Maya hugged her knees, trying to comfort herself somehow. Remembering the past filled her heart with both sadness and happiness. She felt sad with the way things ended that summer. But despite that, she will always treasure the happy memories and her unforgettable 18th birthday celebration. She sighed. She was unable to explain why her mind sought the past more often these days. She did not really intend to take another trip down memory lane that morning but there she was, lost in the past again, while she was in Richard’s office! This time, the memories were triggered by one of the books she saw in Richard’s bookshelf. It was the same book he had given her on her birthday!
Minutes after Richard left, Maya took him on his offer to look for books to read or movies to watch. She entered the room that Richard indicated, humming to herself, feeling so happy with the way the morning turned out. She immediately fell in love with the lovely, cozy room that she saw. It has floor-to-ceiling windows on two sides, while another side has a floor-to-ceiling bookshelf filled with books and DVD, and at the fourth side, a big, minimalist, clutter-free table and a comfortable chair were placed, facing the big windows, taking advantage of the magnificent view.
By one of the floor-to-ceiling windows, two comfortable looking, oversized armchairs faced each other, with a coffee table in the middle. For her, they were perfect for relaxing, drinking coffee, and reading a book, especially on a rainy day or a quiet morning like the one she was having. They are positioned to take advantage of the view and the light filtering in, with an unencumbered view of the cityscape thrown in. She scanned the bookshelf, and noticed that she and Richard have similar tastes in books, and differ a bit when it comes to movies. To her delight, she found among the books, a book which she had been wanting to read but unable to find a copy in the bookstores in Negros. She took it, and was about to head to the armchair when she saw the travel book. She took it as well.
Maya settled into the armchair, holding both books, with the travel book on top. She thumbed through the travel book and noticed that it was well-read, with markings on some of the pages. She unconsciously caressed it as she looked out of the window and stared into nothing in particular, remembering that special moment when she received the same book from Richard. Despite what happened, she still had the book, and Richard’s card. She brought it with her to Spain, and even brought it back to the Philippines when they returned. She left in Talisay, though, whispering to the book that they will travel together soon, the way she wanted to travel for so long, and not the short, accompanied trips she had while she was living in Europe.
Maya sighed again, stretched her arms on top of her head, then decided that she had enough of thinking of the past and what had happened. She got up, intending to get a cup of coffee before she start to read the book she chose. She was crossing through the living room to go the kitchen when the front door opened. She was a bit startled, then she remembered that the housekeeper was coming to clean the place. She saw an older woman by the door.
“Magandang umaga po, Ma’am! Sorry po at hindi na ako nag-doorbell. Akala ko po kasi walang tao. Kayo po siguro iyong bisita ni Sir Richard. Ako po si Manang Sol, iyong housekeeper niya,” Manang Sol said by way of introduction. She seemed surprised too at seeing her. However, she gave Maya a friendly smile as she held on the grocery bag she brought with her.
“Oh, hello po Manang Sol. I’m Maya po. Ako nga po iyong bisita niya na dumating kahapon. Nice to meet you po. Nabanggit nga po ni Ricky na darating kayo ngayon,” Maya said smiling, offering her hand to the older woman. “Maya na lang po pala ang itawag niyo sa akin.”
“Nice meeting you po Ma’am Maya!” Manang Sol said, smiling, taking Maya’s proffered hand. “Ma’am Maya na lang po kung okay lang sa inyo. Hindi po ako sanay ng walang “Ma’am.”
Maya smiled at that. “Kayo po ang bahala, Manang.”
“Err, Ma’am Maya, pwede po magtanong?” Manang Sol asked hesitantly.
“Sige po, ano po ba iyon?” Maya asked her.
“Girlfriend po ba kayo ni Sir Richard?” Manang Sol blurted, then she probably realized that her question was too forward, inappropriate and too personal, so she apologized. “Ay sorry po, Ma’am Maya, pasensya na sa tanong ko.”
Maya was actually startled with the question. But the older woman seemed to have asked it out of natural curiosity so she smiled to put her at ease. “Okay lang po, Manang. Hindi po ako girlfriend ni Ricky. Mag-best friend po ang mga Mama namin ni Ricky and magkatabi ang bahay namin sa Negros. Mag-best friend din po sila ng Kuya ko.”
“Ganoon po ba. Pasensya na po talaga, Ma’am at hindi ko napigilan ang sarili ko na magtanong. Kasi po kayo pa lang kasi ang naging bisitang babae ni Sir Richard dito, maliban kay Ms. Liza na nagdadala ng mga paper kay Sir, minyan-minsan.” Manang Sol explained. “Akala ko po talaga may nobya na rin sa wakas si Sir Richard nang makita ko kayo ngayon. Ang ganda-ganda ninyo po pati, and bagay kayo ni Sir. Ay, pasensya na Ma’am Maya. Tigil na po talaga ako sa kadaldalan ko, promise!” Manang Sol added, her face turning red.
