“Maya, would you like to go for a walk along the shoreline?” Ricky asked Maya while gesturing towards the lake, which by then was looking more splendid under the late afternoon sun. “Medyo malamig na, so I think okay nang bumaba sa may shoreline. Pagkatapos, we can travel na to Fort Ilocandia.”
Ricky and Maya had been sitting at the bench overlooking Paoay Lake for almost an hour by then. Mainly, they just talked about what would be their activities for the next day, and until they return to their beach places in two days time. As if by tacit agreement they didn’t discuss Lorraine anymore and the things she could possibly do. They refused to have her mar their precious moments together.
Maya also took the time to call Emman while they were at the lake. She had been meaning to give him a call, not to check on how things were, but rather to ask him if it was okay for her to stay a couple of days more in Ilocos, and to let him know that she can’t give him a date yet on when she will return to Manila. Emman assured Maya she does not have a thing to worry about and she can stay in Ilocos as long as she wanted. However, Maya noticed something different in Emman’s voice when she was about to say goodbye, like he was sick. Upon her prodding, he admitted that he had been having on and off fever for a day before she called. However, he assured her that he will be okay as he had taken a strong flu medicine already. Emman insisted to Maya that he will be okay, and that she knows naman that he does not really get sick for a long period of time. Maya was pacified, as it has been the case in the past few times that Emman was sick. However, she made Emman promised that if he gets worse, he will see a doctor and call her so she can return to Manila promptly. One of them is really needed to run the cafe and the gallery if it is going to be for several days. For a day or two, their assistant, Miranda can take over.
Ricky asked Maya if there was a problem after she had put down the phone. Maya assured him that everything was okay. She just made mentioned that Emman is a bit sick. But knowing Emman, Maya assured Ricky that he will be okay soon. He rarely gets sick and when he does, he recovers fast, she told Ricky. They returned to the topic they were discussing at that time, and that was whether they will try the ATV at the Paoay Sand Dunes, then to another one, not noticing the time really, until Ricky gazed at the lake and noticed that the sun was lower and it has gotten cooler.
“I would love to, Ricky! I want to take some pictures too. I think I know the best spots below to take those.” Maya said, smiling at Ricky.
Ricky offered his hand to her, which she took promptly. It became an automatic thing for them by then, as if their hands have a life of their own and are always seeing the other. Hand in hand, they walked back to the open hut, then descended to the open wooden platform below it. Ricky guided Maya all throughout by holding on tight to her hand and putting his other hand on her back or elbow. “Careful Maya, some of the wooden slats seemed to be a bit loose and rickety.”
“Okay. Thanks a lot, Ricky.” Maya gave Ricky a brilliant smile, then temporarily let go of his hand, walked slowly by the side of the platform and took several pictures. She then asked Ricky to pose of her. Ricky smiled at her, a bit self-conscious, as generally, he does not want having his picture taken, especially if he was going to pose for it alone. But for Maya, he did, a bit awkwardly in the beginning.
“Perfect, thanks a lot, Ricky.” Maya said happily after she has done clicking on her seemingly complicated camera several times. “You know, if you are not a CEO, you could make a living by doing commercial modelling, print ads, TV, and even the runway!”
“Oh no, not that! I’m happy where I am, Maya! I’m not really comfortable posing for a picture, much more being on display like that!” Ricky said with a laugh, then gazed at Maya thoughtfully. “But for you, sure I will, anytime. In any pose you want,” he teased.
Maya blushed at the way Ricky is looking at her. “Thank you, Ricky.” She managed to say breathlessly.
“Okay, it’s my turn. I want to take a photo of you, as well.” Ricky said.
Now it is Maya’s turn to get self-conscious. She fidgeted with her camera. She is not also into posing for a photo or for a painting. It is always the other way around. “Errrr…..”
“Come on, Maya.” Ricky cajoled, asking her to hand over the camera to him. Luckily, the model is similar to Miguel’s camera which he had borrowed before. “Fair is fair, you know.”
