“Tita Maya! Tita Maya!” Abby shouted as she ran towards Maya when she saw her dad’s girlfriend entering the gate of their house, wearing a pair of shorts, a pale yellow sleeveless blouse and flip-flops, looking so beautiful and fresh with minimal make-up on. “Good morning po! Yehey, makakaalis na po tayo for Tagaytay! Where is Lance?”
Richard ran after Abby. He, too, was wearing a pair of shorts, a polo shirt and loafers, looking very handsome in his casual clothes. “Sweetie, dahan-dahan sa pagtakbo! And isa-isa lang ang tanong kay Tita Maya mo.”
“It’s okay Ricky! Good morning, Abby!” Maya stooped down to Abby’s level, then gave the little girl a kiss on the cheek and hugged her back tightly with a big loving smile. She also showered the cute little girl, wearing a floral dress and Havaianas sandals, with little kisses that had her giggling. “Yes, we can leave na for Tagaytay. We will just pick Lance on the way there. On the way naman ang bahay ni Lance. Naka-ready na ba ang lahat ng gamit mo?”
“Yes, Tita Maya. Inihanda na po ni Ate Sabel. And maaga rin akong nagising!” The little girl said proudly. “I was the one who knocked on Daddy’s door, but he was awake already!”
“Yes, your Daddy was up early. He was the one who woke up me up by sending me a text message.” Maya replied, then remembered Richard’s offer of waking her up with a hundred kisses. She blushed.
Richard grinned. “Abby, why don’t you call your Ate Sabel and Kuya Joma para makaalis na tayo. Say goodbye also to Manang Fe, okay!”
“Okay, Daddy. Wait lang, Tita Maya.” The little girl ran upstairs, and they can hear her shouting and urging Sabel and Joma to please hurry as her Tita Maya was already there and they can leave na.
“Hmmm, I have several minutes!” Richard remarked, then before Maya could ask what is the several minutes for, he was giving her a sweet, long, good morning kiss. “Good morning, sweetheart!”
Maya laughed at Richard. “So, iyon pala ang ibig mong sabihin sa several minutes, Mr. Lim! Good morning din. Beautiful morning isn’t. It’s going to be a wonderful day!”
“Siyempre, sweetheart, kailangang samantalahin ko na. For sure, the whole day na ito na hindi kita masosolo.” Richard said. “Feeling ko pa nga lang sa seating arrangement pa lang sa van, for sure, hindi tayo magkatabi! And yes, this is going to be a wonderful day since I will spend it with the only woman I love and my little darling daughter!!”
Richard was right with his prediction. Abby insisted that her Tita Maya sat beside her. Since Lance would probably want to sit beside Maya too, Richard said he will just sit in front, beside Joma. Half an hour later and after a lot of bilin from Manang Fe, from Joma’s driving to huwag patutuyuan ng pawis ang mga bata, to Sabel making sure that the kids will eat proper, they were on their way to Lance’s house.
Lance was waiting outside his house when they parked in front of it. Lea had texted Maya to ask approximately what time they will be there as Lance had asked her several times to text his ninang and find out out where they were. The little boy was also impatient, like Abby earlier.
“Ninang! Ninang!” Lance jumped with joy when the van opened and his godmother was the first person he saw. “Hello Abby.” He also said upon seeing Abby waving at him.
Lea helped Lance into the van, into the seat where Maya and Abby were. Then she settled beside Doris, introducing herself to her before Maya could do so. She also said good morning to Richard and gave Joma a sweet smile. When Maya asked her about Doris, she told her that her Ate Doris left two hours before they arrived for her flight to Laoag.
“Lance, say good morning to Tito Richard, Kuya Joma and Ate Sabel.” Maya told her inaanak gently. He was already getting caught in looking at Abby’s iPad and checking the app she was playing. “Remember what Mommy and Ninang told you.”
“Good morning po, Tito Richard, Kuya Joma and Ate Sabel.” The little boy obediently said with a big smile. Then charmingly, he said, “Sorry po, I forgot!”
“Good morning Lance! Are you excited about the trip?” Richard asked, smiling at the little boy who looks like a miniature version of Maya’s friend.
“Yes po, Tito Richard.” Lance replied, then looked again at Abby’s iPad.
Seeing this, and Abby just getting concentrated on her iPad again, Richard looked at Maya. They seemed to have understood each other. She nodded.
“Sweetie, I think it is better if you put away your iPad, so you and Lance can enjoy the view and our trip. Di ba, you haven’t been to Tagaytay?” Richard said gently. “You can play with Lance later.”
