Posts Tagged Two to Tango

Two to Tango – Chapter 8

 

Chapter 8

 

Maya hugged her knees, trying to comfort herself somehow. Remembering the past filled her heart with both sadness and happiness. She felt sad with the way things ended that summer. But despite that, she will always treasure the happy memories and her unforgettable 18th birthday celebration. She sighed. She was unable to explain why her mind sought the past more often these days. She did not really intend to take another trip down memory lane that morning but there she was, lost in the past again, while she was in Richard’s office! This time, the memories were triggered by one of the books she saw in Richard’s bookshelf. It was the same book he had given her on her birthday!

Minutes after Richard left, Maya took him on his offer to look for books to read or movies to watch. She entered the room that Richard indicated, humming to herself, feeling so happy with the way the morning turned out. She immediately fell in love with the lovely, cozy room that she saw. It has floor-to-ceiling windows on two sides, while another side has a floor-to-ceiling bookshelf filled with books and DVD, and at the fourth side, a big, minimalist, clutter-free table and a comfortable chair were placed, facing the big windows, taking advantage of the magnificent view.

By one of the floor-to-ceiling windows, two comfortable looking, oversized armchairs faced each other, with a coffee table in the middle. For her, they were perfect for relaxing, drinking coffee, and reading a book, especially on a rainy day or a quiet morning like the one she was having. They are positioned to take advantage of the view and the light filtering in, with an unencumbered view of the cityscape thrown in. She scanned the bookshelf, and noticed that she and Richard have similar tastes in books, and differ a bit when it comes to movies. To her delight, she found among the books,  a book which she had been wanting to read but unable to find a copy in the bookstores in Negros. She took it, and was about to head to the armchair when she saw the travel book. She took it as well.

Maya settled into the armchair, holding both books, with the travel book on top. She thumbed through the travel book and noticed that it was well-read, with markings on some of the pages. She unconsciously caressed it as she looked out of the window and stared into nothing in particular, remembering that special moment when she received the same book from Richard. Despite what happened, she still had the book, and Richard’s card. She brought it with her to Spain, and even brought it back to the Philippines when they returned. She left in Talisay, though, whispering to the book that they will travel together soon, the way she wanted to travel for so long, and not the short, accompanied trips she had while she was living in Europe.

Maya sighed again, stretched her arms on top of her head, then decided that she had enough of thinking of the past and what had happened. She got up, intending to get a cup of coffee before she start to read the book she chose. She was crossing through the living room to go the kitchen when the front door opened. She was a bit startled, then she remembered that the housekeeper was coming to clean the place. She saw an older woman by the door.

“Magandang umaga po, Ma’am! Sorry po at hindi na ako nag-doorbell. Akala ko po kasi walang tao. Kayo po siguro iyong bisita ni Sir Richard. Ako po si Manang Sol, iyong housekeeper niya,” Manang Sol said by way of introduction. She seemed surprised too at seeing her. However, she gave Maya a friendly smile as she held on the grocery bag she brought with her.

“Oh, hello po Manang Sol. I’m Maya po. Ako nga po iyong bisita niya na dumating kahapon. Nice to meet you po. Nabanggit nga po ni Ricky na darating kayo ngayon,” Maya said smiling, offering her hand to the older woman. “Maya na lang po pala ang itawag niyo sa akin.”

“Nice meeting you po Ma’am Maya!” Manang Sol said, smiling, taking Maya’s proffered hand. “Ma’am Maya na lang po kung okay lang sa inyo. Hindi po ako sanay ng walang “Ma’am.”

Maya smiled at that. “Kayo po ang bahala, Manang.”

“Err, Ma’am Maya, pwede po magtanong?” Manang Sol asked hesitantly.

“Sige po, ano po ba iyon?” Maya asked her.

“Girlfriend po ba kayo ni Sir Richard?” Manang Sol blurted, then she probably realized that her question was too forward, inappropriate and too personal, so she apologized. “Ay sorry po, Ma’am Maya, pasensya na sa tanong ko.”

Maya was actually startled with the question. But the older woman seemed to have asked it out of natural curiosity so she smiled to put her at ease. “Okay lang po, Manang. Hindi po ako girlfriend ni Ricky. Mag-best friend po ang mga Mama namin ni Ricky and magkatabi ang bahay namin sa Negros. Mag-best friend din po sila ng Kuya ko.”

“Ganoon po ba. Pasensya na po talaga, Ma’am at hindi ko napigilan ang sarili ko na magtanong. Kasi po kayo pa lang kasi ang naging bisitang babae ni Sir Richard dito, maliban kay Ms. Liza na nagdadala ng mga paper kay Sir, minyan-minsan.” Manang Sol explained. “Akala ko po talaga may nobya na rin sa wakas si Sir Richard nang makita ko kayo ngayon. Ang ganda-ganda ninyo po pati, and bagay kayo ni Sir. Ay, pasensya na Ma’am Maya. Tigil na po talaga ako sa kadaldalan ko, promise!” Manang Sol added, her face turning red.

Maya laughed. She likes Richard housekeeper. “Sige po, Manang, okay lang talaga kahit para kayong showbiz reporter.”

The two of them shared a laugh.

“Basta, Ma’am, bibilisan ko na lang po ang paglilinis para di ko kayo masyadong maistorbo. Nagpapahinga po yata kayo. Baka pagod pa kayo sa biyahe, Ma’am Maya. Pasensya na sa abala. Baka hindi kayo makapag-concentrate dahil sa ingay ko,” The housekeeper said very fast.

“Naku, okay lang po, Manang Sol. Nagre-relax lang talaga ako ngayon. Mabilis lang naman po ang biyahe ko kahapon and hindi naman kami masyadong na-traffic from the airport ni Ate Liza,” Maya assured the older woman. “Magtitimpla lang po sana ako ng kape.”

“Basta po kung may kailangan kayo, sabihan ninyo lang ako. Magluluto na rin po para sa inyo,” Manang Sol said, as she put out the contents of the shopping bag she was carrying earlier on the kitchen table. “Ako na po ang gagawa ng kape ninyo. Ihahatid ko na lang po. Saan po kayo nagpapahinga? Sa office ni Sir? Masarap nga po na maglagi sa bahagi na iyon ng bahay, maganda ang view.”

“Thank you Manang. Okay rin naman po na hindi kayo magluto kasi marami kinain na breakfast ni Ricky. Medyo busog pa po ako. Ako na rin po ang magtitimpla ng kape kasi nakapag-brew naman po ako kanina. May natira pa,” Maya said, as the two of them headed to the kitchen.

“Okay po, Ma’am. Lutuin ko na rin and pwede ninyo naman po initin na lang para hindi na kayo magluto. Okay po ba sa inyo ang kare-kare? Especialty ko po iyon, Ma’am Maya,” Manang Sol  said,

“Naku, Manang Sol. Favorite ko po iyon. Thank you po. Matagal-tagal na rin nga akong hindi nakakakain ng kare-kare,” Maya exclaimed. Come to think of it, she was craving for it at that moment. She poured herself another cup of coffee.

