Posts Tagged Sir Chief and Maya
The ringing of her mobile phone woke up Maya. She groped for her phone, feeling very sluggish, as she and Ricky parted late the night before. Due to the wonderful night they had, it took her a while before she fell asleep.
“Hello. Good morning, Maya here.” Maya managed to say, yawning, not really checking who was calling her. She felt very sleepy, her eyes refusing to open fully.
“Maya, anak? How are you? Did I wake you up? I’m so sorry if I did. I thought you will be up and about by now. Na-miscalculate ko yata ang time difference!” The woman on the phone said in rapid succession.
“Mom? Mom, it’s you!” Maya was suddenly very much awake.
Maya looked at the clock, and noticed that it was already past 8 o’clock in the morning. She really overslept! But she still have time before she is needed at the cafe and the gallery. She hasn’t been in touch with her parents since her return from Ilocos. She had been meaning to give them a call at some point, but so many things had happened since she returned to Manila!
“I missed you very, Mom. How’s Dad? Yes, you woke me up but it’s perfectly fine. Hindi ka nagkamali ng time. I had a late night lang with Ricky so late na ako nakatulog. Dapat nga kanina pa ako bumangon!” Maya said, not realizing that she had mentioned a guy’s name, something that really grabbed her mom’s attention.
“Ricky?…” Marina Ventura-Dela Rosa asked her daughter, curiously and with a voice tinged with hope. She had been wishing that her daughter would find a guy she would like a lot to have a relationship with. For some reason, her daughter has been very picky. She knew she dated but after a date or two, the guy is either history or would just become her friend. As if, her daughter was waiting, looking for a specific someone!
“Oh…” Maya realized that she had mentioned Ricky’s name! She also had been vacillating between telling her parents about Ricky over the phone or when they finally get home in a week or so. She thought of just playing it by ear when she gets to talk to them.
“Errr, Mom, sorry, but I’m planning to tell you naman about him. That’s Ricky, Ricardo Lim III, my boyfriend. Bago lang po kami, Mom.” Maya told her mother.
“Talaga, anak? Kailan pa? Wala nga ngang nabanggit noong huli tayong nagkausap, just before you went to Ilocos. Matagal mo na bang kilala iyang si Ricky?” Marina asked her daughter, wanting to know more about the guy who finally made her daughter take a risk and enter into a relationship.
“Just several days pa lang, Mom. But we met each other while I was in Ilocos. Kanila lang iyong vacation house beside ours.” Maya said, leaning against the headboard to be more comfortable as she tells her mother about Ricky. “Mom, he is the one for me. I love her very much kahit sandali pa lang kami nagkakilala and sobrang bago pa lang ng relationship namin. He was the one I have been waiting for.” Maya said with conviction and so much emotion. She also told her mother about hers and Ricky’s adventures in Ilocos and the fact that he followed her back in Manila.
Marina smiled at the way her daughter said the name of her boyfriend, the way she described her feelings for him and the way she told her of their adventures in Ilocos. Indeed, she sensed that her daughter is very much in love for the first time in her life! She is very happy for her. Magkakaapo na rin sila ni Antonio sa wakas!
“I’m happy for you, Maya.” Marina said. “I’m sure ganoon din ang Papa mo. Good news talaga. Akala nga namin tatandang dalaga na ang unica hija namin.”
“Ma, naman. Wala naman akong intensyon na making old maid by choice! Choosy lang. Di bale nang walling boyfriend kaysa naman napilitan lang. See, there is the right guy for me talaga and tama iyong sabi ni Lola Maya sa journal niya, remember I told you about it, malalaman mo agad ang guy for you when you meet him! Noong unang kita ko palang kay Ricky sa Ilocos, iba na talaga ang pakiramdam ko. Would you believe, napagkamalan ko pa talaga siyang multo.” Maya smiled at the memory. Hers and Ricky’s meeting is really for the books! It was something to tell their children. Whoa, Maya Dela Rosa, children agad, she told herself. But come to think of it, it would be great to have a little boy who looks like Ricky a lot and a girl who is a spitting image of her! She grinned goofily. Then her mother’s voice cut into her daydream.
“Talaga, anak, napagkamalan mo pa talagang multo ang boyfriend mo!” Marina laughed, shaking her head at her daughter’s story.
“Talagang-talaga, Mom! Lola’s journal that I asked you about, it was actually, originally, Ricky’s Lolo Ricardo’s journal. Kasi nga siguro, I was so concentrated on that and the pictures I found inserted into that. Mr. Ricardo Lim and Lola Maya had a beautiful but very sad love story.” Maya replied, feeling a bit sad, remembering again. “You should really read it, Mom, when you get back.”
“I think I really should. Bakit nga ba kasi nawala sa isip ko na balikan iyon at basahin!” Marina said, then suddenly, she remembered something when Maya mentioned the name of Ricky’s grandfather, something her mother had said on her deathbed. “Maya, anak, Ricardo ang pangalan ng Lolo ni Ricky? Tama ba ako?”
“Yes, Mom, the third si Ricky, kasi ang junior ang Dad niya si Mr. Richie Lim. Bakit Mom, may business ba kayo ni Dad sa family ni Ricky. You know them?” Maya asked, curious at her mom’s question.
“I know of them. Pero wala akong maalalang dealings namin ng Dad mo sa mga Lim. Baka sa isa nilang subsidiaries, pero I haven’t met anyone of them in person, I’m sure of that.” Marina said, then she continued. “I asked you kasi I remember something. Noong maysakit na si Mama, and I was the one watching over her, she kept saying a name. She kept saying the name ‘Ricardo’ when she was delirious. Hindi ko naman malaman kung bait she kept mumbling that name. I didn’t tell Papa or asked him about it. I thought then, just to let it be. Although, I was very curious kung sino ang tinatawag niya! Iniisip ko kasi na baka masaktan pa si Papa kapag nalaman na may ibang name na tinatawag si Mama. Saka, I was not sure nga kung sino si Ricardo dahil wala naman akong alam na naging boyfriend niya or kaibigan with that name.”
“Oh, I think Lolo Jaime knew, Mom, that he was not the love of Lola’s life. I think so. I think he had read the journal. Lola continued the entries after Ricky’s grandfather died. The times you probably saw her holding that journal, I think kamamatay lang ni Mr. Ricardo Lim noon. Manang Fe also mentioned that Lola got a visit from Ricky’s grandmother one afternoon. It was her who gave the journal to Lola.”
“Nasa school siguro ako noon. Maya, I never had any idea that Mama had loved another. Okay naman sila ni Papa sa pagkaalala ko. Not outwardly very affectionate towards each other but they got along well naman, and we were happy as a family. I thought na ganoon lang talaga sila! Though, may times nga na parang melancholy si Mama.”
“Mom, Lola wrote about it in the journal. Mom, I really felt the love for Ricky’s grandfather coming out of the pages of that journal. Parang feeling ko nga ako si Lola. Ramdam ko lahat ng saya, lungkot and love na nasa pages ng journal.” Maya said passionately. “Kaya nga noong nakita ko si Ricky, akala ko talaga siya si Ricardo Lim. Magkamukhang-kamukha kasi sila Mom! There was a photo of them among others in between the pages of the journal.”
Hearing that, something clicked in Marina’s brain, and before she can stop herself, she started, “Maya hindi kaya…. but that’s impossible…ah never mind, anak!”
“I know what you almost said Mom. Hindi kaya reincarnation kami nina Lola Maya at Lolo Ricardo!” Maya put into words what her mother was hesitant to say.
“Yes, but as you know I don’t really believe in those. Pero both of you were born after they were both dead and sabi mo, kamukhang-kamukha ni Ricky iyong lolo niya. Ikaw naman, spitting image ng lola mo. Kapangalan niyo pa pareho! Tapos pinagtagpo pa kayo sa lugar kung saan sila nagkakilala at na-in love.” Marina said. “Hard to believe, pero parang you sought each other in this line time para madugtungan ang love story nila na hindi nagkaroon ng realization before.”
“Looking at it that way, Mom, hindi farfetched di ba? Especially as sometimes, Ricky also felt some things na parang na-experience na niya, a deja vu! If it is like that, then I am so very happy, Mom that Ricky and I found each other again and that our love story is progressing quite smoothly. He is the love of my life and like what I have said, the one I have been waiting for. But I do believe rin that Ricky and I are our very own person. Whatever it is, masaya ako na siya that we met and fell in love. In such a short time, we have so much and parang sobrang kilala na namin ang isa’t-isa.”
“Me too, Maya anak. Kahit ano pa ang dahilan, reincarnation o hindi. Masayang-masaya ako para sa iyo and also para kay Ricky. I’m sure wherever your Lola is and also Ricky’s grandfather, masaya rin sila for the two of you. I love you anak and hangad lang naman ng Dad mo ang happiness mo.”
“Thank you, Mom. I love you, and Dad too, very, very much.” Maya said, missing her parents very much. “I’ll introduce Ricky to you as soon as you get back. This evening nga pala, we will have dinner with his parents. Then on Sunday naman, we will visit his grandmother, the one who gave Lola Maya the journal. Pupunta kami sa Batangas to see her.”
“Really, ipapakilala ka na niya sa parents niya, and also to his grandmother?” Marina was happy to know. To her, it means that Ricky Lim is really serious about her daughter and it completely erased whatever lingering fear she had at the back of her mind due to the speed they have entered into a relationship. Yes, she trusts her daughter’s judgment, and the feelings she has for this guy, but she is a mom and worries about her child, no matter what.
“Yes, Mom! I actually met his Dad the other evening. Then Ricky said when his mother found out that his Dad met me na, she had really insisted on meeting me and having dinner at their home.” Maya said, then admitted, “I’m kinda nervous at meeting his mother. This would be the first time I will be seeing her. Besides, this would be my first dinner ever at a boyfriend’s house. Iyong sa lola ni Ricky, for some reason, hindi ako kinakabahan soon. In fact I’m looking forward to meeting her.”
“I’m sure it would be great, Maya. Huwag kang nerbiyusin. I’m sure pasadong-pasado ka sa magiging biyenan mo.” Marina assured her daughter. “Ricky’s lola seemed to be a nice lady. She even went out of her way to see Mama and gave her that journal. Not many wives will do that. In fact, baka nga the opposite pa!”
“Mom, mother-in-law to be talaga! Ricky and I just started.” Maya said, laughing. “And yes, I agree with you, tungkol kay Mrs. Sandra Lim. She is also Ricky and me’s last link to Lolo Ricardo and Lola Maya kaya I really want to meet her in person!”
“Hay naku, Maya anak, base pa lang sa kwento mo, that love is for keeps and I’m sure serious iyang si Ricky sa iyo kasi imagine, this early, ipakikilala ka na niya sa parents niya, and also his grandmother who knew about the past. Sabi mo naman siya ang the one mo! Saka don’t worry, basta handa kang ipaglaban ni Ricky sa kahit sino, then wala kang dapat ipangamba, anak.” Marina assured her daughter.
“Tama ka doon, Mom. I know that Ricky loves me very much, and that he would fight for me always. Napatunayan na niya sa akin iyan. I’m so lucky to have him, Mom. I’m sure you and Dad will like him too. By the way, nasaan pala si Dad? Can I talk to him after you?” Maya asked.
“He is out with one of his college friends, nanonood ng basketball sa Madison Square Garden. Iyong paborito niyang team ang naglalaro. But I will tell him that we talked and about your good news. Anyway, before I forgot the reason I called up, eh, we will be home this coming Tuesday. Natapos na namin ang lahat ng kailangan naming asikasuhin dito and medyo tinatamad na rin kaming mag-ikot, so uuwi na lang kami.” Marina told her daughter. “I’m looking forward to seeing you, meeting your wonderful young man, and being home again!”
“Talaga, Mom! I’m so happy to know. I will tell Ricky too.”
“See you in a couple of days.”
“See you, Mom. And by the way, do you want me to pick you up from the airport?”
“Thank you, anak pero magpapasundo na lang kami kay Manong Dindo. Di ba mag-isa ka pala ngayon sa cafe. Manang Fe mentioned na na-dengue si Emman when I called up when you were in Ilocos. Kumusta na pala siya?”
“He is doing well, Mom. I think makakalabas na rin siya ng hospital in several days.”
“That’ s good to know. O, paano, Maya, anak, I will see you in several days okay. Stay ka muna sa bahay ng several days, please para naman makapag-bonding tayo ng husto. Pakisabi pala kay Manang Fe, I said hello.”
“Sige, Mom, I will stay with you. I will tell Manang Fe that you called. Take care and looking forward to seeing you and Dad. I love you, both, very much.”
“We love you very much too, anak.”
Mother and daughter ended the call.
Maya sighed, thinking it would really be good to see her parents again. She is very close to them, being an only child and not having much of cousins as her mother is an only child and her father’s two brothers have settled in different parts of the world. Her five cousins with them most of whom she seldom sees are also much older than her.
Maya was about to get up and take a bath when her phone beeped. She has an idea on who it is. She smiled when she saw the message.
Good morning my lovely girlfriend, the love of my life! Dinner with my parents later ha! Sorry, sweetheart, ang kulit ko ‘no. I’m just excited for you to meet them, and also my Lola Sandra this Sunday.
Yes po, Mr. Lim, my handsome, and also the sweetest, boyfriend in the universe! I’m looking forward to meeting your mother, chatting with your Dad again, and especially meeting your Lola Sandra.
Great, sweetheart. I’ll pick you up from your place, as we agreed on, sweetheart, at 6 o’clock. How about lunch later? I think I can manage it today as well!
I would love that. But are you sure sweetheart, di ba, you told me last night that you have a lot of meetings scheduled today?
I can manage, sweetheart, really. My lunch one got cancelled, yes! 🙂 I was really happy it got canceled as I really wanted to have my lunch with my pretty girlfriend.
Okay, okay, my handsome boyfriend. I can have something prepared for us at the cafe’s garden so that you can go back to your office fast. Di ba you told me that you have another one at 2PM?
That’s great, sweetheart! I love that place and it will always be special to me. That was where you made me the happiest guy in the world. I love you very much. See you in four hours!
I love that place the more also sweetheart, because of our already beautiful memories there. I love you too, Ricky. See you, sweetheart!
Maya put the phone down with a huge grin on her face. She was very happy and her heart, so full. Everything was just so wonderful. She hoped it will continue to do so, especially now that she will be meeting Ricky’s family and the situation with Lorraine seemed to have been resolved!
Ricky told her about what his father did the day before, without his knowledge, when he picked her up at the cafe late afternoon. They had a romantic dinner at a wine restaurant, somewhere in the neighbouring city, that offers not only a wide selection of wines, but very good food, and then spent the rest of the evening, just chatting, relaxing and cuddling up at the veranda of her house. They didn’t notice the time and only realized how late it was when a car backfired in the quiet of the night. They reluctantly parted for the night, and that was after the several intense kisses they shared.
Maya smiled and flushed anew as she remembered sitting on Ricky’s lap, lips tingling and feeling so thoroughly kissed, and more, realizing the effect of those too on Ricky’s body. They had looked at each other ruefully, grinning. He teased her about forcing himself to move, even if he didn’t really want to, as Manang Fe might run after him with a broom. After one more kissed, they parted for the night.
Maya got out of bed, still smiling. She got some clothes, and while singing the lines of a beautiful love song, she went to bath to start her beautiful and momentous day, very much looking forward to her lunch with Ricky and dinner with his family.
Through the years, from time to time, when Maya allowed herself to dwell on the past, especially around the holiday season, which was not her favorite time of the year since that heartbreak she suffered eight years ago, she envisioned seeing Richard again somewhere, but it was always in a nebulous way. Their lives have diverged so much that she can’t imagine where their paths would cross again. Besides, she switched her thoughts to other topics when she started doing this as lingering on it was painful, especially during the first couple of years after it happened. But as the adage goes, time heals all wounds and she sort of, accepted that their love was not meant to be.
Ever since she met Mrs. Lim, and since she had read the online article about Richard, Maya knew that they would definitely meet but she never imagined it would be this soon! Maya stared at the one and only man who made her heart beat faster, who still make her heart skips a beat with his mere presence, with his intense gaze, that seem to look into her soul. Richard is as handsome as ever and his looks, unchanged through the years, except that there seemed to be a sadness in him.
“How are you, Maya? Are you based in Manila now! Since when?” Richard threw the questions rapidly as he gazed at Maya intently. She is more beautiful now, with her shoulder-length hair, erect and confident posture. She used to wear it longer when they were together. She is more poised too and carries herself very well. It was evident when they were together, but the years had turned the lovely girl into a very beautiful, confident woman. He missed those doe-shaped eyes, shining with intelligence and love for him when they were together. “It’s so great to see you again.” He almost went to her to hug her and kiss her on the cheek like he used to, but he stopped himself at the last minute. He does not have the right to do that anymore.
Maya strived to find her equilibrium, regain her composure after seeing him again, so sudden, and so unexpectedly. “Yes, for now I’m based here. I came back to the Philippines late 2009, but sometimes I traveled to other Southeast Asian countries in between.” She explained after she took a deep breath. Her palm suddenly felt sweaty. How come he still have the same effect on her, after all that had happened!
“That’s good to know. Late 2009? That was after I moved back to New York.” Richard said, trying to see if Maya will react to his mention of New York, the place where he experienced the happiest and the saddest chapter of his life. It took him a while to go around the city again and all the places he had been with Maya after he returned to NYC early 2009 to manage LHI’s international operations from there.
Maya’s heart skipped a beat when she heard Richard said New York. The memories started coming flooding back in a rush. She looked at Richard meaningfully. Oh, how she had loved this man. Seeing him again, she had the answer to one of her questions after she read that article. Nothing has changed despite the heartaches, the time, the distance and the passing of years.
New York! Thankfully for her broken heart, she was not required by UN to live in the city again. She just went there to report for several days and then she was off to various part of the world where her services was needed. She also sold her apartment to Emman, and during the times she needed to be in the States, she stayed with her parents. Her mom didn’t ask after Richard. Sometimes she wondered why, finding it strange, but most times, she just shrugged it off and think that her mom just wanted to spare her feelings, having an inkling that they had broken up. Maybe, she was just waiting for her to say something. But in those instances, it was just too painful for her to tell her mother about what happened. She bottled it all in, spilling it one evening to Rafael, after they had a bit of a drink.
