Candy Candy manga was written by Kyoko Mizuki, Yumiko Igarashi.
This story is only *loosely based* on the original manga. I humbly share one alternative ending with my two favorite names as the leading characters.
Pouppe (Poppi): Some "children" part is written especially for Pouppe who I always think deserves a special attention for his loyalty and wit.
Story starts here
NOTE: In some translation his name is Pouppe, some is Poppi. He's no one else but Albert's most loyal intelligent cuddly skunk. I choose to use Pouppe in my story.
Chapter 1: Pouppe
There's a night fair closed to St. Paul, today. All students were excited and had counted down the days for the event. Candy and Terry were among the students who planned to go. That evening they visited Albert in the London zoo to invite him to come with them.
"I'd love to go, but I can't. I need to work extra tonight," said Albert. "Sorry, guys. But, take Pouppe. He loves night fair, aren't you Pouppe?"
Pouppe squeaked happily as a response.
Candy instantly agreed. "Come Pouppe, we go to a night fair tonight. We'll give you lots of good food to taste," said Candy.
She offered Pouppe her palms and happily he jumped to them. Candy put him on her shoulder.
"Bye Albert, don't work too hard," said Terry.
They waved to one another.
The night fair was a blast. They had circus, games, dancing, loud music, and plenty of good food. The firework was spectacular. The children were delighted by its buzzes and sparkles that almost turned the night into the day. The situation was merry jolly full of happy laughter from the visitors. Almost all students from St. Paul were there. Candy and Terry mingled with Stear, Archie, and their girls too briefly before they separated doing their own favorite activities.
Terry, who loved to play dart, took Candy to the dart booth to show off his throwing skill. He did it marvelously well! Round after round, he repeatedly made a perfect score one after another.
"You won again, Terry," cried Candy excitedly hugging her man.
Hurriedly she ran to collect the prize. It's a huge bear half of her size.
"This is for you, freckles," said Terry with a deep kiss in her lips which she gladly reciprocated.
They stayed in the fair until the end fully enjoying themselves. With pride she held the big bear with one hand and held Terry's hand with her other hand. On the way home, he bought another chocolate ice cream for his beloved girlfriend. Candy was very happy. She hugged Terry tightly with her one free arm while holding the teddy bear with her other hand. They kissed deeply, both tongues met entangled rhythmically dancing together in their mouths. She tasted the fresh vanilla ice cream in his mouth which aroused her even more. Fired up, she let go of the teddy bear to free her other hand. She clutched him with her two hands to bring him even closer to her and kissed him deeper.
"Love you, Terry," sighed Candy and crashed her mouth to his again.
"Love you too, freckles," said Terry. "Let's go home and continue in my room." He winked. She giggled.
Terry put his arm around her as they walked home together. Outside the gate, Candy realized that she forgot to take the teddy bear with her.
"Oh Terry, I left the teddy bear! It should be where we kissed."
"I go back to look for it, you wait here. It's less trouble to have one person re-enter the gate," said Terry.
Candy agreed. While waiting for Terry, she wandered to nearby bushes and took a seat on one bench. She ate the remaining ice cream. She put Pouppe on the bench and gave pieces of the ice cream cone to him. Pouppe finished every bit of piece eagerly. Suddenly, she heard some sound from behind the bush. Initially she ignored it, expecting it was only a mouse. But the noise grew louder, it couldn't be a mouse. She sat straight erectly trying to make out of the sound.
Suddenly she heard.
Then silence... It's like someone's mouth being closed to prevent him from uttering some more word. Always be daring, she right away jumped from her seat and went to investigate what's behind the bushes. Under the dim street light, she saw one boy being held by one man. From the torch light in one of the man's hand, she saw who he was.
"Neal?" said Candy.
Without thinking twice she got into the bushes to confront the men.
"Release him or you'll regret your conduct!" barked Candy.
Their attention immediately shifted to her. Seeing it was only a little girl who came, they laughed at her. But without hesitation, Candy kicked, hit, bit the two men. The man lost grip of Neal.
"Run Neal, run," shouted Candy.
But Neal was too stunt with the event and got frozen. He finally managed to run, but it's too late. He's recaptured.
Ohh... Neal! You are too slow, thought Candy.
Candy went back to save him. But this time the third man appeared. The third man meant business. He's bigger, more intelligent, aggressive, and didn't hesitate to use forces. After some fight, he managed to grip Candy tightly.
"Who are you?" asked the third man, which seemed to be the leader of the group. "How do you know his name?"
He examined her feature. Seeing the two buns of golden hair, he right away realized who she was. He said, "You must be Candy Ardlay."
He shouted to his men, "Take her. She's worth more than the boy. We can ask ransom directly from the Ardlay family."
They took them in a car and drove them outside London. After a while, the car stopped. They took them out and brought them to the basement.
"I will ask for a ransom from your families," said the big man. "Either we get it or not, more likely you won't see another day." He then looked at them menacingly, "But, if you try to go away, you are for sure dead! Instantly!"
"Enjoy your last night." He banged the door and locked it.
Candy and Neal both stiffened in absolute fear as they watched the door closed.
We'll be killed! This is our last night?, they thought.
"Mommy... Mommy..., " cried Neal, scared. "I want my mom!"
Neal banged the door and kept screaming for his mother. The sound of his scream drove Candy crazy. Running out of patient, Candy grabbed him, and threw him to the floor.
"I want my mom," said Neal in tears. He felt so lost for not having his mother around when he needed her. Usually she never failed to come to him to comfort him and to protect him whenever he cried.
"So do I, but do I ever have one around? No!" yelled Candy.
She was really angry but gradually emotion overcame her. Seeing his attachment to his mom hit her, it reminded her of the mother she never had. How lucky he was to always have a mother who pampered and protected him.
"Lucky you to always your mother," said Candy. She started to cry. The pressure was too much for her to bear.
Now that he knew how it felt not to have a mother, for the first time, he felt for her.
"You never have a mom...!" murmured Neal, more like talking to himself.
"Of course I don't, you idiot!" said Candy.
"Must be hard...," said Neal instinctively.
"Your bad attitude makes it worse! When I came to your house, I thought I was going to have a family but instead I got enemies," she sobbed. "Useless rich kid. You could have done wonder and given hope to many little kids like me. Instead you always try to destroy and add hardship to a helpless orphan girl."
She thought her life was over, she felt tired of being strong. She just blatantly vented off anything that burdened her heart.
He listened to her long lecture silently with heart engulfed by more fear for each word she said. True, he had been bad for Candy. Given all the advantages he had, he could have done otherwise. But it was fun then. Now at the moment of death it scared him. He shuddered at the image of eternal suffering in hell, of all the endless purification and torments his soul needed to go trough in the purgatory.
"If I die what will happen to Ms. Pony and Sr. Lane?" lamented Candy continued talking to herself. "Who will take care of them when they're old? I plan to go to work when I grow up and to give them all my money. I want them and the children to never lack of money. But now...?"
She cried again in agony full of desperation.
He shuddered. He had never thought much of the future. He always believed that he's still young and had years ahead of him. But now, he only had a few hours to live and he found out that he had done nothing that he could be proud of.
"I always want to do big things when I grow up. I want to be a business man like dad. I want to make the Leagans enterprise bigger than the Ardlays. For generations people will be amazed by my achievement, fascinated by my business strategy. I don't want to be forgotten." He started to open up too, sharing his castle in the air.
"All these are just cloud in the sky. We only have a few hours to live, ... Who would've thought... ," said Candy forlornly. Before she could finish her sentence, she started to cry again. "Terry... Terry... You need to live without me. I am going soon."
At the same time, he buried his face in his palms thinking, I'll go to hell for being bad to Candy. I'll die without any achievement. People will soon forget me and I'll be remembered only as a mischievous kid. How awful!
Life was so wonderful. Compared to Candy, say, he had parents who loved him, sister, and never lacked of anything. For the first time the boy understood the meaning of live life to the fullest as if there's no tomorrow. He had wasted years of his life and now the mere few hours left seemed really precious that he wanted to shovel his entire dreams in it as much as possible. He shuddered at the thought of everyone, Archie, Stear, Terry, Patty, Annie,..., cursed on his grave blaming him for taking Candy's life. What a disgrace. He'd be remembered as a troublemaker eternally, that's hell enough. If only he could get a second chance.
Unless... unless... ! UNLESS... we could escape and get out alive!, he thought, full of hope.
Since the other option was death itself, he had nothing to lose. He'd take all the risk and whatever it took to escape. He got to find the way. Just in case his plan failed, he vowed to be good to Candy in his last hours to avoid the burning fire in hell or at least to get the punishment somewhat reduced.
"I apologize for all my wrong doing to you, Candy. I shouldn't do all those mean things to you," he said hurriedly to her. "You're brave, you fought them just now. Don't cry now. I'll try my best for you to see Terry again."
"You shut up, you won't let us out by saying that," said Candy still crying.
"Don't cry. Let me think. We can't just rely on force to fight them."
"Coward. All we need is some real action not a theoretical idea," said Candy kept crying. "Terry... Terry...!"
He then sank in silence thinking of the escape plan. For a while, silence engulfed the basement, only the occasion of her sobs was heard. Suddenly, he felt a hairy ball dashed trough his lap with a shrieking sound. He shrieked back, jumped in surprise at the same time. Almost right after that, he heard Candy cried excitedly.
"Pouppe, Pouppe..." said Candy. "My dearest friend, you'll accompany me to the end."
Pouppe's presence brought positive effect back to her. She felt so much better. She stopped crying instantly.
"Pouppe?" asked Neal.
"He's Albert's skunk," explained Candy.
"Albert's skunk?" asked Neal again.
"Albert is my friend. This is his skunk, yes, a very smart, loyal, handsome skunk," said Candy. She showed Pouppe to him.
"Pouppe is not an ordinary skunk. Albert traveled a lot by himself so he trained Pouppe to protect him from bad guys, to help him to go trough dangers... Just like a trained dog, you know. That's why he could follow and find us here, I guess. What a smart fellow!" said Candy.
Candy hugged Pouppe again. "I love you Pouppe, be with me until the end. After I die, tell Albert that I miss him... Tell Terry that I love him and ..."
A trained skunk?, thought Neal. He stopped listening the rest of her babble, instead he was thinking..., hard. After some lengthy silence when he immersed himself in a deep thought, he got an idea!
-To be continued-
Thanks for reading.
CHAPTER 2 Unlikely Partnership
"We ask Pouppe how he got here," said Neal. Neal came to approach Pouppe. But Pouppe whined and hissed as though he's ready to bite him.
"Gezzz... !" Neal stopped instantly. "Candy, in order for my plan to work, he needs to be my friend," said Neal. "Could you tell him that?"
"Sure, Pouppe is a smart skunk." said Candy. She then spoke to Pouppe really gently.
"Pouppe, smart Pouppe, this is Neal. Neal is my friend, he's a good boy..." She gave Neal a meaningful look. He looked at her back silently, with a mild grin, feeling odd with the sentence, too.
She got up and brought Pouppe closer to Neal.
"Neal, you should hold him and pat him," whispered Candy.
Neal was scared. "Er, eh... Would he bite me?"
"No, he won't," said Candy. But Neal was so scared, he only moved half an inch closer. Candy lost her patience, she grabbed his palm and gently but forcefully, pulled it closer to Pouppe.
"Candy... I... no!" said Neal tried to protest.
Frightened, he shut his eyes and threw his face felt ready that he'd be bitten at any time. Soon, he felt something warm and hairy on his palm, he almost threw it off his hand. Luckily, Candy held his hand tightly. After a while, feeling no bite, he started to peek then opened his eyes slowly. Accidentally his eyes met hers. Trough the dim of the moonlight from the little window in the basement he saw her eyes directly for the first time. They were friendly, big, and kind unlike any other eyes he ever saw.
"Look Pouppe trust you now," said Candy breaking his muse.
He realized that the skunk was already on his palm.
"Say hi to him, pat him," whispered Candy.
"Hi Pouppe, nice meeting you," he patted Pouppe half consciously half thinking about Candy. This sweet girl's life had suffered so much because of him. He'd not let her be killed, at any cost whatsoever because of him. He said with a full determination, "Candy, I promise I will take you out from here."
He then returned Pouppe back to her. "We can use the way he entered here to get out. Ask him how he got here."
Candy asked gently to Pouppe, "Smart Pouppe, tell us how you got here."
Pouppe shrieked happily, ran behind the big cabinet and disappeared. Candy and Neal pushed the cabinet and saw a big hole connected to a tunnel. The hole was just big enough for them to enter. They got in, crawling following the tunnel. They had no flash light, it was as black as pitch but with Pouppe as a guide they felt secured and confidence that they're in the right track. Finally they saw the moon light at the end of the tunnel. Happily they ran outside and quickly hid behind one bush to study the current situation.
"We get to their car and drive back to London," said Neal in a low voice.
"Do you know how to drive?" asked Candy worried.
"Kind of, Stear taught me how."
"Do you have the car key?" asked Candy
"No, but Stear taught me how to shortcut the cables and start a car engine without a key. Come, hurry," said Neal.
They approached one truck, but they're found out. They heard someone shout.
"They escape! Get the boy first, he's easier to handle," shouted one.
"Don't move kids or I shoot," barked the other.
Candy was scared and disappointed. But, Neal had already another plan.
He whispered to Candy, "Follow what they say, don't run, trust me on this. Stay still."
They stood motionlessly waiting for the two bad guys to get closer. Candy's heart fluttered in terror, but not knowing what else to do, she followed Neal's request. Neal held her hand firmly to calm her and at the same time to make sure she didn't move. The feeling of his grip eased her. Without knowing about the blank skunk sitting on Candy's shoulder, the men walked closer to them. The situation was so intense, she almost collapsed couldn't bear the tension anymore when she heard Neal whispered, "Pouppe, go! Bite them!"
Suddenly Candy and Neal saw one man shouted and dropped the gun, the second one too.
"Ouch! What was that?" they screamed horrifically in pain and surprised.
Pouppe had bit them as hard as he could. He knew his two young friends were in danger and came to the rescue. Without wasting anymore time, fully aware that this would be the last chance for survival, Neal hurriedly picked up the gun.
"Go inside the barn! Now! Or I shoot," barked Neal.
"Don't listen to him! He won't know how to use a gun."
The man's words were cut by a loud bang. Candy jumped in surprise.
"Don't provoke me," said Neal. Of course he knew how to use a gun. He used it a lot during the fox hunting season. "Throw the car key and get into the barn."
"Our boss, he took the key with him,"
"Throw the key to me, don't lie," Neal said.
Neal gave another shot very closed to their feet as a warning. But they still swore they didn't have. They were begging for their life and sheepishly went to the barn as he instructed. He locked the gate and grabbed Candy's hand to take her run to the car. He then used the skill Stear taught him to short cut the cable to jump start the car engine. His hands trembled nervously, many times the cable fell from his hand and he needed to grope again in the dark to find it which slowed down the process greatly. Candy nervously waited for him which seemed like forever.
