As the New Year dinner started, Richard remained quiet. It seemed like the pensive mood of Maya were transferred to Richard. They were seated next to each other with the other close friends of their family surrounding them. Richard would just answer with a couple of syllables when someone would ask him about LAS. Maya knew that the reason for Richard’s mood was her. It was when she asked him if there’s a Ventura around, but she just couldn’t help it.
Maya would occasionally ask Richard if he’s okay, like what he’s done to her earlier but Richard would always say yes with a smile that doesn’t reach his eyes. She can also see that he’s just picking on his food. With a sigh, Maya stood up and went to the kitchen. She was looking for that Carbonara she brought since she knew that they will not serve it on the buffet.
As she was walking inside, she saw an old woman preparing something on the kitchen island. She shyly went near her to ask her about the dish. “Uhm, ma-magandang gabi po.” She said and the old lady looked up. “Ah, may kailangan ka ba, hija?”
“May binigay po ba si Richard na lalagyan? Yung Carbonara po yung laman?” She said.
The old lady paused for a bit to think. “Ah. Oo. May iniabot nga sa’kin si Ricardo kanina. Aanhin mo hija? Nasa ref eh.”
“Pwede po bang pabawas po ng kaunti? Tapos iiinit ko na rin po.” Maya eagerly said.
“Sige.” The old lady said and moved away from the kitchen island to get the dish from the fridge. “Ay ako na po.” Maya said but the old lady brushed her off. “Hindi na hija, ako na. Alam kong bisita ka dito.”
“Ako na po. May ginagawa pa po kayo oh.” Maya said.
“Ako na.” The old lady said and continued to get the container in the fridge. She got a plate and turned to Maya. “Gaano karami ang ipapainit ko?”
“Yung sakto lang po sa isa.” Maya said. “Ibibigay ko po kay Richard. Hindi naman po kasi niya ginagalaw yung pagkain niya. Parang nagtampo po sa’kin eh.”
The old lady continued to put pasta on the plate. “Eh ano bang ginawa mo? Umupo ka muna dyan habang pinapainit ko ‘to.”
Maya sat on one of the stool chairs and continued her story. “May tinanong lang po ako sa kanya tapos tinanong po niya ako kung bakit ko daw po itinanong ‘yun. Pero hindi ko pa po kasi masabi sa kanya yung dahilan eh kaya ang sabi ko po, sa susunod ko na lang po sasabihin. Ayun, nagtampo po ata.”
“Si Ricardo talaga.” The old lady said as she put the plate inside the microwave oven. “Hayaan mo, hija. Lilipas din ‘yan. Ganyan lang talaga yung batang yun.”
“Eh may alam po ba kayong paraan para mawala po yung tampo niya? Ang hirap po kasi ng kakadating pa lang po ng 2014, tampuhan po agad.” She said.
The old lady smiled at her and got a cup and a spoon from a drawer and placed it in front of her. “Kape. Yan lang ang alam kong nagpapakalma sa batang ‘yan. Ikaw na ang magtimpla para malaman niyang nag-aalala ka.”
Maya nodded and grabbed the cup she was given. She pulled out the containers to make Richard’s coffee. She knew Richard likes her coffee, especially when he drained up the cup she gave her inside the condo before they left.
It was that moment that Richard saw when he went back inside. He noticed that Maya left and still hasn’t returned after minutes had passed. He was starting to get worried, thinking that Maya already left. He knew she was starting to get pissed because he was now the one who’s quiet. He stood up to follow her and found out that she was talking to his 2nd mom.
“O, Ricardo, kanina ka pa dyan?” The old lady said when she spotted Richard standing near the dining area.
“Hindi naman po, Manang.” Richard said and walked to them. “Hinahanap ko lang po si Maya.” He said as he took a sit on the stool chair on Maya’s right.
“Ahh. O ayan, mag-usap kayo.” Manang Fe said. The oven dinged, and she rushed over it to get the plate of carbonara inside. She placed it in front of them and got two plates.
