Richard felt a hand on his shoulder. It was Ryan’s. He was looking at him with worried eyes. He knew exactly what his situation is at the very moment.
“Brod, did she tell you?” He asked. Richard just answered with a shook of his head. His gaze shifted back to his phone. Maya’s message was still on the screen. “Puntahan mo na, Richard.” Ryan said.
“Kuya.” Jeff called. He’s really enjoying calling Richard ‘Kuya’. After James died, he never got the chance to say that again to anyone he knew. Since Richard said that it was okay to call him Kuya since he doesn’t have a younger sibling, Jeff started calling him just like his real own brother. “Are we still expecting someone? May bakante pa kasing upuan.”
“Ah, yes.” Richard simply answered.
“Sino?” Jeff continued to ask.
“My .. my girlfriend.” He said and got reactions from the people around the table. “Where is she, Richard?” Frank said. “Kailangan namin siyang makilala ha? As your second father, I demand to know this woman.”
“Frank, ano ka ba? Mamaya magselos sa’yo si Roberto eh. Mas inaangkin mo pa si Richard na unico hijo nila.” Imelda teased that made the others laugh. Richard was still mum after all of that. “Pero seriously Kuya, I want to meet her. Kailangan pasok din siya sa standards namin!” Jeff gladly said.
Richard just gave them a small smile but he couldn’t decipher what he was feeling inside. “Please excuse me. I’ll be back.” He said as he stood up and head outside. He was trying to assess his feelings as he got closer to the door. Betrayed? Hurt? Mad? He doesn’t know but one thing’s for sure – he was confused. He had no idea why Maya wouldn’t mention that the man she loved was James Ventura. He wanted to yell in frustration but something inside of him is making him hold back those feelings. It was telling him to let Maya explain before he reacts.
When he turned his head to his right, he saw a woman staring out on the window of the restaurant. Her back was to him but Richard was certain that it was Maya. She was wearing a knee-length gray dress and her hair was tied up in a bun. She looked breath-taking even though Richard hadn’t even seen her face. He felt his heart constrict. How could he be mad at her?
He slowly made his way near her and sneaked his arms around her waist. He felt her jolt in his arms but she stopped when she saw that it was Richard. She giggled and leaned on him as they both stared at the landscape by the window.
“Hi.” Maya said with a smile but she never took her eyes off the view.
“Hi.” Richard replied shortly. “Nasa loob na silang lahat?” She asked.
“Yes.” He answered. “Alam na nila na ikaw yung receiver?” She asked again. “Yes.” He again replied shortly.
Bewildered, Maya turned to look at the man before her and stared at him. “Richard, may problema ba? Bakit puro yes lang ang sagot mo?” She asked.
Richard took a deep breath and loosened his arms around Maya’s waist. “There’s something that I forgot to tell you.” He started. Maya just smiled at him with her brows rose up, waiting for what he’s going to say next. “James Ventura was my donor.”
If Richard’s hypothesis was right, Maya would just brush it off if everything he heard was not her. But what happened next proved just the opposite. Richard slowly saw Maya’s eyes widened and he felt her stiffened. Maya looked so frightened when she looked at him. “N-nandyan sila?” She said, barely audible.
Richard nodded that made her hitch her breath. “So what they said was true? You were his fiancée?” He urged on. Maya nodded without looking at him. “Why didn’t you tell me?” He continued.
“G-gawa ng pamilya niya.” Maya whispered. When she lifted her head to look at Richard, he saw that she was teary-eyed already. “S-sinisisi nila ako sa pagkamatay niya.”
“But you should’ve said that he’s the James Ventura!” Richard exclaimed. “His family and my family are very close and .. and hindi mo man lang sinabi sa’kin na ganon ka pala kalapit sa kanila.” He said, trying to keep his calm tone. He was afraid that if he got angry again, his heart would get mad at him, too.
