Archive for January, 2016

Love Happens – Chapter 10

Chapter 10

“Rickyyyy!” Maya screamed, then scrambled out of her scooter very fast, running to where Richard landed, wanting to know if he is okay.

They were almost at the resort when it happened. A car from the opposite direction, seemingly coming out of nowhere in the dark, moving too fast. Then it suddenly swerved into their lane. Maya thought it would really hit Richard. But instead, Richard managed to avoid it last-minute. It was a good thing he had good reflexes and they were not driving that fast! However, he and the scooter landed on the shoulder of the road, on a grassy embankment.

Maya saw Richard fell and thought the worst. When she reached him, she saw that he was conscious, though he was wincing a bit, his hand massaging his right shoulder. Tears rolling down her cheeks, she hugged him, then touch him everywhere, trying to check if he is okay.

“Ricky, are you okay? I’ll bring you to the hospital, let me just call for help. Where’s my phone? Where’s my phone?” Maya scrambled to find her phone.

Before she can get her phone, Richard patted Maya’s back gently to calm her down. “Shhhhh, Maya, don’t cry please. I don’t need medical help. I’m okay. The soft shoulder cushioned my fall. Shhhh, I’m okay.” Richard kept saying, wanting to calm down Maya who was visibly shaking, but bravely holding on.

“I’m so sorry, I didn’t see the two of you right away!” A guy wearing eyeglasses hurried to their side. He looked very worried and rattled. “Can I bring you to the clinic in town? I’m going there. That was why I was in a hurry. My sister needs medical help. She has been vomiting a lot. I think it was something she ate earlier. I was driving too fast. I was worried about her condition as she started feeling dizzy too. Aside from that, it is hard for me to drive at night also. I’m really, really sorry, I almost hit you. I got lucky since you got good reflexes, Mister! It could have been worst.” The guy finished, his voice breaking a bit. “I’m Rafael Reyes.”

“Oh, just go then, don’t mind me, Mr. Reyes. I’m okay. Yes, it could have been worse, but luckily it didn’t happen!” Richard assured the other guy, seeing that he looked pale as well. “Just attend to your sister, first, please. Maybe she got a bad case of food poisoning, by the sound of it. And be careful, it’s very dark now. You don’t want to have another accident. I’m Richard Lim, by the way, and this is Maya Dela Rosa.”

“Okay, but can you at least tell me where are you staying, please, Richard, Maya, so I can check on you later.” Rafael Reyes insisted. “And yes, I will. I will be extra careful. I may not get lucky next time!”

Maya told him where they were staying, and then he was off. “Thank you, Maya and Richard, if not later, I’ll see you guys first thing in the morning. I’m really sorry for what happened.”

“Ricky, sure, you are okay? You may need to be x-rayed!” Maya asked again worriedly. Richard might just be trying to be brave as she had panicked a bit earlier. It looked like he landed hard, his shoulder breaking his fall. She didn’t see him hitting his head and that was a very good thing.

“Don’t worry, sweetheart! I’m really okay!” Richard assured Maya, the term of endearment coming out naturally. “I just need to catch my breath so we can be on our way. Remember, we have our special dinner later.”

Maya heard him called her sweetheart and amid all her worries, it gave her a thrill. It has a very nice ring to it. But still, like in an endless loop, she remembered the scene earlier. “Ricky, I don’t know what I will do if something happened to you earlier. What if I lost you!” She said emotionally, her voice cracking a bit, “I-I-I can’t bear it. I can’t lose you!”

“Shhhh, Maya, don’t think about it, anymore. It didn’t happen. I’m here, alive and whole! I’m okay, sweetheart.” Richard assured Maya, hugging her tight, kissing her on the forehead and wiping her tears gently, caressing her face too, as if to assure himself that he can still do that and that he is still alive. The truth is, he also kept seeing the scene earlier in his head. He thought he was going to die! He just didn’t want to worry Maya by saying it aloud. He also feels a bit sore from his fall, but the pain is somewhat bearable. He does not want to ruin their last evening in Camiguin. “Promise, If I feel something bad, we will go to the clinic fast. Also, to put your mind at ease, I’ll have our family doctor look at me tomorrow evening when we get back to Manila.”

“Okay. Promise, ha?” Maya said softly. “Maybe, you shouldn’t ride the scooter again. It may not be safe to do so. Just ride with me and we can just explain what happened to Jeremy. He can just send someone to pick up the other scooter.”

Richard nodded. Maya helped him up. They put Richard’s scooter where it would be safe, then they hopped into her scooter. Richard put his arms around Maya’s waist, and just thinking that had he died earlier, he will not be able to do that anymore. He hugged her tighter. Maya felt it, put her hand on top of Richard’s arms encircling her waist, leaned back, then she twisted a little, facing him. She gave him a soft kiss on the lips. Richard smiled, then kissed her back, gently, then rained little kisses on her face.

Several minutes later, they were at the resort. They immediately look for Jeremy and explained what happened.

“How are you, Richard? Are you sure you are okay? I have a local friend who is a doctor. He lives nearby. I can send for him.” Jeremy offered.

“Thank you, Jeremy. There is no need. I just feel a bit sore, but I’m okay. The soft shoulder saved me. It was also a good thing that Maya and I were not driving fast.” Richard said, hand interlaced with Maya’s tightly as if he needs to be continually connected to her. “Anyway, we are going back to Manila tomorrow, and to be doubly sure, I’ll see our family doctor like I have promised Maya earlier. I was very lucky, I guess.”

“If you are sure, then okay. But should you feel differently, let me know, please. I can send for him, anytime. And don’t worry about the scooter, I’ll just send Marina’s nephew, Mario, to pick it up.“ Jeremy said, then added, “Yours was not the first accident on that part of the road. It is an accident-prone area, for some reason. Indeed, you are lucky, thank God! The last one was not, a scooter too! But let’s not dwell on that, you have enough scare for one night!”

“I guess it is not yet my time. Thank God, nothing bad happened.” Richard said, pressing Maya’s hand as if to reassure her and him, that he is lucky to be still alive. “Thank you again, Jeremy. Let me just pay for the damage to the scooter, if ever.”

“Oh, there is no need. Don’t worry about it. The important thing is you and Maya are safe. So, go and rest.”

“Okay, thanks again.” Richard offered his hand to Jeremy.” Maya and I will go ahead.”

“Thank you, Jeremy. Good night!” Maya added.

“Good night! Have a great evening, Maya, Richard! Enjoy!” Jeremy said.

Maya was a bit puzzled with Jeremy’s parting words. Have a nice evening and enjoy? Didn’t they just tell him that they had an accident and Ricky almost died! She was about to mention it to Richard, when the sight before her, stopped her on her tracks.

“Wow! So this is what you have been planning for this evening, Ricky!” Maya said, grinning, not believing what she was seeing at that moment, temporarily forgetting their ordeal on the road! Indeed, Richard was really bent on making their last night in Camiguin very, very special.

Her veranda was transformed into a fine-dining place. The small table there was replaced with an elegant one, covered with a dainty white lace cloth and scattered all over it were rose petals again, but unlike the table by the driftwood the night before, the rose petals this time were of different colors and variety. At the center, in a very beautiful crystal vase were several vibrant sunflowers. There were also candles in colorful glasses in the middle (good thing it was not so windy that night) as well on top of the veranda that ringed the bungalow! A bottle of champagne was cooling on the side, and the table set for two, with beautiful porcelain plates and intricate silver cutlery. A soft music was playing from the iPod docked at the corner!

“How on earth did you manage this by one text message, Ricky?” Maya asked in amazement, still absorbing everything, the magical setting before her.

“Well, let us thank Marina for that. I got lucky again in that. It turned out that they decided to have this set-up in their resort as I was not the only one who requested a service like this apparently. It has been used in several wedding proposals and romantic dinners for couples celebrating anniversaries in this beautiful place.” Richard explained, then smiling, happy to see Maya happy and not dwelling on their ordeal earlier. “So, I gather you like my surprise?”

“Like it? Not only like it! I love it very much!!!” Maya said, grinning happily. “Thank you very much. You are a guy after a girl’s heart! But are you sure, are you up to this? Are you feeling okay. We can just have a quiet dinner.”

“Yes, I am. But only your heart, Ms. Maya Dela Rosa. Only yours!” Richard said softly, gazing at Maya intently, heatedly.

Maya felt like she was turning into a big puddle the way Ricky was looking at her. She gave him a tremulous smile, lost for words.

“Maya, this is exactly what we need at the moment. Besides, I have been looking forward to this since we left the waterfalls. I want this moment with you.” Richard added, cupping Maya’s chin. “I really am okay, Maya. Don’t worry. No chance of losing me, you know!”

“Okay, as you said so, Mr. Lim!” Maya said smiling, not wanting to dwell on it, anymore. “Is it okay then if I change into something more appropriate for this beautiful setting and this special evening?”

“Sure Maya, we can eat in a while. I need to go to my bungalow too, to change and shower.” Richard said, smiling. “We can meet here again in half an hour. Is that okay with you?”

“Yes, Ricky! See you in a while.”

“See you, Maya!”

Maya went inside her bungalow, took out a blue-violet cocktail dress from her suitcase before going to bath. It was wrinkled, but there was nothing she can do about it. She only brought it with her when she went to Bukidnon, on the off-chance that she would be invited to a company event there. It is the only ‘dressy’ clothes she has with her, fit for her special night with Ricky. She started to get ready for their special evening. Ricky was right, she mused, they should focus and celebrate them being alive than dwelling on the accident and what could have happened.

Richard winced a bit when he removed the t-shirt he was wearing. His right shoulder was tender, but the pain was still tolerable. He decided to ignore whatever pain he was feeling! He can bear it, mind over matter. What was foremost in his mind at that time was the beautiful night, he will be having with Maya. They were lucky to be alive and they should focus on that.

Half hour later, Richard was back in Maya’s veranda, waiting for her to come out. He gazed at the beach, which was shrouded in darkness by then except for the little twinkling lights dotting the blackened landscape, probably coming from all the fishing boats out there. The scene looked tranquil, beautiful, profound and mysterious. Like love! He thought all of a sudden!

“Ricky…” Maya called out softly, seeing Richard seemingly lost in thoughts while staring into the beautiful night. Even in silhouette, he looked very handsome in the dark-colored pants and pale blue shirt he chose to wear that evening.

Richard slowly turned and looked at Maya. She never failed to take his breath away! She looked very beautiful in the blue-violet off shoulder knee-length lace cocktail dress she was wearing. She had minimal make-up on and her hair in a simple bun. “Maya, you look stunning.” He said while gazing at her with admiration, and so much more in his eyes.

“Thank you, Ricky.” Maya said simply, feeling her heart skipping a beat at the intensity of his gaze. “You don’t look so bad yourself!” She said with a big smile. “I’m searching for the word for it, wait. Oh, dashing! You look dashing!”

Richard grinned. “Thank you, Maya.” He seated Maya, then signal for Mario, who was waiting from a short distance to start serving their delicious dinner. He was actually quite hungry, and hoped that Maya will like the food he asked Marina to prepare for that evening. Maya did. Both of them did.

“I’m stuffed again!” Maya said after they have finished off their Mango Panna Cotta dessert. By then, they were sitting in the two-seater wicker chair placed at one side of her spacious veranda. When the place was constructed, Maya thought, the intent really was to take advantage of the beautiful view in front!

“Me too! That was the best meal I had in a while. I wish we can bring Marta to Manila and cook at our cafe!” Richard said, smiling, relaxed and so very happy at the moment, then looked at Maya from where she was, leaning against his chest. For some reason, they just gravitated towards each other like that. Maybe, with what happened earlier, they needed constant affirmation that both of them are alive and okay! “More wine, Maya?”

“No more for me, Ricky, I’m just finishing up my second glass. Thank you.” She said, looking up to him with a big smile. “Thank you again for this wonderful evening!”

“You’re welcome, Maya. Anything for you, and anything to make you happy, I’ll gladly do.” He said softly, unconsciously caressing her hair.

“Thank you Ricky.” Maya managed to say, overwhelmed with the onrush of emotions she was feeling, with those words. She calmed herself.  “So, back to Manila tomorrow, huh! It will be a long day for both of us. By land, ferry, land again, then plane, then home!” Maya remarked.

“Yes, but it will be okay. You are with me.” Richard said with a smile. “I’ll just take you home ha. If you made an arrangement with your cousin to pick you up, please let him know that I will take you home. Can we also have dinner tomorrow night? That is if you are not too tired.”

“Dinner! We just had dinner, and you are thinking of dinner again! Are you not tired of my company, yet.” She asked, half-smiling.

“Maya, never! Just the thought of us going on separate ways tomorrow, is making me miss you already, so please have dinner with me tomorrow?”

“Of course, but we can just have dinner in my place. We can just order from the Italian restaurant near where I live. They have good food!”

“Okay. Thanks a lot, Maya. Now, let’s enjoy the rest of the night!”

Richard pulled Maya closer to him, his arms enveloping her. Maya smiled sweetly at him, snuggled closely, so very happy to be in his arms. They continued enjoying the beautiful, special night in each other’s arms.

 

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Love Happens – Chapter 9

Chapter 9

“So, how’s your island experience, so far, Ricky?” Maya asked Richard while they were drinking coffee after eating the delicious lunch that Marina had prepared for them. They were sitting at one of the picnic benches facing the majestic Katibawasan Falls, which at that time, they had to themselves. There were other tourists when they arrived there, a family, but after they have taken some pictures, they left for their next destination. Maya unpacked their picnic lunch. Ricky helped. After everything was spread out on the table, they proceeded to have their late lunch. It was just what they needed after all the sightseeing they did since they left the resort that morning.

