A/N: ME TYPING, AND TYPING AND TYPING…parang ENERGISER BATTERY lang ang effect.
While we laughed at Maya’s nervousness at the prospect of having children and the physical intimacy that goes with it, I have to warn the readers that this chapter has another sizzling love scene which can be read in my personal blogsite. If you feel that this is not for you, please do not read on. Otherwise, I hope you enjoy reading ;)
After dinner, Richard expertly weaved through the nightlife traffic as he drove towards the higher grounds of Antipolo City to a hotel complex. Hopefully, he had timed it well so that they don’t have to wait too long. Richard parked his car and then opened the car door for Maya. She seemed hesitant to come out of the car at first.
Now, what’s going on here?
Richard saw her release a deep sigh before she climbed out of the car. Her skirt had ridden up a little so he saw a bit more skin.
She really has the most amazing shapely pair of legs.
“Is something the matter?” he asked while his right hand rested at the back of her waist as he guided her on the slightly uneven ground of the parking area.
“Depende yan sa sorpresa mo,” she muttered as they were walking towards the main entrance and foyer where Richard nodded to greetings by uniformed staff who addressed him by his professional title and surname.
Richard’s brows went up at Maya’s comment. He had sensed that something was bothering Maya but he knew better than to nitpick and ruin the evening. So, he just wordlessly walked her through the function rooms of the complex. They ascended to an open deck to where another uniformed staff was waiting beside a giant telescope.
“Good evening Engr. Lim, ma’am” the uniformed staff greeted them.
“Good evening” Richard nodded to the staff.
“Hello” Maya smiled in acknowledgement.
“Naka-set na po yan. If you need anything else, please use the internal phone to call me.”
“Thank you, Mario.”
“The staff knows you,” Maya noted when they were alone on the observation deck.
“My company built the complex for a friend who is also an astronomy enthusiast” Richard said matter-of-factly as he looked through the giant telescope.
“You are in for a treat tonight for this is the fourth largest telescope in the country.” Richard said conversationally as he was looking through the eyepiece. “Come here quickly and have a look.”
Maya complied and had a peak. “Ano bang titingnan natin?”
“You are looking at the Great Square of Pegasus. Keep an eye on the part directly below that square,” Richard instructed.
“Eh, kahit sa San Nicholas pwede tayong mag-stargaze—-! Ayyy! Merong shooting star! Ayan pa!”
“You are watching the Southern Delta Aquarids Meteor Shower. It comes at this time of the year.” Richard informed. “And do you see another coming from a different direction?”
“Uhhumm” Maya confirmed, unwilling to take her eyes away from the eyepiece.
“That will be part of the Perseid Meteor Shower. They overlap at particular nights of the year.”
Both meteor showers can be seen faintly by the naked eye if one is strategically located on the globe. With a high-powered giant telescope, it was spectacular. And judging from the way Maya delightedly exclaimed each time she sees a meteor blazing fire across the star-spangled midnight sky, she found the natural phenomenon exhilarating as well.
“Parang fireworks!” Maya gleefully enthused “ang ganda!!!”
“Maganda talaga” Richard agreed as he watched her very expressive features that altered between awe and delight.
Maya may have matured and acquired some degree of sophistication in the intervening years but she never lost that child-like quality in appreciating simple pleasures. Undeniably, her family had kept her grounded. It was just one of the things he loved about her.
After a considerable time watching the meteor shower, Richard was in his element as he pointed out different constellations to Maya.
“Teka sandali,” Maya said after remembering something. Richard observed her stepping away from the giant telescope to walk towards the stainless steel metal handrail. With both hands on the rail, she stood still with head slightly tilted towards the sky with her eyes closed.
“Maya?” he asked as he took a few steps to close the gap between them.
“Sssshhhhh!” she put her pointer finger vertically across her lips to keep him silent. After a few seconds, she opened her eyes and beamed up at him “I was asking three wishes.”
“Marami akong nakitang shooting stars pero sa tingin ko abuso naman kung hihiling ako ng ganun din kadami, diba?” Maya giggled at her own silly comment and then asked “hindi ka ba magwi-wish?”
Richard shook his head.
Maya slightly tilted her head. “I know you’ve already achieved a lot. But don’t you want something?”
“Definitely. I have many wants…”
With you topping that list of wants, he added silently.
“But wishes are for the innocent” Richard smiled to get the bite off his rather cynical statement “I set goals, I plan and strategise, and then I execute to get what I want.”
