Admin Note: *Contributed Story* Please give credit and thanks to xy.
A/N: Hi guys! Xy from Albay again! Just wanted to share a one shot that popped into my head. Fast forward muna sa show timeline ha. Sorry if medyo mahirap maintidihan sa first few scenes ng kwento but you’ll get it later on sa story. Sana magustuhan niyo like you did sa Tampuhan Blues (which I’ll be updating soon). Thank you and happy reading! 😀
He had been here before. He felt this before. As he flip through the TV channels, he tried his best to defeat the past event that seem to remind him tonight. His forehead now wrinkled with worry lines could easily be seen just like the black circles around his Chinese pair. With one final hard press on the remote, he landed on another channel before glancing at his cellphone again and grabbing the folder that had been close to him for two days now.
The desk clock in front of him read quarter to two. The night was getting old and the dawn will soon give birth to another day. With the folder once again opened before him, he narrowed his eyes on the bulleted list on the paper. Eight pages after, he sighed and briefly closed his eyes. After a glass of bourbon and another ran down re-reading, sleep still wasn’t his friend.
Words of blame on himself began dropping by again but the folder he held proved it otherwise. You did everything Richard, kalma, he thought.
By five in the morning, he was at the veranda, sipping a bitter coffee he made. He believed his brewed is getting bitter and bitter as the clock ticks. He wanted to blame this recipe of his for lack of sleep but he knows something else is the reason of his self-induced insomnia.
The sky wasn’t even greeted yet with one-fourth of light when he dialled a familiar number. He needs to do this NOW and surprisingly, the lady at the other line was already up at this hour of the day. He guessed, even her was becoming acquainted with his newly established early morning calls. He felt guilty but Richard Lim always gets what he needs and wants, this, isn’t any different. One ring, two rings and soon three became four before he heard himself say, “Hello Lisa…”
“Call me as soon as you reach them,” was the last thing he said after a one and a half hour call from his Clark team at eight in the morning. It seems to him and to the woman behind him, that those words were becoming an ordinary order whenever a phone call ends.
“Ricardo?” he turned and saw a standing and calm Manang Fe. “Kung andito si Maya, sasabihan kang kalma.”
Kalma. Kalma. Kalma. The words kept ringing in his ears when an urgent step on the brake and halt of the car jolted him back in reality. His body had been driving on auto-pilot all along. When the dog that he almost killed ran hurriedly out of the road, he let out a heavy breath. This shouldn’t keep going or else, chances are he won’t just be running over a dog, he might kill a human being or worse, he could also get himself killed.
By three in the afternoon, he found himself standing in front of the grave of his wife. “Is this your way of punishing me?” he asked faster than his lips could control them.
He did another run down of the bulleted list when he got back at his house at nine. One could even guess that he ran towards the peak of Mount Everest by the way he looks but actually all he did was a meeting with his Clark Team after the visit at the mausoleum.
Third day. Second night. The frustration and desperation got better of him when he dialled another number he knew for sometime now. His voice ringing at every corner of the house throughout the call.
“Damn right, you should have told me!” he said. It was loud but hasn’t cause fear to the three pairs of ears that were eavesdropping at the second floor. Luke, Nikki and, Abby heard next was something indistinctive. All they knew was that their father ended the call and that the words, “Kids, I could see you,” only means they have to go down and explain their actions.
His eyes suddenly popped open when his head bowed after a quick nap. His Chinese pairs immediately landing on the three beings who took up his bed. They insisted to be around him last night and they were his weakness. Feeling the coffee he took the night before rumble in his kidney, he rose up from the chair and went to the bathroom.
He was busy observing the almost four day beard that was beginning to grow on his chin and cheeks when he heard something from the bedroom. The kids are now awake, at least Nikki and Abby. They were arguing about who would do it first.
By the time, his feet landed on the bedroom flooring again, his hand immediately picked the folder that had been with him for days faster than his eyes could notice that his daughters were no longer in his room. He was on page two when he went out for breakfast. Luke sleeping caught his eyes and for the first time in years, he felt jealous that his son is getting the sleep and peace he needs and wanted.
“Ate Nikki, ako naman,” Abby begging was the one that greeted him when he reached the first floor of the house. His youngest was shaking his elder sister’s arm who returned her with words, “Teka lang Abby, si ate muna.”
His head feels like being pounded with wooden hummer as the little teasing continues before him. He wanted to yell at the kids but he knew better than stooping into a level of bad parenting besides, whatever frustrations he’s having for days now doesn’t actually circle around them.
“What is this all about?” he asked, gaining the attention of his daughters.
