Richard guided Maya to the stairway that goes to the rooftop of the Lim Corporation building where a helicopter awaited them. It was the morning they will fly to Mindoro. Richard had picked up Maya from her place early for the trip as the pilots had to return to Manila promptly for Don Roberto and his friends who will go to a resort in Batangas afterwards.
“Ready, Maya?” Richard asked Maya solicitously, as they made it to the helipad.
“Sure, Ricky! I’m okay. Nandiyan ka naman eh.” Maya replied, smiling at Richard. “Di ba sabi mo, you will even hold the barf bag for me.”
“Of course. Ilan ba ang dala mo?” Richard bantered back, smiling at the lady who makes his heart very happy these days.
“Hmmm, teka, I will check. Sampu yata!” Maya quipped.
“Ha, ten?” Richard exclaimed. “Ganoon ka motion sick?”
“Biro lang, Ricky. Yes, I’m scared of heights, pero mostly when I’m inside glass elevators lang. Sa airplane naman hindi. I will just pretend that we will be riding a plane instead of a chopper.” Maya said as they neared the waiting chopper.
“Don’t worry, I’ll be here to hold your hand.” Richard said.
“Thank you, Ricky.” Maya smiled back.
They were gazing at each other when a voice interrupted them. They forgot where they were again!
“Good morning, Mr. Lim! Richard, ready to fly?” The guy greeted Richard.
Maya turned to look at the face behind the voice and saw who it is.
“Maya Dela Rosa!…..”
Maya and James both exclaimed, then went to hug each other, surprised at seeing the other, there of all places.
“Magkakilala kayo?” Richard asked, surprised too. Though, come to think of it, they were both from Mindoro and almost the same age. He can’t remember what part of Mindoro their company pilot hailed from, though. He vaguely remembered his mother telling him that he came from a political family in Mindoro.
“Ricky, hindi mo ba naalala si James?” Maya said happily. “Siya kaya iyong host ng beauty pageant na sinalihan ko at kung saan ka nag-judge! Classmate ko siya noong high school also. James, si Richard iyong Chairman ng Board of Judges. Nag-proxy siya for his mother.”
“May nakalimutan ka, Maya Dela Rosa, dating manliligaw din ako!” James said, teasing. Then looked at Richard. “So ikaw pala iyon, Richard. I didn’t make the connection. Hindi ko na masyadong maalala ang night na iyon. I just proxied too, for my brother who was the original host, kasi he had a modelling assignment in Boracay at that time na biglaan. But good to see you, Maya! When was the last time we saw each other, sa burol ng Mamang mo?”
“Yes, iyon yata. Then I went to Manila na with Tita Lulu and you went to Singapore to continue your studies, sabi nung sister mo nang minsang magkita kami sa Makati several months after I moved to Manila.” Maya replied. “Ikaw pala ang pilot na sinasabi ni Ricky na from Mindoro at sabi niya huwag daw akong mag-worry sa pagsakay dahil magaling ang piloto namin.”
“Thanks for the vote of confidence, Richard.” James said, smiling. “I promise I’ll fly you safely to Mindoro, Maya. Kailan ka pa huling nauwi sa atin? Parang hindi na kita nakita doon in recent years. Sarado rin iyong ancestral house niyo doon.”
“Naku, James, medyo matagal na rin. I worked in Macau, kauuwi ko lang sa Pilipinas.” Maya replied. “But I’m here for good na! I will be working for Richard’s company in January.”
“So, that’s why! Kahit iyong iba nating classmates, walang balita sa iyo. Hindi ka rin daw nila mahanap sa FB.” James said. “So, you will be with Emerald? Great! We will see more of each other then.”
“I never gotten around to creating an account kasi. Ayaw ko rin masyado iyang social media.” Maya said. “Kumusta na ang mga classmate natin?”
Maya and James chatted on about their high school friends.
Richard looked at Maya and James and he felt a tinge of jealousy at the ease in which they were chatting. They shared a history, longer than what he had shared with Maya so far. Tapos manliligaw pa pala ni Maya si James dati. But he tried not to dwell on it and focus instead on what he and Maya have so far. Also, whatever negative thoughts he was starting to feel was erased with Maya’s gesture.
