Richard Lim stared at the view from his floor-to-ceiling office window, without really seeing anything. The beauty of the afternoon, when the sun is at its brightest and most vibrant and the distant mountains looking majestic and mysterious, was lost on him that day. He stared at his bare ring finger. A ring would have been there had Lucy didn’t run away from their wedding exactly six months ago!
Lucy not showing up at THE society wedding of the decade created the juiciest stir not only in the society they both move in, but in the country in general, as the television networks reported on it in details, and Lucy jilting him at the altar went viral on social media. Memes were also created of women offering to replace Lucy at the altar. Some bashed her for running away from him and eloping with the lead singer of a popular band whom, it turned out, was her real love. They had a stormy relationship which her parents didn’t approve of. In the end, she defied them and eloped with the guy, who was not exactly unknown, especially as he has legions of fans, so her action really created quite a juicy stir. Lucy and her boyfriend got married in Las Vegas three weeks later.
One month after his aborted wedding, and after he had helped his and Lucy’s parents cleaned up the mess that her impulsive action created, he packed his bags and went to the farthest place he could think of at that moment, South Africa. One of his Harvard friends is from Johannesburg. He had an open invitation from Mattheu to visit him and his family. He had to get away from everything to keep his sanity. It felt like his life became an open book that anyone who has access to social media can just freely talk about. He needed to be away, until things dies down to a natural death, or another scandal overtakes it.
He also wanted to escape the intrigues and the whispering every time he would show up in social gatherings and official functions that he needed to attend to. Not that it affected him. He just hated to be in the spotlight like that. As for his heart, it didn’t healing as he was not really in love with Lucy. Theirs was supposed to be a marriage of convenience. He liked her and he felt that they would suit because of their similar backgrounds and the same circle that they move in, so he agreed to what his father wanted him to do, marry a Ventura to consolidate and strengthen their business holdings.
Richard gave up on love a long time ago. For him, it was something that exists in the pages of romance novels or those countless rom-coms the movie industry comes up with! It was an emotion he stopped feeling, and which he actually considers as a weakness. He had experienced it before and he had seen how love destroyed one of his closest friends. He dated, but kept his heart unattached. With Lucy leaving him at the altar, he was also not keen on getting married, ever! Indeed, he had a lucky escape!
In South Africa, he had avoided clicking on Philippine news websites and he refused to open his emails unless it was work-related. He toured around and being there for four weeks help him sort his thoughts. Afterwards, he decided not to return yet, and his father assured him it was perfectly okay, so he went to France, Italy and Spain for three more months, enjoying anonymity. He also realized that it was a good thing that he and Lucy didn’t end up together! He admitted that he was starting to feel like that when the wedding planner approached him, and indirectly gave him salvation and like a death row convict about to be executed, a reprieve. Yes, an extreme comparison but that was how he felt as the bridal march started playing. He was calm and stoic when that beautiful woman handed him the letter. He knew what had happened and all he felt was relief, tremendous relief.
From time to time, he would also think about the beautiful woman from the wedding, whom he found out later on, was indeed one of the wedding planners and a niece of the owner. He remembered her beautiful face and the way she gracefully walked towards him and the gaze they shared before everything broke loose. He dismissed the thoughts, that would crept in his brain, of finding her when he returns, as he was not in a market for another serious relationship. She looked like a woman one marries and not just play around with. There was nothing casual about her, that was his initial impression.
When he returned to the Philippines a month ago, he buried himself in work during the day, and his nights and weekends were reserved to going out with his friends, having a beer and a drink here and there, and playing pool. He steered clear of serious relationships and just went on casual dates. But that too, paled and lost its luster after a while. The women he met hoped that they would be THE Mrs. Richard Lim, that they are the one who can heal what they perceived was his broken heart. They were so easy, ready to hop into his bed just several hours after meeting him!
Richard was jolted back to the present with that. He turned around and saw his secretary by the door of his office.
