“Two old sweethearts who fell apart somewhere long ago… How are they to know someday they’d meet again and have a need for more than reminiscin’…” – Michael Martin Murphy
It was a week after Maya arrived in Manila when she finally got to see Liza, Edz, and Emman. The three were very ecstatic to see their best friend after five long years abroad. Emman was the one in charge for organizing the gathering which was held in a restaurant. As usual, the four of them arrived early and waited patiently for everyone to come.
“Ang tagal ha, lalagpas tayo sa curfew ko.” Maya was kind of feeling upset.
Liza massaged her back. “Kalma bestie. Dadating din ang mga ‘yon.”
Soon enough, their friends started arriving, who were all obviously clueless about Maya’s presence.
“Guys, bago nga pala tayo mag-simula, may surprise ako sa inyo.” Emman announced. Unknown to everybody, Maya was standing behind them.
“Surprise!” Maya shouted.
A loud “Maya!” was their response. They all went up to her and hugged her tightly.
Allan exclaimed, “Maya! Grabe! Ang ganda mo!”
“Ang sexy mo sis!” Patricia’s eyes were widened and her hands were on her mouth.
“Siyempre, Maya dela Rosa version 2.0 na ata ‘to.” Maya said in jest.
“No doubt, Maya.” said Joy with a huge smile on her face.
Maya was looking around as if she was trying to find something. Or someone. When she didn’t see what she was looking for she sat down between Edz and Liza. Peter said grace before they started eating dinner.
“Maya, how long has it been since we last saw you?” Rona started the conversation. They were all seated on a long, wooden dinner table.
Maya carefully chewed on her food. “Hmm.” She paused for a while to think. “Five years.”
“Wow, ganon na katagal? Ang bilis talaga ng panahon.” commented Kevin.
“Correct. Just like what I promised, babalik ako ‘di ba? Nakakatuwa nga kayo eh, kasi graduates na kayo. Eh, samantalang ako, I need 2 more years to graduate. Intern palang ako.” narrated Maya. She felt a bit behind somehow.
Andrea chimed in. “Naku, Maya. Eh yung kikitain namin ng five years dito eh kikitain mo lang ata ng isang taon. Don’t worry ga-graduate ka din, malapit na rin naman.”
Maya chuckled a bit. “Kayo talaga.” Maya then turned to Alex and Carol. “How about you Alex and Carol? Malapit na kayong maging flight attendants ah? Congratulations! Visit me, please?”
Alex responded with enthusiasm, “Oo naman, Maya!”
“Buti pa si Alex and Carol, oh. May chance makapunta sa Canada. Kami kaya, kailan?” said Peter.
“Wushu, Peter! Gusto mo lang maka-sama si Carol eh. Para-paraan ka rin ano?” Maya countered in oblivion. She didn’t know that Peter and Carol weren’t an item anymore.
Kevin cleared his throat. “Uh-oh. Awkward.”
Sensing she said something inappropriate, Maya felt embarrassed. “Naku, kapatid! Sorry!” She held out a peace sign.
Carol reached over Maya. “No worries, Maya. Besides, okay naman kami ni Peter eh.”
Maya smiled apologetically. “Sorry talaga. Hindi ko alam. Na-stuck ata ako sa past.”
“Speaking of the past,” Joy straightened up as she was about to fire questions. “Siya parin ba, Maya?”
Maya felt a bit uneasy. A part of her wanted to talk about him but a part of her wanted to evade the question. “Ah.. Ano…” She wasn’t able to think properly of what to reply. “Uh… Sa tingin niyo?”
“Oo!” They all said in chorus. Maya blushed but she tried to hide it.
“Maya, dadating daw siya. Ma-le-late lang. 7pm pa daw.” said Jonathan, loud enough for Maya to clearly hear.
An unexplainable thrill crawled into Maya’s senses. Her heart was beating faster as if she was running for a marathon. Her palms started sweating.
“Uyyy, muling ibalik ang tamis ng pag-ibig.” teased Philip.
“Ay nako, kayo talaga. Kailangan ko nang umuwi ng 7pm. May curfew ako, di ba?” Yes, Maya had a deal with her parents. She wasn’t allowed to stay out beyond 7pm.
“But Maya…” Liza groaned. “Ako nalang mag-papaalam kila Tito and Tita for you, basta mag-stay ka nalang dito muna. Please, Maya? Minsan lang ‘to.”
Liza added, “Sis, please? Kahit sermonan pa kami ng parents mo, okay lang. Mag-stay ka na please?”