“Richard, sorry! James and I are just catching up.” Maya held Ricky’s hand then interlaced their fingers. She also gave Richard a loving smile.
Richard smiled back. “It is okay, Maya. Small world talaga, di ba! Shall we get going, James? Where is Andy?” Richard asked, referring to James’ co-pilot.
Maya’s gesture didn’t escape James, nor did Richard’s answering one. It was then that he realized that Maya and Richard must be more than future employer and employee. It seems like they are in a relationship!
Richard just mentioned that he would like to go to Mindoro today with a very special friend when he called him up the other day. In the past three years that James have been working for Lim Corporation, this is the first time Richard is flying with someone who, now when he take a closer look, is, indeed, very special to him.
“Sure, Richard! Just give us a couple of minutes. May kinuha lang si Andy sa third floor. He will be along shortly.” James replied, still very curious at the exact nature of Maya and Richard’s relationship.
James courted Maya when they were senior in high school, but like the other boys in the private school they went to, nabasted din siya. He tried asking after her a couple of years ago from one of their high school classmates, whom she was friends with, but all that girl didn’t know where Maya was too. He never gotten around to creating a social media account to look for her. It turned out, it would be futile since she didn’t create one!
“There’s Andy na pala.” James said after a while when he saw his co-pilot, striding across the helipad, carrying a big duffle bag.
“Good morning, Sir Richard! Hello, Ma’am! Sorry to keep you waiting, Hininitay ko pa kasi itong mga supply na pinapasabay ng manager ng Emerald Resort.” Andy explained.
“It’s okay, Andy.” Richard assured the other pilot, then he introduced him to Maya. “Maya, this is Andres Rivera, James’ co-pilot. Andy, this is Maya Dela Rosa.”
“Hello, Andy, nice to meet you.” Maya gave the co-pilot a brilliant smile that won him over instantly.
“Please to meet you din po, Ma’am Maya.” Andy smiled. He likes his boss’ girlfriend instantly. He assumed that she is as he saw how they were holding hands and looking at each other lovingly.
Soon after, Richard assisted Maya into the chopper and they were on their way. Like he had promised, Richard was very solicitous of Maya all throughout the flight, asking her if she is okay and not letting go of her hand, even if Maya assured him that she is okay and it was not as scary as she thought.
Maya loves the attention Richard has been showering her. She felt to happy and felt very lucky to be loved by this wonderful guy. Ever since he had declared his love for her on Christmas Day, everything around her is richer and full of colours. She may have not said I love you back that evening, but she considers Richard her boyfriend already.
Richard and Maya enjoyed the rest of the evening on Christmas Day with the sumptuous picnic that Richard brought with him. They fed each other morsels of food, drank the wine, chatted or at times, shared sweet kisses, and just gazed at each other lovingly. They parted reluctantly late that night promising to see each other the following day.
Richard arrived at Maya’s place with brunch again the following day. Afterwards, he helped her put up her new frame, then they spent the rest of the afternoon watching movies and just hanging out, planning their trip to Mindoro this day. In the evening, they went to a nearby restaurant for dinner. Richard took Maya home early, and didn’t come in as they have to leave early for this trip to Mindoro.
“See that, Maya, we are almost there.” Richard pointed to a helipad they can see from the air after a while.
“Oo nga, Ricky. It’s beautiful from here. The ride is not so scary as I thought. Thank you for making it a wonderful one.” Maya said.
“For you, Maya, anything!” He simply said, giving her a loving smile.
Soon after, they descended into the helipad. Andy opened the door for Richard and Maya. Richard got off first, then assisted Maya down.
“Thank you for the ride, James and Andy.” Richard told the pilots.
“Maraming salamat sa inyo, James and Andy. Sobrang nice naman ng first helicopter ride ko.” Maya added. “James nice to see you again.”
“You’re welcome, Sir Richard, Ms. Maya!” Andy replied.
“Richard, Maya, we will go back for you guys on Tuesday!” James said. “And nice to see you too, Maya. See you around. Maybe, we can have coffee one time and catch up on old times.”
Maya looked at Richard, with that invitation. Then decided to play it safe. “Let’s include our other classmates na nasa Maynila para mas masaya. I want to keep in touch with them too. Matagal ko na rin silang hindi nakikita.”
