NB: This story began on my 4 hour journey back home. My iPod was constantly playing Jon McLaughlin’s “So Close” – which is one of my all time favourite songs. The instrumental in that song is magical to me, and that’s when this story idea started. This is a five part story…so it’s fairly lengthy for one post. Please use the anchor links to help you navigate to where you may have left off. Thank you and hope you enjoy it. 🙂
Maya sat in the veranda, staring at the invitation.
Time Airways requests the honour of your presence
Miss Maya dela Rosa & Guest
at the 28th annual Valentine’s Ball
on Saturday, 9th of February, 2013 at 6 o’clock PM
at the Rizal Ballroom, Makati Shangri-La, Manila
Attire: Formal – Black, White & Red
RSVP 0911 – 7651234
“Anong gagawin mo, Maya?” she asked herself. “Una, baka hindi ka payagan. Tapos wala kang isusuot. At wala kang date. Valentine’s Ball pa naman…” She crossed her arms on the glass table and leaned her chin on it, still staring at the invitation before her.
Startled, Maya almost fell off the chair. “Ah, Sir Chief…nakauwi na pala kayo. Gusto nio ng kape?”
“Maybe later,” he replied, pulling out the chair beside her and sitting down. “Ano yan?” Richard asked, pointing to the deep red invitation on the table.
Maya quickly grabbed it and stashed it back in the envelope, setting it aside on the table where he couldn’t reach or read it. “Ah, wala ito, Sir Chief. Kumusta po ang araw nio?”
“My day was okay. Busy, like always. Ikaw?” Richard returned the question with a smile.
“Okay naman po. Nandun ako sa airport VIP lounge kanina, at nakuha ko na yung on flight uniform ko,” Maya replied. She had only been at Time Airways as an intern for 3 months but her training was being accelerated due to her excellent performance. Her mentor, Ms. Ina, has been very open in giving her compliments and providing feedback. In less than 2 weeks, Maya was due to do live, in flight training, as well as tour the other Time Airway ports abroad, which meant she would be away for an extended period of time. Neither Maya or Richard have brought up that fact in conversation since she first relayed the news over a week ago.
Richard smiled again. “That’s good to hear.” Just then, Maya’s phone started ringing. She tried to set it to silent but Richard prompted, “Just answer it.”
“Just a moment, Sir Chief…” Maya stood up and went towards the bannister overlooking the backyard. “Hello?… O Wilson… Oo, natanggap ko din…. Hindi ko nga alam kasi wala akong…” Maya looked at Richard to see if he was listening. He was looking at her intently. She lowered her voice to a whisper. “Wilson, hindi ko alam kasi wala akong isusuot at tsaka wala rin akong date… Buti ka pa…Kailangan nandun ang mga graduating interns? Sigurado ka?… Hai… Gawan ko nalang ng paraan. Salamat sa tawag. Buh bye.”
Maya returned to her chair looking defeated. “Why the sad face?” Richard asked. Maya looked at the invitation then at him, unsure if she should go ahead and tell him. They had grown more comfortable conversing with each other over the past months, but she wasn’t sure if she wanted him to make a fuss about this. “Anong problema?” Richard probed again.
Maya let out a sigh. She might as well tell him because she knew he wasn’t going to let it go. “Kasi, nakatanggap ako ng invitation para dun sa Time Airways company ball. Hindi na sana ako pupunta pero sabi ni Wilson na kailangan daw nandun ang mga graduating interns.”
“So, what’s the problem? If you’re worried about taking the time off from Abby, it’s okay, Maya. This is for your internship. She will understand.”
“Hindi yun, Sir Chief. Kasi wala naman akong isusuot…”
Richard laughed. “Maya, if what you’re going to wear is the only problem, I’m sure Nikki would love to help you with that.”
“Salamat po, pero may isa pang dahilan e…” She paused. Richard looked at her with a raised eyebrow as a sign for her to keep talking. Maya shrugged. “…Valentine’s Ball kasi….e…wala din akong date.”
Maya’s cheeks flushed red like the invite envelope. She slowly lifted her gaze to look at his face. It was blank. “But it’s okay. Sabihin ko nalang kay Ms. Ina na hindi ako makaka-attend. Understanding na…”
“I’ll be your date.”
“…naman y…” Maya stopped, Richard’s words finally hitting her. Maya looked at her boss turned friend, with shock written all over her face. “Ano Sir Chief?”
