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😀. 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
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.
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.
“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.”
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.
“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.
“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.”
“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…