“Happy birthday, Mama!” Richard greeted his mother the following morning after his first ‘date’ with Maya. His memorable first date with her! He kissed his mother on the cheek and then gave her the gift he bought. “Something for you!”
“Oh, Ricky, thank you very much, son. Ikaw na talaga ang pinaka-thoughtful na son ko!” Donya Esmeralda Lim, Esme to her husband and friends, exclaimed happily, pinching her son’s cheeks lovingly.
“Ma, ako lang kaya ang son mo!” Richard retorted, smiling, hugging his mother affectionately. “I love you. Happy birthday, I hope you will like my gift.”
“Of course, son, I will like it.” Donya Esmeralda assured Richard as she started opening his gift. “Basta galing sa iyo, Ricky, I will like it. Happy ako na naalala mo ako.”
“Iyan nga rin ang sabi ni Maya, Ma!” Richard blurted happily, and with a big smile on his face, not realizing that he raised his mother’s curiousity with that statement.
“Maya…?” Donya Esmeralda stopped opening her gift, very curious as his son hasn’t shown interest in any girl recently, wanting to concentrate on his last year of university. “And what did she say exactly, hijo?”
“Oh, Maya Dela Rosa. My new friend. She is a very nice girl, Ma. I gave her a ride yesterday on the way to the shopping district to buy the gift for you. Nagkataon na papunta rin pala siya sa bookstore. Diyan siya nakatira sa apartment complex several houses away from us.” Richard explained, grinning at his mother. His face animated as he tells her about Maya. “I asked her if you would like the thing I was thinking of buying for you and she told me na kahit ano pa iyon, she is sure na matutuwa ka kasi ganoon din daw ang Nanay niya.”
“Ganoon ba? Nag-aaral din siya sa PUS?” Donya Esmeralda asked. “And by the way, tama si Maya. Kaming mga magulang, happy na kapag naaalala kami ng mga anak namin.”
“Yes Ma. She is an AB student, majoring in Journalism. Pero gusto niya talaga maging lawyer after. Very driven kasi imagine she is working and studying at the same time.” Richard said proudly. “She is working as a crew in the fast food place at the back of the university. Next semester, balak niyang mag-apply na student assistant sa school.”
“That’s great to know, son. She does seemed like a nice and responsible girl.” Donya Esmeralda said. She is sensing something different from her son, when he speaks of this girl. But she decided to let things be. Baka naman sabihin ng anak niya, nakikialam siya rito. Besides, she wants him to have a life outside of his studies. Ito naman kasing Papa ni Ricky, parang stage father, gusto ma-achieve lahat ng anak nila and gusto pa na number one! “O siya, dalhan mo na lang ng food si Maya mamayang gabi. I will cook your favorite kare-kare and some other dishes since birthday ko. Inutusan ko na si Fe kahapon na bumili ng mga ingredient.”
“Wow, thank you Mama! I think Maya will like it. Siguro miss na nga rin niya ang home-cooked meals since malayo siya sa Nanay niya.” Richard gave his mother a kiss. “Taga-Mindoro kasi sila noong housemate niya. I’m lucky nga na nandito pa rin ako sa house natin while studying, and you, Manang and Sabel take care of everything. Hindi katulad nina Maya and Doris.”
“Oo nga. Mahirap ang malayo sa pamilya. Kaya nga ako, hanggang pwede ko pa kayo i-hold ni Grace sa poder namin ng Papa mo I will do.” Donya Esmeralda said as she resumed opening her gift. “Oh, son, thank you very much for these.” Donya Esmeralda exclaimed, finally seeing the cookbooks that Richard got for her. She hugged and kissed Richard.
“You’re welcome Mama. I’m glad you like it.” Richard smiled. “Oh, I will have to get going. May usapan kami nina Ryan na maggu-group study today bago ang class namin. Malapit na kasi ang exams namin. Mahirap na ba, baka sa last year pa ako sumabit. Alam mo naman iyang si Papa. Malaki ang expectation for me. Lahat yata ng mga hindi niya na-fulfill, gusto gawin ko.” Richard said matter of factly. He is already used to Don Roberto and his lofty expectations.
“Naku, son, breakfast muna, anak. Sige, go take a bath na and I will have it prepared by Sabel.” Donya Esmeralda told her son. “Mahirap mag-aral ng walang laman ang tiyan. Hinay-hinay rin. While it is a very nice thing to do, following all your Papa’s wishes, take time rin to smell the flowers, so to speak. Huwag masyadong subsob sa pag-aaral. Minsan ka lang maging young.”
