“Ma’am, what would you like to drink? Coffee, tea or soda?” The beautiful flight attendant asked Maya, giving her polite, professional smile. She and Richard were the last one in their row to be served drinks and snacks on their flight back to Manila. Even though, she just had coffee before boarding the flight, Maya opted to have another cup. “Coffee, please, Miss.”
The flight attendant nodded in acknowledgement. Maya was about to ask Richard if he would like coffee as well, when the flight attendant suddenly exclaimed, “Ricky!” Surprise evident in her voice.
Maya looked in surprise. For a while, she thought the flight attendant will hug and kiss Richard on the cheek, but she stopped herself last-minute. She just settled into giving Richard a brilliant smile, seemingly very happy to see him.
“Hello, Andrea! How are you?” Richard said politely, calmly. He already noticed that it was her even before she asked Maya for her drink preference. It has been years since he last saw her.
“I’m good! How about you, Ricky?” Andrea asked, gazing at Richard intently. “I had imagined meeting you again countless of times, but not here! I had been meaning to look you up since I returned to the country several months ago. But I had to look for a job first.”
“I’m okay, Andrea.” Richard said simply. Then gazing at Maya, he said, “Sweetheart, this is Andrea Ramirez, a cousin of a friend of mine from Occidental Mindoro. Andrea, please meet my girlfriend, Maya Dela Rosa!”
“Nice to meet you, Andrea.” Maya said, giving Angela a friendly smile. She was startled when Richard introduced her as his girlfriend, but she recovered fast!
“Oh, nice to meet you, Maya!” Andrea said, not really surprised that this beautiful girl is Richard’s girlfriend. What can she expect that he is still single and available after all these years! It could have been a wife he was introducing to her and not just a girlfriend! She realized a long time ago what she had let slipped through her fingers! Of course, she had read about his aborted wedding. It happened just days before she returned to the Philippines for good.
“How about you, Ricky? What would you like to drink?” Andrea went back to the task at hand, tearing herself away from her thoughts.
“Coffee, please Andrea!” Richard replied. He thanked Andrea politely after handing the cups of coffee to him and Maya, as well as their snacks.
“Okay, enjoy your snacks. I need to go back to my station.” Andrea said, then as if was just an afterthought, she asked. “Oh, by the way, let me know if we can have dinner with me and my cousin. Francis is here at the moment. He would love to see you again.”
“Oh, he is here! I’ll just give him a call and see if our schedules will jibe. Thank you Andrea.” Richard said, giving her a noncommittal reply. While he is reluctant to see Andrea again, he would like to see her cousin again.
Richard looked thoughtfully at Andrea’s departing back. He does not feel a thing, no anger at her anymore, no love, just detachment. He had truly put the past behind him. He knew that already, but seeing Andrea again after all these years, just reaffirmed it. He gazed at Maya, again and smiled.
“So, I’m your girlfriend, huh?” Maya asked with a teasing smile of her own, and a lift of her eyebrow when Andrea was out of earshot with her beverage and food cart.
“Well, I can’t say that you are my ‘almost girlfriend’. It would sound complicated!” Richard teased back, smiling. “I just want to let her know that you are someone very important to me.”
Then turning serious, he held Maya’s left hand, played with it, absent-mindedly, gathering his thoughts. “I’m sorry for putting you on the spot, Maya. As you have probably guessed, Andrea was part of my past. She was the girl whom I thought broke my heart, many years ago. The one I was supposed to tell you about at one point. She was the reason why I stopped believing in love a long time ago.”
“Oh…” Maya said, putting her other hand on top of Richard’s. She remembered him mentioning something about it when he got jealous of Jeremy. It was just the day before, and it felt like ages ago as a lot had happened since then.
“Later, when we get to your place, I will tell you about what had happened. I want you to know. We promised each other no secrets and everything out in the open.” He finished, putting his thumb on her chin and looking deep into her eyes.
“Okay. Thank you, Ricky.” Maya replied, really appreciating his candour. “And I will tell you about James, like I have promised.”
“Thank you for that too, Maya. Though, like I have said, you don’t have to.” He said, then spoke softly again, and from the heart. “Actually, I’m happy to have seen her. I’m really over her a long time ago, but seeing her put a closure on the whole thing. In hindsight, I’m also glad that what happened between me and Andrea, and between, and Lucy and me, had happened. If those didn’t happen then I would have not met you. We would not have this. I would have not fallen head over heels and I wouldn’t know what really love is. I know the difference, Maya. What I felt before with Andrea was nothing compared to what I am feeling for you, what you are making me feel. You made me believe again in happy ever after. I love you very much!”
Maya felt her heart so full, hearing Richard said that. At the same time, she suddenly remembered what she had blurted out in between sleep and wakefulness that morning. She had whispered to Richard that she loves him. She flushed, remembering.
