Note: This is a continuation of The Art of Letting Go – part 33.
The whole group left the vicinity to proceed to Richard’s mansion where a buffet is arranged to celebrate the engagement of the couple. Richard & Maya were in the formers car while their families and friends were in their respective vehicles.
“You scared the hell out of me, you know that? I really thought you’re going to say no to my proposal.” Richard was still eyeing the road as he drive them back to his mansion, reminiscing the turn of events during his proposal and how Maya initially said no to scare him.
He took Maya’s left hand using his right and lifted it towards his lips for a kiss. “I’m not sure what’s going to happen to me if ever you said no.”
Maya let out a soft chuckle remembering the worried look that registered on his face and the tears that threatened to fall. “Sorry honey ha. Ikaw naman kasi eh! Binibigla mo ako!” she said jokingly.
Richard shook his head in amusement. “You’re so silly! Seriously, I really thought I’d have a heart attack. I was already considering what went wrong. May nagawa ba ako. May kasalanan ba ako sa’yo. May nakita ka na bang iba. Hindi mo na ba ako mahal. Ayaw –“
“Shhhh..” Maya squeezed Richard’s hand tight as she cut him off. “Honey, sabi ko naman ginu-good time lang kita kanina di ba? Hindi pwedeng mangyari na may makita akong iba o mawala yung pagmamahal ko sa’yo. Hinding hindi mangyayari yun.”
Richard slowed down the car and pulled over on the shoulder. With a confused look, Maya faced him. “O bakit tayo huminto honey?”
Richard turned to his right to face Maya. Cupping her face, he gazed tenderly in her eyes. “I love you so much my angel. You simply don’t know how happy I am. I’m not sure how my life will be without you in it.”
Holding the hands cupping her face, Maya smiled affectionately back at him. “Ako din naman honey eh. You’re the best thing that’s ever happened to me. I love you too. So much.”
With so much love, affection, and joy in their hearts, they once again locked themselves in a tight embrace. After a moment, Richard pulled back to capture Maya’s lips for a warm loving passionate kiss.
“Congratulations!!” greeted Manang Fe, Sabel, Doris, Joma, Liza, and the rest of the LAS staff as the newly engaged couple entered the house followed by their families and friends.
Richard and Maya thanked everyone. Maya once again was teary-eyed with the heavy flow of congratulatory messages and well-wishes that they have been receiving from their respective families and friends.
“O bunso! Tama na ang iyak ha. Maawa ka sa amin. Bumabaha na dito o!” quipped Kute earning a laugh from everyone around them.
“Kute naman eh! Nakakainis ka!” replied Maya as she tries to seek refuge in Richard’s arms which the latter willingly give her.
“Nako! Ang mabuti pa apo, tayo’y kumain na bago pa bahain ang mga hinanda. Dapat ay nag-ce-celebrate tayo. Tama na yang drama,” added Mamang.
“I agree with Conchita,” said Donya Esmeralda. “Mabuti pa, let’s all proceed to the garden and celebrate.”
The whole group made their way to the garden where a buffet was elegantly set-up for them. The night has been filled with music, chatters, and laughter. Everyone enjoyed each other’s company and the sumptuous dishes served.
Talks about the wedding of the couple took place, Conchita and Esmeralda excitedly leading the discussion. Throwing one question after another, not giving enough time for Richard or Maya to fully ingest what they were saying before another question was thrown their way.
Richard and Maya chuckled amusingly at the excitement that’s clearly evident in Conchita and Esmeralda. “Ma, Maya and I haven’t discussed the specifics of our wedding yet. We still have to talk things through first to come up with a decision, especially the date of the wedding. I think what we need to plan for now is the date of our pamamanhikan.”
“Pamamanhikan?” asked Maya, looking at Richard with utter surprise and confusion.
“Mukhang hindi naman na kailangan pang gawin yun Richard apo. Engaged naman na kayo ng aking apo at nasaksihan naman namin ang iyong ginawang pagyaya sa kanya ng kasal at eto tayo ngayon at nag-sasalo salo para ipagdiwang ang engagement niyo. Hindi pa ba sapat ang lahat ng ito? Kung si Teresita ang inaalala mo, makasisiguro ka sa akin na hinding hindi na makakapalag pa yon!” declared Mamang proudly.