When Abby was about to protest, also Lance, Maya offered them an alternative. “Gusto niyo kantahan na lang tayo?”
“What will we sing po, Tita Maya?” Abby asked, forgetting about her iPad. “We don’t have a musical instrument with us!”
“Well, we can use your iPad. We can just search online for songs we would like to sing. What would you like, lullabies, Filipino folk songs or original Filipino music. We can also try Ed Sheeran, Taylor Swift, or songs from Disney movies! So what do you think?” Maya asked the little girl.
“Yes, sing, sing, please Ninang.” Lance said, clapping, before the little girl could reply to Maya with her choices, he then told Abby proudly, “Maganda ang boses ng ninang ko!”
Richard smiled and teased Maya. “Really, sweetheart, maganda ang boses mo? Parang ten years ago, naalala ko pa ang one and only time na nag-videoke tayo nina Doris, yes Lance with your mommy, at saka nung friends niya. Birthday niya iyon di ba?”
“Sweetheart naman, past is past! Nag-improve na ang boses ko simula noon. Saka ang hirap naman kaya nang nabunot kong kanta. Hindi suited sa sultry and pleasing voice ko.” Maya said, laughing, remembering the song she got at that time, ‘Bed of Roses’! Then she also remembered the song that Richard got from the fishbowl, ‘Be My Lady’, which he sang while gazing at her throughout the song, prompting a ribbing from Doris and good-nature teasing from her friends.
Maya and Richard shared a sweet smile, both remembering that wonderful evening, and the growing feelings between them. Seeing them looking at each other, Lea nudged Sabel, who nodded in response to her silent question. Lea smiled. She is happy for Attorney Maya! Kaya pala they are going with Abby and her dad, though her Ate Doris did mention that she and Attorney Maya had known Mr. Lim years ago.
Maya started singing the first line of Eraserheads, ‘Huwag Kang Matakot’ with Lance. Since Abby wanted to join and to learn the song, Maya borrowed Abby’s iPad and they Googled the lyrics. The song was followed by several other Filipino songs which Maya knew by heart. Then the three of them segued into popular Disney tunes. Richard looked indulgently from to time at his beautiful girlfriend singing happily with the two kids. Her voice is good, he must admit. Richard felt like he was seeing a preview of what married life to Maya would be like. He knows, even before this, that she would be a good mother to Abby and the children they will have. He wants a lot actually. However, he also knows that she has a demanding career and he will support her with that. He knows how important is being a lawyer to her. They can make things work, he is sure of that.
Maya and the kids, joined by Sabel and Lea later, continued their impromptu karaoke session until they stopped at a restaurant along the way to eat snacks as the kids got hungry and thirsty from singing. They have brought some sandwiches as Manang Fe insisted on it, but Richard told everyone that they will just stop at a restaurant.
Lance and Abby both requested the adults if they can eat at their favorite fast food place. The adults gave in. Maya and Richard ordered, while Sabel and Lea watched the kids. When they returned to the table with the kids’ food, it was the two nannies turn to buy food for themselves, and Joma, with the money Richard gave them.
“Sabel, ang sweet naman nila. Parang happy family lang ang peg!” Lea said to her instant BFF while holding their trays of food.
They were looking at Maya wiping Lance’s mouth and face, trying to remove remnants of the spaghetti sauce which ended up there. Richard was doing the same with Abby. They looked at each and shared a smile. Richard touched Maya’s hand, then offered her the coffee he made for her. Maya on the other hand, gave him a bite of the cheeseburger they ordered. They shared a large french fries, while the kids were enjoying their chocolate sundaes.
“Oo Lea! Happy naman talaga ako dito sa mga amo natin. Ang sweet, hanggang paakyat ng Tagaytay, hindi hinihiwalayan ng colony ng mga langgam!!!” Sabel said, grinning. “I’m so happy talaga para diyan kay Sir Richard! Ngayon ko lang nakitang ganyan. In fairness, bagay na bagay sila! Maganda at guwapo! Para silang commercial models nitong fast food!”
“Tama ka diyan. Ako rin, masayang-masaya para kay Attorney! Ngayon ko rin lang siya nakitang ganyan at may boyfriend ha, considering mula ng ipanganak si Lance and magtrabaho ako kay Ate Doris, wala akong nakita o narinig tungkol sa boyfriend niya!” Lea said, then remembering something. “Teka may naalala ako, minsan may narinig akong pinag-uusapan nila, narinig ko lang ha, hindi ko deliberately pinakinggan, biruan nila na kaya raw wala pang boyfriend si Attorney eh dahil kay Mr. Dreamboat! Di kaya iyon ang boss mo?”
