Jay’s business was on the edge. I was looking at him from afar when one of his employees approached him.
“What’s wrong?” He asked.
Marie has that look on her face. Like I knew what’s going to happen next.
“Jay, I’m leaving.” She said.
I saw the shock, disappointment and dismay on his face and then suddenly it shifted to fear. I didn’t know there were tears streaming down my eyes at that point. I felt like I can feel how hurt he was.
“No, you can’t. Please.” He begged. “You have to stay, we can still do this.”
“I’m sorry Jay.” She said and with that, she handed him her resignation letter.
I think Jay saw me looking at them from where I was standing as I try to wipe down the unexpected tears in my eyes. I used to work for him and I loved working for him. I love the people, I love the company and I love him. He was the kind of person with so much kindness that all you will ever have is respect and love. But I left too. Not because I don’t like being there but there was so much pressure and I needed to go back to school to study.
I tried to hide in a place where he can’t see me but I can still see the entire thing. It turned out when I looked around that Marie was the only employee there. As soon as she went out the room, Milla, his fiancée walked in with another look of disappointment in her face. Jay faced her waiting for the bad news to break.
“They can’t produce any more goods for us.” She broke in.
Milla was holding a can where I remember used to be the logo of the company. Suddenly it came to me. What the hell, even that company where the logo was derived from can’t even sell for Jay? What’s going on? What happened? Why has everything suddenly ridden downhill. The last time I remember, things were going great. It was just unbelievable and I know how much this is so frustrating for them. I can’t handle what was going on anymore and I love him too much to watch him hurt so I went on my way.
There was still one thing he doesn’t know I was doing. I was funding two of his smallest franchises. One is the food related and the other one was the retail store for gadgets. I guess you could say that I was the ghost investor. I was determined to keep it going. It’s the least I can do for him after he helped me with my MBA.
Everyday for the past month, I was checking up on the store, silently keeping tabs with the sales and hoping that It’ll be significant enough to help Jay. Not that I know he was struggling. I just wanted to lend a hand and besides, he doesn’t need to know who I am. I just want to simply help him. That’s all. Although for me to monitor the improvement, I have to be in touch with the manager who I asked to help me keep my identity as a secret. She would tell me when Jay is not around so that I can come visit and know what’s going on.
Unfortunately, there was one time that I think Jay stayed too long and I wasn’t able to read Karla’s message that he was still there and so we crossed paths again. I didn’t know what to say. I don’t want him to see me. Being invisible was enough. As I stared at him, he still has that same glorious kindness exuding out of him. I can’t remember the last time I felt so happy as we both crossed paths. But I know it was inappropriate so I just asked him how he was as nonchalantly as I could then bid my goodbye. I think he followed with his gaze where I was heading but instead of going straight to the store, I rerouted and went to the market instead. I must keep my distance. It’s not like I’m a stalker or anything. I owe him and that’s that. It just so happened that I came across him that day so I was able to witness Marie’s resignation.
A month after, I was back again to my usual rounds when I received a call from Simon, the manager of the food franchise I was investing in, that sales were really hiking up and he wants me to go to the store asap. I was both so excited for him and for me. Maybe this will be the break Jay needed to really get back out there. This maybe a proof that I am really an effective Marketer. I rushed to the store only to see that Jay was across the street and he caught me running towards his store. I felt like he knew what I was up to so he was beating me to my destination. I tried to change my route again or pretend like I was running towards a different place. I stopped in front of the retail branch where Karla was at on the other street. I pretended like I just needed to buy something but to no avail, still saw me and started approaching me. To validate his assumptions even more, Leo, one of the staffs of Simon who doesn’t know my identity should be kept a secret started calling out to me across the street.
“Ms. Aleiah, Ms. Aleiah, target’s been doubled! You have to see!” Leo shouted frantic and excited that he saw me.
I didn’t know if I should approach him or not but my cover was blown so I guess I just have to own it. He stared at me as soon as we were almost facing each other. I can tell there were questions inside his head from the look on his face
“Aleiah, it was you?” He asked as he walk towards me still panting.
I couldn’t speak. I didn’t know what to say. I bet he knew someone was visiting his store. Well I know he knows but I’m guessing he thought it was some other investor. I just smiled.
“All these time?” He asked again. “But why?”
I just shrugged and turned my attention towards Leo as I reached the other store. I entered the shop and he showed me the monitor where all sales really did shoot up and the things we need to invest more in order to sustain the momentum of the marketing campaign I introduced five months ago.
