This Time Around-Till the End

Yahooo!! Finished at last!!! Pasensya na kung natagalan ang pag-post. I know it’s just a simple plot but after chapter 6,  I had major writer’s block, hehe. Di ko alam kung paano ko dudugtungan. I’ll stick to one-shots muna after this. I borrowed a line or two from the show.

 

CHAPTER SIX

 

Richard was leaning on the balustrade of the veranda, staring out to the night. He was thinking about what happened just a while ago, a smile on his lips as he remembered the way she laughed, how her face lit up when she told him a funny anecdote, their easy camaraderie. He was missing her again. Sighing, he turned in time to find Manang Fe placing a cup of coffee on the table. “Thank you, Manang,” he said as he went towards her and sat down.

Manang Fe stayed a moment, looking at him. “Parang masaya ka ngayon. May nangyari ba?”

He hesitated. “Nagkita ulit kami ni Maya, Manang…purely by chance.”

“Talaga? Anong ginawa niyo? Nag-usap ba kayo?”

“Yes…but not about what happened before. We just talked…iba-iba,” he shrugged. “We ate street food…it was almost like a date,” he could not help smiling again.

Manang Fe smiled back. “Mabuti at nag-uusap kayo ulit. Ano ngayon balak mo?”

“I don’t know, Manang,” he shook his head, “It’s just…she’s happy with everything that’s going on in her life right now. It scares me to make a move again. There’s still a lot she wants to do. I don’t want to get in her way,” he said, remembering some of the things she told him before.

“Ikaw talagang bata ka,” she chastised, taking a seat, “malay natin kung nag-iba ang isip niya? Bakit hindi ka sumubok ulit?”

Richard smiled sadly. Unbidden, her words came back to him, tearing his heart; kung ano man ang nararamdaman ko para sa’yo, hindi ito sapat para piliin kong makasama ka. He tightened his hold on the cup. “Maybe it’s still not the right time, Manang.”

She heaved a sigh. “Kung mahal mo siya, isusugal mo ulit ang puso mo. Minsan kasi, hindi natin talagang malalaman kung tamang panahon na nga ba. Hintay tayo ng hintay, nalagpasan na pala tayo ng pagkakataon.” She stood up. “Naniniwala pa rin ako na kayong dalawa ni Maya ang para sa isa’t-isa.”

He laughed softly. “Talagang botong-boto kayo kay Maya, Manang, a.”

“Oo naman, dahil nakikita kong napapa-saya ka niya; at siya lang ang babaeng naka-tiis sa pagiging masungit mo,” she replied, emphatically, “at kahit ano pa ang sinabi niya sa’yo dati, alam kong mahal ka rin nun.”

He sobered. “What if you’re wrong? What if what she feels for me is not love?”

“Paano kung tama ako, at sinabi lang niya yun dahil mali ang inisip niyang mas makakabuti para sa inyo?”

“Do you know anything, Manang?” he wondered.

She shrugged. “Wala ka namang sinasabi, e. Paano ko malalaman? Sinasabi ko lang kung ano ang opinyon ko,” she smiled. She waited a moment, and when he did not say anything more, sighed, saying, “O, sya, matutulog na ako. Kung ano man ang isipin mong gawin, desisyon mo yun. Ayaw kong sabihin mong nanghihimasok ako sa mga bagay-bagay na nangyayari sa buhay mo.”

“Manang naman, you know I value your opinion.”

She smiled again “Salamat, Ricardo.” She turned away, leaving him to think about what she said.

 

CHAPTER SEVEN

 

“She’s here?” was Richard’s first words when he entered the house. Manang Fe was waiting for him. She inclined her head.

“Nasa kwarto ni Abby.”

He hurried up the stairs, eager to see her. When Manang Fe called to tell him that Maya was there, he had his last meeting cancelled just so he could go home earlier. Ever since Valentine’s day, he had been so undecided about making a move. Although he was glad that they were again friends, he was still wary of doing something that might scare her away again. That was the reason he did not make any attempt to contact her. He wanted a very good excuse, but the reason never came. And now this. He paused outside Abby’s door, hearing laughter. Slowly, he opened it. They were all on the bed, Maya and the children. Maya was narrating an amusing incident that happened on one of her flights. The scene warmed his heart. He missed this. Take the chance, Richard. Manang Fe was right. He loved her. Period. She was worth gambling his heart for, again, and again, and again.

