Island of Fire – Kabanata 28

April 5, 2017 By In Island of Fire Comments Off on Island of Fire – Kabanata 28

Kabanata 28
Girlfriend

“Ano na lang ang inisip ng mag taong naroon? Na sugar daddy kita? I can pay for what you that!” giit ko at natulala nang nakita ang ‘Offline’ na nakalagay sa ATM na tinukoy noong baklang receptionist kanina.

Nanggigigil ko siyang hinarap nang napagtantong hindi ko siya mababayaran sa winaldas niyang sampung libo dahil sira rin ang machine dito.

“What did the manager say to you?” tanong niya, binalewala ang mga sinabi ko.
“That the machine is broken so I have to pay cash?” I know what he meant but I don’t want to make it big. “God! He must’ve thought I’m some cheap girl with a sugar daddy!”
“I’m too young to be your sugar daddy,” he was serious when he said that.

Nagkatinginan kaming dalawa. Nasa kahabaan kami ng Fort Bonifacio ngayon. Panay ang linga ko sa paghahanap ng isa pang grupo ng ATM machine. Dapat ay mayroon dito!

Kung hindi lang kumakalam ang sikmura ko ay kanina ko pa nilakbay ang lima pang bloke para lang makahanap.

I turned to him. With only the lights from lamp posts and stores, his eyes looked so mysterious. As dark as the night, he looked at my soul easily while I couldn’t understand any of his.

He’s tall and with enough masculinity. Kaya naman ay mapapalingon ang mga dumadaang mga tao sa kanya. Aside from that, his jaw is prominent. It made him look more serious and manly. The only thing that’s probably soft in his features is his lips. It looked sexy. Especially right now, when he twitched it.

“Uuwi na ako!” agap ko at ibinaling ang tingin sa mga boutique sa paligid.

A big red “sale” was on those western boutiques. As much as I want to window shop, I know that my priorities are already shifting. I can’t spend money more than I can earn. Hindi ko alam kung magkano ang sahod ko sa Vista Grande pero alam kong hindi iyon kalakihan. Maybe cost cutting with clothes could go a long way. ‘Tsaka ko na babaldahin ang iba kapag nakapag adjust na ako. Besides, gutom na rin ako.

“Let’s eat first,” wika niya.
Umiling ako at nagpatuloy na sa paglalakad.

Suminghap na lamang ako nang nakita ang mga mata ng mga tao patungo sa aking likod. I certainly know who they’re looking at. Mas lalo kong binilisan ang paglalakad.

“I will eat in my Condo. Nagluto si Belinda…”

Hindi siya nagsalita. For a moment, I thought I was alone. Nilingon ko siya at nakitang naroon parin naman sa aking likod. Tahimik nga lang.

Guilt crept in me. Alam kong may hinanakit ako sa kanya at hindi maganda ang mga nangyayari sa aming dalawa nitong mga nakaraang araw pero kung iisipin kong mabuti, kung wala siya kanina’y baka binastos na ako noong manager. Parang may humawak sa puso ko at bigla itong bumusilak.

“I brought my car,” nag-iwas ako ng tingin. “If you want to go to my condo, magkita na lang tayo roon.”

Tinalikuran ko siya at dumiretso na sa likod ng building noong Spa, kung saan ako nagparking. Nagulat ako nang pag-ikot ko sa sasakyan ay nakasunod parin siya. Kung hindi lang siya tumigil sa medyo may distansya’y iisipin kong makikisakay siya sa akin.

Nakapamulsa siya habang pinagmamasdan akong pinapatunog ang aking BMW. The muscles of his face moved. He was so silent, I don’t know what he’s thinking.

“You don’t have a car?” I said. Halos makumbinsi na akong ganoon nga.
“I parked it on the other lot. I’ll wait till you leave. Let’s meet in your basement parking.”

Nagkibit ako ng balikat at pumasok na sa aking sasakyan. Habang inaatras ko ang sasakyan ko’y sinulyapan kong muli siya.

