Maya opened her eyes easily. She had been sleeping lightly for the past couple of hours and now she was wide awake. She sat up. Light from the full moon filtered through the curtains of the window above the bed and she could see the outlines of the children sleeping on the floor. They had insisted on staying the night here, at the Dela Rosa home in San Nicholas, just this once, instead of the hotel, so they could greet her first thing in the morning. Knowing that it would take a while before she could fall asleep again, she got off the bed, careful not to wake her husband, and made her way out to the sala.
She stood looking out from the big window, enjoying the slight evening breeze. She was here with her family to celebrate her birthday, her first time to do so since she went to Manila almost six years ago. Memories and milestones played in her mind and she sighed wistfully, thinking how fast the years went by. Strong arms encircled her waist from behind, making her jump. Almost immediately, she relaxed.
“Can’t sleep?” Richard placed his chin on her shoulder.
“Hindi, e. Ikaw, bakit ka bumangon?”
“Nagising akong wala ka sa tabi ko; of course I had to look for you. Alam mo namang ayaw kong matulog nang hindi ka katabi.” He felt her smile. He gave a sidelong glance, noticing that her eyes were wet. “Hey,” his brows furrowed. “Sweetheart?” He moved to cup her face. “Were you crying?”
She sniffed as she shook her head. “Wala ito. Masaya lang ako, sweetheart,” she gave a short laugh.
He raised his eyebrows. “Ano ba kase yang mga pinag-i-i-isip mo?” He gently wiped the streaks with his thumbs.
“Wala lang. Kung anu-ano.”
He studied her face for a moment. “Ahhhh, alam ko na,” he said teasingly.
“Alam ang ano?” she widened her eyes at him.
“Well,” he gave a knowing look, “Mag-bi-birthday ka na in a short while. I’m guessing you were reminiscing the past thirty-one years of your life; and knowing you, kapag pag-sume-senti ka, eh talagang umiiyak ka. Tama ako di ba?” He grinned smugly.
“Hmp! Ikaw talaga!” She pinched his nose. He chuckled. Smiling, she gazed at him.
“What?” Richard raised his eyebrows again. Slowly, she leaned forward and planted a soft kiss on his lips. He looked surprised but pleased. “What was that for?”
“Dahil sa loob ng thirty-one years nang nabubuhay ako sa mundo, yung huling anim na taon ang pinaka-masaya; at dahil yun sa’yo. Mahal na mahal kita, sweetheart. Thank you for letting me into your life,” she told him, her eyes glowing with gratitude and love.
Moved, he wrapped his arms around her. “I think… I should thank you for persisting in trying to enter it.” She giggled. Pulling her tight against him, he smiled tenderly at her upturned face. “You’re one amazing woman, Mrs. Lim. I love you more.”
She settled her head against his chest before whispering, “I love you most.” She felt his chest rumble with silent laughter. They stayed quiet, each just happily content to be where they are at the moment. After a long while, Richard broke the silence.
“I think, it’s just about past midnight now,” he said softly.
“Hmm?” Maya raised her head and he could see that her eyes were beginning to get heavy.
“Happy Birthday, Sweetheart!” He gave her a sweet, lingering kiss.
“Thank you,” she smiled drowsily when they parted and leaned on his chest again.
“I think, it’s time we went back to bed,” he whispered, scooping her up and cradling her in his arms.
“Sweetheart, hindi mo na kailangang gawin to. Kaya ko pa maglakad,” she protested, even as she linked her arms around his neck, “baka maapakan mo ang mga bata.”
“Shhh, let me do this, ok? Wala ka na ngang hininging gift, e,” he said, sadly. Maya just let him, knowing that doing things for her makes him happy. She was crying again, and he felt it. “Sweetheart?” He stopped. Worried, he turned back to the sala and sat them on the wood sofa, her on his lap. “What’s wrong now?”
“Ang sobrang saya ko lang talaga. Sorry, hindi ko mapigilan.”
He nodded, understanding. “It’s ok, sweetheart,” he murmured, rubbing her back comfortingly. “I love you so much.”
Maya hugged him tighter in response. “I love you so much more.”
“Ayaw talaga magpatalo.”
“Birthday ko naman, pagbigyan mo na ako.”
He laughed softly. “Ok, sweetheart.” After a while, he carried her back to the bed to sleep comfortably in his arms.
…and that was how the children and the rest of the family found them in the morning. They were supposed to wake Maya up with a loud birthday greeting, but when they saw them, they could only…smile.