Ricardo Lim II, Richie to family and friends, stared at the beautiful, poise woman circulating among the art patrons looking in awe at Santiago Ocampo’s stark but beautiful landscape paintings. He was nursing a glass of red wine that his friend Bobby gave as soon as they entered the spacious gallery displaying his son’s latest work. She had a ready, sincere, and seemingly genuine smile for everyone. She is the spitting image of her! As beautiful and it seems as charming as her grandmother. Everyone greeted her with warmth, even people he had known to be quite reserved and haughty, if he may say so.
He thought he was seeing a ghost, a ghost that he had believed for so long haunted his family long before she died and joined his father wherever he is now. He never expected he would see the granddaughter, his son’s new girlfriend, that evening! It turned out, she and her gallery organized Santi’s exhibition. He had seen Maya Dela Rosa-Ventura, her grandmother, several times when he was in his late teens. He was curious to know about her ever since he had stumbled upon his father’s journal one year before he died.
Richie Lim remembered that moment so clearly. He saw his father with a glass of his finest Scottish whiskey staring at the painting on his study with a sad expression on his face one evening, a blue journal opened before him. His father took one gulped of his drink, then put the journal inside the secret drawer, not so secret to him anyway, a drawer in his study. When his father went to bed, he snuck into the study and opened the drawer, his curiosity well and truly aroused as he felt it would answer some things that had been puzzling him.
He spent most of the night reading the journal and understanding some things that had been puzzling him, like his parents looking like a normal couple on the surface, not very demonstrative of their feelings, which he thought was because of their natural reserve and that it was just the way they were. Him, remembering the exact time, when his father got sick for a week after he had been on a trip and that he whispered for him to get well. He was about five years old at that time. His mother seemingly sad at times, when she thought no one was looking. He attributed it to the fact that they were in a strange land, but it turned out it was because his father was in love with someone else. He never loved his mother the way she should have been loved!
In Richie Lim’s young mind, he came to believe that his father may have not gone and committed adultery, but Maya Dela Rosa was very much the third person in his parents’ marriage. His father was unhappy because he was obviously pining for her, and his mother, equally so, because her husband does not love her, but another. Probably, his mother sensed it. Women, according to his female friends, insisted that they have an internal radar when it comes to those things.
When his father died, and his mother uprooted them again, to go back to the Philippines, he wondered if his mother had discovered the journal as it was not at the hiding place when he checked before closed the house in San Francisco. He was not sure whether it was his father who moved it, sensing that someone else’s read it or it was his mother. He never thought of asking as it his question might open a can of worms that would hurt his gentle mother. He wanted to let that secret die with his father.
However, he was unable to help himself, he sought the woman who made his parents unhappy for completely different reasons. The first time he saw her was in a gallery show like the one he was attending at that moment. It was not her painting on display, but an artist friend who was a friend of one of his friends parents. She seemed nice, he admitted to himself, but then he remembered his unhappy parents and his animosity towards her surfaced. He barely stopped himself from going to her and lashing out. The fact that, liked her granddaughter, she seemed so regal, so well-liked and so nice, stopped him. Besides, despite their reserves, his parents raised him well, especially his mother.
When Ricky told him and his wife Rosemarie about his and Maya’s relationship, he reacted without thinking, everything he thought belong to the past surfacing forcefully. He hated that it created a rift between him and his son. His wife, when he went home the night before, told him he acted rashly. Normally, Rosemarie, just let him be but last night, she was really annoyed at him. He almost called up his son the night before, but he stopped himself. He needed to think. He dreamed about his father, telling him things were not what they seemed, while they were sitting in a park in San Francisco. Later, he remembered that it was their last outing before he died.
He woke up early the following morning, that morning. He found himself driving towards the direction of Batangas, to find answers from the one person he thought could give him those. His mother was surprised to see him! But after spending several hours with her, he had a clearer mind and his perspective have shifted. He went back to Manila in a better frame of mind. He found the answers! Had he not promise Bobby that he will attend this exhibit he would have sought out his son and try to repair the damage that he caused with his outburst! It is time to close the past, and as his mother had said, some things are meant to be no matter what! It is something that he was sure would make his father happy wherever he was!
Robert Ocampo, Bobby to family and friends, waved his hand in front of Richie Lim to call his attention one more time.
Richie Lim looked at his friend, his mind still in the past, started to apologize but stopped as he noticed his compadre was not alone.
“‘Padre, are you okay? Sorry, it took me a while to get back to you!”
“I’m okay, I’m okay. Hindi mo naman ako kailangang samahan, all the time! Just be with your son, Bobby!”
“No, no, I brought you here. Besides, my son is busy with his friends and potential collectors of his work.” Bobby Ocampo said, then looked at Maya. “This is Maya Dela Rosa, the owner of this gallery and a good friend of my son since college. Maya, this is my good friend Ricardo Lim II, Richie to family and friends.”