Don’t tell me he’s sporting the old Honda, again? We’ll, it’s been years! Baka naman warak na iyon o ano. But really, aside from he needs to let go of that old vehicle, he’s the CEO of the largest real estate industry. Having a good car will give him credebility and good image. Matalino naman siya. He probably realized that a long time ago.

Nilagpasan ko siya ng dahan-dahan. He looked at me with serious eyes. Hindi ko mapigilan ang mag-isip ng kung anu-ano.

Ano kayang feeling kung siya ang boyfriend mo? Ano kayang feeling ni Agatha na muntik na silang ikasal?

Our engagement isn’t counted. I was too young. We were too young!

Nasa daanan na ako nang pinaharurot ko ng mga 80kmph ang aking BMW at niliko sa basement parking ng aking Condominium. Bumaba agad ako at inikot ang mga mata sa basement parking. Walang ibang kakapasok doon na sasakyan.

I wonder if he’s already here? I shrugged and then went directly to the elevator.

Pinindot ko ang close button. Papasarado na nang bumukas ulit dahil may na detect na tao. My eyes widened a bit when I saw Radleigh in front of me. He went in.

I scanned the basement parking again for his car but there’s none. Guests parking? Valet? Where?

Kumunot ang noo niya nang nagkatinginan kami. I pouted. Tumuwid muli ako sa aking pagkakatayo. Nasulyapan ko siyang ngumuso para itago ang ngiti.

“What?” I said defensively.
Umiling siya.
“Hmp!” at lumabas ako pagkatunog ng elevator.

Pagkalabas ay nagsimula na ulit ako sa kanina pa bumabagabag sa akin.

“I will call my accountant later to deposit the money in your account. I will pay for my spa-“
“You don’t have to,” putol niya sa akin.
“I have to! I have money! I’m not poor!”
“You are bankrupt, Zari!” sa mariing boses.

Pipihitin ko na sana ang pintuan ngunit natigil ako sa sinabi niya sa akin.

“I may be bankrupt but I still have enough money to pay for that!”
He sighed. “Kung ganoon, bakit hindi ka nakapagbayad kanina?”
“Well, I told you the machine’s broken!” tumaas ang boses ko dahil hindi siya makaintindi.
“It will only be a matter of time now before you finish all your money, Zari.”

Umiling siya. He looked so disappointed at me that I felt so insulted. Alam kong may kamalian din ako but I’m striving to be a better person, too. It may not be abrupt but I am definitely trying!

“A little help from your boyfriend won’t hurt your pride that much, right? I will provide for us!”

Halos mabuwal ako sa kinatatayuan ko sa sinabi niya. Imbes na magalit ay nawindang ako. Ngunit nahalinhinan din ng iritasyon at pagkamuhi ang pakiramdam na iyon.

I have no intention of using any of his money for my personal whims. Years ago, I still have that mindset even when my parents were obviously selling me to him! At ngayon, ganoon na naman ang nangyayari. Without my parents. Why do we always have that problem between us?

Yes, I may be very extravagant with most of my things but I make sure it’s all from my money and not from anyone else’s. Years in Spain, I earned enough. The spending too much was only triggered by my undending trust funds! Ngayong mas pinili kong bayaran ang lahat ng pinagkakautangan ni Daddy, kesa sa makulong siya o bumagsak ng tuluyan ang kompanya, hindi parin mababali ang aking paninindigan. No amount of money can pay for my sympathy… or my feelings. Not now. Not ever.

If I’ll be rat poor because of my spending, which I won’t allow to happen, I will never accept any money from anyone.

The last thing I want now is to be labeled a gold-digger. A socialite turned nada and now only waiting for her boyfriend’s money. And also, boyfriend?

“I can provide for myself, Radleigh! At anong boyfriend ang sinasabi mo? Sinong nakakaalam niyan? Ikaw lang? Hindi ko ata nasagap ang tsismis na iyan!”