Maya looked thoughtful before asking “And me? Am I one of your goals?”
Richard looked at her seriously. “You were not part of the well-ordered life I planned for myself. I did not plan to fall in love with you. It just happened.”
“When?” Maya was looking up searchingly at him.
Richard raised his brow in question.
“When did you fall in love with me?” Maya clarified her query.
“You were about 15 or 16 at that time when I started feeling differently towards you.” Richard breathed out a short mirthless laugh.
“Really? That long?” Maya smiled.
“Believe me it was not a good feeling!” Richard’s brow knitted at the memory.
“No?” Maya sounded amused.
“Maya, I was already 25 years old then. Men of twenty-five years do ‘not’ fall for girls of fifteen! I actually thought that there was something wrong with me. That I was attracted to pubescent girls!”
More specifically, Richard had seriously dreaded that he had Lolita complex at that time.
“And were you?” Maya probed further “Were you attracted to pubescent girls?”
“Hell, no!” Richard denied emphatically “I was only attracted to you.”
“You have also been attracted to a lot of women, Richard” Maya pointedly reminded him.
Richard silently groaned. He should have known Maya would bring up his other women again!
“Maya, the women I have seen casually knew exactly what they were getting into. I
have never been emotionally involved with any of them and vice versa,” he explained calmly.
“Hmmmnnn…I am a bit ignorant to the type of relationship you have just described. May I ask a few questions?”
Richard was again not liking the current conversation topic but he had no choice but to nut this out with her.
“Fire away,” he nodded rather resignedly.
“So these casual relationships, how long do they usually last?”
“A few weeks, maybe a couple of months. Sorry, I never took notice” Richard admitted with a grimace.
“So when you end one of these so-called casual relationships, you remain friends with the woman, is that right?”
“I usually never see them again” he prevaricated, remembering that his parting scene with Stephanie was not pretty.
“Them?” Maya quickly picked up on the numerical significance of the term “Does that mean that you see several women at the same time?”
Richard grimaced, realising that he had inadvertently dug himself into a grave.
“With casual relationships, both parties are free to see other people” Richard sighed “So yes, there were periods that I see different women.”
What does that mean?
Maya looked at him directly. “So, how would you know that what you want is not another casual relationship with me? Because I don’t do casual relationships, Richard. Neither would I tolerate to be one among many.”
Richard digested what she said for a moment. She raised a valid point. He was well-versed with the rules in ‘playing around’ but rather inexperienced with committed relationships.
Maya smiled sadly as she turned again towards the railing. From the altitude of Antipolo City, the impressive collective night lights of Metropolitan Manila can compete with the luminescent stars against the infinite dark sky abovehead.
“Maya?” Richard invaded her intimate space again as he stood obliquely by her side, his polo-shirted-chest brushing against her bare left arm.
“Yes?” Maya turned sideways towards him and he saw that her face was troubled.
“Do you see that big star?” Richard pointed out a star that belonged to the constellation Ursa Minor or commonly known as the Little Bear. It was big, bright and can be clearly seen on the horizon by the naked eye.
“That’s Polaris, the north star,” he said at Maya’s nod. “For centuries, lost travellers
and seafarers have always used that to guide their way home because it remained bright and visible even with a full moon or electrical storm. It is constant, meaning it holds still while the entire northern sky moves around it.”
Maya was quietly listening.
“This may sound as if I am bragging but the fact is that I run a very successful firm where hundreds of employees depend on me to always be focussed and wise in making decisions. Despite this, many consider that I have been lost for a while in the more personal aspects of my life. But one thing remained constant in the last ten years and that’s what I have always felt for you, Maya. And it is this undeniable longing that compels me to find my way back to you. Because for the longest time, you have been my Polaris.”
Maya’s eyes glistened with unshed tears as she breathed “I don’t know what to say…”
Richard smiled down at her. Even in her three-inch heels, he was still taller by a couple of inches.
“You don’t have to say anything, Maya. But I do want you to seriously think about what I have been trying to tell you,” Richard gathered her hands in his and kissed both her knuckles and then looked into her doe-shaped eyes. “I have never felt this way with anyone else but you. And I very much doubt that I will ever fall out of love with you. If anything, I find myself falling deeper and deeper each day. Hence, I would like to be with you in every sense of the word…”
Richard paused as he reached out to caress one smooth cheek with the back of his fingers.
