Richard and Maya were both mostly silent on the short walk to the elevator banks. Both of them were intensely aware of each other. Maya felt the heat of Richard’s hand on her back, seemingly branding her. She was very much aware of Richard, period! He affected her so, for reasons she can’t yet fathom. She had met equally goodlooking, though, not as handsome, and suave guys, and some even courted her. But this was the first time she was equally attracted to one in such a level, in such an instensity she was having a hard time grasping. Though, her subsconscious must have already known and felt it the first time they laid eyes on each other and despite the circumstances at that time!
Richard was very much aware of Maya’s unique scent and the graceful way she moves. They would look at each other from time to time, and share a smile. Earlier, he noticed Maya’s surprise when he put his hand on her back to escort her out of the room. It was something he was unable to stop himself from doing. He is terribly drawn to this beautiful lady. He must have known that she and him are fated to meet again. The instant attraction he felt the first time he laid eyes on her should have been an indication! To think, it had happened when his world shifted and it felt like someone pulled the rug from under him!
It sounded like it took a look time for the elevator to arrive when it was just a minute or two. When it finally did, Richard gestured for Maya to go in first. He pressed the button going to the penthouse of the building instead of the one going to the lobby where a small but very inviting coffee shop is. Maya have been there several times while doing the last project with Lim Corporation. She didn’t ask Richard where they were going as she presumed there are other places to have coffee in the building.
“I hope this place is okay with you, Maya.” Richard asked Maya as he opened the glass door of a beautiful and the most inviting cafe Maya had laid eyes on! She can live and drink coffee here to her heart’s content and never leave!
“More private than the coffee shop at the lobby.” Richard remarked.
Indeed, Maya thought, it was really more private as they were the only ones inside the unique cafe! It has floor-to-ceiling windows on two sides with a magnificent view of the city and the mountains beyond it, and a garden on the third side, opposite the entrance. The interiors resemble that of a country home. It evokes comfort and laid back coffee afternoons and snack times with the whole family on Sundays.
“This is the family’s private coffee shop here at Lim Corporation. My family is big on drinking coffee, so my mother thought of this.” Richard explained. “Some members of my family also holds office in this building. They congregate here once in a while. We are lucky this afternoon, we are the only ones here!”
“No, this is very much, okay. I’m not much for loud places actually. This is really a very beautiful place, Sir, errr, Richard.” Maya opted for the more formal one as ‘Ricky’ was too intimate, considering that technically, this was their first meeting! Aside from that fact, he and his company are clients. Not that there is a rule against it.
The barista greeted them with a big smile when he saw them. “Good afternoon, Sir Richard, welcome back. Good afternoon Ma’am!” He nodded at Maya respectfully.
“Hello Francis. Thank you. It’s nice to be back. It has been a while. Never had the opportunity to come up here until now.” Richard greeted the tall, older guy wearing a white shirt and dress slacks with a big smile. “Maya this is our long-time barista here, Francis. Francis, this is Ms. Maya Dela Rosa. What would you like, Maya? You can have some pasta with your coffee. Please do have some, it past snack time. You didn’t eat earlier!”
“Hello Francis. Thank you, Richard.” Maya looked at the chalk menu board, at the same time, wondering, how come Richard even noticed that she was unable to even take a sip of her coffee when she was dying too, earlier! “I’ll just have hot americano, and a serving of that mushroom truffles pasta.”
“Your usual, Sir Richard?” Francis asked. Through the years, he had gotten familiar with the preferences of the Lim and So families who frequent the cafe. Before his cancelled wedding, Sir Richard was a fixture in the cafe. But like he said, this was the first time he was here since that unfortunate incident. In all those times, he has not brought his fiancée here, for some reason. This was actually the first time he saw him here with a lady.
“Please. Thank you, Francis.”
Richard led Maya to a table by the window. He pulled the seat first for her, before sitting across her. Maya thanked him and when they were both seated, there was a tense, but not exactly uneasy silence between them, crackling with awareness of each other. There was really this buzz between them and no matter how both of them try to ignore it, it is making its presence felt. They would gaze at each other, until Maya can’t stand it anymore. She just needed to break the silence. She asked the first thing she thought of.
“Is there anything you need….”
“Do you want to…..”
Maya laughed, a little breathlessly. It seemed she was not the only one wanting to break the silence between them!
