“Brod, baka naman matunaw na si Maya niyan sa mga titig mo.” Attorney Ryan whispered teasingly to Richard after their meeting with Mr. Christopher Dy, the operations manager of Time Airways and his team has ended. The meeting took two hours, but they were successful in agreeing to a service agreement between TA and LAS.
Richard asked Maya and Ryan to stay after the meeting as he wanted to discuss the finer points of the contract they will draft for his company. Before they resume, Richard suggested a short break. Maya excused herself to go to the restroom, and get something from the office she was using. He and Ryan stayed in the conference room. Richard had asked Liza to buy food and make some coffee.
Ryan had seen Richard gazing at Maya intently just before she left the room. He had been doing so, the past hours, when he thought that no one was looking at him. Earlier that afternoon, he heard Maya thanked Richard for the flowers and the coffee. He had seen the flowers when he knocked on Maya’s office to tell her they needed to be on their way to LAS. Hmmm, things were really progressing fast, huh, he mused.
Richard flushed at Ryan’s teasing. He thought that he was doing the looking, surreptitiously, and that no one noticed. He can’t help himself. Maya looked so lovely today in the purple sheath dress she was wearing. Her face was almost completely devoid of make-up. But that made it highlights her best features such as her expressive doe-shape eyes, pouty lips and high cheekbones. He had a hard time concentrating.
“Ikaw talaga, Brod, ako na naman ang nakita mo!” Richard quipped at his friend, grinning broadly. “Last time I checked, it’s not a crime to look at the woman you will marry!”
Ryan almost fell from his chair, hearing that. “Ha, magpapakasal na kayo? Magpo-propose ka na? Nag-propose ka na? Kailan pa? Dapat akong best man mo ha!” He fired in rapid succession, astounded at how fast really were the developments between these two the past several days. Daig pa ang whirlwind sa tingin niya! Tornado lang, Richard Lim!
“Brod, you should see your expression. Close your mouth, baka dapuan ng langaw.” Richard said, laughing so hard. “Brod, speedy kung speedy ako kasi nga making up for our lost time, pero hindi naman ako si Flash Gordon! I wish, pero naman, Brod, Maya and I just saw each other again! Nanliligaw pa lang ulit ako. Nanunuyo. It has been ten years! Pero of course, I’m sure that I’ll marry her if she will have me.”
“Richard naman kasi, linawin mo ang statement mo! You can’t blame me for jumping to conclusion! Malay ko ba! Para kasing tuwing makikita ko kayo, may sarili kayong mundong dalawa.” Ryan said laughing hard too. “But Brod, hindi naman ako magtataka na doon nga kayo papunta. It’s a matter of time, kahit pa ang bibigat ng mga karibal mo,” he added.
Before Richard can react again, and ask Ryan about his ‘karibals’ in Maya’s heart, Liza interrupted them. “Coffee Sir Richard, Attorney Ryan!” She offered. “Gawa po iyan ni Attorney Maya! Nasa pantry kasi siya when I went there. She offered to make coffee for you two. Iyong sandwiches po na pinabili ko, to follow na lang, pabalik na siguro si Benjie.”
“Thank you, very much Liza. Nasaan na pala si Maya?” Ryan asked before Richard could.
“She will be along shortly daw po. She will work on something lang daw po while having coffee.” Liza replied, then she excused herself and left the room.
“Oh, okay. Sipag talaga nitong bagong associate ko, parang inspired na inspired.” Ryan said, sipping his coffee, teasing Richard. “Hmmmm, ang sarap nitong kape ah. Parang kakaiba. Parang tinimpla ng may halong pagmamahal.”
“Brod, ikaw talaga, hindi ka nagbabago, still incorrigible, alaskador!” Richard replied. “Hindi pa nga ako sinasagot eh.” He added in between sips of coffee. “And yes, masarap talaga ang coffee ni Maya. You are lucky to have her as your employee. Kahit noong unang kilala ko pa lang sa kanya, masipag siya, responsible and driven.Working student na siya noon. Hindi na bago sa kanya ang dalawang work na magkasabay like she did while in law school, though, that one was tougher on her kasi demanding din naman ang maging journalist. And see, she made it!” He finished, the pride in Maya’s achievements evident in his voice.
“Really, she is really admirable!” Ryan said nodding. “Brod, may I ask, if you don’t mind? Hindi ba talaga naging kayo dati ni Maya? Para kasing naging kayo, base sa mga nakikita ko.”