Finally, he made it. The cable was connected successfully and the engine started. Candy was so excited. Carrying Pouppe, she got into the car. He drove to a nearby police station.
The rest was easy, the police caught bandits, called the school, notified the parents, headmistress and so on. Candy and Neal were waiting in the police office excitedly.
"You're brilliant, Neal," said Candy.
That was the highest praise he had ever gotten in his life because it came from Candy whom he owed so much from. He grinned trying to respond in an eloquent way but seeing her green deep eyes disoriented him, all his facility of words failed him He simply responded, "You're better."
Then, they heard a woman's voice shrieked. His mother and sister came running to huge him tightly. Candy watched them. She took a deep breadth seeing the touching moment of a mother and a son and a sister. She never had a real family. She sighed. But before long, a tall man ran dashing to her and before she realized it, she felt warm lips crashed in her mouth kissing her passionately.
"Candy... I was so worried." It's Terry.
"Terry, you're here!" Neal heard Candy called Terry excitedly.
Then came Archie, Steer, Annie, Patty. All surrounded her impatiently waiting for their turn to hug her.
I may not have a mom, a brother, or a sister, but I have Terry, caring friends and two mothers. I have nothing to miss. She smiled at that thought. She hugged them all at the same time. It was a warm merry sight to see, even for Neal. He felt lucky that they could escape and return to their normal life. It's like being given the second chance to live life to the fullest. Before he disappeared in the doorway, he excused himself from his mother and sister and ran to Candy. Terry and Archie hurriedly stood in front of Candy to protect her from the short boy.
"Just want to see Candy, briefly," said Neal.
Candy walked forward to approach him. He offered her a handshake which she received with a friendly smile. He then looked at Pouppe and opened his palm. Pouppe unhesitatingly jumped to it. He hugged Pouppe.
"Thank you, Pouppe," Neal he said. He took one of Pouppe's front leg as if to shake hands with him.
He returned Pouppe to Candy before he ran back to his mother and sister whom he loved so much. He felt lucky that he could still be with them.
Thus, life was back to normal... One day Terry left Candy a brief note saying he left for America to work on his career. She was devastated. Without thinking twice, she soon left London for America to look for him.
Everyone had come back from the UK to Chicago... Terry had established an enviable career in New York broadway.
Candy excitedly climbed a tree with a letter in her pocket. Sitting on the highest possible branch, hurriedly she opened the letter which she just received from Terry. To her surprise, inside she found a one way train ticket to New York and a VIP ticket to the premier of Romeo and Juliet.
One way ticket!, she thought excitedly, understood what Terry was implying. Oh Terry!
With eyes blurred with happy tears, she read the letter eagerly. Terry, the most promising raising star in New York, would play the Romeo himself! It's a highly publicized event which was preceded by fund raising gala ball attended by only the super rich and famous.
Candy was so proud of her man. She hugged the letter, kissed it many many times. She wanted to give her most stunning look to surprise her man. She was so nervous and sought for her friends' advice. Stear, Archie and their girls happily agreed to take her to a boutique.
That day, they went together to the boutique. While they're busy looking for a dress to try, Candy saw two girls entering the store. One was pretty. The other one had a haughty look who she instantly recognized as Eliza. Hurriedly she looked at another direction pretending not seeing her.
Then, from the corner of her eye, she saw a tall, slender, debonair, devastating young man walk behind Eliza. Wow, what a taste she had!, thought Candy thinking he was Eliza's boyfriend. In silence, she admired his marvelous look and pitying him at the same time. Her giggle was cut short a second later when she heard how Stear and Archie called him.
"Hi, Neal," greeted Stear and Archie.
"Archie, Stear, what a coincidence," he greeted them back with a deep, masculine voice.
Neal! How much he had grown up!, Candy thought, astounded. Wow, what a favor time has been to him!
From their conversation, she overheard that Mr. Leagan sent Neal to attend the gala. He took his sister and Daisy, as his date, to the ball. Today he accompanied the girls to shop for the occasion. After stealing another look to his impressive manly appearance, she went to the fitting room to try her dress.
When she came out, she didn't see anyone else except but Neal. Stear and Archie were presumably accompanying their girls to try their dresses. Left alone, Candy was looking at herself in the mirror as well as looking for other dresses to try. While doing it, she felt someone kept staring at her back. She made a sudden turn around move to catch the observer. She caught Neal was indeed staring at her, intently, unmoved.
The girl had grown up to be a beautiful mature woman with a killer curve and voluptuous figure unmatched by anyone he had ever seen in his entire life. His eyes couldn't help not to following her with pleasure. With a look that's absolutely sinful, he's openly examining her from head to toe, never before experienced such a barbaric temptation at the sight of a woman. O how he could stare at her emerald green eyes, held her juicy body, kiss her luscious lips all night long... Got totally lost in her, he didn't realize that she walked approaching him.
The next thing he knew, he heard her voice hiss angrily, "You promised that you'd stop bothering me."
Suddenly he was aware that Candy was standing in front him.
"No.. . Ahem," he almost got choked by his own tongue. He gulped, stammered,"B-but... L-look, I haven't moved from my chair since you came out from the fitting room."
"Stop looking at me!" said Candy.
He finally caught his breadth. He quickly regained his composure, cleared his throat and got up from his chair. His tall figure was towering over her, she needed to stretch her neck up to look at his eyes. "Candy, long time not see, how do you do?"
He wanted to kiss her hand but she quickly pulled it.
"Don't bother," she sniffed.
He grinned. "I am not trying to annoy you. But, seriously, with you are here, nothing else here is worth looking at."
"Watch your own two girls," said Candy.
"They are have me," said Neal. "But on the contrary, you need help."
"No, your help is not needed. I have Archie, Annie, Stear, Patty here to help me."
"Your four friends combined can't match a tenth of me."
He went to one of the shelves to pick one dress, put it on the table then went back to his seat.
"Try that one. The gauche looking dress they picked doesn't do justice to your beautiful curve. What a waste! It looks old and dull. The color is also against your vibrant facial color, hair, and eyes. My dress, on the other hand, complements that as well as accentuates the screaming curves of your big hip and round full bottom," he said with a grin.
Candy couldn't believe that he'd really describe her shapes that explicitly. She could choose to ignore him but but the word "big" was inexcusable.
"Big? Are you saying that I am fat?" she whispered with face pale with anger.
He added,"No. 'Big' here is a compliment, not a boo."
She was about to swing his hand to his face and blast him with nasty words but Annie and Patty came out.
Candy threw her face from him and hurriedly turned to Annie and Patty.
"Ah, you both look gorgeous," said Candy giving friendly compliments to the two girls.
"Let me see your dress, Candy," Annie said. "Uh it's okay, but wow look what you get here." She looked at the dress on the table. "This one is good." The three others who happened to see also showed their agreement. "You have a magnificent taste today, Candy. Try it out."
Candy was speechless. All she could was to throw a menacing glance to Neal which he caught with a big grin. When she's out wearing the dress, everyone couldn't stop doing oh and ah with admiration.
"Beautiful, Candy," everyone non stop giving her compliments.
Stear needed to nudge Archie several times to stop him from staring at Candy with mouth open so wide. Candy could see Neal giving her a winning grin from behind Eliza and Daisy which she responded with a little lip twist.
-To be continued-
Thanks for reading.
CHAPTER 3: Dancing in New York
On the highly anticipated day, Candy went to New York to meet Terry. She didn't know about the accident where Susanna saved Terry and lost her legs in the heroic attempt.
With a broad smile as though nothing serious happened, Terry met Candy in the train station. His heart was torn seeing how beautiful she was, mourning torturedly about the faith which flew against them. He used all his acting skill to conceal the turbulence in his heart to the perfection. He took her to dinner, joked with her as usual and dropped her in the hotel.
Her heart jittered with anticipation. She had worn her sexiest lingerie for the first night. As they walked together to her room, she moved closer and closer to him brushing her arms to his. He sensed it. He knew what she had in mind. He too wanted to hug her, kiss her and be with her forever,... if only he could. His heart cried painfully.
At her door he said, "I need to go. We have a final rehearsal tonight." He lied, the truth was he had promise Susanna's mother to accompany Susanna in the hospital tonight.
"This late?" asked Candy surprised.
"Yes. Tomorrow is the big day," said Terry, lying. "I'll stop by tomorrow night. Would you forgive me, freckles?"
Without a slight suspicion she said, "Fine, tomorrow then. Good night, Terry."
She's so proud of her man. She kissed him. But her kiss which used to feel like warm sweet honey, now felt painful like a bee sting.
"I'll see you tomorrow at the ball," said Terry, smiling on the face, cursing at heart.
He should have stood up for her, he should have fought for her, he should have defended her... But, he didn't know how. How he wished he had died in that accident. Candy, I am not your worthy Romeo, he lamented.
The following day, with her most splendid look, Candy went to the ball to meet Terry. She didn't know that at the same time, Terry was on purposely being tied up by Susana's mother in the hospital so he couldn't meet Candy.
The ballroom was awesome, she spent a long time examining the grand New York ballroom, the envy of many who would never have a chance to visit in their lifetime. She saw Neal who looked resplendent in the well-cut tuxedo. He did a few rounds of dance with Daisy then she lost count on how many girls were lining up to dance with him.
The clock kept ticking, and it occurred to her that she had been waiting for almost half an hour and Terry had not come. She stopped looking at her surrounding. She grew restless, looked at the face of every man who walked to her direction, hoping one would be Terry. She grew impatient, then anxious mixed with annoyance, then distraught. At the end of forty five minutes she couldn't take it anymore. The room was full of people, everyone looked happy with a smile on their face. Yet she felt embarrassingly lonely sitting by herself. She then went outside to look for Terry or, at least, to find a quiet corner where she could sit alone.
Not far from the door, she heard someone call her.
"Would you do the honor of dancing with me, Candy?"
She turned around enthusiastically expecting to see Terry, but to her disappointment she saw Neal instead. He had been watching her from the distance waiting for Terry.
Oh where's Terry? She started to be angry to herself for spending those gargantuan efforts to look pretty but he never showed up.
"You look charming and inviting, Neal. Thank you," replied Candy crudely.
"That means yes?" Neal asked.
"No. That means no. I am looking for Terry. Besides, I don't want to break your girls' hearts."
"There're always girls' hearts being broken with whoever I dance. Don't worry about that," he said as a matter of factly.
She groaned, turned around ready to walk away.
"Just one round, five minutes," Neal said. "It's a waste of effort to come to a ball just to wait for one man who never shows up."
"I'm sure he has a reason," Candy said.
"We don't need to dance, we can just sit in the theater. I'll leave when he shows up," invited Neal.
"I have my own VIP ticket, thanks," she said rudely, annoyed by her current situation. "Terry gave it to me."
He grinned, staring at her calmly.
"I harass you, you're not happy. I show good attention, you're still not happy," he said."You leave me alone, then I'll be happy," said Candy. She felt so frustrated with her situation. She took a deep breadth then exhaled vexatiously,"Thanks for the offer, but I want to look for Terry."
She walked away leaving him nailed at spot watching her leaving.
As she walked, she felt her dress got loose and dropped lower and lower. Oh, the hook got detached, Annie had warned me to put one extra hook on the back. What to do?
She looked around in panic looking for familiar face but she recognized no one. At the last resort, she looked back and for the first time in her life she felt relieved to see Neal who was still standing at the end of the hall watching her.
"Neal! Neal!" she half whispered half shouting calling him.
He walked calmly approaching her with one hand in his pocket.
"Neal, my dress hook, on the back, I thing it got detached." Candy was so embarrassed. She took him to a quiet corner and told him about the wardrobe malfunction she's having.
"Let me see," Neal said. "Ah, I see what you mean, this actually needs an extra hook."
"Could you fix it?"
"You need to pay for that."
Candy sighed, "Of course, nothing comes easy with you, doesn't it? What do you want?"
"Three rounds of dance."
"But just now you said one."
"Now I want three."
"Fine ... ," said Candy hopelessly.
With an amused look, he looked at her thick long hair which hanging on her back covering the hook. Carefully, he divided her long curly hair with his fingers, bit by bit gently brushing it to the front. Throughout, his eyes kept staring at her with a little grin that never left his face. She felt so awkward and hurriedly did the task herself. She grabbed the remaining of her hair and quickly moved them to the front all at once. He grinned to her one more time before going behind her to do his job.
She felt he pulled the edges of her dress. She felt the jerk and heard the sound of his nail chafed with the hook trying to lift, twitch, unbent it, or whatever it was that he's doing. His head bent down closer and closer to her body. She felt so uncomfortable, she even could feel his warm breadth hitting her neck. Somehow she felt he's not being serious in getting his job done.
"Neal... any progress? Are you fixing it or making fun of me?" asked Candy.
"It's hard to see, it's too small," he said and moved even closer. She couldn't believe it.
"Unless...," he added
"Unless what?" asked Candy.
"Unless I do it from the inside... But you wouldn't want it, would you?"
"Correct, no. Don't touch me, not even for a nano second*. Think of something else. Hurry... Before anyone sees us."
"You mean Terry?" he said calmly while kept pulling. "Don't worry, we can explain what truly happens to him. He can see it with his own eyes that your hooks are misplaced. We can have him come to try to fix it too from the outside, see if he could, nothing to worry..."
"Just focus on your work, will you? Don't talk! Hurry!" said Candy impatiently cutting his sentences.
"Ah got it... Done."
She felt relieved, that's really the best thing that happened to her today. She felt better that he didn't laugh at her. Without making anymore comments, with his usual grin he gave her his arm.
"Shall we? Three rounds of dance."
Candy had no option but to nod. With a sour face she went back to the ballroom to the dance floor with him, feeling uneasy that Terry might show up at any moment.
"Relax. If he came, I'd let you go," he said.
His promise calmed her. As soon as the music played and the dance started, she forgot all of her annoyance. He's a great dancer. The ballroom was grand, the music was outstanding. It's New York! Dancing was indeed much more fun than sitting alone on the sideline. She became energetic and danced happily. The last dance of the evening was a competition. She had promised three dances so she couldn't back of. And he didn't want to lose the opportunity to dance with her, either. Hence, they took part in the competition.
"I never like to lose. Need your help here. For once, cooperate with me, give your best," said Neal.
"I don't want to lose either. We have to win," said Candy who were as competitive.
They glided with grace and agility. With Candy as the dancing partner, it came naturally for him to hold her closed in his arms and to look into her eyes passionately. The opposite might not always be true for her. But his gentleman manner won respect from her that night. She loved dancing and if not because of him, she'd just sit on the sideline, thus she cooperated and reciprocated. The girl was beautiful, her dress was a stunner, the man was handsome and passionate. The couple were pleasing to the eyes and before long they stole the show. Everyone was soon captivated by their harmonious chemistry. They didn't win but they earned the favorite couple honor from the judges.