“Opo Ma’am Maya. Sige po, ito na lang ang lulutuin ko para sa inyo and magluluto na rin ako ng extra para kay Sir Richard. Paborito rin po kasi niya ang kare-kare. Sige po, maiwan ko muna kayo. Tawagin ko na lang po kayo kapag handa na ang lunch ninyo.” Manang Sol, opened the dishwasher and seeing that it has enough for a run, started it.

“Sige po, Manang. Lalabas na lang po ako when I get hungry para di na kayo maabala. Doon na lang muna ako sa office ni Ricky. I like the view there. Tama po kayo, iyon ang pinakamagandang part ng bahay,” Maya said smiling. “Thank you po Manang. Looking forward to eating your kare-kare.”

Back into her now favorite armchair, Maya started to read the novel she got from the shelf. She got lost in it until she felt her stomach growling and noticed that it was already past 1PM. She went to the kitchen and Manang Sol served her the best kare-kare she ever tasted. She cajoled her in joining her for lunch when she found that she haven’t eaten yet, and the housekeeper relented. The two of them chatted a bit and she found that she had been Richard’s housekeeper since he returned from the States and took over the family business.

With another cup of coffee with her, she went back to her place by the window. She can really stay there for a day and not move a bit. She finished the book, as she really reads fast. She was thinking of what to do next when her mobile phone rang. It was Richard.

Hello Ricky! 

Hi Maya! I hope you are having a relaxing time. I just need to review documents and sign some papers, then I can head home to pick you up. I think I will be there around 6:30PM or so.

Yes, I’m doing great! I hope your day is not too hectic. I love your office. I have been staying here since this morning. Should I dress up for dinner? Where are we going, if I may ask?

Good to know, Maya. Feel at home please. My day, ah let me tell you about it later. For dinner, casual is okay. I hope you will like the place I will take you. One of my favorite places in the city. Surprise iyong place, hahahaha.

Hahahaha, okay. Looking forward. But welllll, I’m the same with surprises and wrapped gifts, like when I was 18. By the way, baka you are too tired na to go out to dinner, Ricky, you sound tired na.  We can just stay at home. I don’t mind not going out. Manang Sol cooked kare-kare. She said that it’s your favorite too! 

She did? I would love to take you to dinner, Maya. No worries, I’m okay. See you later. Looking forward to having dinner with you and hearing out what you want to tell me.

Okay then! See you, Ricky. Looking forward too, as well!

Maya found herself smiling widely after they ended the call. She has a nice feeling about the evening ahead. She was keeping her fingers crossed that Richard will agree to her proposition. She was unable to concentrate after that. She stood up, stretched her arms over her head, then looked out of the window. Richard really has the best view from this room in the house.

Richard found himself smiling too as he put his phone down after calling Maya. He settled back into his office chair, trying to alleviate the tiredness he was feeling at that moment. He was tired, but he wanted to take Maya to dinner and besides, he will get to relax with her. He had a long day, attending to various business concerns that needed his immediate attention. He spent most of the day in meetings and negotiation.

Richard looked at the mountains of papers on his desk, and sighed! And now these, after all the meetings, he mused. He ought to delegate what he could to his next in command. The problem was, he felt he needed to tie all the loose ends his father’s untimely death had left before he can do so. He took a deep breath. He checked the time. He still have several hours before the dinner with Maya. But first thing first, he needed a cup of coffee and a bit of recharging so he can finish everything that needed to be done. He stood up and walked towards Liza’s desk.

“Excuse me, Ate Liza, may I have another cup of coffee, please?” Richard asked, poking his head out of his office door.

“Okay, Richard. Would you like some pastries too?” Liza asked. “I bought a new batch from the shop you like.”

“Thanks, Ate Liza, but coffee will do. I’m not hungry,” Richard replied. “Besides, I’m having dinner with Maya later, di ba?”

“Okay, I’ll just get you a cup of coffee then.” Liza stood up to make her boss a cup of coffee from the pantry in between their offices.

Several minutes later, she knocked lightly on Richard’s door. She found him burrowed into his big armchair that looked a bit out-of-place in the office. Liza knows that the armchair is the same one as the ones he has in his office at home. She was not surprised that she found her boss there and not at his desk. She always found him there every time he asks her to bring him coffee after a long and tiring day.

“Coffee, Richard.” Liza put down the coffee on the table in front of her boss. “By the way, your dinner reservation is at 7PM ha. Rafael will be there this evening. He was the one who picked up the call when I phoned.”

“Thanks a lot, Ate Liza, for this and making the reservation,”  Richard said, holding the cup to his lips and taking, what for him, was a like a life-sustaining sip.”Rafa will be there? That would be nice! I haven’t seen him since he returned from Madrid.”

“Sabi nga niya. O sige Richard, I’ll be at my desk lang if you need me,” Liza said.

“Okay. Thanks again. You can go home at 5PM, Ate Liza. I’ll just leave all the signed papers and the documents I managed to review on my desk.”

“Noted, Richard. Thanks. I want to watch a movie nga with my daughter. Enjoy your evening with Maya.” Liza waved at her boss, then went back to her desk. She is very curious about her boss’ guest and family friend. Especially, as her boss, hasn’t taken any female friend in that restaurant he likes very much. Well sa pagkakaalam lang naman niya! His friend Rafael was also surprised that Richard was bringing someone there, when she made the reservation for her boss.

When he was alone again, Richard looked out of his window, staring out absentmindedly, sipping his coffee. He was really curious on what will Maya discuss with him. Is it about the past?  Should I talk to her about it? Is it about time we put the past to rest so we can start again?

He returned to his desk after finishing the coffee, still, unable to decide on how to approach the evening. One thing he resolved was that he would just see how things are, and go with the flow. He plowed through the documents he needed to attend do. He managed to finish earlier than he expected so he decided to head home early so he can still change for dinner.

Thirty minutes after, he was home. The place was quiet when he arrived and Maya was nowhere to be seen on the first level of the house. Richard presumed she was resting or getting ready for their evening ahead. He proceeded to his own room and got ready too. When he was finished, he went down to his office to inform Maya that he will be waiting for her there. He spotted the travel book on the armchair by the window when he was about to settle on that spot to text and wait for Maya. He looked at it and like Maya earlier, he stared out of the window, looking at the city bathe in twilight as he caressed the book absentmindedly.

Maya was unaware that Richard was home. She was in deep thought as she was getting ready for the evening.

Should I bring up the past too? Maybe, this would be the right time to bring up the past, for us to clear the air and start anew? We are seven years older now, after all, and we are in each other’s world again. What happened in the past is an unfinished business between us. Yes, I wanted to know why the Richard I saw after my birthday was the complete opposite of the Richard I have gotten to know several days before. Would he help me with my current predicament?   

Maya checked the time, and saw that she has more or less 30 minutes before her agreed meet up time with Richard. She presumed he would send her a message when he is downstairs. She took a deep breath and she felt nervous and yet, ready for what the evening will bring – it will either be Richard’s opposition or cooperation with regard to her plans, and either resolution or more confusion with regard to their shared past. But she believed then that whatever it is, it is better to know where she stands so she can take it from there. She was ready to meet things head on.