“Dad?!” Nikki immediately called out, her eyes streaked with fear as he come closer. She knew she’s in trouble knowing all too well that within her hand, was his father’s cellphone.
“And why are you holding my phone?” he asked, his voice getting stricter and stricter as he went on. He heard Nikki tried to explain but he continued speaking. “I didn’t raised you only to get the things that aren’t yours especially without even asking for it,” he added. When Nikki’s throat heaved as she gulped, he knew he had crossed the line of self-control. His daughter is once again afraid of him and he wanted to kick himself for it but this worry is something he’s not willing to show at the moment.
“Kasi dad… I thought…” his eldest daughter began as she pulled Abby behind her. She fears Abby would see how their father turns himself to “monster” she wished wouldn’t come back. “Nasa veranda ka so I brought it down. I know you’ve been wanting to…” were the words that were leaving his daughter’s lips when he took hold of the cellphone.
He watched Nikki explained her side before dropping his eyes on the screen. And there it is, his phone’s screen booming with black background, red for the “End Call” button, and the name Maya Dela Rosa was big and bold.
“Talk to Ate Maya, dad,” he heard Nikki end her sentence. His heart was beating faster upon seeing his girlfriend’s name. Is this a hallucination? A dream? If so, boy does he not like to wake up anymore but the sound of the folder he had been holding landing on the floor told him otherwise. With a final stare at his daughters, he held the cellphone close to his ears and sighed a relief he had been holding for days.
“Ba’t ngayon ka lang?” he immediately asked once he reached the end of the veranda, far from anyone’s hearing.
“At good morning din sa’yo Sir Chief,” Maya greeted with a cheery voice he had been craving to hear. “Uy teka ano yun? Bakit pinagalitan mo sila Nikki? Sir Chief grabe ka ha, ‘wag ganun.” She added with much concern that only load up his guilt.
“Look, let’s not talk about it just yet. Tinatanong kita, bakit ngayon ka lang? I’ve been waiting for your call. You told me na kapag nag-layover ang eroplano sa Tokyo, tatawag ka. What happened?” he bombarded.
“Sir Chief, kalma. Pwede isa-isa lang?” Before he could answer, she continued, “Una, na-lowbat ako sa Tokyo.”
“That’s why they invented chargers, Maya.”
“Natapos nga naman ako mag-charge pero paalis na uli ang eroplano. Pangalawa, nag-emergency landing kami sa Korea at –“
“What?!” he asked. Worse case scenarios began entering his head. Suddenly, the replay of how he lost Alex topped the list. “Maya…”
“Psstt, Sir Chief, ano ba, kalma. Ito ako oh, kausap mo.” She knew what he was thinking.
“What happened?” he asked. If something had been left out after he personally checked the airplane Maya will be riding, he “might kill himself.”
“May pasahero kasing manganganak. Ayun nga, nanganak nga siya sa eroplano, nag-assist pa nga ako kaya yun, hindi naman pwedeng isama pa siya sa buong flight kaya nag-emergency landing kami sa Korea.”
“Are you okay?” he asked after a moment of silence after remembering that Yna have told him about the emergency landing last night. Crap, he forgot about it.
“Huh? Ako? Bakit ako? Hindi naman ako yung nanganak ha,” she asked that made him smile for the first time in four days.
“You’re silly Maya. I mean, are you okay diyan?” he asked.
“Naku ang Sir Chief ko, concern…”
“Don’t play with me Maya, I’ve been worried sick you know.”
“Oo, alam ko. Sinabi nga sakin nila Nikki. Kumain ka naman kahit papano, uuwi din naman ako eh. Tsaka tingnan mo oh, kausap mo ako kaya okay ako.” He smiled. “Ikaw ba naman magka-engineer na boyfriend na limang beses chineck yung eroplanong sasakyan mo, hindi ka ba magiging okay?” she continued, smiling at herself when she remembered the day he insisted to stay at the hangar for him to further check the plane she’ll be riding.
“Ayaw mo?” he asked with a smile.
“Sinong nag-sabing ayaw ko? Ang sweet nga eh, tsaka kampante ako. Kaya Mamang Singkit, itigil mo na yang rally sa utak mo kasi ligtas po ako.”
“Are you settled sa tutuluyan mo? Kumain ka na ba?” he sweetly asked, remembering that Maya will stay in Los Angeles for two days before coming back in Manila.
“Oo na, eh ikaw, nalambing mo na ba si Nikki?”
“Look, I’m sorry,” he said after a beep.
“’Wag ka sakin mag-sorry kundi kay Nikki. Sana hinayaan mo na lang muna siya mag-explain diba? At kahit mali yung ginawa niya, ‘wag mo siyang sisigawan kasi magkakaintindihan naman kayo sa mababang boses lang. Dinaan mo na naman sa init ng ulo eh.”
