Island of Fire – Kabanata 26
Pagkatapos kong mapirmahan lahat ng dokumento para sa aking mga empleyado ay ang mga General Manager naman ng mga banko ang kausap ko.
I clearly told them to transfer some of my funds to the companies and people my Dad has debts to. Sobrang bilis ng pangyayari na hindi ako makapaniwalang milyon-milyon ang mawawala sa pera ko.
The checks were held until Monday. Right after this meeting, all the funds from the stocks will be transfered to one of my accounts at nakahanda na ang checkeng pambayad sa mga iba pang pinagkakautangan ni Daddy. My accountant will release the checks by Monday, along with everything. Later today, I will receive the final report of what’s left of me. Masakit isipin pero iyon ang kailangan kong gawin.
Pagkatapos naman noon, isa-isa nang dumating ang mga panauhin.
On the long table in front of the room is where I will sit together with my previous board. The audience will be composed of new investors, high ranking employees, and other affiliates including the media.
I was being interviewed by a business magazine reporter nang unti-unting dumating ang mga tao. Medyo umingay nang nagsidatingan ang mga CEO at representatives ng malalaking kompanya.
I glanced at the double doors and saw Radleigh’s entrance. Ethan came next together with some other corporate.
Tumikhim ako at nagpatuloy sa pagsagot sa nag-iinterview. Sa gilid ng mga mata ay nakita kong inaayos ni Radleigh ang kanyang suit habang nakatingin sa akin. Agad pumalibot sa kanya ang ilang pang mga businessmen. Kamayan at batian ang ginawa.
“My Father is not fit to continue the company. It’s been losing a lot for the past years and right now, I have finally decided to sell our shares to those who are interested.”
“Will your company retain its name, Miss Leviste?”
“It will depend on the new President but I highly doubt they’ll change it. Vista Grande is a trusted name in the Philippines. Mahirap nang magsimula ulit sa scratch.”
I glanced at the crowd of businessmen again. Radleigh’s standing there with more businessmen in the same field. In his black tux and clean cut, he looked dashing.
“Why are you not able to lead, Miss Leviste?”
Halos mabilaukan ako sa tanong na iyon. It’s not a big secret that my Father was jailed due to estaffa. And for sure, these media put all the puzzle pieces together. Madali lang ang sagot: Wala na kaming pera.
“I have other plans for myself. Selling it to our family is not a loss to us.”
My little pride got me a bit. Tumango ang nag-iinterview at may isa pang lumapit ulit sa akin.
It goes on until it’s time for me to start the conference.
Parang pareho lang din ang nangyayari. Only this time, the ones who will ask me questions are the new investors and employees.
Pagkaupo ko sa Presidential table kasama ang ilan kong board ay nagulat agad ako. Among the audience is, Radleigh’s fiancee, Agatha. She sits there along with an older woman!
Iritasyon ang lumukob sa aking puso. Why is she here? Why did he let her come here?
Alam kong kailangan namin ng investors at halos wala akong choice sa mag iinvest sa kompanya pero… damn! What the hell?
Parang tumalon ang puso ko sa aking lalamunan sa isa pang nakita. More familiar women were there! Her mermaid dress, her long legs, and big locks reminded me of an incident eight years ago. Back when Rad’s still starting.
Engineer Anne, who called me Nene, who used to work for VHRV, Holdings, is here!
Tumuwid ako sa pagkakaupo at taas noo na nilingon ang pinsan kong katabi ko. Why are these people here? What the hell?
Sumulyap ako kay Agatha na ngayon ay kunot-noong nakatingin sa akin. Wearing a vintage looking yellow dress, her skin looked paler than ever. Her black hair is curled artificially and when she saw me looking at her, she looked away.
“Are all these businessmen here… investors?” sabay sulyap ko kay Ethan.
“Yes,” sagot ng pinsan ko.
