After assisting Maya with her dish, the two of them were now inside the car as Richard drove home. He was occasionally glancing at Maya since she changed her mood. She was jolly earlier but it changed when he told her that there are other guests that were invited in their house. He doesn’t know why Maya was acting like that. She looks like she became nervous for a reason.
Richard removed his hand from the steering wheel and put it on top of Maya’s hand, lying on her lap. “Hey, are you nervous?” He asked. Maya glanced at him and gave him a nod. “Don’t be. I assure you that everyone will like you there.” He said. Maya just nodded at him again and continued to look straight.
The reason for Maya’s sudden change of mood is not just because of Richard’s parents. Well, yes, she was also feeling nervous about it, thinking that his parents might just be like hers, but she’s trying so hard to convince herself that they will not be. But the true reason behind Maya’s mood is because Richard said that there will be other people coming in their house, since it’s his parents’ farewell party. Maya knew how close Ventura Inc. and LAS are. She’s afraid, afraid that a Ventura will be joining them.
Minutes later, Richard’s car stopped in front of this huge house. Maya was already amazed with its exterior, but she was even amazed when the gates automatically opened. The car moved inside, giving Maya a better view of his house.
“B-bahay mo ‘to?” Maya asked, never shifting her gaze away from the house.
“Yup.” He said and went off of his car and opened Maya’s door. “Let’s go inside. There are a few people I would like you to meet.” He said.
Richard opened the door for her and ushered Maya in. His hand fell on his waist as they walked to the veranda. Maya’s heart was thumping so loud. It was finally the moment of truth for her. A few people shifted their head when she and Richard entered the veranda. Maya was afraid to turn her head and look if there’s a Ventura hanging around.
“Ricky! Siya na ba ‘yan?” A woman’s voice said, making Maya’s head to turn upward. She saw an old lady beside an old man. “Hi hija, I’m Ricky’s mom.” She said.
“Maya, this is my mom, Esmeralda.” He said as Esmeralda moved closer to them and gave her a kiss on both cheeks. “And this is my father, Roberto.” Roberto went close to them and nodded at Maya. “Pa, Ma. This is Maya.”
“Magandang gabi po. Happy new year po.” Maya greeted with an unsure smile.
“Happy new year din Hija. Buti naman at pumayag ka sa offer ni Ricky.” Roberto said.
Maya nodded. “Ayos lang naman po kasi umalis po yung kaibigan ko papuntang Canada gawa po nung family niya.”
“Ahh. Eh how about your family?” Esmeralda asked.
“Nasa probinsya po. Hindi na po ako nakauwi eh.” She lied. She just really doesn’t want to go home.
“We’re going to leave the two of you muna. Ricky, ikaw na muna ang bahala ha?” Esmeralda said and then Roberto and her left.
Maya was still afraid to lift her head, thinking that someone might recognize her if they saw her face. Richard has been noticing it since they arrived at his house. He lowered his head to capture her eyes. “Ayos ka lang ba, Maya?” Maya just replied with her usual nod. “I know you’re not okay. You can tell me what’s wrong. Saka wag kang tumungo. Are you hiding from someone?” He continued. Maya still kept her head bowed down. She just felt fingers under her chin, forcing her to look up and when it’s already up, a pair of chinky-eyes was looking straight at her.
“Maya, you can talk to me, okay? If you’re not feeling well, just say so.” Richard said as Maya saw the deep concern in his eyes. Maya couldn’t help but sigh. “Eh kasi, Richard .. basta .. hindi ko pa masasabi sa’yo.” She said.
“It’s okay, I understand. But can I do something to make you feel better?” He asked. Maya just looked at Richard, hesitating if she can say it. When she failed, Richard spoke again. “Tara. I think I know just the thing to make you feel happy.” Richard held her arm and took her with him outside his house. Maya was amazed when she saw that the street outside was already filled with children. Each of them is holding their own noise-makers and some are holding their lusis.
It was still early but the atmosphere was already full of happiness. The smiles on the children’s faces were so infectious that both Richard and Maya were smiling from ear-to-ear. Maya had always loved children. Even though they are these small innocent creatures, they definitely make her heart swell. And it’s been a long time since she’d seen this number of children and she was completely overwhelmed.
“You’re smiling again. Sabi na, this would make you happy eh.” Richard said as he gazed down at Maya. “I really have fun watching these kids. Minsan lang kasi sila lumabas eh, katulad ngayon. It’s like when you watch them, you want to be a kid again.”
Maya looked at the man beside him as he watched the kids. “Thank you, Richard. Nakakatuwa naman dito, ang dami-daming bata!”
Richard chuckled. He just knew that these kids will make Maya feel better and he doesn’t know why he have that feeling. As the two of them watched, a little girl approached them. “Tito Richard, Tito Richard.” She said. Richard bent down to level with the little girl. “Yes, Abby?”
“Meron po ba kayong paputok?” She asked.
“Wala eh. Do you have one?” He asked.
The little girl nodded and smiled at him. “Meron po kami nung lusis! Gusto po ninyo?”
“Pwede ba?” He asked and Abby nodded. “Abby, can Tita Maya also have one?” He said and Abby turned to Maya and then she nodded. Abby reached for Maya’s hand and tugged it. “Tara po!”
Abby brought the two of them next door where her nanny was waiting. Abby talked to her and gave Richard and Maya a piece each. “Itapat niyo na lang po dun sa may kandila para sumindi.” Abby demonstrated and the both of them happily followed. Richard immediately saw the change in Maya’s mood. She was now laughing as she plays with Abby.
