Long-held Torch – Part 2
Author’s note: Special thanks to Ms. Joyce Pacheco who graciously proofread this chapter.
“Ano bang gagawin natin?” a skinny male seventeener asked, while trailing after a same-aged girl in pigtails.
“Simon” Maya sighed “Ako, pupunta sa beach. Ikaw, ewan ko kung saan ka pupunta.”
“Pero gabi na…baka mapagalitan ka ni Nanay Teresita” he protested.
“Nagpaalam po ako” Maya was thankful it was dark. Otherwise, Simon, her childhood friend, will know she was lying through her teeth by just looking at the deep blush staining her cheeks.
“Mangunguha ba tayo ulit ng halaan? Akala ko ba ayaw mo na?” Simon, Maya and Cristina Rose had spent one afternoon to take advantage of the low tide to dig for clams. It was fun but Maya suffered afterwards from sunburn. She had just finished peeling in time for baby Luke’s christening. Otherwise her low-back cream dress would have revealed different shades of her skin.
“Sinabi ko bang mangunguha ako? Gusto ko lang maglakad sa beach para matunaw yung kinain ko.”
Simon nodded and chuckled in agreement. “Sabagay, ang dami mo ngang kinain kanina.”
The christening of baby Luke took place the day before but because they still have relatives in the house, lunch times and dinner times were still festive as Nanay Teresita and Mamang kept on providing sumptuous viands and their specialty kakanin.
“Tingnan mo ‘to, nang-insulto pa” Maya chided yet joined her friend in laughter.
“Ang takaw mo naman kasi talaga minsan.”
Maya poked her tongue at him which just made Simon laugh even harder. If she was being honest, she would admit that she has missed her friend. Moreover, she missed her family, her Nanay Teresita’s home-cooking and her island home. Much as she loved the challenges that degree-studies bring, she was still often the bewildered provincial lass despite being on the dean’s list. Manila-bred girls spoke a different language altogether. Compared to an innocent and gauche Maya, her classmates were definitely more sophisticated, she reckoned. Hence, having Simon’s uncomplicated company was like a breath of fresh air.
It was in that state of merriment that they saw another individual walking on the private stretch of beach. Maya instinctively knew who it was, judging from the way the butterflies in her stomach came to life whenever he was near. It was Mr. Singkit himself.
Maya frowned and pursed her lips in annoyance. The last person she wanted to see was her Kuya Ryan’s bestfriend. Richard has been teasing her the last few days, especially yesterday at the Christening. She had almost slipped on the Church’s antique floor tiles wearing her heels. Had Richard not moved lightning fast to steady her, she would have lost her balance and ended up on the floor. As it was, she only lost her composure. She would have thanked him but his mocking suggestion stopped her. Richard was holding her close enough to whisper that she should remove her high-heeled shoes before she breaks a leg which would necessitate bringing her to the emergency hospital, effectively ruining the celebration. He also advised her to go barefoot as she normally does.
“Kuya Richard, good evening po.” Simon greeted the other man.
Richard nodded at Simon and then turned to look at Maya, noting her bare feet.
“Going somewhere, kids?” Richard smiled knowingly at Maya who hates being referred to as a child.
“Maglalakad lang po sa beach si Maya. Kaya nga ho sinasamahan ko.”
Richard checked his watch.“Hating gabi na. I suggest you go home Simon.”
“Eh, ano po…” Simon’s hands gestured towards Maya.
“I’ll take care of Maya. Go home.” Richard instructed firmly and Simon complied.
Maya was fuming and immediately scolded Richard when they were alone. “Bakit ba nakikialam ka?”
“Look Maya. It’s late. You need to get back home.” Richard calmly explained as if speaking to a child, which made Maya even more mad.
“NO! You look! You don’t have the right to tell me what to do—”
“It is not safe at this time of the night especially for a lone female.”
“Pinaalis mo kasi si Simon. Dapat may kasama ako!” Maya was almost yelling in frustration.
“To do what? Skinny-dipping?” Richard asked through his teeth, a nerve ticking at his temple.
“Papaano mong nalaman?” Maya’s breath was knocked off her chest at the knowledge that this man saw her in the raw.
“It’s not important –”
“Naninilip ka no?” Maya accused him, her chest heaving in agitation, while her cheeks turned a deepest shade of red.
“What? Bakit naman kita sisilipan?” Richard pulled a deep breath to calm himself. “You went swimming naked on a beach that can be accessed by anyone.”
“It’s a private beach – ”
“Maya, your parent’s property is not even fenced-off. Any Tom, Dick or Harry can waltz in here and rape you.” Richard was frustratingly combing his fingers through his hair.
“Subukan lang nila” Maya said with false bravado.
“Bloody Hell! You just don’t get it, do you?” Richard yelled as his eyes become just mere slits in anger. He grabbed her upper arms and started to lower his face to hers.
