I look at her and have to smile as we go driving for a while…
Richard’s been smiling to himself the whole ride. The song on the radio is their background while Maya is not smiling and is staring outside the window the whole time. She’s also quiet and is not talking to him.
“Are you hungry? Magpapagas ako later we can buy something.” Richard broke the silence but never tearing his gaze on the road.
“You meant wala kang food na binili?” She shifts her gaze at him “well I am hungry right now, tapos walang food?” She rolled her eyes when she sees him smile
“Thank heavens for talking! Akala ko mapapanis na yung laway mo. Well don’t worry, nung nakatulog ka kanina I already ordered sa drive thru. There are burgers at the back.”
“Bakit walang fries?!” She asked with annoyance. He knows that she loves fries!
“Oh. Oo nga no? Well, next time…” He bit his lip to stop himself from smiling when she saw Maya threw one burger in his side.
“Wow, thank you. Naalala mo ako bigyan.”
Ohh and I can’t keep my eyes on the road.. Knowing that she’s inches from me.
The light turns red and Richard halted. He leans in and opened the compartment revealing a one extra large fries hidden inside.
Maya followed the fries as it passes at her. She saw Richard took one and bit it. Maya gave him a deadly stare. “Why do you have that?!”
“Well I ordered one for me.” He shrugged and took more fries before shoving it inside his mouth.
“Give me those.” She snatches the bag of fries away from him and ate it with delight.
Richard chuckled upon seeing her act like a child. When the lights changes into green, Richard drove again smiling. “Pahingi naman, akin yan eh.” He pouted while casting a glance at her side.
“No. I will just pay for this.”
Richard nodded his head and started drumming his fingers on the steering wheel. “Hmm.. But you see, I really don’t need money. So I will think of something later as a payment.” He answered with a grin
“Hoy! At ano naman yon?!”
“Chill. Nothing indecent.” He laughed which earned a pinch at his side from Maya.
Few more hours had passed and they are getting nearer in their destination. Maya is getting more comfortable being with Richard. The two felt like they are those strangers who met in Paris and built a relationship that is worth remembering.
“So ayun na nga, namatay yung aso ko nung nine years old ako. Iyak ako ng iyak nun kasi since four ako kasama ko na siya kaya after nun, never na ako nag-alaga ng aso. Gusto ko sana kaso nalulungkot kasi ako pag naiisip ko na baka iwanan din niya ako soon.” Maya narrated her childhood pet which she loved dearly.
“But still your dog gave you happiness even for a short time. And I know, you never stopped loving your dog.”
“Oo naman.” Maya nodded vehemently.
“Di ka na ba nag-alaga ulit ng kahit na anong pet?”
“Uh.. Hindi na. May aquarium sa bahay pero sila Mom yung nagpapakain ng mga isda dun.”
“Ahh.. I see.”
“Eh ikaw?” She looks at him and waited for his reply. Richard turned left and went quiet for a few seconds before responding.
“Nope. Dad doesn’t want me to get emotionally attached into something. All I did was follow him, do things which I know he will be proud of. He’s training me to become the best businessman there will ever be.” He answered
Maya studied his face and saw how sad his childhood must have been.
After a few more hours of driving and talking, they finally made it to Baguio. Maya oohed and ahhed at the sight of the wonderful nature in front of her. It’s beauty is breathtaking. It is not her first time there but it’s been a long time since the last time that they visited Baguio and indeed, the memory of the place is slowly fading from her mind.
“Ricky!! Pahiram ng cam mo! I want to take some pictures. Tapos bumaba tayo dun sa malaking lion pagdaan natin ah?” Maya said excitedly.
Maya took pictures of the nature using Richard’s camera and as soon as they saw the lion statue approaching, Richard parked his car and went out to take some pictures and selfies with Maya.
It’s been a long time since they went out together just enjoying the time with each other. Maya walked some more and took more pictures while Richard followed her from behind. Before they went back inside the car, Maya took a stolen shot of Richard which made her giddy. He is so handsome even just standing there looking at the different souvenir shops.
