“Ricky, iyong kamay ko.” Maya whispered to Richard when they were about to enter the executive offices of LAS after exiting the elevator. “Baka makita tayo ng mga staff mo.” Maya had noticed some of the employees looking at them earlier, curiosity on their faces.
“Oh!” Richard said, looking at his and Maya’s clasped hands. He gave her another of his lopsided smiles. “Just like old times, huh!”
Maya blushed at Richard’s words. She, too, was remembering instances where Richard would intertwined their hands while walking.
“Okay, I will let go.” Richard gently let go of her hand, but added impishly, “Not that I mind them seeing, you know.” Then he blurted out before he can stop himself, “Pero baka pala sa iyo may magalit na nakitang magka-holding hands tayo!” Oops, and you sounded like you are fishing for information, Richard Lim, he muttered to himself. You were not even subtle about it. Richard felt himself turning red!
“Hmmm, wala naman.” Maya frankly said, then seeing that Richard getting red in the face, knowing that his statement was a slip of the tongue, she teased him too, to put him at ease. “Pero baka sa iyo, meron.” Then she gave him a mischievous smile.
He smiled back, as their banter felt like old times too. Then he turned serious and gazed at her intently before saying, “Wala naman!” He didn’t elaborate or say anything else, just continued looking meaningfully at Maya.
Maya felt unnerved at the way he was looking at her. Her heart beating faster. Her face heating up. “Halika na nga, kailangan pa nating mag-prepare for the meeting.” She managed to say.
Richard let her be at that moment. He smiled happily. He felt so much happier now than the first time he stepped back on Philippine soil. He was still smiling when they entered the offices. Like this morning, there were quite a number of stares at them. The simple curiosity of the employees turned to surprise when they saw their boss smiling, with a smile that lit up his face. A smile from Richard Lim! Wow, milagro, some of them thought! The employees’ surprise at their boss’ behavior didn’t end there, as Richard LIm greeted them with a cheery, good afternoon, followed by the beautiful lady he was with that morning, a gesture that left some of them in slack-jawed amazement!
“Maya, I’ll see you later.” Richard told Maya when they arrived at the entrance to their offices. “Thank you for a wonderful lunch. I love the company.”
“See you, Ricky. Thanks a lot again for the lunch.” Maya said with a big smile. However, instead of going inside her office, she detoured to Liza’s cubicle.
“Yes, Atty. Maya?” Liza asked when Maya reached her cubicle . She, too, had observed the change in their boss’ demeanour this afternoon. “Anything I could help you with?”
“Oh, I will ask lang sana where is the restroom, Liza.” Maya replied. “I need to freshen up.”
“Just at that corner, near the pantry.” Liza said, gesturing towards the corridor beside the room where Maya heard people chatting earlier. “But I’ll take you there. Papunta pa lang din ako doon. Habang wala pa ang mga taga-Coastal Airlines!” Liza offered.
“Thank you, Liza.” Maya said with a grateful smile.
The two of them walked towards the restroom.
“Sa labas kayo nag-lunch ni Sir Richard, Atty. Maya?” Liza asked conversationally while they were walking. Well, she was a bit curious too, seeing the drastic change in the serious Richard Lim she had known for the past several months. Tao lang, she muttered.
“Yes. diyan sa may Spanish restaurant na malapit dito.” Maya replied. “I got engrossed with what I was doing earlier and didn’t notice the time. Kinatok lang ako ni Ricky and he reminded me na lunchtime na! Otherwise, nalipasan na ako ng gutom. I’m like that when I get too concentrated into something I’m doing.”
“Talaga, so nice naman of Sir Richard!” Liza remarked, and because she can’t really help herself anymore, hearing Maya said ‘Ricky’ again, she decided to ask the nice lady lawyer what she had been dying to know since she saw them came back from lunch. “Atty. Maya, may I ask you something personal, kung okay lang?”
Maya looked at Liza and she saw curiosity in her eyes. “Sure, ano ba iyon, basta ba kaya kong sagutin eh.”
“Well, I just want to know lang po sana kung matagal na kayong magkakilala ni Sir Richard.” Liza said, then explained, “Kasi kanina parang so at ease kayo with each other. Pasensya na sa kulit, Attorney. Promise sa akin lang ito, cross my heart, hope to die.” Liza even put her hand over her chest. “Oh and saka I heard that you called him ‘Ricky’ earlier, tapos ngayon din. I didn’t even know that Ricky is his nickname.”
