Ricky stared at the painting. It was like looking at himself in the mirror. Except for the clothes and the haircut, it could have been him on the canvas before him! He felt himself shivered. Maya who was sitting beside him on the couch while Manang Fe held the painting before them, sensing his reaction, squeezed his hand gently.
Manang Fe took them to the library after their sumptuous dinner. Ricky felt very happy and so at home at the house he had been to for the first time, for some unexplainable reason. It felt like there was a happy spirit welcoming him to that place. When he entered the library he was very nervous and at the same time had this feeling of anticipation at what he and Maya would see. True enough, he was not expecting the feeling that surged through him upon seeing the painting he and Maya never thought existed. It was bittersweet, seeing the image of his grandfather. He was happy at the love that he was seeing leaping from the canvas, at the same time, sad at the circumstances when the painting was done.
His grandfather was painted with extreme happiness on his expression. He was smiling, a smile that reached his eyes. It was a beautiful portrait of a grandfather he wished he had met. It was a painting done with love. It was obvious in each stroke of the brush that was used in that oil painting of Ricardo Lim, as if Maya’s grandmother wanted to commit something for eternity, wanted to remember by his grandfather like this, so full of life and happy.
Ricky thought at that moment, that he would have done the same, if God forbid, he lost Maya, he would have wanted to remember her as someone who was full of life, who loved life, and if he could paint, he would have painted Maya the way her grandmother painted his grandfather. He can feel the canvass speaking to him across the decades.
Maya was also looking at the canvas, seemingly mesmerized.
It was so painful. It felt like her heart would burst and stop functioning with the grief she was feeling as she filled the canvas with the image of her beloved. She had been painting him nonstop since that morning. She wanted a to remember him so full of life and happy. She wanted a painting of him the way she still remembers him, and that when her memory fades, she will have that to look to. It still hurts so much, she still misses him so much after all these years, but she must continue on for her daughter’s sake….
“Maya…? Sweetheart…?” Ricky said softly, seeing, that, she had gone inside her head and was staring into something only she can see, like she was not with him and Manang Fe anymore.
Maya blinked several times before the image of her grandmother painting like crazy, and what were probably in her thoughts while doing the painting, retreated from her consciousness. She became aware of Ricky and Manang Fe looking at her with concern.
“Sorry, Ricky, Manang, for a while I can imagine seeing Lola Maya painting that picture in her studio, wearing a painter’s smock over her white blouse and black leggings, her hair in a bun. It was so vivid that it felt like I was there, like I was the one putting colors on that canvas! I don’t know how to explain it, but I thought I felt what she was feeling while doing the painting.”
“Maya anak, iyan ang paboritong suot at ayos ng lola mo kapag nagpipinta siya. Baka nakita mo iyan sa isa sa mga larawan niya. Lolo mo ba, Ricky, ang nasa painting?” Manang Fe asked. She was almost sure kasi magkamukhang-magkamukha sila ng painting. “Siguro rin na-imagine mo kung ano ang nasa damdamin niya habang ginagawa iyan.”
“Opo, Manang. Si Lolo Ricardo po ang nasa painting. I believe nagkakilala sila ni Mrs. Ventura sa Ilocos noong bago sila ikasal ni Mr. Ventura.” Ricky replied, still looking at Maya with concerned. He had a pretty good idea on what Maya was experiencing earlier.
“Oh, kaya pala, anak! Kung si Maya, kamukhang-kamukha ng lola niya. Ikaw naman ng iyong lolo.” Manant Fe looked closely at Ricky and indeed, the resemblance is uncanny. She shivered.
“Manang, noong una nga po kaming nagkita nitong si Ricky, ang akala ko multo siya ng lolo niya.” Maya looked at Ricky, smiling and she started telling her old nanny about her and Ricky’s meeting. Then, she also told Manang the content of the journal.
“Napakalungkot naman ng kwentong iyan, Maya. Kaya pala ang lola mo parang nag-iba mula nang makita kong hawak-hawak niya iyang journal na iyan at nakatingin lang sa bintana matapos bumisita si Mrs. Alexandra Lim. Naalala ko nga na ganoon din ang hitsura niya noong bumalik siya ng Maynila pagkagaling sa Ilocos noong maysakit si Sir Jaime. Ang akala ko nga noon baka nag-aaalala lang siya sa kondisyon ng lolo mo Maya. Kaya pala mula noon parang may nawalang kinang sa kanya.” The old lady sighed, feeling for her old alaga, shaking her head as if wanting to dispel the extreme sadness she was feeling at that moment. “Kumusta na nga pala ang Lola Alexandra mo, Ricky?”