“I said, I’ll be your date.” Richard smiled, then added, “If you want.” He cursed himself in his head. Why did he add that and give her the option to choose?
Maya couldn’t believe what she heard. Inside she was dancing with joy, but she wanted to make sure. “Sigurado ka, Sir Chief? Baka nakakaabala lang sa schedule mo….”
“Maya, if you say another word, I’ll take back my offer,” Richard warned teasingly.
He was pleased when Maya instantly closed her mouth shut. He was even happier when she smiled, and her eyes twinkled.
Richard grinned too. “Good night, Maya,” he said getting up from the chair. Maya opened her mouth about to say something but Richard chipped in, “Not another word, remember?”
Maya pretended to zip her mouth shut and throw away the key. Richard shook his head. As he turned away from her, he thought of how she never failed to make him smile. Heck, she never failed to make his day. Period.
In the meantime, Maya leaned back in her chair a little to watch him walk down the hall. He had no idea how much she admired him and how much she cared. He also seemed to have no idea how attractive he was, she thought staring at his back. Once he’d rounded the corner and she could no longer see him, she couldn’t help but exclaim out loud. “Yes!”
Her phone beeped. A text message.
Ser Chief: I heard that 😉
Knock. Knock. Knock.
“Who is it?” Nikki called out.
“Nikki, it’s me. Can you open the door?” Richard replied.
“Oh my gee! It’s Dad! He can’t see you yet,” Nikki said in a panic to Maya, who was sitting on the bed while Sabel curled her hair. “Abby, bilis! Go talk to Daddy.” Abby was only too quick to oblige.
Abby went to the door and opened it just enough so she could slide out, then shut it again. “Hello Daddy,” she said sweetly.
Richard bent down to his daughter. “Hello, baby. Where’s ate? What is she doing?”
“Ate’s inside with Yaya, Ate Sabel and Ate Doris. Ate said she’s making Yaya pretty for you tonight.”
Richard’s heart skipped a beat. His kids knew too much. “Ganun ba, baby?”
“Yes. But I said, hindi na kailangan gawin ni Ate Nikki yun kasi Yaya is already pretty, diba Daddy?” Abby asked innocently.
“Yes, she is, baby. But tonight is special for Yaya, so it’s okay that Ate helps her. Para extra pretty si Yaya, diba?” Abby nodded.
“Sige, baby. I just wanted to see my little princess. Daddy will get ready now, too.” Abby hugged her dad and kissed him on both cheeks. Then slowly, she opened the door a crack and disappeared inside. As Richard made his way to his room to take a shower, he realized he was more excited than ever for tonight.
An hour later, Richard sat downstairs in the receiving area in his black dress pants, crisp red shirt and black bowtie. His jacket was draped across the couch behind him. He looked at his watch. 5:15 PM.
“Sabi nila, magagandang bagay daw ang dumarating sa mga taong marunong maghintay.”
Richard turned to see Manang Fe by the divider. “Manang Fe, nandiyan ka pala.”
“Handa ka na ba para sa date nio?” she asked.
“It’s not really a date. Party siya and worried si Maya na siya lang ang walang kasama kasi Valentine’s ang theme. Kaya, sasama nalang ako. Kawawa naman siya…” Richard tried to explain his way out of Manang Fe’s knowing look.
“Ricardo, yun lang ba ang dahilan?” she inquired. Richard couldn’t answer. “Matanda na nga ako, at kahit hindi man ako nakapagasawa o nakapagboyfriend ni minsan, alam ko pag ang dalawang tao nagkakagustuhan. At isa pa, kilalang kilala kita, Ricardo.” Richard put up a weak protest but Manang Fe kept going.
“Iba ka pag si Maya ang pinaguusapan. Iba ka pag umuuwi ka at wala pa siya. Iba din ang ligaya sa mata mo pag nakikita mong nagkakatuwaan ang mga bata at si Maya. At higit sa lahat, ibang iba ang ngiti mo pag kaharap mo na siya.”
“Manang Fe, ayaw kong masaktan ulit. I don’t know how I’ll cope if and when I get left behind again. At lalong lalo ng ayaw kong masaktan ko si Maya,” Richard said with a frown, followed by a deep sigh.
