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Posts Tagged Be Careful With My Heart Fan Fiction

Two to Tango – Chapter 5

Chapter 5

Stop! Don’t go in there!  Don’t go in there! Enough! Enough!

Maya whispered those words to herself like a mantra, hoping that it would bring to an abrupt stop her runaway trip down memory lane. But she was unable to. She careened back to that moment, when Richard Lim’s lips touched hers, and everything in her young world shifted.

Yes, he was her first! Richard Lim was Maya’s first kiss. He was also her first heartbreak, something that her young heart, she must admit, albeit reluctantly, had never recovered from. On hindsight, and sometimes, she felt a twinge of guilt on the way she reacted to everything, up to the point that she and Richard Lim fought like cats and dogs for weeks and him earning the ‘SSS’ moniker from her. But there were times when she would remember the bad stuff and affirmed to herself that how she acted was what Richard deserved at that time.

Now that she would see Richard, Richard, Richard Lim, (she refused to think of him as Ricky as it would mean dredging up long-felt bittersweet emotions) again after all these years, she felt ambivalent. However, regardless of what she feels, the only important thing is she needs to do what she needs to do so that her parents will, hopefully, finally set her free. With that resolve in her mind, she fell asleep at last! The last image in her head, Richard Lim sporting his charming, lopsided smile.

Like Maya, the deluge of memories also kept Richard Lim awake that night. Once the floodgates were opened, he was unable to stop the rush of memories. Like Maya, he made a supreme effort to block the events that follow after that kiss that shook his world. Like Maya, he didn’t succeed.

In more than 24 hours, he would see her again after all these years. He was very much curious on how she looks like now, after all the years that she had stayed in Europe. Did Europe changed her a lot? He thought of checking if Maya has a social media account, who hasn’t in this day and age, he mused, but there was something that stopped him from doing so. There was a part of him that would rather know when they see each other again. He guessed he would also like to retain in his mind the Maya that he remembers, just in case the woman she is now is totally different from what he remembers.

Meeting her again, that’s another matter to think of! Past is past, and both he and Maya are seven years older. But still, they parted as ‘enemies’. Look at how he reacted when his mother brought out the issue of Maya staying with him. He acted like his 28 year old self! He acted like the last time he saw Maya. Sighing, Richard decided to grab a can of beer, and stayed at his balcony, looking at the lights still dotting the blackened night of the city, as he sipped slowly, and contemplated life and what would the future has for him, his mother, their company, and  Maya. When he became bone-tired, he went back to sleep and had a fitful sleep.

The following morning, Richard was woken up by a message from his mother.

Good morning, son! Don’t forget, Maya is coming tomorrow. The arrangement for her, please don’t forget.  Here’s her number son, send her a message. Have a great day!

Rising from his bed, groggily, crankily, Richard muttered. I doubt, Ma!  He just replied, ‘Okay, Ma. Thanks. You too!’ That was all he can manage that morning. He felt so tired at the same time, unsettled. He sighed. Before he headed to shower, he decided to send Maya a message, to get it out of the way.

Frowning, but not really thinking straight, Richard sent the message to the number his mother sent him. He decided to have coffee first before taking a shower as he badly needed a cup! It is going to be a long day!

Like Richard, the alert of her phone, woke up Maya that morning. She groped for it, plopped back to bed and slid her phone open. Curious to see who would send her a message very early in the morning when her phone had been pretty quiet since she returned to the country. Her eyes opened wider, and remnants of sleep disappeared from her system when she had seen who the message was from. Her mother gave her his number the night before. Her heart started beating faster and erratically.

Hello, Maya. This is Richard Lim. I’m sorry I can’t pick you up myself. I’ll send my EA, Liza and driver. Just give her a call after you landed. Here’s her cellphone number! 

Reading Richard Lim’s message left Maya lost for words to describe how she felt at that moment. The message seemed so…, so…formal and clinical!

But do you expect Maya? You didn’t exactly part in the best of terms! See, he even avoided seeing you after that disastrous summer. Did he even go with his parents when they visited your parents in Barcelona! He even missed Seth’s funeral!  Isn’t this better? Now you can execute your plans without qualms!  No guilt, Maya dela Rosa! No guilt at all! 

“… and Maya Dela Rosa, you should stop talking to yourself!” Maya muttered as she got out of bed. She had started to put her phone down, when an idea suddenly popped into her head. Hmmmm, why not, she thought. Maya smiled to herself with mischief in her eyes, then typed something on her phone, and before she changed her mind, she sent it.

OMG!!! I’m so looking forward to staying with you, Kuya Richard Thank you so much for letting me stay. I will bring Whiskey and Brandy! I’m sure you will love them.

On his way back to his room, a steaming cup of coffee on his left hand, Richard heard his phone beeped. His heart jumped, somehow knowing who the message was from. He grabbed the phone and upon seeing the text, he frowned, then, somewhat annoyed, he read it again, thinking he had read it wrong the first time.

“She called me, Kuya, again, and why ‘Richard’ I was ‘Ricky’ to her!  She knows I hate the fact that she called me Kuya. She sounded giddy pa with the fact that she will be staying with me!” Richard read the rest of the message. “Whiskey and brandy, what for? Love them?”

He quickly typed a reply.

Thank you, Maya. But there’s no need to bring me whiskey and brandy. I don’t drink that much.  

Maya giggled when she read Richard’s message, liking what she had started, and now for the clincher, Mr. Richard Lim. Smiling naughtily, she typed quickly.

Oh, but  I am not bringing liquor for you. Whiskey and Brandy are my cats. 

PETS!

Richard was really annoyed after he read Maya’s latest message. “No way, she can’t bring pets here!”

Maya, no pets please! You know I don’t like them, especially cats. Besides, my building does not allow pets! Again, NO PETS!

Maya was unable to help herself when she read Richard’s reply, she laughed a hearty laugh, the first one she had in days! Of course, she knows he hated cats. He told her that, a long time ago, when everything was bright and beautiful between them. She remembered his story about his cat phobia. Of course, she does not have any intention of bringing pets to Manila. She does not have pets. She has two stuffed toy cats and those were what she was going to bring with her.

Maya deliberately misled Richard because, partly she was miffed by Richard’s text, and she had realized it was a good opening salvo for her campaign to make herself, Richard Lim’s most hated guest. She wanted him to give up on her and tell it to his mother, then her parents. She felt a twinge of guilt at what she was doing, but she was desperate.

Maya deliberately shut down her phone. She didn’t have any intention of replying to Richard Lim. He might call, so to avoid that, she turned off her phone.

Richard sipped his cooling coffee while waiting for Maya’s reply. He wanted to be sure that they understood each other. But no reply came in the next several minutes. He checked the time and saw the he needed to get going so that he will have plenty of time to fortify himself for the difficult day he will have. He thought that Maya will just reply later.

Half an hour later, the first thing that Richard did when he got out of the bathroom was to check if Maya had replied.

Nothing!

Maybe, she was in the bathroom too like he was! Richard drove to work, and for a while, forgot all about Maya as he had to deal with a lot of stuff and issues as soon as he reached his office. Around lunchtime, he remembered Maya and her ‘pets’. He checked his phone. Still, no text and messages from that girl! He thought of calling his mother, but the fact that she will ask a lot of questions and would probably talk a bit, stopped him. He needed to concentrate on his meeting that afternoon. He just hoped that Maya would be sensible enough and would heed his warning not to bring  her pets.

Richard also informed Liza that she needed to pick up Maya from the airport. He also gave her an emphatic instructions about Maya’s ‘pets’.

“Okay, Richard. I will go to the airport early to avoid traffic. Tomorrow is Baclaran Day so there will be a bit of traffic in the area.” Liza said, reading the information that Richard handed to him on a piece of paper. “I got everything here.”

“Thanks Ate Liza. And oh, by the way, if you see that girl…..errr, Maya, holding two cats, please let her know that she better send them on the next flight to Negros or else, they will be boarded in a place that boards animals like those and she will not like it.” Richard stressed to his assistant, firmly, and for the third time.

“Noted on that Richard. You have mentioned it several times. I’m sure it will be okay. If not, I can take care of the cats. I  have several as you know and I can take care of Ms. Maya’s pets. Brandy and Whiskey, right!”

“I think so. Why would she named her pets after liquors!” He said, frowning.

“Cute naman the names ah.” Liza teased, smiling, and a bit curious seeing her unflappable boss, agitated.

“Ah, basta, I thought that girl will be more matured by now.” Richard muttered massaging his forehead.

Liza opted to keep her counsel. She had never seen her boss agitated and this bothered even in the most challenging moments he had faced seen assuming mantle of his father’s company. She had a feeling that there is a lot of history between him and this ‘family friend’!

“Oh well, let’s see tomorrow! You may go and eat lunch Ate Liza. I’ll just prepare for my meeting later. Everything is set?”

“Yes Richard. Wala namang nag-cancel. And I can pick lunch for you. Skipping meals is not healthy. Your usual?”

“Okay, Ate Liza. I might as well eat. Thanks a lot.”

He was about to go back to his papers, when he remembered something he forgot again to do. “Errr, Ate Liza, favor please, can you call Manang Sol and ask her to come to my place today, and prepare the bedroom for my guest. I have been meaning to, but I forgot!”

“Sure Richard, I will take care of it.” Liza assured Richard. “I’ll get going.”

Richard attended to his paperworks, barely reacting when Liza returned with his food. He ate a quick lunch, then got ready for his meeting.

The afternoon turned out to be gruelling one. One of the possible investors for his new project that he met at that very important meeting seemed to be hellbent on being difficult, a Filipino-Spaniard, Jaime Ventura IV. He barely held on to his patience. He didn’t know how he did, but he survived the afternoon with Jaime Ventura without losing his cool.

Returning to his office several hours later, he plopped down his chair and grabbed the phone he left there. He checked if there was a message from Maya. Still nothing. His head started to throb. He took a deep breath, trying to calm himself.  He worked several hours more, then headed home when he realised that it was already close to midnight.

He saw a note propped up the table by the door when he arrived him. It was from Manang Sol.

Sir Richard, naayos ko na po ang room para sa bisita ninyo. Hindi ko po alam kung alin doon. Wala pong nabanggit si Ms. Liza. Inayos ko na lang po ang room na tabi ng sa inyo para po makapag-bonding kayo ng husto.

Oh no!

Richard slapped his forehead. He forgot to specify which room should be made for his unexpected guest! He walked around his spacious living room, thinking. There’s a part of him that wished that Maya was put in the room farthest from him. He had a feeling even then that Maya would somehow wreck havoc to his system, like she did eons ago. At the same time, he felt this excitement that he can’t explain, with her just a wall away from him.

