Heart’s True Desire – part 3

This is a continuation to Heart’s True Desire – part 2.

Chapter 3

Maya tucked some strands of hair behind her ear before she looked up to meet Richard. When their eyes met, they had blank expressions. Then, as a realization dawned on them, their brows furrowed.

They recognized each other and so both exclaimed “You? Ikaw?” They gaped in disbelief.

Mamang curiously asked the two. “ Magka kilala kayo?” Her finger pointed from Richard to Maya.

It was Richard who recovered first. He sat on the empty chair opposite Maya and responded. “Opo, we went to the same university and had few common friends. I was on my last year in business management when she was in first year.”

“So, ganoon naman pala. Then, we can call this fate.” Richard’s grandfather declared. “Mabuti pa ay ipa-serve na natin ang dinner dahil gumagabi na. Kanina pa naka ready ang food hindi lang natin pinapakuha sa chef.” He eyed Richard as if telling him he was the reason why their dinner was delayed.

Richard caught the telling stare of his grandfather. He was tempted to respond back but decided not to. He didn’t want to upset the old. Instead, he turned his attention to Maya was sitting quietly opposite him.

“So, Maya, what course did you finish?” He started the conversation with her.

“Economics.” It was a short reply from her. At that point, she was undecided whether to feel relieved or afraid that she was going to marry someone she had met in the past. They’ve met eight years ago to be exact and some of their encounters weren’t that pleasant.

For the rest of the evening, both Richard and Maya concentrated on their food. They didn’t talk to each other and just allowed their parents to discuss the details of their pending wedding. The elders were so engrossed in their own discussions and forgot to involve the two important people who will be entering into the marriage.

It was pretty obvious that Maya wasn’t in favor of the arrangement judging by the occasional emergence of creases on her forehead. With Richard, one would find it difficult to know his stand on it as he had poker face the whole evening.

When the dinner was over and goodbyes were being said, Richard pulled Maya aside so only she could hear his words. “Maya, let’s discuss our situation on our own.”

She responded in a low voice. “When?” She was surprised by his invitation.

Richard took out a card from his wallet and gave it to her. “Here’s my business card. Please call me when you are available.”

~*~

The morning after the dinner at Shangri-la, Richard approached his grandfather who was in their swimming pool area having his breakfast.

“Hi Pops.” Richard tapped the shoulder of his grandfather before sitting on the chair in front of him.

“Ohh, Ricky. Mabuti at dito ka natulog sa bahay.” His grandfather commented as he noted that his grandson just woke up.

“Ehh, plano ko kasi kayong kausapin so hindi muna ako umuwi sa condo unit ko. About doon sa arranged wedding, are you all serious about it? Can you refresh my memory, Pops, kasi hindi ko matandaan na nag-agree ako doon. I didn’t argue about that last night dahil ayaw ko naman mapahiya tayong lahat ng harap-harapan.” Richard stated this thoughts.

“Ricardo, we told you in the past that we are going to arrange someone for you. You knew it right after college. Why are you questioning this now?” Liwen Lim’s brows furrowed.

“Yeah, Pops, sinabi n’yo nga but I thought that has changed. It’s been years. I thought
we agreed to forget about that. In this day and age, hindi na common ang arranged marriage.” He argued with his grandfather.

“Ricky… hindi porke’t tumira ka sa America ng ilang taon eh nagbago rin ang lahat ng tao dito. May mga bagay na hindi madaling baguhin lalo na ang mga bagay na naipangako na natin, ng pamilya na ito. Lalo ngayon, kailangan tayo ng pamilya ni Maya. This is the best time to honor that commitment with them.” The senior Lim was very serious and didn’t seem to sway on his stand although he felt Richard was arguing his way out of the situation.

“Pero Pops…we can help without having us get into this arranged marriage. If it is all about money, why don’t we just lend them the money?” Richard suggested.