He is Ricky’s father! It was the first thought that entered Maya’s head when Bobby Ocampo made the introduction. At first she does not know how to react, having met him unexpectedly and knowing that he had some objection to hers and Ricky’s relationship. But the manners and poise that has been drilled into her by her mother took over.
“Please to meet you po, Mr. Lim.” Maya said politely, respectfully, deciding to keep it safe and simple. She gave the older Lim a friendly smile and offered her hand. Ricky and his father do not look alike, though there are similarities, on a closer look. Richie Lim must have taken after Mrs. Alexandra Lim. Though, when she caught him staring at her earlier, she thought he looked familiar.
Richie Lim stared, for several long seconds, at the hand extended to him, then took her proffered hand. This is an unexpected but propitious, he thought to himself!
“Please to meet you, Maya. Ricky told us about you.” He said with a neutral, friendly smile. He didn’t know if Ricky mentioned something to her. But he had an inkling that he did and that Maya knows about what happened at their home the day before. He hopes everything would still be okay. “Is Ricky coming too? He didn’t mention when I saw him yesterday.”
It was Bobby Ocampo’s turned to be surprised. Before Maya can react and answer Richie Lim’s question, he asked, “Told you about her? Maya, do you know Ricky also?”
“Errr…” Maya groped for words! She was not expecting that Ricky’s father will acknowledge her like this.
“What Maya means is that, Ricky is her boyfriend, ‘Padre.” Richie Lim said simply, looking at Maya, wondering if Ricky had mentioned to her his reaction to knowing that she is his son’s girlfriend.
“Oh, you didn’t mention that, ‘Padre, when I asked you earlier how’s Ricky, but I’m happy to know that he and Maya are together now!” Bobby Ocampo told Ricky’s father, then looking at Maya, he added teasingly. “Kaya lang talagang wala na palang pag-asa ang anak ko Maya. Hindi na pala kita magiging daughter-in-law!”
Maya blushed at that. Tito Bobby always teases her like that when they see each other. Yes, it was true that Santi courted her when they were in college but she told him that they were better off as friends. “Tito Bobby, talaga! Love naman kita kahit friends lang kami ni Santi.”
“Pa, kinukulit mo na naman ba si Maya.” Santi said, from Maya’s left, another guy was with him. “Matagal ko nang tanggap na basted ako sa kanya.”
“Wala ka na talagang pag-asa pala, hijo.” Bobby said. “As your Tito Richie just said, Maya is Ricky’s girlfriend.”
“Really, Maya! Kailan pa? I thought Ricky is getting married to….” Santi exclaimed in surprise, then trailed off. “Oh sorry! Butt I’m happy for you and Ricky kahit masakit for me.” He said while clutching his heart in an exaggerated fashion while smiling at Maya.
“Ikaw talaga, Santi. Incorrigible!” Maya said, flushing. She is not used to being put on the spotlight like this, especially it is the first time she is in a relationship.
Richie Lim looked at Maya Dela Rosa and seeing her flushed face, he felt guilty at just blurting out hers and Ricky’s relationship like that. He was caught off guard and he never realized that it would snowballed. His intention was just to acknowledge hers and Ricky’s relationship in his own way. He felt bad, really, at the way he reacted the day before.
“Pa, Tito, Richie, I would like you to meet pala Tristan Miranda. He is with the magazine Arts and Artists. He will feature me in their next issue.” Santi said. “Maya, of course, you and Tris know each other, I presumed.”
“Yes, we chatted earlier and Tristan and I have known each other for years.” Maya said, smiling warmly at Tristan, who at some point also tried to court her. Tristan just smiled, because like Santi, Maya ‘friend-zoned’ him not so long time ago!
Bobby and Roberto shook Tristan’s hands, they chatted a bit until another guest caught Santi’s attention, and also Tristan’s. Then Bobby’s attention was called by one of his friends as well, leaving Maya and Richie Lim alone.
“Mr. Lim, gusto ninyo po ng….?
“Maya, I would like to say….”
Maya and Richie Lim spoke at the same time. They looked at each other and shared a tentative smile.
“Go ahead, please Maya.” Richie Lim said. “And please call me Tito Richie or Papa!”
Maya looked at Ricky’s father in surprise! She never expected him at all to say that after what Ricky had told her of his reaction to them being in a relationship. He had been surprising her since meeting him this evening. “Oh, thank you po. I would like to ask lang po sana if there is something I can get you, food, coffee or more wine?”
Richie Lim saw Maya’s reaction to his offer of calling him Papa or Tito Richie before she can school her expression, which confirmed that his son did mention to his girlfriend about his reaction. He had said it on impulse. He decided to be direct about the whole thing and clear the air. He had a feeling that Maya will end up as his daughter-in-law and that she is the love of his son’s life.