“Nanay talaga ako na naman ang nakita.” Nanay Teresita shook her head after hearing her mother’s banters. “Richard, nak, wala ka namang magiging problema sa akin. Hindi ba’t nagpaalam ka na sa akin noon tungkol sa balak mong pagpapakasal sa anak ko? Pumayag naman na ako diba? Hindi mo na kailangan pang mag-abala pa. Sapat na siguro ang lahat ng ginawa mong ito.”
Richard smiled at them warmly. “I know nay. Alam kong you have already given me your permission and your blessings but I still want to do it. I want everything to be perfect and done the right way. It’s a tradition that I simply do not want to break. At hindi po abala sa akin yun. Anything for Maya. Anything to make her happy and feel special.” Richard muttered the last sentence while gazing at Maya lovingly.
Nanay Teresita smiled affectionately at him. “Ikaw ang bahala anak.”
As the celebration drew to an end, one by one, their visitors and friends bid them goodbye and left them with congratulatory messages once more. Everyone had left leaving the Lim and dela Rosa families behind.
“Siya nga pala nay, saan po kayo tutuloy niyan? Kung gusto niyo po doon nalang kayo sa amin, sa condo ni Emman. Pwede ko naman pong kausapin si Emman. Panigurado naman po akong papayag yun saka kakasya naman po tayo doon,” suggested Maya.
“Huwag mo na kaming intindihin anak. Naayos na ni Richard ang lahat. Dito nalang daw kami tutuloy.”
Maya turned to Richard who has been beside her the whole time, never leaving her side not even for a minute. “Honey. Alam mo sobra sobra na ang ginagawa mo para sa amin. Pwede naman sila Nanay sa condo eh. Doon ko nalang sila patutuluyin. Nakaka-abala ng masyado sa iyo.”
Richard faced Maya and held her shoulders. “Angel, how many times do I have to tell you na hindi ka abala at never kang magiging abala sa akin, hm? Besides, nung nagbakasyon ako sa inyo sa San Nicholas pinatuloy niyo rin ako sa tahanan niyo.”
“Eh pero kasi –“
Maya was starting to protest when Richard placed a smack on her lips causing Maya to blush profusely.
“No more buts my angel. The guest room’s already prepared and everything’s already set. Dito na sila tutuloy. If you like, dito ka narin muna habang nandito sila.”
Cho, who was standing beside Nanay Teresita, suddenly beamed with excitement after hearing Richard’s suggestion. “Oo nga Tita Ninang! Baka pwedeng dito ka muna. Bukas kasi aalis na kami nila Nanay at Papa Pards. Babalik na kami ng San Nicholas. Wala kasing tatao sa chibugan at may eskwela pa ako. Baka pwedeng dito ka muna para makasama namin. Na-mi-miss na kita eh.
Maya moved towards Cho and gently held his face. “Naku ito namang pamangkin ko naglalambing na. Eh paano naman ako makakahindi eh ang pinakamamahal ko ng pamangkin ang nakiki-usap. Sige Cho, gusto mo tabi pa tayong matulog eh.”
“Yehey! Tabi kami ni Tita Ninang!” exclaimed Cho.
“Eh paano naman ako?” interjected Richard.
Maya turned around and faced Richard. “Anong paano ka?”
“Eh gusto ko rin sana makasama ang fiancé ko. Naglalambing din ako,” said Richard while pouting his lips.
Maya felt crimson color creep up from her neck to her face. “Richard! Nakakahiya kila nanay o!”
Nanay Teresita and Cho chuckled seeing Maya’s uneasiness and embarrassment.
“Maganda siguro Tita Ninang tabi nalang tayong tatlo nila Tito Richard ngayong gabi,” Cho suggested innocently.
“Ha? Ano kasi Cho –“
“I think that’s a good idea Cho! Since pareho naman tayong naglalambing sa Tita Ninang mo, tabi-tabi nalang tayong matulog ngayong gabi,” interrupted Richard.