When he shifted his gaze back at Maya, he saw her smiling at him. Richard smiled back at her and so the two went on with their journey to Baguio with a huge smile plastered on their faces.
The two checked in The Manor for two days each will have their own rooms as promised by Richard. Their rooms were beside each other which Richard arranged so that whatever she might need, he can be reached by Maya.
“See you later. We still have two more hours before lunch time so I will let you take a nap then I will knock on your door for us to eat is that OK with you?”
“Sure. No problem. Pahinga ka na din since I know napagod ka sa pagdadrive, see you later.”
Maya waved her hand before closing her hotel room door.
She smiled appreciatively once inside her room. It is big with a couch, a huge tv, and a queen sized bed which she quickly slumped into for a quick nap.
Richard had insisted on taking Maya out for lunch. He doesn’t want to stay inside the hotel for lunch so he took her out of The Manor
The car’s windows were open allowing the cold breeze to enter the car giving them fresh air. It is getting colder as they were outside longer so Maya put on her jacket to feel warmer.
“Are you really really hungry?” He asked her after stopping the car in front of a building where a man in barong approach them.
“Yes.” Maya answered with a smile. She is indeed very hungry as soon as she woke up earlier from her nap.
“Good afternoon ma’am, sir. May parking spaces pa po sa baba tapos akyat po kayo sir sa 8th floor madami pang vacant tables.” The guy cheerily informed them.
“Thank you.” Richard then followed the guy’s instructions and drives his car down where there are more parking spaces.
“Madalas ka ba dito?” Maya asks with cross arms when she notices that Richard knew the place well.
“Yes.. Let’s just say that kapag aakyat ako ng Baguio I always eat here once or twice the whole time I was here. Masarap yung food pero mura. Not that gusto kong magtipid ngayong kasama kita.” He laughs “it’s just that I want you to experience the food here.”
“Sus. Kunyari ka pa, tinitipid mo lang talaga ako.” She pokes him and laughs
“Well… Medyo lang.” He winks at her before pulling her beside him and directed her towards the lift.
It took them good five minutes before they made it inside the lift because of the long line waiting to be lifted to their respected floors. The building only has one elevator so it didn’t help that a lot of customers were frequently eating there.
As they are traveling up in the lift, Richard pulled Maya closer to him so that she won’t get squished by someone else. It only took them a few seconds inside but for Maya, it was like an hour because the time seemed to stop when they are together inside the lift.
“What do you want?” He whispered to her ears when the waitress arrived to get their orders. Maya is staring at the menu but she doesn’t really know what food she wanted in particular.
“Kahit ano. You know the place so I think, kung ano yung masarap for you.” She shrugs and closes the menu.
“OK, then.” Richard ordered five viands and a tower of iced tea. Maya’s eyes grew wide and she starts nudging Richard but he ignored her. The waitress just keeps on writing down their orders and repeated it afterwards before leaving their table.
“Hoy. Ang dami naman nun! Mauubos ba natin yun?” She asked him
“Sabi mo you are really hungry? And you said I can order yung sa alam kong masarap, I just did, you know.” He shrugs his shoulders and smiles
“Hay nako ka talaga Mr. Lim.” She shakes her head in disbelief. This man could really be sweet, funny and scary sometimes.
The place is spacious even though there are a lot of people eating there. It is not expensive looking like those restaurants she’s been to before but it’s clean. Families are the usual customers of the restaurant that is why there are long tables everywhere and noises of crying babies, laughing family members can be heard from different tables.
Given the fact that he eats here frequently, she wonders who he’s with?
When their food arrived, Maya can’t help but to throw a question at him. “You eat here alone most of the time?” she realized how awkward it must have been sitting alone in a place where everyone’s been with a company.
Richard quickly places food on Maya’s plate as if he already knew what she would like and what amount of food she can consume. Maya just watched him and waited for him to answer.
“Yes.” He spoons his soup before adding “syempre if I will date someone I will bring her somewhere else. Like in one of our restaurants.” He continued eating and kept quiet for a while.