Luke saw him first. “Dad!”

“Daddy!” Abby moved to kiss him while still on the bed. Maya and Nikki both stood up, the latter kissing him too.

“How are you, Baby?” He touched Abby’s forehead, relieved to find that it felt normal. She had contracted a classmate’s cough and cold and was feeling a little feverish this morning that he told her to stay at home so as not to make it worse.

“I’m ok, naman, daddy. Daddy, Ate Maya’s here,” she stated the obvious.

“I can see that, Baby,” he replied, smiling. He turned to her.

“Umm, Sir Chief, sorry, hindi na ako nakapag-paalam na darating ako.”

He held up his hand. “Didn’t I tell you that you’re always welcome here? I’m glad you came. Abby missed you,” adding softly, “we all do.”

“Na-miss ko rin kayo. Sobra-sobra,” she said, shyly, but forced herself to meet his eyes. Ever since that memorable chance encounter on Valentine’s day, there had been a secret hope in her heart; but as the days turned into weeks and he had not bothered to keep in touch, the hope died again. Then Abby called, saying she was sick, and asking her to come, and this time, she could not say no. She longed to see him.

“I’m glad,” he answered with a smile. There was a small silence as they gazed at one another. The children were amused as they watched the two.  Luke grinned, Abby giggled, and Nikki rolled her eyes. Maya was the first to look away, belatedly remembering that they had an audience. Thankfully, Manang Fe looked in on them to tell them that dinner was ready.

“Maya, dito ka na kumain,” she made it a command.

Richard, not wanting to make her more uncomfortable, said gently, “Please stay, Maya. We really want you to. Don’t worry, ipapahatid kita kay Joma mamaya.”

Maya was still shy, but she agreed easily, “sige, Sir Chief.”

“Yaaay!” The children cheered together, making her laugh. As they went ahead outside, she looked wistfully after them. She really did miss them. And this. And him. She glanced at him, blushing when he caught her.

“Tayo na?” He said lightly. She nodded, and they went out together.

 

CHAPTER EIGHT

 

Richard was at the veranda as usual, leaning on the balustrade. She was here. He could not help the wide smile that covered his face. He was just. so. happy.

At the doorway Maya paused, looking at him. Sir Chief ko…He turned suddenly. “Ay!” She blurted, surprised, her hand over her heart.  Kalma, Maya…His smile made her breathless. He raised his eyebrows questioningly as he walked towards her.

“How’s Abby?”

“Ok naman. Hindi na bumalik ang lagnat,” she assured him.

“Akala ko hindi ka na pakakawalan ng mga bata, e. Mukhang gusto pa yata eh buong gabi pa kayo mag-kwentuhan.”

She laughed. “Grabe ka naman, Sir Chief.”

He hesitated. “I was hoping we could have coffee first before you leave? Na-miss ko na kasi yung timpla mo,” he said, bracing for her refusal.

Maya’s heart beat faster. Sir Chief… She gave him her sweetest smile.

Maya…He raised a finger to her lips, touching them lightly, “I missed this too,” he said softly. Her eyes widened. Realizing what he just did, he stammered, “uh, I-I’m so sorry…” He did not know where to look.

She shook her head. “Para saan?”

“F-for…for making you uncomfortable,” he stammered again, frowning. He thought she would pull away.

Maya knew what he meant. It was like the time he started courting her. He was so unsure; so afraid to make the wrong move. Kasalanan ko ito, she thought, sadly, and it showed in her face and her voice, “hindi mo naman kailangang mag-sorry, e. Ako nga dapat ang mag-sorry sa yo.”

His brows furrowed. “What do you mean?”

She bit back a sigh. “Wala, Sir Chief. Ipagtitimpla ko na tayo ng kape,”she said, turning and heading towards the kitchen.