“Maya, may I be direct?” Richie asked, and when Maya nodded to express her agreement, he continued. “Ricky might have mentioned something to you, about my reaction to your relationship, and I would like you to know that I am sorry for my initial reaction. I am just happy for you and Ricky. I would like to get to know you better also. Would that be okay, hija?”
“Of course, Sir…” Maya started and when Richie Lim started shaking his head, smiling, she corrected herself. “Errrr, Tito Richie, yes po! I would like to get to know you better also, and I’m looking forward to meeting Mrs. Lim as well.” Maya managed to say. She can’t seemed to get her to say ‘Papa’ yet as she just met Ricky’s father. She also feels glad that he was over to whatever objection he had to her and Ricky’s relationship.
They smiled at each other in silent understanding. Since everything seemed to be going well, Maya invited Rickiy’s father to sit at the coffee table at a side of the gallery. They chatted a bit, mostly about she and Ricky’s trip up North, also the funny way they have met, which had Ricky’s father chuckling. Richie Lim found himself liking his son’s new girlfriend very much. He smiled a lot, so caught up in her vivid description of the places they have been.
It was this scene that Ricky saw when his gaze finally found Maya and his father! He decided to go to the gallery after he had found out from his mother that his father would be here! He would just like to check on Maya. Instinctively, he knew that his father will not deliberately snub Maya or do something bad to her, but he would like to know how they fared upon meeting each other, as he knew that they were bound to meet each other. He was surprised to see them chatting and smiling at each other.
“Maya, Papa….” Ricky said, calling their attention.
Both of them looked at him in surprise!
“Ricky!” Maya said with a big smile, love in her eyes. “I thought you have a dinner with your mother!”
Richie Lim was surprised to hear that as his wife didn’t mention that their son was coming to dinner. “Son, nasa bahay ka pala! Sana isinama mo ang Mama mo rito so she can also met Maya.” He said smiling fondly at Maya.
On the way to the gallery, Ricky thought of several scenarios that he would see, but he never thought or imagined that it would be this, his father and Maya getting along very well.
“Pa, I’m glad that you and Maya got to meet each other.” He said neutrally. “Maya, sweetheart, I just need to come. I hope that is okay.”
“Of course, Ricky. I did invite you. But you should have brought your Mama. Didn’t you have dinner with her.” Maya said, gazing at Ricky with love. She was just happy to see him.
“Mama was a bit tired and told me she will go to bed early. Of course, she would have loved to come and meet you, Sweetheart.”
“Well, maybe, you both can come to dinner this Friday.” Richie Lim asked both of them. “And son, can we have lunch tomorrow at the Polo Club?”
“Yes, of course, Papa!” Ricky said. “And for Friday, dinner, Maya?”
“Yes, we would love to come to dinner, Tito Richie.” Maya said with a smile.
Richie Lim grinned. “That’s great! I will leave you two, and see where Bobby is. I would like to buy your Mama a painting too. It was great meeting you, Maya. I’ll see both of you on Friday!”
With that, Richie Lim was gone, leaving Ricky staring with disbelief at what he had just witnessed. His father being very warm to Maya after his angry outburst the day before and Maya calling his father Tito Richie which he knew was because his father asked her to.
“Was that really my father, sweetheart!” Ricky asked bemused. Then looking at Maya, he said. “When I found out from Mama that this was where my father would be, I just need to come sweetheart and check on you.”
“I know, Ricky. I was also surprised to met him here. He is a friend of Tito Bobby pala. I didn’t make the connection until I was introduced to him. Of course, I noticed him staring at me. But after Tito Bobby introduced us, he was the one who told them that I am your girlfriend! He had been very nice to me. He asked me to call him Tito Richie or Papa!”
“Really! I’m happy to know that. I’m sure I will learn everything about at our lunch tomorrow. But whatever changed his mind, I am just so happy.”
“I am too.” Maya said simply, touching Ricky’s hand and caressing it.
“You looked very lovely tonight, sweetheart.” He said softly, looking at her wearing a black sheath dress that hugged her every curves. She had a light make-up on and this was the first time he saw Maya made up and looking very sophisticated. “I’m glad I came by after all. I missed you, sweetheart!”
“Thank you, sweetheart. I’m also happy that you are here and that everything is well with your father. I miss you too.”
Ricky looked happily at his girlfriend and mouthed an “I love you”, then after checking if they were quite alone in their little corner, he stole a quick but very intense kiss.
Maya grinned happily, flushing and then said ‘I love you’ back, caressing his face and wiping the lipstick that smeared his lips with her thumb.
Unknown to them, someone saw their very sweet moment. It was Ricky’s father and he had a big smile on his face.