The questions started. One of the boards facilitated it. At dahil medyo maganda ang ginawa ko sa mga empleyado, wala na masyadong tanong galing sa kanila.
It was a painful thirty minutes of sitting in front of all of them, answering their queries until it’s time.
Ipinakilala ang bibili ng stocks ni Daddy. Ethan and Radleigh were recognized. Agatha clapped along with the Engineer, who called me “Nene”, years ago. Kung pwede lang sanang magmayabang na CEO ako ngayon, ginawa ko na. Kaso’y masisibak din agad ako ngayon.
They introduced the new board. And luckily, both Agatha Valderama and Engineer Anne Ruiz were one of the few new board members. Note the sarcasm. There’s even another woman who looked as mature as that Engineer Anne who joined the table. Baka naman reunion ito ng mga babae ni Radleigh?
I shifted uncomfortably on my seat when it was the turn to vote of the President and Chairman of the Board. Ethan facilitated it.
Nanatili akong nakaupo. Sumu-sulyap sulyap sa mga bagong board members at nakikinig sa lahat ng sinabi ni Ethan.
I just really hope that he’d win. It’s wonderful to know that the Vista Grande will still be a Leviste Company after this but to my horror… only two voted for Ethan! Ako at ang kanyang kaibigan.
Nilingon ako ni Ethan.
“Prepare for the worst…” he murmured.
I sighed. I don’t want this to happen but this is one of the consequences! Malamang ganito ang mangyayari. And I noted that most of the board were Radleigh’s associates! Of course they are the leading Real Estate Developer now. Kahit ang Le Viste ay sa kanila nagpapagawa ng mga bahay!
Nakita ko ang ngisi sa labi ni Agatha nang halos lahat ay bumuto kay Radleigh. I surveyer the whole room and only the three of us didn’t vote. Ethan, his friend, and of course me.
Nakaupo lamang si Radleigh sa gitnang upuan, binabati na ng mga bagong board members. Hindi ko alam kung bakit kabado ako lalo na noong nagpalakpakan na ang lahat. Even Ethan clapped his hand. Ako lang yata iyong parang nasunugan.
Before Radleigh was given the chance to say something, Ethan requested for his part.
“As much as I want to lead my Grandfather’s business, the Vista Grande, I am still honored that a trusted friend was chosen to be the Chairman. Like Zariya Leviste, this company holds a special place in my heart. And I know, Radleigh Riego will do his best for the company, its employees, and the clients. With that, I take the responsibility as the Vice President of the Vista Grande, granting that the previous President, Zariyah Leviste, will head the Architectural Design.”
Parang gusto kong lamunin na lang ng lupa habang sinasabi ni Ethan iyon. Most of the boards nodded and agreed to his request.
“But of course, as Executive Vice President, I will have to honor the Chairman’s decision about it.”
Kung tutuusin, hindi na dapat iyon sinabi ni Ethan. Napagbigyan lamang siya dahil dating amin ang kompanyang ito.
My throat ran dry when Radleigh stood up. Pakiramdam ko ay sasabog ang puso ko sa sobrang kaba. Halos hindi ako makagalaw para man lang tumuwid sa pagkakaupo. They were all clapping their hands while I just froze on my chair.
Radleigh started his introductions. Although, hindi na kailangan dahil mukhang kilala siya ng lahat. Malaki ang ngisi ni Agatha habang pinagmamasdan si Radleigh sa harap. Instead of looking at Rad, I fixed my eyes on his girlfriend. She looked so proud of him.
“I will grant Ethan Leviste’s request. Zariyah Leviste will be the head of Architectural Design.”
‘Tsaka lang ako napalingon kay Rad. His eyes stayed on me for a while but then a hand was raised in the air.
Si Engineer Anne Ruiz iyon. Nagtagis ang bagang ko.
Sumasakit ang panga ko. Pakiramdam ko’y kailangan kong mag retail theraphy pagkatapos nito. Oh… right. I can’t do that easily. After this meeting, I’m probably broke as fuck. But how broke is broke, I wonder?