Candy and Neal were ecstatic. Many people came to congratulate them saying all nice compliments about them. Candy was not a person who demanded attention, but she's a woman nevertheless. Her face was rosy blushed, she glowed with excitement which made her even more stunning that night. She had such a fun time. Her heart was blooming in full glowing.
Too bad with a wrong partner, she laughed silently at heart. She stole a quick look at her handsome looking partner who's shaking hands with one best wisher.
"Our two collaborations ended remarkably well. The first one we beat bad guys, and now this," said Neal proudly admiring the trophy in his hand. He laughed heartily. "Thanks Candy." He gave her his most gracious bow.
She laughed too, curtseyed back a him. Graciously she said in return, "You're welcome. I enjoyed the dancing immensely. Thanks for the invite."
"How will you go back to Chicago?" asked Neal.
"I probably will never go back," replied Candy with a wink. "Terry just sent me a one way ticket, do you know why?"
"Because he can't afford a round trip ticket?" said Neal sarcastically.
"Wrong," said Candy, her nerve pricked.
"Then why so?" asked Neal pretending he didn't know.
"Because he wants me to stay here with him. This might be the last time we meet in our entire life, ever," she said emphasizing at the word "ever".
"Then I should give you a good bye kiss," he said, quickly bent as though he's going to actually kiss her.
She hurriedly moved a few steps backward to avoid it. "No, thank you. You see, there's some finite number of kisses a woman can afford to get per day. I want to reserve those entirely for him tonight. Goodbye, never meet you again!"
He nodded his head slightly. She gave him, what he believed to be, the most stunning of smiles, then turned around and walked away. He's staring at her back watching her walking away. Without turning back, she disappeared into the theater room.
-To be continued-
Thanks for reading.
1 nano second= 0.000000001 s
Sabrina: thanks as always for the review.
CHAPTER 4: Suddenly Clear
Neal, Daisy and Eliza were playing cards in Daisy's train compartment on the way back to Chicago. All of a sudden, they heard someone knocked at the door frantically. Before long Dorothy came to report what happened.
"Master Neal, the conductor is here. They found an unconscious woman outside. According to her paperwork, her name is Candice Ardlay. I think she does look like Ms. Candice. They wonder if we want to care for her," said Dorothy.
Neal, Daisy, and Eliza went outside to confirm the news. They saw one train staff carrying Candy's seemingly lifeless body. Neal came forward to check. Yes, she's Candy, unmistakably her. His heart melted instantly with worries. Knowing all eyes were at him, however, he tried to look calm.
"Mr. Leagan, we found her unconscious outside," said the conductor repeating the information Dorothy just told them.
"Yes, I know her," said Neal. "Could we get an additional room for her?"
"All VIP room is taken tonight, Mr. Leagan. The train is fully booked, the emergency beds are all taken," said the staff.
"Fine, we'll take care of her," said Neal.
Neal took Candy and carried her himself in his arms. Eliza gasped. Daisy almost fainted.
As though that's not enough, Neal said, "Daisy dear, would you be so kind to let her use your room for tonight?" He tried to use the most pleasant tone possible.
Aware that all eyes were at her, Daisy could only nod. Neal then put Candy on her bed. Eliza grabbed Neal's arm to have a private conversation with him.
"You give Daisy's room for her?" snapped Eliza.
"It's a better option than we put Candy in my room and stay with me all night long," responded Neal.
"That's not what I meant, put her outside, she doesn't deserve this treatment," said Eliza.
He lowered his voice and said, "The press is everywhere, our family would get a bad reputation if we did that." He knew that would shut his sister up.
"Humph," grumbled Eliza and pulled her best friend, Daisy, with her to go out.
"Thanks Daisy," said Neal giving her a light comfort kiss.
Neal requested a doctor to come to inspect Candy. The doctor came, inspected her and assured him that she's fine.
Everyone soon left much to his relieved. He hurriedly attended Candy, panicked.
"Candy... Candy," Neal called but she gave no answer. Her eyes were now open but she's still irresponsive.
"Candy are you alright?" asked Neal again and again.
He kept calling her with the most caring voice which genuinely came from the bottom of his worried heart. He clasped her hands, squeezed them gently trying to awake her. She finally moved her eyes to meet his. His eyes look so tender, so caring that it hit her. If only she could swap him with Terry. If only it were Terry instead who's here and giving her this much attention. Terry, why do you leave me? At this thought, tears ran unchecked down her cheeks. Her heart which had broken in two broke into several more pieces.
"Say something," said Neal. "What happens?"
"Terry is gone," said Candy finally flooded in tears.
"Gone?" asked Neal.
"He left me for another woman," said Candy. Tearfully, she told him the story of him and Susanna.
He gave her one of those rare looks then he said seriously, "I see. Then, you shouldn't cry."
"What do you mean?" asked Candy tearfully.
"Look at Daisy. At this moment probably she's crying as hard as you, while I am enjoying myself with another beauty. You shouldn't be in her shoes. He's with another woman, then you should be with another man. That's only fair, isn't it?"
He grinned. She stopped crying right away.
"What a way to look at it!" She laughed right away. "Where am I?"
"She'll sleep in your room, I suppose?"
"No, of course not, we're not married yet," he said with a grin.
"You're kidding me," said Candy looking at him intently to see if that's the true answer.
He grinned but didn't say anything anymore. Instead, he moved his palm and put it on her forehead to asses her temperature. She tried to struggle but he gently said, "Shh, that's okay."
She looked at his caring face, who would've thought that this man could be kind and serious too. His warm soft palm warmed her frigid heart, comforted her wrecked soul.
"No fever, Candy." He looked visibly relieved. "Have you had dinner?"
"No," she said.
"What do you want to eat?"
"You should eat some carbohydrate and protein, too," said Neal. He rang the bell and told Dorothy to order a full scale dinner for Candy.
She ate excitedly.
"I haven't been eating since last night. Annoying Terry."
"That's a good attitude. Do you want some more food?"
Neal ended up ordering more food for her. She ate heartily. She felt so much better after eating. They chatted briefly before he got up and said, "Get some rest, Candy. Ring the bell if you need anything."
"I feel much better, Neal. I can go back to my seat so Daisy can�"
"Forget about her. You sleep here. Good night, Candy," said Neal. He turned off the light and left the room.
-0 -0 -
Neal wandered outside to find a place to be alone, to reflect and to calm down. The night was chilly and he's grateful for that. The chilliness helped to cool down the chaotic heat and nerve which were swirling inside him. He played snapshots of Candy images in his mind since the first time she stepped into their house to today especially when he danced with her, holding her for the first time in his arms... He heaved a long sigh... In the past, she was a cute girl who's fun to tease. She then turned to be an attractive young woman whom he admired from the far. But now she became a mature woman, what a blast she became.
Who would've thought..., he thought. Candy... What have you done to me?
He could have stayed there all night long if not because of the disruptions by the train staff who kept coming periodically for safety routine check. Out of obligation, he went to Eliza's room to pick up Daisy and take her to his room to comfort her.
"Well Daisy... You see, the Leagans and the Ardlays are just parts of one big family, therefore...," said Neal as he closed the door behind him.
Daisy didn't let him finish his sentence. She moved forward to hug him, tightly.
"You are cold, Neal," whispered Daisy caringly.
"I was from outside," he explained, suddenly felt awkward.
"Kiss me, I'll warm you up," she whispered softly.
Neal hesitated. After what had happened that night, he wasn't in the mood to do anything romantic. But she pressed her mouth against his in no time. As soon as they kissed, helplessly his mind wandered to Candy. He tried to shake it off, erased it and removed it but it stubbornly stayed still. Surprisingly it became much easier to kiss. Never before kissing became this naturally enjoyable. With the image of her blonde hair, emerald eyes in his mind he kissed Daisy passionately and longer than he had ever before, unstoppable,...
He could have gone further but his tongue stumbled upon salty taste of grief. He stopped instantly. His eyes met a heartbroken looking face which was wet with tears.
"You're crying?" asked Neal.
"Neal, you had never kissed me like this before. Honestly, who's in your mind? Was it me or her?"
Seeing Daisy's dark eyes and not the green eyes he had been imagining during kissing, he felt so wrong.
"It's her, isn't it?" Daisy asked between her sobs. "You had never danced with me the way you danced with her. I'd die to have you look at me the way you look at her."
"It came so sudden. I didn't plan this. It just happened that her man didn't show up just now. Daisy please, I am sorry," said Neal.
"No, I am not angry." She forced herself to smile. "In fact, it's fine. Shout her name if you like when we make love, I don't care as long as you make love with that much passion with me." She hugged him tightly and cried all her might. "I love you, Neal. Since the moment I was introduced to you."
"Daisy, you have been an angel, I am grateful for the all the time you've spent with me...," Neal said.
"Oh no, no...! Don't leave me... Love me please," pleaded Daisy tearfully.
"I've tried not to think about her. But... I just can't. I wish I could. This is not fair for you."
Neal let her cry for a moment before he took her to the sofa where he knelled in front of her. He wiped her tears and said, "You deserve someone better, you will have someone better and he will be one lucky man. Stay in my room tonight. This is the only decent thing I could do for you." *
Neal kissed her cheek and left, relieved that he had told her the truth. Having no where else to go, he went to Eliza. As soon as she saw his face, she could guess what happened.
"I broke up with Daisy," Neal said shortly.
"Her family is rich. You're stupid to break up with her. I don't know what you look at that orphan."
"If that's how you measure it then she's an Ardlay. Uncle William's favorite daughter." He sighed. "Whatever, allow me to sleep in your sofa tonight, sis."
"You're out of your mind. What you did to Daisy today was too heartless even for my standard. In front of everyone you danced with Candy with that way of dancing. Then, you gave Candy her room. You're becoming over sentimental with Candy. Since when?"
He shook his head, "I don't know, honestly it just happened... Heck, I can't think of anything right now."
"I go to look for Daisy." said Eliza. She left the room much to his relief.
Before she slammed the door, he called her back. "Eliza, do me a favor. Tomorrow, take Daisy home."
"I will take Candy home."
She slammed the door without answering which he took it as yes.
The following day as planned, Neal picked up Candy from Daisy's room to take her home. She was very much well rested and looked beautiful and radiant. Unlike him, she slept really well and fully rested that night. He took her home.
"You could stay with us. I make sure someone look after you until you get well," offered Neal.
"No need, thank you. I have Albert. He's living with me," said Candy.
The skunk owner, thought Neal... First Anthony, then Terry, now Albert? Gezz Candy, give me a break. But, I will fight this time. No more waiting on the sideline.
Without warning, he lifted Candy, carrying her upstairs to her apartment door on the second floor.
"Put me down," she screamed. "I can walk alright, put me down."
"If you kept screaming, Albert would hear you. He'd come out to see me carrying you," answered Neal.
Ignoring her request, he kept carrying her. At the door he put her down.
"There, he didn't see me carrying you, happy now?" he said.
SLAP. Suddenly he felt a warm sting on his face. She just slapped him on the face.
"Who do you think you are?" said Candy glaring madly at him.
She pushed him away. But his square chest, hard as granite, didn't move a bit. With one hand, he swiftly locked both of her wrists and put his other hand on her back to bring her closer to him. Before she knew it, he had his mouth possessing hers. It was the silkiest, softest, gentlest kiss she had ever tasted which left her utterly mesmerized. Slowly her sanity abandoned her, sensation poured into her, defying all logic, melting rational away. Her mind telling her that this was not right, she's not a fickle woman who received a kiss from another man one day after breaking up with her soul mate.
But... something in the kiss made her unable to resist. Quiveringly she accepted his affection, easing her aching heart. Pushed by instinct she returned his affection. The tension in her arms slowly loosened, he released his grips. Her arms resting around his neck to support her weakened knees with his hands cradling her back. His lips gentle caress slowly turned more ravish satisfying his own hunger, quenching her deserted heart, setting her senses ablaze.
Just when she felt all hell was about to break loose, he retracted his kiss, leaving unforgettable devoid pangs within her.
"That's the punishment for hitting me," he murmured softly, his brown colored eyes sparkled at the brightest.
She stared at him in silence, speechless overcame by the most supreme kiss she had ever experienced in her entire life.
"Candy?" he said gently, observing her irresponsiveness. "Say something."
But, she stayed silence with eyes nailed to his.
"Let me help you to regain your consciousness." He planted one more deep kiss in her lips. "Say something now."
She blushed, hitting his chest playfully with her fists. "Go away," she murmured
He grinned. "Candy, take care. Don't shed another tear for Terry."
Before she could react, he knocked at the door and fled downstairs. He grinned and waved to her from the bottom of the stairs. He disappeared as soon as Albert opened the door.
She stood nailed down on the floor watching him leave. What a kiss! then she felt someone tapped on her shoulder.
"Candy what are you looking at?" asked Albert. "How come you're back?"
"Albert, Terry left me," said Candy hugging him. They went inside and she told him the complete story, but the moment she wanted to cry she remembered Neal's unconventional wisdom and his magic kiss. She secretly smiled at that.
"Oh Candy, don't be too upset, you did the correct thing," said Albert.
"No, I am not upset and yes, I did the correct thing." She got up. "What's cooking, Albert?"
"I was about to make pasta, now you're here, I should make some more."
"I help you," said Candy smiling, walking to the kitchen. Home sweet home, with Albert, can't complain with that, she thought. Thanks Neal.
Albert nodded, watching her walking into the kitchen, surprised, she took it better than I imagined.
Then, his heart pounded. He thought he wouldn't see her anymore. Who would've thought that she came back this soon and now would cook with him as usual? Without her, living in that apartment didn't feel quite the same. It's quiet, empty, lifeless...
Now that Terry was out of the picture, he wondered if he should enter into the picture...
-To be continued-
Thanks for reading.
* For those who think that Neal is "nice" to Daisy (not as playful/hostile as to Candy), that's because in manga he is like that. I don't watch the anime, I don't know about the anime.
Sabrina, the story is still long... Thanks for the review and the support.
CHAPTER 5: First Feud
Candy was off from work. As usual she walked outside to wait for Albert to pick her up. While waiting, she saw gray cloud rolling in. Soon it began to drizzle.
Oh great, she thought, she didn't have an umbrella. She moved and stood under a tree when a car stopped in front of her. Someone lowered down the window and she saw Neal inside.
"Candy, want me to take you home?" Neal asked.
"No, thanks," she said.
It's hard to look at his face without remembering the long kiss he gave her that day. It was embarrassing that she accepted that with a total surrender. She determined to show him that she was neither falling for him nor desperate for him. Her situation was far from being hopeless, she had Albert who's far above most men if not all men.
He went out with an umbrella, opened and shared it with her.
"Just because I let you kiss me once doesn't mean that I am yours. I am waiting for Albert," she warned sharply, setting the tone for their conversation.
Grin flashed on his face.
"Oh, I am hurt. What if we do something lighter today, say go to a dinner?"
"Albert cooks everyday," answered Candy. "He is a good cook," she said haughtily.
