Chapter 2 - Azalea

Puting Polo

I had no choice but to follow him. Two days after that conversation with his crazy brother, I have already compiled a list of respectable women that would want to be the mother of his child. Sa katunayan, I even prepared a presentation to show him these women.

I actually have a pool of women to choose from. Despite his snobbish and mysterious aura, maraming mga kababaihan ang nagkakandarapa sa kaniya. Hindi naman maitatangging matalino at maitsura ang lalaki.

H’wag ka ngang plastik.

Tila naririnig ko ang konsensya ko na kumakastigo sa aking sarili.

Okay, fine. He’s damn good looking. Kung hindi ko lamang siya boss ay malamang na isa rin ako sa mga babaeng magkakagusto sa kaniya.

Paanong hindi ba naman? He’s got a body to die for. Makisig na parang kayang-kaya kang ipangko at buhatin paakyat ng hagdan kung sakaling ‘di na kayo umabot sa kwarto sa paghahalikan.

Lalo na sa tuwing hinuhubad niya ang coat at tie na suot niya. Bagay na bagay sa kaniya ang puting polong panloob niya dahil sa pagkahab nito sa kaniyang katawan. Which he’s actually doing right now while I’m connecting my laptop to the projector.

Focus, Aeza. Maaga pa para mag-lunch.

Anyway, I still think this is stupid, but he looks determined to do this. I did not voice out my opinion and continued with my presentation. I put on a serious face to avoid showing how I’m drooling over him, no, I mean my distaste.

Una sa listahan ay ang ex-girlfriend ni Hue na si Atty. Eloisa Barreda, she’s the corporate lawyer of Helping Hand. On the screen, a picture of the alluring woman was being projected.

Wala siyang mairereklamo sa katangian ng babae. Maganda ito at sopistikada, ang kaelegantihan ay ‘di rin maitatanggi. Bukod pa ron ay galing din siya sa mayamang pamilya.

If she ever agrees, they will probably be bonded by contract. Because that’s how Eloisa is, she’s rational and does everything by the law. Besides, she still works for him despite their past relationship. That must mean a thing or two.

“There is a high chance she’ll agree because she also cares genuinely to the company. After all, you were together when this company was put up, the same reason you broke up. What do you think?”

Nasamid si Hue sa sinabi ko. “Next, please.”

I raised a brow but followed him. If I were him, I’d choose her instantly even without considering the next girls. Hindi siya lugi sa ambag niyang DNA kung saka-sakali. Kung mas magmamana man sa babae ang anak nila ay swerte pa rin dahil sa taglay nitong talino at ganda.

I hope he considers these good qualities before choosing a woman.

On the next slide, a picture of Miss Katarina Mendoza was shown. Siya naman ay isang sikat na modelo sa bansa. Twenty-three years old, single at patay na patay sa kaniya. Ilang beses na itong hayagang nanligaw sa kaniya pero lantaran din nitong hinindian.

Tulad ng kay Atty. Barreda, ginawa ring dahilan ni Hue ang Helping Hand para i-reject ang babae. Totoo namang abala siya sa pagpapatakbo ng negosyo niya pero sino ba ang walang oras lumandi? Kung gugustuhin niya, kakayanin niya pang pagsabay-sabayin ang mga babaeng nahuhumaling sa kaniya.

Pero hindi. Ni minsan ay hindi ko nakitaan siya nang pakikipaglaro sa mga babae. Nakakarelasyon niya ang iba, oo. Pero ‘pag ayaw niya na, inaamin niya talaga. Hindi siya nagpapaasa, hindi siya nanggagamit.

Totoo rin namang prayoridad niya ang kompanya at ang karir niya. Ganoon din naman ako. Sa kabila ng pagiging mapusok ko ay seryoso at mahal ko ang trabaho ko. My job finances all my adventures at night. And I want it to stay like that. It allows me to be independent and free to do whatever I want in my free time.

Nagpatuloy ako sa pagpapakilala sa susunod na babae.

“Well, kilalang-kilala mo siya. Ilang beses ka na niyang niligawan, but you rejected her. She’s beautiful, nice, and fights for what she wants. Ou experienced it firsthand. In short, she’s also got good DNA.” Punong puno ng sarkasmo ang pagkakasabi ko dahil ‘di ko mapigilan isipin kung gaano kabaliw ‘tong ideya nila.

Nilipat ko sa susunod na slide upang ipakita ang picture ng isang limang taong gulang na batang kasama si Miss Mendoza. I blurred the kid’s face for privacy.