Maya smiled, handed over her camera, then asked Ricky softly, and a bit self-consciously where he wanted her. Hearing that, Ricky faltered, conjuring up another image, which he stamped out of his brain, as fast as the thought entered his consciousness. He gulped and with a voice a bit unsteady, he pointed to a spot with the lake in the background, near the flight of steps leading to the shore.
“Well, you can also make a living gracing the fashion magazines.” Ricky said. Maya would even be better than Lorraine in that. Maya has a loveliness in her that comes from within. It is in the way she moves and smiles, so full of life. Unlike Lorraine who looks like a mannequin most of the time. She is beautiful but in a cold kind of way and it was what got picked up by the cameras. For Maya, she has a face that the camera will love very much.
“Hahaha, I would rather work behind the camera, or behind a canvas, not in front of it.” Maya said demurely. The truth is she had been approach several times, in some instances through Emman, and asked if she would like to be a commercial model, but she declined.
“Okay, we are even then. No modelling career for the two of us!” Ricky said, smiling. “How about a picture of us, together, so I can have photos of us in my phone too.” He gave the camera back to Maya and took out his phone.
“Sure!” Maya said. The two of them posed for a selfie, and unlike in the Sta. Maria Church, there was no one who offered to take their photo. Aside from a group of Korean tourists who stopped by half an hour earlier, and the ladies manning the food kiosk, they had the whole lake to themselves, maybe it was because they were there on a weekday and that time of the year, not being the tourists season. “I will also make you a file of all our vacation photos when I return to Manila, save it on a flash drive and send it to your office.”
“Thanks a lot, Maya. But better, if I just drop by your cafe and take you up on your offer to have coffee there.” Ricky suggested, wanting to see Maya as often as he could.
“Great, then!” Maya smiled, happy with that thought that after Ilocos, Ricky and her will still see each other.
“Looking forwward to that.” He replied with a smile. “Come, let’s walk along the shoreline. Are your shoes good enough for walking there? Medyo kasi mabuhangin, unlike in other lakes’ shorelines na mabato. I don’t like to ruin a perfectly good pair of shoes, sayang naman.” Ricky asked Maya solicitously.
“Sure, Ricky. I’m sure my slip-on sneakers can take it.” Maya said, showing Ricky her sturdy and well-loved sneakers. “I would love to go there, and I’m sure it’s worth it.” She then pointed out the spots she wanted to explore.
Like earlier, Ricky escorted her down, holding her hand gently, and on her elbow, until he was sure that she was on firm grounds. Hands intertwined and with a companionable silence between them they walked the length of the shoreline, looking at the birds that gravitated towards the lake, then at the setting sun rays hitting the waters, and making it sparkle. When they had their fill, they returned to the car and traveled towards the direction of Fort Ilocandia, their next and final stop for the day. They have decided that they will just go to the sand dunes and Malacañang of the North the following day, even if those places are on their way to the resort.
In less than half na hour that they left the lake and after a lot of picture worthy scenery, Ricky took a left turn, at the road that says Fort Ilocandia is just four kilometres away from that turn-off.
Several minutes later, they were inside the hotel and resort complex. Ricky parked the car while Maya waited for him by the entrance. When he joined her, a beautiful lady, with a friendly smile, approached Ricky.
“Good to see you again, Mr. Lim.” Cristina Romero said. She had been watching out for him from the reception. He told her earlier the approximate time he and his companion would be there. Speaking of that, she was also very curious to see the special lady in Ricky Lim’s life. She looked at the lady standing beside him. Well, she is very lovely, and looks very graceful, she mused. She also has a smile that lit up her face. She must be lovely inside too. She has a kindness in her, and a confidence that bespoke of breeding and knowing her worth. There she goes again reading people, but in the hospitality business, it is a very useful skill. “Good afternoon, Ma’am. Welcome to Fort Ilocandia. I’m Cristina Romero.”
Maya offered her hand to Cristina. “Thank you, Ms. Romero. Nice to meet you, I’m Maya dela Rosa.”
