This is a continuation of Learning to Love Again – Chapter 6
It was four o’clock on Friday afternoon and Maya heaved a sigh of relief as the final design was scanned and emailed.
“Finally! Sir Chief, we are done!” Maya exclaimed proudly.
“Thanks Maya, we couldn’t have done all this without you,” Richard smiled at her.
“Ay naku, talaga Sir. Buti nalang nandito si Maya! Whew, natapos din,” Liza added, comically wiping her brow.
“Well, I think we can all relax this weekend?” Richard asked them, winking at Maya.
Maya blushed, knowing that Liza saw that.
But Liza, discreet as she always had been with regards to his boss’ personal life, was unperturbed.
“So sir, walang pasok lahat kami bukas?” she asked him, linking arms with Maya with a smile.
“Yes, lahat tayo.”
“Wonderful! Thank you sir. I’ll go and tell the staff and the engineers. I’m sure everyone will enjoy this weekend,” she replied. She waved to them and closed the door behind her.
Maya turned to go back to her desk and clean up but Richard’s hand on her arm stopped her.
“Maya,” he said in a soft voice. She turned around slowly.
“Sir Chief?” Her eyes met his.
“I just want to thank you.”
“Nag thank you ka na kanina, Sir Chief,” Maya corrected him.
Richard shook his head. “I feel like it wasn’t enough. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate what you did,” he closed the distance between them and gave her a bear hug.
Maya stood stiffly as he put his arms around her. She was surprised at the sudden show of affection. But that only lasted a split second as her arms automatically went up around him, returning the hug as well.
“Ikaw naman. Friends tayo di ba? Syempre gagawin ko talaga lahat ng kaya ko para matulungan ka.”
Richard reluctantly released her, not wanting to overstep bounderies, although wanting to test the waters.
“Hulog ka ng langit sa akin, Maya.”
Maya’s hand flew to her mouth, surprised at Richard’s words.
“O, bakit ka nagulat?”
“Yun sana ang sasabihin ko tungkol sa yo. Hulog ka ng langit sa akin. Para bang sinadyang di ako nakaalis ng Pilipinas, sinadyang magkita tayo…”
“At sinadyang umalis si Fred kaya bigla kong kinailangan ng assistant…” Richard finished. They looked at each other in silence for a moment.
“Do you believe in fate, Maya?”
Fate. That word again. Maya suddenly turned away from him and walked over to the window. “Naniniwala akong binibigay ng Diyos ang kelangan natin, sa tamang oras, sa tamang paraan,” Maya replied philosophically.
Richard could see the sadness cloud over her eyes again. Whatever it was that was making her sad, she didn’t want to talk about it. He sighed quietly and went back to fixing his desk, preparing to go home. An uncomfortable silence filled the room.
Maya felt guilty. She didn’t mean to kill the moment. She just couldn’t help but remember another sad moment in her life, when her Tatay left. But she didn’t want to burden Richard with more sob stories.
She quietly walked back to the pantry and made him some coffee. Richard smiled at the gesture, knowing that Maya didn’t mean to shut him out. She just needed to be alone for the moment.
“Coffee muna, Richard,” she set the cup in front of him and smiled.
Saturday morning was a flurry of activity in the Lim household. Luke and Nikki loaded their bags into the car excitedly while Abby was making sure they brought some board games and pool toys. Maya was checking Abby’s bag, making sure she brought the essential items. Manang Fe was packing snacks for the family when Richard entered the kitchen.
“Manang Fe, are you sure ayaw mo sumama?” Richard asked one more time. “Ikaw lang maiiwan dito, I worry about you.”
“Ay wag mo ako alalahanin Ricardo. Andito naman si Joma. Maglilinis kami ng bahay habang wala kayo. Sige na, wag kayo nagpa tanghali at mata-traffic na kayo.”
Richard smiled kindly at her. “Sige po, wag kayo masyado magpapagod.”
Manang Fe nodded and handed him the basket of food. “Ingat ka magmaneho, anak.”
“Opo. Mauna na po kami.”
The drive was uneventful and since they left early, they arrived in Clark in just an hour.
“Wow, ang ganda pala dito Daddy!” Abby exclaimed as they entered Fontana.
“Abby, look at the slides!!! Oh my gee, Kuya, we have to try that later ha!” Nikki tugged at Luke’s sleeve.