Richard promised his mother he will. It has been an ongoing thing for the two of them. He is more open to his mother than his father. Most of the time, it is Donya Esme who go between father and son when the pressure gets too intense for Richard and when she feels like her husband is getting out of hand. Richard also knows he can’t skip breakfast as his mother will nag him about it, so he nodded to her and went back to his room to take a bath and get ready for school. The first thing he saw was his phone when he entered his room. He smiled.
Richard: Good morning Maya!
Maya: Good morning, Ricky. Ang aga mong gising ah!
Richard: Ikaw din kaya. Full schedule ka ba today?
Maya: Yes. Have classes this morning. Tapos after lunch, library ako. Then work ako ng ilang hours.
Richard: Wow, full nga! Rest rest ka rin ng kaunti ha. What time will you be home.
Maya: Yes, I will. Meron namang free time in between. Siguro I will be home around 8pm. Bakit?
Richard: Wala lang. Okay, have a great day sa kabila ng sobrang busy mo na schedule. I’ll see you later.
Maya: See you?…
Richard: Basta. Bye Maya. Take care! 🙂
Maya: Bye, Ricky. Have a great day too! 🙂
Richard dropped his phone and looked out of the window, smiling, lost in thoughts. He was remembering the day he had seen Maya for the first time. He was studying by the window when he unconsciously looked out, watching the people passing by while resting his tired brain from all the mathematical calculations he was doing. She was laughing at what her friend said, Doris, he thought now, and her merriment lit up her whole, beautiful face. She seemed so full of life and so pretty that she took his breath away. His heart skipped a beat. She was wearing the uniform of her college so he had known what course she was taking at least, though not her major.
From then on, he always looked out of the window when he is at home and knew that Maya might be passing by. He was also thinking of how he can meet her when the opportunity presented itself that day at the fast food place. He can’t believe his luck when he saw her at the counter, looking so lovely even in her uniform. Up close, he had seen that she as a heart-shaped face with doe-shaped eyes fringed by lush lashes. Her smile was so lovely. Her lips, pouty. Her movement so graceful.
Seeing Maya again the day before was one of the best things that happened to him. Call it fate! Pinagtagpo ulit sila to get to know each other more. He didn’t notice the passing of the time as they chatted over dinner. Maya is really a lovely person inside out. He managed to gauge that during the course of their conversion. He would like to get to know her more. At that point in his life, he can’t really afford having a girlfriend and he promised his Papa that he will concentrate fully on his studies. He was really insisting on him topping the board exams and it is putting undue pressure on him.
Richard does not have the heart to tell his father off as he knew how important that thing is for him to top the exams. However, he can’t also help himself, he is very much drawn to Maya and her bubbly personality. She is like a ray of sunshine. More like a sunflower. Isn’t it apt that she ended up living in ‘sunflower’ street! Mirasol, after all is, is the Spanish of sunflower. That much he got from a short Spanish course he took a long time ago.
Richard ’s thoughts was interrupted with Donya Esmeralda calling his name and telling him that breakfast is ready. Richard hastily went to bath. Yes, he has a full schedule that day, but he has the evening to look forward to, very much.
Maya, on the other hand, was still holding her phone with a big, goofy smile on her face when Doris saw her.
“BFF, di ba, maliligo ka na?” Doris asked. She thought that Maya, by then would be finished with her bath as they needed to leave the house in half an hour for their classes. “Hala, kilos na kaya. Alam mo namang terror iyang si Ms. Diaz sa mga late.”
“Oh, ah errr, yes Doris! Bath! Oo nga pala!” Maya suddenly remembered that it was what she was supposed to do when her phone beeped and the exchange of text messages with Richard. “Okay, sandali lang. Naku, nakabihis ka na pala. Wait lang. Quick lang ako.”
“Naku, BFF, bilis. Grabe, parang wala ka talaga sa sarili this morning. Parang alam ko na kung bakit, dahil iyan kay ex-Mr. Dreamboat ko!” Doris said, pretending to be hurt. “Hay, hindi ko pa man nakikilala ng pormal, sawi na ako.”
“Doris, ikaw talaga, hahahahaha.” Maya laughed. “Sige na, maliligo na ako.”
“Wait, wait, wait. Isang tanong muna Maya Dela Rosa. Nag-text siya ‘no? Kaya ka ganyan. Saka hawak-hawak mo kaya iyong phone mo habang parang lumulutang ka sa alapaap diyan.” Doris teased.