“Singkit…” Maya reverted to calling him by her special moniker for him in her nervous state. She has never called him KUYA and this was mainly due to the fact that Richard loved to tease Maya. When they had first met, he had called her BUNGI for she had lost her two upper front teeth at age seven and she retaliated by calling him SINGKIT which sort of stuck. When her front teeth had grown, he would refer to her as RADYO due to her non-stop chatter. When she was not looking, he would snatch her scrunchie and her long hair would come tumbling down. It was due to this annoying habit of his that Maya learnt to tie her own hair in pigtails instead of ponytails.
“Hmmmmnn?” Richard’s breath was warming her face, his clean male scent enveloping her.
“Anong ginagawa mo?” Maya was confused yet excited at the same time. All she could do was lean back to avoid his face as Richard shifted his hold to span his hands at the base of her spine. His nearness was making the butterflies in her stomach go crazy.
“Teaching you a lesson.” Richard angled his head and then covered her mouth with his own in a searing kiss.
“Earth calling Maya, come in Maya!” called a feminine voice to snap her out of her daydreaming.
“What?” Maya blinked at her colleagues who were all looking at her.
“Ang sabi ko huwag kang mag-alala. Mahal ka din nun.” Edzelyn teased.
They were all seated in a café in Hong Kong during their 5 hour stop-over from their long-haul flight from London and were discussing plans for a get-together in Manila.
Capt. James smiled very fondly at Maya. “You will be off for a few days, right?”
Maya nodded. She actually filed for a three-week vacation leave but did not volunteer that information to James who was seated on her right.
“So you can join us. Gimmick tayo.”
Maya shook her head. “I’m going home to Mindoro. My youngest niece’s christening.”
“Maybe I can join you there?” hinted Capt. James, seeking some sign of encouragement.
“Pwede naman. Lahat naman ng kaibigan ko welcome kanila Nanay at Tatay. Yun nga lang magtitiis kayo sa amenities. Hindi moderno ang bahay namin sa Mindoro.”
“Hindi naman bahay ang dadalawin ko doon kundi…ikaw.” Capt. James declared half-jokingly as his usual manner when hinting on his admiration for Maya.
“Uuuuuuuuyyyy!!!!” chorused by Maya’s fellow FA’s.
Maya just smiled and ignored the teasing. Much as she enjoyed Capt. James Ventura’s company, she had tried not to encourage him. Capt. James has been described as tall, very good looking, and his family owned the airline Maya works for. His father has been wanting to groom him as the next managing director of Time Airways but has avoided this by not letting go of his flying job. Capt. James had often said that he hates being tied down to a desk, which was comparable to the way he has never tied himself down to a woman. He is considered quite a catch which would explain why he has got girls coming out of his ears.
However, Maya is not attracted to him which baffled even herself. Besides, she has no plans to become another notch on his bedpost.
They arrived in Manila late at night. While the others were heading home, Maya requested to be shuttled to the local terminal for her Manila-San Nicholas flight. She freshened up in the terminal restroom and changed into a sleeveless peach-coloured top, white walking shorts and donned on a pair of peach-coloured espadrilles. She bought a few pairs of the super comfy footwear when she stayed for a couple of days in Barcelona. Wearing them was almost akin to walking barefoot.
She had texted Cristina Rose of her estimated time of arrival in San Nicholas so it was either her or Tatay Arturo who would likely pick her up at the airport. She missed her family too much this time and intended to spend her entire leave here in Mindoro.
At age 25, Maya has been almost everywhere around the globe, courtesy of her work as an international flight attendant. She loved the perks of having access to great fare rates to countries where Time Airways don’t go. She had access to duty-free products. She had made great friends and met people from all walks of life.
However, like any other job, there were downsides. Long-haul flights can be exhausting. Mid-flight plane engine problems can be harrowing. And after five years of having an erratic schedule, her body clock was so stuffed up that she sometimes took sleeping tablets to get that much needed rest. Lately, she has been considering other jobs in the airline industry. With the work network she has formed through the years, she can seriously consider setting up her own travel agency. The appeal of not being answerable to a boss has been steadily growing the more she pondered over the idea.
She has already gone through the gates but still has not seen any sign of either Cristina Rose or her father. It was very early in the morning and she was dead tired from travelling. After 15 minutes of waiting, she opened her shoulder tote-style Coach leather bag to fish out her mobile phone and started to scroll down to search for Cristina Rose’s number.
A nice male clean scent invaded her senses before she heard a voice call her name. Instant recognition of that baritone voice made her eyes go wide with disbelief and her quarter-turn a bit jerky.
“YOU!” Maya rudely acknowledged the bedimpled chinito in front of her, mobile phone still against her ear.
to be continued…