Long-held Torch – Part 16

Author’s Note: This was a rather difficult chapter to write which was why this update took a long while.  As it is, I have only skimmed over Maya’s strength of character and I guess I still need to delve deeper.

Thank you very much to  Ms Alpha Grace, Ms Liza and Ms Dianne for generously giving their time to critique and proofread this chapter.  Thank you to my dear readers for patiently (or impatiently) waiting for the next installment of my series.  Please don’t be shy to leave a comment or to hit the like button. God bless :)

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With Maya’s condition remaining critical for days, she was slipping in and out of consciousness while her uterine haemorrhage continued.  Her elevated body temperature caused by infection  was also making Maya delirious at some point.  With glazed eyes, she  would try to say something but her words were coming out incoherently. Agitation was getting the better of her when no one could understand what she was saying.

Intuitively, Richard knew she was asking about their baby.

“Everything is okay, Maya”  his tone was soothing  as he held her hand “Everything  will be alright.  Just rest, sweetheart.”

Maya’s deep frown cleared  as she settled down. After a few minutes, she  closed her eyes after Richard’s  reassurance.  Her bleeding had significantly lessened on the third day,  effectively taking her out of immediate danger.   Her fever had also abated on the fourth day.  However, Dr de Guzman was still monitoring Maya very closely. Since the human body has a tendency to overcompensate for trauma, the ICU team were on high alert for signs of hypercoagulation, another life-threatening  condition.

However, when Maya finally woke up,  tears filmed over her eyes.  Without anyone telling her,  she knew that she had lost the baby. She did not have to see Richard’s sombre expression to know. Her hand went to her flat abdomen and felt nothing.  Tears started falling  silently at first and then  she was sobbing. It was so heart-wrenching for anyone within earshot.  Even the very  experienced  ICU nurses’ eyes  were getting watery.

Dr. de Guzman was notified that the patient was conscious. The elderly doctor tried to do some tests but could not do so with Maya’s state of mind.   She was inconsolable as sobs racked her supine form.  In the end, Maya was sedated again so that she can continue to heal within a state of  induced sleep.

As Maya’s lids became heavy,  the last thing she heard was Richard saying he was sorry.  The next time she regained consciousness,  Maya could still feel Richard’s presence even though  he was not by her bedside.  Maya  could hear a variety of monitors beeping monotonously. She turned her head and she could see  that she was last in a row of beds.

A nurse in light blue scrubs approached and was smiling at her.  Maya underwent a series of tests in the next hour and was kept in the ICU for the next three days.  Her family had been alternately staying with her for long periods and they would normally wave at her through the partition glass. Maya never saw Richard  until  the very early  morning of the next  day.

Maya had woken up when  her  IV  monitor alarmed.  Her assigned nurse had quickly silenced the beep but she was already awake  despite keeping her eyes closed.  This was when she felt his presence again.  She could feel him by her bedside standing quietly while she continued to feign sleep.  With eyes kept closed, Maya waited anxiously for what he would do next. Maya did not wish to speak to him.

Then, she felt his fingers lightly sweeping the strands of hair from her face. A small frown  creased between Maya’s closed lids at this unwelcome caress. Involuntarily, she turned her head away to avoid his touch.

Maya heard Richard pull a deep sigh. Then her senses felt him come much closer.  So close that she could smell his clean musky scent.  Maya’s airways felt constricted  when she felt his warm breath fanning the side of her face.

“Pagaling ka,” Richard murmured  before lightly kissing her temple and then moving away. And as quietly he came, he also left just as quietly.

Maya’s  lips wobbled.  She squeezed her lids in a vain effort to keep the tears at bay but they still came.   Maya wished that she could also shed the pain. But even after the tears subsided, the pain remained.

The day came when she was transferred to a private room. Maya had glimpsed Richard speaking with Dr. de Guzman when she was wheeled out of the inner sanctum of the ICU but he did not follow.  It was Nanay Teresita who  was with her during  the transfer and helped her settle in. Mamang,  Tatay Arturo and Kute arrived a few hours later. Her Kuya Ryan promised to pass by later.   Everyone was very thankful that she had pulled through.

Maya tried to smile at them but she just couldn’t.

“Pasensiya na po.  Medyo pagod na po ako,” she apologised as she closed her eyes.  She could hear their muted conversation but she did not have the energy nor the inclination to join in.  She feigned sleep until sleep truly reclaimed her.

When she lifted her lids again, the room was in darkness except for the singular subdued  wall light. Her eyes adjusted and her gaze scanned the private room that was resembling a  hotel room  and was just as impersonal.  There  was a big bowl of fruits  and a couple of magazines on her bedside table. On her other bedside table was a huge bouquet of red roses which made her frown. She was still connected to an IV drip  but  she was blessedly alone.

Maya  wanted  to be alone.

Her hand went to her flat stomach and felt  deep sadness and regret for she will never have the opportunity to see her first baby.  Tears welled in her eyes as she wondered if it was a boy or a girl. She will never know anymore.

Her gaze started to go blurry with tears again.  She bit her lip, vainly trying to control herself. But the pain  was reverberating  through her soul.  Then, she felt a movement in the dark and knew that he was with her.  Straining her eyes, Maya tried  to see the whole room. When she could not, she braced her elbows to sit up.

“Please don’t get up!” his familiar deep throaty  voice pleaded anxiously.

“Anong ginagawa mo dito?”  Maya asked, anger in her tone.

From the darkest corner of the room, the lazy boy springs and hinges creaked as Richard unfolded the leg rest to get up. “You are not supposed to sit up on your own yet.  It might re-trigger  your bleeding.”

“I don’t really care!  I have lost my baby! And nothing matters anymore!” Maya shouted in a shrill voice.

“Maya, you need to lie down again,”  Richard gently instructed as he approached Maya to  place his hands on her shoulders.

However, this seemed to further anger Maya  as she slapped his hands away.

“Huwag mo kong hawakan!”  Maya hissed  at him as Richard’s hands  lowered  to her upper arms in his attempt to lie her down the bed.

“Calm down, Maya—”

“Sabi kong bitiwan mo ko!!!” Maya yelled at the top of her lungs as she started beating his chest.  Each close-fisted punch conveying the pain that was tearing at her heart. And Richard just took all her punishing blows.

“Maya—”

“Hindi mo ba ko narinig? Ayaw kitang makita!!!” Maya was getting hysterical as she kept on hitting him.

“Maya, please!  You really need to lie down—!”  Richard was getting more worried for Maya was moving jerkily.  In frustration, he reached for the bell and pressed  for a nurse who came immediately.

“Sir?” asked a third voice from the door.

Distracted, Maya turned her head. “Please, paalisin mo siya!!!”  she half-pleaded and half-demanded from the uniformed nurse who was standing uncertainly by the door.

The nurse took the scene at a glance and  requested for Richard to leave.   Richard took a few steps from the bed but remained  in the room, beyond Maya’s line of vision.  With Maya’s agitation escalating, she was sedated again. Tears were still streaming down her cheeks when she felt the calmative effect of the drug course through her bloodstream once more.

“I-I am very sorry for what happened, Maya—” Richard whispered almost inaudibly.

Unfortunately, Maya heard the words.

“Umalis ka na. Ayaw na kitang makita…”  was her dull response while silent tears kept on flowing.

“Maya—”

Then, sleep claimed her once more.

The next several days  went by slowly.  While Maya  was constantly in the company of her parents, siblings  or her grandmother, she was feeling restless. She was on edge, half-expecting Richard to arrive anytime. Digging her own nails into her palms, Maya clenched her fists at the memory of their last encounter.  Maya’s anger was boiling over.

However, ever since she found out about her ‘insufficient cervix’ condition,  she realised she can not entirely heap the blame on Richard’s head.  Dr. de Guzman had patiently explained that the condition was likely genetic as evidenced by her family history.  With such condition, it was said that when a woman gets pregnant, the cervix weakens, opens and expels the fetus. This occurs from the very early stages of pregnancy wherein  the fetus  will likely have no  chance for  survival.  Hence, a miscarriage occurs.  Dr. de Guzman offered that  the same may have happened to many of her paternal female relatives.

Maya would have lost her baby regardless of what Richard did.

This was echoing in her head when Richard’s parents arrived.  Maya’s smile was strained while her mind was at loggerheads with herself. Part of her wanted to ask where Richard was while another part wanted nothing more to do with him.   Instead, they exchanged the usual pleasantries.

“Nag-usap na ba kayo ni Richard, Maya?”  Esmeralda Lim asked  when  Roberto Lim excused himself to leave the room to answer an overseas  phone call.

Maya shook her head wordlessly, unwilling to discuss the matter.

Esmeralda Lim sighed deeply.

“Look, Maya. I know you two were fighting before you were rushed to the hospital—-”

Maya’s eyes rounded as she refocused her attention back to the older woman.

“Sinabi niya sa inyo?” Maya asked incredulously.   Maya has not breathed a word to anyone what events transpired before she got rushed to the hospital. Maya could not believe that Richard actually owned up to what he did to her.

“Well, actually Ricky did not tell me much. He did not even tell me what you were fighting about.  But all relationships go through rough patches, Maya.”

Maya closed her eyes.  She thought it was best that she should not enlighten Esmeralda Lim what her son did.

“Richard told me that there won’t be a wedding anymore. Of course, with you being very sick and getting hospitalised, a postponement is understandable. But to cancel the wedding altogether—?” the older lady’s voice was questioning.

Silence stretched for several minutes. The older lady pulled another deep sigh.

“Maya, hindi mo na ba mahal si Richard?” Esmeralda Lim asked point blank.

Maya asked herself that same question. In all honesty, she did not know how to answer the older lady.

“Maya—?”

“Tita Esme, naguguluhan po ako. Hindi ko na po alam…” she replied uncertainly while tears silently rolled down her cheeks.

“I see.”  Esmeralda Lim’s face went very serious. “Well, I know for a fact that my son loves you very much. He was beside himself when you became critically ill. He never left the ICU and stayed awake for days while you were in there.”

Maya bent her head as more tears fell.

“I know you are still grieving, Maya.  Believe me, I know how you feel.” The older lady reached out and covered Maya’s right hand with her slightly gnarled hands.

Maya looked up,  the unspoken question in her eyes.

“Yes, Maya.  I have lost a child as well.” Informed the older lady with sad eyes.  “I miscarried a baby girl when Richard was just about two years old. It was a very traumatic experience for me.”

“D-does  the pain ever go away?” Maya almost choked on the question.

“I can not speak for every mother, of course. But I have never really gotten over it.  The pain lessens through the years until it just becomes a dull ache. But  with each year, I acquired the maturity to consciously choose to be happy and to count my blessings.”

Count my blessings.

A simple enough task but difficult to do while grieving.  Esmeralda Lim recognised this and did not press Maya further.   Maya silently  cried herself to sleep hours after the older lady left.

Days passed and Maya’s mood  became silently despondent. Her flatmate Emman has visited twice. Her fellow TA flight attendant Edzelyn and Capt James  Ventura  arrived one afternoon to deliver flowers from Time Airways  but  Maya could not even  muster a smile.  Even  when her nephew Luke  and nieces Nikki Grace and baby Abby  visited,  Maya  remained  a forlorn figure with a faraway look on her face.

“Maya,  kumain ka muna,”  her Ate Celine, her  Kuya Ryan’s wife encouraged.

Silence.

“Nangayayat ka na ng  husto.  Baka hindi na magkasya ang wedding dress mo.”

It does not matter anymore for there won’t be a wedding anyway.  

 

Maya was responding in her head but remained outwardly  incommunicative. Maya’s mood slightly altered when her Kuya Ryan arrived that afternoon. She was in the shower cubicle but could hear the muffled conversation beyond the door.

“Nay, asan si Maya?” asked Kuya Ryan.

“Nasa banyo naliligo.”

“Nagpunta  ho ba si Richard dito?”

“Hinde. Simula ng malipat dito sa private room ang kapatid mo, hindi ko na nakita si Richard.  Nag-away yata silang dalawa dahil umiiwas ang kapatid mo kapag si Richard na ang pinag-uusapan.”

“Malamang nga nag-away sila kung hindi nagagawi si Richard dito.”  Ryan mused almost to himself.

“Bakit?  Ano bang problema? At pwede bang maupo ka at nahihilo ako sa kalalakad mo.”  Nanay Teresita ordered her older child “Bakit ba hindi ka mapakali, Ryan?”

Maya turned off the shower so that she could better hear the conversation outside the door. She grabbed her towel to quickly dry herself. Rivulets of water were still streaming down from her hair as she pressed her ear against the wooden panel.

“Tumawag sakin si Tita Esmeralda kanina. Umiiyak sa pag-aalala. Halos dalawang linggo nang hindi nauwi sa kanila si Richard.   Hindi rin sumasagot sa phone. Ang buong akala namin dito siya naglalagi sa ospital—”

“Gaya ng sabi ko sayo, nandito si Richard nung unang lingo, nung nasa ICU si Maya pero nung naging maayos yung kalagayan niya, umuwi  na si Richard.” reiterated the older woman.

“Pero, Nay, hindi pa ho nauwi si Richard sa kanila. Hindi rin pumapasok sa opisina. Tumawag din ako kay Lino para tingnan kung nasa lumang bahay si Richard pero sabi daw ni Tata Igme  wala daw duon si Richard.”

“Naku, baka napaano na si Richard. Sana naman walang masamang nangyari sa batang yun,”  Nanay Teresita commented, worry in her voice. “Susubukan kong tawagan. Nagbilin kasi yun na tawagan siya kung magkakaproblema sa lagay ni Maya.”

Maya’s elbow accidentally nudged the bottle of lotion that was on the tiny vanity shelf. It clattered on the small ceramic basin  as she moved away from the door.  She sat down on the closed toilet seat to retrieve and replace  the bottle back on the vanity.

“Maya, anak? Anong nangyari?”  Nanay Teresita asked through the door.

“Wala ho, Nay. May natabig lang po ako.”  Maya replied.

“Sigurado ka anak? Baka kailangan mo ng tulong?”

“Hindi po, Nay. Okey lang po ako.”

What Maya  said may have been true physically but her emotional state was another matter.   Her feelings for Richard were ambiguous at the moment but the fact remained that she was getting worried.  She could not help but feel worried.

Where could Richard be?

That night, Maya had a different visitor.  She glided through the room and touched her hand. Maya languorously opened her eyes to look at a face that was very much her own. It was like looking at her own reflection in the mirror.  The lady had an ethereal quality about her as she moved with a very refined feminine grace. She was smiling serenely while her hand was beckoning for Maya to get up.

As if in a trance, Maya followed the lady whose centrally parted long hair went beyond her waist.  She was wearing a traditional kimona top and a long black and white full skirt that brushes the ground as the wearer walked. Maya smiled when she glimpsed that the lady was barefoot.

After awhile,  Maya looked around her and saw that she was on the private beach in front of the Spanish villa. Tiny grains of warm sand was squeezing between her toes. She frowned in confusion. How did she get back to San Nicholas?

Then, the lady turned to see if she was still following her. Despite her confusion, Maya crossed the distance between them.  She went through the door like she has done countless of times before. It was the same Spanish villa that she loved  yet it was not the same at all.  The shiny wooden floorboards were lighter in shade. Everything was gleaming like new. Even the furniture was different.

They were going through the hallway towards  the master suite. With each step, the sound of women wailing were getting louder.   There were a few people in the alcove. Maya could see a couple of women huddled together crying while trying to comfort one another. One was carrying a bundle in her arms.

The lady with her features  finally stopped just behind the man who was crouched down.  The profile that Maya saw was that of an elderly gentleman with a full beard, dressed in a grey suit. To get a better look,  Maya had to sidestep to avoid stepping on bottles. And there were countless of  bottles of  liquor   scattered around. Her nose crinkled as the place was reeking of alcohol.

Then she saw that the crouching man was actually trying to wake up an individual who was lying on the ground. Maya could not properly see the face of the sleeping man.  All she could see that he was wearing a pair of dark grey baggy pants  and a long sleeved white muslin shirt. And judging from the colour of his hand, the man lying motionless was very fair.

“Lo siento. Soy demasiado tarde,”  the elderly gentleman declared as he sighed deeply.

Lo siento. Soy demasiado tarde. I am sorry. I am too late.

Then the elderly gentleman straightened to remove his hat, a gesture indicating that he was paying his respects. Then it hit her. The man lying on the ground was dead.  And she was afraid to  look at his face, fearing it was someone she knew.

In the background, the women’s wailing went louder, almost drowning the sound of a newborn baby’s very faint  mewling.  Distracted, Maya  looked up to see that the bundle in the woman’s arm was actually a  baby aged a few days at the most, judging from its tiny scrawny fist that escaped from its swaddling.

Involuntarily, her gaze returned to the man on the ground. Her gaze travelled over his length and then  stopped at the ruffled front of his muslin white shirt. Unhurriedly,  her gaze went over his unshaven jaw and hawkish  nose. Then finally, Maya saw his closed deep set eyes and Maya shuddered with  relief. It was the face of a stranger, yet his features were familiarly dear.  He was a very fair version of her paternal grandfather.  Maya was just a toddler when her paternal grandfather passed away but she still remembered his face each time she looked through the old family photo albums.

Then, right before her eyes, the features changed. Slowly the features morphed into another face.  Lips became thinner, nose acquired a finer straight bridge, his lids took on the epicanthic fold and his eyes became mere slits as they remained closed. His entire body remained motionless on the ground.

Maya’s breathing hitched. She almost doubled over in pain. Maya can clearly see Richard lying lifeless by her feet  but refused to accept what her senses were perceiving. Then she heard someone sobbing as the vision turned hazy.

Sea breeze drifted in through the rose bushes enclosing the alcove. It teased her long hair causing a lock of hair  to fall over her face. She brushed it aside and felt that her cheeks were wet.  Her chest shuddered and realised that the sobbing she heard was her own.

“Maya…”

Maya bit her lip to control her sobs.

“Maya…”

She felt someone tapping her cheeks and she frowned.

“Maya, gising anak,” her mother urged “binabangungot ka.”

Then she opened her eyes.  She was back in her private hospital room. And her Nanay Teresita was worriedly looking down at her.

Maya gulped down her sobs as she sat up.  Her mother raised the upper portion of the bed so that Maya can comfortably lean back in a semi-sitting position. Nanay Teresita gave her a glass of water which she gratefully took. Maya felt much calmer as she gave the half-empty tumbler back to Nanay Teresita.

“Okey ka na ba, anak?”

Maya nodded. But she really wasn’t feeling right.

“Gusto mong pag-usapan natin yung panaginip mo?”

Maya shook her head. Nanay sighed but refrained from pressing her youngest daughter who was still reeling from the shocking vision. Remembering Richard lying deathly still on the ground was enough to let another  shiver run through her core.  It left her with a feeling of dread.

“Nay, dumaan na po ba si…”  Maya was unable to finish her question. She felt silly worrying about him because of a bad dream.

Nanay Teresita smiled understandingly at her daughter. In turn, Maya was turning pink with embarrassment.

“Hindi pa anak,” her mother replied “Gusto mo tawagan ko si Richard?”

Maya wanted to know whether Richard was fine but declined her mother’s offer. “Huwag na po.”

“Sigurado ka?” her mother probed “Sinasagot niya ang tawag ko.”

Maya tried to avoid her mother’s observant gaze. She was not ready to answer questions. The important thing was that Richard was okey.

“Maya, kahit hindi mo sabihin sakin, alam ko meron kayong problema ni Richard…”

“Nay—”

“Anak,  hindi ko alam kung ano ang pinag-awayan ninyong dalawa. Pero dapat mag-usap muna kayo ng maayos. Diba nga kahit kriminal binibigyan ng pagkakataon na i-depensa ang sarili nila sa husgado bago parusahan?”

Maya merely nodded her head, choosing not to speak at all.  She chose to let the matter be. Richard is a grown man. He should be able to take care of himself. Her bad dream was just that — a bad dream.

Later that same day, however, she could no longer  suppress her concern when Richard’s mother  called and spoke to Nanay Teresita.  Richard’s mother was beside herself with worry. Richard was still incommunicado. He was not answering his phone nor answering his emails.  Esmeralda Lim also said that Lisa, Richard’s secretary, was also  in a panic because there was a major accident at the tunnel site.  And the respective families of the affected employees were threatening  a class action against Lim Infrastructure Inc.  It was imperative that they get hold of Richard.

“Hayaan nyo po susubukan ko pong tawagan si Richard. Baka sakaling sagutin nya ulit yung tawag ko.” Nanay Teresita promised before ending the call.

Maya watched her mother ring Richard’s number but the call was no longer connecting.  Nanay Teresita tried for almost twenty minutes before finally giving up.  A worried frown was etched into the older lady’s features when she broached the subject with her youngest daughter.

“Naku, Maya” Nanay Teresita fretted “hindi na sinasagot ni Richard yung phone niya.”

The feeling of dread has been multiplying the last twenty minutes.  Each time her mother’s call failed to connect, the vision of Richard lying deathly still on the ground became more and more of a possibility. Maya hugged her middle in the effort to calm her nerves.

Richard has to be alright!  For all they know, he could be in an exotic location where wireless communication was difficult.

What if he wasn’t?  What if he ends up like Senor La Rosa?  He was found lifeless on the ground, dead at the prime of his life…

Nooooooo!

Maya took a minute to normalise her breathing pattern. She looked up to check the time from the wall clock.  It was already mid-afternoon. She made a mental calculation  and finally made a decision.  She  sat up and took the cotton blanket off  to put on her slippers.  She got up and opened the bedside cabinet to bring out her bag of clothes. She was fishing out a pair of jeans when her mother questioned her movements.

“Anong balak mo, Maya?”

“Hahanapin ko ho si Richard.” Maya needed to know that Richard was okey. Maya was unsure if she still loves him but she knows that she cares for him. She still cares a lot.

“Pero hindi ka pa discharged dito sa ospital. Di ba meron ka pang mga tests na naka-schedule bukas?”

“Pakitawagan po yung nurse. Magpapa-discharge na ako, Nay. Pwede naman po akong bumalik para sa mga tests.” Maya  replied  “kailangan na ho naming mag-usap ni Richard.”

“Mainam  naman,” her Nanay Teresita smiled at her daughter’s bent head “Sige kakausapin ko yung nurse mo.”

The nurse had to refer the matter to the duty medical officer who did not want to discharge Maya.  But Maya was insistent that she was feeling fine. In the end, Dr. de Guzman also had to be consulted in the process.  Maya was then released on the proviso that she returns as an outpatient the  next day for various tests. Nanay Teresita also found that they do not have any bill to settle  since Richard already made payments and left strict instructions that any outstanding bill will be sent to him.

When the doctor left her room,  Maya took her phone out to ring Lisa. She needed a big favour from Richard’s secretary. In any case, what she intends to do is in the interest of both Lim Infrastructure Inc and herself. Lisa needed to speak with her boss while Maya’s private conversation  with Richard was long overdue.

Despite not liking helicopter rides, she needed the quick transport this time. Still, her nerves were thoroughly rattled by the time she reached San Nicholas.  Her mother was insisting to accompany her but Maya adamantly refused. She really needed to do this alone.

When they touched down on the expansive green lawn of the Spanish villa, it was almost twilight with the horizon taking on orange and purple hues.  Maya thanked Capt. Lem profusely before disboarding.  She waited for the helicopter to lift-off before turning her attention to the villa.  There were  no visible movements inside. And everything was in darkness.

Maya went round the house to check the beachfront side. There was no one about. It certainly looked as if no one was home.

“He must be here…” Maya said to herself.

Walking up the steps, Maya crossed the veranda to try the lever-type door handle of the front engraved wooden door. It was locked. She went back to the side  to see if she can have access through the kitchen door.  The door was closed but when she tried the door knob, it readily turned and opened the heavy panel door.

Maya stepped inside and waited a minute before her pupils adjusted to the darkness inside. Her hand groped along the walls until she found the light switch. It illuminated the kitchen area and the family room. No one was about.

As she went through, she opened wall lights on the hallway.  She saw that all renovations have finished.  The family room was carpeted with a gleaming new billiard table and a plush L-shaped couch already installed.   Even the dining room had a 10-seater glass-topped oval mahogany dining table with hand-carved chairs.  Her fingers traced the entwined roses detail  on the back rest.  It was the perfect match for the mural wall of the room. Maya peered into the huge ballroom and saw that except for the gleaming baby grand piano in one corner, it was empty.  The same was the case of the three bedrooms  that remained unfurnished.

Maya knows she was just delaying the moment as she took her time noting all the changes since she last visited.   Maya sighed as she walked towards the master suite of rooms.  The sun has properly set as she went through the villa so everything was in darkness when she finally reached the sitting room. She flicked the lights on. Richard was nowhere in sight.  She crossed  the sitting room to search his bedroom. His bed was in disarray but the room was likewise empty.  For good measure, she checked the ensuite bathroom which was also unoccupied.

Maya sighed as she sat on the four-poster bed.  She was so sure he was here. It seems she was mistaken.

Where could Richard be?

After a few minutes, Maya got up and left the master suite.  She went out of the house again and was making her way back to her parents’ house when she decided to retrace her steps and check the carport.  She wanted to check if the Land Cruiser was where it was normally parked. If it wasn’t, then Richard may have gone out.

The Land Cruiser was there. And right beside it was Richard’s navy blue BMW!

So, she was right! Richard has been holed-up  in the Spanish villa. He must have taken his car on the RORO or the roll-on/roll-off ferry.  And judging from the film of dust on the navy blue paintwork, it has been parked there for several days.

Richard must be inside the house.  But she has searched every room.

Except for the alcove. You never checked the alcove for some reason. Afraid?

Petrified!  Maya was scared of what she would find in the alcove.

With a feeling of impending doom, Maya slowly retraced her steps back into the house. She crossed the sitting room to open the bi-fold doors. As she stepped on the cobbled pavement, Maya’s foot nudged a bottle of alcohol. With a feeling of déjà vu, she picked it up and saw that it was a bottle of Scotch. She picked up another and then another.

Then, she caught a glimpse of Richard lying motionless on the ground. Maya froze in dread. She waited for him to move but he didn’t. With her breathing uneven, she placed the bottles against the wall. Then, her unsteady hand searched  the wall nearest the bi-fold doors until she found  the switch of  the spotlights.

“Arrgggh!  Shit! Turn off the bloody lights!” Richard moaned from the ground.

Maya closed her eyes as she released a shaky breath of relief  that her bad dream did not become reality.  She never thought she would gladly hear him yell profanity. But in this rare instance, she did.

Maya saw that Richard was actually lying by the foot of the statue. He was wearing black jeans with a half-buttoned shirt. And he had crossed his arm across his eyes to protect himself from the spotlight’s glare.  He also had  a beige-coloured cloth  spread over his face to cover  his eyes.

Now that Maya has found him. She was unsure what to do next. For several minutes, she just stood there looking down at him. Slowly, Maya went down to kneel beside him and got a good whiff of alcohol mixed with sweat.  Her hand shook his shoulder tentatively.

“Richard, get up!”

When he wouldn’t budge, she pried the beige cloth off his face. It took a couple of tugs  for he was clutching it between his fingers.  Maya frowned for the beige cloth had a little white bow that looked very familiar. She held it up to unfold it. It was her beige singlet,   the same piece of clothing she could not find the last time she was at the villa!  He must have found it in his bedroom.

And Richard had been grasping it. He even had it spread across his face. The significance of his actions tugged at her heartstrings. Maya dampened down the feeling and shook him again by the shoulders. Harder this time.