“Who is that kid?” Punung-puno nang pagtatakang tanong niya.

“Her kid. Hindi mo alam?” Nakumpirma ko sa mukha niyang hindi niya nga talaga alam. “Hindi niya ito tinatago, pero hindi rin isinasapubliko. May anak na siya, kaya malamang na hindi siya tatanggi sa pagiging ina ng anak mo, lalo na’t gusto ka rin niya. She might as well ask you for marriage.”

Nanlalaking mata niya kong inilingan kaya nilipat ko na sa susunod na slide.

We have the same opinion in that matter. Marriage will not fit on this plan. So, now it’s clear that he just wants a kid. I should have taken note of that from the very start. Hindi ko na sana naisama si Miss Mendoza sa pagpipilian. Paniguradong magde-demand ang babae ng kasal kung iaalok ang planong ito.

Well, at least he’s smart about that. Marriage does not work for everyone. At ‘di tulad ni Hue na wala pa nga lamang sa isip ang kasal, ako naman ay wala sa plano ang ikasal kahit na kalian. I am agnostic and I don’t believe in such knots. Civil wedding for sure is nice for the sake of civil rights. But for me, I am never going to share all that I have with someone else. I wouldn’t want someone to own me. Freedom is the only right you can choose. And I wouldn’t surrender it to anybody.

I eyed Hue who seems relieved that I changed the slide. Takot sa kasal, pero hindi takot sa pagkakaroon ng anak na may kaakibat na mas malaking responsibilidad.

“Here’s your another ex, Amanda Gonzaga. I’m sorry, correction, she’s your fling you rejected when she asked for a relationship, right?” Hindi ko na napigilan mapabuntong-hininga.

I really think this is absurd, but he still looked serious as hell. How can I burst his bubble? Kung tingin niyang makakatulong talaga ‘to sa kompanya, bakit ko siya pipigilan? Parehas lang naman kami ng gusto, ngunit kahit sino naman siguro ang tanungin ay hindi naman talaga magandang ideya ‘to.

Besides, ‘di ko na siya matititigan ng may malisya kung sakaling magkaanak siya o worse, magkaasawa.

Edi lumabas din ang katotohanan? Dun ba talaga ako worried? ‘Di ko rin naman siya maaaring makalaro dahil boss ko siya, pero bakit parang ayaw ko siya mapunta sa iba?

Bakit ba kasi irresistible ang lalaki at napakasarap tignan? It’s his fault for being such an eye candy, kaya kung anu-ano na lamang nag naiisip ko ngayon.

I was about to change to the next slide when he spoke, “Azalea, why are they all my exes?” He removed his eyeglasses. Sana hindi halata sa mukha ko ang disappointment when he took off the only thing that’s stopping me from thinking that he’s insane.

“You see, I broke up with them for a reason. I certainly do not want to marry any of them, more so to be the mother of my child.”

He’s got a point but does really think he got a choice?

I scoffed and tried to speak calmly, “Sir, naghahanap ba tayo ng mapapangasawa mo o ng babaeng papayag na anakan mo? I thought we’re looking for someone who’ll agree to your terms. And I found here four women who might actually agree to it, because majority of them have been with you before.” I paused dramatically. “We’ve got no choice here, Sir. Are you expecting me to advertise you looking for a hook up?”

Mukhang napahiya naman siya sa sinabi ko. Hindi siya nakasagot agad at mukhang nag-iisip. Siguro naman mare-realize niya na kung anong klaseng kalokohan itong ginagawa namin.

Sana may maisip siyang ibang paraan para ma-boost ang image ng company. I smiled thinking he woke up from this dream.

But his face lit up and asked, “Four women? Majority? Who’s the last one?”

Oh, my goodness. What did I say?

Sinubukan kong ibahin ang usapan at ituon ang atensiyon niya kay Miss Gonzaga.

“You were a thing before. You dated her for some time. She was playful and still hasn’t settled down at her current age of twenty-eight.  I heard she doesn’t want to get married but wants a child of her own. She’s the perfect candidate. She’s got the money, beauty and doesn’t want commitment. Perfect, right?”

Umiling siya, “The last one?”

Napapikit na lamang ako at napilitang ilipat ang slide.

