Maya was packing her things, having finished and survived her first day of work at RRMA, when her mobile phone rang. She jumped a bit, thinking it might be Richard. Meeting him that morning unsettled her. She can’t get him out of her mind. It was a good thing she had a light load in the afternoon, mostly orientation and discussion on work loads. Ryan did the orientation in the beginning, however, one of the clients assigned to him called and requested for a meeting. Sonny Martinez, a senior associate took over. Maya is thankful to Sonny for the detailed walk through she received from him. He is also a very nice guy, albeit on the serious side. He told Maya to ask him if there is something she would like to know and he would be there to help her anytime.
Maya checked the screen of her phone and saw Doris’ name. She does not know whether she felt disappointed or relieved to find out that it was not Richard. But come to think of it, she mused, why would he call her all of a sudden, if it is not work-related and she just started with his account, and they just met again that morning. “Hello Doris! Napatawag ka!” She greeted her best friend.
“Maya girl, I know you have just been through your first day of work and must be very tired, but I need a super, super favor, please. I’m in a bind. I need to be at an event this evening, kaso hanggang ngayon, wala pa si Lea, hindi pa bumabalik. Hindi na yata babalik iyon. Walang magbabantay kay Lance. Hindi ko naman pwedeng hindi puntahan itong event kasi kasama ito sa next issue namin. Deadline na. Hindi ko naman pwedeng isama si Lance doon.” Doris said, a note of desperation in her voice. “Saka, alam mo naman pati na hindi ko rin basta-basta maiiwan si Lance sa kung sino lang na hindi niya kilala or hindi siya kabisado. Pasensya ka na talaga BFF.”
“O sige, ako na ang bahala sa inaanak ko. Don’t worry na. Mahihintay mo ba ako? Pauwi na rin na ako. What time mo ba kailangang umalis?” Maya offered, knowing that Doris is requesting if she could watch Lance for her. She had babysat for Lance before so she knows the drill. She is glad to help Doris and she loves Lance like he is her son. He is a sweet, little boy, a very special angel.
“Maya, BFF, super thank you talaga ha.” Doris said, thinking once again that Maya is really the best friend a girl could have. “Before 8PM sana. O kumusta nga pala ang first day of work mo? Hindi man lang muna pala kita natanong kung kumusta ang unang araw mo bilang lawyer! Hilo na talaga ako. Bakit naman kasi itong si Lea, nakisabay pa. Maayos naman ang usapan namin.”
“Walang anuman iyon, Doris, para ka namang others. Basta, ikaw, anytime!” Then she paused and thought for a bit on what she would like to tell her BFF about her day. Nah, meeting Richard again is not something she can tell her best friend now, knowing that it would require at least a long serious session between friends to discuss that. “Okay naman ang first day of work ko. I will tell you about it when I see you.”
“Okay. I will expect that ha.” Doris replied. “Can you stay the night pala kasi baka gabihin ako ng husto? Dito ka na lang matulog?”
“Hmmm, I’m not sure, kasi wala akong damit na pang-office. Kapag umuwi pa ako sa bahay ko, baka hindi ka na umabot diyan sa event na pupuntahan mo. Ganito na lang, I will pick up Lance and he can just stay the night with me. Then bago ako pumasok bukas sa work, idadaan ko na siya sa school niya. On my way naman. Di ba the last time your magazine sent you to an event like that, inabot ng madaling-araw. Saka mag-i-interview ka pa ng mga guest diyan di ba?” Maya suggested, as without a yaya, she knew that Doris needed all the help she could get.
“Really, BFF. Naku, maraming salamat talaga. Buti na lang parang pangalawang nanay ka na talaga nitong bebe boy ko. May hahabulin pa nga akong deadline pagkauwi ko. Medyo lamayan ito. Babawi na lang ako sa iyo.” Doris said. “Tama ka naman doon. I will miss Lance pero alam ko naman in good hands siya sa iyo. I will just pick him up from his school tomorrow. Then I will just take him to an amusement park para makabawi rin sa kanya sa weekend.