“Yes, Liza? Are they here?” He asked. He and the directors of the company, also his father, have a meeting with some events planner that afternoon. Typical of his father to include everyone when, in Richard’s point of view, it can be handled by their corporate communications manager! But maybe, his father wanted everyone there as the event would be a milestone for the company.
“Yes, Sir Richard. They are at the conference room, including your father.” Liza Adriano, Richard Lim’s secretary and executive assistant since he became Chief Operating Officer of Lim Corporation five years ago, said. “Is there anything else you need for the meeting?”
“No, nothing, Liza! Thank you. Please go ahead. I’ll be there in a couple of minutes.” Richard stood up, straightened his tie, then grab his iPad and phone, and walked briskly towards the executive offices’ conference room.
When Richard entered the room, the first thing he saw and noticed was the silhouette of a woman attaching a MacBook to the HDMI cable port of the huge TV there which they use for presentations. His heart suddenly beat faster as she looked familiar.
The woman turned and he caught his breath. It is her! The woman from his aborted wedding! The woman locked gaze with Richard. She looked so beautiful in the shift dress she was wearing. It hugged all her curves, but more than that, he was immediately drawn to her doe-shaped eyes fringed with long eyelashes and pouty lips. He felt an instant attraction to her.
Before Richard can say anything, his father cut into his thoughts.
“Ricky is here, we can start now, Adrian, please.” Mr. Roberto Lim, CEO of Lim Corporation told Adrian Samonte, the company’s Corporate Communications Head.
Roberto Lim then gestured for Richard to take the seat across the alluring woman from his wedding who seemed flustered at seeing him. Was she remembering too, the last time, well the one and only time their paths have crossed? He asked himself as he settled into his seat.
“Good morning everyone, as stated in my e-mail to all of you, Manila Events Planning will present to us today the campaign for Lim Corporation’s 50th anniversary celebration. Here with us this morning is Ms. Maya Dela Rosa, MEP’s Head of Corporate Planning Services. She is not a stranger to most of you as this is not the first project MEP did for us.” Adrian said. “Maya, you have met most of us, except maybe, Sir Richard as he just got back last month from vacation.”
Most of those present, nodded, including Roberto Lim, as Maya’s Tita Margarita is a friend of his and his wife Esmeralda. So, she had done a project for Lim Corporation before! Richard thought to himself. It must have been around the time he was away.
Nevertheless, Adrian made the formal introductions with a round of hands shaking and greetings. The last hand that Maya shook was Richard. She felt a jolt when their hands touched and she barely managed to hide her surprise and reaction to a seemingly innocent touch. Richard gave her a lopsided smile. He, too needed to gain some sort of equilibrium. He needed to dispel the effect of her hand in his, brief that it was.
“Maya, you may start, please.” Adrian said, signalling Maya to start her presentation, and breaking into her thoughts. She gave Richard Lim a polite smile, then return to where her laptop was placed.
Maya stood still for several seconds when she got there to collect her thoughts which got a bit off track with Richard’s presence and its effect on her. She was not expecting him to be here as she thought he was still abroad, as Emman had mentioned to her, updating her on the latest society talks, even if sometimes, she does not want to hear about the latest society gossip. Soon after Richard Lim had left for parts unknown, her events planning company was hired by Lim Corporation for the launch of their new business, solar energy panels for homes and office use. When she felt that she was calm enough, she proceeded with the presentation, outlining to the members of Lim Corporation’s executive board the plan for the golden anniversary celebration of the company founded by Richard Lim’s grandfather, Ricardo.
The whole room listened attentively while Maya outlined the plan and the series of campaign that her company is proposing, which includes various CSR activities as a way of giving back and thanking everyone who had supported and patronized the company through the years, then full-page spreads on the history of the company on the top two major dailies in the country. She also made mentioned that her team would need to photograph every department and every executive for the newspaper spread. The anniversary celebration will be capped with a charity gala and a party for the employees of the company wherein loyalty awards will be given.