“If what happened did not happen, then we would have been.” Richard said, sipping his coffee. “I was really planning in following her to Mindoro that semestral break! Hindi ba isinasama pa nga kita sa Mindoro pero hindi ka pwede! Manliligaw pa lang sana ako ng husto when Mama and Grace were kidnapped. Kaya hayun, naunsyami ang panliligaw ko.”
“Yes, I remember that. I can’t remember why I begged off from going with you. Pero hindi na na natuloy di ba?” Ryan asked.
“No, hindi na. Bigla na kaming umalis. Nag-sorry na nga ako kay Maya when we saw each other again. Kasi kahit sa kanya, hindi rin ako nakapagpaalam, mahigpit ang bilin ni Papa na huwag kong sabihin kahit kanino na aalis kami, lalo na kay Maya.”
“You know what, I understood your father and his knee-jerk reaction to what happened to your Mama and Grace, pero to tell you specifically not to inform Maya, parang may kakaiba naman sa instructions niya.” Ryan said, thinking, his lawyer mind going in gears.
“I did wonder about that Brod, for years. There were times I wanted to ask Papa about it, pero ang dami na rin naman niyang worries, and besides, I got married na rin so I let it slide na lang. Pero naiisip ko rin na baka kasi nakita niya how Maya and I were getting closer at that time. That I was acting differently towards her than my old girlfriend, si Inez. Alam mo naman iyon, he didn’t like for me to get distracted while studying. But it is water under the bridge now. Ang importante na lang, nagkita kami ulit ni Maya. Fate made us meet again.” Richard said, took another sip of coffee.
“Tama ka naman doon, Richard. Kasi ang importante ang ngayon and what you are having with her. Tutal naman, nangyari na ang mga nagyari.” Ryan said, nodding his head in agreement.
“By the way, you were saying about my ‘karibals’?” Richard asked, not being able to help himself. He just wants to know, hindi naman masamang malaman, di ba? Actually, may idea na siya doon sa isa, that Attorney James Ventura. But who are the others?
However, before Ryan can reply, Maya returned. “My apologies for taking so long. Have you started? I had to email a document to a client. He texted while I was making coffee.” Then looking at Ryan, she explained, “Attorney Ryan, ito iyung pina-check ko sa iyo kaninang umaga and you told me okay na for sending. I just saw rin your e-mail to me. When Mr. Fernando texted, I e-mailed it to him promptly.”
“Oh, okay. He texted you ha! I did tell him naman that I will have you e-mail it as soon as we are finished with it. Mabuti we did na.” Ryan remarked. “Anyway, hindi pa naman kami nag-start ni Richard. We are chatting a bit and enjoying your delicious coffee. Thank you for this Maya.” He said, holding up the cup.
“Thank you for the coffee, Maya. Masarap as always.” Richard added, giving her a big smile.
“You’re welcome, Attorney Ryan, Richard.” Maya still finds it a bit awkward to call Richard by his first name when they are in a business setting, but he insisted.
Before, she could say more, her phone rang. She grab it, hoping to put it on silent fast. Nakalimutan niya. However, she saw the name of the person calling, and thinking that it was business related, she started asking to be excused.
“Go ahead, Maya, please answer your phone call.” Richard said.
When Maya was going out of the room, Richard and Ryan both heard her saying hello to a ‘Jason’.
“Iyon Brod, isa iyon sa mga karibal mo.” Ryan said. “Bago naming client. He is the CEO of a company that brought a lot of big name foreign brands in the Philippines. From the prominent Fernando family, one of those young entrepreneurs. He and Maya knew each other before. Maya also disclosed to me that dati iyong nanligaw sa kanya. Siguro, she told me kasi nga magiging client namin. Alam mo naman iyang si Maya sobrang honest.”
“Oh!” It was all Richard managed to say, looking at Maya from the glass window of the conference room and saw her still talking on the phone.
“Brod, hwag kang mag-aalala.” Ryan said, breaking into whatever thoughts Richard’s mind was going into. “Ex-manliligaw ang sabi ni Maya. Saka feeling ko naman nasa iyo ang puso ng beautiful lady ng RRMA.”
“Sorry about that,” Maya said, returning to where she was seated earlier, curtailing Richard’s reply to Ryan. “Sir, si Mr. Jason Fernando po ang tumawag. He just wanted to thank me for sending the documents.”
“He called pa just to thank you!” Richard blurted out before he could stop himself.
Maya, and also Ryan was surprised at what he said. Ryan because he always see Richard as a very affable guy, Maya because she was not expecting him to comment as it was nothing to do with him and LAS, except that she and Ryan are officially on LAS time that moment.