The anger on his eyes almost made me tremble. Pipihitin ko na sana ang door handle dahil sa takot ngunit sinakop niya ang aking baywang at mariing idinikit sa kanyang katawan. His strong abdomen made my feet soft like jelly. Halos malukot ko ang kanyang damit nang hinawakan ko iyon ng nakakuyom.

My breathing hitched. The blood in my streams turned heated. Pilit kong kinunot ang noo ko para mapagtakpan ang takot at mga ‘di kilalang mga damdamin na lumukob sa akin.

“Should’ve jailed you on that island, eh?” halos patawa iyon pero nararamdaman ko ang matinding galit niya.
“What!?” natataranta kong sinabi ngunit nakabawi rin agad. “If you think that we’re in a relationship just because we fucked, Radleigh. You’re very wrong!”

He muttered a curse. Mas humigpit ang hawak niya sa aking baywang. Hinawakan niya ng mariin ang kamay kong nakakuyom sa kanyang damit.

Hindi na ako makapanlaban nang siniil niya ako ng mga halik. His lips is like poison. Kinalat nito ang init na kanina ko pa nararamdaman sa aking labi patungo sa aking utak. He was aggressive on our first night but this kiss right now made my insides twist… it’s too much.

Ginising nito ang mga hindi ko inaasahang nararamdaman. I closed my knees just to stop the throbbing I’m beginning to feel but I failed miserably. The throbbing only heightened because of his kisses. Malalalim at naghahanap ang kanyang mga halik.

Walang pasubaling napadaing ako nang binitiwan niya ang aking nakakuyom ngunit nanghihinang kamay para hilahin ang buhok ko pababa. The move made me withdraw a bit from his kiss only so his tongue could enter me properly and claim every corner of my mouth.

Tumigil siya. Dumilat ako ngunit hindi ko na halos maibuka ang aking mga mata. Nakaliliyo ang kanyang halik na pakiramdam ko’y tama siya. Sana pala ikinulong niya na lang ako sa isla. I will gladly stay there! Not because I want to run from my problems, but because of him.

“That was making love, Zari,” he said. “That wasn’t fuck. But I can do both… if only you’d ask.”

He smiled smugly. Damn him!

Hindi pa nakakaahon sa kanyang mga halik ay naramdaman ko ang kanyang kamay na bumaba galing sa aking likod patungo sa aking puwitan. The move made my insides tingle. Halos makalimutan ko ang pagtatalo naming dalawa.

He claimed my lips again. He slid his tongue inside my mouth carressing mine. Nalambing at mapanuyo naman ang iginagawad niya sa akin ngayon. Naging mapaghanap ang kanyang mga kamay. Nanatili ang isa sa likod ko para panatilihin ang aming balanse, ang isa’y hinahagod ang aking tiyan, dibdib, leeg, at kung saan-saan pa.

I almost forgot that we’re in a public place. Kung hindi lang siya tumigil dahil bahagyang bumaba ang aking tube top dress dahil sa mga hagod niya’y baka nakasuhan na kami ng Public Lewdness or something.

Hinahabol ko ang aking hininga nang bumagsak ang tingin ko sa aking damit. We we’re both panting as we looked at my tube top, a bit tower than normal.

Inangat niya ang tupi noon, making me almost moan when his fingers touched a bit of my nipple.

Shit!

Kinagat ko ang labi ko. Hindi ko magawang mag-angat ng tingin sa kanya.

But I need to pay him! I don’t want debts! And most especially, I don’t want him to pay for me. I’m not the helpless spoiled brat anymore. I can pay for myself!

“If you think I’m using you for my whims, Radleigh, you are mistaken,” matapang kong sinabi kahit naririndi ako sa sobrang kalambingan ng boses ko.

I have a very girly voice but it’s ten times girly when I’m all heated up. At siya lang ang nakakagawa sa akin nito. Sa kasamang-palad.

