“This is Mirasol Street now?” Richard exclaimed, amazement in his voice when he finally saw the street where he had lived since childhood, after ten long years! “Amazing! I like the new look of the street, with all the plant boxes and the old-fashioned lamps! I’m very sure, Abby will like it here!” The street looks neat even at night, and wider. On closer look, he noticed that the plant boxes were filled with bougainvilleas and sunflowers!
Maya looked at Richard. “You are planning to bring Abby here? Kailan?” She asked, not sure if him saying that Abby will like it here, means that Abby would like it when he takes her here for a visit or something much more permanent. Her heart beat faster, waiting for his answer.
“Oh, not just bringing her here, Maya! We are actually moving back here!” Richard said with a grin. “Iyon nga dapat ang aasikasuhin ko bukas kaya ako late papasok. I’m planning to inspect the house in the morning. I need to be sure na makakalipat na kami nina Abby, Manang and Sabel this Saturday. I’m tired of living na rin in a service apartment. Saka I want a yard din where Abby can play, like Grace and I used to do when we were kids.”
“Really! That’s great! You have a beautiful house and I’m sure Abby will like it there. Tapos, for sure naman, si Manang Fe, also Sabel, will be happy to go back here. This is a pretty quiet neighborhood still, kahit malapit sa gate ng PUS. As you can see, medyo OC ang bagong kapitan ng barangay sa lugar na ito. Inayos lahat at she made sure na malinis ang paligid. Bawal ang kalat.” Maya said smiling, at the same time, it also finally registered in her brain that Richard will just be several houses away from her again! Her heart was surely, and truly, beating faster!
“That’s why I decided to move back here, for Abby. I’m sure she will thrive here. Kaya nga when you told me earlier that you still live here, I’m happy. What a wonderful coincidence, Maya! Like the fact that I met you unexpectedly again yesterday, and now, I found out that you still live here! Isn’t it great!” Richard said happily, as he slowed down in front of his old house. On impulse, he asked Maya, “Are you sleepy na? Maybe, we can just both check the house now, since nandito na tayo.”
“Ha, kasama pa ako?” Maya asked, surprised. She was not expecting that. For some reason, she felt nervous and excited to be going into that old house with Richard!
Richard looked at Maya intently. “Kung okay lang sana sa iyo, Maya. I must confess, I have been putting this off a bit, kasi nga I was not sure if I’m ready to deal with all the memories, when I see the old place again. But after having met you again, thank God, this seems to be easier now. I don’t know why.” He finished softly.
Having put it like that, Maya didn’t have the heart to say no. She understood completely what Richard meant when he said that. It felt like looking at old photographs in a photo album, there are those you can just take a look and smile readily, remembering the instance those photos were taken. The emotions and the happiness. There are photo albums where you need to prepare yourself when you look at it. There are just things and situations where you really have to take a deep breath and fortify yourself before you can go, look, and dwell into those that ask too much from you, emotionally. “Okay, sige, I will go with you. Hindi rin naman ako sanay matulog kapag hindi pa past 12MN, maaga pa naman! I guess, remnants of my law school days and puyatan for exams or recitations.”
“Really Maya? You will go with me?” Richard asked with a big grin. “Thank you so much. I appreciate it very much.”
Richard parked his car in front of the tall gate of the house. He asked Maya to stay in the car while he opened the gate with a key he fished from his messenger bag. Then he drove inside and stopped at the car port of the huge, dark house.
“Maya, sandali lang ha huwag ka munang bumaba, I will switch on some lights lang.” Richard said as he hastily unfastened his seatbelt, then got out of the car.
Several minutes after, the whole place was illuminated. Richard opened the door for Maya and assisted her out of the car.Maya took his hand. His hand felt a bit clammy. She pressed it reassuringly. Richard smiled at her and mouthed, ‘Thank you.’
“Wow, parang hindi ten years na walang nakatira!” Maya remarked, looking around the beautiful grounds, and the stairs that led to the second floor of the house which, like old houses built during the early 1900s, serves as the living area of the house.
