“James! Asan ka na? Baka ma-late tayo sa appointment!” Maya said as she left the elevator. “Nasa lobby na ko.”
“Wait lang kasi, Maya.” The voice on the other line said. Maya giggled. “Malapit na ko, promise. Tatlong stop lights na lang ang titigilan ko tapos yan na ang next. Kumalma ka nga!”
Maya laughed. “Ang tagal mo kasi. Mamaya hindi pa tayo makasal dahil late tayo sa seminar. Ikaw din, mauudlot pa yung pagiging Mrs. Ventura ko.”
“Sandali nga lang kasi.” He replied, and then he chuckled. “Parang atat ka naman atang maging misis ko, Maya.” He teased.
“Oy, ikaw din naman ah! Atat ka rin kayang maging asawa ko.” Maya replied. She took a seat on the lobby of their condo building. Well, James was right. She’s too excited to be Mrs. Ventura. Ever since she said yes to James’ proposal last week, it was all she could ever think of. “Asan ka na ba?”
“Second to the last stop light. Malapit na ko.” Maya smiled at his answer. She would never get tired of hearing his voice. They’ve been together for two years and Maya knew that he would be the man she wants to spend the rest of her life with.
“James, nagtext sa’kin si Tito Frank. Yung brakes daw nung sasakyan mo, kailangang ipa-maintenance. Napagawa mo na ba?” Maya thoughtfully asked.
“My brakes are fine, sweetheart. Nag-aaalala lang yung si Dad kasi ginamit niya ‘to four days ago, pero nung ginamit ko siya kahapon, ayos naman.”
“Pero James –“
“Maya, I know my car better than he does. Wag kang mag-alala, ha?”
“Paano ako hindi mag-aalala e diba delikado ‘yun? Ipa-check mo na, please?” Maya replied.
She heard James grunt on the other line. “Fine. Sige na po, ipapa-check ko na. Are you happy now?”
Maya giggled. “Oo. Sige na ibababa ko na yung phone.”
“I’ll see you later. I love you, Maya.”
“I love you din, James!” Maya was about to hung up when James called her name again.
“Oh? Akala ko ba ibababa ko na?”
James paused. Maya heard him smile. “I really love you. Promise me that you’ll always be happy, kahit wala ako, okay?”
“Ha? Naku, James, ang weird mo na naman.” Maya replied.
“Basta promise me. Promise me na kahit anong mangyari, dapat maging masaya ka pa rin.”
“Sige na. I promise, James.” Maya said. She couldn’t explain but she’s getting nervous because of what James is saying. “Huy, James. Ayos ka lang talaga?”
She heard James chuckle on the other line. “Oo naman. I love you, Maya. Remember your promise, okay?” And then he hung up.
“James? Huy James!” Maya said. When she looked at her phone, she saw that their call already ended. She tried redialling James’ number again but he didn’t pick it up.
Relax, Maya. Nagmamaneho ‘yun, kaya hindi niya sinasagot.
Maya stood up from her seat and to her surprise; she hit a glass of water that she didn’t know was there.
“Promise me that you’ll always be happy, kahit wala ako, okay?”
Maya jolted awake. When her vision got clearer, she saw that she’s still inside the jeepney she rode on. Tears are forming again in her eyes as she remembered that she had dreamt of that last conversation she had with James before he died. She lifted her hand to wipe her tears and was surprised when she saw that she’s holding a white handkerchief. After a few beats, she finally remembered that the stranger in front of her gave his handkerchief when she wiped her tears. Maya quickly lifted her head to look in front of her but she halted when she saw that the stranger has already left. There was a new man sitting in front of her but she’s completely sure that it was not him.
Sayang naman, hindi ko naibalik. Maya sighed and decided to put the handkerchief inside her bag. But before putting it inside, she saw a letter ‘R’ embroidered on its corner. She smiled at the sight of it as she remembered that James used to lose his handkerchiefs and to prevent it from happening again, Maya embroidered James’ entire handkerchief set with his first name.
Remember your promise, okay?