He didn’t say anything. Nanatili malapit ang kanyang labi sa akin. Iyon lang ang kaya kong tingnan. The way it is curved made my heart flutter. It’s cherry red and it looks so soft. It’s the only thing that’s soft in his features.

“I’m gonna pay you…” sambit ko at muling binalingan ang door handle, ngayon nanghihina na.

Nabuksan ko na iyon ng bahagya nang pinigilan niya muli ang pagpasok ko. He’s behind me. Ang dalawang kamay ay nasa baywang, nakadikit ang buong katawan sa akin. Halos mapaungol ako roon.

“Fine. If my girlfriend says so,” he said softly.

Hindi ko alam kung bakit parang nanghihina ako nang pumasok ako. Nadatnan namin si Belinda sa harap ng hapag na nag-aayos ng mga plano.

I glanced at her big smile but then my eyes went immediately down on the floor. Hindi ko alam kung bakit parang nanghihina at nahihiya ako.

Sumunod si Radleigh sa akin.

“Magandang gabi po, Ma’am Zari. Ser Radleigh… Hindi naman po nasabi ni Ma’am na pupunta ka po rito. Buti na lang nagluto ako ng sobra!” maligayang sabi ni Belinda.

Hindi na ako nagsalita. I am too flushed, too heated, too everything to get my shit together. Tinulak ko ang pintuan ng kwarto ko pagkaliko at sinarado. Mabuti na lang at hindi sumunod si Radleigh. Or…

Damn!

Ilang saglit akong nanatiling sabog bago tuluyang natauhan at natawagan ang aming accountant. I can hear my very soft voice as I spoke to her about the transfer.

“I will transfer ten thousand pesos on Radleigh Vesarius Riego’s account tonight. It’s possible, right?”
“Yes po, Ma’am!”

Huminga ako ng malalim at pinasadahan ng mga daliri ang aking buhok. After that talk, I went to the bathroom for a half bath. Pagkalabas ay naglagay ng lotion at nagbihis.

Why is his touch so different?

Lumabas ako suot ang madalas kong damit dito sa bahay. Ilang hakbang ay kita na agad ang sala kung nasaan siya, nanonood ng TV. Belinda’s on our kitchen preparing. Hinila ko ang upuan ng dining table at naupo na roon.

Nagkatinginan kami ni Radleigh. Tumayo siya at lumapit na roon. Hinayaan ko siyang maupo sa upuan nasa harap ko. Sumali si Belinda sa hapag at ilang sandali lang ay kumain na kami.

I cannot look at Radleigh in the eye longer than two seconds. Masyado kong dinibdib ang halikan kanina na pakiramdam ko’y manlalambot ako buong gabi.

“Tumawag po pala si Ser Ethan kanina, Ma’am! Nagtanong kung narito ka ba dahil may buyer na raw po ng BMW n’yo!” si Belinda.

I glanced at Radleigh. He’s eating but he stopped when he heard it.

“You’re selling your car?” he asked.
Tumango ako. “I don’t need an extravagant car. A Toyota will do.”

Hindi na sumagot si Radleigh. Hinayaan ako sa gagawin ko. How ironic. Nilalait ko iyong sasakyan niya noon, iyon pala…

Humaba ang katahimikan sa gitna namin ni Radleigh. Belinda took the spotlight through telling us updates about my father in the mansion. The money I’m using to pay for his medications is from my trust funds. Pati ang pasweldo ni Belinda. The maids in the mansion and the guards, as well, are now under Tito Eugene.

“Are you ready for your presentation?” tanong ni Radleigh.
I nodded.

Matagal na akong ready doon. I already presented it to the board right before I decided to be on leave for his kidnapping. Hindi man nakilatis ng maayos ay pakiramdam ko, maganda naman ang kahihinatnan ng proyektong gusto ko.

Tomorrow will be my first day at work. Hindi pa bukas ipepresent pero dadalhin ko na ang presentation para handa ako lagi.