“Malamang! Kasi matagal nang magkakilala sa Mirasol Street iyang si Sir at si Attorney!” Sabel replied. “Di ba, nakakakilig ang love story nila. Sa hinaba-haba man ng panahon, sa pag-iibigan din ang tuloy! Ayiiii!”
“Hahahaha, truly, new BFF.” Lea said happily. “Naku halika na, mukhang gutom na ang guwapong-guwapong driver niyo o. Hayun, nagsasalubong na ang kilay.”
“Si Joma, guwapo? New BFF, kailangan mo ng salamin?” Sabel asked.
“Oo naman, like na like ko ang kulot niyang buhok.” Lea said with matching kilig. “Malinaw pa naman itong malalaki kong mga mata.”
“Hay naku, gutom lang iyan! Halika na, kumain na tayo.” Sabel replied, and the two of them, with a kilig smile to their employers, sat down on the table where Joma was.
More than half an hour later, everyone was back in the car, stuffed and they continued their journey to Tagaytay with Maya telling stories to Lance and Abby with matching theatrical voice, that had the kids giggling. They arrived in Tagaytay around 11 o’clock in the morning. Since it was a bit hot to go to the Sky Fun Amusement Park in Sky Ranch at that time of the day, they just drove around the attractions in Tagaytay, from Sonya’s Garden to Residence Inn Zoo, Picnic Grove and Caleruega, among others. When they got hungry again, Richard told Joma to take them back to Taal Vista Hotel.
“We will check in pa, sweetheart? Hindi naman tayo mag-o-overnight” Maya asked when they were at the reception. “I thought we will just eat lunch here and walk around the viewing deck.”
“I had already asked Liza to book a suite, sweetheart so the kids and you can rest in between seeing the sights.” Richard said, smiling at Maya. Then he talked to the reception to find out which room belongs to them and to arrange lunch for Sabel, Joma and Lea. “Thank you, Miss,” he said and to Maya and the kids, he said, “So, dito na tayo mag-lunch also, then rest after lunch and kapag medyo malamig na we can go to the amusement park.”
“Okay sweetheart. Tara na kids.” Maya took hold of the kids hands.
“Yes, Tita Maya.” Abby and Lance chorused.
“Sabel, please call Joma. Sama na kayong tatlo. Just go to the cafe and eat buffet. I gave instructions na that you three will eat there.” Richard told his long-time help.”Then after lunch, you are free to walk around. I will just text you kapag papunta na tayo sa Sky Ranch diyan sa tabi. Kami na ang bahala ni Maya sa mga bata.”
“Wow, thank you Sir Richard!” Sabel said with a big smile. Iba na talaga ang in love, Sabel thought. Parating naka-smile and super generous pa na amo, not that her Sir Richard was kuripot before. Para lang talagang sobrang saya niya simula ng maging girlfriend si Attorney Maya!
Maya, Richard, Abby and Lance went to the restaurant that offers international cuisine. Both of them agreed that the buffet will be too much for the kids. They were about to go to their room to rest for the afternoon, when someone called Richard’s name. He looked and smiled broadly at the old lady who greeted him. She was with a woman dressed in a body-hugging dress and fully made up.
“Tita Norma, hello! I thought you and Tito Probo are still in China.” Richard said, giving the well-dressed society matron a beso. “Hello, Gwen.”
“We came back several weeks ago. Your Tito Probo is here somewhere, may nakita ring friend. It seems like everyone we know is in Tagaytay today.” Norma Melendrez said. “Ito ngang si Gwen, may nakita ring batchmate niya kanina, di ba, Gwen?”
Instead of answering her mother, Gwen looked at Maya from head to toe, then ignored her, and zeroed in on Richard.
“Hello Ricky, darling!” Before he could react, Gwen gave Richard a smack on the lips, cupping his face so he can’t escape. “Nice to run into you here. Ikaw ha, more than three months ka na rito, hindi mo pa ako tinatawagan like you promised when we were in China.”
“Ha….” Richard at first was at a lost at what to say, Gwen surprised him, aside from the fact that he didn’t promise her anything! He collected himself, then pulled Maya closer to him. “Tita Norma, Gwendolyn, I would like to introduce to you my girlfriend, Attorney Maya Dela Rosa. Maya, sweetheart, this is Tita Norma Melendrez, friend nina Mama and Papa, and her daughter Gwendolyn. And Tita Norma, you have met my daughter Abby before and the little boy is Lance, Maya’s godchild and a classmate of Abby in grade school.”