“Ang sasabihin ko lang sayo, Ricardo, mas masakit pag nasa harap mo na pero dahil naduwag ka e hinayaan mong mawala o kaya mapunta sa iba.” Manang Fe smiled. Richard was thankful for this woman who had cared for him and his family for so many years. She was wise and he should listen.
Doris and Sabel were walking down the stairs. “Good evening po, Sir Richard…Manang Fe…” Doris greeted. “This is it!”
“Handa na po siya,” Sabel informed. “Kayo po, Sir? Handa na ba kayo?” Richard looked at Sabel with stern eyes, wiping the smile off her face. He didn’t mean to be rude, but the build up was killing him.
Abby came down next, running to stand by the couch. Nikki followed but instead stayed at foot of the stairs. She beamed at her father feeling super proud of their ‘glam-over’.
Richard was both excited and nervous at that smile. He turned to look at the staircase, swallowing in anticipation. Then, black peep toe heels were descending down the stairs, one slow step at a time. Richard’s gaze sprung up to her face and all of the air in his lungs seemed to disappear. He always thought that she was pretty. But the face that looked at him now was an elegant beauty, glowing with confidence. He let his eyes wander down the length of her, admiring how the red satin dress hugged her body in all the right places then flowed so easily down her legs.
Maya’s heart was racing as she walked down. The dress, the shoes, the hair, the makeup – it was all too much. And when she looked up and saw the man waiting for her, she was convinced this was all a dream. It was all too perfect. There he stood, in all his handsome glory, looking at her, waiting for her. Maya couldn’t help but beam. This very moment, she imagined herself as the ‘Prinsesa’ and he, the ‘Mahal na Hari’, and that her fairy tale was coming true.
Time stopped for both of them. Richard took a step forward as Maya reached the bottom. “Hello.” That was all he could manage to get out. He was still mesmerized.
“Hi, Sir Chief,” she replied. He saw her bright red lips utter the words more than he heard it. He was tempted to taste them, but he moved his eyes back to hers to avoid committing what could be a sin in front of his kids. For what seemed like forever, they just looked at each other and smiled.
“Wow! Maya ang ganda ganda mo!” Luke exclaimed, startling everyone, as he walked in the door with Kuya Joma behind him.
“Kuuuuyyyaaa! You ruined the moment!” Nikki whined. “At inunahan mo pa si Dad to compliment Maya.” Nikki crossed her arms and frowned.
“Sorry, Niks. Pero ang ganda naman talaga ni Maya, diba, Dad?” Luke said, putting his arm around his father. Richard turned his head to look at his son, then back to Maya. He couldn’t speak, but his eyes said it all.
“Ricardo, umalis na kayo. Baka malate pa kayo,” Manang Fe urged.
“Bye baby,” Maya waved to Abby. She also mouthed ‘thank you’ to Nikki who was once again grinning. Maya followed Richard out to the car careful not to trip in her new shoes.
As soon as they were out the door, Doris, Sabel, Nikki and Abby all started giggling and screaming out of happiness. “Ang tindi ng fireworks!” Sabel was saying when the big wooden door swung open again. They all shut their mouths.
Richard walked back in, stopped and started looking around. “O Ricardo, anong nangyari?” Manang Fe asked.
“I forgot my suit jacket.”
“Eto na,” Manang Fe said, retrieving the jacket from the couch and handing it to him.
“Thanks, Manang Fe.” Richard started to head for the door then a thought hit him.
He turned to face the elder woman. “You were right, Manang.”
“Saan?” Manang Fe asked, confused.
“Magagandang bagay ang dumarating sa mga taong naghihintay. It was worth the wait kasi ang ganda. Sobrang ganda.” With that, Richard walked out the door to continue what was going to be an unforgettable night.
Richard pulled the car up in front of the hotel. He got out first, and went to open the door for Maya. He held out his hand to help her out.
“Thank you, Sir Chief,” Maya said as she straightened out. He didn’t say a word. Actually, he hadn’t said a word since he said ‘hello’ inside the house. Throughout the car ride Maya worried that something was wrong, but each time she braved a glance at him, he would smile and her worries dissipated.
Richard handed the keys to the valet and they made their way into the hotel then to the elevator. When the doors opened on the second level, they walked towards the ballroom side by side in silence. After a few steps, Richard stopped and faced Maya.
“Ano po yun, Sir Chief?” Maya asked slightly worried.