“Yun yung dahilan kung bakit hindi ko sinabi sa’yo.” Maya said. “Noong nakita kita no’ng Summit na kausap mo si Sir Frank, sinabi ko na sa sarili ko na iiwasan kita buong gabi. P-pero nangyari yung ball na ‘yun eh. At sa dami-dami ng lalaki na nandoon, sa’yo pa ko napatapat sa hindi ko malamang dahilan.” She continued as tears started rolling on her face. “Alam kong kapag napadikit ako sa’yo, makikilala niya ko. Kaya .. kaya bigla na lang akong umuwi nung Summit. Natakot ako na makilala niya ako kasi nakita niya tayong magkasama.”
Richard remained silent as Maya’s words sank to him. “Is it the truth?” He asked. “Were you the reason why James died?”
“Hinde!” Maya exclaimed. “Sinabihan ko na si James no’n na ipaayos na niya agad yung sasakyan niya no’ng nagtext sakin si Tito. Siya ‘tong hindi ako sinunod at nagmaneho pa rin.”
Richard sighed deeply. “Then why do you have to hide?” He said his voice so full of concern. “Why do you have to hide if what they were accusing you was wrong?”
Maya just shook her head. “Hindi ko sila kayang harapin, Richard. Gusto ko nang mamahinga ang pangalan ni James kaya kung ‘yun ang gusto nilang paniwalaan, ayos lang sa’kin para matapos na ‘to.”
Richard was completely in awe. Maya was doing all of this just because she truly loved James to the point that she doesn’t even care if it was she who’s getting hurt. It’s been years since this all happened but she was still facing this lie up until now.
The sight of Maya crying was totally breaking his heart. He ran a hand through his head and hugged Maya tight. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry if I got mad at you. I just wanted an explanation. I’m sorry.” He kept saying as he soothed her hair. He kissed her head and said, “Stop crying, please.”
“Sorry.” Maya muttered. After a few more seconds, she finally stopped crying and looked at Richard. He smirked and wiped the tears on her face with his thumbs. He leaned in and kissed her head again. “I love you, Maya.”
“I love you, too.” Maya replied. Richard entwined his hand with hers and dragged Maya with him inside the room. Maya kept retreating but Richard would always pull her with him. She knew what Richard’s plan is – he was going to let James’ family meet her again.
The whole chatter on the table stopped when the two got back. Frank’s brows immediately furrowed as he eyed the woman beside Richard. Richard stopped and put his hand around Maya’s waist.
“Tito Frank, Tita Imelda, Jeff.” He started. “I would like you to meet my girlfriend, Maya dela Rosa.” He said.
“WHAT?” Frank exclaimed. His voice was so loud that it made Maya’s knees tremble. “Are you kidding me, Richard? Of all the woman in the world, siya pa? Akala ko klaro tayo kanina, hindi pala. Haven’t I told you na –“
“Tito, please listen to Maya.” Richard interrupted.
“And why on earth would I listen to her?!” Frank insisted. “I made it clear earlier right? I told you that -“
“Because I believe that this is all a misunderstanding.” Richard said as he felt his other hand fist curl tightly. He was strongly containing his anger at that gesture. He just couldn’t stand someone being so rude at the woman he loves.
When Frank remained silent, he shifted her gaze to Maya. He can see that she was so frightened of him. He leaned a bit and kissed her head again. “Go on.” He whispered.
Maya could hear her heart thumping hard. Never in those years did she imagine that this would happen. She never thought that she would get this chance of talking to them again and just put in her mind that she will spend forever hiding from them. Just the familiar glare of Frank made her feel like she lost all of her courage. And yet, the man beside her was the one giving her the strength she needed.
“Sir,” Maya started, her voice trembling. “No’ng .. no’ng tinext niyo po ako na sira po yung breaks nung sasakyan ni James .. ti-tinawagan ko po agad siya. A-ang sabi ko po, ipagawa na niya agad k-kasi delikado po ‘yun. Tapos –“
“But still, he died di ba?” Frank interrupted. Everyone can feel the anger in his tone. “My son still died because his brakes didn’t function. How could you explain that?”