Then, Richard opened his blood shot eyes and looked up at her. Groaning, he shut his eyes once more. “Not again! Can you not leave me alone?”

Well, that was not exactly a warm reception!

With firm resolve, Maya leaned over again and strongly shook his arm with both her hands. Richard groaned but captured one hand that was shaking him. He took the beige singlet off her hand and looked up at her. His arm reached out and slowly touched her face.

“You are really here…” he said in wonder.

“Uhmmmnn” Maya confirmed  while she quickly straightened to put some distance between the two of them. To say that she was ill-at-ease was putting it mildly.

Richard slowly shook his head as if to clear it.  He continued to stare at her, following her movements with his bleary eyes. Richard slowly sat up while Maya stood up to collect more alcohol bottles to avoid tripping over them. She was already regretting coming over to find him. She was unsure if she was ready for this post mortem.

“Siguro dapat maligo ka muna. Magluluto lang ako ng makakain.” Maya went towards the sitting room but had to look back to see Richard remaining sitting on the ground staring at her with a dazed look on his face. “Richard?”

As response, he just continued to stare at her.  This made Maya very uncomfortable, making her  shift her weight from one foot to another.

“Richard?” she prompted again.

“Yeah, I will. Just give me a second. Everything’s spinning.”

Maya heard him stifle a groan of pain as she turned her back to walk towards the hallway. She reckoned  he must have a monster of a headache with all the amount of alcohol he has been imbibing. Serves him right, she thought unsympathetically.

Maya retraced her steps back to the kitchen area where she looked into the pantry. There were frozen meat in the freezer but she was hoping to cook something fast like scrambled eggs.  There weren’t any. There was also no bread either.

In the end, she decided to fetch some supplies from her parent’s house.  Thinking that Richard was still in the shower, she left the villa without letting him know.  She should be back before he even becomes aware that she had been gone.

At her parents’ home,   Kute was very surprised to see her back in San Nicholas.  She quickly explained  the situation before going into the kitchen. There was pork adobo and rice kept warm in the rice cooker. She decided that taking cooked  food would be a much faster option instead of cooking from scratch.  Her sister offered to walk her back to the villa but she declined, needing the quiet time to gather her chaotic thoughts.

Maya admitted to herself that she was very much troubled by how Richard looked. He looked very pale and thin. He was obviously neglecting himself.

When she got back to the villa, she set the plates and cutlery on the breakfast bar.  She heated up the pork adobo in the microwave and set off to fetch Richard from the bedroom.

Maya peered  into the sitting room and heard sounds from the alcove.

Damn Richard for being difficult!  She has been gone awhile and he still did not make a move. She crossed the distance and  would have told off Richard for not taking a shower  but she saw that he was no longer on the ground.  She also noticed that Richard’s hair was damp and was wearing a  different shirt and pair of slacks. He was sitting on the round daybed with his bent head in his hands. His shoulders were shaking and he was  sobbing!

This was a sight she never envisaged to see. And Maya’s heart went out to him.  She quickly went to his side and her arms went round his very thin frame. Maya was now very sure of one thing.  Despite everything that has happened, Maya still cares very deeply for Richard.

“Richard, what’s wrong?”

to be continued…

Long-held Torch – Part 15

Author’s Note: Again, I would like to extend my thanks to Ms. Alpha Grace, Ms Liza and to Ms. Dianne for generously giving their time to critique and proofread this chapter.  Please feel free to give your honest feedback, whether good or bad.   

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After several weeks on leave, Richard was back behind his massive office desk,  reading the latest progress report on his underwater tunnel project.  There have been delays due to  very bad weather conditions and heavy equipment breakdown.   A few minutes prior, Lisa had also nervously handed him a  price increase notification from one of their main suppliers.  On top of that,  there have been a couple of reporters lurking in the premises who tried to do an ambush interview him when he walked through office reception that  late afternoon.   While business concerns and the security breach irritated him, Richard remained in high spirits.  This did not escape Lisa and his employees’ notice

“Sir?” Lisa tried to get his attention after placing various documents on Richard’s desk for  him  to sign.

“Yes, Lisa?”  Richard lifted his gaze from the file he was reading and looked at his long-time secretary.

“Sir, I just wanted to know if congratulations are in order?” Lisa asked.

Lowering the report he was reading,  he responded with a bedimpled grin, “Maya said yes. “We’re  getting married in a few weeks.  We’re  just waiting for the invitation from the printers and then we will be giving them out soon as.  So,  please mark the date.”

“That’s wonderful news, sir!” Lisa gushed. “Would you like me to place an official notification in the papers?”

Since Richard never really considered  himself a celebrity,  he did not even think of having his engagement publicly announced.  His impending marriage should  only  concern him, his family and his circle of friends.   He still can not wrap his head around the idea of his personal life being fodder for local news.

“Do you really think that’s necessary?” he consulted Lisa.

“Well,  first of all,”  Lisa began  “if you place an official notice, the press will stop speculating.”

“And second?” Richard prompted.

“Your employees will also stop gossiping about you and Maya,”  Lisa muttered.

“I am not paying them to gossip about me,” Richard answered sternly.

“Nevertheless, it is happening, sir.  Worse, some people are betting on how long your relationship with Maya will actually last,” Lisa explained  unhappily.

“What!???!” Richard bit out.

“That was how Atty. Ryan got wind that you have been seeing Maya. He overheard people betting and speculating about you and Maya in the cafeteria.”

Richard gritted his teeth and his whole body stiffened  as his infamous tiger-temper rose.  His  first instinct was to find the people responsible for starting the gossip and then fire them. Then, the voice of reason pricked him, diffusing the anger that had quickly built up.

People have been  discussing only  what they see. So far, they have seen you dating a string of women through the years. You never made secret of the fact that they were all just casual relationships.  Can you really blame them if they expect Maya to join their ranks?

“Sir, I have already dealt with the people betting over your relationship with Maya. I made sure it will hurt their pockets so that they will not do it again. But I cannot stop people from talking,” Lisa lamented.   “So, I would really recommend making an official announcement.”

“How did Atty. Ryan take it?”  Richard quietly asked as he  leaned back in his leather swivel chair.

“He was furious when he overheard. At first I thought he was going to punch the guys. But then he just walked out.”

“How has he been since?” Richard’s queried with a slight frown between his lifted brows.

“Actually, he has not been back at the office since.  He has mainly been communicating only with me or through his secretary. Apparently, he has been working from home.”

Richard pulled a deep sigh as he slightly slumped in his swivel chair.  Since the last time he saw Ryan in San Nicholas, he has tried to ring, text and even email his best friend – all to no avail.  He is assuming Ryan is still very angry about his relationship with Maya.  Richard cannot really blame him. If he had a sister of his own, he would likely react the same way, if not worse. If their roles were reversed, Richard would probably succeed in murdering Ryan if he messed with his supposed sister.

He absent-mindedly fingered his healed lower lip and smiled self-deprecatingly. He really needed to personally see his best friend. And by the way the land lies, that would entail visiting him at home.  He was trying to avoid this for he did not want Ryan’s children to witness any possible  unpleasant exchanges between Ryan and himself.

While he was instructing Lisa to proceed  with the public announcement of his engagement, his phone rang twice while the third ring was cut off midway.  When he checked the incoming call log, his phone registered Maya’s mobile number.  He returned her call but his calls were not going through.

Richard was a little concerned for he had dropped off Maya at the airport about two hours prior.  She actually looked a little pale this morning and he had advised  her to call in sick. Of course, Maya argued and insisted that she was fine.

He decided to call Time Airways’  airport office  to check on her but was informed that Maya did not board the plane and was marked off as sick.  With that information, he decided to return to the airport to pick her up so he can bring her to the doctor immediately.  Upon reaching  TA’s  staff entrance driveway, he saw Maya being escorted into a sports car by  the same man  he saw a few weeks ago when he dropped off Maya at work the first time.

Richard had noted  the other man’s dismay when he released a thoroughly-kissed Maya  that late afternoon.   Afterwards, he saw  the same man ‘sizing’ him up  which Richard returned with a  measuring look.  Although they have never been introduced, Richard recognised him as the same man who visited Maya in San Nicholas. With simple deductive reasoning, Richard identified the individual  as Capt. James Ventura and recognised him for what he was—his rival.

And Maya chose to ride in that man’s car!

“What the hell?”  Richard swore  in disbelief  that  Maya was naïve enough to go with that man!

Despite his attempt to manoeuvre his BMW quickly out of the driveway,  Richard had to step hard on the brakes to avoid hitting the other car that pulled out in front of him without any warning.  Out of frustration, he pressed down on the horn and let loose a string of  epithet describing  idiotic drivers who do not know how to use indicator lights.

When he finally merged into the afternoon rush hour traffic, the sports car was nowhere in sight. All he could do was drive into the general direction where the other car went.  He drove and got stuck in traffic for almost two hours  before deciding that guessing where Maya went was a futile exercise.  Hence, he was in a very foul temper when he finally parked his BMW in the visitors’ carpark space before going up to Maya’s condo unit.  He almost broke his key as he viciously  unlocked  the front door.  He malevolently eyed Maya’s black heels, purse and small suitcase – all of which were in the middle of the tiny lounge, like they were  hastily left there.

While Richard’s imagination was running wild,  Maya casually came out of the bedroom wearing a short towelling robe. She was obviously naked underneath.

“Andiyan ka na pala,” Maya  greeted in surprise.

“Nasaan siya?”  Richard bit out, advancing menacingly towards Maya, his hard gaze travelling up and down her shapely  fetching  form. He stopped in front of her but refrained from touching  her as he tried to keep a tight rein on his temper.

Anger can be a strong aphrodisiac.

“Siya? Sinong siya?” Maya questioned, bewilderment written all over her face as she followed Richard back into the bedroom where he stood  glaring at the crumpled bedsheets.

“I saw you with him!”  Richard bit out through gritted teeth while his hands moved to remove his tie with a vicious tug, followed by his suit. Buttons came flying as he carelessly parted his shirt before kicking his pants off.

“Si James ba ang pinag-uusapan natin? Hinatid lang niya ko—” Maya tried to explain, getting wary at the way Richard was behaving.  Something was wrong.

Then he menacingly pivoted towards Maya who instinctively  stepped back when she saw Richard’s thunderous expression.  Richard grabbed Maya by her upper arms when he saw that she was trying to evade him, as if in rejection.  Her movement was  like a red flag  waving to an already enraged bull.  Something snapped inside Richard  that moved him to imprison Maya in his arms while his lips  sealed hers in a  kiss that intended to hurt.  Richard felt Maya’s protest but he was past caring as he picked her up to drop her on the bed.   He prevented Maya’s escape by  immediately pinning her with his weight.

“Richard, stop this!”  Maya yelled.

“What’s the matter, Maya?  Do you now prefer his touch over mine?”  Richard asked while he untied her robe to tug her only clothing down her legs, tearing the silky undie  in his haste.

“You’re insane!”  Maya cried breathlessly as she tried to push him away.

Richard responded by clasping both of her hands in his to hold them high above her head. Swiftly,  he  took off  his last piece of clothing and pried Maya’s legs apart with his left knee.  He felt her resistance but she was no match against his male strength.

“It doesn’t really matter if you do, ”  Richard answered his own question  tersely. “Because you are mine!!! Mine!!!”

With that declaration,  Richard thrusted into Maya’s feminine core, subjugating  her in a way that was almost as old as time. Richard could hear Maya’s gasps of pain but his anger made him oblivious to her distress. He was handling her roughly,  the enraged green- eyed monstrous tiger  past caring.

Lowering his lids,  Richard could  still see how James Ventura held Maya as she climbed into his sports car.  In his mind’s eye, he remembers Maya hugging  the same man in San Nicholas.  And at another time,  Maya forgot about him while she was animatedly conversing with James Ventura on her mobile phone.

Richard squeezed his eyes tight as he felt the physical pleasure slowly obliterating  the images in his head.  His lips unerringly sought hers in another soul-searing kiss as his movements became frenzied.   Once again, he reached sexual ecstasy while Maya relaxed underneath him.  Grunting,  he emptied his seed  within her as he buried his head against her neck.  It was all over too quickly.

Richard  groaned while  he  hastily got up,  as if he could not bear being  intimate with Maya for a second longer.   He was sitting on the edge of the bed, slipping on his boxer briefs when he flinched from Maya’s touch on his bare back. Despite the physical release, Richard could still feel the tension borne out of anger at Maya and himself.  He is disgusted at the way he behaved.

“Richard—?”

Ignoring the plea in her tone, Richard went to pick up his trousers from the floor and put them on. He kept his back to her as he tried to  calm himself. He could feel a migraine coming as he scraped his nails through his scalp.

“I need a stiff drink!” he muttered to himself.

The bed springs creaked when  Maya slowly got up.   His steely gaze  followed her as she gathered  her robe lapels on her way to the ensuite bathroom.  Richard sighed deeply and put on his shirt which had a few missing buttons.  With his car keys in his pocket, he walked out of the bedroom  and crossed the lounge towards the front door. He would have quietly left the condo unit when Maya’s soulful cry reached out to him.

“Nooooooooooo!!!”

Richard quickly sprinted back to Maya’s bedroom then into the bathroom.  He saw Maya propping herself  by the vanity basin, one hand on her lower abdomen as blood streamed  down her legs.

Maya’s stricken eyes lifted towards his questioning look.  “The baby…I’m losing the baby—!”

Shocked, Richard calmly picked up Maya who was crying pitifully.    He held her tight on the way to his BMW, trying to calm her with soothing words.  The afternoon traffic congestion was still in full swing but Richard managed to weave  through somehow.     While outwardly appearing in control, inwardly he was in sheer panic  seeing  that Maya already lost a lot of blood while sitting on the passenger seat.   However, he could not afford to give in to the emotion.  At the moment, his internal locus of control   has been dictating that seeking  medical assistance for Maya was of paramount importance.  Everything else will have to wait.

At the hospital, Maya was  immediately taken  into the operating  room  once all important  details were noted  with  the triage nurse and  the resident  medical officer concurring  that Maya was having a miscarriage.  Richard had been pacing the corridor for a while when he remembered to inform Maya’s parents. Afterwards, he arranged for them to be transported to Manila immediately.

Ryan, being Manila-based,  was the first to arrive at the medical facility..  Richard  nodded to his bestfriend in a wordless greeting before refocusing his stare at the double doors leading to the operating room  where Maya was wheeled in  almost three  hours  earlier.

“Any word from the doctor?” Ryan asked quietly.

“None.”  Richard answered with a frown “I haven’t heard anything since she went in.”

“What exactly happened?”

“The doctor said she was having a miscarriage. From the amount of bleeding that she had…” Richard could not verbalise his fear that Maya may have already lost the baby.

Our baby.

“I see.”

“What exactly do you see, Ryan?” Richard snapped sarcastically wanting to vent his guilt and  anger at someone.  “That our relationship was a big mistake?     Are you glad now  that we  may  have lost  our first child?”

Ryan had both hands up, palms facing his bestfriend. “Richard, hindi ako nagpunta rito para makipag-away sa yo.”

Richard squeezed his eyes and raked his fingers again through his hair.  All the worry was worsening his migraine as well as his mood.  Richard knew he was spoiling for a fight.  It would be better to feel the physical pain  from Ryan’s punches than to feel helpless while Maya suffers.  He could still remember how Maya cried in pain as abdominal cramps racked her body on their way to the hospital.

“Look, brod. I’m sorry. That was uncalled for,” Richard sighed very deeply. “I am sorry I was not able to forewarn you that I was courting Maya. I am also sorry that  you found out the way you did.”

Ryan sighed as well. “The last bit was not really your fault.  However, hearing my youngest sister being referred to as one of your sl—-err—women  was enough to drive me a bit crazy.”

Richard smiled sadly.

Their conversation halted when they saw the scrub-garbed  OB-GYNE come out of the operating  room.  The lady  doctor acknowledged both Richard and Ryan before confirming that the spontaneous abortion was already  in its advanced stage when Maya entered the operating  room.

“We were unable to save the baby…” the doctor said.

Maya lost our baby. 

“Initially,  I had to induce Maya to complete the spontaneous abortion which was not successful…”

The lady doctor went on to explain that she performed a D&C  or dilation and curettage  procedure because some tissues were still retained in Maya’s uterus. Richard was only half listening.  It was when the doctor mentioned  ‘continued  haemorrhage’  that he had to refocus on what she was saying.

“I don’t understand.  What is happening to Maya?” Richard asked with fear overcoming the grief that was  building up in him.

“Richard, there is profuse uterine bleeding because Maya’s uterus is not clamping down,” the doctor reiterated patiently.  “I have already  charted drugs to address this.”

Pitocin  was administered in stronger doses via IV infusion. So far, Maya has not responded and continues to bleed.  The doctor  tried to explain Maya’s condition in layman’s terms but all  Richard could understand was that Maya remained in a very bad state.   He  could  not afford to grieve for the baby. Not yet.  He needed to have his wits about him so he can do what he can for Maya.

Haven’t you done enough? Maya lost the baby as a consequence of your rash actions.  Maya would surely despise  you when she comes round.

“But how is Maya?” Richard asked again refusing to accept his interpretation despite the doctor’s thorough explanation.

“Maya’s condition is  stable at  the moment.  But her condition remains critical so I will be closely monitoring her.”

“But Maya will recover, right?”  Richard wanted  some form of reassurance  while  he mentally struggled, his brain categorically  rejecting  the possibility of losing Maya.

“As I have said, her condition is stable  at the moment.  How she responds to the drugs in the next 24 hours will give us a better indication.  At this stage, she will require more blood.”

Ryan hastily offered to become a blood donor.

“I will ask one of the nurses to accompany you to the lab so we can do a blood type test?” she said to Ryan.

“May  I see her, doc?”  Richard  asked.

“Of course,”  the specialist doctor smiled. “she will be transferred to the ICU shortly.  Excuse me I need to brief the ICU ward charge nurse before they accept the patient.  This will take a few minutes and then you can see her in the ICU.”

Richard nodded distractedly.  His migraine was now full-blown, his head  throbbing  as he raked his fingers across his scalp viciously.  A million and one thoughts were rioting through his head, aggravating his migraine..

When Richard finally saw Maya, he  visibly paled.   Dressed in a light blue hospital gown, Maya looked deathly  pale with dark rings around her closed eyes and a  bluish tinge around her mouth. His shoulders slumped,  the burden of guilt weighing him down.

Seeing that there was an IV drip that was cannulated into a vein on her right hand, he lightly touched her other hand which was very cold.  Instinctively,  he enveloped her hand in his to warm her.

“I am so very sorry, Maya…” he whispered as he bent to kiss the hand clasped within  his. With creased forehead, he closely looked at her face,  searching for any sign that she could hear him. There was none.

Richard did not know what to do except to stare at her immobile form .  He remained that way until the ICU nurse reminded him that he needed to return to the  waiting area so that she can check Maya.  Richard wordlessly complied.

“Anong nangyari sa anak ko, Richard?” a female voice asked as he left the inner sanctum of the ICU.

It was Nanay Teresita accompanied by Tatay Arturo and Mamang.

“Nakunan ho si Maya.  Naghe -haemorrhage pa rin siya…”

“Huwag naman sana siyang matulad sa  pinsan mo,  Arturo”  Nanay Teresita started crying.

“Ang kawawa kong apo, mukhang namana rin niya ang sumpa…” Mamang muttered before bursting into tears.

A curse?  What on earth was Mamang talking about?

“Nanay! Kung anu-ano ang pinagsasasabi ninyo” chided Nanay Teresita despite her tears. “Mabuti pa pakiusapan natin yung nurse kung pwede tayong lumapit kay Maya.”

The two ladies went ahead while Richard was left with Tatay Arturo who has been sadly looking at his youngest daughter through the glass window.  The old man sighed and  threw a troubled look at Richard.

“Ito ang ikinatatakot ko…” the older man began.

“Hindi ko maintindihan. Ano hong sumpa ang sinasabi ni Mamang?” Richard frowned in confusion.

“Marahil naikwento na sayo ni Maya ang tungkol sa orihinal na may-ari ng villa?”

“Si Señor La Rosa, ” Richard nodded.

“Hindi siya ordinaryong tao lamang…” Tatay Arturo murmured as if to himself. “Siya ang ikalawang anak na lalaki ni   Don Miguel La Rosa, Vizconde de Rosaleda. Isang aristokrata.”

Richard remained quiet, trying to digest what the older man was saying.

“Sinuway niya ang kagustuhan ng kanyang mga magulang na makasal  sa isang aristokrata ring kanyang kalahi.  Dahil sumira siya sa kasunduan, isinumpa siya ng  mga magulang ng kanyang iniwang  mapapangasawa.”

“Ano ho ang binitiwang sumpa?”  Richard asked despite his disbelief.

“Na mangyayari sa kanyang magiging may-bahay  at sa lahat ng mga  babae sa lahi niya ang nangyari sa kanyang iniwang kasintahan.”

“Bakit ho? Anong nangyari?” Richard was almost afraid to ask.

“Ayon sa kwento, namatay siya sa panganganak sa isang sanggol na kulang sa buwan.”  Tatay Arturo shook his head “Ayaw kong maniwala pero – simula kay Lola Maria La Rosa, si Lola Concepcion, si Lola Pacita,  Si Lola Amelia na nag-iisang kapatid na babae ni Lolo Hermenegildo,    si Tiya Corazon na kapatid  ni tatay – lahat sila  namatay dahil  hindi maampat ang pagdurugo at kumplikasyon nang makunan.   Ang pinakahuli – ang  pinsan kong si Milagros. Sa ikatlong  buwan ng kanyang pagbubuntis nakunan  siya’t namatay  sa ospital.”

“Ano raw po ang dahilan?”  Richard was trying to get some sense of what the older man was trying to tell him.

The older man pulled a very deep sigh again.

“Binatilyo nako nung mamatay ang pinsan kong si Milagros.  Ang natatandaan kong sabi ng duktor  humina raw ang matris ni Ate Mila nang magbuntis.  Sa ikatlong buwan, nakunan si Ate Mila at hindi maampat ang pagdurugo niya. Hindi mapigilan ng gamot.”

What Richard heard sounded eerily like Maya’s current condition.  He could not help but see the similarity. And the fear already seated in his heart multiplied tenfold. Richard returned his gaze to where Maya was lying very still.  He remained like that even after Maya’s parents and grandmother left several hours later. He saw the ICU nurse replace the empty  bag of plasma and administer  drugs into Maya’s  IV at  intervals.

Footsteps approached but Richard ignored them until a corrugated cup of long black espresso   was thrusted into his hands.

“I think you need to go home,” Ryan quietly suggested as he eyed his bestfriend.

It was the first time he has seen Richard like this. Gone was the dapper, self-assured   masculine hunk of a man who always  looked like he just stepped out of  a GQ magazine. The man before him was garbed in a crumpled  shirt with several buttons missing. His  eyes were bloodshot from lack of sleep and  the dark stubble on his upper lip indicated that he  needed a shave.  He looked terribly haggard and miserable.

Ryan can clearly see the frustration in his friend’s stance.  Whereas before Richard  was able to control and rectify situations  by giving instructions  to the people around him, he was now powerless like the rest of them lesser mortals.

How the mighty have fallen.

“I cannot.  I am waiting for an important call from Dr De Guzman.”  Richard went on to inform him that the doctor was one of  the top  OB/GYNE specialist  in the Philippines and was affiliated with a prestigious medical facility in  Boston, MA  for a couple of decades  before he was headhunted for  a high profile hospital in Alabang.

“Are we transferring Maya?” Ryan queried.

Richard scraped his fingers through his hair and bit his lower lip. “I don’t know.  I can better decide once I have spoken to  Dr De Guzman. I am sure the doctors here are competent but I  don’t want to risk—”

Ryan looked at his friend’s profile. It was a novelty to see a less than confident Richard Lim.  If it weren’t for the dire state of health of his youngest sister, Ryan would have verbally pointed this out and would have relished ribbing  Richard to no end.

“I don’t want to risk losing Maya…”

For quite some time now,  Richard had been making  long-term plans with Maya in mind.  A future without her  was unthinkable.

By midday, Maya was transferred to a state of the art medical centre in Alabang so that Dr. De Guzman can monitor and address her condition.  Maya’s temperature had been spiking indicating infection.  Her bleeding  had still not abated.

Richard was consumed  with worry and refused to leave Maya’s side.  He was still garbed in a blue hospital gown when he returned to his vigil spot by the glass partition.  Dr. De Guzman had just left after ordering more diagnostic lab tests with a view to using a revolutionary new drug that  was still in the testing stages.  Maya’s parents have given their consent and were praying that this new drug will resolve the problem.  Mamang and Nanay Teresita  discussed Maya’s state of health with Richard’s parents when they visited that evening.

In contrast, Richard was very withdrawn from everyone.  He was hardly talking, a fact which did not escape his mother’s notice.

“Son, I know you don’t want to leave the hospital. So I brought you clothes so you can shower and change.” Esmeralda Lim whispered to her only son.

Richard merely  gave his mother  a sad smile in response.

“You need to sleep,” his mother urged him, seeing the circles around his bloodshot eyes.

“I can’t. Not while Maya is like this…” Richard answered quietly.

“You also need to take care of yourself. So that when Maya wakes up—”

“This was my fault. I am the reason why she’s critically ill.” Richard  informed his mother cryptically.

“I don’t understand, Ricky” Esmeralda Lim frowned in confusion.

With a sigh, Richard started to relate, “We were fighting and I—” he could not verbalise what he did to Maya in his anger. “the next thing  I knew she was bleeding.”

Esmeralda Lim would have discussed the matter further  but they were both distracted  when a   commotion inside  the ICU  ensued.  Alarms started beeping and the nurses started rushing towards Maya. Richard saw Dr De Guzman quickly returning beside Maya and rapidly  firing instructions to the medical team.

“Oh, God…” Richard uttered while he raked all his fingers through his hair as tears fell  down his cheeks.  And for the first time in his life, he prayed.

Dear Lord, please forgive me. I know I have been ignoring you all these years. I have always depended on my own knowledge and strength. Please do not take Maya from me.  Lord,  I cannot bear the thought of losing her. She’s my reason for living.

Mi razon de vivir.  The words silently echoed in his head.

With his  wealth and vast network,  Richard could now properly empathise with Senor La Rosa.  Though Richard  preferred  having   a  child  later  in life,  he would have loved this baby nonetheless –  for the simple reason that it  was his and Maya’s.   Losing a child was excruciatingly painful but the thought of losing Maya  was  unbearable.   He tried to visualise his life without her but he  could not.   It was just not fathomable.

Mi razon de vivir.

Shaken with this possibility, Richard felt utterly helpless.   He realized now that  all worldly powers do not matter.  Maya’s life remained  in the hands of the Lord. Richard can only pray the He would take pity on him and grant his prayer.

Mi razon de vivir.

For without Maya, there was no point in living.

 

to be continued…

Long-held Torch – Part 14

Author’s Note: I would like to thank Ms Chuchy for all her input with LHT.  My special thanks go to Ms Flor who gave me very good grammar lessons recently :D.   And of course a BIG THANKIE to Ms Alpha Grace, Ms Liza and to Ms Dianne—who all generously gave their time to critique and proofread this chapter.   Please don’t be shy to press the ‘LIKE’ button and don’t forget to give your feedback after reading.  Enjoy reading, ladies!  :D

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Maya remained on cloud nine despite constantly feeling little twinges whenever she makes  sudden movements.  Her breasts felt heavy and there was tenderness in muscles she did not even realize she had.  Making love to Richard certainly made her ache in several places, but it was a delicious ache.  More than the physical sensation, Maya’s love for Richard deepened tenfold. This also made her feel very vulnerable.