“Oh well, what’s done is done!” He shrugged, and headed to his room to take a shower before retiring for the night.

If he had inkling on the hellish night he would experience 24 hours later, he would have made the room farthest from himself, for his guest!

Half an hour later, despite his body being bone tired from his long and gruelling day, and just like the night before, he was unable to sleep. He found himself at his balcony again, nursing a cold can of beer and just trying to relax.

Maya Dela Rosa, what are you doing to me! I can’t afford to be this distracted. Maybe, things will return back to normal when I see you again!

How wrong he was! But of course, he didn’t have an inkling of what was to happen!

Like Richard, Maya was unable to sleep. After an hour of tossing and turning, she decided to make herself a glass of milk. Glass in hand, she went to her favorite place – the azotea. Maybe the cool breeze will relax her. She should have been tired because of the busy day she had. After shutting down her phone, she spent the day helping a friend with her day care center. Running after kids for several hours, on top of double checking the things she will be bringing to Manila and going to town to buy some pasalubong and other things, should have worn her out, but didn’t! She was too keyed up to sleep, with the thought of going to Manila, to be on her own, sort of, and yes at the thought of seeing Richard again, swirling in her head.

Maya wished then that she was not planning to make his life hell. But she felt that her parents didn’t leave her with other choices. She just wished that Richard will forgive her eventually. Besides, he might be the same obnoxious person he was when they parted and she shouldn’t feel any guilt at all!

She downed the rest of her milk, then smiling she went back inside and fell into a peaceful, happy sleep, excited on her adventure and yes, as sleep claimed her, in seeing the handsome chinito from her past.

Richard did the same. He can’t explain why, but he felt excited on what tomorrow will bring.

 

Note: Hi everyone! I hope all of you are doing well. I’m back. I miss this. I’m rusty, though, my apologies. Have a nice day/evening. Cheers and good vibes as always! 🙂

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Two to Tango – Chapter 4

Chapter 4

The past…

Maya felt her heart jumped, and for a moment, she can’t seemed to breathe, as she and the chinito guy, standing by the entrance leading to the azotea of her  family home, gazed at each other intently. He was dressed in a white polo shirt and khaki shorts, wearing glasses, looking so handsome and neat.  It took a supreme effort for Maya to appear calm and collected, especially after he bestowed her a lopsided smile, which also seemed to convey an apology for intruding into her private space and private time.

Maya knew who he was. She had stared enough times at his photos pinned on the cork board in her brother’s room. She was curious about him and every time she imagined how the hero of the romance book she was reading at that time would look like, his image was the one she conjured up. Weird, that his photos had made that much of an impact on her psyche!

Standing just off the steps, he looked like the handsome earl from the pages of the period romance novel she was engrossed with before he shattered her peaceful existence by his mere presence.

“You must be Kuya Richard, Tita Esmeralda’s son, and Kuya Seth’s friend in the States!”

Maya stood up, good thing her knees didn’t buckle! She walked towards him, clutching her book like a lifeline. She gave him a smile, which she was unaware of, had lit up her whole face, making her look more beautiful to Richard. “I’m Maya. So glad to finally met you, Kuya Richard.”

“Y-you know who I am?” Richard stuttered a bit, which surprised him a lot, as he never ever had done that or appeared not confident in the presence of a beautiful woman. She was actually more of a girl, come to think of it, as she was just about to celebrate her 18th birthday, Richard thought. He collected himself.

“Hello, Maya, nice to finally meet you. Please call me Ricky! Family and friends do. Mama only called me Richard when she is mad at me, and when I have done something bad.” Richard said with a smile.

“Yes, Kuya Seth has some photos of the two of you in his room.” Maya said, smiling back. “Please come in. Kanina ka pa ba kumakatok? Sorry I didn’t hear you. Nalibang ako rito sa binabasa ko. Wala rin kasing nabanggit si Mama or si Manang na may darating kaming bisita. May usapan ba kayo ni Kuya Seth?” Maya asked as she gestured for him to go with her to where she was sitting when he arrived. “Kailan pala kayo dumating ni Tita Esmeralda?”

“Wala naman. I just thought of checking if he is still here. Alam ko na may office siya today. I just wanted to ask sana if I can ride with him to Bacolod since I am at a loose end.”  Richard looked where he would sit as there was only the day bed where Maya was sitting earlier. He decided to sit beside Maya, keeping a bit of a distance, because at it was, he was already very much aware of her. “We arrived yesterday. I’m going to check on our office in the city, but that can wait until next week. I’m on vacation the next couple of days.”

“Oh, he left early today. Sayang! Papa asked him to go with him to Victorias. Bibisita sila sa milling doon. Ako lang ang nandito kasi Mama went to Silay. She will meet one of her amigas for lunch.” Maya informed Richard. “Would you like something to drink, Kuya Ricky?”

Maya was about to stand to go inside the house to get Richard something to drink as their kasambahay was in the market, when Richard stopped her instinctively, with his hand touching her arm lightly. He felt his heart jump at the contact, not realizing that a simple unintended touch would cause a strong reaction in him.

“Thanks a lot Maya. Katatapos lang din namin ni Mama na mag-almusal. I think I will go ahead na, baka may gagawin ka pa. I will just go around town na lang siguro.” Richard managed to say. He started to move towards the direction he came from. “Pasensya na for disturbing your rest.”

“Oh, di ba matagal ka nang hindi nauuwi rito?” Maya asked, still feeling somehow branded by Richard’s touch, because as far as she knows, and remembers, Richard has not been to Talisay in the past 18 years. “Would you be okay? And okay lang that you drop by. Really, I was just passing the time.”

“I think so. I know matagal na akong di napupunta rito, pero I think I can find my way around.” Richard said, smiling. “Saka kung maligaw ako, I can just call Manang or Mama.”

“Hmmmm…” Maya said, thinking, then impulsively and before she can stop herself, she heard herself saying, “Ganito na lang Kuya Ricky, I’ll tour you around na lang. I can drive you around Talisay and also Bacolod if we have time pa. I don’t have school today.”

“Thank you, Maya, pero baka may iba kang plan. Saka parang this is your day to relax. Really, you looked so serene earlier sitting there and reading your book. Ayaw na nga kita sanang i-disturb. I can manage on my own. I remember na mababait naman ang mga tao rito. I’ll just walk around town and familiarize myself again with everything. Also, I’m thinking of seeing some of the sights. I can just take the motorcycle I saw in the garage.”

“Wala rin naman akong gagawin, Kuya Ricky, and besides, pa-thank you ko na ito sa iyo since Mama said you agreed, kahit last minute, to be a part of my debut tomorrow.” She said. “I’m sure, like Kuya Seth you protested, di ba?” She said, teasing him.

Richard smiled sheepishly, feeling guilty for protesting too much to being a part of her 18 roses ceremony, and the bad thoughts he had earlier. “Errrr, I’m happy to do it for you, Maya.” He managed to say, saying a silent sorry to her, and promising that he will make it up to her to atone for the bad thoughts he had earlier.

“See, you didn’t deny it. Tama ang hula ko, di ba?” Maya teased. “ Basta, I’ll show you around, it is the least I could do. I can drive you around. Let’s just take the car, para kapag umulan, hindi tayo mabasa. Medyo unpredictable ang weather recently. Saka tingnan mo, morning palang ang init na!”

“Okay. Thank you Maya.” Richard said, acquiescing to Maya, after she gave him one of her beautiful smiles again.

Richard, on hindsight, didn’t know why he readily accepted. All he thought at that moment was that he likes to know her better, regardless of the fact that she was his best friend’s younger sister and she was too young for him. He was unable to help himself, but to go with the current that pulled him towards this beautiful, poised, vibrant girl. So different from the way he thought he would be since his mother twisted his arm to be part of her debut. He wanted to spend time with her and get to know her more.

Like Richard, Maya didn’t know what also made her offer to show him around. He was really someone she just met even if he was a family friend and the best friend of her brother. She was just planning on staying at home and doing nothing. She even declined her mother’s invitation to go with her to Silay and have lunch at their favourite restaurant there with her Tita Susan. When she woke up that morning, she just wanted to laze around the house!

Maya just knew then that she wanted to spend more time with her brother’s handsome friend. She was drawn to him, in a way she can’t explain. Sure, she had met handsome guys in Negros, they courted her, but they didn’t move her the way he moved her, by just standing there, by just giving that bone-melting lopsided smile, by the way he talked and his gentlemanly manners.

She never thought that she would react that way when she finally see him in person. She was  very, very curious of course, as he was always mentioned by her older brother, aside from being drawn to his photos. He seemed to be full of life, and as crazy as her kuya, in those photos. But she has not had the chance to meet him as her parents decided to base themselves in Negros while her elder brother studied in Manila, then in the States, a thing she found unfair as she also wanted to spread her wings like her Kuya Seth did! But being the only girl, and the youngest, her mother said no to her studying in Manila.

“Let me just change get my car key, Kuya Ricky and we can be on our way.” Maya said, standing up and gathering her things. “I’ll be back in a couple of minutes.”

‘Take your time, Maya.” Richard said, smiling, feeling very happy all of a sudden.

Maya was gone inside in a flash. Richard felt his breath returning to normal and the feeling of exhilaration he felt since he arrived at that place, ebbing a bit. It was really strange to feel an instant affinity with a girl, a girl so much younger than him and one that he just met! He who had been pursued by much beautiful and more sophisticated women in Manila and in the States, and he didn’t react this way with them.

Maya returned several minutes after, a sling bag strapped around her upper body. From the azotea, she led him to a parking garage by the side of the house. She told him that they will just take Martha, gesturing to a red sedan parked at the side of the four-car garage.

Richard smiled at that. Her car has a name! He went to the driver’s side with her and opened the door for her. She thanked him giving him a sweet smile before she went in. Richard felt so happy at that moment.

“So, you will turn 18 tomorrow?” Richard said by way of conversation as he settled into the passenger seat, an unusual place for him as well. “How does it feel to finally enter adulthood?”

“Well, actually I’m 18 na.” Maya corrected Richard, smiling, as she buckled up also.

Richard looked at Maya with a confused expression. “But isn’t your debut tomorrow?” he asked, brows knitted.

“I turned 18 two days ago, actually, Kuya Ricky. We had a small celebration. It would have just been enough for me, but Mama insisted on having this party. Sabi niya, minsan ko lang mararanasan to have a debut. Siya kasi wala siyang debut before. Namatay ang Lola ko one week bago iyong birthday niya. I’m not much for ceremonies, mas gusto ko pa ngang mag-Asian trip na lang with my friends o kahit go to Ilocos siguro, or sa Manila! But for her I will endure this debut and its trappings.”

“Oh, I didn’t know that. Belated Happy Birthday, Maya!”

