A/N: This is a continuation to the Prologue. Please let me know if you like this or not. All comments (good and bad), suggestions and reactions are very welcome!
Richard fetched the kids from school and they all went to visit Alex. Luke laid the flowers down while Nikki lit the candles. Abby clutched Richard’s hand as they stood at the mausoleum.
After a short prayer, Luke stepped forward.
“Hi Mommy. I miss you. Siguro nagulat ka dahil ang tangkad ko na. Bigla po akong tumangkad this past three years, Mom. I’m a senior na, can you imagine? I’m taking entrance exams for college na next month. Pls pray for me ha, Mommy. Gusto ko din sana makapasok sa PUS, like you and Dad.”
Nikki wiped her tears and put on a brilliant smile for Alex.
“Hi Mom. I super miss you too. I’m a freshman na Mom and I joined West Teatro too, just like you when you were in high school! It’s super fun and I’m slowly becoming more confident, just like you keep telling me to be. I want to be just like you, Mom. I love you so much!”
Abby hesitated and looked at Richard. “Go on, baby. You can talk to Mommy too.”
“But Mommy doesn’t know me, Daddy,” Abby replied.
“Of course Mommy knows you, Abby. You’re also her baby. You just don’t remember her coz you were still very young when she died. But Mommy is always watching you sweetheart.”
Nikki took Abby’s hand and led her forward.
“Mommy, Abby is here too,” Nikki said, giving Abby a nod.
“Um, hi Mommy. I’m Abigail Ruth Lim and I’m six years old. I’m in Grade 1,” Abby said, taking a cue from her ate and kuya. “Hindi ko po kayo maalala, Mommy, but I love you too.”
Richard felt a stab in his heart. He had kept memories of Alex from his kids, in an effort to help them cope. He never even brought the children here to visit her. The last time they were here together was on the 40th day of her death. It turned out it wasn’t the right thing to do. His kids needed to deal with their grief too, and denying them the memory of their mother only made things worse.
The children looked up at him, waiting for him to say something. Richard cleared his throat and stepped forward.
“Hi Honey. I’m sorry I didn’t bring the kids here sooner. I couldn’t stand to see them cry. I thought that it would be easier for them to go on with their lives. I was wrong and I’m sorry.” He glanced at the three kids. Nikki gave him an understanding look. “We miss you so much, Alex,” Richard felt a tear streak his cheek and his voice caught. “I pray for you everyday. Please watch over us, especially our kids,” he stepped back and quietly composed himself.
Nikki stepped forward. “Don’t worry, Mom. We’re okay. And I haven’t forgotten my promise to you. I’ll make him kulit,” Nikki added with a smile.
Richard looked at her and raised an eyebrow. Nikki only smiled at him.
When they got home, Richard pulled Nikki aside.
“Care to tell me about that, Nikki?” he asked his daughter curiously.
“Let’s talk later, Dad” Nikki replied with a smile. “I’ll just finish my homework.”
“Sige, I’ll wait for you in my office after dinner nalang.”
After tucking Abby in bed, Richard went straight to his home office deep in thought. He was quite curious as to what Nikki’s promise to Alex was.
Manang Fe, their old housekeeper passed by and saw him in his office. She has been working for the family since Richard was a child. When he left his parents’ home to get married, Manang Fe went with him. And since then, she had been like a mother to both Richard and Alex.
“Ricardo, hijo” Manang Fe called to him affectionately, “ipagtimpla ba kita ng kape?”
“Sige po Manang, thank you po,” Richard replied. Manang Fe smiled and left.
“Hi Dad,” Nikki entered his office and sat herself on a chair across his desk.
“Niks, what was that about ba?” Richard couldn’t contain his curiosity anymore.
Nikki smiled at him almost sadly. “Dad, Mom made me promise to kulit you about something… in case it doesn’t happen by the time her 5th death anniversary comes. I think you already know…” She looked at him closely, waiting for his reaction.
“Nikki…” Richard exhaled loudly. Then he stood up and went around the desk. He put an arm around his daughter and pulled her close for a while. He kissed the top of her head then sat down on the seat right in front of her.
“Don’t get me wrong, Dad. I’m not wanting to replace Mom or anything ha… I just want to…”
“I know, Nikki,” Richard interrupted her. “Look, your Mom just wants what she thinks is best for me, for us. But just like you, I don’t think anyone can ever replace her. You know I did try to date a few times but nothing really happened, right?”
Nikki rolled her eyes. “Eh Dad naman kasi, those girls you dated were so boring! Hindi ka talaga magiging interested dun!”
Richard laughed. “Sabagay, medyo boring nga sila. I guess I’m really not interested either. Um Niks,” he suddenly looked serious, “do you guys feel that I’m not doing a good job, I mean as a Dad? Kasi wala na nga kayong Mommy so dapat parang times two ako as a parent, right?”
“Dad,” this time it was Nikki who stood up and hugged him. “Of course not. You’re the best Daddy in the world kaya! Di ba Abby always says that? I don’t want you to marry naman just to give us a mom. We’re okay, Dad. I just want you to… be happy again,” Nikki finished softly.
Richard held her in his arms, holding back tears. He was deeply touched by his daughter’s concern.
In so many ways, she was the spitting image of Alex… sweet, sensitive, caring.
Richard fell silent for a moment. Truth is, I’m afraid to feel happy again. Nakakatakot pag masaya, baka mawala ulit…
A knock on the door cut into his reverie. It was Manang Fe, bringing in his coffee. Richard let Nikki go and accepted the cup.
“Thanks Manang Fe.”
“Mauna na ako, Ricardo, Nikki. Goodnight.” Manang Fe smiled at the two and closed the door behind her.