Realizing what he said, and seeing Maya’s surprised expression, and Ryan’s now teasing expression, he flushed a bit and modify his statement. “I mean, errr, he could have texted na lang or replied to Maya’s e-mail since she is in a meeting.” He managed to say, then ended it with by saying, “Oh well, let’s go back to our meeting.”
Maya was puzzled by Richard’s action. Was he jealous? But how would he know about Jason Fernando? Then she looked at Ryan Molina and saw him smiling to himself. Aha, I know why, she mused. Ikaw, Attorney Ryan ha, may pagka-mischievous ka rin ha! Maya let it passed for now. She will just tell Richard about Jason when they have dinner later. Hmmm, jealous much, Mr. Lim! I didn’t know you have it in you. Para kasing steady ka lang diyan. Baka kapag nalaman mo na he called me on the pretext, lalo kang magselos. Jason, after thanking Maya for the mail, did invite her to dinner that evening. However, she declined as she already is going to have dinner with Richard. Besides, she is not interested in going to dinner with Jason.
The three of them concentrated on the documents before them, while having their second cups of coffee and Liza’s sandwiches from a nearby deli. Two hours later, they were done.
“So, everything is good to go. Maya and I will just draft the whole thing and send it here by Tuesday morning, sa next punta sa LAS ni Maya.” Ryan said as he gathered papers and put them in his briefcase.
“Yes, that’s about it. TA and LAS in partnership, long-term! Great.” Richard said smiling.
“So paano, Maya and I will get going. Maya, sumabay ka na sa akin pauwi, Friday ngayon, suweldo pa, mahirap sumakay.” Ryan offered. “On the way ko naman ang place mo, I think.”
Before Maya could react, Richard spoke. “Brod, if Maya is done for the day, ako na lang ang maghahatid sa kanya.” Richard offered, not noticing a silent Maya. “Anyway, we will have dinner later.”
“Maya….” Ryan asked, looking at Maya. He did notice.
” Yes, Attorney Ryan, I will go home later na lang. I will just work from here.” Maya said instead.
“Oh, you don’t have to. You can go home also, anyway it’s a Friday and you have finished the work I assigned to you way ahead of schedule. But it is up to you.” Ryan said. “O paano, Brod, Maya, mauuna na ako. Have a nice weekend.”
Ryan left the two of them in the conference room. At first there was a bit of silence as Richard realized something. Maya got uncomfortable in front of her boss with his offer!
“Maya, I’m so sorry. I should have let you speak for yourself.” Richard said, looking at her contrite. “I know, Ryan is still your boss even if we are friends and he knows I’m courting you.”
“Yes, Ricky, I was going to talk to you about that nga. I know you two are friends, but he is still my boss. As much as possible, I want to separate my personal life from my professional one, which I had just started several days ago..” Maya said, imploring Richard to understand where she is coming from.
“I want to be discreet as much as possible when our personal relationship is concern since you also happen to be a client, even if we have known each other from years back. The other day was different when I saw you two talking at the RRMA building lobby since it was beyond office hours. This one, not yet. I’m still, technically, on company time and I went here to LAS on official business. Had you let me speak for myself, I would have declined and stay here pa rin, to work from here, until we are ready to leave for our dinner. I do have some things I want to finish before I call it a day. The other associates of the firm are working hard, baka nga most of them are still at work hanggang ngayon, and I want to do the same. I don’t want to be accused of slacking because I’m friends with a friend of my boss or the partners of the firm.”
“I’m really sorry, Maya. I understand. That will not happen again.” Richard said, then admitted sheepishly, “I guess hearing about that Jason Fernando unsettled me a bit.”
“See, you even know about him! Judging by your reaction earlier, I know you knew who Jason is. Attorney Ryan had told you di ba?” Maya asked. “I’m planning to tell you about him naman during our dinner this evening, and if you had asked.” Maya continued. “But let’s forget about it. I just spoke because I don’t want to have any misunderstanding between us. I have to juggle our personal and professional relationships. I don’t want to be always explaining to other people that you are a friend, a special one at that, even before you became a client.”
“Yes, Attorney. Sorry na nga.” Richard said with a charming smile. “Forgive me.”
Maya smiled at him. “Oo naman. Kaya nga ha, no holding my hand on company time. Especially if my boss and your employees are around, okay?.”
“Yes po, talo na po ako Attorney.” Richard said, raising his hands in mock surrender, giving Maya one of his cute lopsided smiles.