“Naku, Doris Flores, anong bawi-bawi pa. Wala ito. Ako nga itong malaki ang utang na loob sa inyo ng Dad mo. Para na rin naman kitang tunay na sister and pamangkin ang turing ko diyan kay Lance, di lang inaanak.” Maya said. “O siya, see you in an hour.”
Maya is very grateful for Doris’s friendship. Doris was there for her when her sister died and the difficult times she had afterwards. She also supported her in her law schooling, so was her father. Father and daughter encouraged her to forge on when she felt like giving up. Instead of being a lawyer like Maya, Doris now works as a writer in lifestyle magazine. During their second year in college, Doris decided to tell her father what she would really like to be, and that was be a writer in a fashion or lifestyle magazine and not a lawyer like him. Her father relented and allowed her to choose her career from then on.
Doris got pregnant while working as an editorial assistant in a fashion magazine after she and Maya graduated from college. Her boyfriend was a photographer who also worked at the same publishing company. They got married and moved to his house, leaving Maya in Mirasol Street. However, after more three years of marriage and Lance’s condition, they separated. Joseph Miranda told Doris she and Lance can have the house they were living in, but that was all she can get from him. He told her he fell in love with another girl and he can’t live knowing his son is ‘damaged’, according to him! By this, Joseph meant in his narrow-mindedness, Lance having autism. Doris told him she does not need him in their lives if that would be his attitude. Her son is better off without a father. Since then, she had been a single mother. Maya helped her from time to time, taking care of Lance when his nanny is on vacation or on day-off.
By the time, too, that Doris and Maya finished college, their old apartment where Doris used to check on Richard while he was passing by, and where Maya and Richard spent so many happy times, was no more. The owner had the place demolished. He built an apartment building as a replacement. He offered a unit to Maya and Doris at a discounted rent as they were among his long-time tenants before. Until now, Maya lives in Mirasol Street.
However, in all the time Maya had been living there, nothing was heard of the Lim family who used to live there. Though, from time to time, Maya would see someone taking care of the house. But the caretakers kept to themselves. One afternoon, curiosity and the longing to find answers got the best of Maya, she decided to use her budding journalism skills and interviewed the caretakers, sort of, but they got close-mouthed when she started asking about Richard. In the beginning, there was also a rumor that floated around that the whole family just packed their bags in the middle of the night, and migrated to China, but no one can confirm it.
“Maya are you going home now?” James asked when he saw Maya packing away her things. James would like to spend more time with her. He is drawn to his new colleague. He enjoyed the lunch they had together, even if Maya avoided discussing personal stuffs. “May dala ka bang car? Sabay ka na sa akin kung wala.” He offered.
“Naku, thank you very much, James.” Maya said, as while she likes the good-looking lawyer, she feels like keeping a distance from him. Parang bilis kasi niyang maging familiar samantalang bagong kilala pa lang sila. “Pero, hindi pa kasi ako uuwi. I will meet a friend pa eh. Magta-taxi na lang ako.”
“Well, I can also just drop off where you will meet him.” James persisted. “Saan ba iyon?”
“Naku, huwag na talaga, I need to do something.” Maya insisted, not correcting James that the friend is a ‘she’ and not a ‘he’.
“O sige na nga, next time ha. With dinner, please.” James asked.
Maya thanked him again politely but did not commit to the dinner. She just told him that they should play it by ear as she just started and she is not yet sure of her entire workload. They parted ways at the ground floor of the building. Luckily, she found a taxi promptly. She made it to Doris’s house in time. Mother and son were waiting for her, with Lance bags packed. He was very happy to be staying with his Ninang Maya for the night, and playing games on her iPad. Doris has been meaning to get him one as his speech therapist said there are apps which Lance can play with and help his speech and communication skills development. Doris promised herself that she will do it as soon as she straighten out her yaya problem. She really believed Lea when she promised her fervently that she will return. Maya had already asked Doris before the apps that are appropriate for Lance and downloaded those.