“Mama and Papa made sure that the house is well-maintained kahit walang nakatira. Kaya nga they hired Manong Lando and Manang Lucing. Tapos, before Abby and I moved back to the Philippines, I asked my cousin to have the house renovated para pagbalik namin dito na kami titira ni Abby for good. Iyon nga lang, there was a delay in the works being done here, kaya hindi kami nakalipat kaagad. We had to stay in a service apartment muna. Last week, Manong Lando and the decorator that my cousin hired said everything is okay na, pero I want to see first bago ko i-uproot si Abby from that apartment.” Richard explained. “Halika, let’s go up and see the rest.” He put his hand on Maya’s elbow and escorted her upstairs, to the small balkonahe there. He unlocked the big narra doors.
Richard gestured for Maya to step inside first. The first thing that Maya saw was the living room of the Lims, looking as it was before, except for the sofas, which are now done in light colors, maybe because of Abby. However, the gleaming hardwood floor is the same. The floor lamps are new additions too. The grand piano is still there. Maya remembered Grace playing the afternoon she finally met Richard’s parents.
Stepping into the house is like stepping into a time machine that takes her back to the past, to ten years ago. Maya suddenly remembered her one and only time inside the house. It was towards the end of that semester. She remembered Donya Esmeralda welcoming her warmly, Richard’s sister Grace who was very friendly, as they have met the week before that in PUS. Grace saw her and Richard eating at one of the kiosks inside the campus. Richard introduced them and they got on very well, especially after Richard told her that Maya loves those bodice ripper novels that she devoured too. She remembered thanking Donya Esme, who insisted on being called Tita Esme, for the food she sent to her and Doris on her birthday. Maya smiled at her fond memories.
“O bakit ka naka-smile?” Richard asked, smiling as well, as the two of them walked around the spacious living room. He was actually looking at Maya’s facial expression instead of the insides of the place as he noticed her looking around and then, she got lost in her thoughts and has this dreamy smile on her face.
“Wala lang, naaalala ko lang iyong time na pumunta ako rito, nung kukunin natin iyong books na ipapahiram mo sa akin, and your Mama welcomed me so warmly, pati na si Grace. Nagpa-piano pa nga siya nang dumating tayo, di ba? Though, iyong Papa mo parang serious ng kaunti, as far as I could remember. Di ba, he just nodded when you introduced me to him?” Maya recalled. “Medyo nakakatakot nga siya. Tapos iyong Mama mo naman, so warm and accommodating talaga.”
“Yes, I remember that.” Richard smiled at the memory. He actually wanted Maya to meet his parents. So, on the pretext of getting the books, he asked her to come inside one afternoon when he had picked her up from her college and they walked home together.
Richard gazed at Maya, then made a decision to admit something.“Mama acted like that kasi I think she was sensing something, call it mother’s instinct. Papa also acted like that since I think he was reading something in the situation, especially into my actions those days.” He took a deep breath, and proceeded with his admission.
“They were like that kasi ikaw pa lang ang unang girl na isinama ko sa house to meet my parents. Mama thought I was courting you or that you were my girlfriend na, I think. Papa reacted that way, kasi he thought that too. He didn’t approve of me having a girlfriend in college kasi raw madi-distract lang ako. Then he saw me with you. Prior to that, he had seen us together, walking down the street. Grace also mentioned in passing while we were eating dinner, the same day you met her, that she have met you. She really liked you and even teased me about courting you seriously as she would like you to be her sister-in-law in the future.”
Maya looked at Richard and felt herself blushing, the blood rushing to her head, making her feel dizzy. “Really, Ricky! I never knew! Wala ka bang ibang friends na girls at that time? Wala kang dinala rito, close friends na girl. Sa birthdays mo?”
“I have, pero hanggang school lang. Saka they were more of my classmates.” Richard said. “I never thought of bringing them here, to the house because this is something private and personal to me.”
“How about iyong girlfriends mo noon?” Maya asked, wanting to know after all these years! Come to think of it, they never discuss much that aspect of Richard’s life, the life before they met each other and became very good friends or more than that, maybe, if the things that had happened didn’t happen.
Richard gave Maya one of his charming lopsided smiles. “Yes, I had one during my first two years in college, my high school girlfriend, but it was nothing serious. We parted okay as we both realized what we had in high school was just that – a teenager kind of thing. Saka nung last years ko sa Engineering, wala, kasi nga Papa seemed to be against it, tapos wala naman rin akong ibang nakita that I liked very much, until you came into my life.” He finished, looking at her meaningfully. “You were the only one I wanted to introduce to them at hindi iyon dahil dito ka lang nakatira sa same street.”
