Candy Candy Manga is written by Kyoko Mizuki, Yumiko Igarashi.

After That Night

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In one cold dark night, Candy was walking alone in an empty downtown area where she found herself surrounded by several drunk men. They were smiling at her and moved closer to her. She walked to another direction, but another man appeared, she turned to another direction, yet, again another person appeared. Soon she was cornered and had no more room to walk. Candy was so frightened.

In the middle of it all, suddenly one man appeared. He patted those men's soldiers briefly.

"She's my girl, don't disturb her, buddies," he said.

Candy recognized the voice but couldn't find a match with his stature. He had a long hair, a cigarette in his mouth, and moderately long beard.

He took her arm and said loudly to Candy, "Come girlfriend, don't run away from me," before whispered in a low voice, "Candy, it's me, don't be afraid, come hurry before they change their mind."

Candy tried to struggle briefly, but his voice sounded familiar. Besides she had no other option. She came with him and walked a few blocks until those men dispersed and disappeared into the night.

She stopped and asked,"How do you know my name? Who are you?"

"Neal� Neal Leagan, hurry don't stop yet."

She looked at him but couldn't recognize him. She asked, "Which Neal?"

"How many Neal Leagan do you know?" he said while continued pulling her with him. "Eliza's brother,... Archie's cousin... Does it ring a bell?"

She almost gasped in disbelief. He smelled like beer.

Neal hurriedly took her to his home. He locked the door and for the first time in three or maybe four years came face to face again with Candy.

"What are you doing in this place? I had been following you since you passed this block. My guess was right, you got into trouble."

"Neal?" she examined his face. "How come...?" She was about to ask how he became like this. The apartment was the opposite of his grand lifestyle in the Leagan's mansion too.

He knew what she meant. But how to explain to her that all these happened after she rejected his engagement proposal, maybe someday, but not now at least. He was so heartbroken and tried all he could to run away from the life he had to forget her. He came here, worked in a bar as the only option to survive because if he used money from his bank account, his parents could have traced his whereabouts. He spent the rest of the time drinking, the only way to numb his broken heart.

"Well, that's life," he said carelessly. "What about you?"

"I got married," answered Candy carelessly back. She saw his eyes open widely for a moment. She continued talking telling him about her life story. Finally, she found someone who really wanted to listen.

"He loved me dearly in the beginning then slowly turned into a monster, probably because he lost his job. I was wrong in anything I did. Everyday I struggled to find what I did wrong, how to improve myself, how to serve him better in order to make him happy. I failed. He didn't talk to me, he merely shouted at me to show how much he hated me and how unimportant I was to him. He stopped touching me altogether."

She paused briefly reflecting that traumatic time. Back then, she often cried and cried by herself with no one to turn to until there's no more tears left to cry or until her head became too painful that it sobered her, or until she became too exhausted that she fell asleep.

She then continued. "We lived from my saving when I worked as a nurse and the small income I got as a waitress. As soon as the saving was gone, he left me. I was afraid initially, depressed and heartbroken, but gradually realized that it was a blessing. Finally, I and my daughter could have a peaceful life. She gave me strength."

"Daughter?" asked Neal. Then thinking to himself, She's so adorable, how one could harm or hurt her for any reason.

"A precious two year old girl," she said, for a second her face was beaming. "Too bad recently I also lost my job. I have no more saving and have been looking for a job. I started to consider working in a bar, that's why I'm here."

"You can always go back to uncle William, he's a billionaire."

The moment she heard his name, her face turned to sour. How to explain to him the complicated story, maybe someday, but not now at least. The dearest Albert, the love of her life. As soon as he was declared as Sir William, women rushed to him like there's no other man on earth. He fell in love with one of them and chose to marry that woman instead of her. Devastated, she ran away from the Ardlay family and started all the chain reaction of mess. Of course, it's not his fault. It's life.

"I ran away from that family, I can't suddenly go back just to ask for money," said Candy

"Wait a minute, you ran away from the family, too? Just like me?"

Candy nodded.

"Your mother missed you so much, Neal. She was devastated that you left," said Candy. "I know she was still missing you when I left Chicago. I won't be surprised if she still is missing you."

"I am not a baby anymore." He sighed. "But you should go back for the sake of your daughter."

"I don't want," she said.

Neal can't believe her stubbornness.

"Since when did you became this stubborn?" asked Neal.

"Likewise to you," said Candy. She looked at the time and stood up abruptly. "I need to go to pick up my daughter, Lily."

"Let me escort you home. Where is she?"

"She's with my ex's parents. They are still kind and cared for my daughter a lot. They have been my angels," said Candy.

They went to pick up Lily. She went inside while Neal waited outside. The girl had already slept, Candy carried her in her arms. Neal offered to carry her, but she refused.

"You're as smelly as a beer," snorted Candy. He's definitely a far cry to the clean cut young man she used to know in the past.

Neal shrugged. He took them home and Candy put her beloved in her bed.

The moment Neal saw the girl it reminded him so much of Candy when she was little. Candy was older back then, but the similarity was loud and clear. She also had curly blonde hair and a beautiful round face. His heart ached thinking about the hard life the mother and daughter were facing ahead of them.

"You should go back. Ask Archie's help, you know how much he loves you," said Neal.

"If Archie knows, Annie will know too, then Miss Pony and Sr. Lane will also know. Everyone will know about my current situation and I will lose my dignity. They always thought how strong I am. I don't want to disappoint them."

"Who cares about dignity, you'll forget it with time," said Neal speaking mostly from his own personal experience. "Besides, you really are strong. You have been working for the whole family."

"I don't want," said Candy adamantly back.

Then she looked at him with a twinkle in her eyes.