“Thank you, Kuya Ricky.”

“Well, your mother has a point, you know.” Richard said, settling into his seat. “And yes, while it is nice to travel the world as you would like to do, it can wait. Bata ka pa naman.”

“Yes, I can’t wait to finish school Kuya Ricky, so I can spread my wings, you know, what I mean, I’m sure. I love Mama and Papa but they are kind of very protective of me. See, only Kuya Seth was allowed to study in Manila! He was even allowed to study in America. One day, I’ll roam around New York too, on my own, for one!”

“Just give your parents time, Maya. Maybe, while you are finishing your studies. After you graduated, then you can do the things you want to do. Plenty of time for that, you are still young.” Richard said, somehow, feeling protective of this beautiful girl. “Believe me, sometimes the only way to stop parents from directing our lives is to try it their way first.

“I think tama ka naman diyan, Kuya Ricky.” Maya gave him a beautiful, mischievous smile. “Plenty of time to be on my own and find my place in the sun. It feels like a long time, though, Kuya Ricky. Hay…” She finished, sighing. Somehow, she found it so easy to open up to her brother’s best friend about her hopes and dreams.

Richard smiled. Then realizing that she had called him ‘Kuya’ several times again, he said, “Maya please just call me Ricky. I prefer that, please. Drop the ‘kuya’ please even if I’m the same age as your brother.” He finished, giving her a winsome smile.

Richard knew that being her brother’s friend and a family friend, it was perfectly okay for Maya to call him Kuya. But for some reason he does not want her doing that. To be honest with himself, he was not feeling brotherly towards her. He was attracted to her despite his brain saying to him that he shouldn’t and that it was too soon and unexpected. He also found it easy to talk to her. He forgot for a while that she is a girl of 18!

Maya looked at Richard and saw the way he was gazing at her. She felt herself blushing, her heart beating fast and erratically. Somehow, calling him by his first name, seems so familiar and so different. She felt like she needed the distance of ‘Kuya’ from him.

“E-rrr, yes of course, Ku…este Ricky.” She managed to say, getting self-conscious. She liked the sound of his name on her tongue.

They just gazed at each other until a sound brought her back to the present. She realized that she has not started the car.

“Oh, we should get going.” Maya said with a start, shaking her head to dispel the feeling she was experiencing at that moment.

The two of them went around Talisay first, explored an ancestral home there that has been turned into a lifestyle museum! That house never fails to fascinate Maya. Every time she goes there, it felt like she was seeing it for the first time. After taking photos of the house and themselves, they headed towards the direction of The Ruins, with Maya keeping a running commentary of the interesting places along the way. Ricky was content to listen to her. She has a very sweet and melodious voice. He could listen to her the whole day!

Several minutes after driving through a lot of sugarcane fields, they arrived at their destination. They entered the gate. Maya parked the car. Ricky paid for their entrance fees and walked towards the still magnificent shell of a house built-in the early 1900s with its immaculate gardens.

“Wow!…” Richard said, with reverence in his voice as he stared at the facade of what must have been a very beautiful mansion in its heyday.

Maya smiled, hearing the awe in Richard’s voice. “That was my reaction too, the first time I saw it the first time I saw it when I was a little girl. Come, let’s go inside before exploring the grounds.”

They walked towards the grand staircase of the mansion which was actually more of a skeleton, but still it evoked a feeling of romanticism. When they reached the stairs, Ricky cupped Maya’s elbow to guide her.

Maya was unable to hide her surprise at Richard’s gesture, but she recovered fast, blushing, she thanked Richard shyly.

They made a thorough tour of the house, with Maya explaining a bit about the house’s history to Richard. She had been there several times as sometimes when her father’s business partners’ wives go with their husbands to Bacolod, she and her mother usually take them around the sights while the men meet and hammer out business deals. She enjoyed doing that. However she has done it recently as she got busy with her studies.

Richard liked listening to the cadence of Maya’s voice. It sounded like music to his ears. He was also wondering what was happening to him at that moment. He felt like he was on the verge of something and was looking at everything happening around him with anticipation.

“Ricky, let’s go towards the back. That’s my favourite part of this place.” Maya said, breaking into Richard’s thoughts. She also unconsciously took hold of his hand to drag him towards the direction of the huge lawn of the mansion.

Richard, with laugh, allowed himself to be swept away by Maya’s exuberance. He half-walked and half-ran after her, conscious of her touch.

“Di ba, it’s worth it!” Maya asked with a brilliant smile, moving her right hand in an encompassing motion, towards the huge landscaped garden. Then she let go of his hand, and ran.

“Wow!” Richard managed to say as he looked around him. The view was incredible. The place lovely. But the girl twirling around with her hand outstretched, her face tilted towards the sky, unmindful of the intense sunshine, seemingly soaking in the beauty around her, was the image he would remember most of the place. She looked so happy and carefree as she did her dance. He was enthralled by the exuberance and seemingly, love for life of this beautiful girl. He smiled and started to move towards her.

“Maya…..!!!!” Richard shouted when he saw her tumbled and fell on the soft grass when he was just several steps away from her. He ran towards her.

Richard grasped Maya’s arms to help her stand. “Are you okay? Did you hurt yourself?”

“Ricky, I’m okay.” Maya answered breathlessly, at the same time staring at Richard’s worried face. “I managed to break my fall, and beside the grass is soft.”

If you only knew. That you are the reason why I got off-balance. Catching you looking at me like that, smiling like that. It was enough to send this simple, and maybe just fanciful, girl’s heart to stratosphere! 

“I’m glad you are okay, Maya.” Richard managed to say, still catching his breath. Somehow, the idea of this beautiful, vibrant girl getting hurt unsettled him a lot.

They gazed at each other. Then as if in a trance, or as if he was witnessing himself having an out-of-body experience, and because heaven help him, as he can’t really seemed to help himself, Richard cupped Maya’s chin, then lowered his head to her waiting lips.

 

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Two to Tango – Chapter 3

Chapter 3

The past…

Richard Lim scanned the area where he was supposed to meet Seth Dela Rosa for a drink, looking for a parking space. It was difficult enough driving in the city after being away for several years. It turned out, looking for a parking space was more challenging, especially on a Friday night, at the current ‘in’ watering hole of yuppies and the idle rich kids.

He was about to call Seth to suggest a new place, when suddenly someone left, and a parking space right in front of the bar got freed up. He parked his father’s BMW carefully. He knew he would not like it if even make a tiny dent on his beloved car. He still have not gotten around to getting his own car even after several months back in the country. Anyway, his father has several cars  so Richard didn’t see any need to immediately acquire one of his own.

Richard was really planning on making a life in America after his studies, and he had started to, when his father asked him to return. He wanted to groom him as his successor. He told him he is the future of the company. Richard thought it was exciting. It was a challenge he wanted to sink his teeth into, so he packed his bags and left a promising career in Wall Street to return to the land of his birth.

However, his expectations and ideals were turning to be different from reality. He had discovered that his father’s management style and business practices were completely opposite of his. But since, it has just been several months, he still would like to give his father the benefit of the doubt, so to speak. He hoped that he and his father will find a common ground soon. Otherwise, he would be left with only one option – go back to America and forge his way into the business world on his own.

Deafening music and loud conversation assaulted Richard when he entered the popular bar. It was his first time there. He rarely went out since his return as he got busy with Lim Corporation. He only goes out when Seth persuades him. He had already declined him twice in the week. But since that night was a Friday, and he sensed a desperation in Seth, he had said yes.

Seth Dela Rosa is a childhood friend. His best buddy! Their mothers were childhood friends in Negros. They went to the same boys high school and both of them went to a university in California for their business degrees, and Harvard for their post-graduate studies. While Richard stayed in the States after their studies, Seth returned to the Philippines to manage his family’s business. He would have liked to have stayed in America like Richard, but his father would not have it. As an only boy – though he has a sister who is ten years younger than him, and which Richard hasn’t met yet – his father, like Richard’s would like him to take over the family business when he retires.

Richard scanned the huge, dimly lit bar, unaware of the interested stares he was getting from the ladies. He found his friend sitting at the bar, with his arm slung over the shoulders of a skimpily clad girl. He thought his friend would be alone. He said he wanted to sound him off on something.

“Seth bro, I’m here.” Richard said tapping his friend’s shoulder to call his attention over the din of the current rave music shaking the place.

Seth looked at Richard with glassy eyes. “Ricky, bro! I’m glad you are here. Have a seat. By the way, this is….” Then he stopped, lost for words. “What is your name again, honey?”

The girl who looked like she had a bit of a drink too, pouted. “Awww, Seth, sweetie, you forgot  already. It’s Giselle!”

“G-giselle….Beautiful name, honey, meet my friend Ricky, my best buddy, my bro.” He slurred. “Ricky, this is Giselle. She is a dancer, right darling, on TV? On that popular show, can’t remember the name, sorry sweetie!”

Giselle looked at Richard, noticed how extremely good-looking he is, and his uninterested gaze. She deemed it a challenge to make him react to him like most males she met. Instead of accepting his proffered hand, she hugged him tight and gave him a smack on the lips. “Nice to meet you, Ricky, so very nice.”  She said in her kittenish voice, but there was no reaction from him.

“Giselle, baby girl, I thought I am the love of your life this evening.” Seth complained, kissing Giselle on the neck, which made her giggled, in what Richard would describe as a grating manner!

“Of course, darling boy, you are. Just want to be friendly, also with your handsome friend. In fact…” Giselle gestured for Seth to lowered his head. She whispered something to him which had him smiling naughtily. He nodded.

“What?” Richard asked his friend, his brows knitted. He had taken an instant dislike on that flirty girl with Seth. He had his share of conquest and one night stands when he was into clubbing in New York, but he lost the taste for it when he returned to the Philippines. He had read her type right away.

“Well, my girl just offered to make us happy, together at my place.” Seth said, grinning. “You know….”

Richard stared at his friend and the girl with a coquettish grin besides Seth. “No, I’m not interested and I’m not into that. You had so much to drink, Seth. Come, I think it better to take you home.”

Richard got off the bar stool and was about to escort his friend out of the bar, when Giselle stopped him. “I’m going home with him. Di ba, darling boy?” She said in a determined manner, then kissing Seth on the lips.

“Yes, Ricky, she is going home with me. When did you enter the priesthood?” Seth taunted Richard. “You used to be so much fun. Now, you are prig and a prude.”

Richard let it passed. He knew that his friend was not in complete control of his faculties and this was not the first time this thing happened since he returned. He also had an idea on what set off his friend again. Not wanting to make a scene, he offered to drive Seth and his lady friend for the night to his place. It was the best he could do. At least, he will be safe home, to indulge in whatever he wanted to indulge with that evening.