Maya nods her head before she started eating. Yes, it is not a date. They are two old friends traveling together just like before, she thought. She shouldn’t be affected with what he had said however, she can feel the stabbing pain in her heart. But come to think of it, it is better that she is the only girl he chose to eat with here. That makes her special in a way.
“Ah.. Eh saan mo naman dinadala yung mga date mo kapag nandito ka?” She tried not to ask the question but she knows it will bother her forever so might as well ask it.
“No personal questions.” Richard glances at her and smirks. He put more food on his plate and continued eating.
Maya then remained quiet for the rest of the lunch time and just focused in eating everything. Richard is right, the food there is delicious. They ended up finishing everything. Geez. She should be on diet after this weekend with him.
After lunch, the two then went to the Military Academy where Maya happily jumped out of the car and took pictures of everything that she fancy. Richard would sometimes take pictures of her in different buildings and even beside a tree.
Two hours after, they went to Wright park where they walked and took more pictures and lastly, they visited the very well known haunted hotel in Baguio, the Diplomat Hotel. The afternoon starts to end and the place gets a little bit creepy.
“Geez. Lumalamig lalo. This place gives me chills.” She said then she starts rubbing her arms.
Richard chuckled. “Come, let’s go inside.” He pulled her inside the abandoned hotel where few furnitures and people were scattered in the ground floor of the building.
“Let’s take pictures, pose wherever you want your picture taken.” He took his dslr camera from Maya and positioned himself to take pictures.
“Huy! Wag na. Baka mamaya may makunan kang iba. Ayoko nga na makita yung picture ko tapos may katabi akong multo.” She started pulling his sweatshirt to distruct him as he took photos of the place.
He laughs “don’t be a scaredy cat, my dear Maya.”
My dear Maya, those words echoed in her ears and made her blush. “What the heck Maya?! Bakit ba ganyang yang nararamdaman mo? Takot ka hindi kinikilig! Geez” she thought
In the end, Maya and Richard posed in the different corner of the abandoned building. In front of the old fountain, furnitures, as well as outside its garden.
Maya was scared all right but because of this, Richard keeps on teasing her the whole time they were there. He even wanted to stay a little longer but Maya refused saying that she will take a cab if they will stay a few more minutes there so Richard agreed to go shopping when Maya suggested that she would love to catch a movie there.
When the sun went down, the air grew cold. The flow of people changes. People walked past, puffing white breaths into the air. It was the coldest time of the year so Richard pulled Maya closer at his side while they waited in line outside the cinema.
“Kung alam ko lang na chick flick ang balak mong panuorin, I’d rather go back in the hotel then I will just fetch you afterwards.” He kid
“Sus, ang KJ mo. At kunyari ka pa samantalang nung nasa Paris tayo kahit anong kacornihan kahit gaano kacheesy, pinapanuod natin.” She giggled then stopped when she realized where she had led the conversation. That is still a very sensitive memory of them and true enough, when she cast a glance at Richard, she saw how he bit his lip uncomfortably and looked away.
Maya breathed deeply “uhh..well yung movie na ‘to maganda daw eh. And I’ve read the book kaya alam kong magandang love story.” She said
He nods vigorously “yeah, typical love story for sure. There is no such thing as ‘magandang love story'” Richard quoted in the air.
“Ang nega mo naman” she rolled her eyes at him and silently hoped that the line would start moving to the cinema soon.
“Not really. Anyway, bibili na muna ako ng popcorn dun sa gilid.” He points the snack corner and walks away not waiting for her reply
As the line starts to move, Maya shifted her gaze towards the snack corner where Richard seems to take too much time in there.
To her surprise, Richard is already talking to a beautiful girl who seemed to be also a customer of the snack corner. She saw how he flirtatiously smiles at the girl and she could count how many times the girl laughed.
“Miss, dito ako ah. Tatawagin ko lang yung kasama ko nandun lang.” She said to the lady behind her and left when she nodded at her
Her heart thumped loudly while she approaches Richard. She will grab that popcorn away from him and he could stay with that girl if he wanted! Darn it! Is she jealous? Oh no, no, no!