They travelled northwards from the resort, stopping at the beautiful Station of the Cross built uphill. It was quite a climb up but the view from the top was worth it. They stayed there for half an hour, then journeyed on to their next stop, which was the sunken cemetery,  marked by a big cross in the bay. Beside it was the ruins of an old church.

Richard and Maya walked hand in hand on the grounds of the church ruins and admired the centuries-old tree still standing there. They even had a selfie before the really huge and very old tree. They checked the hot and cold springs along the way, but didn’t take a dip in any of it, and the place where all the giant clams are being cultivated. The beach leading to it was beautiful and has white sand, as compared to the blackish ones in other parts of the island. They sat for a while by the beach, soaking in the beauty nature has endowed on that place.

Maya mentioned to Richard that they can also take a boat tour to White Island, which is something like an atoll with white sand and nothing much, no structures there, and it’s something one can explore in a minute. The view from the island is also incredible. She was there the day after she arrived in Camiguin and it was quite an experience. Richard said that it might take too much of their time if they will have to go there by boat. They agreed to forego that one until next time. Richard told Maya that he does not think it will be their last trip to Camiguin.

Instead, they just cruised around in their scooters, enjoying the wind, and the beautiful scenery they passed along the way, beautiful sea, under an intense and bright sunshine, and of course, most important of all, each other’s company. Sometimes, they waved at the kids who curiously looked when they passed by. They circled the island in no time at all, until they reached the Katibawasan Falls after lunch. They were still full from their breakfast so they decided to have a late lunch, and a dip in the cool water of the falls to cap their day.

“Great, Maya! This place is simply very beautiful, and I’m really glad that I took the chance, and followed you here.” Richard said with a grin. Then gazing at Maya, intently, he said softly,  “But of course, it is just a bonus, it is beautiful to me because of you. Because you are here!”

Maya smiled at that, her heart jumped at what Richard that said. “Thank you for that, Mr. Lim.”  She said, simply, then she teased him, “And what would you have done had I not said you can join me in my vacation?”

“Well, I would have probably camp at your veranda until you say yes!” Richard said with a smile. “Honestly, Maya, all I thought was following you and being with you. I never get pass by that stage when I impulsively left Manila to follow you! I never really thought of a fall back plan, which was so unlike me. I think I have shocked Liza when I asked her to book me a flight here out of the blue! And I guess, I would have just return to Manila the same day if you have turned me away.” He finished with a smile. “Lucky me, you are not that cruel. Had you said no, at least, I have tried to be with you. Then, I’ll just wait then until you return and our dinner. So thank you, really, for letting me join you in your vacation!”

“Oh…!” Maya felt giddy hearing that Richard acted out of character for her! “Thank you, Ricky. I’m glad you took the chance, you know.” She added softly.

“I’m glad too, Maya! I am so very glad that I took the chance.” Richard said, taking Maya’s hand, then raising it to his lips and kissing it gently. He caressed her hand then he put it back on her lap. “This is worth everything.”

Maya put her hand on top of Richard’s. They shared a meaningful gaze and stayed like that for several minutes, enjoying their beautiful moment and the wonder and tranquility around them.

“So, how about a dip into that inviting water to complete my Camiguin experience?” Richard asked after a while.

“Okay, and to complete my experience of Camiguin as well!” Maya replied, standing up from the bench. “I haven’t taken a dip in that water.”

“Really! I thought you did when you and Jeremy were here yesterday!” Richard said, liking the idea that it would be shared first time experience for him and Maya.

“No, we just stopped here to chat and rest after going around the island.” Maya said. “You know already what we have discussed here mostly.”

Richard smiled. “Ah yes, and it completely changed him, in my book, so to speak.”

Maya smiled back, remembering what transpired that morning. “I’ll just go and change.”

“Okay, I’ll just change here.” Richard said. “I already have my swim shorts on.”

Maya went to the toilet and removed her blouse and shorts. Even if she was already wearing her swimsuit underneath, she was conscious of removing her clothes by the waterfalls, even if she knows that Richard will not watch her do it. She just felt self-conscious disrobing like that. She went down to where Richard was, after several minutes, carrying her street clothes and the towel she brought with her.

Hearing Maya’s footsteps, Richard looked up. He caught his breath. Maya was wearing what can be construed as a modest swimsuit on initial look. But on a closer look, Richard can see that it maybe a modest one piece swimsuit but it flatters her body. It concealed and yet it also revealed to him Maya’s beautiful form.

Maya got self-conscious at Richard’s heated gaze. She blushed. She took a look closer at Richard, and it was her turn to lose breath for several seconds. His swimming shorts was on the modest side too, but he was shirtless. She gulped and took a deep breath to calm herself.

“Maya, you look very lovely in that.” Richard managed to say after barely being able to control his reaction to seeing Maya in that swimsuit. “Shall we take a deep!” At that moment, he felt like he would welcome the coldest water he could immerse himself into.

Maya nodded. They walked towards the stone steps that led to the natural pool by the waterfalls. Richard went in first.

“Wow, this is quite cold! But refreshing!” He said grinning, then he held out his hand to Maya. “Come, Maya. Just go down slowly, the rocks are a bit slippery.”

Maya slowly went into the water, holding on to Richard’s hand. But despite Richard’s warning, she slipped and ended up in his arms. She thought there was one more rock, but there was none!

“I got you, Maya.” Richard assured Maya, embracing her tight so she stays upright.

“Thanks a lot, Ricky. Sorry I slipped. I thought there was one more rock before my feet touch the bottom.” Maya said, still holding on to Richard.

Richard smiled. “No worries, Maya. It happens. The important thing is, I got you.”

The two of them smiled at each other, then realized how intimate their position was, with nary a space between them, and there was just Maya’s swimsuit, serving as a thin barrier between their upper bodies! Richard’s eyes darkened with passion he can’t help but feel at that moment. Before he can stop or control himself, his body had reacted to Maya’s nearness. He heard her gasped as well. So, he was not the only one!

They shared a heated gaze, passion and desire in both their eyes. Richard lowered his head, aimed for Maya’s lips. Hers opened  readily to receive his. Their lips met and melted into the very heated and intense kiss that followed.

“Ricky….”

“Maya….”

The kiss just went on and on. They were not aware of their surroundings anymore nor the cold water enveloping them and the little waves that the water from the falls created. Richard kept them afloat by bracing himself against the edge of the natural pool. They were only jolted out of the passion that enveloped them completely when a noise penetrated the haze they were in. A noisy group was going down the steps leading to the waterfalls. They broke apart a bit, both catching their breath and reining in the passion that ignited between them.

They shared a beautiful smile. Then Ricky gestured for Maya to take a swim with him towards the deeper side of the falls until the evidence of their desire for each other subsided. Maya followed and for the next several minutes they cooled down their heated bodies while watching the group, mostly teenagers posing for pictures. They swam around for half an hour more, just enjoying the cool water. However, at the back of both of their minds was the earthshaking kiss they have shared.

The intense attraction has always been between them. Richard had felt in from the start, even before he got to know Maya better. Maya on the other hand, knew that she was intensely drawn to Richard and he evoked a very strong physical response from  her from the start. She just tried to ignore it. Maybe this is the reason, why they just flare up like that, so fast and so intense every time their lips meet. She was just so very much aware of him all the time. Ricky was thinking the same. He can’t even keep his eyes off her and concentrate while she was doing that presentation!

“Maya, are you okay?” Richard asked after a while. Both of them were floating on their backs aimlessly, relaxing, soaking the rays of the sun that found its way into the almost secluded place where they were, and thinking about the passionate kiss that they shared, their second one now!

Maya looked at Richard and smiled at him. “Yes, I am. Don’t worry.” She said. She knew what Richard was asking even if he didn’t elaborate.

Richard gave her a relieved smile. He also touched her lips gently. Maya did the same, smiling at him, assuring him that she is okay with everything. At that moment, a silent mutual understanding was forged between them.

They got out of the water when Maya started to shiver from the cooling temperature, with the sun slowly getting lower in the horizon. They went back to where they have put their things.

“Coffee, Ricky, why we are waiting for our swimsuits to dry?” Maya asked, sitting on the concrete table, and her feet on the bench she had sat on earlier, patting herself with the towel she brought with her.

“Sure, Maya! That would be great! Thank you very much.” Richard said, getting a towel from his backpack and started drying himself.

Maya who was going to pour coffee from the thermos was transfixed at the sight before her for several long seconds. She forgot to pour the coffee into the styrofoam cup! OMG! She muttered, wanting to fan herself. Then realising what she was doing, she pulled herself and concentrated on making the coffee like it is a very important chemistry experiment.

When Richard looked at her, after putting on the shirt that he had on earlier, Maya was the epitome of calm and innocence. She handed Richard his coffee cup.

“Thank you very much, Maya.” He grinned at her. Unknown to Maya, Richard saw her reaction to him drying himself, from his peripheral vision. She is really cute when flustered, and how he likes her the more! “You?”

“Here, I got one too.”

Richard said beside Maya on the concrete table and both enjoyed their coffee while waiting for their clothes to dry.

“So, dinner at the resort this evening?” Richard asked, in between enjoying Maya’s delicious coffee. She has a way of making it that he likes very much.

“Yes, I would rather we have dinner there, our last night there.” Maya replied, then sighed. “Back to city and reality tomorrow.”

“Okay. I would love that as well. Let me take care of it.” Richard said, then he fished out his phone and send a text message to Marina.

“Who did you text?” Maya asked, curious.

“Marina! I’m not sure what would you like to do, so I told her I will text her if we will have dinner there. I want our last night here in Camiguin to be very special.” He said, grinning boyishly, excited for his treat to Maya again. He loves making her happy and planning special treats for her.

Maya just smiled and shook her head. “Why do I have the feeling that I’m in for a special treat again!”

“Hmmmmm…!” Richard smiled and then took a sip of his coffee and refused to say anything else.

Maya didn’t ask anymore. She was just looking forward to seeing what Richard has had prepared for their last evening in Camiguin. She will never forget this place!

“Let’s have another selfie before we hit the road.” Maya said after she had finished her coffee.

“Okay, for the photo, but we are leaving?” Richard asked, looking at the time. “It is still is early for dinner.”

“Yes, but don’t you want to see the rest of the sights we will pass by on the way back to the resort since we are leaving tomorrow for Cagayan de Oro?”

“Well, I would rather we stay here a bit longer, Maya. It is so nice and quiet. We can always go back, you know to this place, anytime. Like I have told you earlier, this will not be our last time here. I love being here and I will never forget this place and the memories we have here.”

“I was just thinking the same, Ricky.” Maya grinned. “Okay, we stay here longer.”

Maya dug into the picnic basket and found some fruits. She offered a banana to Richard and she got an apple for herself. They enjoyed watching the water from high above falling loudly into the pool below in companionable silence. Still, very aware of each other and the intense attraction between them. Aside from the teenagers who were there earlier for just about 15 minutes or so, no other tourists came. They had the falls to themselves. It was like they were in their own private paradise. Both of them were reluctant to leave that place.

However, when it got a bit dark, hands interlaced, they walked back to where the scooters were parked, looking forward to celebrating their last night in Camiguin. Indeed, that night was a night to remember, in a way they both didn’t foresee, plan for, or expect!

 

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Slow Burn – Chapter 2

Chapter 2

“So, are you really going for it, this time?” Stephen said, nursing his second bottle of a light beer brand he favors. He had been listening to Jeremy the past hour, telling him that Natasha has plans of going to London if she makes it to the audition of a musical she would like to be part of, very much, and that they had accidentally kissed when he was leaving her place that evening. Reading between the lines, he sensed that his best friend was feeling out of sorts, confused at the moment, and that the kiss was of the earthshaking variety to unsettle his, normally cool, friend this much!

Jeremy called him two hours ago, asking if he could meet him at a low-key bar they frequent. Stephen had been best friend with Jeremy since they met in an exclusive boys school in high school, long before he got to be the most popular singer in the country, so he knew that he was not just asking for a random, laid-back meeting. They haven’t seen each other in several weeks. Their schedules do not seem to mesh. He is busy running his family’s radio stations, and Jeremy is also hard to pin down, with all his commitments, especially the past weeks. He had declined his invitation to go clubbing with him twice.

“Go for what?” Jeremy asked, looking at his oldest friend with brows knitted, taking a sip from his, now, warm bottle of beer.

“Court Natasha!” Stephen said, not mincing words. “Man, you love her for the longest time!”

“Ha! Am I that obvious to you? How about to our closest friends? Do you think Natasha knows?” Jeremy asked, though, he shouldn’t be surprised. Stephen is like a brother to him, actually. He knows him inside out. “I really thought I have buried it so deep, that I hid it so well! You know, hearing that she might be leaving the country, the feeling, it came back full force, especially after we kissed! I guess it was just there all long. See, you even know how I feel about her!”

“Man, of course, but it was just obvious to me, I guess! I know from the get go that you were very much attracted to her, from the first time you have met her, I think. Tell me if I’m wrong! I also saw how you were with her, so many times! If not for that, I would have made a move myself, and ask her out.” Stephen admitted to his best friend sheepishly. “She is a very pretty girl, inside out. I like her a lot, you know!”

It was news to Jeremy, so he looked at Stephen in surprise. They haven’t talked about Natasha like this! He had bottled up what he feels for Natasha for years, put it in the recesses of his heart and brain, since he had decided to curb his intense attraction he felt for her even on their first meeting. He opted for the friendship. It felt more important at that time. He didn’t want to ruin the rare bond that he developed with her.