Several minutes after, they have arrived at Seth’s building. It was a relief to be there as Seth and his lady friend had started to make out at the back seat of the car. The girl’s giggling was already giving Richard a headache. Seth drunkenly thanked him when he and Giselle got up. While Giselle on the other hand, tried again to persuade to go up with them. He looked at her with a stern face and told her an emphatic NO.

That was the last he saw of Seth for two weeks. Until one evening, when he received a frantic call from him, asking him if he could stay in his place. He agreed.

Several minutes after he got into his place in BGC, Seth spilled the beans. He was in trouble, big, big trouble. Giselle, in turned out, is the mistress of a powerful and notorious businessman who had entered politics in the last election. He told Richard the name, and even he agreed that Seth dug a big hole for himself by tangling with that guy. The guy found out that Giselle spent days with him and he was fuming mad. He dragged Giselle out of his apartment and threatened to kill Seth.

In the beginning, Seth told him, when nothing happened several days after that incident, he got confident and went on with his life until one evening when he got of the bar they have been to in BGC, a group of guys mauled him. They also told him it was just the beginning as their boss does not forget any insult or slight done to him. The evening he called Richard, he saw the same group of guys outside his building.

“Bro, maybe it is better if you lie low for a while. Why don’t you go to Negros? At least, that guy can’t touch you there. You can manage the business from there also, di ba?” Richard suggested to his friend as they drank beer at the balcony of his place.

“I don’t like to do that, bro even if I can do that easily. You know my father and all his impossible expectations. At least, when I’m in the Manila office, I can avoid him.” Seth muttered, sighing and drinking his beer fast. It was his fourth for the night to Richard’s second.

“But what do you prefer, end up in a ditch or lie low for a while?” Richard told his friend bluntly. “You know the reputation of that guy. I hope he will meet his match soon, but not at your expense.”

Seth nodded. He told Richard he would think about it. The following morning, he asked Richard to book a ticket to Bacolod for him. Richard also took him to the airport, just to make sure that nothing happens to him.

For a month, he didn’t hear from Seth. He would have love to talk to him over several bottles of beer also as his father was driving him nuts with his stubbornness. He wanted to get away from him, even for a while. He just needed some time to himself to think things through. He never thought that salvation would come from his mother.

“Son, why don’t you go with me to Negros?” Esmeralda Lim suggested one evening after he had dinner with his parents and he and his father ended up in an argument again. His father retreated to his study. He stayed with his mother and had coffee with her. “You haven’t been there since you were a kid. Come samahan mo na ang Mama.”

“Why are you going to Negros, Mama?” Richard asked. She hasn’t mentioned any plans of going there before. His mother also seldom go the family home there. She was busy playing hostess to Roberto Lim’s numerous parties and business luncheons.

“Oh, I will attend a birthday party. Maya will have her debut in several days! She is the daughter of your Tita Tessie and Tito Arthur, remember. She is like a daughter to me also. Di ba, Seth is there also? Tessie mentioned that he is working at their main headquarters there. You can catch up with him. Take a week off from work. Maybe things will be better between you and your Papa when you return.”

Richard looked at his mother in surprise.

“Son, why look so surprised? I know what has been going on with you and your Papa.” Esmeralda Lim told her son. “Come, it will do you good to relax a little bit.”

Staring at his mother’s beautiful garden, Richard continued sipping his coffee. His mother has a point. Besides, he hasn’t taken vacation or a break in months. He sometimes work weekends too just to keep up with the demands of his father and watch over his actions. Maybe he can also take this time to think, on whether he will continue working for LC or going back to the States.

“Okay, Ma. I will go with you. When do we leave? Where are we staying?”

“We will stay at the family home. I already asked Fe to call the caretakers to open the house. And we leave on Thursday. The party is on Saturday. I will ask my secretary to book us flights. Kasama natin si Fe! Pagkakataon na rin niyang makauwi ang mabisita ang  pamilya niya!”

“When are you and Manang Fe planning to return, Mama?” Richard asked, thinking fast.

“Well, I was originally planning on staying a week. But I think I would like to stay longer, around two to three weeks. How about you son?”

“I think I will stay as long as you are, Mama. I can spend sometime with Seth and also check on our office there. I think that would be okay with Papa. That way, wala na rin kaming masyadong maging argument.”

“That’s great son! Meet your Papa halfway please. I know that he could be a difficult person, but just be patient with him. He had been under tremendous pressure from his board to deliver.” Esmeralda implored.

Richard sighed. “I’m trying, Mama. You know how hard I’m trying.”

“I know son. I know.” Esmeralda tousled her son’s head, like she used to do when he was a little boy. “You are a good son, Ricky.”

“Thanks Mama.” Richard placed his cup on the table. “ I should get going Mama since we are leaving in two days, I need to finish all my pending work, meet with Papa on this, and pack.”

“Okay, son. I’ll call you tomorrow for our flight details.”

Richard drove back to his place after saying goodbye to his mother and talking to his father about the trip. To his surprise, he readily agreed to it. He said, he will e-mail him a list of what he needs to do at their Bacolod office.

Early Thursday morning, mother and son, with Esmeralda Lim’s assistant Fe landed at the Bacolod Airport. They were picked up by a company driver and taken to the family home in Talisay. The caretakers where waiting for them by the driveway.

“Salome, Isidro, good to see you again. How are you? How’s everything here?” Esmeralda Lim greeted her family’s long-time caretakers warmly. They have been with the Valderama, her mother’s family since they were newly weds, decades ago. “It is really good to be back.”

“Magandang umaga po Donya Esmeralda, Senorito Richard. Natutuwa po kami at napasyal kayo ulit dito sa Talisay. Medyo matagal-tagal na rin mula ng naparito kayo.” Manang Salome said.

“Naku, oo nga, Salome, masyadong busy. Lalo naman itong si Ricky. Bata pa ng huling mapunta rito. Tingnan mo ngayon, binatang-binata na. Magte-trenta na, ayaw pa akong bigyan ng apo.”

“Mama, ikaw talaga. I’m still too young to get married. I’m just enjoying life muna.” Richard said, smiling. “Hello po Manang Salome, Manong Isidro. I remember you taking care of me when I was young, Manang. It’s good to be back po.”

“Hay naku, hijo, feeling ko may tungkod na ako bago ako magkaapo sa iyo.” Esmeralda Lim quipped. “Tara na nga sa loob at ng makapagpahinga.”

Richard chose the room towards the back of the house. As soon as he got settled, he called Seth, who was very happy to hear from him. They talked for a while. His friend seemed happier in Negros even if he was working alongside his father. They agreed to meet the following day, around dinnertime, in the Fernandez ancestral house, Tessie Dela Rosa’s family’s home for generations.

Richard spent the rest of the day relaxing. It was very nice to be not doing anything for a change. He just enjoyed the quiet. Mostly, he read a book in his room. He loves to read, but lately, due to the demands of his father on his time, he had neglected it. Manang Salome and Manang Fe prepared a feast for dinner with they enjoyed very much.

The following morning, he woke up early. He was having breakfast with his mother when she received a call. She excused herself and returned several minutes after.

“Ricky, that was your Tita Tessie…” Esmeralda Lim started, then forged on. She had an inkling that she needed all her persuasive powers with the favor she will ask of her son. “Errrr, she would like to ask you a favor, a very big favor and she would, and me also well, will be eternally grateful if you will say yes, hijo!”

“What favor, Mama? Of course, if there’s anything I can do for Tita Tessie.” Richard likes his Tita Tessie and he remembered her cooking lots of delicious Filipino food when she visited Seth and him in Boston. She is also his mother’s bestfriend.

“She is asking if you will be one of Maya’s 18 roses ceremony. Nagkasakit kasi iyong isang kaibigan na lalaki ni Maya.” Esmeralda Lim looked at her son beseechingly. “Do it for her na son, please, and also for Maya.”

“Mama, I’m too old na for that. Bakit kasi kailangan pa ng ganyang seremonya!” Richard protested. “Mama, ibang favor na lang please, hwag lang iyan.”

“Ricky son, kasama mo naman si Seth. Hindi lang ikaw ang older guy na nandoon. Kasama rin ang ibang older cousins and mga tito ni Maya. And of course, your Tito Arthur will be a part of it as well.”

“Mama, no….” Richard said stubbornly. “See, dapat tanggalin na lang that 18 roses, wala naman pala siyang makuhang magpa-participate in that.”

“Son, please, please….” Esmeralda said, touching her son’s face with both hands. “For me, please…”

“Okay, I will do it.” Richard admitted defeat. At the back of his mind he also thought, ang arte naman ng Maya na ito!

“Thank you, son. I’m sure your Tita Tessie, and Maya also will be happy.” Esmeralda Lim hugged her son.

He was annoyed but he didn’t have the heart to defy his mother and say no. Besides, it may not be as difficult as it could be if Seth will be there. At least, they were the same age. They can surely indulge his little sister. He resigned himself to dancing with Maya Dela Rosa.

“Mama, I will just go for a walk.” Richard told his mother. He just wanted to get out of the house for a while.

“Okay, son.”

Richard left the house via the stairs in the back. However, when he got to the garden, he was at a lost on where to go. He looked around and saw a path that leads to a small gate in the back. He walked that way and realized that it connected to the ancestral house besides theirs. He remembered that this is the Fernandez’s ancestral house. He forgot that they were connected. When he was a kid, the other house seemed so far from theirs!

On impulse, he approached the house, thinking of checking if Seth has not left for work yet. Maybe, he can just ride with him to Bacolod as he was at a loose end. He knocked on the thick front door, but there was no one. He saw a bell and pressed it, but still no reply. He decided to go around the house as he knew from memory that like their house, there is an entrance there.

Richard ended up at the stairs going to the veranda or rather the azotea of the house. The place was beautiful and very inviting. It was full of plants. He called, but still no one reply. He climbed and when he reached the top, he saw a girl sitting on the day bed there, holding a book. She was wearing a simple blouse and a long skirt. She was engrossed in what she was reading and didn’t notice him so he had moments to observe her.

The first thing that struck Richard was that even in a profile she was a very beautiful girl. She had long, shiny hair, a pert nose, and a slender build. She suddenly looked up and his throat constricted. Suddenly, he can’t seemed to breathe as his heart galloped. Yes, he was right, she was beautiful with her heart-shaped face, long lashes, pouty lips and very expressive eyes. She gave him a gaze that touched his very soul. He hasn’t felt like that before.

It felt like time stood still. It was only them and that moment. Everything else faded in the background.

