“Ma, please don’t leave!” Richard pleaded as he stood before his mother. His arms were raised in line of his shoulders to prevent his mother from moving any further. “Don’t go, Ma! Please! Don’t leave like this!” He continued to plead. His voice was getting more wobbly.
“Ricky, I need to go. I’m sorry.” His mom, Esmeralda, said calmly. Even if her tone was like that, her eyes betrayed her. Esmeralda’s eyes are starting to well up. It’s also a little bit red and her son knew that she’s been crying since the other night.
“No! You don’t need to, Ma!” Richard continued as his mother tried to push him away. He knew that this day would soon come, the day where his mother would decide to leave their home because of his father. They were never like this before. He can even remember that they always go out during Sundays together as a family, but now, they’re falling apart.
“We can still make this work, Ma. I’ll talk to Papa, I’m sure he’ll be against you leaving, too!” Richard continued as he wiped his eyes with the back of his hand. “You don’t need to leave, Ma!”
“I’m sorry, Ricky. You don’t understand.” Esmeralda said as she continued to stride through the house. She made it past Richard this time but the voice of her son stopped her.
“Is it really that easy to just leave your son?” Richard said his tone hoarse. “After caring and giving me love for sixteen years, you’re just going to abandon me?” He asked as tears continued to flow from his face.
“Ricky ..” It was the only word that managed to escape from her.
“And you’re telling me that I don’t understand? Well yes! I really don’t understand anything Ma!” Richard continued as his mom just looked at him. “I thought I was so lucky to have you and Papa as my parents because you accepted me, you supported me, you cared for me and most of all you two loved me. Then the next thing I knew is that my father is always away because of his work. I told myself that it was just okay because I have you and then you’re going to leave me too?”
Esmeralda just remained mum. It was a first for her to hear her son’s thoughts like this. She was aware that they were hurting him but she never thought that he would burst like this. What Richard said was the truth. She and Roberto were really in love, that’s why when he proposed, she said yes without any doubt. Roberto was a normal architect back then but he was full of ambitions. Esmeralda supported him all the way but when he had his big break, things started to change. He totally forgot that he has a family because of his rising career.
“Why is this happening?” Richard said, almost a whisper. He seemed to have lost his strength and sat on one of the steps of their staircase. “If the reason for it is me, just say so. I would gladly move out. I don’t want any of this anymore.” Esmeralda couldn’t take it anymore and cried at the sight of her son suffering. She put her bags down and joined Richard on the stairs. “It hurts to see this family falling apart.”
“Shh. Stop crying Ricky.” Esmeralda whispered to him as she ushered Richard’s head to lean on her shoulder. “It’s not your fault. It’s ours.”
“If it’s your fault, then why am I the one who’s hurting like this?” Richard asked. “Don’t leave, Ma. Please. I don’t want to see anybody go.”
Esmeralda didn’t know what else to do so she just hugged her son as she cried with him. “Stay strong, Richard. You’ll face more struggles like this as you get older.”
“If that’s what will happen, then I don’t want to get old.” Richard said. His mom chuckled because of it. “You can’t do that, son.”
Richard sighed. He actually felt calm having his mother around like this. “Will you be around as I grow older?”
Esmeralda’s eyes welled up again. She shifted and held Richard’s hands as she looked straight into his eyes. “Richard, listen to me. I’m leaving. But even if I do, it doesn’t mean that I’m abandoning my only son.”
“But why, Ma?” Richard asked. “Why do you still have to leave?”
Esmeralda took a deep breath. This is the first time she’ll be telling Richard what really is happening. “Son, I want to tell you the truth this time. The thing is, even if all of this didn’t happen, I would still be leaving.” Richard’s brows knitted. Esmeralda held his hand tighter. “Ricky, I have cancer.”
“Wh-what?” Richard muttered. The blood from his face seemed to drain off.
“I have cancer Ricky. And I can’t do anything about it now because of its advanced stage.” Esmeralda continued.
“I .. I don’t understand.” He said.
“I’m dying, Richard. That’s why I have to leave.” Esmeralda replied as she wiped her tears. “If you’re dying, won’t it be better if you just stay, Ma?” Richard hoarsely said.
His mother shook her head. “I can’t, Richard. It will be best if I just leave.” She said and stood up. Richard caught her by the arm but she pulled it and grabbed her bags again. “I’m really sorry, Richard. But always remember that whatever you will achieve in the future, I would be proud of my little boy, forever.”
“Ma! Don’t do this!” Richard shouted as he just watched his mother leave. He started crying again when his mother told him that she would be forever proud of him. His limbs were so weak to stand up from the news his mother just said. “Ma! Don’t! Stay please! I beg you! Please, stay!” He kept shouting even if he saw his mother go through the doors. Even if he knew it’s all over, he still continued.
Richard woke up with a start. His stomach was growling and the light coming outside was blinding him. He found it weird since he knew that the sunlight was only like this during afternoons. He groaned as he saw the clock on his bedside table. It was two in the afternoon. He somehow felt the urge to sleep again. He actually felt his sleep comfortable. In fact, it was the best sleep he had in ages. He closed his eyes again and pulled the thing he has his arm around. He was almost sleeping again when he felt that thing move. His brows knitted but he still remained his eyes closed.
As Richard held it tightly, he felt something rising and falling under his hold like it was breathing. It bothered him that he opened his eyes to take a good look of the pillow he was holding. He clutched it closer but he went completely stunned when he saw that he was not hugging a pillow. He was hugging Maya. Richard quickly pulled his hand back and bolted up from his bed. Before Maya could wake up, he almost ran to his door to go outside.