“Hahahaha, Liza, okay lang.” Maya laughed, opening the door of the restroom so that she and Liza can enter. “Yes I have known Ricky before. Friends kami dati. Though, I haven’t seen him for around ten years na yata. Nagkagulatan na lang kami sa RRMA yesterday.” Maya continued.
“Wow, ganoon na katagal! Small world naman talaga na nagkita kayo ni Sir Richard!” Liza said with a big smile, happy to hear about this. “Thank you for telling me Atty. Maya. Stop na ako, hindi ko na tatanungin kung naging kayo ni Sir.” She added, jesting.
“Ikaw talaga, Liza, showbiz na iyan ha!” Maya said, but she was smiling. For some reason, magaan ang loob niya sa executive assistant ni Richard kahit personal na ang mga tanong nito, considering na ngayon lang sila nagkakilala. She reminds her of Doris.
“Joke lang, Atty. Maya.” Liza laughed. “In fairness, bagay kasi kayo.”
“Halika na nga, let’s freshen up na. Malapit mo nang malampasan ang mga beteranong showbiz reporters at anchors sa pagtatanong.” Maya said, still grinning.
“Okay, stop na po ako, promise.” Liza said, smiling, liking the lady lawyer who gamely answered her kulit queries.
While Maya and Liza were in the restroom, Richard was sitting on his desk, just staring out of the window. He still have a ghost of a smile on his face. He just can’t concentrate on the papers on his desk awaiting his review and signature. Who would have thought that today, especially his lunch would turned out so wonderful! He finally started clearing the air with Maya. The bridge to the past is slowly being built! They still have a long way to go, but their lunch and what transpired there was a very good start.
When Richard to moved back to the Philippines with Abby more than three months ago, his first goal was to get his daughter settled down, complete his company’s move here, and then at the back of his mind, he wanted to see if he could find Maya after all these years when everything has settled down. He thought among the toughest, aside from making sure Abby is okay with the move to another country, would be finding Maya after all this years as he didn’t know where to start. Mindoro perhaps! With the business, it was not so difficult he had established a very good reputation in the region and have quite a number of big airlines as client. He still have those in the China office. However, he wanted to shift everything to the Philippines long-term. He never thought that by ditching his plan of hiring a corporate legal counsel, he would find her!
Richard is very happy that everything is falling into place. Maybe, it is his and Maya’s destiny to meet again after all these years. There was really something special about their shared short past. He had never forgotten her. He would think of her from to time, especially when he watched a movie or a TV series with a lawyer as a heroine or when he go to a bookstore and saw her favorite bodice-ripper novels on display!
He is willing to take it from where they are at present. He smiled, remembering Maya’s answer when he probed if someone will get mad at her holding hands with him! Boy, he was happy to know that she is still single. After Alexandra died, he never thought of looking for another life’s partner. There was no one he got interested in and all his efforts, he poured towards Abby’s welfare. It has taken most of his energies, worrying if his daughter will be okay as the experts say there is no ‘cure’ for autism.
While he and Alexandra had a good relationship, considering the circumstances of their marriage, both of them knew that it was not the grand love that was depicted in the movies, in the romance books, or the kind of love that poets waxed about in sonnets and verses. It was a comfortable marriage brought by understanding and companionship of two lonely souls. Truth to tell, she was more of a very good friend to him, and he to her. They actually both realized it halfway through their married life.
Richard felt so sad at her untimely passing at the same time, he had wished then that he was capable of giving her the love she deserved. But he and Alex understood each other. They had happy times. He was loyal to her. She to him. They took care of each other despite the fact that it was really not their intention to get married to each other.
When Alexandra was dying, she told him to be happy. She told him she wished that he would find a love that would last a lifetime, that he would find someone who would also love their beautiful angel, Abigail Ruth, someone who would make his heart beat faster, iyong parang sa movies, she said with a big, tired smile, and make him feel that he can scale mountains with just a smile from that wonderful person.
Richard had hoped too that one day, like Alexandra had wished him years ago, just before she succumbed to breast cancer that he would find the woman who will make his heart beat faster by just the mere sight of her, someone whom he can’t stop thinking about, someone he would do everything for, and someone who will make him happy with just the thought of her. He did find that someone a long time ago, he admitted to himself as he dealt with the sadness of Alexandra’s passing. With Maya! But the seed of the love they were starting to nurture then, didn’t have the chance to grow. He also had to put those thoughts aside because of Abby. She needed him big time, especially after her mommy died and she was diagnosed with autism. Now, she is doing much better.