“Yeah, yeah, I  just said I would have. No need to be like a caveman man, me-and my-woman-kind-of-thing with your best friend! I didn’t act on it, did I?” Stephen raised both his hands in a gesture of self-defense, forestalling his friend.  “Besides, with you around I don’t think I would have stood a chance! She only sees me as your dearest friend, you know!”

“What do you mean? Do you think Nat likes me too, that way?” Jeremy asked his friend, sounding hopeful!

“I think so. I believe so. Don’t you feel it, don’t you see it? She likes you, not as a famous singer that has fans screaming, mostly female ones, as soon as you enter the stage, but as you, as Jeremy Ledesma, the person. She treats you like a normal person, isn’t it? Looking in from the outside, the two of you actually look like you are in a relationship, instead of just being friends.You have this special way of treating each other that excludes other people sometimes, including me!” Stephen to stress his point, and to prod his friend to finally make his move, leaned forward and said, “Look man, why do you think people never got tired of asking you and her if you are in a relationship and what is the real score between the two of you? They must be seeing something that you two are not seeing. It has been years since you did ‘Rent’ and became friends.”

Jeremy took a gulp of his drink, tilted the whole bottle and decided to finish it off. Stephen’s words got him thinking.

“Don’t you think it will destroy our beautiful friendship if I show my interest in her, that way? If I seriously let her know that I want a romantic relationship with her?” Jeremy asked, seemingly still unsure of himself. He who had faced millions of audience in the course of his career and faced countless sharp entertainment reporters who want to be the one to unlock what makes Jeremy Ledesma tick.

“Man, if your fans can hear you now! If they can see you now! Priceless! They would have remarked ‘how the mighty had fallen!’ Haven’t seen you like this, you my cocky friend, who had face life and all it gave you with so much bravado!” Stephen said, grinning. “But seriously, Jeremy, what’s worse? You staying on the safe side with her, when you love her, then she ended up with another guy, or you going for broke and gambling on what you feel for her, and what she might be feeling for you too. Better to find out, than stay on the safe zone, the friend zone. Don’t friend-zoned yourself! If she does it, after you took the gamble, then at least you have tried.”

“I know you are right, of course. In my head, I have rationalized it countless of times.” Jeremy sighed. “But she is the best thing that had happened to me. You know that and you know my background. I don’t want to lose her if I make a move to change our current relationship. You know, upset the status quo. I’m nervous about rocking the boat, so to speak!”

“Gamble man, it’s about time you do. Don’t wait until it’s too late. Natasha is a beautiful girl, intelligent, level-headed and nice and some lucky man might snatch her away, right under your nose, if you don’t do something about it! Sometimes, we need to go for broke for some thing that is very important to us.” Stephen clapped Jeremy on the shoulder. “Think about what I said. Regret is a cold bedfellow! Take a chance. I’m off to the toilet, back in a bit!”

Jeremy signalled to the waiter for another beer for him and, seeing Stephen’s empty bottle, for him as well. While waiting for the drinks, he glanced around the room, uninterested. His eyes met that of a group of girls from the other table. They have obviously been talking about him. One of them looks familiar, then in a snap he placed her as the lead singer of a new provocative all-girl band. They also performed in the last music awards he attended, the one where Nat was unable to go with him as she was doing a show at that time. Isabel, that’s her name, came on to him a bit. He just ignored her, and pretended to be dense.

Before the girl can make her move, Jeremy decided to do some evasive actions. He grabbed the beer bottles that the waiter was putting on the table, went outside, in a small place at the back of the bar, then texted Stephen to go there. He and Stephen have an open tab at this bar and the owners just bill them every month. Francis, the owner became a friend, and he was the one who told him that he can use this space if he needs too, understanding that with his fame, he needs a space to escape to from time to time.

“What happened?” Stephen asked as soon as he saw Jeremy standing near the edge of the small garden there.

“Well, I was just trying to avoid complications that I don’t really seek or want, anyway, especially now. I saw a girl inside that came to me before. She was there with a group of friends and she was eyeing me again.” Jeremy replied. “Remember what happened with the girl you introduced me to, your date the last time we went out. I ended up plastered on social media with her!”

“Man, sorry about that again. I didn’t realize that she only wanted to do that when she asked me if we can go out.” Stephen said. “Had I known it would happen, I would have said no. She is a friend of my sister, actually! I forgot to tell you.”

“No worries, Stephen. Water under the bridge. Though, Nat thought we were dating! She asked me about it after she had agreed to accompany me to the awards next week. It took me a while to persuade her this time. It was strange really as usually, she just say yes, except when she is not free.”

“Hmmm, see, take that as a sign. Maybe she was actually jealous, doesn’t like you with other girls. At least, she is not indifferent to that aspect of your life.”

“I don’t know Stephen. I just don’t want a repeat of that incident with Katrina Robles, especially now that I’m leaning towards taking that gamble you were talking about. I want to have a better chance with Nat. I have been trying to clean my act, lately! I want to be the person she wants to be romantically, and not just the ‘platonic’ thing we have. I want to be the love of her life, and not as a surrogate brother!”

“Jer, you are a good guy and Nat know the real you. Just hold on to that. Be yourself. I don’t think she believes all the drivel that has been written about you. Most of it were not true and she knows that of all people. There’s nothing to clean. Don’t change who you are. I think Nat wouldn’t want that. I am not her, and I can’t really speak for her, but I got to know her pretty well through you.” Stephen said earnestly, then added. “Now I understand why you had declined my invitation to go out twice. Was it part of this ‘new you’ campaign?”

“No, it was not just because of that! I was just feeling tired of the sameness of going to our usual haunts. Don’t you feel like that at times?”

“Yes, I do! Especially, I get tired of those people who thought that I can get them a job in our radio stations and that they just want to be in my good graces because of the influence they thought I have in the industry. But with you and our friends, it is different. I just want to hang out with you and be me.”

“The same goes for me, Stephen, the same goes for me!” Jeremy said, taking one more drink from his still half full bottle. “Shall we get going? I have a rehearsal early tomorrow for my upcoming concert. You know it has been a while since I have done one and I’m kind of, nervous.”

“Really, you nervous? You have done it a lot of times. Why don’t you ask Natasha to be a guest in your concert? I’m sure the fans you got through ‘Rent’ would love that as well. That way, you also get to spend more time with her. You two, look very good on stage and I’m sure a lot of people would like to see that chemistry on stage again.”

“Hmmm, that’s a wonderful idea, Stephen! I will suggest it to the producers.” Jeremy grinned, liking the idea. “I will have to persuade Nat first. She may not like to be a guest in my concert. She seemed reluctant, really, to be seen with me in big events these days! I wonder why.”

“Why don’t you find out? You have always been opened with each other, isn’t it? No harm in asking her. You might even be surprised with her answer!” Stephen remarked enigmatically. “So, you are really going for it?”

“Yes, I am.” Jeremy said with conviction, then he grinned boyishly, happy with his decision. “Thanks, Stephen for helping me sort things out.”

“For you, my friend, anytime. Good luck. Looking forward to be your best man.”

“Hahahahaha, that’s way to ahead! Thanks for wishing me good luck. I feel like I need it, tons of it, actually. I’m nervous.”

“You can do it man. Trust your feelings and trust what you and Nat have for the past several years.”

“I do, and that’s giving me courage.”

The two friends parted for the night. On the way home, Jeremy’s head was full of plans on how to let Nat knows that he loves her. That he wants to be her man, forever!

 

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Beyond Forever – Chapter 20

Chapter 20

“Bakit kaya hindi sumasagot si Ricky?” Maya asked herself as she put her phone down on her bed. “Baka naman nakatulog! Pupuntahan ko na lang siya bago ako umalis.”

Maya went back to sorting out and putting her clothes and her other stuff in her suitcase. She needed to return to Manila. Emman is in the hospital. He has dengue. Half an hour after she returned from her trip with Ricky, and while she was enjoying the cup of coffee that Manang Miring brewed for her, her phone rang. It was Emman’s mom on the phone.

Veronica Castro told Maya that Emman requested her to call to inform her that he has dengue. Emman’s mom, Tita Roni, told Maya that his condition is serious as it took several days before Emman dragged himself to the hospital to have a blood test. He basically ignored his recurring fever. Luckily, it was not yet too late for him. He was having blood transfusion that afternoon.

Maya told Tita Roni that she would return to Manila as soon as she can arrange a flight. She went online after that and luckily, managed to book a seat on the last flight from Laoag that evening. If not, she was planning to take the bus back. She wanted to be with Emman, and she know that Emman insisted that his mother phone her, because one of them has to be at the cafe. They have a staff who can man Cafe Arts, but she is not yet capable of handling their day-to-day operations single-handedly, longer than a day. Likewise, only Emman and she, can sign checks for their employees payroll and for paying the suppliers, and it was almost the end of the month.

When she was finished packing, she looked for Manang Miring. She found the older lady in the garden. “Manang Miring, sasaglit lang po ako kina Ricky. Hindi kasi siya sumasagot sa phone. Magsasabi lang po ako na alis na ako mamaya. Dapat po kasi doon ako magdi-dinner.”

“Sige po, Ma’am Maya.” Manang Miring replied. “Okay na nga po pala iyong sasakyan ninyo papuntang Laoag. Mabuti po at hindi bumiyahe pala ngayon ang sasakyan ng pinsan ko. Pagbalik ninyo po, nandito na si Kuya Sonny.”

“Salamat po ng marami, Manang.”

Maya opted to rent a vehicle to take her to the airport instead of requesting Ricky to take her. He has already driven a lot the past several days. Then if he takes her, he needed to return pa to the beach house. It is too much for him as the trip to the airport is more than an hour from where they were, in the evening.

She walked to Ricky’s place via the beach. When she arrived at the entrance to the Lim property, she immediately saw someone sitting on the veranda, engrossed in something she was reading. Maya’s heart lurched. Even before the lady looked up and gave her an initial curious stare, she knew who she is! So, Lorraine found Ricky after all, she thought to herself!

She took a deep breath and in the most calm manner she could summoned from deep within her, she approached Ricky’s ex-fiancee. Lorraine stared at her intently as she approached. Maya saw a pretty, sophisticated, and not exactly very friendly woman, waiting for her to reach the veranda. Lorraine looked familiar. She had seen her before. Ricky’s ex-fiancee tilted her head a bit, and it was than that Maya suddenly remembers a weird play Emman dragged her to one evening. Lorraine was one of the actresses in that play she had to endure for almost three hours.

“Hi! Good afternoon! I’m Maya, Maya Dela Rosa, I’m looking for Ricky.” Maya said with a polite, friendly smile. “Nandiyan ba siya?”

Lorraine looked closely at the beautiful, poise girl before her. As she had watched her approach, she knew instinctively that she was her rival in Ricky’s affection. Most probably, she was the girl with Ricky on that nearby. She lives nearby pala! Ricky just returned and now this girl suddenly showed up here from the direction of the beach! Siguro dito sila nagkakilala.

“Lorraine Tan, I’m Ricky’s fiancee!” She told the girl, whom she now remembers was the name of Ricky’s caller earlier. “Honey is not here at the moment. Just tell me why you are looking for him and I will relay it to him when he returns.”

“Nice to meet you Lorraine.” Maya said politely, offering her hand to Lorraine which she ignored, whether deliberate or not, she was not so sure.” May I speak with Manang Auring na lang, if Ricky is not around.”

“Wala rin siya. I’m the only one here.” Then in a voice tinged with annoyance, Lorraine said, “Why can’t you just tell me what you want, anyway. I told you I’m his fiancée. Do you doubt me. By the way, who are you in Ricky’s life?” She also asked point-blank.

“Oh, I’m a friend of Ricky’s.” Maya said simply, seeing the hostility in the other girl’s eyes.

“Friend…? Really?”  Lorraine asked with a raised eyebrow. “Parang hindi na naman niya nababanggit sa akin.”

Maya decided then that she does not have time for this, and all the hostility coming from Lorraine. She really needed to leave or she would be late for her flight.

“It’s okay, Lorraine, I’ll just call Ricky again.” Maya said calmly. “If he returns, please just tell him also that I dropped by. I have to get going. Thank you.”

“Yeah, just do that.” Lorraine said, sounding uninterested at Maya’s plight. In her mind, she was thinking, do that, and he will not answer you still. She deliberately didn’t tell Maya that Ricky accidentally left his phone in the house.

Maya left through the direction she came from. Lorraine saw her took out her phone again. She went inside to check. Several seconds later, Ricky’s phone rang. She smiled. She heard a beep from it after it stopped ringing. She got the phone and shamelessly read Maya’s long text message to Ricky.

“So, she is returning to Manila. Good riddance!”  Lorraine muttered. She looked at the phone, tinkered with it, deleted Maya’s message. She also went to Ricky’s call logs and ‘cleaned’ it. Ha, all is fair in love and war and Ricky loved her first than that girl. She loves him despite the wrong choices she had made recently and she will fight for him to the end and no slip of a girl will get him from her, and their long history.

Maya left for Laoag with Manang Miring’s cousin several minutes after she returned to the beach house. She was a puzzled where Ricky is, especially after seeing Lorraine residing comfortably in his grandfather’s beach house, and why he was not answering his calls.  At least she had left a message for Ricky explaining her unscheduled return to Manila. Baka his phone is on silent mode na naman like what happened when they were on their road trip. She is sure that Ricky will get in touch with her as soon as he can, especially since they were supposed to have dinner. Baka may pinuntahan lang na importante, or emergency, and Lorraine was just refusing to tell her. Judging by Lorraine’s attitude, mukhang di naman si Ricky ang may emergency.