“Syempre! Gusto nyo race pa tayong tatlo eh!” Luke replied gamely.
“Yehey!!!” Abby clapped her hands in delight.
Richard and Maya smiled at the kids’ excitement.
They arrived at the private villa. Richard, Maya and Luke started unpacking their things while Abby and Nikki ran ahead.
The villa was a one-storey unit with two luxurious bedrooms, a spacious living room and a private pool at the back.
“Dad! We have our own pool!” Nikki shouted as they found the pool with a Jacuzzi.
“Daddy, can we swim na ba? I want to try the big slide na po! ” Abby asked as the rest of them entered the villa.
Richard ruffled Abby’s hair and smiles. “Ok. Let’s just get our things in order then we can go.”
Swimsuits/trunks strictly required
The sign on the pool entrance made Maya frown. “Naku, Abby, pano ba yan? Wala naman akong bathing suit. Shorts at t-shirt lang sana ang balak kong suotin. Si Daddy mo nalang ang sasama sa yo sa slide ha? Manonood nalang si Ate Maya sa yo. Kukuhaan kita ng pictures okay?”
Abby’s face fell. Nikki’s eyes suddenly lit up. “You know what, I think I saw a gift shop inside. Maybe we can buy from there, Ate Maya!”
“Ah talaga, Nikki?” Maya looked at Abby’s hopeful face then at Richard’s. “Richard, punta muna kami ni Nikki sa gift shop, baka may bathing suit doon. Mauna na kayo sa pool, susunod nalang kami,” she told him.
Richard nodded. “Okay, we’ll look for a hut near the slide. Hanapin nyo nalang kami.”
“Miss, wala ba kayong one-piece na swimsuit?” Maya asked the saleslady after going thru the racks in exasperation. All the bathing suits on display were bikinis.
“Sorry po maam, puro ganyan lang po talaga ang stocks namin dito. Yan kasi ang mabenta lalo na sa mga turista. Eh bakit hindi nyo po subukan, bagay naman po sa inyo mag bikini,” the woman smiled.
“Nikki, pano na yan?”
“Ate Maya, she’s right. Why not nga? Just because you’ve never tried it before doesn’t mean in won’t look good. Sige na, Ate Maya!”
Maya looked at the bikinis again in despair. Bakit ba kasi hindi pa ako bumili sa mall kagabi…
“Try this one. It’s not too skimpy, medyo parang shorts yung bottom,” Nikki told her as she pulled out a set.
The halter top of the bikini had a bold, geometric, orange and black print while the bottom looked like micro-shorts in black with an orange band.
Maya took it reluctantly and went to the fitting room.
She looked at herself in the mirror. Hmmm, hindi naman ata masagwa. Maya had a toned body and lightly tanned skin, from years of walking in the sun doing the tour guide business and helping carry goods from the market every weekend. And although she wasn’t a curvaceous goddess, the top hugged her curves just right.
She parted the curtain hesitantly. “Ano Nikki, pwede ba to?”
Nikki’s mouth curved into a genuine smile. “Oh my gee! Yes, Ate Maya. That is so you! I love the color and the style! Super bagay sa yo.” She turned to the saleslady. “Miss, we’ll take it na.”
Richard kept looking towards the entrance for Nikki and Maya. When they finally arrived, he waded closer, eager to see her.
Maya had an almost opaque robe wrapped around her. She was too shy to parade around in such a skin-revealing outfit. She found their table and sat down.
“Ate Maya, let’s go swimming na!” Nikki said, excited to join the others.
“Mauna ka na Nikki,” Maya replied.
“Ate Maya!” Abby waved to her while in Richard’s arms. “Halika na po!”
“Ah, okay Abby,” Maya said reluctantly, unable to stall further.
Nikki jumped into the pool and got Abby from her Dad. Richard couldn’t stop himself from staring as Maya stepped out of the bikini cover.
Her creamy, flawless legs stood out against the dark color of the bikini bottom. He looked up some more and saw her flat midsection exposed between two orange fabrics. As he trained his eyes upward, he gulped as his gaze rested on the two, tiny bits of orange and black fabric on her chest.
Richard stood ‘stiffly’ in the shallow water, taking in the view. Maya was absolutely stunning.
Uh-oh, Richard thought to himself.
To be continued…