‘Getting to know you’
Maya and Richard entered the coffee shop on the ground floor of their building more than hour after they left Cristina’s house. The cafe, which is open 24 hours, was still doing brisk business at that time of the night. It has a good location as there is a continuous flow of people from the nearby shops, offices, and ‘gimik’ places in the area. The coffee shop was also set up like a very inviting living room of a country home with comfortable sofas, throw pillows, big windows, and with a floor to ceiling open bookshelf filled with all kinds of books and magazines.
“Good evening po, Ms. Maya.” One of the baristas greeted Maya as soon as she and Richard entered the cafe.
“Good evening, Eleanor. How’s everything?” Maya smiled at the barista, who had just finished taking the orders of two customers.
“Okay naman po, medyo maraming tao. Aside from our usual Saturday night crowd, umulan po kasi ng malakas so marami ang nagpalipas muna ng time dito, nagbasa and also borrowed books.” Eleanor chatted with Maya as she prepared the orders of the previous customers.
“That’s good to know. I would like to have my usual cafe Americano, please, after you are finished with those orders. Ricky, what would you like to have?” She asked Richard who was just listening to Maya’s conversation with the barista. “By the way, Ricky, this is Eleanor, one of our most efficient, hardworking and longtime baristas here. Eleanor, this is my friend, Richard Lim.”
“Good evening po, Sir Richard. Welcome po to Cafe M.” Eleanor said. “What would you like to have po?”
“Hi Eleanor, nice to meet you. I’ll have cafe Americano, please.” He replied.
“When you are free, Eleanor, can you just please bring our coffee to my office. Thank you.” Maya told the smiling barista.
Eleonor’s curiosity was piqued. Her boss, except for Sir Tristan, has not brought any male friend to the coffee shop before. Ang guwapo ng friend ni Ms. Maya, she thought to herself. Mukha pang nice and ang bango-bango. Saka parang iba this one, unlike Sir Tristan. Iyon talaga parang wala silang ka-chemistry-chemistry. This one, para silang mag-boyfriend na. Ay, better make those coffee, Eleonor kaysa i-analyze ang lovelife ng boss mo! “Sige Ms. Maya, will do.”
“Ricky, let’s go. I have a special space here.” Maya led Ricky to the a door behind the bookshelf and they ended up in a small private sitting room, with two cozy armchairs, a coffee table and a nice view of a small garden from the big window. The place also has an office table, a Macbook, and other office paraphernalia.
“Wow, this is really very nice!” Richard exclaimed, not expecting something like this. “I presumed, you own the coffee shop and this is your office?”
Maya smiled. “Yes. The coffee shop is my baby. I also wanted to own a bookshop, so I combined both. Though, the books you saw earlier are not for sale, but for the members of our book club to borrow. I want to cultivate rin a love of good old-fashioned reading. Nawawala na kasi, what with all these social networks and gadgets. Besides, maraming hindi na mahilig magbasa. Gusto ko ulit na maging interested sila. They don’t know what they are missing by not reading!”
“That is a great idea actually. It is very commendable, Maya.” Richard likes Maya’s idea a lot. “Those books outside, were they all yours at some point?”
“Yes, most of them were. Actually, the idea started with me seeing my books gathering dust in the shelves at our family home. Sayang naman. I believe kasi that books are meant to be shared kaysa naman naka-display lang, so I thought of incorporating it with the cafe. The minimal membership fee we charged is being used to buy more books. Saka we need to keep a record of who borrowed kaya nagpa-member na lang kami.
We also need to keep track of books. Minsan, may books na hindi na naibabalik kaya kailangan ding mag-replenish. Okay lang din naman as long as those persons na hindi na nakapagbalik enjoyed reading the books they borrowed. Kung may hindi nakakapagbalik, meron din naman na nagbibigay ng books. Some of our regulars also liked the idea so they started dropping off books they have read already, so hayun, our collection is growing pa rin naman.” Maya explained and Richard can see her passion and love for what she is doing. Her face lit it. He admire her more.
“I also like it very much. Sige, ako rin I will bring books. I left those in our house in Alabang when I moved here. I’ll have dinner with my parents tomorrow evening and I’ll see what I can put in some boxes for you. I read mostly detective and crime novels. I also have some business books, travel books, and coffee table books from our company. Then I can also give you copies of magazines we publish. Okay lang ba ang mga iyon?” Richard asked.
“Of course! More than okay and more than enough. We will be happy to have them. It would be a great addition to our collection. Thank you very much, Ricky.” Maya liked that fact that Richard approved of her cafe and library concept.
“I’m really glad you like this Ricky. Tristan wasn’t so keen when I brought him the idea the first time. He said it will not earn me much money and it does not make good business sense. Pero, this is really something I’m passionate about so I prevailed upon him.” Maya smiled, remembering the moment Tristan gave up and greenlighted her project. “Hindi lang naman profit ang purpose ko for this kasi.”
“Tristan…?” Suddenly Richard wanted to know, his ‘competition radar’ is acting up.
