Events happening many years after Candy finally accepted Neal's second engagement proposal. Do they still love one another as what they proclaimed they would always be? Would Neal still support Albert during the great depression?
Candy's engagement party with Neal was such a happy event. Albert began his speech with a joke.
"Ladies and gentleman, how many of you when receiving the engagement invitation card thought 'Gee, I think we received their engagement invitation in the past, I remembered these names.' They try to prove the second time is a charm, Ladies and Gentleman, Candice White Ardlay and Neal Reagan."
Everyone was laughing, and Candy was very happy back then. A few months later, they attended Albert and Melinda's wedding. She thought about the past when she often dreamed to be in Melinda's position. She felt discontented briefly when seeing Albert kissed Melinda passionately. As though her fiance could read her mind, at that almost same moment she saw a pair of his brown eyes staring at her with a funny grimace and teasing twinkle in the eyes. She forgot the pain instantly. She looked back at him with a wide smile. Since then on she knew that Albert indeed belonged to the past. The future was for her to be with Neal.
But not everyone was without suspicion about her wedding plan with Neal. Terry was very skeptical about the plan. Before the wedding, he especially came to visit her in Chicago.
"Candy dear, tell me again with whom you will marry to," said Terry opening the conversation.
"Neal. You know him."
"That's what I thought, remind me again, is he Eliza's brother?" asked him to confirm.
"Precisely," said Candy beaming only to be put off quickly like fire poured over by cold water with Terry's next sentence.
"Are you out of your mind? I know him, you hated him so much, didn't you? That's the guy who always bullied you and caused you so much trouble, isn't he?" said Terry in his usual directness.
"You are not that desperate to get married, are you? You can ask Albert to introduce you to a better guy," continued Terry.
Candy was shocked briefly to hear the response but then she remembered, well, he's Terry. He always be direct and to the point. She remembered their past conversation about Anthony when he said openly all rude things about him and referred to him as a "dead person". At that time the first conversation ended with a big fight and the second one ended with both of them slapped one another (1).
"He changed," said Candy and told him all about it *. She ended that by saying, "He did love me. He said that many times too."
"He's in love obviously he said that. I can do it too."
Then Terry suddenly changed his complexion and said believably, "I love you." He even moved forward as though he wanted to kiss her. He's such a supreme Hollywood actor!
Candy laughed and pushed him back.
"Where is he now? Let me meet and see him," said Terry.
"He's in New York." Candy told him about his work with Albert *.
"I see." He paused briefly then continued, "If even Albert accepted him, then, probably he did change as what you said he was. Look, in case you had problems to find guys, contact me, okay. As I always say many times, all I want is for you to be happy."
Candy nodded appreciated his concerns. When waving good bye to Terry, she thought how much she loved him in the past, then Albert. The two were the biggest loves of her life before she finally found her true love. Her heart broke so much when they left her. They seemed were indeed the ones, who would have believed that at the end they slipped away from her hands. It took her years to finally accept the facts. Being a positive woman, she tried to move on. But, the disappointments were so serious that it damaged her heart so much. The dismaying memories non stopped haunted her. She found it hard to be undaunted and peaceful in the following relationships... until she found him, Neal.
How the road turned really was very unpredictable. Her sigh soon turned to smile as she remembered her fiance whom she adored so much. She felt lucky she had him. Although he'd been there throughout those turbulent times, at that time she had seen him as the worst enemy that she had hated so much until only recently. Ever since they were together in friendly terms, he had brought her so much joy and wiped away the past sorrows. His sincere assurance not to ever leave her really gave her so much peace that she had sought all her life. Unlike with past lovers, she finally could find love that she could wholeheartedly trust and depend on. Unconsciously, she reached out to his engagement ring and pressed it hard with so much peace, love, and gratitude.
During the wedding party preparation, Eliza helped Candy to design the wedding gown. In the process the two became fast friends. Since her fiance was so impatient to get over with it so she could move to New York and live together immediately, they planned a simple and quick wedding celebration... until Albert came along...
One day Albert met his cousin, Sarah.
"Hi Sarah," said Albert cordially.
"William, our family relation will soon be even closer," she said with a big smile.
In contrast to their past meetings, this time both laughed cordially, genuinely happy. From her, he learned that Candy and Neal planned a simple and quick wedding party.
"Why is that?" asked Albert.
"I don't know, I guess Neal wants Candy to move to New York as soon as possible," said Sarah with a twinkle in her eyes. Seeing her eyes made Albert laugh, he knew what she meant.
So Albert talked to Candy and confirmed that with her. "Why in such a rush, Candy?" asked Albert.
"We think it's better so I can move to New York and be with him quicker," she gave an honest open book reply.
"But, this event is once in a lifetime. Look Candy, you are my precious daughter, I want to hold a proper wedding celebration for you," said Albert seriously.
"I will wear a wedding gown, we will have a wedding cake, and all that. It's really fine, I won't miss anything," insisted Candy.
"This event is for you and Neal. It's really up to both of you. But if possible, I really want to send you off more properly. Please discuss it with him," urged Albert.
When Albert called Neal for their usual business talk, he brought up the wedding subject personally. "Why in such a rush?"
Neal replied shortly, "Nothing."
He said it lightly as though there was really no important reason behind it. Of course, he didn't mention the real reasons which were he really missed Candy, he couldn't wait to be with her, to hug her and to kiss her as soon as possible.
But Albert, of course, knew the real answer behind the short "nothing."
He said, "If that's okay with both of you, I want to send her off with a special wedding party, the one that she'll treasure for the rest of her life."
Albert gave lengthy explanation on how precious she was as his daughter and that she deserved a wedding party of her lifetime and so on.
"In addition there's something else."
Albert continued to explain what he thought a well planed wedding party could offer.
"Recently, I was thinking, since you are well known in New York business society, I want to use the wedding party as a venue to invite and build good relationship with New York business elites. I plan to invite them trough you to the wedding party to make good relations with them."
He carefully and diplomatically explained that at his current position, it's hard not to intertwine business and private affairs. But it didn't mean that he tried to take business advantage from the private affairs nor undermine the importance of the latter.
Albert ended his explanation by saying, "But, again my primary objective is for her to feel special. It really depends on what you and Candy decide. If both of you are really against it, then I will not say anything anymore."
Neal finally understood what Albert was trying to say. Albert sincerely wanted to throw a party for his precious Candy, in addition the party could bring some additional value for the company. He said it carefully so not to offend them for taking advantage of their wedding. Now that it's pointed out, he too saw the business gain that his future father- in-law, who also happened to be his chairman, meant. He agreed how valuable the party could be for the future of the company. In addition, Albert got a better point, Candy deserved a dreamed wedding party to treasure for the rest of her life. The more he thought about it, the more he thought he should have let Candy make her own decision carefully instead of rushing her into one.
She might love it, he thought.
Even if he personally preferred not to go trough the endless process to say "I do" which seemed to never end, he decided to talk about Albert's offer with her.
After talking with Albert, Candy too started to think more about the wedding plan. Like many other girls, she also had a special dreamed wedding in mind, to have the opportunity to realize the idea made her feel extra excited. Candy told her fiance that. He also told her his conversation with Albert. Seeing how excited she was with Albert's grand wedding plan, he finally yielded to reality.
Neal said with a grimace, "I really miss you day and night. I can't wait for you to be here with me. But I have been waiting for years, I can wait for a few more months."
Candy couldn't see him but could imagine how his face looked. So both agreed to Albert's plan to have a grand wedding party although it'd take more months to prepare and countless of etiquette to follow.