"I am not trying to compete with him on that," he said meekly, then louder, "However, I'm willing to compete with him on some other thing. What should I do to convince you that I should be the one who lives with you instead of him?"
"Can you cook?" asked Candy.
"Not really," he answered.
"Can you wash dishes?"
"Never tried it."
"Clean up a house?"
"Albert can do those extremely well," said Candy with a winning look. "A good for nothing like you has no place in my house."
He grinned, flashing rows of well arranged white teeth, looking visibly amused.
"Now, my turn to suggest a proposal," he said undeterred. "If I could make you kiss me again today, could I live with you?"
"Anything involving you and me together is of no interest. Even if the activity merely takes a few second like kissing," said Candy with a murderous expression on her face.
"Oh no, not my kiss to you," he said softly.
She felt a knot in her stomach remembering his unforgettably long passionate kiss.
"If I could kiss you until Albert comes, would you take me to dinner?"
"No kiss, no dinner, no nothing," said Candy. "I don't like a vulgar man like you who kisses any woman as you like without warning."
"It's not any woman, it's you. Just you."
Candy didn't answer. This man was annoyingly relentless, totally impervious to any objections in however way she said it. She should just shut up and ignore him until he got tired and left her by himself. She wished Albert would come soon!
"While waiting, enlighten me. Tell me how to meet your quality standard of a non vulgar man," said Neal filling the silence. "I might give some real deep consideration on necessary adjustment which hopefully ... "
She threw her face.
"Smile please. If you did, I'd share one good news which I guarantee you'll be thrilled to hear," Neal said.
She ignored him.
He took out a piece of paper from his pocket. With eyes beaming with pride, he brought his face close to her nose, looking at her closely.
"Look, I've got somebody's telegram...," said Neal with a playful tone, waiving a piece of paper very closed to her face.
She started to be curious, her eyes following the piece of paper in his hand. Got her attention, he stretched his arm and held the telegram so high that she couldn't reach it.
"It's from Stear," he said softly, mischievously.
She couldn't believe what he said. "Are you serious?"
He nodded silently with a wide grin. Her eyes nailed to the piece of paper he had in his hand following its every movement. Her face was blank for a moment as if she tried to believe what she saw. She then laughed hysterically putting her hands on his shoulders for support and jumped up and down trying to reach the telegram, in vain.
"Show me, show me!" she screamed happily with a big smile filling most of her face.
He laughed heartily. "That's better," he said and gave the telegram to her.
With hands trembling with excitement she read what's inside.
"Everything is fine. Recuperating. Regards to you all. Love P. AC"
"He's fine! He's fine. P of course means Patty! 'Love P' how romantic. O oh� Patty will love this. Oh Neal, how should I thank you?" She hugged him excitedly before releasing him as soon as she realized what she's doing.
"Hug me again, or invite me to a dinner, or even better yet let me live with you," he said calmly with a grin.
She rolled her eyes but since her heart was too happy, she stopped short at slamming him with words.
"When did you get this? How? It's been a long time that we hadn't heard anything from Stear," said Candy full of excitement.
"I met aunt and uncle Cornwell a few weeks ago. Like us they are very worried about Stear... It's a long story. To make it short, I contact an insider connection. Last weekend they took Stear to the military headquarter to write this highly encrypted message. After several stages to ensure anonymity for both the receiver and sender, they deciphered it. It just reached me today."
"You are unbelievable," said Candy with the biggest laugh.
"I was captured once. Since then, I am interested in detective sort of intrigues," he said.
"I make sure I give this to Archie and the girls. Thanks, this is the best thing that happens to me today or even for the week ... This is so precious," she laughed excitedly.
"If it excited you that much, I could write you a telegram everyday," said Neal.
"That won't be necessary, thank you very much. I tell you in advance that yours won't be treated as precious," said Candy.
She then saw Albert from the far. "Anyway, Albert is here I get to go."
Instantly she was ready to run to Albert.
"Take my umbrella," said Neal calling her back.
She saw Albert without an umbrella, and right away snapped it from Neal's hand.
"Wait, let me give you another one," shouted Neal to her.
He disliked the idea of both of them walked together under one umbrella. But she'd gone, didn't hear him. In annoyance, he saw her running to Albert's arms. Albert welcomed her with a kiss on her cheek...
"I don't recall we have this umbrella, Candy," said Albert.
"It's not ours, it's Neal's," said Candy
"Good, we need it," answered Albert. The Leagans, he thought as he saw the signature letter "L" on the vehicle from the far. My memory is indeed back. "He's Neal?" asked Albert.
"He is," said Candy indifferently. "You're late, Albert."
"The rain delayed me," said Albert telling her half of the truth. The other half of the story which he didn't tell her was that he had his memory back that day. He went to the lake shore, spent hours by himself reflecting on his situation until the rain fell reminding him about the time.
How to explain it to her? Not now. Not yet at least, thought Albert. Candy, would you believe that you're my adopted daughter? It's just so absurd!
They went grocery shopping then he cooked like in any regular day. While assisting him cooking, Candy excitedly told him about Stear's telegram. Suddenly, they heard a hissing sound in the stove. She quickly attended her pot.
"Arghh Albert, the soup got boiled over."
"Turn down the fire, quick, quick," instructed Albert.
But it's too late.
"Sorry, Albert," said Candy staring at the pot which was half empty now.
"Remember to always reduce the fire," said Albert with a twinkle in his eyes. Then he turned serious. "Candy, starting tomorrow, you probably need to cook dinner by yourself. I will come home later everyday. I, er, have a new job."
He felt guilty for hiding the truth from her. He avoided her eyes by pretending busy with the dish.
"What kind of job?" asked Candy.
"Oh some job in downtown Chicago. It gives more money," said Albert trying as much as he could not to lie. "You need to eat dinner by yourself. I'll try to bring food home..."
Candy cut him off. "No need Albert. I can cook."
He glanced at her with a funny look, giggled secretly. "Yes, of course, Candy."
He felt lucky that she didn't press him with more questions. His heart ached thinking about his unclear future with Candy now that he actually was Sir William.
Starting the following day, Candy went home and cooked alone. Her food was nasty, she could barely eat it. Worse yet, since she always had her food burned and soup boiled over, the cleaning task becoming horrendous. It took her a long time to brush the pants, pots, cleaned up the stoves or what not after cooking. Ah... Such a struggle...
A few days later...
Candy was walking home from work thinking what other nasty food she'd cook when she heard a car horn.
"Hi, Candy! I want my umbrella back." She heard Neal call her.
"Forgot to take it, it's at home," said Candy. "I'll bring it back tomorrow."
"Then you need to pay a loan fee," Neal quipped.
"Today is not even raining, besides I'm sure you have other umbrellas in your car, why the rush?"
"An umbrella is still an umbrella," said Neal. "However, you'll be exempted from the late fee if you go to a dinner with me."
Not a bad offer, it's better than eating my own inedible food, thought Candy gleefully.
"You win, let's go," said Candy almost instantly, giggling secretly at heart.
"That easy? What about Albert?" asked Neal surprised.
"He's busy now. He comes home late everyday."
Neal was excited. Finally his efforts were fruitful. With a blooming heart, he saw her enter his car and sat next to him. All moved unrealistically smoothly until they needed to decide which restaurant to go to.
"We go to this restaurant," said Neal plainly, without asking about her opinion.
"Oh, why is that?" responded Candy.
"Because I like it," replied Neal back shortly.
"I think I want to go to that one instead, because I like it there," said Candy frowned, giving a hint that she, too, should have a say of where to go. Her tone was dangerously soft. All people who knew her well would have been cautious. But he didn't know her that well.
"But here is good too," said Neal cluelessly staying adamant. "I say we go here, we go here."
"I say we go there, we go there," said Candy stoutly. It annoyed her to have someone inviting her without even asking about her opinion and insensitive enough to not understand her hint.
"I disagree," said Neal started to lose patience. "I want to go here. I pick where I want to eat."
"You know what, me too! Let me tell you mister, I am not like your other dates. My dates let me pick!" she retorted, openly showing her dissatisfaction.
He responded defiantly, "But what's wrong of doing as I like?"
"I don't ask to have a dinner with you. You think everyone liked to be toyed around by you. Good bye... "
She opened the car door and left.
So stubborn, thought Neal. He couldn't bring himself to accept her verdict on dinner cancellation. After a while he decided to chase after her. But he saw another car coming. It's Albert.
Albert said excitedly, "Candy, finally I found you. Let's go to a dinner."
Candy responded, "Wow, Albert you bought a car. Sure."
"Where do you want to go?" Neal heard Albert asked Candy...
The car brought priceless moments to them. Albert took her to various outdoor places which she hadn't visited. They had such a good time together. One day, he suggested driving to Pony's home. She was really happy.
"Let's buy the children toys too!" suggested Albert.
She couldn't be more grateful for his kind thought, but she remembered him saying that he had used all his savings to buy the car. The last thing she wanted was to overburden him with financial hurdles.
"Let me pay for the toys," said Candy quickly.
"Oh no, let me do it. I'd love to do it," said Albert.
"Thanks, Albert. But, I could too. As you said, you've used all your savings to buy the car," said Candy softly, kindly, carefully.
"Oh,... I have another source of saving," murmured Albert. Hurriedly he pretended to be busy with the steer wheel to avoid her eyes. To remove her suspicion he added, "We look for the store that offers the biggest discount!"
He looked sincere and she didn't want to argue over money, she could tell that would make him feel uncomfortable. She just smiled, nodded in agreement, feeling proud of her responsible man.
Albert took Candy to drive around the town to check stores which offered the best deals for toys and bought the toys there. When all was ready, they drove merrily to Pony's home.
The children clapped their hands, screamed happily seeing all the toys in the car. With pride Candy told Ms. Pony and Sr. Lane that her handsome Albert bought those toys and the car, too. He just stood modestly with little comments, deep down felt tortured for having to lie to her. They then took the children for a ride with the car and went to picnic and many other fun stuffs�
Starting in the late afternoon, gray cloud slowly rolling in. It got thicker by the minute accompanied by wind and light rain. They abandoned their outdoor activity and took the children back to the house. That's when they found out that one boy was missing.
"Ms. Pony, Bob has not returned from fishing," said one girl.
Albert said right away, "I'll look for him."
"I come with you, said Candy. "I am more familiar with the area."
Candy took Albert to the children's most favorite fishing spot. By the time they reached the river, rain started to pour in, wind got stronger. The water which this afternoon looked calm and blue, now looked high and dark. It rushed and bellowed as it carried trough anything it found on its way.
Albert and Candy walked along the river shouting and calling for Bob at the same time. Suddenly, they spotted one falling tree immersed partially in the water mightily resisting to be swept away by the water. On it, they saw a small boy screaming, clutching with all his might to one of the branches. Under him roaring water rushed threateningly. Albert quickly tiptoed on the branch to come to save him. Just after he handed the boy to Candy, the tree trunk surrendered to the angry water. Albert fell into the water and the trunk was swept mercilessly by the water.
Candy screamed desperately at the sight. With Bob still in her arms, she ran across the river trying to get a glimpse of Albert. But he's gone, nothing. Candy was frightened. She kept shouting for him but her voice just disappeared amid the roaring fury of mother nature. By this time rain started to pound harder.
She knelled down hopelessly. Her mind started to wander to all worst case scenarios. Albert is drowned? It can't be, we just had the happiest time together. It's impossible! It can't just end up this way.
She got up, refused to believe and walked along the river to look for Albert. Suddenly she saw something coming out from the murky water. It's Albert. The trunk had saved him! It got stuck under the river bed and he used it to climb ashore.
"Albert � Albert," said Candy ran to him. He ran to her too and hugged her and Bob at the same time...
That night after all children had gone to bed, they were sitting in front of the fire place to dry his clothes. He was covered only with a piece of blanket. Candy hugged him. When she looked at his face and he looked back at her with his gentle soft blue eyes, instantly she remembered Anthony who stayed eternally young, frozen in time. It frightened her. She held him tightly.
Albert, � please don't leave me, thought Candy.
Candy, I don't want to leave you, but... thought Albert at the same time.
Just now when he's under water, the thought that came to his mind was her. The thought of her propelled him with the extra strength to fight. He had to make it back alive otherwise she'd be sad and alone.
He took one of his arms out from the blanket to hug her tightly. He felt so closed to her. Heck, he didn't even wear clothes. She looked beautiful. But soon he remembered that he's Sir William now not Albert. He right away took his eyes off from hers and used all his sanity to not look into hers. He knew if he kept looking, he wouldn't be able to contain himself from kissing her and who knew what followed next. With a heavy heart he hurriedly withdrew back his arm, thinking of all the complications that came for being Sir William.
He soon had to leave for London for his overdue duty as Sir William and he shouldn't tell anyone, including her yet. He's been groomed to fit in this role all of his life, generations of family pride and empire were in his hands. He shouldn't taint the trust that had been bestowed on him for the sake of a woman. But on the other hand, what if the woman was worth much more than the name, pride, and history?
Oh Candy, I should stand up, tell the world that you are mine. No one should dictate me what I should do in life.
But, on the second thought, could she accept the staggering reality and follow his new lifestyle?
If only I were just Albert not William, thought Albert in misery.
They sat quietly watching the fire until Candy fell asleep, leaned in his arm while he continued debating... All through the night...
-To be continued-
Thanks for reading.
Special thanks for the reviewers! Thanks for the time to write me what you think. That helps tremendously!
CHAPTER 6: Marriage Proposal
"Ms. Candice, a letter for you," said one mailman in the hospital.
Terry, read Candy. Hurriedly she grabbed the letter. Terry, oh from Terry.
It's been a few months since the last time they met. Just when she started to forget him, he came again to her life. She hesitated if she should open it, afraid of what she'd read inside. Holding the letter tightly, she walked outside. She sat on the bench just outside the hospital gripping the letter emotionally. She didn't know how long, but suddenly she felt someone breathed so closed to her neck, she turned around and saw Neal bending behind her reading what she's reading over her shoulder.
"Terry? Don't open it," Neal said.
"You read someone else's letter? How rude!"
"I have been standing here for five minutes perhaps longer. I was curious what absorbed your attention that much," said Neal. He shook his head and repeated "Don't open it."
"Why?" asked Candy.
"He must have given you some useless consolation in the letter. You don't need that. You live fine without him. You don't need his pity."
"How do you know?" inquired Candy.
"Obviously. I do that to my girls. But do I actually want them back? No!" explained Neal.
He saw her put the letter in her handbag.
"Last time we didn't do too well, let's try again... Have dinner with me," begged Neal.
"Haven't seen you for a few days. I thought you're done with me."
"Never, luckily to you. I was just busy at work." He added alluringly, "I'll treat you."
"Don't need your money!"
"Of course not, you're an admirable independent career woman. But this free dinner includes a free human companion. Isn't it better than eating alone?"
"With other human possibly, but not with you," said Candy, trying to sound bored. "Here is your umbrella. Now, go away, don't ever come back."