“So it’s only fair that you should know that I don’t want you just as my girlfriend, I want you as my wife.”
Maya was very quiet.
“Poor Maya, am I scaring you?” Richard tucked the errant lock of hair behind her left ear “but don’t worry, we’ll take things slow if that is what you want. I have already waited almost ten years for you, I don’t mind waiting a little longer.”
“Talaga?” Maya looked at him searchingly.
“Oo naman. And lakas mo kaya sakin” Richard quipped to lighten the mood.
Richard felt so much better after laying all his cards on the table for Maya to see and understand. He needed to clarify his intentions for he knew he botched up the marriage topic when he brought it up the first time. For a while now, Richard had known that he won’t be satisfied with Maya just as his girlfriend because he yearned for the sense of permanence that only marriage can bring. He wanted to see her face first thing when he wakes up and to have her in his arms when he goes to bed. He wanted to come home to her after a long working day and to spend lazy weekends with her just staying indoors. He wanted to provide for her and the children they will have together.
Maya remained very quiet on their way home. Hopefully, she can look beyond his ‘wild-oats-sowing’ past and realise what he was offering her. She would make him the happiest man on earth the moment she accepts his suit. In turn, he would move heaven and earth to make her happy everyday of their married life.
While Richard welcomed the temperature drop as time went, he had noticed goosebumps appearing on Maya’s smooth upper arms. He grabbed his suit jacket from the BMW’s backseat and had wordlessly placed it over her shoulders for which he got an appreciative smile of gratitude.
It was already early hours in the morning when they finally got back to San Nicholas. He had left her at her doorstep before saying goodnight. It had been a long day but he was still very much alert and he doubted if he will be able to get some sleep. He went to the master suite’s private sitting room where he had a bottle of Ardbeg Galileo single malt scotch whiskey sitting on top of the bar fridge. He poured himself a double shot on the rocks and proceeded to the private garden alcove that can only be accessed through the sitting room. With a newly built glass conservatory and re-cobbled grounds, the area was a great private outdoor space. Richard went to the centre corner where a wrapped figure was standing on a raised concrete dais. He took off the protecting corrugated brown paper and bubble sheet to reveal a female wooden statue with long tresses.
“Welcome home,” with glass in hand, Richard saluted the wooden figure whose doe-shaped eyes seemed to glisten as its shiny surface reflected back the halogen spotlight above while her full lips remained curved in a shy smile.
Richard woke up the next day very invigorated despite having only a couple of hours sleep. He quickly showered and donned on his overalls with the intention of joining his renovating team. His men came at 8am and they systematically tore down one wall off the kitchen area where he decided to add a large naturally-well-lit family room where he could set up a state-of-the-art audio-visual equipment and a billiards table.
In the interim that the villa had no functioning kitchen, Tata Igme and Nana Benita had been in and out of the villa, providing meals for him and his men. When asked, Nana Benita informed him that there is more than enough budget to last for the next two weeks.
“Bago ho matapos itong linggong ito, meron na ulit kusina and bahay” he informed the old lady.
“Hindi naman po problema ang pagluluto, Sir Richard” the old lady caretaker answered. Nana Benita had been cooking meals for Richard from her own kitchen and had been periodically bringing it over to the villa.
“Sir Richard, marami na pong natanggal na talahib dun sa lagwerta” Tata Igme reported “Bago matapos po ang linggo, malinis na rin po and lahat.”
Tata Igme was referring to the western-most side of the estate that was naturally partitioned off by a stream. This part had been home to a wide variety of fruit trees and was a very productive orchard. Unfortunately, it had been overgrown with weeds eversince the family who had been leasing the property had neglected and eventually left the orchard business altogether. Richard had since built a stone bridge for easier access for both man and vehicle. He planned to make the orchard profitable again so that the estate can be self-sufficient.
At around four in the afternoon, Richard was already at the bottom step of the front staircase of the Dela Rosa residence. He smiled when he heard Maya’s teasing voice but he frowned when he heard a responding masculine voice that he had never heard before. He continued to ascend until he was by the upper landing. At that vantage point, he saw Maya engrossed in deep conversation with a male guest in white uniform with three-striped epaulette on both shoulders. This visitor must be the driver of the hired white sedan parked in front of the Souvenir Shop.
Both were seated in the three seater but he could not see the male visitor’s face which was turned the other way. Both Maya and her guest did not see him. Then Maya hugged him!