“Oh, that was where you have been!” Maya remarked. She actually had a lot of questions for Richard. The answers to them, she believes, will finally laid the past to rest and then she can move on completely. But that moment was not the time and the place for it as she suddenly remember Mrs. Lim and their meeting.
Donya Esmeralda was observing intently the interplay between her son and Maya. She noticed the looks they have exchanged earlier and the seemingly unsaid words and emotions between them as they seemed to have forgotten her presence. Maya and Richard obviously knew each other in the past and by the looked of it, the relationship was much more than friendship. Her motherly intuition said that Maya was someone important to Richard at some point in his life. At the same time, she remembered her husband Roberto’s dying words which didn’t make complete sense at that time. He was asking for his son’s forgiveness for what he did eight years ago and his role in his son’s unhappiness. She never gotten around to telling it to Richard as it sounded unintelligible to her. In her grief, she had forgotten about that.
“So Maya, you know my son Richard?” Donya Esmeralda asked Maya as she remembered mentioning Richard to Maya before in an attempt to matchmake between the two. But it looks like she does not need to do that anymore.“Since when kayo magkakilala, Ricky? Small world, di ba son?” She looked at her son intently.
“Mrs. Lim……” Maya started, but Richard beat her in replying.
“Ma, Maya was my girlfriend in New York in 2006.” Richard said, surprising Maya and his mother with his statement. “She is the love of my life.”
“Ricky……!” Maya blurted out. She never thought that Richard would say that and he spoke in the present tense. Does that mean….? She refused to speculate, but her heart somersaulted hearing that bold declaration.
“Really, son!” Donya Esmeralda, with that confirmation managed to connect another set of dots from the past. She remembered her husband muttering about Richard’s stubbornness in refusing to marry Alexandra despite the fact that she was carrying their child, according to her parents, Martin and Cecilia. Roberto even said that there was another girl involved in the equation. She did tell Roberto that there must more to the situation than what they knew, and maybe he shouldn’t meddle. But he didn’t listen to her, apparently. It looked like her son was indeed in love with someone else then, and that person was Maya. Her heart went out to her son, and also to Maya, as it seems they are still both in love with each other judging by their initial expressions earlier, before they were able to mask their feelings. But with that statement of her son, it looks like he still loves Maya and is planning to do something about it this time. It does seem like these two have a lot to talk about.
“Yes, Mama.” Richard replied. “But please, leave it at that.” He simply said. He wanted to have a heart to heart talk with Maya the soonest time possible. He hopes she will be able to forgive him and that they can still pick up the pieces, no matter how fragmented they are, so to speak. He is prepare to do everything to get her back. He knew before this that he made a gargantuan mistake in the past when he just gave up. He had wasted eight years of their lives together. He is praying that it is not yet too late for everything.
“Okay, I’m with you on that. You two can catch up later.” Donya Esmeralda said. “Maya, what would you like to have, hija? Let’s have lunch first and do the discussions afterwards. Ricky, you can pass the time inside the Mind Museum or at the park there after lunch if you want while Maya and I discuss our project.”
“No, Ma. I will stay with you and Maya. Let’s have lunch first. Then I will leave you too with your projects. I brought and iPad with me.” Richard said. “What would you like Maya? I can see some of your favorites in the menu.” He chatted on, as if they were just having one of their dinners.
Maya got flustered a bit. “Ah errr, I would have the pasta marinara please and mango juice.” She managed to say. “Kayo po, Mrs. Lim?”
“I’ll have pasta Alfredo. And you Ricky?” Donya Esmeralda asked her son, still marveling at the scene that had unfolded before her.
“I’ll have the same as what Maya is having.” He simply said, hoping that it will trigger another good memory of their time together for her, instead of all the heartache he caused.
Maya remembered that that they had the same food the first dinner they had. Uncle Bobby was not as subtle as her mother. He asked about Richard the first she was back in New York after her posting in Kabul, and was having dinner at La Signora with Emman.
Donya Esmeralda called the waiter and they told him of their orders. Maya and Donya Esmeralda opted to chat about their literacy campaign for a community of children in a remote community in Mindoro while waiting for their lunch. Since the area is so far from the town, and the families so poor, the children were unable to go to school. It was not just a priority if one was barely making a living. Donya Esmeralda and LHI Foundation will sponsor a six-month education program in the area to be handled by UNICEF. They are also planning to set up a livelihood program for the residents. Maya will set up everything. In fact, she was traveling to Mindoro the following week to talk to the officials there about the project.
“Is the place close to where your Mamang lives, Maya?” Richard asked when there was a break in the discussion between her and his mother. So, he was listening to everything, hmmm! The iPad forgotten.
“Your family is from there, Maya? Who are still there? You told me your family are now base in New Jersey.” Donya Esmeralda remarked.
“Yes po, my family is from there Mrs. Lim. But only my Mamang, my grandmother, still lives there.” Maya replied, then looked at Ricky. “It is an hour away I think fromm Mamang’s home.”
“Oh, not so far then. You can also combined a visit. Di ba, you liked staying there when you were a kid. Kumusta na pala ang mga cousin mo, sina Cristina Rose and Simon.” Richard asked, not realizing, his mother was not privy to what he was saying, and that he had taken over the conversation.
Maya was surprised that Richard remembers her cousins! “Well, Simon is still single. Ate Cris naman is married. She got married to her childhood sweetheart, Jeff and they have a son, Cho.”
“Good to know that. How’s Emman naman? Is he still in New York?” He asked.
“Wait, son, this is my meeting.” Donya Esmeralda told her son, smiling, teasing him, and then also Maya. “Naku, Maya, sagutin mo na nga itong anak ko nang tumigil na.”
“P-po, sagutin?” Maya stuttered.
“I mean, sagutin mo na ang tanong niya, hija at di ito titigil. Sobra ka yatang na-miss. Ewan ko ba naman, bakit pinakawalan ka!” Donya Esmeralda said bluntly. “Oh, sorry for being nosy. I will stop na.” She smiled, though, unrepentant.
Maya and Richard both turned red. They gazed at each other, then looked down.
“Errrr, Emman is actually here. He returned last year. He is now working at a public relations firm.” Maya said after she had regained a bit of her composure again.
“Maybe, we can all get together one evening.” Richard suggested, hoping that this way, Maya will not shy away from meeting him again.
“I will tell him.” Maya said simply, noncommittally.
“So son, my turn na ha.” Donya Esmeralda said, smiling. Then said, “Maya, can you e-mail me the documents for this project. I think everything is a go. Please let me know how your trip to Mindoro turns out. Then you and I can be there at the start of the project. If we are successful in this one, we can duplicate this in other parts of the country. I’m also looking into building a school in our target area, long term.”
“Talaga po, Mrs. Lim! That would be great po.” Maya smiled brilliantly at Donya Esmeralda, a smile that lit up her whole face and made Richard’s heart beat faster. He was captivated, just like the first time, he had seen it. She was like that when she was about to start her career at the UN. She lit up like a neon sky.
“Can you and your team make a projection for this additional project. Tell me about it in our next meeting. Now, enough of work, let’s relax na. Tamang-tama, here’s our lunch na.” Donya Esmeralda said as she saw the approaching waiter.
The three of them had good lunch. In between bites and sip of her drink, Maya was conscious of Richard’s gaze. She was not so sure that this went unnoticed with Richard’s mother. They talk about general stuffs, with Maya contributing a bit about her life living in areas where the UN has its presence. They were having coffee when someone called Donya Esmeralda.
“Esmeralda Lim, nice to see you here!” The newcomer said brightly. She was about the same age as Donya Esmeralda.
“Hello Norma! Kumusta? Where’s Probo?” She said as she airkissed one of her longtime friends.
“Hayun, busy. Kaya heto, I decided to drop by here and have a cup of coffee and some pastries before my appointment. Oh, hello, Richard! Good to see you. Welcome back!” She also greeted and kissed Richard, then noticed the beautiful young lady sitting on Richard’r right. “Oh hello, you must be Richard’s girlfriend!”
“Oh, Norma, this is Maya dela Rosa, the Communications Officer of the UNICEF office here. Remember the project I told you about? We are doing with with UNICEF. ” Donya Esmeralda hastily answered, freeing Richard and Maya from explaining their complicated relationship to Norma who could be a bit of a society gossip. She felt her son and Maya should have ample time to sort out their relationship before it became news in the society circle they move in.
“Hello, hija.” Norma’s attention, sucessfully diverted. “I heard you are doing a lot of good work. I’m friends with Sylvia Delgado, the head of Abaya Foundation. I like the project you two did. “I’m Norma Melendrez.”
“Please to meet you po, Mrs. Melendrez. Thank you for that.” Maya smiled at the old lady, then she accepted her beso.
“Esmeralda, where are you going afterwards? That is if you are done with your meeting with this very capable young lady!” She asked Donya Esmeralda.
“Wala naman. Babalik sa bahay. Ricky drove me here, actually.” Donya Esmeralda replied.
“Why don’t you join me. I will go to my favorite spa. I’m sure, they can also pencil you in. I will call. Sige na, kailangan mo namang lumabas ng bahay. Ayaw naman ni Roberto iyang malungkot ka.” Mrs. Melendrez cajoled Richard’s mom. “My driver and I will take you home.”
“Sige na, Ma. Sumama ka na kay Tita Norma. Don’t mind me, babalik na rin ako sa condo. I just dropped everything when I went to visit you yesterday.” Richard pushed his mom. He thinks it will do her a world of good.
Donya Esmeralda looked at her son, then at that moment, an idea came into her head. She will go with Norma, and therefore gives her son the opportunity to talk to Maya.
“Okay, sige. Maya, okay lang ba hija na mauna na ako?” She asked Maya, who was quietly sipping her coffee. “You and Richard can finish your coffee. I will go with Norma. How will you get home pala? Did you drive?”
“Sige po. Don’t mind me. I will go back to Quezon City rin po after this. I’m okay po, don’t worry. I will just take a taxi back, same way I went here.” Maya said, then stood up to give the old lady a beso. “Enjoy po. It was nice meeting you, Mrs. Melendrez.”
“Naku, Ricky, son, you should take Maya, home. Medyo mahirap na ang taxi sa lugar na ito.” She told her son.
“Mrs. Lim, hindi na po. I can manage. Thank you. I’ll just e-mail you and then set another meeting with you after my trip to Mindoro.” Maya assured the old lady. She just barely recovered from seeing Richard again. Being cooped up in a car with him for an hour or so, maybe too much for her poor heart and mind to take in at that moment.
Donya Esmeralda, didn’t push it. She know her son, he would find a way to persuade Maya to be taken home. “Okay, up to you, hija. Bye. Ricky, I’ll go ahead. You too finish your coffee and pastries.” And just like that, Donya Esmeralda left the restaurant with Richard’s Tita Norma.
There was silence on the table as soon as the door of the restaurant closed, and Richard and Maya realized that there were just the two of them. Both took nervous sips of their coffee, looking at each other, trying to gauge on how to proceed. It was Richard who broke the silence after taking a deep breath to still his crazily beating heart.
“Maya, I know I’m lucky you are even talking to me after all that had happened and what I had done. Thank you.”
“I know, this is a lot to take in. I never expected I will see you this soon. I was so happy when I saw you earlier, when I just spent a big part of last night, thinking about you. I know I have a lot to explain and to make up to you with. I also know you have a lot of questions.” He said, as if wanting to let it out in one go. “I’m not sure if you can forgive me, but I need to try. Will you please give me a chance to redeem myself?”
Maya looked at Richard’s earnest expression. She feel that he genuinely want to set the past right. Besides, isn’t this what she wants to, a closure?
“Ricky, me too, never expected to see you this soon. Though, after reading the online article on you being appointed CEO of LHI, I know we would have met at some point. Yes, you are correct, I do have a lot of questions. I need to move on and you are the only one who holds the key to the big gaps in our shared past. So, yes I would like us to talk please.”
“Thank you Maya. Just me hear me out please. And then I wll let you decide from there.” Richard said earnestly, glad that Maya is not closing her doors to him despite what happened.
Maya smiled then looked at Richard regretfully. “It has to be another time, though. I have an appointment I can’t cancel. Would that be okay?”
Richard smiled back. “Of course. Here, let me know when are you free next.” He said, as he pressed into Maya’s hand his business card. “Oh wait, I will write my home number, private mobile number and my address.” He then beckoned the waiter and asked if he could borrow a pen.
Maya unexpectedly laughed at that. “Ricky, I only need one contact number, I think. Besides, I can always ask your mom.” She then handed him her business card. “O, pahiram ng pen, I will write there also my home number and address.”
Maya’s laugh was music to Richard’s ears. He missed that too. He missed everything about her. “Mabuti na ang sigurado. And thank you for this.”
They went out of the restaurant, reluctant to part, but trying hard not to show it. Richard asked Maya one more time if he can’t take her to her next appointment. She thanked him but insisted on taking a taxi. Richard sensed that Maya needed to do that, so he just flagged a taxi for her, took note of the name of the taxi and the plate number.
Richard completely understands Maya’s action. He, too, needs to process their wonderful unexpected meeting. She needs time and he will give her that, while he thinks of what he needs and can do to do to win her back, no matter how long it takes. He will not waste this rare chance given to him to make things right and be with the only woman he ever loved, still loves. He felt happier than he had been in years.
Note: Errr, double treat! 🙂 Pambawi ko sa inyo! 🙂
Richard Lim strode through the busy airport, unmindful of the people, especially women, who were taking a second look at the handsome, confident man with eyeglasses, wearing jeans and a polo shirt, in their midst. He looked serious and in deep thought.
Home! Richard mused as he waited for his luggage. It is good to be back. He had been pretty restless lately. He didn’t know if it has something to do with the death of his Papa and being the new CEO of LHI. He does not think so. The truth is, he had been restless and unsetttled for eight years. It felt like a big part of his life stopped after the painful incident that happened eight years ago. Maybe, this is better, he mused. Taking the reins of the company will keep him very busy that he will not have time to think of the unresolved issues from his past. Besides, he will at least see his mother more often, especially now that she can’t seem to get over his father’s death. There were times that he had a hard time understanding his parents’ dynamics. For him, his father was very strict and forceful, and yet his mother loved him so much until the end. His father seemed to be very devoted to his mother too. Such contradictions!
Richard was about to exit the terminal with his luggage when he saw a seemingly familiar figure. His heart skipped a beat. He can’t breath all of a sudden.
“Maya!” He muttered.
The lady turned, as if she had heard him. And with it, came another disappointment. It was not Maya, the one and only woman he loved, still loves, he admitted. When will he stop yearning? Maybe, it is about time he confront the past and his big role in hurting her. Even if she can’t forgive him, isn’t it better than this? He tried to forget, but he was unable to do so. He avoided finding out about her in an effort to forget and let her be, after what he did, after what happened, but there were times when he found it so very difficult to do so. In hindsight, he knew that there were things he could have done, but it was just in hindsight. What had happened, happened and no matter how much he wanted to go back and change it, he can’t anymore. He needs to move on. Maybe, it is time to confront the past and laid it to rest.
“Sir Richard, Sir Richard!” Joma, the Lim family driver, called Richard’s attention several times before he reacted and looked at him.
Joma rushed to Richard and helped him with his luggage. “Welcome back, Sir.”
“Thank you Joma, it is good to be home. It has been a while.” Richard got in the front seat of the car, then looked straight ahead.
If Richard had looked sideways at that moment, he would have found out that after so many years imagining seeing Maya in a crowd, he would have finally found her! At that moment Maya was also coming out of the airport. She just came back from Bangkok, meeting her UNICEF colleagues there.
“Rafael, hola! ?Que tal?” She greeted her longtime friend, Rafael Rodriguez. They met each other when they were both stationed in Geneva, in between assignments. When she was assigned to the Philippines, Rafael soon followed. He is a doctor working for WHO.
“Bien, Maya! And you, how are you? Did you have a nice trip? How’s Lizbeth and the rest of the team in Bangkok?” He asked as he took care of her luggage and guided her to his waiting car.
“It was great. We can sync our projects. I just need to meet with our private sector counterpart here and finalize our project and its implementation.” Maya told Rafa.
What she was not telling him was that, the counterpart she mentioned would bring her to the same world inhabited by the one and only man she loved, especially now that she knew he is coming back to the Philippines for good. For the past months, she had been working closely with the head of LHI Foundation who happened to be Mrs. Esmeralda Lim, Richard’s mom, for a literacy campaign. At first, she didn’t know she is Richard mom, until they got to know each other more and she told her that her only son was in charge of the LHI office in New York. Then she mentioned that her son Richard is still single. It seemed that Mrs. Lim was trying to matchmake between her and her son. Maya, at that time, didn’t know whether she would disclose that she knew Richard. She was saved by one of her colleagues who arrived and the discussion shifted on to another topic. Thankfully, Mrs. Lim has not mentioned Richard since then.
Maya asked Rafa if he would like to come in when they reached her house in a nice subdivision in Quezon City. She knew a house an impractical choice as she is not home much, but she wanted a house of her own. She came to a point that wherein she wanted a permanent base after eight years of living everywhere. She wanted to settle in the Philippines too, and not in the States. Lately, she had been thinking of leaving the UN and establishing a non-governmental organization that would help people living in the countryside, but she haven’t made up her mind.
“Thank you, Maya. Maybe another time. I have to be at the office later for a meeting.” Rafa said. “How about lunch tomorrow?”
“Oh sorry, I can’t. I’m meeting Mrs. Lim in BGC.” Maya said. “Anyway, let’s check if we are free by Friday night, would that be okay? We can go out with Emman and Edselyn.” Like her, Emman returned to the Philippines and is now working for a public relations firm. His cousin Edselyn is currently in Manila at the moment, visiting for two months.
“Hmmm, can we just go out, the two of us, I mean, on a date?” Rafa suggested. He made his intentions known to Maya, but until now, she had not given him any indication that he likes her beyond friendship.
“Rafa, about that, can we just be good friends for now? I’m not still sure if I’m ready for a relationship.” Maya said carefully.
“But Maya, I have known you for five years and all those times, I haven’t seen or known you to be with anyone. I know it is your life, but maybe, it is about time you open your heart again.” Rafa pointed out. He knew he can speak frankly with Maya as they have been friends a long time. “Give me a chance. That is all I’m asking.”
“Rafa, Rafa, please give me time. It is not fair to let you hope when I can’t give my 100 percent to you. Let’s just be friends for now, okay.” Maya pleaded.