After the awkward dinner with Belinda, pakiramdam ko ay hindi na ako makakatagal na tahimik at tinititigan niya lamang.

Nasa sofa siya nang natapos akong maghugas ng kamay sa kitchen. When I got to the sala, he’s looking at me intently, watching my every move. His legs far apart like he’s declaring his territory.

“I’m gonna rest now,” sabi ko. Hindi ko alam ba’t pa ako nagpapaalam kaya dinagdagan ko ng mas makabuluhang bagay. “I already transfered the money in your account.”

Tumayo siya at sumunod sa akin. Kumalabog agad ang puso ko.

Bago pa ako makapasok ng kwarto ay nilingon ko siya. He gave me his phone.

“Put your number on my phone,” he tenderly said.

Nag-angat ako ng tingin bago tuluyang tinanggap ang cellphone niya. Like I was hypnotized, I put my number on his phone.

Umangat ang sulok ng kanyang labi bago tinanggap muli ang kanyang cellphone. Nilagay niya ang kanyang kamay sa ibabawng hamba ng pintuan, stopping me from entering my room. He leaned a bit to give a soft kiss on my cheek.

“Good night, baby…”

Kinagat ko ang pang-ibabang labi ko. I can’t help but murmur back his goodbye.

“Night…”

Wala tuloy akong presence of mind kinaumagahan. Ilang beses akong muntik nang makabangga habang nagdadrive at habang dinidetalye kay Calla ang mga nangyari. Well, to her, my life is an open book. To have someone like her in my life is liberating. She’s more than a hundred of friends!

“So you mean to say you two are in a relationship already?” she pointed out as I parked the car on the basement parking of the building.

Alas otso ang time in namin. Alas syete y media pa lang. O, ‘di ba? Ang aga ko!

“It’s so clear, Zari. He said you’re his girlfriend! At baka iniisip noon na kapag binayaran mo nga ang utang mo, girlfriend ka na nga niya! Kaya ayun!”

He texted me last night when he’s home. I didn’t reply and he didn’t sent any follow up messages. Hindi naman sa nag expect ako. I’m used to him like that. I just find it so different from the males who keep on bugging me like there’s no tomorrow.

“Ugh! I don’t know anymore, Calla. I think I should just concentrate on my work now! It’s my first day of work and I need to impress people!”
“You already gave them a first impression yesterday, Zari,” bigo niyang sinabi.
I sighed and rolled my eyes. “This is different.”
“O sige. Call ka kapag kailangan mo ng tulong ha?” malisyosa niyang sinabi.

Ngumiwi ako. Alam ko kung anong pinagpipilitan niya kanina pa. My innocent best friend has turned into a pervert. Kasalanan ito ng manyak na si Luigi, e.

I remember High School. He was a notorious playboy upper classmen and I’m one of his prey. Never thought he’d be tied up to Calla today. And Calla tied up with a pervert asshole. Well, I’ve met him once noong bumalik ako galing Spain and I think he changed.

But I’m pretty sure the pervert inside him runs deep. Ang resulta, si Calla. Well…

Wearing a one piece flowing suit printed with flowers in pastel colors, lumabas ako ng elevator para madatnan ang isang abalang araw sa opisina ng Vista Grande Lands, under the Riego Holdings, Inc. Ang flowing short’s ko’y hanggang hita ngunit covered naman ang aking shoulders sa flowing sleeves nito.

I greeted everyone I meet. Ganoon din naman sila ka friendly sa akin.

Inayos ko ang buhok kong malinis na nakalugay sa aking likod. I’m not wearing stilletos, just stringed sandals all the way up to my knees.

“Good morning, Miss Zari!” bati noong mga dati kong empleyado sa Vista Grande noon.

I greeted them back. Some RHI employees looked at me with curiousity. I smiled at them to until I’m back on my table.

Naroon na ang aking computer chair, maayos na nakatayo sa tapat ng lamesa. Huminga ako ng malalim at umupo na ng maayos.