“Sige na Mr. Lim, pupunta na muna ako sa office ko. I’ll see you in two hours.” Maya said smiling sweetly at Richard. When she was at the door, she had a parting shot at Richard. “And Mr. Lim, you have nothing to worry about Jason Fernando.” With that, she left.
Richard had a huge grin on his face after hearing that. He gazed at Maya’s departing back with a loving expression. Then, he too, stood up and went back to his office, humming a happy tune. Liza, when she heard her boss doing so, smiled and shook her head. Iba na talaga ang in love, was her bubble thought!
Two hours later, Richard knocked on Maya’s door. His employees have all gone home, an hour ago, including Liza
“So, dinner time na Attorney.” Richard said by way of a greeting. “Let’s go na, Maya, I’m hungry na.”
“Okay. I was about to tidy up my desk na nga.” Maya said. She gathered her things and several minutes after they were on their way out of LAS. “Saan tayo magdi-dinner?”
“I’m thinking of trying that nice Italian restaurant in Makati that Ryan has recommended. Friday naman. I had Liza made a reservation earlier.” Richard replied as he opened the car door for Maya.
“Sounds good.” Maya said as she fastened her seatbelt. “So, all set na ba kayo sa paglipat ninyo tomorrow? By the way, I talked to Doris pala this morning. Yes daw, makakasama sila ni Lance sa Tagaytay on Sunday.”
“That’s great! Matutuwa si Abby niyan.” Richard said as he navigated the road going to Makati. “Have you been to that Sky Ranch?”
“Yes, one time with my law school classmates, after the bar exams. We felt like celebrating after four weekends of exams, so we took an impromptu day trip to Tagaytay and went around the place. Our last stop was that amusement park. Nagmukha nga kaming bumalik sa pagkabata lahat.” Maya smiled as she narrated that trip. “I’m sure magugustuhan doon nina Abby at Lance. Meron namang mga ride na pang-age nila. I’m looking forward to meeting her formally and getting to know her better.”
“She is looking forward to that too, Maya.” Richard said. “She had asked me, actually, out of the blue, if you will like her. I told her you will and that Lance loves you.”
“Oh she did!” Maya replied, smiling. “Well that is true, I like her already. She seems like a very smart and sweet girl, Ricky.”
“She is that, Maya.” Richard said. “Abby is worth everything. She is the best of Alexandra and I.”
“Ricky, may I ask a personal question?” Maya ventured, him having brought the name of his wife up.
“Sure, Maya, anything.” Richard said.
“Filipina rin ba ang naging wife mo or Chinese?” She asked. “You met each other in Beijing?”
“Filipino-Chinese like me. We met at the university, but our parents were friends, it turned out. We just gravitated towards each other since we have a similar background. We became good friends. Upon the prodding of our families, I guess, and because we clicked well, we became a couple and then we married. However, after we had Abby, we had realized that what we felt for each other was affection, as one good friend to another, and not the kind of love between a man and a woman that we see in movies, in literary works or, in our friends who are very much in love.”
“Oh!” Maya said. She never expected that Richard will open like this when she asked a bit about Alexandra. But she was glad he did.
“Yes, but Alexandra and I were okay with it at that moment since we didn’t have anything else and there was Abby to think of. Some marriages, we said was built on less. We loved each other in our very own way. Then she got sick. She was diagnosed with breast cancer. After Abby turned two, she died, as if she just waited until Abby had her second birthday.” Richard narrated. “She was a good person and a good friend. She told me to be happy,” he finished.
“I do believe she was, Ricky. You were lucky to have her and she had given you your angel Abby. Thank you for telling me.” Maya simply said, putting her hand on Ricky’s arm. Richard nodded and put his hand on top of Maya’s, driving with one for a minute or two.
Soon after, they arrived at the restaurant. They were immediately led to the table reserved by Liza, at a secluded part of the beautifully decorated and relaxing restaurant. Maya and Ricky started their dinner with mushroom soup for Maya and a seafood one for Richard, followed by two different kinds of pasta and grilled fish, with one glass of white wine each, and for dessert they had Crème brûlée and Panna cotta, with cappuccino.
“I’m so stuffed, Ricky.” Maya remarked while they were sipping their coffee. “That was a very good meal. In fairness to Attorney Ryan, this restaurant is great!”
“I’m glad you like the place, Maya.” Richard said smiling. “So, tomorrow, we will buy your car, don’t forget din.”
“Oh, that. Yes, I need one.” Maya said. “I’m a bit rusty, though. I have not driven one in a while.”
“That’s easily remedied. You can drive on the way home. Do have your license with you?” Richard said, and offered.
