“Sige na Ate Cris, I have to go na.” Maya told her cousin who called up as she was about to get ready for her dinner with Richard. His text woke her up that Saturday morning. He said he just wanted to greet her good morning and that he will see her later. The text made her morning. She found herself with a silly grin as she cleaned her condo, humming Oh, what a beautiful mornin’/And oh, what a beautiful day/I’ve got a wonderful feelin’/Every thing’s goin’ my way….from one of the old musicals she likes, Oklahoma!
“Hmmmm, may date ka ano! Kaya ka nagmamadali!” Cris told Maya, teasing her. “Feeling ko oo ka lang ng oo sa akin.”
“Uy, Ate Cris, nakikinig kaya ako sa sinasabi mo.” Maya insisted, smiling. “Saka hindi naman ako talaga nagmamadali, slight lang, hahahaha!”
Cris decided to test and tease her cousin further. She already detected with the way Maya was answering that her attention was not completely with her. She called up to ask her cousin if there is a special food she would like her and her Mom to prepare for tomorrow’s dinner.
“So, siya, siya, paano na, Mom and I will prepare morcon, embutido and grilled fish for our dinner tomorrow.” Cris said.
“Sure, masarap lahat ng iyon.” Maya replied, cellphone on speaker while trying to check what she could wear for the dinner with Richard from her opened closet.
“Hahahaha, huli ka, little sis! Sabi ko na nga ba, hindi ka nakikinig!” Cris laughed.
“Ha, di ba, iyan naman ang pinag-uusapan nating mga food kanina.” Maya said, trying to recall what they agreed on earlier.
“Cousin, we agreed on grilled fish, kaldereta and menudo.” Cris said, still laughing.
“Hahahahaha, busted. Sorry naman Ate Cris.” Maya said sheepishly.
“So, may date ka nga? Parang alam ko na kung sino. Ito ba eh nagngangalang Richard Lim!” Jeff told her that Maya and Richard, the guy who rescued Cho know each other and seemed to be happy to have met again. Her husband also confided in her that there seemed to be something more between the two, but he is sure the two of them are unaware of it yet.
“Ha, anong sinabi ni Kuya Jeff sa iyo about Ricky!” Maya asked, curious to know how Jeff read her meeting Richard again.
“Wala naman, maliban na lang na siya ang nag-rescue kay Cho sa S & R last weekend. Saka sabi niya magkakilala kayo. Sabi ng husband ko, aminado siya na mas guwapo raw sa kanya si Richard. Hahahahaha.” Cris said, at the same time thinking, so it’s Ricky, huh, and not Richard, indicating that her cousin and the guy who rescued Cho are not just casual acquiantances.
“Si Kuya Jeff talaga!” Maya said smiling, then admitted to her cousin that she is going out with Richard. “Yes, Ate Cris, Ricky invited me to dinner this evening.”
“Sabi na nga ba, eh! How long have you known him? Saan mo nakilala? Parang wala ka namang nakwento sa akin.” Cris asked, just wanting to know as it was from Jeff that she first heard about Richard and not from Maya. Pero baka rin naman sa abroad niya nakilala si Richard.
“It’s a long story, Ate Cris. Bayaan mo I will tell you about it tomorrow evening kung may pagkakataon.” Maya said. “Basta, I’m so happy that Ricky and I met again and that was through Cho ha.”
“Okay, hindi na ako magtatanong at baka ma-late ka pa sa date niyo ni Richard.” Cris said. She can feel her cousin’s happiness by the tone of her voice. She looks like she is on the way to falling in love for the first time in her life. She is glad. Maya has so much love to give and the guy whom she will finally decided to give her love will be a very lucky one.
“Thanks Ate Cris. Hindi ito date, dinner lang. Sa totoo lang, I’m a bit nervous! Paano if after all these years and all the anticipation….” She said almost to herself and not to her cousin.
“Maya, whatever it is, set it aside. Just enjoy the moment. I haven’t seen you this giddy and aligaga about something. Savor the feeling. Iyon bang anticipation and sobrang kabog ng dibdib mo sa saya kasi makikita mo siya. Yes, I don’t know the whole story, but I kinda think that it is that way. Tama ba ako?” Cris told her younger cousin.
“Tama ka, Ate Cris. Thank you. I will. O sige, I really have to go na. Baka sa kahahanap ko ng isusuot eh buong closet na ang mahalukay ko.” Maya said, smiling. “See you tomorrow.”
“See you and enjoy your night with your Chinito Prince Charming, na sabi mo eh hindi date!” Cris said, teasing her cousin one more time to ease up her nervousness, before she ended the call.