“Mabuti naman po siya, Manang. Sa Batangas na po sila naka-base ni Lolo Victor, her second husband. Ipapakilala ko nga po sa kanya si Maya this weekend.”
“Ganoon pa, naku nakakatuwa naman.” Manang Fe said with a smile, thinking na mukhang seryoso na ang relasyon ng alaga niya at ng apo ng lalaking minahal din ng kanyang lola. Ang tadhana nga naman, she thought to herself. “O sige, maiwan ko na muna kayo rito, tawagin ninyo na lang ako kung may kailangan kayo.”
“Sige po, Manang Fe, magpahinga na kayo. Kayo nga ang kagagaling sa sakit. Ako na po ang bahala rito.”
“O siya, sige, anak, magpapahinga na ako. Pero kung may kailangan ka, tawagin mo lang si Fely. Nasa kwarto lang naman iyon at nagko-computer. Ewan ko ba sa batang iyon, late na natutulog.” Manang Fe said with a smile. “Good night, Ricky!”
“Good night po, Manang Fe. Maraming salamat po ulit sa masarap na dinner! I’m happy to have finally met you.”
“Walang anuman, Ricky. Ako man, natutuwa na nakilala kita at natutuwa akong malaman na may nobyo na itong alaga ko. Akala ko eh tätanda na rin siyang dalagang katulad ko. Masyado kasing pihikan! Madami nang nabasted iyan!”
“Manang, naman!” Maya said, laughing, objecting to her nanny’s statement good-naturedly! “Choosy lang Manang. Saka hinihintay ko talaga itong si Ricky.” She joked, but realized that it was so true. All her life, it had seemed that she was looking or waiting for something or someone. Now that she had met Ricky and that he is now her boyfriend, she felt complete.
“Thank you for waiting for me, sweetheart.” Ricky whispered softly while they held hands, watching Manang Fe’s departing figure. “I’m so happy you did.”
“Ricky, all my life, I felt like I was looking for something or someone, and now that I have you, I realized, I feel complete. I’m so glad that we have found each other.” Maya said, touching Ricky’s face.
They shared a quick kiss, then hand in hand, they returned to where they were sitting earlier. They found themselves staring at the painting as they enjoyed their coffee.
“Maya….” Ricky started, remembering Maya’s trance like state earlier. “What exactly happened earlier? I saw you shivered while in a trance like state?”
“Ricky….” Maya hesitated a bit, then took a deep breath and continued. “Para kasing I was there, in the past, when my grandmother was doing the painting, feeling all her emotions, lahat-lahat. It was so vivid that it hurt so much. Sorry, ang hirap niya kasing ipaliwanag! Parang ako siya! Do I make sense?”
“Yes, Maya, you do. Recently, I have been having those ‘spells’ as well, especially this afternoon after my father reacted negatively to knowing that you were Maya Dela Rosa-Ventura’s granddaughter. Though I was not sure if it was completely due to that or the fact that it was a surprise to him that I’m not marrying Lorraine. But don’t worry about it.”
“He does not approve of our relationship?” Maya put her hands, on top of Ricky’s, suddenly worried.
“Not exactly just about us, I think. But the fact that our families have a history. Don’t worry about it. My mother said my Lola Sandra might help shed light on the whole thing. Kaya we will see her this weekend. If that is okay with you.” Ricky said, wishing that he didn’t tell Maya about his father’s objection. But he wanted to be honest with her. “Don’t worry about my father, okay? It will be okay. He is not a bad guy. I’m sure, if he also get to know you, he will be quickly converted and smitten.”
Maya seeing Ricky’s earnest expression, didn’t want to add anymore to his worries, so she nodded. She and Ricky can face anything together. For sure, it will be resolved at some point.
“Thank you, Maya. I love you, sweetheart. And I completely understand about feeling that we are reliving the past. Kanina pagpasok ko sa house ninyo, the thought that this was where my Maya lived with her husband and daughter entered my head! Parang feeling ko, ako si Lolo Ricardo! This is the house where your grandparents lived, di ba? Ang saya-saya rin ng pakiramdam ko and parang there was an unseen someone welcoming me to this place. Hindi lang dahil sa warm welcome ni Manang Fe, ha.”