Maya understand that Ricky needed to deal with Lorraine also. In the short time, she had known him, he had been honest with him. She also does not doubt what Ricky feels for her. She does not have enough proof, having known him in such a short time, but she just knows that Ricky loves her and that everything he said about falling in love in a short time is true. She feels it deep in her heart. Kampante naman siya kay Ricky. Maya said goodbye to Manang Miring and promised her that she will come back again as soon as she can.

More than two hours after Maya left for Laoag, Ricky finally was able to leave the hospital. Manong Tunying will be confined there for several days as he has concussion, broken shoulders and legs. The doctor told them that Manong was lucky because mababa lang ang kinalalagyan niya ng bumagsak and he fell on the sandy part of the garden.

He went straight to Maya’s house instead of his own, hoping that he can still catch her there. He wished that he had memorized Maya’s cellphone number so he could at least borrow a phone while waiting earlier. He does not know the landline number in Maya’s place, either.

“Manang Miring, magandang gabi po, si Maya po.” Ricky greeted the caretaker as soon as she opened the gate after he rang the bell.

“Naku, Sir Ricky, kayo po pala. Hindi po ba kayo nagkita pala ni Ma’am Maya kanina? Nagpunta po siya sa bahay ninyo para sabihin na kailangan niyang bumalik ng Maynila kasi may dengue po si Sir Emman, iyong business partner niya sa negosyo niya. Ipinahatid ko nga po sa pinsan ko sa airport para sa last flight pa-Maynila. Tinawagan niya po kayo sa phone ninyo. Nung hindi kayo sumasagot, naglakad po siya sa beach papunta sa inyo.”

“Ganoon po ba, Manang. Dinala ko po kasi si Manong Tunying sa hospital. Nahulog sa hagdan habang nagkukumpuni ng bubong.” Ricky replied, at the same time, it registered in his brain that Maya has been to the house and that she and Lorraine had probably met!

Before he can asked the caretaker for additional information, she asked worriedly. “Naku, kumusta naman po si Kuya Tunying?”

“Medyo okay naman po siya. Napilay po ang balikat at medyo masakit pa ang buong katawan. Inoobserbahan po muna siya sa hospital kasi nabagok ang ulo niya nung nahulog.”

“Naku, sana naman po, wala nang ibang epekto. Di bale po, Sir, tatawagan ko na lang si Ate Auring, baka kasi may kailangan silang mga gamit.”

“Okay na po, Manang. Pinapunta na rin doon ni Manang iyong isang anak niya to help her our and to get things for they stay in the hospital. Sige po, uuwi na muna ako sa bahay. Tatawagan ko na lang po si Maya.” He also wanted to ask Manang how was Maya when she left. Was she upset, sad or annoyed? But he felt that if would just invite more questions and curiosity on the part of the caretaker. Besides, she may not be able to tell him, anyway.

“Sige po, Sir. Talaga pong hindi umalis ang batang iyan nang hindi nakakapunta sa inyo. Baka raw po kasi maghintay kayo. Pero mamaya ninyo na po tawagan kasi po nakalipad na po siya ngayong mga oras na ito.” Manang Miring said, checking the time.

“Sayang po, hindi ko na siya inabutan. Naiwan ko po kasi ang phone ko sa bahay kanina nung dinala namin si Manong Tunying sa hospital. Sana po ako na ang naghatid sa kanya sa airport. I will call her na lang po as soon as soon as she had landed in Manila.” Ricky said, calculating the time on when he can do so. “Sige po, Manang, mauuna na po ako. Thank you po.”

When he reached his home, Ricky took a deep breath before he entered the house, as if preparing himself for another round of battle with Lorraine. He already missed Maya terribly. He also needs to deal with a Lorraine in such a way that she will finally able convinced that they are really, really over. He was not worried that Maya met Lorraine as he had told her about his ex-fiancee. He was more concerned on what kind of lies and poison, Lorraine in her current state of mind, had tried or had fed Maya. What kind of damage she tried to inflict? Was she even civil to Maya?

“Hi Ricky!” Lorraine greeted from the direction of the living room. She stood up from where she was watching TV. “Are you hungry? I made dinner. Sandali lang ha, I will just heat the food for you. Kumusta pala si Manong Tunying!” She said as if it was the most normal thing in the world.

“Lorraine, what did you say to Maya?” Ricky asked instead of answering Lorraine’s question. “Manang Miring said she went here earlier.”

“Maya…? Maya who? And who is Manang Miring? Di ba Auring ang pangalan ng caretaker ninyo?” Lorraine asked, playing innocent, confident that she had removed all traces that Maya has been here and that she had tried to reach Ricky. “Wala naman akong narinig na naghanap sa inyo. I rested in your room after you left.”

“Really?” Ricky asked, not really believing her. Then the second part of what she said, registered. “Resting in my room? And why are you using my room? Didn’t Manang put in you in the guest room?”

“Well, why not. We are about to get married, and as if we haven’t shared a room before.” Lorraine said nonchalantly. “I told her I will use your room since that’s what we have been doing at ikakasal na naman tayo. Besides, do I need to justify my preference to her din kasi?”

“Lorraine!” Ricky said, trying to control his temper at Lorraine’s bullheadedness. “Ah never mind!” He decided to deal with her later. He looked for his phone. Maybe, Maya left a message for him.

Ricky found his phone among the things he had dropped on the sofa earlier. He checked his messages. No messages from Maya! Strange! So unlike the Maya he had come to know. No missed calls either and that kind of had him thinking as Manang Miring told him that Maya called him. He checked his call logs and found it empty. He looked at Lorraine.

“Lorraine, what have you done?” Ricky said, still trying to hold on to his temper. “I don’t want to accuse you of anything really, but I found my call logs empty! I haven’t touched that since last week. Did you mess with my phone?”

“Ha, baka, there is a virus lang in your iPhone. Nabura lahat ng call logs mo. You know naman all these smartphones, feeling nila mas smart pa sila sa owner nila!” Lorraine said, fidgeting, realizing that she made a tactical mistake when she deleted the logs.

Ricky knew then that Lorraine has not changed and will not change at all that she was lying through her teeth again. She was like that when he caught her in the act with that actor and the drugs.

“Lorraine…..?”

Lorraine knows that tone of voice too. If she has to recover from her blunder and to get to Ricky’s good side, she needs to come clean!

“Okay, okay, that girl came here looking for you after trying to reach you. Your phone rang several times before she came through the beach. I introduced myself as your fiancée, then asked her to leave a message with me since you were not here.”

“Then….” Ricky asked, holding on the tiny thread of control he still has.

“Well, she didn’t leave any, just left.” Lorraine said. “Nung wala ka, umalis na. Wala naman siyang ibang sinabi.”

“That’s it?” Ricky asked. “It’s so unlike Maya to not leave a message or send me a text message, unless you did something bad that she is needed to run away from the situation.”

“Well, she is just returning to Manila! What’s the big deal? Sino ba kasi iyon? Don’t tell me, bago mong girlfriend. We just broke up. Ano iyon, your major rebound girlfriend?” Lorraine said, taking the agressive stance.

“Wait, wait, wait, how did you know that she was going back to Manila kung wala naman pala siyang ibang sinabi sa iyo?” Ricky asked, getting very suspicious.

OMG, Lorraine, you and your wits!  Lorraine felt like banging her head against the wall with all the miscalculations that she made that evening.

“Errrr, she left you a long text message.” She reluctantly admitted. “I was jealous so I deleted it, before I deleted the call logs.”

Ricky lost it. In a very calm manner, he said, “Lorraine, how could you? You used to be a decent human being!”

Lorraine knew than that he was very angry at what she did. “Ricky, sorry! Please, I only did it because I was so jealous of her. I love you very much and I will do everything to save what we have. I don’t want to lose you.”

“Lorraine, you have lost me long before Maya came to my life and there is nothing to save! How many times do I have to tell you that. And it is not love anymore if you can’t see reason and if you are hurting other people, thinking only of yourself. I pity you.” Ricky didn’t mince words. “Feel free to stay in this place. I will arrange for your transportation in the morning. I’m really sorry it has to be like this.”

With that, he went to his room, and hastily packed his bags. He was about to leave the room, when he remembered his and Maya’s grandparents journal. Thank God, he put it somewhere safe before he went on vacation with Maya. Several minutes after, he was in the living room again.

“Wait, where are you going?” Lorraine asked, panicking a bit, seeing Ricky carrying his bags.

“I’m leaving. You should be okay here. I will send for our caretaker’s other daughter to be with you. She lives nearby. Her name is Rosario.” Ricky said, having made up his mind, he felt calmer. Despite coming there uninvited, Lorraine is still the daughter of a family friend and they had shared some good times together. But he refused to tell her where he is going. “Good bye, Lorraine. I hope you realized that this is really the end for the two of us. I love Maya, very much and I want a future with her.”

Lorraine just stood there, shocked at what she heard, and at Ricky’s tone when he declared his love for that girl. It was different, very, very different.

Ricky loaded his things into the car, took a deep breath, called Manang Auring, explained that he will leave the beach house at that moment, and requested that she send Rosario to the house for Lorraine. He also requested her to have Rosario arrange Lorraine’s transportation to the airport in the morning. He also told Manang Auring that he will take care of Manong Tunying’s hospital bills. Having done that, he got into the car and started his long journey back to Manila. He had decided to follow Maya, instead of just calling her when she reach Manila. He does not care if he has to drive all night, nonstop, just to be with her again!

 

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Beyond Forever – Chapter 19

Chapter 19

“Home, sweet home, soon!” Maya remarked when she and Ricky reached the turn-off to the village where their families’ beach houses are. She felt very happy to be going back, unaware of what await her and Ricky there. She was looking forward to being in the beach house again and spending more time with Ricky, either at his house, her home or by the beach. She and Ricky were both looking forward to returning to the place that is already very special to them as this was where the two of them started.

While eating dinner the night before, and they were discussing their plans for the following day, they both realized that they would rather go back to the beach place as they have seen most of the interesting spots in the area where they were, and also because they have decided to go to Miguel’s place and the areas near it, some other time. Maya admitted to Ricky that she kind of, miss the beach place, and their laid back times there. Ricky admitted that he, too, suddenly thought of the beach house. They have checked out of the hotel the following morning after an early breakfast and started their journey ‘home’.

Maya and Richard decided to take the Laoag-Batac route on the way back. They stopped at Batac and visited the Marcos museum there and the crypt of the former president. They had snacks in town and then continued on back to their beach places southwards, passing through all the places that by then have were special places in their hearts because of all the beautiful memories they shared there.

“Yes, it will be! Home, sweet home! We can continue our vacation here, and I’m looking forward to spending more time with you, walking along the beach, dining, swimming, and also watching you while you paint, if I may.” Ricky said, then smiling, taking his eyes off the road for a while, and gazing at Maya with a big smile on his face, he remarked. “But it was a wonderful and very memorable road trip isn’t it?”

“Yes, it is, Ricky. I wouldn’t exchange it for the world!”

“Me too, Maya. Me, too!” Ricky said, love for Maya in his eyes.

They gazed at each other, then shared a sweet and meaningful smile, both remembering the rest of their first wonderful vacation together. Like they have agreed the morning after their date, Ricky and Maya took the car again and traveled back towards the direction of Paoay from Fort Ilocandia. They first went to the Malacanang of the North, overlooking Paoay Lake. It is a beautiful house with a magnificent view of the lake. It was apparently built to take advantage of that beautiful view.

Maya remarked to Ricky that despite everything, it is a very beautiful piece of architecture. It took advantage of the nature and the beauty around it and incorporated it in the house’s brilliant design. She especially liked the tall and wide windows on the second level of the house, as well as the terrace on the ground floor where one can sit for hours and pass the time by just staring at the view. They explored each and every room, mainly because Maya would like to do so. Ricky just went with her, happy to see her enjoying herself.

When it was a bit cooler, they traveled to the  famous Paoay sand dunes. They rented an all-terrain vehicle to see the magnificent sand formation Ricky had been there before, during the Lim Corporation’s planning conference, but still, seeing it again through Maya’s eyes made him appreciate it more, and made it more special.

Maya and Ricky were jostled around and had to hold tight, Ricky holding Maya tight with arms around her, as they went around this majestic product of mother nature. Maya also managed to snap some really beautiful pictures of the place. When the sun was setting, they asked their driver if they can be let off at the beach and will just walk back to where their car was parked. They spent the rest of that day, watching the setting sun, hands intertwined and with Maya leaning against Ricky’s chest. Even without a declaration from her, Ricky was sure at that moment that Maya loves him too. He can feel it. He just knew. He was that attuned to her.

When it got dark, they traveled towards the direction of Laoag City.  However, instead of finding a restaurant in Laoag, they opted to return to Fort Ilocandia and had a marvelous dinner there. They felt so full after another sumptuous meal in that place. Ricky asked Maya if she would like to walk around the resort, and its beautiful grounds before they turn in. She readily agreed. They walked around for an hour, chatting or at times, or just enjoying each other’s company in companionable silence. From time to time, they would share a heated gaze, then just smiled at each other happily. No words needed. Both of them, just enjoying the moment very much!

Ricky brought Maya to her door at around midnight. It was there that they almost kissed if not for some noisy hotel guests who had a bit of a drink. They smiled sheepishly at each other, then Maya said softly that she will go in. Ricky wished her good night and sweet dreams and just before she entered her room, touched her cheek gently, then gave her one of his bone-melting lopsided smiles.

Both of them slept well that night. In the morning, like the day before, Ricky picked up Maya from her room for breakfast. He was carrying a bouquet of the most beautiful red roses. Maya teased him that her room was turning into a flower shop. She thanked him for the flowers and put it with the sunflowers on top of the bags she had packed before she went to bed the night before. After breakfast, they went back to their rooms and got their things, and among Maya’s things were the flowers that Ricky gave her. She wanted to take all of them back to the beach place. She also packed the violet dress that Ricky gave her. She had offered to pay for it, but he refused, insisting that it was a gift, and considered it a remembrance of their first ‘official date’!

