Manang Fe and Mang Lem fetched a very drunk Richard Lim at Mother Elena’s office.
Mother Elena called Manang Fe. She was worried of Richard’s unusual behavior. She never witnessed Richard being drunk. She couldn’t even imagine him drinking.
In the 12 years that he grew up before her eyes, Richard had always been proper, well mannered, in control.
Even when his grandfather died, Richard has been calm. His young mind knows what to do in adverse situations.
He was always decisive and responsible.
He always thinks of others before himself.
He’d rather suffer in silence than draw attention to himself.
Mother Elena wasn’t aware of Richard and his former teacher, Maya dela Rosa’s relationship.
All she knew was they were very good friends.
Based on what she saw in Richard tonight, she wasn’t happy.
She was very disappointed.
When Richard’s grandfather died she took it upon herself to be the guardian of the boy.
He was able to finish his elementary and his high school years on top of his class. He was bound to succeed and Mother Elena was so proud of him.
So it bothered her when Richard showed up drunk, unkempt and looking miserable.
She doesn’t want him to be distracted from the bright and successful future that he deserves.
She needs to do something about it.
She will talk to him once he’s sober.
That night after Richard asked her to have dinner with him, Maya could already feel the the bittersweet reality of being with him but having to say goodbye to him.
She doesn’t know how she could handle it.
She never wanted goodbyes.
It was happening again. She could still remember her tatay saying goodbye to her nanay when she was young.
He said goodbye to her and Nanay Teresita with the promise of a better future and the promise of coming home every year.
Her tatay promised to come home for vacations and for holidays.
But he never did.
He never came back.
He never came home.
It took her nanay years to move on. She was also faced with the painful reality of having to grow up without a father.
With all these unpleasant thoughts clouding her mind, she decided not to show up for Richard’s dinner.
That would make things easier for her, for him, for both of them.
She will just explain it to him once he’s already settled in his new place.
He will understand. She is so sure he will.
This will be good for both of them.
That’s what she thought.
Richard was so excited. He’s been waiting for this day.
Manang Fe and Mang Lem were busy preparing the house. They decided to have the table at their backyard. It would give Richard and Maya privacy and it is more romantic than having it inside the house.
Earlier that day, Richard recorded a song he played in the piano. He would use it as their music tonight.
He carefully picked the sunflowers in Manang Fe’s garden.
He also set up the lights for their romantic dinner.
Richard had his haircut and even bought a new shirt. Manang Fe was even teasing him. He also sprayed the perfume he knows Maya is so fond of.
He wanted it to be perfect for the woman he loves. He wanted to give her the best.
He wanted to make the night very memorable for both of them.
Mang Lem and Manang Fe were very happy for him. They were excited too.
They also love Maya so much and they knew that Richard, who grew up without his family deserves someone whom he could share his life with, his future with. They wanted Maya to be that person.
The dinner was about to take place around 8 in the evening.
He called Maya that morning and arranged for Mang Lem to pick her up.
The past days before the dinner and his surprise proposal, Maya requested for him not to visit her.
Her reason was she needs to get used to not seeing him. She said it will be easier for her once he leaves.
Richard was okay with it. It also gave him time to prepare for his proposal.
He knows that she will be happy once he reveals his plan of just taking a shorter course in Berklee.
He could also already imagine her beaming smile, her tears of joy once he actually asks her to marry him.
He was so sure she will say yes. He never doubted Maya’s love and willingness to spend a lifetime with him.
Richard was smiling like a fool imagining or rather anticipating what would happen.
“Richard, nakalock yun gate nina Maya. Kanina pa ako. Mukhang walang tao.”
Mang Lem was talking to him on the phone.
“Pero Mang Lem alam nyang susunduin mo siya. Baka hindi ka po marinig.”
“Wala namang tao dito. Madilim yun bahay sa loob. Bukas yun ilaw nila sa poste pero nakalock yun gate. Sa labas yun lock, Richard.”
“Teka po Mang Lem. Tawagan ko lang si Maya. Baka sa ibang lugar siya magpapasundo.”
He was still trying to be positive even though he could feel his worry slowly creeping in.
He dialed her number.
Her phone was turned off.
He dialed several times.
He sent her several messages.
The messages and phone calls were all unanswered.
Anxiety is beginning to set in.
He worried that something might have happened to her.
He hurriedly drove to her place.
He found Mang Lem in his car parked in front of Maya’s gate.
“Richard baka naman nagkamali si Maya ng rinig ng petsa ng dinner nyo.”
Mang Lem was trying to find a reason why Maya would miss this very special dinner Richard planned.
“Mang Lem uwi na po kayo. Walang kasama si Manang Fe sa bahay. Ako na po ang bahalang maghintay kay Maya.”
Mang Lem was hesitant to leave him. His eyes mirrored how worried he was of Richard.
“Okay lang po ako Mang Lem. Pupuntahan ko lang po yun kakilala ni Maya. Baka may naibilin siya sa kanila.”
He still wanted to show Mang Lem that everything is okay. He didn’t want him and Manang Fe to worry.
After Mang Lem left, Richard tried calling some of Maya’s co-teachers in Northwest Hills. Nobody knew where she was.
As much as he wanted to deny it, he could already feel fear from the thought that something wrong might have happened to Maya or her Nanay Teresita.
The thought that Maya stood him up never crossed his mind. Maybe he had much faith in her. He knows she loves him so much for her to do that.