“You look…very beautiful.” There. It was said. Richard finally let out the words that have been echoing in his brain since he first saw her.
Maya smiled shyly. “Thank you, Sir Chief.”
“Richard. Not Sir Chief. Tonight, I’m not your boss. I’m just Richard.” He tensed as a look of contemplation crossed her face. But then a slight smile appeared and he relaxed.
“Okay. Richard…” Maya said, loving the way his name rolled off her tongue.
He offered his arm to her, smiled, then said in a tone that was now much more playful, “Shall we?” Maya hooked her arm into his, her heart overflowing with joy.
When they reached the reception area, they were greeted by a couple of ladies who took their invitation and informed them where they would be seated. Richard and Maya walked into the large ballroom. Maya’s eyes widened at how beautiful the setup was. The tall flower arrangements in the center of each table, the chandeliers and tulle hanging from the ceiling, the grand ice sculptures and the lighting all made for one dramatically elegant and romantic room.
As they made their way towards their table, a voice called out “Richard!”. Richard and Maya stopped and turned to see who called.
A tall gentleman in black pants and a white tuxedo jacket was walking towards them. Maya had seen him before. He was the new CEO of Time Airways, Captain Patrick Santiguel. “Richard, I’m surprised to see you here. Not that we don’t value our relationship with Lim Aviation Services, but I thought tonight was a company affair,” Patrick retorted. As far as Maya knew from work, Captain Santiguel was good at his job, but he also had a tendency to be arrogant. Richard’s stories did not paint him in better light either.
“Patrick. It’s good to see you, too,” Richard answered. He reached out his hand and Patrick took it reluctantly. There was tension, and Maya could tell that neither gentlemen was going to let the other get the better of them. Who would win, she didn’t know, but she knew whom she was cheering for. “As a matter of fact, I’m not here for Lim Aviation. I’m here to accompany a friend who works for your company.”
“And are you going to introduce me to your friend?” Patrick said looking Maya over. A surge of jealousy rushed through Richard. She’s mine, he thought, narrowing his eyes at Patrick.
“Maya, meet Captain Patrick Santiguel, CEO of Time Airways. Patrick, this is Maya dela Rosa, my special friend,” Richard said putting an emphasis on the ‘my’. Maya noticed this new terminology and her heart started dancing. She wanted to hug him but this was not the time, so she kept her cool.
“Nice to meet you, Captain Santiguel,” Maya said offering a handshake. Instead, Patrick took her hand and kissed it. Richard’s blood boiled.
“The pleasure is all mine, Miss dela Rosa. I must say, we sure made the right choice when we hired you,” Patrick said, once again eyeing her from head to toe. Patrick didn’t let go of Maya’s hand right away, especially when he saw Richard wince out of the corner of his eye. Maya, sensing Richard tense beside her, slowly pulled her hand back from Patrick. Richard smirked. “What table are you seated at?” Patrick inquired.
“33,” Richard answered. There was more and more annoyance in his tone.
“That’s nonsense,” Patrick said. “I can’t have the President of one of our partners and one of our most beautiful employees seated back there. Please join us at our table instead.” .
“That’s kind of you, Captain Santiguel, but truly, we are fine. And of course, we don’t want to intrude.” Maya tried to say it as politely as possible. At that moment, Richard was thankful for Maya’s smooth reply. He was afraid if he opened his mouth, the words that would fall out would be nothing but inappropriate. He didn’t want to embarrass Maya.
Patrick let out a small laugh. “Please, call me Patrick. Captain Santiguel is much too formal. I presume I can call you Maya? After all, you are a friend…” He paused, looked towards Richard, before continuing, “Sorry, a special friend of my buddy Richard here which in my opinion, makes us friends, too.” Patrick flashed a grin that came across as irritating. “I insist, Maya. Sit at our table. It would be no intrusion at all.”
Maya smiled through her annoyance. She was about to answer but was cut off by Richard. “Thank you, Patrick, but we wouldn’t want to disappoint Maya’s colleagues who were expecting to spend the evening with us.” His tone was as cold as the ice sculptures by the entrance.
“Well, that’s too bad,” Patrick replied. “I would have enjoyed getting to know you better, Maya. Perhaps you can save me a dance later on?” Over my dead body, Richard thought.