Maya laughed. She likes Richard housekeeper. “Sige po, Manang, okay lang talaga kahit para kayong showbiz reporter.”
The two of them shared a laugh.
“Basta, Ma’am, bibilisan ko na lang po ang paglilinis para di ko kayo masyadong maistorbo. Nagpapahinga po yata kayo. Baka pagod pa kayo sa biyahe, Ma’am Maya. Pasensya na sa abala. Baka hindi kayo makapag-concentrate dahil sa ingay ko,” The housekeeper said very fast.
“Naku, okay lang po, Manang Sol. Nagre-relax lang talaga ako ngayon. Mabilis lang naman po ang biyahe ko kahapon and hindi naman kami masyadong na-traffic from the airport ni Ate Liza,” Maya assured the older woman. “Magtitimpla lang po sana ako ng kape.”
“Basta po kung may kailangan kayo, sabihan ninyo lang ako. Magluluto na rin po para sa inyo,” Manang Sol said, as she put out the contents of the shopping bag she was carrying earlier on the kitchen table. “Ako na po ang gagawa ng kape ninyo. Ihahatid ko na lang po. Saan po kayo nagpapahinga? Sa office ni Sir? Masarap nga po na maglagi sa bahagi na iyon ng bahay, maganda ang view.”
“Thank you Manang. Okay rin naman po na hindi kayo magluto kasi marami kinain na breakfast ni Ricky. Medyo busog pa po ako. Ako na rin po ang magtitimpla ng kape kasi nakapag-brew naman po ako kanina. May natira pa,” Maya said, as the two of them headed to the kitchen.
“Okay po, Ma’am. Lutuin ko na rin and pwede ninyo naman po initin na lang para hindi na kayo magluto. Okay po ba sa inyo ang kare-kare? Especialty ko po iyon, Ma’am Maya,” Manang Sol said,
“Naku, Manang Sol. Favorite ko po iyon. Thank you po. Matagal-tagal na rin nga akong hindi nakakakain ng kare-kare,” Maya exclaimed. Come to think of it, she was craving for it at that moment. She poured herself another cup of coffee.
“Opo Ma’am Maya. Sige po, ito na lang ang lulutuin ko para sa inyo and magluluto na rin ako ng extra para kay Sir Richard. Paborito rin po kasi niya ang kare-kare. Sige po, maiwan ko muna kayo. Tawagin ko na lang po kayo kapag handa na ang lunch ninyo.” Manang Sol, opened the dishwasher and seeing that it has enough for a run, started it.
“Sige po, Manang. Lalabas na lang po ako when I get hungry para di na kayo maabala. Doon na lang muna ako sa office ni Ricky. I like the view there. Tama po kayo, iyon ang pinakamagandang part ng bahay,” Maya said smiling. “Thank you po Manang. Looking forward to eating your kare-kare.”
Back into her now favorite armchair, Maya started to read the novel she got from the shelf. She got lost in it until she felt her stomach growling and noticed that it was already past 1PM. She went to the kitchen and Manang Sol served her the best kare-kare she ever tasted. She cajoled her in joining her for lunch when she found that she haven’t eaten yet, and the housekeeper relented. The two of them chatted a bit and she found that she had been Richard’s housekeeper since he returned from the States and took over the family business.
With another cup of coffee with her, she went back to her place by the window. She can really stay there for a day and not move a bit. She finished the book, as she really reads fast. She was thinking of what to do next when her mobile phone rang. It was Richard.
Hi Maya! I hope you are having a relaxing time. I just need to review documents and sign some papers, then I can head home to pick you up. I think I will be there around 6:30PM or so.
Yes, I’m doing great! I hope your day is not too hectic. I love your office. I have been staying here since this morning. Should I dress up for dinner? Where are we going, if I may ask?
Good to know, Maya. Feel at home please. My day, ah let me tell you about it later. For dinner, casual is okay. I hope you will like the place I will take you. One of my favorite places in the city. Surprise iyong place, hahahaha.
Hahahaha, okay. Looking forward. But welllll, I’m the same with surprises and wrapped gifts, like when I was 18. By the way, baka you are too tired na to go out to dinner, Ricky, you sound tired na. We can just stay at home. I don’t mind not going out. Manang Sol cooked kare-kare. She said that it’s your favorite too!
She did? I would love to take you to dinner, Maya. No worries, I’m okay. See you later. Looking forward to having dinner with you and hearing out what you want to tell me.
Okay then! See you, Ricky. Looking forward too, as well!