“Maya, I’m feeling guilty enough. I promise, I’ll make it up to her,” Richard promised.
“AT ‘wag mo na uling kukulitin sila Ma’am Yna sa Head Office namin. Nakakahiya eh.”
“Nakakahiya? Maya, they owe me at least a portion of attention. Walang Time Airways, kung walang Lim Aviation,” he suddenly pitched his voice higher than his usual tone, making Maya grimaced at the other end of the line.
“Sir Chief, kalma, kalma,” the lady comforted.
“Sure you can say that, you’re not the one waiting for THE call,” he spat bitterly than he wanted; but Richard could feel his patience slipping out of his control again and Maya wasn’t on the bright side of persuading him back to the calm state. For a few minutes, he kept silent and only listened to Maya’s calling of his name. She was using different tone and style but it didn’t budge him.
Maya was midway of the first verse of Eraserhead’s “Wag Kang Matakot” when he finally came clean. “I just don’t want to lose you,” he softly declared which stopped the lady at the other line. His head bowed before swinging it upward and letting his eyes wander on the green hills before him.
His brows were nearly knitted together when he signed the folder he’d been holding for days. The word “Ok” finally got inked on its now slightly crumpled surface brought by his past heavy handling. Closing the tip of his pen, he sighed, leaned back on the chair and eyed the vast Antipolo hills that were surrounding the village. He had his head on his right hand when Manang Fe joined him at the veranda, a hot coffee at hand.
“Tumawag na raw si Maya,” Manang Fe stated, handling him the cup of which he took immediately. He nodded before taking his eyes off his childhood sitter who, a few beats after, heavily sighed.
“Hindi mo dapat ibinaling kay Nikki ang pagka-inip mo, Ricardo,” the woman began.
“I know Manang, it’s just that…” Richard tried to explain.
“Natakot ka na baka mangyari kay Maya ang nangyari kay Alex?” Manang Fe lead on, getting a stare from the man who was seated adjacent to where she was standing. His silence told her she’s right and the woman just know what to say. “Wala kang dapat ikatakot Ricardo.”
“It was also under my watch that Alex’s plane crashed,” he sadly stated.
“Alam ko. Pero nakaraan na yun eh. Kung nabubuhay lamang si Alexandra, hindi ka nun papayagang maging aligaga ng ganito. Kahit naman si Maya ayaw kang nakikita ng ganito,” the woman reminded him.
“It’s just that… I don’t want to lose Maya, Manang… not the way that Alex did.”
His tears were about to give in. The memory of day when the news about Alex’s crash hit him opened the gates of buried emotion and fear was at the top. He knows no amount of comforting words from almost anyone could calm his raging mind not until Maya sets her foot in the country once again.
“Edi sana hindi mo pinyagan yang girlfriend mo maging stewardess,” came the voice from the veranda’s sliding door. Landing his stare to know who it was, Richard curved up a small smile when he saw his brother by fraternity pact, Ryan, standing at the doorway.
“Brad!” both of them exclaimed in unison before Manang nodded her head and excused herself.
“Napa’rito ka?” the CEO of Lim Aviation began.
“Natural, hindi ka na daw pumapasok eh,” Ryan teased as he handed his friend a folder. “Okay na ba yan?” he asked as the man beside him read through the papers.
“Yup,” Richard answered as he nodded his head.
“Grabeng effort na yan brad ah, pati estasyon ng Time Airways sa Amerika ginulintang mo para lang sa maintenance run down nila,” Ryan observed, referring to the folder his friend was reading.
“I just need to check if they didn’t move anything. Mahirap na. Baka may ginalaw sila, kami pa ang masisi,” the CEO answered. His friend however didn’t look like he was buying the bait. Ryan knew all along why Richard called for such document and Lim Aviation wasn’t exactly part of it.
“Hanggang ngayon pa rin ba iniisip mo na maloloko mo ako dyan sa pagka-gentleman mo?” Ryan asked with a smug grin on his face. “Aminin mo na brad, the only reason why you asked for this is because andun si Maya sa eroplanong nakasaad dyan at sa oras na may ginalaw nga sila, naku ewan na lang kung marinig pa nila ang boses nila bukas dahil sa’yo,” he added.
“I’m not that harsh brad,” Richard defended with a smile.
“No but you will be. You might be. In love ka eh,” Ryan pointed out that made his friend shook his head
in mock denial. “Oh ano, tama ako diba?” he pushed before they suddenly fell serious.