 

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Two to Tango – Chapter 7

Chapter 7

 

The Past

The place resembled a magical garden that balmy evening. Sunflowers, tulips and roses adorned the open-air pavilion, which is like a work of art itself due to its very distinct and beautiful architecture. Strings of tiny blinking lights were wrapped around, and dropped from, the big branches of century-old trees that dotted the club house where the party was being held. Seeing the place from a distance, it looked like hundreds of fireflies were fluttering by inside a magical place. Music and conversation flowed freely. Everyone was having a wonderful time, dancing, chatting, touching base, eating the sumptuous dinner prepared by a famous Negros chef, celebrating Maya Dela Rosa’s coming of age.

Taking a breather, when the party was winding down bit, from the bench placed under one of the huge trees, Maya looked around and thought to herself that what her mother planned for her 18th birthday wasn’t so bad at all, wasn’t so bad at all. She admitted to herself that she was having a wonderful time. She felt very happy. She saw some of her friends still dancing and just having a merry time, not tiring at all, as well as some of her cousins who came all the way from Spain to celebrate with her, and the older generation were in groups chatting. Her mother was right, you only get to experience this once in a lifetime, so enjoy and embrace it! She did and she was glad to do so. She also admitted to herself that the celebration was made extra special by someone.

Maya’s gaze zeroed in on that ‘someone’, the guy holding a glass of wine and chatting with her brother and some of his friends. Richard Lim looked so handsome in his evening clothes. He tilted his head and smiled as he gestured with his left hand. Suddenly, she remembered their kiss the day before. She unconsciously touched her lips. She blushed and covered her face, feeling giddy remembering the kiss. The heady feeling she was experiencing at that moment was completely alien to her. It was the first time her heart beat like this!

When Maya looked up, she blushed crimson as she saw Richard gazing back at her. It felt like they were in their own world again, much like when they did the 18 roses ceremony earlier. Richard ended up as Maya’s last dance. The moment he gave her the rose, then held her, and led her around the room, she felt like she was transported to a place where the only ones present were her and Richard.

Maya smiled. Richard smiled warmly back, his eyes disappearing almost, into tiny slits. She felt a shortness of breath, a seemingly common occurrence in the presence of this guy! She lowered her gaze, suddenly feeling very shy, and in doing so, in her peripheral vision, she saw her brother looking intently, first at Richard and then at her. Her Kuya Seth frowned. She got nervous all of a sudden. Not that her brother meddled much into her life, but he was very protective of her when it comes to boys. Since she was about to turn 18, he had been lecturing her on being careful with boys and would give some guys who had shown interests in her the third degree.

Oh no! Did Kuya Seth notice something between me and Ricky? 

Maya felt that her brother was suspicious of her and Richard’s closeness so soon after they met! Her Kuya Seth was waiting for them when she and Richard returned from their wonderful sightseeing trip. They were laughing about a favorite scene in a movie they both liked very much while climbing up the stairs, with Richard holding on her elbow to guide her, when Seth spoke from above, asking them where they have been. Her brother has always been very observant and that evening was no exception. He looked at them closely. But then, he seemed to have change his mind, and greeted Richard warmly and dragged him to his room to catch up. That was the last she saw of Richard the night before, until she caught a glimpse of him sitting with his mother at the start of the party, looking so dashing and so handsome, making her heart all fluttery all over again.

Maya really felt an instant connection to Richard, like one soul recognizing the other. Ah maybe, she was overdoing the description because of all the romance novels she was into, or that reading those voraciously affected her perception and judgment, but it was the best she could describe the feeling she was having. Yes, after the kiss, they kind of got shy with each other. She was flustered naturally, as it was not only because she was not expecting it to happen, but that it was also because it was her first kiss. They just stared at each other after their lips parted, until they were interrupted by another group of tourists, wanting to check the beautiful garden too.

Both of them were initially silent while navigating the road back to town. It was Richard who broke the silence. He started saying something about the kiss. The blood, sort of, went to her head all of a sudden, and her heart beat so fast. As a knee-jerk reaction, she had cut him off and told him, that they shouldn’t dwell on it. She didn’t know how to act, really. Richard looked at her for a long time, seemingly wanting to say something, then nodded to himself as if coming to a decision. He changed the topic. It was like he was trying to put her at ease, seeing her reaction. Before long, they were back to conversing naturally. She and Richard spent the rest of the day chatting at a beautiful and artsy cafe in town, getting to know each other more. The feeling generated by the kiss hovered in the background. She was aware of him in a different level. They headed home when it started to get dark.

Maya’s reverie was interrupted by one of her closest friends in college, Emman. Both of them were taking a bachelor’s degree in a university in Bacolod.

“Maya Dela Rosa, baka matunaw na ha! Kanina ka pa tingin ng tingin diyan kay divine Mr. Richard Lim,” Emman quipped with a big, teasing smile as he approached Maya. “In fairness, bagay kayo, sa lahat ng mga nag-dance diyan sa 18 roses mo. Para nga kayong may sariling mundo. Grabe ang titigan ninyo, friend. Boyfriend mo na ano? Bakit hindi mo nababanggit iyan sa akin dati. Nagtatampo ako friend ha.”

“Uy Emman, ano ka ba? Hindi ah. Family friend lang namin is Richard and best friend nga ni Kuya Seth, di ba. Nabanggit ko na siya sa iyo dati. Kahapon ko nga lang siya na-meet in person.” Maya pinched Emman lightly, then she grinned mischievously. She is used to her gay friend’s way with words and straightforward talk. “Pero totoo nga? Ganoon rin ang tingin sa akin ni Ricky?” She asked giddily, unable to help herself.

“Sus, Maya Dela Rosa, pa-demure ka pa kunwari kanina. Kinikilig naman pala talaga ang beauty mo. Kung hindi mo nga lang crush na crush iyang si Richard Lim, and ah ah, huwag ng mag-deny, kilala kita, aangkinin ko iyan!” Emman teased, looking at Richard admiringly, and sighed exaggeratedly. “Sana may kapatid siya, pinsan pwede na rin. O kaya naman is brother dear mo na lang ang sa akin. Parang mas gusto ko yata ang mukhang bad boy ang image.”

“Ikaw talaga, Emman. Bad boy ba ang image ng brother ko? Hindi naman ah,” Maya remarked, looking at her older brother fondly. “Suplado lang nga minsan!”

“You got it right, sister, kanina pa nga ako no pansin niyang si brother dear, kaya balik na lang ako kay Richard Lim. Pero siya sige since best friend kita and birthday mo naman, iyong-iyo na siya,” Emman said, teasing.

Maya laughed and shook her head at her incorrigible friend.

“O bumalik ka na sa mga bisita mo. Baka hinahanap ka ng Mama mo. I’ll just go to my car to get a charger. Ito kasing si Belinda, na-drain ang phone. Alam mo naman iyan, can’t live without her phone!” Emman said, referring to one of their friends from school.

“Okay, five minutes pa here,” Maya replied. “Sakit na kasi ang mga paa ko rito sa shoes ko. Hindi talaga ako sanay ng naka-heels.”

