The morning after the very successful concert, the morning after that incident where Maya seemed hurt with what he said, Richard was determined to clear things with her.
Richard had his car parked near the Northwest Hills Montessori gate.
He was here very early.
He was waiting for her.
Knowing Maya, he was sure that if he tries to talk to her in her house, she would easily avoid him but here in public view, she would have no choice but to talk to him.
He saw her park her car.
Luke immediately saw him and rushed to give him a big hug.
“Hi Luke!”, he said as he hugged the boy. Maya awkwardly smiled at him.
“Good morning Maya.”
“Good morning Chard.”
He helped her carry her laptop bag and her and Luke’s food container. She just allowed him.
He was certain that it would be difficult to get her to talk about last night but he is determined to try and clear things between them.
They were on their way to the faculty room.
Luke already went ahead of them.
Awkward silence engulfed them.
Wanting to save Maya and lighten the rather uncomfortable mood they are in, Richard quipped…
“Maya I think we should treat the kids with a simple party to celebrate the successful show. Maybe a simple ice cream party will do.”
Maya tried to focus on the conversation Richard was trying to start. She was aware of his attempt to break the wall of silence between them and she willingly cooperated.
“Chard di pwedeng mag ice cream ang mga bata. Singers yun iba, di ba?”
“Ay oo nga pala. Sorry. I was so hell bent on starting a conversation with you that I wasn’t able to think of that anymore.”
He smiled sheepishly.
She smiled too.
“Chard maybe we can talk about it but not here. Not today. I’m not yet ready discuss it. I felt humiliated with what I said already. Please.”
“Why would you feel that way?”
“It’s okay Maya. I understand. I really do. I just hope wag mo naman akong iwasan muli.”
“I won’t Chard. I promise.”
That was enough reassurance for him. He didn’t want to lose her friendship. It means a lot to him.
Whatever she could offer him, he would gladly accept it. Even the mere fact that she is talking to him makes him very happy already.
Being able to see her everyday is enough to brighten his day.
He is contented with the kind of relationship they have and he would never make a move to disturb it.
He was constantly visible. He never failed to show up in Northwest Hills. His reason was he still wanted to teach the kids.
But the truth is he just makes it a reason to be able to see Maya.
He really wanted to talk to her and make her aware of what he still feels but his conscience and sense of propriety always prevailed.
Judging from some of Maya’s unguarded moments, he knows that she still has a space in her heart for him. But of course the bigger space is now occupied by her husband and son and he will never intrude. He knows that he is an unwelcome tenant of her heart despite her actions saying otherwise.
He loves Maya so much. He never stopped. That love is the force that hinders him from trying to force himself into her life. It is not proper especially that her husband is away.
He is also guarding his heart for he might not be able to control himself once the doors that has been closed between them would be opened again. It couldn’t happen. It shouldn’t.
Maybe he will just get her to talk about what she said and just leave it at that. He will guard his heart too for he is feeling vulnerable whenever he’s with her.
Maya’s heart is breaking whenever she sees the closeness of Richard and Luke. She wanted to tell him about Luke but how can she do it?
How can she do it when Richard has already settled in a blissful life.
Just days ago, she chanced upon him having dinner with a very lovely lady. She was with a friend too that time.
She saw him and his companion the moment they entered the restaurant. The lady was clinging to him and they were all smiles. She could hear Richard’s laughter and seemingly happy conversation with his date.
They were talking about an ob-gyne and some ultrasound result. Ricky was so ecstatic from the looks of it. He was extra sweet to his date, or as she assumed, his wife.
She was about to leave the restaurant that night when he called her…
“Maya you’re here? Kumain ka? May kasama ka?”
She thought he already left. She went out the restaurant and decided to go home 10 minutes after he and his date left. Her friend left ahead of her. She was surprised to see him.
“Chard! Nandito ka rin! I had dinner. Kasama ko yun friend ko pero nauna na siya. Ikaw?”
She pretended she wasn’t aware of his presence earlier.
“Ah pinahatid ko na kay Joma yun kasama ko. Di kasi siya pwedeng magpuyat. May meeting ako in an hour here eh. You? Care for a cup of coffee? Nagmamadali ka ba? Pwedeng naman kitang ihatid later.”
She was hesitant but she wanted to be with him. Maybe an hour with just the two of them together wouldn’t hurt. Besides she has a reminder not to allow things to get offhand. She saw his wife and that would guard her heart from opening up to him.
“Sure Chard pwede naman. I’d love to have coffee with you.”
He was so happy that moment. She was too.
They talked about work. She told him how she returned to Northwest Hills. She made sure to mention James, his work and how frequent he visits them. She talked about the achievements of Luke and was teary eyed in those instances. She was so proud of her son.
Seeing her that way melted his heart. She’s still the same woman he loved, he loves. He can’t help but feel envious and maybe jealous when she talked about her husband and son with pride. Maya was indeed happy.
He was certain about that.