I knew Jay was waiting for an answer so I turned to him again. He was just there, looking at me flabbergasted.
“I’m sorry Jay.” I was able to find my voice to speak. “I’m sorry for not telling you.”
“But why?” He asked.
I remember those two words, but why. I kept on asking him that, three years ago when he offered to help me with my MBA without anything in return. But why Jay? What’s in it for you? Why? I remember how he told me to just consider that helping people like me reach our goals and our full potential. He said it was his vocation on his own little way.
“Just consider this as my way of saying thank you.” I smiled sheepishly reiterating his words when I kept on asking him But Why. “You weren’t supposed to find out.”
He was about to speak when his phone rang. I think it was Milla. I love Milla. She is the epitome of beauty. When I had my interview before, I liked her more than Jay. She was sweet, and pretty and really friendly. She made me feel comfortable. I had so much respect for her. Jay moved away from earshot as he received the call. When he came back, there was another look of sadness in his face. I don’t know if I should ask what’s wrong. I don’t think I’m in the position to. All of a sudden, the dark clouds this afternoon started breaking and rained started pouring. It rained so hard and so sudden that everyone standing outside the store are getting wet. We ran for cover. Some of the staffs tried to take out the roofing for the rain and when they were able to secure it, they were all drenched and dripping wet.
“Come everyone.” He started. “It’s almost closing time anyway. Let’s close early and everyone head straight to my place.”
I looked at him and remembered that his condo was just a block away.
“There’s hot noodles there and some towels to dry yourselves up.”
Everyone nodded and followed.
“You too Aleiah.” He ordered seeing how I was shivering with the sudden downpour.
We all headed straight to his flat. It was on the 32nd floor of a very luxurious apartment. I think he was living with Milla so I kept on asking myself if is it okay to just go there with 6 people with us? But I was freezing and we were all wet. When we reached his floor, he opened the door for us and made us really comfortable offering two towels each. I wasn’t that wet so one towel was enough. I handed the other to the other staffs who were taking turns in using the bathroom to dry themselves. I sat near the kitchen where he was looking for something else to offer us.
“Is Milla around?” I manage to ask as he opened one of the cupboards with so much Jiampong inside. If I remember correctly, Jjamppong was Milla’s favorite.
He didn’t answer.
He opened another cupboard again and more Jjamppong fell out. Wow. Milla must be a hoarder to have like 20 noodles inside.
I noticed him sitting down and dropping his head. Something was wrong. I can feel it.
“Jay, are you alright?” I asked again.
He started sobbing and then turned to crying. I have never seen this image of Jay before. I always thought he was so confident and so perfect that crying was never in the picture or plainly being sad. He always knows what to do in different kinds of situation. When we presented the business review of our team years ago and there was a problem with one of the areas where we thought was already hopeless, he knew what to say and what to do. What’s happening to him?
With that, I know I shouldn’t be asking for more. Milla left Jay. They broke up. And that phone call a while ago was the confirmation of everything else. I looked around afraid that the other staff might see him so I shifted position to cover him while he vent out his emotions. Thank goodness everyone was busy talking to each other and trying their best to be dry so they can all go home to their families.
“Jay…” Is all I have to say.
He grabbed my arm and then looked at me. His eyes were blood red and I don’t know what to do. I wanted to hug him. Like before, three years ago before I was about to leave the company but I know I can’t so I just asked hugged our HR who confirmed the news that Jay was really paying the tuition for my first 2 terms and asked her to hug him for me instead. I knew back then it was awkward but Jenny was a good friend of Jay so I guess it was okay. But today was very different. I just want to make him feel like everything’s going to be alright. That I’ll be here. I didn’t budge and most certainly I didn’t hug him. He just grasped on my arm and I can feel the blood suspended but who cares. If this is the way I can make him feel better, then why not?
He tried to breathe in hard and retrieve his composure. When he was able to dry his eyes, he sat straight and faced him.
“I’m sorry for this Aleiah.” He said, voice hoarse from crying.
