FOLDER of files was piled on both sides of Rachel’s office table. Loose papers, ball pens, pencils, fluorescent markers, and paper clips were all scattered on top of it. If someone sees her today, they will think she’s very busy and shouldn’t be disturbed at all. She even had a few sheets of paper in her hand and she was talking on the phone while clicking on her computer keyboard.
“Right. I was really unlucky that I couldn’t watch that episode yesterday. Is it the battle between Naruto and Neji?”
“Yep,” her friend Jade replied on the other line. “Guess who won.”
“Come on, the outcome is already too obvious. Of course, it’s Sakuragi—Hey!” Annoyed, she flicked the computer screen. She had run out of time without answering the longest word on Text Twist, her favorite word game on the computer. “Damn, I lost. I didn’t even beat my all-time record on text Twist. I’ll just play clickomania then.”
“Hey, Rachel! Are you still listening? I’ve been blabbering here since earlier.”
“Yes, just continue speaking.” She replaced the game on her computer. “So, who again is Sakuragi’s next opponent?”
“Stupid! We’re talking about Naruto and not Slam Dunk.”
“Oh, right. It’s all because of this damn overtime. Because of that, I couldn’t watch Naruto yesterday. My schedule went awry.”
She was already twenty-seven years old—okay, make that, twenty-seven point five. It was because her age will turn twenty-eight two months from now. In any case, she still doesn’t look like she’s already in her late twenties anyway. As many people say, she is too young to be the senior client relations officer of one of the largest land development firms in the country — the Gundam Lands Corporation. After all, who would have thought that she is already twenty-seven because of her behavior. She is still very fond of animated television series that is her only comforter when she is burned out with the world, which was more than she could count in one day. She also didn’t know why she seemed to always be exasperated with life. It’s just that, she was happy every time life annoys her. Wait, I think there’s something wrong with that phrase.
She just shrugged her shoulders as she concentrated on playing and chatting on the phone.
“Don’t you have anything to do right now?” asked Jade who has also become one of the anime lovers like her. “It’s Monday and you’re not doing anything but chat on the phone and play whatever it was you’re playing.”
“I also need to unwind somehow. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be able to work properly. Moreover, just let me be. No one will even notice that I am currently not working.”
“My goodness, Rachel. Just be thankful that I’m here now in the session hall of Malacañang covering.” (Malacañang- Presidential Palace)
“Oh, how’s your president, by the way?” She has never recognized any president of the country since she understood the course of the government system.
“Bitch. You should stop talking like that because you’ll never know if you’re being wiretapped. You know that’s the latest issue today here in Malacañang.” Her friend sighed. “It’s a good thing I only have to take some pictures. Because I don’t even understand what the politicians are talking about here.”
“Just admit that you don’t even want to waste your time listening.”
“Well, that too. I prefer to cover those rallyist in Mendiola. There’s more action. By the way, are you going to Rancho Estate tomorrow? ”
“Is there anything to eat there?”
“You are really crazy! Have you forgotten that it’s Ylac and Frances’ engagement party? ”
Right. It has been almost two months since their friend’s dream of getting a house in such an exclusive village came true. But it turned out that it’s not only a house that her friend will obtain in the said village. She also got a boyfriend in the form of the lone and reverent half Turkish-half Filipino hottie, who is also Rachel’s boss in Gundam Lands.
“If Frances finds out that you forgot that occasion, she will surely shower you with sermons again.”
“She won’t be able to do that. I’m the only person who is capable of blaming someone to the bones.”
“I agree. Hey, the press conference is over. I have to go. I still have to send the pictures I’ve taken to the office.”
“Okay. So, where’s your next stop? Mendiola?”
“How did you know?”
“Because I have a favorite restaurant there. Can you buy me 2 pieces of siopao and a dozen of siomai? I’ll just pay you when we meet later.”
“And why will we meet later?”
“Because I will pay the money I borrowed from you.”
“There, that’s how it is, Rachel. Learn how to pay.”
“Hey, excuse me, you’re no different. You still owe me two pesos when we last ate at Café Helenas.”
“Wait, that was last month. You still haven’t forgotten that? ”
“Of course. You should know that I have a list,” Rachel answered proudly. “I’m struggling right now. So I’ll have to collect your debts, even just a peso should be collected.”
“You really are the worst person I’ve met.”
“Wow, you’re all also like this when your paychecks are a bit late, aren’t you? ”
“But we are not as savage as you when it comes to charging.”
“Anyway, debt is a debt. Oh!” She applauded herself as she looked at her highest score on Clickomania. “See you later at Megamall, okay?”