Ayoko rin sanang umabot pa sa huling babeng nahanap ko ang usapan. Dahil ang babaeng ‘to, hindi niya deserve ang gawing baby maker lamang. Pero hindi ko rin naman kayang ‘wag nalang siyang isali sa pagpipilian, dahil sa kanilang apat siya lang din yung siguradong willing. Dahil alam niya ‘tong problemang kinakaharap at alam niya na ito ang naiisip naming paraan para maisalba ang kompanya. At bukod pa ron, gustong-gusto niya rin talaga.

Huminga ako ng malalim bago ipakita ang susunod. “Maliah Gallegos. Twenty-five, part-time model and owner of a pastry shop. She’s my best friend. Hindi ko sinasadyang mabanggit sa kaniya, pero nag-volunteer siya.”

“She volunteered? Why?” He’s really dumb sometimes, isn’t he?

“She likes you. She’s always my date tuwing anniversary celebration ng company. I guess you didn’t recognize her, but I introduced her to you. If I remembered it correctly, you two got an encounter and that made her fall for you or whatever.”

He looks interested now kaya gusto ko tuloy bawiin.

“You know, she just didn’t realize know how serious this is. She’s just twenty-five, you know, young and dumb.”

“So are you. You’re twenty-five, young but definitely not dumb.”

Parang napigil ko ang hininga ko dahil sa sinabi niya. Is he complimenting me? Or is he considering me?

Oh, no no. I don’t want a kid. I don’t want to get pregnant. But I’d definitely hook up with him, he’s a catch.

He continued, “And she’s your best friend. I don’t think you’ll get a best friend who’s not up for your standard. She must be something, for you to even consider her a friend.”

Oh, great. He’s just trying to make a point. I almost got excited by the idea of hooking up, goodness. Why am I even thinking of the thong I’m wearing right now? And in this office, for Pete’s sake on his table.

“And she really volunteered?”

Nagising naman ako sa tanong niya. “Uh—” I looked anywhere but his eyes. “But, uh, yeah, she volunteered.”

He bit his lower lip; he’s probably considering Maliah. Goodness, whatever I’m thinking of was so hot.

Okay, I’m getting distracted. I should focus on Maliah, not me.

Ano ba naman ‘tong pinasok ko? Nadamay pa si Maliah. Gusto ko ng bawiin at sabihing hindi nalang isali si Maliah sa pagpipilian niya nang tumayo siya at dahan-dahang lumapit sakin.

“Help me sign her, Azalea. I trust you and your judgment. The mere fact na you listed her means she’s sure of this. And I am, too.”

Now, he’s not dumb. He knows how meticulous I am with my job, and he’s right that I wont even tell him about her if I know that Maliah is not sure about this.

He came nearer to me, almost a meter distance between us, and I’m getting distracted again. Did he realize how he’s affecting me? Kung mas lalapit pa siya ay mapapa-oo niya talaga ‘ko sa kahit anong sasabihin niya.

“I want to help our people; I want to continue our business. And this is the only way to have the clients and investors’ trust back. Help me. Help me, please. Tell her all of our terms. If she still wants to do this after hearing all of them, then we’ll give it a go. If not, I’ll respect her and find another woman.”

And when he came closer, I was lost in his dark brown eyes. Saglit akong napatitig sa matangos niyang ilong at mga labing mas mapula pa sa akin. Nang ibalik ko ang tingin sa kaniyang mga mata ay tila nakatingin din siya sa babang bahagi ng aking mukha.

I bit my lips. Nadi-distract ako sa mga braso niyang halata mong matigas. Bakat na bakat din ang matipuno niyang tyan. Scratch that, I mean abs.

“Azalea…” mahinang bulong niya.

Napabaling akong bigla sa kaniya sa gulat. Pinadaan niya ang dila niya sa kaniyang labi. He’s the only one who still calls me with that name. And that was so damn hot.

“Are we clear on this?”

Wala akong nagawa kundi ang tumango at sumang-ayon sa kagustuhan niya.

Nang matapos ang meeting namin ay dumiretso ako sa aking opisina. I am sharing this room with other admin staff kaya naman nagmamadali akong pumasok sa banyo dala ang aking bag.

May pagtatataka sa mukha ng dalawa kong kasama pero hindi naman na sila nagtanong at nang-usisa pa. Nang masigurado kong nalock ko ang banyo, dali-dali kong binaba ang toilet cover at naupo.

Inilabas ko mula sa bag ko ang katago-tago kong kaibigan. Ini-on ko ito at sinimulang maglaro habang iniisip ang mabangong lalaking gustong-gusto ko nang sunggaban kanina.

Oh, my goodness.

Kasalanan ‘to ng puting polo niya.

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