As soon as James left, Richard led Maya to a private corner at South Curves restaurant.
Since he arrived earlier than Maya, he chose and reserved a table for them. He picked the table which is in the farthest area from the entrance and from the restaurant staff to give them the privacy they needed.
“Okay lang dito Maya?”
“Okay lang Chard.”
He assisted her in her seat.
The palpable tension is present and both are feeling uncomfortable already.
“Buti naman at pumayag kang makipagkita sakin Chard.”
“Free naman ako Maya and I also wanted to talk to you. I’m glad you brought it up. So order muna tayo?”
“Sige.” Maya shyly replied.
Richard called the waiter and they both ordered some coffee and cake.
Richard was suggesting some of the restaurant’s specialty but Maya declined saying that she just had lunch though she really wasn’t able to eat lunch at all with the tension and anticipation for their date.
Richard wasn’t also able to eat the meal prepared by Manang Fe.
“So Maya what’s our agenda?” He said in jest.
“Ikaw talaga.” She slapped his arm which was on top of their table. They were seated across each other but since the table was quite small, they are practically very close to each other.
“Seriously Maya, why do you want to talk to me?”
“Well, di ba, uhmmm, aalis ka na? Gusto ko sanang bigyan ng linaw yun mga nakaraan. I just wanted us to be okay bago ka umalis.To have peace of mind na rin. Alam mo naman ang ibig kong sabihin Chard, di ba?”
“Yes Maya, I do understand.”
“Alam ko naman kasi na marami akong nagawa kung saan nasaktan kita. Hindi ko yun maalis sa kunsiyensya ko. Mabigat pa rin sa loob ko na nasaktan kita noon Chard.”
“When we were supposed to have dinner, sinadya ko talagang hindi magpakita sa’yo. Umalis kami ni nanay at balak kong kausapin ka kapag nasa Boston ka na. Naniniwala ako na maipapaliwanag ko lahat kapag nakaalis ka na. Ayaw kong naiiwan, alam mo naman yun di ba? I mean, that’s what happened to Tatay. Umalis siya at di na bumalik.”
“I wouldn’t have done that Maya. You were my life, di ba?”
“Oo pero hindi ko na naisip yun Chard. Ang alam ko lang aalis ka at maiiwan ako. Hindi na ako nakapag-isip ng tama.”
She was trying so hard to maintain her composure as she was already finding it so difficult to talk about the past.
“Ng bumalik kami ni Nanay, alam kong nakaalis ka na nun. Nagulat ako ng malaman na araw araw kang pumupunta sa bahay. I found out that you haven’t left yet. I was so guilty then. I wanted to go to your place pero I was so ashamed of myself, of what I have done. Hindi ko magawang harapin ka at sina Manang Fe. Nagdesisyon ako na hintayin ka na lang pumunta sa bahay at doon ko na lang balak magpaliwanag. Pero hindi ka dumating.”
“I got sick Maya. I stayed in the hospital for almost 2 months. At hindi ako makatakas kay Manang Fe.”
Maya was surprised. She didn’t know that Richard got sick then. All she thought was he was mad at her that’s why he didn’t bother to visit anymore.
Her eyes instantly welled with tears. She realized that when Manang Fe requested for her to visit Richard, that was the time he was in the hospital.
“Oh my God! I am so sorry… I’m sorry Chard..”
Then her tears now flowed freely. She was unable to control it after hearing what he could have gone through.
“Hey Maya don’t cry. Matagal na yun at okay na okay ako, o! Naku naman baka may makakita sa’yo, akalain na sinaktan kita tapos bugbugin ako.”
He frantically wiped her cheeks. She was smiling amidst tears, amused at his effort to lighten the mood.
“Anong sakit mo? Bakit ang tagal mo sa hospital?”
“Sipon at ubo lang.” He joked.
“Maya matagal na yun.”
“Kaya nga tayo naguusap di ba para maliwanag ang lahat.”
“Okay. I had a mild stroke then the doctor did a surgery. Pero it wasn’t serious. Kailangan lang gawin para hindi na maging delikado.”
Her doe shaped eyes, brimming with tears again stared at him. He held her hand.
“Hey I’m okay. Kaya ayaw kong sabihin eh.”
“Dapat dinamayan kita noon. Ang sama sama ko.”
“No you’re not. I’m sure fate had a hand in everything that happened. See, we are even given a chance to face each other now and clear things.”
But Maya just covered her face with her hands, regretting what she did in the past.
“Manang Fe said you went to Dubai?”
That’s the reason she gave Manang Fe when she decided to hide from him and keep her pregnancy to herself.
She didn’t answer his question.
He decided to tell his story.
“Maya nung dinner, I was supposed to propose to you then. I decided na mag short course na lang sa Berklee. That was my surprise.” He smiled at her.
“Pero don’t feel bad kasi we turned out to be okay. I mean look at you. Who would have thought that it’s possible for us to talk to each other like this.”
“Chard ng umalis ako, anong nangyari sa’yo?”
“I was sad Maya. I mean ikaw lang yun pamilya ko. You were my life. Sila Manang Fe was different. I needed you then. I thought we were really meant for each other. But you left. Nawalan ako ng direksyon noon. I stopped for a semester then I realized that I should get back on track, shape up. I convinced myself that hindi ko na mababago ang mga pangyayari. I need to take care of myself and be a better person. Maybe kung hindi ko man saiyo maibaling yun pagmamahal na meron ako, I could give it to others. I decided to enter the seminary. Then the opportunity to go on a mission abroad came. I grabbed it. I was so eager to leave the Philipines, to forget the pain. I found myself again. I buried myself in work, in music, in my vocation, in my faith, in God. I found happiness again. My love for you never changed Maya. I can love you in a different way now. We can be friends, best friends I hope so, like the way it was before. And I’m really grateful that you allowed me into your life again. You even allowed me to mentor your son. I really appreciate that Maya. That meant a lot to me.”
“You’ve always been special Chard. Hindi naman nagbabago yun. And the biggest regret I have was letting you go. But I am happy to know that you had lived a very meaningful life. You’re a priest now?”
She asked with dejected eyes.
“Not yet. Next year pa but a lot can still happen.”
“I’m … I’m happy for you.” was all she could say.
He smiled. He was unaware of the things going through her mind.
“Ikaw Maya, how did you meet James?”
“Ah he was Mother Elena’s nephew. He helped me during my lowest times. We became friends before we got married.”
“He’s a levelheaded person. I mean allowing you to meet me, after what he witnessed the other night.”
“Mabait naman si James at wala naman dapat ikagalit. Alam din nya na boyfriend kita noon.”
“I’m happy that you’re in good hands Maya. Your husband seems to be a great guy. Even your son. Very sweet and talented. Maswerte ka. Siguro that’s the reason why hindi naging tayo.”
“Chard, please promise na you will be in touch even after you leave. Si Luke, he was more inspired when you became his mentor. Please promise me that.”
She doesn’t know how she could tell him about Luke anymore. It seemed inconsequential now after learning that he was to be a priest. She can never complete with God. She made many wrong decisions in her life. Ayaw na nyang dagdagan pa.
But she was desperate to maintain the connection between her son and his father that she could settle for anything, even a mere coach/mentor and student relationship.
“Of course Maya. I will always be in touch with Luke. Even with you if okay lang sayo. Best friends ulit?”
She smiled but it was a pained smile that didn’t reach her eyes.
“Best friends Chard!”
They continued talking about the past, reminiscing about the first time they met, his years at Northwest Hills.
They had fun. Ricky was so happy to be allowed in her life again. He may no longer be a husband but he can be her very best friend again.
Maya tried her best to make this very rare and even last moment with him memorable.
They talked about James and Luke too and Maya even mentioned that she thought he was married when she saw him with someone at the restaurant.
It turned out that it was his friend, Catherine, who just got married. She was the reason why he came home. He sang on their wedding.
They both enjoyed their time together. At least they were about to clear things up, though Maya didn’t have the heart to tell him about Luke. Her conscience couldn’t do it for she knows that it will confuse him again.
It was already 7 pm when Richard drove her home.
As he parked his car in front of her gate…
“Thank you Maya for this. I will still see you and Luke before I leave.”
“Thanks din Chard. Please take care of yourself.”
“I will Maya. Ikaw din. Kayo ni Luke. Please thank James for me too.”
Then after giving each other a very tight hug, he kissed Maya on her forehead. Maya in turn kissed his cheek as well.
He assisted her as she alighted his car.
It was already 12 midnight and James was anxiously waiting for Maya in their garden.
He was excited to know about Maya and Richard’s date which Maya vehemently considers as a plain conversation and not a date.
“Tulog na si Luke?”
“Kanina pa. Bakit ang tagal mo? Kausap mo pa siguro si Ricky sa phone ano?” James was teasing but Maya totally ignored it.
Maya sat beside him.
The moment Maya arrived earlier, she wasn’t her jolly self anymore. She was quiet and it was totally the opposite of what James expected from her going out with Richard.
“Hindi. Kausap ko si Edz. Nagpatulong lang sa grades ng mga estudyante nya.”
“So how was it? Yun pag-uusap nyo kanina?”
“Okay naman James.”
“What did he say?”
“Sabi nya he will keep in touch. Lagi naman daw siyang tatawag kay Luke.”
“He will guide Luke and be his coach kahit malayo siya. May Skype naman daw.”
“Yun. Friends pa rin kami. And the best part of it is close pa rin sila ni Luke.”
James now faced her. He was already annoyed with Maya’s dull, unexciting answers.
“He will support Luke? I mean financially?”
This got Maya’s attention and heightened her emotion which was James real intention for his remark.
“I will never ask for any financial support! If I’ll tell him about Luke, its not because I needed his financial support!”, she unintentionally said it in a higher voice showing she was upset.
Maya’s impassioned response to James supported his suspicion that she didn’t tell the truth about Luke.
“So tama ang hinala ko. Hindi mo inamin yun tungkol kay Luke.”
Maya now suddenly softened up and her sad doe-shaped eyes stared back at him.
“Paano ko naman sasabihin James? Magpapari siya. Ano naman ang laban ko dun? Guguluhin ko lang siya. Sisirain ko na naman ang maayos na nyang tinatahak na buhay.”
“Pero Maya we already talked lengthily about this. Di ba nga ang sabi mo regardless of him being married aaminin mo na sakanya na may anak siya. That’s the plan. Whatever happened to that?”
“James yun ay kung may asawa siya. Iba naman yun sitwasyon James. Magpapari siya.”
“Parehas lang yun. And besides hindi pa naman siya pari.”
“Hindi. Magkaiba yun may asawa sa magpapari. Ayaw kong maging dahilan si Luke sa kung ano man ang magiging desisyon nya sa buhay.”
“But that’s the choice he has to make. And you don’t have the right to make decisions for him either. The only thing you have to do is tell him the truth. Kung ano man ang desisyon nya, that’s for him to make Maya. Wala kang karapatan na pangunahan siya.”
“Ayokong maging dahilan si Luke ng kung ano man ang pagbabago sa buhay nya James. Ayoko na sisihin nya ang bata.”
“You think that’s what he’ll be doing? Blaming Luke or you? Kasi Maya sa lahat ng naikuwento mo about Richard, I don’t believe that he would do that to you or Luke.”
She was already on the verge of crying and can’t take it anymore so she allowed herself to drown in sorrow and regret.
She can’t help but think of the what-ifs and what-could-have-been if she only made the right decisions years ago. Now she’s faced with it again and she feels so helpless choosing what is right or what the best decision is for her, for Luke, for Richard.
James gathered her in his arms, allowing her to cry in his chest.
“Sshhh… It will be okay Maya. It will be.”
When her sobs died down…
“Sige na Maya. You better rest now. Ipapasyal ko kayo bukas ni Luke. Mag-absent na muna kayo sa school.”
She stood up.
“Salamat James. Goodnight.”
“Goodnight Maya. Rest ka na. Stop thinking about it na muna.”
“What will I do without you James.”
“You’ll be fine without me.”
James smiled at her and she nodded her head and proceeded to her room.
James just sighed heavily thinking of the predicament of this woman and the boy he cares for.
Preview of the next chapter:
A knock on his door was heard.
He opened it to find Manang Fe.
“Ricardo may naghahanap sa’yo.”
“Sino po Manang?”
“Siya daw si James Ventura.”
He was surprised. He never expected a visit from the guy whom Maya chose over him.
He tried to remember what he must have done to make James pay him a visit. He can’t remember anything wrong from that date or rather time together they had days ago. It was even James who brought her there. They just talked.
He can’t help but feel apprehensive of James’ sudden visit.
“Sige po Manang. Papasukin mo na po. I’ll be right there.”