He drove around and went to her friends, to Norhwest Hills, and to the places they frequently visit.
Around 12 midnight he returned to Maya’s house finding Manang Fe , Mang Lem and Mang Anastacio waiting for him outside her gate.
Manang Fe couldn’t bear to see the look in Richard’s face. She never saw him so hurt, so worried so helpless.
“Ricardo halika na, umuwi na tayo sa bahay. Sumabay ka na sa amin ni Lem. Si Anastacio na lang ang magmamaneho ng kotse mo.”
Mang Anastacio was the driver assigned to Richard’s companies.
On their way home, Richard’s mind was elsewhere. He couldn’t even hear Manang Fe who was trying her best to comfort him.
Maya and her Nanay Teresita were booked in a hotel just outside San Nicolas, for 7 days. She decided to spend the week with her nanay and return home 4 days after Richard’s flight.
She admits that she’s being a coward, but she’d rather be one than having to say goodbye to him personally.
She will keep in touch anyway, once he’s settled in his new place.
Her nanay doesn’t know about her daughter not showing up for Richard’s dinner date. She would be disappointed if she finds out.
“Maya, bakit hindi ka pa matulog? Akala ko ba magrerelax tayo dito. Pahinga ka na anak.”
“Sige po nay. Matulog na po kayo. May mga sasagutin lang akong emails.”
She had been staring at her laptop for hours after her nanay went to bed.
She couldn’t bring herself to open her emails.
She was sure Richard would be trying to reach her thru her email.
The day after, Richard again went to Maya’s house then did the same routine of looking for her in Northwest Hills, in her friends house.
He kept calling her cellphone which was still turned off. He sent her messages and emails.
He was already exhausted from the feeling of hopelessness.
He was desperate to just get any info on her whereabouts.
Disregading his scheduled flight and totally abandoning his dream of studying in Berklee, Richard spent his days looking for Maya much to Manang Fe’s dismay. But she can’t stop Richard.
Maya and her Nanay Teresita arrived at their house after staying or rather hiding in the hotel for seven days.
“Maya kagagaling lang kanina nung Chinito na kaibigan mo dito.”
Aling Ibing, their neighbor informed her.
“Po? Kanina Aling Ibing?”
“Oo. Halos araw araw nandito yun. Nasa kotse lang parang inaabangan ka. Mukha ngang alalang alala sa inyo eh.”
“Ano po ang sinabi?”
“Tinanong ako kung alam ko kung nasaan kayo. Tapos nagpasalamat na. Halos araw araw at matagal yun na naghihintay lang sa harap ng bahay nyo. Kanina ko lang nilapitan kasi ayaw ko namang makialam Maya.”
“Ah sige po Aling Ibing. Salamat po.”
When they entered their house…
“Nak akala ko umalis na si Richard. Nandito pa siya?”
“Siguro po nay. Di ko na siya nakausap.”
“Nagaaway ba kayo? Kasi di ba dapat aalis na sya nung isang araw.”
Maya just kept quiet.
“Anak, kaya ba tayo namalagi dun sa hotel para iwasan mo si Richard, para wala ka sa araw ng pag-alis nya?”
She can’t take it anymore. When she found out that Richard must have postponed his flight, guilt set in.
Unable to remain composed and unaffected, she sought her mother’s support for she can no longer bear the guilt and regret she was feeling.
She cried in her mother’s arms.
“Nak, alam ko, naiintindihan ko kung bakit nahihirapan ka sa pag-alis ni Richard. Maya hindi siya ang tatay mo. Magkaiba silang tao.”
“Pero nay nakakahiya. Nasaktan ko siya. Nakaabala pa ako sa pag-alis niya.”
“Sigurado akong maiintindihan ka ni Richard anak. Magpaliwanag ka lang sa kanya. Mabait siyang tao at sa nakikita ko naman eh mahal na mahal ka nya.”
“Pero nay malamang galit yun sa akin.”
“Nak may kasalanan ka naman talaga kaya kung magalit man siya harapin mo at humingi ka ng tawad.”
Somehow her mother’s advice calmed her.
She went to bed with the hope of clearing things with him.
She was expecting to be able to talk to him the following morning.
After visiting Maya’s house on the seventh day and finding her still gone, Richard has decided to seek the help of some of his grandfather’s friends.
He didn’t know where else to find her. Nobody in Northwest Hills were able to help either.
He was about to board his car when Maya’s neighbor approached him.
“Sina Teresita ba ang hinanap mo?”
“Opo, sila po ni Maya.”
“Naku nakita ko silang umalis ng nanay nya. May dala silang bag, isang linggo nang nakakaraan. Pasensiya na hindi kita malapitan kasi ayaw ko namang makialam.”
“Ah saan po sila pumunta? May alam po ba kayo?”
“Wala iho. Baka lumuwas ng Maynila.”
“Ah sige po. Maraming salamat po.”
After learning the circumstances on how Maya and her mother left, he concluded that she intentionally stood him up and didn’t want to be found or contacted.
It hurt him.
Not knowing where to go, he drove around aimlessly and ended up in a nearby bar.
Though he was not used to drinking, Richard drowned all the pain and sorrow he’s feeling in alcohol.
He took several bottles before deciding to go home.
But he passed by Northwest Hills on his way home.
That was when he decided to talk to Mother Elena.