 

————————————————————————————————-

 

Something was different. Richard could not tell how, he just knew. An awkward silence hung between them as they both sipped their drinks. He glanced at her, and she met his eyes. He sighed silently. Make a move, Richard. Ask her what she meant. “Maya…”

“Sir Chief.”

They spoke at the same time. “You first,” he told her.

“Itatanong ko lang kung tapos ka nang uminom. Dadalhin ko na rin sa loob yung tasa mo.”

Surprised, he glanced at his cup. It was empty. They had not been talking all that time. “Thank you,” he said, frustrated at himself. He took out his mobile phone, “paaakyatin ko na si Joma.”

Maya stood and took their empty cups inside. She felt like crying. Paano ko ba ipapaalam na nagsisisi ako? Na mahal ko siya at handa na ako? Mahal pa ba niya ako? These thoughts were running through her head as she rinsed their cups.

“You shouldn’t be doing that.” Richard was standing just behind her. She jumped, startled.

“Ok lang, ito lang naman,” It was an effort to keep her tone light. She wanted their easy camaraderie back. She placed the cups on the rack.

“Maya,” he said, softly. His nearness disconcerted her. Side-stepping him, she grabbed a towel to wipe the teaspoons and he opened the drawer for her. “Sir Chief, kaya ko na ‘to,” she told him, suddenly unable to look at him.

“Let me help,” he said, taking the teaspoons from her.

“Wag na, Sir Chief,” she grabbed them back and hurriedly placed them inside, closing it quickly and accidentally trapping his fingers.

“Aray!” He grimaced..

“Sir Chief!” The tears she had been keeping at bay spilled over as she took his hand and started to rub his fingers, “s-sorry, hindi ko sinasadya. Sorry, sorry…”

“It’s ok, Maya,” he tried to reassure her. Her tears continued to fall. “Why are you crying?” He wondered.

“Eh kasi, nasaktan kita. Hindi ko ginustong saktan ka,” she answered as she raised her eyes to his. He could see the regret. Understanding dawned. He  realized that she was not talking about what just happened now. “Sorry,” she said again.

“There is nothing to apologize for, Maya.” His voice was still soft. He lifted his free hand to gently wipe her tears. She flinched, but did not pull away. “You didn’t have to, but thank you.”

“Masakit pa ba?” She whispered, as she continued to rub his fingers, and he wondered if she was still talking about before. Slowly, he moved his hand so his was holding hers. She blushed.

“Medyo,” he said, raising an eyebrow, “ano ngayon ang gagawin mo?” There was a challenge to his tone.

For a moment, she looked nonplussed, then with a shy smile, told him, “eh, di, magic,” and she bent her head and pressed her lips to his fingers, giving them a kiss.

“Maya…,” Richard sounded breathless. The move surprised him.

She bravely looked up and met his eyes. “Masakit pa rin ba?” she asked again, softly.

He shook his head. Before he could say anything else, the back door opened, and voices were heard. He slowly let go of her hand and both of them stepped back just as Manang Fe and Joma entered.

“Ser, pasensya na po. Nagpatawag pa po kasi si Manang Fe kung aalis na si Maya,” Joma explained.

“It’s ok, Joma.”

“Sige, po. Maya, hintayin kita sa labas,” he addressed Maya who just smiled and nodded.

“Manang Fe,” Maya hugged the old woman, “salamat po sa hapunan at sa lahat-lahat na,” she said laughingly.

“Ikaw talagang bata ka,” she cupped Maya’s cheek, “bumalik ka ulit, ha? Masaya kaming lahat pag nandito ka.”

“Makaka-asa po kayo.” She turned to Richard. “Sir Chief, aalis na ako,”she said, shyly.

“I’ll walk you to the door.” Once they were past Manang Fe’s sight, he wordlessly took her hand again, making her blush. They reached the front door.

“Sir Chief,” she tugged at her hand. He looked at her, his expression solemn.

“Kung yun lagi ang gamot mo sa mga sakit, gusto kong bumili. Effective kasi, e.” His words and the way he said them were so unexpected, Maya laughed. He smiled.