Maya was still smiling when she put down the phone. She checked the time and found that she still have ample time to get ready. She took out a lace classically cut dress from the closet. The dress has a Sabrina neckline and a fitted bodice and an A-line skirt that reach above the knee. It is one of her favorite cocktail dresses, not too dressy. It reminded her of the jade green dress who used to belong to Audrey Hepburn she saw online while she was looking for old articles on her, so she readily bought it when she saw it in a boutique store in Macau.
Maya got ready. Wearing the midnight purple dress she check herself in the mirror, thirty minutes later. Then she smiled. This is it! After seven long years! She got her evening bag and decided to wait for Richard in the living room. She was a bit early. To calm her nerves, she decided to continue watching Hepburn’s Roman Holiday.
Richard at that moment was also getting ready for his date, errr dinner with Maya. Like her, he was a bit nervous. The meeting and getting to know each other is seven years in the making, after all. Earlier, Donya Esmeralda asked Richard if he would like to have dinner with her and some relatives, but he declined. Just like Maya with Cristina Rose, he, too, was unable to concentrate on what his mother was saying.
Donya Esmeralda noticed his inability to concentrate which was not like Richard at all. Her son has always been successful in compartmentalizing everything. It must have been the architect and engineer in him. He is also known for his cool and a bit of aloofness. So, she told her son, his thought might be filled with a woman he really, really likes this time. His mother’s insight startled Richard and his mother just laughed at the end of the line when he asked her why would think that. Unbeknown to Richard, Donya Esmeralda also know that he made a reservation at the Lim family’s special place. She found out by accident when she was asking their hotel manager to prepare the place for the dinner she was planning for this evening.
Wearing a pair of dark jeans, pale blue shirt, and a matching sports coat, Richard boarded his car for the short ride to Maya’s place after promising his mother that he will make it up to her. He also said that they have other stuffs to discuss. He is going to tell her about Maya Dela Rosa.
Several minutes after, Maya’s intercom rang. The building reception told Maya that she has a guest. She told the girl who sounded breathless on the phone to send Mr. Lim up. Her door bell chimed several minutes after.
“Hi Ricky!” Maya said with a big smile when she opened the door, trying to control her fast beating heart. Richard looks so handsome with the big lopsided smile he is giving her.
“Hello Maya!” Then he handed Maya a big arrangement of sunflowers and roses. He just guessed what flowers she might like. “For you!” He was also gazing at her with admiration. She looks very lovely in that dress she is wearing, and also because of the smile she bestowed him that lit up her whole face.
“Oh, thank you very much for this, Ricky. They are lovely. Sunflower is my favorite flower!” Maya said happily, at the same time getting a bit self-conscious. “Come in please.”
Richard entered Maya’s spacious but still quite bare unit. He can see boxes still piled in the corner, with only her book case in order in that side of the room, together with the nice looking sofa and a big flat screen television.
“This is home. Medyo magulo pa!” Maya remarked. “Would you like something to drink before we leave?” She asked Richard.
“No, thank you, Maya. I’m good.” Richard replied.
“Okay, let me just put these flowers in a jar in the kitchen so we could get going.” Maya excused herself, trying to remember if she has a jar that would fit the flowers. She definitely didn’t have a vase in the house.
Richard gravitated towards the bookshelf while waiting for Maya to return. Judging by the books, and DVDs, on the shelves, he deduced that they have the similar tastes in reading materials and also movies, except that Maya seems to love the classics.
“I’m a pack rat when it comes to books. Hayan, wala na tuloy akong mapaglagyan.” Maya remarked when she returned to the living room and saw Richard checking the titles of the books in her collection. “Kasama ang mga iyan sa paglipat ko ng mga bahay.”
“Really. But that is nice! Hindi ka mahilig sa e-books?” Richard asked.
“I do rin, mas convenient kasi, pero only when I’m traveling or kung hindi ko makita ang title na hinahanap ko sa book shop. But if I have a choice, I still prefer ‘real books’. I like the feel of the pages in my hand and the ‘smell’, so to speak.”
“I agree with you. Well, can have the best of both worlds, courtesy of modern technology. I have also read some of the books in your shelf.” Richard remarked.
“Really! Which ones?” Maya said as she grab her bag. “Shall we get going?”
“Offhand, P.D. James and Philip Kerr.” Richard replied as he opened the door for Maya.
“They are two of my favorite authors!” Maya said as they walked towards the elevator chatting about the books, and also the movies they both like. As if by tacit agreement, they reserve the more serious discussion over dinner, one was planning to tell the other.