Maya was surprised when she saw that Manang Fe heated more Carbonara than she asked her to. It was actually good for the both of them. “Pinagpainit ka ni Maya ng dala niya. Hindi ka raw kasi kumakain dun sa labas. Dinamihan ko na at alam kong mangyayari ‘to. Dun muna ako sa labas at titignan ko kung marami pang pagkain. Baka nahihirapan na sina Doris at Sabel.” The old lady said and left the two of them in silence.
Maya was still stirring the cup of coffee when Richard spoke. “She’s Manang Fe. My 2nd mom. Nanny ko siya since the day I was born.” Maya just nodded as she continued to stir the coffee. He just took the plate and placed it in front of him and the other one to Maya. He put half of the pasta on his plate and half on hers. When he was about to take a bite Maya spoke up. “Ubusin mo ‘yan ha. Hindi ka kumain kanina sa labas.”
Richard put his fork down and smiled at Maya. “Hindi pa tayo, under na agad ako?” He teased but Maya just kept stirring. Richard sighed. “I’m sorry, Maya. Na-curious lang kasi ako. But don’t worry. I won’t force you to say it if you really don’t want to.” He said.
“Talaga?” Maya asked but she still hadn’t lifted up her head to look at him. “Yes. Pero kung hindi ka pa titingin sa’kin, I will force you.” He said.
Maya finally lifted her head and turned to look at the man beside her. Richard was smiling at her making him so heart melting. His smile was infectious that Maya found herself smiling back at him. She pushed the cup of coffee in front of Richard. “Kape mo, Ricardo.”
Richard laughed. “Thank you, Manang.” He replied.
Maya hit him on his arm. “Manang ka dyan! Akin na nga ‘yang kape ko.” She attempted to get the cup of coffee back but Richard shielded it with his arms. “Hey, this is mine!” He said. “I did not mean na Manang ka na.” He continued when Maya started tickling him on his side. “Si Manang lang kasi yung natawag sa’kin ng Ricardo. Stop it Maya!” Maya still continued to tickle Richard until he got a hold of her hands.
“Bati na tayo?” Maya asked with a smile on her face. Richard pouted and wrinkled his nose. “Pag-iisipan ko muna.” He said and freed her hands to face his coffee. “Ay.” Maya said and her face fell. She moved her chair closer to him. “Ricardo, mamaya na ‘yang kape. Madadagdagan lang ang acid mo sa tyan kapag nagkape ka ng walang laman ang tyan mo.”
“How do you know? Hindi ka naman doktor ah.” Richard amusedly asked. Maya reached for the coffee to move it away from him but Richard stopped her. “Alam ko ‘yun kasi nagkaron ng ulcer si Kute kaya kumain ka muna.”
Richard sighed in defeat. “Fine.” He took his fork and again and twirled the fork. “You’re just proving me right with what I said earlier.” He muttered. Maya’s brows furrowed. “Ang alin?” Richard took a bite and said, “Na under agad ako kahit hindi pa tayo.” And then he smiled while he’s munching.
The sudden change of color on Maya’s cheeks were so visible that Richard laughed when Maya bowed her head to hide it. “Don’t hide Maya. Nakita ko nang namumula ka.”
“Eh ikaw kasi eh!” Maya said as she twirled her own fork as Richard continued to eat. “Richard, seryoso ka ba?”
“Seryoso saan?” He asked.
“Yung panliligaw mo.” Maya answered as she ate from her own plate.
“Ahh.” She heard Richard say. “Nope. I’m not serious.” He said. Maya choked after hearing Richard’s answer. She kept coughing as Richard stood up to get her a glass of water. He rubbed Maya’s back to comfort her as he handed her the glass of water. When Maya finally recovered Richard worriedly asked her if she’s alright but there’s a glint of amusement in his eyes.
“Okay ka na?” He asked. Maya nodded as she coughed a little more. “Ano bang nangyari? Was it because of my answer?”
Maya shook her head frantically. “Hindi, hindi. Nasamid lang talaga ako. Baka may nakaalala lang sa’kin. Ayos na ko.” She said. Richard chuckled because he can really see that she’s guilty.