“For a failing company to hire someone with less experience, isn’t that a bit scary?” she said.
I hate this damn girl! Hindi ko pa nakakalimutan ang ginawa niyang pagpapahiya niya sa akin. Sumulyap pa siya sa akin, walang pag-aalinlangan na hinagod ako ng tingin. She smiled confidently and turned to Radleigh.
“She has all the experience abroad to prove that she is efficient,” Ethan countered.
Gusto kong magsalita pero pinigilan ko ang sarili ko. Rad’s lips twitched a bit and another hand was raised in the air.
I presume he’s an Engineer and one of the investors as well. He’s young. Younger than Radleigh. He was granted to talk.
“Maybe we should give Miss Leviste a chance. After all, she won’t be a Leviste for nothing.”
Nagtanguan ang mga board. This man is great! Ilang saglit kong tiningnan ang lalaki. Determined to memorize every bit of his face.
Bakit parang ipinagmamakaawa ko pa ang trabahong ito? Well, I can just sit and wait for money to grow and not care about the company. I care for the company that’s why I am extending my help in the Architetural Design team. Kung ayaw nila, e ‘di h’wag!
Wow! Zari! You forgot you might not have much money. Waiting for the company to profit and gain from your investments will take what? Three? Four? Five years? Paano kung wala na akong pera sa susunod na taon? Anong gagawin ko? I need to fight for this spot!
Radleigh’s brow creased. Now, he looks seriously pissed for some reason.
Without raising her hand, Agatha chose to talk.
“Maybe you can find a more experienced Architect, Radleigh. You know how important that is. You are an Architect yourself.”
I froze again at that. Ang mature ng pagkakasabi niya noon. Tila ba sobra-sobra ang confidence niya sa sarili. At mahinhin din siya. Aside from that… Radleigh is an Architect? I thought he’s an Engineer? Or is he… fuck… both?
Oh… The million things I don’t know about him. Hindi ko na siya matingnan ngayon.
Pain crept in me even when I don’t want to feel it. Oo nga pala…
“Oh wait! You are too busy since you’re a Chairman. I can extend my services and be Head instead,” she giggled.
And of course… she’s an Architect, too.
How common is my profession is in this field, I wonder?
Pride is whispering at me. “Zari, h’wag ka nang makipag-away sa posisyon na mukhang hindi para sa’yo…”
Kinagat ko ang labi ko para pigilan ang sarili sa pagsasalita. Sa lahat ng pagkakataong pinili kong manahimik, ngayon ang pinakatama.
“I give Miss Leviste the chance to be Head of Architectural Design. There will be no questions.”
Bastard! Of course, you should! Salamat nga pala sa pag iinfect nitong kompanya ko ng mga kampon mo! Namely, your hell of an Engineer and your fiancee!
Some groaned at Radleigh’s decision. Hinanap ko ang mga mata niya ngunit ngayon ay seryoso na siya. No gentleness was found in his eyes, only his business-like demeanor. Good! I almost forgot what he is because of everything that’s happened.
He is a tycoon. Hindi iyan susugal kung wala siyang makukuha. He came from scratch and would never probably want to experience it again.
“As for the office. The Vista Grande will now become a Riego Holdings, Incorporated company so the remaining employees will have to move to the RHI office.”
Damn! Mag eevacuate pa yata ako! Not that I have much documents! And I won’t be in an office! Cubicle lang siguro!
Damn it, Zari! Will you shut up!
I seriously need retail therapy. But do I have money, by the way? Siguro grocery na lang. Baka wala na akong makain sa mga susunod na araw sa condo!
I suddenly regret that I didn’t tell Calla how I want to go out after this. This is stressing me out. Ay, oo nga pala. Wala akong cellphone!
“The Vista Grande has a total of three undone real estate projects that we need to push through. The other one still on the planning stage. It is a good plan with the middle-class as the target market. By next week, we can discuss about the project’s plan.”