Sighing deeply, she mulled over how things had happened so fast between the two of them – leaving her brain reeling and trying to catch up. In a matter of weeks, her relationship with Richard had progressed – from him being her Kuya Ryan’s best friend, to becoming her suitor, to winding up as her boyfriend. And now, he was her fiancé.  While she was mainly thrilled that she was marrying Richard, a part of her remained disbelieving of the reality of their current relationship status. To claim that she was  overwhelmed was rather  an understatement!

Maya couldn’t stop admiring the engagement ring that is now on her left ring finger. While the ring feels heavy on her hand, she has been ecstatic with her engagement. And she loved Richard all the more for making quite an elaborate effort in his proposal.

Richard had stopped the engine and they were now in front of her parents’ house.  Feeling a bit apprehensive, she heaved a sigh as she held hands with Richard while walking towards the house’s main entrance.  As they reached the partially hidden spot  just behind the fence, Richard stopped to frame her face with his hands.  She welcomed the kiss that Richard gave her, knowing they cannot be together once they have entered the house.

Her parents are still very old-fashioned and would certainly frown upon  what happened between her and Richard the last couple of days.  Come to think of it, Maya also thought that she was rather conservative herself.  But Richard had certainly shown her otherwise!

Enveloped in his warm embrace, Maya was again getting intoxicated as her lips melded with his. Then quite abruptly, Richard ended the kiss.  With a frown marring her features, Maya opened her eyes to see Richard staggering back from a side jab that landed on his right jaw.  Coming between her and Richard was the familiar figure of her eldest sibling.

“Kuyaaaaaa, huwaaaaag!”

Maya saw Richard stumbling back into Mamang’s flower bed before quickly regaining his balance. Blood was trickling down his cut lip.

“Hayuuuuup kaaaaa!!!” her Kuya Ryan swore at his best friend “sa dinami-dami ng babae sa Pilipinas, pati ba naman utol ko?”

“Look, brod” Richard started to explain, trying to placate Ryan “it’s not what you think…”

“Maliwanag pa sa sikat ng araw ang nakita ko! Kaya pala palagi kang wala sa Maynila. Nandito ka’t bunsong kapatid ko ang pinupuntirya mo!!!” Ryan threw another side jab but Richard swung his left arm  and blocked the punch, while his right arm pushed Ryan away.

“Kuyaaaa, stop this!!!” Maya screamed at her eldest sibling who was not paying attention to her.. Then, she finally noticed Cristina Rose who was now standing beside her. “Kute, awatin mo sila, please!”

“Oks  ka lang?” Kute looked at her in disbelief. “Gusto mong ako ang tamaan ng suntok ni Kuya?”

“Baka magkasakitan sila,” Maya fretted.

“Hayaan mo sila. Mapapagod din yan.” Kute smiled and folded her arms in front of her as she watched the testosterone-fuelled encounter between their eldest sibling and his best friend.

“Ryan, seryoso ako kay Maya,” Richard exclaimed as he kept his open palms firmly positioned defensively in front of him.

“Bullshit!!! This is me you are talking to!” Ryan yelled in disbelief at him.  “What do you know about being serious? You’ve never had a serious relationship in your life!”

“That’s because I have loved Maya for a very long time,” was Richard’s beseeching response to the accusation.

“What do you mean? Since when has this been going on?” Ryan’s voice boomed “Have you touched her before?”
 
“I-I…” Richard did not know how to answer her brother.

Maya could tell Richard was taken aback by the question. Maya reckoned he was probably thinking of the time he kissed her on the beach many years ago. While nothing really happened, that kiss was far from innocent. Unfortunately, guilt was written all over Richard’s face.

“Walanghiya kaaaaaaa!!!!”Ryan went berserk as he imagined the worst of his best friend.

“Maya, stay back please!” Richard shouted when she attempted to approach them.

Stopping in her tracks, Maya could see that Richard has been continuously deflecting her eldest sibling’s blows. Getting angrier by the minute, Ryan started striking haphazardly but wasn’t getting anywhere near Richard.  From where she was standing, she could see Richard’s rock-steady legs-apart stance while his open-palm sweeps kept on parrying oncoming punches. Clearly, Richard can defend himself but was also refraining from counter-attacking her brother.

“Kuya, tigilan mo na si Richard!” Maya yelled at her older brother who kept on aggressively advancing even after Richard had shoved him away several times.

“Mapapaos ka lang sa kasisigaw kay Kuya,” commented Kute beside her.

“Magagalit si Mamang nito, eh!” Maya muttered while she eyed the havoc they were causing in Mamang’s garden as Ryan kept on knocking over potted plants. Then, they made such a ruckus when Ryan tipped over the huge metal drum that Mamang uses to collect rain to water her plants.

At this point, her parents and Mamang finally heard the commotion that was happening and were now running down the stairs.

“Naku! Anong nangyayari sa dalawang ‘to?” Mamang worriedly looked on as Tatay Arturo pulled Ryan back.

“Bitiwan ninyo ako! Papatayin ko yang lalaking yan!” yelled Ryan through gritted teeth, the veins in his neck showing in anger.

“Kumalma ka, Ryan. Kung anuman ang problema mo kay Richard, pag-usapan ninyo nang maayos,” reprimanded Tatay Arturo.

“Papaano ako kakalma? Ginalaw niya si Maya.”

At this point, Maya quickly reached Richard’s side to check his face.  His lip was now very swollen and blood was still trickling down the cut.

“Anong ibig mong sabihin?” Tatay Arturo asked.

“Naka-leave si Maya pero ilang araw nang wala siya sa condo. Wala rin siya dito.  Bakit hindi ninyo tanungin ang magaling ninyong anak kung nasaan siya at kung sino ang kasama niya?” growled Ryan.

“Maya, anong sinasabi ng kuya mo?” her father questioned.

“Tay—” Maya was tongue-tied.  How do you own up to your father that you just spent the last couple of days and nights with your boyfriend?

“Magkasama nga po kami ni Maya,” Richard calmly answered while protectively stepping in front of Maya. With her hand within his, Richard gave her a little squeeze of reassurance.

However, Richard’s upfront reply gave Ryan another burst of manic energy as he liberated himself from Tatay Arturo’s hold and went for Richard’s throat.  It was like Ryan had gone temporarily insane as he lunged at Richard in a rush, knocking Maya off her feet in the process.

“Maya—!”  Richard worriedly called out as Maya went off-balance and landed on Mamang’s flower bed, crushing a few daisies under her tushy.

“Hayuuuuup kaaaaaaa!” Ryan swore again as he attacked his friend but with a few fluid maneuvers, Richard was able to twist Ryan off-balance. He had Ryan pinned down the ground with one knee on his chest and with a firm hand circled around his neck.

“Are you okey, Maya?” Richard hollered out to her while still holding down Ryan who was choking at this point.

“I’m fine,” Maya hastily reassured him, as Kute quickly came forward to help her to her feet.

Richard immediately released Ryan and went to give Maya a hand.  Richard quickly checked Maya’s back and dusted off the dirt that clung to her dress. Both were preoccupied  with each other  so they missed the knowing smile that passed between Nanay Teresita and Mamang.

“How can you be fine when you have become one of his sluts?” Ryan hoarsely addressed his youngest sister sarcastically as he nursed his hurting throat. “Now, you even dress like one!”

Maya looked stricken at the insult as she defensively gathered her gaping front. She was sorely regretting wearing this particular sundress.

“I strongly suggest that you don’t insult Maya or I will give you the thrashing that you have been asking for.”  Richard turned and growled at Ryan.

“Ang kapal din ng mukha mo!  What you have done is the worst insult. We trusted you and treated you like family.  Then, you turn around and do this to my youngest sister,” Ryan screamed as Tatay Arturo helped his son to his feet.

“Kuya, stop this please!” Maya placed herself in the middle of the two men. Tatay Arturo was again holding Ryan. “Richard is not to blame. I seduced him!”

Oooops! You were not supposed to say that, Maya!

There was a collective gasp among the older women. Cringing as the enormity of what she has revealed sunk in, Maya wished for a magnitude 10 earthquake which would crack the ground beneath her feet wide open to swallow  her whole.   She has declared in no uncertain terms how intimate her relationship with Richard had progressed in the last few days. With this bombshell, a period of loaded silence seemed to stretch for an aeon, though it was merely seconds in reality.

“Cristina Rose, tama ba ang intindi ko?  Naisuko na ni Maya ang Bataan?” Mamang checked for understanding.

Cristina Rose started chuckling as she recovered from Maya’s shocking revelation. “Mamang, hindi lang basta-bastang naisuko.  As in ‘isinuko ng bonggang-bongga’ na may kasamang tumbling pa!”

“Kuteeeeeee!” Maya groaned under her breath.  She could also see that Richard was compressing his lips to prevent himself from grinning.

Pinagtawanan pa ’ko ng Singkit!

“Susmaryosep!” Mamang exclaimed as her right hand went to her chest.

“Nanay, okey lang kayo?” fretted Nanay Teresita when she noticed that her mother looked as if she was having chest pains.

“Medyo naninikip ang dibdib ko,” admitted Mamang.

“Naku, Mamang!” Kute exclaimed as she went to her grandmother’s side.  “Huwag na huwag kayong hihimatayin! Walang may kayang bumuhat sa inyo dito!”

“Ikaw, Cristina Rose, sumosobra ka na!” hissed Mamang at her granddaughter’s irreverent remark, forgetting her angina altogether.

“Naku, Cristina Rose, huwag mo nang buskahin ang Nanay,” chided Nanay Teresita.

“Si Mamang kasi parang gustong mag-overreact! Eh, handa namang pakasalan ni Kuya Richard si bunso.”

“Hay, naku! Hayaan na nga lang nating si Tatay ang umayos nito. Duon na tayo sa taas, Nay. Para makainom ka na ng gamot mo,” Nanay Teresita prompted her mother who complied without her usual protests.

Maya could feel her cheeks going hot as her father stared sharply at her. Richard stepped sideways, almost fully shielding Maya from her father.

“I take full responsibility for what happened.  Kaya nga po ako humaharap sa inyo para po hingin ang kamay ni Maya.”

“Kasal!????!” Ryan almost choked on the word as he balefully eyed Richard. “Nababaliw ka na ba?”

Ignoring Ryan’s outburst, Tatay Arturo pulled a calming breath and succinctly declared “Pasalamat ka’t alam kong seryoso ka kay Maya. Kung hindi, kanina pa kita tinaga diyan sa kinatatayuan mo!”

“Tay!!!” Maya cried worriedly as she held on to Richard’s arm.

“Yun! Kukunin ko na ba yung gulok mo, Tay?” Ryan offered, still lusting for Richard’s blood.

“Manahimik ka Ryan!” Tatay Arturo told off his eldest child. “Richard, Maya, umakyat na kayo para makapag-usap tayo ng masinsinan!”

Richard nodded and wordlessly guided Maya upstairs.

“Teka, Tay” Ryan asked bewilderedly “huwag ninyong sabihing papayagan ninyong makasal si Maya sa mokong na yan?”

“Kuya, hayaan mo na sila,” Kute advised her elder sibling.

“Cristina Rose, hindi ko pwedeng pabayaan lang! Teenagers pa lang kami, babaero na yan si Richard!”

“Baka naman nagbago na nitong nagka-edad na siya.”

“Yan pa ang isa! Napakalaki ng agwat ng edad nila ni Maya! Ten years!” Ryan pointed out “Para siyang matandang kabayo na gustong kumain ng sariwang damo!”

“Tumahimik ka, Redentor Yehoram Arturo Narcisso Dela Rosa! Bago kita mabatukan!” growled Tatay Arturo before he followed Richard and Maya up the stairs, leaving a cringing Ryan behind.

Ryan hated his string of given names which were the combined names of their grandfathers, Tatay’s and the saint whose feast day also fell on his natal day.  This was why he just opted to use the acronyms of his names to avoid being bullied at school.

“Pambihira naman si Tatay binanggit na naman ang buo kong pangalan! Binabaon ko na nga sa limot yun!”

“Ang kulit mo kasi, Kuya!” Kute told off her older brother with a laugh.

“Bakit sa’kin pa nagalit si Tatay?” was Ryan’s indignant question.

“Kasi naman nagbanggit ka ng matandang kabayo. Diba yan ang pang-asar ni Mamang kay Tatay?  Kasi nga dieciocho pa lang si Nanay samantalang  treinta  años na si Tatay nung magtanan sila?”

Ryan grimaced. “Pero—”

“Naku, Kuya, huwag ka nang humirit. Wala ka rin namang magagawa.  Mahal ni Maya at Kuya Richard ang isa’t isa.”

“Ha!????! Kelan pa!????!” Ryan incredulously asked.

“Mga bata pa tayo, crush na ni Maya si Kuya Richard.  Si Nanay naman matagal na pala niyang napapansin na may gusto si Kuya Richard kay Maya. Pero nito lang binyag ni Baby Abby siya nag-umpisang manligaw kay bunso.”

“Bakit hindi ko namalayan?”

“Ang hina mo kasi. Pati nga sa sapakan, mahina ka rin,” Cristina Rose teased.  “Kaya hindi ka dapat umiiba ng genre, Kuya.  Pamilya tayo ng mga dramatic actors at actresses. Huwag ka nang mag-ambisyong mag-action star!”

“Nalimutan kong nagko-compete nga pala sa martial arts ang mokong na yan nuong araw.” Ryan frowned as he lightly massaged his forearms which took the impact each time his blows were blocked by his best friend. Even the knuckles of his right hand were starting to swell. “Ang tigas pa ng panga.”

“Kaya pala iba yung galaw ni Kuya Richard. Para siyang si Ip Man,” Kute chuckled. “Buti hindi ka binugbog.”

“Hmmmmp!” Ryan glared malevolently at Cristina Rose before sprinting upstairs to follow Tatay Arturo.

“Pikon,” Kute was softly chuckling as she picked up Richard’s specs from the ground before slowly following her brother.

After a tension-filled conversation in the veranda between Tatay Arturo and Richard, the older man sighed and stood up first.  From her vantage point, Maya saw Richard and her father shake hands. Before leaving the veranda, her father even patted Richard’s shoulder, a  reassuring gesture that made Maya smile.  Everything will be alright, she said to herself.

While the two men were talking, her Kuya Ryan had been quietly standing by the balusters. Then, she saw her Kuya Ryan move to approach Richard when her father left.

“Ops, ops, saan ka pupunta bunso?” asked Kute when Maya agitatedly stood up. They were both sitting at the dining table and were monitoring what was transpiring in the veranda. Her mother was in her grandmother’s bedroom ensuring that the latter was taking her medication.

“Baka magwala na naman si Kuya, eh!” Maya fretted.

“Hindi na yan. Maupo ka lang diyan at hayaan mo silang mag-usap.”

She could see that Richard was trying to account for the recent events to his best friend.  Unfortunately, Ryan’s back was towards them. Thus Maya could not gauge how he was reacting to Richard’s lengthy explanation. Then, Maya saw Ryan abruptly stand up to leave Richard alone in the veranda.

“Anong sabi ni Kuya?” Maya asked Richard when she finally joined him with the first aid kit and an ice bag. Using a gauze damp with saline solution, Maya started patting Richard’s chin to clear off the dried blood.

“Actually, he didn’t say much. All he said was that he was far from happy with the situation. I guess he felt betrayed.” Richard sighed deeply as he inspected his specs which were slightly askew when he tried it on.

“Betrayed?” Maya asked worriedly.

“Hmmmmn,” Richard nodded.  “I broke the unspoken cardinal rule. I dated my best friend’s younger sister.”

“Yang rule na yan ang hindi ko talaga maintindihan,” Maya shook her head as she applied cold compress to Richard’s swollen lip.

“I will try to talk to him again,” Richard sighed. “It was my fault. I did not try hard enough to forewarn him before I started courting you. Then, of course, when I started, I was very distracted ‘coz you had me following you in a merry chase.”

“Ganon? Kasalanan ko?” Maya’s eyes glared at Richard mockingly.

Richard took her left hand between his palms and whispered “How can I blame you when you have made the last couple of days the happiest days of my life?  I can’t wait to spend the rest of my days with you.”

Maya’s eyes started filming with tears. Maya was searching for appropriate words to say when a voice hesitantly called their names.

“Richard…Maya…”

“Nay Teresita,” Richard stood up when Maya’s mother joined them in the veranda.

“Sabi sa’kin ni Tatay mamamanhikan na raw kayo sa susunod na linggo?” Nanay Teresita began.

“Opo, Nay,” Richard answered.

The older lady smiled at Richard as she patted his cheek. “Matagal na kitang tinuring na anak ko. Masaya ako dahil talagang magiging anak na kita.”

“Salamat po, Nay,” Richard enveloped the older lady in a hug.

Maya tearfully smiled as she looked on. Then, she was getting embraced by her mother.

“Maya,” Nanay Teresita said with a hitch in her voice. “Anak, ang swerte-swerte mo dahil mahal na mahal ka ni Richard.”

Maya smiled at her fiancè over her mother’s shoulder. “Alam ko po yun, Nay.”

“Ang bunso ko—” Nanay Teresita’s voice broke.

“Nay naman, huwag muna kayong umiyak,” Maya pleaded.

“Masaya lang ako para sa inyo ni Richard.  Dininig ng Diyos yung panalangin ko na makatagpo kayong mga anak ko ng mga magmamahal talaga sa inyo. Si Kuya mo masaya sa buhay pamilya niya. Ngayon ikaw naman.”

“Ang kaso mukhang masama pa rin ang loob ng Kuya,”  Maya remembered.

“Naku, hayaan mo lang muna yang Kuya mo sa tamporurot niya. Pasasaan ba’t huhupa din ang galit niya. Nagulat lang yun,” reassured Nanay Teresita.

“Sana nga po Nay,” Richard murmured.

“Hayaan mo, Richard,” Nanay Teresita smiled at her future son-in-law. “Kakausapin ko para maintindihan niya.”

“Salamat po.”

Maya sighed.  She should be thankful that her parents and Kute had shown their approval. Mamang, when she gets over the initial shock, would also extend her congratulations.  She just needed to work on Kuya Ryan who would hopefully come round once he had time to digest all the facts.

A week later, Richard and his parents arrived at the Dela Rosa residence just before 7pm  for the pamanhikan.  There was a little awkward moment when the two sets of parents met for the first time. The ice was quickly broken when Esmeralda Lim light-heartedly apologized and confessed that they are in the dark as it is their first time to do a pamanhikan with Richard as their only child.

“Mabuti nga po kayo makakaranas kayo ng pamanhikan.  Ako po’y hindi dahil tinanan si Teresita ko.  Alam sigurong hindi ako papayag,” retorted Mamang with pursed lips.

“Nanay talaga!” Nanay Teresita protested. “Siningit na naman yun.”

“Hmmmp, tutuo naman ah!”  Mamang insisted as she looked sharply at her son-in-law.

Kute was chuckling softly while Maya placed her palm over her mouth to control her giggle.

“Mga balae, maupo po tayo. Pagpasensiyan ‘nyo na po si Mamang. Kahit ilang dekada na ang nakakaraan, hindi pa rin siya maka-move-on sa nangyari sa’min ni Teresita.” Tatay Arturo wryly quipped as he shook hands with Richard’s father who was grinning broadly in amusement.

“May dala akong Soya Chicken at pandan chiffon cake para sa dinner natin,” offered Dona Esmeralda to Nanay Teresita.

“Naku, nag-abala pa po kayo. Salamat, balae,” enthused Nanay Teresita.

When they were all seated in the sala, the pamanhikan proper commenced.  Richard formally asked for Maya’s hand in marriage. In turn, Tatay Arturo gave his blessing and extended his hand to Richard who pressed it against his forehead. Richard did the same to Nanay Teresita’s and then Mamang’s hand. Then he shook Cristina Rose’s while his eyes scanned the space beyond her.

Maya knew that Richard was hoping to see her Kuya Ryan at this momentous occasion but he was nowhere in sight. The best of friends have not yet spoken to each other since their last encounter.  When notified of the pamanhikan, Ryan had sent word that he will not be coming and was therefore not expected. Still, Richard and Maya hoped that her eldest sibling would change his mind.

The next day, Richard picked her up so that they can accompany his parents to look at churches and to go sightseeing around San Nicholas.  While Roberto Lim was sitting on the front passenger seat beside Richard, Maya was seated at the back with Richard’s mother who noticed her ring.  The older woman was holding Maya’s left hand closely so she could scrutinize the engagement ring’s solitaire diamond.

“D grade without any visible inclusions. Excellent choice, son.”

“Thanks, Ma” replied Richard who gave Maya a wink when he caught her eye in the rear view mirror.

Richard drove the Land Cruiser to the town plaza and parallel-parked the vehicle off-street.  Maya smiled at Richard as he opened the door for her.

“Bakit?” Maya asked when Richard held her back while the older couple went ahead and inspected the inside of Catedral de San Nicolás. The church was built in 1813 and was inaugurated by José Gardoqui Jaraveita, who was then the Governor-General of the Philippines during that period.

“May nakakalimutan ka,” Richard prompted.

“Huh?” Maya shook her head.

“You haven’t kissed me good morning yet.”

Maya grinned and quickly pressed her lips against his.

“That will do for the moment,” he declared as he took her hand and led her to follow the older couple. “This was the church built by Señor La Rosa, right?”

“Ito nga.  Kaya nga halos lahat ng mga kasalan at binyagan ng pamilya namin dito ginaganap.   Si Tatay at si Kuya nga lang ang sumira ng tradisyon. Pero dito kaming magkakapatid  bininyagan.”

“I like the outside structure,” Richard complimented as he took a photo with his iPhone-5 “Let’s check indoors.”

Before they left the old church, they passed by the Administration Office. After poring through the available booking schedules, they were able to reserve a wedding date which was in two months’ time.

“Richard, I think I need to ask around for a reputable wedding planner. We cannot possibly do this in two months without one! What do you think, Maya?” Tita Esme asked.

“Tama po kayo.” Maya agreed “Also, I am due back at work by the end of this week.  We may not have enough preparation time.  Can we re-set the date, Richard?”

“No!” Richard quickly dismissed the idea of a later wedding date.

“Pero—”

“We will get married in two months’ time,” Richard cut through whatever protest she was going to voice. “Even if you have to wear something ready- made.”

Fortunately, Maya did not have to resort to the prêt à porter option. When she returned to Manila, Richard’s mother accompanied her to one of the top fashion designers in the metropolis. Esmeralda Lim was a long-time valued client and personal friend of the award-winning fashion designer and he was more than excited to design Maya’s and the entire entourage’s wedding outfits.  He was even willing to send his staff to San Nicholas to take her family’s measurements to save them the hassle of travelling to Manila.

The gay designer asked her and Richard a lot of questions with regards to what type of wedding they would like. Maya wanted a vintage Fil-Hispanic wedding. When probed which particular period they liked, Maya admitted that she was partial to the 1800′s.  The designer’s eyes lit up and started discussing turned-up collar, long-tailed waistcoats, ruffled shirt fronts and intricately-tied cravats.  The designer gleefully announced that he will have fun designing both the bride’s and the groom’s wedding outfits.

“Ruffled shirt fronts? Are you serious?” Richard asked when they were finally alone in the car, speeding away.

Maya giggled at Richard’s horrified expression. “Ideas pa lang naman yun. He will present to us several designs and we will have to approve them before he starts to work on the outfits.”

“I hope so, otherwise I really won’t wear it!” Richard said adamantly.

“Nagba-back out ka na sa kasal natin?” Maya curiously asked.

“Hindi, itatanan na lang talaga kita,” Richard responded.

Maya smiled and would have reminded him again  of his promise to Mamang when her phone rang. It was Edzelyn, her friend and colleague from Time Airways.

“Hello Edz, kamusta?” she greeted her friend.

“Heto, nagtatampo ako sa’yo,” Edzelyn replied. “Hindi mo man lang kami sinabihan na engaged ka na.  Kundi ko pa accidentally nabuksan yung society pages, hindi ko malalaman.”

“Ha?  Naka-diyaryo ang engagement ko?” Maya raised her voice for Richard’s benefit. Maya could tell that information surprised Richard as well.

“Ask which newspaper,” Richard prodded.

“Saang diyaryo mo nabasa Edz?”  Maya heard her friend refer to one of the nationally syndicated papers. “Naku, sasabihin ko naman sa inyo mamaya bago tayo mag-briefing pero mukhang naunahan na’ko.”

“So, it’s true!  You are the girl in the photo! And you are engaged to the CEO of Lim Infrastructure Inc.! My God, Maya! How did you two meet?”

“I have known him all my life. He’s my Kuya’s best friend,” Maya informed.

“But you never breathed a word about him! You owe us a lot of ‘kwento’, ha!”

Maya chuckled and promised her friend that she will tell them about her fiancé later and rang off.  Meanwhile, Richard spotted  a newsstand and  stopped by to get a copy of the newspaper. He scanned the story content before handing over the paper to Maya.

It was an article by one gossip columnist who had long chronicled Engr. Richard Lim’s love life for over a decade. The story quoted that ‘reliable sources’ had spotted the elusive bachelor, together with his parents, accompanying a pretty young lady  named ‘Maya’ to a well-known wedding planner. The writer speculated that circumstantial evidence was pointing to the conclusion that the CEO of Lim Infrastructure Inc. was finally settling down. There was a photo insert taken the day before with Richard talking to his parents while holding Maya’s hand as they left the wedding planner’s business premises.  While she has not been properly identified in the article, anyone who knew Maya could easily identify her as the pretty young lady in the photo.

“I am sorry about this,” Richard murmured.

“Why are you apologizing? You had nothing to do with this.”

“That may be the case but it’s because of my notoriety that makes me a target of gossip. And now, you will be a target as well,” Richard sighed and suggested, “I think you need to tell your place of work that you may need to beef up your security.”

“Hindi naman siguro. Hindi naman ako celebrity.” Maya dismissed his worries which annoyed Richard who went on to argue his point.  They were still lightly debating on the matter as they went up Maya’s condo unit.

Maya went to the kitchen to drink a glass of water when she eyed Emman’s note in front of the fridge. Her friend was in Dakak vacationing with his family and would be returning by the end of the week.  Richard read the same note and was now grinning from ear to ear.

“So, we have the place all to ourselves…” Richard said huskily as he looked down at Maya.

“Naku, hindi pwede yang binabalak mo! Meron akong 6pm flight!” Maya laughed at Richard’s suggestive wag of his brows.

“It’s not even 5pm yet, Maya. Sabi nga ni Jawo, kahit nga sa ilang segundo lang, marami pang pwedeng mangyari,” Richard said in an undertone as he took the glass from Maya’s fingers and placed it on the bench before pulling Maya by the waist.

“Sabi nino?” Maya was lost, unable to fully comprehend what he was talking about.

“You are obviously not a basketball fan, hmmnn?”

Maya shook her head at the rhetorical question as their bodies came closer. She draped her arms around Richard as his head went down to claim her lips in a passionate kiss while his hands went to unzip the back of Maya’s dress. The simple one-piece sleeveless navy blue outfit dropped around her feet in the next few seconds as Maya felt herself being pulled towards her bedroom. Richard’s shirt fell as they passed the dining table. Maya’s lacy bra followed as they reached her bedroom door which Richard kicked firmly closed.

It was the first time they were completely alone after a rather full-on couple of weeks.  After finally reaching an understanding, they have faced her parents, Richard has been forced into a confrontation with her Kuya Ryan, his parents arriving for the pamanhikan, to delving into 101 tasks in preparing for their wedding. While Richard’s current timing was not the best, Maya welcomed the moment of intimacy to physically reaffirm what was most important of all—their love for each other.

