Richard woke up early the following day. He felt so much better. Whatever virus he caught the past two days was flushed out of his system overnight. He was glad. He really hated getting sick. He also doesn’t like hospitals as a favorite uncle died in one after having a stroke and going into coma for a month. Until now, he can’t bear to be in a hospital. He would like to avoid it if he can.
Looking at the clock, Richard noticed that it was already 9 o’clock in the morning. He really slept a long time. As he got out of the bed to open the curtain and let some sunlight in, he saw the empty bowl of ramen on the side table by his bed. He smiled, remembering Maya’s thoughtfulness and caring. Who would have thought he would meet someone nice while lying in his bed, sick like a dog.
Soon, she will be here. Richard thought, calculating the time the cleaning service usually arrives at his room, judging by his previous experience the past several weeks he had been staying in the hotel. He is looking forward to seeing her again. He also hopes that she is the one assigned to his side of the hotel today and in the remaining time he is in New York.
Richard opted to stay in this hotel near the NYC headquarters of LHI, instead of renting an apartment, as it is more convenient. Besides, he will just be in the city for three months or less, this time, depending on the amount of work he needed to do here. He does have an apartment in 5th Avenue, but his cousin Rafaela and her family are currently staying there while theirs is being remodelled and refurbished. Rafi said she and Charlie had some problems with the contractors they got that delayed their move. They were still in Richard’s apartment by the time he needed his place. It was easier for him to stay in a hotel than uproot Rafaela’s family.
Suddenly, Richard felt he needed a bath. He decided to do that before he tackles back the work he was doing before he got sick. He was working on some financial analysis of their operations here. His family’s company has varied interests, from manufacturing, import and export, shipping, communications and so on. He felt refreshed after his quick shower. He started brewing coffee. He need that to perk him up. He usually starts his day with a hot cup.
Richard was deep into the figures, graphs and charts he was studying on his laptop when the ringing of the door bell interrupted his concentration. He was startled at first, but his heart beat faster in anticipation when his brain registered who might be at the other side of the door. He checked the time. He was almost sure it is going to be her. He just feels it.
“Come in, please.” Richard said, waiting with bated breath, and he was not wrong. He gave Maya a very warm lopsided smile when he caught sight of her, holding her cleaning supplies. “Hello Maya. Good afternoon.”
“Good afternoon Mr. Lim, errr, Ricky pala.” Maya greeted, her heart skipping a beat with the handsome sight before her. Richard was wearing jeans and a t-shirt that showed off his muscular built. He also looked and smelled nice. It looked liked he had just been to the shower. His eyeglasses suits him. She is drawn to everything she is seeing, especially that smile. “How are you? Is the fever gone?”
“Oh, I’m okay now, Maya. Wala na akong fever. Thanks to the medicine you gave me, the ramen, and also a long, deep sleep. I slept the rest of the day after eating your very filling ramen, then the whole night, I slept like a baby.” Richard told the beautiful girl standing by the entrance of his room. She is really very lovely, even in the plain uniform she was wearing, with her heart-shaped face, pert nose, pouty lips, doe-shaped eyes framed by long lashes and her hair in a bun, making her beautiful face and high cheekbones more prominent. “Thank you very much again for your help yesterday, Maya. I really appreciate it.”
“That’s good to know. Akala ko dadalhin na kita sa hospital today.” Maya said, with a smile, getting a bit self-conscious all of a sudden, she, who always appear confident and sure of herself. “I was glad to be able to help you.”
They smiled at each other, content to do that for several seconds, until Maya realized that they were doing it again, just like yesterday.
“Is it a good time to clean the room? Busy ka yata. I can come back na lang after the last one I will be cleaning.” She suddenly asked, noticing the papers scattered on the desk by the window and his computer blinking figures , from what she could see where she was standing.
“Oh, it is okay. I need a break anyway. I’m getting cross-eyed na yata with all the figures I was looking at.” Richard assured Maya, then got up from the desk, and stretched his arms a bit, making his shirt hugged his muscular and well-toned body more, then went to the coffee maker in the corner. “Would you like a cup of coffee first before you clean?”
“None for me, thank you. But please go ahead. I had two cups na before I started my shift today.” Maya said as she started tidying up the room, a bit harder to do as she is used to doing it while the occupant was out. It is bad enough that she was very much aware of Richard already.
“Oh you like drinking coffee too?” Richard asked, wanting to find out her likes, dislikes and interests.
“Naku, yes, lalo na when I started working here.” Maya replied.
“Matagal ka na ba here?” Richard asked as he sat by the floor-to-ceiling window of the room, with his cup, looking at her as he sips his hot brew.
“You mean, here sa NY, or sa hotel or sa States?” Maya asked.