“You are smiling.” Maya remarked when she saw Ricky with a goofy smile as he was parking the car in front of her family’s beach house. “Bakit, Mr. Lim?”

“Wala lang, naalala ko lang ang very happy memories natin the past days.” Ricky replied. “Eh ikaw din kaya ang laki ng ngiti mo just now.”

“Well, pareho tayo ng naalala. Thank you for the best several days, Ricky. I wouldn’t forget it for the world. Thank you for everything.” Maya said, then she looked where she had put the flowers and the dress, and smiled happily.

“ Maya I should be the one thanking you. I have never felt this happy before.” Ricky said. “The more time I spend with you, the more thankful I am that our paths have crossed. My heart is just full of love for you every time I see you. I love you much, Maya and I will prove that to you, every moment I could!”

“Ricky…..” Hearing those words, and Ricky’s vow, Maya’s heart somersaulted. Ah, to be loved by this guy very much. “I……” She swallowed, it felt like all the oxygen in her system went to her head and she felt dizzy, giddily dizzy if there is such a term to describe her state then!

“Maya, like I said, I can wait. Manliligaw muna ako sa iyo ng husto. I would like us to get to know each other as close as two people can get. I would like to savor and enjoy each and every moment with you.” Ricky said, cupping Maya’s chin and looking at her intently. He does not want to pressure her. He felt that Maya needed time as this is the first time she is entering into a relationship if ever. He can wait. He wanted her to be one hundred percent sure.

Maya nodded and gave Ricky a smile, grateful to this wonderful and patient guy. He went out of the car and opened the door for her. Despite her protestation, he walked her to the veranda of the house, carrying her things.

“I’ll go ahead, Maya. I’ll see you later for dinner. Have a good rest. I’ll just pick you up from the beach.”

“Thank you for everything again, Ricky. Pasok ka muna and drink coffee with me.” Maya  said. “No need to pick me up. I can walk to your place like I usually do.”

“Thank you Maya. You need to rest din. I’ll just see you this evening and that means picking you up, too. Let me just do that please.”

“Okay. Ikaw ang bahala. Pahinga ka na rin ha. You have been driving us around for several days na.”

“Yes, Ma’am! Though I don’t feel tired naman doing that. Basta ikaw ang kasama ko.” He quipped with a boyish grin.

“Ikaw talaga, Ricky!”

“Totoo naman, hahahaha. Okay, aalis na talaga ako. Sige, pasok ka na.”

“Thanks a lot, Ricky.” Maya said smiling, then she gave him a peck on the cheek.

Ricky was startled at first, then he smiled, liking her spontaneous gesture very much. “See you later, Maya.”

Maya waited until Ricky drove away, before she entered the silent house with a big smile on her face. She felt very happy. She wondered where Manang Miring is. She went to the kitchen to find her after putting her things, and her flowers on the coffee table in the living room.

Ricky was also still smiling when he parked the car at the driveway of his grandfather’s house. He got his bag from the backseat of the car, then remembering his phone, which he earlier placed in the side pocket of the car, he retrieved it. No one seemed to be at home, he mused, when entered the house. He dropped his things, including is phone on the sofa. He was about to look for either Manang Auring or Manong Tunying, when a voice from the second level of the house stopped him.

“Ricky, you are back!” Lorraine said happily from the spot where he first saw Maya the week before.

Before Ricky can reply, she ran down the stairs and hugged him tight. “I miss you very much, honey!”

“What are you doing here, Lorraine? How did you find out where I am?” Ricky said in a tight voice, disentangling himself from Lorraine’s embrace. He should have expected this, that she will find him here. She can be quite tenacious when there is something she really wants.

“I asked your father for this place. I figured out that you will be at this beach house.” Lorraine said smugly. “Ricky, hindi ka ba natutuwa na makita ako? Please let’s patch things up. Promise I will shape up and be a good girl from now on. Let’s give our families the marriage they want and expect. I still love you, Ricky.” She said rapidly, not wantingto give Ricky a chance to send her away before she can say her piece, before she can plead to him to give her another chance. “I know you love me too. Hindi naman tayo tatagal ng ilang taon kung hindi. Please forgive me na. Hinding-hindi na talaga mauulit. It was just a lapse in judgment.”

“Lorraine, I don’t want to sound like a broken record. I’m really sorry, I thought we understood each other the last time we talked. We are over. Mas mabuting naghiwalay tayo ng maayos. We were friends once, our families are friends and we will see each other kahit paano in gatherings. We are not just meant to be. It was not  just the drugs and the infidelity that broke us, you know. It was just the catalyst!” Ricky said firmly. “Magbago ka for your sake, please, and not for my sake. Please iayos mo na ang buhay mo. You have seen what drugs had done to Bettina, gugustuhin mo pa bang matulad sa kanya?”

“Ricky please, please give me another chance.” Lorraine pleaded, not wanting to hear what Ricky just said and refusing to accept defeat. She tried to hug and kiss Ricky. He sidestepped it and moved a little farther away from her.

“Lorraine, I’m really, really sorry. You traveled here for nothing.” Ricky stressed. “I hope you will find that someone you can really love and who can make you a better person. I think it is best if you return to Manila as soon as you can. You see, I’m….”

Before Ricky can continue, he and Lorraine heard a scream and a loud crash from the direction of the veranda.

Ricky ran to checked and saw Manong Tunying on the ground, groaning, while a semi-hysterical Manang Auring was cradling his head on her lap.

“Manang, ano po ang nangyari?” Ricky asked urgently. “Tara po, dalhin natin si Manong sa ospital.”

“Nahulog po siya hagdan, Sir Ricky, habang nagkukumpuni at naglilinis ng alulod.” Manang Auring said tearfully.

The two of them, with Lorraine’s help, brought Manong Tunying to the car. The older guy was complaining of a pain in his head  and all over his body.

“Lorraine, I will take you the airport when I return. Please pack your things.” Ricky said hastily before going into the car. Then he and the caretakers were off to the hospital in town.

While Manong Tunying was being attended to, Manang Auring was with him, Ricky remembered that Maya was supposed to come for dinner. And there was also the added complication of Lorraine being there! He decided to give Maya a call to tell her that Lorraine is at the beach house. That was when he realized that he didn’t have his phone with him!

He decided to wait until the doctor gives the diagnosis on Manong Tunying’s condition before leaving the hospital. He wanted to be sure that he will be okay and that the injuries are not serious. He will just go to Maya’s house and explain the situation to her, than he will go back to the house and deal with Lorraine. Thank God, he had told Maya about her! He sat on one of the chairs by the emergency room and waited for the doctor.

While Ricky was waiting in the hospital, his phone started ringing. On the third time it rang, Lorraine got curious on who had been calling him the past several minutes. She looked at the screen. Maya Dela Rosa? Who is she?  She had a bad feeling about this girl. Baka ito iyong kasama ni Ricky sa trip niya! There’s only one way to find out. She grabbed the phone, however it stopped ringing before she can press ‘Answer’.

Lorraine looked at Ricky’s phone before putting it down again where she got it, and vowed that she will not give up. She does not have any plans of going to that airport and go back to Manila unless Ricky is going back with her and that he had agreed to push through with their wedding. Instead of packing her things, which she had put in Ricky’s room, she decided to make herself a merienda, and with a magazine, she settled in the veranda to wait for Ricky’s return. She might as well relax and enjoy the view while waiting, she mused.

 

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Slow Burn – Chapter 1

Chapter 1

“Nat, please go with me! Please, please, please!” Jeremy pleaded with his long-time friend Natasha Reynoso one more time. He had been trying to convince her for half an hour, and she was not budging. “You know you are the only want I want to be with, when I attend those awards ceremonies! Don’t you want to share that moment with me, if I win?”

Natasha gazed at her friend of several years, Jeremy Ledesma, and his very handsome, boyish, pleading, please-save-me-again-Natasha-look and she does not really have the heart to deny him, even if would mean people speculating anew if they are more than friends. She can’t avoid it, and she should be used to it by now. Jeremy has always been in the limelight owing to the fact that he is the hottest pop singer in the country. While she on the other hand, is a theater actress, known too, yes, but not to the level that Jeremy is. Most people in the country probably came to know her, because of Jeremy, and not because of the roles she had played on stage through the years. They have been asked countless of times if they are a couple. But they have always maintained that they are just very good friends.

Who would have thought that they will end up the best of friends after meeting each other in the local production of the hit Broadway musical ‘Rent’. Jeremy had crossed over into theater that time, out to prove something – that he was just not just another pretty face who can carry a tune. She, on the other hand, at that time had several lead roles in musicals under her belt. After all, she was a theater baby.

Natasha had been on stage since she was a little girl, gravitating towards it naturally, owing to the fact that her mother was in the theater too, as a costume designer. She had encouraged Natasha to try the stage as it was her dream to be an actress as well, but she didn’t have the talent for it. Miriam Reynoso had switched career when Nat was four years old. Now her mother works as a flight attendant for an airline. Nat does not mind as her mother’s old life rubbing off her, or for encouraging her to go into the theater at a young age. If she had not taken a liking to it instantly, she would  have been glad to do this for her wonderful mother who single-handedly raised her after her father walked out on them when she was two years old.

Her mother told Nat when she turned 13, as she believed that she was old enough to know, that her father’s reason of abandoning them was that he needed to find himself. He found it another woman, a colleague, in the multi-national company where he still works. Despite this, her mom didn’t turn bitter towards love. She told Nat that sometimes, love and relationship just don’t work out the way you want it or wish it to be, but it does not mean you will close yourself off love or loving again. She said, love can be very beautiful with the right person. Nat thought otherwise. She had an inkling it took a long time for her mother to recover from her father’s betrayal. Despite what she said about love, until now her mother is ‘single’!  Nat had also seen the bad side of love too many times in her friends, and she refused to fall into the trap of loving someone too much, and getting her heart-broken in the process.

Jeremy was ‘Roger’ to her ‘Mimi’ in the musical which became a big hit with the local theater fans. Jeremy was described as a very soulful Roger, especially when he sang ‘One Song Glory’. People also noticed their onstage chemistry and the fact they became good friends after a few false starts fuelled speculations that there was more than friendship between them. People also  would see them together in concerts, even if it was not Jeremy’s and watching movies late at night, when they thought there would be fewer people to recognize them. It was not because they didn’t like the fans, but sometimes, they just want some private time to relax and be like ordinary people out for the night. She had been the person Jeremy confides to, even with his affairs of the hearts. While, he on the other hand, became her buffer against overeager suitors.

“Okay, okay, fine, I’ll go with you! Hindi naman talaga kita kayang tiisin!” Natasha said with a resigned expression, then asked before she can stop herself, “What happened to the girl you were supposed to be dating? The commercial model? I saw a cozy photo of the two of you in social media several weeks ago. Then there were write ups and alleged sightings of the two of you!” Then added hastily, “I have been meaning to ask you if it was anything serious, but you know I was busy with ‘Evita’!”

“Yes!!!! Thank you, Nat. You are the best! You are my one and only! Hmmm, about that girl, there is nothing to it.” Jeremy shrugged and fiddled with his drinks. The two of them were having their Friday bonding time at her place, something they have been doing after ‘Rent’, when both of them do not have commitments. There were times they can’t do this, and would just update each other through text or calls in between schedules. “I just met her in a bar one evening. She was actually with Stephen. She asked for a photo and I was just trying to be friendly since she is a friend of a friend, the next thing I know, our photo was plastered all over social media, picked up by showbiz blogs and speculated on. It was just that meeting, the other instances were not true.”

“Well, sometimes, I think you don’t really have an idea on how famous you are! But I guess sometimes, you can’t really do anything about it, aside from refusing pointblank, of course, but then you will get bash also, and may even be called suplado. Just keep your distance, if you can, so there wouldn’t be a chance for people to assume, or try to use or bash you.” Natasha advised Jeremy.

“Yes, I try, Nat. But sometimes, it’s difficult to strike a balance!” Jeremy said earnestly. “But I think, I’m done partying until the wee hours of the morning. I’m getting tired of the sameness of it. Haven’t been in a bar in weeks. You just didn’t notice because you were busy. I prefer your company more! Though, when you are busy, and I get bored, I go out with my friends, you know that, but that’s about it.”

“Don’t you get bored with my company? I’m kinda dull. See, if I don’t have a play or a musical to do, I’m just here at home, reading a book or writing the libretto of that original musical that is still in my head, that I dream of producing one day.” Natasha asked curiously, seriously. “I mean, you are young, you should go out. Don’t change your habit just because of me, and our Friday time. Di ba, you like going out before?”

“Yes, and you are young too, and should go out, if that is your premise. I prefer having quiet times with you like this. And most importantly, you are not dull!” Jeremy insisted. “Besides, you might get busy na naman with a new show, and I with my stuff, then we will not see each other for weeks!”

“Up to you, really Jer. And speaking of that, wish me luck! I heard from a friend that the producers of ‘Miss Saigon’ will be auditioning again for new cast members and since they got a lot of the cast members from here before, Manila will be their priority stop.” Nat said excitedly. It has been a dream of hers to be a part of a West End or a Broadway production even if it just in the ensemble. Maybe, she also needs a change of scene, so to speak. She had been feeling a bit restless and listless lately. The news about the possible audition perked her up.

“Really? When?” Jeremy suddenly sat up from his very comfortable position, with his head on Nat’s lap.