Richard gave Maya a lopsided smile. Awww, he looks so cute. Maya thought.
“Go ahead, Maya!” Richard said. “Sorry!”
“Oh, I just want to ask what is it you would like to discuss with me. Is there anything else that I was not able to cover in my presentation earlier?” Maya explained and before she can stop herself, added, “I noticed that you didn’t ask questions while I was presenting.”
Richard smiled inwardly at her last statement. Hmmm, she noticed! He felt happy knowing.
“Oh, not really! Like what my father had said earlier, your presentation was very detailed. The thing is, I invited you for coffee on a purely personal level.” He admitted, gazing at Maya, meaningfully.
Maya looked at him in surprised. She was not expecting his answer at all.
“First, I want to thank you for your help six months ago. As soon as I entered the room earlier, I knew you were the lady who gave me Lucy’s letter during my aborted wedding. Thank you for keeping a cool head at that time.” Richard started, wanting this part to be over and done with, then he took a deep breath and plunged in, saying candidly while gazing at her intently, “Secondly, I want to get to know you better!”
“Oh!” Maya managed to utter, at the same time, thinking, he remembers me! She thought that he wouldn’t. He didn’t give any indication earlier that he remembered, except that she seemed to be the focus of his very intense gazes. “I’m sorry for what happened. I wish it had turned out differently.” Maya started saying, looking for words to say, then his second statement sunk in. It flustered her and gave her a warm feeling somewhere in her chest at the same time.
“Thank you, Maya. But don’t be. I’m glad the wedding didn’t push through.” Richard said candidly, seeing, that Maya seemed to be lost for words. “I had a lucky escape.”
“But I thought….I thought that you and Lucy were very much in love….” Maya blurted out helplessly, then shrugged. She does not really want to pry, but Richard has been dropping bombshells on her since they sat down.
“We were not, Maya, actually. Doubly so, because she jilted me and married another!” Richard said. “It was supposed to be a marriage of convenience. Love? It was something I stopped believing in a long time ago. Love is so overrated.”
Maya was startled to hear that. It was her exact sentiment after handing Richard Lucy’s letter six month ago.
“You look surprised, Maya? Did I shock you? I’m sorry, I just want to be completely honest with you.”
“No, no, Richard! You didn’t. I was just startled as it was my exact thoughts after I handed you Lucy’s letter. That love is overrated.” She explained and since it seemed like they have been injected with a truth serum that afternoon, also admitted, “You are not the only one who stopped believing in love a long time ago.”
It was Richard’s turn to be surprised. He was about to ask her why, when Francis arrived with their coffee and food. Maya noticed that Richard is having the same food and drink that she ordered.
“Sir Richard, Ma’am Maya, enjoy your food and coffee.” Francis said, after he had laid down everything on the table. “Let me know of you need anything else.”
Both of them thanked Francis. Maya started putting two scoops of muscovado sugar on her coffee, while mulling what she just admitted to Richard. She is not normally that candid! When she was done, she offered to make Richard’s coffee and asked him how many scoops of sugar she should put. He told her the same as hers.
Richard took a sip of his coffee after thanking Maya for making it for him. “This tastes better than I remember Maya. It must be because you made it.” He said, offhand, giving her a big smile. “Shall we eat!”
Maya smiled at Richard. The two of them started eating. Maya love the mushroom truffles pasta and she didn’t realize how hungry she was until the first taste of the mouth-watering pasta invaded her taste buds. They didn’t talk the first couple of minutes, though they exchanged smiles. Both lost in their thoughts about this afternoon’s revelations.
It seems like he was not the only one cynical about love, was Richard’s thoughts. He was really surprised as he thought Maya believes in happy ever afters. She is after all a wedding planner and, he believes, you have to be a little romantic for you to go to into that profession. She looks like a girl who believes in forever. What gives? He was dying to ask but he does not want to pry. He respects her privacy and her reasons.
