Note: Since today is my blog’s ‘monthsary’, here’s Chapter 2! 🙂 Thank you for the comments, likes, and for reading Chapter 1, I’m so touched! 🙂
Maya tried to control her emotions when she returned to her office. She knew Emman will be full of questions. She noticed him looking at her and Richard several times. He is not only her asistant manager, he is also a very dear friend. True enough, she found him inside her office.
“Sis, what happened back there? Magkakilala pala kayo ni Mr. Lim? Saan at paano? He just got back from abroad recently ah, and also ikaw din! Saka ngayon ka pa lang din pumasok since you returned. Don’t tell me…..?” Emman asked, then started to put two and two together. “Nagkakilala kayo sa abroad! What a supreme coincidence! Kwento naman diyan.”
“Emman, yes, we met in Stockholm. It is a long story and I would rather not talk about it at the moment, please! Basta kapag ready na ako, I will tell you.” Maya pleaded as she is starting to have a headache and she hasn’t fully recovered from her whole unexpected encounter with Richard!
“Okay, I understand. Kung gusto mo ng kausap, nandito lang ako.” Emman assured Maya, seeing her getting distressed by the situation. “Iwan na muna kita. Ayusin ko lang iyong details ng project natin sa Barangay Pag-asa.”
“Thank you, Emman.” Maya said, then stared out when Emman left, not really looking at the magnificent view of Manila Bay from her all glass office walls. She can’t stop the rush of memories either, so she let it flow.
One month ago
Maya arrived in Stockholm in the middle of the night. She is very tired as she have been traveling for almost 24 hours now. As soon as she boarded the plane in Amsterdam for Stockholm, she fell into deep sleep in the plane, her tiredness overpowering her hunger pangs. Now, she is yawning as she tried to find her way to the baggage claim area of Arlanda Airport. Suddenly, she collided into someone as she was not really looking.
“Hey, miss, please be careful, and watch out where you are going!” The guy told Maya as he steadied her and smiled at her. “You must have been traveling long. You didn’t notice me at all.”
Maya took a look at the guy to apologize, and instead got mesmerized by his lopsided smile and chinito good looks. She can’t gauge promptly what his nationality is. He looks Chinese, but he can also be a Korean or a Singaporean or a Japanese. It never occured to her to think that he maybe Filipino too. Her mental process was a bit slow at that time.
“I’m so sorry, I was not really paying attention. I’m so sleepy and tired. I have been traveling for almost 24 hours now!” Maya explained as she gave the stranger a smile, that people said lit up her whole face. She and the chinito guy started to walk together to the baggage claim carousel of their flight.
“I know the feeling. Long flights are really terribly hard on the body. Just be careful, okay. Have a nice evening.” He said and waved at her as he went ahead, got his small luggage and then exited the terminal.
Maya saw him next with a beautiful lady, welcoming him, and leading him out to the car park. She started looking for the conference liaison officer who is supposed to pick her up take her to her hotel. Good thing, she mused, she would have tomorrow as a free day, to rest and explore Stockholm.
“Hi! Are you Maya Dela Rosa, from the Philippines?” A tall blond girl with a very friendly smile approached Maya.
“Yes, I am.” Maya confirmed. “Are you Elin Johansson? I was told I will be met by Elin.”
“Yes, I’m Elin. Welcome to Sweden, Maya. I will take you the hotel where all the other participants are staying.” Elin directed Maya to where she parked her car. She asked her how was her flight, and some information about the Philippines, which she said she would like to see one day, as her friends loved and enjoyed visiting Palawan very much. Elin left her after she checked her in. As soon as she finished her nightly rituals, Maya went to a deep sleep.
Maya was up bright and early, despite the fact that she only slept several hours. She know she is suffering from jet lag again. But this is not too bad, as compared to when she gets home. She just needed to cope on waking up early, even if she only have little sleep for the next sevreral days. After eating breakfast and meeting some of the participants from various nationalities, she decided to explore the city on her own. She likes doing that. Before she left the Philippines, she researched Stcokholm, a habit of hers before she goes to a new country, and decided she will first take one of the boat tours to get herself familiar with the place, then decide hat she would like to see on her first day here, among the very many interesting Stockholm attractions she read online and heard from friends.
One hour after, Maya was at the central train station, trying to figure out which train to take to Gamla stan, the old town of Stockholm, which according to one of the websites she have been to, is ‘one of the largest and well-preserved city centers in Europe.’ This also where she can also take the boat tour. She was looking at the train schedules, and the platform she needed to take, not paying attention, so she bumped into someone again, as she turned abruptly from the monitor, and stepped on that person’s left shoe, spilling the coffee he was holding.
“Oh, sorry, sorry. I was not really looking!” Maya said and since she is a bit rattled, she didn’t notice that she spoke a bit of Filipino, while talking a closer look at the person she bumped into. “I’m really sorry, talaga.”