When Candy told that to Eliza, both stared to one another before finally laughed about it. They right away discarded the original dress design and started a more spectacular one appropriate for the grander occasion.
Together with her closed girl friends, Candy worked eagerly for her dreamed wedding party. Not only that she felt excited to produce the party of her life, but she also realized how important the party was for Albert. She determined to make it perfect. Eliza came to visit her often in Chicago to help her with the dress designs she'd wear on the big day.
-To Be Continued-
1. These events are taken from the manga when Terry asked Candy who Anthony was.
** Taken from manga.
* Discussed in "Because of Her"
Neal came to Chicago a few days before the wedding. One day before the big event, he took Candy for a quiet moment together among the busy wedding buzz. He was preparing to make a serious talk with her. To ensure privacy and no interruption, he took her for a horse ride along the lake. He also used the opportunity to accompany her to visit places with old memories including Anthony and Stear's resting places. Both were trapped with their own mind regretting how soon they were being taken away from them. Her heart was filled with sorrow when visiting the poor boy who promised to marry her when he grew up. Silently she told him that she'd have her wedding tomorrow. Her fiance held her tightly throughout the time. Candy told him the story before, he understood what she felt at the moment.
As they continued riding, at one spot Neal dismounted from his horse. He took Candy's hand and both started to stroll along the lake.
"Candy, at this very place, I took your precious prince of the hill medal and tossed it around. I teased you badly," said Neal starting the conversation that he had prepared for a while. "Do you remember?" **
Candy was surprised to hear that. Of course she remembered but she didn't know that he too remembered that.
"I can't tell you how sorry I am for what I did to you in the past. I am grateful that you gave me a second chance," said Neal with eyes looking far at the distance.
As though he was half reflecting and half talking at the same time, he said in a low voice, "I will make up all my past problems to you for the rest of my life."
Candy was only silent and nodded, she had heard his apologies countless of times. She already had assured him it's okay, too.
He then took her to sit on the grass.
"Tomorrow is our wedding day. I am sure there'll be ups and downs ahead of us. During down moments I want you to remember that I love you very much. I have my shortcomings, but I do love you very much," Neal said.
"I don't have much things to like. I only love you and my work. If I ever being trapped in my work sphere for too long, please pull me out and understand that I don't mean to ignore you. My first priority is always to make you happy."
He again paused momentarily.
"About the past, I didn't try to make excuses, but I did those bad things to you because I wanted to attract your attention. I had too much time, I was bored so I wanted to play with you. But you never noticed me, regretfully, I tried to attract your attention in bad ways. I am really sorry for what I did..."
Candy had enough of hearing his apologies and put her hand gently to his mouth to stop him and said softly, "Don't say that anymore. I understand. I love you. That's the past. We'll do better this time."
He looked at her and said, "Thank you. I will do all I can to make you happy from now on."
"Even if that means you need to listen to my poems?" she said teasingly.
"I'd love to hear your poems."
"Even if you need to watch a play or opera?" She continued with naughtier look.
"I'd love to, yes."
"Even if you need to accompany me going shopping?" she gave a wider grin.
"Er... Yes, if you want me to, even to accompany you going shopping," he said with a grimace this time.
Candy laughed and hugged him. She had been thinking about him and had to admit that he indeed was different than other men she dated. Maybe that's why she overlooked him in the past, in addition to, of course, his horrible manners to her. She really hated having people teasing her. She liked to do romantic activities like Anthony who gave her flowers, Terry who read her plays, sweet things Albert did to her or other nostalgic things her past dates did to her. By himself, Neal didn't really plant flowers, plants, mingled with animals, partying, watching plays, etc.(2)
The first time she met Neal again, she thought he didn't even fall under her category of an average romantic person. But, after knowing him better, she realized that he was way above it. She adored his friendship. With him, she could spend hours talking about anything. Unlike to other people, she felt she could open up about any topics. Likewise for him. They both really enjoyed discussing, chatting, or doing things together. It just clicked. They enjoyed the company of one another very much. Even things that seemingly trivial became very pleasant when they did together.
"I hit you, kicked you, and slapped you hard for what you did in the past **," said Candy. "Did it hurt?"
She put her hand on his cheek and looked at him with a concerned look.
"What hurt was here." Neal took her hand and put it on his heart and looked seriously to her eyes.
"When I thought about those times, it seemed like nightmares. After leaving Chicago, my heart broke every time I remembered bad things I had done to you. I regretted so much and really hoped to be able to meet you again to apologize and to explain. I am really lucky that I had the opportunity."
"Let me tell you my story," Candy said. "After leaving Sr. Lane and Ms. Pony in the Pony's home, I had kept searching for someone to rely on as their substitute. I met many promising guys who seemed to be nice at the beginning but, except Anthony, for one reason or another, they left me still. I thank you for wanting to marry me and so far for keeping your promise to not leave me. I felt so much in love and peaceful."
Neal pressed her hands and put his arm around her to bring her closer.
He said very seriously, "It's not 'so far,' it's forever. I will never leave you. Within my own free will, I will never leave you. Do we need more evidence for this? Even after all the terrible past, my love to you keeps going stronger. I love you so much, how could I ever leave you?"
Neal stared at her affectionately.
Candy looked at how those brown eyes stared at her and could see the younger Neal in them. Back then, although mostly overshadowed by his terrible manner, that's how his eyes shone when he gave her flowers, invited her for a date, or tried to kiss her. He had loved her since long time ago. She felt so much love shining from them that she wished the clock to stop turning so she could stare at those loving eyes forever. Both stared at one another silently before he slowly sealed his promise with a tender hug and loving kiss. Both felt so much love that it deeply pierced their hearts.
When he took her home, he took out an envelope and gave it to her. "Please try to find time to read this carefully today."
He gave her one more kiss and left.
Candy was busy preparing the wedding party all day. People had been coming in and out. Finally, that evening she found some time to be alone before going out with her closest girlfriends. She opened his letter and read it. She found it summarized what he had said in writing.
My Dearest Fiance Candy,
Tomorrow is our wedding day! I have been hoping for this time for as long as I can remember. It's a very happy moment but also a very important event to our lives. Here, I want to reiterate my love to you in writing.
I had an immediate interest in you since the first time I saw you. I watched you effortlessly mingled with Anthony and my other cousins while all I could do was to watch from the far. I wanted to be your friend too. But, being a vulgar boy, I didn't know how to express my feeling and how to gain your attention. Hence, I made all silly behaviors to attract your attention.
When Anthony passed away, I was very sad too. He's more than just a cousin, he's my good friend. All of us were sad and devastated, but since he's so special to you, I knew you were even sadder. I really wanted to comfort you, but again I failed miserably. As I grew older, my attraction to you got stronger and I fell in love with you. Again, all I had to be was to observe from the sideline watching your life filled with two more men (3), one after another. I tried to compete for your attention too but, sadly, with mean and worst possible ways which obviouslydrew the opposite outcome than what I intended. Then, I left Chicago and we didn't meet for many years (4). Although not seeing you, I didn't forget you. Especially during important life events, I always remembered you. I regretted my wrongdoings to you often. I never stopped hoping that one day I could apologize and make them up to you.
I had been watching you from the sideline half of my life. All those times, I really wanted to tell you that the man who genuinely loves you unconditionally is actually me. The man who'd never, intentionally for whatever reasons, leave you is me. Too bad it got hidden by my negative actions. As I said repeatedly, I regretted all wrongdoings I had done to you. I caused you so much pain more than any nice littlegirl like you should have ever deserved. I was very immature and wrong in expressing my feeling. I promise to make it up for the rest of my life. It's true, though, that you have made me the way I am. I can't thank you more for that.As I said repeatedly, without you I'd live in darkness and lead meaningless life (4).