Kinuha ko sa aking bag ang isang salamin at ipinatayo sa tabi ng aking desktop at ang aking Macbook para matransfer ang ibang importanteng files.

The first hour, I was called to sit in a meeting for the RHI. Hindi naman kasali ang Vista Grande roon pero kailangan ko paring tumugon para maging parte sa mga project nila.

The next hour, I was called to finilize some of our on going projects together with the new Engineering team under the RHI and our old team under Vista Grande.

Brainstorming ang nangyari. Palitan ng mga ideya lalo na’t mga batikan ang ibang naroon.

“What do you think, Miss Leviste?” tanong sa akin noong nasa gitnang trenta na ang edad na Engineer.

They would always ask for my opinion. And everytime I say my opinion, they are always attentive. Hindi ko alam kung dahil may katuturan ang sinabi ko o sa ibang rason. In the end, they’d consider my ideas and from there, brainstorm more.

Sa kalagitnaan ng isa pang meeting ay tumunog ang cellphone ko. Kinuha ko iyon para matingnan kung sino ang nagtext at nakitang si Radleigh iyon!

Luminga-linga pa ako sa seryosong mga kasama ko sa meeting na iyon. Two investors were there and I’m there as an investor, as well. Hindi bilang Architect.

Agatha in a yellow skimpy dress is debating about something for the old projects of Vista Grande. Nakatuon naman ako sa meeting ngunit naibaling saglit ang mata sa nagtext.

Radleigh:
How’s your first day? I’m in a meeting.

Humilig ako sa backrest ng inuupuan.

Ako:
Fine. I’m in a meeting too.

“Did everyone get what I said?” pahiwatig ni Agatha sa lahat.

Binaba ko ang phone ko at bumaling na lang sa lahat. Nagtama ang tingin namin ni Agatha. She looks pissed at something. Pumangalumbaba ako.

“We have to develop the ameneties we promised the home owners. Without the clubhouse and the pool, para na rin natin silang dinaya sa ating advertisements. They clearly have it in the brochure seven years ago when this project started and until now, wala paring amenities na inasahan ng mga Home owners.”

Tumango ako dahil tama naman ang sinabi ni Agatha. Father has really neglected our business. And I’m here to clean it up. Hindi man leader ay may maitutulong din naman.

“I have records of the designs of the amenities,” sabi ko. “I will inform Ethan about this. He’d agree.”

Agatha leaned on her backrest. Hindi ko alam kung bakit binibigyan niya ako ng iritadong ekspresyon ngayon.

“We are under RHI, Zari.”
“Oh… Right!”

I put my fingers together. Dahan-dahan ay ang mga palad ko naman ang pinagdikit.

“You inform Radleigh,” sabi ko ng walang pag-aalinlangan.

She smiled sweetly before proceeding. Lumaki ang mata ko habang tinitingnan ang aking Macbook para hanapin iyong design na tinutukoy ko.

“We cannot change the design the previous Architects of Vista Grande has given since the Home owners are already expecting that.”

In fairness, I agree with her in this business. Lalo na syempre dahil high end ang mga bahay doon sa aming mga previous subdivisions. Medyo mataas din ang expectations ng mga Home Owners.

My phone beeped again habang patuloy si Agatha. Binalingan ko ulit iyon at nakitang si Radleigh.

Radleigh:
I’m done. I’m leaving the 19th floor for my office.

Ako:
Nasa conference room ako with the Engineers :)

I smiled unconsciously and then I heard Agatha’s sermons.

“Iyong iba kasi sa atin, hindi masyadong attentive kaya ‘yan tuloy…”

Nagkatinginan kaming dalawa. Nanatili ang ngiti ko ngunit naging bahaw iyon.

“I know, Engineer, that you want to please the Home Owners by adding more designs to the Amenities as an apology, however, it’s not RHI’s problem anymore. It was under the Vista Grande, Incorporated’s leadership when the funds got diverted into God-knows-what. Kaya ngayon, walang Clubhouse at iba pa.”

