This is a continuation to First Love, Last Love – part 22
Since Richard and Maya had become a couple, they were often seen together having lunches or leaving the office together. Although no one has asked openly, it became a common knowledge that there was something more than the boss-employee relationship that was going on between the two. Maya got wind of this information and she didn’t know how to react. She did remember that on her first official meeting with Richard, he was adamant about being professional at work. Now, she needs to talk to him about this matter.
Over dinner that same evening, Maya brought up the subject matter.
“Richard, sa office pala, I heard that some people are already aware about us.” She opened tentatively.
“So? Are there issues?”
“Wala naman, but I remember that you told me about professionalism at work.”
“Yes. Is there anything that is unacceptable behavior from me?”
“Hindi yun ang point ko. What I mean is we need to separate our personal and professional life. As this early stage of our relationship, I don’t think it’s good for us to be observed by your employees. Para naman tayong nasa teleserye nito.” She pointed out to him, hoping he understood what she was driving at.
“Maya, the whole company will eventually know about us dating. I have no intention of denying our relationship. But I think I know what your concern is. I love you and we’ll make this relationship work.” He reassured her. However, there was an inner conversation that was going on in his head. “Why does she seem to be cautious of this relationship? Is it about me or it is her who’s having doubts?” He dismissed the idea as he didn’t want to ruin their evening together.
Maya was working on some papers when her phone rang. It was Richard’s face flashing on her phone screen.
“Hi Hon.” His normal greeting on the phone.
“Hi, what’s up?”
“There is something at Changi hangar that I need to personally check, so I’m leaving for Singapore on Wednesday and I’ll be back on Sunday afternoon. Do you want to go with me?”
“Ha? Naku hindi ako pwede. Tumawag kanina si Jeff. May family day si Cho this Saturday. He can’t attend dahil nasa travel din so he asked me if can be the substitute parent. I agreed . Si Cho nga is excited. First time kasi n’ya makaka-attend ng ganito.”
“Ah ganoon ba?… Hmmm, do you want me to cancel my trip so I can join you? I can go next week instead.” He sounded excited.
“Ay ‘wag na Richard. Your trip is important. Kanina lang din ako natawagan. Although Jeff also considered that I may not be available because busy nga dito sa office, I already committed to coming over. Okay na. I can manage, mga 3 year olds lang naman yun so I can manage on my own.”
“Alright. I just thought it would be good time to bond with Cho too.” He was a bit disappointed. It could be his chance to get to know Maya’s nephew.
“Don’t worry, there is always a next opportunity.”
“But I’m very sure I’ll miss you while I am away. Ahh! Maybe I could just go back on Friday evening so I can join you on Saturday. What do you think?” There was a renewed excitement in his voice.
“Hon, ikaw talaga. You have work to do.” She knew how important the Singapore hangar is to him so she’d rather that he attend to the issues there. She will just plan for a time when he can meet Cho and the rest of her family. She needs to formally introduce him as her new boyfriend.
Saturday morning at the Little Angels learning school, parents with their kids arrived in school wearing their sports attire ready to play games. Maya was in their Marikina residence earlier that morning to fetch Cho. Maya’s parents also planned on joining but had changed the plan when her Dad’s blood pressure went up necessitating him to stay home while her Mom would keep him company. On the way to school, Cho was so excited that he kept on chattering about school and his friends.
As soon as Maya parked her car at the school’s parking lot, Cho immediately got out of the car. Maya called out his name but he didn’t hear her as he excitedly run towards someone.
“Ninong!!” He run towards a smiling man standing beside a black sports car three cars away from where Maya parked.
“Pocholo, don’t run….” She shouted as she immediately got out of the car to run after her nephew. She was surprised to see James carrying Cho walking towards her.
“James, anong ginagawa mo dito?” She was very surprised to find him there.
“Ha? Jeff called me the other day. He said walang kasama si Cho sa family day. So, being his ninong, I volunteered. So, here I am.” He happily announced.
“Naku, bakit hindi naman sinabi ni Jeff sa akin.” She suddenly felt uncomfortable realizing that she will be spending the day with James.
“Why? Would you change your mind if you knew I was coming over? We’re friends, right?”
“Ah, oo naman, we’re friends. Medyo nagulat lang ako. I wasn’t expecting you or anyone else to join us. Eh, buti pala nakita mo kami dito sa parking lot.” She changed the topic.
“Magkasunod lang tayo. I went to your house in Marikina to fetch Cho, sabi ni Mama Teresita, you already left a few minutes before I arrived. So, ano, halika na. Let’s go inside.” He extended his hand to lead her into the grounds. Maya chose to just walk beside him while James still carried Cho in his other arm.
There is a common phrase that says “wag kang mang sorpresa dahil baka ikaw ang masorpresa.” Richard realized that phrase was very true few minutes after he entered Little Angel’s grounds.
Unknown to Maya, Richard returned to Manila on Friday night. Richard intended to surprise her by coming over to Cho’s school and meet them there. Although he was only away for 2 nights and 3 days, he missed her a lot. Ever since he met her, there is always a feeling of wanting to be close to her. “So, this is how people in-love feels”, he once thought.
The games were in progress when he arrived at the playgrounds. There was a loud cheering coming from the children and their parents. He immediately spotted Maya who was excitedly jumping up and down as she shouted words of encouragement. However, he was astounded to see who she was rooting for.
She was cheering on James who was with Cho in what seemed to be a relay game. After the game, he saw her handover James a towel to wipe his perspiration while she attended to Cho’s need. They looked like they were having great time.