“Be a good boy to your Ninang.” Doris told her little boy as she gave him a big hug and several kisses which had Lance giggling. He nodded and soon after, Maya and Lance left the house.
Half an hour later, Maya and Lance arrived at her apartment. She let him used her iPad while making a meal for him and herself. Amazing how easy it was for him to learn new app. He can figure out by himself how things work. He is a very bright boy. Having fed him an hour later, Maya got Lance ready for bed. Doris had established a routine with him and she would like to stick with it. Bedtime for Lance is at 9PM. Lance knew the routine so he went to bed without a fuss.
Lance was long asleep beside Maya but she was unable to sleep, still thinking about Richard and them meeting again. She still feel something for him. That much she admits to herself. See, she is still this affected when they met again. However, she knows that nothing will come out of it. Nothing had come out of it ten years ago, then the more that nothing will come out of it now that he is married.
Maya woke up from a restless sleep when her alarm went off at five o’clock in the morning. She dreamt of Richard. Maybe because he was her last thought before she finally fell asleep. She dreamed that she and Richard met several years after he ‘disappeared’ from her life and the first thing she asked was why did he leave without a goodbye. It was not the first time Maya dreamt like that. She had several variations of this dream.
She get Lance ready for school. He is studying at a progressive school near where she lives. The school takes in special needs children and integrate them into the regular classroom. The children with special needs are supervised by shadow teachers or shadow aides, individually. Lance’s shadow teacher was waiting for him at the entrance of the school when they arrived.
“Good morning Lance.” Teacher Genevieve greeted Lance, making eye contact with him. “How are you today?”
Lance greeted hs teacher and then told her that he played with his Ninang’s iPad.
“Good morning also to you Atty. Maya.” Gen greeted Maya. They have known each other for quite a while as they were Lance’s secondary caregivers. “Nasaan po si Mommy Doris?”
“Naku, may kailangang tapusin last night na deadline. Nag-offer na ako na idaan si Lance dito sa school. Siya na lang ang magpi-pick sa kanya.” Maya replied. “Speaking of which, I need to get going na rin Teacher Gen, doon kasi ako mag-o-office sa client namin na malapit lang din naman dito. Baka ma-late na ako.”
“Sige, Atty. ako na ang bahala dito kay Lance.” Lance’s teacher assured Maya. “Mag-start na rin naman ang class nila. Kung ma-delay naman si Mommy, pwede siyang makipaglaro sa mga classmate niya na naghihintay din ng sundo.”
“Thanks a lot, Teacher Gen. Basta kung may problema, please text Doris or me.” Maya told the nice teacher, then to Lance, she said, “Lance, Ninang Maya is going now. Mommy will pick you up, okay.” The little boy solemnly nodded, but gave Maya a spontaneous kiss and hug, which touches her a lot.
When Maya rose up again, her peripheral vision caught a guy holding the hand of a little girl about the same age as Lance. She slowly looked that way and gasped in surprise. “Hello, Richard!”
“Hello, Maya.” Richard greeted Maya with a polite smile. He is still trying to recover from seeing Maya here and trying to process the fact that Maya is apparently married and now has a kid. But she was introduced as Atty. Dela Rosa if he remembers correctly.
Before the two of them could talk some more, Lance excitedly blurted, “Abby, Abby, you are here!”
“Hello Lance.” The little girl, who was clinging to Richard greeted Lance with a big smile, then let go of Richard’s hand to hug the little boy.
“Hello Mr. Lim.” Teacher Gen greeted Richard. Then explained to a surprised Maya and Richard that the kids are very good friends. “Fast friends po iyang sina Lance and Abby since she started here. Inseparable ang dalawang iyan. Nakakatuwa nga.”
“Really, Teacher Genevieve, that’s good to know!” Richard said. “I’m glad that Abby has made friends already. I thought she would have a hard time due to the drastic changes she had experienced recently.”
