Richard made inroads on the papers on his desk when he returned to his office after his meeting with Maya. He is really glad to have seen her, finally. He missed her a lot and their moments in Stockholm. He have a lot of things to tell her, share with her. Though, Richard also knows he needs to be patient and earn his way back to her good graces.
The past two weeks that Richard had assumed the position of CEO, he had very little time for himself. His father left the company in order, but it is on the traditional and conservative side, and he plans to make some changes. It has to be gradual, he thought, as people hates drastic changes. Added to the fact, he needed to cheer up his mother, Esmeralda. She and his father have been inseparable all throughout their lives, that the reality of her husband gone is making her very sad. His sister Rafi helped, but her young daughter and her husband needed her, so she went back to Sweden several days ago.
Now, papers done. Richard is waiting for his secretary’s return to find out what was Maya’s reaction with his ‘little gift’, his opening salvo in his campaign to make it up to Maya, forgive him, and have his Maya back.
There was a knock on his door. Then his secretary entered.
“Sir Richard, naibigay ko na po iyong ipinabibigay niyo kay Ms. Maya.” Marissa reported to him. “Kinuha naman po niya.”
“Thank you Marissa. What was her reaction?” He asked, curious to know if Maya looked mad when she received the coffee and the muffin.
“Wala naman po, Sir. She just thanked me.” His secretary said briefly. “Is there anything else you want me to do, Sir Richard?”
“No, wala na, and many thanks again, Marissa.” Richard said. He know that he does not need to ask his secretary to keep this thing to herself. He is confident that what he asked his secretary to do will not be a fodder to the company gossip mill. He knew her and her husband Sonny even before he left the company more than two years ago. Sonny was his old EA. He was a ninong at their wedding. They are good people.
Richard does not expect a call from Maya to thank him as at the moment, he knew she still mad at him. But also knew that she got the significance of his ‘little gift’. Maya once told him that her favorite coffee brew and chocolate muffins with M&Ms on top, are her comfort food when she is stressing out, sad, or just want to cheer herself up. No matter how unhealthy, and even if it was just psychological, she explained to Richard, the first rush of hot cafe americano in her system, coupled with the super sweet taste of chocolate muffin and M&Ms, makes her happy. Richard remembered. When it comes to Maya, his mind is like that of a computer – recording, autosaving, and remembering everything.
Richard’s trip down memory lane
The trip to Sweden was something Richard was reluctant to take. But he needed to talk to his sister in person and get her opinion on the latest development in their family’s drama, or rather the latest episode in his and his father’s drama, so he thought at that time. He also hasn’t seen her in over a year. He had some free time so, he found himself booking a flight from London where he was living and working as a venture capitalist, to Sweden via Amsterdam. He decided to see one of his old Harvard friends living in Holland, might as well, before visiting his sister Rafaella, her husband Magnus and his little niece.
He first noticed Maya while waiting for their flight to Stockholm. She was late getting into the departure lounge. She was looking for a seat. He noticed her beautiful face, graceful bearing, and ready smile for everyone. He guessed right on that she is from the Philippines. But he just ignored the instant attraction to her. He thought, life is complicated enough at the moment, and beside, he was not really looking for any romantic entanglements during this trip or the past two years living abroad, dalliances yes, but anything involving deeper emotions, he shied away from. Then, if she is really a Filipina, she might, in the long run, connect him to his father’s company and the wealthy Lims. He had been burned that way before. There was also that Josephine thing! Though, he thought, it is extremely premature and too early to tell that this beautiful lady will turned out like the women he knew in the past. Besides, she might not want to get to know him, as well. And, I am overthinking things, he admonished himself, hindi mo pa nga kilala man lang. She looked tired also. He almost offered her his seat, but he was beaten to it by guy who was also looking at her admiringly. Then they boarded and he lost sight of her.
When the plane landed in Arlanda, he exited promptly. He just want to be at Rafi’s home and sleep. He was checking the number for the baggage claim carousel of his flight when someone bumped into him. He steadied the person and looked at her. Oh, it is the woman in Amsterdam that I admired, he mused. She does look very tired and sleepy, but still so beautiful with her heart-shaped face, and the smile that lit her face. They talked a bit, then he went ahead of her.
On the way to Rafi’s family’s house, he can’t get out her out of his head. Thoughts of her, was even distracting him from his problems. He barely listened to Rafi’s chatter while she navigated the streets of Stockholm. After he greeted Magnus, looked at his sleeping niece, Philippa, he went to sleep at the guestroom Rafi always prepared when he visits. Sleep didn’t come easily, and the last thought he had before succumbing to sleep was that of the woman he bumped into.
The folowing morning, he was up early. He knew from previous visits, that is the only day of the week that his sister and her family sleep in late. He decided to just leave them a note, to tell them that he went out. He wanted to clear his head also. He thought a walk around Gamla stan will do him good. He can just grab a bite at one of the cafe/bars there that he liked before. Richard headed to the central train station with a coffee he bought at one of the cafes he passed by. He just can’t resist the caffeine boost to his system a steaming cup of coffee usually does. While looking at the train schedules, someone bumped into him again and made him spilled the coffee he was about to drink. Good thing his reflexes were good. He looked at the other person, and realized, that it is her again! He impulsively decided to get to know her better, as if there is an unseen force that propelled him – from introducing himself, to riding with her in the train to Gamla stan. She was easy to talk to and had this sunny personality and zest for life. Her face lit up when she was telling him the places she wanted to see and some of her funny experiences abroad. It took supreme effort to leave her when they got off the train.