“Yes to all.” Richard clarified, smiling, wanting to know everything he could about this girl that so fascinates him. He can see her in a runway or in television or movies as an actress or as maybe as flight attendant and yet, she is here, cleaning rooms, not that there is anything wrong with that. He just felt that she belongs somewhere else. He felt there is something so much more to her than being a cleaning staff in a hotel. He sense a depth in her that draws him a lot. It was evident in the way she speaks and carries herself.
“Oh, dito sa NYC, bago lang, since I started this job several weeks ago. My family lives in New Jersey. I grew up there, well, sort of, since I also spent my young life in the Philippines. We moved here when I was a kid, tapos every summer vacation and long holidays, I was in the Philippines. Then, I spent the last four years or so in Manila, studying.” Maya said as she removed Richard’s beddings and started putting on the new one on. “Magulo ba? I shuttled back and forth kasi. I like it there. Mas gusto ko nga sa Pilipinas.”
“No, no, I will do this. This is my job. Just enjoy your coffee.” Maya protested and shooed away Richard, gently as he tried to help her with the other corner.
Richard went back to his old place by the window. “Oh you mean, you studied in the Philippines, instead of here?” He asked, intrigued.
“Yes, I went to PUS.” Maya said simply, then asked Richard, “Hw about you, are you here on business?”
“Yes, I am. I also finished my undergraduate degree at PUS. But I think I was already finished when you started there. Otherwise, we would have met.” Richard remarked offhand.
Maya smiled at that. “Are you sure we would have met kung nagkasabay tayo ng time sa university? Ang laki kaya ng PUS. Saka magkaiba tayo ng course, medyo magkalayo pa. I took up Development Communication. You, I think took up a management course.”
“I think we would have. I had a feeling we would.” Richard insisted enigmatically, gazing at Maya meaningfully. “Even if you were right, I took up a management course, somehow we would have met. See, of all places nga, we met here.”
Maya didn’t know how to interpret Richard’s statement so she just let it passed, then shifted the conversation. “How long will you be in New York?”
“I’m not sure yet, depending on the amount of work in store for me here.” Richard said, then shrugged. “I’m not in a hurry to go back to the Philippines, anyway. I might combine a short vacation with this trip.”
Richard realized he really wanted to do that now. Before, he was just thinking of it. But the idea of staying in New York longer just got better. Besides, he needed to get away from stuffs, or specifically, from someone for a while. Before he could ask Maya more about her course and her work, his mobile phone rang. He looked at the screen and saw that it is his mom. He smiled.
“Maya, please excuse me. It is my mom.” He said, wondering why his mom is calling. She just called the day before he got sick.
“Oh, okay lang. I need to clean the bathroom anyway.” Maya said as she moved towards the direction of the bathroom to give Richard privacy. She closed the bathroom door as she started cleaning.
“Hi Mama!” Richard greeted his mom, Esmeralda. He always likes chatting with his mother. He is closer to her than his father who is a bit strict and distant, always busy with his various businesses when he was growing up. He knew he loved him in in his own way, but there were times he had a hard time believing it. “Napatawag ka po. Not that I don’t want to hear from my beautiful, bubbly mother.”
“Naku, Ricky. Ikaw talaga, son. Binobola mo na naman ang mama mo.” Donya Esmeralda laughed heartily at other end of the line. “Kumusta ka na diyan?”
“Okay naman po ako. I got sick, flu lang naman. Pero magaling na ako.” Richard said as he transferred to the armchair by the window with his cup of coffee.
“Naku, son, take good care of yourself. Siguro puyat ka na ng puyat and trabaho ng trabaho. Take enough rest. You don’t have to be a workaholic like your Papa. You are young, enjoy life.” Donya Esmeralda admonished her son. “Balance, son, balance.”
“Yes, Ma, I know. Don’t worry, after the work here, I will take a short vacation.” Richard informed his mother.
“Good, good. You need it, especially after your….” Donya Esmeralda said.
Richard interrupted his mother. “Mama, don’t worry about me. I’m really, really okay. It was for the best. Alexandra and I were not really compatible. We are just too different. I thought I have learned to love with her, but I realized I didn’t. It was not love, it was just a fleeting attraction. Hindi ko na sana pinabayaan pang umabot sa engagement. I thought it was what I wanted too, but it was not.”
“Yes, I know. I understand son. Ito rin naman kasing Papa mo, ang tingin sa iyo bata pa rin. He was also treating your lovelife as part of his business negotiation. Pero, she was asking me about you. I called you up na kasi kinukulit ako ni Alexandra. Hindi mo raw kasi sinasagot ang mga tawag niya. She does not know where you are. Rafaela naman will not tell her din.” Donya Esmeralda narrated. “Kausapin mo na kaya.”