“Thank you, Maya, for everything,” he said softly. She nodded. He let go and opened the door for her. “Ingat ka.”

She paused. “Sir Chief…,” he raised an eyebrow. The smile she gave him was so radiant his heart skipped. “Wala lang. Thank you din.” They gazed at each other for a moment. “Bye, Sir Chief.”

“Goodbye, Maya.”

 

CHAPTER NINE

 

Maya sighed for the nth time as she rinsed the last of the plates and placed them on the rack. It’s been three days. He had not called nor sent a text. She was again wondering if what happened at the mansion had any special meaning at all. Parang panaginip lang lahat, she thought sadly. Maybe that was their closure. Talagang magkaibigan na lang kami.

Nay Teresita, coming from the dining area of their little chibugan, caught her daughter sighing yet again and smiled. She had noticed Maya had been like this since she arrived for an unexpected visit yesterday, and had guessed the reason why. To shake her off  her mood, she decided to tease her. “Ang buntong-hininga ba na yan ay dahil sa sobrang saya o sa sobrang lungkot?”

Startled, Maya turned quickly around. “Nay! Wag naman po kayong manggulat.”

“Hmmm, at siguradong si Sir Chief nanaman ang iniisip niya.”

“Nay naman, e,” she pouted, but her eyes were still sad. Her mother, grandmother, and nephew all knew about her visit to the Lims, but there were parts she left out that she told only to her older sister, Christina Rose, whom she fondly calls Kute. “Nahugasan ko na po lahat, Nay, tutulong na po ako sa harap,” she tried to escape.

“Nak,” Nay Teresita held her by the shoulders, “ok na sila dun. Andyan naman sina Lino at Bugoy. Kaya na nila yun. Ang gawin mo, maligo ka’t magbihis ka. Lalabas kayo ni Kute.”

“Po?”

“Dali na,” Nay Teresita turned her towards the stairs. “Matagal-tagal na din kayong hindi lumalabas ng kapatid mo na kayo lang. Nagpa-alam na siya. Sige na,” she pushed Maya towards the stairs.

“Oo na po. Heto na po. Bakit po ba nagmamadali si Kute?” She asked as she tramped up the stairs.

“Ewan ko ba dyan sa kapatid mo. Basta, bilisan mo na,” Nay Teresita smirked.

Half an hour later, Maya descended the stairs, freshly showered, her slightly damp hair falling over her shoulders, and made her way to the chibugan to find Kute still not ready. “Kute!” She was dismayed. “Hindi ka pa handa? Akala ko ba aalis tayo?”

Christina Rose pretended surprise. “Aaaahh, ganun ba? Pasensya na bunso. Hindi kami nagkaintindihan ni nanay. Ang sabi ko, aalis kayo.”

“Ha? Nino?”

Christina Rose just smiled. She pointed with her lips behind her, and Maya turned. Richard was standing a few steps away, a shy smile on his face.

“Hello, Maya.”

Sir Chief! Maya could only stare, her heart beating so fast and loud she could hear it. Nay Teresita and her grandmother, Mamang, appeared, apparently aware that he was already there.

“O, ayan, Richard, handa na pala ang apo ko. Ingatan mo siya ha?” Mamang said in a flirtatious way, touching his shoulder. She had a schoolgirl crush on him that everyone was aware of, including Richard. He smiled indulgently at the old woman.

“Anak, nagpa-alam na si Richard,” Nay Teresita told her with a knowing look.

Richard approached, his expression serious. “I was hoping you would come with me? I have things I want to say.”

She nodded, blushing, aware of the smiles of their audience. Lagot kayo sa akin mamaya. To her utter surprise and kilig, he reached for her hand.

“Aling Teresita, Mamang, Christina Rose, huwag po kayong mag-alala, iingatan ko po si Maya. Salamat po at pumayag kayo na samahan niya ako.”

“Sige, Richard,” Aling Teresita smiled at both of them.

He led her to the car and opened the door.