I wrote you this letter since we'll get married tomorrow, much to my joy. If in the future you ever doubted my love, please always come back and re-read this letter as a reminder of how much I have loved you. How an unromantic man I am and how it can sometimes send a wrong message to you. But, I do love you so much. I have been for a long time. My love to you had survived so many downs and was never in ups until only recently. It has withstood so many tests in times. With that, I know and I can assure you that my love to you is stronger than anything possible in this world and I will always love you! I have waited for you half of my life. Even if I needed to wait many more times over, I'd do it if I can be with you in the end.
I can't be more grateful that you agree to be my wife. The moment you said that was the happiest time in my life which can only second by tomorrow's wedding when you'll say"I do".
Love you forever,
Your Fianc�, Neal
While reading the letter, Candy's eyes were filled with so much happy tears. He had prepared this all along, she thought. She felt so touched by her fiance's earnest assurance. She sobbed really hard with happiness.
She then heard a doorbell and her servant announced, "Mr. Reag..." Before the sentence was even finished, she had already dashed outside her room to meet him. He was on the way to meet his closest friends and decided to stop by in Candy's place.
Candy kissed and hugged him saying, "I will love you forever, too."
He understood that she just read his letter.
"I meant what I wrote, Dear. Don't cry, I didn't meant to make you cry." He hugged her genuinely happy that she'd be his wife very soon.
In the past, Albert's arms brought her comfort but without peace. Somehow she felt that he'd leave her again one day (5). While Neal's arms brought her so much peace and love in addition to confidence that he'd never leave her. She felt so happy.
"I am very happy. I will keep and treasure your letter forever."
Candy cried on his white shirt until the shirt got dirty. "Sorry about that, now your shirt is dirty," she said after finally realizing that.
"Don't worry, I will just wear my suite to cover it," he said with a grin.
Both hugged one more time very much anticipating the big day tomorrow.
Before leaving, he said, "Candy, tomorrow is the happiest day of my life. Starting tomorrow, we will always be together."
-THE WEDDING DAY-
Finally the big day arrived. It was an unforgettable blissful wedding. It was beyond grand. Albert really meant it when he said he wanted to give his precious daughter a fitting wedding party. It was fit for a princess. The dress, cake, flowers, and more were just exquisite. The dress Eliza helped to design was indeed spectacular. Candy was really beautiful and beaming in it.
Many New Yorkers were in the party including top business executives and Neal's friends from the university. Candy was more interested in his women friends than his business relations, looking at them she wondered if anyone there was his past dates or girlfriends in New York and laughed quietly in her heart. As Albert said, it's hard not to mix business with private affairs. The bride was his precious daughter and the groom was his nephew who would soon be the number one person in his business empire. Since it looked too good on the outside, few spectacles thought about the hard work and strong foundation of love underneath.
In the wedding, Albert was the father of the bride, Archie was the best man, and Annie was the best maid. Albert took her to walk down the aisle. Candy giggled to herself briefly, remembering how much she had wanted to do that with him but not as him being the father.
After the ceremony finished, Neal couldn't contain his excitement anymore. Like a thrilled boy, he pumped his fist to the air with a triumphant smile. He lifted and carried Candy to give her more kisses. Nobody knew the meaning of his beaming pride more than Albert, Archie, and Annie. How high the mountain he had to climb to finally win her over, that was so closed to impossible. They clapped the hardest and gave the brightest smiles among the audience. Even doubtful Terry couldn't help to smile seeing Neal's boyish excitement and sincerity. Terry came bringing a Hollywood beauty as his date. All bachelors in the party couldn't take their eyes off her and lining up waiting for their turn to dance with her.
Archie was impressed to see the many business relations his cousin had and from the way he greeted them, he seemed to know each one of them personally. His manner in public definitely was a far cry from the past Neal he had seen in the distance past. But still that didn't stop him to pick on him. During their private gathering, Archie and Annie non stopped teasing the newlyweds. Although not as direct as Archie, Albert too had I-don't-believe-it smiles on his face. This was the same couple who had non stopped exchanging harsh words to one another and other mean things. Who would have believed it? During their conversation, many times he explained to Melinda, who didn't witness personally, how Neal and Candy were in the past. She laughed politely and tried her best to follow the conversation.
Before leaving, Terry gave Candy a long hug while whispering best wishes in her ear. Then he turned to Neal and said, "Promise me to always make her happy."
"Absolutely," assured him with a serious look and a firm handshake.
Shortly after the wedding, like Albert and his wife, Candy too moved to New York (1). Archie and Annie didn't want to move to New York and chose to stay in Chicago. Then, she and Neal had their first child. When naming their son, it was so natural for her that his name had to be Anthony, as a memory to the dear boy who passed away way too early. She was nervous when proposing the idea to her husband. Obviously he knew what relationship she had with Anthony. Having known each other since childhood, he knew many of her more important men which was pretty inconvenient at times. She felt grateful that he didn't oppose her suggestion. Her husband graciously understood how much Anthony meant to her and in addition, he was also his very dear cousin and friend too.
-To Be Continued-
2. This is taken from manga. In many occasions when they tried to introduce him to girls or in the party he complained how boring it was. Also when Daisy wanted to take him to go to opera/read poems, etc...
3. Neal referred to Terry and Albert.
4. Referred to "Because of Her," an article I wrote earlier. The Ardlay enterprise headquarter was moved to New York.
5. Her concerns are covered many times in manga
** Taken from manga.
* Discussed in "Because of Her"
-Many years later...-
Candy and Neal were in UK to attend their eldest child graduation ceremony. They also used the opportunity to travel and do other sightseeing together. In London, Neal also took some time to work in Ardlay enterprise UK office. Today was their wedding anniversary. While waiting for Neal to come home, Candy was sitting alone thinking how fast the time flew.
Candy couldn't believe Anthony already graduated. She remembered the first time she took him to the UK. At that time it was also around their anniversary. Neal planned to come with her and the children but due to some miss-planning he needed to cancel his trip. Candy was very annoyed and disappointed. It's not that she never traveled alone. But, she was upset that their plan was canceled because they had planned to celebrate their anniversary in Europe. Neal was so sorry, but at the end he really couldn't go. So Candy went alone regardless, she refused to change the date. Neal knew she was upset but he really couldn't go.
Candy went alone to take the children to St Paul, the school she went when she was little years ago. While the kids were in school, she was visiting her old friends. She had a lunch with one of her friends in St. Paul who told her that her husband had been cheating and they were divorcing.
"All men are the same," Candy's friend said.
Candy listened attentively. It made her think of Neal.
"Your husband, say, how do you know that at this moment he's not with someone," her friend said. "I always thought that my ex was busy working, business trip and so on, while it turned out he was having a mistress and a child with her."
"How did you catch him," asked Candy curiously.
"I didn't. I was told by another friend of mine..." and so she told the story and how finally she found out. "We were married for 21 years, with children. He always seemed to be such a good husband but woosh... All was a lie. His child with her is already a teenager now!"
Candy never thought about that and got really interested in the topic. Sure she read a lot about it in the magazine, but to actually hear it from her own friend was another matter. She knew her husband, too, both were her friends in St. Paul. She heard similar stories from more friends who she visited, men or women. The bottom line was they all "seemingly" were happily married not knowing that their other halves were actually cheating behind them. The more she thought about that, the more she was curious about Neal. She wondered if he pretended to have his business schedule to be miss-planned while actually he planned to date someone else. She was so nervous with the thought.