As Maya feared, she had barely time to shower and change into her FA uniform. She had opted to hop into Richard’s car bare of make-up and with her hair still down.  She does not have the skill to apply cosmetics in a moving vehicle though she attempted to put her hair up in a sleek chignon but failed abysmally.  When Richard stopped his BMW in front of the airport personnel entrance, Maya was wanting to quickly get out of the car so that she can dive into the nearest ladies room to make herself presentable.

Despite her quick thanks and goodbye, Richard’s arms went round her waist and commanded Maya’s full and undivided attention.

“Richard, I have to go. I am already late,” Maya pleaded, aware that airport employees were passing by and looking curiously at them.

“I want a proper kiss first.”

Maya complied and had planned to give Richard a quick kiss but he was having none of that. He took his fill when his arms enveloped Maya, uncaring of people looking on.  Maya was breathless when Richard finally loosened his hold.

“I will pick you up afterwards, okay?” Richard whispered as his lips brushed against hers.

“But that will be around 2am,” Maya informed him. She was on short haul flights at the moment with Hong Kong as her destination tonight.  “Baka mapuyat ka ng husto.”

“I will be here waiting, Maya,” Richard said in a voice that brooked no argument.  “Now, go in. You’re already late, Mrs. Lim.”

Despite wanting to come up with a smart retort, Maya dropped the subject and waved to Richard as she pivoted towards Time Airway’s premises, conscious of airport staff eyes on her and Richard. Among them were Ms. Buenaventura and Capt. James whom she both greeted as she hurriedly passed by.  Her former instructor greeted her back but Capt. James, who was in a business suit, did not for his attention was preoccupied with something behind her.  As she rounded the corner, she saw that the ‘something’ was Richard who was likewise returning Capt. James’ stare with a serious demeanor.

On her return, Maya abruptly halted by the hallway outside the briefing room.  Richard was seated a few meters away and was obviously waiting for her.

“Oh, Maya,” Edzelyn noted that her friend was not following the rest of the flight crew. “Hindi ka ba sasabay sa service?”

“Meron akong sundo, eh.” Maya smiled, shaking her head as she looked across to Richard who was now making his way towards her.

“In fairness, ang gwapo ng sundo mo,” Edzelyn teased with a  cheeky gleam. “Sige, see you tomorrow. Enjoy!”

“Edzelyn!” Maya laughed, protesting the veiled sexual innuendo before she went to meet Richard halfway.

Despite just parting from him several hours ago, Maya was excited to see him again. Richard’s arms went round her and kissed her thoroughly, not caring about the people milling around them.

“Hungry?” Richard asked afterwards as he held her hand while he dragged her small suitcase behind.

Maya shook her head.

“Then, let’s go home.”

At the condo, Maya had barely time to kick off her black heels before Richard started removing her uniform.  In between clothes dropping to the floor, Maya was being thoroughly kissed and caressed.

“You’re insatiable,” Maya huskily told him.

“Where you are concerned, yes!” Richard unashamedly admitted as he took her to bed.

“Hindi ka ba hinahanap sa inyo? Di ba dapat kasama mo ang parents mo habang nandito sila sa Pilipinas?” Maya asked as she tried to calm her uneven breathing while she rested on his bare chest an hour later.

“Merong blessing ni Mama yung pag-stay ko dito,” Richard answered while he kept his eyes closed, his chest likewise still heaving slightly.

“Blessing?”

“Uhhhmm,” Richard grunted. “I need to be here so I can start on her request.”

“Request? Anong request?”

Richard opened his eyes and looked down at her. “Mama wants grandchildren right away.  So, she does not mind my absence.”

“Don’t I have a say in that?” Maya laughed, embarassed that her future mother-in-law knows exactly what they have been doing.

“Of course you do but so far,” he smiled wolfishly at her. “you have been a very enthusiastic participant in the process.”

Inevitably, they both woke up late and had a leisurely brunch before making love again. Much later, Richard brought her to work and then picked her up afterwards. Richard would also bring her to meet up with the wedding planner to choose the theme, look, colors, music and various other details.   At one time, his mother joined them for food tasting but they still eventually ended up at her condo with Richard always staying the night. Hence, Richard was practically living with her ever since they got back to Manila. Even when Emman returned from his vacation, Richard continued to stay with Maya, much to her embarrassment.

The weeks quickly went with a flurry of preparation for the wedding.  They even did a prenuptial shoot with a locally renowned photography/videography team.   It was probably due to the hectic schedule and the sleep-deprived passionate days and nights with Richard that was making Maya feel so tired and sleepy even during flights.  She has also lost her appetite lately, but it was her morning sickness the last few days  that alerted her to the possibility.

Maya washed her face by the sink and then stripped to look at herself in the mirror.  Except for the fact that she gained a bit of weight, there was no visible bump on her abdomen. She counted back and realized that it has been almost five weeks since Richard first made love to her and she has not had her menses in that span of time!

Her suspicions became stronger when she went dizzy and nearly fainted  while having the pre-flight briefing.  One look at Maya’s wan face and Ms. Callandra ordered her to go to the sick bay.  There she discussed her suspicions with the nurse who did a pregnancy test, which came out positive.

Ecstatic with the news, Maya tried to call Richard right away. Unfortunately, her phone was already blinking until it died midway at the third ring.  The news will have to wait until she sees him at home, she thought.

Maya checked if there was any available service van that could take her home but there was none.   So, she decided to catch a cab which was impossible during the rush hour. She was standing a few minutes outside the TA airport premises when she started feeling dizzy. Her hands flailed out to hold on to the chrome stair railing to avoid falling down.

“Maya, are you alright?” asked a familiar voice.

Maya slowly looked up as sudden movements were making her dizzier.

“James…” Maya tried to muster a smile.

“You don’t look well. Do you want me to take you to the sick bay?”  James offered.

“Kagagaling ko lang dun.”  Maya opted not to tell him of her pregnancy as she wanted to keep the secret to herself for the moment.  Besides,  Richard deserved to know first before anyone else.

“Gusto mong dalhin kita sa doctor?”

Maya would definitely like to see a doctor but she would like Richard to accompany her.
“Hindi na. Kailangan ko lang magpahinga kaya nga uuwi na’ko.”

“Sige, I will take you home na lang.” James declared.

“Naku, James! Huwag na! Nakakahiya. Isa pa, rush hour na. Maiipit ka sa traffic.”

“All the more reason that I should take you home so you can rest.”

“Pero—”

“Maya, I insist.”  James turned to thank the valet parking staff who brought his Porsche Carrera GT to the front driveway for him.   He firmly took her elbow and guided her to the passenger side.  Gratefully smiling up at James, Maya lowered herself into the seat.

If Maya had looked to her left, she would have seen the navy  blue BMW going into TA’s driveway to join the queue of cars. Had she done so, she  would have felt very worried with the thunderous expression from the BMW’s driver who gritted his  teeth  while he watched Maya  and her male companion join the afternoon traffic.

to be continued…

Long-held Torch – Part 13

Single long stem red rose laying on pillow. Image shot 2009. Exact date unknown.

Author’s note: Muchas gracias Alpha Grace y Chuchy. Our collaboration has greatly improved my LHT series which has gained quite a number of eager followers.

To my dear readers, please feel free to comment for I love reading your feedback as much as I love writing the LHT series. Enjoy :D :D :D

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Part 13

Richard could not believe his ears when Maya said that she wanted to stay with him instead of going home. It was guaranteed to obliterate his self-control into oblivion. Despite his years of experience, he behaved like a teenager and eagerly took what Maya offered.

And how she offered!

Maya gave herself unreservedly and beautifully that he lost his head. It was a good thing Maya pleaded that he take her gently that he was able to temper his libido somehow. He had felt the undeniable proof of her innocence but it was not enough to stop him from possessing her. If anything, the knowledge that Maya had never known any other man just aroused him further.

Making love to Maya was incredible just as he imagined and more. He had often fantasized making love to her eversince that fateful night when he saw her walking up the beach, her naked body glistening with sea water. That beautiful teen had blossomed into an even more beautiful young lady.

The beautiful young lady who became a woman in his arms.

Oh, Maya” he said hoarsely as he moved in steady rhythm inside her very hot and very tight core that he felt himself being squeezed in a vice-like grip “you’re so incredibly tight, sweetheart.”

Richard kissed her palm when he felt her fingers on his face. Then he swooped down to bestow her yet another passionate kiss. Noting the creases around her eyes, Richard knew she was in pain but he just could not stop even if his life depended on it. He was gripped in intense pleasure as he involuntarily hastened his rhythm until he felt his groin constricting.

Maaayaaaaaaa!” he groaned through gritted teeth as he could feel one of the most powerful orgasm of his life racking his body as his seed spilled inside her. Despite not having fully recovered, he lifted himself off for he was loathe to crush her with his heavy weight. He immediately felt bereft of her very snug soft heat. He couldn’t resist giving a very sleepy Maya another deep lingering kiss before he went to lie beside her.

It was a mind-blowing experience that left him in a daze. He was so enthralled with her that he threw all caution to the winds and made love to her without sparing a thought to contraception. And he does not care! He wanted to be close to Maya without any barrier whatsoever.

As his tachypneic breathing slowly decelerated to a more normal rate, his bemused gaze went over Maya’s features that were serene in her sleep. Her lips were swollen from his kisses and her cheeks were still flushed pink. His gaze went over her smooth and shapely length until it arrested on the blood stain on her thighs. The same stain was likewise partially coating his still erect shaft.

So, he has not imagined it!

Maya was a virgin until a few minutes ago! He still could not fully take that in. Given her age and her past romantic relationships, somehow she has managed to stay virgo intacta. How on earth was that possible? Did she hook up with one milksoppy boyfriend after another? If she was his, he would not be able to keep his hands off her.

This clearly explains your current post coital state, of course.

I am not like one of her milksoppy ex-boyfriends.

Hang on a minute! Who told you she had boyfriends in the first place?

No one in particular really, he answered himself. Ryan, and then recently Emman, informed him that Maya dated a few guys.

But no one specifically told you that she had a boyfriend, eh? You made that grossly wrong assumption all by yourself, Richard Lim!

Priding himself as a man of the world, he had told Maya that he could not care less about her past boyfriends. But if truth be told, he has been torturing himself with thoughts of Maya being intimate with other men when they only existed in his head. This would explain her blushing discomfort and extreme shyness whenever they get hot and heavy. He even subjected himself to extreme sexual frustration while he ‘exorcised’ her alleged ex-boyfriends out of her system. Yet, all this time, she has always been tucked up in her chaste bed all by herself.

Richard felt like a bloody idiot!

Nevertheless, he was a very lucky idiot, not to mention a very jubilant idiot for Maya chose him to be her first lover. He wondered whether she has also been waiting for him all these years. Richard would like to think so. He is fervently hoping that this is the case.

Smiling inwardly, he gathered her in his arms and pulled the cotton sheet over the both of them. Maya nuzzled his shoulder before resettling back to sleep. The caress sent jolts of pleasure through his spine but he doubted if Maya would welcome being made love to all over again. Still aroused and far from satisfied, Richard absently thought that it would probably take making love with Maya for several weeks, probably months, before he could dampen down his desire for her into a more normal level.

Smiling wryly, Richard settled down beside her and listened to her even breathing. For the first time in years, he felt emotional contentment despite his physical dissatisfaction. Being with the woman you love makes all the difference in the world. In his heart and mind, what happened between them felt right.

So, how will you face Tatay Arturo and Nanay Teresita after this?

A frown marred his handsome chinito features as his conscience pricked him. Maya’s parents have trusted him and he turned around to bed their daughter almost right under their noses. He slowly got up so that he would not jolt Maya out of her rest. He needed to make a few phone calls.

After almost an hour, he came back to bed. He kissed Maya’s forehead and snuggled as close as possible to her. He smiled to himself as this would be the first time he would literally be sleeping with a woman. No, that was not right. He had first slept with Maya the night of the storm.

I love you, Maya” he whispered into her hair before he closed his lids.

Richard felt her initially stirring around daybreak before resettling back to sleep. He sleepily waited if she will wake up. When she didn’t, Richard kissed Maya’s forehead before he slowly got up to reach for the towel hanging on the gallinera seat’s backrest. Tucking it around his middle, he went to the alcove to carefully pick a red rose from the thick hedge to place it on the pillow by Maya’s head.

After having a shower, he didn’t bother putting on clothes. With a wrapped towel around his middle, he went to the kitchen. He came back with a huge oval platter of fluffy scrambled eggs, crispy bacon, buttered wholemeal toast and a small pot of black coffee and a tiny jug of fresh milk. There were also slices of rockmelon, pineapple and a lakatan banana.

Richard saw that Maya was awake and was smelling the red rose. Her hair was spread across his pillow and there was a healthy glow on her skin. Richard thought she looked like a woman who had just been made love to. She smiled shyly as she sat up in bed while trying to tuck the bed sheet to cover herself as another enchanting blush was creeping up her cheeks.

Richard wolfishly smiled as he watched her movements. He mentally debated whether to remind her of his photographic memory or just let her be. Richard considered her hiding behind the sheet as rather futile for he had already memorized every inch of her.

Good morning, sweetheart” he greeted her with a deep lingering kiss as he placed the bed tray table across her legs.

Good morning” was her husky reply.

We forgot about dinner last night so I am sure you are very hungry,” he stated as he sat down on the bed beside her.

Mmmmmnnnn” Maya appreciatively breathed in the savoury aroma as she regarded the breakfast feast before her. Then she poured the coffee into two cups and spooned sugar into one. Maya’s eyes rounded as Richard offered a forkful of scrambled eggs by her lips. Richard smiled as Maya opened her mouth. Smiling sweetly as she munched, Maya picked up a crunchy bacon strip and fed it to him.

Marunong ka rin palang magluto,” Maya complimented as she peeled and sliced the banana to top it on a toast.

Of course,” Richard nodded while chewing as he placed another forkful of scrambled eggs into her mouth and then continued “I had no choice but to learn when I lived overseas.”

Nung nag-stay ka sa Dubai?” she asked after swallowing.

Richard nodded again and sipped his black coffee as he watched Maya eat. She mainly munched on her ‘banana on toast’ and then the sliced fruits.

Finish the eggs, sweetheart,” he instructed as he considered her shoulder frame. With his connoisseur eye, Richard evaluated that Maya could do with a bit more weight. She would be sexier, he mused as his eyes became mere slits as he recalled what happened the night before.

Ikaw?”

I usually just have coffee first.” Richard really can not eat first thing in the morning. He needed to work up an appetite before he could have breakfast. “I’ll be back.”

Richard disappeared into the bathroom where he had recently installed a huge corner spa bath that could easily fit three people. He turned on the tap to fill it up with very warm water. Then he picked up a bottle of bath oil and squirted some into the rising water level.

Approaching the bed, he smiled at Maya who was finishing her coffee when he came back. He put away the tray and scooped up Maya who insisted on holding onto the sheet. He glimpsed the palm-size patch of dried blood on the bed’s fitted sheet as he pivoted towards the bathroom.

Are you very sore?” he asked in concern.

Richard’s knowledge with virgins was limited. The last time he made love to one was during his college days for he avoided them like the plague. Still, he was aware that the ‘first time’ was not a pleasurable experience for most, if not all women. And the morning-after soreness was reputed to be even worse. Richard reckoned it would be akin to exercising for the first time after leading a sedentary lifestyle. Every aching muscle fibre would be protesting with every movement.

Richard noted Maya’s heightening blush as she nodded. Richard sighed as his hopes of making love to her again were clearly dashed. It can’t be helped, Richard thought. He needed to make more allowances for her inexperience. He was just glad they can spend a few days together.

Hmmmnn, well, this should ease some of the soreness off,” he told her as he gently lowered her into the middle of the filled spa bath. He grinned when Maya had quickly taken the sheet off and gave the bundle to him to avoid wetting it. He placed it on top of the clothes hamper before shedding his towel. He stepped naked into the bath and sat behind Maya, with his long limbs on either side of her. He picked up the flannel and proceeded to wash her smooth back. He leaned forward when he went to wash her nape which he just had to bestow a kiss.

Richard, may kiliti ako diyan!” Maya protested giddily as she tried to move away.

He just grinned as he went to wash her shoulders and arms. Leaning forward, he paid a lavish and lengthy attention to her twin peaks which had Maya squirming. He lowered the flannel to her abdominal area and then went further to wash off the dried blood on her thighs which made Maya sit very still.

Maya…”

Hmmmnnn?”

How come I was your first?” he asked in a husky tone.

The ensuing silence was only disturbed by the gentle lap of water against their bodies.

Maya?”

Ahhh….eh…w-wala naman kasi akong naging boyfriend bukod sayo,” she explained hesitantly.

Elation surged in him as he confirmed that he was her first boyfriend as well. This could mean that she never felt any strong emotion towards any other man except him. He vowed he would be the last man in her life as well.

Pero bakit nga?” Richard persisted. “I mean, I am sure you had suitors and that you have dated…”

That’s right,” Maya agreed quickly “ Pero hindi naman ibig sabihin na nakipag-date ako sa guy na magiging boyfriend ko na siya. Hindi rin ibig sabihin na nakipagdate ako sa guy na maika-kama na niya ‘ko!”

Without meaning to, he was upsetting Maya whose head was bent. Tendrils have escaped her hastily chignoned hair and they were getting wet.

Look, I am sorry. I did not mean to question your morals. I would be the last person to do that given my very chequered past. What I have been wanting to ask was and have been botching so far—”

Maya turned her head and looked directly at him with her wary doe-eyes that he lost his train of thoughts for a few seconds.

Did you not feel strong attraction to the guys you have dated?”

Maya looked away, frowning slightly in silent contemplation.

I was attracted enough to date them…but I don’t know…” Maya replied almost lost in her own thoughts “something was preventing me to go into a relationship. And I have been baffled at how I felt for years. I have often asked myself why I never could take the next step. Then a few weeks ago, my question was finally answered…”

…I was still in love with you.” Maya turned her head to look seriously at him.

How long have you known?” he asked quietly.

Maya smiled sweetly. “Tulad ng sabi ko, matagal na.”

Since when?” Richard insisted when Maya looked away.

If you must know, I have always felt something for you. It was weird coz I really disliked you when I was a kid coz you teased me a lot.”

Richard grinned at her as he resumed washing her thighs.

You were such a cute smiley kid even without your front teeth, I could not resist making you pout. Ang haba kasi ng nguso mo kapag naka-irap.”

Ang sama mo! Iniiyakan ko na nga nung mawala yung front teeth ko tapos tawagin mo ba naman akong ‘Bungi’. Lakas mo kayang mang-asar!” Maya chided him “Anyway, I did not like you very much. Or so I thought. Then I finally realised that I feel strange whenever you are around.”

In what way strange?” Richard ‘s eyes were lifted in query.

It’s like having butterflies fluttering around in my stomach whenever you are near. Then I found myself missing you. Especially when you and Kuya graduated from your degree studies and you both became busy with your respective careers. I was twelve when it finally dawned on me that I have a crush on you. But you stayed away.” she finished accusingly.

But I still came back often.” Richard claimed defensively.

Only for short visits. You never stayed for the summer months anymore. So, I got even angrier at you. I know it was irrational and childish but I was angry at you.”

Kaya pala hindi ka ngumingiti sakin. Masayahin ka pero naka-irap ka pag ako na ang kaharap mo.”

Naging protective mechanism ko yata yung magalit para hindi mo mahalata na may crush ako sayo,” Maya explained with a giggle.

Hmmm…ang akala ko naman, ayaw mo talaga sakin.” Richard murmured against her nape. “Yet when I kissed you that night on the beach, I knew you were not kissing me back but I felt your response. I thought I imagined it coz afterwards your eyes were hating my guts. Then you ran from me crying.”

Kasi naman first kiss ko yun. It was so momentous for me. Then you said that it was just a demonstration of ‘the possible dangers’ that can happen to me.” Maya pouted.

And I still stand by that. You should not walk on the beach or anywhere else for that matter in the middle of the night, most especially when you are alone.” Richard declared and then sighed. “That night I told myself that I needed to stay away because I knew I will not be able to keep my distance if I keep on staying under your parents’ roof.”

Funny, that was also the night I realised that I was in love with you.” Maya smiled sweetly at him as she turned to to kneel facing him to drape her arms around his neck. “Although later, I tried to convince myself that I was over you. I was merely deluding myself all these years. Because I am still crazy about you.”

Richard welcomed and deepened the kiss that Maya gave him after her confession. His arms went round her, exulting in being able to see and hold her most intimately. However, he can also feel his control slipping fast.

Maya, we need to stop…” was his breathless warning when he broke off the kiss “unless, you want to make love again.”

Maya looked dreamily at him before a look of horror replaced her expression “Goodness, your shoulders are bleeding!”

Richard frowned and looked at his left and right shoulders where crescent-shaped marks were bleeding again. The high temperature of the steamy water must have loosened off the scabbed platelet plugs.

His grinned lop-sidedly as he informed her “You made those cuts last night, sweetheart.”

Maya was even more horrified as recognition entered her eyes. “Naku, sorry hindi ko sinasadya.”

Don’t worry about it, Maya. I did not even feel it…” he paused as his eyes gleamed “…coz we were making love at the time.”

His admission brought on another wave of colour to creep up Maya’s cheeks. He frowned when Maya shivered. “Are you getting cold?”

At her nod, he adjusted the thermostat to a higher setting and then turned on the jacuzzi. With eyes closed, Richard was just quite content on holding Maya as they allowed hydrotherapy to soothe their muscles.

Afterwards, he went into his closet to put on a singlet and cotton printed shorts. He picked up another pair of shorts and a T-shirt which Maya could wear but when he rejoined her in the bedroom, she was already wearing his pale pink long sleeved polo shirt which he had shed the night before. With the shirt tail reaching down her mid-thigh, she looked very sexy.

Don’t you want some fresh clothes on?”

Maya smilingly shook her head. “Mas gusto kong i-suot ito. Kung okey lang sayo?”

Why should I mind if you go walking around the house half-naked with just my shirt?” he teased “but just to be on the safe side, I think it’s best we stay mainly in the master suite. I don’t want Tata Igme getting over-excited and suffering a heart attack if he sees you in that get-up.”

Maya giggled. “Jealous, Richard?”

Most definitely jealous, Maya. I don’t want any other male seeing what should be for my eyes only.” Richard said mockingly but with a very serious undertone as he closed the gap between them and kissed her nose. “Now what do you want to do?”

Hmmmmmnnn” Maya looked around the bedroom and stated “I want to look at curtain designs.”

Richard’s brows lifted again.

The house needs curtains. I can check some websites to see the current trends for window furnishings.”

Okey, I will set up the laptops in the sitting room. I will also have to check my emails for anything that urgently needs my attention.”

Richard had actually turned off his phone since yesterday afternoon for he wanted this special time with Maya to be uninterrupted. He had only turned it on for an hour to talk to Lisa to organise a special delivery for him. Afterwhich, he spoke lengthily to his parents to inform them of his marriage plans and to solicit their support. His father was relieved to hear that he was finally settling down while his mother was ecstatic and already requesting grandchildren right away.

Children.

The idea of precocious little versions of Maya running around barefoot was making him grin from ear to ear. Ideally, he would love three or four kids. Of course, this would also depend on Maya. But hopefully not quite yet. He preferred to have Maya all to himself for the first two or three years before bringing in kids to the equation.

Some things just happen, Richard. Especially, how you lost control last night. Maya could already be pregnant.

That thought nagged him as they both worked in companionable silence with a laptop each until Maya got up stating she was tired and getting back to bed. Richard noticed Maya walking slowly and wincing with every step. He frowned at her retreating back, wanting to scold her for suffering in silence. Richard got up and went to the kitchen. He took and opened a small packet of Oreo biscuits and a milky Milo drink which he made Maya consume to line her stomach before giving her Ibuprofen tablets.

Why did you not tell me you were still sore?” Richard reprimanded her as he joined her in bed to hold her in his arms.

Okey naman ako kanina after the spa bath, eh. Ang kaso bumibigat yung pakiramdam ko. Para akong may sinat. Magkaka-flu yata ako.” Maya revealed.

Oh, Maya, you are so good for my ego! I usually get fantastic reviews for my bedroom performance.” Richard chuckled “But definitely not with you coz I actually made you sick. Priceless!”

Maya stuck out her tongue at him which made Richard laugh even harder. He gave her a squeeze and another peck on the nose. He was in bed again with Maya and was thoroughly enjoying this lazy day.

Later that evening, he stood up when he heard the familiar sound of the whirring blades of his helicopter hovering abovehead. Despite getting up from the bed carefully, Maya stirred and asked him where he was going.

I am just going outside for a few minutes. Stay here please.” He kissed her on the lips before he went outside to his expansive front lawn to wait for a very special delivery.

Lisa jumped out of the chopper, followed by a couple of burly men carrying a myriad of items. With his face split with a wide grin, Richard came forward to greet Lisa and her companions.

Thank you, Lisa, for doing this for me.” Richard expressed his gratitude as Lisa handed him a small package. He took the square box out of the bag and opened it. Smiling broadly, he inspected the exquisitely-made engagement ring for the first time. Though he never designed any jewellery before, he found himself drawing Maya’s engagement ring one night when he got inspired by Señor DE La Rosa’s wood carvings.

Naku, sir. It is a privilege to be able to assist you on this very special occasion. I have the the dress you ordered. I think I have the right size.” Lisa looked around then asked “Sir, saan po kami magse-set up?”

Richard snapped the box shut and smiled at Lisa. “We have to go to the beachfront. Please follow me.”

An hour almost passed when Richard returned to the master’s bedroom. He went to lie beside Maya to wake her up with kisses. She merely groaned and shifted away. He snuggled behind her again and started kissing her neck.

Nangingiliti ka naman, eh…” Maya moaned sleepily.

Wake up sleepy head. We’re going out,” he announced as he straightened by the side of the bed.

Saan tayo pupunta?” Maya finally opened her eyes and stretched on the bed, unknowingly enticing Richard who could only look on as the movement further exposed her shapely legs. He watched as she got up and smiled at him before giving him a hug and resting her head on his chest.

It’s a surprise.” Richard replied as he enfolded her in his arms. “Got a dress for you.”

Saan?” Maya lifted her head from him.

Richard nodded his head towards the direction of the turquoise printed maxi dress which he had laid out over the gallinera’s backrest. He had placed a canvass slingback sandal of the same shade by the chair’s feet.

Maya got up and measured the dress against her length. “Thank you for the surprise.”

Closing the gap between them, Richard held her round the waist and said “That wasn’t my surprise.”

Huh?” Maya frowned.

Richard shook his head. “Change into that so we can get out of the house.”

Maya grinned up at him and complied. Richard was buttoning up his short sleeved polo shirt when Maya approached to fix his collar.

Thanks, sweetheart,” he murmured before bestowing a quick kiss on her lips.

Richard then took her right hand in his left and guided her towards the main door to the cobbled path leading to the beach. Leisurely, they walked hand in hand under the star spangled night. A sweet fragrance was wafting from the clumps of jasmine bushes among the rocks.

They came upon a laid-out tartan blue picnic rug in front of a bonfire. There was a picnic basket and a bucket of ice with a bottle of Moet and Chandon champagne, a couple of wine flutes and a few large square cushions.

Do you remember this spot?” Richard asked.

Maya frowned and looked around. They were on the stretch of beach between the Spanish villa and her parent’s house. No one was about except the two of them.

