A/N: Eto na! Magkaka-alaman na po!
This is a continuation to Chapter 2
Richard went back to bed not feeling sleepy at all. His mind went back to the day’s events… visiting Alex, problems at the office, meeting Maya…
Maya. He was so intrigued by her. He knew that behind the sweet, probinsyana facade was a tough woman. He didn’t know why she didn’t return home to Mindoro after finding out that she had been swindled. He assumed she was too proud to go back home just yet. She wanted to prove herself, maybe.
Richard couldn’t shake off the feeling that he had seen her before. He racked his brain trying to remember. Maya was born and raised in Mindoro. He had never even been to Mindoro. I’m almost sure I’ve seen her before…
Maya quietly lay down on the bed. She could hear Manang Fe’s steady, rhythmic breathing as she closed her eyes, waiting for sleep to come. But she was too awake to sleep. Something, or rather, someone, was occupying her thoughts.
Richard. Hulog talaga sya ng langit. Kung di dahil sa kanya, nasa kalye ako ngayon at mukhang basang sisiw. Napakabait nya, kahit mayaman, hindi suplado. Mabuti nalang at sya ang nakakita sa akin.
Maya remembered how his handsome face looked so worried when she first saw him. Somehow, she knew she had seen him before. Masyado syang gwapo para malimutan, she giggled slightly. But she could not remember where she saw him before. Baka naman napadpad sya noon sa Mindoro. Maya and her sister Cristina Rose ran a small tour guiding business in Mindoro. Baka naging client ko sya sa tour… yun nga siguro.
Richard woke up early, despite getting very little sleep. He had an important presentation to do in Clark and he had to leave by 10am. The children were sitting at the breakfast table when he came down.
“Kids, I’m going to be in Clark today. Tito Fred had to leave suddenly and I have to do this myself. I might be home late tonight so don’t wait up for me, okay?”
“Ok Dad, good luck,” Luke told him.
“Ako na bahala tumulong kay Abby sa homework nya, Dad” Nikki chimed in.
“Be careful driving. I love you Daddy” Abby said as she hugged him tightly. Richard’s heart swelled with pride as he looked at his children. Alex would have been so proud to see how grown up they’ve become.
Maya stood behind the pillar as she watched Richard and the kids. Ang sweet naman nila…
“Maya, bakit nandyan ka?” Manang Fe came up behind her and she jumped in surprise.
“Ay, kalabaw!” Maya covered her mouth as Richard and the children looked in her direction.
Manang Fe laughed and led her out to the table.
Richard looked at Maya and he felt his heart skip a beat. She was dressed nicely and tied her hair back in a sleek ponytail. She had a bit of makeup on, bringing out the sparkle in her eyes.
Manang Fe watched Richard stare at Maya, a smile forming on her lips. Then she cleared her throat.
“Ricardo, ipakilala mo muna si Maya sa mga bata.”
“Ah, oh, yes. Maya, these are my kids, Luke, Nikki and Abby. Kids, this is Maya dela Rosa. Muntik ko sya nasagasaan kahapon…”
Nikki gasped, “Oh my gee! Are you hurt?”
“Ah hindi naman ako natamaan ng Daddy mo, Nikki, muntik lang,” she put her thumb and index finger together to show just how close and the children laughed.
“Anyway, Maya is from Mindoro and she only arrived in Manila yesterday. The place she was supposed to stay in was full tapos it was raining so hard last night pa. So I invited her to stay here nalang muna until she gets her problem fixed.”
The older kids smiled and nodded. But Abby jumped up to Maya and asked, “Can you play with me after school, Ate Maya?”
“Ah, wag muna today, baby,” Richard told his youngest daughter. “Actually, Maya, kung wala ka pa namang lakad today, kung pwede sumama ka sa akin sa Clark? I do need an extra hand in doing the presentation. And you already know it. Okay lang ba?”
“Ah, oo naman sir…ah Richard,” she replied hastily, eager to repay him for his help.