 

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Love Happens – Chapter 17

Chapter 17

Richard parked Maya’s car in his designated slot in the underground parking of his building, half an hour after they left her place. After getting out of the car, he assisted and led Maya to a private elevator which opened directly to a foyer leading to the single unit on the topmost floor. He swiped his card, and ushered Maya inside.

“Welcome to my place, sweetheart,” Richard said as he switched on lights, hoping that Maya will like his place. If things go according to his wishes, her agreeing to be his partner in life, his wife, this would probably be their home until they have kids. It is not as homey and brightly decorated as Maya’s but he is sure she can turn this place into their private paradise in no time at all. However, if she would rather stay in her place, he would defer to her. His first priority is making her happy. He can live there too.

“You have a big and beautiful home, Ricky.” Maya looked around, taking in everything at once – the big open layout of the living room, the floor-to-ceiling windows, the white walls adorned only with two big paintings, and the minimalist but very functional furniture. Yes, they have different styles when it comes to their homes, but in its own way, his place is very beautiful and inviting. It has a positive aura too.

“I hope you will consider this your home as well. What is mine is yours, sweetheart,” Richard said softly, guiding Maya towards the sofa by the window.

“Thank you, sweetheart. I will.” Maya walked towards the big floor-to-ceiling window by the living room, instead of sitting down. She looked out, admiring the thousand of lights twinkling like fireflies in the night. “The view is incredible! I like your place, sweetheart!”

“Thank you, sweetheart. I like this place very much. It is home to me for several years now. Like you, not many people have been to this place. My ex-fiancee Lucy had only been here once, and that was with her parents and mine, for dinner.” Richard volunteered as he would like to assure Maya that Lucy had not touched his place at all and that there was no memory of her in that place.

Maya understood right away what Richard wanted to convey with that statement. “Thank you for telling me, sweetheart, I appreciate it,” she said, appreciating his candor.

“It can be our special place too. But of course, your place will always be the most special one.” Richard looked at Maya, remembering all that had happened at her place since they got there the day before, especially the intimacies, not just physical or the act of it, but the emotions and feelings that went with it.

Maya gazed back at Richard, remembering also what he was remembering. Her cheeks flushed. She felt warm despite the air conditioning in Richard’s place!

Richard moved to where Maya was standing, hugged her from behind and nuzzled her neck. Maya gasped and turned. Her senses coming alive again. They looked at each other and without words, their lips met for a searing kiss. It led to another, and another until all their awareness was centred on their fused lips and the effects of those kisses on their highly sensitized bodies. Maya felt a tug on the ribbon of her wrap-around dress. Seconds later, it fell on the floor. She heard Richard gasped and looked at her with so much desire on his eyes. Then suddenly, she was off the floor and into Richard’s strong arms.

Richard carried Maya to the room nearest the living room. His bedroom. He placed her gently on the bed, and then slowly undressed. Maya looked at him with eyes dazed with desire as he removed his shirt, his pants, and finally his boxer shorts. The bed dipped slightly when Richard joined Maya in there. He started caressing her, driving her deliriously crazy until her only thought, what she sought, was the relief his touch would bring. Richard gave it to her. He moved to join their heated bodies. They flew together. It took a while for them to move after that mind-shattering union.

“So how about dinner, sweetheart?” Maya asked softly as Richard caressed her idly and maddeningly, while she nestled in the crook of his arms, her head pillowed against his chest. She can’t really think straight and just wanted to stay in Richard’s arms forever. She felt boneless.

“Hmmm…” Richard murmured against Maya’s hair. Instead of answering her, he hugged her tighter, moved a bit, and started kissing her on the neck again. She never thought it as a very sensitive part of her body, but Richard’s mere touch proved otherwise. His hand also started moving, seeking the parts of her body which he knew gives her, and him, immense pleasure.

“Food, sweetheart. Dinner at that wine restaurant…” Maya managed to say as Richard increased his assault on her senses.

Richard remained deaf to her softly spoken words. Instead, he suddenly moved, took hold of Maya’s waist, and flipped her over but gently. Maya found herself on top of him, his arms around her. She blushed, getting his meaning. He smiled tenderly, lovingly, beseeching her. She smiled back, and gave him what he wanted, what they both wanted. His instantenous reaction to her every touch, became Maya’s guide. And with that, all thoughts of dinner got forgotten again.

Maya and Richard surfaced from their bliss when their stomachs started grumbling. They giggled. Richard sighed. He got of the bed to get his phone and ordered food from the restaurant in the building that caters to the residents after asking Maya what she would like to eat. They complete abandoned their earlier plan of having dinner in that wine restaurant. He and Maya ate a hearty dinner of dim sum, yang chow fried rice, peppered squid, shrimps, and nido soup.

“Why are you looking at me like that.” Maya asked softly, as Richard looked at her heatedly while she unconsciously licked her fingers after peeling the shrimps by hand. She was wearing one of Ricky’s t-shirts. He was wearing a similar t-shirt and shorts that he hastily put when he got the food from the delivery guy. It hugged his muscled chest. Looking at him, Maya had a hard time concentrating on her food as well. He looked rumpled, his hair tousled, and very handsome. She was very much aware of him and his gazes.

“Well, that t-shirt will never be the same again. I actually envy it at the moment. So close to your body…” Richard said, his gaze heated. The t-shirt was white and thin and he can see the outline of Maya’s beautiful body from where he was sitting.

“Ricky…” Maya protested weakly, blushing profusely, getting self-conscious still despite the intimacies that they have shared. She pulled at the shirt, but it didn’t help.

Richard put his hand on top of Maya’s. He told her gently, lovingly, “You have a beautiful body, Maya. Don’t be embarrassed by it. You are beautiful inside out. I will still look at you like this until we are old and gray. You should always remember that, my love.”

Maya smiled at her wonderful, handsome boyfriend. Old and gray! It very much imply of a future together, and she is very happy with that thought and that possibility. She was really very happy that she had taken the leap with this guy.

“Thank you, sweetheart. I love you very much.” Maya said simply, overwhelmed with emotions.

“I love you very much, too, Maya.” Richard said, his face serious, conveying the intensity of his emotions, He lifted his glass. “To us, sweetheart and a future together.”

“To us….” Maya replied, clinking her glass with Richard’s.

They drank to it, then Richard stood up, offering his hand to Maya and carrying his glass and the wine bottle with his other hand. “Come, sweetheart, let’s be more comfortable.”

Richard led Maya to a couch that faces the floor-to-ceiling window of the unit. He sat and pulled her into his lap. They enjoyed looking at the city at night as they sipped their wine, cuddled together, whispered words of love to each other, and at times just chatted about things they both enjoyed doing.

When he saw her yawning, despite her valiant effort to remain awake, as they savor their wonderful time together, Richard placed his and Maya’s wine glasses on the small glass table by the couch, then carried her to his room. Just like the night before, they ended up spending the night together.

The following morning, Maya was woken up by butterfly kisses from Richard. When she opened her eyes with a big smile, she saw a tray with a single, beautiful sunflower in a glass vase, and bacon, eggs, jams and two steaming cups of coffee, by the side table. They ate breakfast together, then headed to the shower together. The simple and normally mundane act of bathing was turned into an unforgettable one.

Wearing her clothes from the day before, Maya went back to her place with Richard, in his office clothes, in tow. He waited until she changed into office clothes, then they drove together to their offices.

“Sweetheart, dinner later?” Richard asked as Maya parked her car at the drop off point of Richard’s office building.

“Sure sweetheart. Is around 6PM okay?” Maya asked, liking that they will see each other again in several hours.

“Yes, and please, I’ll pick you up this time, I will bring you home and take you to work tomorrow. Di ba, you will be at LC naman tomorrow? Would that be okay?” Richard asked, as he unfastened his seatbelt.

“Sure, sweetheart.” Maya replied. “That would be fine. I will just leave my car in my slot.”

Richard took hold of Maya’s face with both hands, then gave her a searing kiss. “That would have to tide me over until we see each other again.” Richard said, giving her one of his bone-melting lopsided smile.

Maya smiled back, her face lighting up. “Have a great day, sweetheart. See you later.”

“You too. I love you.”

“Love you too. Bye for now.”

Richard got out of the car while he was able to resist giving Maya another kiss. Maya waved one more time before she drove towards the direction of her office. Richard waited until he can no longer see Maya’s car before entering the building. When he reached his floor, he had on a big, happy smile, a fact that didn’t escape his secretary’s notice. She also heard him humming. Richard Lim, humming! She never thought she would witness it!

“Welcome back, Sir Richard.” Liza greeted her boss who seemed to be in the best of mood. it looked like he had a wonderful impromptu vacation in Mindanao. Not only he had acted strangely several days ago, he looked different. He looked happier and if she will hazard a guess…in love? Could it be that he is? Hmmm, the plot thickens, she thought. “How was your vacation, Sir?”

“Hi Liza, thank you.” Then he gave his secretary a lopsided grin, “It was the best vacation ever. Thank you again for all your help. I presumed the office ran well while I was away as I didn’t receive calls from you or from Adrian.”

“Yes Sir, everything was okay. I put all the papers for your signature and review on your table, including the report Ms. Maya had sent after you left for Mindanao.” Liza said, following her boss into his office.

“Thanks a lot Liza. Maya mentioned that to me. She said she had emailed me an initial report. I’ll check on it later.” Richard said absently as he put his things on his table.

Liza looked closely at her boss, and the way he had said Ms. Maya’s name. ‘Mentioned to him’?

“By the way, Liza, can you book me a table at that very nice wine restaurant in Mandaluyong for 7Pm. Can you also order me a bouquet of sunflowers to be delivered here at 5PM.” Richard said as he sat down.

Oookay, someone is really in love! And she thinks she knows with whom. She had seen how her boss looked at the beautiful, events manager the week before. She also saw them going to the Lim private cafe after that meeting. Well, she is happy for him, especially after that witch Lucy jilted him. She likes Maya and she is more beautiful than Lucy.

“I will do that, Sir. Would that be all?” Liza asked deadpanned and trying to hide the fact that she was very curious.

“Yes, and thanks a lot, Liza.”

Liza left after that. She did what her boss requested of her before going back to the papers she was working on before he arrived. Richard, on the other hand, started tackling the stack of papers on his desk before checking his emails. When he had finally gotten around to his inbox, he saw that he had a lot. It was going to be a long day. Good thing he will be seeing  Maya later. He had something wonderful to look forward to. He buckled down to work.

While Richard was plowing through the papers on his desk, Maya was walking towards her office at MEP, holding a tumbler of coffee from the cafe at the lobby. Before she reached her office, her cousin intercepted her, as if he was lying in wait for her.

“Cuz!!! Welcome back to the land of the mortals and the land of brokenhearted.” Emman said as he gave his cousin a hug and a beso. “I’m so happy to see you. I miss you.”