With just few more steps left, Richard noticed her presence and waved at her. She moves towards them and she noticed how the girl beside Richard studied her “ah. Nagpapapasok na kasi.” She informed him. He then glances at the line and nodded
“OK, let’s go. Nice to meet you Dianne.” He smiled at the girl and off they go towards the cinema.
All throughout the movie, Maya cannot focus. She didn’t even notice that the movie is now near its end. She turned to him, and his eyes are closed. He fell asleep while watching a movie with her. He did changed, before no matter how boring the movie is, he will still enjoy watching it with her. But now, he changed and it is her fault. Maybe.
She is still thinking about what she felt earlier when she saw him flirting with another girl. A familiar kind of pain that she experienced the night of the party where she saw him talking with Jane. Is it jealousy? Darn. No. This feeling is not right. She already chose Jeffrey and she loves him. Yeah, she does love him so she should stop this nonsense thought.
The screen faded, credits rolled and the lights turned on. That also ended those thoughts that bugged her, for now.
They were quiet after a short conversation of how the movie went during dinner. After eating, they called it already a night and headed back to their hotel.
Richard pulled up to the building and killed the engine of his BMW. Maya was stunned when she felt his hand reaching for hers and intertwined their hands to the lobby while they quietly waited for the elevator.
The door slid open and it was surprisingly empty. They got in and pressed their hotel floor’s number. The door shut soundlessly and both felt a slight movement and the door opened. The floor’s brightly lit.
Side by side, no one dared to talk. Richard had sensed that Maya’s mood had changed and he doesn’t want to make her feel more uncomfortable so he let her be.
However, this not talking thing irritates Maya more.
When they reached Maya’s room, she offered him to stay for a while inside since it is just ten in the evening. Richard was surprised at first but still gladly accepted her offer.
She sat on the edge of her bed while he followed suit. Slowly, as if testing the water, he places his arm around her and like it is the most natural thing in the world, she rested her head on his shoulder. He is just holding her, her just sitting there, head on his shoulder, her eyes closed, breathing softly, as if she were asleep. She was tired and confused with everything. Her heart never denied her feelings towards him but her mind still ignores that feeling.
“Long day huh?” He whispered “you can sleep if you want, Maya. I will just see you tomorrow.” When he tried to stand up, Maya clutches his hand to stop him.
“Can you.. Just ah.. Stay here? I just feel so alone. P-pwede bang dito ka na lang muna matulog?” She asked. This time, just once, she will listen to her heart. She wants him near her even just for tonight.
“OK. I can sleep sa couch, I guess.” He smiled down at her
“The bed is big, and.. I trust you. You can sleep beside me.” She suggested. Of course, way back in Paris they had been this close and never did he took advantage of her so she really trust this man. He is such a gentleman.
“Are you sure?”
“OK. No problem.” He slowly took the left side tucked her in and kisses her forehead “goodnight”
“Goodnight, Ricky icky.” She pinches his nose before she drifts off to sleep.
He is in the lobby’s restaurant chewing on a couple of muffins and reading the morning paper while sipping his coffee.
She woke up earlier on her room alone. She was surprised as she expected to wake up with him beside her and he then would greet her a good morning like he used to do before. Yes, she misses those nights when they shared bed but with Richard staying as gentleman as ever. He never dare took advantage of her and she just loves embracing him until she sleeps.
“Good morning.” She greeted him as soon as she walked on his table.
He looks up from his newspaper and smiled at her. “Good morning too, Maya. What do you want for breakfast?”
“Uhh.. Waffles na lang and hot chocolate I am not that hungry.”
Richard then nodded and stood up to get her some waffles and hot chocolate in the buffet table.
“Bakit hindi mo ako ginising?” She asked while he put down the tray of food on their table
“Well, I know you are still sleepy and I am hungry kaya I thought of waiting for you downstairs.” He said flatly while going back on reading the morning paper.
“But hindi ka nag-iwan ng note.” Both elbows were on the table then she propped her chin up on her hands. He used to leave notes before, darn it! Why is she reminded of those things that he used to do? They are saving their friendship why is she acting like an upset girlfriend?