“Ha, pero hindi mo naman ako girlfriend at that time!” Maya blurted out. Her heart is beating loudly too, hearing these revelations after all these years, out of the blue, and when she least expected it. She felt there is more to come. She wanted to sit down as she felt her knees are getting wobbly.
“Well, may I ask you something?” Richard suddenly said, realizing that now he has the perfect opportunity to get an answer to a very important unanswered question from the past. When Maya, nodded for him to proceed and ask his question, he forged on. “I know it is water under the bridge, pero if I had courted you then, and ask you to be my girl, would you have said yes?”
“Ha, err…..” Maya was suddenly at a lost for words. She took a deep breath and tried to reply, getting tongue-tied all of a sudden. “Well, you see….Well, I…..”
Richard grinned at Maya, encouraging her to reply, and dying to hear her answer too, if he must admit! “Maya Dela Rosa, don’t take the fifth on me……” He teased her to lighten up the mood.
“Well, since it is water under the bridge…..errr, yes! I think, I would have said yes to being your girl then. I liked you a lot and I liked your company.” She finished in a rush.
“Really, really, Maya?” Richard felt suddenly very happy, but at the same time , felt a bit sad that it didn’t happen. Maya felt that too. Pero, what can they do, the circumstances were against them. “Thank you for admitting, Maya. It meant a lot to me. And so that you know, if I didn’t leave I would have courted you properly until you say yes.”
“Oh…..” Maya’s heart somersaulted with that relevation, another bombshell from Richard!
“Yes, I would have!” Richard said softly, seriously. There is really something about the night that makes one confessed one’s innermost thoughts and feelings.
“I was actually going to follow you to Mindoro several days after I took you to Batangas if circumstances didn’t intervene, and I was planning to declare my feelings for you there. I thought it would be more memorable, more special since that place have a lot of wonderful memories for you already. I was really counting the days until the semester was over so I can do that. I had a crush on you even before we, formally, met. I used to watch out for you passing by when I’m home, and when I knew you might pass by. I can’t believe my luck when I chanced upon you at the fast food place. I usually eat at home, but that evening, I studied with Ryan at the library and was very hungry so I gravitated towards the fast food place.”
With that admission, Maya felt like she just lost her breath and she was plummeting weightless, as if she sky jumped and the initial adrenalin rush, and the strong winds, had hit her senses full blast. Ricky had feelings for her that time too! She was not alone with she felt then. She just looked at Richard, who was gazing at her intently with a big warm smile on his face. It took several more seconds to recover her equilibrium.
“Thank you for telling me too, Ricky. You know, I was not really on duty that night. I was covering for someone who was absent. I guessed we were destined to meet that time, huh.” Maya smiled, suddenly feeling shy and a bit out of sort. She felt like she will melt the way he was looking at her, she needed a diversion and to process this whole wonderful day and night! She blurted the first thing she thought of. “Halika, let’s inspect the rest of the house na so we can go home. Baka wala akong mabasang briefs and contracts bukas sa antok ko. Tapos baka hinihintay ka na rin nina Abby at Manang Fe.”
“Okay…..” Richard said, smiling. He wanted to say more to Maya, but it can wait, everything can wait, but he know, soon and too long. The past is gone but they have the present and he is willing to make the most of it. Seize the day, iyan ang motto niya ngayon. Baka rin he had overloaded Maya na with too much stuffs for the day, and night.
“Halika. Medyo late na nga rin pala. We don’t have to look at the whole house. Iyon lang room ni Abby ang kailangan kong i-check na mabuti, then the kitchen. Downstairs naman are guests rooms lang. Iyong room ko, I think okay naman. It was my old room.”
From the living room, they went to the room at the side, which will be Abby’s room. The room is painted in pale yellow with a mural of princesses and a big castle on the side. It is a beautiful room, fit for a little princess. Then off they took a peek at the next room, Richard’s. The two of them moved to the other parts of the house on the same level, a companionable silence between them. Maya likes the renovations done to the house. It didn’t destroy the charm of the old place. The decorator that Richard’s cousin had hired is very good. When they reached the back veranda, they went down through there to where Richard parked his car.
“Halika na, ihahatid na kita.” Richard said. “Can we just walk, I want to see more of the street? Would that be okay?”
“Sure, pero paano itong car mo?” Maya asked.