“Well, what I said was the truth. Hindi ako seryoso sa panliligaw ko sa’yo.” He said as he turned to his plate again. He saw Maya nodded her head slowly from the corner of his eye. Her face gave a disappointment look that made him smile. “I’m dead serious, Maya.” Hearing that caught Maya’s attention. She turned to look at him and saw that Richard is also looking back at her. “I’m dead serious sa panliligaw ko. And believe me when I say I want to be yours.”
The color of Maya’s cheeks showed that familiar shade of red. “Ano bang meron sa’kin? Ang gulo pa ng buhay ko, Richard, nakikita mo naman di ba?”
Richard held her hand on top of the table. “Yes, I can see it. That’s why I will do my best to help you fix it. And while doing that, I would also help you fall in love again.” He shifted so he could face her. “I was saving this up for later but I guess it can’t wait.” He said, looking all serious. “Something happened last Summit. There’s not a minute that passed by that you never crossed my mind since you left me. I blamed myself for not asking for your name and thank God I remembered that I did something to get your number.”
“Anong ginawa mo?” Maya confusedly asked.
“You gave me your phone that night, di ba? I dialled my number using your phone. Kaya yung sinabi mong tumutunog yung phone ko, it was actually your number flashing on it.” Richard explained.
Maya’s eyes widened when she remembered what Richard was talking about. “Ang daya mo! Ikaw ha, hindi maganda ‘yun.” She said.
Richard chuckled. “I felt the need to do it. At kung hindi ko ginawa ‘yun, wala tayo dito ngayon. And I just knew that I would miss hearing your voice. And that I would love to take you out on a date.” He said with a grin on his face. “I’m serious, Maya. Liligawan kita. And I will never stop hanggang hindi mo ako sinasagot. But if you suddenly change your mind and felt nothing for me, sabihin mo lang, titigil ako.”
Maya couldn’t help but be amazed by Richard. They might not be in a romantic place but hearing him say all of that changed everything. She knew just by looking at his eyes that everything that he said really came from his heart. Her heart was fluttering just because of that. She knew it would not be difficult to fall for him, since she can feel that she’s now starting to.
“Kumain na nga tayo. Tama na yan.” Maya said as she put her other hand on top of his. “Yung kape mo, lumalamig.”
Richard removed his hands and went back to eating. “Yes po, Ma’am.” He said. The two of them continued eating in silence. When Richard was done, he said, “Your Carbonara tastes good.”
“Sabi sa’yo eh! Mas masarap pa ‘yan sa kape ko.” Maya proudly said. Richard just shook his head. “For me, mas masarap yung kape mo. There’s just something in it that makes me want to drink it again and again.”
Maya giggled. “Sige ka, magka-ulcer ka.”
Richard took a sip of his coffee again and was surprised that it was already empty. “See? Naubos na agad.” He said as he showed Maya the empty cup. “You know, Ryan told me na the whole reason for this craving was because of my new heart.”
“Ha? Ano namang kinalaman nun?”
Richard explained to Maya that the reason for it was the cellular memory. He also told her that it might also be the answer to the sudden change of his personality. Maya was listening to him intently and only spoke when Richard finished.
“Edi ibig-sabihin, masayahin yung nagbigay ng puso mo?” Maya asked.
“Edi .. parang ang weird naman nun. Ibig-sabihin, yung donor mo yung kausap ko ngayon at hindi si Richard Lim?”
“I don’t think so.” Richard answered. “I’m still me. You could say na nagkaron ng improvement si Richard Lim pero it doesn’t mean na my donor took over my body.” He explained.
Maya giggled. “Ahh. Parang .. parang Richard Lim version 2.0.” And then she laughed. Richard laughed with her, enjoying her wittiness. “Silly.” He said.
The two of them continued talking to each other unaware of the guests that were leaving. They were locked up in their own bubble again. And like before, Ryan was the one who popped it.
“Brod, uuwi na ko.” Ryan said interrupting the two of them both laughing because of Richard.
“Okay. Why too soon? Maaga pa ah.” Richard replied.
Ryan shook his head and grinned at them. “Richard, it’s almost three in the morning. Umaga na, hindi maaga pa.” He said making both Richard and Maya to look at their wrist watches and saw that it was indeed close to 3AM. The astonished look on their faces made Ryan laugh. He knew that the two of them were so engrossed in their conversation that time just flew between them. “I better go. Happy new year ulit sa inyong dalawa. It was a pleasure meeting you, Maya.” He said.