 

CHAPTER TEN

 

She had been staring at the view of the lake for a while, Richard standing quietly beside her. They were here, at the Most Romantic Place in San Nicolas, where her father pledged undying love to her mother but left them anyway. Nevertheless, she still loved it there. It was beautiful and peaceful. She gave a silent sigh. “Bakit dito mo ako dinala?” She turned to face him.

“I told you I wanted to change your memory of this place, di ba?” He said, still looking out. “If I could, I would make it that everytime you come here, you would remember only the happy times.” He paused, then finally turned to her. “Maya,” he said, very softly, his eyes intent on hers. Maya’s heart beat faster. “I said I would wait…and I will still wait…but… after seeing you again, I can’t stay away.”

Maya gazed mutely back at him, happiness welling inside her. She felt tears pricking her eyes.

“I hope I’m doing the right thing this time around,” he said, giving a short, rueful laugh. “I already talked to your mother, Mamang and Christina Rose. I told them I was planning to court you again. Hindi ko nagawang magpa-alam dati. I wanted to, but the opportunity never came.” He paused again. “I also already talked to the kids, and they’re ok with it. The only one left who hasn’t approved is you. Maya…,” his brows furrowed. She had started to cry. His face fell. Ayaw niya. She’s ging to turn me down again. His heart ached. “Puede bang patapusin mo muna ako bago mo ako bastedin ulet?” he smiled sadly.

Maya shook her head. “Mahal kita, Sir Chief,” she told him. He just looked at her. “Sir Chief,” she said louder, sobbing, “ang sabi ko, mahal kita. Mahal kita, Sir Chief. Mahal kita. Mahal kita. Ma-,” he moved quickly to gather her in his arms, holding her tightly. She returned the hug, burying her face in his chest, wetting his shirt with her tears.

“Maya…,” he sighed her name. He kissed her hair, then rested his cheek on top of her head. Happiness made him incapable of speech so he just held her. After a while, she loosened her hold and he pushed her gently away so he could see her face. Teasingly, he asked, “ano nga ulit yung mga sinabi mo kanina?”

“Eeehh, nakaka-inis ka,” she giggled. Tenderly, he wiped her tears with his fingers. She looked away.

“Maya?”

“Dati,  nung sinabi mo na mahal mo ako, gusto ko rin agad ibalik sa’yo yun. Nadaigan lang ako ng takot. Hindi ako nagtiwala sa’yo. Sorry.”

“Hey,” he took her chin to make her face him again, “I told you, there is nothing to apologize for. Ganun talaga, e. Pag nanligaw ang isang lalaki, they risk getting rejected.” He smoothed her hair. “I should be the one saying sorry, for not paying attention to your fears. Dapat tinanong kita. Dapat naisip ko na mag-aalala ka sa mga bata. It’s just, when I’m with you, gusto ko, tayo lang muna. Saka na yung tayo, kasama sila. Do you get what I’m trying to say?”

She nodded. “Naiintindihan ko.”

“I love you,” he smiled, making her tears flow again. He took out his handkerchief  to dab her eyes. “I have a feeling mapapadalas na ang gawain ko na to, now that you’re my girlfriend,” he joked, a little shyly, looking into her eyes. He wanted confirmation of their status. She already said she loved him, didn’t she?

“Asuus, at nagdududa ka pa…Ricky.”

Surprised pleasure lit his face. “Ricky?”

“Eh, kasi,” she gave an embarrassed laugh, “napag-usapan namin ni Kute kung ano ang magiging tawagan natin kung sakaling ligawan mo ako ulit, tapos sagutin kita. Actually, marami akong naisip kaso, sinabihan niya ako na ibagay ko daw sa edad at katayuan mo, kaya, Ricky na lang. Narinig kong yan ang tawag sa’yo ng mama mo, e. Ayaw mo ba?” She asked sheepishly.

He placed his arms around her waist. “Of course I like it. Ricky it is then,” he approved. There was a small silence, then he sighed, holding her tighter. “You’re really my girlfriend now.”

She linked her arms around his neck. “At boyfriend na kita,” she blushed as she smiled sweetly at him.

