This is a continuation to Hearts True Desire – part 3.
At exactly 3:00 p.m., Richard was at the lobby of La Esperanza hotel. Maya came out of the administration room within a few minutes of his arrival. As Richard watched her stride across the lobby area, he couldn’t help but admire the beauty that was approaching him. She was in a figure hugging yellow dress with her hair neatly tied in a bun.
“Hello Maya.” He smiled when she stopped in front of him.
“Hi Richard.” She smiled tentatively. “So, dito na lang tayo sa restaurant mag-usap.” She pointed at the direction of the lobby restaurant of their hotel.
“Ahh, may I suggest a place other than here? I don’t think we would want to be seen or heard by any of your staff.” He stated since he observed that some of hotel staff were looking at them.
Maya agreed. They took Richard’s car and decided to go to another restaurant within the area. After 30 minutes, she found herself browsing an Italian cuisine menu with Richard.
While having their pasta, Richard opened the purpose of their meeting. He first tackled the air of awkwardness between them.
“Maya, I know it can be uncomfortable to have this conversation with me. But I think you will also agree that we have to talk because we are in the same boat. And if you don’t mind, I’d like to request that we be honest with each other.”
“Tama ka Richard. We need to discuss this.” Maya breathe deeply. She sipped her drink as she felt her throat became dry.
“Maya, what do you think of this arranged marriage?” He was straightforward with his question.
She looked at him intently. “Personally? I don’t agree. However, my family is insistent about this. Nakakahiya man, it’s about the business. They are hoping that your family can help us.” She was becoming red faced with embarrassment.
“I understand about the business issue. I’ve seen the financial reports for the last 3 years. Nakita ko kung anong mga areas ang napabayaan. But I am wondering, how come you don’t seem to be interested in running the business yourself.” Richard was curious. He assumed that being their only daughter, she would eventually manage their hotel.
“I’ve never been into running the hotel myself. It’s not my cup of tea. Si Papa naman, siya lang talaga ang nag-manage nito simula ng mamatay si Papang.” She explained.
“Anyway, I think there is still hope and it can be profitable again. So, I want to let you know that I am inclined to agree with the marriage.” Richard told her in a serious tone.
Maya couldn’t hide her surprise. “Huh? Bakit? I mean what’s in it for you? Yung sa akin, alam mo na but how about in your case?” She asked questions one after the other.
“I need to prove to my family that I can run a hotel chain on my own. This is my test. I worked hard in the U.S. in hotels with the real intention learning so much to prepare for taking over Lim Hotel and Resorts. So, if I can be successful this time, I will get L.H.R.” He explained further.
“So, ganoon ang family mo? Why do you have to prove yourself?” It was her turn to be curious as there was a missing piece to his story.
Richard let out a deep sigh. “Maya, I have to be honest with you. Right after college, I took over the management of one of our hotels in Cebu. I wasn’t successful that it almost closed down. So, I’m trying to earn my way back into our company.”
After his discussion with his grandfather, he had carefully thought of his options. He realized that agreeing to their plan would be the shortest way back into their family’s business fold.
“But isn’t unfair for both of us? I’ve always believed that people marry by choice and love.” She opined.
“Hmm, yes, I agree sa by choice… about love…hhmmm…if you find the right one.” He seemed to be thinking of something else.
Then, he asked her out of the blue, “Do you have a boyfriend?”
She immediately responded. “No, I don’t.”
Richard was surprised. “Oh come on, we’re being honest here. You don’t have a boyfriend?” He was smiling at her. He seemed more relaxed in their conversation.
As she looked at him steadily, she noticed his lopsided smile. It was still there. It was that smile that caused her to have a crush on him for a short time during her first year in college. She quickly dismissed the memory.
Maya reiterated. “I don’t have a boyfriend.” Then, for some reason, she averted eyes from his gaze especially when he leaned forward with interest on her response.
“Hmm, I’m guessing there is someone. Ahhh, maybe still courting you?” He persisted.
Maya ignored his question. She couldn’t share with him that there is really someone that is in her heart but that person is unavailable. Instead, she posed another question from him. “Anyway, I was thinking what if during our marriage, one of us falls in love with somebody and yet we are binded by marriage?”
Richard eyed her carefully. “So are you discounting the possibility that we could also fall in love with each other?” He saw the discomfort in Maya’s expression so he followed-up with an explanation. “I didn’t mean to put you on the spot, but since we are already here and discussing, we might as well cover as much ground as we can.”
“Richard, I understand what you mean. So, if you don’t mind, ibalik ko sa’yo yung tanong mo kanina. Do you have a girlfriend?” Maya asked which in effect deflected his question.
Richard smiled again before he responded. “Let’s just say, I have many female friends. As to an exclusive date, I haven’t found the right one.” Then, he let out a soft chuckle. His brows were upwards as if waiting for more questions from her.
“Why am I not surprised?” She commented in a joking manner.
“Anyway, Maya ang sagot ko sa tanong mo eh, we’ll cross the bridge when we get there.” Richard slowly became serious again as he got reminded of his original intent why he wanted to talk to her.
“So, I’ve been completely honest with you why I am inclined to agree with the plan. How about you, would you reconsider? Would you consider it even from a business perspective?” Richard asked again.
“You mean a business arrangement?” Maya clarified.
“Hmmm, Yes, for L.H.R. for La Esperanza, for our family.” His response.
“But Richard, it isn’t as simple as that. When we are married, there will be other expectations from us and you may have expectations from me.” She still pushed backed.
“Maya, can we just take things one at a time? We can get to know each other later, etc. Let’s see. Now, if we really can’t get along, let’s be mature and make a decision then. By that time, I think our families may be flexible with our decision.” He tried to persuade her.
“Kaya lang Richard…we have our personal lives, feelings.” She argued again.
“Maya if it is any consolation to you, I have intention of controlling of your personal feelings. Again, we are going into this arrangement from a business perspective. Whatever develops from there, I don’t want to assume and worry too much.” He stated plainly.
She stared at him and saw he had made up his decision and it was up to her to agree.
As she reflected on their conversation, she gave him credit for at least being honest with her.
“Richard, pwede humingi ng panahon? Malay mo magbago isip ng parents natin? I’ll talk to Papa one more time.” She said in a low voice.
“Sige, but you know where I stand in this whole situation.” He compromised.
Later that night, Maya couldn’t sleep. She was mulling over what she and Richard discussed. When she arrived earlier, she spoke again to her father and asked if there was another way out of their predicament. Again, her father explained that the best option for them is to get the help of the Lim family and that was by marrying their youngest son. It was for the best for the treasured hotel, name and a security for her.
However, Maya couldn’t just accept that she was marrying for money. In her mind, she would want to be married to someone that she loves and who loves her back. She hoped that she could find someone like James, someone who is fun, understanding and family oriented. So, if she would be tied in a marriage, she doesn’t know how she could find her Mr. Right. She even assumed that Richard’s response to her about being open to possibilities equated to being non-committal to a long-term relationship with her.
After weighing her pros and cons, she thought of a plan, a plan that she would offer to Richard.
Before going to sleep, she sent him a text message. “Richard, if we are agreeing to this arranged marriage, can we make it a contractual agreement?”