“Later, we will go to church to hear mass then go some shopping para sa pasalubong or kung may gusto kang bilhin.” He said ignoring what she said earlier.
Maya toyed her waffles and allowed her hot chocolate to go cold as her mind wandered off. She checked on her phone countless of times and only saw a few text messages from her parents. Jeffrey seems so busy with work that he didn’t even bother text her. Well, that is also good for she can stop thinking if these feelings that she is experiencing again is right or not.
She turned the radio up loud inside the car, rolled down the windows and were on their way. Everywhere they passed was filled with light as the morning sun fulfilled its duty.
After hearing the mass, Maya bought a dozen of her ube jam in Good Shepherd which she loves more than anything. Richard then helped her in carrying all of the things that she bought. He didn’t even bother to buy some for himself saying that he often go there so he can just buy some other time. He also joked that their car is already full with Maya’s things that there aren’t any left space for him. That earned him a pinch on his nose from Maya.
Dropping his last card onto the bedsheet. She flopped back onto the pillows with her feet into his lap.
“Ang daya mo! Ayoko na makipaglaro!” She said while kicking him
After lunch, they went to the mall to buy few things and saw a deck of cards. Maya had an idea of playing card games inside her room which Richard agreed to.
Richard chuckled “Oh no. Pikon! Hindi mo lang talaga ako matalo.”
“Eh kasi nga madaya ka!” She kicked him some more but Richard held his feet tight such that she cannot move. “Oyyy!!” She giggled
He starts tickling her on her feet, then on her sides. Maya can’t stop laughing while trying to fight back.
But of course she can’t tickle him back. He is stronger than her so he ended up on top of her as he continued to tickle her.
As soon as they noticed what scene they are in right now, the room temperature quickly changes. They just stared into each other’s eyes. She can feel his warm breath touching her face. His eyes then traveled down to her lips, she will kiss him back if he will try to kiss her. She will stop thinking if this is right or not. For now, everything feels so right.
He slowly kissed the peak of her nose and was soon ready to kiss her on her lips when suddenly, Maya’s phone started ringing real loud breaking the moment. Richard sat up and stared at her. Maya did the same and quickly answered her phone without looking on the screen who it was.
“Hi babe!” Jeffrey’s cheerful voice welcomed her
Talk about good timing.
Richard looked at her questioningly as if asking her who was it? “H-hi. How are you? Bakit ngayon ka lang tumawag?” She asked the caller fidgeting as she tried to avoid Richard’s eyes
“I am so sorry, I miss you babe. Busy lang ako since naghahanda ako for tomorrow. Alam mo naman di ba? Yung proposal about Mr. Lim?” He said
She look at Richard and saw his eyebrows furrowed maybe he already had an idea who it is. “Ahh.. Yes, okay lang. I understand.”
“Anyway, kamusta ka? Kamusta naman kayo ng mga kaklase mo sa Batangas? Nasaan kayo? How’s the beach? Are you enjoying there? Maybe next time we can also go out of town to relax.” He suggested, Maya then remembered that she told him the same alibi and good thing he’s been busy because she can’t lie and lie repeatedly to him. She feels guilty.
“Uh.. Masaya naman, my friends and I were having fun.” She answered shortly trying to avoid his other questions
Richard took a deep breath
“That’s good. Sige na babe, I will just call you again later. Text me also kung pauwi na kayo ha?” He said “I love you.”
“OK, goodbye. I..” She hesitated and shifted back her eyes at Richard she saw him waiting for whatever she is to say.
“You? What? I am waiting babe.” She heard Jeffrey teased her, good thing he is in a good mood that he didn’t notice him having a hard time.
“I- I love you, too. Bye.” She hung up on him. She saw Richard frowned and stared blankly at nowhere.
Few seconds of awkwardness had passed and no one dared to say a thing.
“Ah Ricky..” She finally tried to say something but trailed off. She wasn’t sure what to say.
“I will just go out. Pack your things, we should get going.” He stood up. He didn’t sound angry, but then he wasn’t exactly happy either. His voice was without equivocation.