It was a night like this when I kissed you eight years ago right on this spot.” Richard looked down at her.

Dito ba yun?”

Richard nodded wordlessly.

Maya looked at the spot with new eyes and caught the reflection of fire against a very smooth rounded surface that was on top of the wicker basket’s lid. Maya slowly approached it with Richard right behind her.

It’s a compass,” Maya exclaimed as she picked it up, to touch the smooth glass face.

Yes, it’s an antique brass compass on its top cover, and when you open the flap, it’s a pocket watch. It was one of Señor La Rosa’s treasures that I found with the statue. I think it was appropriate to bring it out for the occasion.”

Maya looked at him questioningly.

A compass guides voyagers because of its attraction to the magnetic north which is marked abovehead by Polaris. Both have guided Señor La Rosa in his journey from his land of birth from the far side of the globe to this particular island, to follow the woman he loves, and to ultimately make this place their home.”

Richard saw Maya’s eyes searching his and he smiled as he brought out the small square box out of his beige slack’s right pocket.

I am making the villa a very comfortable house but I need ‘you’ to make it a home. You already know of my desire to make you my wife. I would like to know if this is also what you want.” Richard paused to go down on one knee in front of Maya as he opened the box. “I am asking you to marry me, Maya.”

Oh, Richard…” Maya’s smiling eyes glistened with tears that gathered and was threatening to fall.

Make me the happiest man on earth, Maya. Say yes, sweetheart.” Richard prompted huskily.

Yes…yes!” Maya’s tears fell down her cheeks as she looked at the beautiful ring inside the box.

Richard pulled a sigh of relief, unaware that he was holding his breath the entire time. He got up and took the ring out of its cushion bed, placed it on Maya’s ring finger and kissed her knuckles. Then he wiped the tears off her cheeks with the pads of his fingers afterwhich he kissed her with a soul-searing kiss that conveyed all the emotion that he was feeling. They were both breathless when the liplock ended, with Maya resting her cheek against him. Richard held her around the waist, savouring the wonderful milestone in their relationship.

Under the stars, Richard and Maya celebrated their engagement with champagne. The picnic basket contained a square platter of clubhouse-style sandwiches, fruits and a variety of cheeses which became their supper. He hand-fed the sliced fruits to her while Maya kept on popping different cheeses into his mouth.

When they got back to the house, Maya sat on the four-poster bed as she scrutinised her ring under the bedside lamp. It was the intertwined rose design that pervaded the villa. The only addition was that a one-carat brilliant-cut  diamond was sitting on the fully bloomed rose and was with its accompanying rose bud with leaves attached to intertwined stems that formed the circle of the ring which had intricate tiny little nodules. It was made of precious platinum metal.

Do you like it?” Richard asked as he sat beside her on the four-poster bed.

Like it? I love it!” Maya’s arms went round his nape and kissed him again “who designed this?”

Señor La Rosa did,” Richard quipped “well, I merely applied his intertwined roses design into a ring.”

It’s so beautiful” Maya said in awe “how did you know my ring size?”

Richard smiled “I took Nanay’s ring finger size. Sabi niya pareho kayo ng mga daliri.”

Alam ni Nanay na magpo-propose ka sakin?” Maya’s head was angled at him in query.

Maya, I asked Tatay and Nanay’s permission to court you.”

Maya smiled at him, touched at his gesture of sincerity. Richard touched his forehead against hers.

I love you, Maya.”

I love you, too.” Maya angled her face and kissed him deeply as she removed his specs to put it on the bedside table. Richard revelled in this less inhibited Maya who instigates kisses. However, he was a bit worried when Maya started to remove his shirt and started to rain kisses down the column of his throat.

Ahhhmm, Maya?”

Hmmmmm?” she murmured as she punctuated his Adam’s apple with a moist kiss that had him grunting.

Aren’t you sore?”

I’m fine. I want to make love to you again” she admitted huskily.

Believe me, I want to make love to you over and over and over again.” he said with feeling  “But you were very sore earlier…”

Do I need to seduce you, Richard?” Maya asked in a sultry tone.

Sweetheart, you can effortlessly seduce me with just a look.” Richard smiled wolfishly.

Is that what happened yesterday?”

Uhhhmmmm.” Richard nodded with a grin.

Then I should be able to repeat the feat.” Maya declared as she proceeded to divest him of his polo shirt.

Richard’s tachycardiac heart rate went even higher as Maya’s fingers touched the skin that she has been exposing. She would nuzzle or kiss him. When she reached his pects, she bent her head to lave his nipple that made him gasp. Her head went further down to his flat abdomen to the waistband of his pants. This time she was able to manage his pants’ clasp and zip. Richard lifted his bottom to ease off his beige slacks as she watched Maya stand up to undress until she was just in her lacy bra and undies. Richard felt Maya pushing him down the bed and he very willingly complied.

Maya’s hands hesitated for a long time over his boxer-briefs so he took pity on her and peeled it off himself.

Maya’s fascination was very evident to Richard who was just waiting with bated breath for her next move. Then, as if in a trance, Maya’s fingers lightly went over his groin to the tuft of hair trailing a path to his hard shaft that seemed to grow harder with her caress. Richard closed his eyes as spine-tingling sensation shoot through him with her tactile caresses. Her feather-light fingers traced the ridges formed by a blood vessel network until she reached the rounded head where a clear drop of precome was glistening.

Richard gasped as incredible pleasure shot through his spine as he felt a very moist lightly abrasive warmth brushing over his tip. Dazedly, Richard opened his eyes and visually registered Maya’s head by his groin. And because he could not handle the extreme sensation, he pulled Maya who toppled over his chest.

Ayaw mo ba nung ginawa ko?” Maya asked anxiously as she propped herself up to look down at him.

On the contrary, sweetheart, I liked it just a bit way too much.” Richard muttered as he deftly took off her bra to free her perky breasts. He gently flipped her over so that he can access all her erogenous zones from her neck as he performed his meticulous downward kiss trail once more until he was ‘feasting’ on her once again. His lingual onslaught brought her to dizzying heights until Maya shuddered, reaching the peak of sexual ecstasy.

However, Richard heard her gasp of pain once more when he started to enter her. He retreated and moved over to sit with his back resting at the centre headboard of the four-poster bed. He pulled Maya so that he could hold her against his chest as he tried to get his libido under control.

Richard, ayaw mo na ba?”

I do but you are still in pain,” Richard said simply, his breathing still very uneven.

Hindi ba masakit sa puson yan?” Maya asked indicating his state of arousal as she knelt by his side to look at him worriedly.

Uhmmmmm,” Richard nodded “well, we can try something else…”

What?”

You can make love to me,” Richard suggested.

How?” Maya looked at him blankly.

Come on top of me sweetheart. This way you can control the movements and the pain.”

Richard patiently guided her as he instructed her to kneel astride him. With her hands gripping his forearms, Maya lowered herself as he guided his erect shaft into her feminine core. Richard gritted his teeth, almost delirious with pleasure at how hot and tight she was.

Maya was groaning in pain as she stilled after impaling herself on top of him. Richard kissed her while running his hands all over her flushed smooth length. He bent his head to suckle her pinkish peaks which had Maya panting. Then Maya started moving slowly, jerkily at first until Richard held her by the waist and guided her pace until she was moving rhythmically.

Maya had such a serious expression on her face as she concentrated on her sensual task that Richard could not resist kissing her torridly before paying attention to her twin peaked globes once more.

Richard, I can’t do this if you keep on kissing me there.” Maya complained raggedly.

Then, I will help you sweetheart.” Richard moved his pelvis upwards meeting Maya’s movements halfway.

Ohhhhh…” Maya moaned.

Are you still in pain?” Richard searched her features as he halted his upward thrusts.

Maya shook her head, her shoulder length tresses brushing against his face. “Not too much. It also feels so good.”

Richard could feel the tension from his groin rising as Maya moaned in pleasure as she moved. Then Maya was gripping his shoulders once more as she threw back her head to expose the swan-like column of her neck which was begging for his lip caress.

Richaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrd!!!!” screamed Maya as she reached her first sexual peak with him inside her.

In turn, Richard felt his shaft being gripped by her inner muscles in another mind-blowing climax that had him shuddering helplessly underneath her.

Richard embraced Maya as she collapsed on top of him in exhaustion. He loved the feel of her length on top of him as he continued to hold her. Before he closed his eyes, he pulled the bedclothes over them. The temperature lowers significantly in the very early hours of the morning and he did not want Maya getting cold.

I love you, Maya. You are my reason for living.” he whispered into her hair as he kissed her temple.

That night he dreamt of being present when the Spanish villa was being built. There were numerous skilled workers at the building site and he was supervising them. The walls were all up and the tile roofing was almost completed. From the corner of his eye, he saw a woman with long straight hair reaching past her waist. Traditionally attired, she was wearing a soft sleeved kimona with a very long striped skirt that covered her up to the soles of her feet. She was walking by the beach towards him when she paused to dip her bare feet into the water.

Then all of a sudden, it was evening and he was alone on the beach. He was looking at his brass pocket watch which indicated seven o’clock. He snapped it shut and returned it to his right pocket. The dark evening sky was well-lit with countless of stars. He could see Polaris shining brightly on the horizon. His gaze lowered as he saw a figure slowly rising from the water directly in front of him. Then, he was once more seeing Maya naked walking up the beach. Yet, she looked very different, with her hair centrally-parted and falling much longer at waist length. He saw her flicking her wet tresses with her right hand while her left hand hovered protectively over her softly rounded stomach. Then she looked up and smiled shyly at him as he held out a large towel which she ran into. He enfolded her in his embrace with his right hand covering her rounded stomach and murmured against her side temple “Mis razones de vivir”.

Mis razones de vivir.

My reasons for living.

Richard’s eyes opened after he said the words. Maya has since shifted and was now tucked by his left side. He slowly went to his side that caused Maya to lie on her back. Richard lightly kissed her on the lips. His gaze warmly caressed her, from her beautiful facial features to her neck, to her breasts until his eyes froze on her stomach that was a bit sunken when she lies on her back. It was too soon to tell, he thought. His gaze lowered to her hair-covered mound and her shapely legs.

Richard could feel himself getting aroused again. Actually, he has been aroused almost 24/7 since they arrived back in San Nicholas. He took another look at her length and then sighed before gently extricating his left arm underneath her head. He got up and padded to his walk-in wardrobe. He came out wearing a pair of cotton shorts sans shirt. His feet took him to the alcove in front of Señora La Rosa.

I believe you just visited me in my dream, he silently told her before his gaze lowered to the base of the statue. He read the engraving by her feet.

Mi razon de vivir.

Under the halogen lighting, more faint indentions after the first and second word were more visible to Richard. He went out of the alcove and went outside to the shelves beneath the carport to pick up different solutions, a small set of sculpting tools and rags. He returned to the alcove and knelt in front of the statue to rub out the varnish seal over the inscriptions. He carefully sprayed WD-40 to loosen the couple of century grime and left it for a few minutes to soak. Then, he picked up an Eckman plastic tool with a small rounded tip and started to slowly scrape off the dirt deposit to expose the remaining letters of the inscriptions.

Richard had been slowly scraping for almost an hour when Maya joined him in the alcove. Garbed in his cotton waffle robe, she padded to where he was crouching and hugged him from behind. He received a smack on his right cheek.

Anong ginagawa mo dito ng madaling araw?” Maya asked sleepily.

Just completing a task I started years ago,” he quipped “Are you able to read that?”

Maya peered over his shoulder and slowly read the inscription aloud “Mis razones de vivir

Richard got up and took off the statues tapis and then placed his arms round Maya’s waist as he said “Tell me, why do you think her left hand hovers over her stomach?”

Maya frowned and looked at how the statue’s left hand protectively spans over her stomach. Her eyes went down to read the inscription again. “Mis razones de vivir.”

My reasons for living,” Richard translated.

He knew she was pregnant when he started sculpting her!” Maya stated in wonder.

Richard looked at the softly rounded lower abdomen of the statue and confirmed “She was probably in the first couple of month’s pregnancy. That’s why she was hardly showing.”

Masaya siya dahil magkaka-anak na sila,” Maya guessed “So he sculpted this to celebrate the occasion. The statue was a celebration for the new life they created.”

Tayo kaya?”

Huh?” Maya looked blankly up at him.

Why do you look so surprised? After what already happened between us,” he smiled down at her.

Maya looked worried all of a sudden.

Ayaw mo bang magka-anak tayo?”

Hindi naman sa ganun. Kaya lang, baka magalit sina Tatay.”

Don’t worry, we’ll get married right away. My parents are actually both coming home next week.” he informed her. “Pagdating nila, pwede na kaming mamanhikan.”

Talaga?”

Kaya nga mamaya iuuwi na kita para makausap ko na sila Tatay at Nanay.”

Haaaa? Iuuwi mo nako?” Maya sounded so disappointed.

I don’t want to but I have to bring you home later.”

Richard noted her pouting full lips and he just had to kiss her again. It was a kiss that turned passionate that left them breathless when Richard lifted his lips from her a fraction, seeing mirroring passion in her eyes.

But we can go later…?”

Yes,” Maya agreed huskily “much, much later.”

It was already way past sundown when Richard and Maya finally emerged from the villa. He gave her a quick lipsmack as he reached for the safety belt to pull it across Maya to click it in place. Richard’s brows lifted when he glimpsed Maya’s cleavage shown by the dress’ neckline that was too plunging for Richard’s peace of mind.

Bakit?” Maya asked when Richard continued to look at her chest.

I don’t remember this dress as being this revealing,” Richard complained.

It was the same sleeveless avocado green sundress with wheat-print at the hem. Maya had laundered and drip-dried the dress in the alcove. It looked shapeless on the hanger but it looked very sexy on Maya.

Hindi ko kasi makita kung saan mo hinagis yung singlet ko, eh!” Maya giggled. “Medyo sexy talaga itong dress na ‘to. Ayaw mo ba?”

Ayaw,” Richard quickly quipped “Ayaw na kitang iuwi sa inyo. Mag-tanan na lang kaya tayo?”

Maya giggled anew.

Naku, magagalit si Tatay niyan. Saka si Mamang, magtatampo yun sayo! Nag-promise ka na magga-gown siya sa kasal natin. Sige ka!” Maya warned.

Oo nga pala ‘no?” Richard pursed his lips before he straightened in his seat to start the Land Cruiser’s engine.

When they reached the Dela Rosa residence, no one was about for the Souvenir Shop has been closed for several hours. Richard and Maya walked hand in hand from the vehicle to the house. But before they went upstairs, Richard stopped and faced Maya.

I just want to kiss you one more time before we face the music.” Richard muttered before his lips captured hers in another passionate clinch. With Maya enfolded in his arms, Richard’s senses leapt as he felt the curvy softness of her length. He was wishing he delayed bringing Maya home for a few more days.

Richard’s attention was so wrapped up with the woman in his arms that he ignored the slamming of car doors and the approaching footsteps. The next thing, he was being violently pulled from Maya by the shoulder and receiving a punch by his right jaw that had him staggering back.

Kuyaaaaaa, huwaaaaag!” Maya screamed as his vision blurred for he lost his specs.

to be continued…

Long-held Torch – Part 12

Author’s Note:  Once again, I extend my thanks to my critical reviewers Ms Alpha Grace and Ms Chuchy.  And to my avid readers, thank you for bearing with me.  I still do not have my own laptop for my exclusive use so please expect delays for the next chapter as well. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this one :D :D :D

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Maya’s legs were aching after pounding the treadmill for almost two hours.  She was so distracted with yesterday’s events that she did not realise that she had been in the condominium’s ground floor gym longer than she intended.  Moreover, she feels tired after having a fitful sleep wherein she had another erotic dream with a particular chinito.  She had woken up sweaty and breathless and had been unable to get back to sleep as she recalled her dream and then the events of the last twenty-four hours.

Yesterday was a veritable emotional roller coaster ride. One minute she was still coming to terms with how fast their relationship progressed and then she felt fearful for Richard’s constant air travel. This subsided as she permitted herself to feel hope that they can be happy together before experiencing the excruciating pain of seeing him with another woman.  That tableau made her so furious that she wanted to lash out at Richard.  Yet somehow, she ended up on the chaise with him making love to her instead.  Even just the memory of it was so sizzlingly  sensual that Maya could only wonder at the liberties she had been allowing Richard over her body.

Allow.

That was a laughable term in her case.  She has been in no frame of mind to ‘allow’ for anything for she could not even think each time he kissed and caressed her.   Put simply, she loses control whenever he’s around.  It was like an addiction that gets momentarily satiated each time Richard makes love to her, only to hunger for more, later.  And to her shame, she was addicted to Richard’s brand of pleasure.

Maya visibly shuddered as her nerve endings tingled at the memory of him ‘tasting’ her. While she may have first encountered the term cunnilingus in psychology class as a teen, Maya was not prepared for its actuality. Richard had touched and kissed her most intimately that he saw everything there is to see!

Wala ka nang maipagmamalaki, Maya! Nakita na niya pati  kaluluwa mo!

Maya groaned in self-disgust.  It was only through sheer bravado that got her through yesterday without dying of embarrassment. And, Maya surmised, Manang Fe had also helped neutralise the volatile situation as she kept a light conversation going along. Richard brought her home to her flat very late and tried to talk to her again en route.  Maya obstinately kept her mouth shut and would have gone into her flat without hardly talking to him  but Richard had other ideas.

“Fine, don’t talk. There’s a better way to communicate anyway,” he had declared bitingly as he pulled her back into his arms before he lowered his head to kiss her senseless for a very long time.  He had torridly kissed her in a way that was so arousing that they were both breathless when their lips finally parted. Mercifully, he had let her go last night.

Maya wiped the sweat at her brow as she went back up to her condo unit.  The front door was slightly ajar allowing light to stream through the gap.  And she could hear Emman giggling.

Who could be visiting him at barely 7 am? She silently questioned.

“Kahit nuon pa madaldal na talaga yang kaibigan mo. Parang radio,” informed the familiar voice of the man who had turned Maya’s world topsy-turvy.

“Ay trulalu ka diyan. Never-ending talaga and kwento ni Mayabels, basta nasa mood!”  Emman giggled again.

As the old adage goes, eavesdroppers never hear anything good about themselves.  It would seem that the two were having a laugh at her expense. She paused by the door, curious as to what else they were talking about.

“So, tell me Emman. Who else comes over? ” Richard asked casually, too casually for Maya’s liking.

“Marami, Kuya Richard,” replied her gay friend “yung mga FA’s na ka-close namin ni Maya, nagpupunta dito.  Family ko.  Family ni Maya. Si Kuya Ryan madalas na nagda-drop-by  para  i-check  si  bunso.”

“How about male friends? Do they stay here as well?”

“Naku, pareho kaming dalagang Filipina ni Mayabels, Kuya Richard. Bawal ang mga boylet na mag-stay dito! Otherwise,  majo-jombag ako ni Kuya Ryan.” giggled Emman again.

“So, walang dumadalaw kay Maya dito sa condo?  No boyfriend, no suitors?”  Richard probed again.

“Meron dating dumadalaw para manligaw pero binabasted kaagad ni Mayabels sa first appearance pa lang!    Meron ding naging persistent  pero  nag-disappear din sa ending.  Kahit nga si Mike hindi na rin nag-o-overseas call.”

“Mike?”

“Yung suitor ni Maya na Fil-Am.  Ang cute nun!  Kamukha at kasing macho ni Channing Tatum!  Professional baseball player sa LA.  Nag-alok yun ng kasal kay Maya,” Emman giddily informed Richard.

“And?”

Was it Maya’s imagination or did Richard’s voice rose an octave higher with the one-word questioning statement?

“Sabi ni Mayabels, kapapanuod lang niya ng ‘The Vow’ at na-in-love siya sa character ni Channing Tatum sa movie kaya siya nakipag-date kay Mike.  Pero hindi raw niya mahal, eh!  Ang tagal ding tawag ng tawag nung pobre bago nagsawa.”

“How about James?”

“James?  You mean Captain James Ventura?”

“Hindi ba nadalaw dito?”

“Ang alam ko naihatid na nun minsan si Maya bago siya umalis papuntang States.  Matagal siya dun.  Pero Manila-based na yata siya ulit.  So, baka ituloy na niya yung naudlot niyang panliligaw kay Mayabels.” informed Emman.

Why is he asking about James?

Deciding to break up the conversation, Maya  opened the door to show herself to the two. Richard was ensconced on the long sofa while Emman, who was already garbed in his FA uniform, was seated on one of the dining chairs facing their visitor.

“Good morning,” Richard got up and greeted her with a deep lingering kiss.

Startled at first, Maya was uncertain how to react to Richard’s PDA  before she became self-conscious about her sweaty state and quickly moved her head away from him, effectively cutting short the kiss that  would have gone on longer. From her peripheral vision, Maya saw her friend’s eyes bulge and jaw drop in surprise.

“Thank you,” mumbled Maya as Richard handed her a medium-sized mochaccino in a corrugated paper cup and a huge bunch of deep red roses that were just starting to bloom. She eyed that Emman and Richard had a cup each before asking “Anong ginagawa mo dito ng ganito kaaga?”

“I am still on leave, remember? So, I thought we could spend the day together,” he smiled down at her.

Maya needed to feel the strong negative emotion so that she can deny him but the fiery fury was gone.  Overnight, her rational mind had been slowly acknowledging that Richard’s simple explanation had the ring of truth in it.  It would be unseemly for Richard to indulge in another casual affair when he had requested Manang Fe to prepare for their lunchtime arrival.  Even a notorious womaniser like him will not be able to pull off dating two women at ‘exactly’ the same time. It was just not physically possible.  Besides, it was Catherine who had her arms around his neck while Richard was holding Catherine by her forearms as if he was keeping a distance between the two of them.

In comparison, Richard always held her by the waist or hips or even by the base of her spine to get closer to her.  All these rationale thinking were possible because Maya’s analytical brain was finally properly working.  It was severely malfunctioning yesterday due to jealousy.

There, she admitted it!  She was jealous!  Insanely so!

“Balak ko sana umuwi na ulit ng San Nicholas kung makakakuha ako ng seat.”  Maya evaded his question as she noted his casual black slacks and baby pink long-sleeved polo shirt.  A man who was confident with his sexuality would have no qualms wearing that long-considered feminine colour, she reckoned.

And there was definitely nothing feminine about Richard.

As an alpha male, he has been attracting females for many years and has acquired sexual expertise in the process.  Since he has decided that he wanted her, Maya is presently at the receiving end of all that expertise. With that evidence-based fact, Maya’s reverie started wandering to their latest physical encounter which made her go breathless again.

Kalma lang, Maya! Wala pang ginagawa si Singkit!

“Let me deal with transport. We can go home to San Nicholas later.”  Richard smiled lopsidedly down at her, his dimples showing.

Shaking herself out of the hypnotic trance, Maya quickly nodded and mumbled that she needed to shower and change before disappearing into her bedroom with the huge rose bunch.  She re-emerged wearing a sleeveless avocado green sundress with wheat-print at the hem and waist-sashed that was beribboned at the back.  Due to its very low front, Maya had to wear a beige singlet for modesty.

Richard was alone in the living area when she came out barefoot, carrying her dark beige wedged sandals.  “Asan na si Emman?”

“Umalis na nung dumating yung shuttle service ng TA.”

Maya was distractedly trying to recollect where she left her purse last night that she made the mistake of passing near the three-seater sofa where Richard was patiently seated yet alertly waiting…

…like a tiger lying in wait to pounce on his prey!

“Ayyyy!”  Maya felt herself firmly being tugged by her forearm that she lost her balance to end up on Richard’s lap.  Maya dropped her sandals, one ending up beside Richard on the sofa while the other fell on the floor by his leather loafer-shod feet.

“Got you where I want you,” Richard whispered against her neck which brought on goosepimples all over her upper arms.

“Richard—!”  Maya protested, as she tried to push at his shoulders to get up but Richard’s arms were firmly around her.

“I just want a kiss, Maya.”

“Nakahalik ka na kanina, diba?” she questioned with a raised left brow.

“That’s why I want ‘you’ to kiss me. And we won’t be going anywhere until you do.”

“Ano ‘to blackmail?” challenged Maya with her left brow a bit higher.

“Call it whatever you like. I just want a proper kiss.” Richard demanded with his lips puckering up in anticipation.

Maya couldn’t help but giggle at his pointed pecker.  She tried getting up but Richard’s arms merely tightened around her.  She pushed at his chest but she just found herself in much closer proximity to him that their breaths were intermingling.

“Okey, fine!”  Maya ungraciously relented and gave him a quick lip smack.

“You call that a kiss?”  Richard’s chinito eyes mocked her “I know you can do better than that, Maya.”

Maya pulled an exasperated sigh. She really did not want to kiss him for he may start getting amorous again. If she doesn’t acquiesce, she would be trapped longer and he may decide to make love to her anyway! Either way can lead to the same conclusion. And Maya knows she could not resist him. As it is, she feels so bothered and restless.  Part of her wantonly wanted him to pick up where they left off yesterday and really make love to her!

Would that be so bad?  A tiny voice asked.   Maya wants him.  Even before she fully realised it, she already wanted him when she was much younger.  In the intervening  years, she never really wanted anyone else.  And in so many ways, Richard has shown that he definitely wants her very much.

“Maya, I am waiting,” he prompted.

And he has been ‘waiting’ for a very long time for her, Maya acknowledged.  It was just a kiss anyway.

With her hands anchored at his shoulders, Maya closed the gap between them and tried to recall how Richard kissed her.  So, she started slowly brushing her lips against his lower lip until she was nibbling it.  Involuntarily, Maya closed her eyes as she felt pleasurable sensations emanate from where their skin touched.  When she transferred her attention to his upper lip, Maya gently sucked at it and let her tongue hesitantly venture out to lick him. Maya inwardly smiled as he tasted of mint and coffee.  And she liked his taste.  She became bolder as she softly sucked at his lower lips again before her tongue explored further.  Then she heard Richard groan, as if in pain.  Maya’s eyes flew open as she broke off from the kiss.

“What?  Mali ba ginagawa ko?”  She asked worriedly as Richard’s eyes were closed. “Richard?”

Then his lids opened a fraction. “Who the hell taught you how to kiss like that?”

Maya was so surprised with the question that she sat on his lap dumbstruck with her full lips slightly parted before she answered, “It was actually—”

“Nevermind!  I don’t want to know!” he  cut in harshly as his hand snaked out to hold her by the nape to kiss her deeply, thoroughly until all sense of time and space fled from her mind. The kiss went on and on until they were both breathless.

“I must be a masochist” Richard mumbled as he buried his head against her hair.  His arms were around her, his hands gripping her waist as he struggled for control.

Perversely, Maya wished he would lose control.   And then what?   And then he can…so that they can…then perhaps she will not be feeling so bothered and restless!

When Richard let her go, she slid off his lap to sit beside him.  A chunky item was underneath her thigh which turned out to be her sandal. She absently slipped it on before retrieving the matching pair from the floor.   For a few minutes, Richard sat quietly then sighed deeply before he slowly stood up.  Then, he extended his arm towards her and laid out his hand.

Maya smiled up at him and trustingly placed her hand in his. Maya did not even ask where he was taking her.  She just wants to be with him. It did not matter one iota where.

Richard was driving when his phone, which was in the middle tray by the BMW’s highly polished wooden dashboard, started ringing.  It activated the car’s Bluetooth so Maya read the caller’s identity.  The small screen was flashing ‘Mama’.

“Mother mo yata ang tumatawag. Bakit hindi mo sagutin?”