Nahihiyang tumango ang isa sa mga Engineer sa ilalim ng kompanya ko noon. Pabalik-balik ang tingin ni Agatha sa akin na tila ba ako ang may kasalanan.

Well, the moment I assumed the leadership of Vista Grande, the faults of my father and my forefathers are also mine so it’s half true.

“I agree with Engineer Daez. Hmm. I will find funds for that, Engineer. It is our duty to give better satisf-”
“It is not for you to decide, Miss Leviste. You’ve forgotten that this is under RHI now. The labor and materials will be RHI’s problem. Including the funds.”

Nakanganga na ako para magsalita nang biglang bumukas ang pintuan. Nauna ang mas nakakatandang sekretarya ni Radleigh, isang lalaking mukhang sekretarya rin, pagkatapos ay siya at ang paborito kong Engineer.

Agatha smirked. Bumagsak ang balikat ko. Parang hinahalukay ang tiyan ko ngunit hindi ko na pwedeng iatras ang sasabihin.

“I believe the township can shoulder that cost. Mababawi rin naman sa kita. Better Clubhouse means guests from the Homeowners. And… Guests mean profit. It will be very costly but it’s going to be worth it.”

Umupo si Radleigh sa pinakamalayong upuan. Sa gilid niya’y iyong lalaking sekretarya. Ang Engineer ay naupo katabi noong isa pang Engineer sa ilalim ng RHI.

“Can we see the minutes?” tanong ni Engineer sabay ngiti sa akin.

Humugot ako ng malalim na hininga at hinayaan silang magreview. Hinayaan ko ring ipoint-out ni Agatha kung gaano ka mali ang gusto kong mangyari.

Kinabahan agad ako. Well, I know it’s for personal reasons, too. Hindi lang dahil may profit pero para narin humingi ng tawad sa mga client. Alam kong may mali rin sa aking desisyon.

“This is not about losing to make more profit in the future. This is about preventing any more losses!” sabi ni Agatha.

May point ang babaeng ito. Kaya pala muntik nang pinakasalan ni Radleigh!

Ang pait sa aking sistema ay unti-unting kumalat pero pinigilan kong mapangunahan noon.

“Well, I guess you’re right. I am not really a safe businessman. I’m a risk taker,” paliwanag ko. “I give it all even when nothing’s sure yet.”
“That’s not how the business goes, Miss Leviste. You have yet to learn so many things.”
“Agatha…” Rad butts in.

Should I exit? Nanatili ang mga mata ko sa aking Macbook at kinopya ang design noong Clubhouse at kung anu-ano pa.

“We can divert funds from the new projects for the Clubhouse of that village. And pay it when there’s profit in the future. We won’t have any losses since the money will be from that new project… Zari is working on…”
“I agree!” second the motion noong paborito kong Engineer.

Sumulyap ako sa Engineer na iyon at nagtagal ang mata ko sa isang plate sa kanyang lamesa. It’s his name.

Engineer Marco Alfeche. Well. At least now, I know him.

Tumikhim si Radleigh dahilan sa pagtingin ko sa kanya.

“Then that will mean a new idea for the design? Homeowners will expect what’s in the brochure, Radleigh!” sabi ni Agatha.

I am not sure if Radleigh’s being reasonable or what. Sa totoo lang, tama si Agatha. Para hindi na mas lalong malugi, sundin na lang ang dating disenyo. If Rad says “yes” to my reckless proposal, I might drag their company down if it’s going to lose.

“No… Actually, she’s right, Radleigh. We’ll just do the previous design.”

Nagtaas ng kilay si Radleigh sa akin. His lips twitched. Mukhang hindi siya makapaniwala na sinang-ayonan ko itong babae niya.

Well, I may be bitter at times but I know how to differentiate work and personal life.