Maya didn’t want to disobey her parents, yet she also wanted to see him. “Hmm, sige. Paalam tayo. Pero hanggang 9pm lang ah? Malalagot talaga ako promise.”
Both Liza and Edz knew how protective yet loving Maya’s parents were. During their high school days, they used to pick up and drop Maya home just to assure the latter’s parents that she was safe and in good hands. However, they didn’t expect that the house rules were still meticulously observed.
After dinner, they decided to have a stroll around the mall. Suddenly, a familiar figure appeared. Maya looked to her left to check who it was. It was him. The man that she has been waiting for has arrived.
“Sorry, I’m late. May pinuntahan kasi kami ng sister ko. I had to drop Raffi home first before coming here.” Richard was wearing a black shirt with white and gray stripes. He greeted everyone before coming near to Maya. “Hi Maya. Kamusta?”
People who were in love would always say that the world, literally, stops when you see someone who once made your heart skip a beat. It was indeed true for Maya. All she could see was her one and only, Richard. “Hello Chard. I’m good. Ikaw, kamusta ka?”
“Mabuti naman.” Richard grinned. “Good to see you.”
“Isang yakap naman diyan!” Everyone cheered as Peter teased the two.
“Kayo talaga.” That was all Maya could afford to say. She could hear her heart beating.
“Sige na nga.” Richard gave in to the requests and hugged Maya, in which she also did in return.
Maya was trying to cover up her shyness. “Masaya na kayo, ha?”
“Ayan, since kumpleto naman na tayo, edi mag-impromptu exchange gift tayo. For sure, may dala-dala naman kayong money.” Emman brought out a small round container from his bag. “Prepared ako. Sinulat ko na mga pangalan natin dito and all we have to do is mag-bunutan ng reregaluhan.”
Maya first picked her name so she returned the paper to the container. She then picked another one hoping that she would pick Richard. She opened the fold carefully. Upon seeing Joy’s name written, she felt quite disappointed. Oh, kala ko ba naka-move on ka na? Ba’t parang nalungkot ka nung hindi siya napili mo? Umayos ka nga ha. She was reprimanding herself at the back of her mind.
“Maya!” Rona approached her. “Palit tayo.”
Confused, Maya replied, “Ha? Ng alin?”
“Ng nabunot.” Rona pretended to frown.
“Bakit naman?” Maya asked.
“Eh… Kasi…” Rona was thinking of an alibi. “Ano, kasi… Mahirap ‘to regaluhan eh. Hindi ko alam. Sino bang nabunot mo?”
“Si Joy.” Maya forgot what Emman said. They were all instructed not to tell anyone of who they picked.
“Ay! Sige na, please, Maya? Palit nalang tayo ng nabunot…” pleaded Rona.
Maya, just like the old times, was still easy to convince. “Hmm, sige na nga.” Then she opened the folded paper. Richard. Her heart was about to jump out of her. Maya looked up to stop Rona but she all ready walked away. Paano ko ‘to reregaluhan? Ni hindi ko na nga alam kung ano ang mga gusto niya.
“So guys, game na tayo ha? Mga siguro after 20 to 30 minutes, let’s meet up sa taas near the game station.” announced Emman.
As soon as Emman finished talking, everyone headed to different directions and started looking for possible exchange gifts. Maya, Edz, and Liza gathered together. Richard followed the three girls, which surprised Maya. Edz took out her camera and started taking candid photos of Richard and Maya. Since she was feeling shy, Maya tried covering her face.
Maya was thinking of ways on how to escape or get rid of Richard. She needed to buy a gift – a memorable gift – for him. Richard’s phone rang and Maya overheard the conversation. It was Jonathan, asking Richard to go with them.
“Maya, Edz, Liza, tinatawag kasi ako nila Jonathan eh. Let’s meet up later.” He smiled at Maya and walked away.
Maya felt relieved. “Akala ko hindi na siya aalis. Paano ako makakabili ng regalo?”
Edz nudged Maya. “Kilig ka ‘no?”
Maya gave Edz a meaningful look. “Hindi ‘no. Bakit ba sumama sa atin ‘yon? Nagulat ako, ha.”
“Eh siyempre nandito ka eh.” Edz then turned to Liza. “Hoooy, Liza. Mamaya mo na nga tawagan ‘yang si Sonny. Iba talaga ‘pag may boyfriend eh. Panira ng friendship.”
Liza kept her phone inside her pocket. “Ay, sorry naman!” Liza paused to look for Richard. “Oh? Nasaan na si mamang chinito?”
“Umalis na. Tinawagan ni Jonathan. Busy ka kasi kay Sonny, ‘di mo tuloy napansin.” replied Maya.
