While Esmeralda Lim was informing Tessie Dela Rosa that her son Richard agreed to her daughter Maya staying with him in his place in Makati, the subject of their conversation was sitting at the azotea of the family’s ancestral house in Talisay, Negros Occidental, drinking coffee, and deep in thought.
Maya was plotting her next move in the escalating battle of wills with her parents. It was the first thing she thought of doing after her parents rejected her latest plea. But her next move really, and everything for that matter, would really depend if that ‘SSS’ will let her stay in his place. Before she can execute her next move, she has to know if he had agreed to it. She hoped not. Why would he, as the one and only time they were together, they fought like cats and dogs. Maya was so sure that the ‘SSS’ still harbours a grudge towards her after all these years. He never bothered to get in touch with her, though why he should since she is just a family friend and the sister of his friend. He also begged off from going when her parents invited the Lims to spend the holiday with them in Barcelona one summer.
However, despite that and because it happened a long time ago, when she and Richard were both younger, her in her late teens and him in his late 20s, Maya knew that she shouldn’t call Richard that acronym she coined for him many summers ago, but she can’t help it. Towards the end of that long ago summer, before everything has fallen apart, she had taken to calling Richard Lim, ‘supladong sungit na singkit’ behind his back!
I wonder how he looks like now, after all these years? Maya tried to imagine. Hmmm, maybe, hindi na siya super guapo. Maybe he has started losing his hair, may beer belly and gained a lot of weight. I-Google ko kaya? Bakit nga ba hindi ko man lang siya na-check online. I’m sure there will be entries on him, having taken over the reins of the family corporation.
Maya was about to stand up to get her laptop from her room, when she saw their kasambahay, Sabel, approaching her, like a girl with a very important mission.
“Señorita Maya, tawag po kayo ng Mama ninyo,” Sabel said, then hesitating, she added, “Saka ngayon na daw po as in now na! Sabi po ng Mama ninyo huwag na kayong mag…mag…mag-dilly-dally, kung ano man po ang ibig sabihin nun. ”
Maya knew why her mother insisted on relaying that through Sabel. Teresita Dela Rosa knew that her daughter will try to procrastinate, not wanting to discuss their latest discord. She sighed. “Okay, Sabel. Nasaan ba si Mama?”
“Nasa sala po, Senorita Maya.” Sabel said promptly, relief in her voice.
Maya walked to the living room through the dining room of the beautiful old house that her mother inherited from her parents. When they returned to the Philippines several months ago, they opted to stay here than his father’s family’s house in Bacolod. The house in Talisay was much more beautiful, comfortable and quieter that his father’s family home which was situated neat the main street of the city. Anyway, it just takes several minutes to drive to Bacolod.
Maya found her mother by the small table near the window, sipping coffee. Her mobile phone was beside her.
“Mama, Sabel told me you were looking for me.” Maya said simply, not sure what mood her mother was in at that moment. It has just been several hours since she and her mother had their latest argument on how she should live her life.
“Please have a seat, Maya.” Tessie Dela Rosa told her daughter. And when Maya did as she told, she continued. “Katatapos lang naming mag-usap ni Tita Esme mo. Sabi niya, you can stay with Richard while you are taking that special Spanish course. Pumayag na raw si Richard.”
Maya was surprised that Richard Lim agreed to having her stay with him. She really thought that he would decline. All she managed to say was, “Really, Mama!”
“Yes, he did, so it is final you will stay with him.” Tessie Dela Rosa looked very satisfied with the outcome of her chat with her best friend.
“Mama, hindi ba talagang pwedeng payagan ninyo na ako ni Papa na….” Maya started again, despite the fact that her plea had fallen on deaf ears several times. She just needed to try one more time.
“Maya, hija, please, pagtatalunan na naman ba natin ito.” Tessie sighed, with a closed expression on her face.
“Hindi ka ba napapagod. Hindi ka ba naaawa sa amin ng Papa mo. Why can’t you understand that we just want you safe. You know naman kung bakit ayaw ka naming payagang mag-isa sa Maynila. Ikaw na nga lang ang anak namin ng Papa mo. Paano kung mangyari rin sa iyo ang nangyari sa Kuya mo. Hindi na namin kakayanin!” Tessie Dela Rosa continued, getting agitated. “Kung hindi nga lang kailangan ng Papa mo na i-manage ang family business ng Lolo Francisco ko, was gusto ko na lang sana na doon tayo sa Europa. Mahirap maging safe sa bansang ito!”
Maya held her mother’s hand, seeing that she was getting distressed. “Mama, please calm down. Nothing will happen to me. We all grieved for Kuya Seth pero we have to live Mama. Hindi naman dahil babalik ako ng Maynila, may mangyayari na sa akin.”
Her mother was about to say something, but Maya pleaded with her with her eyes to let her finish.