"I can't ask Albert, I can't ask Archie, then maybe I should ask you instead. You go back, return to the life you're supposed to lead, fulfill your duty as a son of the Leagans, then take care of us," said Candy with a smile. She meant it as a joke initially. It struck her that they followed the same path of running away from the family. The similarity put her at ease to speak bluntly to him.

On the contrary, Neal took it seriously. He ran away from his life because of her, it's fantastic if it's her who brought him back. He stared at her for a while wondering if she's being serious or was joking. Seeing her smile, her look, feeling her charm, how could he refuse it? It didn't matter if she was joking or not. Her wish was his command, how much he loved this woman. He had loved her then, he still loved her now. This was an opportunity made from heaven.

To her surprise, he instantly agreed. They shook hands to seal the agreement. The deal was set. They'd go back to Chicago and Neal would take care of Candy and Lily.

The following day, Neal excitedly got up early in the morning to get a haircut and shave his beard. He didn't want to scare his parents with his look. He then went to pick up Candy and Lily to take them back to Chicago. The moment he set his eyes on the little girl, he loved her instantly. She was so similar with her beautiful mother. Her large eyes were green and shone with friendliness and strength. Seeing his sober look, this time Candy let him hug Lily. Secretly, Candy admired his look. He's much taller, looked manlier than the last time she saw him years ago. He's gorgeous like the rest of the Ardlay boys. Three of them went back to Chicago. Lily was very excited in the train. It's her first time ever to ride a train. Candy felt genuinely happy for the first time in years.

Neal's parents were very happy to see him back. He promised them that he'd be a good son from now on. He worked hard as he promised to Candy. His father was very delighted. Neal tried all he could to be a responsible man especially now he had promised Candy to take care of her and Lily. He talked to the hospital where she had worked to get her job back. Since the Leagan family was the major donor, it was approved instantly. Candy was very excited to get back the job that she loved so much. Everything went smoothly and nicely, all seemed like a miracle. He also hired a nanny for Lily. He wanted to hire a servant too for Candy but she declined. She didn't want to take too much advantage of him. But he insisted, finally they settled for a half day servant who left after Candy got home from work. Neal came every week to visit them, the visit gradually grew in frequency. Candy enjoyed his companion more and more, while he, who had always loved her, loved her even more every day. He spent more and more time to have dinner in her place.

One night, after Candy just finished cleaning up and after he put Lily to bed, he came to her as usual. She secretly was staring at him behind her long fluffy hair. She had started to like him more than a friend. He's nice to her, fatherly to Lily, and all she was hoping for from a man. Now that he behaved responsibly, she started to see how handsome he was as a person. He's lovable like a little boy and he was giving her day loaded with hope and joy.

"Will you want to kiss me one day?" blabbered Candy suddenly.

Neal startled, wondering if his ears really heard what he had just heard. Of course he wanted to kiss her. He had wanted to kiss her since years ago. Throughout these years, he never stopped loving her. That engagement proposal was not a joke. It's based on a genuine love from the deepest bottom of his heart.

"When do you want it?" he asked softly.

"What about now?" she answered shyly.

She saw his eyes briefly shine with joy before emanate the tenderest affection. He moved closer to her slowly closing the distance between them. Suddenly she felt shy. She looked away and nervously anticipated his next move. She felt him lean over her. His warm breadth hit her cheek.

"I love you, Candy. All these years, I never love anyone else but you," he said tenderly, his voice barely audible.

He put his hands on either sides of her face, then, slowly, the space between them was gone. She felt his lips on hers. It wasn't the sort of kiss she'd had before. His kiss was so soft so careful that it seemed he was afraid to hurt her. As soon as she felt it, she wanted more... and the moment he tasted her, he knew, he indeed had been waiting for this woman forever. Their heartbeat pounded faster probably even missed some here and there, while their adrenalin kept building up, that's for sure.

He took her arms and lead her to the bedroom. He closed the door behind him. With his honey eyes staring at hers, his hands slid down to her waist to slowly unbutton her dress. "I will be gentle to you," he whispered. He kissed her again and they made love. His stroke was gentle, the kiss was loving, the warmth of his body was inviting. She felt she couldn't get close enough to him. In the middle of it all, drops of happy tears started to form and crawl from her eyes. She thought she'd never experience love again, she thought no one would ever love her again. She was wrong, she was experiencing love stronger than she thought it's possible. She felt grateful for his love.

Seeing her tears, he stopped instantly and asked worriedly, "Did I hurt you?"

"No, I am just so happy to be loved by you. I love you, Neal."

He smiled gently to her. "I love you too, Candy... always." He increased the frequency and strength of his gentle thrust, giving her the most blissful moments in her life, bringing so much woman in her.

One day, they took a walk together around the lake. She put her head on his shoulder and tightly held his hand. Words can't describe how peaceful and happy she felt to have him by her side. At the most romantic spot, around sunset, he gently released her. He gave a tender look briefly then dropped down on one knee. He reiterated how much he loved her and how much she meant to him. He, then, proposed to her. Of course, she accepted. She was crying when she saw him putting the ring in her finger. She hugged him for a long time afterwards with chest almost exploded with joy.

Candy had the happiest day in her wedding day. Lily was the flower girl because... she wanted it. After the party was over while they're enjoying a quiet moment together she told him again how happy she was.

He answered, "I promise you, in the future, you'll look back to our wedding day and you'll see that, although indeed it's a happy day, still, it's not as as happy as you'll be then."

He kissed her.

Neal did as he promised. Each day of their life was indeed special and brought happiness more than the previous day. He loved Lily like his own daughter and adopted her as his child. Lily Leagan proudly played the role of a big sister to her younger siblings.

They lived happily ever after.


- Thanks for reading, from the deepest bottom of my heart. I truly appreciate it. -

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