Richard looked around the busy lobby of Lim Corporation. He is trying to find Maya. They agreed earlier that they will meet each other here, then go to his car in the basement parking, together. It seems like, he was early. He checked the time, and indeed, he is early by 10 minutes. He was about to go to the lobby’s waiting area to wait for Maya when someone called his name.
“Richard Lim,” a husky feminine voice called Richard from the direction of the coffee shop. “I knew you are back in the country but this is the first time, I’m seeing you. Good thing, I decided to have coffee here before heading back to Makati.”
“Hello Ghie! Nice to see you!” Richard greeted the lady, who was wearing a business outfit, carrying her laptop bag, and a cup of coffee. “Did you have a meeting somewhere in LC?”
“No, not in LC. Otherwise, it would have been with you. Congratulations! I heard you are back here for good as LC’s chief lawyer. I had a meeting in the other building.” Ghie replied as took a sip of her coffee. “How about you, where are you going now? Are you free? Can we have dinner? Catch up?”
“Thank you Ghie. Yes, I’m here for good. About dinner, I’m so sorry I can’t! I’m going somewhere special this evening.” Richard said, letting Ghie down. “I already have plans.”
Ghie had been quite blatant, even in Law School in letting in know that she likes him a lot, and a mere encouragement from him, she will surely grab. Luckily, he also saw Maya coming out of the elevator with her secretary and other people from her department, he presumed, as she said goodbye to them with a big wave and some good-natured banter. She was walking gracefully across the marble floor, looking for him, at the same time. She does look lovely in her crimson shift dress. He waved at her, then gave her a blinding, lopsided smile.
Maya saw Richard talking to a tall, poised, polished woman sipping coffee, as she approached the area near the entrance of the building. After her misconception earlier, she is not about to jump to another conclusion this time. Besides, she does trust Richard. She does not have a basis to blindly trust him as they are in the getting to know each other stage, but instinctively, she does. She have the impression that he is a very upfront person. She decided to go with her instinct and her blossoming feeling for this wonderful guy. Besides, the way Richard was gazing at her at that moment, she felt like she is the most beautiful woman in the world. Just like Emman said, feeling mas mahaba pa kay Rapunzel ang hair.
“Hi Ricky!” Maya said brightly and cheerfully as she neared, gazing at him too. She also included the lady with him in her greetings. “Hello! Ricky, I’m sorry, I’m a bit late. I approved pa the press release for our renewable energy project in Ilocos Norte.”
“No worries, Maya. I was just early. By the way, Maya, this is Atty. Josephine Evangelista, a law school classmate. Ghie, this very special lady is Maya Dela Rosa, LC’s Head of Corporate Communications.”
Maya’s heart skipped a beat when she heard Richard referred to her as a very special lady. “I’m please to meet you Atty. Evangelista!”
Ghie, on the other hand, was startled with what Richard said. Coupled with his earlier remark that he will be having a very special night, meeting this beautiful woman whom it is obvious that Richard likes a lot, she felt defeated. She would have love to have something more with Richard, but no matter what she does, he just treats her like this, an acquaintance. She put on a bright smile, then replied to Maya. “Please to meet you too, Maya.”
She is not admitting defeat, though. Far from it! She did a parting dig before she left them. “I’ll go ahead, Maya, Richard. And Ricky, please let me know when we will have that dinner.”
Oh-oh, Richard thought. It seems like the lady is out to make trouble for him and Maya.
Maya saw Richard’s very surprised expression at Ghie’s statement.
“Errr, Maya, what she meant….” Richard was uncomfortable, trying to find words to explain to Maya that it was all Ghie who wanted to have dinner with him. He wants Maya to know that he had declined. Besides, He is ‘Richard’ to Ghie, not ‘Ricky’. Only special people in his life calls him ‘Ricky’!
“Ricky, no need to explain please. I think I get it. She was inviting you to dinner and you declined.” Maya said, smiling. “Kaso, she saw me, and said that.”
“Yes, but how did you guess?” Richard asked surprised at her perception.
“Well, you had this open-mouthed expression when she said that. It looked she blindsided you. She was also pretty transparent when you introduced me to her. Her expression changed. Did you say something else to her?”
“Hmmm, I did tell her I have a special evening planned tonight.” Richard said, grinning and relieved. “But kudos talaga diyan sa past job mo. Grabe ang power of observation mo.”
“Thank you. Pero this afternoon, it didn’t work well. I jumped to conclusion!” Maya said, laughing, remembering her blunder.