Richard regretted parting ways with Maya. Several minutes after he said goodbye, he decided to ask her if he can accompany her. He went after her, but too late, she disappeared among the throng of people going to the royal palace. He proceeded to the cafe he liked from last time, but his mind was not in the food and another cup of coffee. He knew she was going for a boat tour afterwards, so he just walked to the boat tour dock and waited for her to show up. True enough, several minutes later, Maya was there. It rain a bit and the steps going to the tour boat was a bit slippery. She almost slipped.
“Ooops, be careful, Ms. Maya Dela Rosa. Three times na that I am saving you!” He said by way of greeting her. “Paano na lang kung wala ako!”
“Ricky!!!”. Maya exclaimed, seemingly happy to see Richard. “Good to see you here. I am not usually this clumsy. Kapag nandiyan ka lang yata! You will take the sightseeing tour also?”
“I would like go with you sana. I found going around Gamla stan alone, boring! Would that be okay with you?” Richard asked. “I haven’t done this the past several times I was in Stockholm.”
“Of course, I would be happy with the company!” Maya smiled at Richard, and thanked him as he assisted her to the best seats they could find for the water tour of Stockholm.
The tour boat went on its way, and the tour guides took them along the most beautiful sites of Stockholm, telling them of the history behind a building, a structure, a scenic area, the locks that connected the city. Maya and Richard were having fun. Maya took lots of pictures. Richard offered to take some of hers, and they even had ‘selfies’, which Richard did not normally like having. It seemed like his inner child and unsophisticated side got loose with Maya. He never had this fun in a long time. In between the sites, they chatted about general stuffs. When the tour ended, Richard was reluctant to let Maya go. He invited her to have coffee with him and promised to show her more of the sites in Gamla stan. He discovered that Maya likes old buildings, old churches and all things old, and Gamla stan has a lot of those.
While waiting for their orders, they continued chatting, as if they have not been doing so since they met this morning. This time, the talk got a bit more specific. Maya asked Richard about his work and he told him about his job in London, how it was living there. He told Maya he is used to being on his own as he did that in the States while finishing his advanced studies. Then Maya told him about her job, where she works, and he didn’t know at first how he would react.
“You work for Lim Corporation? In what capacity?” He asked, while swallowing hard, trying to contain his surprise.
“I’m the head of the company’s foundation. Compared to the other employees, I’m new. I just started several months ago.” Maya said, not noticing Richard’s startled expression when she mentioned where she works. “But I like my job. It is also along the lines of my previous job with the UN. Do you know the company?”
Richard didn’t know exactly what came to him at that moment, probably a knee-jerk reaction as coupled with his surprise, all his problems and the situation he was in, came rushing back. He didn’t want to lie directly to Maya, and outrightly deny his connection to Lim Corporation, so he changed the topic and asked her what exactly she does as the head of the foundation and its connection to her being in Sweden for the training she mentioned.
Maya told him about the projects and programs they were doing before she left the country, and that, hopefully the foundation can do more. The invitation to join this training came at the right time since she told him, it is her boss’ mandate, Sir Roberto Lim, to expand the reach of the foundation. Richard was surprised to hear that since it was so uncharacteristic of his father. Maya also sounded she respected and liked his father. One thing is clear to Richard, Lim Corporation is indeed lucky to have Maya, seeing how passionate she is when discussing her work and the things they are doing.
They walked around Gamla stan’s cobbled streets, afterwards, taking lots of photos along the way. One thing Richard discovered about Maya, right on, she likes taking photos, which she organize into online albums. The day extended to night as they also had dinner there. This time the talk was about their likes and dislikes. Maya likes old movies, and so does he. They differ though in their tastes of books. Maya likes detective stories, crime thrillers, and sappy period romances, while he tends towards biographies, books about wars, and business. He was not into fiction much. Maya also mentioned life as a diplomat’s daugther and he told her more of his adventures as a student in the States, and as an expat in England.
“Naku, Ricky, it is getting late na pala. I need to go back to the hotel.” Maya exclaimed when she noticed that it was already 10PM. “First day pa naman namin bukas. Saka baka hinahanap ka na nung sumundo sa iyo sa airport.”
“Oh, okay. I will take you back. And no, she is not looking for me. Sanay na iyon sa akin.” Richard said, not noticing the time too. He was enjoying her company too much. “And by the way, sister ko iyon, and her name is Rafaella.” He added, needing to clarify to Maya that the one who fetched him was not a special someone, in a romantic way.
They walked back to the train station. He was solicitous in assisting Maya and making sure that she was inside her hotel before he left her. They also agreed to meet the day after since Maya said that the following night, the institute who organized the training will have a welcome party for the participants. Maya gave him the sweetest smile and thanked him for their wonderful day together.
The following nights and weekend in Stockholm, were the best of Richard’s life. He didn’t expect he will find love there, but he did, until he had to leave her unexpectedly.
Richard suddenly noticed that it was already dark outside. He had been lost in thoughts the past hour. He needed to see his mom and have dinner with her. But before he leave the office, he needed to do one more thing. He got something from his drawer, then wrote something in a small card, put the card in an envelope, and called his secretary.
“Yes, Sir Richard.” Marissa asked as soon as she entered his office.
“Marissa, I have another favor to ask please. Can you buy a frame for this, then put it in a nice box, then attach this small envelope, then give this to Maya as soon as you get here tomorrow morning.” He instructed Marissa, who took a look at what he was holding, and smiled.
“Okay, Sir Richard. Ako na po ang bahala dito.” She said, while holding what Richard gave her carefully. Marissa never thought her boss could be like this, romantic. She left his office to work on his latest request.
“Maya, I hope this will take me closer to being forgiven.” Richard mused. Then left the office. He is looking forward to tomorrow, and another day of sharing the same space with Maya. He hopes, space is not the only thing they will share in the future.