“Sure, sure, I will go round up the gang.” James replied.
One of the resorts service car picked up Maya and Richard from the helipad. After everything was loaded into the car, they said goodbye to James and Andy. They will just wait until the refuelling is done and they will return to Manila too. They declined Richard’s offer to have some refreshments at the resort.
Several minutes after, the car stopped in front of the reception area of the resort, set in the middle of something akin to a tropical garden and facing the beach.
“Hello, Sir Richard! Good morning Ma’am!” Catherine Gomez, Emerald Resorts Mindoro’s manager greeted Richard and Maya effusively. Richard had called to tell her that he will be coming with his special guest. “How was your trip?”
“Hi Catherine, it was okay!” Richard said. “How’s everything here?”
“Everything is great, Sir Richard. We are fully booked at the moment.” Catherine replied. “Most of our guests are staying until after the New Year.”
“That’t good to know.” Richard said, then smiled at Maya. “Maya, this is Catherine Gomez, our manager here. Catherine, this is Maya Dela Rosa” Richard said, gazing at Maya, still holding hands with her, then added, “She will also be the operations manager of our new hotel in Bonifacio Global City.”
Maya smiled at Catherine. “Hello, Catherine, nice to meet you.”
“Hello, Ms. Maya. Welcome to Emerald here in Mindoro. And welcome to Emerald Resorts and Hotels.” Catherine said. She also noticed how sweet her boss is with the beautiful lady beside him, with matching holding hands pa! May girlfriend na si si Sir Richard! Ay, maraming luluha! She mused. “Sir Richard, as you requested the Lim private bungalow is ready for you and Ms. Maya’s stay.”
“Great, Catherine! Thank you. Can you tell Aldrich to bring us refreshments there. Coffee and juice, okay with you, Maya?” When she nodded, he then took hold of his and Maya’s bags. “Let’s go, Maya. We will be more comfortable in the bungalow.”
“Sir Richard, ipapadala ko na lang din kay Aldrich ang mga bag niyo ni Ms. Maya.” Catherine said.
“No, it’s okay, Catherine. Ako na lang. Magaan lang naman ang mga ito.” Richard said.
“Ricky, I can help. Give me my bags. I can carry those naman.” Maya offered.
“No, Sweetheart, I can do this.” Richard said, the endearment just slipping out naturally. He was also surprised at his slip. In his mind, Maya is his ‘Sweetheart’ already. Then he took hold of Maya’s hand again while carrying all their bags in the other.
Richard led Maya down the path towards the beach area. But instead of heading to the cluster of villas on the left side, separated from each other by huge ornamental plants and trees, Richard veered towards the left, following a private path, until they arrived at an slightly elevated bungalow, more of a log cabin actually, with a wrapped-around porch and tall glass windows and doors. It is also facing the beach and there is a small path that led to the beach from the front of the house.
“Wow, this is a very beautiful house, Ricky. So, very inviting! One of your designs?” Maya asked, admiring the design of the house, which seemed to blend naturally into the tall trees that surround it.
“Yes, I designed a month after we met at the pageant. But only managed to have this built four years ago. This one is not being let out to guests. This is my private home here, available only to family members who would like to stay here at Emerald. So far, only my parents and I and some cousins have used this.”
Maya and Richard climbed the four steps that led to the porch. Richard unlocked the door and dropped their bags in the living room.
“Home for several days!” Richard said, as he led Maya to the waiting couch, in front of the floor to ceiling window facing the beach and the wonderful view beyond. He opened the glass door and a warm breeze blew in.
“It is a very nice home away from home, Ricky.” Maya replied, looking around, liking the place very much.
“So, it is okay with you that you are staying here with me and not at the villas?” Richard asked. It just occurred to him that he has not actually asked Maya if she is comfortable with this arrangement. In his desire to be with her, he assumed and forgot!
“Of course. The way I look at this house, there are plenty of rooms.” Maya said, then added teasingly, “And I trust you, Ricky, to behave you know.”
Richard grinned and bantered back. “Are you sure, Sweetheart?”
