you up. Para hindi ka na mag-taxi or ihatid pa ng uncle or cousin mo.” Richard said.
“Ricky, thank you! Pero, I can hitch a ride na with Ate Cris and Kuya Jeff later.” Maya said. As much as she wanted to spend all her time with Richard, she feels that she might be inconveniencing him already. “Sobra-sobra na ang ginagawa mo for me.”
“Maya, please. I’m happy to do this. Di ba, we agreed to making up for the seven lost years.” Richard cajoled Maya.
Maya smiled. “O sige na nga! Thank you.”
“Great!” Richard replied as they entered the gate of the village and Maya told the guards where they are going. One of them recognised her.
“Good evening po, Ma’am Maya?” Manong Franklin greeted Maya.
“Good evening, Manong Franklin! Dinner lang po ako sa house nina Tita Lulu and Tito Mario.” Maya said with a smile.
“Okay po Ma’am. Kumusta na lang po kay Sir Mario.” The old guard said.
“Sige po.” Maya said.
Several minutes after, they arrived in front of a two storey house with a low gate at the end of the street where Maya directed Richard. As they were parking, another car, a Honda CRV, was also about to park in front of the house.
Richard helped Maya out of the car, by holding out his hand for her to take, so she can balance herself up.
“Thank you, Ricky.” Maya said. She and Richard still holding hands. “Pasok ka muna, so you can meet the family. If not for your dinner with your parents I would have asked you to join us. I’m sure it will be okay with my family.”
Before Richard can reply, someone called Maya’s name.
“Maya!” Her Kuya Jeff called Maya. It was him who was parking the Honda CRV. “Nagkasabay pa tayo. Sorry, hindi ka namin nadaanan ni Cris kanina.” Then he noticed Richard, and his cousin and him still holding hands. He smiled. “Richard, nice to see you again!”
“Hello, Jeff. Inihatid ko lang si Maya. Marami kasing dala.” Richard said, smiling at the other guy. “Maya, I’ll just get your stuffs, then I will get going na rin.” He told Maya and also Jeff.
“Oh, why don’t you join us?” Jeff asked Richard. “The dinner is for Maya. So, you can also meet my wife and she can thank you in person for helping Cho last weekend. And for sure, Cho will be happy to see you again. Kwento nga iyon ng kwento about you! Thanks to you, hindi naging traumatic sa kanya ang experience na mawala sa crowd.” What Jeff didn’t say is that he has an idea that Maya would like that too.
“Thank you very much Jeff. Maya said the same earlier. But I’m expected at my parents house rin in Quezon City. Nasabi ko na kasi kay Mama na papunta na ako.” Richard said regretfully. “Next time, I will take you on that. I want to see Cho also and meet Maya’s family as well. I will pick her up later na lang. Text me na lang Maya kung babalikan na kita.”
Meet my family! Maya thought, feeling giddy, even if Richard said it in the most innocent context.
“Okay. But since you are coming back, join just for dessert and coffee later. I’m sure Mom and Dad will be so happy to meet a friend of Maya, finally.” Jeff asked again.
“Oh, okay, I will. Thank you.” Richard said smiling. “Maya I will get going. Jeff. Enjoy your dinner.” He shook Jeff’s hand and then gave Maya a peck on the cheek, which didn’t escape Jeff’s notice.
The cousins watched Richard drove off. But before he did, he gave Maya one of his lopsided smiles and a wave to Jeff.
Jeff started humming love, sweet love again.
“Kuya Jeff, ikaw ha, nanunukso ka na naman.” Maya laughed.
“Eh ang sweet naman kasi!” Jeff said, not asking Maya for details. Hanggang tukso na lang siya kasi baka naman ma-conscious na si Maya. But he is glad that his cousin-in-law is very much interested in someone. If his reading is correct, these two are falling for each other na if they haven’t fallen yet. Para ngang mag-boyfriend sila kanina! Hindi pa nga ba? He is curious to know, but refrained from asking.
“Nagkita kasi kami kaninang umaga. Hayun, we bought stuffs na lang diyan sa shopping street sa BGC, tapos he offered to drive me na kasi di ba, hindi pa tayo nakakabili ng car.” Maya chatted on, leaving out the giddy moments that happened on that unscheduled meeting, which made her Sunday the best ever.