“It’s not just money. We have a long story with her family. When I was young, I wanted to marry her Mamang. Noon nga lang wala pa akong kakayahan kaya ipinakasal siya sa iba. So, napangako namin na pagdating ng araw, magkakatuluyan din ang pamilya namin. We became friends. Matagal na panahon at isa pang pagkakataon ang lumampas para matupad yon. Ang Daddy mo chose to marry another woman when we wanted him to marry Teresita. Hindi sila nagkatuluyan dahil si Tessie naman ay nagtanan kay Arturo.”

It was the first time that Richard heard the complete story of their families and their connection to each other. He didn’t realize that other than the business side of his grandfather, there was tinge of romanticism in his blood. He was so into honoring words too; so old fashioned. But Richard couldn’t just accept that his grandfather’s unfinished commitment is being passed on to him.

“Lolo.” Richard rarely calls him that which meant he was upset. “Kung iyon lang pala ang issue, then why don’t you just pursue si Mamang. Byuda na ‘yon. Then, you can be together.”

Liwen Lim gave him an angry stare. “Ricardo, are you crazy? Your grandmother is just on the wheelchair and very much alive. Isa pa, hindi na ito about us, it is about your future. It’s about time to stop chasing girls and start getting serious.”

Richard was taken aback by his grandfather words. “Pops, it’s my future. Then, let me handle it. Let me make the decision. Saka correction, I’m not chasing girls, they are chasing me.” He argued again after a momentary silence.

“Ricky, everyone knows you are my favorite grandson but I am also a businessman. If you expect to get Lim Hotels & Resorts, then, you must prove to me that you can turn around Maya’s family business. The deal in this marriage is you will take over La Esperanza hotels, get it into profitable business again and take care of their only daughter. If you are successful with that, you’ll inherit LHR. Your father and your brother won’t have any piece of it. Sige, you want to make a decision? Now, you make the decision!” The elder Lim stated with finality.

Richard went mum again. He carefully assessed what his grandfather told him. When, he spoke his tone was softer. “Alam ba ni Dad and Kuya ang buong arrangement na’to including L.H.R.?”

Liwen Lim looked at him intently. “Yes and they fully agreed.”

~*~

At the Dela Rosa residence in Alabang, Maya remained on the dining table with her father, Arturo. It was after breakfast and she needed to talk to him.

“Pa, pag-usapan naman natin ‘yung arrangement with the Lim family.” She started the conversation.

Arturo, upon hearing Maya’s opening statement, placed down the newspaper he was reading and looked at her. “Ano ‘yun anak?”

“Pa, kailangan ba talagang magpakasal? Hindi ba pwede na lang tayong mag loan sa banko?” Maya asked. She was fully aware they family business has not been performing well in the last three years.

“Maya, mahirap ng kumuha nang bank loan. Our financial records shows negative income. Dalawa na lang ang natira na La Esperanza. We only have one dito sa Alabang at ang isa ay nasa sa San Nicolas. Yung La Esperanza sa San Nicolas ang pinoprotektahan namin ni Mamang. It can be considered a heritage hotel, alam mong iyon ang pinakamatagal sa buong probinsya natin. Ayaw naming masara ‘yon. We want to retain it within our family, para na rin sa ‘yo.”

“Pero, Pa, kailangan ba talagang may kasal pa?” She repeated her question. “Digital age na, napaka ancient practice naman ng aking pag-aasawa. I can choose my own, Pa.” She insisted; almost pleading to her father to reconsider.

“Anak, una, may boyfriend ka ba? May mga nanliligaw sa’yo, pero parang wala ka naman magustuhan. Iyang si Jaime, may asawa na, so kalimutan mo na.” Her father brought up a sensitive issue for Maya.

“Pa, bakit napasama si James sa usapan natin? He is just my friend and nothing else.” Maya defended herself.

“Maya, anak kita at alam ko na may tinatago kang pagtingin diyan kay James. If you are going to compare him with your suitors, you’ll never find a suitable boyfriend. Anak, if James is really just a friend, then try to look at your other options.” Her father suggested as if it was as simple as that.

“Pero, yung option n’yo naman is a playboy.” She finally let out her other concern.

