“Señora Maya, narito na po ang bisita ninyo.” Fe, the Ventura’s housemaid informed Maya who was then working on her latest painting, or trying to, while waiting for the person whom she never thought or expected she would meet in her whole life! She thought, that one day, maybe they will eventually, but not on a personal level. After all, they move in the same circle, even if she hasn’t seen them in any of the social gatherings she graced occasionally. She is not much into those parties, anyway. Her guest was early for their three o’clock appointment.
Mrs. Alexandra Lim had gotten in touch through a close friend of Maya, Teresa Benedicto, and had requested her if she could arrange a meeting as she would like to meet in person, Maria Eulalia Dela Paz Dela Rosa-Ventura, the well-known painter who always signed her work with a simple ‘Maya’ at the bottom. Teresa thought that Alexandra Lim wanted to commission a painting from Maya. After all, Maya is well-known as a portrait painter. She told Maya so. But, upon hearing the name of the person who would like to meet her, Maya’s heart beat doubled, knowing whom it belong to really, Ricardo Lim’s wife! She felt and knew even then that the request has nothing to do with her work. Besides, she only do commissions now to people she can’t say no to, mostly family and very good friends. Most of the time, she paints for herself. Unknown to most, she was a landscape artist first and that’s her first love. Something she had stopped doing for years, until recently.
Maya had said yes, curious at what Ricardo’s wife wanted in requesting a meeting with her. She and Ricardo Lim had parted ways ten years ago. Since Mrs. Alexandra Lim asked if they could meet in private, Maya suggested her house. She was the only one at home at this time of the day. Jaime was at work and her only daughter Maria Angelina, Marina, was in school.
“Maraming salamat, Fe. Paki silbihan na lang ng coffee or juice si Mrs. Lim. Pakitanong na lang sa kanya kung ano ang mas gusto niya. Susunod na ako.” Maya composed herself, and then several minutes after walked into the living room of the Ventura mansion in New Manila, Quezon City, a house she has shared with Jaime since their marriage nine years ago.
When Maya approached, she saw a beautiful Filipino-Chinese lady, a couple of years older than her, sitting at the sofa near the window, serenely drinking the coffee that Fe brought her. She put down the cup abruptly, and stood up when she saw Maya approaching. Not so serene after all, Maya mused, for Alexandra Lim looked a bit nervous about this meeting too!
“Good afternoon, Mrs. Lim, I’m so sorry to have kept you waiting.” Maya said as she approached Ricardo’s wife with a tentative, polite smile.
“Oh no, the apologies should have been mine. I’m early for our appointment, Mrs. Ventura. Thank you for seeing me even if you don’t know me at all.” Alexandra Lim said. “Please do call me Sandra. I think you know who I am? Teresa might have mentioned?”
“It is okay, Mrs.Lim, errrr, Sandra, and please call me Maya. Yes, I know who you are. That is the reason I agreed to meet you.” Maya said as she indicated for Alexandra Lim to sit again. “What can I do for you?” She asked straightforward, when they were both seated.
“It’s about Ricardo,” Alexandra started, her voice sad, and still a bit unsteady. “I don’t have any other way of saying, except to say this to you straight, Ricardo passed away two months ago.”
“W-what?” Maya said very surprised and her heart beat went crazy, as if she can’t breathe at all and there was no oxygen reaching her brain. Alexandra’s statement sunk in totally, and she was engulfed by an overwhelming feeling of grief. “How? Why? But he is so young!”
“Yes, he was so young to be taken away. He just turned 40! He died in a car accident, Maya, while on his way home from work. The other driver was drunk. ” Alexandra said softly. “He died on the spot. The family decided to bury him in San Francisco, instead of taking his body back to Manila. That’s where we have been living the past ten years.” She finished, looking at a now grief-stricken Maya.
“Oh God, oh my God!” was all Maya managed to say, and tears just flowed from her eyes. She was unable to control her emotions, when she had been successful in doing so the past ten years. She had put a steel cage around her heart, not wanting to love like she had loved, as it had hurt so much in the end. Then she pulled herself together. “I’m so sorry for your lost, Alexandra, yours and Richard.” She said with an unsteady voice. Ricardo had told her before that he has a boy named after him, a junior, and the family calls him Richard.
“Thank you, Maya.” Alexandra said softly. “I thought you have a right to know after I discovered something after Ricardo’s death. Also I would like to give it to you this.” She then handed Maya a bound journal. “I found it among Ricardo’s things when we were closing the house in San Francisco. I have decided to move back to the Philippines to be with my family. This is where I want to raise Richard too.”