“Oo nga pala. Let’s do it after Christmas. Gusto mo next Sunday!” Jeff offered as they walked towards the house. He opened the gate with his key, then gestured for Maya to enter first. He was also carrying the stuffs she bought. “Libre ako noon.”
“Naku Kuya Jeff, sayang, ako naman ang hindi pwede. Pupunta kami ni Ricky sa Mindoro sa Saturday.” Maya blurted out without thinking.
“Kayo ni Richard?” Jeff asked surprised.
“Oh, not way I think you are thinking, Kuya Jeff! Hahahaha. It came out like that ba.” Maya laughed seeing Jeff’s surprised expression. “I’m going to San Nicolas kasi, which I’m planning to tell the family this evening, sa Sabado. Richard said I can hitch a ride na lang sa company chopper nila kasi pupunta rin siya ng Mindoro to inspect their resort there na malapit sa San Nicolas.”
“Oh, okay!” Jeff said, smiling big. Hmmmm, ibang klase rin ang da moves nitong suitor ng pinsan ko ah, he thought. “So nice of him naman, little sis.”
“Oo nga eh. He insisted, para raw hindi na ako makipagsiksikan sa Batangas Port sa Sabado.” Maya added.
“Basta, little sis, hindi pa man, botong-botong na ako diyan kay Richard.” Jeff teased Maya.
“Kuya Jeff…..” Maya said, blushing.
“O ano na naman iyang pinagtutuksuhan niyong magpinsan.” Tita Lulu greeted Jeff and Maya from the entrance of the Francisco family home.
“Hi Tita Lulu!” Maya hugged her aunt tight. “Ito pong si Kuya Jeff, tinutukso ako doon sa friend ko. Mano po, and chocolates po pala para sa inyo.”
“Hmmm, sino naman itong friend na ito?” Tita Lulu said. “If ever, mabuti naman kung magkaka-boyfriend ka na. Thank you pala dito sa chocolates.”
“Tita Lulu, friend ko lang po iyon.” Maya replied with a smile. “Dadaan mo siya mamaya rito para sunduin ako.”
“Oh, good, so we can meet him. Sana imbitahan mong mag-coffee and dessert man lang dito.” Lulu said.
“Mom, naunahan na kita. Naimbitahan ko na si Richard. Di pa nabanggit nitong si Maya na iyong ‘friend’ niya ang tumulong kay Cho last Sunday.” Jeff said.
“Really! Bakit hindi niyo pa inimbitahang pumasok para nakapag-thank you kami, also si Cris!” Tita Lulu remarked.
“May pupuntahan po si Ricky, Tita Lulu. May dinner din siya sa parents niya.” Maya explained.
“Oh, okay, di bale later, papasukin mo Maya, ha.” Lulu said. “Halika na kayong dalawa at nang makapag-dinner na tayo. Pinahanda ko ang lahat ng mga paborito mo Maya.” Lulu said as she led her one and only niece to the dining table.
“Congratulations, Maya and welcome back to the Philippines!!!” Cristina Rose and Lino greeted their cousins.
“Maya hija, congratulations and I’m glad that you are back for good na talaga!” Tito Mario said.
“Tita Ninang, congratulations po sa new job!” Cho added, then went to Maya to give her a big hug.
“Maya, congratulations!” Lindsay, Lino’s wife added.
“Naku, touched na touched naman ako. Thank you sa inyong lahat ha. Ate Cris, Lino, Lindsay, cute na cute kong inaanak na Cho and to you Tito Mario.” Maya said, touched by her family’s joy at her new job and return to the country. “Mano po, Tito.”
“Masayang-masaya talaga kami at nandito ka na ulit, Maya. Na-miss ka kaya namin ng husto.” Tita Lulu said. “O everyone, kain na tayo.”
“Wow, ang daming food!” Maya exclaimed happily. Aside from the grilled fish, kaldereta and menudo that Cris and Maya have agreed on, the Franciscos cook also made ensaladang talong with mango, onions and bagoong, halabos na shrimps and chili crabs and for dessert, she made buco pandan.
“Well, for sure, na-miss mong lahat iyan cousin, so ginawa lahat ni Manang Adela iyong mga favorite mo.” Cris said. “Kain na tayo. Gutom na itong baby girl sa tummy ko.”