“Naku, for a child like Abby na very affectionate, madali lang po siyang magka-friends. In fact, hindi lang si Lance ang naging friends niya kaagad, pero parang si Lance po yata ang best friend niya talaga.” Teacher Gen said with a big smile. “Sige po, magsisimula na ang class. Ako na rin po ang magsasama kay Abby sa shadow teacher niya.” She offered.
“Thank you, Teacher Genevieve.” Richard simply said, then he talked to the little girl. “Abby, sweetie, si Teacher Genevieve na ang bahala sa iyo ha. Daddy will just pick you up later.” He gave his daughter a kiss on the cheek. The little girl hugged him and whispered “I love you, Daddy” to him. Richard felt like there is a big lump in his throat, hearing his daughter being able to do this now. He told Abby that he loves her too. Then he composed himself and looked at Maya again. “Maya, are you going to LAS na?” He asked her.
Genevieve heard Richard’s question and it was her turned to be surprised that the two know each other that well. Maya saw her expression and felt the need to enlighten the teacher a bit.
“Teacher Gen, si Richard iyong client na pupuntahan ko.” Maya simply said. “Iwan ko na si Lance sa iyo ha. Thank you.”
“No worries, Atty. Maya, ako na ang bahala sa kanila ni Abby.” Teacher Genevieve took hold of the kids’ hands and waved at Richard and Maya.
“Maya, papunta na rin ako ng LAS, sumabay ka na lang sa akin.” Richard offered.
Maya’s heart skipped a beat at his offer. She and Richard in a car again after all the years that had passed by. However, she can’t very well decline as she is, indeed, going to his office. “Sure, Richard. Thank you very much.” She said in what she hoped was a steady voice.
Richard opened the passenger door of a dark blue BMW parked outside the gate of the school for Maya to get in. “Thank you, Richard.” Maya said with a smile. Richard smiled back at her before closing the door.
In the first several minutes after they have both fastened their seatbelts and the car was merging into the early morning traffic, they were both silent as if one is waiting for the other to speak first. Both of them realized that they are alone the car. The first time Richard offered her a ride came rushing back to Maya. Ah, what a sweet time it was, she mused. Richard was also remembering that day, Maya standing at that street corner, looking so lovely.
It was Richard who broke the silence. “Matagal na bang pumapasok si Lance sa Little Angels Center?”
“Yes, several years na rin. Doris found the school through a friend who also has a child with special needs.” Maya replied. “She is happy for the recommendation as Lance is thriving in this school. Mababait lahat ng teachers and they care for the kids talaga.”
“Doris?” Richard asked, surprised that it was Doris who decided on the school for Maya’s child.
“Yes, you remember Doris, my best friend? Siya ang mommy ni Lance.” Maya explained, puzzled at Richard’s question and reaction. Then she realized why. “Oh, you thought….”
Richard smiled sheepishly at Maya. “Yes, I thought Lance is your child.”
Maya smiled back. “I’m his godmother. May emergency kasi si Doris sa work kaya I took care of Lance. Sinundo ko siya sa bahay nila kagabi, then ako na ang naghatid sa school bago ako pumasok sa LAS.”
“I see.” Richard said simply. “That was very nice of you.”
“You know me and Doris, we go a long, long way back! “Maya said, then asked him about Abby. “How about Abby, how long have she been going to this school? Kasi parang hindi ko siya nakikita rito before, though medyo matagal na akong hindi napunta rito noong nagre-review ako.”
“Simula pa lang ng bumalik kami sa Pilipinas, siguro mga three months na.” Richard replied as he navigated the road going to his company’s headquarters. “I was glad to have found a good school for her, in Little Angels. It was recommended to me by Abby’s developmental pediatrician.”
“She is a child with special needs too?” Maya asked, surprised. She also noticed Richard using ‘I’ and ‘me’ when he was referring to the decisions made for Abby’s care, as if he is alone in caring for her.
“Yes. Abby was diagnosed with autism when she was more than two years old.” Richard said, finding it easy to say things to Maya still, despite the fact that he hadn’t seen her in a long time. They had this kind of thing between them, even ten years ago. “I researched on her condition, then worked on all the early interventions I could do, followed all the recommendations of her devt. pedia.”
