“Good morning Sir Richard!” Liza greeted Richard with a big smile, as soon as he entered his office after dropping Maya off at the entrance of her office two floors below.
“Good morning Liza! Do I have anything urgent this morning?” Richard inquired, smiling and feeling at the top of the world that morning.
“Wala naman po, Sir.” Liza replied, but handed Richard a big card. “You just need to sign this birthday card. Kayo na lang po ang hindi pa nakaka-sign!”
“Sinong may birthday Liza?” It has been a tradition in LC for the executives to sign the birthday card for whoever executive or company officer has a birthday. It is included in the flowers that is sent to the birthday celebrators.
“Sir! Si Ms. Maya kaya! Even if I know, for sure, you have plans for her birthday, please sign the card na rin para kumpleto na kayong mga executive.” Liza said, smiling. She saw her boss and Maya, earlier holding hands while they walked to the elevators. She was behind them. She almost squealed with delight upon seeing them so sweet towards each other. She concluded na sila na talaga!
“Yes! She did mention that her birthday is coming up when I asked kung kailan. Give me the card.” Richard got the pen that Liza gave him, then signed his name too, together with the other executives, except that he put a heart and a smiley beside his name.
Liza laughed when she saw it. “Sir Richard, ikaw talaga. High school lang ang peg, hahahaha. Pero it’s cute naman!”
Richard laughed too, then went inside his office to start his work day. He was humming a line from a song from the ‘The King and I’…..To kiss in the sunlight/And say to the sky/“Behold and believe what you see/Behold how my lover loves me”…. when he sat on his desk to tackle his paperworks.
More than an hour later, a tall lady dressed in a figure-hugging sheath dress, parked herself in front of Liza’s desk.
“Good morning Ma’am, may I help you?” Liza inquired politely. There is something familiar with the lady which she can’t place.
“I would like to see Ricky Lim, please. Tito Patrick said this is his office now.” The lady asked, her demeanor, a bit haughty for Liza’s taste.
“I don’t recall him having an appointment with you Ms…..” Liza asked.
“I don’t have. But I’m sure, he will see me. Just tell him, Natasha Melendrez.” Natasha said, brooking no argument.
“Sandali lang po.” Liza stood up, then knocked on Richard’s door, instead of calling. While she was doing so, Liza also realized why the lady looks familiar. She is the daughter of Probo and Norma Melendrez, a close friends of the Lims, and an ex-girlfriend of Richard Lim, if what she overheard before was true.
“O Liza, bakit hindi ka na lang tumawag sa intercom.” Richard asked, seeing that Liza was not there to bring documents to him.
“Sir may naghahanap po sa inyo sa labas. Wala po siyang appointment. Si Mr. Patrick Lim daw po ang nagturo sa kanya ng office niyo.” Liza said, hesitantly.
“”Sino raw siya, Liza?” Richard asked. His uncle didn’t mention sending anyone to him when he saw him just before he entered the Legal Department.
“Ms. Natasha Melendrez daw po, Sir!” Liza said.
“Oh…” was all Richard said. He thought for a second, then said, “I guess, just send her in if I don’t have any other appointment that would get affected by it.” His Uncle Patrick has always had a soft spot, rather a blind spot, for Natasha, not knowing her true character!
“Okay po, Sir.” Liza went out of Richard’s office again and returned to Natasha Melendrez to accompany her to Richard Lim’s office.
Richard settled into his seat again, tapping his fingers on the desk, thinking what could bring Natasha to his office, five years after they parted ways. He was also wondering why she had given her maiden name when the last time he heard, it was already Ortiz. She had married one of his ex-closest friends, Nathaniel Ortiz.
“Ricky, so nice to see you.” Natasha said with a big smile when Liza ushered her into Richard’s office. She proceeded to where Richard is, then tried to give him a kiss on the lips. He deflected it, so it landed on his left cheek.
“Please have a seat Natasha.” Richard politely said, gesturing towards one of the two visitor chairs in front of his desk.
“Can we sit in the couch over there?” Natasha requested. “It is more intimate. Sitting on that visitor’s chair, I feel like I’m on a job interview.”
“Why are you here, Natasha?” Richard said, ignoring her request. He decided to cut through her phoney cheerfulness and solicitousness as if nothing bad had happened between them. “After all the things that have happened, I thought we don’t have anything else to talk about.”
“Richard, come on, Honey, you haven’t moved on from that? I regretted what I did. Isn’t it enough? Besides, Nate and I are not together anymore. Our divorce became final two months ago.”
“Please don’t call me ‘Honey’, Natasha. I haven’t been since I caught you in bed with one of my best friends, in our own bed!” Richard said calmly. “I have moved on. I don’t feel a thing anymore. I don’t care whether you and Nate are still together or not.”