Maya remembered James’ last words to her. She sighed, and then inhaled deeply. Maya knew that she needs to keep her promise or else James would be mad at her even though he already crossed over. It’s as if James already knew what will happen to him so he gave his last words to Maya.
Laging may dahilan ‘di ba?
Maya held the handkerchief and wiped her tears again. Promise talaga, James, tutuparin ko na simula ngayong yung pangako ko. At sa taong nagbigay sa’kin ng panyong ‘to, maraming salamat. Nang dahil sa’yo, naliwanagan na ko sa dapat kong gawin.
“Ricky, bakit basang-basa ka?” Esmeralda said when she saw her son enter his house. Richard’s top is drenched. When he left the jeepney, rain started pouring again and it took time for him before he hailed a cab. He just shook his head while he smiled when he rode the cab. He’s totally amused of the new him. Richard knew that if he was still like before, his anger would get the best of him.
“Fe, makikikuha naman ng towel ‘tong si Ricky sa –“
“Ako na, Ma.” Richard interrupted. “Magpapalit na rin ako ng damit. I’ll be back in a bit.” Without waiting for his mother’s answer, he went upstairs and entered his room.
“Ma’am, iba na ho talaga si Ricardo, ano?” Manang Fe, the Lim household’s trusted house employee, said. She’s been a witness of Richard’s life as she was his nanny ever since Richard was born. And for Richard’s whole life, it was this moment that Manang Fe can completely saw that Richard is a changed man.
Esmeralda turned and looked at Manang Fe. “Oo talaga, Fe. Ibang-iba na talaga ang anak ko.”
Richard took a quick shower when he went to his room, afraid that he might catch a cold. Ever since he was operated, he’s now scared of getting sick again. He changed into his casual clothes but before he head out, he saw his phone lying on his bed. Richard sat on his bed and reached for the phone. He pressed the gallery button and smiled when the picture he took earlier was the photo that popped out.
The picture of the lady was there. Richard found it weird with what he is feeling. But he knew that he really finds this lady beautiful. “Gee, Richard. You’re too old to have a crush.” He muttered. He was about to fish for his handkerchief but stopped when he remembered that he gave it to her. Instead of getting a negative emotion, he actually felt happy that he gave it to her. It will be a memento of me to her.
Richard looked at the photo on his phone again. There’s something really familiar on her but he can’t put his finger on it. With a smile, he pushed the home button.
I’ll find you.
“Roomie! I’m hooooome!” Emman said as he entered the condo unit. He was about to head for Maya’s room when he saw her in the kitchen. “Oh? Anyare, girl?” He carefully placed the bags of the things he bought on the couch and went beside Maya.
“Hi Emman! Nagluluto ako ng pang dinner natin. Ayos na ba ang adobo? Kulang kasi sa ingredients kung magluluto ako ng sinigang tapos –“ Maya abruptly stopped when Emman put his hand on her forehead. “Oh? Anong problema?” she chuckled.
“Roomie, may lagnat ka ba?” Emman asked as he placed his hand on Maya’s neck. “Hindi ka naman mainit. Anong meron roomie?”
“Uy, bakit ba Emman? Hindi ako nilalagnat no.” Maya answered as she removed Emman’s hand.
“Eh kasi naman. Nagluluto ka.”
“Eh ano kung nagluluto ako?” She replied as she continued to stir the dish she’s cooking. “Palagi kasi ikaw ang nagluluto, Emman, kaya napag-isipan ko na ako na muna ngayon.”
“Exactly Roomie!” Emman exclaimed. “Oh my pink gosh! Nabangga ka ba kanina? O natisod? Tapos nahulog sa kanal. Oh my God, roomie! Nahulog ka sa kanal! Naligo ka na? Tapos –“
“Emman naman eh!” Maya stopped him. “Okay ako. Walang nangyari. Umuwi lang ako. End of story.”
Emman gaped at her. “Maya naman kasi eh! Ano ngang nangyari? Kasi hindi ako sanay na nakikita kita dito! ‘Di ba ang routine mo, pagkakagaling mo sa trabaho mo, magkukulong ka na lang sa kwarto, tapos lalabas ka na lang kapag kakain na. Tapos after nun, magliligpit ka tapos babalik ulit sa kwarto. Anyare teh?”