“How did she end up there?” Richard muttered as he leaned on his door. His gaze dropped to his body and was relieved when he saw that he was still wearing his clothes but it started thumping again in an instant. “Damn it, is she wearing any clothes?” He muttered under his breath and pushed his door a little, enough to let his eyes see the woman in his bed. Relief flooded him when he saw that she was still wearing clothes under the sheets.
Richard ran a hand through his hair. He had dreamt of his mother again. It was the last time he saw her inside their house. Just a few weeks after that, he found out that his mom already died. Richard’s world collapsed that day. She died without him taking care of her, without even saying goodbye and without even telling her how much he loves him. It was already heartbreaking that time but his father crushed his heart more with the something that he said. He decided to head to his kitchen to cook something, just to set his mind off the thought. He doesn’t really want to reminisce those moments where everything started crumbling down in a blink of an eye.
Richard was actually surprised when he saw that Maya already cooked rice and fried a fish. He took out a pan and reheated the dish as he make himself a cup of coffee. When the fish was properly heated, he started making some soup to go with it.
“Morning!” A woman’s voice said startling Richard. He turned around and saw Maya standing near the counter island, opposite of him. “Ay, hapon na pala.” She giggled. “Good afternoon!”
Richard gulped. “Ah, good .. Good afternoon.” He muttered. He suddenly felt their situation awkward. Maya started walking to reach Richard’s side. “Ano yan?” She asked.
“Ah .. Ano ..ah soup.” He stammered as he scooted away from her. Maya took the ladle from him and their fingers momentarily brushed. They both stopped at the same time as they lift their heads up and accidentally stared in each others eyes.
Richard was the first one to retreat. He immediately let go of his hold of the ladle and strode away from Maya. When he turned, he saw that Maya was still looking at him. He panicked to search for something that would make him look like he needed to get away from her. He decided to go to the fridge and to open its door. After that, he just stared at it’s contents.
Maya giggled. “Luto na ‘tong soup mo. Maghahain na ko?” She asked.
“Uhm, yeah, sure.” Richard said. He groaned and decided to take a bottle of water out and placed it on the counter. Maya started putting two plates while Richard put the utensils. Maya would pass him the rice while Richard poured water to their glasses. The two of them worked in harmony at that very short time span. Richard never thought that having someone living inside his condo would be like this.
They started eating in silence. Richard can still feel the awkwardness but it seemed like Maya was not feeling it. They were nearly done when Richard spoke. “Uhm, Maya, about .. ” He trailed off. Maya’s attention was now caught and he knew he needs to talk. He groaned and continued what he was saying. “Can I ask you a question?”
Maya nodded happily. “Oo naman.”
“H – how did you end up beside me?” He shyly asked. Maya nodded slowly. “Hinila mo ko.” She casually said as she chewed her food.
Richard almost choked. “Hinila kita?” Maya nodded. “Oo. Sabi mo pa nga, stay please.” She said and bowed her head. Richard almost smiled when he saw the faint red color on her cheeks but he didn’t. “I said that huh? Well, I’m sorry.”
“Hm? Sorry?” Maya asked. Richard nodded. “I’m sorry if I pulled you. I just dreamt of something. Hindi na mauulit ‘yun.”
Maya felt somehow disappointed. Yes, Richard took her by surprise but when she fell asleep, she was somehow looking forward to seeing him beside her, smiling from ear-to-ear and will say something, even if it’s as simple as ‘Hi.’ But unfortunately, Richard was not there. He doesn’t even remember what happened and she knew the apology was needed but she doesn’t seem to care at all. “Alam mo napansin ko lang, simula na lang nung nagkakilala tayo, lagi na lang tayong nagsasabi ng sorry.” Maya pointed out, just to change the topic.
Richard chuckled. “Yeah. I noticed that, too.”
“Hm, what can you say if we stop that? Kung kailangan man nating mag-apologize, yung mga bagay na malalalim na lang saka kunsultahin na rin natin yung isa’t-isa.” She said. Richard nodded in agreement. “I like that. Sige, from now on, we’ll do that.”
They both finished the remains of their plates when Maya spoke. “Richard, ano ba yung napanaginipan mo?” She decided to ask.
Richard just shook his head. “I don’t want to talk about it.” He said and continued eating. “Paano nga pala ako nakauwi dito?”
Maya frowned but she brushed it off immediately. She thought Richard would open up to her but she was mistaken. She was still just staying there because she was just disabled and nothing more. “Dinala ka ni James dito.” She replied.
“You’ve met James?” Richard asked.
Maya nodded. “Oo. Akala nga nya trespasser ako eh. Pero ayos na kami, alam na niya kung paano ako napunta dito. Kaso baka tanungin ka pa rin niya.”
Richard nodded and dropped his utensils on the plate. “So, where do you want to go?”
“Ha?” Maya asked.
“Let’s go to the mall? Bibili tayo ng damit mo. Hindi natin alam kung hanggang kailan yung damit ni Gina.” He said as he placed his plates on the sink and Maya did so, too. “And I also want to treat you out. Kasi kahit na magdamagan ko lang ginawa yung house plan, I still got the deal.” He proudly said.
Maya shrieked and hugged Richard unconsciously. “Sabi ko sa’yo eh! Magaling kang architect eh!” She said with her eyes closed, and when she opened them, she immediately pulled back. “Ay, so-“
“I thought we had a deal with sorries?” Richard amusedly said. “Lakad na, magbihis ka na. We’re going out.”
Maya smiled at him. It was the first time where he saw Richard smile like that. He was grinning like a little boy. She suddenly wondered what’s pulling him back from smiling like that. And right at that moment, Maya knew what she can do to repay Richard’s kindness. She was going to bring that little boy outside him.