“Talagang ganyan friend, tiis-ganda. Kung ganyan nga lang ka-dainty ang feet ko and ka-beautiful ang legs and built ko, di sana naka-heels din ako. Rampa kung rampa. Pang-Miss U lang ang peg!”

“Emman, ikaw talaga, walang kakupas-kupas sa mga punchline mo. Sige na, pumunta ka na sa car mo! Naghihintay si Belle!” Maya shooed Emman away playfully. He made an exaggerated beauty queen exit which had Maya grinning and shaking her head again.

Maya was still smiling minutes after Emman left. Remembering that her mother might be looking for her, she tried to stand, but sat down abruptly. Her shoes were pinching her feet. It really hurt. They were like on fire. She removed the dainty shoes with the deadly heels, and started to massage her feet.

“Hay, I should have not talked Emman into buying this monstrous thing!” Maya muttered to herself as she tried to move her aching feet.

“Maya are you okay?” Someone asked from behind her.

Maya looked up, and saw Richard approaching her from the direction of the parking lot, with concern on his face. He was carrying a bulky paper bag.

“What happened? Do you need help?” Richard sat down beside Maya, putting the paper bag on the bench, then looking at Maya’s feet. “They looked red,”  he remarked.

“I’m okay, Ricky. I’m not just used to wearing shoes with this much heels nang matagal.” Maya assured Richard. “I can manage. Don’t worry. Pabalik na rin ako sa party. Baka hinahanap na ako ni Mama.”

To show him that she was really okay, she put her shoes back on. She stood up, and winced again.

“I don’t think you are okay. Stay here muna. I can just talk to Tita Tessie.” Richard stood up, moved to go back to the pavilion.

Maya grabbed his arm. “No Ricky, I am really okay. Kakayanin ko na. Patapos na naman itong party. I will just sit again when I get in the pavilion. I don’t want any fuss pa. Knowing Mama, she will when she finds out,” she pleaded.

“Okay, okay. If you say so. Ganito na lang, hold on to my arm para less pressure sa feet mo.” Then he added teasingly, “I don’t think you will agree to me carrying you like a princess o kayo naman, piggy back ride!.”

Maya grinned. “Nice, but no need, Mr. Lim. That would be more of a spectacle than me declaring my feet are hurting or walking barefooted inside!”

Richard grinned back, then offered his left for Maya to hold to. They made the short walk to the pavilion, chatting a bit.

“Ricky, I will just sit where I was sitting before,” Maya said when they were inside.

“Okay, then rest lang ha. I will just tell Tita Tessie where you are. I saw her talking to Mama earlier bago nagpunta sa parking lot.” Richard guided Maya to the seat she indicated. He made sure that she was comfortable. He was about to leave, when he stopped.

“Oh, and this is for you. Happy birthday Ms. Maya Dela Rosa. I hope you will like it,” Richard said, giving Maya the paper bag.

“Thank you, Ricky.” Maya said, smiling happily at Richard. Curious on what he got for her as the paper bag was quite heavy. Unable to help herself, she asked him, “Can I open it now?”

“Sure,” Richard said, smiling indulgently.

However, before she can do so, their moment was interrupted.

“There you are Maya. Mama was looking for you!” Seth said, looking curiously again at her and Richard. “Bro, nawala ka kanina. Halika may ipapakilala ako sa iyo. The lady has been asking for an introduction.”

Before Richard could say anything, Seth dragged him away from Maya. He waved at her apologetically, mouthing ‘Happy Birthday’ again, smiling warmly. She smiled back, feeling so happy and giddy. The last part of her brother’s statement didn’t register until days later.

That was the last glimpse she had of Richard that evening. Her brother really had a habit of dragging Richard, never to be seen again for the rest of the night. Soon after, her mother and some of her friends sat with her, and chatted. The party ended an hour after that.

Maya plopped down her bed as soon as she had entered her room, wanting to rest her poor, tired, sore feet. But before that, she needed to do something first – open Richard’s gift. She had been dying to do so.

Inside the bag was a beautifully-wrapped gift. She was loath to destroy the beautiful wrapper, but what can she do, she was too excited to see what he gave her. She closed her eyes, then ripped the wrapper. Inside the box, she saw a book. She inspected it and  exclaimed her delight when she saw the title. Richard gave her a book detailing down the places one must see in one’s lifetime. She found a card tucked inside the book.

Dear Maya,

Happy birthday! Wishing you a lifetime of adventures! Enjoy life’s moments always! Live your life! Be happy. 

Ricky Lim

Maya was touched. She never thought that Richard will give her such a thoughtful gift! He remembered all her prattling about traveling and the grand adventures in her head. She looked for her phone and not really realizing that it was late, she texted him to thank him, just wanting to connect to him at that moment.

Ricky, thank you so much for the travel book! I love it!

Putting the phone down, she realized how late it was and she might have disturbed Richard’s sleep. However, her phone beeped a minute after.

You’re welcome Maya. I’m glad you like it. I saw it in a bookstore in Bacolod this morning. Bakit gising ka pa? How’s your feet?

Maya quickly typed in a reply.

I can’t seem to sleep, Ricky. The body is tired but the mind is still active. Adrenalin rush, I guess! I’m okay now that I’m not wearing those heels. 

I’ll say good night now so you can rest Maya!

Good night Ricky. Thank you for making my birthday a very memorable and happy one.

Happy to be a part of it Maya. Good night and sweet dreams!

Maya clutched her phone to her chest, feeling like she could fly! She stared at the ceiling and remembered again all the beautiful moments she had shared with Richard so far, and the wonderful feeling they evoked in her.

That night, Maya didn’t have an inkling that those treasured moments were the last happy ones she would share with Richard that bittersweet summer.

 

 

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Two to Tango – Chapter 6

 

Chapter 6

 

Extremely exhausted, so bone-tired, due to the grueling day he had, compounded by his skipping lunch, not eating a proper dinner, and developing a splitting headache afterwards, Richard staggered to his feet, towards his place that evening. He just wanted to plop down on his bed, go into deep sleep, or better, zonk out for two straight days! Proper sleep and rest seem like precious commodities these days, he muttered tiredly! Ah, he was looking forward to some peace and quiet.

However, as soon as Richard stepped into his flat, he felt like he got lost somewhere, and ended up in someone else’s place. Loud music assaulted his ears. Then, something else assaulted his nostrils. He sniffed, just to be sure, and yes, definitely, there was a distinct smell wafting from his kitchen, a smell he dislikes very much! It was the smell of newly-fried dried fish!

“What the…????” Richard exclaimed, as he rushed to turn off the electronic dance music blaring out from a music player he saw on his coffee table. Luckily, that thing was not pass code protected. He heaved a sigh of relief as soon as the last beat faded from the player. He put it back where he found it, and was about to check on who messed up his kitchen, when he felt a presence behind him. He turned, and was about to speak sharply to whoever it was, but lost the stinging rebuke he was about to utter when he saw who emerged from his kitchen. He caught his breath, and felt like his heart literally stopped for several precious seconds.