“What is it?” Richard asked Maya, sensing that she remembered something really very important, by just looking at her flushed, expressive face.
“Errr, I just remembered something, I have been trying to remember, something I thought I have said before falling to deep sleep last night, or errr, early this morning.”
Richard waited with bated breath, “And…?”
“I remembered it now, very clearly.” Maya gave Richard a beautiful smile, one that lit her already beautiful face. Then gazing deeply into Richard’s eyes, she said softly, meaningfully, “I said, ‘I love you’”.
“Maya…” Richard like his heart just tripled its beat, waiting, and hoping, and waiting….
“I meant it, you know. I love you very much, Ricky.” Maya said with all the love she was feeling for this wonderful guy. They may have known each other a short time, but she is never surer of something in her life, except him and his love for her and his love for her. She can feel it. Tita Margarita was right, she would know the difference when the time comes. “And I would like to take that final leap with you, into this wonderful and beautiful thing between us.”
“Maya, sweetheart, you have just made me the happiest guy in the world.” Richard gulped, feeling his throat constricting from the intense emotion he was feeling for his beautiful, wonderful love. “Thank you for trusting me with your love and your heart. I will take very good care of it.”
“I know, Ricky.” Maya said, “I just know, sweetheart.”
Richard smiled, then raised Maya’s hand to his lips and kissed it tenderly, then looking deep into her eyes, he said softly, “I love you very much.”
“I love you very much too, Ricky.” Maya said, her eyes shining with love.
They shared a quick kiss.
It was this tender scene that Andrea saw when she looked where Richard and his girlfriend sat. It could have been her! She whispered with regret. She went to the galley with a heavy heart. What do you expect Andrea, that he would still be there, pining for you after all these years! She decided it was a momentary delusion on her part when she thought that she can still win Richard back. She changed places with a colleague when it was time to say goodbyes to the passengers so she will not see them anymore.
More than an hour later, Maya and Richard were in Richard’s car, going to Maya’s place. Maya’s head was on Richard’s shoulder, their fingers interlaced, whispering sweet words to each other, just very happy.
“Sweetheart, instead of that Italian place, maybe we can just order food from a restaurant we will pass by.” Richard suggested since it was already late. “I just remember it is along the road we will take to your place.”
“Sure, Ricky! It is up to you.” Maya replied.
Richard called the restaurant. Joma, the Lim family driver, who picked them up at the airport earlier parked the car in front of a beautiful garden restaurant offering Asian fusion cuisine, more than 30 minutes after. He picked up the food that Richard ordered. They arrived at Maya’s place several minutes later. Luckily, the traffic was not that heavy. Maya was starting to feel hungry.
“You know, my cousin Rafi lives here.” Richard said while they were walking towards the elevator. “I have been meaning to tell you but forgot!”
Maya was about to reply while pushing the elevator button going up when the receptionist called her attention.
“Ms. Maya, Ms. Maya, I almost forgot, I’m sorry.” The girl told Maya as she approached her, and Richard. “This is from Sir Emman.”
“Thank you, Cindy.” Maya said getting the box of pastries from her. There is a note on top of it, but as Maya was about to read it, the elevator opened, letting out a beautiful girl, wearing a black cocktail dress. Maya have seen her before and had ridden the elevator with her one time. She looked familiar but she can’t place where she had seen her!
“Chard, I missed you! Why didn’t you tell me that you are coming over!” The girl exclaimed, then gave Richard and exuberant hug. “Wow, you even brought food from Emilio’s.”
“Errrr, woohoo, slow down!” Richard said, smiling, disentangling himself from the girl’s embrace, then seeing Maya was looking at them with a curious expression on her face. He took hold of her elbow and propelled her forward. “I’m here because of Maya, my girlfriend.”
Rafi looked at the girl beside Richard, in surprise, grinned, delighted and spoke animatedly before Richard can finished the introduction. “I’m so glad to meet you, Maya!!! I’m Rafi, Richard’s cousin! I think we have shared the elevator once. I remember, because I like the top you were wearing!”
“Oh, you are Richard’s cousin! I thought ‘Rafi’ is a guy!” Maya said smiling. “I’m Maya Dela Rosa I’m please to meet you Rafi! Ricky was just telling me that his cousin lives here!”
“Well, my parents hoped I would be a boy, so they had chosen Rafael as a name, but I turned out to be a girl.” Rafa replied, smiling.
“I didn’t see you at his wedding!” Maya remarked. She had a pretty good memory of people and faces and while Rafi looked familiar when they shared the elevator ride, she knew she has not seen her before in person.
“Oh you were there?” Rafi asked, surprised. “I was in the States so I was not able to attend Chard’s wedding.”
“I was the wedding planner. Well, our company handled the planning.” Maya said, then seeing Rafi that close, Maya also remembered where she had ‘seen’ Rafi before, from the cover of a fashion magazine she had bought.