Napatingin ako kay Radleigh. I have that plan.
“We can review the budget…”
I raised my hand. He stopped talking. May ibang plano pa yata siyang tanggalin ang mga dating nakaplano ko na!
“Yes, Miss Leviste…” medyo huminahon ang boses niya kumpara sa tono niya kanina.
“I have the plan for that.”
Labas sa ilong ang hininga ni Agatha pagkasabi ko noon. My eyes went to her, immediately. She awkwardly smiled. Bumaling muli ako kay Radleigh.
“Okay. We can review that Miss Leviste.”
Tumango ako at bumalik sa pagsandal sa aking upuan.
The meeting lasted for hours. Food was served para hindi magutom ang lahat. My attention was caught when my secretary went to me.
Nagkatinginan muna kami bago siya bumulong.
“Ma’am Zari, ang sabi po ng Accountant n’yo na maaaring tumalbog ang ibang cheke if we are going to wait for your properties to be sold. Isa pa, ang iilan doon ay hindi pa sa’yo nakapangalan kaya medyo matatagalan ang proseso and you said you’ll pay this Monday?”
Damn! What am I gonna do with the properties, then? Naisip ko ang isla pero muli ay isinantabi ko iyon. An idea flourished within me but I just couldn’t picture it out properly.
When the meeting was adjourned, almost everyone didn’t leave. Most especially, Radleigh remained with his affiliates. Ang iba’y nag-uusap-usap at nagtitipon tipon pa.
Radleigh’s talking to Engineer Anne Ruiz when I saw how Agatha went up to them. Seryoso naman si Radleigh sa pakikipag-usap sa kanila kasama ang iba pang businessman. Ngunit ang kaalamang magiging kasama ang mga ito sa mga board meeting ay mas lalong nagpapairita sa akin.
My eyes drifted to the women’s bodies. Engineer Anne Ruiz looked so hot. She’s tall and mature-looking, with big boobs and big butt! Si Agatha naman ay maputi, balingkinitan, ngunit may mas malaking hubog ng dibdib at puwitan! She’s like a better version of my body.
Thinking about it hurts my ego.
Anger and hatred suddenly welled in me. Gago rin talaga itong si Radleigh, e. How I thought there’s something in between us back in the island is all down the drain now. Bakit ko ba laging nakakalimutan na mayroon nga pala siyang mga babae?
“Ano?” iritado kong baling kay Ethan.
Halos umatras siya nang nakita ang iritasyon sa aking mukha.
“Well, meet the accountant again now. Let’s go…”
“Fine!” nagpupuyos kong sinabi.
Kasama si Edgar at Roman ay lumabas kami roon! Maiwan na nga kayong lahat diyan!
Kahit sa meeting namin kasama ang accountants, iritado parin ako. Ethan knew that my mood isn’t okay anymore. Lalo na noong sinabing matatagalan pa bago maibenta ang mga properties. Lalo pa noong sinabi rin kung magkano na lang ang natitira para sa akin.
“Don’t stress yourself too much, Zari,” si Ethan nang pababa na kami sa basement.
I ordered Roman and Edgar to just tail me. After my grocery, pu-pwede na silang bumalik sa mansyon.
Huminga ako ng malalim at pinatunog ang BMW ko. Nilingon ko si Ethan. At muli ay ang BMW ko.
His brows furrowed when he noticed my idea.
“I can sell my car and I will buy a downgrade,” sabi ko.
Umiling si Ethan. Mukhang disappointed na sa mga desisyon ko samantalang ako’y parang natauhan. Bakit pa kailangan ng BMW? Kailangan ko lang ng sasakyan. Anything will do, right? So a Toyota won’t hurt!
“Whatever you want, Zari. Call the secretary for your ideas. Are you going home now?”
Gabi na. Hindi ko alam kung nasa condo na ba si Belinda. Sabi niya’y ngayon ang uwi niya. And I will need some groceries.