“Tommy, is not sure yet. But he is friend with the local agent that the production is using, so he told me, he will inform me promptly as soon as he gets a confirmation from his friend. Imagine, finally, my dream of going to West End or Broadway, is slowly shaping up. I do wish I will get in. Let’s keep our fingers crossed!” Nat said, hugging Jeremy unconsciously in her excitement. “You never know, maybe I can do it one go if I get in. Be both in West End and Broadway if I do good. I just read online that Miss Saigon will go back to Broadway in a year or two!”

“Really, not ‘if’, but when you make it, you will be abroad that long?” Jeremy asked, surprised, at the same time, feeling unsettled that Natasha will be away from him that long.

“Yes, why not? I’m okay with that. I don’t really have ties here, except this condo unit and Bubbles. And I’m sure you will take care of her for me, di ba, until I can send for her?” Nat reasoned out.

Bubbles is her cute orange tabby cat, a gift from Jeremy when she did ‘Cats’. He told her it was something to remember the musical with. He is thoughtful like that, giving her gifts associated with the milestones in her life.

“Yes, of course! But what about me?” Jeremy suddenly asked. Natasha has been his anchor in the ups and downs of his life, and suddenly he felt like he was going to be cast adrift. Then he realized, he does not have the right to ask that of her, as they are just friends. “ I mean, we will not see each other much anymore.”

“Well, you can come and visit me in London if I make it. You can even stay with me.” Nat offered. “Besides, we can always have our Friday time online. It’s easy to do that now with all the technology at our disposal. Come on, it would be fun! We can explore London and other parts of England, Scotland, Ireland or other countries in Europe during my free time and days. We haven’t been to Europe together. I know you have been, but me, no and I would like you to be with me, when I finally do!”

Jeremy grinned, liking the idea and the excitement he can see on Nat’s eyes.  It is Natasha’s time to shine, especially now that she had finally found the courage to spread her wings. He knows that with her talent, she will pass the audition. So, he is readying himself to months and months without her. Yes, there were times that they don’t see each other for weeks, but he knows that she is just there. She is just a car drive away, and a phone call away, on the same timezone.

“Okay, okay. You better save that spare bedroom for me, Nat. I’m gonna camp at your place for weeks and months if I can manage it.” Jeremy said, at the same time, it occurred to him that she might meet a guy there that she likes very much, and he would be the third wheel. He does not want to think about that now. “I’m sure you will get in. With your talent, no doubt about it.”

“Of course. It would have your name on the door of my other room, or my sofa since I may have to live in a small apartment to save on expenses!” Nat assured, smiling, at the same time, feeling sad all of a sudden. She has gotten used to Jeremy also and for the past years, this wonderful, misunderstood guy has been a big part of her life. The thought of not seeing him is also making her feel unsettled. “Thank you for your support, Jer. It is important to me. You know that of all people. I really value your friendship.”

“You have it, Nat for always. You are very important to me, too. You know that. You are a very big part of my life and what makes you happy, makes me happy too.” Jeremy said, putting his hand over Nat’s, and suddenly wishing that they can really be more than friends. He jerked at the thought. He hasn’t thought of that in years! He tried not to think of that in years. Her friendship is more important to him than them ending in a romantic relationship with her, and possibly, breaking up eventually. He had seen it happened to friends several times. He needed to think.

“So, would you like to watch another movie?” Nat asked suddenly, breaking into Jeremy’s thought. “Are you hungry, do you want more chips? I can also make you something heavier? I think I have enough ingredients for an omelette!”

“Thanks a lot, but I better get going Nat. It’s a bit late and I know you have not recovered your energy yet after your last show.” Jeremy, stood up. Natasha gave him the opening he needed. “I’ll pick you up on Wednesday, sixes, for that awards, okay. But do let me know if you hear something concrete from that audition before that, okay? And I’ll drive you to that audition, moral support, you know.”

“Sure. You rest too. I know you are busy for your upcoming concert also. I can go there on my own.” Natasha insisted.

“Nope, not negotiable! I want to be there for my best friend.”

“Thank you, Jer. You are the best guy friend a girl could have.”

Jeremy gave Nat a brilliant, boyish smile, and teased her by pinching her nose. “Of course, I’m one of a kind. I’m the one and only guy in your life.”

Natasha smiled, a bittersweet smile. That is true. Jeremy is the only guy that has gotten close to her this much. “Okay, go and drive carefully! Good night!”

Natasha moved to give Jeremy a goodbye kiss on the cheek. He turned suddenly, and instead of his cheek, their lips met. Without really intending to, Jeremy deepened the kiss and Nat responded. They stayed like that for a while. When they broke apart, both have startled looks on their faces. They realized what they just did, what had just happened. Strange, as they have kissed on stage before and it didn’t have this effect. Yes, there was something years ago, when they kissed, but it was not like this, wasn’t it? They gazed at each other again, then, both, as if by silent agreement, opted not to make a deal out of it then, unable to rationalize the feeling. They said a hasty good night.

Jeremy was out of Natasha’s place fast! He has some thinking to do, some serious thinking to do. He needed to think about what is happening. He though that he had buried it so deep, but apparently not!

 

Note: This has been in my head, and in my draft folder, for a while! This not a Richard and Maya story as you have read. I just needed to write another ‘Pippa-and-Ethan-kind-of-fiction’. I hope you will like this as well! 🙂 No worries, one of my New Year’s resolutions is to write more! I promise not to disappear for long periods of time! 🙂 I’m off to my favorite coffee shop again later. Yesterday, I took my daughter to the cinema and watched Snoopy and Charlie Brown: The Peanuts Movie with her!   ❤

 

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Beyond Forever – Chapter 18

Chapter 18

Maya was humming as she got herself ready for bed after her wonderful date with Ricky. She hoped she will be able to fall asleep fast after that beautiful, wonderful, and very unforgettable evening! Who can forget being treated like a real princess by her handsome prince! It is every girl’s dream! Maya Dela Rosa, you and your fairy tales, she tried to admonish herself, but lost!

Ricky has fallen in love with her! He admitted his feelings! He wants to court her properly! The thought sent her in a tailspin earlier! Her throat constricted, her heart beat doubled and her face became flushed, especially when he looked at her with so much love and intensity! She felt like dancing in the middle of the hotel’s beautiful garden. To let out her giddiness, she did actually make a silent scream as soon as she had closed the door after Ricky escorted her up to the door of her room before turning in himself for the night. It took her a while to drag herself to the bathroom after falling headlong into the bed and staring at the ceiling with a goofy smile on her face.

She looked at the big inviting bed in the room. The room was so much nicer and more luxurious than the one she had shared with Ricky for two nights, and yet she yearned for the room and the beds they had in that hotel in Vigan. She already missed seeing Ricky’s face across her, that early, even if his mere presence on the bed beside her, sent her heart fluttering like a butterfly on a headlong flight to somewhere beautiful, wonderful and dizzying!

Maya does like the fact that Ricky just didn’t assume that since she had agreed to sharing a room with him, and that since they have shared a room for two nights, they can just continue to do so. To her, it meant that he really is, a gentleman. Maya also admitted to herself, that had he asked her if they can continue sharing a room, she would have said yes, most probably! She sat on the bed and to help her adrenaline go down, she took out her iPad. While going over the books she had stored in her iBooks library, she remembered the PDF copy of the journal there that she had been meaning to tell Richard about.

Staring at the page of the journal she had last accessed, she thought of Ricky’s dream, or rather nightmare while they were in Vigan, which was exactly the same as the events narrated by Ricardo Lim in the journal! A thought entered her head before she can stop herself from thinking about it, before she can stop herself from going there! What if, what if they are really reincarnations of their grandparents, and it was not Ricky telling her that he loves her, but his grandfather telling it to her Lola Maya again? But if they are one and the same persons, is it bad that their beautiful, but ill-fated love story, found a way to continue? A love that beautiful finding its way across time and space?

Maya took a deep breath and heaved a sigh, trying to overcome the convoluted thoughts suddenly crowding her head all of a sudden. There are so many mysteries you can’t really find explanation in this world, even faith, and fate! You just believed and it just happened, it is just the way it is. She would rather live in the present than dwell on whether they were reincarnations of two people who had loved at the wrong time. Besides, it is not so bad, not so bad at all, if they are, and that they found a way to continue their love story, isn’t it, especially now that it has a better chance of having a happy ending! She and Ricky are singles and free to love! He already told her he loves her and while she hasn’t said it to him yet, she does love him with all of her! With that thought in mind, she attempted to fall asleep, reliving Ricky and hers wonderful evening. She had a beautiful smile on her face when sleep claimed her.

The next thing Maya knew, there were rays of sunlight slipping through the drapes that she forgot to close fully the night before. She checked the time, and got out of the bed, so fast, panicking a bit, when she saw that it was already past 9 o’clock in the morning! While she and Ricky, did not agree on meeting on a specific time that day, by unspoken agreement, usually, they both have breakfast at around eight o’clock in the morning! She hastily checked her phone. There were no messages from him. Maybe he overslept too, or maybe, he was waiting for her to wake up. She decided to phone his room, and he answered on the first ring. She can hear a news channel in the background before he muted it.

“Good morning, Maya!” Ricky said cheerfully, even before she can tell him it’s her! “Had a good sleep?”

“Ricky, good morning! I’m so sorry, I overslept. Are you hungry? You should have phoned me earlier.” Maya said. “Just give me a couple of minutes, and I’ll be ready.”

“Take your time, Maya, no hurry! I can wait.” Ricky assured Maya. “I purposely let you sleep longer, so you can rest. I was planning on knocking on your door in an hour pa.”

“Thanks Ricky! I don’t know why, I slept like a babe and before I know it, it’s morning na.”

“Hmmm, you didn’t miss me sharing the room with you? I’m sad!” Ricky teased Maya before he can stop himself. He sounded like he was flirting with her. Well…. “Errr, biro lang, Maya! You probably had looked forward to having your own room.”

“Well, I did miss sharing a room with you, you know.” Maya answered candidly, blushing a bit at her admission! “But I know you are just nearby and I’m safe with you just a knock away!”

“Thank you, Maya. I miss sharing a room with you too.” Ricky said softly, a goofy grin on his handsome face. “I miss looking at your beautiful face across me. Kaya yata hindi ako nakatulog kaagad!”

“Ricky naman, ang aga-aga, pinapakilig mo ako!” Maya said giddily. “Pero, hindi nga nga nakatulog kaagad? Okay ka lang ba?”

“True naman iyan, Ms. Maya Dela Rosa!” Ricky said, with a goofy smile on his face as he cradled the phone, wishing that he could see Maya’s reaction. He likes looking at her flustered face when he says things like that. “Okay naman ako, Maya, couldn’t be better. I managed to fall asleep after an hour or so of tossing and turning, thinking of our beautiful evening, and besides, when I did, I had a wonderful dream din.”

The way, Ricky said that, Maya felt that the dream had something to do with her, and him. But huwag assuming Maya! Well, she just remembered her beautiful dream and it also has Ricky in it. Kaya rin siguro siya hindi nagising kaagad kasi the dream was so real. Parang ayaw na niyang magising. She blushed a bit, remembering the vivid dream.

“Thank you also, Mr. Ricky Lim. O sige, baba ko na ito ha, para nakapag-ready na ako. I’ll see you at the hotel’s restaurant in 30 minutes?”

“No, I’ll just pick you up from your room, then we can go together. Manonood na lang muna ulit ako ng news while you are getting ready. Text me kung okay ka na.”

“Okay, see you in a bit.”

“See you, Maya. Take your time, like I said.”

Ricky leaned against the headboard of his bed, and thought again of the beautiful night with Maya, and the dream he had, which had her starring prominently in it. He was very happy, and he felt like he was on the top of the world, having finally told Maya of his feelings for her! Now, he just need to show her how much he loves her, automatically looking at the flowers he ordered earlier. Cristina worked miracles. He was not so sure she will be able to procure sunflowers in such a short notice, but she did.

He realized at some point the night before, that aside from forgetting about the dress shoes, he forgot to give Maya flowers on their first ‘official’ dinner date!  His mind was very much into other matters. The night really ended beautifully and he couldn’t be happier. He is looking forward to his and Maya’s journey, there in Ilocos and when they both go back in Manila. He felt that there wouldn’t be much of a problem meshing their lives together. The past week, they have lived practically with each other, smoothly and seamlessly.

While they were walking along the beach last night, he asked Maya what her favorite flowers are and she told him, sunflowers, just like her grandmother, and also roses. He woke up early, then thought of that, and on the off-chance that Cristina can get it for him, he would like to give some to Maya, like his grandfather did, to her grandmother. He remembered reading about it in the journal. Speaking of the journal, he will read it completely when they return to their beach places. He would like to check the part that Maya mentioned was exactly like his dream, or nightmare. He felt that it was important that he do so.

Thirty minutes after Maya’s phone call, Ricky was out of his room after receiving a text message from her. With the flowers on his left hand, he softly knocked on Maya’s door. She opened it after the second knock, looking so lovely in her dress of choice for that day, another knee-length skirt, and a white sleeveless blouse.

“Hi Maya!” Ricky said with a big smile, taking in her lovely self. “You look very lovely. These are for you!” He added giving her the bouquet of sunflowers.

“Ricky, where on earth you got these! They are so lovely! Thank you very much.” Maya exclaimed, happiness in her voice and her face lit up while looking at the lovely flowers. She felt giddy again. Ah, he is really such a wonderful guy, she mused.

“You’re welcome, Maya. I’m very glad that you like it.” Ricky replied grinning, happy to see her so happy with his gift. “Well, I got lucky. Cristina helped.”

“She is one very resourceful lady.” Maya said. “Let me just put the flowers inside. By the way, what are our plans for the day pala? We forgot to make plans for today last night. I just want to know what to bring, also if my dress is okay for our trip.” Well, she thought, who would be able to make plans with the way the evening went!