Maya wants to tell Richard that she will be working in his company and Richard on the other hand, wanted to tell Maya that he knew about her job application before they talk about the past seven years fate seemed to have conspired to keep them apart. But now that they met again, fate is forgiven!
“Where are we having dinner?” Maya asked as she was fastening her seatbelt after Richard escorted her to a dark blue BMW parked at the building guests’ parking.
“I know of a very nice place fronting Manila Bay. Would that be okay as it requires a bit of a travel?” Richard asked.
“Sure, anywhere is okay. I have been out of the country for four years so I’m sure there are a lot of new places that I don’t know of.” Maya remarked. Then she can’t wait until they get there, she decided to mention to Richard about her new job. “Do you know that I got interviewed by your company for a job? Actually I got hired and will start after the New Year.”
Richard was glad that Maya opened this line of conversation. He was about to do so himself since they will have a bit of a travel from BGC to Roxas Boulevard. He replied as he navigated the Saturday evening traffic from Taguig. “I was about to tell you about it. Yes, I have seen your application. I called for a meeting kasi of our HR officers since my mother who is handling the operations side of Emerald went on leave. Diana told me that among the three sent by our headhunter, one stood out because of that person’s credentials. I got very curious and asked for the folder and when I opened it, I was suprised to see that it is you. I didn’t tell our HR that I know you. I thought that it is better that way. I know naman that you will get the job because of your impressive credentials.“ Richard said.
“Oh, so you saw my CV and such. Only when I was told by my recruiter that I have a job interview with Emerald did I check your complete company profile. I was also surprised to see you listed as one of the officers. About not telling them, I agree with you.” Maya said. “Thank you, Ricky for the vote of confidence. I’m happy to be working in your company and in the Philippines na rin. It’s good to be back home!” Maya added.
“I agree, and I’m glad that you are home too. See, nagkita ulit tayo after that beauty pageant ages ago.” Richard smiled. “I thought I would see you next in Binibining Pilipinas or Miss World Philippines or Miss Earth.” He said, smiling. “How was it working in Macau? Sa Macau ka lang ba nag-stay all throughout na umalis ka ng Pilipinas?
“Talaga! That pageant was a one night deal for me. It’s a long story why I joined. About Macau, yes, iyon ang naging base ko, pero I sometimes travel to the other hotels in the region that my company owns. Then minsan, I got sent to trainings in Europe and the States!” Maya narrated. She enjoyed going places. “Working in Macau was great. Marami rin kasing Pilipino doon. Except for missing my family and our food, okay naman doon. Hayun I also learned how to speak Mandarin and Portuguese.”
“Really, so we can converse in Chinese!” Richard said, smiling.
“Well, I guess, basta don’t speak too fast and too accented ha. Kapag kasi sobra ng bilis magsalita ang isang Chinese native, nahihirapan na akong sundan.” Maya said smiling, teasing Richard.
The rest of the trip to Manila, they chatted about working and staying in different parts of the globe, learning and absorbing languages and cultures in the process, meeting new and interesting people. Soon, they have arrived in front of the Emerald Hotel fronting Roxas Boulevard. Richard ushered Maya in after he handed his car key to the valet who greeted him familiarly. Richard explained to Maya that the valet, Edwin, is a long time Lim employee.
Maya thought Richard and her will dine at one of the hotel’s two dining rooms. But instead of going to the either of the directions indicated at the lobby, Richard ushered her inside a waiting elevator. The elevator took them to the topmost floor, into a private door which he opened using his key card. As soon as he did, a beautiful garden came into view. In the gazebo, in the middle of the garden, a table was beautifully set for two.
“Wow, what a beautiful place!” Maya remarked.
Richard smiled. “My mother thought of putting this on top to take advantage of the magnificent view. The view of the Manila Bay sunset from here is incredible. She, however, limited the access to this place to our family and for special occasions only.”
“Your mother has a great idea.” Maya said, liking what Mrs. Lim did to the place. “Speaking of your mother, I met her yesterday. She interviewed me too, just a short one.”
“She usually does that for employee candidates that already passed Diana and Ina’s hiring process.” Richard explained. He then led Maya to the table already set for a sumptuous dinner for two. Richard seated Maya and then he moved and sat across her.
“Wine, Maya?” He asked. “Red or white?”
“White, please Ricky and thank you very much!” Maya replied, settling more comfortably into her chair. She also noticed the attention to details that Richard did for this evening’s dinner.