"You've been holding my umbrella for days? Oh, I am so honored." He gasped melodramatically.
She got up and walked away.
He chased her. "Candy, please... I'll be good. Promise."
Thinking about the prospect of eating her own inedible food, she then said, "Fine. You decide where to go."
"That's a trap?" asked Neal hesitatingly.
She laughed. He grinned.
"What's so special about the restaurant you wanted to go to?"
"Their crepe is good. It's big and long. I like it that way," replied Candy.
"I bet you do," he said softly. "Mine is. It can get quite hard too."
She opened her mouth in disbelief trying to find the correct way to response. "You are one dirty man!"
"Only at your presence," he grinned wickedly. "Now, shall we?" He opened the car door...
To avoid another fight and dinner cancellation, he did his best to behave that night. Appreciating his effort and also to avoid eating her own abominable food, she reciprocated. They ended up making compromises and had such a fabulous evening together. They promised to see one another again next week at the same time...
One week later...
As scheduled, he came and waited for her outside the hospital. Unlike usually, this time she looked different, though. Her head drooped lifelessly, looking melancholic. When she got closer he observed dark circles around her eyes.
"You look like you haven't slept in days. Are you that busy in the hospital?" asked Neal.
"Albert left me," said Candy tearfully.
They sat in a bench and she told him what happened. She told him how she spent all night long making pamphlets to stick on the wall to look for Albert. She showed him one of those as they walked. Despairingly, she spilled out all the beans to him.
"I hang onto these men but they all left me." She cried. "How they could have the heart to do that is beyond me."
"You should stop crying for these useless men, Candy. It's not worth a second of your time and definitely not a drop of your tear," said Neal. "They can leave you, you can forget them."
He pulled her hand. "Let's have fun tonight. I take you to wherever you want to eat, any stores you want to visit, any play you want to watch, anything."
He was especially kind that night which made her almost forgot who he actually was. She had so much fun that night. She thought that she wouldn't be able to live another day, but he made her so happy that she felt she could fly.
When he dropped her at her home he asked, "Who are you dating now?"
"No one," answered Candy.
"Anyone's living with you?" asked Neal curiously.
"No. Do you want to go inside?" asked Candy. She colored, realizing the implication of the word "inside". He'd mercilessly make fun of that slip of the tongue. She hurriedly added, "I mean, inside the house?"
"No...," said Neal, shortly.
Hearing his rejection, she felt embarrassed. Her face felt hot right away, she could tell that she must have been flushing red. She hurriedly looked at another direction so he couldn't see her face. He would laugh at me thinking that I'm desperate for man.If only there's a way to retract the words back, she almost banged her head to the nearby poles in desperation.
But he didn't laugh, he was quiet for a while before stopped walking abruptly. She looked up to him just to find him looking down at her with a warm gaze that could melt the arctic. He's gently stroking back a lock of hair that covered her face.
"Because I have something more to ask from you," he continued, gently. "Something that I can't keep to myself anymore."
The look in his eyes was so tender, for the first time, she almost didn't dare to look back at them. He took possession of her hands, held them gently in his. While in the past she would pull to free her hands, this time his look froze her still. Her heart beat hard with anticipation to hear what he's going to say.
"Marry me, Candy," he said without prelude in the most romantic tone that she never imagined he possessed.
Candy gasped, her eyes opened huge couldn't believe what she just heard. She had been hoping to hear these words from someone else, but they never said it. And now finally she heard it from someone she least expected.
"You came to our house hoping to have a steady family, but I ruined it. From now on, I'll realize your dream. I'll make up for each drop of tears I had made you shed. I will love you, pamper you, and make you happy every day, starting this very moment," said Neal softly.
She looked at him wondering if he made another ridiculous joke. But his face looked serious and earnest.
"I'll also care for the Pony's home, Ms. Pony, Sr. Lane, and all the children. You don't need to worry about them anymore."
His tone was so kind, his words were so pleasant to hear. Her stomach began to flutter with a sensation which made her want to pull her hands and hug him at the same time.
"You remember those+?" she asked.
"I remember every word you said, each laughter you made, each tear you shed, each curse you hurled. I remember everything about you."
He pressed one of her hands gently against his lips.
"You hate it when your man leaves you. I won't leave you, ever. Forever, I'll be the shoulder for you to lean on, the rock for you to walk on."
"Neal, since when...?" she whispered, astounded.
"When we're captured, you gave me that unforgettable lecture which made me see how despicable good for nothing I was, how my lifestyle was filled by debased sense of satisfaction. Since then, there's this feeling inside me that grew stronger every time we met. I thought it was friendship, because... you know, I stopped being hostile to you. But when we met again in that boutique, I started to doubt it. And that day when we danced in New York, ... the pleasure of holding you, the unstoppable longing of wanting to look into your eyes was unlike what I had ever experienced. Finally, I understood, it's love after all."
She's paralyzed by a shock wave. He waited patiently with his chocolate colored eyes nailed sweetly at hers.
Finally, she managed to say, "What about your mother? Sister? Aunt Elroy...? I mean..." She sighed. "You know what I mean."
"They have to accept you because you are the only woman who I want to be with. And I want everyone, including them to respect my wife, which is you." He said assuringly. "Don't worry about them or about anything else. I'll protect you. I'll solve all problems you might have from now on."
"You are joking, right?" she said.
She glared at him expecting that he'd soon grin, laugh, admitting it's just some kind of trickery.
"For something as serious as this? No way! I wouldn't joke about life critical issues," he said using the first serious tone she had ever heard coming from his lips. "How can I convince you? How about this, tomorrow we go to the City Hall-. We get marry legally. We do the lengthy wedding party later."
She started to believe him.
"Neal... With our tempers, we will have a serious fight within a week."
"More likely sooner, we handle that later. Marry me first," he said.
He pressed her hands hard to his heart. "I love you so much, Candy. Yes, I want to go inside. I am dying to sleep with you in your bed, to use your pillow and your bed sheets... as your husband."
He kissed her cheek. "Think about it. Give me the answer tomorrow. Don't disappoint me."
He left, just like that.
Only Neal... Only him can do this, thought Candy.
That night, Candy thought about Neal's offer.
She had to admit that from all available men around her, she knew him longest. He was nasty in the past, but recently, even though he's still playful, he's always there for her. She went to the dining table with a cup of tea in her hand and take a seat to think some more. Accidentally her eyes rested at today's newspaper and she read about Terry's wedding on the front page. A liar with sweet promises!, she thought right away. A heartless man who didn't mind leaving her, who broke all eloquent promises, oaths, and whatever heavenly pledges he made to her. Suddenly Neal seemed like a saint compared to him. She's been so tired of heartbroken that came one after another. She always longed for a steady family all trough her life. Right away, she decided to accept his offer.
The following day, early in the morning, he had come and knocked at her door. He looked clean and fresh. His hair was still partially wet from the shower, donned in well-cut suite fitting for going to work as much as going to a formal wedding ceremony. His eyes sparkled with boyish curiosity.
"Do you agree to be my bride?" he asked.
"Yep. Why not?" she answered lightly.
He grinned happily. His eyes were shinning together with the rest of his face. The boyish sparkles in his eyes instantly transformed to a manly gaze of an amorous hunky young man. After looking into her face deeply for a moment, he hugged her tenderly.
"I fall violently in love with you, Candy," he said movingly kissing her over and over. "I can't wait to show it to you. But, let's go to the City Hall first."
"What clothes should I wear?" asked Candy trembling with excitement.
"Any clothes. I'll take it off in less than an hour anyway," said Neal bluntly with a grin.
She giggled. He laughed.
"Fine, we can make it more exciting," he said softly, wrapping his arms around her waist, looking lovingly into her eyes. "We go shopping for your wedding dress first." He kissed her.
Holding her hand, he took her to upscale boutique to buy the white formal wedding dress, matching shoes,... and the ring of her choice. They then went to the City Hall to say their wedding vow, kiss, make a photo... and sign the wedding certificate. They're very happy!
"I'm married," said Candy admiring the wedding certificate, back in her apartment.
"Me too, isn't it wonderful? That easy!" said Neal.
He then looked at her with a serious air. "This is real Candy, it's not a joke. I promise to love you always and never leave you until my last breath." He kissed her. "I'll be back soon. Get to buy you something. Wait for me." Among all the excitement, he just remembered that he forgot to buy her a bouquet of flowers.
While waiting, Candy was admiring the wedding ring in her hand. It's really that easy to get married when both parties were committed to it. She smiled. She felt peacefully happy. Finally her search for a steady family was over. She loved hearing his loyalty promises. She played the part where he said that he'd never leave her over and over again in her head, truly wished he'd really keep it not only for today but forever.
Suddenly she heard someone knock at the door. Thinking it was Neal, she went to open the door quickly. But, it's not Neal. It's the postman delivering a stack of letters.
She glanced at the letters briefly and found one from... Albert!
For a moment she thought she read it wrong. She read it again and again to convince herself that she actually read "Albert" on the envelope. She stared at Albert's letter in her hand with blank eyes, then she looked at the one from Terry which still lay untouched on the dresser, back to Albert's then back to Terry's again, continuously, alternately. Her hands felt itchy, burned by curiosity to open and read what's inside.
Well, I am married now, nothing else matters. Let me open them...
-To be continued-
+ Chapter 2 when Candy shared her worries during captivity.
- City Hall: a place to, among other things, register marriage, sign wedding certificate and to get married legally.
Thanks for reading.
Especially thanks for the reviews Sabrina, Elsa. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. It helps...
Sabrina: Vacation is over... I spent (most of) my free time writing especially when waiting for the never ending plane delays.
CHAPTER 7: Within An Hour
Candy opened Terry's letter first.
Since you left, I couldn't stop thinking about you. No...! I don't want to marry Susanna. You are the one who I truly love.
I broke your heart. I've wronged you and greatly disappointed you.
Reply this letter as soon as you receive it. Tell me you still love me and want me back. I will leave Susanna immediately and come to you.
I love you, Candy. You and only you. With or without guilt, with or without gratitude. I can't wait to drop on my knees to kiss your feet and to apologize in person. I will marry to you only.
Freckles, I beg you, reply me. Give me a second chance. I promise to always hold your hands, kiss your lips and tell you that I love you everyday for the rest of my life.
Love and kisses,
She didn't believe what she read.
Neal! It's all his fault, thought Candy furiuosly. +
Without his advice, she would've read Terry's letter long time ago. Now it's too late. He's married! Well... she's too!
Anger erupted trough all her veins leaving her blood boiling ravenously, explosively. Without any hesitation, in one stroke, she opened and read Albert's letter devouringly.
I write this letter with so much regret.
I shouldn't leave you by just leaving a short note to explain. Herewith, I'd like to apologize. I feel wrong which only got intensified by each day that passes by.
I wish I could go back to you in Chicago, but my new obligations prevent me from doing so. I just hope that you'd be so kind to receive my invitationto visit me in London. I'll explain to you in person why I need to leave and my current complex situation. George will be in Chicago next week, he could pick you up and take you here.
Candy, I have regained my memory back.I know who I am. I'll tell you more when we meet.
Albert and Terry both are asking me to come and I'm married to Neal? What have I done?, she thought in rage.
At the height of her anger, Neal came with a bouquet of flowers. If only he had come a bit later when she had cooled down, she might have treated him less hostile and in return he might have just taken it easy, joked as usual. And if he had taken it easy or laughed about it as usual, she might have cooled down, too.
But at this moment, the situation was that she was too explosive to cool down. Mercilessly, she picked the worst possible words to tear him. As for him, he's too jealous to stay cool. Unlike usually where he relentlessly stayed calm no matter how much she snubbed him or mocked him, this time he's fully ignited by jealousy. He looked down at her with a bitter ferocious gaze which she never saw coming from him before. All traces of playfulness disappeared. It surprised her but mostly it spurred her. Both trapped in an unavoidable heated fight.
"You think everyone is as immoral as you?" yelled Candy.
"In spite of everything, I am your husband now," he said in as much increased voice as his wife.
"Ugly annoying man, without you, I'd be with one of them!" said Candy defiantly.
"Ugly? Re-read the story 'Beauty and the Beast', Ms.! I might be an ugly beast, but my heart possesses a true love to you unlike your handsome princes who can't make up their mind and left you with only a short piece of flimsy note."
"What does a beast like you know about love?" said Candy, indignantly.
"And you know?" returned Neal in menacingly dangerous tone.
"All I know is I don't want you when Albert or Terry is available!"
"How could you say that to your husband? What about all the oaths that you were saying just now?"
"Husband by a piece of paper! I want it annulled*!" blasted Candy.
"A piece of paper! Unbelievable! I am done fighting with you!" blasted him back.
He was intensely infuriated, he threw the flowers hard on the sofa, left the room, and slammed the door. Hard.
So much for getting married, thought Neal fuming.
Candy thought, good, I might as well go to Albert.
She thought it's weird that Albert knew George, but she couldn't care less at this moment. He got his memory back! Candy was so eager to know more about Albert. She didn't want to wait for George, she'd go now!
Neal went straight to his office as the panacea for releasing his anger. Skipping even lunch, he occupied himself with work, meetings, reading business reports and more. He only stopped when he felt hungry and tired around 830 PM. His emotions had cooled down and his mind started to wander to Candy again. It worried him that she might be crying alone like what happened when Terry and Albert left her.
Forgetting about dignity, he came back to her apartment. From outside, her windows looked dark. He knocked at the door, but no one answered. Thinking that she might be crying alone in the dark, he decided to enter by force. He took a paper pin wire from one of the business report, straightened it and inserted the piece of wire to the key hole to unlock the door, one of many skills he mastered after he was captured years ago. After several attempts, he successfully unlocked the door.
He entered, closed the door behind him and turned on the light. He saw Albert's and Terry's letters were still lying on the table. The wedding ring and the bouquet of flowers were there too, lonely and decaying, just like him.
"Candy..., Candy," he called, but no one answered.
He went to her room expecting to see her crying, but she's not there. Instead he saw her cabinets opened, clothes lay untidily on the floor, some open suitcases too.
She went to look for Albert or Terry, thought Neal heart brokenly.
He picked up Albert's and Terry's letters, glanced at the addresses. One was in London, one was in New York. So far away and she's alone. He remembered when she got unconscious in the train after she broke up with Terry. He's crushed with jealousy but his love for her couldn't keep him from worrying about her. He took the letters with him to keep the addresses and went back home.
At home, he used the back door to avoid meeting with anyone and go straight to his room. Exhausted both in body and heart, he lifted his legs to recline on the sofa trying to absorb the reality with Candy. His future with her clearly was doomed. He had tried, but she simply just didn't love him. He should move on too.
But unlike to other girls, somehow he just couldn't stop thinking about her...
His servant knocked at the door interrupting his muse. "Master Neal, Mr. and Mrs. Leagan would like to see you."
Reluctantly, he went to meet them.
"Hi mom, dad," said Neal gave all his effort to look okay but his mother's sharps eyes couldn't be fooled.
