It was already 4 pm when the rehearsal for the archdiocesan concert ended.
The members of the orchestra have left. Even the nuns, priests and seminarians who are part of the show had left already.
Only the crew was still in the venue planning the details of the props, sounds, lighting for the concert.
Richard was talking to some of the sound engineers when he saw Fr. Francis approaching him.
“Good afternoon Father. May mass ka dito?
“Good afternoon Ricky. Ah wala akong mass. Bumisita lang kay bishop at nagdala ng mga fruits, yun harvest dun sa likod ng convent. How’s the rehearsal?”
“We’re all set Father. We just need to practice the whole program with the props and lights then we’re good to go.”
“The entire diocese is excited. Maraming invited si bishop. May import director kasi kaya proud to invite a lot of people. Once in a lifetime show daw na makakasama ka.”
“Naku napressure ako dun. Everyone was great. Deep in talent ang mga parishes dito. I’ve met a lot of very good singers and yun orchestra, I heard they already played in Rome. Sayang haven’t chanced upon any of them there. The song number of the all boys choir is something to look forward to. Ang gagaling ng mga young seminarians natin.”
“The bishop is excited. Good timing talaga na you were around in time for their celebration. You were able to use your expertise in your very own province.”
“Ah yes and it’s really an honor to be able to give back to my roots. It was really fun. Yun show ng Northwest Hills then this. I’ll definitely miss all of these.”
“So sa susunod na linggo na ang alis mo?”
It took him awhile before he nodded his head in affirmation.
“Parang ayaw mo pang umuwi nyan ah! Baka mapagalitan ka na nyan ng spiritual director mo. Where are your assignments pagbalik mo sa Rome? Will you teach or further studies pa rin?”
“I don’t know. I’m really not sure Father. I haven’t signed up for the mission to Africa either. I was personally invited by Father Santi. He called me last week but I couldn’t give a definite answer.”
“Africa? Oh they assign deacons now?”
“I guess they based it on my former volunteer work. Maybe they saw the experience I had in Ghana before. But I can’t decide yet. I can’t completely give myself to it.”
Father Francis was eyeing him contemplatively.
“Maybe let’s talk over coffee. You are free I presume?”
“Yes. We’re done here. Teka lang Father. I’ll give some instructions lang to them.”
“James, Maya and Luke were visiting friends in the afternoon.
They dropped by Northwest Hills since the teachers are there for their deliberation of grades.
“Favorite ka talaga namin James. Thank you for these pasalubongs.” Edz was profusely thanking James.
“Naku pare, mabuti naman at umuwi ka. Eto kasing si Maya sobrang lungkot lately.” Jeff was teasing them.
“Grabe ka. Hindi naman.Tumigil ka nga Jeff.”
Maya was denying it.
Then Rafi arrived. She was surprised to see James.
“Aba nandito ka pala Mr. Ventura.”
“Mrs. Alcantara, good to see you!” James gave Rafi a hug while Maya was smiling at the two.
Rafi immediately saw Maya so she immediately disengaged from the hug.
Rafi was James ex-fiancee. They were about to tie the knot 7 years ago when Rafi decided she wasn’t at all ready to get married. This left James devastated. He was Mother Elena’s nephew, a son of her sister.
While Maya was trying to raise her son on her own, James was always around. They eventually became very good friends, best friends even. They learned about each others past as well.
Mother Elena saw the positive effects of their being together so she just allowed them. She even hoped that they would end up together. She wasn’t aware that the two were still very much in love with their previous partners.
James never had plans to marry again but seeing that his bestfriend is so affected being a single mom, he suggested that he could be Luke’s dad and her husband.
Maya was adamant at first because she never wanted to get tied in a loveless relationship. It would be unfair for both of them.
But James made an offer she couldn’t say no to. He would be the husband and father in paper. They don’t have to pretend to be sweet because they were already best friends. James also needs it for his bruised ego when his fiancee ended their engagement. She also needs to give Luke a normal life. She never expected Richard Lim to come back to her anyway.
The set up was convenient for both of them. They got married in a simple civil ceremony attended by Mother Elena and his parents and her mom. Nobody knows about their setup. No one needs to know anyway. They just promised that if either finds someone they love, they would agree to annul the marriage.
They lived normally until James had to move to London. Maya went back to San Nicolas and was reinstated in Northwest Hills. That’s where she met James ex fiancee Rafi whom she found out to be a very sweet person.
When Rafi learned that she was James’ wife, she became awkward and uneasy with Maya around. Maya made her move to be friends with Rafi. That’s when she openly talked about James and that’s when she started teasing them just to end the tension. James was in London anyway.
She believes that her best friend needs to maintain a good relationship with Rafi as well coz that will be the only thing to remove his hurt, to give him peace of mind.
Even now that Richard Lim is back, she never intends to end her marriage with James. She would never destroy his family.
Maybe they will really grow old together, like what James always jokes about.
It’s okay with Maya.
She would rather spend a lifetime with James than anyone other than Richard Lim.
“Having seconds thoughts Ricky?”
“I don’t know anymore Father. I wanted this. I loved it but at this very moment, I can no longer say that.”
“Bakit? May nangyari ba? Is there someone?”
Richard didn’t say anything. He just stared back at Father Francis.
Father Francis got it already. He nodded his head.
“You met someone. So what are your plans?”
“I don’t know Father. Naguguluhan ako. Ang alam ko lang is I will be unfair to continue with my vocation if I can’t give my complete self to it.”
“She knows that you are to be ordained?”
“No Father. She doesn’t know anything at all. She’s married. She has a son.”
The disappointment in Father Francis’ face is evident.
“I didn’t know this would happen. I never thought I’d see her again after all these years.”
“Again?” Father Francis was confused.
“She was my ex-girlfriend Father.”
“I thought you only had one girlfriend Ricky, the one you talked about before when we first met abroad, the one who compelled you to enter the seminary. I’m confused.”
“That’s her Father. My one and only. I thought I could choose to stop loving her. I tried but I can’t Father. I will be unfair to my vocation if I would still continue even though I can’t give my whole self anymore.”
“So you mean you would pursue her even if she’s already married?”
“No Father, I won’t do that. I would still continue my volunteer work if they still need me. I would still go back to Rome and maybe still teach music the way i did but I can’t be a priest anymore. I don’t know Father. I’m really confused with what I’m feeling right now.”
“So this lady, what’s her say in all of these? She must be so special to turn your world upside down all of a sudden.” Father Francis was trying to make the conversation light.
“She doesn’t know that I’m entering priesthood. She knows I already have a wife. I didn’t correct that notion she has of me. We’re friends and I won’t ask for anymore than that. I met her husband and he seems a great guy.”
“What can I say Ricky. I’m dumbfounded actually. I would like to tell you that I support your decision but that’s not what I’m feeling now. I guess I’m allowed to feel some kind of resentment too that one of our best wont be completely like us. But don’t mind me. I will never stop wishing for your happiness and right decision.”
“Thank you Father. I really needed someone to talk to and I’m glad you came over.”
“You better talk to your Spiritual Director about this before anybody else.”
“Yes Father. I would do that once I get back home. Thank you.”
“Okay Ricky. I don’t know if I would blame myself for encouraging you to stay here longer than you should. But I’ll be praying for your discernment.”
“Thank you Father and I’m really sorry.”
“Richard Lim don’t say sorry. What you’ll be doing is sad for us but definitely not bad, not wrong. I have to head back home. How about you?”
“I’m heading home na rin Father. Si Manang Fe, napakakulit ngayon. Always looking for me.”
“Ah dapat umuwi agad. May curfew si Manang.”
“Yes. Sige Father. Thank you again.”
“Okay Ricky. Pray harder.”
“I will Father.”
“He was about to sleep when he saw her incoming call.
“Chard, oh I’m sorry its already late. Naistorbo ba kita? Kakarating lang kasi namin.”
“No Maya it’s okay. I’m still awake.”
“So tuloy tayo bukas? Can we meet at South Curves na lang around 2 pm para walang masyadong tao?”
“No problem Maya. That’s perfectly fine with me.”
“Sige Chard see you tomorrow. Goodnight.”
They both retired to bed excited, nervous on what the next day would be like.
A/N Thanks for reading. I find it hard to do this kasi I have to change the real happenings with fiction para di sobrang heavy.
Again, may permission to ng real character ng story.😊