Suddenly, the atmosphere around them changed. It became so quiet, the only thing Maya could hear was her heart. Just like before, he touched her lips. “For me,” he said softly. He was smiling at her too, the smile that took her breath away, “I love you, Maya.”

Maya gazed at him with all the love she had, knowing what was coming, had wanted it for a very long time; and as Richard slowly lowered his head, she closed her eyes to savor her very first, real kiss.

 

EPILOGUE

 

Three months later…

 

“Pasukan na next week. Mabuti naman at nakapagbakasyon pa kayo ng mga bata dito,” Maya sighed contentedly as she  leaned her head on Richard’s shoulder, clinging to his arm while they strolled around the beautifully lighted garden of La Esperanza hotel. For this last evening, he told her to dress up, and treated her to the fanciest restaurant in San Nicholas, which also happened to be at the hotel they were staying at. This was their only alone time together since they arrived. After dinner, he led her here for some fresh air and to have some quiet time away from the rest of the crowd. “Sa susunod, isama mo na sina Tito at Tita,”she added,  referring to Richard’s parent’s whom she had met a few weeks after  they became a couple, “alam kong magugustuhan din nila dito.”

“I’m glad in the end, everything worked out between you and my parents. Thank you for being patient and never giving up on us.”

She smiled. She had sensed Richard’s parent’s misgivings about their relationship at the start. In time though, she had gradually gained their trust, and by the end of their stay, they had wholly accepted her as part of the family.

“I love you,” he said, quietly, seriously.

Maya raised her head, surprised at his sudden declaration. “I love you too.” They stopped and she tipped her face up to meet his kiss. She was blushing when they parted. He smoothed her hair.

“I cannot tell you how happy you have made me the first time you told me that,” he said with a wistful smile. Touched, tears started to pool in her eyes. “And you have made me happy everyday that I see you, laugh with you, or just simply hear your voice.” He paused. “ I-I want to do the same for you,” he said, stammering a little, “and I want to be able to do it for the rest of our lives, if you’ll allow me. Maya,” Richard got down on one knee. Maya was crying . She could not believe what was happening. He got a little velvet box from his pocket and opened it, revealing a beautiful, round cut diamond ring. “Will you marry me?”

“Yes!”

Richard looked stunned. As if he was afraid he would hear a different answer, he asked “did you say yes?

“Yes! Ricky naman, e!” Maya was laughing through her tears.

Oh God, she said yes,” he said, as if he could still not believe it, before standing up and gathering her in his arms. They were both laughing now. He lifted her up and twirled her around. Setting her down again, he admitted sheepishly, “natakot akong iba ang magiging sagot mo.”

She linked her arms around his neck. “Hindi na ako magkakamaling palagpasin pa ang pagkakataong makasama ka habang-buhay,” she said, her eyes glowing with happiness.

“Ay!” He exclaimed, remembering, “the ring.” He had replaced it in his pocket when he stood up. They laughed again, and he slipped it on to her finger, then raised her hand to kiss it. “I love you.”

“At mahal na mahal din kita,” she replied. “Alam na ba ito nina nanay?”

He laughed. “Yes. Kaya nga kami nagbakasyon dito. I was already planning to propose. Alam na din ng mga bata. In fact, they’re waiting for us to tell them. They’re all waiting for us to tell them, including Mama and Papa. Babalik kasi sila dito on my birthday. Binalak naming isabay na ang pamamanhikan, if you said yes,” he informed her, shyly.

“Ganon? Paano pala kung no ang sagot ko?” she teased.

Seriously, he replied, “I would have waited until you were ready, then asked you again.”

“Ricky…,” she murmured, tearing up.

“Here we go,” he laughed, taking out his handkerchief.

“Ikaw kasi, eh,” she pouted, “tigilan mo na ang kakapa-kilig sa akin para di na ako umiyak.” He grinned as he dabbed her eyes. “Tara na, sabihin na natin sa mga bata,” she said, excited, already turning around.

“Mamaya na,” he said, pulling her back.

“Pero Ricky-”

“Mamaya na,” he said firmly, and she stopped protesting because she was already in his arms and he was kissing her again.

 

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This Time Around-Till the End