“Richard Lim pag hindi ka pa talaga tumigil..” warned Maya in a serious tone.
Richard laughed at her reaction and moved towards Maya to give her a hug. “You’re so adorable pag napipikon ka.”
“Excuse me! Hindi ako pikon!”
“Ok hindi na. I was just teasing you,” chuckled Richard. “Sige na. Stay here with your family. Pagbigyan mo na ang paglalambing ng pamangkin natin.” Richard then turned to Cho. “Cho, ipapaubaya ko muna sa’yo si Tita Ninang mo ha. Alam ko naman na miss mo na siya eh.”
“Thank you po Tito Richard. Pero sigurado po kayong ayaw niyo pong tumabi sa amin? Malaki naman po yung mga kama niyo dito. Kasyang kasya po tayong tatlo.”
“Kung papayag ba ang Tita Ninang mo eh, bakit hindi!” Richard smiling mischievously.
“Naku Cho! Wag mo ng alalahanin yang Tito Richard mo. Hindi sanay yan ng may katabi sa pagtulog, saka gusto ko din sanang masolo ka ngayon noh. Miss na miss ko na din kasi masyado itong makulit naming pamangkin!” said Maya as she engulfed Cho in a tight embrace.
Moments later, Richard, Maya and the rest of their clans went to their respective rooms after calling it a night.
The next day, everyone gathered around the dining table to have their breakfast.
“By the way Cris, what time is your flight back to San Nicholas?” asked Donya Esmeralda.
“2pm po tita.”
“I see. Ikaw na ba ang maghahatid sa kanila mamaya sa airport Ricky?”
“Yes Ma. Ihahatid naming sila ni Maya,” answered Richard.
“Wala ka bang flight ngayon Maya hija?”
“Wala pa po Ma. Bukas pa po ang flight ko.”
“Good.” Donya Esmeralda turned once again to Cristina Rose. “Siya nga pala Cris, baka naman pwede kayong bumalik ulit next week. Birthday ko kasi on Friday. I’d certainly love if you guys can come and celebrate with me.”
“Ah ganoon po ba tita. Sige po at titignan po namin ni Pards,” replied Kute.
“By the way Ma, how would you like to celebrate your birthday? I can ask Liza to book us a ballroom at Sofitel or Maxims,” suggested Richard.
Esmeralda waved a disapproving hand. “No need Ricky. I plan to simply have it here in your house if that’ll be okay with you.”
“Of course Ma! That won’t be a problem to me. But are you sure about it? Don’t you want it to be held in a much bigger space?” asked Richard.
“No need hijo. I don’t plan to have a grand celebration. Just a simple one with families and friends. The space on your garden I think would already suffice. And by the way, I also intend to formally announce about your engagement on that day,” said Donya Esmeralda as she continue with her breakfast.
“Ah Ma, kailangan pa po ba yun? Alam naman na po ng mga kaibigan namin ni Richard ang tungkol sa engagement namin. Ok na po siguro yun,” reasoned Maya.
“Oh nonsense hija! If I’ll have it my way, I’ll have your engagement printed out on the society page of the bulletin. You just don’t know how happy I am for accepting my son Ricky.” Donya Esmeralda smiled fondly at Maya.
“You know what Esme, I think that’s a good idea! Ang mabuti pa, matawagan na ang mga kakilala natin sa press para ma-publish na ang tungkol sa engagement ng ating mga anak,” added Don Roberto.
“Pero Pa –“ Maya was about to protest when Richard reached out her hand.
“Pa, we do appreciate the gesture but I don’t think it’s still necessary. We wanted to keep our engagement simple. We just don’t want other people raving about it.”
“Oh don’t be silly hijo! Besides, after what Stephanie did, I think this is the best solution to stop that same problem from occurring again,” replied Donya Esmeralda.
“Stephanie, Esme? Sino yun?” Mamang asked out of curiosity. Teresita and the rest of the dela Rosa family waiting for an answer.