Candy also met Terry accidentally while watching a play in London. They agreed to meet for a dinner. While walking to meet him, she was thinking of her conversation with Neal and their teenage daughter a while ago.
"Honey, do you know who won the Oscar last night?" asked Neal while still looking at the newspaper in his hands. "It's Terry!"
Candy almost jumped with surprise and joy. While thinking how to respond that properly to her husband who knew her past history with him, she heard their daughter's voice.
"Terry? Who is Terry? Let me look." She went to her daddy to read the newspaper from his hands. "Ah! Terrence Grandchaster." She clasped her hands on her chest with a bright smile.
"You know him?" asked his father surprised at her reaction.
"Who doesn't," said their daughter looked delighted. "He's so handsome, all girls in my class are so crazy for him." She then gave a meaningful giggle to herself.
Neal looked at her as though his jaw would drop. Seeing his face, Candy tried very hard not to laugh hard openly.
"Why did you call him Terry?" asked the daughter curiously.
Neal looked at Candy while answering lightly, "Well, he is your mom's friend, we went to the same school together." He tried not to make a big deal out of it and looked back to his newspaper to continue reading and stop the Terry discussion.
"Is he your friend too?" she asked.
"I know him, but we had different circles of friends, you know." Neal answered without taking his eyes off from the newspaper. He really didn't feel like talking more about Terry.
But their daughter refused to stop talking about the topic. "Really? Then you should introduce me to him. Mom, dad, please. Imagine if I have a photo with him together and his autograph on it. That'd be so cool. My friends will be so jealous," she said with a big smitten smile in a day-dreaming air. "He's hot."
Neal and Candy exchanged looks. Candy laughed to death inside her heart to see his astonished look. She's very curious on how her husband would handle the discussion. Besides, it's him who started it.
"Good look is not everything," Neal answered shortly.
"It's not? Then what is?" she fired back.
Neal looked at her seriously, put on his glasses and put the newspaper down. "Let me tell you what to look for in a quality man, young lady." Then, he gave his speech about what a "quality" man was.
After finished, their daughter was silent. He gave a winning look in his face thinking he had won the discussion just to find her daughter still responded back.
She asked, "Mom, do you agree?"
Candy tried hard to suppress her laugh so that not to distract the serious conversation Neal was giving her. She answered, "Your dad knows best, Dear."
"Does he?" she said. "You said that only because he's here, right Mom?" She chuckled and said, "You found those 'values' from your business books, Daddy? They certainly are not in my books. I wonder what my friends will say when they hear these." She laughed at him.
Neal was dumbfounded to hear that and looked at Candy with an inquisitive look trying to guess what her answer would have been had he not been there. Candy turned away from his penetrating look with an inexplicable laugh. But he's not willing to give up. Fired up by two women who were laughing at him, he responded and continued the debate...
She was laughing to herself at that memory as she walked to meet Terry.
"Candy how do you do?" said Terry like a real gentleman, he bowed and kissed her hand.
Yes, he's still very handsome and dashing, probably even more than the last time she saw him. Well, he had held the title of Hollywood most available bachelor for several years in a row, what else to expect. After exchanging greetings, he also asked about her husband politely although he actually knew much about him already from the newspaper especially from the business section.
"How's Suzanna?" asked Candy back politely.
With pride, he told her about his open relationship with Susanna which Candy already knew all about it from the tabloid.
He ended the story by saying, "This is a perfect solution for us. I have a great affection for her, likewise for her. As I always said, I care about her, but I don't really love her that way. This way, both of us can really get the best out of the two worlds."
Candy politely said she agreed but quietly to herself she felt happy that she's not part of that game anymore. She made the correct decision to leave him. She was even more confirmed that she couldn't live that kind of life style. She suddenly missed her dear faithful husband so much.
After dinner, Terry tried to kiss her, but being a conservative woman and was still thinking about Neal, she believed she shouldn't do that. Not knowing how to refuse that politely she pretended to get tipped over and fell to avoid that. That's the end of the meeting.
Thinking about her conversations with past friends made Candy dizzy with all these relationship things. She remembered how envious she was when her friends got married, at that time she didn't have a stable boy friend. What happened, she thought. Twenty years ago everyone was saying all the romantic ideal promises, now they ended up in the new territory she'd rather not be there. She missed her loyal husband so much. Or was he? Was he really like what he depicted he was? She was burning with curiosity about Neal. Was he cheating on her too or had some other type of presumed innocent affairs with others?
Candy didn't have much things to do in London. Initially, she planned to do many trips together with Neal. But he didn't come and all the children were in boarding school. So she decided to go home sooner without telling him to "catch" him. She bid her dear children goodbye and went home much earlier than planned without telling her husband.
She arrived in NY late at night after dinner time. She went straight to home but she couldn't find her husband at home. The servant told her that he wasn't home and that he came home late everyday. She was very shocked. Her heart stopped beating thinking about her friend's theory. Would it be possible that he also had a mistress like her friend's husband? In the middle of all these, her eye caught the old letter he wrote to her before the wedding day. She reopened and reread it.
After reading it she felt more peaceful and refused to believe the mistress theory. She trusted him. Knowing him well, she then went to look for him in his office. She went to the company and found all lights in his floor were off, except one, the one from Neal's office. Full of hope, she walked softly and checked if he's inside. Much to her relieved, he was there. She stood there for a while examining her bookish husband. She watched him at his usual sitting position reading a business report. After a while, sensing someone was coming he looked up and saw her, surprised.
Neal said, "Candy?"
He took his glasses and wore it as if to make sure what he saw was correct. How much she missed that familiar gesture she couldn't help to run and hugged him. She kissed him passionately... Too passionately, in fact, until he pushed her gently, asked curiously, "What happens?"
"I missed you."
"Well, I missed you too, but...," he stopped and examining her closely. But from the kiss, he didn't believe that's the real reason. "What happens? I thought you won't come home until next month? Well, I am very happy that you are here though. Did you have dinner?"
"No, I came straight to here."
"Me neither, let's celebrate this and have a nice dinner outside. Today is our anniversary, do you know?"
In the car he asked, "Do you want to tell me what actually happened?"
"I thought you were.. " she didn't know how to say it.
"I was what?" he asked.
Rather than answering it directly, Candy told him in great details about her trip story. They were chatting until the arrived in the restaurant. Neal was pleased to know how the children were adjusted well in school.
"Time flies, isn't it? We were like that too at that time," he said. "We were together too in that school, can you believe that? Not exactly as 'friends,' but we were there."
He laughed with a mean look.
"Sometimes I wonder if someone asked about you should I answer we were childhood friends or we were childhood foes," Neal said.
Both laughed very much at the thought.
Neal joked, "Of course I can't say that we were enemies so to make the story simpler I say 'we were childhood friends'. Many of them would look at me saying 'Oh how romantic'. They looked at me seemingly imagining all possible romantic things we were doing together."
He grinned widely. "I would then say to myself 'indeed, it was very romantic until she didn't want to even look at me, she even ran away at the sight of me'."
Candy laughed so much till tears flew from her eyes. Both of them were actually laughed so hard that people started to look at their direction. Embarrassed since not following romantic dinner etiquette required in that restaurant, they tried to calm down. Then she told him story of her friends who were being cheated, being caught and so on which continued until the dinner was over, and then they took a walk outside with his arm around her waist, still talking.
"How come you are not at home?" asked Candy.
"The house is empty. No you, no children, it feels too lonely with constant reminder of the sound of laughter it usually had so I choose to work in the office. Why didn't you tell me that you're coming?"
Candy hesitated how to answer the question and instead gave him a grin with a naughty look. After listening her story, he started to see the connection.