“Oh, James. That’s wonderful!” Maya gushed happily. “I am glad you are finally committing yourself to this…”
Richard was rooted to the spot. He did not want to draw conclusions on what nebulous bit of conversation that he had just overheard. His immediate interpretation can not possibly be the right one! What he saw was just a hug between friends. It had to be!
Still, Richard decided that it was better that he did not enter the Dela Rosa residence. Otherwise, he knew he will say or do something out of jealousy and that he will regret it later. He quickly retraced his steps for he can feel his infamous ‘tiger’ temper rising! In this instance, it was the green-eyed monster of a tiger to be exact!
He went back behind the wheel of the Land Cruiser but he did not immediately leave.
He waited until Capt. James left almost an hour later.
What on earth were they talking about for almost an hour? He debated with himself whether or not he should go back into the house and sort this with Maya.
To sort what, Richard? Are you wanting to question why she was entertaining another suitor? Or are you wanting to question what she was doing embracing another man?
Tsk! Tsk! Tsk! But you have no ‘right’ to ask her anything, haven’t you? She has not agreed to be your girlfriend.
GRRRRRRRRRRR! The green-eyed tiger-monster growled!
In the end, he turned on the engine to drive to the main highway, burning tires along the way. He drove aimlessly for almost an hour before turning back to his estate.
The renovating team and the weeders have already left.
Tata Igme just looked on as his employer went inside the villa to change once more into his canvass overalls and CATs safety boots. He borrowed one jungle bolo from the old caretaker with the intention of picking up from where the weeders left off.
“Sir Richard, babalik ho ba kayo sa lagwerta?” Tata Igme asked “medyo gumagabi na po, Sir Richard.”
“Meron ho tayong dalawang malaking portable spotlights. Pakisunod nyo na lang” he ordered in a tone that brooked no further argument and then strode off.
When he reached the orchard, he saw that most of the weed clearing has been done. He immediately started hacking through unwanted vegetation, stopping short only when encountering a tree trunk. He would then just viciously slash through via a different direction.
Tata Igme, accompanied by his eldest son, arrived a few minutes later to illuminate the area around Richard. When the two men were about to join him, Richard sharply told them to stop and to stay out of his way. Tata Igme just scratched his head as he heeded his employer’s instructions and wordlessly gestured to his son to do the same.
“Sir Richard, meron pong mga palumpong ng mga kape sa bandang gawi diyan…” was the hesitant reminder by the old man but Richard was past caring whether he was also cutting down plants of the non-weed variety. With his teeth gnashed and his lips locked in a sneer, Richard hacked and hacked at vegetation. He felt some sense of satisfaction when he cleared all the weeds before calling it a night. His Omega watch indicated that it was almost ten in the evening. He handed the jungle bolo to the old caretaker and instructed them to go home after putting away the powerful spotlights and mini generator.
He strode back to the villa, feeling the soreness in his upper arms and shoulder joints. His right palm had blistered from the constant friction of handling the jungle bolo but he could not care less. He would just be adding to the calluses that he had been accumulating on his hands ever since he started renovating the Spanish villa. A few more wouldn’t matter.
After having a shower, he donned on his favourite white V-neck tee and printed cotton shorts. He did not replace his specs as he was massaging his temples. He could feel a migraine coming on which was undoubtedly brought on by the tension. He was in the process of rummaging for strong painkillers from the medicine cabinet when he heard drawers and cupboards opening and closing in the kitchen.
“Nana Benita?” he hollered as he crossed the hallway from the masters suite, past the formal receiving and dining area to go through the kitchen where the cabinets were already installed, minus the benchtop.
He walked over to the open door of the walk-in pantry. Inside was Maya inspecting the shelves.
“Maya! What are you doing here?”
She smiled at him. “Nakalimutan kong isoli sayo itong suit jacket mo kagabi. Here.”
Maya handed him his light gray suit jacket which he automatically took.
Richard had all doors installed with deadlocks and bolts a couple of days ago. Were they faulty?
“How did you get in?”
“Pinapasok ako ni Nana Benita tapos umuwi na silang mag-asawa. Nasa banyo ka yata nung dumating ako.”
“I suppose you walked here alone?”
“Hinihintay kasi kita para maisoli ko yang suit jacket mo” Maya nodded “nung hindi ka dumating, nag-text ako, nung wala kang reply, naglakad na lang ako.”
“You should not have come here at this time of the night” Richard muttered as he strode out of the kitchen back to the master suite, with the intention of getting the Toyota Land Cuiser’s key.