“Cuz, how are you? I’m happy to be back. Why did you not wait for me yesterday?” Maya asked as she returned her cousin’s hug. “You could have had lunch with Ricky and me.”

“Cuz naman, I don’t like to be a third wheel kaya! I didn’t want to intrude into your private world yesterday!” Emman quipped with a raised eyebrow. “Pero, cuz, you and Richard Lim almost gave me a heart attack yesterday, though I’m so happy for the two of you. So kiligggg malaga hay!!!! Sana I will find my prince charming na rin like that!”

“Sssshhhh, Emman, your voice.” Maya told her cousin, as she had noticed that they were attracting the attention of their employees! “Let’s go to my office.”

“Sorry naman, Cuz. I just got excited.” Emman whispered, contrite. “We can talk about it over lunch. But I will go with you to your office to discuss some projects.”

“Okay…” Maya nodded then led her cousin to her corner office.

The two of them discussed their current projects and clients. Maya also ran with Emman the execution of her campaign for Lim Corporation’s 50th anniversary as she needed to make a report to Richard and do another presentation to the management committee of LC as per Adrian’s last e-mail to her. It was what she was working on before Richard showed up in Camiguin. It felt like ages ago, when it fact, it just happened several days ago. It was just that so many wonderful things that happened. Emman agreed with most of her ideas, and in some instances, suggested from improvements which Maya liked.

“Thanks a lot, Emman. I think I have everything for the update presentation to LC tomorrow.” Maya told her cousin as she take a sip of her coffee.

“Do you know who will handle the new TVC of LC, in line with this anniversary?” Emman asked as an afterthought when he was about to return to his office.

“Not yet. Adrian said they haven’t pick one the last time we talked. Ricky and me naman didn’t talk about business while we were together, so no idea until now. Maybe we will know by tomorrow!”

“Of course, if my boyfriend is as handsome and as hunky as Richard Lim, I will forget everything except him also. Keber ko sa work!” Emman teased his cousin. “Come, since it is almost 11AM, let’s have an early lunch at that organic restaurant we like. You owe me lunch, dinner, whatever, and a truckload of kwento. Besides, I think I have to settle for lunch. I have an inkling that you are not free for dinner. Am I right?”

“Errrr, yes. Ricky and I will have dinner. He will pick me up at around 6PM.” Maya admitted to her cousin, her whole face lighting up. “Emma, I never thought I could be this happy.”

“I knew it!” Emma exclaimed, then taking his cousin’s hand and playfully swaying it as they walked towards the elevator, he said, “You really deserve to be happy like this, Maya, after all the heartaches. I’m so happy for you. I’m sure if you tell it to Mom, she would be very happy also.”

“Thank you, Emman. Ah yes, I’m planning to tell her about it tomorrow also. I’ll ask her to lunch.” Even before she tells her, Maya knew that Tita Margarita will be happy that she is finally taking another chance at love.

Maya gave her cousin an abbreviated version of what happened since Richard followed her in Camiguin. She omitted in the telling the intimacies between her and Richard. Emman knew that they were intimate but the details, it was just for Richard and her. Her cousin, respecting her privacy didn’t actually ask for details. He just screamed silently and was very giddy as she told him about Richard’s romantic gestures and how they spent the vacation. They returned to the office two hours after, very relaxed and happy. The rest of the afternoon was spent working on their accounts. Tita Margarita was unable to report for work that day so it was just the two of them who dealt with clients.

Maya finished her work around 5 o’clock in the afternoon. She was glad to have some spare time to get ready for her date with Richard. Luckily, she keeps some clothes in her office, just in case she needs to meet clients unexpectedly in the evening. She took out a black sheath dress from the closet and started to get ready.

Richard texted several minutes before six o’clock. He told Maya that he was at the lobby of her building. When Maya got down, she saw him standing by the entrance, wearing a navy blue shirt and dark slacks, looking so devastatingly handsome. It seems, she is not the only one who store spare clothes at work. He was holding a bouquet of sunflowers, her favourite. He saw her, and gave her a bone-melting smile, only for her, while walking towards her. He took her breath away no matter how many times she was bestowed that beautiful smile. She smiled back.

Richard gave Maya the flowers. “For you, sweetheart,” he said as he gave her a kiss on the lips, unmindful of the people around them.

“Thank you, sweetheart,” Maya said softly, smiling, as she surreptitiously wiped the smudges of lipstick on Richard’s lips. They shared an intimate smile.

With hands intertwined, Richard and Maya happily walked towards his car, looking forward to another beautiful evening together.

 

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Beyond Forever – Chapter 29

Chapter 29

“Do I look okay, sweetheart? Is this okay for the dinner with your parents?” Maya asked Ricky as she walked towards where he had been waiting for her as she got ready for the dinner with his parents. She was wearing a beautiful, violet shift dress, clutching a small black beaded evening bag, paired with her favourite black designer shoes. Her hair was in a chignon. Her makeup, understated.

Ricky who have been playing a game on his mobile phone while sipping the coffee that Manang Fe served him 30 minutes earlier, looked up upon hearing her voice. He smiled at his very beautiful, but obviously, very nervous girlfriend. “You look very beautiful, sweetheart. You always are. But this evening, you look radiant. And you are perfect and beautiful no matter what you wear. It is you and the way you carry yourself!”

Ricky stood up and walked towards Maya. Then cupping her chin, he kissed her lightly on the lips. “You don’t have to worry a single thing. My father already loves you and I’m sure my mother will. In fact, I think she already does. I told you, di ba, she had been badgering me to bring you to dinner ever since she heard about you.”

“Thank you for the vote of confidence, sweetheart. I just want your parents to like me. Last week they were expecting you to marry Lorraine, and now, out of the blue, there’s me!” Maya admitted. It occurred to her that it might be what Ricky’s parents have been thinking as everything happened so fast and sudden, kahit pa may history ang grandparents nila!

“Oh, sweetheart, please don’t think about that. And please, please, let us forget about Lorraine. She belongs in the past.” Ricky said, caressing Maya’s face. “Come let’s go. I’m sure my parents are counting the minutes until they meet the love of my life. They were so looking forward to this evening.”

Ricky took Maya’s hand and intertwined it with his tightly. They went to the kitchen and said goodbye to Manang Fe.

“Manang Fe, please don’t wait up for me po. I have susi naman.” Maya told her old nanny who looked teary-eyed, seeing her old ward so beautiful, with the man she loves.

“Sige, mag-iingat kayong dalawa sa biyahe. Enjoy your dinner.” Then as if she can’t help herself, she went to Maya, and touched her face. “Masayang-masaya ako para sa iyo, Maya anak! Masaya akong makita kang ganito kasaya. Ricky, ikaw na ang bahala sa dalaga namin ha.”

“Maraming salamat po, Manang Fe.” Maya said, hugging the old lady. “Sige po, aalis na kami ni Ricky.”

“Manang Fe, huwag po kayong mag-aalala. I’ll make sure that Maya is home safe after the dinner with my parents. I’ll take good care of her, always!” Ricky assured the old lady.

Hand in hand, Ricky and Maya walked towards Ricky’s car. They put the bouquet of roses that Maya bought for Ricky’s mother, and the box of blueberry cheesecake she got from Cafe Arts in the back seat. Ricky mentioned that his mother and her friends have been to the cafe several times and that cake was their favorite.

“Sweetheart, anong oras pala ang arrival ng parents mo on Tuesday?” Ricky asked Maya as he navigated the main road just off Maya’s house. Traffic was getting heavier as people had started hitting the streets after the offices closed down for the day. It was also payday Friday!

While they were having their wonderful lunch at the cafe’s garden, Maya excitedly told Ricky that her parents are going home earlier than expected and that she was very much looking forward to seeing them again, and introducing him to them. She also mentioned that she had told her mom about them and by that time, Maya was sure her father also knows about her daughter having a boyfriend.

Ricky was happy to know that her parents are coming home soon. He would like to meet them the soonest time possible, and asks for Maya’s parents’ blessing in proposing to her. Ricky knew it would seem a lot to ask of his prospective in-laws  on first meeting but it was something he want to do very much and the soonest. He is also a bit nervous in meeting them as they may not approve of him for their daughter, just like his father initially did. But he will cross the bridge when he get there, so to speak, he told himself. He is holding on to his and Maya’s love to see him through that. In the short time they have been together, they have already hurdled a lot.

“I don’t know yet, sweetheart. I forgot to ask Mom actually sa kakakwento naming dalawa about us.” Maya said sheepishly. “But I can find out from Manong Dindo kung anong oras sila nagpapasundo, or I can call Mom again. Bakit mo pala naitanong?”

“Wala naman, I just want to know. I’m looking forward to meeting them.” Ricky said, then smiling, he added, “If you are nervous about meeting my parents, I am too, in meeting your Mom and Dad. At least, ikaw nga na-meet mo na si Papa.”

“Sweetheart, you nervous!” Maya looked at Ricky, surprised at his admission. He is the epitome of confidence! “I can’t believe it. You, Mr. Confidence himself!”

“Siyempre naman, they only got to know about me today, and besides, I’m your first, AND only boyfriend ha, ever, and I’m sure by now, they have a pretty definite standards on the person they wish you who would end up with.”

Maya laughed, then touching his arm, she said, “Sweetheart, like you told me earlier, there is nothing to be nervous about. My mother likes you already and she has not yet met you ha, what more kung makilala ka na nila in person. My dad naman is a softie. Besides they only have a couple of things they require from the person they want me to be with.

“Such as…?” Ricky asked, wanting to know very much.

“That my boyfriend would love me very much, that said boyfriend will make me happy, take care of me always, and put me and my welfare first! But most importantly that I love this person very much. And I love you very much naman, more than life itself.” Maya finished, then caressing Ricky’s arm, she added, “See, nothing to worry about as you passed those criteria, Mr. Lim.”

Ricky smiled at his girlfriend. “Thanks so much, sweetheart. I just want everything to be okay. And for the record, I love you more than life itself too and I would do anything and everything to make you happy, always.”

“Thank you, sweetheart. Everything will be okay. Kayang-kaya nating dalawa iyan. See, wala pa naman tayong hindi kinaya, basta magkasama tayo.”

The two of them shared a beautiful smile, full of love for each other. The rest of the trip from Quezon City to Makati, Ricky and Maya talked about their planned visit Ricky’s grandmother. Soon after, they arrived at the Lims place.

“Ready, sweetheart?” Ricky asked Maya as they entered the building. Hands interlaced, they walked towards the private elevator that would take them to the penthouse unit of the Lims.

“Yes, sweetheart! This is it!” Maya smiled tremulously at Ricky.

Several minutes after, the elevator opened to the private foyer of Ricky’s parents’ place. Ricky pressed the bell.

