A week after Maya and Richard’s meeting with Perry, Ms. Geneva, and the two writers, a story conference was held in Richard’s restaurant. The gathering was supposed to be held three weeks after the meeting but the management had to do it prematurely. Richard, Maya and the other cast members were scheduled to have their first taping day by the end of the week. Every member of the press people was comfortably seated and was mischievously staring at each celebrities, as if they were arrows about to hit the target.
Moments passed and it was Richard and Maya’s turn to be interrogated. Louie Reyes, one of the famous and respected entertainment columnists, stood up and greeted both of them.
“Richard, Maya, good evening! Kamusta naman kayo?” Louie started.
“Good evening Tito Louie! Mabuti naman po.” Both Richard and Maya answered in chorus.
“That’s great. Anyway, hindi na ako magpapa-ligoy-ligoy pa, how true is it that you two were spotted somewhere being cozy together? In fact, I have a photo sent and taken by by one of my avid readers who confirmed that it was indeed the both of you.” Louie held up the photo and even showed it to the camera.
Richard and Maya looked at each other and were both startled with what they saw. Richard then grabbed the microphone and told the press people, “Ah, yes. That was me and Maya inside a shopping mall somewhere in South.” There were whispers across the room.
“So, are you two going out?” Louie looked straight at Richard’s eyes which made the latter chuckle.
“No, ah, no, we’re not going out Tito Louie. Maya and I are just friends…” Richard calmly answered.
Louie didn’t wait for Richard to finish his sentence when he fired another question. “How true it is that your marriage has been annulled?”
Richard flinched a bit and felt uncomfortable with Louie’s question, however, he felt that he needed to answer the question that was a bit long overdue. “Ah, yes Tito Louie, it’s true that Leilani and I have separated.”
Louie nodded as if he was satisfied with Richard’s answer, yet he didn’t stop there. “So totoo pala na nagkaroon siya ng affair sa ibang lalaki that is why you separated?”
Richard heaved out a heavy sigh before responding to Louie’s question. “I’m sorry Tito Louie but I chose to keep it all private. I have nothing else to say regarding the issue and I hope you understand that. Leilani and I are civil and we do not harbour any ill feelings towards each other. Of course, it is for the sake of our only daughter. Thank you po for understanding.”
Louie tried to squeeze every detail he could get from Richard. Unfortunately, the latter was pretty evasive about the matter and would not reveal anything about his personal life. Then, it was Maya’s turn.
“Hi, Maya.” Louie smiled at her.
“Hi, Tito Louie. Grabe, ang intense ng mga tanong mo kay Richard! Parang kinabahan naman ako duon.” Maya said in jest as she tried to lift the mood.
“No worries, ija. Alam mo naman ang showbiz, hindi ba? Sa tinagal-tagal mo ba naman eh… Anyway, my question for you is, totoo ba na hiwalay na kayo ni Raphael Jimenez, Jr.? Kasi, hindi na namin kayo nakikita together…”
Maya smiled nervously as she wanted to tell the truth. “Ah, sorry po Tito Louie, pero pass din muna ako diyan ha? You know that I really don’t give details about my personal life.”
“Kahit onti lang?” Louie tried to persuade her.
“Sorry po talaga. Balato mo nalang sa akin Tito, tutal birthday ko naman na next month!” Maya giggled.
“Okay, love you Maya!” Louie was making his way back to his seat when Richard quipped, “Si Tito Louie talaga oh, may favouritism. Wala kang discount sa restaurant ko, ha?”
It was 9 in the evening when the press conference finished. Richard hurriedly went to Leilani’s place to visit Abigail. He asked Leilani if he could spend time with their daughter since he will be very busy in the coming weeks. Leilani was standing at the door way when Richard’s car arrived.
“Hi, I’m sorry, I am late.” He greeted her.
“No worries. She’s now sleeping. I guess, ihahatid ko nalang siya bukas sa bahay mo after school.” Leilani’s reply was plain.