“Hello po, nice to Mrs. Melendrez, nice to meet you. Hello, Gwendolyn.” Maya gave mother and daughter a friendly smile. Norma Melendrez smiled back, but her daughter just tilted her head in acknowledgment of the introduction.
The kids murmured their hello shyly, then kissed Norma Melendrez’ hand upon Maya’s prodding, which made the old lady glad.
“You are Ricky’s girlfriend!”Mrs. Melendrez remarked after the children’s mano. “I thought you are Ricky’s wife and Lance is your child! Though wala rin namang nabanggit si Esme sa akin that you got married again. I just needed to find out. You look like a beautiful family out on a Sunday in Tagaytay. Kay gandang pagmasdan, di ba Gwen?”
Richard and Maya gazed at each other lovingly, held hands and smiled at the old lady. “Thank you, Tita Norma, ipinapasyal lang namin ang mga bata. Too hot pa to go to the amusement park. Magpapahinga muna sana kami sa room when you saw us.”
“Ganoon ba! Okay, we will not keep you and Maya. Nice meeting you, Maya. Finally, may nakilala na rin akong girlfriend nitong si Richard. Richard, please say hello to your Mama and Papa the next time you talk to them.”
“Nice meeting you din po, Mrs. Melendrez, Gwendolyn.” Maya said to the smiling old lady and her sulky daughter.
“I will, Tita Norma. Beside, you may be able to do that in person sooner than you expect. Mama said she and Papa are planning to go back to the Philippines, if not sooner, then for Christmas!” Richard said, ignoring the looks he noticed Gwen was giving Maya. She is a spoiled brat and he can’t do anything about it. Maya handled herself well as he knows she could. However, he needed to show Gwen he noticed what she had been doing. He put his arm on Maya’s shoulder and pulled her closer as he continued talking to his Tita Norma.”I talked to Mama this morning. She and Papa are in San Francisco at the moment, visiting Tito Carlos and Tita Bella!”
“Wow, that’s good to know! At least after ten years, babalik na sila rito sa Pilipinas. I’m looking forward to that.” Norma said with an affectionate pat on Richard’s cheek, she turned towards the direction of the restaurant with her sullen daughter in tow.
“Ma, really, family! Eh mukha ngang yaya ng anak niya iyong girlfriend niya!” Gwen said in a loud voice. Maya heard it, while Richard didn’t as he was busy answering Lance’s question about something.
“Gwen hija, stop that! You know that they look good together. Stop obsessing about Richard. He just sees you as a daughter of a family friend.” Norma Melendrez scolded her daughter. “Mukha namang mabait iyong girlfriend ni Richard. Now I know where I have heard her name before. She was in the news several months ago as she topped the bar exams. See, beauty and brains. Stop being a brat. Hindi ka namin pinag-aral sa mamahaling eskwelahan para lang maging ganyan!”
It was the last thing that Maya heard as mother and daughter had entered the restaurant by then. Maya smiled broadly. She likes Norma Melendrez. Not so much the daughter who it seems likes her boyfriend too much and a spoiled brat.
“Sweetheart, why are you smiling?” Richard asked when Maya managed to catch up with him and the kids.
“Wala, sweetheart. Feeling ko lang nalungkot ng husto ang admirer mo.” She teased.
“Sino?…Richard started asking, and then remembered Gwen and what she did. “Sorry for that, sweetheart. I never thought she would kiss me like that. Saka wala rin akong promise sa kanya that I will call, kahit noong hindi pa tayo nagkikita ulit.”
“Sweetheart, you don’t have to explain. I got a good reading of the situation.” Maya said, then smiled at Richard, teasing him. “Next time, bilisan ang pag-ilag sweetheart. Nasapol ka tuloy. Itong lips na ito, para sa akin lang ha.” Maya added as she kissed Richard lightly. PDA kung PDA, she didn’t care.
Richard grinned broadly. “Yes, Attorney. Takot ko lang sa iyo. But seriously, sweetheart, thank you for being you. I love you very much. Halika na let’s go up to our room.”
“Well, I love you more, Mr. Richard Lim.”
They walked towards the direction of their room with arms around each other’s waist, and the two kids ahead of them. They looked at the little ones indulgently, both imagining the little Richards and little Mayas they will have in the future. To the onlookers, indeed, they looked like a beautiful family relaxing together on a Sunday in cool and beautiful Tagaytay.