“Yes, dito sila tumira. Ikaw rin pala nakaramdam ng ganoon! Iyong parang nasa past ka! Ricky, hindi kaya totoo na tayo ang reincarnation ng grandparents natin? Both of us are experiencing deja vu! We got attracted and we fell in love because we are really them? That we just found a way to continue a love story that was not meant to be the first time around?”
“I don’t know, Maya. Mahirap ipaliwanag, and there are things that we can’t really explain, and that we may not find the answers to those questions. But you know what, sweetheart, the important thing is the present. We were lucky to find, and fell in love with, each other. And that unlike our grandparents, we have a beautiful shot at the future. Iyon na lang ang pinanghahawakan ko. If we are them, then I’m happy that we found each other again and that our story has a happy continuation. But I do believe that we are what we are, Maya and Ricky, two different individuals from them, shaped by our period, fated to love and be happy like this.”
“Tama ka naman, Ricky. I’m happy also kung sino man tayo. Yes, we will never know. But like you, I would rather concentrate on the present we have and honor our grandparents’ love for each other, by loving each other.”
“I completely agree, sweetheart. Let us work on a having a future together. I think that would make them very happy. I love you very much, Maya.”
“I love you so very much, Ricky.”
Maya and Ricky sealed this promise with a tender kiss. Then they continue chatting while they arms around each other on the big comfortable couch.
“What are your plans tomorrow evening, sweetheart?” Ricky asked after a while, playing gently with Maya’s hair. “I’m just thinking that maybe, you can join me and my mother for dinner. She would like to meet you also.”
“Sweetheart, I would love to, but I have an exhibit at the Gallery Arts that I have to supervise tomorrow evening! Emman was supposed to handle it while I was in Ilocos, but he got sick nga. I’m going to ask you nga rin sana if you would like to attend with me.”
“Hmmm, maybe I can call my mother and I will just reschedule our dinner the day after tomorrow. Then I can go with you to that gallery thing.”
“No, no, Ricky, just go and have dinner with your mother. I’m sure she misses you very much. Please tell her I’m also looking forward to meeting her.”
“Okay, I hope your gallery exhibition is a success.” Ricky said, then he started getting up from his comfortable seat reluctantly. “I think I will get going, sweetheart. Para pareho na tayo makapagpahinga!”
“Oo nga, especially ikaw, magdamag ka pa namang nag-drive.” Maya stood up, then arms around each other, she walked Ricky to his car. “Drive carefully, and please text me when you get home!”
“I will. Good night, Maya! I’ll drop by the cafe for lunch the day after. I think I’ll just eat lunch at work tomorrow. For sure, marami na akong kailangang gawin. Would that be okay?” Ricky asked, gently caressing Maya’s chin with his thumb.
“Of course, Ricky. We can have lunch at the garden again.” Maya said, then she stood on tiptoe, giving him a quick kiss. “Good night!”
Still reluctant to leave, even if Maya can see from Ricky’s face how tired he already was, he lowered his lips, capturing hers for a quick kiss. Maya reciprocated his kiss, and it turned into something more. It went on and on until Ricky put a stop to it, while he still can. He wished then that Maya and him does not have to part for the night like when they were in Ilocos.
Maya and Ricky shared another kiss before he boarded his car. Maya stared into the night long after Ricky’s car disappeared from the street corner with a big, happy smile on her face.
By the terrace of the house, an old man smiled while sitting on the rocking chair there, observing the whole thing. So, they have found each other again, he thought! He was glad. Had he known and if it was within his power, he would have release her from their engagement to be with the one she loves. He only found out the whole thing when he stumbled upon the journal.
Maya stared at her grandfather’s rocking chair on the way back to the living room. She thought it moved a bit when she passed by. But she thought, that maybe, it was just the wind! She went inside, unconsciously humming the lyrics of an old long song, song that she didn’t realize, she was not really familiar with. She was looking forward to seeing Ricky again. She went to her room, then plopped herself down her big bed with a big smile. She only realized that she had been staring at the ceiling with a dreamy expression for a while when Ricky texted, saying that he was home.
Home now, sweetheart. I do wish that I am with you, just like in Ilocos.
Maya smiled, then texted back.
I wish that too! You will be in my dreams. Good night. I love you!
He replied quickly.
I love you too, more than life itself! And you will be in mine! Good night. See you soon!
Maya and Ricky put their phones down with big smiles on their faces. They seemed to be perpetually smiling these days! Both of them are looking forward to seeing each other again. Both of them strongly believing that their love can weather everything that would come, and that unlike their grandparents’, their love story will indeed have a happy ending, despite the fact that Ricky’s father has something against the Dela Rosa women!