Richard wanted to hit him, but when he felt Maya shift closer to his side, he un-clenched his fist. She wasn’t going to leave him. And she definitely was not impressed by this arrogant jerk. “I shall try, Captain Santiguel,” Maya replied politely, forcing a smile. As much as he annoyed her right now, she did not want to be rude. After all, he was her boss. Her other boss.
Richard offered his arm to Maya again, who instantly looped in her hand. Richard gripped her tighter to his side, taking delight in the fact that Patrick’s eyes narrowed. “Excuse us,” Richard said, turning himself and Maya towards their table leaving Patrick to stand alone.
The dinner was delicious and the company at their table was a delight. Maya had introduced Richard to her co-interns and mentors as a friend, following his lead from earlier. Each time she did, Richard felt both a current of happiness rush through him and a slight pinch at his heart. He was happy that over the past few months they had become more comfortable with each other. Indeed they were friends. But for some reason, it hurt him to know they were just that and nothing more.
Maya was pleased the cold front Richard had shown towards the CEO of Time Airways had disappeared, and instead Richard was kind and charming to her friends and their dates. “Ang saya ko, Richard,” Maya said, smiling at him.
“What?” Richard said. The orchestra was playing making it difficult to hear even though they were seated side by side.
Maya leaned, moving her mouth close to his ear. “Sabi ko, ang saya ko.” She inhaled his scent and felt giddy all over. She was so lucky to be here with him. He had been the perfect date – pulling her chair out for her, always making sure she had something to drink and most of all, listening attentively to her and her friends.
To make conversation easier, Richard scooted his chair to hers so there was no gap between them. He casually stretched his left arm around the back of Maya’s chair and in her ear, he whispered, “I haven’t been this happy in a long time. Thank you.” Maya was beyond ecstatic to hear that he was enjoying himself as much as she was.
They continued chatting about the decorations and what not’s, when Wilson came to Maya’s side. “Ate Maya, sayaw daw tayo…isama mo date mo,” he invited, using his eyebrows to point at Richard.
Maya turned to Richard with a grin. “Sayaw daw tayo?” she said, pointing to her group of friends on the dance floor.
“Go ahead, Maya. I don’t like dancing much anyway,” he said. He wanted her to enjoy herself.
“Sige. Balik din ako agad,” Maya reassured. Richard stood up to pull her chair out.
“Have fun,” he said with a smile. He sat back down and watched her moving to the beat and laughing with her friends. Seeing her happy filled his heart with joy, too. She turned to look at him and wave. He raised his glass to her before taking a sip.
The music ended and the host’s voice filled the room. “Ladies and gentlemen, it is now time for the Captain’s Waltz. So, grab your partner and make your way to the dance floor. Remember, our spotlight will be searching for the most romantic couple who will win a 4 day, all-expense paid adventure to the beautiful country of Thailand. Take it away, Maestro.”
Maya’s friends began to pair off and she was left standing alone at the edge of the dance floor. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Captain Santiguel smile at her and start walking her way. Oh no, she thought. He was ten paces away. Maya was about to walk in the other direction to avoid him, when an arm draped around her shoulder. She jumped.
“It’s me,” Richard said in her ear. “Come dance.” Richard led her to the middle of the dance floor, flashing a meaningful smile at Patrick who was stopped in his tracks.
The orchestra started to play a beautiful melody.
Richard took Maya’s left hand and put it on his shoulder. He shivered as his fingertips touched the skin in the small of her back. Had she been going out with someone else, he would not have approved of this backless dress. But she was here with him and he would make sure only he would be touching her like this.
“Shall we?” he asked rhetorically. Richard started to move to the strings and keys that filled the air with music.
You’re in my arms and all the world is calm
The music playing on for only two
So close together, and when I’m with you
So close to feeling alive
For Richard, this was something he’d been waiting for. For a very long time. He thought his heart died with Alex. He was ready to give up on happiness, but Maya had come unexpectedly and brought a different and brighter colour to his life. She was all he wanted now. And forever.
A life goes by, romantic dreams must die
So I bid mine goodbye and never knew
So close was waiting, waiting here with you
And now, forever I know
All that I want is to hold you, so close
Maya couldn’t believe she was here, right now, in the arms of the man she has secretly loved for many months. Memories of the past year flowed through her head. Their first meeting under false pretenses, his distant facade early on, and then how he melted and began to show concern beyond what was expected. He’s become her friend, but how she wished he was more.