“Tristan Romero. He is my family’s investment banker, and a very good friend also.” Maya said by way of explanation. “I have known him for so long since we grew up together in Mindoro, though he is a bit older than me. Naku Ricky, please have a sit. Kanina pa pala tayo nagkukwentuhan ng nakatayo.”
“Oh, okay. I don’t think I know him. Cris mentioned that you are from San Nicolas, Mindoro. Nagkakilala kayo sa first year niyo sa university. Nandoon pa ba ang family mo?” Richard asked, pulling the armchair and sitting Maya first, before he sat in the other armchair. He wants to know everything about Maya.
“Not anymore. When my dad died five years ago, my mom moved back to Manila. Nandito rin kasi most of her family. Iyong iba naming business, nandito na rin. She just moved to Mindoro before because of my dad. She lives in Makati with my younger sister Patricia. Patty is still in college. Medyo malayo ng kaunti ang age gap namin. Mom had me kasi when she was 21. Maaga silang nagpakasal ni Dad, then got busy with building the businesses they inherited from my grandparents, Dad’s parents. Mom had Patty 10 years after me pa. My sister is a mommy’s girl and I was a daddy’s girl. Though we both love them naman, I just found it easier to tell things to my dad.”
“You still miss your dad.” Richard said, a statement, not a question, as it was obvious that Maya still feel sad losing her dad.
“Every day. He was only in his early 40s when he died. So young. I have accepted that he is gone, but I missed him a lot. Kapag nalulungkot ako, I just think that he is somewhere, like nasa isang beach place, palakad-lakad and masaya. Naka-smile sa akin and waving. Suot iyong favorite clothes niya. Tapos I just remember all our good memories. My dad was like a barkada to me. He was a cool dad. Sa kanya ko nga nakuha ang love ko for every thing old, like movies and music. Then also the love of reading. He always teased me that I get lost in the pages of whatever book I was reading, lalo na romance novels that I got hooked into when I was a teenager and having the usual crushes.
I do read other genres, pero ang mga romance novel ang stress reliever ko. Those romance books are my escape-from-reality default books. Kaya hayun, parati akong puyat like this morning! Natarayan tuloy kita sa taxi!” Maya said, smiling. Kahit paano naka-move on na rin siya sa pagkawala ng dad niya. Her Dad also told her before he died to live life the fullest and that what she is doing at the moment.
“He seemed like a wonderful guy. Now I know, hindi sa romance books galing ang ideal guy standards mo, kundi sa dad mo.” Richard said. “Naku, poor me, hindi yata ako makakapasa.” He said to make Maya smile.
“Hmmm, may point ka diyan Mr. Lim. Teka, parang napunta na ang usapan diyan sa intentions mo, ha.” Maya smiled. She knew Richard is trying to cheer her up. “Pag-iisipan ko kung papasa ka.”
“Patingin kasi ng list para malaman ko what am I up against.” Richard said. “For sure, I can already put a check in some criteria in your list.” He added, teasing Maya.
“Hmmmp, confident much, Mr. Lim.” Maya said smiling at Richard’s kakulitan. “Nope, feeling ko puro ‘X’ ka sa lahat.”
“What are the standards ba kasi, Babe?” Richard asked, grinning, liking this exchange.
“Ha, I don’t want to tell you, Honeybun! ” Maya also had a huge grin on her face, bantering with gusto.
“Honeybun? Babe?” The guy in the doorway blurted out then covered his mouth. “Ooops, sorry, sorry”….
Then waved at Maya, a bit embarrass for barging in. “Hi Mayabels, Hi handsome Honeybun, este Maya’s friend. Sorry sis, hindi man lang ako kumatok. Na-excite lang ng malamang nandito ka at this time of the night. Hindi rin kasi tayo nag-aabot, lately. Walang nabanggit si Eleonor na may kasama ka palang, boyfriend???”
“Sir Emman, kasi, di ko na nakuhang sabihin sa inyo kasi bigla na lang kayong umalis to go here nang malaman niyong nandito si Ms. Maya.” Eleonor put the tray with Maya and Richard’s coffee on the table between them. “Ms. Maya, Sir Richard, here’s your coffee na po. Balik na po ako sa labas kasi Belle will take a break na.”
“Thank you, Eleonor.” Maya said. “Ricky, please meet my other best friend and my business partner, Emman Castro. Emman, this is my good friend Richard Lim. Cousin siya ni Cristina. Hindi ko siya boyfriend. Nang-aasar lang itong si Ricky.” She clarified, then tapping Richard in the arm affectionately.
“Hello po, Mr. Lim. Nice to meet you.” Emman said, turning timid all of a sudden. Still, he can’t get out of his head the scene he saw earlier. Akala niya talaga may boyfriend na si Maya. Ang sweet kasi nila nitong si guwapong-guwapong Mr. Lim.
“Nice to meet you too, Emman. Just call me Richard.” Richard said smiling at Emman.
Oh my, ang guwapo naman talaga nitong friend ni Mayabels, killer ang smile, was Emman’s bubble thought when he shook Richard’s hand. Hmmm, he can feel something between these too. ‘Woman’s intuition’, he insisted to himself.
“Mayabels, Richard, please excuse me. I will just go back to the counter and help out. Enjoy your coffee.” Then with a big wave, he was gone.