“Hmmm, how about we go to Malacanang of the North, then if you are up to it pa, to the sand dunes? I heard it could be quite an experience.” Ricky suggested.

“Oh, you haven’t tried riding in those ATV too, that I have seen on TV. Sounds fun. Tara lets. I’ll just change into shorts after breakfast, if it is okay.”

“Okay, then sand dunes and sightseeing in Paoay today. We can also go around Laoag a bit and have dinner there before returning here.” Ricky said. “We can go back to our room after breakfast to change out of this pair of jeans. I think a pair of shorts is better for our trip.”

Maya put the flowers on the bed, taking a lingering look at it, before she went out again. She saw Ricky leaning against the wall, looking so breathtakingly handsome in his faded jeans and t-shirt, with a goofy smile, and then when he heard her, he looked at her with love in his eyes. Maya still was not used to it or dealing with the fact that a guy really looks at her like that, so she blushed and gave him a tremulous, happy smile! Ricky took Maya’s hand, and with interlaced fingers, they walked towards the direction of the restaurant through the resort’s beautiful, landscaped gardens.

While Ricky and Maya were starting their day, Lorraine Tan has started her day much earlier than them. She asked her family’s driver to take her to the airport for her flight to Laoag.

Yes, she knows where Ricardo Lim III, and he and the girl, she is sure of that, that he is spending time with, are in for a surprise. It was not so difficult to deduce where Ricky is, once she started recalling everything she knew of him and his family, and since they have a long intertwined history, she figured out where Ricky ran to. She remembered hearing from her mother that the Lims have a vacation house that they don’t really use, but refuses to sell, in Ilocos.

She paid her Tito Richie a visit. On the pretext of catching up with him, she let Richard Lim, ‘Richie’ to family and close friends, know that she was sad since Ricky and her had a tiny bit of misunderstanding and she does not know where he is, so she can say sorry properly and patch things up. It was her fault, she told the older Lim. She used all her acting skills on Ricky’s father and it worked.

Richie Lim had always had a soft spot for her, anyway, and he has his vote as his future daughter-in-law. She mentioned to him that she knows that Ricky is in Ilocos, but not where. She also told him that she very much wanted to surprise him and patch things up, so they can concentrate on the wedding preparations. Richie Lim thought for a bit, and she got a bit nervous while waiting for his reply. She heaved a sigh of relief when he told her that Ricky might be staying at the Lim family beach house in Ilocos Sur.

On her request, Ricky Lim made a phone call to the house to confirm if Ricky is there. Lorraine was pretty confident by then that it is not Ricky who will answer the phone. She had an inkling that he was on the road. She just wanted to know if he using the beach house as a base. She also requested Ricky’s dad to inform the caretakers that she is going there, and tell them that she would like to surprise Ricky, so no word to him that she is arriving, if he is there.

The older Lim, told her afterwards that indeed, Ricky is staying there, but had been away for several days according to their caretaker. Manang Auring told him that his son will be back at some point as his things were still there. He told the caretaker that Ricky’s girlfriend will be going there as well and that she wants to surprise his son. He gave Lorraine the address and the phone number there. He also arranged for Manong Tunying to pick up Lorraine from the airport in Laoag. He was completely unaware of her machinations!

Lorraine packed her bags and then told her parents, so they will refrain from checking on her, that she and Ricky will just go on a short vacation and that they will finalize their wedding plans while spending quality time together. They believed her. Yes, she will wait until Ricardo Lim III returns to the beach house. She needed very much to salvage their relationship and she was prepared to do everything to get him back.

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Love Happens – Chapter 8

 

“Maya, Richard, good morning! Lovely day, isn’t it?” Jeremy greeted them cheerfully from the entrance of the resort’s restaurant, at the same time, he looked at them intently. He saw their interlaced fingers. Hmmm, things have really progressed rather well last night, he thought to himself. There was a tiny little pinch in his heart, seeing first hand that indeed, the lovely lady he was interested in, is very much taken! As soon as he had seen Richard Lim the day before, he knew instinctively that he does not stood a chance with Maya Dela Rosa. Too bad, in all his several years in the Philippines, she is the most interesting girl, lovely too, that he had met so far.

“Hi Jeremy, good morning! You’re up early!” Maya remarked with a big smile, disentangling her hand from Richard’s as they approached the bar where Jeremy was doing some paper works. Her hair got a bit windblown and a strand was teasing her face. She took care of that as she sat down on the bar stool in front of Jeremy. “I thought you wanted to get up late to make up for your drinking binge the other night.”

“Hello Jeremy, good morning!” Richard politely added, trying to quell the, just a tiny bit, of animosity he still feels for this guy. He took the bar stool beside the one Maya took.

“Not really a binge, Ms. Dela Rosa! Well,  duty calls to this mere mortal, as Scott and Laura left for Cagayan de Oro early this morning to visit a friend who had an accident while river rafting. Someone has to man the resort as we have new guests coming. Quite a big group actually.” Jeremy explained, then added, “Marina said you and Richard are planning to go around the island today in scooters. I double checked the one I used yesterday as I noticed a bit of a weird noise coming out of it when we were on our way home yesterday, just to be sure that everything is A-okay for your excursion! They are ready for your trip.”

“Thanks a lot, Jeremy.” Maya said, then asked him, “Join us for breakfast?”

“Oh, I had mine earlier. Thanks a lot, Luv.” Jeremy said quickly, then leaned on to Maya and whispered, “Besides, I don’t want to be a third wheel! I think things are progressing rather well, eh, between the two of you.” Jeremy teased Maya.

“You are so incorrigible!” Maya laughed heartily, flushing a bit, then she hit him playfully on the arm before pinching him lightly as she would sometime do to Emman when he is being makulit.

“Ouch.” Jeremy said, laughing, forgetting for a bit, that maybe for Richard who was silent during the whole thing, what was harmless between him and Maya took a different meaning. He looked at him  to check at the same time Maya did. Uh-oh!

Maya gazed at Richard since she noticed that he was not saying anything, and saw his expression before he can hide it.

Richard’s eyes had turned into slits before he can stop himself. He frowned at the easy camaraderie between Maya and Jeremy, even if his rational self knows that for Maya, Jeremy is just a friend. He tried hard to overcome the jealousy he felt. He really did!

Maya seemed to have sensed his bout with it, though. She touched his arm, and gave him a beautiful smile, then mouthed that she will tell him about it later. That action pacified him, and to get a message to Jeremy perhaps, as he doesn’t know actually what prompted him to do it, he moved closer to Maya after they told him that they will go eat their breakfast. He also took hold of her hand again and interlaced it tightly with his as they walked towards their table.  To Maya’s credit, she held on to him tight, putting her other hand, lightly on his arm, and gave him a sweet smile that seemed to exclude everyone in the restaurant while they were walking to the vacant table near the veranda.

Jeremy saw the whole thing and grinned good-naturedly. Ah, he completely understands being ‘territorial’!  If that was not it, then he will close his resort and enter the priesthood like his Mum is still wishing for! Well, Richard Lim does look like the right guy for Maya. He had an inkling that he had deliberately followed Maya to Mimosa, and judging by the glimpses he had yesterday, Maya is on her way to falling in love with Richard hard, if she is not yet there!

“So what was that all about?” Richard asked abruptly before he can stopped himself as he took his place after seating Maya across him. “Oh, sorry Maya! Ignore the question please.” He said, realizing that he was being presumptuous and way out of line. He needs to control himself. Richard Lim, what is happening to you! Where is that cool and collected guy! Jealousy is for poor, insecure fools! He does not have the right and Maya already agreed to taking baby steps with him. It is not a decision she does spur of the moment, he knows!

Maya, however, gave Richard a reassuring smile. She understands him getting a bit put out with the inside joke between Jeremy and her. Besides, early on, she had decided that for her and Richard to take the steps together, they should be completely honest with each other. She does not want a repeat of all the secret, subterfuge, and the ultimate betrayal she had experienced with James. Maya believes that this is crucial in finding out whether she will take the final leap into having a relationship with Richard. She had resolved also to tell him about her aborted marriage too. Fair is fair as she knows about his.

“It is all right, Ricky. I know what you were asking, about what Jeremy whispered to me, right?”

“Errr, yes!” Richard admitted sheepishly. “Sorry, for just asking you like that, Maya! I have more finesse than that!”

“No worries, Ricky.” Maya smiled at Richard reassuringly. “Jeremy just told me that he does not want to be a third wheel to us. That is why he declined my invitation to have breakfast with us. He also teased me a bit since he saw us holding hands earlier!”

“Oh….” Richard managed to say, really ashamed now of being irrational earlier and his reaction. Guilty also for, in a split second, he wanted to punch Jeremy on the face when he was whispering something to Maya!

“Yes po!” Maya said, then looking Richard straight in the eye, she continued with candor, “Jeremy and I are just very friends, you know. He would have wanted to be more than friends, I get that much, but I told him it can’t be more than that. He had accepted that. We really had quite a nice and deep talk while at the Katibawasan Falls yesterday. He helped me sort out things in my head, and really thought about the baby steps you were offering. He is a friend I would like to keep. He is a good guy!”

Richard took Maya’s hand, and said earnestly, “Maya, thank you for telling me. I appreciate it very much. My apologies again! I really don’t have the right. It just that you are making me feel emotions I have not felt before, and one of that is jealousy. Yes, the green-eyed monster reared its ugly head for a short time earlier.”

“Don’t think about it, Ricky.” Maya said, putting her hand on top of Richard’s. “My one and only relationship failed because of the secrets, the misunderstandings and things that were left unspoken between me and my fiance. I vowed to myself that I don’t want that kind of thing to happen again, should I open myself to the possibility of another relationship. Before you, I hardly entertained the thought since I was not really interested nor attracted to anyone. But since you entered my life, so to speak, and since we have agreed to take the baby steps together, I thought it would be best if we start it with all cards laid on the table, and us talking things through and thoroughly. No secrets please. If there is something in your mind say it. Everything should be out in the open. I hope it is okay with you.”

“Of course, Maya. I appreciate your candor. I will do the same. And if there is something you need to ask me, just ask away and I will answer it. I hate dishonesty also. It was what soured me on love. I was taken for a fool once. It happened a long time ago, when I was young and believed the best of people. Promise, I will tell you about it at some point, not just right now.”

“I also promised to tell you about my aborted wedding, since I know of yours.” Maya told Richard, which surprised him.

“Sure about it, Maya? You don’t have to, you know, if by doing so, would mean dredging up painful memories you would rather leave in the past.”

“Thank you, Ricky. No worries, I’m over it, and I would like you to know about that too. Consider it part of the clean slate thing between us, part of our baby steps together. But not right now, we better eat breakfast so we can start our adventure today. My stomach is starting to grumble.”

“Okay. Deal.” Richard said happily, then gestured for Marina’s nephew to approach their table so they can order their breakfast.

Both of them ordered continental breakfasts and freshly brewed coffee. They ate in companionable silence when their food and coffee arrived. They gazed and smiled at each other at times, or sipped their coffee while staring at the view, both pondering on what they discussed earlier.

Richard vowed to himself that he do his best to give Maya the same honesty and trust she is giving him and that he would not do something that will make her sad or make her lose faith in taking another chance at love and relationship. He was very grateful for that trust and honesty. He also believes that for them to build on something lasting, it has to have a very strong foundation, aside from love, both physical and emotional, there has to be friendship, affection, trust and honesty. Both of them have been through bad relationships and should be able to know better by now. He is holding on to that.

Maya thinking the same stuffs. She is very happy at the progress of hers and Ricky’s relationship. Relationship! Maya Dela Rosa, calm down.

“Shall we get going?” Richard asked, breaking into Maya’s thought. “Maya…?”

“Oh, sorry! I got lost in my thoughts.” Maya said sheepishly.

“No worries, Maya! I also did.” Richard stood up, helped Maya up from her chair, then with his hand on her back, guided her towards the parking area of the restaurant.

“Richard, Maya, wait.” Jeremy said, getting out the restaurant’s bar area. “I moved the scooters at the entrance. Here are the keys.”

“Oh, good, thanks a lot Jeremy.” Maya said, getting the keys from Jeremy. “Ricky and I will just go there ourselves.”

“Thank you, Jeremy.” Richard said, offering his hand to the other guy, who looked surprised at his gesture, but nevertheless, shook his hand. Richard was actually thanking him not just for the scooters but for being a good friend to Maya and for stepping back, when he knew that Maya is not interested in more than friendship with him. But he was unable to put it into words. He hoped Jeremy got it and it looked like he did, anyway.

“Have fun you two! If you need anything, just let me know.” Jeremy said with a smile. Maya must have cleared the air between them as he felt that Richard’s attitude towards him is warmer now as compared to the polite treatment he had been receiving since they met the day before, and the mutinous expression he had when he saw him whispering something to Maya earlier. He smiled and shook his head. Ah, what love can do to a person!

“We will!” Maya said as she and Richard walked to the restaurant’s front, where they saw the two scooters with their helmets hanging on the handlebars.

“Ready, Ricky?” Maya asked Richard as she climbed on her scooter and put on her helmet while chatting with Richard on the places they will see that day.

“Wait, Maya!” Richard said, suddenly. He was about to climb into his own scooter when he saw that Maya’s helmet was crookedly fastened and seemingly loose. He went to her and gently arranged and tightened it a bit. “Okay, is it tight? Are you comfortable?”

“Thanks a lot, Ricky. Yes, it is perfectly fine now.”

“You’re welcome!” Richard gave her one of his bone-melting smiles.

He was about to start his scooter, when Marina called him.