Liza held out a peace sign. “Sorry naman.”
There were four people who were yet to exchange gifts. It was Emman, Patricia, Maya and Richard. Patricia spoke after Almira and Jonathan exchanged gifts. “So, etong binili ko para sa nabunot ko ay…” Patricia opened the paper bag, “…isang coin purse. Mind you, lucky coin purse. Yayaman ka kapatid kapag natanggap mo ‘to.”
“Thank you Pat!” said Emman while he took his gift for Patricia out of a box. “Well, etong gift ko sa’yo Pat ay magsisilbing motivation para sa iyo.” Emman held out a piggy chef figurine. “Love you, Pat!”
Pretending to be annoyed, Patricia crossed her arms and sarcastically said, “Salamat ha? Salamat talaga. Makakatulong ‘to sa ekonomiya ng bayan.” Everyone burst out in laughter.
Noticing that Maya and Richard were both silent, Almira said, “Uyyy, dalawa nalang natitira. So it means, si Maya and Richard na!” She then further added, “Go Maya! Dali! Anong regalo mo for Richard?” Of course, Edz and Liza were documenting the momentous event.
Maya expelled a breath. “Well, I bought Richard perfume and cologne.” She paused as she gathered some strength to carry on. Butterflies were in her stomach. “Alam niyo ba kung bakit ito ang mga regalo ko?”
“Bakit?” They asked in unison.
In jest, Maya continued, “Para kapag mag-se-spray siya ng pabango, maalala niya ko. At ‘yung panyo…” Oops. She didn’t know the reason why she bought it. “Uhm.. Pamahid ng pawis.”
Richard stepped closer to Maya. “Ako naman, ang gift ko kay Maya ay…” Richard went behind Maya and wore a round, vintage watch necklace with a picture of Eiffle Tower in it around her neck. He explained, “Nung nakita ko kasi agad ‘to, naisip ko na maganda and bagay kay Maya. So, there. I bought it for her.”
“Hindi,” Peter interjected, “sa future daw, diyan kayo mag-de-date.”
“Hug naman diyan!” Kevin requested.
Joy second the motion. “Oo nga!”
Richard sensed that Maya was a bit hesitant to hug him that is why he leaned forward and enveloped her in his arms. Maya, on the other hand, was just being her usual timid self but eventually placed her hands around Richard and gave him a warm hug. Oh, how she missed him!
Liza’s phone rang. It was Maya’s uncle. “Ay, Tito… Opo… Sige po… Ay, malapit na po kayo? Sige po… Okay po…” She then turned to Maya. “Maya, tumawag Tito mo. Sabi niya susunduin ka na daw niya. Medyo malapit na daw sila.”
Maya and her friends were quite disappointed, however, they had to follow the rules. Besides, Maya’s family were just being protective of her since she has been away for a long time. Soon after, Maya’s uncle arrived to pick her up. They bade good bye to Maya hoping that there could be another time to spend with her.
“So, dude, nalapitan mo na?” Jonathan asked Richard. They were seriously engaged in a conversation.
Richard responded, “Oo, dude. Pero hindi ko masyado nakausap. Sayang.” He shrugged about missing the chance of talking to her.
Jonathan smiled in disbelief. “Ano ka ba naman, dude! Andun na eh! Kelan pa ba kayo ulit magkikita?”
“Ewan ko. Siguro papatulong nalang ako kay Raffi.” replied Richard.
Jonathan scratched the back of his head. “Kay Raffi? Ano namang alam ng little sister mo diyan?”
The two men walked towards the parking lot together with Edz, Emman, Liza, and Patricia. Edz was walking just in front of Jonathan and Richard that is why she was able to hear the conversation clearly.
Richard pressed the remote key of his car to unlock it. “Close si Raffi and Alex. Remember, during high school days, juniors tayo and sophomore naman ang kapatid ko, member sila ng dance club. They have been close ever since.”
Edz was surprised to know that Richard was still eyeing for Alex. She recalled that on their high school graduation, Richard asked for a photo with Alex which was taken and posted by Raffi on social media. This indicated Richard’s feelings for Alex at that time. However, she didn’t expect that he still likes Alex.
Jonathan shook his head. “Kahit na dude. Ang weak mo talaga. Sana manlang, inihatid mo nalang siya ngayon.”
“Don’t worry, dadating din tayo diyan.” Richard signaled Jonathan to stop mentioning about Alex since they were approaching his car. He didn’t want anyone to hear what he and Jonathan were talking about. Too bad, Edz heard everything.