“Emman seems like a very cheerful friend.” Richard remarked, smiling at Maya’s friend reaction earlier. “Matagal na kayong magkaibigan?”
“He is. We worked together in a media company before. When I told him I was leaving to do the things I really wanted to to, he told me sama raw siya. Lalo na when I told him I will be opening this coffee shop. We became partners and share the day to day management of the cafe. It works well naman kasi I travel a lot. Si Emman naman, he is working on his novel. Pangarap iyan ni Emman to be a published author kasi.” Maya told Richard as she served Richard his coffee, unconsciously putting two sachets of brown sugar, and stirring it as she talked.
“Good for you and him. Looks like you two are living your dreams.” Richard said as he took a sip of the coffee. “Hmmm, this tastes good. You stirred it well. Bakit ang sarap ng coffee mo. Thank you,”
Maya smiled. “I just put two sugars and stirred ah. But masarap talaga ang coffee namin. Then added, “I guess, in a way Emman and I are living our dreams nga, but it was not always like that.”
“How about you? How’s everything at Lim Corporation? Cris said you returned to manage your businesses here.” Maya asked as she noticed she was the one doing all the talking and Richard just listened intently.
“Well, the companies are doing well. Dad was happy to retire. He was not getting younger na rin daw. Hayun, pa-golf-golf na lang. I’m glad naman that he trusted me enough to run the business well. Mom was also happy that Dad has more time for her now. My mom is makulit also. I think you will like her when you meet her.”
“I think I did. Your mom’s name is Esmeralda, right? Kasama kasi siya one time ni Tita Susan noong nagpasama sa amin ni Cris sa Sunday Market sa Salcedo.”
“Yes, that’s her.” Richard confirmed.
“She was fun.” Maya smiled as she remembered Donya Esmeralda’s stories. “I like your Mom a lot.”
“Oh good.” Richards simply said. Hmmm, they know each other. I’m pretty sure, Mom likes Maya, he thought.
“Pero di ba you were well-established na in the States when your dad asked you to return.” Maya remembered that from Cris’s kwento. For some reason, they got into talking about the change in the management of the magazines of Lim Publications, then napunta ang usapan kay Richard, the new CEO.
“Yes. I was handling our operation in New York. But it came at a time that I wanted a change in my life, when I needed a change, so I packed my bags and left my life there, and head home.” Richard didn’t elaborate. He feels it is too early to tell Maya about the whole reason why he grabbed the opportunity his father was offering him. He was no stranger to the corporation’s operation so he only needed a bit of adjustment when he took over.
Maya felt that there is something Richard is not telling her with that statement, but maybe it is not the right time to probe about it. Who hasn’t something that at times you can’t tell another person right away, especially if it concerns your inner feelings and stuffs that affected you profoundly or had shaped the direction of your life. Oppps, Maya Dela Rosa, you are getting too serious again, lighten up!
“Good that your dad have you and that you are back here for good.”
“True, otherwise we would have not met.” Richard said, gazing at Maya, making her heart beat faster.
Maya just smiled sweetly at him. He did the same and they silently sipped their coffee. Happy in their quiet time. Then, they resumed chatting like very old friends.
“Ricky, naku, halos 2AM na pala! Baka wala na tayong maitulog.” Maya said surprised, when she noticed the time.
“O sige, uwi na nga tayo. Halika na, I will accompany you to your unit.” Richard stood up and held out his hand for Maya to take so it would be easier for her to get up from the armchair.
“Naku, hwag na. Elevator ride lang naman ito, hanggang taas. Ikaw nga, you needed to cross pa to the other tower.” Maya said.
Richard insisted on taking Maya to her penthhouse unit. He also told her, he had the penthouse unit too at the other tower. They both smiled and teased each other about opening the windows and waving at each other.
“Good night, Babe, I have fun.” Maya said smiling, was not able to tease Richard one more time. She really did and she can’t remember when was the last time she was this happy.
“Good night, Honeybun. Enjoy your vacation in Bangkok.” He said, then remembered asking, “Who will take you to the airport?”
“I will take a taxi. Mabilis lang naman ang biyahe since it is Sunday.” Maya replied. “Kaunti rin lang naman ang dala kong clothes kasi ilang araw lang naman ako doon.”
“I will take you.” He said. “Ihahatid na kita.”
“Naku Ricky, thank you. Pero hwag na. Rest ka na lang.” Maya protested, but touched, at his offer.
“I insist, please, and if it will make you feel better, from the airport naman I can go to Alabang na to see my parents.” He told her. “Lunch na rin tayo please before we leave Eastwood.”
“O sige na nga. Thanks a lot. I’ll see you tomorrow. Tulog na tayo. Good night.” Maya capitulated, at the same time feels happy that she will see Richard again in a couple of hours.
“Good decision, Ms. Maya Dela Rosa.” Richard is also grinning, happy at the turn of events. “Good night, Honeybun.”
“Good night, Babe.” Maya bantered.
Maya went inside, with a smile that lit up her whole face. Richard on the other hand, went to the elevator banks with spring on his steps. This has been the best day he had in a very, very long time. The best day he ever had.