“Thank you, thank you talaga!” Maya said, very happy. “By the way, Cho, I have books for you. Here. We can look at them pagkatapos nating kumain.”
“Thank you po, Tita Ninang.” Cho said, giving Maya a hug.
Everyone sat down to eat. The whole family chatted while eating at leisure. They talked about Maya’s new job, her upcoming trip to Mindoro. With Tita Lulu and Tito Mario saying that they are glad that Maya is doing something now with the land Mamang left behind. They also found that she is hitching a ride with Richard and that earned her some good-natured teasing from Cris and Lino as well. Maya said she wants her cousins assurance that they will not tease her and Richard when he comes back later. The conversation also shifted to Cris and her little girl who is due to be born in three months or so time and the possible names for her.
While the Franciscos are having dinner, Richard arrived at his parents’ house. Luckily, traffic was light despite the fact that it was nearing Christmas. Maybe because it was on a Sunday night and many people might have taken vacations for the holidays even if there are two work days left, he mused.
“Son, glad that you can still make it.” Donya Esmeralda told Richard as soon as she saw him entering the house, carrying several bags from the chocolate shop she likes. “Wow, and may treat ka pa sa akin. Thank you.”
“I know you like these Mama! Nagpunta kasi kami ni Maya sa favorite shop mo!” Richard replied, not realizing that he made mentioned of Maya’s name.
“Maya?” Donya Esmeralda asked, very, very curious. There is only one Maya she knows and that is their new operations manager. But Richard was not around when she was interviewed by Ina, Diana and then her. Magkakilala kaya sila?
“Ah yes, Mama! I waited for this dinner to tell you about her.” Richard said as he and Donya Esmeralda walked towards the direction of the dining room. “Where’s Papa?”
“Your Papa will be home shortly.” Donya Esmeralda said as she gestured for her son to sit while they waited for Don Roberto. “What about Maya? Do I know her? Isa lang kasing Maya ang kilala ko, iyong bago nating manager.” Donya Esmeralda said.
“One and the same person, Mama!” Richard said smiling.
“You know her even before we hired her?” Donya Esmeralda asked, surprised and curious. “Bakit wala kang nabanggit sa akin? Maya also didn’t mention that she knows you, though wala naman, of course, sa mga tinanong ko kung may kilala siya sa Emerald. Saka hindi rin kasama sa hiring natin ang questions na iyon.”
“Baka Maya didn’t feel na appropriate naman on a job interview na sabihin niya na kakilala niya ako on a personal level. Lalo na at wala namang opportunity. Saka, we just saw each other again recently.” Richard said. “I didn’t tell Diana or Ina that I know her when I saw her resume. Maya also didn’t tell me that she has interview with us, until our dinner last night, when she was hired na.”
“Oh, she was the one you had dinner with last night? Siya rin ang dahilan kung bakit you told me na you will arrive later than usual this evening? Magkasama rin kayo kanina?” Donya Esmeralda said. This is really getting very interesting, she mused. “And how did you know Maya?”
Richard smiled, remembering. “Well Ma, you know, ikaw ang dahilan kung bakit kami nagkakilala.” Richard started.
“Me? How son?” Now, that she would like to know rin, very much.
“Well, remember the beauty pageant in Mindoro where you were supposed to be the judge? The one where your friend, the governor, invited you seven years ago? Nung nagka-stomach flu ka and ako ang pinapunta mo? Doon ko siya nakilala, sort of!”
Donya Esmeralda smiled, remembering that evening. “You mean, she was there? Pero bakit ngayon ko lang nalaman, after seven years! Son, kwento ng buo please.”
Richard narrated his and Maya’s first meeting, omitting the fact that she made his heart beat faster on that meeting. It is something better left private between him and Maya. He told his mother about the missed meetings through the years and finally meeting her again at S & R the other Sunday, when he helped her nephew Cho!
“Oh my, oh my son! You mean to say, last Sunday lang kayo nagkita after those years! “Donya Esmeralda exclaimed. “Kaya pala you were thanking me for dragging you to S & R! That must be fate at work. Imagine, after all those years, bigla pa rin kayong pinagtagpo!”