Richard saw a girl wearing ripped denim shorts, sleeveless, loose white blouse, hair cascading down her back, and upon his quick, cursory inspection, barefooted. It also registered on his poor, tired, brain that she was a vision of loveliness even if she was not wearing any make-up. He was stunned when he finally connected the person before him to a name!

Whoa! This is Maya Dela Rosa now? 

The girl he knew years ago has grown into a beautiful woman! Richard gulped and didn’t even realize he had been staring intently, without saying anything for several long seconds. He wished then,  that, he had at least had checked online, so that he would at least have an inkling that she would look like this now. But at the back of his mind, he knew too that no photos will do justice to the vision before him.

“Kuya Richard, Kuya Richard, Hello, Kuya Richard….!!!” Maya said several times as she waved her right hand in front of a seemingly shell-shocked Richard Lim, trying to call his attention. She was waiting for him, and knew that it was him when she heard the door opening, but still, there was a part of her that was unprepared to seeing him again like this after all the years that had passed since that momentous summer.

Richard snapped out of the state he found himself in. He was confused for a moment and unable to explain what had just happened to him. Then, he suddenly remembered why he wanted to rush to the kitchen. Richard frowned, his eyes turning into tiny slits. Instead of saying a cordial hello to Maya, he snapped at her before he can stop himself. She so unsettled him in such a short time they were sharing space again.

“What have you done to my kitchen? Ano iyang niluto mo? Gabing-gabi na. My whole place will reek of that terrible smell!”

“Kumain ka na ba, Kuya? I cooked us dinner. I brought danggit for you. Niluto ko na rin. I also brought dried pusit. Would you like that instead?” Maya asked Richard with a mischievous grin, ignoring his outburst. She knew that he hated the most the smell of dried fish and the likes. He reacted like she expected him to react. Her plan is, indeed, into motion.

“I did. Besides, I don’t like dried fish and pusit, di ba?” Richard told Maya even if he can feel his stomach starting to grumble. He only had a clubhouse sandwich before he left the office. He thought also that maybe, Maya forgot about his dislike of fried dried fish and squid. It was a long time ago after all. He tried to calm done and deal with the situation the best he could.

Richard took a deep breath and summoned whatever little patience he still had after his killer day. Hearing her calling him “Kuya’” to his face somehow irritated him, yes, he admitted, more than the smell he dislikes.  “Please go ahead and have your dinner and after you’ve eaten, put away those things, please. Just give away the rest of the fish and squid you brought to Manang tomorrow. Somewhere in one of the cupboards, there should be a room spray or something to mask that awful smell,” he added distractedly.

“Yes, Kuya Richard,” Maya replied, a bit subdued, seeing that Richard was trying to be calm about the whole thing. She felt a bit guilty with what she have done, seeing that he did look very tired. But still, sigh, very handsome. He took her breath away and she barely managed to hold it. “I’ll clean your kitchen, top to bottom, as if nothing happens, promise. Cross my heart, hope to die!”

“No need for that, please. Just make sure to put away everything after you have eaten and follow my instructions, especially regarding that awful smell.  Manang will come tomorrow to clean,” Richard said as he grabbed a bottle of water from the fridge.

“Yes, Kuya Richard, I will, promise talaga,” Maya assured him as she sat down to eat her late dinner. She was not really hungry, and the food was more to irk Richard but now, she had to eat some of it now.

“Errr, do you need anything else?” Richard asked Maya, deciding to let things slide. She must have forgotten, after all, tt has been years. “Are you settling in, okay? Did you call your mother?”

“Oh, wala na naman Kuya Richard. Ate Liza took care of that earlier. Thank you. Yes, I have called her and told her I’m doing fine here.” Maya replied as she looked closely at Richard and noticed him wincing, as if in pain. Before she can stop herself, she asked him, “Are you okay, Kuya Richard? Is there anything I can do for you?”

“I’m okay,” Richard said, despite the fact that it was the opposite. He didn’t have the energy to explain things to her. “If you don’t need anything else, please excuse me, I will just go and rest. I had a long day.”

“Of course, Kuya Richard. Good night. Have a good sleep,” Maya said brightly. Then unable to help herself, she grinned charmingly at him, wanting to cheer him up somehow, or probably annoy him some more, she was not so sure which. She should really stop. “Are you sure you don’t like any of this yummy food?”

“Maya…..” Richard started, then smiled a bit as he saw some of the impishness of the old Maya into this grown-up version.

“Okay, okay….” Maya replied, raising her hands in mock surrender.

“Good night, Ms. Maya Dela Rosa!” Richard said with emphasis.

“Good night, Mr. Richard Lim!” Maya bantered back.

Thinking that he was out of earshot, she added softly while pulling a chair, “Sweet dreams, Ricky. Good to see you again, after all these years. In fairness, que quapo mo pa rin talaga ha!” Then, Maya giggled at her silliness.

Richard, who was about to go back to where she was to tell her to leave the hall light on, smiled at hearing that. Suddenly, he felt lighter and happy. So, he is ‘Ricky’ to her when she is alone ha. Hmmmm…

“Thank you, Maya,” he whispered to himself. Then, clearing his throat, he told her, “Errr, Maya, please don’t turn off the hall light, please.”

Maya looked at him in surprise. Her face heated up. Did he hear what she just said? “Oh, you are still there, Kuya Richard!” She said with emphasis. “Sure, I will leave it on. Good night,” she managed to say.

Richard smiled at her. Maya had an inkling that he heard the whole thing. But what can she do. She just acted clueless. As Richard climbed the stairs to the second level, Maya can hear him humming.

“Humming pa, ha!” Maya muttered to herself. This can’t be. He should stay mad at me and irritated and unhappy, not feeling chirpy all of a sudden. Better go back to your plan, Maya dela Rosa and no more feeling guilty.

She cleaned the kitchen after she had her dinner. At loose ends afterwards, she made herself a cup of coffee, got her stuffed toy cats from the room she was shown by Richard’s assistant, Ate Liza earlier. She noticed a light seeping out of the room besides her and only then she realized that she was given the room next to Richard! She felt a flutter in her belly knowing that, for reasons she can’t yet fathom. She tried to shrugged it off, went downstairs again and plopped on the sofa facing the floor to ceiling window, hugging her toys for comfort. Since she didn’t want to be lost in her thoughts, she thought of listening to some of the songs in her current playlist. She didn’t realize later on, that she was singing loudly, swaying to the music too! Suddenly, she felt a presence.

“Maya Dela Rosa, please, no more music at this time of the night.”  Richard told Maya in a tired, resigned voice, seeing that she was lost in the music. He also removed one of her ear buds. “Rest, please!”

Maya jumped, surprised. She saw a Richard, clutching his forehead, as if in pain. She felt so guilty that she was doing this to him, especially when she knows that he had done nothing to deserve this. She reddened. She almost relented and offer to massage his forehead, like she does to her mother at times, when she has migraine attacks.

“I’m so sorry, Ricky.” Maya said contritely, really meaning it this time, and not noticing that she had called him ‘Ricky’ in her agitation. This last one, she wasn’t really deliberately annoying him. She just listened to music like that.