“Okay, Maya. I respect your decision. I will get going. Take care of yourself.” He said, resigned to the fact that it seems, he is destined to be just a good friend to Maya.
“Thank you, and thank you for being a wonderful friend.” Maya said, then wave at Rafa as he got into his car.
“Ma’am Maya, welcome back!” Sabel, Maya’s kasambahay shouted from the door.
Maya smiled at Sabel. “Sus, Sabel, parang ang tagal ko namang nawala this time, para ilang araw lang ah!”
“Naku, Ma’am Maya, kapag mag-isa ka lang naiiwan sa bahay gaya ng nangyayari sa akin kapag wala ka, parang taon ang dating sa akin.” Sabel quipped. “Si Sir Rafa po ba ang naghatid sa inyo? Sayang hindi ko man lang nasilayan ang kaguwapuhan niya ngayon.”
“Yes, siya nga.” Maya replied.
“Ma’am, hindi mo pa po ba sasagutin? Aba eh, saan ka pa ba makakakita ng boyfriend-material na kamukha ni Antonio Banderas, saka nung tennis player na paborito niyong panoorin.” Sabel said. She knew she can tease Maya as they had known each other for quite a number of years na. She was one of Maya’s playmates when she visited Mamang in San Nicolas. When Maya moved back to the Philippines, Mamang asked Sabel if she would like to work for Maya. Even if Maya kept on insisting to just call her ‘Maya’, Sabel insisted on using Ma’am!
“Si Rafael Nadal! Ikaw talaga, Sabel! Halika na nga. Anong dinner ba ang inihanda mo?” Maya asked.
“Naku, masarap na masarap na kare-kare po.” Sabel replied.
Maya suddenly stopped walking. Sabel had cooked kare-kare in the past, but this time, hearing the word, the memory of her last day with Richard came rushing back. She flinched a little. Maybe the article she had read about Richard opened the floodgates of the past for her.
“Bakit po, Ma’am Maya? Ayaw niyo po ba? Magluluto na lang ako ng iba.” Sabel looked worriedly at Maya.
“No Sabel, it is okay. May bigla lang akong naalala. Halika na, ipaghain mo na ako. I will just bring my things upstairs.” Maya said.
“I wonder if he here is now.” Maya mused as she plopped down on her bed to catch her breath before she goes back downstairs.
“I wonder where she is at the moment.” Richard mused while he was on his way to his family’s home in Makati from his condo unit in BGC. He just dropped his things and decided to see his mother whom he hasn’t seen since his father’s funeral.
Since he left the Philippines in 2009 for good to head their international operations, a year after the divorce with Alexandra, he was rarely in the country. His trip got more frequent, though, when his father got sickly and he had to take over his responsibilities. He was in the country for the funeral of his father, but returned to New York the day after it, while the board was deciding if he will be the CEO or his Uncle Patrick. Ryan informed him that he was the one the board picked, several minutes after the final voting.
“Ricky, hijo!” Esmeralda Lim greeted her son as soon as she saw him walking towards the front door after parking his car in the driveway. Joma had told her earlier that he dropped off his Sir Richard first at his condo unit. He also informed her, as per Richard’s instruction, that he will have dinner in the family home and stay the night. “I missed you a lot, son.” Donya Esmeralda hugged her son tight.
“I missed you too, Mama! How have you been?” He asked.
“Heto, I get by. I still misses your Papa a lot. Pero tanggap ko nang wala na siya. Life has to go on.” Donya Esmeralda said. “I just keep myself busy, hands on na hands on ako ngayon sa foundation natin. Doon nalilibang ako and fulfilling naman ang work.”
“It is good to know, Ma. Tama iyon.” Richard was glad to know that his mother is moving on. “What’s your latest project?”
“Tungkol sa literacy! Tamang-tama, di ba, you are staying the night. You can come with me to my meeting with the UNICEF Communications Officer here, sandali lang naman iyon, tomorrow. Please, son.” Donya Esmeralda pleaded. “Di ba sa susunod na araw ka pa magre-report sa LHI.”
Richard knew that when his mother take that tone, he better say yes, so he did. Besides, he wanted to indulge his mother, especially now that he only had one parent left. He does misses his father, despite the fact that he could be exacting and that he had a hand on how things turned out differently from what he wanted eight years ago.
“Okay, Ma, I will go with you.” Richard agreed.
“I’m glad son. Come let’s have dinner. Fe cooked your favorite food, kare-kare.” Donya Esmeralda chatted on.
Upon hearing the word, Richard stopped and thought of the last night he had been with Maya. It was the food she cooked for him lovingly, and how he repaid that with what happened afterwards.
“Ricky, hoy Ricky, is something the matter son? Ayaw mo ba ng kare-kare? Di ba, tama ako, favorite mo ito.” Donya Esmeralda had to call Richard several seconds more before he reacted.
“Oh, I’m okay, Ma. May naalala lang ako.” He said simply. “Halika na. I want to see Manang Fe too. Na-miss ko rin siya ng husto.”
Mother and son went to the dining room. Upon seeing her alaga, Manang Fe got teay-eyed and hugged him. “Ricardo, kumusta ka na?”
“Mabuti po Manang. Ikaw talaga, Manang, parang ilang linggo pa lang ulit tayong hindi nagkita ah.” Richard said affectionately.
“Iba naman iyon, anak. Ngayon natutuwa ako na dito ka na ulit sa Pilipinas titira.” She said.
“Me too, Manang. It seemed right po na bumalik na ako dito.” Richard said as he pulled the seat for his mother. “Manang, sabay ka na po sa amin ni Mama.”
“Oo nga naman, Fe. Saluhan mo na kami nitong si Ricky.” Donya Esmeralda added. “Huwag nang magpaka-others.” Fe is like a friend to her, though, when she insists that she eat with her, she refused.
“Sige po, Ma’am. Na-miss ko nga ang mga kwento nitong si Ricardo.” Manang Fe finally agreed and sat across mother and son.
The three had a nice dinner. It was Donya Esmeralda who mostly talked. Manag Fe noticed Richard getting silent at times and looking at the kare-kare intently, as if remembering something. Later on, after dinner, Donya Esmeralda excused herself and said she need to make some phone calls. Richard walked to the veranda.
“Ricardo, kape o.” Manang Fe handed Richard a steaming cup of coffee.
“Thank you po, Manang. The best ka talaga.” Richard said, smiling at his old nanny.
“Naku, wala iyon. May gusto ka bang pag-usapan, anak?” She asked. Manang knew what Richard went through with Alexandra and felt that there was something he didn’t tell anyone, even to her. All the time he was married to Alexandra, she can see that he was just half-alive. Parang walang sigla sa buhay. “Napansin ko kasi na tahimik ka kanina at parang may iniisip. Naisip ko rin naman na baka pagod ka lang sa biyahe.”
“Meron nga po akong iniisip Manang, Pero saka ko na po sasabihin, Manang, kapag naayos ko na ang lahat.” He simply said. “Ikaw po and si Mama ang unang makakaalam, promise.”
“O sige, basta, nandito lang ako kung kailangan mo ng kausap.” The old lady said.
“Maraming salamat po. Magpapahinga na po ako, Manang.” Richard said as he put down his coffee cup.
“Okay, sige, ayos na ang dati mong room. Pinalinis ko ng husto iyon kay Lea kahapon.” Manang said. “Good night.”
It took a while before Richard fall asleep. There were so many thoughts in his head, but it was not about work, it was about Maya.
The following day, mother and son arrived at the restaurant where Donya Esmeralda will meet the UNICEF officer she mentioned the night before.
“Naku, son, mabuti, we are early. Halika doon na lang tayo. Parating na siguro iyon.” Donya Esmeralda sat on the chair facing the door so she can see the coming and goings of people. She was ordering coffee when the door opened, she looked up and smiled.
“Mrs. Lim, good afternoon po. I think I’m a bit late this time.” The woman greeted Donya Esmeralda. “Pasensya na po.”
Upon hearing the voice, that voice, Richard suddenly whipped round to face the woman who greeted his mom. He needed to be very very sure, but he knew he couldn’t be wrong.
“Maya…..!” He said with wonder and with a huge smile on his face.
“R-ricky….!” Maya uttered, realizing who is the man sitting with Mrs. Lim, not being able to say anything anymore.
“You know each other?” Donya asked, very surprised at this turn of event. Yes, she had an ulterior motive when she asked her son to go with her. She wanted him to meet Maya. She really likes this young lady and is hoping that she can matchmake between her and her son. It is about time her son smiles again. She wants him to be happy.
Donya Esmeralda’s question fell on deaf ears as Richard and Maya only had eyes for each other. The years just fell away, and all the bad things that had happened suddenly forgotten, as they both looked at each other with longing and yes, love.
Several days after Alexandra’s visit to his apartment, Richard was still reeling from the effects of the bomb she detonated on him. He was nowhere close to finding a solution to the whole situation. Here he is, walking and walking the streets of New York after taking Maya home, trying to think clearly on what he will do next, thinking of a viable option to the mess he is in.
Richard has not heard from Alexandra since then but she had e-mailed him her schedule at a clinic in two weeks time. Despite all her faults, he never thought that she is capable of doing this, torturing him this way, and terminating the life of her baby, of their baby. He thought she loved him or they at least cared for each other when they were together, but this is downright obliterating whatever good was left of their previous relationship.
Maya, he thought, noticed his preoccupation with something. She asked him several times this evening if something was wrong. But he didn’t have the heart to tell her and mar her happy mood. She was so happy with the way her work at the United Nations is turning out. She had tons of anecdotes about her adventures in the diplomatic world. He didn’t want to ruin their night together. It was the first time they have seen each other since she started working. She just had a lot of things to do and had cancelled on their dinner the evening after she first started working.
Richard understood Maya and the demands of a new profession. They had to settle on chatting on the phone as soon as they both got home each evening. This evening, they had dinner at La Signora again. Before she went inside the apartment, Maya touched his face lovingly, and told him that she is just there to listen if he needs to unburden on whatever was causing him to stare off when he thought she was not looking. She was that intuitive and he almost told her. However, he vowed not to drag her into this situation.
He was going crazy, and he needed someone to talk to. He fished out his phone.
“Hey Richard! What’s up man? Is there a problem at work?” Timothy asked, one after the other when he picked up Richard’s call.
“Hi Tim! No, everything is okay at LHI.” Richard assured his good friend and colleague. “I know it is a bit late, but would you like to go for a drink in the bar we like, the one near Broadway?”
Timothy sensed that Richard was inviting him to something more than a drink. He sensed that Richard was preoccupied about something big the past several days, and no, he does not think it has something to do with the lady who made him happy the past month, Maya. She seemed like a very nice girl. That was his impression when he finally met her one evening at a place where she and Richard were having dinner. Besides, Richard was the happiest guy the past weeks because of her.
“Okay, give me 30 minutes. I will meet you there. I’m just at home, working on a projection for Time Airways.” He said, as he saved what he was working on and logged off his computer.
Tim found Richard at the bar, drinking vodka like it was water.
“Hey buddy, how much of this have you had?” He asked as it looked it was not Richard’s first in the last 30 minutes since he phone.
“Hi,Tim. What would you like?” He asked, evading his question. He was not yet drunk, but he is getting tipsy. “John, my friend, give my buddy Tim here a drink.” He told the bartender.
Tim asked for a beer and he knew then that he better make it last, as it looks like he will need to be sober for Richard and him.
“Have you had something to eat?” Tim asked Richard.
“Yes, I’m fine on that aspect. I had dinner with Maya earlier.” Richard replied as he took another gulp of his vodka.
“How is Maya? You had dinner with her and then here you are drinking. Did you two had a fight or something?” Timothy asked, then said, “And, maybe, slowdown on the vodka, my friend. It will not do you good.”
“No, we didn’t fight. We are okay. She does not have any idea that because I love her, I think I will hurt her.” He said sadly.
“Ha? What happened?” Timothy asked puzzled, then said gently, “I’m here to listen. You know, you have done it for me in the past and you got me through my bad break-up with Belinda.” Timothy added. He and Richard went a long way back, since they met each other when they started taking that post-graduate course in Harvard.
Richard, despite Timothy’s advice, took another drink, then started unburdening himself as Timothy gave him an encouraging gesture to proceed.
“My ex-fiancee, Alexandra is in Manhattan. She came to the apartment several days ago. She told me she is pregnant and I’m the father. I refused to marry her since she and I have been over months ago, and we are bad news together. I offered to support her and the baby. I even offered to raise the child if she does not want it. She gave me an ultimatum, either I marry her or she will have the baby aborted.
Then there’s Maya. She just started her life, a new job. I don’t want to drag her into this mess. I love her too much to burden her. I haven’t heard from Alexandra since that night, but she emailed me yesterday her schedule at a clinic near her parents’ apartment. See, isn’t enough to drive a man to drink to oblivion?” Richard finished miserably.
Timothy took a deep breath, and took a big drink. Indeed, the situation is a mess.
“Richard, in all this, have you thought of giving Maya a choice, an option? Isn’t it better that she knows the situation, that she decides for herself where she would like to stand in this situation as it also involves her? From what you told me of her, she is a very nice, sensible and understanding girl. Otherwise, you wouldn’t have fallen in love with her, isn’t it?” Timothy said. “Yes, she will be burdened, but isn’t what love is, being each other’s support in good times and especially so, in bad times.”
“I know, I thought of that. I was tempted this evening. But what if I lose her?” Richard asked. “I can’t bear it. Besides, what about the baby? It’s my child we are talking about?”
“Hmmmm, about that. Are you sure, it is yours? Didn’t you tell me that Alexandra partied a lot during the time you were together. Sorry, I just had to ask that.” Timothy said apologetically.
“For some reason, yes, I believe her on this. Though, in the beginning I had doubts. But if she is telling me the correct weeks of the pregnancy, that it is mine. She told me she stopped taking the pills at some point since she wanted to get pregnant with my child.” Richard assured Timothy as he really felt, Alexandra really wanted to hook him in whatever way she could, and she can’t do that if she just manufactured something.
“Or maybe, the question is, is she really pregnant?” Timothy asked next.
“She seems fuller when I saw her, and there is a slight bump in her stomach. Besides, I don’t think she will go to this length if she is not. She knew already that I really wanted to be as far away from her as much as I could.” Richard said. “I would like to try to reason out with her as much as I could and until my voice gets hoarse, or until she sees reason.”
“That’s the attitude! You’ll never know. Maybe she will see the light. In the meantime, you should think really hard about talking to Maya. Besides, isn’t it better that she learns this from you and not from someone else?” Timothy finished as he patted Richard on the shoulder.
“You are right. I will. I just needed to find the right time to do so. As it is, she has a lot on her plate at the moment. There is a strong possibility that she will be sent somewhere, in a remote part of Asia soon. She speaks a lot of languages among others and they needed her in Kabul.” Richard added. “Thank you for listening Tim. Let’s hope for the best.”
“Richard, anytime! We are friends.” Timothy then stood up. “Come, I will take you home.”
The two friends went home, Richard feeling optimistic again.
That same evening, Maya can’t sleep. She really felt that there is something Richard was not telling her. She had this unsettling feeling that something is about to unfold and it may not be good. She decided to see how Richard is the following evening, cook him dinner and cheer him up. She went to bed, happy with her plan.
The following night, the wonderful smell of food assaulted Richard’s senses when he entered his apartment.
“Ricky, you are home!” Maya greeted from the kitchen. “Dinner is almost ready! I hope you like kare-kare.” She said with a smile.
“Maya, what a nice surprise! So, that is why you were asking me what time I will be home.” Richard said, grinning, so happy to see Maya. He temporarily forgot all his troubles, by her mere presence. “I love kare-kare, one my favorite food! And you can cook that?
“Of course naman. Mamang thought me kaya!” Maya pretended to be affronted, but her smile ruined the whole thing. “Saka mabuti, I found the ingredients, except I am using regular meat and mabuti Emman bought a bagoong in a bottle from the Filipino store near his cousin’s place in Philly over the weekend.”
“Thank you, Maya. For this, and for just being here!” Richard said happily. “Mabuti, you were able to get away from work early.”
“Oh that. Antoine, my French superior, said I can go home early to share the news with my loved ones.” Maya replied. She had hoped to be sharing that news with Richard after dinner. “Mamaya ko na lang sasabihin. Kain na muna tayo.”
Richard suddenly felt nervous. He knew what was coming. On top of everything, the thing he had been dreading in a way, was about to happen. But he knew, all he can do is support Maya and let her fly and spread her wings. He wanted to see her soar beautifully.
Maya put the finishing touches on the table setting. Richard grabbed a bottle of wine from the fridge. He seated Maya and then sat on the chair on her left.
“Wow, this tastes good.” Richard remarked after tasting Maya’s kare-kare.
“I told you. You have no faith, Mr. Richard Lim, eh!” Maya quipped.
They smiled at each other and attacked the food with gusto. In between, they have shared how their day had been. After dinner, in synched, they clean the table and out away the dishes.
“So, what was it you wanted to tell me?” Richard asked, later, when they were sitting by the big window, sipping coffee.
Maya put down her cup, then put her hand on top of Ricky’s. “My love, I’m leaving for Kabul next week. They really need someone to relieve the one currently stationed in our office there. It was supposed to be for January, but she needed to endorse things to me and the senior staffer who will replace her. I will be along as the staffer’s assistant since I am still new.”
“Oh! I never thought that it would be this fast. But of course, I understand. You take good care of yourself there, and I will call you everyday as soon as you get settled.” Richard said, trying to overcome the extreme sadness he was feeling. He went to Maya’s side, held her gently by the shoulder and gestured for her to stand. Then, he cupped her chin.
“Maya, I’m happy the way your career is starting to take off. Please always remember that no matter what happen, I will always love you, only you.” Richard said while looking at Maya with all the love he was feeling. He then lowered his lips to her and gave her a searing kiss, pouring all he was feeling in that kiss. He decided to come clean to Maya this evening, but first he needed to fortify himself.
Maya responded to Richard’s kiss. At the same time, at the back of her mind, she was wondering what brought this on. She felt nervous all of a sudden. She was trying to fight the thought that there is something more to Richard’s impassioned statement than her impending assignment.
“Ricky, my love. There is only you. I love you very much. I hope we will be together forever.” Maya said fervently. She decided to let go of her nagging thoughts, and gave all to the kiss, or kisses she and Richard are sharing now.
“Madam, please, go back the lobby….”
