“I love you very much, Maya!” Ricky whispered to Maya, in between their heated kisses. “Finally we are together again! That was the longest 24 hours of my life!”
Framing his handsome face, and looking at him with all the love she was feeling, she said softly, “I love you very much too, Ricky. I’m so happy that you are here in Manila now!”
Ricky, at first, thought that he just imagined it, or misheard her, then finally it registered what Maya had just said, catching him unawares as he was not really expecting to hear it at that moment. “Maya… you mean…that you…you….?” He had to ask, not really believing he just heard the words he had been wishing he would hear from Maya’s lips soon.
“Yes po, Mr. Ricky Lim. Mahal din kita.” Maya said, giving Ricky a sweet, happy smile, caressing his face gently, and looking at him with all the love she is feeling for this wonderful, wonderful guy!
“Maya, sweetheart, you made me the happiest guy in the whole universe!” Richard hugged Maya tight, then rained in little kisses all over her face, then he swung her around suddenly, laughing as he twirled her around!
“Hahahaha, put me down na, Ricky.” Maya said laughing, her heart full of joy! “You are making me dizzy. Baka tayo ma-fall!”
“Matagal na akong na-fall, Maya!” Ricky said, grinning, teasing her, then he slowly put her down and cupped her beautiful face, kissed again! “I’m sorry, Maya. I got carried away! I’m just so happy. I never expected to hear those beautiful words from you so soon. I wished, of course, very much, often! But I also thought that Lorraine had done something that will make you rethink about loving me and being with me.”
“Ricky, nothing that she will do will change what I feel for you. I almost admitted it to you when you took me home yesterday. Had we had that dinner last night, I would have declared my love for you then, I think!” Maya said with a smile. “I’m just so happy too that you are finally here. And that was the longest 24 hours of my life too. I can’t imagine my life without you.”
“Thank you again, Maya.” Then looking Maya in the eyes, he said, “You know, when I jumped into my car last night to follow you in Manila, my only goal was to be with you, but this is so much better and very wonderful. I didn’t know then what kind of lies Lorraine had fed you! I know you will not believe her, but I just want to be completely sure that we are still okay. Besides, Ilocos was not the same without you! I missed you terribly.”
“I didn’t give much credence to her words, really!” Maya assured Ricky again. Then brows knitted she asked, while still in Ricky’s loose embrace,“Did you get my long message? I have sent you one when I was unable to reach you, explaining everything, about why I needed to return to Manila promptly, and that you shouldn’t worry. I even said, I will just call you and that you can call me when you see my message.”
“Maya, we better sit down, while I explained to you what happened when I got home from the hospital.” Richard said, taking a deep breath. He remembered what Lorraine did and he was still annoyed at her action! He never thought really that she would sink that low!
“Okay, we can sit on the bench over there.” Maya said, pointing to a two-sitter wooden bench at the other side of the small garden, with a matching driftwood table. “Sandali lang, Ricky, I will get you something from the cafe. Coffee, pastries, pasta? What would you like to have! Nag-breakfast ka na ba?”
“Coffee is okay Maya, and some food if it is not too much trouble.” Ricky replied, then sheepishly, he admitted “I haven’t had the chance to drink coffee or eat anything this morning as I wanted to be here as soon as I have rested a bit. Nagbaka-sakali nga lang ako na nandito since sabi ni Manang Miring, may sakit si Emman.”
“What time did you leave Ilocos? And what time did you arrive?” Maya asked, carrying her coffee and flowers to where Ricky and her would sit.
“Well, a little past 10PM, I think, and I arrived home at around 5AM!” Ricky replied, cupping Maya’s elbow and guiding her while they walked the short distance to the bench.
“Five in the morning! That meant you drove all the way, no stopping at all?” Maya looked at Ricky in surprise.
“Well, I stopped just twice for a toilet break and to stretch my legs! I wanted to get back here fast, and before the morning traffic in all the towns I’ll be passing by. I only slept a bit when I got home. I don’t want to look like a fright when I finally get to see you! But I can’t keep still, until I see you again. So here I am. But don’t worry, I’m okay. I don’t feel tired.”
“Oh, Ricky!” Maya felt overwhelmed with Ricky’s gesture, and the fact that he thought of her first instead of food. He even managed to bring her that beautiful bouquet. “So, go and sit, please, and I will get you something to eat.”