So close to reaching that famous happy end
Almost believing this one’s not pretend
Now you’re beside me and look how far we’ve come
So far, we are so close
The music began a crescendo and a sweeping instrumental filled the ballroom. Richard moved them across the dance floor effortlessly, never taking his eyes off her. He was oblivious to the rest of the couples, who by now were no longer really dancing but watching them. Maya, too, saw nothing but him. She moved easily under his lead. They were no longer a man and a woman dancing, but one entity baring their emotions through the music.
“Don’t leave…” Richard whispered, pulling her closer. He kissed her hair, not able to speak the words his heart was screaming.
Oh how can I face, the faceless day
If I should lose you now
“Richard…” Maya breathed out, a tear trickling down her face. From the two words he spoke, Maya knew what was to come. This night was indeed a fairy tale. But the ‘happy ever after’ part was not next. No matter what unspoken promises their hearts made, they knew the time to fulfill them was not right now. Not yet.
We’re so close to reaching that famous happy end
Almost believing, this one’s not pretend
Let’s go on dreaming, though we know we are
And still so far…
Richard pulled away slightly as the music faded. “I lo…” He was interrupted by the roaring applause of the crowd. Maya too, was pulled back to reality. They looked around to see everyone clapping and watching them. Then it dawned on them both, the spotlight was shining right above them.
“And, it looks like we have a winner!” the announcer said. He paused, leaning down from the stage as the CEO motioned at him. “Captain Santiguel has identified the winners for us. Congratulations, Sir Richard Lim of Lim Aviation and his special friend, our very own, Miss Maya dela Rosa.” Maya and Richard both looked towards the stage at Patrick. Maya’s face was filled with shock, while Richard’s was a mix of anger and irritation. Patrick merely smiled at them, took the white pocket square from his suit’s breast pocket and gave it a slight wave in the air.
Richard grabbed Maya’s hand and led her off the dance floor. “We need to be alone. We need to talk.”
It was nearly 1 AM when Maya checked the time on the car radio. They had been driving for 15 minutes in silence again. “Akala ko hindi ka marunong sumayaw?” Maya asked, trying to make conversation.
“I said, I didn’t like dancing much, not that I can’t dance. But I would have definitely hated seeing that arrogant Captain dancing with you more,” Richard replied.
“Ah, kaya pala sinayaw mo ako…” Maya didn’t know whether to be happy or sad at his reply. Was his reaction then out of jealousy as she had hoped or simply to spite the other guy?
Richard quickly took his eyes off the road, turned to look at her and saw her frown. “Don’t assume things, Maya. You’re usually wrong.”
Maya raised her eyebrow at him. “Hindi ah…” she denied. She thought of that time in the kitchen when he handed her half his sandwich, thinking he was sharing it. Then she thought of that time in Baguio when he first told her about his ideal woman. She smiled at her silliness.
“Tignan mo? Ang dami mong naalala na example,” Richard teased.
“Ikaw talaga…” she said, playfully slapping his right thigh. She saw him tense as her hand retracted.
“I wouldn’t do that again if I were you. Unless you want us to get into an accident,” Richard said seriously. “Or unless you want me to pull over right now…”
“Richard!” Maya cried, blushing.
“I think after tonight you know what kind of effect your touch has on me, Maya,” he said honestly. She didn’t answer, but instead just smiled. “See? So, you better keep your hands to yourself, Miss dela Rosa.”
“Yes, Sir Chief!” she answered, clasping her hands together in her lap. They were quiet the rest of the ride home, but kept on stealing glances at each other.
Richard put the car in park and turned the engine off. He got out first and once more opened the door for her. He held out his hand again, but this time he didn’t let go even when she was already out. “Follow me,” he said, pulling her with him.
She thought he was going to lead her to the veranda, but instead they went around to the backyard, passed the pool to the rarely used cabana. Richard flicked on the dim lamp in one corner. “I know this isn’t the most romantic of places, but ayaw kong may magising tayo at makainterrupt sa atin,” he reasoned.
“Ano ba ang gagawin natin?” Maya asked nervously.
A slow smile spread across Richard’s lips. “Relax, Maya. I’m not going to do anything. Unless you want me to,” he teased again. Well, sort of teased. Had she said yes, God knows he would not have been able to contain himself. She flushed. “I said we needed to talk, diba?” he clarified to ease her mind.