Richard and Maya broke apart when they heard loud voices outside the apartment’s door. They looked at each other puzzled. A loud bang on the door followed. Richard decided to check, Maya followed him to the door, wanting to know also what was the commotion all about.
Richard opened the door and got the surprise of his life. “Alex, what are you doing here?”
“Mr. Lim, I’m very sorry. She just ran past by me while I was attending to the guests of Mr. Masters. I told her to wait, as I was going to give you a call first. I ran after her, but here we are.” Franklin said very apologetic.
“It’s not your fault Franklin. Please go back downstairs. I will take it from here.” Richard replied. “Alex, again why are you here? Didn’t I say in the e-mail to give me time!”
“Well, I can’t afford that anymore, Richard. My parents know I’m pregnant and that you are the father!” She said without preamble, and someone gasped loudly in the background.
“Oh God, Maya….” Richard blurted out, then went to a shocked Maya. She looked like she lost all the colors on her face. “My love, I will tell you about this, this evening. I was about to but….
“‘My love’, so I am right Richard Lim, there is another girl.” Alex said angrily, then looked at Maya insultingly. “Heto lang ba ang ipinalit mo sa akin.”
Richard flared up at that. “Enough, Alex, please! You don’t have to say that to my girlfriend. She much more than you are. She is the love of my life. Maya, let me explain please. Alexandra here was my ex-fiancee. I will tell you about the whole thing this evening. Honest, I was!”
But it seems, Alex hadn’t had enough, even if she can see the tears Maya was trying very hard to stop from falling. “I never agreed to the break-up, and we are having a baby. You know what will happen if you don’t marry me, especially now that my ‘holier than thou’, conservative parents know already.”
“That’s not true Alex. We broke up months ago. And I told you I will support you and the baby but not marry you. You know….” Richard countered, when he felt a hand on his arm. He saw Maya with tears she was trying to hold back, putting a brave face.
“Ricky, I will go ahead.” She said, gently, steadfastly, putting a brave front. She felt her heart would burst from all the emotions she was feeling at that moment, she can’t think straight. “I will let myself out. Here, take this. I don’t think I will be needing this.” She pressed the key he gave her in his hand, then looked at him gently, sadly, lovingly, “Take care.”
“Maya, don’t do this please.” Richard ran after a departing Maya. “I will explain. Please give me that chance. Please.”
Maya looked at Richard distressed face. So, this is what was bothering him last night. She may not know the whole thing, but she knew it was a difficult situation he was in. But at that moment, she didn’t really know what to think. She needed to process the whole thing. But despite this, she believes in Richard and what they had the past month or so. She nodded. She just can’t speak at that moment.
“Thank you, Maya. Believe in our love. I love you.” Richard said earnestly. “Take care. I will see you when I manage to make sense of everything myself.”
Maya left Richard’s apartment with a heavy heart. Richard on the other hand, had no other recourse but to let her. He needed to pacify Alexandra and deal with her, her parents and soon, he knows, his Papa as well. He does not want Maya to get hurt as she already is.
Several days after that incident, Maya jumped every time her phone beeped or rang. But none came from Richard. She was getting worried, but she was holding on to what he said. When she managed to process everything, she realized that Richard was caught into something that maybe, was not really of his own making. She believed him when he said he and Alexandra had been over months ago. She can’t explain it, but she just do. She wanted to give him time to sort everything out.
However, the trust in him was slowly being eroded by his silence as the days passed. It was the night before she was supposed to start her long journey to Afghanistan, but still no communication from him. Even her mom, whom she saw several times the past days was asking if she has a problem and had asked after Richard. She told her she was okay, and that they were okay. She didn’t want her mother to worry.
The morning of her departure, she woke up early, still no messages, e-mails or calls. Still she hoped, but waited for nothing. Before she left for the airport, tears blurring her vision of the keyboard, she wrote him an e-mail, saying goodbye. She sent it then closed her laptop.
The journey to Kabul took twice as long in her mind, with the sadness she was feeling. She numbed herself, not wanting to think or feel. She just thought of the work she need to do, including learning Pashto and Dari, the official languages of Afghanistan. She does not have time to ‘mourn’ the death of her relationship with Richard.
Soon after her arrival, what she saw was a shock to her senses at first, but she was not in Kabul to sightsee, but to work and help improve the lives of the people there caught in the political upheavals in Afghanistan. At first she refused to open her personal e-mail, for fear of not seeing a reply from Richard. However, when she did, she felt like laughing and crying at the same time as her e-mail bounced! She must have copied the address wrong as she was crying at that time. But still, there was no mail from Richard. She gave him her e-mail address too. She remembered writing it at the back of his business card when they dined at La Signora the first time.
The holiday season came and went and she was just contented to Skype with her family. Her mom, as if sensing that something had happened between her and Richard, did not ask about him. It was the loneliest holiday season she had spent, in a foreign land, away from her family and suffering from a broken heart.
If December was bleak, January was the pits. The emotion she was trying to bottle up, no matter how difficult, burst. The catalyst was a small article in the online edition of a Philippine newspaper. She clicked on it and wished she hadn’t. It was an article detailing the marriage of Richard Lim, heir to the vast Lim family fortune, and the socialite, Alexandra Coronel in New York. It also happened while she was feeling nostalgic and was listening to her ‘Rent’ album, the first show in Broadway she had seen with Richard. The album was a gift from him. She was missing him so much. Good thing it was in the middle of the night and she was alone. She just broke down and cried. The song playing in her iPod at that time was apt, very apt.
The ground thaws
The rain falls
The grass grows
The seeds root
The flowers bloom
The children play
The stars gleam
The poets dream
The eagles fly
The earth turns
The sun burns
But I die without you
Maya knew that she needed to pick up the pieces of her broken heart, alone, no matter how difficult. One thing she also knew at that time, the song was right, she felt she had died a little.
The eyes gaze
The legs walks
The lungs breathe
The mind churns
The heart yearns
The tears dry without you
Life goes on but I’m gone
‘Cause I die without you…..
She shut down her iPod when she realized the album was still playing on and on. That was the last time she listened to her ‘Rent’ album. Sleep came after an hour or so, fitful as it was, and she woke up with very puffy eyes. She looked out, the sun shining bright. She took a deep breath and forged on, as the song also said, life goes on. She will be strong and rise above this heartache, one day at a time.
Richard was in the middle of telling an anecdote about his student life in Harvard, when he realized that Maya has fallen asleep, and was snoring lightly, while half-lying on his chest. He smiled at her lovingly. She must be tired from all the activities they have done the past several days, coupled with the extra work she did at the hotel while serving her notice. She took in extra hours so that some of her colleagues can go on leave. She told them, it was her way of thanking them for taking her in. Maya told him that they were so happy for her, that one evening, they organized a surprise going away party for her.
He was reluctant to move Maya as he might interrupt her slumber, but she will rest better if she is in a regular bed. Slowly, he lifted her into his arms, then stood up, carrying Maya to his bed. She stirred a bit, but didn’t wake up when he put her down. He covered Maya with the comforter after removing her shoes.
Richard stared at his beautiful, sleeping girlfriend. How he loves her! He never expected this when he took that flight to New York, but he is very happy at this wonderful and unexpected development in his life. He has not gotten around to telling Maya about his tumultous relationship with Alexandra. The truth is, he just wanted to forget it and start anew with Maya. He wanted to put the whole thing in the past where it belongs. Maya never asked him, anyway. He thought it was because she is that kind of person, positive, happy and believes in the best of everyone. For sure, she would even find a goodness in Alexandra and all her actions. Richard wanted to be the best person, the best man, for her.
Maya stirred a bit, then burrowed herself deep into the comforter. Richard dimmed the lights. He decided to take a shower before going to bed. When he was done, he laid down beside Maya, hugging her, then slowly succumbed to sleep too. He was comforted by the fact that Maya was sleeping beside him, for the first time. He promised to be a perfect gentleman and he will be. Richard had the most restful sleep that night.
During the night, positions shifted as both Richard and Maya unconsciously sought the warm of each other body while sleeping. By morning, Maya was half-lying on Richard’s chest, while Richard’s arms were around Maya’s. They were lying like one person in the middle of Richard’s big bed.
Maya woke up with a start, and realized that she was not alone in the bed, and that she was not lying on her own bed. She didn’t panic as the arms around her felt familiar. She looked and saw Richard sleeping peacefully. He looked so much younger, but still as handsome, without his glasses on. She smiled and caressed his face gently, lovingly. Richard slowly opened his eyes, looked at Maya, and offered her his lopsided smile.
“Good morning, my love!” Richard turned and cradled his head on his hand and arm. “Did you sleep well?”
“Good morning, Ricky.” Suddenly Maya felt shy, conscious that she and Ricky were on the same bed, even if she was fully clothed and so was he, in a white t-shirt and pajama bottoms. “Sorry, I seemed to have just conked out on you. The last thing I remember was us, watching the night in the terrace. Grabe, tinulugan kita! I’m so sorry!”
“Yes, na-bore ka yata sa kwento ko kaya bigla mo na lang akong tinulugan.” Richard teased Maya.
“Sorry na nga. Promise, babawi ako.” Maya said smiling. “I will make breakfast. What do you want?”
“How about a good morning kiss?” Richard said smiling.
“Well, aside from that.” Maya said, but gave him a quick kiss on the lips, anyway. “Iyan lang muna. I haven’t brush my teeth. Saka, I look like a fright na yata.”
“Ms. Maya Dela Rosa, are you fishing for a compliment? You are beautiful my love, kahit bagong gising.” Richard lovingly caressed Maya’s cheek. “And I don’t care kahit hindi ka pa naka-toothbrush.” Then he kissed her gently.
Maya responded to Richard’s kiss, and in that lovely morning, they shared several heated kisses and caresses, before Richard stopped, while he still can. He wanted to take things slow with Maya. This, being her first relationship.
“Maya, my love, we better stop. I promised you I will be a gentleman. I would like to honor that promise, and it is getting quite hard to do so, with your tempting self here in my bed.” Richard said lovingly while catching his breath, and hiding from Maya the evidence of his desire for her.
Maya blushed and buried her face on Richard’s broad chest. “Ikaw kasi.”
Richard smiled at that. “I know. I love you, Ms. Maya Dela Rosa.”
“I love you more, Mr. Richard Lim.” Maya replied.
They smiled at each other, then Richard got out of the bed. He held out his hand to Maya. Maya asked if she can use the bathroom. Richard said there are some spare toiletries in the guest room. He got it for Maya so she can take a bath. He also loaned her one of his dress shirts to wear, and he found a pair of leggings Maya can wear in the room that Rafi used. An hour later, they were in the kitchen, drinking coffee.
“So tuloy ba tayo sa Central Park, today?” Richard asked.
“Yes please. But I needed to go back to the apartment. I don’t have a change of clothes.” Maya said, conscious that she is naked under the clothes Richard loaned her. “We can go there after our coffee.”
“Okay, we can eat breakfast after, then pick up the food I ordered for our picnic.” Richard suggested.
“That’s sounds like a good plan.” Maya said, smiling at Richard, looking forward to their day together.
Three hours or so after, they were walking at the Conservatory Garden inside Central Park. This is Maya’s favorite place in this huge park. They chatted while they enjoyed the beauty of the garden divided into three styles, English, French and Italian. When they got tired of walking, they found a nice spot for a picnic in Cherry Hill, overlooking Bow Bridge. Maya spread the picnic blanket at the base of a big tree. Richard sat down and leaned against the tree and then put Maya between his legs, leaning against him.
“Coffee, my love?” Maya asked as she held the coffee thermos they brought with them.
“Yes, please. Ikaw?” Richard asked.
“I will have a cup too.” Maya said as she handed Richard a steaming cup of coffe after putting two sachets of sugar in it and stirring it slowly.
“Thank you, Maya. Your coffee tastes very good.” Richard said as he took a sip of his steaming coffee. “When will you know if you will be assigned abroad?”
“I don’t know yet. But there is a big chance. They need a radio and TV producer, actually, in Kabul and that I can do. Pero baka naman it is a job for a more senior staffer. Ako naman, I will start pa lang.” Maya shrugged. “Pero I’m okay naman. Handa naman ako kahit saan ako ma-assign. Iyon nga lang maiiwan kita.”
“I hope, not so soon. Pero if ever, okay lang naman sa akin. There are a lot of ways naman to communicate these days. I will just be here.” Richard assured Maya. “Like I have told you before, we can find ways to make this relationship work despite the distance. Basta, don’t let go of your dreams. I love you with all my heart and all of me and it will not change, no matter what.”
“Thank you, my love.” Maya gave Richard a kiss. “You are the best. I’m so lucky to have you. I love you very much also, and the thought of life without you is unthinkable.”
“I’m the lucky one, Maya.” Richard said as he hugged Maya tight. “Hindi mo alam kung paano mo binago ang buhay ko.”
They shared a loving look as they continued to drink their coffee, then ate the sandwiches and cold cuts the deli packed for them. More than two hours later, they decided to head out of the park. Richard took Maya home.
“Good luck again on your first day of work, my love. I’m sure you will be great.” Richard said while standing on the doorsteps of Maya’s apartment building. “Dinner tomorrow night?”
“Thank you, Ricky.I’m excited na nga. Baka hindi ako makatulog nito!” Maya smiled at Richard. “Okay for dinner. Can I text you tomorrow on what time we will meet? I don’t know yet how long will have to be at work.”
“Of course, no hurry. And if you can’t, just call me and let me know.” Richard assured Maya. “I’ll get going. I love you. Good night.”
“I love you, too.” Maya gave Richard a quick kiss. “Good night. Drive carefully.”
Maya went inside the apartment, still smilling, so happy with the way her life is turning out.
“Hi roomie, I’m back!” Emman greeted Maya as soon as she entered the apartment. “I will not ask kung saan ka galing. Kasama mo na naman ang guwapong-guwapong Prince Charming mo. Pero di ba, dapat kahapon ka pa bumalik from your parents’ house?”
“Yes, kahapon pa. Nag-picnic lang kami ni Ricky sa Central Park.” Maya replied as she put her things on the table by the door.
“Wow, talaga naman! In this weather, medyo malamig na ah! Sabagay, meron ka namang human warmer. Eh ako man iyan, go na go.” Emman teased Maya.
“Ikaw talaga, Emman.” Maya smiled. “O kumusta naman si Edselyn?”
‘Hayun, ganoon pa rin. Luka-luka pa rin ang pinsan ko na iyon! Kalog na kalog. We had fun the whole weekend.” Emman replied. “O siya, magpapahinga na ako at maaga pa akong papasok bukas. Kadarating ko lang rin. Good luck sa bagong work ha. The hotel will not be the same without you there.”
“Thanks Emman.” Maya said. “I passed by there yesterday. May ibinigay lang ako kay Doris. Pakisabi na lang sa kanila na dadalaw ako the soonest.”
Maya went to her room, thinking that by then, Richard was already home.
Indeed, Richard was home. He was waylaid by the doorman/reception staff, Franklin, when he entered the building holding a small package he got from the convenience store near the apartment. He needed a can of shaving cream.
“Mr. Lim, good evening, Sir.” Franklin greeted Richard as he approached him. “Someone came looking for you earlier. In fact, she has been here thrice the past several hours. I rang your place, but no one answered, then I remembered you leaving with Ms. Dela Rosa earlier. The lady said she will be back.”
“She? Did she leave a name?” Richard was puzzled on who could that be since he and Maya just parted, and Rafi naman was spending the Thanksgiving weekend with Charlie’s family in Virginia. Besides, Franklin knows both of them. Wala na siyang ibang maisip na nakakaalam ng place niya, or that he was back in the apartment.
“Yes, she did. Let me just check my log.” Franklin went to his desk and checked the name he jotted down. “She said her name is Alexandra Coronel.”
Richard was so surprised, he was not able to react quickly. “Alexandra Coronel!”
“Oh, you don’t know her then?” Franklin remarked.
“No, I know her. But I was not expecting her nor I’m aware that she is in New York at the moment.” Richard clarified. “But let me know if she comes back, okay. Thanks a lot.” He added, wondering why is Alexandra looking for him. First, she badgered his mother on his whereabouts, then Rafi too. What gives?
“I think, there is no need for that.” Franklin suddenly said. “I think I saw her, about to enter the lobby. Yes, that’s her.”
True enough, the revolving door revealed Alex, chicly dressed in a designer coat, haute couture dress, and Manolo Blahnik boots.
“Hello, Richard.” She said upon seeing Richard standing by the strict doorman she encountered earlier. “At last, I have caught you. You are a difficult man to pin down.”
“Hello, Alexandra!” Richard said politely, not saying anything more.
“Can we talk? Can we go up to your apartment. I have something important to tell you.” She said, straightforward, quite impreriously, then added, “this is too private for an audience.”
Richard looked at Alexandra for a while, then nodded. “Okay, let’s go up. But you can only stay for a short time Alexandra. I’m tired and I will have a full day at work tomorrow.”
Thy rode the elevator silently. When they got inside Richard’s apartment, he told Alexandra to sit on the sofa, and asked her if she would like a drink. She decline. Instead of sitting, she walked towards the big window.
“Richard, I’ll be quick and straight. I’m pregnant. And before you ask, if you are thinking of asking that insulting question, yes the baby is yours. It probably happened the last time we made love.” Alexandra said.
Her words didn’t sink it with Richard, at first, then it penetrated his consciousness, and he felt like there was a sudden buzzing sound in his head. “W-what? How did it happen? I thought you were on the pill?”
Richard remembered him and Alexandra having a making up sex after they got back together in September, just before the fight that ended their relationship. He was not really into it, but she insisted, saying that it would prove that they were really okay. She initiated the whole thing. But he participated in it, he admitted to that, hoping that it will help patch their relationship faster.
“Well, I stopped. I wanted to get pregnant.” Alexandra said defiantly.
“Without even telling me? Don’t I have a say in it also?” Richard felt like raising his voice and getting mad at Alexandra’s selfishness, but he controlled himself. He need a cool head and shouldn’t be surprised with this attitude, with this action of hers.
Instead of saying sorry, Alexandra just said “It’s my body, anyway.”
“Now, you are telling me that you are pregnant and that we are having a baby, out of the blue!” Richard was having a hard time believing Alexandra’s gall. “Ganoon na lang iyon Alex? Hindi mo ba naisip ang consequence ng action mo. Are you even ready to be a parent?”