Maya nodded at him and said, “Happy new year din, Ryan. Ingat ha.” When Ryan left, Maya turned back to Richard. “Richard, uuwi na ko. 3AM na pala eh.”
“Nonsense. Di ba sinabihan kita na magdala ng extra clothes. Nagdala ka ba?” Richard asked.
Maya nodded. “Bakit ka ba nagpadala? Akala ko nga magus-swimming tayo eh.”
Richard chuckled. “I told Mama to let you sleep here. May extra room sa taas.” He stood up. “Ihahatid na kita sa room mo, pero magpaalam muna tayo kina Mama.”
“Richard, uuwi ako –“ Maya protested but Richard just held her hand and dragged her upstairs. “Richard! Ricardo!”
“Stop calling me that!” Richard said with a huge smile on his face. Sure enough, his parents were sitting on the entertainment area upstairs. They were talking to each other when the two of them came.
“Happy new year son.” Esmeralda greeted and stood up to give him a hug and a kiss on a cheek. Roberto did the same and then they also gave Maya a hug. “Happy new year din, hija.” Roberto said.
“Happy new year din po sa inyo Sir.” Maya shyly greeted back.
“Ah, call us Tito and Tita hija.” Roberto replied as he gave a meaningful smile when he saw their clasped hands.
“Ma, ihahatid ko na si Maya sa room niya. Hindi na rin kasi namin napansin yung oras eh.” Richard said.
Esmeralda gave a soft laughter. “Pansin nga namin ng Papa mo, Ricky. O sige na, matulog na kayo. Maya’s room is already ready.”
“Thanks Ma. Matulog na rin kayo. Mukhang pagod na kayo ni Papa.” Richard said.
Roberto nodded. “Sige. Goodnight son. Goodnight, Maya.”
“Goodnight din po sa inyo.” Maya said and then the old couple descended to their room. Richard led her to her own room and opened the door for her. Her room has a huge bed enough for two with her own bathroom.
“Your things are already here. If you need anything, just tell me. My room is just beside yours or if you want, you can text me.” Richard said.
Maya nodded. “Thank you Ricardo.”
“Tsk. Ricardo pa rin?”
Maya nodded frantically as she smiled. “Ang cute kaya. Parang kasama ka dun sa panahon ng parents mo. Esmeralda, Roberto, at ikaw Ricardo.” And then she laughed out loud.
Richard just shook his head. “Tapos ka na?”
Maya tried to stifle her laughter and when it finally died down, she nodded her head. Richard nodded back with a small smile. Maya knew he was quite pissed off because of her. “Sorry. Ang cute kasi.”
“It’s okay.” He said, but he still didn’t smile back. Maya pouted and quickly think for a way to make up for laughing at him. And so Maya went near him and hugged him tight.
“Thank you, Richard. Happy new year.” She said. Maya can hear Richard’s heart beat since her head was resting on his chest. It was beating fast.
Richard was taken aback when Maya hugged him. It took him beats after before he managed to lift his arms and to hug her back. A huge smile crept on his face as he hugged her close. “Thank you for letting me start my year with you.” He said. He leaned in and kissed her head. “Sige na, matulog ka na.”
Maya let go of him and nodded. “Goodnight, Ricardo.”
Richard just rolled his eyes. “Goodnight, Maya.” He gave her a smile and then turned to head to his room.
“Ricardo!” Maya called him. Richard turned around with his brows raised. “What is it?”
Maya giggled seeing that Richard still haven’t approved her calling him like that. “Bati na tayo?”
A huge smile was seen on his face as he nodded. “Bati na tayo. Matulog ka na.”
Maya nodded and finally entered her room. After closing it, she leaned on the door and smiled foolishly feeling a rush of kilig. Richard, on the other hand, reached for his phone as he sat on his bed. He viewed the picture of Maya when he first saw her inside the jeepney and felt his heart flutter.
They both knew that this will be a good year.
HAPPY NEW YEAR PA RIN!