“Kagabi pa nga yan tawag ng tawag.” Richard was shaking his head.

“Eh, di lalo mong dapat sagutin. Baka emergency,” Maya chided him.

“If that was the case, she would have told Manang Fe,” disagreed Richard.

The phone started ringing again which prompted Maya to look pointedly at him.

“Fine,” he ungraciously complied before pressing the button to receive the call “Hello, Ma.”

“Ricky, have you been hiding from me?” complained a female voice that filled the confines of the BMW.

“Now, why would I do that, Ma?”  Richard responded with another question as he winked conspiratorially at Maya who shook her head in exasperation.

“Hindi mo sinasagot ang calls ko dahil alam mong alam ko na ang tungkol sa girlfriend mo!” the voice said triumphantly.

“I told you it won’t be an emergency,” Richard whispered as he looked at her sideways.

“What was that, son?”  the voice prompted.

“Nothing, Ma. I was talking to Maya”  Richard informed his mother.

“Oh, she’s there with you? Hello, Maya!  I am Ricky’s mother.”

“Hello po,” Maya answered uncertainly “kamusta po kayo?”

“I’m good, thanks. Ikaw, iha?  How are you and your family?”

“Okey naman po.”

“I have met your Kuya Ryan several times when we were still living there. And lately, when we stay for a few months in Manila, Roberto would always seek his legal advice on prospective property purchases. So, we know Ryan very well. He had also invited us to visit San Nicholas the last time we saw him but we had prior commitments here in Guangdong.”

“Ganun po ba,” Maya looked at Richard who was concentrating on his driving.

“We would have met sooner otherwise. But I would love to meet you when I come home next week—”

“Next week?” Richard interrupted, surprise in his voice.

“I want to meet your girlfriend,”   Richard’s mother retorted “I have been waiting for years for you to bring her home. Papalampasin ko pa ba naman ito?”

Maya wanted to interrupt the conversation to tell the truth but decided against it.  She does not have the energy to keep raising the ‘official relationship’ topic.  Despite their undefined relationship state, Maya cannot honestly claim that there was nothing between Richard and herself.  She just might choke with the lie.

“Is Papa coming home, too?” queried Richard.

“Possible.  I haven’t asked him yet if he will join me,”  replied his mother “Hmmmnnn, I think I better ask him what his plans are. Baka magtampo kung basta-basta akong uuwi. If he’s calendar is clear, he can come home with me.”

“It would be good if both of you will be able to come home,” encouraged Richard.

“And why is that?” his mother prompted him “No, don’t tell me!  Have you asked Maya to marry you? Mamamanhikan na ba kami?”

“Well—” Richard looked sideways at Maya uncertainly.

“My gosh, you don’t waste any time! Manang-mana ka sa Papa mo!”  then the voice was laughing heartily.

“Excuse me po,” Maya finally chimed in the conversation between mother and son “Masyado pa pong maaga para pag-usapan ang kasal.  Hindi ko nga po alam kung kaya ng anak ninyo ang mag-commit sa isang babae lang, eh.”

“But Fe said—?”

“Ma, under negotiations pa ang lahat,” Richard humourously interjected “I am still trying to convince her that I can be faithful to her. She got mad and broke up with me.”

“Whaaat? Break-up na kaagad?  Kagabi ko lang nalaman ang tungkol kay Maya. Tapos wala na kayo?”  uttered his mother in a rather shrill voice.

“Sobrang babaero po kasi nitong anak ninyo.  Kahapon lang nahuli kong may kayakap na sexy,”  Maya quickly divulged.

“Kwento nga ni Fe nag-aaway kayo kahapon,” Richard’s mother stated less agitatedly after a deep sigh. Then she peremptorily instructed “Ricky, explain yourself.”

“Ma, I was not doing anything.  As vain as I may sound, that woman was the one coming on to me,” Richard complained.

“Vain nga talaga,” Maya agreed in an undertone which earned a chiding look from Richard.

“Yun naman pala, eh”  Richard’s mother readily accepted his explanation “Maya, I know my son. He can be the most impossible, demanding, impatient—”

“Ma, you’re not helping—” Richard grumbled.

“—temperamental, domineering, vain…” Maya added, ignoring Richard.

“Yes, he can be those, too” his mother laughingly agreed, likewise disregarding Richard’s protest “But, Maya, I know my son. For all his faults, he is not a liar.”

Silence.

“Maya?”

“Ano po yun?

“Just satisfy my curiosity, iha.  Has Ricky told you that he loves you?”

“Po?”  Maya was taken aback with the very straightforward question.

“I have, Ma,” Richard directly answered his mother as he reached for Maya’s left hand to kiss her knuckles    “several times, in fact.”

“Maya, Ricky is so much like his father.  His father was also a womaniser when he was a bachelor, but he settled down when we got engaged and then eventually married.  He has always been a devoted husband and father,”  the elder lady informed Maya  “Our marriage had its ups and downs but fidelity was never an issue. And I believe, my son will be the same.”

“Mrs. Lim—”

“Call me  Tita Esme or Mama, if you like,” his mother urged with a little chuckle.  “Take it from me, Maya.  Ricky  is behaving very odd with you…”

“Thanks, Ma! Now, she will think I am a weirdo” Richard protested laughingly.

“Oh, Ricky,” his mother scolded him “I  am just trying to help you patch things up with Maya!”

“It’s okey,” Richard laughed harder “I can take it from here. Sige na, Ma. I will call you later.”

“Ooops, istorbo ba ‘ko?  Sorry, son.” Richard’s mother apologised with another little chuckle “Nice talking to you, Maya. We’ll catch up again next week when I arrive, okey?”

“Sige po.”  Maya murmured.

When his mother rang off, Richard smiled sheepishly at Maya.  “Pasensiya ka na kay Mama.”

“Don’t apologise for her. I thought she was so sweet in defending you,” Maya smilingly countered.

“Did she win my case?”  Richard looked sideways at her, his expression half-serious.

Maya compressed her lips to hide her grin which was probably betrayed by her doe-shaped eyes. “On probation ka na lang. Medyo bigatin yung abogado mo, eh!”

“I love you, Maya.” Richard laughed and kissed her knuckles again. Then, he looked expectantly at her for a moment before returning his attention to the road.

Much as she wanted to express herself, Maya could not say the words yet.  She cannot say them aloud for they signify total commitment for her.

And total surrender.  Does she have the courage to surrender everything?

The disturbing thoughts were riotously running in her head as Richard brought her to a pancake parlour. They had a leisurely breakfast wherein she watched him devour a stack of four buttermilk pancakes with mixed berries, whipped cream and syrup.  Men’s appetites were really different, she mused   while having a couple of buttered blueberry pancakes herself.  Richard murmured that it was a good thing they will be able to walk-off the calorie-laden food at their destination.

When they arrived at Tiendesita’s, they walked through the pavilions hand in hand.  The place was teeming with Filipiniana interior decorative items and household furnishings.  They spent the morning browsing through the stalls discussing ideas for the villa, stopping to have lunch onsite only to go back window shopping.  It was then that Maya spied a very large handcarved oval mirror with rose design hanging against a myriad of other bric-a- brac.   Richard had actually gone a few metres ahead when he realised that Maya was falling behind and backtracked where she was standing scrutinising the mirror.

“Do you like this?” Richard asked.

“This would look great for your front foyer against that bare wall,” Maya nodded as she noticed that the mirror has a pair of narrow tower shelves that was designed to go on either side of the mirror. All three had handcarved rose detailing.

“I think you’re right,” he agreed  and called the attention of the salesperson. When Maya saw that Richard was just going to purchase the item without flicking an eyelid, she hastily intervened and haggled for a much lower purchase price.

When the salesperson left, Maya was shaking her head at him in exasperation. “Hindi ka ba marunong tumawad?”

“Apparently not, hmmmnn? It’s a good thing then that you are with me,”  he smiled down at her and Maya felt herself going warm under his admiring regard.

“It would be nice to see how it looks on your wall,”  she mumbled as she watched the mirror being wrapped in corrugated cardboard.

“Then, let’s take it with us and hang it in the villa,” he suggested.

“Ngayon na? As in agad-agad?” Maya asked and Richard grinned.

Maya noted that she needed to be careful what she say around Richard, for they were San Nicholas bound within the hour in his chopper with the huge heavy mirror sans the matching  narrow tower shelves.  When they arrived, Richard opened up the house with his own set of keys.  He carried the huge mirror himself and positioned it by the front foyer.  Richard had disappeared to come back with power tools to drill a hole for a large metal C-hook.  When hanged, the dark stained, woodcarved frame of the oval mirror beautifully contrasted against the off-white wall of the foyer.

Maya was directly in front of the mirror admiring its detailing when Richard came behind her to put his arms around her waist.  Looking at their reflection in the mirror, Maya could almost imagine their image as a still portrait.  Maya wondered if he thought the same.

“The kitchen’s finished,” he murmured against her ear before giving her a peck on the cheek.

“Talaga?”

Richard nodded and took her left hand in his right and led her through the house to go into the kitchen where a new mahogany benchtop was gleaming as the last rays of the setting sun touched its surface.  All the cabinet doors and drawer facade were all installed and were accented with the intertwined rose design.  There was also a distressed-look, very thick, rectangular slab work table that had shelves and wicker drawers underneath.  But what amazed Maya was the new huge indoor space attached around the kitchen.

“Do you like it?” he asked as Maya eyed the row of skylight windows of the latest structural addition to the villa.

“It’s huge.   Is this going to be the family room?”  Maya  walked  to the middle of the space.

Richard noddingly followed and looked directly into her eyes.  “I plan to put a huge screen TV and a billiard table in here so we can entertain both our family and friends here less formally.”

“We?”  Maya  blinked.

“Of course,” Richard  replied matter-of-factly.

Maya was still as she remembered a question that fleetingly entered her head when he started courting her.

“Richard,” Maya asked as she looked directly at his face, “why did you buy this villa?”   .

Richard’s face turned serious, one brow lifted in query.  “Haven’t you learnt the reason by now?”

“I can hazard a guess, but I would like to hear it from you,” Maya pulled a deep breath.

“I know how you love this villa,” Richard gathered her hands in his as he softly continued “so I bought this for you, for us, hoping we can start our life together here.”

Richard’s  simple yet very honest answer took her breath away.  He  risked a small fortune when he bought the estate and renovated the villa.  He also spent a long time restoring the statue for the simple reason that it looked like her.  He also delegated a lot of his work, and essentially risked his corporation by taking a lot of leave so he can be here in San Nicholas to be with her.

Maya asked herself if she can take similar risks for Richard.   If she was not willing, then she and Richard will have to part ways.  Maya asked herself if she can handle that.   Deep in her heart, she knows she cannot walk away from Richard.

With a silent fervent prayer, she finally took the leap of faith.

“I would like that very much, Richard”  Maya smiled shyly up at him.

“Maya?” Richard’s both brows now lifted in surprise while his hands released hers to go on either side of her head. He angled her head so he can see the fire glimmering through her brown eyes.

“I’m in love with you, too” Maya finally confessed, “Matagal na.”

“Are you sure?” Richard looked at her searchingly, in a tone that almost refused to believe what she was finally verbally expressing.

“Sure na sure” Maya confirmed with all the love shining in her eyes for the man in front of her.

The next minute, Maya felt herself being enveloped in a very tight bear hug that constricted her breathing.

“Tell me again,” Richard commanded as his embrace loosened, and his face went near hers with his warm breath fanning her lips.

With her heart and mind, Maya loves Richard.

Maya smiled and indulged him, “I love you, Richard.”

“Finally!” he groaned, as he lowered his head to kiss her ardently.  Maya’s arms went around his neck and uninhibitedly returned his kiss until the nature of the kiss became so passionately hot.  Carried away with the sensual tide,  Maya  was leaning against his frame for she had lost the strength in her legs.  Richard’s hands had lowered to her hips as his lips nuzzled the side of her neck.  Then one of his hands lowered further to cup her derriere to pull her much closer to him so that she could feel his hardened arousal.

“Ohhhhh, Richard” she moaned in pleasure, revelling on the effect that she was having on him as she rubbed herself against him. She kissed his neck but was frustrated when her caresses was hindered by his shirt. She wanted to see and feel more of his bare skin which compelled her hands to go to his shirt front.  She was able to undo his top two buttons before her progress was halted by Richard’s grip.

“I think we better stop this now,” he said shakily, “my self-control is at breaking point at the moment.”

He stepped away from her as he combed his fingers through his hair.

“Richard—?”

“Kukunin ko lang yung susi ng sasakyan” he said with a tense voice “ihahatid na kita sa inyo.”

Maya was momentarily confused and speechless as she watched his retreating back.  Maya wanted to scream at him in frustration!  After arousing her, he was just going to walk away!

I don’t think so, Richard Lim!  Maya fumed as she followed him to the master’s suite to…to…

To do exactly what Maya?  The self-check question halted her in her tracks.

To tell him that I want him too! And if he insists on restraining himself, I will just have to change his mind, Maya thought.

And pray tell, how will you achieve that?

Ahhh…ehhh…ano…bahala na si Batman!

When Maya peered into the bedroom, she saw that Richard was in the bathroom with his head bent over the vanity sink, his fingers in his hair.  When she called his name, he straightened sans specs and joined her in the sitting room. With a pained smile, Richard took her hand to lead her out of the master’s suite.

“Richard, wait!” she said before she lost her courage “I need to tell you something…”

“We can talk on the way to your place.”

“That’s just it,”   Maya dug in her heels that obliged Richard to stop in his tracks to look down at her  with raised brows “I don’t want to go home…”

“…I want to stay here  with you, Richard.” Maya finished in a hushed tone.

Richard’s lips parted and tried to say something but was unable to frame the words at first. He took a few calming deep breaths before asking “Alam mo ba ang sinasabi mo?”

Maya nodded, her cheeks staining pink.  “Bakit?  Nagbago na ba ang isip mo?  Ayaw mo na ba sakin?”

Maya thought that he wanted her.  His hesitant reaction and his interrogation were baffling her though.  Richard was confusing her yet again.

“You do realise that once I have made you mine, you would have sealed your fate.  Coz I will never let you go,” he said bitingly.

Maya’s gaze was fascinated with the nerve ticking at the side of his forehead, evidence of the emotional strain Richard was under.  She looked into his eyes and saw the fire of desire burning there.  She smilingly nodded, feeling reassured.

“Maya, I don’t think you understand,” Richard frowningly stressed his point across “I will be very possessive.  I don’t want you entertaining other male admirers.  I don’t care how many boyfriends you’ve had before, but I expect to be your exclusive lover from now on.”

Maya smiled and nodded again “Just as I expect nothing less than total devotion from you.  I don’t want any Catherines coiling around you either.”

“Jealous, Maya?”  Richard teased.

“Insanely jealous,” Maya admitted with a nervous titter which died down as she noticed how intently he was looking at her. “Richard, with regards to my ex-boyfriends…”

Richard suddenly gave her a deep but quick kiss. “I don’t care to talk about anyone else tonight.  I just want to make love to you.”

A tiny voice was urging Maya to insist on discussing the matter.  Maya never fully realised it before that Richard was under the wrong impression.  Somehow, he took it as fact that she has been in romantic relationships before.

Specifically, intimate romantic relationships.

Maya wanted to correct his way of thinking but was at a loss for words.  How do you say to your first-would be lover that you are in fact an NBSB?  And with that label, she was in fact a twenty-five year old virgin?

Kahit hindi mo sabihin, malalaman din niya, Maya!

 

Before her courage slipped, Maya took a deep breath and pulled him behind her as she led him towards his bedroom.  Richard followed like a docile lamb which was belied by the fire of desire burning in his eyes.  She stopped by the side of the four-poster bed and involuntarily grinned at the intrusive memory of the first time she slept there.

“Care to share the joke, Maya?” he asked huskily.

“Wala, naalala ko lang yung gabing nakatulog ako dito dahil sa sleeping pills,”  she giggled shakily as Richard’s arm went round her waist from behind.

Maya felt Richard’s other hand sweep away the long tresses that were covering her neck before bending his head to kiss the skin he exposed.  Maya closed her eyes with the pleasurable tactile sensation of his caress, as the bodice of her dress came down to her waist before it was further tugged down to pool at her feet.

“You’re wearing too many clothes,” he complained when he pulled off the beige singlet off her as well.

The next moment, Maya sensed Richard’s lips reacquainting itself with her body, reclaiming territory which he had sensually explored a few times before…

…whereas she has not seen him at all!  That was so unfair, Maya thought.

“Alam mo ang daya mo,” Maya accused him.

“Hmmmn?” Richard questioned as he rained kisses all over her neck as he slowly turned her around.  “Sorry?”

“You have seen and touched all of me, but I haven’t seen nor touched you…” Maya muttered, cheeks flushing in embarrassment once more.  It will be awhile before she gets used to being naked under his gaze.

“Yun lang ba and problema mo?” his eyes languorously regarded her as he took her hands to place it on his shirt front and commanded “you take off my clothes.”

Maya’s eyes gleamed as she stood within his embrace in her lacy, skin-toned bra and matching undie.  Feeling all thumbs, Maya nervously undid his buttons one by one.  Then she slowly parted his shirt front to expose his smooth wide chest. She took the shirt off him, tracing his muscled biceps as she peeled the long sleeves off his arms.  Then, her fingers traced his Adam’s apple to his clavicle area down to his pectoral muscles that twitched at her touch.  Her thumb pads ran over his masculine nipples and she heard him suck his breath.

He feels the same sensations that I feel when he touches me in the same area, Maya thought in wonder.

Her hands splayed boldly over his undefined yet very flat abdominal area.  He keeps fit but she can tell that he does not obsess over having defined six-pack abs which seems to be the current craze among over conscious men, who even undergo cosmetic surgical procedures. When she reached his belt area, she hesitated.

“Go on,” Richard kissed the corner of her mouth in encouragement.

Taking another deep breath, Maya went through the motions of undoing his belt buckle but she couldn’t manage the hook and bar fastening of his pants. Richard took pity on her and helped her with the metal clasp but waited for her to unzip him. When she finally did, the whizz of the metal zipper reverberated in the quiet bedroom where their combined uneven breathing were the only audible ripple marring the silence.

“Oohhh,” she whispered as he stepped out of his pants to stand before her in his black Calvin Klein boxer-briefs.  Despite wanting to look away, Maya’s eyes were riveted to his raging hard-on under the dark cotton fabric.  Maya gulped as she espied that Richard was well-endowed with ‘coital hardware’ that seemed to grow larger as she continued to look.

Richard started raining kisses all over her face at that point which caused Maya’s lids to flutter close, effectively cutting off the disconcerting visual. Richard’s arms went round her back and she felt her breasts being freed from their confines.   Her arms automatically went to his broad shoulders when he bent to scoop her to place her in the middle of the four-poster bed where he swiftly joined her.

“I am going to kiss every inch of you,” he declared huskily as she felt his erotic onslaught begin as he started a moist kiss trail along her jawline going down to her neck.

Then his lips travelled to her right hand which he raised to plant a very moist kiss into her palm before punctuating each finger with a kiss. His lips travelled back up her arm only to repeat the entire sensual process on her left arm. When he focussed his attention to her breasts, he cupped both globes in his large hands and licked the pinkish peaks turgid which made her moan and writhe in ecstasy. He licked her entire breasts, grazing her smooth skin with gentle little nibbles and bites that had her panting.

When Maya couldn’t bear the pleasure anymore, he slid downwards and resumed the kiss trail towards her abdomen.  She felt her last piece of clothing slowly sliding down her limbs as she glimpsed Richard’s head descending down to kiss her down to her toes. Then he sat up and lifted her right leg to get better access to the underside of her leg as he ascended back up to nuzzle her inner thigh to lick the crease at her groin which made her breathing hitch.  He teasingly nuzzled her tuft of hair before veering to the left to do the same explorative ritual to her other leg.

As he returned to the apex between her thighs, he repositioned himself as he wedged her smooth thighs open for better caress access.  Maya licked her lips that had gone very dry as she feverishly anticipated his next move.  Feeling her own wetness in between her legs, Maya could not hide her state of arousal from Richard who was caressing the hair-covered sensitive skin of her feminine mound.  He placed his hands under her bottom to raise her hips and then lowered his head again to kiss her nether lips and lick her wetness like it was nectar.

Like before, Maya could not help but try to move away from his mouth for the sensation was just too much for her to handle.  Resettling his hands to firmly hold her by the hips, Richard resumed his erotic onslaught.  Maya bit her lower lip hard to muffle her guttural groans. Her long-nailed fingers were digging into the mattress on either side of her as waves of pleasure went through her naked body. Her breathing hitched as she could feel his tongue delving deeper into her feminine lips to capture and tease her hidden nubbin.

“Oooooohhhh, Richard,” she helplessly moaned as she squeezed her eyes shut in heady pleasure.

Blissfully oblivious to what she’s doing, Maya’s fingers went to bury themselves sharply in his thick hair. Her head thrashed from side to side as Richard’s lingual onslaught went deeper and bolder.  She could feel his tongue thoroughly exploring her feminine furrow that what he was doing went beyond ‘tasting’.  Ensnared under Richard’s erotic spell, Maya felt that ‘feasting’ would be a more apt description to what he was doing to her.

Maya could again feel the tension building up in her lower abdomen.  Her legs were very restless as she rubbed the back of her legs against the warm bare skin of his wide shoulders and broad back. She loved the feel of him.  Then, when she thought she could not take any more, she felt his tongue penetrate her feminine core causing an implosion after another and then another.

“Richaaaaaaaaaaaaaard—!!!!!” Maya screamed his name as she reached the most glorious pleasurable sexual peak several times over.  Her lips were trembling like her whole body.  With her lids closed, she could feel Richard shifting and moving above her as he ardently kissed her.  Her arms went around his neck as she kissed him back with all the emotion she was feeling at that moment in time.  She could taste and smell herself on his lips.

Maya felt Richard propping himself on one elbow. The next moment, Maya’s eyes fluttered open as she became aware of his blunt tip nudging her entrance.  Her gaze went down and was daunted when she saw how long and thick he was as he guided his shaft into her.  Maya’s brain screeched in alarm.

Maya, kalma! Kailangan mo lang sabihin sa kanya!

 

Pulling a deep calming breath, Maya propped herself on her elbows so that she can whisper in his ear.

“Richard, please be very gentle with me,”  Maya said huskily before collapsing back against the soft mattress,  all her limbs feeling like jelly at the moment.

“Maya—-?” Richard asked as he strugglingly inched his male shaft into her slick yet incredibly tight feminine core and encountered her sheath that further resisted his invasion.

Maya felt herself being stretched as Richard forayed into unchartered territory.  He had stopped moving and she tried to gauge how she feels.  It felt very uncomfortable but not painful as she moved her hips instinctively.

“Ahhhh!” Richard gasped “Don’t move,  Maya.”

Maya properly opened her eyes to look at him above her and was fascinated again with the nerve ticking at his temple. Richard’s face was in a grimace as if he was in pain.

“Masakit ba?” she worriedly asked Richard who released a short laugh in reaction.

“You will be the one who will feel the pain,” he informed her with a serious yet very passionate look, “I wish you had told me.”

“I tried…”

“I can not stop now, sweetheart” he declared unevenly, his breathing laboured as he looked directly into her eyes.

“I don’t want you to stop,” Maya said quickly   “I want this.  I want you.”

With her body and soul, Maya wants Richard.

“And I have wanted you for a very long time, Maya” Richard hotly professed after giving her another torridly drugging kiss. Then, he lifted both of her legs to wrap it around his middle. In this position, Maya felt herself more exposed to Richard.

“Just keep your legs there, sweetheart.” he instructed as his arms went around her upper torso with his large hands holding either side of her head. “And look at me, Maya. I want to see your eyes as I join with you.”

Then he moved slowly but surely and they both felt something give way which made Maya gasp in pain. She went rigid in his arms as she felt tears falling from her eyes.  Richard kissed her tears and then continued to look down at her.

“I’m sorry, sweetheart,” Richard apologised “the pain was unavoidable.”

Maya bit her lower lip to stop herself from whimpering from the pain that was starting to radiate from her feminine core.  Her long-nailed fingers were now gripping his shoulders so hard that she did not realise that she was drawing blood.   Maya wanted to plead for him to stop but she refrained from doing so.

Maya could see Richard intently holding her gaze as he would slowly push in and then stop to give her a passionate soul kiss that would distract her from the pain. Then Richard would recapture her visual attention once more as he moved deeper  into her again until he could not embed  himself  further.

Maya felt so full with him inside her as he nibbled her lips. While Richard’s lower body was very still, his propped weight on hers was something she was partial to. She liked having no barriers between them as her hands travelled to his back. Maya was discovering that skin against skin was an erotic stimulus by itself.

Then, his lips started trekking down her neck once more, arousing her as he found the same vulnerable spot.  Maya’s breathing was becoming very uneven as Richard caressed her breasts to lave the twin pinkish peaks once more.  She felt the sharp twinge of pain as Richard retreated back a fraction before pushing into her again.

While she could feel pleasure at Richard’s touch, the pain in her core was overwhelming when he continued moving.   Squeezing her eyes shut, Maya suffered in silence, wishing it would be over soon.  Then Richard was groaning above her, which caused her eyes to flutter open and was fascinated with his rapt expression.

“Oh, Maya” he said hoarsely as he moved in steady rhythm “you’re so incredibly tight, sweetheart.”

Entranced with the man above her, Maya lifted a hand to trace his jaw. Richard responded by pressing a kiss into her palm before swooping down to capture her lips in a very sensual kiss that almost made her forget her agony.

Almost.

However, Maya’s pain intensified when Richard’s pace went faster and his strokes deeper. Richard’s kiss also became abandoned as his tongue invaded the inner cavern of her mouth, moving like his lower invasion of her feminine core.  Then she heard Richard groan harshly above her as she felt his body tense  up as liquid warmth flooded her womb.

Lovemaking seems to always make her so tired, she thought.  Lethargically,  she kissed his neck as she enfolded him in her embrace as he collapsed on top of her. The last sounds she heard were his ragged breathing and the thunderous beat of his heart as she felt herself falling into slumber.

to be continued…

Long-held Torch – Part 11

Author’s Note:  If you are thoroughly enjoying the recent chapters, that is because I have two ladies, Ms Chuchy and Ms Alpha Grace who review my work prior to posting. My effusive thankie :D  to you two and to those who would leave comments.

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With his even teeth clenched, Richard’s patience was wearing very thin with the woman draped around his neck.  He had tried to subtly tell Catherine for the last hour that he was not interested but she still kept on flirting all throughout the meeting. She even had the shameless temerity to rub her leg against his under the long conference table which compelled him to distance his swivel chair from the table, well away from her reach.   He had originally intended to attend this progress update meeting via teleconference but since he was in the metropolis,  he decided to come instead.  It  was a mistake that he was regretting  but constructing  this underwater road tunnel, which will be connecting Batangas to Mindoro, was his biggest project to date. He would hate it if something goes wrong again.

When he took on a government-funded  bridging project in General Santos City  a couple of years ago, he met Catherine who was one of  DPWH’s  public relations specialist back then.   In hindsight, he should have not indulged in a one-night stand with her for he had immediately recognised her type.  With her eye on the main chance, Catherine always throws herself at a rich guy, hoping to catch a big fish.  She may be attracted to Richard but she was even more attracted to his bank balance.

He had already declined Catherine’s invitation for  ‘lunch’ thrice, knowing she was serving herself as dessert.  He was simply not interested. On the contrary, she left him cold. So unlike how he feels for a particular doe-eyed young lady who could turn him on by just thinking about her.