“Well, I was so happy to finally see her again. I invited her to dinner last night so we can catch up. This morning naman, I bumped into her sa coffee shop malapit sa place ko. Two buildings away rin lang ang place niya from me, would you believe, Ma?”
“Son, when fate decided that you two would meet again, pinaglapit na talaga kayo ng todo-todo!” Donya Esmeralda said, smiling. “May I ask something personal?” When Richard nodded, Donya Esmeralda asked what she had been dying to ask since she detected something from the tone of her son’s voice. Besides, why would such a short meeting have a very strong and long lasting impact on Richard if it didn’t mean anything. “Do you like her? Plano mo ba siyang ligawan?”
Richard grinned at his mother’s questions. He knew they were coming. “Yes, Ma I like her, very, very much. And I am not just planning to court her, I will court her.” Richard said and his mother, judging by the way he spoke of Maya, was thinking that her son does not only like her, he is on his way to falling in love with her, that is if he is not yet in love with her. Her son sounds so different. He sounds like a man in love!
“Oh my, son! Does that mean, finally, magkakaroon na ako ng daughter-in-law?” Donya Esmeralda said excitedly.
“Ma, hindi pa nga ako nanliligaw! Advance na advance ka ah.” Richard smiling.
“Hay naku, son, masama bang mag-hope, eh 35 years old ka na, wala pa kaming apo ng Papa mo.” Donya Esmeralda said.
“Well no, naman Mama. Let’s see.” Richard said. “Nasaan na ba si Papa?” He suddenly asked.
Just then Donya Esmeralda’s phone rang. It was Don Roberto saying that he can’t make it to dinner since naipit siya sa bahay ng friend niyang si Probo.
“Hay naku, let’s eat na. Hindi na raw makakaabot sa dinner ang Papa mo. Maghe-hello lang sana kina Probo and Norma, since kalalabas lang ni Probo sa hospital. Hayun doon na raw magdi-dinner.”
Mother and son proceeded to eat dinner. They chatted more about Maya, also the opening of the hotel in BGC where Maya would be the operations manager. After they had finished dinner, Donya Esmeralda asked if Richard would like to have some dessert. Before he could reply, his phone beeped. He told his mom he will just check on his message. He smiled when he saw who texted him.
“What is it son? Good news? Ang laki ng smile mo!” Donya Esmeralda asked, though she had a pretty good idea on who sent the message.
“It is from Maya, Ma. She told me lang to come back anytime I’m free to her family’s home since her aunt, uncle and cousins would like to meet me too.” Richard said. “I took her there kasi, tapos they were inviting me to that dinner rin na treat nila kay Maya for her new job and pa-welcome back to the country na rin!”
“Oh, that is nice of them.” Donya Esmeralda said. “Okay, you are excused son. I know you want to go there now. Tulong ko na iyan sa panliligaw mo!”
“Hahaha! Thanks Ma.” Richard said, laughing. ”I’ll make it up to you.”
“Well, there is one way you can do that. Bring her to dinner one evening. I want to meet her not as an employee but as your special friend or maybe girlfriend by then?” Donya Esmeralda teased!
“Ma, ikaw talaga. Minamadali ako! Saka depende iyon kay Maya. Malay mo, hindi ako sagutin.” Richard said, smiling.
“Sa hinaba-haba ba naman ng pinagdaanan ninyong dalawa, kapag hindi pa naman kayo para sa isa’t-isa niyan, ewan ko na lang.” Donya Esmeralda said confidently. “Saka, you my son, is a good catch naman, guwapo, mabait na anak, responsable and masipag. For sure, pasok ka sa mga qualification ni Maya!”
“Thanks a lot for the vote of confidence Ma.” Richard said, then kissing his mother on the cheek, he said, “I’ll get going na.”
“O sige, ingat, ka Ricky.” Donya Esmeralda said as she accompanied her son to his car.
Before Ricky drove off from the village where his parents live, he sent a text message to Maya, saying he was on the way back to Makati and hope to see her in less than an hour as traffic was, luckily, light at that time. Even so, at that moment, Richard wished he can just beam himself up to Makati, like they do in Star Trek, wanting to be there very fast!
Maya smiled when she received Richard’s message while the family was about to finish their prolonged dinner. Richard would be back there in time for dessert. She is looking forward to introducing Richard to her family and spending time with him again.