Donya Esmeralda rolled her eyes out of disgust as she remembered the lies that Stephanie told them. Without a second to waste, Donya Esmeralda eagerly shared who Stephanie was and narrated everything that happened.
“Aba! Eh nuknukan naman pala ng sinungaling at landi ng Stephanie na iyon! Naku Esme! Pag nakilala ko ang babaeng yan! Kakalbuhin ko talaga siya at ilalagay sa dapat niyang kalagyan!” Mamang said furiously.
Maya seeing the burning anger of her lola, tried to pacify her right away. “Mamang naman.”
“Anong Mamang naman! Aba Maya! Tinangka niyang agawin sa’yo ang gwapo kong apo! Aba! Hindi naman ako makakapayag ng ganun! Tama sila Esme at Roberto. Hindi lang talaga dapat i-announce ang tungkol sa engagement niyo. Dapat ding ipalathala ito at ng matigil na ang mga nag-iilusyong agawin sa’yo ang gwapo kong apo. At para wala naring magtangka pang manligaw sa’yo apo. Sa ganda mong yan, alam kong marami paring umaaligid sa’yo.”
“Eh pero Mang –“
“Mukhang maganda nga pong ideya yan Mamang. Sige po at pumapayag na po kami sa gusto niyo,” smiled Richard.
“Honey! Pati ba naman ikaw?”
Richard simply shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t see any problems with that. Buti nga yun everyone will know that I’m already off the market. Don’t tell me you still want to entertain suitors?”
Maya slapped his arm out of irritation. “Nakakainis ka ha!” She then slumped her back on the chair, crossed her arms and pouted her lips.
Richard let out a soft laugh. “I was just kidding my angel. Wag ka ng magtampo sa akin. I think maganda naman yung plano nila papa.”
Maya heaved out a sigh. “Ayaw ko lang kasi na pag-usapan tayo ng mga tao. Masaya na ako na mga close friends and relatives lang natin ang nakakaalam ng engagement natin.”
“Angel, hindi naman maiiwasan na maraming makaalam ng tungkol sa engagement natin. And so what kung pag-usapan nila tayo? It’s not as if I care what they have to say about us,” explained Richard.
Nanay Teresita decided to intervene and talk some sense to her daughter. “Maya, nak. May punto si Richard. Kilalang negosyante ang mapapangasawa mo. Maaaring hindi ngayon, pero lalabas at lalabas ang balita tungkol sa engagement niyo. At yung insidente tungkol kay Stephanie, maaaring maulit pa yun. Kaya mainam pa magkaroon tayo ng formal announcement ng engagement niyo.”
Left with no other choice, Maya finally conceded to the idea.
“Perfect! I’ll start calling my friends in the press to make the necessary arrangements,” said Roberto eagerly.
Kute, together with Jeff and Cho left for San Nicholas but promised Donya Esmeralda that they will attend the latter’s birthday. Mamang and Teresita were left in Manila and decided to return to San Nicholas after Esmeralda’s birthday.
Mamang, Teresita, and Maya even, stayed at Richard’s house all throughout the duration of the stay of Mamang and Teresita, much with the persistence of Richard and his parents. They reasoned that they were already a family and that they should not feel awkward or ashamed of their set-up.
Mamang, Teresita, and Richard’s parents grew close to one another. Mamang and Esmeralda even considered themselves as BFFs. Whenever Maya had a flight, Esmeralda took it a point to tour Mamang and Teresita around the metro. She would often bring them to malls, restos, and spas.
Richard and Maya, on the other hand, made it a point to spend as much time as possible with their families without sacrificing quality time with one another. Every evening, before they both retire to bed, they make it a point to stay at the veranda or the garden, talk about anything or everything over a cup of coffee.
Two nights before Esmeralda’s birthday, Richard and Maya were once again at the garden, spending time together. The sky has been filled with stars that night that Richard deemed it perfect for stargazing. He then took out a twin sized airbed and laid it on the garden floor, ushering Maya towards it, and they lay side by side, hands intertwined, happily watching the star-filled sky.
“Anong birthday gift ang ma-isu-suggest mong ibigay ko kay Mama?” asked Maya as she thought of something special to give her future mother-in-law.