“Ano, siya na ba?” Ryan asked a few beats after watching his friend sighed. When Richard failed to say something, he pulled up a smile. “Alam mo brad, ituloy mo na yan,” he said.
“Ang alin?” Richard asked, taking his eyes off of the folder, his brows, creased in confusion.
“Ang sainyo ni Maya,” Ryan answered as if it’s the most obvious thing on the face of the planet. On the other hand, his friend could only chuckle in return.
“Tingnan mo ‘tong taong ‘to. Kapag ikaw tumawag na naman sakin at namomoblema dahil may lamok na umaaligid dyan sa nobya mo, walang iyakan ha! Pinapa-gwardyahan na kasi para wala ng epal, grabe pa ang…”
“Brad, it’s not that,” Richard defended as he placed the folder on the table.
“Well, she’s just starting her international flights and alam kong madami siyang plano sa pamilya niya. I don’t want stepping into her way. Alam ko kung ano ang pinagdaanan niya to make her dreams come true. Besides, I also have my kids to look after,” Richard explained.
“Noble,” Ryan commented that made the man in front of him raised his brows in agreement. “Pag-inisip mo nga naman, Abby’s seven years old kaya Oo tama, pagka-sixty ni Abby, kaya niyo pa naman. Sige lang,” Ryan sarcastically added.
“Well, Maya’s just twenty five,” Richard played along that made bought of them laugh.
“Oh siya brad, alis na ako, may pinapabili pa kasi si Mareng Ivy mo eh, alam mo naman yun,” Ryan excused as he stood up followed by his friend.
“Well, kung si Ivy ang dahilan, bakit pa kita iho-hold?”
“Tito Ry, alis ka na po?” a voice coming from the doorway caught their attention. It was Nikki, holding a tray of cookies and two cups of brewed coffee.
“Hi Niks,” Ryan greeted as he watch his goddaughter made her way towards him, “Oo eh. Alam mo naman ang Ninang mo, commander-in-chief ko ‘yun,” the man added.
“Ganun ba? Sayang I baked some cookies for you pa naman. Manang Fe told me kasi na andito ka daw,” the young lady said regretfully.
“Take the coffee brad,” Richard urged when he saw a little sadness in his daughter’s eyes. Nikki is becoming more like her mom, very accommodating and always making sure that visitors are well taken care of and he can’t help but admire this growth.
“Of course… of course,” Ryan answered as he took the coffee from the tray and two cookies as well before saying his thanks. As the delicious cookies landed his taste, he watch Nikki come near her father who took his share on the snack and held his cup of coffee. “I see brad, in no time, pwede ng mag-asawa itong dalaga mo,” he commented, watching Nikki scowled and his friend knit his brows in disagreement.
“Brad…” Richard warned.
“Oh hindi na, hindi na. Oh siya, alis na ako ha, Niks, salamat sa snacks iha, you’ll be the best baker in time I’m sure,” with that, Ryan left his half-touched coffee and went out the house leaving the father and daughter holding their laughter.
“Sige dad, I have to go back to my room na. Got some proposals to make. Sorry din kanina kasi nakialam ako sa cellphone mo,” Nikki said before making her way towards the sliding door but before she even reach half of the way, she heard her father called her. “Yes dad?” she asked.
“Thank you for the snacks. Your ninong’s right, it tastes good,” Richard softly praised that was returned with a smile.
Nikki’s feet only landed once when she decided to face her father again. “Yes?” she heard him asked.
“I just wanted to say,” she began, “I heard what you and Tito Ryan were talking about. But dad, I’m not eavesdropping ha,” Nikki immediately added. “Well,” she continued again despite the view of her father’s brows that were apparently raised. She sighed with a thin smile playing on her lips. “Here it is. Dad, you really don’t have to think about Kuya, Abby and I naman eh. We’re grown-ups na. Somehow, we can manage. On the other hand, you can… not.”
“Nikki…” Richard tried to intervene.
“I saw how you were worried about Ate Maya. I saw how much you’re missing her dad and… I saw how much you love her. I guess Tito Ryan’s right to somehow give you an idea that IT must soon. You don’t have to worry about getting into her way because Ate Maya’s not even thinking about it herself,” the young lady softly added.
“Niks…,” he tried again.
“And dad… who knows… maybe, Ate Maya’s also already waiting for you.” With that and a meaningful smile, Nikki turned her heels and left the veranda for the comfort of her room.
With his daughter out of his sight, Richard couldn’t help but smile.
Yes, he has kids to look forward to, planes and hangars to maintain while Maya have a family to help and a dream to fully fulfil and both of them have jobs to handle but, does it really shun them over? Should they let those shun them over?
His lips curved up a little bit more as he thought, “Hell, no.”