Maya gave her a brilliant smile, then said “Yes,” before closing the bathroom door.
Doris settled into the couch while waiting for Maya. She is happy that her friend seemed to be on her way to being in love. Parang gaya lang sa mga pocketbook na binabasa nila! Maya told her about meeting Richard the day before after she asked her why she looked dreamy when she saw her last night. Hayun her BFF was napilitang magkwento sa unexpected meeting nila ni Richard papuntang bookstore, na nauwi sa dinner and mahabang kwentuhan.
Doris squealed with delight when Maya admitted that Richard took her home and even gave her the books. Doris said, noon pa lang pasado na si Richard dahil grabeng magpakilig, considering first date pa lang. Maya corrected her and said unexpected meeting and not first date. Doris insisted na pareho na rin iyon.
Maya was so animated when she talked about her day with Richard, Doris recalled. Mukhang mababali ng BFF niya ang pangako sa sarili na hindi muna magbo-boyfriend hanggang hindi natatapos ang law school! Maya however insisted that she and Richard are just friends at kaka-start pa lang nila ng kanilang friendship.
Doris told her na ibibili niya si Maya ng sampung favorite niyang romance novels kapag mali ang kanyang hinala na papunta na si Richard sa panliligaw sa kanya. Maya said she will list down the titles of the books she wants. Doris also teased Maya that Maya will have to clean the apartment for a whole month if she right. Of course, they were not serious about betting. But it would be fun to know who will be right in the end. Doris was sure that it will be her. Richard will be Maya’s first boyfriend! Sa dinami-dami ng nanligaw sa BFF niya noong high school sila, walang pumasa kahit isa.
The two friends went to school soon after, with Richard still the main topic of conversation. The whole day passed like a blur with all the academic requirements they needed to deal with. Doris went home after their classes while Maya went directly to the fast food place. She was walking home from the street corner at around 8PM that night when someone called her.
“Maya!…She looked and saw Richard with a big smile, coming out of the gate of their house. He was carrying a paper bag. “Hi! I have been waiting for you to pass by.”
“Hi Ricky!” Maya greeted Richard, surprised. “Sana you texted me na lang to know.”
“It’s okay. I know you were at work. Wala naman akong gagawin. Napag-review na ako kanina.” Richard said. “May I walk you home?”
“S-sure!” Maya said, her heart skipping a beat. “Pero, ang lapit na lang naman. But, ikaw bahala ka.”
“Thank you, Maya.” Richard said. “Kumusta ang work?”
“Okay naman, maraming customer. Pero masaya naman kaming mga crew.” Maya said. “Ikaw, kumustang studies mo. Natuloy ba ang group study mo with your brods?”
“Yes, we did. Na-cover naman naming lahat. Iyon nga lang, medyo intense na talaga ang lahat kasi last year na namin ito. Tapos after graduation naman, we will review pa for the board exams.” Richard said. “But it is okay. I’m just looking forward to hurdling everything.”
“Mabuti ka nga, patapos ka na. Me, I’m just starting. After four years of AB, there is four years of law school plus review rin like you. Matagal-tagal pa ang bubunuin ko.” Maya said.
“I’m sure, you can do it, Maya. I admire your determination. One day, I will call you Atty. Maya Dela Rosa.” Richard looked at Maya smiling.
Maya smiled back. “And I wll call you Engineer Richard Lim.”
They shared a smile. Only then they realized that they have reached Maya’s place.
“Richard, pasok ka muna. I’m sure, Doris would like to meet you.” Maya said.
“Okay lang?” Richard asked with a smile.
“Oo naman.” Maya repied as she unlocked the front door. She immediately saw Doris sitting in the living room, watching a teleserye. “BFF, may bisita tayo.”
Doris looked up and saw Richard. She gave him a big, teasing smile. “Hi, Mr. Dreamboat! Finally, nakilala na kita. I’m Doris.”
Richard reddened a bit, not used to being called a dreamboat, but smiled at Doris. “Nice to meet you too, Doris.” Then he remembered the paper bag he was carrying. “Maya, I almost forgot, for you and Doris pala. Food galing sa bahay. Bigay ni Mama. May kaunti kasi kaming salo-salo for her birthday. Nakwento ko kasi sa kanya na nagkita tayo kahapon, and about what you told regarding sa gift sa kanya.”