“Thank you, Maya.” Ricky taking hold of Maya’s right hand before she went back to the cafe, then giving her one of his devastating smiles that never fails to make her heart beat faster. “I love you.” Then he kissed her hand softly.
“No worries, Ricky. I’m happy to do it. Thank you for loving me. I love you too!” Maya said softly, felt herself flushing, as she is still getting used to the fact that she is exchanging ‘I love yous’ now with Ricky! She touched his face and then she was off to the cafe.
“Ma’am Maya, ang guwapo guwapo naman, and parang ang bango-bango ni Sir! Oh my God, sana ganyan din ang maging boyfriend ko!” Jocelyn blurted out giddily as soon as she saw Maya entered the cafe. “Saka Ma’am ang pa-flowers, ang bongga.”
Maya smiled at Jocelyn. “So tama ang hula ko na ikaw ang kakutsaba ni Ricky sa surprise na pagpunta sa garden.”
“Guilty, Ma’am!” Jocelyn admitted sheepishly. “Pagdating kasi kanina rito ni Mr. Lim, hinanap ka. Papaghintayin ko lang sana sa loob ng cafe, crossed my heart Ma’am kahit gaano siya ka-guwapo sa paningin ko, tapos I will inform you, pero he explained that he came all the way from Ilocos to see you. Eh di ba doon ka galing? Saka Ma’am, in fairness, di ba naman napaka-romantic noon. Parang tinawid ang pitong bundok para sa iyo, makita ka lang. Then, he asked nicely naman if he can surprise you. Kaya hayun, sabi ko nandoon ka sa garden. Abswelto na po ako, Ma’am?”
Maya laughed. “O siya sige, oo na. But please bring Ricky a cup of coffee also, then a blueberry cheesecake and our mushroom truffles pasta.”
“Right on, Ma’am. Balik ka na po kay Sir, and ako na ang bahala.”
“Thank you, Jocelyn.”
“Basta sa love life mo Ma’am, 101 percent ang support ko.”
“Ikaw talaga, para ka nang si Emman magsalita.”
“Basta Ma’am, kapag kulang ka ng bridesmaid, pwede ako. Baka sakaling ako ang makasalo ng flowers mo.” Jocelyn quipped.
“Hahahaha, eh how sure are you na kami na?” Maya teased Jocelyn. She really likes the girl and she is used to her being familiar and her irreverent teasing like this.
“Naku Ma’am, feeling ko na naman kayo na talaga. Tapos kung not ‘yet’ naman, medyo malapit na iyon sa ‘yes’. Isang letter lang kaya ang difference nun, Ma’am.”
“Jocelyn, ang mga napupulot mo talaga diyan sa kaka-online mo! O sige please make Ricky’s food na. Thank you. And please you can still call me kapag na-swamp kayo ni Henry, since absent si Marigold. I’m sure Ricky will not mind me pitching in sa cafe while he is here.”
“Surely Ma’am Maya. I’m really happ for you. Imagine, may napili ka na rin. Maraming magiging miyembro ng Team Sawi kapag nalaman nilang taken ka na!” Then seeing Maya’s mock angry expression, Jocelyn raised her hand, “Okay na talaga Ma’am, last na iyon, off to the kitchen na ako!”
Maya was still grinning when she returned to where Ricky was waiting for her.
“O, why are you grinning!” Ricky asked Maya when she sat down beside him on the bench.
“Ito kasing si Jocelyn, kung ano-anong kalokohan ang nasa ulo. Kaya yata sila nagkakasundo ng husto ni Emman.”
“Jocelyn? The nice girl who told me where you are.” Ricky smiled. “I told her I wanted to surprise you.”
“Well, she did admit as much. And you are such a wonderful surprise! I thought medyo matatagalan pa talaga bago tayo magkita ulit. I was getting worried na nga rin na hindi kita matawagan. I called up Manang Miring to get Manang Auring’s number kanina. Then she told me na nagpunta ka nga raw sa bahay! After talking to her, medyo napanatag na ako.”
“Maya, I’m sorry if you got worried. Good thing, that Manang Miring explained everything to you! I thought of texting you while I was on the road, na-drain naman ang phone ko.”