“I’ll buy some stuff for the condo.”
Nanliit ang mga mata ni Ethan sa sinabi ko. “Ugh! Groceries, Ethan! Don’t worry!”
But… he needs to worry! Dahil noong nasa mall na ako’y naglalakbay na naman ang mga mata ko. I indulged my eyes as I looked at the clothes at Forever 21. Kahit hindi na sa mga high end boutiques!
Imbes na mag grocery ay natagalan pa ako sa pagtitingin ng mga damit. I was wearing a dress so it’s not obvious that I’m not really buying any of those! No one judged me.
After spending an hour looking at so many clothes, I went to a phone store. Alam kong bilin sakin ay ichicheck pa ang safety ng phone ko pero tingin ko’y kahit sabihin mang ayos na iyon, hindi parin ako magiging panatag kaya bumili talaga ako ng bago.
I will sell my BMW anyway. Maybe I can divert my funds from there, right?
Kita mo si Rad. I don’t think he cares if I have a phone or not. After the island, he doesn’t care anymore. Not that I expect him to care, though. But after that heated night, inisip kong may nararamdaman talaga siya para sa akin. Ngayon, the convenience away, he’s just the same old person.
After buying the latest Iphone, I went to a restaurant to eat. Oh how I miss eating in a restaurant. Bukod pa roon, na miss ko rin ng lubusan ang magpa spa! A day at a spa won’t hurt my budget. That could go a long way… like… a month?
Pero hindi ito ang tamang araw para roon dahil baka bukas, magluluto na si Belinda ng tsinelas dahil wala nang laman ang ref.
Kung sa bagay… I can’t expect Radleigh to spend most of his time on his phone. Aside sa marami siyang trabaho, he probably finds that gesture childish. Hindi ata uso sa edad niya ang pagtitext. What more ang social media?
Even so! I am pretty sure he texts Agatha! No! He just doesn’t text her. He calls her! Skypes her! At sakin… wala?
After eating, I went to the groceries to buy all that I need. Breakfast doesn’t need to be cooked most of the time. I’m fine with fresh fruits, cereals, oats, or graniola. Pasta is a must. And some known Filipino food. Bawat hatak ko sa mga binibili ay halos padabog ang bagsak sa cart.
Imagining that the cart is Rad’s chest and I’m slamming him everything. I hate him! He’s a bastard! I know he tried his best to save me but I’m sure he wouldn’t do that if he isn’t involved! Kung hindi ko siya kinidnap, wala rin siyang gagawin. Dawit siya kaya may ginawa siyang paraan!
I was so agitated pagkabalik ko ng condo. Nagpatulong pa ako sa dalawang roomboy para lang madala ang aking mga pinamili. Ang tanging naging dala ko ay iyong paperbag ng iPhone.
Binuksan ko ang aking condo at pinauna ko sa pagpasok ang dalawang roomboy para mauna ang aking mga pinamili.
Nang tuluyan kong nakita ang loob ng condo ay nabigla ako. I expected Belinda to be there, but not Radleigh!
“Ma’am Zari! Buti naman at dumating na kayo!”
Tumayo si Radleigh nang namataan ako. He looked tired as he rose from my sofa. His necktie was loose. He looked at me from head to foot and then his eyes stopped at the paperbag I have.
Parang lason ang galit sa aking sistema. Uminit ang pisngi ko nang halu-halo na ang naramdaman.
Bukod sa iritado ako sa kanya sa nangyari kanina, tiningnan niya pa ang paperbag na dala ko, pati ang mga dala ng roomboy na tila may nagawa na naman akong masama!
“Kanina pa si Ser Rad dito-”
“What are you doing here?” I said heatedly at Rad.
Itinago ko sa aking likod ang paperbag ng iPhone. I don’t know why I’m suddenly guilty.
“Where have you been? I was worried-”
“What are you doing here?” I said, ignoring his question.