"What?" Neal said almost shouting with eyes wide open. "You thought I might be with someone and you're going to catch me?"
Neal laughed loudly.
"Did I tell you how many years I spent waiting for you? " Neal sighed and continued. "Often in the past, I saw you played with my cousins very happily with the sweetest smile. But, the moment I came, your face turned sour or sometimes you just turned away from me and left abruptly. That hurts, you know."
Neal gave a pitiful look.
"But even that, I never gave up my love to you. If I could easily forget you in just a few weeks would I have had been with someone else all along?" asked Neal.
Candy gave him an bashful look and said, "But now you are the only one I truly love."
Neal put his both arms around her and said, "You are the one and only one. It has been and will always be." And continued with a coquette look. "Hence your kiss just now. I hope you can imitate that tonight when we are in bed."
"I don't think I can because I will give you an even hotter one," teased Candy back.
"That's good," he said brought her closer to him. "Well actually after you left, I regretted that I didn't go with you," sighed Neal. "I kept debating if I was wrong to choose to stay. Sorry, Dear. I am not like Albert who can travel at anytime. He's the big boss. I need to perform well, otherwise the company will sink. But, maybe next time we can plan our trip better so we can go together. What do you think? "
Candy was grateful at that thought. The two then walked together hand in hand happy that they could sort out the problem. While walking she also told him her plan to go back to work full time now that all children left home.
So she did go back to work full time as an executive in Anthony Brown NY hospital. As always, Neal often accompanied her to go to her public engagements. She's very happy to be accompanied by her famous husband. She could sense the gravity shifted towards them every time they appeared together. But more importantly, it's not because of the fame, it's just more fun to go with him. She loved discussing things with him, she loved experiencing new things with him. She's just happy to be with him. He's just the best friend she ever had. How much she loved him.
A bit about Neal: At this time, he's well known more than just as the Ardlay enterprise CEO but also for his success in creating huge technology sector forefront of the generation. He's widely respected for his miracle strategy to save the company from collapse during the great depression.
Neal joint the company as an intern. At that time, the Ardlay's NY office was merely a small technology branch with only dozens of people. To avoid the big fuss he didn't tell anyone that he's the nephew of the famous Sir William Ardlay. He didn't tell Albert either.In fact, after the disastrous engagement party, he tried as much as possible to avoid him. Initially, he meant to stay for only a few months for a work experience before going home to work with his father. But his manager saw his promising talent and convinced him to stay for a few more months. Then, everything was a history in a making.
Things moved quickly, just like a chain reaction, his position kept going up and the various mergers happened. The first time he was in contact again with Albert was when he was appointed as the Vice President (VP). In accordance to the company's procedure, the chairman congratulated personally staffs promoted as a VP or above. He was very nervous the first time he talked to Albert. Albert was the chairman of the company, while he was just a staff with a very bad personal history with him. Little did he know that Albert was very surprised too to see his name as the recommended VP proposed by the board of directors. He didn't know that his nephew worked in his company! He asked George to confirm if the person was indeed his nephew. The Neal he had known didn't seem to match the job qualification, while this young rising star had a glowing job recommendation. George confirmed he was indeed his nephew. Albert reviewed his job performance objectively and accepted the promotion proposal. Under Neal's leadership the office became the main headquarter of the entire Ardlay enterprise, now it had tens of thousands employees worldwide. He and his team really did the impossible back in 1929, the success they overcame was legendary.
Anyway, go back to the story, Candy couldn't stop smiling thinking about the heat while they were spending their anniversary that night. She still shivered whenever thinking about it. As planned, they did make many trips together with better planning beforehand. They visited their children too occasionally.
While that memory was a happy one, she couldn't help to think about one traumatic one that they were forced to face together. This one was very sad that sometimes she still cried when thinking about it. How close it was for her to lose him forever.
-To Be Continued-
1. Referred to "Because of Her," an article I wrote earlier. The Ardlay enterprise headquarter was moved to New York.
Neal who had been really healthy suddenly had some strange disease. They went to doctors one after another but no one seemed to know what happened. Finally he just gave up and refused to go to any doctor anymore. Candy was very concerned and scared with what happened. Hearing that he wouldn't want to go to see any more doctors really smashed her to pieces. Having no one else to turn to, she went to see Albert.
Candy entered Albert's office, closed the door behind her and started to cry. "He doesn't want to see anymore doctor," she said tearfully leaning at the door.
Albert was really sad to hear that. Just half an hour ago his cousin, Sarah, just came with tears in her eyes crying hopelessly talking about her son. Now, Candy. Albert got up from his desk and took Candy by her arm to let her sit.
"Candy, I'll talk to him, don't worry," said Albert. "Melinda and I found a potential good doctor for him."
He gently told Candy the good news. Melinda was a researcher of her own right, although not in medical field. Using her training, she and Albert contacted all Ardlay foundations funded networks of hospitals, universities, and institutions to seek for most suitable doctors for Neal. They knew how hard Candy worked on this issue and decided to jump to the wagon too using a different approach. Recently, they had some good potential candidates.
Candy was very grateful for their kindness. Albert hugged to comfort her. She was grateful at that, but unlike in the past, it reminded her of her husband's arms and she felt even sadder.
That afternoon, Albert visited Neal. He found him sitting on his bed and stared blank to the wall. Albert was really sad, he never saw him like this. He always found him fully motivated and busy with something important to read in his hand whenever he's alone, be it a business journal, report, newspaper, or other business books. While now, all his books stayed untouched on the table next to him.
"How are you, Neal," said Albert with a smile pretending to be cheerful.
Neal disregarded the greetings. Unlike in the past, he didn't even give a slight smile back. He stayed unmoved...
After a while he said slowly, "Albert, I have something for you."
Neal handed Albert an envelope. Albert opened and read it. Neal was giving him a resignation letter for his position as the CEO. Albert was shocked but didn't show it to him. He looked silently at Neal who was staring at him blankly. Neal was so tired with all the pains and the mistakes that all doctors made that he just gave up. He believed that he's done and was preparing for the end that he believed was very near.
Since Albert was silent, he continued talking, "May I ask you to do me a favor, please?"
Albert nodded anticipating what he's going to say. Neal paused for a long time as though he was struggling to say something he didn't really want to say. Albert waited patiently.
Finally, Neal said, "In case anything happened to me, would you please help me to take care of Candy? I'd be forever grateful to you. You are always someone very special to her."
He stopped there. He knew if he continued talking his voice would break with emotion. He and Albert were the best and closest of friends in personal and business levels. But, the topic of Albert's past relation with Candy remained a touchy subject that's off limit and never be touched. Likewise to Candy, even though he had been her husband for years that subject remained off limit. To Neal, it was so clear how closed they were together. One must be stupid not to see how they looked to one another, smiled to one another, how Candy ran to his arms, and how Albert welcomed her in his arms. On that fatal engagement party, the look on his face as he was defending her especially when rejecting the engagement proposal, how she was looking at him, the beaming in their face when theirs eyes met, all were simply too obvious. That definitely not how a father would look at his daughter and vice verse, although they kept saying they were.
Those painful memories came back to him and made his heart sunk even lower. Why they didn't become a couple remained a mystery which he'd rather not think or discuss. Besides, he's not sure even if they knew the reason. The memory was stored in his brain where it shouldn't be touched. For years he tried to suppress and forget that, sadly he needed to confront it again today. Believing his end was near, Albert was the one he trusted the most to make sure his beloved wife was properly taken care of. So disregarding how much it hurt to ask Albert to take care of her, he still did it regardless.
