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 🙂
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.
“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.
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.
“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.
“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 bit her lip to control her sobs.
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…”
“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…
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…