“Richard, that can’t be true. You loved me. You were even willing to live in the States permanently for me. You chose me over having a place in your father’s company.” Natasha insisted. She had high hopes for this meeting. What she said was true, she regretted being unfaithful to Richard. Nate is not the person Richard is. She wants to have a second chance with Richard.
“Natasha, please! Let’s not rehash the past. I may say things you will not like to hear and which I don’t like to say to you either. Let’s just remember the happy times. The past is over and done with. Let’s leave it at that. I’m in love for the first time in my life and for me that’s what matters now.” Richard said before he could stop himself, wanting only to convince Natasha that there is no going back for them. “Besides, I did continue living in the States after we broke up and you married Nate. So, it was just not you. I’m sorry, we were not just meant to be, a big part of that was your own making.”
“Ricky…..” Natasha started, but seeing Richard’s firmed and unmoving expression, she stopped. In a way, she knew, deep inside herself that this is a futile effort anyway. She had hurt Richard in the past a lot. She was that immature and selfish. She had her chance. She just thought that she would just have another when she heard from Tito Patrick that Richard is still single and does not seem to have a girlfriend at the moment.
Natasha returned to the Philippines after her divorce became final to start anew. If not for the fact that she was pregnant with Nate’s baby, she would have not married him. Her parents insisted and rather than lose the good life she had, which her parents threatened to do, she did it. They also told her she made a big mistake when she chose Nate, by having an affair with him, over Richard. They were right. She didn’t understand why she stayed in the marriage even after she lost the baby.
Richard and Natasha stared at each other silently. Natasha, at a lost on what do to next. Richard, hoping that Natasha will leave. They had nothing to say to each other.
The door suddenly opened.
“Ricky, sweetheart, dumiretso na ako. Wala si Liza sa post niya. Sabi mo naman…..” Maya stopped when she realized that Richard is not alone. “Oh, I’m so sorry. You have a meeting. I thought it was just you since I didn’t hear a sound when I was approaching.” Maya looked at the lady sitting at Richard’s visitor’s chair. “Hello.”
Maya was about to excuse herself, when Richard got out of his chair, approached her and gave her a kiss on the lips. “Don’t go, Sweetheart. Please meet, Natasha Melendrez, daughter of Tito Probo and Tita Norma, friends of my parents.” He said by way of introduction. “Natasha, please meet my girlfriend, Maya Dela Rosa. Maya is also LC’s Head of Corporate Communications.”
Natasha took a closer look at Richard’s girlfriend. What she saw made her feel more defeated. For she saw before her a beautiful, poised her girl, her eyes shining with intelligence, looking at her with a sincere friendly expression, and looking at Richard with so much love. She swallowed hard.
“Nice to meet you, Maya.” She simply said, then to Richard, “Ricky, I will get going. Mom and I will meet for lunch. Hello to Tito Roberto and Tita Esmeralda.”
“I will, Natasha, and good luck. I hope you will find happiness too.” Richard simply said. He realized he felt tons lighter at that moment. He had forgiven Natasha a long time ago. In fact, he considered himself to have a lucky escape. Doubly so now, that he found Maya.
Maya and Richard watched Natasha walked towards the door and then closed it gently.
“Maya, let’s have an early lunch! Here at my office, if it is okay with you? I will send Liza out for food.” Richard asked. While Maya didn’t ask who Natasha is, he wanted to tell her, to clear the past completely, so to speak.
“Sure, Sweetheart! I’m free na. I just want to give this sana to you.” Maya said, then gave Ricky his favorite brew from Starbucks. “Nagpabili ako kasi kay Richard, the messenger. I didn’t realize na almost lunchtime na pala.”
They both smiled at that, remembering Maya’s wrong text message.
“Palagay ko dapat nating pasalamatan iyang si Richard Lazaro sa progress ng love story natin.” Richard teased Maya.
“Hahahaha, Sweetheart, sa palagay ko rin.” Maya said. “Teka, let me call Minerva lang to tell her I will have an early lunch. May I use your phone?”
“Sure, go I head. I will just go and see if Liza is back. I will ask her if she could order lunch for us from the restaurant downstairs.” Richard said. “What would you like?”
“Just the pasta carbonara that they have there with roast beef on the side, salad and a can of regular Coke.” Maya said. “Thank you, Sweetheart.”
Maya made her call while Richard peeked out to check if Liza is there. She saw him doing so. “Sir, may kailangan po kayo? I had to dash out earlier while you had a visitor.” Liza explained.
“Yes, sana Liza. Would you please call the restaurant downstairs and have them deliver lunch to my office for Maya and I.” Richard then told Liza what Maya wanted and told her what he would like.
“No problem, Sir! Nandiyan pala si Ms. Maya!” She remarked. At the back of her head, she realized that Maya and Natasha must have met each other if she had arrived at her boss’s office while she was away. She shrugged, thinking that it must have been okay. “Dalhin ko na lang po sa office niyo Sir, pagdating. I will just tell the restaurant manager to put it in your tab again.”