Albert was dumbfounded. Seeing how Neal struggled to say it and the reaction afterwards, he could guess what he was having in mind. Blatantly confronted by the past, for a moment Albert was too stunt to react. His mind wandered to what happened after he revealed to Candy that he's her prince of the hill. What would have happened if he had stayed a bit longer to tell Candy how he felt about her instead of leaving when George asked him to? After he left, he was in business trips all the time. He missed writing to her many times because he kept traveling. Sometimes her letters missed him so it took longer to reach him and for him to reply. Sometimes his letters also got returned in the mail so she never received them. By the time he finally settled down and wanted to explain all to her, she was already in a relationship with someone else. So he never told her what had happened. The rest was history...
Albert gathered all his strength not to show what in his mind. He never thought that Neal could sense his feeling towards Candy. His mind raced quickly to think the best response to give to him. Obviously a short answer using father-daughter rationalization wouldn't help. First the CEO resignation request and now this, a wrong response would harm the purpose of persuading him to see more doctors. The last thing he wanted to do was to add more burden to his aching heart, besides it was the past.
To melt the tension, Albert laughed it off and said what he had been saying, or perhaps had been making himself to believe, "Of course I will take care of her the best possible way. She's my daughter. Don't worry about that."
Then he turned to be really serious, he grabbed a chair and sat next to him.
He talked while stared at Neal sharply, "Long time ago after my dear sister, Rosemary, passed away, I felt very lonely. I thought I was so alone without parents, sister or brother. I was wrong. I have a brother, it's you. Without you, there is probably no more Ardlay enterprise, this company might have already collapsed in 1930."
"Back then, everyone was hopeless and ready to leave us. Shareholders dumped the stocks like there was no tomorrow. Everyone was deserting me one by one, except you. Seeing you at the helm of the company was like seeing a giant. You were motivating everyone around you not to give up and to work harder to find solutions. You managed your remaining handful of staffs to work the impossible and finally stirred us out of the brink of collapse. I was so awed by you and really thought of you like my brother who non stopped supporting me and stayed by my side until the end."
Neal was silent but listening attentively still with emotionless face.
"You are my brother I never had. I should have told you that earlier."
Then he gave him a card.
"Look what I have here," said Albert showing him a card with signatures of Neal's closest staffs in it. "They made this for you. Everyone in there misses you so much. Every time I come, I could see their disappointment that it's me who come instead of you. The first question they ask is always about you. You are like a father figure to them. We really need you there. You need to fight, Bro. You have a wife who loves you so much, children, mom and dad. And now you have a brother too, me, and staffs who look at you like a father figure. You need to fire your motivation like you did to us back in 1930's."
They're silent for a while and Albert continued, "If tomorrow we don't get any luck, then we go to another doctor, again and again. We should keep on fighting."
Albert handed back Neal's resignation letter to him and said with a smile, "Sorry brother, your request is denied."
When Albert was about to open the door to leave, Neal called him. "Albert, you jeopardize the entire corporation just because of one person."
"Do you know why?" asked Albert. "Because I believe that you'll get well soon. You should believe that too. Besides, without you this company would have been long gone."
Albert was about to leave and Neal called him again, "Albert, thank you."
Albert came back to give him a pad on his back, "You'll be okay. Promise me that you will work on it."
Albert was so sad to see his depressed nephew. He hoped so much that his research and Melinda would be fruitful and that tomorrow they would get their first luck instead of needing to do more trial and error again. Seeing how down he was, he doubted he could take any more bad news.
After Albert left, Neal looked at the card his staff made for him one more time closely. How much he wanted to be with them versus stayed in a boring hospital in pain. Albert's words had an enormous impact on him. He felt touched to hear his praise. He even called him brother. In return to his generosity, he decided to see more doctors besides he really had nothing more to lose. Candy and his parents were very grateful to Albert. But more importantly, they couldn't wait to see the how the treatment would go with the new doctor that he and Melinda had found.
Candy came to meet Neal before he met his new doctor. She had cried all night long that her eyes were swollen red but she promised herself not to cry in front of him. He saw her cry once she saw how depressed he became. Since then, whenever she cried, she did it secretly.
She entered with a smile and a strong voice, "Hi my love." She hugged him.
Neal saw her reddish eyes. He hugged her and said, "Did you cry?"
His voice broke. There's no way she couldn't let tears flow like rivers on her cheeks. But she's a strong woman. With all power she had, she kept trying to speak without letting her voice broke and didn't show Neal her tears.
Candy said, "I didn't. I really didn't." Of course, Neal knew she was lying.
He said still hugging her, "Our wedding day is the happiest day in my life. We have been married for many years. I hope I did bring you some happiness."
Candy closed her eyes and cried silently. She didn't know why he should say all these. She felt very sad and a bit scared but managed to reply, "Almost every day is a honeymoon. You bring me so much joy and happiness. I am very happy..."
She wanted to say some more but she's too overcame by emotions to speak. She also knew her voice would break if she didn't stop talking.
"I am sorry for what I did to you when we were young," he said again still not releasing his hug to her.
Candy was very sad. It seemed he was preparing a farewell speech to her. Her heart broke and tears flew faster but she kept saying to herself that she's a strong woman and determined not to let his spirit down.
With all her might she answered with a steady voice, whispering, "Don't say that. You didn't do anything wrong to me. And even if you did, it was made up long time ago. Long long time ago. I should be the one to blame for not taking care of you better."
She genuinely meant it.
"Thank you for saying that. I feel so much more peaceful now," Neal said.
Candy hoped for him to stop talking or she wouldn't be able to hold herself anymore. But he didn't.
"We have marvelous children. I love them so much. But I am happy they are not here right now to see me like this. Please tell them that I always love them."
Candy's heart was so broken, tears flowed like water all she could do was to give him a nod. They both hugged quietly until the doctor finally came to take him away. Candy wiped her tears before facing him.
She gave him a brave smile before he left and said bravely, "Good luck. I am sure it'll be okay."
Neal smiled to her back saying, "I love you."
Candy nodded and said, "I love you much more."
After they left and closed the door, Candy just collapsed to the floor, cried and sobbed really hard. She couldn't bear not to let it out anymore. She felt so very sad as though the whole world collapsed around her. She felt someone lifted her up and hugged her, it's Eliza. She also saw her parents in law there. Neal's mother had been crying non stopped, too. Although she knew she should have comforted her, she just couldn't because she was too devastated. Lucky there's Eliza. She hugged Candy and Candy just cried in her arms. Both of them cried together.
After a while Eliza said, "My brother said sorry for what we did to you in the past."
Candy cried even louder and said tearfully, "Nothing to be sorry about. I don't know why he kept saying that. Even if he did wrong, he made it up long time ago. Very long time ago. All happiness in my life comes from him. Without him, I'd be dead in sorrow already."
Eliza hugged her and said tearfully, "Thank you. Thank you."
They kept crying until they couldn't cry anymore. Eliza took Candy to the VIP room to rest. Eliza held her in the sofa until she fell asleep. Eliza really appreciated the love she had to her dear brother.
-TO BE CONTINUED-
When the time arrived to make a visit, Candy visited Neal and found he was sleeping. He woke up shortly just to give her a weak smile and went back to sleep holding her hand. So, she decided to stay. Tired because of lacking of sleep and crying too much, she fell asleep to in a chair, with her head on his bed.
Candy woke up the following day feeling someone was caressing her hair. She looked at her husband and he was already sitting with a big smile to her. That's the first genuinely happy smile she saw in weeks. She startled at the change and jumped up right away. My goodness, what happens now, she thought.