“Yes, I am telling you that I’m pregnant and that you are the father. That was why I was trying to reach you. But your mother, and also your cousin won’t tell me where you were staying!” She said, her voice rising.
“So, how did you find me?” Richard asked, wanting to buy time to process everything, and at the same time, calm Alexandra.
“Well, I lucked out before your cousin and her family moved out. It was your niece Abigail who answered the phone when I tried calling here one more time. I was planning to appeal to Rafi and tell her why I was trying to reach you. Abby told me that they were moving back to their place so her Uncle Richard can have his place again. I pumped her for information. Luckily, that cousin of yours didn’t tell your niece to lie!” Alexandra said sarcastically.
“Rafi will not do that. And don’t you have any shame, doing that to an innocent child!” Richard is starting to get angry at Alex’s actions.
‘Why not, I didn’t do anything wrong. I just chatted her up. Besides, the end justifies the means, isn’t it?” Alexandra continued. “So, when do you want us to get married? It better be soon. I don’t want to walk down the aisle with a big tummy. Sayang naman ang Vera Wang gown ko!”
“What, get married! No way, Alexandra! I’m so sorry. I will do right with the baby, support you and our child, give her or him my name and if you don’t want the baby, I will take care of the child, I will raise the child but I will not marry you.” Richard said clearly and in a very calm tone. “I thought that you understood that you and I can never be, especially now.”
“Why is that Richard? Is there someone else? Kaya ba iniiwasan mo ako?” Alexandra said agressively. She was thinking that if there is another girl in Richard’s life, she will find her.
Richard realized then that he can’t drag Maya into this situation. Alexandra sounded unpredictable and unstable at the moment. He tried to calm himself and reasoned out with her. “Alex, Alex, please listen to me. We should get married for the right reasons, with the right person. We are not. Somewhere out there is a guy for you. I’m not that person. We will just make each other miserable if we get married.”
Unfortunately, Alexandara was not up to listening to reason. “No Richard, it’s marriage or I will have this baby aborted! Think about it. I will be at my parents’ apartment. Don’t take long.” Then she stormed out of Richard’s apartment.
Long after she left, Richard just stared at the New York skyline, having a drink at the terrace where he spent a very nice time with Maya the night before, trying to think of a way out of this situation. He love Maya will all his heart and the thought of marrying another is killing him. However, Alexandra has not given him much room to maneuver.
“Oh God, what a mess!” He exclaimed, at the same time praying he will find a win-win solution, no matter how difficult it will be, especially now that he found the love of his life.
Richard thought, he will be a father, there is another human being involved in this, a defenseless one at that. He was not so sure if Alexandra will not make good of her threat to have their baby aborted. He needed to think. One thing was foremost in his mind at that time, aside from the welfare of his unborn child, he need to resolve this without dragging Maya in. She does not deserve this. He loves her too much for her to get drag into this situation which he already had an inkling then will not have a happy outcome no matter what.
Love sweet love
“Richard drive carefully, hijo.” Maya’s mom, Tessie Dela Rosa-Winters, told Richard as he and Maya were about to get into the car to drive back to New York that Saturday after spending Thanksgiving with them. Richard and Maya arrived at the Winters family home Wednesday afternoon.
“Maya anak, ingat ha, and update me, please if possible on Monday evening. I want to know how’s your first day at work. Tapos if they will assign you somewhere soon, let me know also kaagad. I know it would not be like you being in the Philippines lang. I just want to know and prepare na there is a possibility na matagal kitang hindi makikita at baka nga mahirap ang communication sa lugar na pupuntahan mo. Good luck ulit anak and congratulations. I’m so proud of you.”
“Yes Mom, I will.” Maya promised her mother as she hugged her one more time. “Thank you for everything. Daddy Mark, than you very much also.” She went to her stepfather and gave him a tight hug too. She really owes this wonderful man a lot.
“Yes, Mrs. Winters, I will be careful po.” Richard promised Maya’s mom. “Thank you again for having me. Mr. Winters,” Richard shook Daddy Mark’s hand, who not only shook his hand in return, but gave him a pat in the back.
“It was nice meeting and having you, Richard. Take care of our daughter.” Maya’s stepfather told Richard. “Maya, honey, you take care okay and wow those diplomats at the UN with your skills.”
“Please see us again, ha.” Mommy Tessie told Richard. She was happy to meet Maya’s boyfriend, her daughter’s first. She was surprised when Maya called up several days before she came for a visit to ask if she could bring with her, her boyfriend. Mommy Tessie had no idea that her daughter already had a boyfriend. But she knew that Maya is of age and has been pretty independent and responsible most of her adult life. She didn’t give her any grief. She also knew that her daughter is not the type to rush into something she hasn’t thought about very well.
“We will, Mom, Daddy Mark. Pakisabi na lang kina Luke and Nikki na umalis na kami” Maya told her mother. Her siblings were still sleeping. All of them had a late night last night. They had a very nice family bonding time. They chatted, played cards and board games, had midnight snacks, and teased each other mercilessly, especially the kids. Richard fitted well in into their family dynamics. He also spent quite some time chatting with Maya’s stepfather.
Maya, on the other hand, during the visit, had an opportunity to talk to her mom alone about Richard and the circumstances of their meeting, and how they became a couple. She told her mother that she and Richard had been inseparable since they met each other and especially so, when they became boyfriend and girlfriend more than a week before the Thanksgiving week. Maya assured her mother that Richard is the nicest guy and a gentleman, who always takes care of her, and a very loving boyfriend. Mommy Tessie told her daughter that she is happy for her, and she will always be there for her if she needs advice. She also told Maya that she trusts her judgment and she is old enough, anyway, to forge her way through life. All she can do for her from then on, is to be there for her if she needs her.
“Did you have a wonderful time, my love?” Maya asked Richard after a while. She invited Richard to celebrate Thanksgiving with her family after she found out that he will be alone on that day. She wanted to from the beginning, but Richard might have made some plans already even before they became a couple. She was really glad that he said yes.
“Of course I did. I was very happy to meet your family. I like your parents, and Luke and Nikki are a joy. Tama ka ang kukulit nila. Pero at the same time, good kids. Maayos ang pagpapalaki ng Mom and Dad mo sa kanila.”
“True. Nakaka-miss nga rin sila.” Maya said. “But anyway, I will still see them from time to time. Hindi naman malayo ang New Jersey sa New York.”
“What are your plans for tomorrow, Maya?” Richard asked as tomorrow would be Maya’s last day before she started working for the UN.
“Wala naman. I’m planning to stay at home, rest before I report for work.” Maya replied as she settled more comfortable into her seat. Bakit pala?”
“Hmmm, baka you want to spend it with me since baka last day na natin ito to be together ng medyo matagal. From what I heard, baka you will have long hours din in your new job.” Richard suggested as he want to spend more time with Maya before both of them get very busy again. “How about a picnic at Central Park?”
“Great idea, Mr. Lim. Tara, sige. I will prepare everything na lang.” Maya suggested. “What would you like to eat?”
“No Maya, rest ka na lang. Di ba dapat relax ka nga lang. I will take care of everything. I will order a picnic basket at the deli near LHI.” Richard said. “This is my treat for my brilliant and beautiful girlfriend.”
“Thank you, my love. Ikaw talaga ang number one cheering squad ko.” Maya grinned. “Okay, if that is more convenient. I would need to go pa nga to the shop when we return if I will prepare the food. I’m looking forward to spending more time with you rin. Parang bitin ang three days natin with my family. I’m glad, though, that we got to spend those days with them.”
Most of the trip back, they just chatted about their visit to her family. Richard was touched when Maya asked him if he would like to go with her to New Jersey. He wanted really to spend Thanskgiving with her and her family, but was waiting for Maya to issue the invitation as her family might have a plan already for this occasion. He wanted to meet her family and got to know them. He knew that Maya is just starting her life, younger by five years, and still have a lot of goals and dreams to achieve, but in the long run, he wanted a life with her. He can wait. They are both young. He needed to forge his way within LHI too, but he, sort of, know know already where he will be and what he needs to do for the next couple of years.
Richard parked his car at the usual spot when they reached Maya’s apartment. He took out her bag and accompanied her to the front door.
“Dinner later?” He asked all of a sudden. “I will cook for you. Di ba, nasa Philadelphia pa si Emman. Wala kang kasama.”
“Really! Masarap ka bang magluto Mr. Lim?” She asked teasingly. “Or mali yata ang tanong, dapat ang tanong, marunong ka bang magluto?”
“Ha, ha, ha, of course I know how. Sayang naman ang mga itinuro sa akin ni Manang Fe.” Richard said, grinning
Maya grinned back. “Okay, pero don’t fetch me na. I need to go back to the hotel one last time din this evening to give something to Doris. I will walk to your place from there.”
“Hmmm, sure it would be safe to do so, on your own?” Richard asked. He got used to walking with Maya all the time.
“Naku, safe na safe, Mr Lim, hwag kang mag-aalala. I have been walking on my own, often, before I met you.” Maya assured her protective boyfriend.
“Okay, I will see you later. Bye, my love.” Richard said then kissed Maya lightly on the lips. “I love you.”
“See you. Ingat sa pagmamaneho.” Maya said. “I love you too.”
Richard waited until Maya was inside the apartment building before he drove off towards the direction of his apartment. As soon as he entered his unit, after parking his car at his slot, he inspected the place and was glad that it is very tidy. The cleaning lady did a thorough job of cleaning the apartment while he was away with Maya. This will be the first time that Maya will see his place and he is looking forward to that. He had been meaning to invite her here, but she was busy since she submitted her letter of resignation to the hotel.
More than an hour later, Richard was finished with the pasta sauce he cooked. He let it simmered while he took a shower, then changed into a polo shirt and a pair of jeans that suits him very well. He set the table. He wanted everything to be special. Several minutes after he was done, the doorbell rang. He had left intstructions with the doorman to let Maya in, so this must be her.
“Hi my love, welcome to my home away from home.” He happily greeted Maya, then gave her a quick kiss on the lips. “You look very lovely, my love as always.” Maya was wearing another sheath dress, violet this time, that hugged her curves and reached above the knee, showing her shapely legs.
“Hi my love. Thank you.” Maya said as she returned Richard’s kiss and gave him the flowers she was carrying and the beautiful vase that goes with it. “My ‘welome back home’ gift to you.”
“Thank you, it’s lovely, just want this place needs, some flowers to brighten things up, aside from your presence.” Richard smiled and gaze at Maya lovingly. He put the flowers on the console table. “Come, let’s eat na. Are you hungry? What would you like to drink, red wine, white wine or soda?”
“Hmmm, white wine please.” Maya said as Richard led her to the dining room of his spacious apartment. She saw that the dining table was beautifully set for two, with fine china and candles. “Wow, mukhang pinaghandaan mo ang dinner natin. Lovely table setting. Ricky. Saka parang ang sarap ng food. Kahit hindi ko pa natitkman, naniniwala na ako, that Manang Fe taught you well!”
“For my the most special lady in my life, maganda dapat parati ang lahat.” He said as he cupped her chin, then kissed her. They shared a sweet kiss. “Have a seat, my love. I will just get your drink.” Richard told Maya as he pulled a chair for her, then opened the fridge to get a chilled bottle of white wine. He poured a glass each for Maya and him.
“To our first dinner here, my love. I hope you will consider this place as your home away from home too.” Richard said as he looked lovingly at Maya.
“Thank you, Ricky. To our first dinner here. Thank you for being the best boyfriend in the world!” Maya felt so happy at that moment. It was just so perfect. She felt like she was seeing a glimpse of what life would be like if she and Richard end up together. She was wishing then, and praying, that he will be the one she will spend the rest of her life with, no matter how far into the future would that be. She can’t think of another one, only him.
Richard and Maya had a lovely dinner, marked by their normal chatter and loving gazes. They got wrapped up in their own world again. After dinner, Maya offered to help Richard clean. At first, he told her to just relax, but she insisted, saying that they will finish the task faster if they work together. They went to the living room after they have started the dishwasher.
Richard carried with him, his and Maya’s wine glasses, then asked her to sit down in one of the armchairs by the window. He sat on the other one. He also opened the curtain and what was revelead was a breathtaking view of Manhattan at night. Maya loved it very much. They enjoyed their wine while chatting.
“This is a very nice place Ricky.” Maya remarked. “How long have you had this place?”
“I think, around three years. I fell in love with the location. Hindi lang kita masyado ngayon, pero this place as an incredible view of Central Park. Dapat the next time you are here, araw.” He said, in between sipping his wine and caressing Maya’s hand.
“Come, I will give you a tour.” Richard stood up and held out his hand to Maya, intertwining their fingers, he led her to the guest rooms of the house, then to his study, and finally his bedroom. It was huge, occupying half of the house, and decorated in masculine tones. “There is a terrace on one side of the bedroom, that corner, and the view there is very nice too.” He said as he pointed to the left side of the room.
Maya liked the whole place. Everything just flowed, uncluttered. “Thank you for the tour. I really like your place.” She said after their return to the living room, which she now notice has floor-to-ceiling windows.
“Well, my love, like I have told you earlier. Consider this your home too, In fact, here….” Richard gave Maya a key he got from his jeans’ pocket.
Maya was startled. “What for?” Her heart skipped a beat.
“Mi casa es su casa, my love.” Richard said as he closed Maya’s hand with the key, then lifted it to his lips and kissed it. “My house is yours. Just come and go.”
“Ricky…..” She started to protest.
“Uh oh, no arguments please.” Richard put his index finger on Maya’s lips, then started caressing it. Maya caught her breath and looked at Richard.
Seeing the expression on Maya’s beautiful, expressive face, Richard lowered his lips to Maya’s and kissed her. Before long, they were exchanging heated kisses.
“Maya I love you very much.” Richard muttered in between driving Maya senseless with his kisses.
“I love you very much too, Ricky, so very much, that sometimes, it is making me afraid.” She said.
Richard stopped kissing Maya, and gently cupped her chin. “Why is that, my love?”
Maya took a deep breath and said, “The feeling I have for you is so intense. Minsan, I feel like my heart will burst from sheer happiness. In such a short time, you became the center of my universe. I guess, I’m overwhelmed, sometimes. Ngayon ko lang kasi ito naramdaman. My youthful crushes was nothing, not even a speck, of what I am feeling for you. Sometimes, I had a hard time believing you are in my life, parang feeling ko panaginip ang lahat.”
“I’m real, Maya, you and I, what we have, it’s not a dream. We are real. Don’t be overwhelmed. I feel the same. I’m so happy and so very, very thankful that you came into my life, that we met in the most unexpected place and in a unique circumstance. You made me so happy. Trust me on this, my love. I had relationships and those were nothing compared to what we have, to what we feel for each other. I’m so happy to know that I’m loved by you. I know you still have a lot of dreams and we still have a lot to face, but I want a future with you, no matter how long it takes.”
“Oh Ricky….” Maya said with so much emotion, then hugged Richard tight.
They hugged each other tight, and they stayed like that for quite some time. Then Richard loosen his embrace to kiss her gently on the forehead and said, “I love you.”
“I love you too.” Maya told him with a tremulous smile, and a look that conveyed all the love she is feeling.
“Dance with me.” Richard asked after while. “You know, it is something we haven’t done.”
“Now, without music?” Maya said, smiling.
“Madali lang iyan, wait here.” He went to the corner, powered up his iPod, and soon after the beautiful melody and lyrics of one of Richard’s favorite songs, Only Love floated into the speakers discreetly placed in the living room. He first heard of this song through his mother.
“May I have this dance, Ms. Maya Dela Rosa?”
“Of course, Mr. Richard Lim.”
Richard and Maya swayed to the beautiful music, savoring their special moment together. They danced as close as two person could be. Richard’s cheek, against Maya’s, and from time to time they exchanged sweet kisses too.
“Maya, will you please stay the night?” Richard asked softly, still not letting go of Maya. “Promise, I will be a gentleman. I just want to spend every moment I could with you. I don’t know, there is this feeling that I have to hold on to whatever we have, to enjoy every moment I could with you.” He said all of a sudden. “Maybe it is beause you might be assigned to a far-flung corner of the world.”
“Yes Ricky, I will.” Maya replied as she touched Richard’s face lovingly as if committing everything to memory. Maya also felt the unexplained need to seize every moment with Richard. She attributed it to the big change in her professional life.
“Thank you, Maya. It means a lot to me.”
Richard kissed Maya tenderly, before taking hold of her hand, leading her to the terrace adjacent to his bedroom. They cuddled and watched the New York night lights from there, enjoying their quiet time together, declaring their love for each other from time to time with sweet kisses, heated looks, and caresses.
Out in the open
Richard was busy typing away on his laptop, drinking the coffee he ordered earlier, unmindful of the comings and goings of the people in the busy hotel, and the second, and admiring, glances, of some of the women who passed by his table to go to the hotel restaurant or to the reception area. He was sight to behold in his dress shirt, his tie loosen a bit, and his coat draped neatly over the back of the chair beside him. He looked rumply handsome.
He was waiting for Maya at the cafe at the lobby of the hotel where she works and where he stayed for over a month, his home away from home, and where he met Maya weeks ago. Several days ago, he moved back to his apartment. His cousin Rafi and her family vacated it over the weekend as their house renovation was finally done.
Richard was sad to leave the hotel as it had meant no more notes and flowers for Maya, but at the same time, he was happy to have his own place back. He rectified the situation by picking Maya from the hotel and taking her home most evenings, either after they have been to dinner or after seeing a Broadway show. They also talked on the phone on the nights they were not able to see each other. This afternoon, early evening actually, Maya was finishing up late for some reason she refused to elaborate. She just told him that she would have to stay at work late and it is okay if they don’t see each other. However, Richard requested that that they still meet since they haven’t seen each other for two days due to his busy schedule. He assured Maya that he can wait for her. They agreed to meet at the lobby cafe.
“Ricky, hi!” Maya rushed to Richard’s side with a big smile. From her work clothes, she changed into a long, flowing skirt, a purple top, a cardigan, and her favorite walking boots. Her big saddle bag was strapped across her body and her coat, in her left forearm. She and Richard are planning to walk around that evening, in whatever direction it would take them. The weather is getting colder but she had bundled up. She needed to get use again to the cold, after living in the Philippines for four years. Autumn in New York is beautiful, but it could also get very cold, especially for someone used to the hot Philippine weather. Her coat is pretty warm and the boots are her most comfortable pair.