Over the introductions, Ricky put his hand on Maya’s back. “Maya, Ms. Romero is the one I called up earlier to arrange for our stay here. She was the lady who arranged Lim Corporation’s last planning conference here, with my EA Liza.” Ricky explained. “She and Liza did a splendid job.”
Maya smiled and nodded in acknowledgement.
“Thank you Mr. Lim. We are happy to host Lim Corporation and count your company as one of our valued clients.” Cristina said. “Would you like something to drink, or go to your rooms? Marvin can assist you.”
“Maya?…” Ricky deferred to Maya.
“Oh the rooms please, Ricky. I want to freshen up first.” Maya said. She suddenly felt grubby after a whole day out in the sun.
“Okay, room it is.” Ricky said, then looked at Cristina while Maya was looking ahead, following Marvin who was helping them with their meager luggage.
Cristina smiled and made the thumb up signed. Ricky smiled back and mouthed a silent thank you, hastily checking if Maya noticed the exchange. He heaved a sigh if relief when he saw her chatting Marvin up. The guy looked smitten!
Marvin led them to a long courtyard with a beautiful landscaped garden, then to two adjoining rooms with a view of the beach. Marvin left them in the first room, after Ricky told him he can take it from there.
“I thought you might like your own room, Maya, since may mga bakante naman dito sa resort.” Ricky said, though he would really miss sharing a room with Maya. But there was no excuse for them to share one now and to assume that she would do so still. Technically, and in the scheme of things, they are just two friends, well more than friends on his part, sharing a wonderful time. Besides, he would like to court her properly. He respects her that much. “I’ll just be in the other room. Just knock if you need anything.”
“Sure, this is fine, Ricky.” Maya said, though at the back of her mind, she would have preferred to continue sharing a room with Ricky, for some reason. She will miss his presence on the other bed. She felt safe, knowing that he was just there. “I’m sure, you want your own room na rin.”
“Well, honestly, I’ll miss sharing a room with you.” Ricky said, gazing at Maya. “I’ll go to my room. Go rest and I’ll see you in hour. I’ll pick you up for dinner.” Then he was out of the room with a big smile before can Maya fully processed what he said.
Maya was still smiling, well feeling giddy actually as she took out her meager clothes from her shopping bag, half an hour later. She was unable to rest, feeling excited, for some unexplainable reason.
“Naku, what to wear kaya for dinner! Mukhang dressy pa naman ang kailangan sa place na ito.” She muttered while looking at the blouse and skirt she had bought in Vigan. A knock on the door, interrupted her. When she opened the door, she saw one of the hotel staff standing there.
“Good evening, Ma’am. For you po.” The girl proffered a big shopping bag with to Maya with her name on a white envelope attached to it.
Maya thanked the girl and carried the bag to her bed. She got the card, and she was right, the bag was from Ricky.
I thought we might dress up for dinner for a change. I hope I got your size right and the style is to your liking. I’ll see later. Someone will pick you up in an hour. I just needed to attend to something first. Looking forward to our special evening!
Maya felt her heart beating fast, reading the note, the feeling of anticipation of something momentous about to unfold getting stronger. She opened the shopping bag and in it, she saw a violet dress. She took it out completely, and gasped. It was so beautiful, and in the vintage style that she prefers. It has a sabrina neckline, made of lace, with a satin lining, a dainty bow cinching it at the waist, and adorned with beautiful beads!
“Oh my…..! Maya managed to say. Her first instinct was to call Ricky and tell him that the dress was too much. She had an inkling even without seeing the price tag that the dress cost a lot. But her inner self stopped her. She does want a special evening with him. She would just offer to pay for it later. He had already done so much for her!
Laying the beautiful dress on her bed, she went to the bathroom and got ready for her evening with Ricky. The feeling that something momentous was going to happen was too much in her mind, as she prepared for the special evening she was really looking forward to, in nervousness, in anticipation, and in giddiness. But whatever it is, she wouldn’t miss it for the world!