“Oh, that one, I was happy you made that one.” Richard remarked again cryptically. “Thank you Maya.”
Maya knew what Richard meant. She smiled at him. In the middle of the lobby, they shared a meaningful gaze. Then as if realising what they were doing, they smiled at each other again, breaking the gaze, then Richard guided Maya to the waiting elevator by holding on to her elbow.
“I hope you will like the place where we are going.” Richard remarked when they were on their way to Makati. “I discovered it by accident.”
“Hmmm, where are we going?” Maya asked, very curious.
Richard smiled. “Surprise. I don’t want to describe it to you. I want you to see it.”
“Okay, though I’m not very good at surprises and not knowing. I want to find out about everything.”
“Useful trait, if you are a journalist.” Richard remarked as he navigated the early evening rush hour. “How long were you a journalist? I mean, I think you still are at heart. I mean, before you switched careers. And this is not a job interview,” he teased, “I sincerely want to know. It seems like a fascinating career and I want to know you better like I have said.”
“I think about seven years. I took up Journalism and ended up working for Philippine Daily News.” Maya said naming the number one daily in the country. “Into my second year there, I was recruited as a correspondent for a Japanese news agency. Then after that I moved to the American one where I resigned last year.”
Richard felt like there was a whole lot of things that happened with the way Maya said it. He was thinking of a careful way of asking why she left a career that she worked hard to be in, when Maya spoke again.
“I left it because I didn’t think I can be a hardened journalist anymore. I lost the edge. Did you know that my last assignment was covering the most descructive typhoon to hit the country last year?” She asked rhetorically, then continued. “I was in Tacloban when the gigantic storm surges hit.”
“Oh Maya!” Richard said, recalling the sad, terrible images he had seen on TV.
“Yes, I was among the lucky ones who survived at the place where I stayed with my two-man crew. They died.” Maya said, pain still in her voice. “I watched them getting swept away and there was nothing I could do. I saw other people getting swept away. By some miracle, I survived. I thought I have died too, but only to wake up in a living nightmare after. I felt so helpless. But I forged on and did my job, but took me a while to overcome my trauma. I had nightmares. I mean, I have seen bad things before in the course of my career, but nothing can compare to that one. I left the job.
“Maya, I can’t even imagine what you went through. It is too hard to think.” Richard said as he got hold of Maya’s hand and put his on top to comfort her. “You are a very strong person to have survived that and rebuilt your life.”
“I guess, I’m still trying.” Maya said, trying to calm herself. “I tried not to dwell on the sadness and the what ifs. One thing I realised after that is to pick up the pieces, then live for the present. Life can be gone in an instant, with so many unrealized dreams, so many things unsavoured, and love and feelings remaining unuttered, thinking that you have all the time in the world. James told me of the opening at Lim Corporation when I was exploring my options. I applied and here I am. I’m very happy with what I am doing. And I am not saying that because you are the son of my boss.” Maya said, trying to lighten up the mood.
Richard smiled at that, then turned serious. “I’m sorry for what you went through Maya. The good thing is you still stayed positive. Good thing James also pointed you to the right direction to what you needed at that time you needed a direction.”
“Yes, he is a very good friend, true and true. We have another very close friend, who told me the same, but she is not working in LC. She is a doctor and when I am not working, I go with her when she does her outreach programs.”
“Really! That sounds interesting. What do you usually do in there?” Richard asked, wanting to know. Doing that has been what he was mulling on doing to. He just didn’t know how. He has his reasons too, for wanting to reach out.
“Well, since I am not a doctor, I usually act as a receptionist or do work that I can do as a non-medical professional. Oh by the way, they have lawyers too in the group, mostly volunteers who give legal advice to people who can’t afford lawyers.”
“Oh really! Can I join you guys? It has been something I want to do for quite sometime. You know to give back a bit, aside from the pro bono work I did on the side before I left for the States.”
“Of course, you may. I’m sure Diana and her group mates will be glad to have a high-caliber lawyer like you with them. I’ll give her a call and check the next schedule.”
“Oh, good! Also I get to spend more time with you.” Richard said, seemingly out of nowhere.
Maya looked at him. But before she can react fully. They have arrived at a parking lot. Richard parked the car, then went to Maya’s side and opened the door for her.
“We need to walk a little bit.” Richard said as he guided Maya by holding on to her elbow. “But I promise, it is worth it.
“I’m looking forward to where we are going Ricky. Lead on.” Maya said with a smile.