“Hi Maya!” Richard stood up and gave Maya a kiss on the cheek. He had been doing that every time they will meet. It ever fails to make Maya feel kilig. “Give me a second. I will just put away my stuffs.” He said as he started gathering his things.
“No hurry, Ricky. I can wait. Baka, kailangan mo iyang ginagawa mo. Tapusin mo na muna. No hurry.” Maya said, as she knows Richard was pretty busy the past several days with all the stuffs he needed to finish at LHI before he goes back to the Philippines or take a vacation, what he decided on, she does not know yet. However, she was hoping and wishing that Richard will stay longer in the States. She does not want to think of the time that he will go back to Manila.
Richard smiled at Maya. “No, it’s okay. I was just killing time habang wala ka pa.” He put his MacBook in his backpack, then put on his coat. “Let’s go. Saan mo gustong pumunta? Kain muna tayo? Are you hungry na?”
“Hmmm, I know just the place. I have something to tell you.” Maya said excitedly, a little mysteriously. “We can eat later.”
“Now, I’m intrigued.” Richard said, smiling broadly at Maya. “But I can wait. I don’t want to spoil your surprise.”
They started walking with Richard intertwining their fingers. Maya is used to him doing this from time to time, while they are walking the streets of Manhattan, but still, her heart never fails to beat fast every time he does. Maya dragged Ricky towards the direction of Times Squares, and when they were in the middle of the place, amid the huge, brightly-lit billboards, she stopped.
“I think, this is a perfect place to tell you this. These huge signs will serve as my ‘fireworks’!” Maya said happily. “Rickyyyy, I got in!!!! I got into the UN! I will work for the UN!”
“Really!!! Congratulations, Maya!!! Wow. I’m so happy for you!” Richard said, sharing Maya’s happiness. Then to Maya’s surprise, he hugged her in the middle of Times Square. “Kailan mo nalaman? Parang wala ka namang nabanggit na interview sa akin.” He asked as he embraced her tight and she can’t breath , not because of the embrace, but its effect on her senses.
“This morning. They called me up the other day, asked me to go to the UN office today, and there I was told that they evaluated my exams and my qualifications. I also went through a panel interview and afterwards, they told me, I’m hired!” Maya narrated as she hugged Richard back. “It was nerve-wracking, at the same time, quite exciting. Plus, talaga sa akin the languages that I know. I thank God for giving me the talent to learn languages fast! I wanted to tell everything to you in person.”
“When will you start?” Richard asked as loosened his embrace, but still not letting go of Maya completely, unmindful of the people that hurriedly passed by them, his concentration, only for this lady he loves and her dream that is now starting to become a reality.
“I will start on December 4.” Maya replied. “Good din that I still have several days to spend with my family. I’m going to Jersey for several days until after Thanksgiving. Ricky, I’m so happy I have been dying to tell you kanina pa! Ikaw pa lang ang nakakaalam.”
“Really, I’m honored that you told me first!” Richard said, touched at Maya’s gesture. “I’m sure your family will be happy to know. You can call them now.”
“Mamaya na. I’m still trying to absorb everything pa. I can dance here in the middle of Times Square from sheer happiness.” Maya said her face lighting up, making her more beautiful to Richard. “Thank you Ricky, for listening to all my prattle about my dreams and my goals, and also for the encouragement.”
“They are not prattle, Maya. I like the fact that you shared your dreams and aspirations with me. I’m glad to have been a part of your dreaming and to see your dreams becoming real.” Richard replied, cupping her chin, gazing at her warmly.
“Thank you pa rin. You are a very good friend in such a short time I have known you. Para ngang ang tagal na kitang kilala.” Maya replied, her heart skipped with Richard’s latest gesture. She felt instinctively that the two of them are on the brink of something. Then said innocently, artlessly, “I will surely miss you and your company when you go back to the Philippines.”
“Maya, I love you.” Richard suddenly blurted out, the overwhelming emotion he was feeling at the moment coming to the surface, especially after hearing that Maya will miss him and that the reality of them getting separated in the future, when he goes back home, reared in.
“Ha, what did you say Ricky?” She thought she misheard him, after all there is a cacophony of voices of people of different nationalities around them.
“I love you.” He repeated, cupping her chin and looking deeply into her eyes. “I have been in love with you for quite sometime. I want to be more than friends with you. I don’t want to think of the time I will go back to the Philippines and not see you, not being with you.”
Suddenly, all the other sound faded away in Maya’s brain and her being got concentrated on Ricky’s face, so full of love for her, and what he just said, she was finally absorbing.
“I don’t expect you to say anything now, Maya. I just want you to know, seeing you so beautiful in your happiness and the start of the fulfillment of your dreams, made me very happy too.” Richard added when Maya was still not saying anything. “I want to be there with you as you make more milestones in your life.”
“Ricky, Ricky,” she said earnestly, then proceeded to cup his face. “You love me!” She said in wonder. Then she smiled, a smile that lit her whole face. “I love you too,” she said softly, lovingly.
Now, it was Richard’s turn to be speechless. He was hoping that Maya feels the same, but he never expected that his declaration will have an answer so soon, the answer that he was hoping for, wishing for.
“Maya, really! You love me too?” He asked, not really sinking in, completely, what she said.
“Yes, Mr.Richard Lim, I love you too!” Maya simply said, looking at him with all the love she feels for him. “Ayaw mo ba?” She teased.
“Maya, you made me the happiest guy in the world!” Richard said as he hugged Maya exuberantly, tightly, at the same time, he caressed her hair. “I love you very much.” Then he cupped her face, lowered his lips to hers, and kissed her gently, lovingly.
In the middle of Times Square and all the tourists taking pictures and absorbing the larger than life brightly-lit signs around them, Maya and Richard sealed their love with several more kisses. They broke apart after a while and grinned happily at each other. Maya blushed a bit, realizing that she had her ‘first kisses’ in the middle of a busy tourist area, but Richard will not have it. He intertwined their fingers and caressed her face, gazing at her heatedly, lovingly.
“Ms. Maya Dela Rosa, the love of my life, where do you want to celebrate? Double celebration na ito.” Richard said, looking at Maya like she was the only person in the whole world.
“Kahit saan, Ricky, basta kasama kita, okay lang naman sa akin.” Maya said shyly, all of a sudden.
Richard looked at his girlfriend, he likes the sound of it, then remembered something. “Oh, we can combine my treat for you with a dinner in the same place!”
“Treat? You have a treat for me this evening?” Maya asked, curious.
“Yes, you mentioned something that you missed while in the Philippines. So, I was plannng to take you there.” He said smiling.
“Hmmm, alin doon? Ang dami ko kayang nasabi sa iyo.” Maya asked, her brows knitted trying to remember.
“Basta, halika na.” Richard said, and let Maya towards the direction of Fifth Avenue.
They walked leisurely. Then they stopped at the Rockefeller Center. Maya smiled. She now know what is Richard’s treat for her. “Ice skating! We are going ice skating!”
“Yes. You said you missed this. I’m a bit rusty, but I think I will get by. Besides, hold me na lang and drag me around.” Richard said with a smile. “Don’t let me fall ha, except for you.”
“Hmmm, turning cheesy, Mr. Lim. Saka, baka nga you will be the one to guide me. I haven’t skated since I was 18 or so. Remember, the Philippines school season is different from here so I was there during autumn and most of winter.”
“Then we can just glide and fall together.” Richard said, looking forward to skating with Maya, another experience they will share.
Fifteen minutes or so later, they were in the rink. They helped each other with their ice skates. Contrary to what he said, Richard skated like a pro. He held Maya’s hand and they glided gracefully across the ice. They were lost in their own world, not noticing the envious glances of some of the women skaters. They looked so in love. Around an hour later, with the cool wind turning making Maya’s cheeks rosy, they stopped to catch their breath.
“Ikaw, Richard Lim, hindi naman pala rusty ang skills mo. Para ngang pang-olympics!” Maya teased Richard as they rested on the side of the rink.
“Hmmm, maybe, it is like riding a bicycle, it just comes back to you, the skills, I mean. Saka, I don’t want to fall naman in front of my beautiful girlfriend.” He said with a teasing smile.
“Sus, bola, Mr. Lim. Nambobola ka ba, sinagot na nga kita!” Maya bantered back.
“Hindi kaya iyan bola, Ms. Dela Rosa. Kahit nga noong I was sick, I found you so beautiful. I fell in love fast!” He said, gazing at her lovingly. “I love you.”
“Ricky naman, ikaw talaga.” Maya blushed prettily. “I love you too.”
Richard and Maya shared a brief sweet kiss before heading back to the center of the rink, gliding as they were one, as close as they could move around in their skates. They stayed there for half hour more. Afterwards, they headed to one of the restaurants wherein they can see the skaters as they enjoyed their dinner. The unexpected exercise in the rink made them very hungry.
“That was wonderful! Daig ko pa ang naglinis ng 10 rooms sa exercise natin sa rink.” Maya said smiling while they were having coffee after their delicious dinner. “Thank you for this very nice treat, Ricky.”
“For you, Maya, anything.” Richard said as he put his hand on top of Maya’s. Maya then put her other hand on top of Ricky, and smiled at him sweetly. They stayed like that for quite sometime, enjoying and savoring their newly-declared love for each other.
When they got out of the restaurant, Maya and Richard were both reluctant for the evening to end, so they decided to go for a walk while thinking of what to do next.
“I know na. We can go for a carriage ride.” Richard suggested to Maya as he spotted the line for the carriage ride near Central Park.
Maya liked the idea and soon after they were ensconced snugly and warmly inside the carriage as it moved around. They were happy to enjoy each other company quietly. Sometimes they exchanged sweet kisses and loving gazes.
Richard took Maya home, as he always do, close to midnight. Maya asked Richard if he would like to come in for a cup of coffee before he goes home. Richard agreed, knowing that he and Maya can stay up until the wee hours of the morning, as the following day is a Saturday and they both don’t have to go to work.
“Here, home sweet home.” Maya said as she ushered Richard to her and Emman’s small living room. “Please have a seat, Ricky. Make yourself at home. I will just make the coffee.”
“Thank you, Maya.” Richard said as he proceeded to the usual place he has gotten used to sitting in while in Maya’s apartment, in the sofa near the window. He has been here several times, but mostly, only a short time, just while picking Maya up. In those cases, Emman was also home, unlike this evening. They usually chatted while he waited for Maya. He likes Maya’s friend. He is a very jolly person and he always tease him about introducing him to his twin. Sometimes, Emman also asked Richard teasingly if he can have him cloned, sayang daw ang lahi niya since only son pala siya, much to Richard’s and Maya’s amusement. They both told Emman he is incorrigible!
“Here’s your coffee, Ricky. I also found some cookies. I think Emman made these.” Maya came back to the living room, carrying a tray with two steaming cups of coffee and several chocolate chip cookies on a plate.
“Baka hindi na tayo makatulog nito, my love.” Richard said. “But still, I’ll have one.” He then grabbed a cookie and took a bite.
Maya was startled at first to hear the endearment from Richard, then smiled, liking it. She really need to control her kilig with Richard’s actions, her boyfriend! But how can she? Just the thought that he is now her boyfriend is sending her to kilig heaven.
“So, when are you going to New Jersey?” Richard asked as they enjoy their ‘midnight snack.’
“Hmmm, two days before Thanksgiving, I need to inform the hotel also that I’m resigning.” Maya replied. “Ikaw, what are your plans? Matagal pa ba ang work mo? When are you going back to the Philippines?” Maya asked, dreading the answer. Yes, they are now in a relationship, but there are a lot of unknown factors in it. But she is confident with Richard by her side, they can deal with everything. The important thing is their love for each other.
“I still have a month or so, maybe, until before Christmas to wrap up everything. Then I will take a vacation here, and think what I would like to do next, since we are now in a relationship. But one thing is sure, I want to be with you. Baka I will ask for a transfer in NYC na lang if possible.” Richard declared earnestly. “How about you? Will the UN send you somewhere?”
“That I don’t know yet.” Maya replied. “I would know when I start working, I think. But there is a big possibility that I will be sent somewhere. Would that be okay?”
“Of course, Maya, this is your dream. Us, in a relationship does not mean you will let go of that just to be with me. Somewhow we will make things work. I know this is so new to you, and despite the fact that I had relationships before, this is new to me also. This is the first time, I fell in love. This is the first time, I feel like this. I love you. We will make things work.” Richard vowed to Maya.
“Ricky! Thank you. I never felt like this. You are my first boyfriend. I love you with all my heart. I want ‘us’ to work too.” Maya said earnestly.
“We will Maya.” Richard promised. “Now that I found you, I will not let you go.”
They looked at each other lovingly, then slowly their faces moved closer and closer until their lips touched and they ignited. Before long, they were kissing hotly. Richard moved, then lifted Maya on to his lap, then they started touching each other in between their heated kisses.
“Maya, I love you….” Richard whispered before he lowered his lips and used his tongue to open the seam of Maya’s mouth. When he gained entrance, his tongue sought Maya’s and before long, their tongues were mating as Richard lowered his hand to the underside of Maya’s breast. Maya was also doing a lot of touching of her own.
They were reaching the point of no return, when their passionate interlude was interrupted by a loud click in the lock. Someone was opening the front door. Maya scrambled out of Richard’s lap, straightened her clothes and her hair. She just remembered that Emman was out, so it must be him. Richard grabbed a throw pillow to hide the evidence of his desire for Maya. When Emman managed to open the difficult lock, all he saw at first glance was Richard and Maya drinking their coffee. But when he came nearer to say hello, he saw Maya’s well-kissed lips, and smiled. He quickly said good night.
Richard and Maya smiled and looked at each other sheepishly.
“Maya, my love. I think I better head home. Rest ka na. I will see you tomorrow.” Richard said as he stood up.
“Okay, my love. Ingat sa pag-uwi. Thank you for the most wonderful night of my life.” Maya said as she intertwined her hands around Richard’s neck, then lightly kissed him on the lips. “I love you.”
“I love you too.” Richard said as he kissed her back. “I better stop at baka hindi ko na makayanang umuwi. Hindi na makaya ng willpower ko.” He said ruefully.
“Oh,” Maya uttered, understanding what he meant, then blushed. “Good night. Sweet dreams.”
“I’ll dream of you.” Richard said sweetly. “Lock after me. Huwag mo na akong ihatid sa labas. I will text you na lang when I’m home na.”
Maya nodded, waved at Richard, then locked the door. After she did so, she leaned against it, with a big smile on her face, so very happy and in love.
Richard on the other hand, happily drove home. It was hard to pay attention to where he was going, with thoughts of Maya and their wonderful evening, filling his head. He is so looking forward to being with her again and starting their journey as a couple. He entered his apartment whistling, then sent a message to Maya.
Home now, my love. Good night. I love you, my beautiful girlfriend.
Maya smiled broadly when she saw his message.
Good night, my love. I love you too, my handsome boyfriend.
Maya was still smiling goofily when she entered the apartment she shares with Emman, cradling the beautiful bouquet that Ricky gave her, still feeling the touch of his lips on her cheek, happy with her wonderful evening with a guy she is starting to like a lot.
“Ms. Maya Dela Rosa, ang laki ng smile natin ha.” Emman greeted his best friend from where he was sitting, watching his favorite late night show. He knew that Maya went on a date, with whom, she refused to tell him earlier. She just gave him a brilliant smile when he asked. He had an inkling then that it was not an ordinary date. Maya, in all the time, he had known her, has never been out on a date. She was too focused on her job applications and their work at the hotel.
“Hi Emman, gising ka pa pala.” Maya remarked, then remembered, “Ay oo nga pala, tonight is your puyat night.”
“Kumusta ang date? At sino ba kasi iyang nakapagpa-yes sa iyo na mag-date., hmmmm.” He asked in a teasing tone. “Curious na curious na curious na curious na talaga ako. Marami ka nang utang na kwento sa akin.”
Maya smiled at her friend as she sat down on the couch beside him. “I’m not sure if it was really a date. Maybe, he really just wanted to thank me. Remember the ramen I asked you to buy? It was for that guy in 1115. He was sick kasi when I went to his room to clean. I helped him out.”
“Iyong sabi ni Doris na cute na cute na Chinese guy, na parang Prince Charming ang description niya?” Emman asked. “Guwapo ba talaga?”
“Well he is. Super nice pa siya. Saka hindi pala siya Chinese from mainland China, you know what I mean. He is actually a Filipino-Chinese.” Maya excitedly told Emman, still feeling kilg. “He told me yesterday that he will treat me na lang when I refused to accept his payment for the ramen. Tapos when I went to clean his room this afternoon, he asked me if I would like to have dinner with him.”
“Ha, I’m pretty sure, hindi iyon para magpasalamat sa iyo, Maya girl! Kasi di sana, kasama ako dapat kasi ako ang bumili ng ramen.” Emman concluded.“Date iyon, for sure! Bongga ha, that was your first ever since I met you! Saan kayo nag-dinner?”
“Well, he did say that he just want to have dinner with me, not because of the ramen, para to get to know me better daw. We had dinner at the Italian restaurant where my Uncle Bobby is the maitre d’, iyung malapit sa Central Park.” Maya finished with a blush. “I don’t know, Emman, ang gaan-gaan ng loob ko sa kanya. Saka parang ang tagal ko na siyang kakilala.”
“Wow, kilig naman ako!!!! Bongga pati ng place ah. I’m pretty sure talaga na hindi lang siya simpleng thank you dinner. May flowers pa. In fairness, ang pretty pa ng flowers.” Emman said as he inspected the floral arrangement. “Ay may card palang kasama, o.” He said as handed Maya the card. “Dali basahin na natin.”
Maya thanked Emman, stood up and smiled at her friend. “Later. Good night, Emman.”
“Maya girl, ang daya. I want to see what Prince Charming said.” He teased good-naturedly.
“Good night, Emman. Sabay tayong pumasok bukas ha.” Maya said as she opened the door to her room, still smiling.
Maya plopped on her bed, still holding the flowers, smiling broadly. She opened the card and grinned.
See, with you around, hindi ko na talaga kailangan ang hospital! 🙂 Thank you for being a very caring person.
Maya stared at the card a long time, remembering her evening with Richard. For the first time in her young life, someone special is making her feel breathless, with just the mere thought of him. She stood up, grabbed the tin can where she saves all her important stuffs, and put the card there. The flowers, she put in a glass vase. Her last sight before she closed her eyes for the night were the flowers from Richard. She went to sleep, smiling.