“I’ll go to bed.” Then muttered to herself to hide how ashamed she was feeling at the moment. “Nasaan na ba ang mga iyon?”

Richard saw Maya crouching on the floor, seemingly looking for something. “What are you looking for?”

“Errr, I’m looking for Whiskey and Brandy,” Maya explained distractedly.

“ You still brought them! I told you not to!” Richard said in a loud voice, barely holding on to his sanity, his head throbbing wildly. “Where are they? They will be going back to Talisay first thing tomorrow! I thought Liza will take care of them. She assured me.”

“Oh, there you are my babies,” Maya crooned happily, not realizing initially that Richard really thought she bought pets into his place. When she did, clutching her stuffed toys, she looked sheepishly at Richard,  and admitted, “Errr, here are Whiskey and Brandy.”

“Toys, they are stuffed toys!!!” Richard said incredulously, and it looked like he wanted to wring Maya’s neck for deliberately misleading him. However, he didn’t really have the energy to do so. “Oh, never mind. Go to bed, Maya. I don’t have the energy for this now.”

With that, he left Maya standing in the middle of his living room, feeling extremely guilty. She wanted to go after him and apologize but she was rooted to the spot she was in.

Isn’ t this what you want Maya! 

But why, oh why, she felt very guilty and ashamed at what she was trying to pull on Richard. Even if they had a bad history, he didn’t deserve this! Maya, shoulder slumped, trooped back to the room beside Richard.

Maya plopped on the bed, still hugging her stuffed toys.  Seeing Richard again after all these years, evoked a lot of feelings in her. It was easy to think of ways to make him blow his fuse, that would hopefully means, him complaining about her to Tita Esme, and then Tita Esme calling her mother to tell her how a terrible houseguest she is. Simple logic in her head, though she also knew, it was childish, immature, and mean. But she was at the end of her rope when she thought of all of that.

However, deep in the night, after tossing and turning and being unable to sleep , she kept remembering how tired Richard was, and his extreme patience to her earlier. She felt very guilty and immature. She realized she didn’t have the heart to make him miserable just to get what she wanted. Before she finally succumbed to a fitful sleep, she made up her mind on what she will do come morning.

Unlike the night before, a wonderful, mouthwatering smell, wafted from the kitchen when Richard walked to it to make coffee the following morning.

“Good morning, Ricky,” Maya chirped happily, with a big smile on her face, as she took out the slices of bread from the toaster. She was quite determined to make amends. She still has a situation to deal with, but she realized that taking it on Richard is unfair and not the way to address it. Besides, maybe, she can do it another way. She needed Richard’s cooperation for her new plan.

“Have a seat, please. Breakfast is ready. I hope it is okay that I messed up your kitchen again.” Maya said as she busied herself with pouring coffee into two mugs she found in one of Richard’s very neat cupboards, after putting the bread on the table. She saw him dressed for work despite the fact that he got home quite late at night.

Richard, fighting of remnants of sleep, especially as he hasn’t had his first cup of coffee yet, looked at the beautifully set table and the mouthwatering array of dishes before him. She must have woken up early to do all of this, he thought to himself. He was a bit puzzled at Maya’s behavior the night before, but with his lack of sleep and extreme tiredness, his brain was unable to fully process it.

“Oh, you don’t have to make breakfast for me, Maya. I can eat in the office. I just need to have my cup of coffee before I go.” Richard managed to say, as he sat down on the chair she indicated.

“It is okay, Ricky. I don’t mind and I would like to make amends for all the ruckus I caused last night,” Maya said with a bright smile, looking sheepish.

“Oh, don’t think about it,” Richard assured her. He thought it was just part of the adjustments he and Maya had to do to live together for a while. Besides, she looks kinda cute contrite.

The two of them proceeded to eat their breakfast in companionable silence. Richard enjoyed the food as what Maya prepared were all quite delicious and his favorites. Maya felt happy that he was eating, enjoyed eating, most of the food she prepared.

When they were into their second cups of coffee, Maya took a deep breath, and asked, before she can change her mind. “Do you have time to talk, Ricky or are you in a hurry this morning?”

Richard looked at Maya closely, and saw that she was quite serious about something. Unfortunately, he was pressed for time that morning as Liza scheduled another long meeting. But still, it must be important and might explain a lot so he said, “Liza scheduled a meeting this morning and I need to be on the road the next half hour if I want to make it. I can also reschedule it a bit later if what you want to discuss is that urgent.”

“Oh no, no, it can wait until later.” Maya assured Richard, realizing that she should have waited anyway. Her and her being impatient, sometimes! He is a very busy person after all. “I have something to discuss lang sana. It can wait.”

“Sure?” Richard asked, curious on what Maya would like to discuss, at the same time, thinking of the important meeting he was supposed to preside on that morning.

“Yes, Ricky, just go to work. I know you are very busy. Tita Esme mentioned it.” Maya assured him, and it was only then that Richard noticed that Maya reverted to ‘Ricky’. Somehow, he felt happy hearing his name on her lips like that.

“Okay. We can have dinner later. What are your plans for the day?”

“I think I will just stay here for today. Pahinga muna. The enrollment for my class is tomorrow pa,” Maya replied. “Sige, let’s have dinner.”

“I’ll call you when I’m done and pick you up for dinner,” Richard said, then added teasingly, “No more messing up my kitchen na ha. Baka pati neighbors ko magreklamo na sa amoy.”

Maya laughed, feeling lighter. Richard felt happier and more alive with Maya in his house, sharing breakfast with her. They gazed at each other, and seemed to have reached an understanding.

“Good bye for now, Maya. Thank you for the breakfast,” Richard said a short while later, smiling at Maya warmly. “If you need anything, ask Manang or text me. There are books and DVDs you can borrow. Nandoon sa office ko. That’s the room beside the living room.”

“Thank you Ricky, I will check later.” Maya replied softly, giving Ricky a sweet smile, appreciating the fact that he seemed ti have adjusted already to her intruding on his private space like this, despite her shenanigans the night before. “Have a good day.”

“You too, Maya. Have a good rest,” Richard said, smiling at her warmly.

Richard was humming while driving to work that morning. Maya, on the other hand, felt like twirling around Richard’s huge living room. Both of them felt happier that particular morning!

 

 

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Two to Tango – Chapter 5

Chapter 5

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He quickly typed a reply.

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

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

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

PETS!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nothing!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh no!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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Two to Tango – Chapter 3

Chapter 3

The past…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Richard looked at his mother in surprise.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Okay, son.”

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Two to Tango – Chapter 2

Chapter 2

While Esmeralda Lim was informing Tessie Dela Rosa that her son Richard agreed to her daughter Maya staying with him in his place in Makati, the subject of their conversation was sitting at the azotea of the family’s ancestral house in Talisay, Negros Occidental, drinking coffee, and deep in thought.