As he witnessed the scene, he couldn’t understand what he was seeing. He stood still, his feet too heavy to walk towards her. His thoughts were flooded with questions leaving him in confusion. He remained where he was at, staring at her. If there was something definite, his green-eyed monster twin was awake again.
“Ninong, I need to pee.” Cho tugged on the shirt of James.
Maya looked on as James and Cho told her they were going to the men’s room. She fixed the bag of Cho while she waited for their return.
As if Maya felt someone was watching her, she turned to her left. Her eyes widened in surprise as she saw Richard standing from afar, his hands on his pocket, his face expressionless. As soon as she recognized him, she half-run towards him with a smile on her face.
“Richard, you’re here!” She greeted him with kiss on the cheek.
“Yes, I wanted to surprise you.” His expression remained blank.
“I didn’t realize that you were serious when you said you’ll come over. Anyway, halika doon sa assigned benches for Cho’s class.” She motioned him to walk with her. He followed her.
It was at this time that James and Cho came back. The little boy saw him first.
“Hi Tito Richard, andito ka rin?” He innocently asked.
“Yes,” He smiled at the boy.
Before Maya could speak, James spoke first to Richard and extended his hand. “Hi, Richard”
They shook hands, just like true gentlemen, while Richard responded “Hello James”
“What a coincidence, you are here too. I know you are single so am I right to assume you have nephew or niece in this school?” James asked, smile on his face.
It was that question that made Richard conclude that James was not aware of his relationship with Maya. “I guess you can say that.” There was a distinct smirk on his face as he turned his eyes to Maya, who was uneasy at that time. She couldn’t quite read what was on his mind after seeing James with her. She wasn’t guilty of anything but she felt she needed to explain.
“James, I actually invited him to come over.” Maya quickly interjected as she placed her arm on Richard’s arm. There was an air of awkwardness as the two men faced each other.
“Oh, really.” James nodded his head, although not sure how to take the situation.
“This visit is a surprise for her. I knew she will be on her own here but I didn’t expect I’ll find you here.” Richard responded, but was waiting for Maya to clarify his role in her life.
Then, it was James’ turn to explain in a matter of fact tone. “Cho’s my godson and Jeff asked me if I could accompany him. He wasn’t sure that Maya could make it today. So, I am here.”
“Alright, since we are all here, isn’t it more fun?” Maya declared enthusiastically trying to diffuse the situation as she was feeling tension building between the two.
“Opo, Ninang. Marami na po tayong maglalaro.” Cho excitedly joined in the conversation. It helped that he didn’t understand what was going on.
“Tito Richard, do you want to play?” Cho asked.
“Unfortunately, Cho I was in a hurry to come over here. I forgot to wear proper attire. Pwede pass muna ako?” Richard bent down as he talked to Cho.
“Okay lang po, Tito.” Then turning to James “Ninong, ikaw na lang ulit.”
Then he pulled James hand again to bring him back to the play ground.
Richard and Maya remained standing watching the two play. Maya’s hand was still in Richard’s arm when she spoke to him. “Why didn’t you call me when you arrived last night.”
“I was going to surprise you, but it turns out that I’m the one who got surprised.” He responded without looking at her.
“Richard… galit ka ba?” She asked sweetly.
“No, I’m not.” His tone serious.
“Hindi, galit ka eh. I can feel it.” She insisted.
“No, I’m not.” He reiterated and turned to look at her, still with a serious face.
“Alright, parang ayaw mong magsalita, okay lang. Pero, why didn’t you give me a kiss when you saw me earlier. Ako lang ang nag kiss sa’yo. Na miss kaya kita for 3 days.” This time she wrapped her arms around him, not minding that they were in a public place.
Richard in response embraced her half-heartedly and kissed her forehead. “O ‘yan, may kiss ka na.”
From afar, James witnessed the two hug each other. When he saw Richard kissed Maya, he knew that the two were together and it hurt. Not wanting to be the third wheel, he made a decision to just leave so he asked Cho to go back to the bench so they can be with his Ninang. Upon reaching the area where Maya was, James immediately said.
“So, I have done my share of games, Maya. I have to go now and leave you three. Richard, I’ll go ahead.” He turned to leave until Maya called him out.
“James, thank you, ha.” She walked to where he was standing, already a few steps away from Richard and Cho.
“You’re welcome, Maya. And also, now I know why I’m in the friend zone na lang. I hope you’ll be happy.” He looked at her with sincerity in his eyes. He has been very honest with her in the last couple of meetings with her.
“Thanks again James” Then she hugged him while he gave a peck on the cheek.
There were tiny stabs in Richard’s heart as he watched them talk. He couldn’t hear them but he knows Maya loves him, yet, he couldn’t control the pain in his heart.
His attention was distracted when Cho asked him a question. “Eh, Tito Richard, are you the special friend of Ninang?”
“Ha? What do you know of special friend?” He was curious on what the little boy was asking.
“Special friend po. “Yung love na love na friend.” He innocently explained.
“Maybe, you should ask your Ninang. Pero sa akin, your ninang is my very special friend.”
“Ahhhh, that’s nice.” Cho was smiling ear to ear.
Their conversation ended when Maya returned to their side. It was already almost lunchtime and the program was about to end with lunch being provided. After lunch, Maya drove back to Marikina to bring home Pocholo. Maya invited Richard to go with them but he declined saying he will need to attend to something.