Maya frowned. “Ako na nga ‘tong sinusunod ang payo mong mag move-on tapos pupunahin mo lang.” Maya exaggeratedly sighed. “Hay. Sige na, dun na ko sa kwarto ko –“
“Roomie naman eh! Ang drama mo!” Emman held her arm to stop her. “Sorry roomie. Eh kasi naman ang bilis ng transition stage mo! Imagine, tatlong taon kang sober tapos biglang sa isang iglap, ayos ka na ulit!”
Maya laughed. “Eh ganun talaga Emman. Saka hindi pa naman ako ayos na ulit. Hindi pa talaga ako ganun pero papunta na rin dun. O sya, dun ka na at maghahain na ko.” She said and then she turned the stove off.
“Ay teka Roomie! Halika muna!” Emman exclaimed and held Maya’s arm, bringing her with him. They stopped at the stack of bags on the couch. “Tadaaaa!”
Maya gaped at the bags in front of her. “Emman!” Maya hit his arm. “Ang dami mo na namang ginastos! Ang credit card mo na naman ha. Tapos aabot ulit sa limit tapos dadramahan mo na naman ako kasi ang laki ng bills mo.”
“Roomie, kumalma ka muna, pwede? Sale kanina sa mall tapos ginamit ko na rin yung reward points ko tapos si Eds, may gift check! Nag-iwan nga sa’kin eh. Ibigay ko raw sa’yo, pang-shopping mo ng bagong stilettos!” Emman giddily said as he hopped up and down. “Ay! Ang dress mo! Wait lang, nasa isang bag yun eh.” Emman attacked the pile of bags and reached for the white paper bag on the center and another small bag on the couch. “Eto na siya, Roomie!” Emman said as he gave the bigger bag to her. “At ito yung mask. Don’t worry, meron din ako.”
Maya opened the small bag first and held the black box inside. When she opened the box, a black mask was inside; designed with white feathers and three blue feathers on one side and some abstract scribbles in blue and white are imprinted on it. Even though it only covers half of her face, Maya knew that no one will recognize that it was her who will be wearing it. “Thank you, Emman. Nag-abala ka pa. Pati yung mask, binili mo eh pwede namang gawin ‘to.”
“Ay nako, Roomie. Gahol pa sa oras at saka color coding ang masks sa Summit. Basta sa’tin daw mga employees, dapat black, tapos tayong mga representatives ng Time Airways, dapat may something blue. Kaloka nga eh. Buti nakahanap ako ng ganyan.” Emman explained.
“Talaga? May ganito pa?” Maya asked.
“Oo no. Hindi mo kasi binabasa yung invitation eh! Basta blue yung sa’tin tapos lahat ng may mataas na pwesto, kulay grey yung mask nila. Sa mga may-ari ata ng companies yung puti.” Emman continued. “Nakakainis nga eh. Bakit kasi masquerade. Hindi tuloy ako makakahanap ng pogi.”
“Emman!” Maya exclaimed at the silliness of her friend. “Maganda nga ‘tong may mask. Alam ko kung sinong iiwasan ko.”
“Ay friend. Yung dress mo hindi mo pa nakikita!” Emman squealed.
Maya quickly put the mask back on its case and opened the other bag. She gasped when she saw the dress that Emman bought. It was a white dress with a thick black belt-ribbon on its back. The designs on it are very simple but it was overall beautiful.
“Thank you Emman! Thank you talaga.” Maya said as he hugged her friend.
“You’re welcome Roomie! O sya, kumain na tayo para mamaya, ready na sa fashion show!”
“What’s with the masquerade theme of this year’s Summit, son? Bakit sa dami ng theme, yun pa?” Esmeralda asked her son while they are having dinner.
“I don’t know, Ma. Si Papa ang tanungin niyo dyan. Kasama siya nung meeting dati eh.” Richard answered with a smile.
“At sa’kin talaga ibinaling ang tanong.” Roberto, Richard’s father, answered. “Eh Esme, ang sabi kasi nung ibang company, they wanted something different. Yung never before pa daw naging theme ng Summit. Bored na daw sila dun sa simpleng pag-attend kaya nung may nag-suggest na masquerade, umoo na lahat.” He explained.