"You don't look happy, dear," his mother asked concernedly.
"I'm sure he just had a problem with one of his girls," said his father.
"He's been going to the hospital lately," said his mom.
"To check pretty nurses not his health," sneered his father.
"He told you that?" asked his mother.
"No, but I was young too once," answered his father. "Neal, I had planned to go to London for Sir Williams' reinstatement and business meetings. But today I found out that I have to be in New York for an important project. I want you to go to London on my behalf."
"London? It's a war zone," protested his mother.
"Europe is, but London should be fine. If Stear can go to France to war, then he should be able to go to London to work," said his father.
"No...!," his mother argued back... His parents were loudly busy arguing, but Neal wasn't listening.
London?, Neal thought. Terry's married. Candy must have gone to London to look for Albert. I can look for her.
"I will go to London," answered Neal suddenly cutting his parents heated discussions.
"Good! Finish all problems you have with your girls then go as soon as possible," said his father. His mother cried right away...
That night, Neal decided to make sure Candy's safe and sound first, then he'd forget her for goods.
The following day, he contacted detectives to confirm her whereabouts. For the next few days, he learned what he had guessed. No one saw her at work in the hospital, in Pony's home, Annie's, Archie's, or Terry's house. He then asked his detectives to watch out for her in Albert's address.
-ooOOoo oOOo * BOMB! * oooOooo oOoo-
The time finally arrived for Neal to go to London. His mother cried all night long. Neal devotedly assured her that he'd be fine.
"I'll call you every day, mom," said Neal as he hugged her.
In the ship, he kept in touch regularly with his detectives. No one saw her still in Chicago or New York. That's expected, but it bothered him that no one saw her in Albert's address. By now, she should have arrived in London.
On the fifth day, the captain alerted the passengers about a bomb explosion in London suburb. It's a big news for everyone in the ship. Suddenly he thought of a grim possibility. Immediately, he wrote a telegram to order the detectives to search all hospitals that accommodated the bomb victims to find anyone who looked like Candy.
As soon as he arrived in the UK, his staff reported that Candy had not arrived in Albert's address yet. But, they had identified several bomb victims who fit Candy's description. He hurriedly visited the hospitals to check. Whenever he saw a patient, he prayed silently that she's not Candy and relieved when it's not her.
Until he saw one unconscious woman...
Oh no, it can't be!
The moment he saw her, his heart sunk. He tried to deny what his eyes saw, refusing to believe. But, she's unmistakably her. Her coat, her bracelet, the Ardlay pendant in her neck, ...
"She had a couple of broken bones and patches of burned skin. Her eyes and ears got damaged badly, they had to be bandaged for a few weeks," one doctor explained.
She looked poorly taken care of. The hospitals had been inundated with patients from the bomb incident and the war. They're in severe shortage of staff. He had no heart to leave her there. Showing the marriage certificate, the hospital let him take her home. He had a nurse from another far away hospital to care for her. She was cleaned, had her clothes changed, bandages replaced...
After the nurse properly cleaned her, he sat next to her bed, tearfully examining her wrecked condition. His heart was torn in agony seeing her destitute situation. Her head were covered by thick bandages which wrapped her eyes and ears. She had scars everywhere, bandages in her limbs, burned skin, chapped lips because of dehydration. Her skin which usually shone looked dull and malnourished.
He stroked her hair which used to be vibrant, golden gloss hair but now was dull and languid. He wished he could switch position with her to bear her pain. He'd rather have her shout at him mercilessly than saw her lie lifelessly in silence like this. In tears, he took her motionless hand and pressed her palm against his cheek, kissing it gently.
Albert means that much to you, doesn't he? He wept. Candy, I love you. But if Albert who you want, I'll bring you to him.
At this moment, his staff came to report. "Mr. Leagan, Mr. Albert is not in town. He's in business trips for a few weeks."
Since he knew no other people who knew Candy in London, he decided to take care of her and brought her to Albert as soon as he came back.
Neal made sure Candy was attended around the clock. He stayed in her room, moved his work there when he's at home. He also opened the door that divided their rooms so he could hear her better. She's still unconscious but occasionally got restless, mumbling some words as if she had a bad dream, crying for Albert. It broke his heart that she never called his name. Regardless, he held her hands, hugged her shaken body gently to calm her until she fell back to sleep.
One day she finally got up. She sat on her bed, shouted for Albert. Neal hurriedly came to sit next to her.
"Albert! Albert, finally I found you," said Candy hugging Neal tightly, thinking he was Albert.
"I am not Albert," said Neal in alarmed knowing that she hugged him because she thought he's Albert. He pulled himself to release him from her arms.
"Albert where are you going?" said Candy. Her arms reached out groping looking for him whom she thought was Albert. "Albert, I can't see you."
"I am not Albert," yelled Neal on top of his lung.
His heart dripped with blood every time she shouted for Albert. His chest hurt so much it's amazing that it didn't burst open and still could function as if nothing happened. Almost like running, he went to the door to leave the room and call his driver to take her to Albert. He couldn't care less if Albert was on a business trip. He just couldn't hear another "Albert" coming from her mouth.
From the doorway he turned around one more time and saw Candy still groping in the dark.
"Albert, come here! Say something," cried Candy beseechingly.
She can't hear! It is that bad! His heart stopped beating for a moment, he stopped walking right away. Poor Candy!
With her unable to hear and see, he shouldn't leave her alone in unknown hands. Suddenly came across his mind the promises he made to her when he proposed to her, especially the "for better, for worse"** pledge he made on their wedding day. He turned around, hesitatingly walked slowly back to her. He should stick to the original plan to take care of her until Albert's back. Gradually his worry overshadowed his jealousy. Like running he came back to her bedside. He brought his hands to her groping hands to comfort her.
"Albert?" asked Candy.
He quickly thought of a way to communicate with her.
He grabbed her hand, put her palm on his cheek then shook his head. Feeling the head movement she understood it as a "no".
Hurriedly she pulled her hand. "You are not Albert, who are you?" she asked frightenedly.
He looked at her sad condition as a result of running away from him for Albert. He decided to conceal his identity and not tell her who he really was.
"Sam!" shouted Neal on top of his lung. "I am Sam."
-To Be Continued-
Chapter 1-6 is just introductions. The real story starts here... Please come back for the next chapters. Thank you!
+ Chapter 6, first paragraphs.
* Annulment: To legally treat the marriage as never happens (different from divorce).
** the famous wedding pledge: ...to be my lawfully wedded husband, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part...
Thanks for reading.
Thanks for the reviewers. Sabrina, Lana, Elsa, Guest... Thanks for sharing your thoughts with me.
Summary: Sam is the name Neal used to disguise himself from Candy. Candy neither could see nor hear at this point, injured from a bomb explosion...
CHAPTER 8: Sam
"Who are you? Answer me!" shouted Candy hysterically no matter how many times Neal had yelled "Sam" on top of his lung.
Finally, Neal grabbed Candy's hand. She almost jumped in surprised. The sudden movement hurt her fractured bones. Her face twisted in pain.
"Easy Candy," said Neal. But of course she couldn't hear him.
Very gently he held her hand on his hand, patted it, then put it on her ear. She felt a cloth around it.
"My ears, my ears are injured, aren't they?" she asked, frightened. "That's why I can't hear anything," she said in panic
Neal took her hand again put on his cheek then he nodded.
She cried. He hugged her really gently to show that he's a friend not an enemy. He opened her palm and wrote "O K" many times until she got what he meant.
"O K? You mean I can see and hear again in the future?" asked Candy.
He put her hand on his cheek again then nodded.
"Who are you?" asked Candy.
Neal wrote on her palm " S ".
"S?" she asked and Neal nodded again with her hand still on his cheek.
He then wrote, "A"
"A?" she asked. He nodded.
Then he wrote, "M"
"N?" she asked. He shook his head and wrote, "M."
"Sam, your name is Sam ...," said Candy.
Again Neal nodded.
"I am Candy," said Candy. Neal shook her hand.
She coughed... He brought a cup of water for her to drink. She drank a little and pushed his hand away. He gently held her hand and put the cup back to her dry chapped lips encouraging her to drink.
"I don't want water, I am not a fish," she moaned stubbornly.
He took her hand pressed against his check and nodded firmly before putting the cup back to her lips to encourage her to drink.
She sipped a little more.
"You are here to help me?" asked Candy, frightened.
She naturally reached out her hand to his face to seek for an answer. He put his hand on his cheek and nodded. Again put the cup encouraging her to drink.
He then wrote on her palm "E A T."
"Eat?" she asked hand still on his cheek.
He nodded and brought a spoon to her mouth.
"Porridge," she said in disgust, her face twisted. " I don't want porridge, it's tasteless."
He wrote "1 S T."
"I need to eat porridge first?" asked Candy.
And so with various sign language he tried to communicate with her. After eating, she felt comfortable and a bit drowsy. Her weak body felt tired at a task that seemingly required so much energy for her to do. She weakly leaned against a pile of pillows.
He arranged her pillows and gave her a blanket. She hurriedly seized his hand.
"Don't leave me, everything is dark and quiet. I am afraid," Candy said.
He put her hand on his face and nodded. "Thank you, Sam." Again he nodded.
"Albert, do you know Albert? Where's Albert?"
Hearing "Albert" made his heart felt heavy again instantly. He bore it, though. He wrote on her palm "T R I P."
"Ah, he's on a trip," her face turned sour right away. He felt excruciating pain in his heart.
"When will he be back?"
Neal wrote on her palm "3 weeks"
A long time, thought Candy disappointedly. She held his hand and soon she felt asleep...
In the first week, Candy spent recuperating and missing Albert. That night, tossing to and fro, she felt hurting, burning, itching in various part of her body which seemed to get worse at night. She was literally blown away by a bomb, smashed to the ground. In spite of it, it was a luck that she's still alive with relatively minor injury.
Hearing her suffering, Neal crept to her bed to see her. She again called for Albert which smashed his heart into million pieces. Some unpleasant feeling boiled inside him, he thought he could win her heart by marrying her. Clearly, to her he's not at par with Albert. He felt so alone, lonely, and unloved wanting so much to pull his ears, purged Albert from her mind, erased Albert from her heart and replaced Albert with him. If only that's possible...
He was even jealous of her handkerchief which she held so closely to wipe her occasional falling tears. How could she think of Albert, the man who left her, more than him? Did she know that he'd rather die than to abandon her like what Albert did to her?
Promising to care for her who kept crying for Albert turned out to be much easier to say than done. It took love...
For the sake of his love who's in agonizing pain, he learned to exert self control worth a lifetime experience. It taught him patience, tolerance, and understanding; something that he never paid too much attention to. In agony, he watched her desperately hitting, massaging, squeezing various parts of herself to stop the pain with a squeaking hopeless voice. How easy it was for them to take things for granted, to fight, to leave one another considering how easy life could be snapped from them of at any moment. Even if her heart was for Albert, at least she's still alive and was here with him.
Neal actually kept his promise to take care of her, infinitely better than his words. Fighting all the jealousy that had been torturing him all day and night, the very love that made him jealous made him approach her to alleviate her misery.
He reached out to her hands which she quickly pulled away from him.
"Are you Albert?" she asked suspiciously. She felt a large warm masculine hand gently put her hand on his palm and patted with his other hand, decidedly a man's hand couldn't be her nurse or the maid.
Neal put her hand on his cheek so she could feel that he shook his head.
"Sam?" asked Candy, that's the only other person she knew other than Albert in London.
"Everywhere is sore, painful, hurting. Oh, I am hot," said Candy moving her hand using it like a fan. "Help me. Give me a piece of paper, fan, anything. Oh these bandages drove me nuts. I want to open them!"
Her face was twisted helplessly... Her hands started to pull all the bandages. But then she felt that same large hands held her hands gently. She felt she's being lifted up carried to somewhere. She was about to kick to protest when she felt cooler air breezed trough, it seemed she's being moved next to a big open window. She felt better for a moment but the sore and pain slowly overpowering, disturbing her again. She squeezed her skin in agony trying to sooth herself before the same masculine hand held her hand gently and took over the massaging job. She felt the hand moved slowly kneading her skin in relieving motion which was very comforting.
Her mind rejected this unknown person, but exhaustion took over as drowsiness crept in. She hadn't slept at all that night and got so washed away by the torture of pain.
"Thanks I am good, you go to bed," she said just before she fell asleep, half consciously. She felt so comfortable now.
But he squeezed her hand gently before going back to it's job to massage her to sleep. Thus starting that routine every night, a few times a night, sometimes. Since he never did anything inappropriate, slowly he won her trust. His familiar clean masculine smell became a symbol of comfort and security in her silent dark world.
On the second week, she could identify people around her by their smell. She's awake longer during the day which she spent sitting doing nothing looked so lonely in her room. He bought her a wheel chair to take her outside. He carried her to the wheelchair, wrapped her with a blanket, then pushed her outside.
She looked happier outside. He accompanied her to sit outdoor often. Since her ears couldn't hear, they mostly sat in silence with her hand holding his. She felt better to hold someone. Living in the silent darkness scared her.
On the third week, she started to learn to use crutches. The nurse and the maid were very helpful to her too and she started to make friends with them especially if Neal went to work.
Then she learned to walk with a stick like the blinds. By this time, she could roam around more independently and had got adjusted to her life in the silent darkness.
One day, a plane flew especially closed nearby making a loud thunderous sound.
"Sam, I could hear that...," she said one day.
"You could?" asked Neal.
"Speak louder, I can hear better now" said Candy.
"Do you hear me?" asked Neal louder.
"Speak louder... I heard you, but I couldn't catch what you said," said Candy.
And again shouting on top of his lung, Neal repeated what he said slowly, repeatedly.
"Sam, I heard you!" she said finally happily. "You said 'do you hear me'. Yes! I heard you, Sam! I heard you!"
Candy was so excited, so was he.
After the excitement eased, candy asked. "How do you know me? Why are you helping me?"
"I FOUND YOU IN THE HOSPITAL. I know Albert," he shouted loudly and slowly.
From then on, they did more conversation. Her motivation went up faster now that she could hear and talk to others. She had felt so lonely and alone in her quiet world. She started to talk to anyone she met, neighbors, milkman, gardeners, anyone...
She felt excited that she couldn't sleep that night. As usual she called for Sam.
"Sam," called Candy.
He froze. This was the first time she called his name instead of "Albert".
"Sam!" called Candy again.
He got off from his bed, hurriedly came to her.
He shouted, "Where does it hurt?" As usual, he started to massage her shoulder which used to bother her.
It's the same massage he had performed for the past few weeks, a harmless massage purely for health therapy purposes. There's nothing sensual in it but suddenly, right now, it made her stomach flutter. For the first time, her skin was aware of his manly touch.
"Nowhere. I am good now," said Candy. She fumbled for the large hands that moved slowly on her arm to stop it. As soon as their hands met, she felt shy and tensed. Her heart beat uncontrollably.
To evade his attention, she hurriedly pulled her body and said, "Where do you sleep?"