“Ah, okay. Pwede umupo? Ang sakit na ng paa ko kasi,” she complained as she slipped out of the brand new heels Nikki had picked out. She then sat down on one side of the circular padded chair swing, leaned back on the cushions and curled her feet beneath her.
She watched him untie his bow tie and stuff it in his jacket pocket. He then slipped the jacket off and hung it on the hook. She watched his shoulder and back muscles flex and relax as he did this. He was quite the specimen. Her eyes then followed him as he went to the small cabinet by the wall, and pulled out a blanket. “Baka lamigin ka,” he said, handing it to her.
She accepted the blanket and placed it beside her. “Ilang oras ba yang sasabihin mo?” she asked with a smile.
He sat down on the other side of the hammock. “Not long. Pero you’re practically half naked in that dress,” he said staring at her again. He swallowed. “Do me a favour, Maya. Cover yourself para makaconcentrate ako.” Maya obliged, her insides flipping back and forth between nervous anticipation and giddy excitement at what he was going to say.
“Another favour, just listen, don’t talk, okay?” Richard asked.
“Nakakailang favour ka na Richard a…” she teased.
“I mean it, Maya.” She closed her mouth, her eyes still sparkling. “I think we can both agree that tonight has been amazing. Nagenjoy ako ng sobra. Hindi ko akalain na magiging fun ulit ang mga ganong social events para sa akin. But because of you, because you were with me, I laughed and danced…and lived.” He looked at her face wanting to see her reaction. She was listening intently.
“The thing is, that’s how I feel every time kasama kita. Not just tonight. Pag wala ka sa bahay, tiger-mode ako.” She let out a small laugh at his use of Sabel’s description of his grumpy mood. “The fact that you love my kids, and they love you back so openly is more than what I could ask for. When we’re together, I have no problems. You make life so easy. You make my life…complete, Maya.”
She reached her hand out meaning to touch his face, but he stopped her. Instead, he took her hand and kissed the back of it, not once but three times. Each kiss sent a burning sensation through her skin and into all the crevices in her body.
“But I know you have your dreams. And I know how much you want to accomplish them. I want those things for you too, Maya. Kahit alam kong magiging masakit pag darating na yung time na aalis ka, umaasa ako na hindi ka naman tuloy tuluyan na mawawala.” He didn’t say anything for a few moments.
Removing the blanket, Maya sat up so she could sit facing him. “Richard…” she started, as a tear rolled down her cheek. “Hindi ko kayang hindi bumalik dito. Mawala man ako, uuwi at uuwi din ako…dito.” She reached out to touch his heart as she said that.
“Siguro naman alam mo na kung ano ang nararamdaman ko para sayo. Sobrang dense mo naman kung hindi mo pa nanotice.” Richard smiled. “Palagi kong sinasabi na napakaswerte ko at nakilala kita, naging amo ko at naging kaibigan. Ikaw ang dahilan kung bakit natupad lahat ng mga pangarap ko. Napakaswerte ko din kasi ang babait ng mga anak mo. Ang dali dali nilang mahalin. At ikaw…”
Maya let out a nervous laugh. “Kahit mahirap kang kausapin nung una dahil ang sungit-sungit mo, ewan ko ba kung bakit hindi ko mapigilan ang paghanga sayo. Hanggang sa naging pagmama…”
“Shhh.” Richard put his finger to her lips. “Don’t say it. It will just make it harder when you have to go. Kung ano man yung sasabihin mo, yun din ang nararamdaman ko. Ayaw ko munang marinig dahil masasanay ako. And then, I won’t be able to let you leave. Not even for a day.” Maya smiled, tears of joy rolling down her face.
Richard wiped her tears with his fingers. He leaned back on the cushions and motioned for her to lay on his outstretched arm. Maya laid her head on his shoulder and placed her hand on his chest above the beating of his heart. He rubbed her naked back gently with just the tips of his fingers. She sighed. “It was a great night. And this is the perfect ending,” she said.
“No, Maya. This is the beginning,” he corrected, then kissed the top of her head.
She turned her face up to him. “The beginning of what?” she inquired.
He lifted her chin and bent his head to finally claim her cherry red lips that have been taunting him all night. It was delicious.
When he pulled back, he smiled naughtily, “That was the beginning…of the things we’ll finish doing when we’re all alone in Thailand…”
Another note: Just wanted to share a couple of the inspirations from this story.
Stories in this series: