My Safe Refuge 11
Richard and Maya’s friendship progressed as days, weeks, months passed. Though they never labeled the ‘more-than-friends-less-than-lovers’ relationship they have, they are both aware of how important and special they are to each other.
Richard would regularly visit Maya by himself and sometimes with Nikki.
They would spend their weekends on some secluded resort with the kids or have unplanned picnics at Maya’s backyard.
Richard and Maya would have movie dates and dinner dates on random days as well.
Maya enjoys his company and she already knows that she is in love with Richard but was just scared to commit herself.
She doesn’t know how to start telling him about James. For once, in many years, she felt loved, cared for and she didn’t want to put an end to it by confiding to him about James. She doesn’t want to take the chance of telling him about James for the fear that it might be a reason for Richard to stop whatever they have now. She would eventually tell him but believes that it’s not the proper time yet. Besides they are just friends right now.
“Maya, did you enjoy?” Richard asked as they were driving home after attending the wedding of his cousin. They had to travel for four hours from the venue of the wedding but Richard doesn’t feel tired because Maya is with him. He in fact, hoped that there would be traffic once they enter Manila so he could spend more time with her.
He brought Maya with him as his parents were in China and couldn’t be present at the wedding. He attended on their behalf.
Ever since his wife died, Richard had always declined wedding invitations but having Maya with him now made him agree. It was his mother who actually invited Maya and she readily agreed.
“Oo naman Ricky. Ang ganda ng pinsan mo. She’s really very happy. Yun husband nya napakabait din.”
“Yeah she’s really happy. Sana talaga they would have a blissful married life. My cousin kasi always has this ideal family picture in her mind even when she was younger. Sana she won’t be disappointed.”
“Hindi naman ata Ricky. Atsaka mukhang mabait naman yun napangasawa nya.”
“Maya sometimes people aren’t what they seem to be. I’m just worried. Siguro kasi parang kuya na ako ng pinsan ko. Many marriages kasi aren’t as perfect as they seem to be. Mukhang okay sa labas pero inside their homes is a different story. Gaya ko. I wasn’t a very good husband before. Lagi akong wala. I only stayed home often and became attentive to my wife and kids when we found out that she was sick, just a few months before she died.”
Richard painfully recalled his shortcomings on his marriage. The regret and guilt was evident on his face and it prompted Maya to reach for his arm to console him.
“Ricky whatever happened, I’m sure your wife understood you. I’m sure na kung ano man yun naging pagkukulang mo noon, pinagsisihan at pinagbayaran mo na sa pamamagitan ng pagiging mabuting daddy sa mga anak ninyo. Alam yan ng asawa mo kahit nasaan man siya.” She wanted to make him feel good, to dispel the cloud of guilt and regret that she could sense from him. She was wondering if James would be able to reach the same kind of realization too. She hoped and prayed that he does.
Richard’s free hand took hers and slowly brought it near his chest causing her to lean a bit towards him. Since the car was on a full stop, he had the chance to stare into her eyes. “Thank you Maya. What you said meant a lot.” With the intensity of his gaze, Maya suddenly felt herself blushing. Richard saw this and made him instinctively focus on her lips. He was tempted to again feel her soft lips on his when suddenly the honking of several vehicles was heard.
The stop light turned green so he had no choice but to direct his gaze back to the road and retract his right hand from hers.
He shook his head while smiling, like a little boy caught from doing a wrong, naughty act.
Maya, on the other hand, also couldn’t help herself from smiling and blushing as well.
She diverted her gaze to her car window hoping that the passing scenery would distract her from the loud beating of her heart and the giddiness she couldn’t control whenever Richard tries to be sweet or whenever he stares deep into her eyes.
“Let’s go for coffee first?” He suddenly suggested as they saw a coffeeshop near a gasoline station.
“Ah eh, sige. Okay lang sakin. Para naman makapagpahinga ka. Ang haba ng byahe natin. Mag unat-unat ka na muna.” They already drove for a little over two hours.
Richard ordered a plain brewed coffee while Maya, who wasn’t much of a coffee drinker ordered a vanilla milkshake which was also being served at the coffeeshop. They both had cheesecake as well. They were seated at the secluded corner of the coffeshop. Ricky already knows that Maya prefers to stay away from the crowd so he chose the seat without waiting for her to request for it.
“Maya, pasensya na sa pagdradrama ko kanina ha?” He realized what he did and suddenly felt embarrassed especially that he’s been so open about his personal life to her while she remained clammed up about hers. He realized that the reason could be that Maya hates talking about personal stuff.
“Ano ka ba wala yun. I feel honored na pinagkakatiwalaan mo ako Ricky. I’m sure din na alam mong nandito lang ako if you need someone to talk to.” She gave him her warm, assuring smile that never fails to warm his heart.
He smiled back at her as he drank his coffee.
“Alam mo, I never thought I would find someone like you, someone na makakasama kong magkape ng ganito, someone na tawang-tawa sa mga corny jokes ko.” He said as he looked at her.
“Nandyan kaya yun buong family mo at nakikinig naman sila sa jokes mo. Si Tito Roberto naman, nakakasama mo magkape tuwing umaga…”
“Yeah pero napipilitan lang silang tumawa sa jokes ko whereas ikaw, talagang bentang-benta sa’yo. Atsaka iba naman yun kasabay mong magkape yun daddy mo sa ganito. Ang layo nun Maya ha!”
“Eh parehas lang yun.”she was again being uncomfortable with his melting stare and his voice so she tried to veer to a lighter topic. “Atsaka pano ka naman nakakasiguro na mabenta nga yun jokes mo sakin?” She was trying to laugh.
“Alam ko because you are very transparent Maya. Alam ko na tuwang tuwa ka sa jokes ko. Alam ko rin that I have a certain effect on you and masayang masaya ako dun Maya. Do you know that laging kang namumula at jittery when you’re with me?”
“Eh Ricky siyempre di naman ako sanay na may kaibigan na lalaki. Siguro ganun lang yun. Ikaw naman binibigyan mo ng meaning yun. Atsaka rosy cheeks talaga ako.” She jested as she defended herself.
“Well maybe that’s how you feel pero ako, do you know that parang may roller coaster sa tiyan ko whenever we’re together?”
“Ganun?!!! Ibig sabihin nasusuka ka kapag kasama ako????” She feigned disbelief and hurt as she was really scared as to where their conversation was heading to. No matter how hard she tried to add humor to their conversation, Richard remained serious.
But he suddenly got worried that he must have offended her. “No Maya what I mean is…”
She saw his worry so she stopped him. “Ricky naman binibiro lang kita. Seryoso mo!”
“Ikaw kasi eh. Ninenerbyos na nga ako mas lalo mo pa akong tinatakot.”
“Ninenerbyos ka rin?” She asked in disbelief.
“Sobra Maya. I may seem calm outside but gooey inside.”
“Ay parang chocolate lang!” She joked again but it still didn’t deter Richard from saying what’s in his mind and heart.
“Why do you always avoid it when I try to be serious? Marami akong gustong sabihin sa’yo Maya. I want to open what’s in my heart to you. I want you to know how special and important you are to me. Gusto kong ipaalam sa’yo that you make me look forward to waking up each day. I don’t ask you to also feel the same way as I do pero sana you won’t stop me. Alam ko naman that I could not be the same as the person you lost. Alam kong you’re still in the process of healing pero Maya please allow me to express what I feel for you kahit walang kapalit. Masaya na ako dun.”
She felt shy. “Ricky hindi sa ganun. Hindi rin lang kasi ako kumportable. Hindi ako sanay sa ganito. Masaya ako na kasama kita, di ba sabi mo nga na transparent ako, totoo yun Ricky, masayang masaya ako kapag magkasama tayo. Sa mahabang panahon, naramdaman ko ulit kung paano ako pahalagahan. Kaya lang what if hindi ko kayang suklian yun nararamdaman mo. What if I’m not the person you think I am? What if hindi ko pa kayang ibigay yun buong puso ko sa’yo?”
“Maya okay lang naman ako sa kung anong meron tayo. What we have now, whatever you call it, I am happy with it. Hindi naman kita pinipilit. Just being with you is more than enough to make me happy. I just don’t understand why you always avoid it when I make my intentions known to you. May magagalit ba? You said it makes you feel uncomfortable. Why? You want me to stop what I’m doing?”
“Hindi! Hindi naman sa ganun Ricky. Natatakot lang ako na nahuhulog na ang loob ko sa’yo, na bawat araw mas nahihirapan akong pigilin yun kung ano man. Basta Ricky alam mo na yun!” She tried to avoid his eyes, too embarrassed with what she just confessed.
Richard was very happy. She may not have said it outright but she actually admitted that she also felt something for him. He felt that someone is preventing her from giving her whole heart. He knows that it is her late husband and he can’t help but feel envious of the guy who occupies a big space in Maya’s heart. But he is very happy and with Maya’s shy admission, he vowed to earn her love in the best way he can.
They arrived in Manila two hours after. They made an effort not to talk about what they discussed in that coffeeshop. Richard didn’t want to make Maya feel more uncomfortable than what she already felt. He tried to dwell onto safer topics like the kids, business, music, movies even politics.
Maya on the other hand was aware of Richard’s effort to make her feel at ease and it made her admire him more, love him more.
As they stopped in front of Maya’s gate…
“Maya thank you for accompanying me.”
“Ricky thank you at ininvite nyo ako. Pakisabi na lang sa mama at papa mo.”
“Sana hindi ka nainip sa kasalan kanina.”
“Mukha ba akong nainip? Ikaw talaga! Masaya ako Ricky na mawitness yun kasal ng pinsan mo. Sige mauna na ako. Di na kita yayayain magkape at late na ha! Mag-ingat ka sa pagdrive at tawagan mo ako kapag nasa bahay ka na.” She couldn’t help but feel concerned as he would still drive another 30 minutes to reach his house.
“Opo mam!” He jested.
“Ikaw talaga! Sige na. Goodnight.” She opened her car side but Richard still rushed to assist her in going down. He waited until she was able to open her gate.
“Sige na Ricky. Okay na ako. Ayan na si Manang Fe.”
“Sige Maya goodnight.”
Richard drove home with a big smile in his face. Despite driving for hours, he didn’t feel tired. He enjoyed every minute of being with Maya.
They went on with their usual routine – the usual late at night calls, the regular visits to Maya’s home, the movie dates and dinner dates, the simple daily messages of checking each other’s day. The relationship they had was going strong and despite not having a label to it, they were both mutually aware of how important they were to each other.
“Thank you po Tito Richard! Bye Nikki! Bye Ms. Stephanie!” Luke jumped out of Richard’s vehicle one afternoon when he brought him home. Maya was just smiling and not saying much when she saw a female occupant in the passenger seat beside Richard.
“Wait Luke! I’ll get your bag.” Richard scrambled to get out of the vehicle to assist Luke but the boy already alighted the car.
Richard still went down and the woman also followed. “Maya this is Stephanie. Auntie siya ng classmate nila Luke. She lives near our house kaya isinabay ko na. Steph si Maya, kaibigan ko. Siya yun mommy ni Luke.” The woman extended her hand which Maya took.
“Good afternoon Maya.” She gave her a smile.
“Good afternoon.” She also replied then told Richard, “Ricky salamat sa paghatid kay Luke. Sige na kayo at baka gabihin kayo.” She wanted to dismiss them right away for an unpleasant feeling is slowly getting in her and the last thing she wanted was for Richard to notice it.
“Sige Maya. Tawagan kita mamaya.” Richard said. She just nodded her head and Richard and Stephanie went back to the car. With a last smile to Maya, Richard drove away from Maya’s house.
“Luke anong activity nyo sa school today? May meeting yun parents?” She asked Luke while they were doing his homework.
“Wala naman po Mom. Why po?”
“Ah kasi why did Ms. Stephanie visit the school?”
“Pinatawag po kasi yun parents ni Iñigo, yun classmate namin ni Nikki, kasi inaway niya po yun isa naming classmate na si Nicolo. Wala yun parents niya kaya si Ms. Stephanie na lang.”
“Close sila ni Tito Richard?” Maya couldn’t help but ask about Stephanie’s closeness to Richard even forgetting to ask about Luke’s classmates.
“Siguro po close sila kasi makwento naman po and mabiro yun si Ms. Stephanie. Pinakain nga muna nya kami ng ice cream and spaghetti dun sa harap ng school bago kami umuwi. Tawa ng tawa si Tito Richard sa jokes nya.” The boy was happily recalling totally unaware that his mom was already getting upset with it.
“Ice cream? Di ba nya naisip na baka ubuhin kayo ni Nikki? Did you drink water afterwards?”
“Yes po mommy and Tito Richard made me eat konting ice cream lang po kasi baka daw magalit kayo. Tumikim lang po ako dun sa kinakain ni Tito Richard. He ordered orange juice for me tapos spaghetti and yun cupcakes po.” Luke explained. He knows that his mom doesn’t easily allow him to have ice cream for he easily catches colds. Maya calmed down a bit, aware that she’s overreacting as a result of the pangs of jealousy she feels.
Seeing someone else with Richard and finding out, from Luke, that she made him laugh gave her a very unpleasant feeling which she didn’t deny as jealousy.
Preview of the Next Chapter
“This is my wife Maya dela Rosa- Ventura and our son Luke Andrew dela Rosa Ventura.” James draped his arm around Maya’s shoulders.
She was trying her best to act calm as she didn’t want to cause any commotion.
“Maya is this true?” a very surprised Richard was asking her, hoping that she would deny it.
“Oo Ricky siya ang daddy ni Luke.”
Then James left with Maya and Luke leaving the distraught Richard Lim behind.