Maya was plotting her next move in the escalating battle of wills with her parents. It was the first thing she thought of doing after her parents rejected her latest plea. But her next move really, and everything for that matter, would really depend if that ‘SSS’ will let her stay in his place. Before she can execute her next move, she has to know if he had agreed to it. She hoped not. Why would he, as the one and only time they were together, they fought like cats and dogs. Maya was so sure that the ‘SSS’ still harbours a grudge towards her after all these years. He never bothered to get in touch with her, though why he should since she is just a family friend and the sister of his friend. He also begged off from going when her parents invited the Lims to spend the holiday with them in Barcelona one summer.

However, despite that and because it happened a long time ago, when she and Richard were both younger, her in her late teens and him in his late 20s, Maya knew that she shouldn’t call Richard that acronym she coined for him many summers ago, but she can’t help it. Towards the end of that long ago summer, before everything has fallen apart, she had taken to calling Richard Lim, ‘supladong sungit na singkit’ behind his back!

I wonder how he looks like now, after all these years?  Maya tried to imagine. Hmmm, maybe, hindi na siya super guapo. Maybe he has started losing his hair, may beer belly and gained a lot of weight. I-Google ko kaya?  Bakit nga ba hindi ko man lang siya na-check online. I’m sure there will be entries on him, having taken over the reins of the family corporation.  

Maya was about to stand up to get her laptop from her room, when she saw their kasambahay, Sabel, approaching her, like a girl with a very important mission.

“Señorita Maya, tawag po kayo ng Mama ninyo,” Sabel said, then hesitating, she added,  “Saka ngayon na daw po as in now na! Sabi po ng Mama ninyo huwag na kayong mag…mag…mag-dilly-dally, kung ano man po ang ibig sabihin nun. ”

Maya knew why her mother insisted on relaying that through Sabel. Teresita Dela Rosa knew that her daughter will try to procrastinate, not wanting to discuss their latest discord. She sighed. “Okay, Sabel. Nasaan ba si Mama?”

“Nasa sala po, Senorita Maya.” Sabel said promptly, relief in her voice.

Maya walked to the living room through the dining room of the beautiful old house that her mother inherited from her parents. When they returned to the Philippines several months ago, they opted to stay here than his father’s family’s house in Bacolod. The house in Talisay was much more beautiful, comfortable and quieter that his father’s family home which was situated neat the main street of the city. Anyway, it just takes several minutes to drive to Bacolod.

Maya found her mother by the small table near the window, sipping coffee. Her mobile phone was beside her.

“Mama, Sabel told me you were looking for me.” Maya said simply, not sure what mood her mother was in at that moment. It has just been several hours since she and her mother had their latest argument on how she should live her life.

“Please have a seat, Maya.” Tessie Dela Rosa told her daughter. And when Maya did as she told, she continued. “Katatapos lang naming mag-usap ni Tita Esme mo. Sabi niya, you can stay with Richard while you are taking that special Spanish course. Pumayag na raw si Richard.”

Maya was surprised that Richard Lim agreed to having her stay with him. She really thought that he would decline. All she managed to say was, “Really, Mama!”

“Yes, he did, so it is final you will stay with him.” Tessie Dela Rosa looked very satisfied with the outcome of her chat with her best friend.

“Mama, hindi ba talagang pwedeng payagan ninyo na ako ni Papa na….” Maya started again, despite the fact that her plea had fallen on deaf ears several times. She just needed to try one more time.

“Maya, hija, please, pagtatalunan na naman ba natin ito.” Tessie sighed, with a closed expression on her face.

“Hindi ka ba napapagod. Hindi ka ba naaawa sa amin ng Papa mo. Why can’t you understand that we just want you safe. You know naman kung bakit ayaw ka naming payagang mag-isa sa Maynila. Ikaw na nga lang ang anak namin ng Papa mo. Paano kung mangyari rin sa iyo ang nangyari sa Kuya mo. Hindi na namin kakayanin!” Tessie Dela Rosa continued, getting agitated. “Kung hindi nga lang kailangan ng Papa mo na i-manage ang family business ng Lolo Francisco ko, was gusto ko na lang sana na doon tayo sa Europa. Mahirap maging safe sa bansang ito!”

Maya held her mother’s hand, seeing that she was getting distressed. “Mama, please calm down. Nothing will happen to me. We all grieved for Kuya Seth pero we have to live Mama. Hindi naman dahil babalik ako ng Maynila, may mangyayari na sa akin.”

Her mother was about to say something, but Maya pleaded with her with her eyes to let her finish.

“Ma, I’m almost 26 years old and yet, I still live with you and Papa kahit noong nasa Spain tayo. We have to move forward. I want a life. Hindi naman sa ayaw ko kayong kasama ni Papa, but please let me find my way in the world.” Maya’s voice was a bit hoarse with the emotion it took to plead her case again. “I can’t exist in a bubble. Marami na naming nagbago sa Pilipinas in the past several years we were abroad.”

“I know that, anak. But please, pagbigyan mo na kami ng Papa with this. You will be staying with Richard and that it final.” Tessie stressed. “That is the only way we will allow you to go to Manila for two months.”

Maya looked at her mother’s mulish expression and know that she will not win. It is no use appealing to her mild-mannered father as he usually defer to her mother. Since her Kuya Seth died when she was 19, it has always been like this in this family. Now, the only option left for her is to execute her plan B. She said a silent sorry to her mother, and also to Richad Lim, for what she will do.

“Okay, Mama.” Maya said, sighing. “I will just stay with Richard.” The best thing to do is get herself to Manila first.

“Good, I know you will see it my way.” Tessie Dela Rosa said, completely unaware of what her daughter was plotting. “I will call back Esme and tell her that you will be at Richard’s place in two days time. I have your flight details from Doris. Just go and pack your bags.”

Doris is her father’s secretary. She made all the arrangement for her trip.

“Hmmm, why don’t I call Richard and arrange with him.” Maya suggested, as there was a part of her that is curious to know how Richard’s voice sounded after all these years.

“Esme said she will just do it herself. She just needs the details.” Tessie told her daughter. “Wala ka nang dapat intindihin.

“Muchas gracias por tu ayuda, Mama.” Maya just said, lapsing into Spanish, seeing that her mother was so insistent on controlling everything about her trip. What can she do except thanked her for all she did so that she has a place to stay in Manila even if it was not what she wanted.

“De nada, mi hija. I was happy to do it for you.” Tessie replied, then taking a sip of her coffee, she looked at her beautiful daughter. “Bakit ka nga ba kailangan pang mag-aral ng Spanish eh fluent ka na naman? You speak it so much better than some people I have known who practically lived in Spain most of their lives.”

“Mama, di ba I told you and Papa that the course I am going to take is for Spanish language teachers. I need that so I can teach Spanish here as a foreign language. Hindi naman kasi ako language major sa Spain, di ba. I majored in English Studies.”

“Kasi naman if me and your Papa had our way, gusto talaga naman namin na business course ang kinuha mo so you can take over our business, lalo na ngayong wala na ang Kuya mo and you are our only child. Ikaw naman lahat ang magmamana nito.”