“How did know that?” Arturo asked.

“Ganoon siya noong college. Naabutan ko kaya siya sa university and that was his reputation.” Maya declared.

“Anak, ilang taon na ‘yon? It was college and it was normal to explore at that time. He may have changed.” Arturo

“He may have changed but he may NOT have changed too. So, sa umpisa pa lang pwedeng hindi kami mag-work.” She emphasized the NOT in her response.

“Maya, don’t underestimate yourself. Ang ibig kong sabihin, when you finally get married, it would be within your control to keep your marriage stable. Maraming arranged marriage na naging successful. Richard comes from a very good family. Matagal na natin silang kakilala. Ang hindi ko lang maiisip ngayon ay bakit nga ba hindi kayo nagkita noon.” Arturo further explained.

Maya was quiet and didn’t respond to her father. It seemed that there was no way out of her situation. Tears were beginning to well up in her eyes.

“Anak, we’ve never requested anything from you in the past. This is not just about our business, it is also about your future. We want you to be in a good and secure family kahit mawala na kami ng Mama mo. Hindi ka sanay sa hirap anak, so gusto namin, mapagpatuloy mo pa rin kung ano ang kinalakihan mo.”

“Pero, Pa… parang ang babaw naman.” Maya’s tears finally streamed down her face.

“Maya, we are hoping for the best for you anak.” Arturo embraced her daughter to console her.

~*~

Two Weeks Later

Maya’s mobile phone rang. It was an unregistered number so she had no idea who was calling.

“Hello.” She picked up the call eventually. She was having dinner with Emman, her bestfriend, when her phone rang.

“Maya. This is Richard Lim.” It was a curt introduction.

“Ohh, Hello Richard.” Maya’s heart constricted. Then, she made a face because Emman ogled in front of her when he heard the name Richard.

Maya had already confided to Emman about her supposed arranged wedding with Richard. Instead of a sympathetic reaction, he seemed excited for her.

“I’ve been waiting for your call but you seem to be a busy person. So, I wonder when can we meet, tayong dalawa lang. We need to discuss about the wedding.” There was a tone of impatience on Richard’s voice.

“How did you get my number?” She responded.

“I got it from your Dad. Anyway, when can we meet?” Richard repeated his question.

“Hmmm, okay tomorrow. I’m free in the afternoon.” Although she wasn’t really excited to see him, she figured she didn’t have a choice in the matter.

“Good. I’ll pick you up at your Alabang office.” Richard stated. They agreed on the exact time when he will be at La Esperanza.

As soon as their call ended, Maya faced Emman who was smiling broadly and his eyebrows moving up and down.

“Uyyy, magkikita sila ng fiancée niya.” Emman teased her.

“Emman, ano ka ba? Kung makatukso ka, ha. Mag-uusap lang kami. I think he also is not in favor of this arranged marriage. Ang formal nga ng tone niya sa phone.” Maya shared.

“Pero girl, aminin, gwapo pa rin ang Richard Lim ano? Parang I haven’t heard from him in years. Hindi ka na talo girl kung siya ang mapapangasawa mo. Gwapo, mayaman..” He was cut off.

“Babaero at conceited. He was in the States for five years sabi ni Papa.” Maya finished the description of Emman.

“Sobra ka naman, ang tagal nang impression na ‘yan about him. Noon yon, college pa tayo. Ikaw naman, minsan ka lang nabistong may crush sa kanya noon, biglang ayaw mo na sa kanya.” Emman made fun of her as he reminisced their college days.

“Emman, excuse me… s’ya ang nagsabing may crush ako sa kanya. Anyway, please forget it. The truth is si James ang ideal guy ko.” Maya declared.

Her friend just laughed. “Ha,ha,ha. Sabi mo eh. So, kalma ka lang. Let’s see kung wala talagang effect sa’yo yang Richard Lim na ‘yan. Malay mo ma-inlove ka sa kanya.”

Maya just rolled her eyes, ignoring what her bestfriend told her.

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