"There's a bed here," shouted Neal. "But now you're fine, I should go back to my own room."
"You slept in my room?" asked Candy.
"I didn't want to but...," said Neal loudly, sounded guilty, "one night, I heard a loud sound of glass smashed to the floor. When I came here, I saw you're on the floor surrounded by pieces of broken glass. It seemed you tried to walk but you fell and hit the table. To hear you better,..."
"That's not what I meant," said Candy. "Thanks Sam. You didn't sleep much these past few weeks."
She groped in the dark, trying to find him to hug him.
As he hugged her back, for the first time she felt aware of his warm manly body trough the thin layer of her sleeping gown. It's weird, it's strange... For the first time, she wondered how a man as gentle as Sam looked like...
Candy couldn't feel better. She's so eager to go outside to explore her new world. Feeling grateful for her life, she wanted to volunteer in local children hospital to tell stories. She always loved children.
"You'll be too tired," said Neal alarmed but she insisted on.
"I have been really tired for not doing anything at all for almost a month," she answered back.
He had his driver James and a maid, Dora, to accompany her. He also took her to various places after he came back from work.
They went to see the doctor every three days.
On Monday, they took a walk in the nearby area
On Tuesday, they went to the night market.
On Wednesday, they went to canoe.
On Thursday, they, again, took a walk in the nearby area.
On Friday, they went to folks dancing in one night fair. He didn't want them to dance originally, but she insisted on. She's tired of being treated and living like an invalid. Throughout the dance, he never released her, always held her at least with the tip of his fingers to direct her steps. That way, they whooshed across the hard soil field.
In the weekend, they went to the woods. It's been closed to four weeks since Candy lived with Sam.
"Nice day!" shouted Neal one afternoon when he took a walk with her.
"Sam, you don't need to shout, I can hear just fine," said Candy chuckling. At this time, Candy already could hear well and people could speak with their normal voice.
"Nice looking trees. Colorful leaves. Soon, you'll be able to see them too," said Neal.
"Let me climb one tree," said Candy unexpectedly.
"No, no, you shouldn't! You can't see," responded Neal in disbelief.
"I can climb trees with eyes closed! Besides there's you here," she said excitedly.
"I can't climb trees. Can't help you on this one."
"Not at all?" asked Candy surprised.
"Never in my life," answered Neal.
"You're worse than my friend, Stear*." She giggled. "Take me to one big tree, I'll show you how good I am." She smiled really widely.
He protested but she insisted so at the end he took her hand and led her to a big tree. She climbed... All went really well. She waved, smiled, and laughed from the tree while he watched nervously from the ground.
But suddenly a squirrel made a sudden movement which made some birds flew unexpectedly closed to her. Stunt and couldn't see, she lost balance, screamed, and fell. In horror, Neal tried to catch her. He looked up trying to pinpoint her falling location and payed little attention to the ground. Accidentally, he got stumbled on something and lost his balance. Although he could successfully catch her, he's so poorly balanced that her momentum knocked him off. He got crushed and fell to the ground with her on top of him.
After the dust settled, she sensed her face was so closed to his. She could feel his breath hitting her cheek, the heat from his face radiating to her lips. His arms were still holding her, her lips got warmer by the second. She wondered if he moved his lips closer to hers or it was just her imagination. If he did, she didn't think she'd have the power to reject it. She's curious how the kiss of someone as kind as Sam would taste like.
"Sorry... I am not like a knight in a storybook who can catch a woman as easy as catching a feather," Neal said breaking the silence, trying to get up. "Are you hurt?"
She laughed awkwardly, embarrassed by her own thought.
"No," she said.
Like a real gentleman, he hurriedly got up and helped her to get up too. Deep inside, she a bit regretted that Sam wasn't a bit naughty.
"You are already quite active, Candy. Your bandages will be opened soon and you can see Albert."
"I can see you too, Sam!" exclaimed Candy jovially.
She started to imagine all possible handsome faces for Sam, trying to make connection from the feeling of his smooth hand, infinite patience and care, and above all his seductive manly smell...
Neal was silent for a long time. Then he said slowly, "I don't want you to see me."
-To be continued-
* In manga chapter 1 page 38: Stear tries to catch up with Candy in climbing trees.
Thanks for reading.
Thanks for the reviewers. Sabrina, Lana, Elsa, Guest, Hello... Thanks for sharing your thoughts with me.
-CHAPTER 9: Back to Normal
"Why not?' asked Candy spontaneously, instantly sedated from her joviality.
"I am just an ugly* old man who's waiting for my wife to come back," said Neal. "It's not worth to look at."
"Are you married?" asked Candy.
"Yes," said Neal. Candy felt her heart strangely heaved in not a good way.
"Briefly, but she left me," said Neal. She felt her heart weaved again, in a better way. She felt embarrassed to herself.
"Do you love your wife?" asked Candy.
"Very much," said Neal. He paused momentarily as if he's overcome by his own words. "We didn't know each other that well. But I believe with love, we can work things out. Hopefully, she comes back."
There's something in his voice that made Candy feel sorry for him. For the first time, she wondered if Neal missed her like Sam who's missing his wife.
"Albert... He's your love?" asked Neal
"Yes," said Candy.
Unlike in the past where she could rattle and talked non stop about Albert, unconsciously, something within her screamed to shut her mouth. It was so incomprehensible, it made her confused.
"He's a lucky man," Neal said.
"For being loved by a beautiful woman," replied Neal.
Candy detected something unusual in Sam's voice, but she couldn't tell what it was.
"Your wife is not beautiful?" she asked.
"She's the most beautiful woman in the world. What I meant was, I suppose it's terrific to love someone and she loves back in return," Neal said.
Poor Sam, his wife is a fool to leave someone like him, thought Candy.
Finally, her last night arrived. Tomorrow, the doctor would open all her bandages. Neal's staff confirmed that Albert was in town. Finally, she'd leave. His heart felt heavy like there's rock sitting in it.
He used every second he had left watching her in silence, trying to absorb as much of her as he could. He didn't even know how to say good bye to her. He wondered if he could behave like a normal friend or a brother who gave his sister to her man. Would it be even possible?
"Sam you are silent today," said Candy.
"Candy, your bandages will be removed tomorrow. You'll be able to see. I will leave. Albert will meet you in the hospital to take you home."
She seized his arm and hugged him. "Sam, take me home with you."
He hugged her back steadying his voice and said, "Candy, you should go back to the man you love and I wait for my wife to come back."
That night she cried quietly. His smell, his gentleness, the feeling of his hand� She'd be able to hear and see, and meet Albert. What a dream! But she'd lose Sam. What a price!
The following day he took her to the hospital for one last time. A nurse entered to call her.
She hugged Neal. He hugged her back.
"Time for you to leave?" asked Candy.
He didn't want to speak since his voice would break for sure. He gently put her hand on his face so she could feel he nodded.
"Sam, thank you for everything," said Candy. "Will we meet again?"
He shook his head. "We shouldn't."
"Then can I kiss you?" asked Candy. "It's not that kind of kiss."
Again he nodded, her hand was still on his face. Using her two hands to navigate the position of his cheek, she slowly moved to press her lips against his cheek.
As soon as he felt the kiss, a pang of pain hit him that he needed to clench his eyes shut. He mustered all self restrain to not let the built up tears stream down until her hands let go of his face. This was the only time he felt relieved that she couldn't see.
He summoned all effort to sound normal. "Candy, good bye. Albert will take you home."
He watched his love walked away until she disappeared into the examination room. As soon as she disappeared his heart crumbled like withered flowers. He always loved her. He went outside looking for a secluded bench to bury his face in a soaked wet handkerchief to sob some more. The last one month was the happiest moments in his life, too bad it ended.
"I love you, Candy," he whispered. "I wish you all the happiness from now on."
The doctor opened Candy's bandage in the ears first then the eyes. Even with eyes closed, she could feel the stinging brightness of the light. The doctor said it'd take time before she could adjust to brightness.
"Mr. Albert will be here soon," he said. He went outside to let Albert in.
As soon as Candy saw Albert, she wanted to run to him as usual. But since she had not used to use her eyes, she wobbled a bit.
"Candy be careful," said Albert. He quickly grabbed her and carried her to the wheel chair. He knelt down to examine her. "Candy ... What happens? How come?" He saw some dark patches on her skin, the remaining of the burned skin and injuries. He sighed worriedly. "You have lots of things to tell me!"
Albert pushed her wheelchair and carried her to the car. Outside seemed so bright, she needed to close her eyes. Albert hugged her, squeezed her arms to show his care and support.
"You have a nice car here Albert. Even a driver," said Candy.
Albert just smiled.
"You came her to look for me, didn't you?" he asked, regretting that he didn't asked George to come sooner.
They arrived in a mansion and Albert took her to her room. She couldn't believe what she saw. To say that it's a mansion was an understatement, especially that Albert lived there.
"What a nice mansion you live in, Albert," said Candy.
"I'll tell you about that later, but first, let's take care of you."
Albert called the nurses and maids to introduce them to Candy and to help her get adjusted to her new room. She could only witness all open mouthedly. What a contrast to his lifestyle in the apartment. Maids? And wow, what a mansion!, she thought in disbelief. Her room could fit several grand pianos and her bed can accommodate four girls like her comfortably not to mention the furniture, paintings, wall decorations and more.
After she's ready, a servant took her to see Albert in the tea room. She walked through a long hallway filled by exquisite decorations, statues, ornaments and other bling bling. It took a while before they finally arrived in yet another grand room where she saw Albert sitting. When she entered, servants right away sprang up to serve tea, fruits, and what not on the table.
Albert immediately put down the newspaper to welcome her.
"How do you like your room?" he asked with an irresistible smile.
"Wow Albert, what a mansion, how come...?" her sentence got cut short. She just noticed that he's wearing an expensive looking silk shirt unlike any of the casual shirt he usually bought at rock bottom prices. His hand skin was as smooth as a baby's skin, didn't at all look like a dishwasher's hand.
"I'll tell you all, but first, tell me what happened to you. This is more important," said Albert, his face looked so concerned that she just couldn't reject it.
She told him that as soon as she got his letter, she came right away to look for him. But since she was in so much hurry, she forgot to take his letter with her.
"I remembered your address wrong. I got lost in the suburb. Alas, at that time there was a bomb exploded. I got hurt," said Candy. She told him about everything including about Sam. "How did you know that I was in the hospital?"
"I got a letter from someone named Sam."
"Did you meet him?" asked Candy, hopeful.
"No," he said much to her disappointment.
One last hope to know more about Sam evaporated. To conceal her disappointment from Albert's sharps eyes she hurriedly asked, "Whose place is this?"
He sighed deeply.
"You will know this sooner or later. I'd better tell you sooner. Candy, I am sorry that I didn't tell you earlier. My memory is back. Uncle William is me."
She gasped and whispered, "Uncle William!"
She had prepared a long gratitude speech for uncle William since the first day she was adopted as his daughter, years ago. She practiced, revised, and added more lines as time passed by. There're so many words to say, so many gratefulness to express for all his kindness but now all just evaporated, blended in her chaotic emotions. All she could was to stare at him open mouthedly with glistened eyes.
"Uncle William ...," she said again for the second time, still struggling to speak.
"Candy, call me Albert," said Albert. He went to the table to get her a her a cup of tea.
"I should be the one who serves you," said Candy, emotionally, tears started to trickle down.
"Candy, I am the same Albert you know."
After a while she regained her composure and said, "Let me say as Candy to uncle William. Uncle William, I thank you for everything you've done to me. All my joy, life and hope come from you. Without you, there's no me. I owe from you so much happiness in my life dated since, ... Oh God, almost as far as my brain can remember. And to know that you are Albert, it's just surreal..."
"You're welcome Candy," said Albert. "I am not that good, you make me embarrassed," murmured Albert. His lips slanted upwards, blended partly with a shy smile, an embarrassed grin, and various emotions in between. His eyes darted momentarily to avoid hers.
"Correct, you aren't that good. You are far better. No words in my vocabulary can sufficiently describe how good you are to me. You've given me so much goodness in this world, without you... without you..." she stammered, trembled, tears poured in.
Albert approached her, but she lifted her hand as a sign that she wanted to finish her sentence.
"...without you, I might've been dead or even be worse than death itself," continued Candy tearfully.
It's him who comforted her when she's sad, saved her from the waterfall, from being sent to work as a child labor, from unbearable atrocious ordeals caused by the Leagans, and countless of other possible dreadful realities.
"Candy...," said Albert, totally speechless now.
She ran to him and hugged him hard.
"This might not be the best of time to reveal this, but let's get over with this tonight." He sighed, paused briefly and said, "Candy, I am also your prince of the hill. The medal you found at Pony's hill was mine. I accidentally dropped it there when we first met on that hill."
She stared at him. The kind blue eyes, blond hair, dashing smile... That's him. And of course as she knew from Anthony, only the sons of the Ardlays owned it. It made sense, all fit.
"Albert you are everything to me. You've been my guardian angel since I was a little girl. You have been consoling me much longer than I thought."
"Candy, I'd like to say thank you too for what you've done to help me when I had amnesia. I apologize for only giving you a short note when I left. I should have explained it to you in person. I caused you so much difficulties."
"No... don't say that, please," said Candy. "I owe everything in my life from you. I'd do anything for you in return, even if I had to do things against my will, because I just owe you too much."
Candy cried again, hard. He hugged her to comfort her.
"Candy, I...," said Albert.
Albert actually had planned to tell her that he loved her. But Candy was wailing so loud that made his voice sank in the background.
She was shaking badly that he decided to tell her at some other time. He shouldn't give her too much emotional burden in one single night. He hugged her quietly until she calmed down and took her to the dining room to have a dinner.
"Well, try this pasta," said Albert breaking the silence.
"You cooked it?" asked Candy.
"No, our chef did." He smiled. "Tell me which you like better, my dish or his."
Candy smiled and took a spoonful into her mouth. Throughout the dinner, they chatted only about lighter topics...
Now that all the gust of excitements of meeting him was gone, Albert noticed that she looked graver not as gayish as she usually was. He wondered if she's tired, besides today was the first time her eyes could see, not too mention the shocking news he just told her. He ventured not to think further. He took her to her bedroom, wished her a good night and kissed her cheek as usual.
She smiled as big as possible until he left and closed the door. As soon as he disappeared so did her smile.
To finally meet Albert again was everything she had wanted to. And not only that, she also finally met Sir William and the prince of the hill in one single package as a bonus point. What a night! She's excited, happy, energetic...
But, she felt indescribable hole in her heart that dragged her down. She threw herself on her bed which fitted for a princess, staring at the beautiful ornamental ceiling without appreciating its artistry because her mind was meandering somewhere else.