Richard was also preparing for bed, at the same time Maya was. Like her, he had a big smile as he went to prepare for bed, leaned against the headboard, remembering his wonderful time with Maya and savouring his newly discovered feelings for her. He is sure of what he feels for this special lady even if was a bit too soon after his latest and final break-up with Alexandra. There was no reconciling with her again this time.
He was introduced to Alexandra at a party given by his parents for their business associates over a year ago. Her dad was one of his father’s closest friends. She went to school in France and had just returned to the Philippines at that time. She was beautiful in a polish way kind of way, vivacious too, and he thought at that time, quite very interesting. She seemed be equally attracted to him as she engaged him in every conversation in every opportunity during the night.
Initially, he was reluctant to pursue Alexandra as he knew it was what his father wanted and he was rebelling a little with him exerting control even with his love life. But it was also in a time when he felt he was ready for a long lasting relationship. Besides, before he can fully decide on this, Alexandra did her own pursuing of him. Before long, they became a couple. Then six months ago, he proposed to her. He felt he can make a life with her having come from the same background, their parents friends and business partner, and he was attracted to her physically. They were compatible physically. He thought those were enough. He didn’t believe then in romantic love.
But, the proposal also became the beginning of the end for the two of them. Alexandra changed into a different person since then. Her true colors came out. She partied more, and demanded that he go with her. She wanted to be the only ‘it girl’ in town and having a boyfriend who is a great catch, according to her, was making the other socialites and wannabe socialites, green with envy. He realized then what she was, a spoiled, rich girl who will do everything to get what she wanted, and that the time, it was him. She got him and wanted him to be at her beck and call. They fought often, they broke up several times. When they do, she will do everything and promised him that she will change. When he agrees, she will, can be very sweet and loving, then will go back to her ways after a while. Being with her was like being with an overspeeding roller coaster. But still, he had wanted to give the relationship a try. He thought things will get better, but he was wrong.
The last break up and reconciliation, that let to the final break-up occurred, a month before he went to New York. At first, he thought they were able to iron out their differences during that last reconciliation, only to fight again after several days, when he refused to go with him to another all-night drinking with her friends at their favorite watering hole in BGC. He explained to Alexandra then gently that maybe it was time they cut their losses and go on their separate ways as they wanted different things in life. At first, she resisted it, tried to use all her wiles on him, but if it had worked in the fast, he remained steadfast this time. Soon after, he left for the States. Now here he is, in love for the first time. He went to bed with a smile, looking forward to seeing Maya, spending more time with her and getting to know her better.
The following day, Maya rang Richard’s room with a feeling of excitement and anticipation. They never agreed to see each other today, but she is looking forward to seeing him. No one answered the door, so Maya opened the door with her card key. The room was empty. She realized that in all the time they were together last night, they forgot exchange mobile phone numbers.
She looked around the room and to her surprised, saw a small envelope with her name on it on the office table. Beside it was a single stem, beautiful red rose. She opened the envelope and saw a note and a business card. She read the note first.
Good afternoon! 🙂 We forgot to exchange phone numbers! To rectify that, I included my business card with my personal mobile phone number in the back. Mabuti I thought of doing this, hoping that you will be the one to clean my room today. I went to work today. There are really pressing matters I needed to attend to, otherwise, I would have waited for you.
Dinner and a show later? Let me know. I hope you will say yes. 🙂
I hope you like the rose! I picked that up from the flower vase in the lobby! 🙂
Maya smiled at Ricky’s postscript. She doubted that the rose came from the lobby. There was no rose in the floral arrangament in the lobby, so most probably, like the flowers last night, he bought it at the hotel flower shop. She brought the flower to her nose, savoring the fragrance it emitted, happy. She put Richard’s note in her pocket. She will reply to it after she finish cleaning his room. She went around the room, tidying up. She was happily humming while cleaning the bathroom. When she was finished with his room, and the next one, she texted him.
Hi Ricky, this is Maya. Yes to both! 🙂 I’m free from 6PM onwards. Where do we meet?
Richard’s phone beeped while he was about to take the elevator to his office. He and his colleague Timothy has just been to lunch in the deli/cafe in the corner. His heart jumped when he heard it vibrated from his pocket. He, somehow knew, it is Maya, judging by the time, she must have seen his note and flowers then.
“Go ahead, Tim. I will just take the next elevator.” Richard said distractedly, not really looking at Tim, too focused on fishing out the phone from his pocket.
Tim just smiled. He had a feeling earlier that Richard was not with him one hundred percent when they were eating, now he knew why. “Okay, take your time. I’ll go ahead. Introduce me to her,” was his parting shot with a smile.
Richard smiled at that, and smiled broadly, with matching, “Yes!” when he read Maya’s messsage.
Great, Maya! I’ll pick you up from your apartment at 6PM.
Maya thought that was fast, when her phone beeped back before she can even put it back in her pocket.
Okay. I’ll see you, later. Hope you are having a nice day! 🙂
Both of them went back to what they were doing, happily and with a feeling of anticipation, as if they both were wishing that it was six o’clock already.
Richard parked his car in front of Maya’s apartment at five minutes before six o’clock that night. Maya was already waiting by the door, as she knew parking was difficult there at that time of the day.
“Hi Ricky!” Maya greeted Richard with a big smile, as she went down the steps, wearing a blue sheath dress, pumps and her coat in her arm. “I thought of waiting for you here. Parking here is terrible.”
Richard looked at Maya, as he walked towards her, offering her a very warm smile. “Hi Maya, you look very lovely. Thank you again for accepting my invitation. I’m looking forward to another evening with you.” He then held on to Maya’s elbow and escorted her to the waiting car.
“Thank you.” Maya felt electrified with Richard’s innocent touch. Her heart was beating fast. She also likes the fact that he is very solicitous and a gentleman. “Me too, am looking forward to our evening.” She added softly. Then asked, “where are we going pala?”
“Surprise. I hope you will like it,” was all he said with a big smile.
They drove back the hotel, then asked the valet to park the car. Richard then led Maya towards the direction of Times Square, a place that never failed to fascinates Maya. She likes all the giant billboards with advertising different products, the neon lights advertising various Broadway shows, the tons of people that troops to this New York attraction. ‘Crossroads of the world’, the name is really suits the place. From Times Square, they walked to Broadway, towards the heart of the theatre district. Richard asked Maya where she would like to have a quick dinner. Maya left the option to him. After dinner, Richard led her to one of the theaters in the district, and Maya smiled when she saw the marquee.
“‘Rent’! We are going to see ‘Rent’?” Maya asked, and she felt like jumping with joy as she had been wanting to see this musical.
“Yes.” Richard smiled, seeing that Maya is happy with his choice. “Come.” He held her hand as they went inside the theater and asked for the tickets reserved under Richard’s name.
“I got the tickets through my cousin Rafi.” Richard said happily. Rafi was more well-versed in finding the best theater tickets in Broadway than him. He gave her a call this morning.
They settled into their seats, two of the best seats in the Orchestra, and enjoyed the musical. Maya found herself humming with some of the show’s tunes, having listened to the recording for so long. Richard enjoyed watching Maya enjoying the show. He is so full of feelings for her. When they got of the theater, they had coffee at a nice cafe they found and chatted most of the time. Richard brought Maya home after midnight, interwining their hands, while they walked back to the hotel to get his car.
Meeting each other most evening, and having a wonderful time exploring New York City by night, became a pattern for the two of them the following days and weeks, after that. They also talked on the phone long when they can’t see each other. and Maya, even if she does not see Richard anymore inside the hotel as he regularly went to LHI during daytime, has something to look forward to every time she goes inside Richard’s room to clean – a sweet note from him and a single stem of the most beautiful red rose.
Maya, like Richard, has fallen hard. Two weeks into their wonderful, private world, she realized that she loves him with all of her. She felt so happy that at 22, she found love. Whether Richard returns her feelings, she does not know, but she had caught him several times, gazing at her intently, and it made her heart beat faster, she felt breathless with the looks he was giving her.
For Richard, he felt like he was at the top of the world, dizzy with this overwhelming feelings for Maya. He is waiting for the perfect opportunity to finally tell her what he feels, and hopes that she feels the same for him.
Note: Thank you all for the comments and likes. I appreciate you taking the time to do so. I’m happy that you like the story. My apologies kung hindi ako nakaka-reply lately! 🙂
Maya arrived at the Italian restaurant near Central Park, where she was supposed to meet Richard, at exactly seven o’clock in the evening. It took her a while to find a taxi from her place. She is familiar with the restaurant as she had dinner here with her family just after she arrived back in the States. Her mom and Daddy Mark insisted that they celebrate her graduation from university since they were not able to make it to the Philippines for the ceremony. Only Mamang went with her. Mamang turned emotional when she saw her in her toga. She was very proud of her achievement too, having received the highest honor from her college. After the ceremony, they went to dinner with her Tito Jose, Tita Pilar, Cristina Rose and Simon. Her parents, brother and sister did a video call and congratulated her.
The maitre d’ greeted Maya as soon as she entered the elegant restaurant’s main dining room after depositing her coat. She took an instant liking to this place. It is very relaxing and very welcoming. “Maya, bella, nice to see you here again! Are you with your parents?” The burly and jolly man greeted Maya effusively.
“Uncle Bobby! Hello! How are you? Good to see you! I was not so sure you will be here this evening.” Maya happily hugged Roberto Antonini, ‘Bobby’ to friends and family. He is a close friend of her parents, and their neighbor in New Jersey. He is like an uncle to her also as she grew up with two of his children. “I’m meeting someone here.”
“Today is my rest day, yes. But we are understaffed so the Signora asked me if I could work this evening.” Bobby told Maya as he looked at her closely and her nice dress. “You are very beautiful this evening, my dear Maya. Are you meeting your special someone here? Your boyfriend?”
Maya laughed. She is used to Uncle Bobby asking personal questions. He has been trying to fix her with one of his many nephews. “No, Uncle Bobby, not a boyfriend, just a friend. His name is Richard Lim. Is he here?”
“How’s your job at the hotel? Any news on your job applications at the UN?” Bobby asked as he checked in their register for the reservation under the name of Maya’s friend. He is good with faces, so he had an inkling who among the guests he seated earlier is Maya’s ‘beau’. A handsome young man politely requested earlier if he could give him one of the best tables in the place as he wanted to make his first date with the lady he likes a lot a very memorable one. Bobby’s romantic bent kicked, and led the guy to a secluded, and the nicest table, in the restaurant.
“It’s okay. I like my colleagues and it’s not difficult. I know the experience will help me in the long run, especially if I will make it to the UN.” Maya replied. “No news yet about the applications. But I just sent them out so it may take time before someone replied. If not, I will just go to graduate school next semester.”
“I’m sure you will get hired, with your qualifications, top honors from your school, and you being multilingual.” Bobby said confidently.
“Thanks for the vote of confidence, Uncle Bobby. For always believing in me.” Maya told the old guy affectionately. “If I get accepted, I will come back here and treat everyone, my family and yours.”
“If you get hired, Maya, the treat is on me.” Bobby said generously and patted Maya’s arm and said happily, “I’m right, that was your young man whom I gave best table in the restaurant earlier. Come, I will bring you to him.”
Richard, looked at his watch for the nth time. He knew he was early. But he can’t concentrate anymore with what he was doing so he dressed up, took his car out, bought something for Maya, parked it back. Then, he walked from the hotel to the restaurant 20 minutes early than his agreed time with Maya. He had called the restaurant earlier and made a reservation. He likes this elegant place which he discovered during one of his previous trips to New York. The food is superb and the ambiance is very relaxing and inviting.
He saw Maya walking towards him, chatting with the maitre d’ who gave him this very nice table. When Maya got nearer, she took his breath away, If she was beautiful in her plain uniform, she was very, very lovely in her evening clothes. She was wearing a classic cut white dress that hugged all her curves, her hair down, and from what he could see, wearing minimal make-up. She walked gracefully and elegantly towards him, unaware of his admiring look, and the equally admiring glances of all the males within the vicinity.
“Here you go, Maya. Hello, again Mr. Lim .” Bobby said as they reached the table, and Richard stood up.
“Uncle Bobby, this is my friend Richard Lim, from the Philippines too.” Maya said, smiling, trying to still her galloping heart. Richard looked dashing and very handsome in his evening clothes. ”Richard, this is my Uncle Bobby, Roberto Antonini, the best maitre d’ in Manhattan, a friend of my family and like a dad to me too since I am friends with his youngest daughters Carolina and Isabela.”
“Good evening Sir, please to meet a friend of Maya’s.” Richard shook the old man’s hand.
Bobby likes Maya’s ‘young man’. “I’m glad to meet a special friend of Maya too. ”Then, he can’t help it, he teased Richard, “I hope the table is special enough for a very special night, Mr. Lim.”
Richard smiled broadly at the maitre d’, remembering his request to him earlier. “I hope so too, Mr. Antonini. Call me Richard please.”
“Call me Uncle Bobby too, like Maya here.” Bobby said. “Maya, I will leave the two of you. I will just send Cesar, to attend to you. I will just tell your parents that we saw each other when I see them tomorrow. Have a wonderful evening and nice meeting you, Richard.”
“Thank you, Uncle Bobby.” Maya said.
“Thank you, Uncle Bobby.” Richard added as he pulled the chair for Maya and seated her.
Soon after, Cesar arrived, and after exchanging some pleasantries with Maya, took their order. Richard ordered one of their best wine vintage to go with their dinner.
“Parang kilala mo ang buong restaurant, Maya.” Richard remarked, teasing, when they were alone and waiting for their food and drinks. “Madalas ka ba rito?”
Maya laughed. “Not really. This is actually my second time here. Cesar is Uncle Bobby’s nephew. The first time I was here was several weeks ago, when my parents, that is my mom, stepdad and my siblings had a wonderful dinner here. Graduation treat daw nila sa akin.”
“How many brothers and sisters do you have?” Richard asked, wanting to know Maya’s family too.
“One brother and a sister, both years younger than I am since they are my mom’s kids with my Daddy Mark, my stepdad, pero we are close naman. Makukulit nga lang ang mga iyon.” Maya said fondly. “Ikaw?”
“I’m an only child. Kaya heto, I’m 27 years old na pero my mom calls me pa rin regularly to check on me.” Richard said, smiling. “When I was a kid, I wished I had siblings too. Parang mas masaya. I do have cousins, though, na almost the same age as me, kaya not so bad naman not having a sibling.”
“Masaya naman ang may mga kapatid. Iyon nga lang, minsan, I don’t see them often. I also have cousins in the Philippines na parang mga kapatid ko na rin. They are in Oriental Mindoro.” Maya added.
“Oh, so your family was from there!” Richard remarked. “Marami ka pang relatives doon or nandito na rin sila sa States?”
“Marami, including my Mamang, that is, my maternal grandmother. Kami lang ng mom ko ang nandito, though may mga iba siyang medyo malayo nang kamag-anak here. Mas gusto ko nga roon.” Maya said. “Iyon nga lang, this is home na rin since my mother migrated here after she married Daddy Mark. My dad died when I was a kid.”
“I agree. Me, too, I prefer the Philippines.” Richard said. “Nandoon rin ang parents ko and immediate family. Meron din dito, and the closest would be my cousin Rafi who is currently staying in my apartment with her family. Inaayos kasi ang bahay nila. So, in the meantime, dito ka muna sa New York and New Jersey?”
“Yes, depende pa rin. I promised kasi my parents I will return to the States after college so heto.” Maya said as she made a sweeping gesture and shrugged. “Then, I’m also applying for a job sa UN. Hopefully, and I’m really praying, that I will get in, kahit saan pa nila ako ipadala.” Maya told Richard as Cesar approached their table with the wine Richard ordered, and some antipasti.
Cesar showed Richard the wine for inspection. Richard nodded in acknowledgement that he had read the label and that it was the wine he ordered. The waiter then went through the ritual of wine tasting. Richard swirled the wine, tasted it, then nodded to the waiter, that everything is okay. Cesar, then poured wine in both Maya and Richard’s glasses. Then, he left them again to attend to other customers and check on their main course being prepared by the restaurant’s talented chef.
Richard lifted his wine glass, and offered Maya a toast. “Here’s to meetings and beginnings. Here’s to us, Maya. I’m glad to have met you.” He finished gazing at Maya warmly.
Maya smiled, felt herself blushing a bit, for some reason. “Here’s to us, Ricky. I’m glad to have met you too.”
They toasted, drank and then smiled intently at each other, hearts beating faster. Both felt that they are on the precipice, that something wonderful is starting, and it is just a matter of whether when they will take a leap for it.
“So, you plan to work for the UN? That’s good. In line also with your course.” Richard said, picking up the thread of their previous conversation.
“Yes, it’s a dream. It is one of the reasons why I took this course, and also why I learned all the languages I could learn in between, para mas may advantage ako when I apply.” Maya told Richard in between sipping her wine. Then she proceeded to talk animatedly about her adventures in language learning, that sometimes, she dreamed in whatever language she was studying.
Richard listened intently, talking passionately about her ideals and dreams, and what she would like to do to help make a better world. In the warm glow of the night, she looked so beautiful and full of life. He can listen to her for hours. In that instant, Richard had a realization, he is falling in love for the first time, despite his previous relationships, Alex included! His heart galloped and he felt breathless with the sudden rush of feelings for the wonderful woman before him. He needed to slow down, though, he just met her.
Maya, after a while, noticed that Richard was silent, and was just staring at her, while she was talking.
“Oh, sorry, Ricky. I got carried away. You should have stopped me.” Maya said sheepishly. “My mother said I have a tendency to talk a mile long when really feel strongly about something.”
“No, no, no, don’t be sorry Maya. I enjoyed listening to you. I admire your idealism and your dreams.” Richard assured Maya, at the same time, he was also thinking that if Maya directs the same passion for the man she loves or would love, then that person would be the luckiest guy in the world. “In fact, I can listen to you the whole night and I don’t think I will get bored.”
Maya blushed and gave Ricky the sweetest smile, and simply said, “Thank you.” She felt very happy at that moment. Normally, she is not chatty with a guy she just met, but she felt very comfortable with Richard. His dinner invitation was the first one she has accepted from a guy since she returned to the States. Others have invited her before, but she declined, not really interested.