“Oh! Thank you Ricky. Pakisabi sa Mama mo, thank you rin.” Maya said happily, touched and giddy that Richard mentioned her to his mother. “Pakisabi rin sa Mama mo, happy birthday galing sa amin ni Doris.”
“I will. O paano, aalis na ako so you and Doris can eat dinner.” Richard said.
“Hindi ka man lang ba muna mag-stay for a while? Would you like a drink. Saluhan mo kami nitong BFF ko sa dinala mo for us.” Doris asked, wanting to get to know her BFF’s future boyfriend. “Please.”
“Okay drinks na lang. I can’t eat anymore. Kanina pa kami kumakain sa house.” Richard said with a big lopsided smile.
“Coke, Ricky, or iced tea?” Maya asked, glad that Richard is staying for a while.
“Coke, please, Maya. Thanks a lot.”
Maya set the table and the three of us, sat and chatted while the best friends enjoyed the kare-kare, menudo, chopsuey that Ricky brought with him. As she chatted with Richard, Doris got to like him more for Maya. She also noticed the two of them sharing a gaze from time to time. Ah, young love. She was sure the two of them were on their way to experience that most heady of emotions that she only get to read in books.
When dinner was over, Doris excused herself. Maya and Richard stayed for a while in the living room chatting. Richard said good night at past 11PM. The following day, Doris teased Maya about Richard’s thoughtfulness and his mother, being boto to her already. Maya just smiled. Doris teasing was interrupted bu Richard’s text message.
From then on, Richard’s text messages became a part of Maya’s mornings. She looked forward to it, and Richard was the same. There were also times that Richard fetches Maya from her work, or from school, and they walked together to Mirasol Street. They also spend their free time together, watching movies whether at Maya’s place or in the cinema, sometimes with Doris and her date. Maya also got to meet Richard’s sister Grace one afternoon. Then the following week, his parents. Richard asked Maya to his house as he was going to get the books he will be giving her. His father was a bit on the serious side, but Donya Esme, or Tita Esme as she wanted Maya to call her was very friendly.
There was no declaration of love between them in all those times. To their friends, especially to Doris, they looked like and acted like boyfriend and girlfriend already. Maya felt that she was falling more and more for Richard with each time, moment she spent with him. Richard was the same, but he was waiting for the right moment to declare his feelings for Maya. He was planning to do it, while in Mindoro. Yes, he decided to push through with his plan to go to Mindoro. He wanted to do it away from the pressure of the final exams on both him and Maya. Besides, he thought it would be more meaningful if he does it in Mindoro, where everything is dear and familiar to Maya. He wanted it to be special. He wanted to formally ask Maya if he can court her. Richard felt that he and Maya are already more than friends, but he wanted to formally declare his intentions and love for her. He felt then that they were young and had all the time in the world.
Soon, the semester drew to a close. Maya and Doris packed their bags to go to Mindoro. Richard insisted on taking them to Batangas Pier. He borrowed his mother’s car.
“Ricky, thank you again for driving us up to Batangas. Sobra-sobra na ito.” Maya said as she and Richard stood near his car at the busy port. Doris went ahead to buy their tickets, to give the love birds, she said, a special moment to say good-bye. They smiled at her and thanked her.
“No worries, Maya. I’m happy to do it.” Richard said, gazing at Maya, as if memorizing her face. “I’ll miss you a lot.” He said.
Maya got self-conscious the way he was looking at her. “Me too, I’ll miss you. Enjoy your vacation too. Text text na lang tayo.”
“Sure, I will, everyday like what we have been doing. I promise. Besides, I’ll see you soon.” Richard said meaningfully.
Maya thought Richard meant that the semester break will be over soon. “I’ll see you soon. Mabilis naman ang araw. You take care.” She was having a hard time saying goodbye to him.
“Take care too, Maya.” Then Richard did something unexpected, he kissed Maya on the cheek, and whispered. “I’ll be thinking of you, always.”
Maya was surprised at his action. Her face tingled from the touch of Richard’s lips. She blushed. “You will be in my mind too, Ricky.” She whispered softly.
Maya and Richard shared a loving smile. The hustle and bustle of the people in the pier faded in the background as they got lost in their own world.
Richard was looking forward to seeing Maya in a couple of days. Finally, he can tell her how he feels about her. Maya is looking forward to seeing Richard again when the vacation is over. At least, they can text and call each other. She didn’t have an idea that Richard plans to follow and surprise her several days after that.