“Okay lang, Miss, sa susunod mag-ingat ka na please, second time na ito. Baka, next time, it is not me anymore.” The guy spoke teasingly in a mixed of Filipino and English, he was smiling sheepishly at Maya too. “Pero this time, pareho tayo, I was a bit distracted too.”
“You? Hi! And Filipino ka pala!” Maya said, astonished, as she looked closely for he was the guy she bumped into the airport. “Akala ko, Chinese ka, from mainland China, I mean, or a Singaporean, at pwede ring Japanese o Korean. Never thought na Filipino ka rin.”
“Yes, I’m Filipino, Filipino-Chinese. I was born in the Philippines.” He replied. “Im Ricky Lim, by the way. I’m please to meet you Miss…..?”
“Oh, I’m Maya Dela Rosa. Nice to meet you too Ricky.” Maya said as she offered her hand for Richard to shake. “Are you here on vacation or on official business?”
“I’m here on vacation. I’m actually based in England, not the Philippines. I am just visiting someone here in Stockholm.” He explained vaguely. “How about you?”
“I’m here on official business. My company sent me to attend a training for our corporate social responsibility programs. Pero, tomorrow pa ang start, kaya heto, sinasamantala ko ang free time ko. I would like to explore Stockholm. What I have read so far about the city was very interesting!”
“Saan ka pupunta ngayon? Sa Gamla stan? “ Richard asked. “I’m also going there. Come, let’ s go to the track where we can take our train to Gamla stan. That is, if is okay that I ride with you na lang since we will take the same train.”
Maya agreed as he is also going there anyway. She might as well have a kababayan to travel with. He sounded like he know the place and this is not his first time in Stokholm. Besides, magaan ang pakiramdam niya, for some reason and against her natural caution, on this chinito guy, even of they just met.
On the way to their destination, Maya told Richard the places she would like to see. While Richard, on the other hand, just listened mostly to Maya. In one of the train’s stops, a man who had obviously been drinking boarded the train, saw Maya and sidled to her, too close for comfort, and it really felt, and looked like, that he was invading her personal space. Richard went on a protective mode and shielded Maya from the guy. He also pretended to be her boyfriend.
“Baby, is this guy bothering you?” He asked while putting his arm on her shoulders, and looking at the guy with a tiger look. “Buddy, could you give my girl some space please, I think you are too close to her!”
The guy looked at Richard, sized him up, then at Maya. He quietly went to the other side of the train. Maya was surprised at what Richard did. Her heart jumped, and beat a little faster. She really felt protected, cared for.
“Thank you, Ricky. I think he is a bit harmless. Maybe, just had too much to drink, you know, Saturday night, last night. I just got surprised. I realy don’t like people crowding my personal space, especially guys.” Maya smiled at Richard, not realizing that at that moment, she looked so beautiful to the guy beside her.
“Hmmm, does that happened to you often? I mean, guys doing that. Sorry, if my question is a bit personal.” Richard asked, seemingly very curious.
“No naman, sometimes lang. May makulit din, will ask for a phone number or an e-mail address. I just politely declined.” Maya said, then shrugged, unconsciously. “I feel flattered, of course in a way. But I would like to get to know people, particularly guys, a bit better first before I give out personal information like that.”
Maya and Richard chatted about places they have been and some of the most unforgettable experiences they had. It was mostly Maya talking and Richard, looking at her, listening intently.
They reached their destination after 30 minutes or so.
“So, paano Ricky, thanks for the company on the train ride and for protecting me. I will be on my way na, and baka you need to be somewhere else na rin.” Maya said, getting sad that they will part ways na, for some reason which she can’t define yet.
“Okay, enjoy your tour of Stockholm. Take care.” He gave her another of his lopsided smiles, then sauntered off to the opposite direction. Maya watched him go. Suddenly wishing he can go with her explore the place. Ah, she is not here to get attracted to someone. Saka, she is used naman to exploring a new place on her own. Maya told herself. She also remembered the lady who picked Ricky up at the airport, and thought that maybe, he has a special someone already. She walked towards the direction of the royal palace.
Maya’s trip down memory lane was interrupted by the sound of her intercom.
“Ms. Maya, Mr. Lim’s secretary is here. May ibibigay lang daw sa iyo.” Minerva said over the intercom.
“Okay, please send her in.” Maya is puzzled, at the same time curious.
Marissa was holding a paper bag and a cup of coffee, and judging by the smell, it is Maya’s favorite coffee. Maya simply thanked Marissa, after she told her that Mr. Lim sent her to give the coffee and the paper bag to her. She opened the bag after Marissa left. Inside, she saw her favorite chocolate muffin with a sprinkling of M&Ms on top. There was no note with the paper bag and the coffee, but she knew what it meant. Ah, Ricky, was also she managed to say, as her heart went a flutter.