He needed to bring her back home for he was not good company at that very moment. While he previously felt pangs of jealousy with the knowledge that Maya had dated other men, seeing her in another man’s arms had roused the green-eyed monstrous tiger which had been growling and struggling to be unleashed since this afternoon. Until Richard can control this monster, it was prudent to keep his distance from Maya.
“Richard?” Maya called out from the master suite’s sitting room.
He came out of his bedroom to see Maya crossing the sitting room towards the open bi-fold doors that led to the conservatory-enclosed garden alcove. She stopped short a couple of feet away from the wooden sculpture.
Well, the cat was now out of the bag, so to speak!
Richard sauntered to the private alcove where he saw a fascinated Maya lift her right hand to trace the facial features that were so like hers.
“Maya, meet Señora La Rosa” Richard viewed the two female forms together and he was again struck by the similarity in height and bone structure. If he hadn’t discovered the statue himself, he would think that Maya herself had posed for the sculptor. An antiquities expert’s analysis report of the statue’s patina merely confirmed his suspicions that the statue was as old as the villa.
“Where did you find her?” Maya asked incredulously as her eyes kept running over her twin’s still features.
Richard closed the gap between himself and Maya before saying “I found her eight years ago when I was inspecting the property with a view to buying it. She was in a hidden compartment behind the linen cabinet shelves in the sitting room. I would not have found her if the false wall had not come loose.”
The statue’s likeness to Maya was the deciding factor that made him buy the estate despite requiring funds for his then new venture into construction. One look at her features and he knew he had to have her. He had her immediately transferred to his Ayala Alabang Village mansion with a view to having her restored.
“It’s amazing she has survived in extremely excellent condition.” Maya touched the smoothly polished right arm that was raised to flick back her hair.
Filmed with almost two centuries of dust and grime, Richard originally thought that she was sculpted wearing a tapis. When the tapis crumbled with handling, Richard thought that he had damaged the statue until he discovered that the tapis was actually made of woven fabric that had crusted and adhered to the wood. He then realised that she was actually a nude sculpture. With the thought of her being handled by another male pair of hands abhorrent to him, Richard decided to restore her himself under the tutelage of an antique restorer.
“She was in a less than perfect state when I found her, but I slowly restored her through the years…”
And her presence kept me sane.
Maya touched the patadyong cloth that was wrapped around the wooden figure, modestly covering her from breast to mid-thigh.
“Magkamukha kami…” Maya mused.
“Yes” Richard agreed simply.
Richard followed Maya’s gaze which went down to the base that had inclined top surface with continuous wavy patterns. The statue’s feet was slightly embedded in the base.
“At first, I thought it was just a design but I have since concluded that the sculptor was trying to emulate the wavy patterns of a sandy beach” Richard explained as his hand gestured towards the base before reaching and undoing the tapis.
“Ohhh!” exclaimed Maya as she was confronted by the still nude version of herself. Richard closely watched her reaction as her gaze viewed the proudly pert breasts with nipples slightly upturned, the small waist, the lushly rounded hips, the shapely legs and the triangular tuft of ‘hair’ that was covering her feminine mound. The details made up for an incredibly life-like feminine form. Evidently, the sculptor had a living model to come up with such masterpiece.
“Do you know why she’s naked?” Richard’s voice dropped to dulcet tones as he reached out to touch Maya’s flushed cheek while his other hand anchored itself to her waist.
Maya shook her head wordlessly. Obviously, she was overwhelmed which may be attributed to her seeing a very detailed naked female body so very much like her own or it can be due to his invasion of her intimate space. Or both.
“I believe the sculptor was trying to capture her liking for swimming unhindered by clothing…so you have more similarities than just looks” Richard whispered, his breath fanned her heated skin.
In some aspects, Richard envied the sculptor for he had intimate knowledge of his muse. He, on the other hand, only had his memory of Maya walking up the beach, her naked body glistening with seawater. And it was this image of Maya that had haunted him for years.
“It was a pleasure restoring and admiring her beauty but I would still rather have the warm living version.”
Then he closed the small gap to capture her slightly parted lips in a slow coaxing kiss.
Richard felt Maya go very still and then relax as her hands slowly crept up to rest on his chest. Richard nibbled her lower and upper lips before delving deeper. Maya’s response was hesitant at first until she was also kissing him back…
Author’s endnote: For the complete chapter, please click on this link: