Damn Richard. What the hell? Why did you react when she said that she doesn’t like to read? Of course you knew that but still, you should’ve refrained from saying a word! When she was still living with me, I noticed that she prefers those visual things instead of reading. We’re the exact opposite. I would usually read a book while she watches programs in the television.
I have no idea why I blurted those two words. It automatically came out. The worst part is, when I tried to explain myself, she does not looked convinced. Damn hell. What happened to taking it slow, huh Richard? What happened with ‘I want to be careful with my moves’? With ‘I don’t want to blurt out everything once because she might run away from me?’ Yeah. I blew it. I don’t want it to happen anymore.
When I said goodbye to them, Maya didn’t even looked at me. She glanced for a bit to smile but it was all for the sake of business. Damn it. I thought I had a chance again. Great job, Richard. You blew up again. Crap.
I headed straight to the restaurant James was talking about. He sent a message earlier saying that he will be waiting for me at this place called ‘Pocholo’s’. Angela, his wife, recommended the restaurant to him and wants James to bring Carbonara for her.
The place is almost full but I managed to see James at the table at the back of the restaurant. I sat on the chair in front of him and looked at the interior of the restaurant. The exterior of it is has a classic theme. Something very different from the modern ones I build. The interior is good too. The vintage theme of it really held the place together. The windows, like the one beside me, remind me of those old ages where modern technology is not even born yet.
“What happened in the photo shoot? You were so busy I didn’t even get the chance to say that I’m going back to work.” James said.
I nodded. “It went well, I think.” I shortly replied.
“Richard, I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about Maya. So? Ano na? What happened between you two?” He asked with a meaningful smile on his face as his brows wiggled up and down.
I shrugged. “I don’t know, James. Well, I thought it was going out well because we talked for a bit. Then I blew my chance.” I said. James’ brows furrowed. I know that he’s going to ask me what I meant so I continued. “She said and that she doesn’t like to read and I made a foolish move of saying ‘I know’ to her. When she asked me by what I meant, I made up a lie. Alangan namang sabihin ko agad na kilala ko siya dati and we used to live together. After that, wala na. Nag-iba na ulit yung hangin sa pagitan namin.” I elaborated. James just laughed at me. “What the hell? Yeah go laugh James.”
“Eh kasi naman, bro, ang babaw ng nangyari sa’yo tapos kung makareact ka, parang pasan mo na’ng mundo.” James replied.
I groaned. “It’s because you don’t know what I feel.” I said and his laugh slowly died down. He has no idea what it’s like to be loose her for two years. Because of it, I’m afraid to try again, I’m afraid to take that step that will bring me closer to her. I’m afraid to risk. I want to be sure of every move that I will make. I’m afraid that if I made another mistake, she’ll run away.
I’m willing to keep this distance I have with her even if it’s nowhere close to her. I don’t want her to leave again.
“Okay, you’re right.” James said. “So, what do you want to eat?” He asked. I shrugged. “This is Angela’s new found love. Nagsasawa na raw siya sa pagkain sa restaurant nila.”
“Is she coming?” I asked.
James shook his head. “Nah. She’s at work with Gelo. Her mom is there and wants to see her grandson. I’ll pick them up after this. Pinadaan lang talaga niya ako gawa nung Carbonara. Naglilihi ata.”
I grinned a bit. I’m really happy for James and Angela. I was with James when he bought the ring for her since I bought a ring for Maya. They got married before us. Angela insisted on delaying their honeymoon because Maya left me. Both of them we’re really worried. I decided against it and even if they’re on Italy, they kept calling me day after day. I was still sober when they got back a month after. I told them to live their life and not to worry too much about me. Slowly, they let me stand on my own feet again, and shortly after that Angelo was born. I’m really thankful for them being at my side in those times. I couldn’t see where I am without them.
My phone rang as we scanned the menu. It’s Luke. I pressed the answer button and turned a little to my right so I would not be a distraction to anyone. “Kuya!” My little brother said.
“What happened?” I asked.
“Is a black tuxedo enough for prom? Or I should go for something different?” He asked.
“You called me just because of that? Jesus Luke, I thought you’re in trouble or something.” I replied as I breathe in relief.
My little brother laughed. “Well? What do you think?” He prompted.
“Kailan ba ‘yang prom niyo?” I asked back.
“The week after the next. Most of my classmates already have something to wear. I’m not in a rush kasi pwede naman akong bumili unlike girls na kailangan pang magpagawa. So? What do you think?” He asked.
“It needs to match the color of your partner. But I think black will do well with every color. I’m not good with this.” I explained.
“Ang common na kasi ng black eh. How about white? Kaso madumihin.” He said on the other line.
I paused for a bit. “How about gray? Or silver. I don’t know, basta something na ganong shade.” I suggested.
“Hmm. I’ll take a look. Thank you Kuya. I need to go. Bye!” He said and immediately hanged up. Psh. Teenagers. I turned to sit properly and heard a familiar voice call my name. “Richard?”
I turned my head to where the voice came from and saw her, seated a few feet away from me. “Maya? W-What are you doing here?” I asked. I opened my mouth to apologize with my rudeness but James cut in.
“Fortunately, her sister owns the restaurant, right Maya?” James said and Maya gave her a nod. “Masyado kang busy sa pakikipag-usap sa phone mo, hindi mo na-witness yung surprise nung ate niya pagdating nila.” He continued.
“Luke called. He’s having prom shenanigans.” I explained and then I glanced at Maya, then back to James. “Well, should we leave? I mean, is this an exclusive party? Baka makasagabal lang kami.” I said.
“Ay, no need to, Mr. Lim. Hindi naman pinasara ni Kute yung restaurant. Pinapunta lang talaga kami ni Maya dito kasi manlilibre si Kute.” Emman said.
I nodded and I stole a glance at her. She remained mum. I know that she’s still uncomfortable by our sudden meeting. Someone came over us and stopped on their table.
“Oh, si Emman lang ang dinala mo? Nasaan si Simon?” She asked. I saw Maya bit her lip, like she doesn’t want to talk about him. Maybe it’s the reason why she was sad earlier. When she bumped my lower lip, I wasn’t actually peeking at the photos she took. She’s the reason why I stood beside her. I kept seeing her with a frown on her face. I want to make her smile though I don’t know how I will approach her. When she lifted her head, she accidentally bumped my chin, making my teeth to bit my lower lip.
Everything was surreal earlier at the photo shoot. I wasn’t expecting her to be that worried when she saw that my lip was bleeding. My heart stopped beating the moment she held my head and she even blew the wound I have! It felt like nothing happened between us. But when she pulled away, I was brought back to reality, the reality of life without her.
“Wag mo nang hanapin ‘yon, Kute.” I heard Maya mutter.
“Nakasabay ko siya kanina pababa sa elevator. Umalis din ata agad siya after nung interview.” James said making the ‘Kute’ Maya was referring to, turn to us.
“Kasama niyo bunso?” She asked.
I saw Maya shook her head but Emman did the talking. “Yes Ate Cris!” He said then he turned to us. “I want you to meet, Cris Dela Rosa a.k.a Kute. Ate na Kuya ni Maya. Siya po yung owner nitong Pocholo’s.” Then she turned to Cris. “Kute, itong nasa may tabi ko, si Mr. James Ventura, if I’m not mistaken, owner siya nung firm na Aero Designs.” Emman said and I saw James wave. “Tapos ‘yung nasa tapat niya yung ininterview ni Simon saka kinuhanan ni Maya. Si Mr. Richard Lim, ‘yung –“
“Ahh. Ikaw yung magiging bagong CEO nung Lim Vanguard?” Cris asked. I gave a polite nod. “Buti inimbita kayo ni Maya.”
“Actually, parang coincidence lang na napadpad kami dito.” James answered. “We have no idea that this restaurant is owned by Maya’s sister. My wife recommended this place. Masarap daw yung Carbonara niyo eh.”
“Ay oo naman.” Cris replied in delight. “Tutal, nandito na rin naman kayo. Isasama ko na kayo sa libre ni Maya. Pagdikitin niyo na lang yung lamesa niyo. Ako nang bahala sa pagkain. Sige, babalik muna ako sa kusina.” Then she left.
Emman and James were the ones that moved the table. The two of them were seated beside each other while I’m sitting beside Maya. I could feel the air of awkwardness between us. Emman was the one who engaged the topics. After talking for a few minutes, food arrived. And since its Maya’s birthday, we must follow the tradition – desserts go on first. Cris gave us cake slices each. But before I dig in, I heard Emman spoke.
“Maya, pwedeng palit tayo? Natatakam ako dan sa cake mo. Pwede ba?” Emman asked. I saw Maya nod and exchanged the plate she has with Emman’s. As Emman happily eats, Maya is not touching hers. I took a closer look at her cake and I saw raisins inside of it.
Maya hates raisins.
“Uhm, Maya. You can exchange your cake with mine if you want to.” I offered. She bit her lip and gazed from her cake to mine. She reached for my plate and exchanged it with hers. “Thank you!” She happily said. I hid a smile on my face. There are just things that don’t change.
The meal went on inversely. The entree came next before the soup and the appetizer. In the end, we’re all full. I’ve never eaten this much since forever. I was so focused on my work that sleep is just enough. The dinner was not really quiet. Emman and James are really good entertainers. Their jokes really made Maya laugh while I just produced grins and it’s not because of their jokes but because of Maya. Because of this coincident meeting, I could feel that the air between us slowly evaporated.
“Maya, pwede bang umuna na ko? Babalik pa ko sa studio. Naiwan daw ni Ruby yung susi niya sa loob eh nandun din yung susi ng sasakyan niya. Sabay ka na lang kay Kute ha?” Emman blurted out after reading a text.
“Sige, Emman. Ingat sa pagmamaneho ha! Salamat!” Maya greeted.
“Thank you din! Magpapaalam lang ako kay Kute tapos gogora na ko. Au revoir sa inyo!” He said and then left.
“Richard, I need to go too. Baka mapagalitan ako ni misis kapag hindi ko sila nakaon ni Gelo.” James said. “Maya, thank you very much for the dinner. I’m sure my wife will enjoy this carbonara.”
“You’re welcome James!” Maya said and then he, too, left, leaving me and Maya alone in our table. But before he did he winked at me. He’s really just leaving so that I can have a time alone with Maya.
“Ilang taon nang kasal si James?” She asked.
“About two years.” I shortly answered. I saw her turn to look at me. “Ikaw? Kailan mo balak magpakasal?” She asked. My eyes must’ve widened in shock because she apologized immediately. “Sorry! May .. may past ka nga pala tungkol sa kasal.” She said.
“How did you know?” I asked. I was kind of hoping that her answer is because she remembers. I didn’t really confirm Simon’s question earlier, right?
“Nung .. nung kinukuhanan kita ng picture nung sa interview. Nakita ko kung paano lumungkot lalo yung mata mo. Dun ko nalaman na totoo yung tinanong ni Simon.” She explained. “Tama ba ako?”
“I don’t want to talk about it.” I just said and she nodded. “I need to go home too. Can you take me to Cris? I just want to thank her personally.” I said. Maya lead me to the kitchen and called Cris. “Thank you for having us here. The food is really great.” I said as I shook her hand.
“Walang anuman ‘yon. Buti nagustuhan niyo yung pagkain. Salamat din.” She said. I bid them both goodbye and went outside to my car. When I’m inside, I groaned. I should’ve asked for her number! Damn. Another mistake of the day. I don’t know if I’ll see her again. Who knows? Maybe this is the first and last time we’ll see each other. I started my engine and drove.
Before I could even leave the place, I saw a lone figure in front of the restaurant. I slowed down to take a good look of the familiar figure. It’s Maya. I lowered my window and called her.
“Maya, sinong hinihintay mo?” I asked.
“Naghihintay ako ng taxi. Gagabihin daw kasi si Kute eh. Kailangan ko na namang umuwi kasi may aayusin pa ko.” She answered. I reached for the door of the passenger seat and opened it. “Get in, ihahatid na kita.” I said.
“Sure ka? Wag na, nakakahiya eh.” She said.
“It’s okay. I don’t really mind.” I replied as I kept my cool though I could feel my hand sweating. She paused before she got in. I don’t know why but I shook it off and went around the car to get in. “Thank you.” She muttered.
I started to drive again as she gave me directions. “Ah, Richard, sorry nga pala dun sa kanina. Nung sa photo shoot. May .. may trust issue kasi ako. Lagi akong may doubt sa tao.” She said.
My eyes widened and I glanced at her. “No, no, its .. its fine.” I said. She has trust issues? But why? Two years ago, she trusted me, with all of her heart. I know that. I also know that through time, she learned to trust James and the other people around her. Is it because she’s back to her old self now? “It’s okay, really.” I assured her and she gave me a smile. “So, how long have you been a photographer?” I asked as I drove on the highway, just to remove the awkwardness and also to get information from her.
“Matagal na eh. Since gumraduate ako. Pero yung studio namin ni Emman, bago-bago pa lang ‘yon. Nagpapadala ako ng sweldo nung nagtrabaho ako sa America para may ambag ako sa studio.” She replied.
“You’re in America? For how long?” I quickly asked. Gee, Captain Obvious. Well done.
“Mga one and a half year?” She answered. It’s the answer that I was waiting for. Finally! The reason why I can’t see her in Manila is because she’s in the States! Why did I never think of that?
“Alam mo, mahihirapan akong pumili ng photo mo. Puro kasi seryoso. Parang magkakamukha lang lahat.” She said. I shook my head. “I think you’ll see the difference. I have this gut feeling that you’re a great photographer.” I truthfully said.
“Asus, nangbola pa.” She commented.
“I thought you do landscapes, not portrait?” I blurted out. Shit. “Y-You look more of an outdoor person.” I added.
I saw her nod. “Mas prefer ko talaga yung landscapes. Eh, wala eh. Kakauwi ko lang talaga ng States kahapon tapos biglang tumawag si Emman para ipaalam ‘yung sched ng photo shoot mo.” She answered. “Richard, kakanan dyan sa kanto.”
I nodded. “Eh, how about Simon? Matagal na ba kayong dalawa?” I asked though I could feel my heart breaking.
“Oo. Mag-iisang taon na. Kababata ko siya eh.” She answered. Great. They’re childhood sweethears. How can I ever compete with that? “Banda dulo lang nitong kanto. Malapit na tayo.” She said. I drove until I reached the end of the place and stopped at a simple house on my right.
“Richard, dito na lang. Thank you.” She said. She reached for her door and opened but I caught her arm, making her stop. She looked at me with her confused eyes.
“Are you happy with him?” I asked again. I could feel her brows furrowing but I can’t help but ask that question. I want to know if what I said to James is really what she feels.
“Oo.” That was her short answer. I felt my heart shatter into pieces again. I was expecting that answer but I wasn’t expecting this pain inside of me.
“I hope you really are happy with him, Maya. I hope that he’s the man of your dreams. “ I said, giving her the smile that I can do. I let go of her arm but she didn’t move.
“Actually, he’s not. He’s not the man in my dreams.” Maya muttered.
“What do you mean?” I asked, my voice like a whisper.
She swallowed a lump in her throat and took several glances at me. “May .. may mga panaginip kasi ako. I’m with this man and I could only feel true happiness whenever I’m with him. Kaya lang, hindi ko makita ‘yung mukha niya dun sa panaginip ko. But I’m sure that he’s not Simon.” She said. “Oy, Richard ha. Ikaw pa lang ang nasasabihan ko nito.”
My heart started pounding fast. “Do you think he exists?” I dared to ask.
She gave me a huge smile and nodded frantically. “I do hope so. Kaya nga hinihintay ko pa siya eh. Malay natin, magpakita one day.” She said. “Sige na, bababa na ko. Thank you ulit!” She said and got out.
If you truly love someone, you should set her free.
And so I did.
But if she comes back, she’s yours forever.
“Maya.” I called. “Can I have your number?”
A/N :Dun po sa mga nanghihingi ng password kay Ms. Malts, hindi na po ako magbibigay. Baka po kasi may mga sinusunod siyang protocol kung sino yung bibigyan. Sa kanya na lang po tayo manghingi para sure.
Baka po last installment ko po muna ‘to. I’ll be back after Holy Week. May mga obligations po kasi ako sa simbahan. Busy lang po. Hinihingi po muna ni Lord ‘yung time ko. Ibibigay ko po muna 🙂 For the mean time, ito po muna.