"You must be very exhausted because all that happened these past few weeks," he said with a gentle smile.
She was marveled at his change of condition. Ignoring his sentence, she asked, "How do you feel?"
"Good, actually much better. Haven't felt like this in a long time," he gave her a big smile.
Candy was very happy and excited so she said, "Well let me call the doctor and ask him to check." She was about to leave but he grabbed her hands.
"Candy please stay here. I want to be with you for a while. We don't know what the doctor will say. Just in case it's another bad news, while I am feeling better, I want to hug you."
So, Candy sat next to him and hugged him. But, since she's genuinely worried about the development she couldn't sit still. After a while, she politely excused herself.
"You should have some breakfast first, okay? I am not in a hurry to hear the doctor's diagnosis," he said as she left.
Candy assured him she would and hurriedly went outside to look for a doctor to examine him.
Candy came back again to visit Neal and took Albert with her. He happened to be in the hospital too curious with his nephew's development. Although he tried to look calm outside to not worry others, deep inside he was really worried about Neal who he really cared deeply just like his own brother. He genuinely meant what he told him the other day.
During the great depression, the company went downhill very rapidly which made Albert very desperate. To him the game was over, he lost and was a matter of time before the company was liquidated. He never forgot how Neal helped him to go trough it. He never could forget that night after yet another one of the worst stock sell-offs. He was panicking. His pulse raced and he broke into a cold sweat. Feeling disoriented, he went to look for Neal. This wasn't the worst day nor the only time it happened.
Albert just slumped in the chair in front of him and told the news Neal already knew. As usual, Neal remained calm. He even joked.
"Just don't look. You know, maybe it's a good time for you to take a vacation, Albert. When you come back, all will be fine," Neal said.
Albert answered, "When I come back, the company won't be here anymore."
Albert sighed. "Can you believe it? This is more than just a company, it's a generations of enterprise, imagine if it falls under my hand. How will I have the face to meet the entire Ardlay clan?... Poor Aunt Elroy. She devoted most of her life for me and to defend me and this all she gets."
Albert was very desperate. "To say that I am a disgrace to our ancestors and the entire family is an understatement," he added.
Seeing his situation, Neal turned to be serious right away. "It will not fall," he said, seriously this time, with confidence.
To motivate his chairman more , he added, "The drop of our stock price is unavoidable. Our company stock sell-off happens because panicked investors creates panic sell-off on all spectrum of the market. But, after all are settled, good companies like us will survive. We will even be in a stronger position."
"Are you sure?" asked Albert very desperately. He couldn't believe he asked such a useless question but he didn't bother to retract nor to reword it.
"Yes, absolutely. We are not bubbles. We have robust earning and wide profit margin. Besides, this market correction was expected to happen since long time ago," said Neal.
Albert stayed silent.
Neal then added, "You suspected that too. That's why you started to invest heavily on technology sectors. Your vision was brilliant, Albert. That saves the company greatly. Our ancestors and the entire Ardlay clan should thank you."
For a brief period of time, Albert felt better.
"I and my team are doing some careful research on strategies which can help the company to bounce back faster and stronger. We are in the stage of making the final decision."
Neal told Albert in details about his thought on the technology sector and other optimization procedure which could provide cushion to the inescapable crashes.
He ended it all by saying, "In the long run, Grandma Elroy will be so proud of you."
Albert sat there listening what but wasn't really paying attention to all these strategies.
During desperate times, many times Albert's mind went blank due to fear of his obligation to the Ardlay family. Everyday he was haunted by the fear of having generations of enterprise fell under his hands.For a long time he just couldn't function and solely relied on Neal to do all the decision making and strategy planning by himself. Neal understood the enormous psychology pressure Albert was having. Throughout the difficult time, he kept being respectful and always treated him as the reverent chairman. For everything he did, he always came to him to calmly explain his action and the rationale behind it. Not even once did he ever overstep his authority. He non stopped giving him hope and motivated him like no one had ever done before. He was always readyby his side at any bad news and always worked the hardest to search new strategies to overcome it.
One night, Candy was preparing to go to bed but didn't find her husband. She looked for him and found him deep in thought in the study room. Neal was so preoccupied that he didn't even notice she's there so she knocked at the door softly to not startle him.
"Stock market went down again today, didn't it?" she said as she walked approaching him in a concerned tone. She too knew the problems with the stock market and the pressure her husband was having.
"You knew it too?"
"It's in the news and my coworkers talked about it too," she said softly giving him a light massage in his shoulders.
"Albert is very worried about it." He sighed, seemed to be still deep in thought.
"What about you?" she asked really anxious about the magnitude of the problem her husband needed to tackle.
"Sure I am worried but the correct attitude should be to think how to get out from this situation as soon as possible. We all had anticipated this downturn for a long time. But, Albert has this moral burden to the generations of Ardlay clan. He felt tremendous psychological pressure. Currently, he's having this dreadful meeting with family members who are major shareholders."
"Maybe you should go too to help him," suggested Candy.
"He's Sir William the only head of the clan. He doesn't need my help to face the family members," said Neal.
In fact, Albert did ask him to go, but he refused since he didn't want to shift the main focus from Sir William as the head of the family.
He sighed and said, "Many probably would dumb their shares."
"Will you sell your stock too?" asked Candy still massaging him. Her husband was her one and only one love. But, she didn't want Albert to fall either. She just didn't understand why people would abandon each other for the sake of money.
"I will not." He shook his head with confidence. "I manage the company, imagine how panic the investors will be if even the CEO also sells the stock."
He took Candy's hand and gently led her to sit on his lap. He understood what's in her mind so he assured her,"But more importantly, I will not leave Albert. He's my chairman. He trusts me to manage his company, I will not let him down. In addition, he's also my uncle, my father-in-law, my business partner, and above all, my friend."
He paused briefly.
"You should go to bed first, Honey. It's late, I am waiting for his phone call. I promised to talk to him tonight. His meeting probably is over by now."
As if Albert could hear him, a servant came to announce, "Sir William is on the phone, Mr. Regan."
Neal acknowledged and said to Candy with an assuring smile, "Go to bed first, don't worry. I know what to do. I have done some thinking, we'll be okay. And, if I'm correct, in the long run we'll even be in a much better shape."
Candy hugged him and said honestly, "I am not worried. I trust you. I am sure we'll be fine."
Neal gave her a good night kiss and left to answer Albert's phone call. As he predicted, many family members decided to dumb their shares. As he had mentioned to Candy, he assured Albert he would not sell even a single one of his shares. After the dreadful meeting with the family members who treated him very coldly, Albert felt so thankful to have a family member who still treated him like a family. Neal assured him the promising future of the company and reiterated his total support to him and the company which Albert felt grateful to hear.
As promised, Neal never left Albert and probably would never have until the end, if the company had not bounced back. Luckily Neal's strategy worked, the company did bounce back and even reached new heights. Albert was so awed by him and thought of him as his own brother that he never had ever since. He was touched on how loyal he was to him during the trying moments when others simply dumped him and walked away. He couldn't sleep well last night worried about him, so as soon as the dawn broke, he went to the hospital right away.
As they entered the room, they saw Neal in his signature stature. He was sitting on his bed with something to read in his hand. Seeing them, he looked for his glasses and wore them. That's a good sign, thought Albert seeing his old gesture. Seeing Albert and Candy, Neal greeted them happily with his usual big smile.
Neal said, "Ah Candy you brought the most generous Sir William to come. Come here my brother, let me give you a big hug."
Albert walked slowly towards his bed while curiously examining his face at the same time and hugged him with a big smile. He and Candy were both excited at his change of condition and couldn't stop staring at him.