That was when the subject of his burning obsession arrived like a cool collected miss. He was jubilant that Maya came to see him  and introduced herself as his girlfriend but was dismayed with the other things she said.  She confronted  him and his ‘perfidy’ while insulting him almost in the same breath. Then, she calmly walked out after declaring that their relationship was over.

Over before it even properly began!

Noooooooo!

“Bloody hell, Catherine!!! Get off me!!!”  he roared which got the woman’s attention. Catherine finally heard loud and clear. In fact, the entire floor heard loud and clear, alerting everyone  that the big boss’  infamous tiger temper had been roused!  All ears were then honed to the commotion that was happening inside the boardroom.  Everyone stopped in their tracks as they watched in fascination as their dashing business-suited CEO, who had been breaking female hearts for over a decade, came striding out in pursuit of the beautiful young woman who moved with fluid grace as she walked towards  the elevator.

Richard Lim was running after a woman!

Literally!

Now, that was astounding news to them!  They have seen a parade of sophisticatedly sultry women who came and went but they were all usually seen metaphorically running after Richard who becomes very elusive once his male curiosity has been ‘satisfied’. It was common knowledge that Engr. Richard Lim’s attention span with a woman does not last very long.  Among the spectators, three to be exact, had even turned the playboy’s constantly changing lovelife, or more accurately referred to as sex life, into a betting game.

Mr. Dalipe, a balding middle-aged man and head of the purchasing department, sidled up to Sonny who had brought out a  little frayed notebook. He whispered, “2 months, 1000 pesos.”

A geeky draftsman named Anthony, who even had a pencil tucked behind his ear, joined them and whispered “ako 5-6 months, limang libo.”

“Two months, three weeks and 4 days ang longest record ni Sir. Ngayon dinoble mo. Namimigay ka ba ng pera?”  Sonny taunted as he logged the bet.

“Hindi ah! Mukhang patay na patay pa kaya si Sir. Tingnan nyo kung makahabol, oh!” Anthony’s lips puckered and pointed towards their boss who was viciously pressing all of the elevator buttons.

As they heard the boss coming back, their hushed conversation momentarily stopped and the three pretended to be busy.

“Bloody hell!”  Richard had kept on swearing a string of profanity as all the lifts were all at lower levels and were just descending.  He strode  towards his private office as he quickly speed dialled Maya’s number but he could not get through for she was in a blindspot.

“Lisa, call security,” Richard bellowed “Tell them to stop Maya at the ground floor or else they will all be fired!”

“But, sir!  They don’t know her.” Lisa reminded him.

“Just do it Lisa!” he growled his order as he made his way to his private office. “And one more thing, tell MultimediaGem that I don’t want Catherine setting foot on my premises ever again! They better send me another PR Coordinator or I will tear their bloody contract and make sure they never get another in the city!”

“That one I will do with pleasure, sir!”  Lisa was already on the internal phone with security requesting assistance and then physically describing Maya and her current outfit from memory.  She  smiled  malevolently  at  Catherine, who finally emerged from the boardroom.  Miss High-and-Mighty Catherine, who had always talked down to Lisa, was trying to slink unnoticed towards the exit stairs. Lisa noted Catherine’s ridiculously high heels and predicted that the tart would likely end up falling down the stairs  and  breaking her neck before she even reaches halfway down the building.

When Lisa replaced the receiver, she noticed the three men huddled together as they  speculated on the duration of their employer’s  fascination for the current flame.

“Ehemmm!”  she coughed  as she reached the trio to get their embarrassed attention “I know very well that you have always been betting over Sir Richard’s personal life.  For supposed professionals, you three have conducted yourself most unprofessionally!”

“Miss Lisa, wala namang nasasaktan, katuwaan lang,” said Mr. Dalipe. The other two made similar noises.

“Sige, I won’t tell on you three,” Miss Lisa relented with a sly smile “Coz I am betting a month’s salary that this one will last longer than all the rest combined!”

“Wehhh, di nga?”  incredulously intoned by Anthony, the geeky draftsman.

“Sobra namang laki ng pusta mo, Miss Lisa” complained Sonny. “Hindi namin kaya.”

“I thought you three were hard-nosed gamblers? Now, put your money where your mouth is!”  Lisa smiled, enjoying how the three squirmed.

Despite their moans, the three gamblers noted her bet.  Besides teaching them a lesson, Lisa thought that she would have the budget for a nice outfit to attend a wedding when she collects her winnings.  She had actually seen the preliminary engagement ring design that was drawn by Richard Lim himself.  Lisa had forwarded it to one of the top engagement ring designer in the country that had been commissioned to fine-tune the uniquely exquisite  design.  She never would have thought that her long-time boss had such a romantic side that finally came out when Maya arrived on the scene. For that alone, Maya had won her over.

Meanwhile, Richard had used his private elevator to reach the ground floor level. Damage control was foremost in his mind as he ran out as soon as the doors slid open. He slowed in his tracks when he saw her by the security podium.  Maya’s exit was being blocked by two uniformed security men. Richard recognised one as his grey-haired security supervisor while the other was much younger and relatively new in his employ.

“Ma’am Maya, pasensiya na po hindi po kayo pwedeng umalis. Utos po  galing sa itaas.” His security supervisor explained to Maya whose back was turned towards him so she had no idea that he was nearby.

“Pero, Manong Guard. Hindi nyo po ako pwedeng i-detain dito.”  Maya argued, with a catch in her voice.

“Hindi po talaga pwede, ma’am. Kami po ang masisisante kay boss—” he stopped in mid-sentence when his companion nudged and nodded towards their employer.

“Manong Tonyo” Richard greeted the elderly security supervisor who had been with him since day one and then nodded to the younger staff. “Thank you for taking care of my girlfriend.”

“Wala po yun, Sir Richard,” the elder man grinned from ear to ear at him, obviously pleased for they met the boss’ girlfriend.  They heard it first hand, way ahead over the corporate grapevine.  At this piece of information, the younger security personnel’s eyes merely bulged as he looked at his boss to the young lady beside him.  Richard could understand their reaction.  Despite having a string of women that came in and out of his life, he never officially introduced a girlfriend to the staff.

Richard saw Maya’s momentary stunned silence at his statement and gently led her back towards his private lifts.  Her eyes were already  red and swollen from crying. In her hand was a ball of tissue which she had been continually crushing, a sure sign of her agitation.

“Come, sweetheart,” his hand at her back.

“Ayokong sumama sayo,” she hissed at him as she tried to dig in her heels.

“Maya, not here, please,” Richard whispered as he guided Maya back to his private elevator.

“Goodness, you are some piece of work! You don’t want to make a scene in front of your employees but you make-out with that boa constrictor in your boardroom!” she uttered  harshly in an undertone.

Richard’s bland expression hid his amusement at her reaction as he followed her into the confined space. With hair ponytailed in a wispy scrunchie, Maya looked sweet and sexy  in her white frilly Spanish-style layered skirt that stopped a few inches above her knee. A long thin shoulder-strapped purse crossed  over  her white peasant-style top that showed off  smooth skin from her neck to the top of her shoulder.

Richard thought that the bare skin was just inviting to be kissed.  He dared not at the moment, though. Despite being tearful, Maya was still breathing fire as she castigated him for his alleged ‘sins’.

“I was not doing anything. As far as I am concerned, my association with Catherine is  purely business. She had different ideas.” he tried to explain as he pressed the button to close the elevator’s sliding doors.

“Hah!  Umapela ka sa baranggay dahil hindi ako naniniwala sayo, Singkit!”

He smiled lopsidedly at her, thoroughly enjoying watching her waspish display of jealousy, a direct contrast to the cool collected miss that he saw upstairs.  He was feeling a bit smug for he had managed to get her inside the confines of his private lift which was fireproofed and soundproofed.  She can rant and rave and no one will be able to hear.

“Anong ngini-ngiti mo diyan? Walang nakakatuwa dito!”  she told him as she closed-fist punched him on the chest.

“Whoa! Masakit yun, ah!”  Richard complained for Maya can slug a wallop despite her size. “Look, sweetheart, huwag ka nang magselos. Catherine means nothing to me.”

The minute he said it,  he knew it was the wrong thing to say  for Maya’s face visibly changed before his eyes in reaction.

“Hindi ako nagseselos!!! Ang ayoko yung niloloko ako!!!” Maya screamed at the top of her lungs as she stepped up to him, her face flushed, her delicate nostrils flared, her doe-eyes ablaze with fiery fury.  He didn’t think it possible, but Maya was even more beautiful when angry, almost as beautiful when she’s in the throes of intense sensual passion.

And she was exciting him!

“I told you,” she poked his chest painfully with her pointer finger “I cannot tolerate being one among many! Alin duon ang hindi mo maintindihan?  Kung hindi mo kaya, walang problema sakin!  Hindi kita pipigilan!  Dun ka na sa mga Catherine mo! Just stay the hell out of my life!”

Then, she burst into tears as Maya bent her head into her palms.  Despite being innocent of her accusation, Richard’s conscience pricked him for inadvertently causing her pain.  At first, Maya rejected his touch but Richard insisted on gathering her in his arms as she sobbed her heart out.  He let her cry knowing she needed to release her anger and frustration.  He held her for several minutes whispering soothing words while he gently patted her back as if he was calming a hurt child.  When she calmed down, Richard wiped away her tears with his hanky and then offered it to Maya.  Then, he led her out of the lifts which had long stopped  at the first underground parking level and settled her in his car.

“I will take you home,” he informed her as he secured her safety belt in place.

Maya nodded wordlessly before she closed her lacklustre eyes, seemingly in sleep. Richard considered her serene demeanour that was still marred by sporadic sobs and shaky breath. He lifted his hand to the hair that escaped her ponytail. His fingers tucked the errant lock behind her ear and would have  lingered against her hair had Maya not moved to avoid his caress.  Richard sighed and shook his head before starting the engine.

They were entering Ayala Alabang Village’s gated community when Maya finally noticed that Richard was not bringing her to her condominium.

“Nasaan na tayo?” Maya asked shrilly as she almost bolted out of her seat in sudden movement  “Ang sabi mo iuuwi mo na ako!”

“What I said was  ‘I will take you home’ ” he quoted himself and then clarified belatedly “my home”.

“Well, you can just turn your blasted car around and take me to ‘my’ home!” Maya demanded.

Richard spared her a glance and sighed. He saw that Maya was again getting very agitated. A pity, she had been channelling all her passions negatively.  At the thought, his eyes glinted as a more delightful way of spending all that passion came to mind.

“Richard Lim, narinig mo ba ko?”

“I heard you, Maya” he retorted calmly.

“But you are choosing to ignore what I say, is that it?”  Maya was getting herself more  worked up.

Richard kept silent as he did not want to add any fuel to the fire. Well, not this type of fire anyway, he thought.

He calmly pressed the button to the automatic gates and drove in. He had barely parked the car when Maya jumped out with the intention of running out the driveway again but Richard was quick on his feet and quickly blocked her path as she went round the BMW.

“Sweetheart, stop being difficult please.” Richard cajoled as his hands grabbed her around the  waist.

“Let me go!” Maya yelled as she struggled against his more superior strength.

Never!

“Let’s get inside. Manang Fe prepared  lunch for us.”

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Doris and Sabel open and hold the front double doors for them. Obviously, the nosey tandem would want to see the first woman he had ever brought home to meet Manang Fe.  He may be a womaniser, rather an ex-womaniser,  but he never brought home any of his flings. He had too much respect for Manang Fe, whom he treats like his second mother,  to subject her to that.

“Hindi ako papasok sa bahay mo at hindi mo ako mapipilit!”  she struggled and kicked his shin, oblivious to the fact that  they now have an audience standing by the front door.

“Owww! Maya,  stop  that!”  Richard complained as he held her firmly at a distance to avoid her flailing legs.

Richard wanted her to go inside. Maya refused to budge. They were at an impasse.

Richard noted the steps by the front door. Maya could get hurt if he dragged her along. If he carried her in, she would struggle and fall,  possibly resulting with a sprain or fracture. Unless, he carried her a different way.

“So, hindi ka papasok ng matiwasay?” Richard’s eyes glinted down at her, annoyed at her bull-headedness.

Maya mutinously looked up at him. Her chin jutted out in silent challenge as she shook her head in wordless negative response.

“Right, you left me no choice.”

In very swift economical movements, Richard wedged his right leg between her legs, held  her right hand with his left and quickly bent his knees so that Maya’s middle goes over his right shoulder. Richard grabbed her legs for a more secure hold before he straightened to carry  her into  the house…

…firefighter-style!

Maya breathed out an involuntary ‘oooomph’  when she got lifted off the ground. It only took a few seconds before Maya recovered from his literally breath-taking maneuver. Then she started to struggle as she pummelled  his back.

“Put me down, you chinky-eyed devil!!! This is sooooo undignified!!!” Maya howled.

Doris and Sabel were stunned as they followed their employer carrying a female into the house like a sack of rice.

“Stop this, you caveman!!! And put me down!!!”

“Doris, Sabel!” Richard barked as he walked past his gaping cook and laundress.

“Ser?”  answered  Doris nervously.

“Ano po yun?” Sabel asked just as nervously.

“You two, take the rest of the day off. Bring Manang Fe with you. And tell Joma to drive you around.” Richard was grinning wickedly, anticipating to having Maya all to himself.

“Walanghiya ka talaga, Singkit!!!  Isusumbong kita kay Kuya! This is assault! ” Maya bellowed as she was forced to hold on to his suit jacket as he started climbing the stairs. He would have gone to the master’s bedroom but remembered Maya’s tendency to moan and scream during lovemaking. So, he opted to go to the mezzanine floor where his soundproofed audiovisual room was located.

“Ricardo!” an elderly lady called at the foot of the stairs to halt his progress, appalled censure in her tone  “anong ginagawa mo?”

“Manang Fe,” he acknowledged  with a slight turn of his head as he paused, one hand on the modern wooden balustrade while the other was fastened securely around Maya’s shapely legs. “This is Maya.”

Richard felt Maya lift her head to look down at the elderly lady at the foot of the stairs as he continued to ascend.

“Hello po.  Pasensiya na po hindi ako makapagmano dahil sa kawalanghiyaan ng alaga ninyo,” she greeted the elderly lady.

“Huwag mo nang alalahanin yun, ineng.”  Manang Fe reassured her. With curiosity getting the better of  his mayor doma,  she asked  “Maya, taga-Mindoro ka ba?”

“Po?” Maya was evidently perplexed “Opo, papaano nyo po nalaman?”

“Palaging nasa inyo si Ricardo diba?”

“Opo, palagi po siyang nagbabakasyon samin nuon.  Pero, ilang taon siyang di dumalaw. Tapos ngayon naglalagi na naman siya sa San Nicholas. Inaayos po nya yung lumang villa.”

Richard merely grinned at the farcical situation. What amazed him  was that  Maya can still carry on a conversation despite the fact that  her diaphragm was compressed with her own weight.  She remained the undisputed ‘Chatterbox Queen’.  She actually only shuts up when she’s too embarrassed or when he’s kissing her.  Then, when they get hot and heavy, she makes sexy little moans, groans and whimpers. And then of course, she screams.  This prompted him again to address Doris and Sabel. He turned when he reached the lower landing to look down at the three female watching his progress  from the ground floor.

“Doris, Sabel. Yung bilin ko huwag ninyong kakalimutan.  Kahit bukas na kayo umuwi.”  It was better that they were alone in the house just in case the soundproofing system does not drown all the sounds.

“Opo ser!” Doris and Sabel chorused their identical response.

“Ricardo, tigilan mo na yan,” Manang Fe sternly told off her former charge.

“Manang Fe, huwag kayong mag-alala, pakakasalan ko ‘to.  Pakakalmahin ko lang dahil nagwawala sa galit. Nagselos kasi,” he explained to reassure his former nanny as he disappeared into the double doors with a spluttering Maya who took exception to his parting statement.

The same parting statement brought forth giddy squeals from Doris and Sabel who finally understood the situation as an LQ.

“Salbaheng bata ito,  masilya-elektrika ka diyan sa gagawin mo!” yelled Manang Fe but Richard  did not hear her warning.

“Manang Fe, lethal injection na po ngayon, wala na pong electric chair,” Doris informed the older lady.

“Tingnan mo itong luka-lukang ‘to! Naagnas na yung diyaryo kung saan mo nabasa yang balita mo, eh!” Sabel jeered at Doris and then turned to Manang Fe “Matagal na pong walang death penalty.  Life imprisonment na lang po ang hatol sa rape.”

“Manang, halika na po”  Doris pouted at Sabel as she dragged a very worried Manang Fe with them.

“Teka, baka mademanda si Ricardo,” protested the mayor doma.

“Naku, Manang, wala pong mangyayaring demandahan,” Sabel reassured the older lady  smilingly “at mukhang rape with consent ang mangyayari.”

Once inside, Richard bolted the doors behind him and then walked in front of the huge L-shaped leather sofa and gently placed Maya on her feet by the chaise.

For several long seconds, she shot daggers at him with her glittering doe-shaped eyes. Then, she lunged at him and pummelled his chest with her fists until all her strength was spent. Then, Richard gathered her again in his arms.

“I hate you,” she murmured against his chest.

“At the moment, you may think you do,” he agreed, as he started nuzzling her neck before raining kisses all over her face.

“Richard, ‘this’ will not fix anything…” Maya protested as Richard gently pulled her towards the chaise-end of the lounge.

Then Richard removed his specs before he lifted her chin so that he can engage her lips in another drugging kiss.

Richard broke the kiss and nuzzled a path down her jawline to her neck. He quickly dispensed the shoulder bag  when he encountered the thin strap only to return lip-caressing her  bare shoulder.  He lowered his head to her cleavage as he sat down by the edge of the chaise-end and positioned her sitting on his right thigh.  His hands gently tugged  and lowered her top  and unhooked her strapless bra to unleash Maya’s proud breasts. With his eyes mere slits, Richard observed Maya close her eyes as her breathing became more uneven.

“Oooohhhhhh, Richard!” Maya moaned and threw her head back as he started laving her nipple while his other hand’s thumb was caressing the other.  Maya whimpered  helplessly while holding on to his shoulders as he also suckled at the other pinkish peak until it went turgid.

“That’s right sweetheart, say my name,” he breathed against her sensitised nipple  as he continued his sensual onslaught on her twin mounds.

Richard saw Maya lick her lips  which beckoned him to hold her nape to lock his lips with hers once more as his other arm went round her back.   Maya responded by putting her arms around his neck and leaning over him which toppled  both of them  down the leather sofa. She ended up almost fully lengthwise  on top of him. Despite the position, Richard was still very much in control as the hand by her nape angled her head  to deepen the liplock  into another all-rational-thought-obliterating kiss.

Both were panting when their lips parted. Richard gently turned Maya on her back with her nape still in his hand. Then, he went to undo her  hair to weave the silky length between his fingers before he spread it across the dark brown leather grain.  Richard’s eyes glittered down at her as he removed his suit jacket and tie to drop them carelessly on the floor.

Then, he lowered his head to start nuzzling her neck to make another downward path to the valley between her breasts to go further down. In unison, Richard moved his hand to trail a path to her smooth  stomach past the waistband of her skirt  down the length of the frilly fabric until he encountered the bare skin just above her knees. His warm palm and fingers caressed  her  smooth thigh as he hitched the hem of her skirt higher until his fingers encountered her silky undie which he slowly slid down.  Richard rained a moist trail of  kisses   down to her  abdomen until he positioned himself at the apex between her thighs.

When he started to explore  her downy hair, Maya doubled-up and halted his questing lips by holding his head with both of her hands.  Richard viewed that while Maya was very much aroused, her eyes were like saucers in shock at what he intends to do.

“What’s the matter, sweetheart?” he smiled at her as he sat up as well.

Richard watched in fascination as her breasts bobbed up and down with her laboured breathing.  She could only shake her head, unable to voice her protest at the raw intimacy of  the physical act that he wanted Maya to experience with him.

“Too much for you?” he asked in throaty dulcet tones.

Maya could only nod, likely not trusting herself to speak anything coherent. Richard smiled most charmingly at her, inwardly jubilant that she will be experiencing a first with him.

“Relax, sweetheart. I want to taste you and you will enjoy it, I promise.”  he said before kissing her senseless once more. Richard slowly retraced the downward path down her body while his hands and fingers were caressing her breasts.  He rained moist kisses over her silky upper thighs while he gently wedged them open again with his broad shoulders.

And then he gently licked at her most intimate feminine centre which evoked very strong pleasurable sensations, causing Maya to involuntarily move away from his probing lips. Richard anticipated her reaction and held her firmly by the waist and then mercilessly continued ‘tasting’ her.

“Richard, please stop!” Maya sobbed.

Richard ignored her emotive plea and her vain effort to push  at his shoulders. Then, Richard saw her prop herself up on her elbows as she tried to view what he was doing to her. Seeing her passion-clouded gaze, he probed deeper into her feminine furrow and found her hidden nubbin to tease it swollen.  He saw Maya bite her lower lip to stop the guttural moan from escaping her lips.

“Oooohhhh, Richaaaaard!”  Maya cried as she helplessly collapsed back against the plush rectangular throw pillows, her head thrashing from side to side. Her reaction merely spurred Richard to intensify his lingual stimulation.

Several long minutes wordlessly passed, minutes that felt like an eternity of breathless moans and sighs of pleasure. He languorously surveyed  Maya’s skin which became dewy with a fine sheen of sweat as she trembled within his hold.  Richard continued to lave her nub of desire  and  then run his tongue deeply along  her  nether lips. He felt Maya’s legs getting very restless on either side of him while her long-nailed fingers were buried in his hair.  Richard reckoned  that Maya was blissfully unaware of  both  movements.

“Richaaaaaard—!” Maya screamed his name when his tongue finally invaded her feminine entrance, as she imploded, and then imploded  and then imploded.  Richard felt very male triumph as Maya reached the pinnacle of intense sexual pleasure several times over.

Wild tremors were shaking Maya’s entire body in reaction.  In the throes of passion, she would not have been able to stop him if he had given in to his bodily urge and possessed her at that very moment.  Her body was probably crying out to be filled just as his own body was crying out to fill her.  Richard was so aroused, he was in pain.

However, this was part of his exorcism.  Richard promised himself he would obliterate all traces of her past lovers until she yearned only for him. While she had enjoyed their sensual encounters, she was just basically allowing him to make love to her.  Maya never initiated  a kiss  nor a caress.  No matter how passionately she responded, he had to ‘wring’ out that response from her.  He never saw nor felt her make any conscious effort to invite his full possession.  He wanted her to want only him just as he wants only her.

Desperately.

Richard was almost at the end of his tether.  He knew very well that he could not possibly keep denying himself while pleasuring her.  He cannot   go on  waiting for an indefinite period of time.

For the wait was slowly driving him mad!

For several long minutes, Richard could only hear his own harsh breathing and the loud beat of his heart as he knelt before Maya  who was vulnerably laid out before him.  It would have been the most natural conclusion to  finally consummate their  relationship after what had just occurred.

Then, he saw the tears streaming down her cheeks again and he sighed.

“Napaka-iyakin mo naman,” Richard whispered, his libido dampened somewhat.  He lowered himself beside her and wiped her tears with the pad of his thumb. He knew she was very upset but he responded by ravishing her. He was an insensitive  randy cad.

Richard  saw her shiver  and gathered  her in his arms to make her warm.  For good measure, he reached for one of the sofa’s  plush white throw and draped it over Maya and himself.  After the emotional upheaval, Maya was exhausted. Her once ragged breathing was slowly going into an even rhythm as she fell asleep in the crook of his arms.

Richard studied Maya’s face and marvelled at the power this slip of a woman had over him.

“I love you, Maya.”  Richard whispered inaudibly as he kissed her forehead “you have no idea how much.”

It was already early evening when Richard felt Maya moving stealthily beside him.  She had carefully taken his arm that was across her middle and slowly placed it on him.  Richard opened his eyes a fraction and saw that Maya had sat up and was slowly removing his right leg that was draped over her thighs. He feigned sleep as he surreptitiously watched her re-hook her bra and smoothen her top and skirt before she got up to look for something. The next minute, she was on her hands and knees searching underneath the chaise.

Richard slowly got up and lifted the  throw off him and saw the elusive triangular piece of clothing by the hem of his pants.  With a wolfish grin, he picked up the white silky undie and dangled it towards it owner who was still vainly searching for the item on the carpeted floor.

“Maya…”

Her head shot up and gasped as she saw what was in between his fingers. She immediately lunged and snatched it up and hid it behind her back as she looked desperately about, her entire face suffused with colour.

“The bathroom’s through there,” he nodded towards to the small cubicle attached by the entrance of the AVR.

“Thank you,” she bit out before she scooted off.

Richard flexed his arm and creaked his neck. The chaise-end of the L-shaped leather lounge was not really the ideal place for lovemaking. It was too short and too narrow. He noted his crumpled clothing and got up.

“Maya, will you be okey if I leave you for a few minutes?” he asked as he stood by the closed door of the guest toilet room.

“O-okey lang ako,” she stammered back.

“Sandali lang ako. Will you promise me that you’ll wait? That you’re not going to escape the moment I turn my back?”

Silence.

“Maya?”

“Fine, Richard. I will wait,”  Maya finally answered.

“Good, I won’t be long.”

Richard went to the master’s suite.  He quickly took a shower and donned on a light grey Grand Slam polo shirt and black denim jeans. When he returned to the AVR, Maya was not there. He quickly went downstairs and quickly scanned the downstairs living areas and decided that Maya left despite stating that she won’t leave.  Richard was about to sprint back upstairs to get the BMW’s car key when he heard her voice coming from the kitchen.

“Naikwento na po kayo samin nuon ni Richard.  Malakas siyang asarin ng Kuya kasi meron pa rin siyang yaya kahit ang tanda-tanda na niya.” Maya did her signature melodious giggle which made him smile.

“Kuya?” Manang Fe asked, as she was stirring something by the burner range.

“Si Kuya Ryan po. Si Atty. Ryan dela Rosa, yung bestfriend po niya?” answered Maya as she ladled rice from the automatic rice cooker into the rice bowl.

“At sa inyo siya naglalagi nuong araw?” Manang Fe probed.

“Opo. Pagkakatapos ho ng schoolyear,  kasama siya ni Kuya kapag umuuwi ng San Nicholas.”  Maya nodded “Halos buong bakasyon andun siya samin. Kaya nga po Nanay at Tatay na rin ang tawag niya sa mga magulang ko.”

“Ahhhh,  kaya pala!” Manang Fe exclaimed, mentally placing all the missing pieces of the jigsaw puzzle together to see the complete picture.

Richard should have known that Manang Fe will not be coerced into going anywhere if she wanted to stay put.  She has been dying with curiosity the moment he asked her this morning to prepare a special lunch  for he was bringing home someone special.  Now, that she had met his special someone, it won’t be long until his mom will learn about Maya. The two were thick as thieves despite his mom staying in China for the major part of the year. His parents had been living there after his dad’s so-called ‘retirement’ but had always been busy with one business venture after another.

“Manang Fe, anong ulam?” he asked unceremoniously as he rounded the corner.

“Ay, kabayo ni Anastacio!” Manang Fe exclaimed “pambihira ka talaga, Ricardo! Bakit ka ba nangugulat?”

“Nagulat kayo kasi abala kayo sa pagtatanong kay Maya.  Para klaro ang report nyo kay Mama, sabihin nyo nakilala nyo na ang girlfriend ko.”

“Talaga, pwede kong sabihin yun?”  Manang Fe excitedly beamed at them both.