“You were the wedding planner! And now you two are together! It sounds like a very interesting and beautiful love story you two had. I would love to hear about it.” Rafi said excitedly. “I can cancel my dinner and join you, guys instead. That is, if that is okay with you.” She said with a beseeching expression to her cousin.
“Where are you going Rafaela?” Richard asked, curious. He had a feeling that Rafi is avoiding her parents again.
“Errr to a party with the parents! You know how they are. Mama will subtly introduce me to her friends’ single sons, hoping I will like one of them!” Rafi sighed. “Parents and matchmaking and their desire to have a grandchild to bounce around.” She complained good-naturedly.
“Well, just bear it Cuz, for this evening.” Richard said, then pointing to a Mercedes that just parked in front of the building. “Mang Lem is here.”
“Chard….” Rafi said. “Maya, help me please.”
“Go, Rafi. Besides I want my evening with Maya, ALONE. She just agreed to be my girlfriend this evening.” He said grinning, happily, then looking at Maya with love.
Rafi looked google-eyed at her cousin. Oh my, this is serious! My mighty cousin has fallen big time. She smiled. “Okay, okay, I will leave you two love birds. But you owe me a dinner, Chard, and please be there too, Maya. I want to hear the whole story on how cupid finally hit my cousin.”
Maya and Richard, gazing at each other first, then smiling at Rafi, promised her that they will invite her to dinner. Rafi was off in a flash after that.
“Maya, sorry if my cousin is like a….” Richard said, looking for the correct word to best describe his cousin to someone who just met her.
“…like a tornado!” Maya finished with a smile.
“Yes, that’s the word! Thank you, sweetheart.”
“Honestly, I like her. She reminds me of Emman. I’m sure they will get along well. She is Rafaela Alcantara, isn’t she, the commercial model?”
“Yes, she is. She is doing that on the side. But she would really like to break into fashion design. That was what she studied in New York.”
“Oh, okay! I’m looking forward to getting to know her better.” Maya said, pressing the elevator button again. Richard took hold of the box of pastries for her as well.
“We can set a dinner with her next week, depending on when you are free.” Richard said as he ushered Maya inside the elevator. “Then also, let’s have dinner with my parents when they returned from their vacation so I can introduce you to them!”
Maya looked at Richard in surprise, not thinking straight, pressing the button to her floor, she said.“But I know your parents already! I have met them at my aunt’s parties. Besides, I just presented to you and your father last week!”
“I know, sweetheart, but I want them to meet you as my girlfriend! And I want yo to meet them as my parents and not as a friend of your aunt or as a client.” Richard said simply.
“Oh…” Maya said, her heart skipping a beat, hearing that, then she took a deep breath, suddenly feeling nervous all of a sudden. “Will that be okay, Ricky? Maybe, it is too soon to do that. Anyway, we just started.”
“No, Maya, sweetheart! It will be perfectly okay. And I think they will be very happy for the two of us.” Richard assured Maya. He knew what was going in her head. That it was also too soon after his aborted wedding and that when his father met her the week before, she was just their events planner and a niece of a family friend.
“Okay, if you are sure….” Maya said, agreeing with just a tiny bit of hesitation.
“Thank you, sweetheart. Everything will be okay. Don’t worry. Besides, seeing you, seeing us, my parents can see the difference in me and that time I was with Lucy, and my father never liked Andrea. They can see how in love we are. I love very much, Ms. Maya Dela Rosa, just in case you have forgotten the past two hours or so.” Richard finished, teasing.
“I love you very much too, Mr. Richard Lim.” She said, smiling. Her eyes full of love, touching Richard’s face softly.
Richard smiled back, caressing her face with his free hand. Then he lowered his head, giving Maya what he intended to be a quick kiss on the lips. However, the moment their lips met, it turned into so much more. They got lost into the intense kiss and more, that they forgot where they are. Richard didn’t even notice that he had dropped the box of pastries on the floor, and the paper bag containing their food.
“Ehhmmm, is this your floor?” Someone asked behind Maya and Richard.
They broke apart, then looked at the opened elevator door, to a smiling Caucasian guy standing just outside. Maya blushed to the roots of her hair.
“Yes, this is our floor. Thank you. Have a nice evening.” Richard managed to say, still trying to recover from the intensity of that kiss. His arms around Maya, he ushered her out of the elevator, grabbing the food bag.
Maya mumbled a ‘have a nice evening’ to the guy whom she knows, lives beside her unit. He and his wife are from Finland, and he is working at the telecoms company in the Central Business District.
“Have a nice evening too!” He said cheerfully. “Oh, you forgot the box!” The guy said, handing out Emman’s box of pastries to them with an indulgent smile.
They thanked him again, smiling back. For sure, the stranger will not forget them that fast!
Maya and Richard walked hand in hand towards her place, grinning at each other. Both of them never thought that one day in their lives, they will be caught having an intense PDA moment in an elevator!