“Radleigh,” tawag ng isang malamig na boses galing sa isa pang Engineer. “I agree with Agatha, however, Miss Leviste has a point so I think we need to adjourn and give the designers another time. Propose both the new amenities and the old one. Just to make sure.”

Tumango si Radleigh. Tumaas ang kamay ni Engineer Alfeche.

“Ako. I entirely agree with Miss Leviste…” tumango tango pa siya sabay tingin sa ibang naroon na parehong tatango tango rin.

Radleigh’s brow creased. Binaba niya ang ballpen na pinaglalaruan.

“Meeting adjourned. I want to see the design of the Clubhouse.”

Nagligpit na agad ako ng gamit. Thank God. My pwet hurts from all these. Time to resume whatever I have with my Architectural Design Team. Kawawa naman sila at mukhang sila lang ang nagpapakahirap sa mga disenyong kalaunan ay ipepresent ko.

“Zari…” tawag ni Radleigh.
“Agatha will show you the design.”
Umiling si Radleigh. “I will be busy the rest of the day. Better show it to me later tonight. When we’re home.”

And awkward silence filled the room. Ang iba’y tumayo at nagkamustahan. Ang iba’y nanatiling nakaupo at pinoproseso ang sinabi ni Radleigh. Kasama na roon si Agatha na ngayon ay matalim na ang tingin sa akin.

She turned to Rad. Bago pa ito makaalis ay pinigilan niya. Lumabas na ako sa conference room at dumiretso na sa cafe dahil lunch na at gutom na ako at hindi ko ata kaya ang mga sinabi ni Radleigh.

With my boys, I went to the cafe. There’s an organic lemon juice and salad so I think I’ll be fine here. Hindi matanggal ang isipan ko sa nangyari kanina habang ang team ko naman ay nagbibiruan na sa lamesa.

Oh well.

Radleigh:
Where did you eat your lunch?

I did not reply because I’m still eating. ‘Tsaka na ako nakapagreply nang nasa opisina na ako.

Ako:
Cafe. Ikaw?

Iinom na sana ako ng tubig sa water dispenser kaya lang ay nang tinulak ko ito gamit ang mug ko ay walang tumulong tubig doon.

Inulit ko ulit ngunit sa huli’y napagtanto kong ubos na talaga ang tubig at kailangan nang palitan. Bibili na lang ako ng mineral water sa cafe sa baba?

Luminga-linga ako.

“Anong problema, Miss Leviste?” tanong noong isang empleyado. Posibleng Engineer din.
“Wala na bang refill ito? Nauuhaw kasi ako.”
“Refill daw!” sigaw noong pinagtanungan ko.

Sumungaw agad ang mga ulo ng mga taga right wing na puno ng mga lalaki at isa-isang nagsitayuan. Inabala ang sarili sa hinahanap kong refill ng water dispenser.

“Meron pa ako rito, Miss Leviste!” sabi naman noong may kulot na buhok na Architect.
Ngumiti ako at nakitang lalagyanan iyon ng personal nitong tubig.
“Teka lang, Miss Leviste. Eto. Kaya ko ‘to…” sabi noong isa at nakita ko ang isang lalagyanan ng tubig na puno pa.
“What’s wrong here?” Rad’s baritone thundered on us.

Ang isa’y nakandong na ang malaking galon ng tubig. Ang isa pa’y nagtatanggal noong galong wala nang laman.

“Ah, refill po ng tubig, Engineer…”

Umatras ako para makadaan ang bagong galon ng tubig. Nagulat ako nang biglang lumapit si Radleigh sa akin, nakayuko na tila ba masuyo akong kakausapin.

“Are you thirsty?”

Ngumuso ako at tumango ng isang beses.

“You could’ve told me. I have one in my office,” he said so tenderly that I think the men got his message.

Pinagmasdan ko ang pinaghirapang bagong refill ng mga Engineer. Some quietly went back to their tables. Others were still looking at us.

I glared at Radleigh. He only smirked. Damn bastard!

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