“Mama, I love you and Papa and I do appreciate what you have done for me, but I am not Kuya Seth. He would have been a great CEO of our businesses, but he is gone and we have to live with that. I am not a business person and I have other interests. I wish you would really let me pursue them.” Maya said emotionally, hoping that her mother will understand this time. They have been at this countless of times. She just need to try to let her see reason, her reason, every opportunity she could.

“Well, Maya hija, we did let you pursue the degree you want to take. And now we are allowing you to take that course, for what, just to teach Spanish at some school!” Tessie countered. Really, sometimes, her daughter’s head is in the clouds.

“That is what I want Mama.” Maya said, patiently. She does not want to argue with her mother anymore as it will just get nowhere. She needed to concentrate her efforts in making them let her to live on their own. She just has the plan and it is a bit drastic, but she hopes it will work.

Maya returned to her place in the azotea after kissing her mother on the cheek and getting her laptop from her room. She Googled in Richard Lim of Lim Corporation and ended up with quite a bit of entries from society magazines and social media postings of some of his activities. Not by him but by others, some by employees who have apparently asked for a photo with him, and most of them women!

In fairness, mas lalo ka pang gumuwapo, Mr. Richard Lim!  Maya muttered to herself as she clicked photo after photo of Richard Lim she found online. Her heart also skipped several beats as she stared at his photos. If she must be honest to herself, then she admits to the fact that there is a part of her that is looking forward to seeing him again after all these years.

But despite that, Maya was determined to make her parents see reason and let her be, and Richard Lim would have to a part of that plan. She sighed, closed her laptop and just stared out of the azotea without really seeing anything. When it got dark, she went back inside, ate dinner with her parents who reminded her again to be careful while in Manila. Before she went to bed, she packed her bags for her two months or more stay in Manila. She went to bed both excited and nervous about her trip, her adventure, on her own, at last!

While Maya was trying to quell down her excitement so she can sleep, Richard arrived back at the penthouse unit of the newest and the most exclusive address in Makati. It is what he had been calling home since he returned to the Philippines. He refused his mother’s offer of opening their house in a nearby exclusive village. It was too big and too traditional for him. He likes his penthouse place and the magnificent view of the city it offers, aside from its proximity to his office.

Richard ate a solitary dinner, left by his housekeeper who does not stay with him. He prefers it that way. After putting his empty plates in the dishwasher so that Manang Sol can clean it the following day, he poured himself a glass of Scotch and while sipping idly inspected his place.

Yes, Miss Maya Dela Rosa and I will fit here nicely! I don’t have to see her. She can have the room farthest from mine. If she does not like that, there are other rooms to choose from, as long as it is not the closest one to his room. He mused, determined to maintain his privacy even if he has to share his space with that girl….errr… with Maya.

Richard was about to hit the shower after downing the rest of his drink, when his phone rang. He looked and saw it was his mother again.

“Hello, Mama. Gising pa po kayo?” Richard said as soon as picked up the call.

“Oh, you know me son, I can’t sleep early and I know you also sleep late. How was work? Kauuwi mo lang ba? Kumain ka na ba?” Esmeralda Lim asked her son. She worries about him and what se perceived is his unhealthy lifestyle. She wished he will find someone who will take care of him, and love him of course as he deserves to be loved! Para rin magkaapo na siya, lalo na ngayong wala na ang Papa ni Richard.

“Work was okay, Mama. Tiring! As you know there are just a lot of things that needed to be done. I’m sure ganoon din si Papa dati di ba? And yes, I have eaten na and  I got home an hour ago.” Richard said, walking towards his bedroom as he talked to his mother.

“Napatawag po kayo, Ma. May problema ba? But mabuti you called also kasi I need more details on Maya’s visit.”

“Wala naman, son. I called din because of Maya’s visit. Your Tita Tessie sends her thanks, by the way, also your Tito Arthur for letting Maya stay with you. Tessie said Maya will take the 11am flight from Silay on Wednesday. Sa Terminal 2 siya lalapag.” Esmeralda said, noticing that her son seemed to have resigned himself to Maya staying with him. He even stopped calling her ‘that girl’ and ‘her’! “Masusundo mo ba siya?”

“I can’t, Mama. I have an important meeting. Pero this is what I can do, I can send Joma to the airport and also Ate Liza, to pick her up. Ate Liza can also open the place for Maya. I will inform security that she will be staying with me so she can be issued a pass for the elevator as well.  I will give you their contact numbers after this call, and  you can give them, and mine too, to Maya.”

Richard was about to do that when he realized something. “Teka Ma, bakit hindi na lang si Maya ang tumawag sa akin and inform me of her arrival and arrange the details. Bakit kayo pa ni Tita Tessie. Ayaw ba niya akong kausapin directly? Di pa naman kaya na niyang gawin ang mga ito!”

“Oh, hindi naman sa ganoon, son.” Esmeralda said quickly, too quickly. Tessie mentioned to her that Maya had been pleading them to let her be on her own instead of staying with Ricky! “I just insisted to your Tita Tessie that I will be the one to talk to you and that I will take care of all the details. It is the least I can do. Besides, baka naman mahiya si Maya sa iyo. Di ba, you last saw each other around seven years ago, if I remember correctly.”

“Yes Mama, more than seven years ago na I think!” Then Richard added softly, “The summer before Seth was killed.”

“Oh you were correct, son. That was one very sad thing to have happened. Poor, jolly Seth, gone forever.” Esmeralda Lim said. “I thought the whole family will not be able to recover from his death. I don’t blame them at all for just packing their bags and leaving the country afterwards. I would have done the same, God forbid if you were taken from me like that, son. Hindi lang iyon, baka ikamatay ko rin! Kaya nga rin I worry about you all the time.”

“Don’t Mama. I’m okay and I’m careful. I will not end up like he did.” Richard assured his mother. Since his father died, his mom was more worried about him. Tawag ng tawag and he understand completely why.

“Be sure son, be sure please.” Esmeralda said. “O sige, I will just tell Maya all the details. I will send you her number after this call, okay.”

“Sure, Ma. Good night.”

“Good night son, sleep well.”

“Kayo rin po, Mama.”

Mother and son said good night. Richard went to shower after sending Joma and Liza’s contact details to her. He headed to bed several minutes after, quite tired really, but also feeling an excitement he can’t define at that moment. He checked his phone and saw the number his mother sent him.

Maya Dela Rosa! He saved her number into his phone book, curious on how she looks like now. He will know in two days time. Richard turned off the light, hoping that he would have a restful sleep as he needed all his wits at work the following day. He closed his eyes and laid flat on his back.

However, before sleep could claim him, a long forgotten image of a beautiful girl, wearing a simple blouse and a long skirt, sitting at the veranda of an old house in Negros crept into Richard’s consciousness. Then, memories just came rushing back.

Richard remembered that Maya was engrossed in the book she was reading at that time. It was his first glimpse of her. He was captivated, his heart beating fast. It was so unexpected to feel like that, and he was not prepared for it. Maybe it was the sole reason he acted the way he acted that long ago summer.

Richard suddenly was very much awake, his heart beating fast as memories of that summer a long time ago, something he had buried deep, rose to the surface.

 

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Two to Tango – Chapter 1

Chapter 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes, Ma. Bye na for now!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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