“That’s what Doris and I did too. I helped Doris researched rin when Lance was diagnosed, about the same age when Abby was diagnosed. Just like Abby, Lance has autism too.” Maya said. “Pero he is a very bright boy and very affectionate din. Early intervention, you know, occupational therapy, speech therapy, had helped him a lot already.”
“Pareho pala sila ni Abby! Malaki na rin ang naging development ni Abby mula ng ma-diagnose siya. She is a very bright girl din. I thought noong una na baka mahirapan na mag-adjust si Abby sa integrated school kasi new environment and new country, pero mabuti at hindi naman. Dapat nga pasasamahan ko pa siya kay Manang Fe, iyong yaya niya, pero mukhang kaya na niya. Besides, medyo matanda na rin si Manang. Remember I told you before na yaya ko pa siya.” Richard finished with a smile, remembering one of his wonderful chats with Maya over dinner.
“I remember that.” Then Maya asked something before she could stop herself, “So working din ang mom ni Abby like Doris kaya hindi siya nakakasama kay Abby?” Then she realized that medyo personal ang tanong niya. “Oh sorry for asking. Never mind that.” She said, getting red in the face. Baka isipin ni Richard, she was prying.
Richard wa silent for several seconds, then shook his head a bit as if he had made a decision.”Abby’s mom is dead, Maya.” He told her quietly.
Maya was surprised. She was not expecting that answer. She was not expecting that Richard Lim is now a widower in his early 30s. “I’m so sorry for your lost, Richard! It must have been hard on Abby and you, especially for Abby to have lost her mother at a very young age.”
“Thank you, Maya.” Richard said, then he seemed to be lost in thoughts for several seconds. “We are okay now. It happened several years ago.” He simply said, then he shifted the topic. “Ikaw, how are you? I’m glad that you have achieved your dream to be a lawyer. Your Nanay and your Ate Cris must ve very proud of you. Kumusta na sila?”
It was Maya’s turned to look sad and pensive. Richard noticed it. “My mother is very happy when I passed the bar. She lives in Mindoro pa rin. Pinagkakaabalahan niya iyong karinderya niya. She has one na, like iyong pangarap nila ni Ate Cris na maitayo. For Ate Cris, I’m sure she would have been very happy for me too. She must have celebrated in heaven when I passed.” She finished softly with a catch on her voice.
“Oh, you mean….? Your sister is….?” Richard was shocked to know.
“Yes, Ate Cris is gone, Ricky. Naaksidente siya sa Dubai.” Unconsciously, Maya reverted to Richard’s nickname as she held back memories of that difficult time in her young life. “She died in 2005 after my first semester as a freshman in PUS.”
“Oh, Maya, you mean, she died that semester break!” Richard was a lost for words. He doesn’t know what he felt at that moment, knowing what Maya have gone through that momentous and unforgettable time in their young lives. “I’m so sorry.” He finished, knowing that it is not enough.
“Thank you, Richard. Okay na kami ng Nanay ko. Matagal na rin naming natanggap na wala na si Ate Cris and it is just the two of us now.” Maya said, trying not to take the trip down memory lane. She doesn’t know if she is ready yet to ask all the questions in her head, for her closure. Besides, she noticed that they just stopped at the parking space reserved for Richard in front of a four-story building. “Oh we are here na ba?” She asked, looking around.
“Errr, yes. This is LAS.” Richard replied, still processing what Maya had said and what she didn’t say. “Let’s go in.” Richard got out of the car and opened the door again for Maya. He was gazing at her intently, then he smiled at her and guided her towards the lobby of the building.
Richard would like to have a heart to heart talk with Maya, tell her what happened and why he was not there when she needed him the most. But it was not the right time or moment for it. Work first. But as soon as he gets the opportunity, he would do so. He hopes Maya will hear him out. He wants to get to know Maya again, and see if they can continue what was not meant to be, ten years ago.