“Yes, ‘Sweetheart’ ,” Maya replied, smiling, imitating Richard, then remarked. “Nakakarami ka na ng ‘Sweetheart’ ah.”
“Bakit, ayaw mo ba? You are my Sweetheart. Alam ko, hindi mo pa ako sinasagot and I’ll wait, but can I continue to call you my Sweetheart while waiting?” Richard cajoled sweetly.
Maya smiled. He is really cute when he does that too. “Okay, Sweetheart.”
They smiled lovingly at each other. The knock at the door interrupted them. Richard opened the door to one of the resorts long time employee.
“Good morning Sir Richard, Ma’am!” Aldrich, holding a tray with coffee and juice and some pastries, greeted Richard and Maya. “Pinadadala po ni Ms. Catherine!”
“Hi Aldrich! Pakilagay na lang sa coffee table.” Richard replied. “How are you and your family? Kumusta na sina Manong Juan and Manang Fely?”
“Mabuti naman po sila, Sir. Since naka-graduate na kaming magkakapatid, medyo relax na sila ng kaunti. Nasa Laguna po sila ngayon kasi kapapanganak lang ng kapatid kong si Melba, dumalaw po sila.” Aldrich replied happily. Before the resort was built, his parents were the caretakers of the land.
“That’s good to know. Please tell Melba, congratulations and hello to Manong and Manang.” Richard said. “Maya, Sweetheart, itong mga magulang ni Aldrich ang caretaker namin dito, dati! Tinitingnan-tingnan nila iyong lugar habang wala pang nakatayo.”
“Ganoon ba? Hello Aldrich.” Maya said with a friendly smile.
“Hello po, Ma’am Maya. Welcome to Emerald and Mindoro!” Aldrich said to the lady who is obviously the love of his Sir Richard’s life by the way he was looking at her.
“Thank you. I’m actually from here. Diyan sa San Nicolas.” Maya said. “Pupunta rin nga kami roon ni Ricky.”
“Talaga po?” Aldrich replied. “Mabuti naman po at makakadalaw kayo ulit sa inyo. Sige po, Sir Richard, Ma’am Maya. Enjoy your snacks po. Let me know po kung may kailangan pa kayo.”
Richard and Maya thanked Aldrich. Richard then settled back beside Maya. Maya started serving Richard food and then made his coffee too. They chatted while eating.
“If I live here, I don’t want to leave.” Maya remarked after a while, looking at the deepest blue sea beyond the porch and the white sand shimmering under the intense mid-morning sun.
“I like this place a lot too. Of all the developments I did, this has a special place in my heart. Maybe it was because it was my first project or maybe because I was remembering our meeting when I was building this.” Richard said.
“Oh, Ricky! You say the most wonderful things. Thank you.” Maya replied, smiling lovingly at Richard.
“True naman iyon, Sweetheart.” Richard replied, then smiling, said, “Dito ko yata naibuhos ang unrealized meeting natin. I distracted myself, hoping that one day we will see each other again.”
Maya smiled at that. “And now here we are again in Mindoro, where we started.” Maya said enigmatically, her heart beating fast with what she would do next.
“Yes, that is true and I’m happy that you are here with me. I never thought it would happen pa.” Richard said softly, gazing at Maya with all the love he was feeling. Richard was about to sip his coffee when Maya’s next words stopped him. He almost dropped his cup.
“I love you too, you know, very, very much.” Maya said simply, putting her hand on top of Richard’s, then looking at him with all the love she is feeling for this wonderful, wonderful guy. They are indeed so lucky to find each other again. She does not want to waste their precious moments.
“M-maya, does it means?….” Richard gulped and managed to ask.
“Yes, tayo na po!” Maya said with a smile that lit up her whole face.
“YES!!!!” Richard grinned, then went to Maya, pulled her up gently, then touched her face, lovingly, said softly. “I love you very much, Maya.”
“I love you, very, very, very much too, Ricky.” Maya answered lovingly, caressing Richard’s face too.
Maya and Richard grinned goofily at each other, sharing a heated loving look. Richard then lowered his lips to Maya’s and gave her a kiss that left her breathless. It was followed by another kiss, and another. The coffee was already cold when they broke apart, finally, so full of love for each other. Both of them are excited to see where love would lead them next.