“Ma, I’m almost 26 years old and yet, I still live with you and Papa kahit noong nasa Spain tayo. We have to move forward. I want a life. Hindi naman sa ayaw ko kayong kasama ni Papa, but please let me find my way in the world.” Maya’s voice was a bit hoarse with the emotion it took to plead her case again. “I can’t exist in a bubble. Marami na naming nagbago sa Pilipinas in the past several years we were abroad.”
“I know that, anak. But please, pagbigyan mo na kami ng Papa with this. You will be staying with Richard and that it final.” Tessie stressed. “That is the only way we will allow you to go to Manila for two months.”
Maya looked at her mother’s mulish expression and know that she will not win. It is no use appealing to her mild-mannered father as he usually defer to her mother. Since her Kuya Seth died when she was 19, it has always been like this in this family. Now, the only option left for her is to execute her plan B. She said a silent sorry to her mother, and also to Richad Lim, for what she will do.
“Okay, Mama.” Maya said, sighing. “I will just stay with Richard.” The best thing to do is get herself to Manila first.
“Good, I know you will see it my way.” Tessie Dela Rosa said, completely unaware of what her daughter was plotting. “I will call back Esme and tell her that you will be at Richard’s place in two days time. I have your flight details from Doris. Just go and pack your bags.”
Doris is her father’s secretary. She made all the arrangement for her trip.
“Hmmm, why don’t I call Richard and arrange with him.” Maya suggested, as there was a part of her that is curious to know how Richard’s voice sounded after all these years.
“Esme said she will just do it herself. She just needs the details.” Tessie told her daughter. “Wala ka nang dapat intindihin.
“Muchas gracias por tu ayuda, Mama.” Maya just said, lapsing into Spanish, seeing that her mother was so insistent on controlling everything about her trip. What can she do except thanked her for all she did so that she has a place to stay in Manila even if it was not what she wanted.
“De nada, mi hija. I was happy to do it for you.” Tessie replied, then taking a sip of her coffee, she looked at her beautiful daughter. “Bakit ka nga ba kailangan pang mag-aral ng Spanish eh fluent ka na naman? You speak it so much better than some people I have known who practically lived in Spain most of their lives.”
“Mama, di ba I told you and Papa that the course I am going to take is for Spanish language teachers. I need that so I can teach Spanish here as a foreign language. Hindi naman kasi ako language major sa Spain, di ba. I majored in English Studies.”
“Kasi naman if me and your Papa had our way, gusto talaga naman namin na business course ang kinuha mo so you can take over our business, lalo na ngayong wala na ang Kuya mo and you are our only child. Ikaw naman lahat ang magmamana nito.”
“Mama, I love you and Papa and I do appreciate what you have done for me, but I am not Kuya Seth. He would have been a great CEO of our businesses, but he is gone and we have to live with that. I am not a business person and I have other interests. I wish you would really let me pursue them.” Maya said emotionally, hoping that her mother will understand this time. They have been at this countless of times. She just need to try to let her see reason, her reason, every opportunity she could.
“Well, Maya hija, we did let you pursue the degree you want to take. And now we are allowing you to take that course, for what, just to teach Spanish at some school!” Tessie countered. Really, sometimes, her daughter’s head is in the clouds.
“That is what I want Mama.” Maya said, patiently. She does not want to argue with her mother anymore as it will just get nowhere. She needed to concentrate her efforts in making them let her to live on their own. She just has the plan and it is a bit drastic, but she hopes it will work.
Maya returned to her place in the azotea after kissing her mother on the cheek and getting her laptop from her room. She Googled in Richard Lim of Lim Corporation and ended up with quite a bit of entries from society magazines and social media postings of some of his activities. Not by him but by others, some by employees who have apparently asked for a photo with him, and most of them women!
In fairness, mas lalo ka pang gumuwapo, Mr. Richard Lim! Maya muttered to herself as she clicked photo after photo of Richard Lim she found online. Her heart also skipped several beats as she stared at his photos. If she must be honest to herself, then she admits to the fact that there is a part of her that is looking forward to seeing him again after all these years.
But despite that, Maya was determined to make her parents see reason and let her be, and Richard Lim would have to a part of that plan. She sighed, closed her laptop and just stared out of the azotea without really seeing anything. When it got dark, she went back inside, ate dinner with her parents who reminded her again to be careful while in Manila. Before she went to bed, she packed her bags for her two months or more stay in Manila. She went to bed both excited and nervous about her trip, her adventure, on her own, at last!
While Maya was trying to quell down her excitement so she can sleep, Richard arrived back at the penthouse unit of the newest and the most exclusive address in Makati. It is what he had been calling home since he returned to the Philippines. He refused his mother’s offer of opening their house in a nearby exclusive village. It was too big and too traditional for him. He likes his penthouse place and the magnificent view of the city it offers, aside from its proximity to his office.