Maya found herself smiling widely after they ended the call. She has a nice feeling about the evening ahead. She was keeping her fingers crossed that Richard will agree to her proposition. She was unable to concentrate after that. She stood up, stretched her arms over her head, then looked out of the window. Richard really has the best view from this room in the house.
Richard found himself smiling too as he put his phone down after calling Maya. He settled back into his office chair, trying to alleviate the tiredness he was feeling at that moment. He was tired, but he wanted to take Maya to dinner and besides, he will get to relax with her. He had a long day, attending to various business concerns that needed his immediate attention. He spent most of the day in meetings and negotiation.
Richard looked at the mountains of papers on his desk, and sighed! And now these, after all the meetings, he mused. He ought to delegate what he could to his next in command. The problem was, he felt he needed to tie all the loose ends his father’s untimely death had left before he can do so. He took a deep breath. He checked the time. He still have several hours before the dinner with Maya. But first thing first, he needed a cup of coffee and a bit of recharging so he can finish everything that needed to be done. He stood up and walked towards Liza’s desk.
“Excuse me, Ate Liza, may I have another cup of coffee, please?” Richard asked, poking his head out of his office door.
“Okay, Richard. Would you like some pastries too?” Liza asked. “I bought a new batch from the shop you like.”
“Thanks, Ate Liza, but coffee will do. I’m not hungry,” Richard replied. “Besides, I’m having dinner with Maya later, di ba?”
“Okay, I’ll just get you a cup of coffee then.” Liza stood up to make her boss a cup of coffee from the pantry in between their offices.
Several minutes later, she knocked lightly on Richard’s door. She found him burrowed into his big armchair that looked a bit out-of-place in the office. Liza knows that the armchair is the same one as the ones he has in his office at home. She was not surprised that she found her boss there and not at his desk. She always found him there every time he asks her to bring him coffee after a long and tiring day.
“Coffee, Richard.” Liza put down the coffee on the table in front of her boss. “By the way, your dinner reservation is at 7PM ha. Rafael will be there this evening. He was the one who picked up the call when I phoned.”
“Thanks a lot, Ate Liza, for this and making the reservation,” Richard said, holding the cup to his lips and taking, what for him, was a like a life-sustaining sip.”Rafa will be there? That would be nice! I haven’t seen him since he returned from Madrid.”
“Sabi nga niya. O sige Richard, I’ll be at my desk lang if you need me,” Liza said.
“Okay. Thanks again. You can go home at 5PM, Ate Liza. I’ll just leave all the signed papers and the documents I managed to review on my desk.”
“Noted, Richard. Thanks. I want to watch a movie nga with my daughter. Enjoy your evening with Maya.” Liza waved at her boss, then went back to her desk. She is very curious about her boss’ guest and family friend. Especially, as her boss, hasn’t taken any female friend in that restaurant he likes very much. Well sa pagkakaalam lang naman niya! His friend Rafael was also surprised that Richard was bringing someone there, when she made the reservation for her boss.
When he was alone again, Richard looked out of his window, staring out absentmindedly, sipping his coffee. He was really curious on what will Maya discuss with him. Is it about the past? Should I talk to her about it? Is it about time we put the past to rest so we can start again?
He returned to his desk after finishing the coffee, still, unable to decide on how to approach the evening. One thing he resolved was that he would just see how things are, and go with the flow. He plowed through the documents he needed to attend do. He managed to finish earlier than he expected so he decided to head home early so he can still change for dinner.
Thirty minutes after, he was home. The place was quiet when he arrived and Maya was nowhere to be seen on the first level of the house. Richard presumed she was resting or getting ready for their evening ahead. He proceeded to his own room and got ready too. When he was finished, he went down to his office to inform Maya that he will be waiting for her there. He spotted the travel book on the armchair by the window when he was about to settle on that spot to text and wait for Maya. He looked at it and like Maya earlier, he stared out of the window, looking at the city bathe in twilight as he caressed the book absentmindedly.
Maya was unaware that Richard was home. She was in deep thought as she was getting ready for the evening.
Should I bring up the past too? Maybe, this would be the right time to bring up the past, for us to clear the air and start anew? We are seven years older now, after all, and we are in each other’s world again. What happened in the past is an unfinished business between us. Yes, I wanted to know why the Richard I saw after my birthday was the complete opposite of the Richard I have gotten to know several days before. Would he help me with my current predicament?
Maya checked the time, and saw that she has more or less 30 minutes before her agreed meet up time with Richard. She presumed he would send her a message when he is downstairs. She took a deep breath and she felt nervous and yet, ready for what the evening will bring – it will either be Richard’s opposition or cooperation with regard to her plans, and either resolution or more confusion with regard to their shared past. But she believed then that whatever it is, it is better to know where she stands so she can take it from there. She was ready to meet things head on.