“And don’t forget my siomai and siopao. I might not be able to sleep later if I can’t eat those.”
“I said fine. Gotta go, my media colleagues are also coming out. They might think I’m doing nothing here. ”
“It’s the truth anyway.”
“Even more that they shouldn’t realize. Bye, Rachel.”
She continued concentrating on her game after dropping the call. Then she picked up one of the stacked folders on her desk when she saw someone passing by in her working cubicle.
“Just slow down with working, Rachel,” Peter said, he is one of their top brokers in the company. And also one of his long-time suitors. “Delicate women like you shouldn’t tire yourself out with work.”
She exaggeratedly stretched out her arms and even had the nerve to look very tired. “I know, right. However, no one else will do this but me. How about our newly opened subdivision in Batangas? Are the sales doing great?”
“Inflow of clients is still a bit weak since just as you said, it’s just recently opened. But in a week, Gundam Lands will definitely boom there. ”
“I’m sure. How about those other brokers with you?” This is because Peter leads the team of brokers who have the strongest sales in their company.
“We’ve just finished having a meeting on the lower floor so we’re quite free at the moment.”
“I see.” Shit! My time on Clickomania is still running! “All right, I will work first. I still have a lot of deeds of sales to prepare. ”
“Okay. By the way, have you eaten yet?”
“Why, are you going to feed me?”
He just laughed, then laid a box of pizza on the mountain files on her table.
“If you haven’t eaten yet, I would like to invite you to join me.”
She stood up. “You know what, Peter, it’s not really good to eat alone. Let’s use the conference room. No one’s using it now anyway.”
“How about your work?”
“It can wait. But food should not be waited for; it is God’s grace. ”
She didn’t mind leaving her work. After all, she’s already finished all her work yesterday so she can just leisurely spend her time now. She’s just deliberately pretending to be busy at work so that no one would criticize her. It’s because there is this unwritten rule in the office that if an employee is seen doing nothing but earning a lot, gossip will surely follow that person. Hmmm, she thinks she’ll have to apply for a salary increase tomorrow. But when they arrived at the conference room, they also found some of her colleagues in the client relations department having coffee there. She looked at the wall clock hanging behind the conference room’s door. Three in the afternoon. It’s already their break time. How could she have missed that?
“We really thought, you have no intention of standing up from your place, Rachel,” Lizel said.
She and Peter also sat in the two chairs around the round conference table.
“Oh, are you and Peter together now?” Aileen teased. “Should we throw a party, Rachel?”
“Not yet. Feed me first. Have mercy for the anacondas inside my stomach.”
Her colleagues just laughed.
“I will soon be able to hear the answer I want from this woman,” Peter said while smiling. “Just a little more food needed.”
She paused and stared at the pizza. Even though her stomach was already grumbling with hunger, she couldn’t seem to be able to pick up even a single piece of bacon sprinkled on the top of it.
“Come on, Rachel,” Peter said when he noticed her skepticism towards the food. “Are you really not going to give me even the slightest hope of serving you food every day?”
“You know, I can do with the ration of food every day. But if there’s a charge for any of that… I think I will have to decline.”
Peter just scratched his head while her colleagues were laughing. “Alright. I’m just kidding. You should eat. I know you’re also hungry.”
“You know what, Peter, this why I like you so much!” she said, grabbing a piece of pizza at the same time.
“Only as a friend.” She took a big chunk of her food. Ah, heaven! “Isn’t there any hot sauce?”
“Thanks.” She then turned to her colleagues. “Join us. It’s Peter’s treat.”
In just a few moments, they were already buzzing with stories, teasing, and endless gossip. They only stopped for a moment when Peter took his leave. It was because one of his clients contacted him.
“Hey, you, Rachel,” Guada cited. “Peter has already been courting you for a long time. Why does it still seem that his hope for you to accept his feelings is even blurrier than my eyes?”
“I’m not sure, too.” She took another bite of her pizza.
“What do you dislike about him?”
“I also don’t know.” Another bite.
“But we never heard of you ever having a boyfriend.”
“Yep. There’s none.” She picked up another piece of pizza again.
“Ever since, right?”
“Are you perhaps a tomboy?”
“Come on, Rachel. Answer us properly. You are the only one here in CRD who does not even have a boyfriend.”
“I don’t know why you are all still bothering yourselves questioning my love life. Why not just mess up your own love lives? Just let me eat here and enjoy the delicious food I eat.”
“That can’t be. Our love lives were already in a mess and nothing could get them even messier.”