"So he's your uncle, father in law, business partner, friend, and now he's your brother too?" said Candy after a while.
"And he's my respected boss, too," added Neal politely. "Well, unless I was hallucinating, I thought I had the honor of hearing him saying that." Neal looked at Albert with inquiring look.
"He's correct," said Albert with a friendly smile and briefly told Candy what happened. "And never call me your boss, please," said Albert politely back. "I really meant what I said to you the other day."
"How's Melinda?" asked Neal.
"She didn't sleep until this morning thinking about your case so she was still sleeping when I left."
"I caused everyone so many troubles these past few months. It's incredible. You and Melinda practically didn't work for the last few weeks to to research doctors intensively every day," he sighed. "I also wonder what happened to Elisa's business after being left by her for so long. Not to forget my parents who had to stay in NY, the city they hate, for a few months already. And of course my wife for continuous troubles I made."
They assured him that was okay and that "trouble" really was not a correct word. As long as he kept fighting it'd make their efforts worthwhile.
Neal told them the story of the meeting with doctor this morning and yesterday's treatment. The doctor already came earlier to give him a checkup but they hadn't told him the diagnosis yet so he didn't know much about his opinion.
Finally Candy said, "Well, then I leave two of you first, I look for the doctor to get some update and diagnosis result."
"Honey," said Neal. "Could you ask the doctor if I can leave tomorrow. Even a healthy person would feel very sick for staying in this place for this long."
Albert nodded in agreement and sympathy. In the past, when he was amnesic, he too ran away from the hospital since he just couldn't stand being in there. Candy smiled and assured him she would do that.
Neal said to Albert, "You come alone? Next time, you can take your staffs too. We can have a meeting here."
Albert laughed thinking that looked more like Neal. He answered, "I would have, but I am afraid the hospital will kick me out." They all chatted very happily with the new health development.
As expected, the doctor was reluctant to release him. But knowing her husband well, Candy supported her husband's decision and tried to discuss that with the doctor. She noticed how depressed he was since he entered the hospital. She addressed the doctor's concerns and assured him they will follow strictly his care and prescription at home. Being an executive in the hospital, Candy had the resources to address the doctor's concerns easily. After a long talk, finally everything was settled to bring Neal back home. She assigned a few nurses for training to do doctor's orders at home whom she promised she would supervise strictly and directly.
Candy came back again to tell the good news. As soon as she entered the room, Neal stared at her as though inquiring if he could leave tomorrow.
Candy laughed and said, "Initially the doctor refused. But I told him that I was the greatest nurse in Chicago so he approved provided you do exactly what he prescribed for three weeks."
She told in details what the doctor's terms were.
Neal was very happy and very grateful to his forever supportive wife. Candy and Albert couldn't be happier to see him being motivated again. They kept chatting until the doctor entered and politely asked everyone to leave since the patient needed to take some rest.
Neal was very happy to be able to finally leave the hospital. However, after a few days, although he's not yet fully recovered, he insisted on going back to work. The last few weeks he had been confined to bed, hospital or home and it bored him to death. He really wanted to have a change in environment. Although everyone was startled with the decision, again Candy who understood her husband better than anyone else supported his decision and worked to make that happened. His parents couldn't be more grateful to her.
The day he returned back to work, Candy came to accompany him. He looked visibly happy and motivated that he could go back to do the work that he really loved. He was greeted with a warm welcome by everyone started by the driver, door man, receptionist, and so on. But the most moving one was when he arrived in his office area. Everyone stood up and clapped their hands to greet very movingly. Starting by Mary (1). Mary had planned on her retirement but postponed it and waited until he got back. She came to give him motherly embrace with teary eyes. The entire staffs also welcomed him movingly. His office was like a second home to him. It's also like a symbol of triumph for him to be able to come back after what happened the past few dark weeks. Candy couldn't help to cry too when teary Mary came to hug her. Like Albert said, he's like a father figure to them. He loved being there and worked with them and they loved working with him too. Such a close relationship was really hard to find in big companies but Neal could create such atmosphere. Their loyalty to him worth more than anything. It was with their loyal support that Neal could successfully save the company from ruin a few years ago.
The most poignant moment happened when he entered his own office. He held Candy's hand and walked slowly to appreciate each step. He, then sat and leaned in his chair, closed his eyes while still holding her hands.
"I can't believe I can sit on this chair again," he said.
Candy stood there watching him silently. He pulled her and put her on his lap. Hugging her, he said, "Without your support, I won't be able to come back here."
Candy said, "I love you. We will always be together."
He said, "Love you too. Yes."
Before she took of, she said, "Today is your first day. Don't work too hard. I'll pick you up at 11 for lunch break, okay?"
He nodded and smiled. Starting slowly with only four hours a day, he gradually increased the working time. Being happy and did what he liked helped to improve his health much quicker. One night, Candy was again busy preparing him to bed as instructed by the doctor. Watching her, he took her hand and pulled her to to sit next to him.
"The three week period is over. You don't need to do that anymore. Even the doctor said that this morning, remember?" he said gently with a smile.
"You indeed are the best nurse I know. I am very lucky," he said while caressing her hair. "I must have been such a demanding and difficult patient too, it must be very tiring for you."
"I am relieved that you are getting better. That what matters," she replied generously.
"It was too much," he said then paused briefly reflecting what had happened in the past few weeks.
"Even if I need to work as many times harder, I don't mind as long as you get better and we are together," Candy said and rubbed her head on his shoulder. Her hands clasped his tightly.
She then looked at him with a very sincere look. "I really love you, do you know that? I'll do anything, as long as I can be with you."
Neal was deeply moved by her words. For a moment the two stared at one another. Deep inside they appreciated that he indeed got well and they were still together. How closed it was for him to go forever.
"Since today is our anniversary, maybe we can have some celebration?" he then said looking at her with a playful smile.
Candy grinned, gave a naughty look back and jumped to him. He then kissed her lovingly. "We haven't done this in a long time, have we?"
"Are you sure nothing hurt anymore though?" said Candy a bit worried.
"Well, let's try and find out," he said and continued kissing while his hands slowly moved under her dress busy exploring her...
Albert and Melinda were so happy that their effort proved to be very useful. Through the Ardlay foundation, they donated a large sum of research money to the doctor who cured Neal and helped to found a big research center in the university. They were motivated to do more charity work for the greater good. Neal was very impressed by the power of the foundation that Albert and Melinda managed. He loved and appreciated his job even more realizing how important the success of the company is for the foundation since the biggest fraction of Ardlay foundation funding came from the company that he cared and managed.
Candy shook her head. Although that event happened years ago, the memory was still very traumatic for her to remember even to this day. How much she almost lost her beloved husband. Actually, not until then that she appreciated even more how much he meant to her. She loved him before, but after the moment of almost losing him, she realized even more how precious he was. She treasured more each time they spent together thinking how close it was to be taken from them. All his kindness, gentleness, fun, effort to make her happy and to show his love to her throughout the years suddenly became more apparent that she adored even more. She felt lucky that she could still experience them instead of living in memory of them. Suddenly she realized that his love to her was much deeper than what she had appreciated.
At this time, she heard him calling her.
"Honey, I'm home!"
Candy ran to him and hugged him, "You're early."
"Today is our anniversary and we will go home soon. Let's visit places you want to visit one more time before we leave."
And hand in hand they started to walk. Candy was so grateful to be his wife. At that same moment, Neal was also thinking how grateful he was to have her. They felt very happy that they were with each other at that moment.
1. Mary is Neal's secretary. Taken from "Because of her".
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