Richard ate a solitary dinner, left by his housekeeper who does not stay with him. He prefers it that way. After putting his empty plates in the dishwasher so that Manang Sol can clean it the following day, he poured himself a glass of Scotch and while sipping idly inspected his place.
Yes, Miss Maya Dela Rosa and I will fit here nicely! I don’t have to see her. She can have the room farthest from mine. If she does not like that, there are other rooms to choose from, as long as it is not the closest one to his room. He mused, determined to maintain his privacy even if he has to share his space with that girl….errr… with Maya.
Richard was about to hit the shower after downing the rest of his drink, when his phone rang. He looked and saw it was his mother again.
“Hello, Mama. Gising pa po kayo?” Richard said as soon as picked up the call.
“Oh, you know me son, I can’t sleep early and I know you also sleep late. How was work? Kauuwi mo lang ba? Kumain ka na ba?” Esmeralda Lim asked her son. She worries about him and what se perceived is his unhealthy lifestyle. She wished he will find someone who will take care of him, and love him of course as he deserves to be loved! Para rin magkaapo na siya, lalo na ngayong wala na ang Papa ni Richard.
“Work was okay, Mama. Tiring! As you know there are just a lot of things that needed to be done. I’m sure ganoon din si Papa dati di ba? And yes, I have eaten na and I got home an hour ago.” Richard said, walking towards his bedroom as he talked to his mother.
“Napatawag po kayo, Ma. May problema ba? But mabuti you called also kasi I need more details on Maya’s visit.”
“Wala naman, son. I called din because of Maya’s visit. Your Tita Tessie sends her thanks, by the way, also your Tito Arthur for letting Maya stay with you. Tessie said Maya will take the 11am flight from Silay on Wednesday. Sa Terminal 2 siya lalapag.” Esmeralda said, noticing that her son seemed to have resigned himself to Maya staying with him. He even stopped calling her ‘that girl’ and ‘her’! “Masusundo mo ba siya?”
“I can’t, Mama. I have an important meeting. Pero this is what I can do, I can send Joma to the airport and also Ate Liza, to pick her up. Ate Liza can also open the place for Maya. I will inform security that she will be staying with me so she can be issued a pass for the elevator as well. I will give you their contact numbers after this call, and you can give them, and mine too, to Maya.”
Richard was about to do that when he realized something. “Teka Ma, bakit hindi na lang si Maya ang tumawag sa akin and inform me of her arrival and arrange the details. Bakit kayo pa ni Tita Tessie. Ayaw ba niya akong kausapin directly? Di pa naman kaya na niyang gawin ang mga ito!”
“Oh, hindi naman sa ganoon, son.” Esmeralda said quickly, too quickly. Tessie mentioned to her that Maya had been pleading them to let her be on her own instead of staying with Ricky! “I just insisted to your Tita Tessie that I will be the one to talk to you and that I will take care of all the details. It is the least I can do. Besides, baka naman mahiya si Maya sa iyo. Di ba, you last saw each other around seven years ago, if I remember correctly.”
“Yes Mama, more than seven years ago na I think!” Then Richard added softly, “The summer before Seth was killed.”
“Oh you were correct, son. That was one very sad thing to have happened. Poor, jolly Seth, gone forever.” Esmeralda Lim said. “I thought the whole family will not be able to recover from his death. I don’t blame them at all for just packing their bags and leaving the country afterwards. I would have done the same, God forbid if you were taken from me like that, son. Hindi lang iyon, baka ikamatay ko rin! Kaya nga rin I worry about you all the time.”
“Don’t Mama. I’m okay and I’m careful. I will not end up like he did.” Richard assured his mother. Since his father died, his mom was more worried about him. Tawag ng tawag and he understand completely why.
“Be sure son, be sure please.” Esmeralda said. “O sige, I will just tell Maya all the details. I will send you her number after this call, okay.”
“Sure, Ma. Good night.”
“Good night son, sleep well.”
“Kayo rin po, Mama.”
Mother and son said good night. Richard went to shower after sending Joma and Liza’s contact details to her. He headed to bed several minutes after, quite tired really, but also feeling an excitement he can’t define at that moment. He checked his phone and saw the number his mother sent him.
Maya Dela Rosa! He saved her number into his phone book, curious on how she looks like now. He will know in two days time. Richard turned off the light, hoping that he would have a restful sleep as he needed all his wits at work the following day. He closed his eyes and laid flat on his back.
However, before sleep could claim him, a long forgotten image of a beautiful girl, wearing a simple blouse and a long skirt, sitting at the veranda of an old house in Negros crept into Richard’s consciousness. Then, memories just came rushing back.
Richard remembered that Maya was engrossed in the book she was reading at that time. It was his first glimpse of her. He was captivated, his heart beating fast. It was so unexpected to feel like that, and he was not prepared for it. Maybe it was the sole reason he acted the way he acted that long ago summer.
Richard suddenly was very much awake, his heart beating fast as memories of that summer a long time ago, something he had buried deep, rose to the surface.