“So, tell us, Rachel. Why don’t you still have any boyfriend until now?”
Will they accept the answer that her type of man will never be seen in the world of men? That all the qualities she looks for are only possessed by men in the animé series she watches? She doesn’t think so. They’re all ignorant when it comes to anime.
“Maybe because I haven’t met someone I consider worthy of me yet.” She was momentarily stunned. Then she just laughed foolishly. “That is so corny, right?”
“Oh, really, Rachel. We have not received any sensible answer from you. ”
“It doesn’t matter, you guys were entertained either way, right? That should be enough.”
Before her colleagues could even react, the door of the conference room opened and one of their two big bosses in the Gundam Lands Corporation entered. The very handsome, green-eyed half Turkish-half Filipino Ylac Salvatierra.
“Is my cousin here?” he asked.
Her female colleagues shook their heads at the same time. She couldn’t blame them for acting so stupid in front of their boss. Anyone will drool when they see him because he’s just extremely handsome. Her only difference from her colleagues was, she was not ogling him. She admitted he was handsome and all. But that’s just it. She couldn’t imagine herself fantasizing about him. She can’t because this guy is one of her friends’ fiancé.
Suddenly, the wrinkle on his forehead softened and a beautiful smile flashed on his lips. “How’s my Frances?”
Yep, there it goes. “Ah… no idea, Sir. We haven’t talked today yet.”
“Oh, okay.” The frown on his forehead returned. “Have you seen him? Tall guy, tanned, handsome, like me, of course.”
“Frances is a guy now?”
She grinned. “No, Sir. I haven’t seen anyone as handsome as you are walking around here.”
That earned her a smile from her boss. “Have I already given you a salary increase?”
“I’m still looking forward to that even to this day, Sir,” she said, riding his boss’ joke. “Although I really wouldn’t mind having that increase right now.”
“I’ll give you all an increase once I find my wandering cousin.”
Then he went out again. She and her colleagues just looked at each other. An increase by the most handsome, most grateful big boss in the world. Well, in their world, actually. What else could they ask for, right? They were starting to make a ruckus again when the door opened one more time. However, this time, it’s not their boss Ylac who was there. Standing there was probably one of the most handsome guys she could have ever seen. He was tall, tanned, elegant, and had a model-type body. He even had the gorgeous smiling eyes and the most alarmingly familiar face she had seen. The two pieces of pizza in her hand were suddenly forgotten as she stared at the man in front of them.
“Oh, sorry,” the man said. His smile already reached his eyes before his lips could even curve at their corner. “I’m actually looking for the men’s room. Apparently, I got myself lost. Again.”
“Just right out of the conference room, Sir,” Aileen answered. “Are you Sir Ylac’s cousin?”
“Why, was he looking for me already?” He looked back at where he came from. “It has become a bit of a hobby of the two of us to look for each other every time I take vacations here in the Philippines.” They even heard the man chuckling before turning to them again. “All right, thank you again. Oh, you have pizza. Mind if I take one? Don’t worry, I’ll return the favor later. I’m just really hungry.”
“Help yourself, Sir.”
“Thanks.” The man approached the table. “I just came from the rehearsal of Super Model Search. Ylac said he would feed me here. Unfortunately, that cousin of mine has gone missing again.”
“Funny,” Gary said. “Sir Ylac said the same thing earlier. That you are missing, Sir.”
“Is that so?” He then picked up a piece of pizza as he laughed. “Well, we always try to push the blame on each other. `Got used to it, I guess.”
He was talking so casually with the people he just met. And the women on their table just smiled at him, watching him in admiration. Some things never really change. He was about to take a bite on his piece when he suddenly turned in her direction.
She swallowed hard. She knew that face! The man stared at her. She stared back at him. His face may have matured. But his gentle appearance, smiling eyes, and kind voice remained. He has also grown significantly over the years. And the average body of the young man then seemed to be shaped by time. Because now, he had an almost perfect body—tall, lean, sturdy, strong, confident.
“Do you and Rachel know each other, Sir?”
“Rachel?” she heard him asked. “Is that really you?”
She suddenly felt like ice-cold water was poured on her when she finally realized the identity of the man in front of her. The boy she fell in love with more than eleven years ago, the boy who gave her her first kiss, and the very same boy who also gave her her first heartache, was now standing in front of her. She seemed to have forgotten to breathe during the last moments. So when she felt that she was starting to be short of oxygen, she returned to her former breathing. The problem is it just didn’t do her any good. She choked on her food.