“Mama, I think wala na kaming dapat pang pag-usapan. I thought we understood each other when we parted ways. Maayos naman kaming naghiwalay.” Richard insisted. He didn’t really want to talk to his ex-fiancee anymore. He really thought they understood each other when they parted ways. It was not a smooth parting, but he really thought Alexandra understood, got his point and his lengthy explanation why she and him will not work out in the long run, and capitulated, even if it was a bit out of her character to do so.
“Okay, ikaw ang bahala, son. It’s your life.” Donya Esmeralda said, resigned to the fact that she can’t sway her son anymore once he had made up his mind. Richard can be very stubborn, especially for something he really believes in.
“Thanks a lot, Ma. I love you.” Richard said.
“O siya, siya, hindi na ako makikialam. And I will not tell her where you are.” Donya Esmeralda said. “I love you too, son. See you soon. I have to go na. Your Tita Stella is waiting for me sa South Curves. We are having lunch to discuss the latest project of Lim Foundation.”
“Bye, Mama. See you soon.” Richard ended the call, put his phone down and stared at the view, but not really seeing it the fascinating New York skyline.
This is how Maya saw him after she emerged from the bathroom. Richard seemed to be deep in thought, she mused. She hated to interrupt his musing. But she needed to get going. Suddenly, he looked up, focused on her, and gave her another of his charming lopsided grin.
“You’re done na?” He asked, as if waking up from whatever maudlin thoughts he was having.
“Yes, I was about to say goodbye to you na nga sana. Kaso, parang ang lalim ng iniisip mo.” Maya remarked as she started assembling her cleaning stuffs.
“Oh, wala iyon. I don’t want to think about it na rin.” Richard said, then asked. “What time do you finish your shift?’
“In two hours or so?” Maya replied, curious on where his question is leading to.
“Good! Do you have any plans, some place you need to be, or a date after your shift?” Richard asked earnestly, hoping she would answer negative to all.
“Hmmm, wala naman. I will just go home with Emman.” Maya said.
Richard suddenly looked crestfallen upon hearing Emman’s name. She is already taken, he thought. May boyfriend na si Maya. “Oh, you are going home with your boyfriend, then.”
Maya smiled, then corrected Richard’s assumption. “Oh no, Emman is my housemate. He works here also. Siya iyong pinabili ko ng ramen, and he is gay. Pinoy din siya. You should meet him. Funny iyon and very masayahin.”
Richard felt immense relief, and very happy, after hearing Maya’s clarification. Everything is alright again in the world. There is something very strong pulling him to this girl, for some reason.
“If you are free then, would you like to have dinner with me?” Richard asked suddenly, feeling a bit nervous.
Maya was surprised at Richard’s invitation, at the same time, her heart skipped a beat. Then, she tried to calm herself with the thought that maybe, like what he said yesterday, Richard would just like to thank her lang for the ramen.
“I would like to. Pero are you sure you are okay na? Baka mabinat ka kapag lumabas ka. Medyo malamig na. Saka hindi mo naman ako kailangang ilibre because I bought you that ramen.” She said.
“Maya, it was not because of that. I would really, really like to have dinner with you. I want to get to know you better.” Richard said directly, wanting fervently for Maya to say yes. “Sige na, have a pity na on poor me, all alone in New York.”
“Hahahaha, as if…I’m sure, marami kang kakilala or may kamag-anak ka rito.” Maya guessed. “Saka you are working here for now, di ba. So may officemates ka dito.”
Richard smiled sheepishly and admitted yes, may cousin siya sa city, then some relatives of his father, and yes he knows people here. But insisted that he would still like to have dinner with Maya, that she is the one he would like to have dinner with. Maya said yes with a smile. Richard could really be very charming when he wanted something, she realized.
“I need to go home first. Let me know na lang where we can meet.” Maya told Richard. She only had jeans and a simple blouse in her locker downstairs. She had an inkling that those are not going to be suitable for the dinner with Richard.
“Oh, I can pick you up na lang. Where do you live?” Richard said.
“No, huwag na. Maaabala ka pa. I will take the subway na lang and meet you later.” Maya insisted, not wanting to inconvenience Richard. Basides, kagagaling lang niya sa sakit.
Richard agreed, seeing that Maya was adamant about meeting him somewhere instead of being picked up. However, he has plans of taking Maya home. They agreed to meet at a cozy Italian restaurant near the hotel. Maya said goodbye to Richard to clean the last room on the floor. She had a goofy grin on her face as she cleaned, looking forward to having dinner with Richard.
Richard on other hand, went back to his paperwork. However, he had a hard time concentrating on the figures before him. His mind was already on the ‘date’ he will have with Maya. He felt very happy thinking about it. Just the thought of it, removed all the sad feelings he had earlier as he stared out of the window, thinking of what happened with him and the girl he was supposed to get married to.
In such a short time, Maya was occupying his thoughts, one thing that Alexandra never really managed to do in their tumultous and volatile relationship. Maya is different. Richard already had an inkling then that Maya will be an important part of his life.