“Good evening po, Sir Ricky, Ma’am.” Cynthia, the Lims long-time housekeeper greeted them warmly. Donya Rosemarie earlier told Cynthia that her son Ricky was bringing his girlfriend to dinner. Cynthia thought she would have to endure another night serving that snooty Lorraine. Donya Rosemarie corrected her when she mentioned her name and told her Ricky is bringing his new girlfriend Maya, much to her surprised. Looking at her Sir Ricky’s new girlfriend, she can sense that she is way much different from Lorraine. Mukhang mabait at magalang, she thought.

Maya greeted Cynthia with a warm, friendly smile. “Hello po. Magandang gabi po, I’m Maya Dela Rosa.” With that, Cynthia was completely won over by the beautiful lady holding hands with her guwapong amo.

“Cynthia po, Ma’am Maya. Welcome po.” Cynthia said smiling. “Sir Ricky, nasa sala po ang Mama at Papa ninyo.”

“Thank you, Cynthia.” Ricky said as he guided Maya towards the living room of the penthouse apartment, carrying the cake and the flowers.

However, before they can reach it, Rosemarie Lim,met them halfway. Ricky’s mother had a big smile, excitement on her face.

“Son, so great to see you.” Then she looked at Maya and gave her a warm smile. She didn’t wait for her son’s introductions. “Hello Maya, I’m so happy to finally meet you. I’m Rosemarie Lim.”

“Good evening po, Mrs. Lim, I’m very happy to meet you din po, finally.” Maya smiled at Ricky’s mother, feeling relieved at her warm welcome. “Para po pala sa inyo.” Maya gave Ricky’s mother the flowers and the cake.

“Naku, hija, thank you very much. How beautiful, and oh, this is the cake I like from your cafe! By the way, call me Tita Rosemarie na lang, o kaya naman Mama. I think Mama is better.” Rosemarie Lim told Maya as she hugged her, then Ricky. “Welcome to our place, Maya. Hello again, son.”

“Iyan din ang sinabi ko kay Maya when I met her, pero she insisted on calling me, Tito Richie.” Richie Lim said as he approached his son, wife and his son’s girlfriend. It seemed he too, can’t wait until they reached the living room. “Nice to see you again, Maya. How about calling me Papa na, hija?”

Like his wife, Richie Lim also gave Maya a hug as Ricky looked on happily. His father nodded at him by way of a greeting.

Ricky was amazed at the ease his parents and Maya were with each other! Life is just so great. He couldn’t ask for anything anymore.

“Thank you po, Papa, and also Mama, for the warm welcome.” Maya said shyly, still getting use to calling Ricky’s parents Papa and Mama. She felt very happy at their warm welcome.

The elder Lims smiled at Maya happily.

“Naku, Ricky, Maya, let’s go the living room na nga.  Sorry at in my excitement di ko na talaga nahintay na ihatid kayo roon ni Cynthia.” Rosemarie said.

Rosemarie ushered everyone into to the living room. They chatted for several minutes before Cynthia approached Rosemarie Lim and told them that dinner is ready. Everyone trooped to the dining room set elegantly that evening.

It was a very enjoyable and laid back dinner in which the Lim family made sure that Maya is completely at ease with them. They told her stories of Ricky when he was a boy and a teen. Maya laughed at some of their stories. While Ricky on the other hand, protested at his parents telling Maya of his youthful shenanigans!

The Lims also asked Maya about her parents. Richie Lim mentioned that he actually know his father by name as one the Lim companies have used their cargo business. However, he and her father, or her mother haven’t had the chance to meet in person. Maya mentioned that her parents were abroad but would be home in several days.

“Well, when they are settled here again, maybe we can have dinner with them.” Rosemarie Lim suggested.

“Sige po, I will tell Mom and Dad.” Maya said.

“That would be great, hija!” Richie Lim said. “Maybe your Dad and I can play a round of golf also one day. Naggo-golf ba siya?”

“Yes po, Papa.”

“Great, great!”

The four of them also talked the journal and about Ricardo and Maya’s love story and their meeting in Ilocos. From the journal, the conversation also shifted to vacations in Ilocos and all the beautiful places to see there. By the time dinner ended and they were having dessert in the sitting room, Maya felt that she had known Rosemarie and Richie Lim a long time. Ricky was very happy as well at the way the evening has turned out.

“So, son, tuloy na kayo ni Maya sa Lola mo sa Sunday?” Rosemarie asked her son and Maya as they enjoyed freshly brewed Batangas coffee from the Valderama farm and the cheesecake that Maya brought.

“Yes, Mama, we will definitely visit her on Sunday! I called Lola this morning and told her that we are definitely coming for a visit. She said be there before lunch so we can all have lunch at the farm.” Ricky replied, holding his cup of coffee in one hand and the other one, intertwined with Maya’s.

“Great, great!” Rosemarie said. “And Maya, don’t be nervous okay, I’m sure Mama will like you very much also, like Richie and I do. In fact, I think she would be happy to see you and that finally, the grandchildren of Papa Ricardo and your Lola are continuing their aborted love story. Di ba, Richie?”

“Of course, of course, Maya. In fact she is looking forward to meeting you. I think Ricky mentioned to you that I have been to Batangas the other day.” Richie said. “You have nothing to worry about.”

“Thank you very much po, Mama, Papa. Gusto ko rin po siyang makilala. I’m looking forward to our trip to Batangas.” Maya replied happily, gazing at Ricky with so much love.

They shared a look and for a moment, they forgot that they were with Ricky’s parents. The older Lims looked at them indulgently. Now, more than ever, having met Maya, they know why their son has fallen so hard in such a short time. They can see the palpable love between their son and the beautiful lady he was holding hands with. In a way, they also understand how Ricardo Lim must have fallen like a ton of bricks upon seeing Maya’s grandmother. If she is anything like the present Maya, then it was inevitable, really!

Several minutes after, they realized that they have gone into a world of their own. They smiled sheepishly at Ricky’s parents. They smiled back, gesturing that they understood. They continued chatting as they enjoyed their coffee and cheesecake. They barely noticed the passing of hours. When the clock chimed the hour, Ricky looked at his watch and was startled to discover that it was already midnight. He put down his cup.

“Papa, Mama, I think it is about time Maya and I get going.” Ricky said. “I need to work pa tomorrow, err, today na pala since it past midnight na to make up for my vacation. Maya also needs to be at the cafe early.”

“Oo nga po, Papa, Mama. I need to be at Cafe Arts early kasi nasa hospital pa po iyong friend ko and business partner. Na-dengue po kasi siya.” Maya added. “Thank you very much po for inviting me. I have a very wonderful time.

“I hope your friend gets better, soon, Maya.” Rosemarie said, then going to Maya, she held her face with her two hands, “And the pleasure is ours, hija. Please see us again soon. Ricky please bring back Maya again the soonest. I will go your cafe again, with my amigas. We really like the place.”

“Yes Mama I will bring her back soon.”

“Please let me know po Mama if you will go there, and we can have coffee at my private place in the back.”

“Yes, Mama, you should see that beautiful place. Doon ako sinagot ni Maya.” Ricky said, grinning.

“Oh really! Then I really need to see that place, hija. I’ll text you.”

Maya hugged Ricky’s mother again, then went to his father. “Thank you po again, Papa,” she said.

Richie Lim patted her back and smiled. “Basta para sa inyo ng anak ko, Maya. All I want is for him is to be happy. You have made him so happy, I can see that.”

Ricky and Maya left the Lims soon after. While on the road, they talk the dinner with the elder Lims.

“See, there was nothing to worry about, sweetheart. My parents love you.” Ricky told Maya, touching her chin with his thumb and forefinger while they were waiting for the traffic light to turn green.

“Yes, you are right sweetheart. And I love them already.” Maya grinned happily. “My parents will be like that with you, sweetheart. I’m just so happy that our parents are okay with our relationship. While we are old enough not to need their approval, I do want it.”

“Me too, Maya. Kaya nga I was so happy when Papa changed his tune so fast and imagine ha, complete turnaround pa. Kinausap pa si Lorraine!”

“That’s true. You know what your father told me when I thanked him for talking to Lorraine?” Maya asked. She and Richie Lim were left alone  in the living room for a time as Ricky went to the toilet, and his mother went to the kitchen to ask Cynthia to serve the dessert and coffee in the living room.

“You managed to talk to Papa, about it?”

“Yes, when you went to the toilet and your Mama went to the kitchen. He assured me that Lorraine will not bother us and he also said sorry for sending her to Ilocos. I thanked him, and he told me that it was the least the could do, after unwittingly sending Lorraine to you. He also said that he wanted nothing to mar our relationship from now on. It was really so nice of your Papa to do that.”

“I’m glad too. So, that’s what you were thanking Papa for before we left. Tatanungin ko nga sana sa iyo, what was it all about.” Ricky said, smiling, then he teased his girlfriend. “See, you have completely won him over sweetheart with your charm, wit and beauty!”

Maya grinned. Feeling at the top of the world at that moment.

They arrived at Maya’s place an hour after they have left the Lims.

‘Won’t you come in, sweetheart?” Maya asked Ricky as she opened the gate of her family home.

“Hindi na, sweetheart. Gabi na. Go get some rest. Maaga ka pa rin bukas, or mamaya na pala iyon.” Ricky said. “Just rest early when you get home from the cafe. Maaga pa tayo for our Batangas trip. I wish we can have dinner tomorrow, err, mamayang gabi pala, but I don’t know what time I will be finished at work.”

Maya put her hands around Ricky’s nape, smiled at him sweetly. “Yes, sweetheart, of course! Ikaw din ha, huwag masyadong magpapagod and eat on time. Baka makalimutan mo na sa dami ng work mo.”

Ricky grinned at Maya. “Yes po, Ms. Dela Rosa, I will eat on time and will rest as soon as I get home. I’ll see you bright and early tomorrow. Dream of us!”

“I hope I will. Good night, sweetheart. Thank you again for a wonderful evening. I love you very much.”

“Good night, sweetheart.” Ricky said softly. “I love you very much too.”

Ricky and Maya gazed at each other with all the love they were feeling. Ricky lowered his head, and his lips met Maya’s for a searing kiss under the moonlit night. Long after Ricky had left, Maya was still at the veranda, enjoying the beautiful night, feeling so happy. How can she sleep with all the happiness inside her!

Several decades ago, in the exact spot, another beautiful lady stood and watched the beautiful moonlit night. But instead of feeling happy like her beloved grandchild, she felt extreme sorrow.