“This is for me? Shouldn’t you keep it? It looks like Ricardo’s journal. Baka importante ang laman niyan for your family.” Maya asked, surprised at Alexandra giving it to her.
“Maya, it is for you. You will understand when you read it.” Alexandra said, gently putting her hand over Maya’s and the journal. “And I would like you to know that I understand everything. It was hard, isn’t it, when you found love at the wrong time.”
“Sandra…” Maya started saying, then she stopped, took a deep breath. “Ricardo and I, we never were…l…lovers. I mean, yes we fell in love, very much, that true, even if we never meant to. The feeling was just too strong for us to fight. But we stopped at that. Ricardo and I knew that we were not free to love anymore when we found each other. He was committed to you and he had honored your marriage. He respected you that much and what you had already.”
“Maya, you don’t have to say this, I know. I have read his journal! He was an honorable man and you are an honorable, courageous woman, I know that. I wouldn’t be here if I don’t believe that! I will not be here, talking to you like this, if I harbor ill feeling towards you, or Ricardo for that matter!” Sandra assured Maya, then she continued. “When I got married to Ricardo, I too, was very much in love with someone else. But what can I do, my parents wanted me to marry Ricardo. I wished I was strong enough to defy my parents, but I was not. Richard and I didn’t love each other Maya when we went into that marriage, but I guess through the years, we have grown fond of each other. We have grown to respect each other.”
“You are a very understanding wife, Sandra. I didn’t want to destroy a family. I can’t live with that. I don’t think Ricardo and I would have been happy had we thought only of ourselves.” Maya told Sandra emotionally, remembering that final moment, wishing she would just die, and thought anyway that she was with the gigantic pain in her heart.
“Thank you for that, Maya. But you know what, it maybe, water under the bridge now, but had I known about his feelings for you, I would have let him go. I know how it is to love beyond reason, to have found your one true love, and yet unable to be with that person. I think you were Ricardo’s one true love.” Sandra said, looking at Maya earnestly, and with a tinge of sadness, it also hinted that she still longed for that person. “Ricardo didn’t know that I loved another when we got married.” She confessed.
“Thank you for telling me that Sandra. But Ricardo and I, we were not meant to be. He was committed to you and I was also promised to another when we met. But you know, knowing Ricardo, had he known you loved another too, he would have set you free as well.” Maya said, feeling a kinship with this lady she just met but has shared so much through the years without them knowing!
“I know, but I was not that strong then, Maya. I was afraid of defying my parents.” Sandra explained. “I hope you will not be too sad at Ricardo’s passing, Maya. But do grieve, you are entitled to it. Until the end, he had loved you. He also had kept a painting of him in a beach place. It was displayed on his study for as long as I could remember. It is a beautiful painting. When you look at it, it feels like you go sucked into the canvas too. It is so vivid, so alive. I took a closer look at the painting when I was packing it, away and saw the very small signature. It was yours. Seeing that, I also understand, why he looked like that in the painting on closer look. It was you, he was looking at, isn’t it, with so much love.”
Fresh tears flowed from Maya’s eyes, hearing those words. “Yes, I made it and gave it to him,” she whispered. “Thank you Sandra, for this and for everything” was all she managed to say softly.
Soon after, Alexandra Lim said goodbye to Maya and wished her the best. She did the same to Alexandra, and her son. When she was alone in the living room, Maya just kept on sitting on the sofa, her thoughts empty, except for the enormous pain in her heart and the overwhelming grief she was feeling, making her incapable to move for a time. “Ricardo, my love, my poor sweetheart…” was all she whispered, trying to fight fresh tears. She had stayed like that for how long, she didn’t know, until Fe saw her again.
“Señora Maya…?” Fe, started saying, seeing her very nice employer so forlorn, clutching something to her chest. “May maitutulong po ba ako?”
Maya looked up blankly at Fe, then she seemed to have pulled herself together. “Okay lang ako, Fe. May iniisip lang. Sige po, babalik na ako sa studio. Tawagin mo na lang ako kapag nandito na si Marina.” Her daughter is coming home in an hour or so.
“Sige po. Tawagin ninyo na lang po ako kung may kailangan kayo.” Fe replied, wishing she could to something to erase the pain her kind employer’s expressive eyes.
When she reached her studio, Maya was unable to paint. Instead, she sat on the window seat and stared out, not seeing her beautiful garden. With tears she didn’t feel anymore streaming down her face, she was lost in the past, to ten years ago, when she unexpectedly met her one true love one afternoon in a beach in Ilocos.
Note: Something in my head for a while! I hope you will like this too! I will work next on Chapter 12 of OTSWYL! Good vibes always! ❤