“Good! Umupo ka na at kumain, Maya. You’ll need your energy today,” he gestured to the seat beside Abby.
“Kain na Ate Maya, but you’ll have to excuse us ha, kasi we need to go na or we’ll be late for school,” Nikki said apologetically.
“Ate Maya, please remind Daddy to buy pasalubong for us, okay?” Abby piped up, making Richard laugh.
“Mauna na kami, Dad, Ate Maya. Nice meeting you!” Luke said as he picked up his knapsack and ushered Abby and Nikki to the front door.
“Ihatid ko lang mga bata sa sasakyan. Sige na, kumain lang kayo dyan,” Manang Fe told them as she left.
Maya looked down at her food, suddenly feeling nervous again. She’ll be spending the day with Richard. Just the two of them together. She barely knows him but she knew for sure that he was a gentleman and was trustworthy. What was making her nervous was what she was feeling whenever he looks at her… cold hands, a quickening heartbeat, and butterflies in her stomach, just like the first time she fell in love, with Simon.
But before she could dwell on Simon further, she heard Richard calling her.
“Ay Maya! Ay, sir sorry. Ano po yun?”
“Maya,” Richard’s voice was gentle, but with a hint of humor. Usapan natin di ba? It’s ‘Richard’, not ‘sir’, and no more ‘po’.”
“Sorry ha, nagulat kasi ako eh. Nalimutan ko tuloy.”
Richard looked at her carefully. “Okay ka lang ba, Maya? I lost you there for a while. May problema ka ba?” Maya shook her head.
“Kung may gagawin ka today, it’s okay. You don’t have to feel pressured to come with me…”
“Ay hindi naman, ah Richard,” Maya still stammered saying his name. “Gusto ko nga talagang sumama para tulungan ka. Yun nga lang, kung gagabihin na tayo ng uwi, di nanaman ako makaka-ikot para humanap ng boarding house para matuluyan ngayong gabi-”
“Maya, you can stay here muna, di ba sinabi ko sa yo, walang problema dun?” Richard cut her off, his kind eyes bored into her and she could not help but stare back. “Besides, sa palagay ko, mag eenjoy ang mga bata na kasama ka, lalo na si Abby”. Actually, an idea was forming in his head. I’ll ask her about it later.
Maya nodded in resignation. She was not comfortable being on the receiving end of help all the time. “Ok Richard, salamat ha. Maakakabawi din ako sa yo.”
Richard shook his head and smiled. “Wala yun, Maya.”
From where she was, Manang Fe watched Richard and Maya. She saw the chemistry between them when she saw Richard and Maya last night. And now, sitting together for breakfast, she knew that there was something new to look forward to in the days to come. She smiled happily at her ward and the young woman sitting with him.
Manang Fe waved goodbye as Richard and Maya left the driveway. They had a long drive ahead of them but Maya turned out to be an interesting driving companion. She told Richard stories about her childhood, her family, her life in San Nicolas, her dreams of working abroad to help her family…
“Parang ang ganda pala sa San Nicolas. Sana makapunta din ako dun someday.”
Maya was surprised. She had assumed that he had been there before and that’s where she’d seen him. Apparently, she was wrong.
“Bakit parang nagulat ka?” Richard asked, noticing her surprise.
“Ah, hindi naman. Akala ko kasi na baka nakapunta ka na dun dati. Kasi… um, ewan ko ba… siguro may kamukha ka lang pero parang nakita na kita before.” Maya finally said.
It was Richard’s turn to be surprised.
“O, bakit parang nagulat ka din?” Maya asked him.
“Maya, I thought the same thing when I first saw you!”
Maya’s eyes widened. Siguro nagkita nga kami noon. Isang linggo lang ako nasa Maynila noon…pero wala akong ibang napansin dahil kay Simon…
“Ngayon lang ako makakapunta sa Clark. Ano bang meron dun?” Richard was surprised that she changed the topic all of a sudden. When he said that he thought he had seen her before, Maya had a look of surprise, then sadness. He could almost see her compose herself, smile, then purposely change the topic. Something made her sad. Very, very sad. He wished she would confide in him. But for now, he was contented with her companionship.