“It is okay Ricky. Manang even called up Rosario when I was unable to reach you still. Then si Manang Auring din tinawagan niya when Rosario was unable to tell her kung saan ka pumunta, and nalaman ko nga na on the way back to Manila ka na. Sobrang thank you ko nga kay Manang Miring, sobrang resourceful. I thought nagpapahinga ka pa. If you haven’t gotten in touch with me by lunch, I was planning to call you again.”
“I have to thank her as well, Maya. I’m really sorry for what had happened, especially with Lorraine! Did she say bad things? Nabastos ka ba niya? After what she had done last night, I would have not put it pass her! Really, Maya, sobrang mali ng pagkakilala ko sa kanya.”
“Well, she was a bit antagonistic towards me, pero hindi naman siya outright na nambastos, or anything. She was, how to put it, indifferent and uncooperative, as if she knew something that I don’t know and she had that over me.”
“I think, my phone! She knew I have left it behind and that you were calling. That was not the only thing she did, Maya! I never thought she would sink that low! But she did!”
“Bakit, what did she do ba?” Maya asked, wanting to know at what extent Lorraine went to, just to get back Ricky, one more time.
“Well, when I got home, I was really surprised that she was there! Naputol lang ang usapan namin noong naaksidente si Manong Tunying. Then I rushed him to the hospital. When I returned after I have been to your house and Manang Miring told me that you went to my place, I asked her what did she tell you. She actually denied at first that you have been there! Then I got my phone to check if you had called or left a message. I was puzzled na wala kang message. Then, wala ring missed calls. I checked my call logs and it was cleaned. Wiped out!”
“Really, but Ricky, I sent you a long message!”
“I know Maya! Lorraine when she was cornered admitted that not only she wiped out my call logs, she also deleted your message! Maya, I barely held on to my temper. But in the end, I realized that it was a waste of energy to get mad at her. Mahirap siyang makaintindi. I packed my bags and just left. I just arranged for Rosario to stay in the house. Kahit paano naman kasi may pinagsamahan kami and she is a friend of the family.”
“She did that! That’s so terrible!” Maya said, and admired Ricky for his patience and concern for Lorraine despite the bad things she did. “But bayaan mo na nga lang si Lorraine, Ricky. I’m sure she will eventually get it. No harm done naman when we met.” She was about to ask something when she saw Jocelyn approaching them.
“Kain ka na muna, Ricky. Jocelyn is here!”
“Hello po ulit, Mr. Lim, Ma’am Maya.” Jocelyn said as she put down Ricky’s tray on the table.
“Hello, Jocelyn. Thank you very much again for earlier, and this.” Riky said, gesturing to the food. “I’m sure these are masarap.”
“Talaga pong masarap iyan, Mr. Lim. Recipe po ni Ma’am iyong pasta.” Jocelyn said. “Sige po maiwan ko na kayo.”
“Thanks a lot, Jocelyn.” Maya said. Jocelyn nodded and with a final wave of her hand, she went back to the cafe.
“Really, sweetheart, this is your recipe?” Ricky said, the endearment just slipping in, naturally.
“Sweetheart…? Maya said, smiling, feeling giddy with the endearment.
“Yes you are, my sweetheart? Bakit ayaw mo ba, sige palitan na lang natin. Anong gusto mong itawag ko sa iyo? Huwag lang darling ha!” Ricky said, giving Maya another of his bone-melting smiles.
“No, Ricky, ‘sweetheart’, is fine, more than fine!” Maya said, softly, then flushing she admitted, “I just have to get used to it. I haven’t called anyone ‘sweetheart’ before, and no one has called me that before, you know.”
Ricky grinned, his love for this wonderful girl, overflowing, taking hold of both of her hands, and slowly caressing them! “Then, get used to it, sweetheart. I’m really a very lucky guy to have you.”
“I’m lucky to have you, Ricky. I know that.” Maya replied, putting her left hand on top of Ricky’s hand. “O you better eat your brunch na. And yes, that is my recipe. One of the things my mother taught me.”
“Thank you, again, sweetheart,” Ricky said lovingly.
“You’re welcome, sweetheart,” Maya replied sweetly, rolling it around her tongue and she liked the feel and sound of the endearment. “Kain na, please. Ayaw ko na nagpapagutom ka.”
“Yes, Ma’am!” Ricky said with a grin.
Their eyes met and locked again. Unable to help it, they shared another kiss. They just both felt the strong need to physically connect to each other like that, before Ricky finally answered the call of his grumbling tummy. They chatted in between, enjoying the beautiful morning in each other’s company.