He didn’t know that whenever Maya says that Luke is fast growing up to be as talented, as charming, as responsible and as handsome as his dad, she actually pertains to him.
He, on the other hand kept his life private. He didn’t share anything personal to her. He didn’t want to lie. It’s better that she would no longer be aware of what happened when she left him. He didn’t want to be reminded of it as well. He also didn’t want Maya to feel bad or guilty.
“Chard, yun nasabi ko the night of the concert, I’m sorry ha. I was just emotional that night. Madrama alam mo na.”
He sensed that she doesn’t want to make a big issue out of it.
“It’s okay Maya. But like what I said. Being with you was very special. I wouldn’t trade that two years of being together for anything in this world and of course the years of friendship we had before that, which I hope we could still continue.”
“Ako din naman. But may mga pangyayari na hindi natin inasahan. The ride was rough and life was tough but we were able to reach our destination. I am so sorry Chard for everything I did. I wouldn’t elaborate on it na coz at this time I believe that it’s already inconsequential to talk about it. May pamilya na ako at ikaw rin naman alam kong masaya ka.”
She would be unfair to him if she starts telling about Luke, about her, about what happened. Nasaktan na nya si Richard noon at ayaw na nyang guluhin ang buhay at pamilya nito. She was sure that once he learns about Luke, he will do everything for her, for Luke.
She doesn’t want that to happen.
“Okay Maya. I understand. Okay na rin na ganito. Best friends again?”
She just smiled. He did too.
Best of friends was far from what they have now with Maya still avoiding the instances where they could be together.
He accepted it knowing very well that she has a husband to consider.
It was the end of his vacation. He will be leaving soon.
He made it a point to drop by Maya’s place to see Luke.
For the past months he spent as Luke’s mentor, he grew to love the boy.
Maybe at first it was his way of getting close to his mom but now it doesn’t matter anymore if he sees Maya or not.
Now he genuinely loved the boy.
He wanted to give his prized possession, his very own keyboard, to Luke.
He also included some musical pieces and some of his own arrangements for Luke to study.
They already agreed that they would be in touch even if he’s already away.
Richard drove to Maya’s house on a Sunday morning. He had some pancakes and hot chocolate he bought at the fastfood chain nearby.
He thought that it would be a nice bonding time with Luke and also with Maya before he leaves.
Even though many things have been unsettled between Maya and him, even if they decided to no longer discuss about what happened in the past, Richard was already contented that they are now at least talking to each other.
He wants to believe that the friendship is there.
He could settle with that.
They have been best of friends even before they became lovers and he really wanted to maintain even just that kind of relationship with her.
He was also fond of her son and he was so proud of how Maya raised Luke even though her husband, James was working overseas.
He knows that Maya would always be a good mother. He knew that a long time ago. He witnessed how she took care of her students before.
He witnessed how she was close to kids when they were still together. He knows that she is a great mom.
Luke is so blessed to have her.
James, her husband is a damn lucky man.
Maya was tending her garden when he arrived. She was surprised to see Richard this early.
Good thing she was not embarrassedly dressed, like in a pajama or short shorts.
She was in her pink shirt and cream shorts which is just a little above her knees.
“Hi Chard. Maaga ka ah!” She smiled.
“Good morning Maya. I hope hindi ako nakakaistorbo or something. I’ll be going to Fr. Francis kasi and i decided to drop by. Here I brought some pancakes and hot choco. Alam ko favorite eto ni Luke. Kasya rin naman to sa’tin.”
“Oh thank you Chard pero wala pa si Luke. He attended mass with Leah. Choir schedule nya ngayon instead of this afternoon kasi his lola will arrive later. But he will be here soon. Halika Chard dun tayo sa loob.”
She led the way to their small garden set at their porch where she and Luke usually eats breakfast on weekends. It had a nice view of her garden and they could actually hear nature- the chirping birds, the gentle breeze. They spend their weekends here where she usually reads a novel while Luke plays with his miniature toy cars.
She tried her best to act normal in front of him though it was very difficult for her to stop her heart from beating fast when he’s around.
“Upo ka na muna Chard. I’ll just prepare this para makakain tayo. Tamang tama i haven’t eaten breakfast yet. Luke will just eat later. You want coffee or yun hot choco na lang?”
“I’ll have coffee Maya kung ok lang sa’yo.” he smiled at her.
She hurriedly proceeded to her kitchen.
Unknown to her, Richard followed.
“Let me help you.”
She was startled that the teaspoon fell. She was always jittery around him.
Richard was very much aware that his presence is always affecting her. He doesn’t know if it is a good thing or not. So to spare her of further awkwardness…
“I forgot pala. Maya I’ll get something sa car muna”
“Okay Chard. The coffee will be ready na in awhile”
He went to his car to get the keyboard.
Maya was already seated at their garden set by the porch when Richard came back with the keyboard.
“What’s that? i mean para saan yan? May practice kayo ni Luke?”
“Ah no wala kaming practice. Ibibigay ko to sa kanya. I dont use it na rin naman.”
She was surprised. She knows that keyboard so well. He knows that Richard loves the keyboard so much as if it’s his life. She would never accept it.
“No Chard, I cant let Luke accept that. That’s too much. That’s too personal for you. Alam ko na napakahalaga nyan sa’yo so no, wag na. Luke has a piano anyway.”
He was a bit hurt.
“This is nothing Maya. I dont use it anymore. I want Luke to have it. Maaalagaan nya to and it will be a great help to him. Please allow me.”
“Please Maya. Iiwan ko lang naman to sa bahay. I can’t bring it with me when I leave so it’s better na mapakinabangan siya. Luke will be able to take good care of it.”
“Leave? You’re leaving?”
“Ah yes. I’ll be leaving in two weeks.Tatapusin ko lang yun concert for the Archdiocese of San Nicolas then I’ll go back home na. I was just here for a vacation. Medyo natagalan na rin nga yun vacation ko.”
She didnt know that.
She thought that Richard would be staying for good.
She even thought that he went home to take care of his grandfather’s properties and settle here with his family.
What he said came as a shock.
She was already used to having him around even though he was frequently with Luke.
A great feeling of sadness engulfed her. She didnt know how to handle it, how to face it so she stood up without saying anything and hurriedly went to the kitchen.
Richard was surprised at her reaction. He didn’t expect it because even if he is now close to her son, despite her emotional outburst a few weeks ago, she still just treated him like an ordinary friend, like how she treats her co-teachers in school.
He no longer felt the same attention she gave him when they were still best of friends.
Her actions made him conclude that what they had before is no longer important to her now.
When she told him not to discuss about the past anymore, he was convinced that she really wanted what they had before to be buried and even the memories forgotten.
Despite her confession that she felt bad when he said that their two years of being together was sort of just a phase in his life, he believed her when she said that maybe she was just insulted that it was not special to him. It was the reason she gave him on why she was hurt.
She said that it was very special to her but she no longer wanted it to be brought up as it would be inappropriate now that they have their own separate lives already.
He reaction when he said he was leaving made his heart skip several beats. It is wrong but he can’t help himself from feeling a certain degree of happiness. It made him feel that he is still important to her.
He followed her to the kitchen.
“Is something wrong Maya?”
She just shook her head, still not facing him.
“Dont worry I’ll keep in touch with Luke. I’ll keep in touch with you.”
He badly wanted her friendship and he definitely didn’t want to leave without achieving that.
She didn’t say anything. She has her back turned on him.
He stood there not knowing what else to say.
After a few more seconds of silence.
“I’ll set up the keyboard. Where do you want me to place it?”
She still didn’t answer. She can’t for her tears are now flowing freely. She was crying.
“Sige ilagay ko na lang sa sala. You can just move it to where Luke would be using it.”
He was about to leave the kitchen…
“I guess this is my karma. This is my punishment for letting you go before. This is my punishment for hurting for you.”
She held the edge of the kitchen sink for support. She was now crying openly.
“I am sorry for making the biggest mistake in my life, the biggest mistake of letting you go.”
He just stood there. He cant believe what he just heard.
She slowly faced him.
He was surprised to see her eyes full of sadness, grief, despair and regret. She was crying.
He was about to give her a hug when…
“Mom Im home!!!!”
She hurriedly wiped her eyes upon hearing Luke’s excited voice.
She avoided Richard’s eyes now.
He was still in the kitchen unable to formulate anything to say to her.
Luke came barging to the kitchen, excitedly showing his mom a toy Leah bought him at the church’ premises.
Luke kissed his mom then noticed her red eyes and nose.
“Mom are you crying?”
“Ah Mommy was slicing onions kanina. Di ba it makes me cry slicing onions? Atsaka I might be having a cold kasi red yun nose ko.”
She tried to put on a smile while reasoning out with Luke.
Leah who was following Luke saw her. She just kept quiet but she knows that something happened in that kitchen when she also saw Richard there.
Leah just nodded her head at Richard.
Richard did the same.
Then Luke saw Richard at the corner.
“Tito Chard, you’re here!” He said excitedly then threw himself to Ricky and kissed his cheek.
“Naku Mommy, Tito Chard, knows na that you’re iyakin. Pati onions iniiyakan mo.”
Luke was laughing, finding his mom funny.
“Luke, Mommy will go to my room na muna. Sinisipon na si Mommy.”
“Leah paki prepare na lang yun breakfast ni Luke nandun sa may garden. Kumain na kayo.”
“Sige na Mommy. You rest na po.”
She hurriedly went to her room totally ignoring the still dumbfounded Richard by the kitchen.
“Tito Chard lets go na po sa labas. Mommy will be sleeping muna. She’s always like that when she slices onions.”
Richard absentmindedly followed Luke while his thoughts were occupied by his mom who again baffled him with her sudden emotional outburst.