“Nothing,” replied Richard casually.
“Nothing? Bakit nothing?” bewildered by his apparent response.
Richard shifted position so he can face Maya. “Nothing because you’ve already given her the best possible gift you could ever give.”
Maya looked confused more than ever. She still couldn’t understand and think of anything that she gave Esmeralda.
Seeing the confused look on her face, Richard smiled and gently held her chin. “Having you agreed to become my wife is already the best birthday gift Mama could ever ask and have.”
Maya was rendered speechless by his words.
Seeing her stunned reaction, Richard continued on. “When I told them about my supposed proposal to you, they made it a point that I do everything just to have you say yes and accept my proposal. And sabi ni Mama, if mapapayag kitang magpakasal sa akin, that’ll be the best birthday gift she’ll ever have. Kaya angel, the moment you said yes and accepted my proposal, you already gave her one of her birthday wishes, if she still has any that is.”
Maya saw the honesty and sincerity in his words. Her heart swelled with so much joy and gladness. She still cannot get used to the love and acceptance that Richard’s parents had continued to give show and give her. His words once again brought tears to her eyes.
Richard chucked seeing the tears that threatened to fall down her face. Using his thumbs, he gently wiped off the tears and bent down to kiss her forehead.
“Pwede ka ng manalong best actress sa Oscar’s,” teased Richard.
Maya chuckled at his remark. “Hindi parin ako mananalo sa pagiging best actress ni Nanay noh.”
Richard pulled Maya closer and had her head rest on his arm, his hand caressing her hair softly, while his other hand held hers firmly.
“Angel, I think shortly after Mama’s birthday, magandang gawin na namin yung pamamanhikan.”
Surprised by his suggestion, “Agad? Ganun na agad kabilis?” she asked looking up to Richard to see his face.
Looking down at her, “Yes. Malapit narin kasing bumalik ng China sila Mama. Magandang before pa sila bumalik ng China, magawa na namin yung pamamanhikan para after non, pwede na nating asikasuhin formally yung tungkol sa kasal natin,” explained Richard.
Maya smiled lovingly at him. “Ok sige. Sabihan ko nalang din sila Nanay tungkol dun.”
“I might start looking for a good wedding planner narin para may maasikaso at maayos ng mabuti ang kasal. By the way angel, ok lang ba sa’yo kung December natin gagawin ang kasal?”
“Ok lang sa akin honey. Ok din yun at least we have more than a year to prepare.”
“Not more than a year my angel. We only have 2 months left to prepare.”
Shocked by his revelation, Maya looked up at him once more. “Ha?? You mean December this year?”
“Yes. Why? Masyadong matagal? Ok, November.”
Maya yanked herself from Richard and sat up straight. Richard followed her and faced her. “Seryoso ka ba honey?”
“Do I look like I’m joking?” smiled Richard.
“Eh pero honey, parang ang bilis naman kasi. Hindi ba tayo magagahol nun o baka naman nabibigla ka lang o baka –“
Richard stopped her by immediately cupping her face and giving her a lush wet kiss that went on for what seemed like an eternity until they found the need to stop and catch their breath.
“I’ve never been more sure of anything in my life angel. This, us, this is what I want. I don’t want to spend another waking moment without you by my side. The sooner we get married the better. Mahirap na. Baka mauntog ka pa at magbago pa isip mong pakasalan ako,” teased Richard.
Maya laughed at his remark. “Ang OA mo honey ha. Kahit ilang beses pa akong mauntog, hinding hindi kita iiwan. Dahil kahit anong untog pa ang mangyari sa akin, naka-ukit ka na sa puso at isipan ko. Permanent tattoo kaya ang ginawa mo!”
Richard smiled back at her. “So we’re finally settled on having our wedding on December?”
Maya nodded her head. “December it is.”
“I love you my angel. My Mrs. Lim.”
“I love you too honey ko. My Mr. Lim.”
Richard once again cupped her face and gave her a long lingering kiss, pouring out their love and affection for one another under the moon light and star filled sky.