I gave him a reassuring smile. Then without me asking, he started explaining everything that’s going on. I don’t need to hear this. I don’t need to hear his management issues and his personal issues but I wanted him to feel better so sitting here silently and listening to him might just be the best way to make him feel so. He just filled me in with what happened when I was gone up to that moment when Marie left. He explained that Marie was the last employee and he was holding on to her until they revive back. But she too cannot handle the pressure anymore specially that everyone already left. I can’t even believe my direct manager before Isabel left Jay as well. But I can’t blame her. Her kids are growing and with a company tipping down a ravine, leaving is probably the best way. Things didn’t go well for this past few years. They weren’t able to catch up with the industry and the trend. Inflation was bad and the digital age was too vulnerable with the country’s market. He wasn’t able to sustain all these changes and even a degree from Harvard is not enough to keep him steady. He needed more help but people started leaving and he was too kind to believe and tell himself that it was the best for his people. Milla on the other hand has to keep surviving as well. Even before being with Jay, I knew she has a career on her own. I just don’t want to ask more personal stuff but Milla must have had her reason. I know her and I respected her. Despite our close age gap, she was my idol. I always wanted to be like her as soon as I get to know her. She was just so perfect so I know there must be something bigger than this that caused her to leave Jay.
Then it hit me that my former boss, is now alone and I can’t bear that. I love him. I love him too much to leave him when the world was failing him. I know he have friends out there. Well, I knew he wasn’t literally alone with all his connections but something’s telling me I can probably help. I may not be a very successful person but I think, somehow I can help. I was able to sustain two of his franchises. He did also mention that the two remaining stores was his last hope of getting out of debt. He was planning to sell it and free himself from all the credits he was buried in. But I think there’s a better way to that.
“I think I can help you.” I said. “I have an idea. It might not be as great as you have but I hope you find time to check it out.”
I saw his face brighten up. And so he agreed. For the next few months. We were having meetings on how we can revive the company. I did tell him I know a certain digital company who is looking for another company with a stable database and loyal customers that they can partner with. I gathered all my friends I know from the industry and some people who we know were very loyal to Jay. After my day job, we kept on seeing one another and working on the ideas and partnerships that we agreed on. In 8 months of preparation, we were finally ready to close the deal with the ShopIt Digital but with one condition, prove them that DBS Ltd. is still alive and can still attract the market and they will even fund the digital campaigns we were proposing. It wasn’t so hard of course for a Harvard MBA graduate to think of something. We decided to rebrand the company and reintroduce it to our database.
Presentation day, it was just me, Jay and our friend who was in charge with all the creative content to face the final verdict. A yes or a no. We showed all what we did for the past 8 months and ended it with a teaser video. Of course, we all know it won’t be easy so when the board of ShopIt Digital asked us for some missing parts, there was a team of five behind our ears listening to everything and putting it into visuals right there and there so by the time were done defending and answering their questions, a new video is ready. I have to say, our team back in our office is really quick because what we showed the board impressed them and finally agreed to partner with us. We were so happy. DBS is back. And for the better. We thanked everyone and made our way out. Johnny, our creative content bid his goodbye as he still has to go pick up his kid. Jay and I were left outside the building with our giddy faces. We were just so happy. I was practically shouting and jumping with the success and he was as well. All of a sudden, he hugged me and kissed me.
I was dumbstruck. The hug, I’ve been looking forward to it but just a friendly hug. BUT THIS? I stood frozen in front of him not able to breathe. He looked at me with so much joy that I forgot how hurt he was months ago. There’s another part of Jay I saw that I never knew also existed. That Jay who’s just being a kid and happy. I never knew he could display so much joy and sadness in this lifetime. I didn’t know he has these emotions at all! Well, not in a bad way but in a good way. He always acted so smooth and professional. If he was happy, he smiled. If he was sad, you wouldn’t be able to tell it. If he was satisfied, he will commend you. But this? Sad? He cries? Happy? He was literally jumping in front of me like we were college students who just survived a notorious panel after pulling several all-nighters for a thesis. He must’ve noticed the distress on my face and the look of shock so he pulled himself out of me and straightened his polo.
“I’m sorry.” He doesn’t look sorry at all. “I’m just glad that it was with you I’m doing all of this.”
And with a snap, I melted. I felt the butterflies everywhere. I felt like I was weak in the knees and that I will just give in. I’ve been telling myself I loved him. I love him. But I never told myself it can be possible to just stand here in front of him, receiving his hug, receiving his touch. I just couldn’t think it could be possible. From what I know, I’ll just be the girl, forever indebted to a guy who used to be my boss and that’s that.
What happened next was hazy. I can’t remember how he said it but I found myself saying yes. Saying yes to going out together. Saying yes to being with him. It was a long conversation but only a few parts retained to me. That I told him he still has to completely move on and not rush into anything and him telling me, we will take it slow but he wants to spend more time with me. I know how much he loved Milla. I know how great their love was. I’ve seen it. They’re match made in heaven and I could never compete with that. But the thought of being with him, and Jay in the flesh asking to really go out with him was something beyond my imagination. It was something I can never comprehend but then again, it was a silent prayer at the back of my head. I knew this was not cheating. Jay and Milla are no longer together. With that, I hugged him! After four years!