Soon after, the rest of the food they ordered arrived and they proceeded to have a wonderful dinner. They chatted in between courses and never ran out of things to say and find out from each other. Before they knew it, they finished everything, including the wine, and the restaurant was about to close. They just forgot about the time and everyone around them as they were focused on finding everything they could about each other.
Maya found out that Richard studied at Harvard Business School for his postgraduate degree, that he spent a lot of years living in Boston, and also in New York while doing so. Now, he is here to study their operations here, as when he returns to the Philippines, he will assume a higher management position than the one he had at that time. She was surprised to know that he belongs to the Lim family that owns quite a number of big companies in the Philippines. He is so down to earth, acts like a regular guy, and dresses simply, though very elegantly.
Richard and Maya also found out that they have similar taste in literature, differ in the movies they enjoy watching, and that they both like the theater a lot. They promise to see all the show in Broadway while they are both in New York, or while Richard is there, as Maya said, she may have to wait for those job applications a while and continue with her job at the hotel.
“Hindi pa mahirap ang job mo doon, Maya?” Richard asked, thinking about Maya’s welfare. “It is an honorable job, of course, don’t get me wrong please.”
“Okay lang Richard, I like the job. Hindi naman siya ganoon kahirap. Mostly naman madali lang linisin the rooms. It was also something that came up when I was getting restless, staying at my parents’ house.” Maya replied. “I know, I could probably find something related to my course. But I consider this naman as part of that. I get to practice my language skills. Iba-ibang nationalities kaya ang guests sa hotel. Tapos the work naman will be a useful skill and experience if I get a job in the UN, doing work in remote parts of the globe.” Maya finished with a smile.
Richard liked Maya’s attitude and positivism. She is not a spoiled, rich girl, unlike some he knew that the measure of their universe was whether they have the latest designer stuffs or not. They got into talking about housework. Richard told Maya that his old nanny, Manang Fe, also taught him some housework. It was a useful skill when he moved to the States to study. They were laughing at an anecdote that Richard was telling when they both noticed the time!
‘Wow, we have been talking for hours, Ricky!” Maya remarked, realizing how late it was already. “Magsasara na yata sina Uncle Bobby.”
“Ikaw kasi, I like chatting with you. I forgot about the time.” Richard teased Maya. He really had a wonderful time and was feeling a bit sad that his evening with her was about to end. He then signaled for Cesar to approach them, and when waiter did, he asked for the bill.
Several minutes after they got Maya’s coat, said their goodbyes to Uncle Bobby and thanked him, they were out in the street leading to the hotel.
“Maya, I will take you home please, and no arguments on it.” Richard insisted. “I have a car in the hotel. Let us just get it.”
Maya was about to, but seeng Richard’s determined expression, she said yes. While they were walking back, she told him where she lives with Emman. They asked the hotel valet to get Richard’s car, which turned out to be a BMW. Richard opened the door for Maya, after thanking and tipping the valet. Soon after, they were on their way. Several minutes later, they arrived infront of a brownstone, which Maya told Richard has been converted into several small apartments. The apartment was a gift from her parents also. She didn’t want to take it, but it was one of her mother’s conditions in allowing her to live on her own in New York.
“Here we are.” Maya said as they were standing near the steps. “Would you like to come in and have coffee?”
“Thank you, Maya. Maybe next time na lang. Late na rin. Kailangan mo na ring mag-rest.” Richard said, gazing at Maya. “Thank you for a wonderful evening, Maya. I hope we can do this again.”
Maya smiled at Richard. “I had a wonderful time too, Ricky. Sure, just let me know.”
“O, you go in na.” Richard said.
“No, I will wait for you to drive away. Ingat ha.” Maya insisted. “Huwag kang mag-aalala sa akin, teritoryo ko ito, kahit paano.”
Richard gave Maya a warm smile, then said softly, “Good night, Maya.” Then turned to his car, when he remembered something.
“Maya wait.” He said, as he grabbed something from the back seat of the car. Then went back to where Maya was standing, holding a beautiful bouquet. “For you, thank you again for taking care of me.”
Maya was surprised, touched and she admitted, felt kilig, when she saw the flowers. “Ricky, you don’t have to, but thank you. It’s lovely.”
“Thank you again for a lovely evening. Good night. Bye. I’ll see you.” Richard said softly, meaningfully, then gave Maya a kiss on the cheek, before getting in his car, and driving off into the night, leaving Maya looking at the departing car, her mouth agape, hand on the cheek he just kissed.
Richard woke up early the following day. He felt so much better. Whatever virus he caught the past two days was flushed out of his system overnight. He was glad. He really hated getting sick. He also doesn’t like hospitals as a favorite uncle died in one after having a stroke and going into coma for a month. Until now, he can’t bear to be in a hospital. He would like to avoid it if he can.
Looking at the clock, Richard noticed that it was already 9 o’clock in the morning. He really slept a long time. As he got out of the bed to open the curtain and let some sunlight in, he saw the empty bowl of ramen on the side table by his bed. He smiled, remembering Maya’s thoughtfulness and caring. Who would have thought he would meet someone nice while lying in his bed, sick like a dog.
Soon, she will be here. Richard thought, calculating the time the cleaning service usually arrives at his room, judging by his previous experience the past several weeks he had been staying in the hotel. He is looking forward to seeing her again. He also hopes that she is the one assigned to his side of the hotel today and in the remaining time he is in New York.
Richard opted to stay in this hotel near the NYC headquarters of LHI, instead of renting an apartment, as it is more convenient. Besides, he will just be in the city for three months or less, this time, depending on the amount of work he needed to do here. He does have an apartment in 5th Avenue, but his cousin Rafaela and her family are currently staying there while theirs is being remodelled and refurbished. Rafi said she and Charlie had some problems with the contractors they got that delayed their move. They were still in Richard’s apartment by the time he needed his place. It was easier for him to stay in a hotel than uproot Rafaela’s family.
Suddenly, Richard felt he needed a bath. He decided to do that before he tackles back the work he was doing before he got sick. He was working on some financial analysis of their operations here. His family’s company has varied interests, from manufacturing, import and export, shipping, communications and so on. He felt refreshed after his quick shower. He started brewing coffee. He need that to perk him up. He usually starts his day with a hot cup.
Richard was deep into the figures, graphs and charts he was studying on his laptop when the ringing of the door bell interrupted his concentration. He was startled at first, but his heart beat faster in anticipation when his brain registered who might be at the other side of the door. He checked the time. He was almost sure it is going to be her. He just feels it.
“Come in, please.” Richard said, waiting with bated breath, and he was not wrong. He gave Maya a very warm lopsided smile when he caught sight of her, holding her cleaning supplies. “Hello Maya. Good afternoon.”
“Good afternoon Mr. Lim, errr, Ricky pala.” Maya greeted, her heart skipping a beat with the handsome sight before her. Richard was wearing jeans and a t-shirt that showed off his muscular built. He also looked and smelled nice. It looked liked he had just been to the shower. His eyeglasses suits him. She is drawn to everything she is seeing, especially that smile. “How are you? Is the fever gone?”
“Oh, I’m okay now, Maya. Wala na akong fever. Thanks to the medicine you gave me, the ramen, and also a long, deep sleep. I slept the rest of the day after eating your very filling ramen, then the whole night, I slept like a baby.” Richard told the beautiful girl standing by the entrance of his room. She is really very lovely, even in the plain uniform she was wearing, with her heart-shaped face, pert nose, pouty lips, doe-shaped eyes framed by long lashes and her hair in a bun, making her beautiful face and high cheekbones more prominent. “Thank you very much again for your help yesterday, Maya. I really appreciate it.”
“That’s good to know. Akala ko dadalhin na kita sa hospital today.” Maya said, with a smile, getting a bit self-conscious all of a sudden, she, who always appear confident and sure of herself. “I was glad to be able to help you.”
They smiled at each other, content to do that for several seconds, until Maya realized that they were doing it again, just like yesterday.
“Is it a good time to clean the room? Busy ka yata. I can come back na lang after the last one I will be cleaning.” She suddenly asked, noticing the papers scattered on the desk by the window and his computer blinking figures , from what she could see where she was standing.
“Oh, it is okay. I need a break anyway. I’m getting cross-eyed na yata with all the figures I was looking at.” Richard assured Maya, then got up from the desk, and stretched his arms a bit, making his shirt hugged his muscular and well-toned body more, then went to the coffee maker in the corner. “Would you like a cup of coffee first before you clean?”
“None for me, thank you. But please go ahead. I had two cups na before I started my shift today.” Maya said as she started tidying up the room, a bit harder to do as she is used to doing it while the occupant was out. It is bad enough that she was very much aware of Richard already.
“Oh you like drinking coffee too?” Richard asked, wanting to find out her likes, dislikes and interests.
“Naku, yes, lalo na when I started working here.” Maya replied.
“Matagal ka na ba here?” Richard asked as he sat by the floor-to-ceiling window of the room, with his cup, looking at her as he sips his hot brew.
“You mean, here sa NY, or sa hotel or sa States?” Maya asked.
“Yes to all.” Richard clarified, smiling, wanting to know everything he could about this girl that so fascinates him. He can see her in a runway or in television or movies as an actress or as maybe as flight attendant and yet, she is here, cleaning rooms, not that there is anything wrong with that. He just felt that she belongs somewhere else. He felt there is something so much more to her than being a cleaning staff in a hotel. He sense a depth in her that draws him a lot. It was evident in the way she speaks and carries herself.
“Oh, dito sa NYC, bago lang, since I started this job several weeks ago. My family lives in New Jersey. I grew up there, well, sort of, since I also spent my young life in the Philippines. We moved here when I was a kid, tapos every summer vacation and long holidays, I was in the Philippines. Then, I spent the last four years or so in Manila, studying.” Maya said as she removed Richard’s beddings and started putting on the new one on. “Magulo ba? I shuttled back and forth kasi. I like it there. Mas gusto ko nga sa Pilipinas.”
“No, no, I will do this. This is my job. Just enjoy your coffee.” Maya protested and shooed away Richard, gently as he tried to help her with the other corner.
Richard went back to his old place by the window. “Oh you mean, you studied in the Philippines, instead of here?” He asked, intrigued.
“Yes, I went to PUS.” Maya said simply, then asked Richard, “Hw about you, are you here on business?”
“Yes, I am. I also finished my undergraduate degree at PUS. But I think I was already finished when you started there. Otherwise, we would have met.” Richard remarked offhand.
Maya smiled at that. “Are you sure we would have met kung nagkasabay tayo ng time sa university? Ang laki kaya ng PUS. Saka magkaiba tayo ng course, medyo magkalayo pa. I took up Development Communication. You, I think took up a management course.”
“I think we would have. I had a feeling we would.” Richard insisted enigmatically, gazing at Maya meaningfully. “Even if you were right, I took up a management course, somehow we would have met. See, of all places nga, we met here.”
Maya didn’t know how to interpret Richard’s statement so she just let it passed, then shifted the conversation. “How long will you be in New York?”
“I’m not sure yet, depending on the amount of work in store for me here.” Richard said, then shrugged. “I’m not in a hurry to go back to the Philippines, anyway. I might combine a short vacation with this trip.”
Richard realized he really wanted to do that now. Before, he was just thinking of it. But the idea of staying in New York longer just got better. Besides, he needed to get away from stuffs, or specifically, from someone for a while. Before he could ask Maya more about her course and her work, his mobile phone rang. He looked at the screen and saw that it is his mom. He smiled.
“Maya, please excuse me. It is my mom.” He said, wondering why his mom is calling. She just called the day before he got sick.
“Oh, okay lang. I need to clean the bathroom anyway.” Maya said as she moved towards the direction of the bathroom to give Richard privacy. She closed the bathroom door as she started cleaning.
“Hi Mama!” Richard greeted his mom, Esmeralda. He always likes chatting with his mother. He is closer to her than his father who is a bit strict and distant, always busy with his various businesses when he was growing up. He knew he loved him in in his own way, but there were times he had a hard time believing it. “Napatawag ka po. Not that I don’t want to hear from my beautiful, bubbly mother.”
“Naku, Ricky. Ikaw talaga, son. Binobola mo na naman ang mama mo.” Donya Esmeralda laughed heartily at other end of the line. “Kumusta ka na diyan?”
“Okay naman po ako. I got sick, flu lang naman. Pero magaling na ako.” Richard said as he transferred to the armchair by the window with his cup of coffee.
“Naku, son, take good care of yourself. Siguro puyat ka na ng puyat and trabaho ng trabaho. Take enough rest. You don’t have to be a workaholic like your Papa. You are young, enjoy life.” Donya Esmeralda admonished her son. “Balance, son, balance.”
“Yes, Ma, I know. Don’t worry, after the work here, I will take a short vacation.” Richard informed his mother.
“Good, good. You need it, especially after your….” Donya Esmeralda said.
Richard interrupted his mother. “Mama, don’t worry about me. I’m really, really okay. It was for the best. Alexandra and I were not really compatible. We are just too different. I thought I have learned to love with her, but I realized I didn’t. It was not love, it was just a fleeting attraction. Hindi ko na sana pinabayaan pang umabot sa engagement. I thought it was what I wanted too, but it was not.”
“Yes, I know. I understand son. Ito rin naman kasing Papa mo, ang tingin sa iyo bata pa rin. He was also treating your lovelife as part of his business negotiation. Pero, she was asking me about you. I called you up na kasi kinukulit ako ni Alexandra. Hindi mo raw kasi sinasagot ang mga tawag niya. She does not know where you are. Rafaela naman will not tell her din.” Donya Esmeralda narrated. “Kausapin mo na kaya.”
“Mama, I think wala na kaming dapat pang pag-usapan. I thought we understood each other when we parted ways. Maayos naman kaming naghiwalay.” Richard insisted. He didn’t really want to talk to his ex-fiancee anymore. He really thought they understood each other when they parted ways. It was not a smooth parting, but he really thought Alexandra understood, got his point and his lengthy explanation why she and him will not work out in the long run, and capitulated, even if it was a bit out of her character to do so.
“Okay, ikaw ang bahala, son. It’s your life.” Donya Esmeralda said, resigned to the fact that she can’t sway her son anymore once he had made up his mind. Richard can be very stubborn, especially for something he really believes in.
“Thanks a lot, Ma. I love you.” Richard said.
“O siya, siya, hindi na ako makikialam. And I will not tell her where you are.” Donya Esmeralda said. “I love you too, son. See you soon. I have to go na. Your Tita Stella is waiting for me sa South Curves. We are having lunch to discuss the latest project of Lim Foundation.”
“Bye, Mama. See you soon.” Richard ended the call, put his phone down and stared at the view, but not really seeing it the fascinating New York skyline.
This is how Maya saw him after she emerged from the bathroom. Richard seemed to be deep in thought, she mused. She hated to interrupt his musing. But she needed to get going. Suddenly, he looked up, focused on her, and gave her another of his charming lopsided grin.
“You’re done na?” He asked, as if waking up from whatever maudlin thoughts he was having.
“Yes, I was about to say goodbye to you na nga sana. Kaso, parang ang lalim ng iniisip mo.” Maya remarked as she started assembling her cleaning stuffs.
“Oh, wala iyon. I don’t want to think about it na rin.” Richard said, then asked. “What time do you finish your shift?’
“In two hours or so?” Maya replied, curious on where his question is leading to.
“Good! Do you have any plans, some place you need to be, or a date after your shift?” Richard asked earnestly, hoping she would answer negative to all.
“Hmmm, wala naman. I will just go home with Emman.” Maya said.
Richard suddenly looked crestfallen upon hearing Emman’s name. She is already taken, he thought. May boyfriend na si Maya. “Oh, you are going home with your boyfriend, then.”
Maya smiled, then corrected Richard’s assumption. “Oh no, Emman is my housemate. He works here also. Siya iyong pinabili ko ng ramen, and he is gay. Pinoy din siya. You should meet him. Funny iyon and very masayahin.”
Richard felt immense relief, and very happy, after hearing Maya’s clarification. Everything is alright again in the world. There is something very strong pulling him to this girl, for some reason.
“If you are free then, would you like to have dinner with me?” Richard asked suddenly, feeling a bit nervous.
Maya was surprised at Richard’s invitation, at the same time, her heart skipped a beat. Then, she tried to calm herself with the thought that maybe, like what he said yesterday, Richard would just like to thank her lang for the ramen.
“I would like to. Pero are you sure you are okay na? Baka mabinat ka kapag lumabas ka. Medyo malamig na. Saka hindi mo naman ako kailangang ilibre because I bought you that ramen.” She said.
“Maya, it was not because of that. I would really, really like to have dinner with you. I want to get to know you better.” Richard said directly, wanting fervently for Maya to say yes. “Sige na, have a pity na on poor me, all alone in New York.”
“Hahahaha, as if…I’m sure, marami kang kakilala or may kamag-anak ka rito.” Maya guessed. “Saka you are working here for now, di ba. So may officemates ka dito.”
Richard smiled sheepishly and admitted yes, may cousin siya sa city, then some relatives of his father, and yes he knows people here. But insisted that he would still like to have dinner with Maya, that she is the one he would like to have dinner with. Maya said yes with a smile. Richard could really be very charming when he wanted something, she realized.
“I need to go home first. Let me know na lang where we can meet.” Maya told Richard. She only had jeans and a simple blouse in her locker downstairs. She had an inkling that those are not going to be suitable for the dinner with Richard.
“Oh, I can pick you up na lang. Where do you live?” Richard said.
“No, huwag na. Maaabala ka pa. I will take the subway na lang and meet you later.” Maya insisted, not wanting to inconvenience Richard. Basides, kagagaling lang niya sa sakit.
Richard agreed, seeing that Maya was adamant about meeting him somewhere instead of being picked up. However, he has plans of taking Maya home. They agreed to meet at a cozy Italian restaurant near the hotel. Maya said goodbye to Richard to clean the last room on the floor. She had a goofy grin on her face as she cleaned, looking forward to having dinner with Richard.
Richard on other hand, went back to his paperwork. However, he had a hard time concentrating on the figures before him. His mind was already on the ‘date’ he will have with Maya. He felt very happy thinking about it. Just the thought of it, removed all the sad feelings he had earlier as he stared out of the window, thinking of what happened with him and the girl he was supposed to get married to.
In such a short time, Maya was occupying his thoughts, one thing that Alexandra never really managed to do in their tumultous and volatile relationship. Maya is different. Richard already had an inkling then that Maya will be an important part of his life.