He put the cup down on the desk and turned back to Nikki. “Tell you what, Nikki. I will promise to keep an open mind. If it’s meant to be, then it will happen, right? But don’t worry about me. I’m alright. Nandyan naman kayong tatlo to make me happy eh,” he ruffled her hair affectionately and smiled.
Nikki hugged him. “Awww, Daddy… Promise me you’re okay lang ha?” Richard nodded. “Okay, Dad, goodnight na din. I love you.”
“Love you too, Niks. Matulog ka na. I’ll just finish some paperwork.”
Maya dela Rosa held her face in her hands. She couldn’t believe that she came all the way to Manila for nothing. She was promised a job in Manila by her kababata. But it turned out to be a scam. She was now stuck in Manila, without a place to stay, without a job, and without much money.
She held back tears as she pondered upon her predicament. She had used her family’s savings to pay the recruiter and fly to Manila. She didn’t want to go back home empty-handed.
It was late in the afternoon and she still hasn’t found a job, nor a place to stay with her limited funds.
“What’s the matter, Liza?” Richard asked his long time secretary. He knew it was something important since he had strict instructions to his staff not to bother him at home unless absolutely necessary.
“Sir, nagkaproblema po si Sir Fred. He just called me right now. He has to leave immediately for the U.S. Malala daw ang lagay ng father nya,” Liza explained, trying to sound calm. “Sir, paano yung meeting with the Board of Directors tomorrow?”
Richard massaged his forehead and sighed. Fred was his personal assistant for the last ten years. He was the one who prepared the presentation to the Board of Directors of the airport, which was scheduled for tomorrow at 1pm. This was a very important deal and he could not risk failure.
Lim Aviation was making a proposal to be the exclusive aircraft maintenance service provider for all the airplanes hangared in the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport in Clark. All the details were prepared by Fred. Although he knew most of it, he was not prepared to do the presentation alone. He thought of asking Liza to come back but decided against it. He didn’t want to work in the office. He would just bring the papers home and work there.
“Liza, I’m going back to the office tonight. Are you sure all the papers are there?”
“Yes sir, they’re all on your desk.”
“Ok, thanks. I’ll see you tomorrow. I’ll have to do the presentation myself,” he told her.
Liza exhaled in relief. “Ok sir. Good luck and thank you!” She thought she had to do overtime tonight. Buti nalang, ang bait talaga ni Sir Richard.
Maya was walking slowly along the sidewalk, pulling her luggage behind her. It was already 10pm and she was still empty handed… still no job and nowhere to go. She thought of going back to the boarding house she saw awhile ago. Bahala na, bukas na ako uli maghahanap ng trabaho.
Manila was the loneliest place on earth for Maya. The only other time she was here was five years ago. And yes, that was even worse than her predicament now.
She thought about that time, and tears sprang to her eyes almost immediately. The image of Simon, the love of her life, came to mind. She remembered his gentle face, his quiet laughter, his warm embraces…
A screech of tires suddenly jolted her out of her reverie. Maya didn’t realize she had strayed onto the empty road. The headlights of the oncoming car blinded her. Suddenly, she was lying on the pavement.
Richard drove home lost in thought after picking up the papers from his office. He was trying to remember the details of the deal, choosing in his mind what words to say to the board that would make them want to sign the deal with Lim Aviation. It’s a pity that Fred had to go on emergency leave. No one knew this project better than Fred did.
As he came to the crest of the bridge, he suddenly saw a woman walking on the road onto the path of his car. He stomped on the brakes and the car screeched to a halt, nearly hitting the woman. He saw her stumble and fall to the pavement.
Richard got out of his BMW and ran to the woman on the ground. His first reaction was to shout at her for being so careless. But when he saw her face, looking so pale and with fresh tears streaking her colorless cheeks, his heart softened. He cradled her head and tried to wake her up. Her eyes remained closed.
“Miss, miss, okay ka lang ba?” Richard tapped her face slightly.
Her eyes fluttered open and she frowned, trying to focus on his face. He helped her sit up on the sidewalk then retrieved her bag from the middle of the road. The street was quiet, as it was late at night. He wondered where she came from or where she was going with a big bag.
“Miss, nasaktan ka ba?” Richard asked solicitously.
Maya looked down and shook her head, still stunned.
Richard offered his hand to help her up. The moment her hand touched his, she felt a shiver go up her arm. His hand was warm and soft, just like… She jerked her head up to look at him.
He was handsome. His kind, chinky eyes looked worried and he had a slight frown on his face. Maya didn’t know him but she felt like she was looking at someone she met before..
Richard was frowning because he lady he was helping up looked so familiar. He was usually very good at names and faces and he was sure they haven’t been introduced before. But he knew he’d seen her before. It felt like deja vu.
“Um, ok ka lang ba, miss…?
“Dela Rosa,” she supplied, now looking a bit stronger as she stood up. “Maya dela Rosa po”. No, her name didn’t ring a bell. I’m sure I’ve never met her before.
“I’m Richard Lim,” he offered and Maya simply nodded. His name didn’t sound familiar… but his face…
A clap of thunder jolted them back to the present. The rain poured down from the skies so suddenly that neither of them reacted quickly enough. They got soaked in the few seconds they stood there.
“Oh no!” Maya whimpered.
“Get in the car, Maya. Ihahatid na kita,” Richard commanded as he picked up her bag and quickly stuffed it in the trunk of his car.
Maya had no choice. The boarding house was at least two kilometers away and she had no way of getting there except by walking. He seemed trustworthy enough. She got in the car, nervously looking at Richard as he got into the driver’s seat.
As he got in, he gave her a soft smile. Maya allowed herself to relax. Sa lahat naman ng malas na nangyari sa akin ngayong araw na to, ikaw na ang pinaka gwapo. She smiled and settled into the seat.