“Sir Richard, Sir Richard!” Someone calling him from the doorway of his office cut into Richard’s thoughts of the past. He swiveled his chair towards the direction of the voice, and saw Liza standing by his office’s entrance.
“Yes, Liza?” Richard asked, giving his secretary a smile.
Liza at first, was not able to say anything, seeing that smile directed at her. “Errr, Sir, magsisimula na po iyong meeting ninyo nina Atty. Ryan, Atty. Maya and ang mga representative ng Coastal Airlines. Nandito na po si Atty. Ryan, dumiretso doon sa office na ginagamit ni Atty. Maya para they can review the contracts and other documents before the meeting. ”
“Oh, sige, I’ll be along shortly.” Richard said. He gathered his things, then went to Maya’s office.
“Brod!” Ryan greeted Richard when he saw him standing by the door. “Dito na muna ako ako dumiretso kay Maya kasi baka may mga kailangan pang i-ready for our meeting. I also looked na at the contracts that she had finished, and they are ready to go. Very nicely done. Walang loopholes! Mas maayos ang pagkaka-phrase kaysa sa akin.” Ryan added with a smile.
“Great! I know naman Maya can do it, with flying colors!” Richard said, smiling, looking at Maya. His voice was tinged with pride.
Maya blushed at the implied praise. She smiled at Richard and he did the same. Ryan looked at the two of them, and observed that there seemed to be a new undercurrent between his brod and his new associate.
Maya tried to collect herself by gathering her papers, then took out her iPad from her bag, and stood up. Ryan did the same and the three of them walked towards the conference room.
Several minutes later the head of operations of Coastal Airlines arrived, the head of maintenance, and their company lawyer, together with his associate arrived. Introductions were made, and after which they all buckled down to work and discussed the nitty-gritty of Coastal getting the services of LAS for its fleets maintenance in details for the next two hours. Maya was mostly observing and taking down notes for the contract she and Ryan will make for LAS. By half past 5pm, everything was settled and the content of the contract each party will sign has been agreed on. Everyone shook hands on the verbal agreements, and the agreed routing date of the contract to be signed by both parties.The Coastal Airlines team left LAS soon after.
“Brod, Maya, I need to get going. May isa pa akong client meeting. Dinner meeting after this. Sa Makati pa eh.” Ryan said. “Maya, bukas na lang tayo magkita sa RRMA and work on the contract. Kahit hindi ka na sumama on this one. Tapusin mo na lang muna ang mga ginagawa mo rito sa LAS since you are here na.”
“Yes, Atty. Molina, I would just do that, Sir.” Maya said.
“Okay, Brod. I’ll see you soon, kapag may libre na tayong oras. I haven’t seen some of our barkadas mula ng bumalik ako.” Richard shook Ryan’s hand and they did their frat’s shoulder tap greeting thing. “Ako na ang bahala kay Maya.”
“Sige Brod.” Ryan left with a wave of his hand. Not missing his brod’s statement. Hmmm, there is really something there, he thinks!
Richard and Maya both looked at Ryan’s departing figure. Then they both returned to their offices. Richard to review the documents on his table that needs his signature. Maya to finish working on the rest of the papers she got from Liza that morning.
More than two hours later, Liza knocked on her opened door. “Attorney Maya, hindi ka pa ba uuwi? It’s almost 8pm na! Sabay na tayo.”
“Oh, oo nga ano! Hindi pa kasi ako ginugutom because of the snack at the meeting kaya siguro hindi ko namalayan ang oras. Sige Liza, please go ahead, tatapusin ko lang itong hawak kong papers. Palipas-traffic din. Kapag ganitong oras, traffic pa pauwi sa area ko.” Maya said. “Thank you for everything ha I’ll see you the day after tomorrow.”
“No worries, Atty. Maya, I’m glad you are here nga. Mauuna na ako ha.” Liza said, then smiling, she told Maya.”Huwag masyadong subsob sa work, First day mo pa lang dito. Hinay-hinay. Para kang si Sir Richard, hayun hindi pa rin tumitigil sa work. He told me na nga to go ahead of him dahil he can manage naman daw.”
“Ganoon ba, Ricky is still here.” Maya replied, smiling, not really sure what to make of Liza’s statement, including Richard’s name and the fact that he was still at the office too. Hmmm, is she playing matchmaker? “Thanks again, Liza, for everything!”
Liza left and Maya went back to her papers. Like that afternoon, a knock on her door made her jump more than an hour later.