One or two times, Roberto Lim raised some questions, which Maya answered deftly and concisely. The whole time she was presenting, Maya was aware of Richard’s eyes on her. Yes, she knew that everyone’s eyes was on her, but it felt like it was just Richard and her in that big room, and despite the cold temperature, she felt flushed. She kept repeating to herself that she needed to fight the thing she was feeling, his effect on her. For God sake, she was presenting to practically all the people who run this big company! They are a major client of MEP!
Richard was also having a hard time taking his eyes off the beautiful, graceful lady before him. He knew that he should listen attentively, but his intense awareness of Maya was stronger, drowning the details of her presentation in his head, and when their eyes would lock from time to time, he felt a sudden breathlessness and he felt the effect of her innocent gaze affecting his body. Richard Lim, he told himself, snap out of it, you are in a meeting and she is doing a professional presentation. He ought to know the details for this project, but nothing registered in his head, he just watched the opening and closing of Maya’s luscious lips, and the way her body moved as she explained the campaign to them.
When Maya was done, and the other executives were finished asking for clarifications on some aspects of the execution on of the campaign, Roberto Lim, spoke. “Thank you for your presentation, Maya, very detailed and exactly what we want for our major milestone. Please start executing it according to the timeline you presented. Whatever you need from LC’s side, Adrian can handle it. However, please give my son a weekly report. He will be taking over while I’m away with my wife for a month.” He finished with a friendly smile. “Vacation.”
“Thank you very much, Mr. Lim. Yes, Sir we will do as indicated. Then I will report to Sir Richard on the progress. Have a nice vacation with Mrs. Lim.” Maya replied. She had met Esmeralda Lim at her aunt’s house several times and she likes the old lady.
The executives piled out of the room after Adrian declared the meeting adjourned. Maya stayed behind to pack her laptop away. Thinking that she was already alone, Maya started humming her current LSS! When she was finished she lifted her head and saw Richard Lim by the door, arms folded on his, now she knows, very muscular chest, as the gesture stretched the pale blue dress shirt he was wearing, much to her distraction. Maya blushed profusely.
“Oh, I’m so sorry, Mr. Lim. I thought I’m alone!” Maya said, wanting her blush to fade. “Is there anything you need?”
Richard looked at a flustered Maya Dela Rosa. She is cute. So human, unlike earlier wherein she was the epitome of professionalism and grace. He was about to go back to his office after saying goodbye to his father, when, for some unexplained reason, he decided to seek Maya out. His excuse, he was going to ask for her mobile number and other contact information. Yes, he knew, flimsy excuse as it is really Liza’s job to do, and she probably has it already in her file. But he can’t help it, he is drawn to this beautiful lady. He is physically attracted to her. He knows himself!
“Oh, you, actually!” He blurted out, and saw her startled expression, and blush. “Errr, what I mean, err…..” Richard collected his thought. Richard Lim you used to be suave! “What I mean, is would you like to have coffee with me? I noticed that you were unable to even take a sip of your coffee earlier. Are you in a hurry?”
Maya thinking that Richard wanted to discuss the plans for the anniversary further, nodded. Refusing to dwell on the fact that her heart skipped a beat with the invitation and she had replied without actually thinking about it. “Sure Sir, you want to discuss the plans in more details. Good thing also, as I would like to ask you or your executive assistant for the reporting schedule to you. I don’t have any other meeting aside from this one. In fact, I told my aunt that I would go directly home after this meeting with Lim Corporation as I’m going on a trip tomorrow.”
Richard didn’t correct Maya’s assumption. “Great!” He said with a big smile. “And please call me Ricky or Richard. May I call you Maya?”
Maya nodded and their gazes locked. She felt breathless. He felt his heart beating fast. They shared a smile.
“Shall we, Maya?” To Maya’s surprise, Richard put his hand on her back to escort her out of the conference room. As they walked out of the corporate offices, she was intensely aware of him. As they walked, they shared looks. It felt like they were on the verge of something they were not expecting and were not really looking for.
Note: Finally, here it is! Slowly finding my way back, indeed! Happy Friday everyone! ❤ 🙂