“Well, madaming mga resort sa Clark. May duty free shopping din at mga restaurants. Syempre, andyan pa din ang nightlife. Pero today, sa airport lang naman tayo pupunta.”
Maya nodded and leaned back in her seat.
They soon arrived in Clark. Richard and Maya took out coffee and some sandwiches and ate in the car while heading to the airport office. They reviewed the slides one more time on the laptop before going in.
“Richard, kinakabahan ka ba?” Maya asked him. She noticed that his hands were absent-mindedly fidgeting.
“A bit. I haven’t done this in a while. Usually yung mga engineers or si Fred na ang gumagawa nito.”
“I’m sure you’ll do well, Richard. Just be yourself. Eh sa practice mo palang kanina, kung ako yung board member, mapapa-sign na ako ng kontrata eh!” Maya told him with a smile.
He laughed and looked at her. He was surprised at how easy it was to be with her. She made everything feel light and easy, made him smile and relax. She gave him confidence.
The meeting started promptly. Maya sat on the table where the laptop and projector were, to man the slide transitions. She was nervous for Richard, but she didn’t let on. Richard began talking and she was on her toes following his every word and making sure he was on the correct slide. Not surprisingly, the presentation on the Green MRO proposal went so well, she was left breathless with awe. He commanded attention, that’s for sure. The female members of the Board had smiles plastered on to their faces the whole time. But even the male members were impressed by his professionalism and his knowledge of the subject matter. In the end, the board members unanimously approved the proposal and the contracts were signed immediately after.
After the congratulatory handshakes, Richard made his way back to Maya as the members of the board filed out of the room. He was all smiles. “Maya, we did it!”
“Ikaw, Richard, YOU did it. Ang galing mo pala magsalita,” Maya complimented him shyly.
“No, I couldn’t have done it without you, Maya. Patok na patok yung slides mo, ang galing ng animations, bilib ako.” Richard complimented her back.
The two of them started putting away the gadgets when Richard noticed that it was getting dark outside. He looked at his watch. It was already 6pm.
“Do you want to drive back na and eat on the way o gusto mo mag early dinner nalang tayo dito?”
“Dito, sa airport?”
“Well, not necessarily. Let’s eat at a nice place to celebrate?” Richard asked with a smile.
Maya felt shy all of a sudden. Parang date naman ata yun. She shook her head to clear her thoughts but Richard thought she meant ‘no’.
“Ayaw mo?” He looked crestfallen.
“Ah, hindi, I mean oo! Ah, ibig ko sabihin ah…, sige, kumain na muna tayo bagi umuwi,” Maya was feeling flustered. Richard was making her feel giddy, like a teenager again.
“Good! Akala ko ayaw mo eh. Let’s go?”
Richard drove them to a nearby restaurant inside Clark. It was a quiet, cozy place. It was a cool and breezy evening so they opted for a table at the veranda near the back. And since it was a weekday, there were few people around.
Over dinner, it was Richard’s turn to talk about himself. He told her about his childhood, growing up privileged but hating how strict his parents were. Then meeting and falling in love with Alex, and how his family cut ties with him after that. He told her of his blissful family life until Alex died. He told her how he tried to shield the kids from grief by making them preoccupied with school and extra curriculars. He took them out to trips often, but never to visit Alex, until the other day.
Maya looked at him with understanding. Minsan, parang mas madali pag di mo nakikita, pag walang alaala. They remained in comfortable silence until Richard asked for the bill. They walked slowly back to the car.
Out of the blue, Maya said, “Masakit no? Pag nawala yung taong katuwang mo sa buhay?”
Richard nodded. “Yes. Sometimes it feels like you’re never going to be happy again,” he paused for a moment. “Ikaw Maya, alam ko you lost someone dear to you. Don’t look so surprised. You’re quite transparent. But you don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to.”
Maya stopped walking and looked at the heavens. The skies were clear and the moon was bright. She sat on a nearby bench and took a deep breath. Richard sat beside her.