“Thanks Liza! I’m on a break na ha.” Richard said. He didn’t want to be interrupted for the next hour or so, while he talk to Maya about Natasha.
“Noted, Sir.” Liza assured her boss.
Richard returned to his office and saw Maya looking out at the view outside while waiting for him. She smiled brightly when she saw him.
“Have I told you lately that I love you very much.” Richard said as he cupped Maya’s chin and looked deep in her eyes.
Maya smiled. “Not in the last couple of hours, Atty. Lim! And I love you too.”
They shared a loving smile, then Richard lowered his lips to Maya and gave her a gentle kiss.
“Come, Sweetheart, before I get totally lost in your very kissable lips, let’s sit on the couch. I have something to tell you.” Richard took hold of Maya’s hand, interlaced it with his and gently pulled her to the couch.
“Hmmm, parang alam ko na kung tungkol saan. Is it about Natasha?” Maya asked she settled down in the crook of Richard’s right arm. “Your ex-girlfriend?”
‘“Yes, and I’m right, I was pretty sure that you will read the situation correctly.” Richard said. “How come you didn’t ask me about her as soon as she had left?”
“Well, I want you to tell me yourself.” Maya replied. “While I admit, I was curious at her sudden appearance, I also know naman that she was from your past na. Otherwise, you would have not courted me like that. I also trust you and you have not given me any reason to doubt that and the feelings you have for me.”
Richard’s heart swelled. He is so lucky to have her. He loves her so very much “Thank you for your trust, Sweetheart. I’m so lucky to have you. Despite having girlfriends before, Natasha being the most serious one from my past since I entertained the thought of marrying her, you are the only whom I feel like this, the only one I ever love.”
“Thank you for that, Ricky.” Maya cupped Richard’s face and kissed him gently. “I love you. I love you. I love you.”
Richard gazed at Maya lovingly. “And I the same! But I don’t want anything between us so I would like to tell you about Natasha.” Maya nodded. Richard took a deep breath and started speaking of the past.
“I shared an apartment with Natasha and my cousin Rafi while studying in the States. They were friends and studying designs. Both of them wanted to be fashion designers. When Rafi met Charlie and moved in with him, they eventually marry of course, Natasha and I were thrown together. Before we knew it, we were living together in the real sense of the word. She was a fun person, and that was the problem, she was like an overgrown child. She was also a party girl, refusing to grow up and accept responsibilities. While me, on the other hand, had to spend long hours studying and then finding my way in corporate America. My plan was to stay there for her as she didn’t want to live in the Philippines. I also entertained the thought of us marrying in the beginning, but was not so sure afterwards because of the way she was and me, realizing that I was not sure then if I really love her.
She used my long hours of working hard to establish a future for us, as an excuse later on, when I caught her in bed with one of my best friends who also moved to the States to study for a post graduate degree. She told me that I neglected her, and I was so caught up in my career. We parted ways and her parents, from what I heard from Mama, afterwards, pressured her to marry Nate when they found out she was pregnant with his child. Now, she came here to tell me that their divorced was final two months ago.”
“She wanted to see if she could pick up the pieces and have another chance with you!” Maya concluded on her own, understanding the situation she barged in earlier, better.
“Yes, but I told her there is no chance of that, as I already have a girlfriend and for the first time in my life, I’m in love.” Richard said looking at Maya lovingly. “There was an uneasy silence between us after that. I was hoping she would leave. Out of politeness and respect to her parents, I didn’t want to be rude, then you came in, like an angel.”
“Ricky, sweetheart, thank you for telling me. I appreciate it very much. It made me love you more. You know what? What is important to me is us, our present, and our future together if we are so lucky to have it. The past stays in the past.” Maya said.
“Sweetheart, we will have a future together. We will work on it.” Richard vowed. “We will be together in everything. Thank you for being so wonderful, for being so understanding and for trusting and believing in me.”
Richard and Maya gazed at each other with so much love on their faces, in their eyes. They both felt that their hearts will burst from too much emotions and feelings at that moment, and because they can’t help themselves, they shared another kiss. There was this overwhelming feeling to connect physically. It started as a tame one, but that was not the case several minutes after, as they were kissing heatedly, tongues duelling and mating, their faces flushed.
Before the situation completely got out of hand, the sound of a knock on the door penetrated their world. They broke apart suddenly. Richard remembered that Liza was supposed to bring in their food! Richard and Maya both tried hard to catch their breaths fast. It took Richard several minutes before he managed to open the door for Liza.
Richard and Maya had a leisurely lunch, both were very much aware that their relationship shifted to another level. It just got deeper and more wonderful! They found every excuse to touch each other, feed each other morsels of food or share a quick kiss while having lunch.