“Maya, nandito ka pa pala! I thought you umuwi ka na kasabay ni Liza kanina!” Richard, his back against the door and his arms folded on his chest. He was about to go home when he noticed the light in the office that Maya is using. He thought she just forgot to turn off the light.
“Ricky! Ginulat mo ako! Naku, it’s almost 9PM na pala! Hindi ko namalayan ang oras. Tahimik kasi. Ikaw, ginabi ka rin?” Maya asked, removing her eyeglasses.
“Tinapos ko na lahat ng kailangan kong i-sign so I can go to work late tomorrow. May aasikasuhin kasi ako bukas ng umaga. I have been putting this off for the past weeks. I need to do this na.” Richard said. “Halika na, sumabay ka na sa akin. I’ll bring you home. Let’s have dinner first, please. Gutom na ako.” He suggested.
“Naku, Ricky. Huwag na. I can manage. Baka out of your way rin ang place ko sa iyo.” Maya protested.
“Maya, please. Hindi pa nga natin natapos ang catching up natin kanina.” Richard insisted. “Don’t worry, traffic is lighter na naman at this time of the night. Saan ka ba umuuwi ngayon? No arguments, I will bring you home.”
Maya stood up, gathering her things. “I still live in Mirasol Street.” She said softly. Suddenly, the street where she lives evoked something she has not felt in a long time, parang a combination of saya and lungkot sa lahat ng mga nangyari sa kanya sa kalye na iyon.
Richard was surprised to know. Had he known that she is just there! “Really? You do? I thought after college that you and Doris might have moved somewhere. How I loved that street and our house there, so many good memories!”
“Doris did, kasi she got married soon after. Pero since I went to a university near PUS for my law degree, I continued staying there. Saka iyon na kasi ang nakasanayan kong home dito sa Maynila.” Maya explained. “Hindi na ako umalis doon kasi accessible naman kahit saan. In all the time I was living there and since you left, I haven’t seen someone staying at your house, except for the occasional visits of your caretakers before, sina Mang Lando and Aling Lucing.”
“I haven’t been there since we left, and since I returned to the country . Since umalis din kasi kami ng Pilipinas, ito pa lang ang balik ko after all these years. Iyong logistics for the transfer of the LAS Corporate headquarters here from China, inasikaso ng cousin ko whom I have left naman in our China office now. Palitan kami.” Richard said. “Nakilala mo pala sina Mang Lando and Aling Lucing?”
Maya looked at Richard, deciding whether she will admit it or not. She decided to be upfront so they can completely clear the past. “I met them one time, pagkabalik ko ng Maynila, when I asked them kung alam nila kung nasaan ka na. Hindi ko na kasi napigilan, sinubukan ko lang alamin. I have wondered kasi kung okay ka lang ba? Iyong family mo? Kasi nga bigla kayong umalis. But I think your Papa instructed them not to say anything.”
“Maya, you did?” Richard was surprised to know. It felt like someone pinched his heart hearing the tinge of hurt in Maya’s voice and at the same time glad, as she cared enough to ask, and to worry about him. “Maya, I’m really really sorry for not telling you. If only….”
“Ricky, no more of that please! I didn’t tell you that so that you will feel bad pa. We can’t live in the present and go forward if we indulge in ‘what ifs’. All the things that have happened, belonged to the past and no matter what, we can’t go back and undo everything. We can just go forward and put everything behind us. Both of us experienced something monumental and life changing that semestral break and it shaped us. Let us move forward with that in mind. Everything happened for a reason, sabi nga di ba?” Maya told Richard eloquently, touching his arm as they were walking out of the building to comfort him and let him know that everything is okay now. “Thank you for apologizing again. But knowing now what happened, you don’t have to say that. It was beyond your control and you had to do what you were asked to do then.”
“Thank you, Maya.” Richard said gratefully. He also stopped walking, and in a move that surprised, Maya, he touched her chin, looking deeply into her eyes, he said simply but meaningfully, “I’m so glad fate made us meet again.”
“Me too, Ricky. Me too!” Maya gave Richard a brilliant smile. “See, the important thing is we met each other again and here we are. Good vibes lang. Life is too short to dwell on things we don’t have a control of from the start and that had happened already.”
Maya and Richard shared a look of deep understanding and a sweet, gentle smile, for each other before they boarded Richard’s car. They drove into the night, first stopping at an Italian restaurant to have a late dinner, and then an hour after, they were on the road again, driving towards the direction of Mirasol Street, the street where they started.