“Oh, I see.” Esmeralda said. “Sayang lang, ano? Hindi nila makikita ng buo ang kapogian ng anak natin.”
“Ma.” Richard said and chuckled. “I don’t really want everybody’s attention anyway.” He turned to his father. “Will you be attending, Pa? May ball din pala sa program. Kahapon ko lang nakita.”
“Ah, yes, yes. Masyado nang wild kapag nagkakaroon ng meeting tungkol sa summit eh. Unfortunately, I will not attend. I’d rather spent some quality time with your mom instead of attending the Summit for the nth time. Akala ko ba era mo na?”
Richard smirked. “Well, I guess you’re right, Pa. And please, dahan-dahan lang sa quality time niyo ni Mama, okay Pa? Baka mamaya, masundan ako.” He teased. Both of his parents laughed at it. They were really beyond happy that their son is still with them.
“Ricardo, nandyan na yung sasakyan mo.” Manang Fe said as she approached the table.
“Ah, sige po Manang, susunod ako.” Richard replied. He said his excuse and stood from the dining area.
“Ricky, anong nangyari sa sasakyan mo?” Roberto asked.
“Naubos yung battery, Pa. Hinabilin ko na lang kay Liza kasi baka ma-late ako sa dinner natin.” Richard answered.
“Eh paano ka umuwi?” his mom asked.
“Nag-commute ako, Ma.” Richard answered making both of his parents to gape. He just chuckled. “I know, Ma. But I’m safe. Excuse me muna.”
Richard headed outside and saw Liza and Joma talking at each other, but they look like they’re arguing. The two of them stopped when Liza saw Richard.
“Sir, good evening po. Ito na po yung susi nung sasakyan niyo. Napaayos na rin po namin yung baterya.” Joma said as he gave Richard his keys.
“Thank you.” Richard replied. And then he saw that Liza and Joma looked like they just had a little quarrel. “Is .. is everything alright between you two?”
“W-wala naman po Sir.” Liza immediately answered.
“Date night kasi Sir tapos –“ Joma said but immediately stopped when Liza nudged him.
Richard slowly nodded as it sank to him that they Liza cancelled their date night because of his car incident. “Uhm, I-I’m sorry kung nakaabala pa ko sa date night niyo.” He paused and tried to observe the two. Based on the look on their faces, he can say that he is right. “Ganito na lang. To make it up to you two, pili na lang kayo ng kahit anong restaurant, tapos sabihin niyo sa’kin. Sagot ko na mula reservation hanggang sa pagkain.”
The two of them were speechless with what Richard said. It was Joma who recovered first. “K-kahit anong restaurant Sir?”
“Yeah. I’m really sorry, though.” Richard replied.
“Naku Sir thank you po ng sobra!” Liza exclaimed.
“Sir, pwede dun sa kinainan niyo dati? Yung sinasabi ni Sonny sir na pinagdalhan niyo ng mga executives?” Joma hopefully asked but winced when Liza pinched his side. Richard heard Liza mutter “Joma ano ka ba? Mahal dun!”
Richard chuckled. “Sige, I’ll call them. Ngayon na ba?” Richard asked, smiling at the two of them.
“K-kung pwede Sir.” Liza said.
“Okay.” Richard said. “Pumunta na kayo dun. Tatawagan ko na sila agad para alam nilang dadating kayo.Thanks again.”
“Thank you Sir!” Joma exclaimed. “Hulog talaga kayo ng langit eh!”
Richard chuckled. “Sige na, lumakad na kayo.” He was about to head inside when Liza called him.
“Sir! Ito nga po pala yung mask niyo para sa Summit. Sige po Sir! Bye po! Good night! God bless! Thank you po ulit!” Liza said as she and Joma left their house.
Richard opened the paper bag and saw a box inside it. He grabbed the box and opened it. Inside is a white half-mask with some black and silver designs on it. Right. Owners are on color white. He put the mask back on the case and entered the house again.
Soon, the white mask will be meeting the black mask.