“Babalikan ko na lang. Anyway, since I don’t have to go to work early, I may stay a bit longer. I realized now how I missed this house. The good memories came flooding back.” Richard said. “Before kasi, mas naaalala ko iyong one week of hell that Papa and I suffered while Mama and Grace were at the hands of the kidnappers, and our evening flight out of here. Kaya nga I was reluctant to go back here, initially. Of course, I know I have to deal with it since living in this house would be the best for my daughter. I missed this house rin and this street. This is home, no matter where I have been. Mabuti the circumstances were right already and I can come back to this place, to this country.”
“Yes, this street feels like that, to me also. Ako nga ilang years pa lang dito. Ikaw dito ka na lumaki. Saka sa una lang naman talaga mahirap balikan something that touched us negatively and sadly, eventually, okay na rin naman, we adapt and adjust, and I guess, fully accept na rin. Sabi nga minsan di ba, there is nothing to fear, but fear itself.” Maya said.
“You are so correct, there, Maya.” Richard agreed. “Thank you again for helping me out. It means a lot to me, really, you never how much you are making things easier for me. I’m okay na, staying here a bit pa after I take you home.”
“I’m glad to have helped you, Ricky.” Maya said. “O huwag kang masyadong magpakapuyat. You will drive home pa.” Maya reminded him.
“Yes, Attorney Maya!” Richard said smiling, liking the way Maya said it. “I will not. I will go home soon.”
They smiled at each other, then walked down Mirasol Street to Maya’s place. Richard really liked the newly paved street and the clean look. Except for the houses getting newer and bigger, the street didn’t change much in terms of charm. He was also delighted to see the little store near Maya’s place.
“Nandito pa pala ang tindahan nina Manong Tony and Manang Bising!” Richard remarked. “Sayang sarado na. Maghe-hello sana ako.”
“Then you can do that when you move.” Maya said,smiling broadly, seeing the happiness in Richard’s face. “Here’s home na.” Maya stopped in front of a five storey-building with a small terrace in front of each apartment, that is now standing where her and Doris’s apartment and several others used to be.
“Pati pala ito, nabago na! But I think mas maganda ngayon ang place ninyo.” Richard said looking at the place. “Which one is yours now?”
“Iyong nasa dulo, second floor, end unit siya.” Maya pointed to the last unit on the second floor with a small terrace covered with plants. “Why don’t you come up so I can give you a ‘small tour’.” She suggested, smiling since it is a small apartment, especially as compared to Richard’s spacious family home.
“I would love to, Maya, pero gabi na rin. Kailangan mo nang magpahinga. Next time, I will take you up on that. “Richard said. “I’ll walk you to your door.”
“Dito na lang, Ricky. I’ll be okay. Ilang taon na rin akong umuuwi rito.” Maya said, assuring Ricky that she will be okay going up alone.
“Yes, maybe, but I will feel better if I deliver you to your door.” Richard insisted. He was thinking of the long, empty corridor at that time of the night. The place looks safe, but you never know.
Maya didn’t argue anymore. She and Richard climbed up to the second floor of the apartment building, using the stairway at the side of the lobby, instead of the elevator.
“This is it, Ricky! Thank you for bringing me home and for today, and for everything.” Maya said, when they have reached her door. “This has been a very wonderful day!”
“Thank you for today and tonight too, Maya.” Richard said. “You are right. It has been a wonderful and momentous day. I’m so happy. Good night, Maya! I’ll see you on Thursday at LAS.”
“Good night, Ricky! Yes, see you. Then if you need help pala when you move, let me know. Wala naman akong pasok sa Saturday!” Maya offered.
“Really, thank you Maya. I think everything is set. But please, just drop by the house in the afternoon so you can meet Abby properly and say hello to Manang Fe and Sabel again.” Richard suggested. He knows that Abby will like Maya and vice versa.
“Sure, I’ll do that.” Maya said smiling, then unlocking her door. “O paano, papasok na ako. Hindi ka ba talaga papasok, have coffee or juice?”
“No, I’m good. Pasok ka na. Good night, Maya.” Richard said, then he made a move that so surprised Maya. He kissed her good night on the cheek. “See you.” He said softly. Then he gave her a big lopsided smile before walking back to the stairs.
Maya just stared at him, touching her cheek. Her heart rate has not yet recovered from the sudden burst of feelings she felt with that kiss. Yes, it was just maybe a beso, but it felt differently.
Richard looked one more time at Maya, smiled again, before disappearing down the stairway. He was grinning hugely and happily as he took the stairs. He was very happy to be back in Mirasol Street!