And so, we were officially a couple. I can’t believe it. I was in the clouds. Being with Jay is more than a dream come true. It’s the best thing that had ever happened to me. Of course, I made sure he never found out that I liked him even before. I think that’s something I have to keep to myself. We went out every now and then. We were able to know more things about each other. I was able to meet some of his friends, and he was able to meet mine. One of the perks of dating a CEO (who by the way is only 6 years older than me) is his awesome car so every time we come to parties with my friends, we always show up in his BMW or Benz. I told him we can use my old rusty Vios but of course, being a gentleman that he was, he always insists of driving me or picking me up.
I have always liked drinking socially. Not to the extent of being drunk but just a few glasses that can make me feel a little tipsy and sleepy. At times, when he was busy at work and he can’t come, he always makes sure to pick me up even at 3 in the morning. It’s something I was so proud and grateful. There was a time that it was past 3 in the morning and I texted him that I was almost through, I saw him outside talking to one of my friends. He was even there before I was done and he was just waiting patiently before I tell him I’m ready to be picked it up. He doesn’t seem bored or anything. He had a glass for himself and from what seems to be a beer and was casually talking to one of my friends and some people outside. I approached him and hugged him. He kissed me on the cheek.
“Ready to go home?” He asked.
“Why are you talking to Miggy?” I said.
“He just saw me pullover a while ago. I just arrived and offered me a drink.” He answered.
“Who are those other people you’re talking to?” I asked again feeling my knees shaking.
He caught me up and assisted me. “That’s Ramon and Dina.” I met them a few years ago during one of the conference.
Ramon and Dina gave me a wave when Jay looked their way. I waved back. I was sleepy and tipsy and I didn’t notice I was clinging too much on him. Some of my friends went out and Jay politely bid them goodbye and drove me home.
DBS’ partnership with the digital company was a success. Jay’s back on his feet and the company is up and running again and this time, better than before. The two shops I’ve invested in weren’t sold and were doing good than ever. Jay was really happy with the strategies I’ve laid down and I felt like I really did something good. I mean hello? A commendation from a Harvard graduate, known in his industry and I genuinely believe it’s not because I’m his girlfriend or anything. We actually decided separate professional and personal life and so we agreed not to work together and we knew it’s for the best so I remained to where I was working. At some days, I would visit and just check up on him. He was back to being the Jay I remember. The professional and business like person that he was but the difference was, this time, he was mine. There were things I guess that would just remain between the two of us. He was very clingy. I think it was his alter-ego but I don’t mind. He was only like that when it’s just us together. There was a time when he was the last one in the office and I came by to bring him dinner. He was slumped inside the conference room. One thing about him that I also like is his humility. He doesn’t want his own table or his own room. Since he was always in meetings outside, he would just stay inside the conference room when no one is using it. Or at times share a desk with the other staff. I kept on insisting he get his own mini spot but he kept on saying that he doesn’t want his employees to think he’s the supreme or anything similar. The corporate structure was linear. Everyone works for one another and that’s the kind of attitude that made me apply with them in the first place. I sat beside him and opened the take out I ordered. He sighed and smiled and just leaned beside me and gave me a quick kiss. I know he’s tired.
“Do you need help with anything?” I asked.
“Nope, just wrapping this BR.” He said.
I smiled with the thought of the BR. I was only a month old in the company and everyone was afraid of presenting the business review to Jay before and that fear was passed on to me. When the presentation day came, I was frantic and sweating bullets. I thought Jay was scary but it turns out he was not. He was just very specific and just very smart. He knows everything. That 80 slides with graphs and stats, he knows it and he can even compute it mentally. I don’t know how he does it but I swear he has an IQ greater than any person I know. And looking at his Macbook and the printed papers on the desk, I can pretty much tell and it’s like that as well. We wrapped up around 10:30 and after that, he was dead beat. He was really tired and he was practically dragging his feet down the staircase going to the parking. I decided I should drive instead. I assisted him as we walked towards the car. Despite him being tired, he was stealing kisses as we walked together. Well that’s Jay. He was my support system and I was his. Clingy, like a kid at times, but mostly he’s pretty much everything that I’ve dreamed of. And then I woke up.