“You bought a new phone?” tanong niya sabay tingin sa aking iba pang pinamili.
The roomboys exited and closed the door behind us. Natutop ni Belinda ang kanyang bibig at bahagyang umatras. Mukhang alam ang nakaambang galit ko.
“So what?!” iritado kong singhal kay Rad.
Gulat sa aking galit ay bahagyang tumaas ang kanyang dalawang kilay. He looked confused at first until he relaxed.
“And don’t you dare judge all these! I bought this so I can live for the rest of the week! Anong pakealam mo?” sabi ko sabay martsa padabog.
“Whoa!” Umaliwalas ang kanyang mukha at nagtaas siya ng dalawang kamay. Like an act of surrendering. “I am not-”
“I need a phone! And if I wait for my other phone, I don’t think magiging panatag akong gamitin pa iyon kung natrace ako dahil doon!”
Bumagsak ang kanyang balikat. A small smile played on his lips and I don’t know what that’s for. Muli ay nagseryoso siya.
“Okay… I know…” humakbang siya palapit sa akin.
Kumalabog ang puso ko sa takot at galit. I remember what happened earlier today and all I think about is the bitterness.
Nag-iingat siyang lumapit sa akin at marahang hinanap ang aking siko. Nang nahawakan niya ako ay agad kong binawi ang sarili.
He looked so stunned at my reluctance. Lalo na noong nakita niya ang talim ng aking mga mata.
“Bakit ka ba narito? Umalis ka na nga?! Paano mo ba ako natunton dito?” iritado kong sinabi.
“Zari, you’re being unreasonable. What’s your problem? Let’s talk about this,” tunog sumusuko na siya.
He attempted to hold my elbows again. Muli kong ipinagkait iyon sa kanya.
Naglakad ako patungo sa aking kwarto at sumunod agad siya. Thoughts of being locked in a tight space with him made me so thrilled… dahilan kung bakit mas lalo lang akong nairita!
Mabilis ko siyang binalingan.
“After inviting your fiancee to invest on my company, you come here like nothing happened? Anong gusto mong mangyari sa kompanya ko, ha?”
I advanced. Akala ko’y aatras siya dahil sa takot sa akin, imbes ay nanatili siyang nakatayo, towering over me.
“Ma’am Zari, Ser Rad, huminahon ho kayo…” Natatarantang sinabi ni Belinda.
“She is not my fiancee-”
“Then what? Your… girlfriend?” I said the last word with pure disgust.
He looked pissed now. His eyes were as dark as a storm and his jaw clenched tightly.
Magpakatatag ka, Zari. H’wag kang papatinag sa lalaking ito. Two timer. Playboy! Sa bagay, paano nga ulit siya masasatisfy sa akin? The hell!
“She’s not my girlfriend! There is nothing in between us. Whatever that was, it’s pure business, okay? Zari…” hinawakan niya ulit ang siko ko ngunit mukhang in the mood talaga akong ipagtulakan siya ngayon.
I pushed him with all of me. Hindi siya natinag. He looked so problematic as he looked at me hurling at him.
“So… myth na pala ngayon iyang ‘A Riego doesn’t marry for business?’”
Now he looked aggressive, as well. Pero bago pa siya makapagsalita ay tinalikuran ko na siya at sinaraduhan ng pinto.
“Zari!” he called and knocked on my door.
“Leave! I want to rest! You are making me so stressed and that’s the last thing I need now!” asik ko sabay padabog na naupo sa aking kama.
Ilang sandali kong tinitigan ang pintuan. Ang hindi siya marinig doon na nagsalita o kumatok ay parang mas nagpalala sa aking nararamdaman.
Hinilot ko ang aking sentido at pumikit ng mariin.
I don’t know what’s gotten into me. Maybe anger. Maybe jealousy. Maybe lack of resources. Maybe career problems. Maybe everything.
Binagsak ko ang katawan ko sa aking kama.