“You are Tita Margarita’s niece, I gathered? Emman Castro is your cousin? It was him that I met with when we were planning the wedding. I have met your aunt several times at one of my parents parties, but not you.” Richard queried instead, wanting to get to know Maya more, despite the fact that he was not in the market for a serious relationship. It sounded like she is not too, if his gut feel is correct. “How long have you been in the events planning business? ”
“Yes, Emman is my cousin. Tita Margarita and my mother were sisters. She took me in and raised me like her own when my parents died in a plane crash when I was 15 years old. Emman and I, we are like brother and sister instead of cousins. I joined the business two years after I finished college. That was five years ago.” Maya said. She refused to dwell anymore on what happened to her before going into events planning. “Emman handles the social side of the business, with Tita Margarita, and I handle the corporate accounts. The arrangement suit us as he and she both like weddings and parties. I don’t. The one and only time crossed to the other side was your wedding as Tita Margarita was still recovering from her stroke.”
“I’m sorry for the lost of your parents. It must have been a very difficult time for you.” Richard said and before he could stop himself, he asked. “Any particular reason why you don’t like weddings?”
“Thank you, Richard. It was more than 10 years ago. I still miss them but I’m okay. ” Maya looked at Richard, then took a long sip of her coffee before answering his question. Maybe, it is better to lay things in the open, and diffuse this attraction she is feeling for this handsome guy. It’s an emotion alien to her and it unsettles her and the structured life she had built for herself the past several years. “You are not the only one who was left at the altar, Richard! And I’m sorry, that is all I can say about that matter.”
“I’m sorry, Maya. I don’t want to pry. Of course, I respect your privacy, but thank you for telling me that. I’m sorry too that it happened to you.” Richard managed to say. Maya surprised the hell out of him with that statement. Now, he understands why she looked like that when she was walking towards him six months ago, and the courage it took her to take those steps.
“Thank you Richard. But like you have said, don’t be. I’m past it. It was a lucky escape as well.” Maya said, then changed the topic. “This pasta is really good. This is also your favorite here?”
Richard accepted Maya’s effort to shift the conversation. They already have a lot to think about. What an afternoon it turned out to be! “Yes, it is. I missed this pasta, actually. This is the first time I have been here since I returned to Lim Corporation.”
“Really! Where have you been the past several months, if I may ask?” Maya said, thinking that Richard wouldn’t mind the question anyway since he started the conversation about his cancelled wedding earlier. “My cousin Emman mentioned that you left for parts unknown after the cancelled wedding!”
“I went to South Africa, and then to some parts of Europe.” Richard replied and then over sips of coffee, he gave her a condense version of his trip. Not about the deep soul-searching part of it, but his experience in traveling to parts unknown. Seeing Maya laughing at his anecdotes, he continued regaling her with his funny experiences, until their single cup of coffee became two and day become night without them realizing it, until a lightning lit the night sky.
“Oh, look at the time!” Maya exclaimed. She didn’t notice of the passing of time. “I should get going, Richard. I have an early flight tomorrow.”
“Okay.” Richard said. He too, was surprised to realize that Maya and him had been here for several hours. “May I take you home?”
“Thank you for the offer, Richard. I have my car with me. It’s in the basement parking of your building!”
“Oh, okay, I will just accompany you there. And before you protest, I insist. It is getting late and most of the employees have gone home.”
The two of them boarded the elevator after thanking Francis for their wonderful meal. Like on the way up, both were silent on the way to the parking garage. When they have reached Maya’s car, Maya thanked Richard. “Thank you for a wonderful afternoon, Richard. It was a lovely meal. I don’t think I can still eat dinner.”
“The pleasure is mine, Maya. I had a wonderful time also.” Richard said, gazing at Maya’s lovely face intently. “Take care. Have a safe flight and enjoy your stay wherever you are going.”
“Thank you, Richard. It’s work. I’m going to Bukidnon for one of our clients’ office there.” Maya said smiling. Then offering her hand, she said, ” Nice meeting and spending time with you.”
Richard shook Maya’s hand, but didn’t let go of it. Instead, he asked Maya, softly. “May I see you again, Maya?”
Maya’s heart skipped a beat with that softly worded, sounding like a caress, request. She took a deep breath. “Sure, Richard. Please give me a call at some point. I’ll be back in three days time.” Maya hoped she sounded calm when she said that.
“Great! I will do that.” Richard gave Maya a bone-melting smile which she returned with one that lit up her beautiful face. “Good night.”
Maya boarded her car with a big smile. Richard waited until she was on the way out of the parking garage before he returned to his office.
Both felt something big was going on between them. Something that two people who are cynical about love and relationship shouldn’t be feeling. Where do they go from there? They both asked themselves that as they went their separate ways that night.