“Simon ang pangalan nya. Wala na akong ibang minahal kundi sya. Kababata ko si Simon, magkapitbahay kami sa San Nicolas. Nag abroad ang tatay nya nung high school kami, kaya guminhawa ang buhay nila. Lumipat sila sa Maynila pagka graduate namin ng high school. Dun na sya nag aral ng kolehiyo pero umuuwi sya sa San Nicolas tuwing may bakasyon. After 2 years, nag migrate na sa states ang mga magulang at kapatid nya, pero naiwan sya kasi 19 na sya noon, di na sya umabot sa petition. Kami naman, balak namin magpakasal pagkatapos namin ng kolehiyo tapos ay gusto nya na susunod kami sa states pag naayos na ang mga papeles namin. Nung fourth year na kami, excited na nga kaming mag graduate at makahanap ng trabaho para makapag-ipon para sa kasal namin. Mahal na mahal ko sya, Richard” Maya smiled at the memory.
“Hindi naman sya uniinom pero nag celebrate ng 21st birthday yung kaklase nya sa isang bar sa Malate at sumama sya. Nagkaroon ng away dun sa bar. May isang grupong nanggulo sa kanila. Pare-pareho silang mga lasing kaya inawat nalang ni Simon. May dala palang balisong yung isa sa kanila at si Simon ang nasaksak,” Maya paused, blinking back tears. Richard listened in silence. There was a catch in Maya’s voice as she struggled to continue.
“Dinala sya sa ospital na malapit. Sabi ng mga kaklase nya, dead on arrival sya sa ER pero nag CPR sila at tumibok pa uli ang puso nya. Inoperahan sya nung gabi ding yon, para huminto ang pagdudugo sa atay nya. Lumipad ako papuntang Maynila kina-umagahan. Nasa ICU sya, naka respirator. Brain dead na, sabi ng mga doktor,” tears were flowing down her cheeks. Richard handed her his hanky.
Maya smiled her thanks thru her tears and took it, wiping her face furiously. “Araw-araw ko syang binibisita sa ICU, hoping na baka mabigyan kami ng milagro at gumising sya uli. Pero three days later, bumigay ang puso nya.” Richard put his hand on her back and stroked her gently, trying to console her.
“Pagkatapos ng burol at cremation, dinala ng pamilya ni Simon yung abo nya sa States. Dun na sila lahat nakatira nun, si Simon nalang ang naiwan dito sa Pilipinas. Ni wala akong puntod na mabisita, Richard. Minsan parang panaginip nga lang si Simon. Ang mga alaala ko lang ay yung mga sulat nya sa akin.”
Richard listened carefully, realization washing over him. He knew he had to say something. “Nung nasa ospital kayo, nasa Bed C ba ng ICU si Simon, Maya?” Richard asked quietly.
Maya gasped as her head shot up. She looked at him incredulously. “Paano mo nalaman?”
“Maya, I know now where I saw you before. Alex was on Bed B, that was exactly five years ago, right?”
Maya struggled to remember. On the day Simon died, she saw the woman beside them being placed on a respirator too. A few minutes later, a man stood at the foot of her bed with tears in his eyes. He carried a little girl in his arms and two other children, a boy and a girl, stood beside him, crying. She remembered her heart going out to him and the little ones. At least she didn’t have to worry about raising children on her own. But this poor man had three children to care for, as his wife lay dying.
“Ikaw nga yun. Naalala ko, kasama mo ang mga bata…”, she whispered, her voice breaking.
“One month na kaming nasa ospital. Nalipat sya sa ICU just the day before Simon was brought. Alex was placed on life support that day you saw us. That morning was the last time I ever spoke to her. She died two days later,” he whispered, barely able to say the words out loud. His eyes were red-rimmed and tears threatened to fall.
Both of them could not hold their sadness back any longer. Tears fell freely and they reached for each other. Under the moonlight, Richard held Maya in a tight embrace, and her arms went around his back.
To be continued…