“Ganoon ba? I’m sorry.” said Richard. There was a sad look on his face.
With her eyebrows slightly raised, she asked Richard, “So, totoo pala na you’re dating Maya?”
Richard was shocked upon hearing the question and he knew that there was something behind it. Trying to keep it cool, Richard stepped a bit closer to Leilani and said, “No, I’m not. Napanuod mo naman siguro kanina, di ba? At saka, the reporters are just exaggerated. You know how it is, Leilani.”
“Sana nga. At sana, kung magkakaroon ka man ng relasyon sa iba, sana hindi mo papabayaan ang anak mo.” She sighed, crossed her arms and looked away.
Richard slightly scratched the back of his neck and replied, “Leilani, kung hindi ko man natupad ang pangako ko na makakarating ako ng maaga, I’m sorry.”
“It’s not about that. Gusto ko lang naman, maging handa si Abigail. At sana, ang para sa anak ko ay para sa anak ko lang.” Her voice was starting to raise.
“Hey, look, Leilani. If you’re worrying about sa separation ng properties natin, ‘wag kang mag-alala, mapapasayo rin ang lahat ng iyon. Sobra pa sa kung ano man ang iniisip mo. Kahit na sa last will and testament ko, it was stated there that everything that I have right now – my house, my savings, my car, my properties – mapupunta kay Abigail kapag nawala na ako.” There was a long pause and he continued, “Well, I guess I have to go now. Mali ata ang timing ko. I owe Abigail an explanation, don’t worry, ako na ang bahala sa kanya bukas. Ako na ang mag-susundo at maghahatid sa kanya pauwi dito. I hope you don’t mind kung kakain muna kami sa labas and maybe shopping. I’ll bring her home around, let’s say, 5 pm? Is that okay with you? You have my word.”
Leilani didn’t reply. Instead, she went inside her house and slammed the door. We’re not finished yet, Richard. Not yet. She thought.
It was Friday. Everyone who works five days a week would be cheering and be glad to be home and spend time with their loved ones. Not for Maya, Richard, and other cast members for this is their first taping day. Direk Jean and Direk Marvin were happy to work together again after 3 years. The two main casts just finished filming their scene and went back to the standby area.
“Hay, partner! Nakakatawa yung eksena natin kanina, ano?” Maya giggled.
Richard just nodded with a half-smile on his face.
Maya eyed him for a bit before saying, “Partner, kanina ka pa malungkot ah? May problema ba?”
Richard sat on his chair then turned to Maya, “Ah, wala naman partner. Namimiss ko kasi yung anak ko. Eh, di ba, we’ll be taping ng tuloy-tuloy hanggang next Friday. Sa Sunday ko lang siya makikita.”
Maya was touched with Richard’s sweet gesture to his daughter. She went closer to Richard and said, “Okay lang ‘yan, Chard. Maiintindihan din naman niya kung bakit mo kailangan gawin ‘to di ba? She’s a sweetheart and I’m sure, maiintindihan ka niya.”
Richard placed his hand over Maya’s hand and said, “Thank you ha? The best ka talaga. Naka-text ko naman siya kanina and naka-usap bago siya matulog so, may pampalakas na ako hanggang mamayang madaling-araw.”
“Oh, ayan naman pala partner eh! Smile ka na! Dali! Di bagay sayo na medyo sungit or tampo mode ka. Nakakadagdag ng wrinkles ‘yan, sige ka.” She tapped Richard’s lean arms. Ay, ang kisig nga! Tama ang sinabi ni Genie! She thought.
Richard smiled at Maya and for a few seconds, he was able to examine her face. Maya’s definitely beautiful inside and out. I like her…as a friend. Yes, as a friend…for now? Dang it, Richard! Stop it. Focus on Abigail, first, okay? He looked away for he doesn’t want to be carried away by what has been inside his mind.