The countdown started while they were still outside. After reaching zero, the series of firecrackers were heard all over the place, startling Maya. She kept shrieking with every boom of the firecrackers until she lost balance and was about to fall forward. Maya’s eyes were already closed as she waited for the pain that was about to hit her but it didn’t happen. Something caught her and when she opened her eyes, Richard’s worried eyes were the first thing she saw.
“Are you okay?” He asked. Maya just nodded at him as she got mesmerized by his eyes again. Richard’s hands we’re around Maya’s waist as her back was to him. “S-sorry ha. Magugulatin lang talaga ako sa mga paputok.” She said as she tried to remove Richard’s arms around her waist but Richard just tightened his hold of her.
“Happy new year.” He whispered to her ear and she felt his lips touch her head. Maya felt her heart skip a beat and then she felt her cheeks burning. Even though she’s like that, she still managed to greet Richard back. “Happy new year din.” She said.
After that, no one dared to make a move to remove the hug they were in. They continued to watch the children happily blowing their own trumpets and jumping with joy. Richard even put his chin on Maya’s shoulder whereas Maya’s head rested against him. His arms are still around her while Maya’s hands falls on top of his arms. From afar, they look like a couple whose crazy in love with each other.
“Tito Richard, Tita Maya! Mag-wish na po kayo!” Abby said as she handed them a piece of lighted lusis. Richard held it with his hand while his other hand is still around Maya’s waist. “Mag-wish daw tayo, Maya.” He said.
Maya closed her eyes and said to herself, “Sana mapakawalan ko na ‘yung alaala namin ni James.” As she did that, Richard was just watching her, and that’s when he made his wish. “If this is a dream, I don’t ever want to wake up. Everything is so perfect.”
The spell they were still under was still not broken after that. The trance was still intact as they enjoy the company of each other. The fireworks above them made their setup even more magical. Just like that moment back on the Summit, everything was so perfect.
“Richard! Kakain na!” They heard somebody yell, bursting their bubble. Both of them jolted their head to where the voice came from and saw Ryan near the gates. “Hinahanap na kayo ni Tita. Tara na!”
“Susunod na!” Richard yelled back. He awkwardly withdrew his arms around Maya and turned to look at her. “Let’s go.” Maya just nodded at him as she followed Richard inside. Her heart was still beating fast like it was the part that couldn’t believe that Richard just hugged her for too long. She stopped when she saw Richard halted in front of her. “Oh? Akala ko ba papasok na tayo sa loob?” She asked.
“Oo nga.” Richard said and smiled down at her. Then Maya felt a hand on hers. When she looked down, she saw Richard’s hand entwined with hers. It was strange but her hand perfectly fit his. Richard tugged her hand and led her inside. Before they reach his house, Ryan was waiting for them at the front door. A smile crept on his face when he saw that they were holding each other’s hands.
“Ah, Maya, this is my best friend and my doctor, Doctor Ryan Molina.” Richard said as Ryan gave him a meaningful smile. “Ryan, this is Maya –“
“Always a pleasure to meet my best friend’s girlfriend.” Ryan interrupted making both of them blush. “You know, you two look very good together –“
“Ah, brod.” Richard said. “She’s .. she’s not my girlfriend, yet.” The color on Maya’s cheeks deepened with what Richard said. The word ‘yet’ just means that she would still be his in the near future.
“I’m sorry, brod. Kayo naman kasi ni Maya eh. Mamamatay na ata lahat ng tao kanina sa sobrang kilig sa inyong dalawa.” Ryan teased. “Nag-aalangan pa nga akong tawagin kayo nung una eh, baka maistorbo ko kasi kayo. Kung hindi lang talaga kay Tita.” He continued.
“It’s okay, Ryan.” Richard said. “Gutom na rin naman kami ni Maya eh.” He said and turned to the lady to confirm it. “Ah, oo Ryan. Gutom na kami.” Maya said. “Happy new year!” She added.
Ryan chuckled and opened the door for them. “Pumasok na tayo. Happy new year sa inyong dalawa.”
Richard entered the house as his hand was still entwined with Maya. When Maya saw people walking in and out the veranda, she immediately stopped. When Ryan passed through them and Richard noticed that Maya was still not moving, he held both of her hands. “Maya, what’s bothering you? Kanina pa yan ah.”
“Uhm.. “ She hesitated but when she saw through Richard’s eyes that he is also bothered, she finally had the guts to ask. “Ano .. may Ventura ba dito?”
“What?” Richard said with his brows furrowed. “Why do you ask? May atraso ba sila sa’yo?”
Maya just shook her head. “Pwedeng saka ko na lang sabihin kung bakit ko sila hinahanap?” She nervously waited for Richard’s answer.
“As far as I know, this farewell party is for those people na ka-close lang ng family namin personally. I think inimbitahan sila ni Papa pero they said no kasi nasa US silang lahat.” Richard answered. “Are you okay now?”
Maya finally sighed in relief. She put on a small smile and faced Richard. “Oo. Okay na ko. Thank you ha. Tara na, baka hanapin pa tayo ng Mama mo.” Maya said and she tugged his hand.
Bewildered, Richard nodded and walked to the veranda where a buffet was waiting for them. He was happy earlier but now, his thoughts were invaded by one question – What’s the relation of Maya to the Venturas?