“Okay, white it is.” Richard opened the bottle of white wine cooling in a big bucket at the side of the table, poured Maya a glass and handed it to her. He also poured one for himself.
“Here’s to meeting finally, after all these years!” Richard said as he offered Maya a toast.
“Here’s to meeting again!” Maya replied, smiled at Ricky. Then realized that he had said, ‘finally’, instead of ‘again’. “Ricky, how come you said ‘finally’! We have met nga seven years ago, di ba?”
“Maya, yes. But this is our first actual meeting. We just saw each other and interacted in the pageant itself. Remember you missed the party afterwards because of your grandmother.” Richard gazed at Maya meaningfully, before saying, “We have several missed meetings actually. Now, looking at you, sitting there, about to have dinner with me, I never imagined it would finally happen!”
“Really, when, where? Ilang beses na?” Maya asked, surprised, then she remembered something. “I remember seeing you in Macau, I think! That was you, di ba, with a guy and a lady with a short hair, walking through the shops connecting the luxury hotels in Cotai?”
Now, it was Richard’s turned to be surprised. “You saw me in Macau with Ivy and Ryan?”
“Yes. I thought it was you. I was walking around the shops, as I can’t sleep after taking my cousin and her family back to the hotel where I work and where they are staying. I thought I saw you. Then you disappeared from my line of sight. I followed, but I can’t find you anymore.” Then she admitted, “It bothered me, not knowing if it was you, so when I was checking out my cousin and her family I asked our front desk personnel, a Filipina rin, if someone with your name is a guest. She confirmed that you were and that you have checked out already.”
“Oh Maya! Fate really teased us a lot, huh!” Richard said with a big smile. His heart is also beating fast, because if his reading Maya’s statement is correcct, it seems like he was not the only one who was unable to forget that pageant a long time ago, that, that night made quite a mark on both of them. “I also saw you in Macau, taking a gondola ride with Cho and Jeff. I thought Jeff is your husband and Cho is your son.” He admitted.
“Oh!” Maya exclaimed! “Really, akala mo husband ko si Kuya Jeff and anak ko si Cho! I guess medyo hawig nga ng mga Dela Paz, my mother’s side of the family, iyang si Cho. My cousin Cris was with us then. But she was feeling sickly due to her early stage of pregnancy so she waited for us in one of the restaurants. Sana, you wave at me, para nagkita tayo doon pa lang.”
“Errrr, I thought you were with your family kaya I didn’t bother you na.” Richard said, then looked at Maya meaningfully. Maya felt her heart skipped a beat with that look. It seems like Richard is telegraphing a subliminal message to her that she can’t fully grasp at the moment.
“Hindi lang doon tayo kamuntik na nagkita!” Richard continued. “Pati sa airport sa Singapore, four years ago! I think we were on the same flight that evening.”
“Ha, pati doon?” Maya said getting more and more surprised with their missed meetings. Remembering that she also thought of Richard while in the plane, especially after that foreigner chatted her up. “I was there for several days, visiting a friend, before I went to Macau to work there.”
“Oh, that’s why! I saw you at the travelator pero bigla kang nawala sa maraming tao. Kaya pala hindi na nakita, you exited the terminal!”
“Hindi nakita? You mean, you looked for me?” Maya asked, her heart now is definitely beating faster with each of his revelations.
“Yes, I did, until I boarded the flight to Frankfurt that night.” Richard admitted, gazing at Maya. He decided to leave out the fact that he also looked for her in Mindoro. He will tell her about it at some point in the future. For now, they are still in the getting to know each other stage. When he is more sure of everything, of what he feels and what she feels.
“It’s amazing, we have several missed meeting! But I too, was glad that we bumped into each other at S & R. I just volunteered to go with Kuya Jeff and Cho since Ate Cris was not feeling well. Tapos baka marami pang tao, mahirap makipagsiksikan for a buntis like her.” Maya said.
“Really, me too. Wala akong planong pumunta roon. Hinila lang ako ni Mama kasi umalis iyong driver niya at mga kasambahay.” Richard said, smiling.
“See, to meeting finally.” Richard said, raising his wine glass again.
“I agree, to finally meeting again!:” Maya replied, smiling. Happy that fate made them met finally.
Richard and Maya proceeded to have a very wonderful dinner amid the beauty and quiet of the Manila sky, full of stars that night and with a cool breeze was blowing from the direction of the bay. Throught the evening, they got to know more about each other, unmindful of the passing of hours, making up for seven long years.
Note: Happy weekend. 🙂 I will see if I can do pa today the next installment of Unexpected Love, para triple treat, of sorts!