Maya Dela Rosa-Ventura was consumed by a very intense longing for the love of her life. She felt him calling her name in the middle of the night. It was what woke her up. It was so vivid. It shook and unsettled her. She can’t sleep anymore so decided to get a glass of milk and stay for a while in the veranda. She felt very sad at that moment, and she can’t explain why.

Unknown to Maya then, it was the day Ricardo Lim died.

 

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Two to Tango – Chapter 2

Chapter 2

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.

 

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Two to Tango – Chapter 1

Chapter 1

Richard Lim massaged his forehead with his right hand as he gripped his mobile phone with his left. He had been on the phone with his mother for the past half and hour or so. He had been trying to reason out with her, to no avail. They were going nowhere. Coupled with all the work he needed to do, he felt like going to the nearest bar and having a drink, make that a couple of drinks! He was in the middle of some very important negotiations and some projects still in the pipeline and what his mother wanted him to do is not really going to help things. He had a feeling his mother’s ‘small favor’ would affect it. He needed to concentrate on those instead of ‘babysitting’! Him, babysit! Especially that brat of a girl! He definitely does not have time and the inclination for that, ever!

“Mama, again please, can that girl just stay in a hotel? They have the money for it. They can even probably buy a hotel for her! Or maybe with a friend or rent a townhouse, a condo, an apartment or stay in an Airbnb place! Meron na rin ng mga niyan dito. There are so many options available for her. Wala ba talaga siyang ibang matutuluyan dito? Wala ba siyang kaibigan sa Maynila or kamag-anak kahit isa? That is imposssible, Mama!” Richard told his mother in an already exasperated tone even if he really was trying to be patient. He loves his mother and she is all he has after his father died several years ago. He indulges her most of the time, but this time, she was asking too much.

“Ricky, hijo, her name is Maya. You have been calling her ‘her’ and ‘that girl’ all the time we have been talking. Besides, she is not a ‘girl’ anymore. She had matured like you, you know. Maya is more than 25 years old now, I think. Maybe, you still think of her as that awkward, mischievous and fun-loving girl who bested you, but she is not, anymore. It has been years, son, since you last saw each other.” Esmeralda Lim corrected her son patiently. She almost mentioned that Maya has grown into a beautiful woman. But then decided not to as she knows her son. He would think she is matchmaking again and it would be more difficult persuading him to let Maya stay with him.

Esmeralda Lim was confident that she can make her son see sense, so she tried again. Hindi pa siya natiis ng unico hijo nila ni Roberto.

“Just do this please for your Tita Tessie and Tito Arthur. You know naman na parang kapatid ko na iyang si Tita Tessie mo. Please, son.”

However, her son was not easily swayed this time. He gunned for more questions.

“Mama, she is 25? Can’t she live alone? She is more than old enough to be on her own. In fact,  some women her age are already married and have a family. She had even lived in Europe for several years, for God’s sake!” Richard said, still managing to hold on to his sanity, trying to reason out with his mother one more time. He also wanted to argue with his mom about that girl besting him. She did not. She provoked him. That imp did! He retaliated. His mother only know of her retaliation, fortunately. Otherwise, grown up or not, she would have pinched his ears, so to speak.

Richard happened to look at the door while his mother launched into another set of arguments to drive across her point. He saw his executive assistant, Liza Adriano, standing by the door.  Apparently, he was already needed in the board room. He thought he had half an hour more to regroup and just get off the emotions his mother’s phone call brought about.

“Ricky, darling, please, please, do this for your beloved Mama na. I just wanted to help my best friend. Besides, I already told them I will take care of Maya’s accommodation in Manila. That’s the only way they will let her stay in the city alone. I vouched for you.” Esmeralda Lim cajoled her son in a voice she knew was guaranteed to make him say yes to her bidding. “Maya does not know anyone in Manila, alam mo naman iyon di ba? Kababalik lang nila sa Pilipinas.”

Richard took a deep breath. His head really was starting to throb. They were really going nowhere and he can’t spare his mom more time as he really was needed in that meeting. He did what he had done countless of times for his beloved mother. He caved in to what she wanted. “Fine, Mama, she can stay with me! But tell her I don’t want her disrupting my life. No more antics like she did before!”

“Oh, thank you very much, son. I love you very much. Ikaw na talaga ang the best son in the world! Kaya nga paboritong-paborito kita eh!” Esmeralda Lim almost jumped with glee with her son’s answer. Yes, he said yes! “Of course, Maya is so much older now and not a teenager, so for sure, no more antics.”

“Mama, you always say that when you got your way.” Richard said, smiling. He can’t help himself. His mother never failed to do that to him, no matter how much she drives him off the wall at times. “Ako lang naman ang anak mo.”

“Well, totoo naman iyon ha. Walang halong bola. Sobrang bait nang anak, que guapo pa! Not to mention responsible. Bakit nga ba wala pa akong manugang?” Esmeralda Lim told her son. “O siya sige, go back to whatever you were doing. And Ricky, hijo, please take time to relax, take a vacation, loosen up a bit. Hindi na lang iyang puro trabaho. Masyadong solitary ang life mo.”

“Yes, Mama, I will.” Richard promised to placate his mother, ignoring her underhanded prying into his lovelife! “Ikaw din, you take care. Maayos po ba kayo diyan ni Manang Fe? Baka hindi ka na comfortable diyan, we can reopen our house here. At least I will be in the same city to look after you.”

“Son, don’t worry about me. Fe and I are perfectly happy here. Nandito ang mga amiga ko, mga kamag-anak. Baka nakakalimutan mo na dito ako lumaki. Saka lalo nang ayaw kong bumalik diyan now that your Tita Tessie is here and living next door!”

“Ikaw ang bahala, Mama. I do have to go na po, I have a meeting with our board. I love you, Mama.”

“I love you, hijo. Basta ang mga bilin ko, sundin mo ha. Hwag naman puro work na lang, Ricky.”

“Yes, Ma. Bye na for now!”

Ricky closed his phone and looked out of his floor-to-ceiling office window, resting a bit before he face his board. He can’t rest like his mom wanted him to do. Still so many things to be done for the family’s corporation. It has been his mom’s standard talk every time they will chat. He does not have the heart to tell her the mess his father made. The company was in a bad shape when he took over. For sure, his father never thought he would die young, before he can correct things. He sometimes wonder to how his father managed to do it as he was a very good businessman, known for his business acumen.

Richard didn’t know about it, he was completely clueless as he had stayed away from Lim Corporation for years. He packed his bags and went back to America where he had studied most of his adult life as he and his father had a falling out. His mother didn’t know about it as one thing his father and him agreed on was to left Esmeralda Lim out of it.

He had successfully made a life for himself in New York as an investment banker. He liked his life in there – the adrenalin rush, the fast-paced lifestyle, the parties, and the women. The beautiful women of the city seemed to have gravitated towards him a lot. He never lacked for dates and evenings to spend with a companion if he chose to, always casual, of course. But he had packed his bags again and returned to the country of his birth after he received a phone call from mother, telling him that his father had died in a car accident and that he needed to take over the company among others. Since then, he had been consumed in making LC the way it was. He had eschewed the pleasures he enjoyed in New York to focus on the company, except maybe for the occasional drinks and a date or two, nothing really serious. He really regretted not being able to patch things up with his father. Now, he is gone forever, Richard mused. What he can do now is to make the company where he wanted it to be. Richard felt that it was the only way to make up for what happened. He should have been there for his father.

“Richard…” Liza poked her head into Richard’s office again and called his attention.

“Yes, Ate Liza, is everyone in the boardroom now?” Richard asked as he straightened his tie and started getting his things.

“Yes ikaw na lang ang hinihintay nila.” Liza said simply. She noticed that her handsome boss was lost in thought. She suddenly remembered the first time he went to the office. He turned heads and the ladies sighed in admiration. It was the first time for most of them to meet the big boss’ son. She, she had known Richard since he was a teenager.  She was his father’s EA too. When it was just the two of them, it is ‘Richard’ and ‘Ate Liza’, he had insisted on it.

“Okay, just give me a minute or two.” Richard knew that he is lucky to have Liza by his side. She had helped a lot and had been his sounding board when he assumed management of the company. She knew everyone and everything within the organization.

Liza Adriano left her boss in his office and went back to the board room to oversee things. Several minutes later, Richard Lim entered and presided over the meeting that lasted until late at night. He ended it confident, that he would be able to buy back the airline company that his father sold years ago. The board backed him up. He had also raised enough capital to do that. It also helped that the current company who owns it is willing to sell it back to LC for a price. But having resolved that, he still need to decide what to do with one of the corporation’s subsidiaries, one of his father’s babies, whether it is worth keeping or not. He will make a thorough review of that subsidiary after the airline negotiation.

Richard plopped down on his executive chair, drained by the long hours he spent at work today, coupled with his mother’s phone call. Speaking of his mother’s phone call! He forgot to ask her, and she had omitted to say how long that girl, err, Maya Dela Rosa will be staying with him. She also neglected to inform him, come to think of it, when she will be coming to Manila.

Stretching his tired back against the leather seat as he sipped the cup of coffee Ate Liza left him before she headed home, he thought of the Maya Dela Rosa he met years ago. He vividly remembered her the last time he saw her, her lovely face, defiant, unapologetic. He remembered her sabotaging his date with the girl who lived at the big house beside his mother’s family’s ancestral home in Negros among other things. His mother Esmeralda and Maya’s mother Teresita are best friends, having grew up together. He and Maya, on the other hand, fought like cats and dogs most of that summer that both families were vacationing there.

In hindsight, he should have not retaliated as he was around 10 years older than her. He should have acted more matured. But she really rubbed him the wrong way that summer. That was actually the one and only time he spent with Maya as after that, they have moved to Spain after the tragedy that befell Seth, Maya’s older brother and his best friend while studying in the States. He still miss his boyhood friend until now. He should have asked him to come back to America with him. He would have still be alive if he did.

Richard sighed again. He thought of calling back his mother but decided not too. He also thought, Maya is an adult and they can surely share that huge space he calls home. They don’t have to see each other. They just needed to share the space. For sure, she can fend for herself. With that thought, he closed his computer, turned off the lights and called his driver Joma. Time to call it a night. He needed to recharge his batteries and his home is the perfect place for that.

Several days later, Richard thought that if only he had known what he was really getting into, that his peaceful, solitary existence would have been a thing of the past, he would have probably have done things differently. He would have given his mother a resounding NO when she asked. He and his place was hit by what he dubbed as ‘Hurricane Maya’!

 

Note: Hello everyone! I hope you will like this story as well. I know I still have several unfinished ones but I realized I really haven’t written a new story for quite sometime. As you probably know by now, I go where my imagination takes me. This was where it took me last night. 🙂 Thank you again for all the comments, the likes, for reading, and for visiting my blog. Have a lovely Sunday everyone.

 

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