“Ha, naku, baka maibangga ko ang car mo, BMW kaya iyan. I’m used to driving a simple sedan.” Maya sounding nervous. “I do have my license and it is current, but I wouldn’t dare!”
“It’s only a car, Maya. And I’m sure, you will do okay.” Richard assured her. “I will be with you.”
“Okay, but don’t kill me ha, if by the end of the evening it has scratches.” Maya said.
“I will not, promise.” Richard said, smiling. “Cross my heart.”
“Okay.” Maya said, gulping.
They chatted some more, had another cup of coffee each and soon, they were on their way out of the restaurant. However, before they reached the door, someone called Maya’s name. When Maya looked at the source of the voice, she saw Jason Fernando getting up from the table where he was having dinner with three other guys.
“Fancy seeing you here, Maya!” Jason said by way of a greeting. Then he noticed that Maya is with a tall, good-looking Chinito guy, he introduced himself. “Hi, I’m Jason Francisco, a friend of Maya’s.” He offered his hand to Richard.
“Richard Lim,” Richard said, shaking Jason’s hand. “I’m a friend of Maya’s, from way back!” He added.
“Jason, hello!” Maya said politely.
“So you will be here rin pala. Had you agreed to have dinner with me, I would have brought you here too.” Jason remarked, gazing at Maya intently.
“Oh. Well, like I have told you earlier, I had plans for this evening. Ricky and I agreed to have dinner tonight kasi. Di ba, Ricky?” She asked Richard, gazing at him, and taking hold of his hand and slowly interlacing it with hers.
“Yes, we did.” Richard said, surprised at Maya’s gesture that did not escape Jason’s notice.
“O paano Jason, Richard and I need to get going. Nice seeing you again. Have a nice evening.” Maya said.
“Okay Maya. See you around!” Jason said, then politely to Richard, “Nice meeting you, Richard.”
“You too!” Richard said.
Jason returned to his table and Maya and Richard went to where he parked his car.
“So, what was that all about? Not that I’m complaining that you initiated holding my hand.” Richard said, smiling, teasing Maya while they were walking. “Parang feeling ko, you were driving a message across.”
“Well, I just want him to finally take a hint that I’m not interested, not before and not now. Hayun, I wanted to imply lang that I’m taken.” Maya admitted. “I don’t want to lie naman to him and introduce you as my boyfriend eh hindi naman kita boyfriend.”
Richard smiled. “Eh kasi naman that’s easily remedied, sagutin mo na kasi ako.” He teased Maya. “I am not your boyfriend YET! Emphasis on the ‘yet’ Attorney.”
“Hahahaha, confident much, Mr. Lim. Di ba manliligaw ka pa ng husto?” Maya said, bantering with Richard. “Kasisimula mo pa lang ah.”
“Iyon na nga ang ginagawa ko, Attorney.” Richard retorted, then said “Well, sabi niya sa hinahaba man ng prusisyon….”
“So continue, Mr, Lim….”
“Sa hinahaba-haba man ng prusisyon, may naghihintay na ‘Oo’ sa dulo.” He said, grinning.
“Ikaw talaga, corny pa rin. Pero, in fairness hindi halatang nagselos ka sa kanya kanina.” Maya teased.
“Well, di ba sabi mo naman wala akong dapat ipag-worry kay Jason Fernando.” Richard bantered back, gazing at Maya lovingly. “See, tama naman ako kanina, may ibang motive iyang Jason Fernando na iyan when he called you.” He added.
They shared a sweet smile. A horn beeped and that snapped them out of the private world they were in.
“Halika na nga, uwi na tayo. Key please, Mr. Lim.” Maya said, holding out her hand, then she uttered a silent prayer after Richard gave her the key and opened the door at the driver’s side for her.
“Go, Maya, you can do it.” Richard, patting her on the shoulder before moving to the other side and getting into the passenger seat.
Maya started the car. At first her driving was wobbly. But several minutes after she got the hang of it. She laughed, happy to be driving again. Half an hour later, they have reached her place. She parked the car, then made a whopping sound.
“See, I told you, you can do it. It’s just like riding a bike again.” Richard said, grinning.
“Oo nga! Thank you very much for the experience, Ricky! That was fun!” Maya said happily, then hastily unfastened her seat belt, she hugged Richard spontaneously. Richard hugged her back tight.
They loosen their embrace after a while, then gazed at each other intently, meaningfully. Richard can’t help himself anymore, he lowered his lips to Maya’s. Maya knew what was coming and she waited with bated breath, lips half-opened. Their lips met, fused and they shared a searing kiss in the privacy of Richard’s car.