“Sir Richard, you forgot this!” Marina said, hefting a picnic basket! “You asked me to prepare this for you and Ms. Maya.”

“Oh, I completely forgot about that, Marina!” Richard exclaimed. With all the things that had happened since he started planning this outing, he completely forgot that he also requested Marina to prepare food. “Thank you, Marina.”

“You’re welcome, Sir Richard. Ma’am Maya, take care and have fun.” The smiling older lady told them.

“We will, Ate Marina. Thank you.” Maya said, then after Marina left. “Hmmm, I never thought of that. Good, that you did. We can stop at the Katibawasan Falls for lunch. There are picnic tables there. That would be very nice.”

“Since you will be my special tour guide, I thought the least I could do would be to provide the food.” Richard said, smiling. “Picnic at the falls, sounds like a great plan. I’m looking forward to that, Maya.”

“Great! I’m really looking forward to that, and showing you around the island I fell in love with.” Maya said, grinning happily. “Shall we get going Mr. Lim, Sir?”

“Ms. Dela Rosa, after you, Ma’am!” Richard said, grinning happily. At the same time, he wished then that it was not just the island that Maya will fall in love with. Ah, he is so looking forward to this day with her, an understanding of sorts, between them. He felt content with the steps they have taken so far. Maya felt the same. There are so many things to look forward to, from then on.

 

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Finding my place in the sun

 

Starbucks 2

 

More often than not, I’m at my favorite coffee shop, laptop open, my current playlist on, and while sipping my drink of choice, I try to write or think of stuff to write about.

Ever since I started going here, I find myself more productive, and that amid the buzzing and going-ons of my fellow customers and the friendly crew, I write better! I found my groove here for some reason, of all the cafe and coffee shops I have been to!

Most of the time, when I go home, I have a working draft to polish. There were days, though, that I would just spend my afternoon in this place, meeting friends and catching up!

I just thought of writing about it as I feel happy and thankful. I never thought, that one day I will be able to fulfill a dream: to sit in a coffee shop, weaving words into stories, blog posts, drawing inspirations from my surroundings, writing online fulltime, pursuing a passion.

The opportunity came, and here I am enjoying it to the fullest. For now, this is my universe. I do hope I can stay here for the longest time! Keeping my fingers crossed!

Now I’m off to polishing the chapter I have finished this afternoon! Have a great evening or day everyone. Good vibes always! Thank you, again and again, for reading my work!

❤ Antigone ❤

 

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Love Happens – Chapter 7

 

The morning after his beautiful and very memorable evening with Maya, Richard woke up before the alarm he had set the night before. He slept fitfully, when he managed to do so, after more than an hour of tossing and turning late into the night. It took him a long time to get down from the emotional high he was in after the wonderful night with Maya. He didn’t really know what to expect when he took that leap to follow her in that beautiful island paradise. The outcome of his out of character, impulsive decision was more than he had hoped for. He felt extremely happy at that moment.

Richard smiled broadly, remembering how his and Maya’s beautiful night had ended, at the veranda of her bungalow, touching his lips, remembering that moment when their lips touched and connected, in a way he never imagined! Baby steps together, she had finally agreed to that, which is already a big deal for him, having gotten a glimpse of a painful experience in what she had shared with him so far, and what he can deduced from what his mother hinted! Emman seemed to be very protective of his cousin as well. It was really a surprise, but he was very grateful, of course, that he even told him her whereabouts and the schedule of her return to Manila.

He can wait until Maya is ready to take bigger steps or the complete leap with him. They can do this together. He himself is not sure of where this ‘thing’ with her will go or take him. He is not even sure he can take another walk down the aisle in the future. But what thing he is sure of, and seem helpless to stop or ignore, is this intense attraction and fascination for her. Really, he is feeling feelings for her that he has not felt before even with the girl who broke his heart, eons ago. Andrea is nothing but a dim memory now! He was so young and believed the best of people despite his father telling him otherwise. He had a very rude awakening. He had forgiven her but he hasn’t forgotten the lesson from that first time he had fallen in love, or he thought of.

Richard heaved a sigh, shaking his head. He does not want to dwell on that part of his life. Nothing positive and productive will come out of doing so. He is here in paradise with a beautiful girl he can’t get out of his head and he was thinking of that! He stretched his arms, then got out of the bed to get ready for the day. He is planning another beautiful time with Maya and he better check if everything is moving according to his plan.

While Richard was taking a shower, Maya was still staring at the ceiling of her bungalow, with a goofy smile, at the same time, touching her lips, remembering the unexpected ending to her and Richard’s beautiful night. Baby steps, indeed! It felt like they have unexpectedly taken a giant step with that kiss, that she was sure, both of them were not expecting  to happen that night, nor were they prepared on the effect it would have on them. Both of them had startled looks on their faces when they broke apart.

It just happened! The two of them walked to her bungalow after their stroll down the beach. At her door, Richard told her again what a wonderful night he had. He also asked her if she would like to go around the island with him the following day after their breakfast. That is, if it is okay with her as he knew that he had been around the island the past several days and she might be tired of going around, especially she was also out earlier with Jeremy. She assured Richard she would be happy to do so, smiling at him. He was cute to be a bit unsure and hesitant in asking her, especially after the way he barged in on her vacation.

Richard softly thanked her again for everything and they said another rounds of goodnight, without actually making a move to, for her to unlock her door and him, to go back to his bungalow. They found themselves gazing at each other, and they lost sense of everything, except this intense awareness of each other. Richard took a deep breath, Maya sensed it, then he started lowering his lips to hers. As if they have a life of their own, her lips slowly opened anticipating Richard’s kiss. Their lips fused for the first time and it felt like a high voltage of electricity traveled through Maya. She gasped in surprise and she had felt Richard’s sudden intake of breath.

They broke apart after several long seconds. It did feel like it went on forever, but it only lasted several long seconds. Both of them were flushed, unable to say anything, gazing at each other with wonder, Richard caressing, unconsciously, Maya’s lips that he had thoroughly kissed. They stayed like that for several more seconds until a night sound, broke into the stunned state they were in. Richard started apologizing for the kiss, telling her that they did agree on baby steps and he seemed to have broken it so fast. She assured him that he need not apologize for what happened as it takes two person to kiss and that she was an active participant in it. They shared a smile, embraced each other as if they have been doing it a long time, then whispered a soft good night to each other again. Richard waited until she got into her bungalow before traveling the short distance to his.

The beeping of her mobile phone interrupted Maya’s recollection of that beautiful moment between her and Richard. She checked the message and muttered, about time, Cuz! She knows her cousin inside out and the fact that she has not gotten in touch with him was probably worrying him, thinking that she got mad when he gave Richard the information on where she was staying and her flight details. Emman was asking on the text if he can call, seemingly testing the waters. Maya decided to call him herself, as she had been meaning to, to put him out of misery.

“Cousin!!!!” Emman shrieked on the phone as soon as Maya picked up the call after the second ring. “Super sorry! Are you mad at me? I hope not too mad, super please!!!”

“Good morning to you, Cousin dear!” Maya greeted her cousin, slowly putting back her phone closer to her ear. Her ears were still ringing from Emman’s shriek. “Emman, calm down please. My ears are still ringing from your shriek.”

“Maya!!! You’re not mad at me?” Emman said in a, still high-pitched voice. “I have been waiting for your call. I was so sure you will after giving Richard Lim the information on your whereabouts and flight details. We always talk everyday and update each other on what has been happening at MEP, so when you didn’t, it occurred to me that you might be mad and that maybe, I should have not disclosed those information! So, have you seen each other? What is the latest on the two of you?” Emman asked rapidly.

“Hmmm, now I know why you called. You just want to know what the latest tsismis.” Maya teased her cousin, going further by saying, “You know, not only I have seen him, I spent the evening with him, and I have said, yes.”

“What???? You and him in a relationship? You have said yes that fast? OMG, Maya Dela Rosa, is that you? My anti-relationship cousin!” Emman asked incredulously.

“Hahahaha, gotcha!” Maya laughed heartily at Emman’s reaction. “Serves you right for selling out on your cousin, Emman.”

“Cuz, naman, I thought you are not mad at me!” Emman pouted at the other line. “Besides, I really had this feeling that I should tell him your whereabouts when he called me out of the blue. You know, instinct, female intuition at work, that sort of thing. Besides, I will not have given you out to a complete stranger, and Richard asked nicely and directly. I really thought that you and him have some sort of unfinished business six months ago. I saw you with him, you know, when you went to give him Lucy’s note  and I also saw you two gazing at each other before you left the church. On both instances, there was something there, was my first thought.”

“Emman, you are telling me this now? Why? I didn’t even know you went inside the church again. I didn’t see you. I thought you were consoling Mrs. Ventura.”

“Well, I also got a bit worried about you. I knew you were placed in a difficult situation by Mrs. Ventura and you must have felt that you were reliving your experience with what happened to you with that good for nothing James Madrigal. When I saw you and Richard Lim gazing at each other, it was different, I swear. I knew the two of you were clueless, and I was also puzzled at what I sensed then. But I’m right di ba? There was something there.”

“Thank you for looking out for me, Cousin. I love you.” Maya said, touched at Emman’s concern. “Errr, yes! There was something then which I can’t define. It was still there when I saw him again at Lim Corporation last week. Technically, that was our first meeting. We had coffee afterwards and chatted for hours.”

“Wow, I didn’t even know about that. So, what’s your status now? I mean, you really haven’t said yes to him, right. Kind fast, especially for you who is allergic to relationships?”

“Of course, not yet, Emman.” Maya said quickly, not realizing the ‘yet’ she had put into her sentence.

“‘Not yet’, hmmmm, so does it means, what I think it means, that Richard Lim has a better chance than your poor suitors for the past five years.” Emman asked, teasing his cousin.

“Emman, you are incorrigible.” Maya laughed. “Let’s see where this thing will take us. All I have agreed to, is taking the baby steps with him. And that is all I can tell you at the moment.”

“Okayyyyy, if you say so.” Emman said, smiling at the other line. Even if his cousin refused to say much, he can detect something in her voice. She seemed so much happier and there is a different lilt in her voice. “Good luck, Cuz! I’m happy for you, whatever that thing is, at the moment. I’m just here for you, you know. ”

“Thank you, Emman. I do appreciate it. I’m glad you are my cousin. I love you Cuz.” Maya said happily. “I’ll call you again, before I leave Camiguin tomorrow. I’ll take Ricky around the island today.”

“Oh my, I’m kinikilig.” Emman said, laughing, taking note that Maya calls Richard Lim, ‘Ricky’ now. “But you still owe me more details ha. I know there are things you have not told me.”

“Okay, promise.” Maya told her cousin, grinning happily, her heart lighter and happier for some reason.

Emman was still smiling, minutes after his and Maya’s call ended. His intuition tells him that his beloved cousin, more of a sister, actually, is on her way to falling in love, if she is not yet in love! He just wished that Richard Lim would really be the one for his beautiful and loving cousin. He believes so, despite the fact that a  lot of girls had been linked to him, and that after his aborted wedding, he dated casually a lot, if the gossip columns are to be believed. Emman believes that he is good in reading people and he likes Richard Lim. He also had heard good things about him and that he is a good guy.

Maya hastily went to bath after the call. She checked the time and realized that she was supposed to meet Richard for breakfast in less than an hour. She put her swimsuit over her ripped shorts and light, sleeveless blouse, as she and Richard were planning to take a dip in the Katibawasan Falls. The weather was on the warm side that day so she thought it is best to wear comfortable clothes.

Thirty minutes after, she was out of her bungalow. Richard called her from his veranda the moment she had closed her door. It looked like he was waiting for her to come out of her bungalow. He put his iPhone in his pocket the moment she looked at him. He gave her another of his lopsided smiles that never fail to make her heart beat faster. He walked briskly towards her.

“Ricky, good morning!” Maya said, giving Ricky a smile that, again, lit up her beautiful face. Seeing him waiting for her, was a happy surprise. “I thought we will just meet at the restaurant!”

“Good morning, Maya!” Richard said, taking hold of Maya’s tote bag from her hand, hefting his small backpack, and guiding her by the elbow, down the steps. “I was up early, so I just thought of waiting for you at the veranda so we can go together. The view is nice also and it was great sitting out there while I was waiting. How are you? Did you sleep well?”

“I did, surprisingly well. It must have been the walk along the beach, and the company I had last night.” Maya said with a smile, artlessly, looking at Ricky, then blushed a bit as she remembered again how their night ended. “How about you?”

Richard smiled, seeing Maya’s reddening face. He knew then what she was remembering in particular. The kiss was on his mind also, since he woke up and when he was sitting at the veranda waiting for her. He caught his breath, when he saw her in that shorts and sleeveless blouse. She is very lovely and then his gaze zeroed in on her lips, and the memory flooded back in full force. It took supreme effort to control and compose himself.

“I did okay, when I managed to fall sleep. It took me a while.” Richard admitted.

“Oh, it must be because the place is unfamiliar to you. Isn’t it there is a term for it, ‘namamahay’?” Maya looked at Richard inquiringly.

“Hmmm, yes, but it was not because the place was unfamiliar to me. I slept okay yesterday morning, remember.” Richard replied, than gazing intently at Maya, he continued, “It was more of waiting until the excitement and the happiness I was feeling after the wonderful time I had with you, subsided.”

“Oh!” Maya managed to say, unable to stop the giddiness she felt on hearing that. She gave him a sweet, beautiful smile, face flushed.

Richard smiled back, then as if is the most natural thing in the world, he took hold of her hand, interlaced it with his, tightly while they happily walked towards the restaurant. Both of them are looking forward to another memorable day together in that island paradise.

 

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