“Ang s-sabi po ni James, ayos pa naman daw po ‘yung sasakyan niya kaya .. kaya hindi pa po niya pinagawa –“
“And you blame it all on him?!” Frank continued to interrupt. “Namatay na nga ‘yung anak ko, siya pa yung may kasalanan? Ganon ba ‘yon?”
“Tito Frank, please calm down.” Richard said.
“How can I calm down, Richard? After years of hiding from us, ngayon pa siya lalabas? And for Pete’s sakes girlfriend mo pa?”
“Tito Frank -“
“Ang lakas ng loob mong babae ka ah. Iniisa-isa mo ba sila? HA?”
“DAD, STOP.” Richard said, but this time, his tone was different. “It wasn’t Maya’s fault. It was mine.” He continued. “Hindi ko siya sinunod because I already knew my time was up.”
“What are you talking about, Richard?” Frank confusedly asked.
“It’s me Dad.” Richard said. “It’s James.”
“What? C’mon Richard. Don’t play tricks on us. Alam kong nasa kalagitnaan tayo ng .. ng pag-aaway dito pero wag na wag mong idadamay ang anak ko dito.” Frank said.
“Hindi idadamay? Eh right from the start, ako na yung topic eh.” Richard said. Everyone was gobsmacked at what’s happening. “I was waiting inside my heart for the right moment for me to come out. And I guess this was that right moment.” Richard assisted Maya to take a seat on the chair beside his while he continued to stand up. Everyone was so confused at what’s happening.
“Kuya Richard? What’s going on?” Jeff asked.
“It’s James, Jepoy.” Richard said with a smile on his face. “Kuya?” Jeff repeated. James was the only one who calls him Jepoy. And just by that simple term, Jeff knew that it was his Kuya James he was talking to. “But how?”
“Masyadong kumplikado para i-explain eh.” Richard replied. “But before I leave, I just wanted to clear something. Dad, it wasn’t Maya’s fault. I’m sorry pero oras ko na talaga eh and there’s nothing I can do.”
“Don’t blame her Dad. Just .. just accept what happened. I died and Richard has my heart. We could never turn back time no matter what we do. We just have to accept those things that have happened.” Richard said. “I know that you’re doing all of this dahil hindi mo matanggap na nawala na ako. Pero I beg you, Dad, please let it go. Don’t you want me to rest?”
“O-of course I do son. O-of course we do!” Frank said.
Richard smiled at them. “If you really do .. alam niyo na kung anong dapat gawin.” He said. He looked at Imelda and said, “I’ll miss you, Mom.” He patted Jeff on his shoulder and said, “Take good care of Ventura Inc., Jepoy. If you ever have any problems in the near future, just ask Richard here. I know that he can help you.” The last one was Maya. He just gave her a smile. “Maya.” He said and with just that word, Maya felt everything James wanted to say. And then lastly, Richard hugged Frank tight. “I’m sorry Dad for leaving too early. And thank you. I love you guys.”
Frank returned the hug Richard gave. Right at that moment, he felt like it was really his son who was hugging him. It was James. “I’m sorry, too, son.”
Richard stood up and gave them a smile and then he lost consciousness. Jeff and Ryan leaped just to prevent him from hitting his head on the floor. Ryan sprinted to get his things inside his car to check what happened to Richard. Imelda rushed to Richard’s side and gave him air using her fan. Maya was rooted to her spot, she couldn’t move. Things were going too quickly for her. Just a while ago, Richard was with her and a couple of seconds ago, it was James. And now, that man was lying on the floor, unconscious. She was trembling; she doesn’t know what to do.
Frank saw Maya at that state as he waited for Ryan to come back. He went near her and assisted her to stand up. When she did, Frank gave her a hug. “I’m sorry, Maya.” He said. Maya’s eyes widened after she heard those words. After those years, finally, everything went right again.
Frank helped Maya near Richard. While Ryan was doing his thing, Maya was just holding his hand so tight as tears continued to stream on her face.
Don’t leave me, Richard. Please don’t leave.