Several minutes after, they turned into a corner, then to an opened gate, to a beautiful garden restaurant.
“Wow.” Maya was amazed at this beautiful place in the middle of the city, with buses, thousands of cars and a train line pass by, with people unaware that there is a treasure like this at the other side of the tall fence that separated them.
“I told you. Di ba, words can’t describe it. The food is also marvelous.” Richard said grinning, happy to know that Maya likes the place. He wants their first date to be a very memorable one.
“Good evening po, Sir Richard, Ma’am Maya!” The headwaiter of the restaurant greeted Maya. “This way po, Sir, Ma’am.”
“Thank you Paulo!” Richard said after the headwaiter seated Maya, then pulled the sit for him. “We would like your specials and the works, and a bottle of your best vintage in the cellar. Is white okay with you, Maya or would you rather have red wine?”
“I prefer white wine. Thank you.” Maya replied, really liking the ambiance of the restaurant. It felt like she and Richard was in a secluded garden in the middle of nowhere, instead of the busy metropolis.
“Okay, white it is then, Paulo.” Richard said to the waiter.
Paulo excused himself, then returned several minutes after with the wine, which he had Richard tasted first, before pouring a glass each for him and Maya. Paulo excused himself again to start serving the first of their several-course dinner that evening.
“To us, and first dates! May this be the start of countless ones!” Richard said, offering Maya a toast, while gazing at her.
Maya blushed and her heart skipped a beat with that statement. She can’t help but feel the kilig. “To dates.” She managed to say.
They drank to that. Then just stared at each other. Their private moment was interrupted by Paulo bringing in their appetizer. They proceeded to enjoy their dinner and in between got to know each other more.
“Do you always want to be a lawyer?” Maya asked Richard as they were enjoying their main course. “Isn’t it a business course better since your family owns LC?”
“I guess I did. I was not easy since I had to buck family tradition. My father, of course, would have wanted me to study business and learn the ins and outs of running the business. I did try to please him by becoming a CPA. But the call of the law was stronger. I enrolled in Law school after trying the business for two years. I practiced here actually, some criminal cases, but majority were corporate ones. I decided to take up LLM in the States, after a while then stayed there, first because of a girl whom I thought I would end up with, but didn’t. Then, eventually, because I like living there. I felt like I have my own identity aside from being the son of business magnate Roberto Lim. But in recent months, Papa has been cajoling me to come home, and with the push from my Mama too, I said yes. So here, I am. I’m glad though, aside from the fact that I like the work, I got to meet you.” Richard ended, gazing at Maya.
“Oh!”Maya took a gulp of her wine, flattered at Richard’s interest, at the same time, curious about the girl in the States. But on the other hand, she thought, it was all in the past.
“Maya, I have been vocal in saying that I like you a lot. The fact is I think I’m falling in love with you.” He said seriously, putting his hand on top of Maya’s as he looked at her earnestly.
“Ricky….” Maya felt heady with that statement.
“Maya, I just want you to know. Let me show it to you. Would that be okay?”
Maya just nodded before taking another gulp of her third glass of wine, she thinks. Richard gave her his bone-melting lopsided smile.
“Thank you.” He simply said. “May I asked you something though, if it is okay kasi it is personal?”
“S-sure, I don’t mind.” Maya managed to say with a sweet smile.
“You blurted out that day that you sent me a wrong text that you don’t have a boyfriend and you haven’t had one. How come? You are very beautiful, intelligent, very nice and have a great sense of humor.”
“Oh God, you remember that!” Maya said, trying to cover her face, embarrassed.
“Hahahaha, I did. That made my day kaya. You know what, I have been wanting to find out since I met you, pero I was afraid to us someone dahil baka hindi pa man ako nanliligaw, alam na ng buong LC. Not that I mind that they know, baka lang kasi ma-conscious ka.” Richard admitted.
“Really?” Maya said, grinning, happy what she is hearing.
“Really, really!” He said witha big grin too.
“On not having one. Before there was no one kasi who caught my attention enough to say yes to. Before, no one made my heart beat faster and all the blood surging to my head with just a look, no one made me think of him all the time.”
“Before? You mean now there is….?” Richard probed, he just can’t help it, he wants to know.
Maybe, it was the wine, she was not sure afterwards what made her say it, but Maya suddenly blurted out as if she can’t help herself, “Ikaw.” Then she realized what she just said and covered her face. “OMG!”
Richard grinned, as if he won the lotto. He gazed at Maya lovingly, then softly said, “I’m so glad.”