“Teka, sandali” a flushed Maya interrupted “ayokong mag-‘assume’, pero ako ba ang tinutukoy mong girlfriend?”

“Siyempre ikaw” Richard smiled slowly, as he looked at her. Her hair was back in the wispy scrunchie, all smooth like her clothing.

“Teka sandali ulit.  Rewind muna tayo.  Sa pagkakatanda ko, hindi pa kita sinasagot,” Maya protested as colour further suffused her face.

Richard’s smile deepened at that absurd statement as he noted her deepening colour as he continued to knowingly look at her. Maya may have not said the ‘yes’ verbally but her body had been screaming the word non-verbally each time he   caressed  and made love to her.

“You claimed to be my girlfriend earlier,” he countered  smugly.

“I may have done so” Maya shrugged nonchalantly a she carried the bowl of rice “but I also broke up with you the next minute.”

“You can’t do that.” Richard’s smile disappeared.

“Who says I can’t?  You? The omnipotent Richard Lim?” Maya asked sarcastically as she paused in her tracks to pivot back to face him.

“Maya—”

“It’s a woman’s prerogative to change her mind,” Maya continued as if he never spoke.  She walked back to him to snap her fingers in front of his face “just like that!”

Richard lifted his brows at her sassy attitude  as he visually followed her progress to the dining area.  Manang Fe, who had been watching the exchange most avidly,  caught his eye as  she passed him to follow Maya  with the bowl  of viand.

“Nakakita ka rin ng katapat mo.” Manang Fe whispered tauntingly at him.

Wonderful!  Now, she’s got Manang Fe on her side!

 

Apart from what he already said to Maya, he did not know what else to say that would reassure her.  Clearly,  the chaise interlude did not make any difference with the obstinate woman except keep the embarrassed colour semi-permanently on her face.  Richard sighed as he realised he was still in the doghouse.

And he has no idea how to get out of there!

to be continued…Image

Long-held Torch – Part 10

chamomile  candle

Author’s Note:  Again, thank you to Ms. Chuchy for always checking my work prior to submission or posting.  My very special thanks go to Ms Alpha Grace for critically reviewing my draft so that I can come up with a better quality work.  My effusive thanks to the readers who always make the effort to leave encouraging comments. As I have said many times over, your comments/reactions keep me typing and typing and typing…parang Energiser Battery lang ang effect ;)

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Much earlier that day, Maya’s time was spent mainly on woolgathering.   She had been absently smiling as she silently reminisced how her stargazing date with Richard went like a dream the night before. She was even singing a love tune while she did her household chores.  Mamang even caught her using the feather-duster as a microphone when she sang the chorus verses.

“Ang saya-saya naman ng apo ko,” commented Mamang as Maya gave her grandmother a quick hug when Maya encountered her in the living room “kaya lang wala pa rin sa tono.”

Maya giggled good-naturedly.  She never cared whether she sings out of tune.  She is in love with Richard and he ‘says’ he feels the same.  Under the stars, he had confessed that he had been in love with her for almost a decade. And she is beginning to believe him.

“Mamang…”

Her grandmother paused in her tracks as she was about to return downstairs to the shop.  “Ano yun, apo?”

“Ang ganda po talaga ng mga bituin sa langit, Mamang.” Maya sighed dramatically.

“Bituin?” Mamang looked up at the late morning sun that was intensifying as the day reached noontime. “Bakit ka nakakakita ng mga bituin?  Nabagok ba ulo mo?”

Maya smilingly shook her head as her grandmother checked her head for any lump or swelling.

“Hmmmp!”  Mamang pursed her lips and considered her youngest grandchild before heading back downstairs  “Teresita, itong bunso mo, nakakakita ng bituin kahit sikat na sikat ang araw…nagha-halusinasyon na…”

In the late afternoon, she had an unexpected visit from Capt. James who spent a few hours with her while his return flight was delayed due to minor repairs on his aircraft.  Since she was euphoric with how her relationship with Richard was progressing, she got a bit overzealous in congratulating him when he had confided that he was finally committing himself to taking on the deputy managing director’s post long offered to him by his dad. This meant that he will not be regularly flying commercial routes anymore.

Sensing that Capt. James was also attempting to formally express his feelings for her, Maya pre-empted him by stating that she has been in love with someone and that particular someone returns her feelings.  Capt. James smiled ruefully and stated that he had suspected that there has to be a special someone for Maya to keep on ignoring him, even joking that most women found him irresistible otherwise.  Like a true gentleman, Capt. James accepted the situation and they parted as friends.

Maya was bubbly the entire dinner time.  Then, the clock indicated 7pm which progressed to 8pm and then to 9pm. It was almost 10 in the evening and Richard was still nowhere in sight. She texted him but he did not answer.

“Bunso, kalma ka lang,” teased Kute as she noticed Maya jumping to see over the  front road window each time a vehicle passed by.

Nasaan na kaya si Singkit? Sabagay, wala naman siyang sinabing gabi-gabi siyang dadalaw.  Mahirap pala itong nasasanay agad-agad.

“Hmmmp!”  Maya pursed her lips in annoyance.

“Busy yun,” explained Kute as she noticed her sibling’s darkening expression.

“Kahit anong busy niya, nandito siya pagdating ng gabi” Maya argued.

“Wow, Maya! Daig mo pa ang asawa, ah!” Kute was laughing as she tried to balance the shop’s accounts that were spread in front of her.

“Kute, ano ka ba?  Baka marinig ka nila Tatay.”

“Pakinggan mo nga kasi ang sarili mo, ni hindi mo pa nga boyfriend yung tao, mukhang gusto mo nang rendahan!”  observed  Kute “saka nasa kuwarto na sila Tatay.  Si Mamang naman naghihilik na kanina pa.”

“Matutulog na rin ako,” Maya left her sister in the family room and locked herself in her bedroom to sulk.

Richard’s light gray suit jacket was on a wire hanger and was dangling by her wardrobe cabinet handle.  After a few minutes of debating on the wisdom of visiting a man’s home, she took the jacket and went out of her bedroom.  No one was about in the living areas so she decided to just leave without telling anyone.  She should be back before anyone realizes that she was gone anyway.  She trekked the sandy beach to reach the villa where Nana Benita and Tata Igme was just about to lock the side kitchen door behind them.  The old couple let her in and said their farewells.  Before they went, Tata Igme forewarned Maya that the boss was in a foul temper since late afternoon.

Maya may probably have been able to cope with Richard in a bad mood but she was certainly no match against Richard in an amorous mood!  Her physical attraction to him was just too strong for her to withstand his advances.  She had just had a small taste of his prowess in bed that had her behaving so carelessly and so wantonly.  She was delirious with pleasure as he seemed to instinctively hone in on all her erogenous zones.  He had caressed and stroked her so intimately that she was helpless as he brought her to heavenly heights where she burst into flames.

As she slowly came back down to earth, Maya’s sensual bliss was quickly replaced by acute embarrassment.  If only one can be swallowed up by the earth merely by wishing it, she would have done so to avoid facing Richard afterwards.  There she was lying in a wicker daybed with him, behaving like an overly emotional female as tears flowed in post experience reaction.

“Maya, what’s wrong sweetheart?” Richard softly asked in concern, which made her tears flow even more profusely.

“Maya?” Richard questioned softly.

Maya abruptly sat up and gathered her front, still crying silently.  She would have gotten up and walked away just as quietly had Richard not barred her way.

“Maya, look at me.”  Richard’s voice had a hint of pleading but Maya still can not bring herself to look at him directly. “Sweetheart, please talk to me.”

“I want to go home,” Maya hiccupped her response.

“What do you want me to say, Maya?  I cannot say I am sorry for what just happened coz I’m not,” was the unapologetic response as Richard framed her face.

Maya turned her head away as Richard tried to kiss her tears away. She desperately needed to get away from him. Now!

“Okey, fine!”  Richard bit out when Maya struggled out of his hold.

Richard and Maya both had mutinous facial expressions on the ride home.  The minute the Land Cruiser stopped, Maya jumped out without waiting for Richard to open the door for her.  She ran upstairs like the devil was at her heels and locked herself in her room.

She looked terrible the next day as she was not able to sleep for each time she closed her eyes, she could see Richard and how he caressed her traitorous body.  She would then get embarrassed all over again.  She stayed in her bedroom all day, feigning sickness.  Hence, it was easy for her to avoid Richard when he visited that evening with Kute making excuses for her.

Maya was on tenterhooks the entire hour that he stayed.  She could hear him chatting with her Tatay Arturo discussing structural reinforcements and other projects her father would like to do.  She could not hide in her bedroom like this, night after night.   She could travel back to Manila to stay at her condo in order to give herself a reprieve from Richard’s advances.  So, the next day, she informed her family that she needed to be back in the capital city for a few days to sort out some things.  Kute had looked at her with disbelief but did not ask probing questions.

Maya’s flight back to Manila was uneventful.  It was just what she needed to calm herself and try to rationalize what had happened between herself and Richard. The answer was pure and simple of course.  Powerful mutual physical attraction. With the strong pull between them, it was but natural that they would end up in bed. Sooner or later.

Pero hindi ko pa siya sinasagot! Saka sabi niya maghihintay siya!

Well, he did wait. He waited until the next day and almost made love to her! The worst part of it was she just let him.  No, that was not entirely accurate nor honest. She enjoyed his love-making.  With his vast sexual experience, she was certainly no match for him. And that was not fair!

Pilyong Singkit na yun! Sobrang eksperto sa aparato! Hmmmp!

She was still wearing a disgruntled frown when she went through the airport gates. The expression was still in place when,  Emman, her gay flatmate and fellow TA flight attendant, opened the door for her as she was struggling to find  the right key for the front door.

“Roomie? What are you doing back here?”  her friend asked as he followed her into their minuscule flat that barely had room to swing a cat.

“Dito ako nakatira diba?”

“My pink gosh!”  Emman’s left delicately plucked eyebrow was raised. “Ang alam ko, isang buwan ang bakasyon mo.  So, what’s up?”

Maya tried to look relaxed as she checked her mail. They were mainly bills as per normal but one was from TA training department which she quickly opened.  It was reminding FA’s of the first aid refresher courses that started to run from last week. She had another week to be able to attend one of the sessions.

“I just have to attend the first aid refresher course this week,” Maya quickly used the new information as her alibi as she glanced at the reminder letter  “Baka umuwi din ako ng San Nicholas pagkatapos.”

Emman smiled as he peered at her closely. “Roomie, meron kang hindi sinasabi sakin.”

Maya was taken aback. Did she really look different after almost making love with Richard?  Goodness, will everyone be able to tell?

“Ha?  Anong pinagsasasabi mo?” she asked worriedly.

Emman, perceptive as always, shook his head. “There is a sparkle in your eyes that was not there when you left.”

“Well…” Maya avoided her flatmate’s knowing gaze.

“My pink gosh! Meron ka na bang boylet?  Finally?” exclaimed her gay friend excitedly.

Maya smiled at the term ‘boylet’ and how highly unsuitable it was to describe Richard.  He was anything but a boy.

“There is someone but… I am just…well,” Maya paused as she tried to verbalize  the overwhelming feeling she had at the speed of how the relationship was progressing. “basta…saka ko na lang ikukwento sayo, kapag hindi nako nahihilo sa bilis ng mga pangyayari, ha?”

“Sige promise yan. Kukulitin talaga kita.”  Emman retorted as she headed towards her bedroom.

Maya just smiled ruefully as she closed her bedroom. She unpacked, undressed  and garbed on a thick towelling robe. She then gathered all soiled clothing into her laundry basket.  She glanced at her wall clock which just ticked a few minutes after 8pm.  She went to her ensuite bathroom and turned on the tap to fill the bathtub with very warm water.  Then, she lit her chamomile scented candles to fill the bathroom with a relaxing ambience.

With her long tresses in a high chignon, Maya was already soaking in the bath when Emman hollered that he will go to the mall to meet up with a few female colleagues from TA to watch the last full show screening of  a chick flick.  She yelled back that she was in the bath and requested that Emman lock the door behind him.

Resettling herself in the warm water, she took the ball puff  to scrub herself in places that was reminding her of her last encounter with the bespectacled chinito.  He had touched her in the most intimate places which were still very sensitive at the moment.  Even the gentle laps of water against the swell of her breasts were echoing the caress of the man who preoccupied most of her conscious thoughts at the moment.

With grim determination, Maya closed her eyes and tried to blank out any thoughts on Richard.  The very warm scented water eventually soothed and relaxed her body.  Maya frowned as she felt the light caress of fingers over her uppers arms which travelled to the upper swell of her breasts that were visible above water.  Maya languorously opened her eyes and saw Richard lowering himself into the bathtub,  causing a lot of scented water to overflow.  Maya blinked as he poised himself above her before his lips claimed hers in another searingly hot kiss.

Maya’s hands involuntarily went to his wide chest and felt his bare warm skin. Richard further deepened the kiss and she felt his length covering hers as water gushed around them.  The bath water may have cooled down, but Maya’s temperature was rising again as Richard’s hands were lightly stroking her while he continued with his drugging kisses.

Maya’s breathing hitched when Richard’s lips travelled down her neck to one upturned peak that leapt alive as he suckled hungrily and then fondled the other.  Maya was mewling with pleasure as Richard shifted his attention to her other peak.  Then his hands were exploring further down, much further down.  Maya bit her lower lip to stop herself from groaning when she felt his fingers probe between her feminine furrow.  She gasped as he found her hidden nubbin and started caressing it like before.  With eyes squeezed shut, Maya could only hold on to him as she felt hedonistic delight taking over.

Wordlessly, she felt one of his hands shift to cup one of her derrière and she felt him wedging her thighs open. Then she felt a blunt tip nudging her feminine entrance that made her eyes flutter wide open. She looked up at him and saw that his chinito eyes were glittering down at her before he swooped down again to cover her lips.  Maya felt herself being stretched as his male shaft inched its way into her feminine core.  When Richard released her lips, Maya’s breathing was very much uneven.  Richard gathered her in his arms, as his painstakingly slow invasion continued.

Maya’s hands went up and gripped his upper arms and rested her cheek against his left chest.  His heart was beating hard and loud. In fact, it was getting louder and louder that it alarmed  her for his heartbeat sounded very different from the ‘lub-dub’ that one normally hears.  It was more like the pounding of wood, like someone knocking very hard on a wooden door!

That was when Maya’s eyes finally opened.  She was still half-immersed within the scented water with her hands gripping either side of the bathtub while her legs were spread-eagled under the scented bath water.  But she was alone!  Her hands went to her hot cheeks in shame.  It was just a dream, albeit a very vivid erotic dream!

Damn the man!  She can’t even escape him even though she had already placed a great distance between them!  Her traitorous body certainly remembered, as she was reduced to fantasizing about him!

The hard knock came again.  She ignored it at first but was forced to get up as the relentless knock got louder by the second.  Any harder and the front door would be in danger of getting knocked off its hinges.

“Sandali lang!” she yelled out which halted the wood pounding.

Maya climbed out of the bath and self-deprecatingly noted the very dry bathroom floor tiles. She haphazardly towelled herself dry before putting on a towelling robe. Emman must have forgotten his set of keys again, Maya thought as she quickly padded barefoot to the front door.

“Emman?  Nakalimutan mo na nam—!”  Maya’s jaw dropped as she opened the door for it was Richard standing there with a thunderous expression on his face.

“Who the hell is Emman?”  Richard demanded as he walked through the door, brushing past Maya.

“Richard, anong ginagawa mo dito?” Maya finally asked as she recovered, ignoring his question.

“I should be asking you that question, Maya” he verbally threw back with both hands on his hips as he stood in the middle of the condo’s tiny living room.

“I don’t have to tell you anything!” she yelled defiantly but stepped back as Richard advanced on her like a tiger eyeing his prey “Well, if you must know I have training this week.”

“Really?” he questioned, scepticism written all over his stern face.

“Yes, really!”

“So, you were not actually running away from me?” he baited as he continued to advance.

“Bakit ko naman gagawin yun?”  Maya parried with another question as she moved away from him, her back now against the wall as she gripped  the doorknob.

“Dahil natakot ka sa nangyari nung isang gabi” he replied with eyes mere slits.

“Hindi ah!” was her vehement denial.

“Good!”  Richard looked pointedly at her towelling robe “Change into something decent.  We’re going out for dinner.”

In a bad mood, Richard can be derisive, demanding or domineering.  At the moment, he was all three which took her breath away, in a really very bad way!  How dared he imply that she was dressed indecently!  For goodness sake, she was in the bath when he arrived unannounced!  And he did not even ask if she wanted to go out with him. He just declared that they were and that was that!

“Sinong may sabing sasama ako sayo?”  she bristled, unwilling to be browbeated.

“Are you not hungry?”

Maya shook her head vigorously.

“Okey, then we’ll stay in and order food to be delivered.” Richard eyed her almost balefully.

“What? You can’t stay here!” Maya protested in panic.

His response was to close the door a bit more forcefully  than necessary as he closed the gap between them.  She was rooted at the spot, her back against the wall.  Then, Maya felt Richard’s right hand go round her waist while the other angled her face so he could directly look into her eyes.

“You are driving me insane,” he murmured as he lowered his face to hers.

“Richard, please!” Maya protested in a breathless voice as she tried to avoid his kiss.

Hmmmnnn…you smell very nice,” he murmured as his kiss fell on the side of her face while his right hand travelled upwards to go under her robe to freely explore.  His lips were making a trail across her neck while his hands cupped her twin peaks under the fabric.  Maya could only whimper as little ripples of pleasurable sensations coursed through her body.  She was helpless as Richard swooped up again for a passionate kiss.  All coherent thought processes fled once again as Maya’s traitorous body revelled in the attention that Richard was giving her.  Of their own accord, her hands had crept around his neck as she hesitantly kissed him back which made Richard just deepen the kiss.

“So, who is Emman?”  he asked when he broke the liplock only to trail his lips along her jawline.

Maya frowned. “Emman?”

“Hmmnnnn… when I arrived, you thought I was Emman.  I seem to keep on tripping over your boyfriends. What’s he to you?” he prompted in deceptively soft tone.

“He’s not my—oohhh!”  Maya forgot what she was trying to say as his thumb pad teased her nipples.

“Go on,” Richard prompted as he kissed the corner of her mouth.

“He’s not…my boy…friend,” Maya managed to gasp with unsteady breathing “he’s myyyy g—gay…flat…mate…”

“Good!” Richard said before kissing her that obliterated all rational thoughts from her head.

After a while, Richard released her lips and looked down at her.

“Maya?” he whispered.

Silence.

“I am sure you have something to say,”    he said huskily.

“No?” he sounded amused as Maya shook her head wordlessly. “Well, if you have nothing to say, we might as well continue this in your bedroom, hmmm?”

Maya gasped and then looked up at him.

“And daya-daya mo!” Maya complained as she glared at him “Dinadaan mo ako palagi sa bilis, eh!”

Richard’s brows merely lifted as he tried to suppress a smile which further annoyed Maya.

“Sabi mo maghihintay ka, diba?” Maya whined petulantly. “Ano?  Express Lane na naman?”

“Maya,  FYI,” he indicated towards his lower body where his hard-on was clearly visible against his pants “I am still waiting.”

“Oh!”  Maya blinked in realization, her doe-shaped eyes as big as saucers.  While she was consumed with passion, she did not even spare a thought for him.

Richard laughed in that throaty deep voice, his chinito eyes slanted upwards in very good humour despite his unsatisfied state.

Maya blinked again as she finally remembered that she was half exposed.  Her hands flew to gather her robe lapels as she tried to escape, her eyes avoiding Richard’s knowing gaze.  She went nowhere as Richard refused to release her.

“Maya, look at me,” Richard softly commanded as he gently turned her jaw to face him.  “There is nothing wrong with what happened the other night, if that was bothering you. What happened was just as natural as my loving you.”

Maya still kept mum, lost for words.

“Are you shy, Maya?”

Maya wordlessly nodded her head.

“Sweetheart, you shouldn’t be,” Richard laughed again throatily.  “We are physically attracted to each other so ‘this’ was inevitable between us.”

A rumbling sound interrupted their conversation.  It was Richard’s stomach growling with hunger.

“I haven’t had lunch and I am really getting hungry,” Richard informed her ruefully as he stepped back to release her. “It’s too late for a proper course dinner but I am sure we can find something if I drive around.”

With head averted, she quickly went into her bedroom.  For a minute, Maya weighed the merits of locking him out of her room.  He will probably just break it down and wake up the entire condominium building’s residential populace in the process!

“And Maya, I am just giving you 10 minutes.  If you are not dressed in that time, I will go in there and continue where we left off,” he hollered through her bedroom door.

That threat got her moving in lightning speed, unwilling to risk another bout of love-making with Richard. How was she going to get through the next couple of hours with him?  She would die of embarrassment each time he looked at her.

Funny enough, Maya was able to survive the late night date with Richard.  They went to a 24-hour American diner that always served breakfast and steak dinners.  She was even able to muster a smile when Richard ordered a banana with her steak and rice meal.

Richard’s behaviour changed, though.  At first, he had insisted on holding her hand as he drove his BMW.  It was like a tug of war at first, but he eventually won as he firmly held her hand against his thigh.  Then he was either holding her hand, or his hand would be at the back of her waist when they were walking.  And she had even felt his palm stray downwards to her derrière once or twice!  He had also held her very close when they were standing by the diner’s foyer, waiting to be seated.  He even stole a kiss as he did a quick lipsmack before guiding her as they followed the waiting staff  to their table.  While waiting for their food, he was holding her hands across the square table.

Richard was behaving like a boyfriend!  More specifically, her boyfriend!  He had decided that they are ‘together’ despite the fact that they never did the DTR.  Maya almost laughed at herself.  Richard had almost made love to her once, or twice, if you count what happened tonight.  Yet, she was still wanting a verbal confirmation of their relationship status!

When they got back to her condo, Richard had kissed her thoroughly for several minutes before releasing her and then watching her go through her front door.  He had whispered that he has an important meeting the next day  at the corporate head office that finishes by midday  but he would call her so that they can have lunch together.

First thing in the morning, Maya left for TA head office. She picked up her payslips and checked her next roster.  Then, she sauntered off to the training centre located on the third floor.  She presented herself to the elderly lady facilitator, who was part of the company nurse team, and confessed that she was not able to book herself as she had been away.  The facilitator smiled and waved her in stating that she did not have many attendees for that morning.  Maya breezed though the CPR training and finished early but the facilitator said something that struck Maya.

“Life is so precious and you never know what’s around the corner.  One minute, you are laughing with a passenger, a colleague, or a loved one.  The next minute, something happens and they are gone.  So, you need to be prepared but do not blame yourself if you cannot save that life, because there are no guarantees in life.”

There are no guarantees in life.  That statement kept on replaying in her head as she stepped into the elevator.

In retrospect, Maya thought about Señor La Rosa and his wife. They were both in the prime of their lives.  He had a brilliant career.  He had many plans, intended to have many children, hoped to fill the Spanish villa with love and laughter.  But it all came to a crashing end with the unexpected death of his wife and his own death soon thereafter.

The thought of Richard dying was unthinkable.  Yet, she had cowardly left Richard when she could not handle the situation.  He quickly followed but anything could have happened in between.  Then she thought about his chopper and she felt nauseous just thinking of the mishaps that could have happened to him while travelling to and fro Mindoro night after night just so that he could be with her.

She ran out of the elevator as soon as it stopped on the ground floor level.  Maya practiced some breathing exercises to calm herself down.   It took several minutes before her breathing regulated and her pulses beat in normal steady rhythm.

Without meaning to, the facilitator drummed a few home truths to her this morning.  In the final analysis, she loves Richard and he loves her.  Whatever the future brings, she owed it to herself and to him to have a chance at happiness.  There would definitely be problems with the difference in personalities.  She was not that naïve not to expect any.   But they can compromise which had always been the key to successful relationships.  And as long as he remained devoted and faithful to her, they can work out the rest.

With that decided in her head, she was again light on her feet.  It was an hour before lunchtime.  Maya would surprise him and visit him this time.  She was smiling as she hailed an oncoming taxi.

Despite the hideous Makati City traffic, Maya was practically beaming when she finally reached Richard’s head office.  The clerical staff were busy as she went through.  It was a good thing Miss Lisa came out of the boardroom and saw her.

“Miss Maya,” she smiled at her as Maya warmly kissed her cheek in greeting “Your Kuya Ryan is not here.”

Maya smiled shyly. “I am looking for Richard, actually. Is he free now?”

Lisa smiled conspiratorially at her. “We just finished a meeting with the public relations company.  You go into the boardroom.”

Maya hesitated not wanting to intrude on Richard when he has clients and employees with him. When she saw several people filing out from the boardroom, she went towards the door, smiling in acknowledgement as she passed them.  She quietly opened the door, but was transfixed like a statue as she saw Richard talking in hushed tones with a very beautiful woman in a very clingy backless halter top and silky black pants that showed off her curvaceously stunning figure. But what was damning was that the woman’s arms were around his neck while he was holding her upper arms.

Maya felt a searing pain in her chest.  She stood there for a few seconds unconsciously gripping the doorknob before she finally remembered where she was.  Pulling a deep calming breath, Maya plastered on a smile as she felt the adrenalin rushing through her bloodstream as she switched on the fight mode.

You messed with the wrong woman, Richard Lim!

Maya walked further into the boardroom and stopped when she reached Richard’s line of vision.

“Maya!” he greeted in surprise.  But was that delight that she can also detect in his voice?

“Hello, Richard” she smiled which did not reach her eyes, “TA’s head office was nearby so I thought it was better for me to come instead of you fetching me for our lunch date.  But I can see you are otherwise busy with your favourite  ‘casual proclivity’.”

“Maya, it’s not what you think.”  Richard protested as he finally pried Catherine’s arms from around his neck but had to hold her upper arms again as she tried to snuggle up to him once more.

“Richard, who is this girl?  Tell her to go away so we can be alone.”  Catherine piped in as she looked up at Richard with sultry eyes.

Maya felt nauseous at the sight of Richard holding another woman.  “Miss Whoever-You-Are.  Let me introduce myself, I am Maya dela Rosa and I am his girlfriend,” she said, enunciating every syllable of that statement very clearly.

Maya allowed for a few seconds for her words to sink in to the creature between herself and Richard.

“You are?” Catherine questioned rather dumbly as she turned her head towards Maya.

“I would have been his fiancée if I had accepted his marriage offer.”  Maya informed her hardly as she glared at Richard.  “But after today, you are quite welcome to him. Coz I do not want to see his two-timing face ever again!”

“Maya—”

“Excuse me.  I need to go coz  I can’t stand your combined stench!”

Catherine gasped at the insult but Maya could not care less as she walked out of the boardroom with head held high.

Maya could hear Richard talking exasperatedly at Catherine as he tried to follow her.

“Maya, please wait!” Richard pleaded but she ignored him.

She smiled at Lisa who was just outside the boardroom door.  Her progress slowed down for she could not see where she was going. Her vision got blurry with tears.

“Miss Maya, are you okey?”  Lisa was looking at her with concern as she was handing her a tissue from a box of Kleenex.

“Thank you, Miss Lisa” Maya sniffed as she controlled her tears. “I will be okey.  I just need to get out of here.”

Maya pulled a deep breath and smiled tremulously at Lisa.  With head held high, Maya was the epitome of grace under pressure as she walked with poise towards the lifts which was opportunely held wide open as someone noticed her approach.

She saw Richard striding towards her as she quickly pressed down on the button to close the elevator doors faster.

to be continued…

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