The past one month she had been smelling Sam's smell and hearing his voice, all were still too warm and fresh. Even this morning she was still with him. But now all smell and sound were suddenly different. She wondered what he was doing now. She could hear and see now. She met Albert, her prince of the hill, her benefactor, Sir William. She wanted to share the excitement with him. It's been a ritual to talk to him before she went to bed. She wondered with whom he's talking to now that she's not there. Who accompanied him to have dinner, take a walk? Who would say good bye when he went to work tomorrow and greeted him when he came back home?
She couldn't stop tears from flowing down and cried hard. But, confident as always, she said to herself, I'm sure I'll be over him soon... All it takes is just time. Good night Sam!
-To be continued-
* Candy called Neal ugly when they fought in chapter 7
Thanks for reading.
Thanks for the reviewers. Sabrina, Lana, Elsa, Guest, Hello...
CHAPTER 10: Unforgettable Sam
A few weeks later...
Candy had fully adjusted her life to match Albert's new grand lifestyle as Sir Wiliam.
Everyday Candy busied herself by actively volunteering in local hospitals to care for war causalities and orphans.
She and Albert went out to do many outdoor activities just like in Chicago.
He showed her his office and she couldn't be more impressed. Sir William exceeded all the expectations she had ever thought of. Once in a while he still cooked to impress her, too.
Albert wasn't formally introduced as Sir William but he had showed up in some private occasions. He took Candy to go to a ball, too, once.
That night, Candy sat on her bed giggling remembering the faces of many women who looked at her with much envy at the ball. They're practically ready to devour Albert alive.
Heh... heh..., she chuckled to herself gleefully.
Albert was handsome. She always thought he was, but Sir William had more to offer. His name had the enviable aura that came with wealth and power ... For different reasons, he's the very person every man and woman coveted.
Albert is no match to any other man in the ballroom or universe, she thought proudly.
Or was he?
She suddenly stopped laughing. Something inside her rebelled and her mind helplessly swung to Sam. Determined to forget him, as usual, she forced to shut Sam out of her mind. But the memory kept trickling in to occupy her whole brain, soon she felt her head was ready to explode. Surrendered, she turned off the lights to relive the dark world which she lived in with Sam.
She let her mind freely wandered to the impromptu dance she had with Sam. His distinct smell... The way he held her hands... He wasn't merely holding her. It had so much tenderness, so careful, so measured as if he's holding something that's so precious. At that time, her eyes couldn't see, but that just sharpened her senses. She sensed deep care, absolute passion, unmatched longing,� Her imagination ran wildly imagining how his eyes might have looked like. Was he looking at her as passionately as what she felt?
That passion decidedly had no match in the universe. It was all out, with resolution without a minute bit of hesitation, unlike what she often sensed with her prince.
She thought she could forget Sam in a week or two, but the memory of him stayed disturbingly fresh, persistently chewing her soul, unstoppable.
It can't be that I fall in... No... Argh, can't be. Shouldn't be. It's absurd. He's married and I have never even seen him. I don't want to!, thought Candy.
She hurriedly stood up, walk around in a small circle, knocked her head and pulled her hair repeatedly in desperation.
What's happening to me?, she thought desperately. Oh, Anthony,... You should've never left me!
One weekend Albert received a letter from aunt Elroy.
The time for your announcement as Sir William is coming. I trust you have prepared everything well. Don't disappoint me and your ancestor.
I also want to remind you that the time is coming for you to find a woman to marry. How are you doing with your lady friends? I am getting old, I hope I could see my grandchild, the future Sir William while I still have the strength to play and have fun with him. Be serious about this. Don't make me wait for too long.
I'll see you next month in London.
Albert sighed deeply. The first woman who appeared in his mind was of course the woman closest to him, Candy. Their relationship was so special. They were not merely the best of friends but also shared the deepest respect and understanding like a husband and a wife, and the closest of bond like a brother and a sister.
He invited her to London precisely to share his feeling to her. But, recently, she looked rather pensive. She laughed as often and was excited at things as usual but they lost the spark as if she forced herself to do it. Could it be that she's homesick, or perhaps she didn't like London, or worse yet maybe she hated his current role as Sir William?
Their relationship undoubtedly could weather any test and turbulence, but seeing her recent mood change made him hesitate if he should add romance to it; worried if the romance failed and ruined it all.
As Albert and his decision got stuck in limbo, at the same time Candy was reading her own letters. She started by the letters from Annie and Archie, Ms Pony and Sr. Lane.
It's been so long that we haven't seen you. You suddenly disappear! We went to your apartment many times and waited for you outside the hospital but we never see you. Ms. Pony and Sr. Lane are worried about you. Where have you been?
We went to Lakewood to inquire about your whereabouts and one staff told us that you're in London and they could forward our mail to you.
I hope this letter reaches you.
I hope to hear from you soon.
P.S. Candy, we've looked for you everywhere in town but we couldn't find you. We are so worried about you. As soon as you receive this letter please reply to us. We all miss you. Archie.
We heard that you are in London!
Annie is visiting us today. We give this letter to her.
This period of time is the prettiest around Pony's home. All flowers are blooming, the sun shines nicely everyday. We and the kids play outside every day. It's been a long time that we don't see you. This is the first summer that you don't come to visit us. We miss you and wish you all the best and happiness. Visit us if you happen to be in Chicago.
Ms. Pony and Sr. Lane
They miss me, she thought.
She suddenly missed her mothers and Annie so much, too. Time flew, her mothers were getting older. She's busy doing charity works but she hadn't done much for her own mothers who she had intended to help all through her life.
It's actually not a bad idea to go home temporarily, thought Candy.
In addition, she had enough of living in London where everything reminded her of Sam. His decisive deep passion was just hauntingly disturbing. Her head and heart fluttered miserably everyday pounded by the thought of this one man whom she never saw.
But, maybe because I never see Sam, she thought. If only I could see him, just once...
That weekend Albert took Candy out as always. They climbed trees and ate on the tree like they used to do.
"You are still good, Albert," said Candy excitedly
"Up here, it feels like flying, isn't it? " said Albert. "Lucky are we who can climb trees so high."
Candy thought right away of Sam who couldn't climb trees at all.
"Did you hear anything about Sam?" asked Candy.
"No," said Albert surprised that she suddenly thought about him.
He looked at her quickly, just in time to see the gray cloud that passed trough her face. She quickly regrouped with a forced awkward smile, but knowing her well, he knew something bothered her. This time he decided to bring it up.
"Candy, there's something that has been worrying you, isn't it?" asked Albert. His gentle azure blue eyes looked at her in the earnest. "Fire up, Candy. You know you can always trust me."
Candy who had been bursting to see Sam couldn't conceal it anymore.
"Albert, I haven't seen the face of my beneficiary, Sam. I really want to meet him, just once."
"Is that all? But that's easy, the driver can always take you there to meet him," said Albert.
"I don't know who he is or where he lives," said Candy desperately.
"It still is easy," said Albert with a kind smile. "But, before I hire detectives, contact the head of the hospital or other Sherlock Holmes routines, could you give me some clues of where you lived?"
"It's not too close and not too far from the nearby St. Mary hospital where you picked me up. Might be a fifteen minutes drive?"
She described that it should be surrounded by trees, far from the busy road, closed to a lake, and other details.
"Candy, don't worry," assured Albert. "I'll work on it."
Back at home, Albert called George to have someone find the mansion based on the information Candy gave.
"George, one more thing," said Albert before George left.
"Yes, Sir," answered George.
"I don't want to know who owns the mansion. Not yet, at least. I have a feeling he wants to keep his identity a secret," said Albert.
He could sense that Candy's change of behavior was related to Sam. And there's something strange in that man. He seemed to avoid being recognized by her or him.
"Understood, Sir William," answered George.
The following day, George came back.
"Sir William, there're several mansions in that area, and we narrowed down to three possible mansions based on Ms. Candice's description. I believe I know which one she lived at."
"We spent all morning to talk causally with people in that area. We told them that we're considering to move to live there. I talked to some veterans who talked about a bomb casualty, a blind woman who lived in the mansion called Gendon Hall. I believe she should be Ms. Candice. Gendon Hall is also the closest to the woods and the lake among the other two."
"Good job, George. Thank you."
George nodded politely and excused himself.
Albert told Candy the good news. She was so grateful to him. Albert never failed her at any problem she had at any stage of her life.
The following day, a driver brought Candy to the Gendon Hall.
She knocked at the door.
Someone opened the door and she right away said, "Ms. Candice, your eyes are alright now. I am Dora!"
Candy hugged her, thanked her for all her help when she's injured and other small talks.
"Is Sam around?" asked Candy finally.
"No, he left on the day you left. He never returns," said Dora.
Poor candy was afflicted badly with the disappointing answer, but she contrived to hide her emotions.
"Do you know where he is?"
"I don't, but James should know," Dora said. "He's not here now but be comes every Tuesday and Saturday to pick up mails and other things to deliver to him..."
Her mind went blank because of the unexpected setback, whatever happened afterwards she's not really clear. The next thing she knew she's already somewhere in the woods where she used to go together with Sam.
Sam doesn't want me to see him. Forget it, then. Besides I promised him so. Bye Sam, thought Candy.
She wandered some more to visit memorable places which she had never seen. She closed her eyes to imagine the time when she couldn't see. The smell of the grass, the sound of the chirping bird, all came back to her. She picked up a stick, walking with the stick with eyes closed just like in the past. She went to her favorite bench where she used to sit with Sam and closed her eyes again, imagining the past.
Everything still felt the same, except now she's alone without him. The memory of his kindness, gentleness, patience was so vivid. Those long nights when he's holding her hand consoling her, his laughter, jokes when they sat on that bench... It's hard to believe that she would never see him anymore. She was about to cry when she heard someone calling her.
"Child, are your eyes and ears okay now?" said someone.
She turned around and saw a fine looking old lady with a stick walking slowly to her direction.
Seeing the response she said, "Ah, you can see me, can't you?"
Candy nodded to smile at her.
The lady said, "Where's the handsome young man who used to accompany you?"
Her curiosity pique. Handsome young man? But, Sam said he's old and ugly?
-To be continued-
Thanks for reading.
CHAPTER 11: Candy Acted
"Handsome young man?" asked Candy to verify what she heard.
"Oh heaven, yes! Haven't you seen him?" asked the old lady.
"No, unfortunately. H-he... had left before I could see," stammered Candy.
The lady opened her eyes in surprised. "I thought he was your..." but the she refrained herself from saying "fiance or husband". Instead she said, "He reminds me so much of my late husband of 58 years. That's the way he used to carry and look at me."
"How did he look like?" asked Candy. Her heat beat so much really curious to know more about Sam.
"Oh my, my, you really don't know who he was?" she asked in surprise.
Candy shook her head.
"He's young, tall, slender, tanned with brown hair," she said chuckled. "Really handsome, dear. Young people would call him hot." She smiled.
Hearing those words made her heart beat fast, instant rush of heat darkened her visioned, her head started to spin, hurriedly she held on the arm bench to balance herself. She dag her nail as deep as she could to her fingers to sober herself with the pain.
For the first time, she realized that Sam spoke with a Chicago accent instead of a British accent.
Chicago accent!Can't be Terry. Brown hair, tanned? Can't be Archie, Stear, ... or so did dozens of her closed circle of men from Chicago that came to her head at the moment except...
Neal? Neal!, she thought in alarmed. But, can't be! Sam is patient, mature, quiet... not at all like Neal...
"Does it ring a bell?" asked the old lady.
"I'm not sure. I only know that he found me when I was injured and helped me to recuperate," answered Candy like an open book.
"You should see the way he looked at you, the way he carried you and wrapped a blanket around you� And you tell me that he's just some random stranger you met on the street?" she looked at Candy in disbelief.
Candy finally realized the strange logic behind Sam's mysterious behavior. How could I be so clueless!
"I've got to find him," said Candy almost liked talking to herself. "Thanks, ma'am." Candy hugged her briefly and ran back to the mansion.
"Find him! Don't let him go!" she said waving to Candy. "Good luck, child."
Sam..., eh! I bet that's not your real name, thought Candy while waving back to the lady at the same time. Old and ugly! You lied to me, that means I can break my promise, too. I'll find you!
Candy was so determined to decisively uncover Sam's real identity. She ran as fast as her feet could take her back to the mansion. She banged the door impatiently until Dora came to open. Still gasping for air, she requested Dora to tell James to wait for her on Saturday.
"Don't say a word to James that I want to meet him before that."
Dora nodded. "Do you want to stay here, Ms. Candice? You're welcomed to stay at anytime," said Dora kindly.
Candy shook her head. Instead she hugged Dora and said, "Cooperate with me, help me� Help me to meet your master."
Dora nodded. "Don't worry, Ms. Candice."
Candy lingered in the nearby woods for a moment to cool down and to think about her next plan after meeting Sam.
I should go home, to Pony's home, after meeting Sam, thought Candy. Albert?
She thought sadly about Albert, the last straw that made her hesitate to go home. He more likely cared about her, otherwise he wouldn't invite her to come to London.
But, she sighed, Albert never says anything about what he wants with us.
She thought she had lingered long enough in the dark. Ms. Pony and Sr. Lane were getting older. It's always her dream to take care of them, to find a job and gave her salary to them. She had postponed this far too long.
The more she thought about it, the more she's confident with her plan. She would leave London and go back to America. If Albert didn't try to stop her, then she'd leave him. Feeling happy to finally have the courage to decide, she then walked back to the car to go home.
That night Albert saw Candy greet him with bright sparkling eyes which he thought she had left in Chicago.
"Did you meet Sam?" asked Albert automatically.
"No, but I have a plan." Her eyes sparkled more glamorously than he had ever witnessed.
Candy excitedly told Albert about what happened today in the Gendon Hall and her plan to meet Sam. Albert saw her spirit soaring high. The excitement, the energy was like the old Candy. She also told him about her plan to go home.
"Albert, I received a letter from Ms. Pony and Sr. Lane. It reminds me that I haven't visited them for a long time," said Candy. "When I was captured long time ago, I promised myself to take care of them. I have been postponing this longer than I should."
"Ah, that's just like you Candy. Always care about others," answered Albert, blandly+.
Her heart shrank one size smaller, feeling dejected. Part of her was somewhat hoping that he'd ask her to stay. Well, that's expected, though, she comforted herself. Albert was kind, but he never stepped outside that sphere of kindness and did more to bring their relationship closer together. Strangely, although she tried to deny it, part of her was relieved since that would mean, she'd be a free woman when she met Sam.
She hid her feelings by excusing herself to go back to her room to pack her belongings.
As soon as she closed the door, Albert threw himself to his seat.
She's leaving, he thought.
From her smile and excitement she showed today while talking about Sam, he perceived that she's still the same person after all. An idea began to creep into his mind that there's an undefinable something about Gendon Hall which changed her.
He's sure if he went down on his knee begging for her to stay and marry him she'd accept it. He couldn't care less that she's his legal daughter. Armed with the best lawyers in the world, he could easily dismiss that issue as if it were a non existent.
But after seeing such a big smile of her talking about Sam, he just couldn't do it... He's worried that she'd feel obligated to accept his proposal. She did mention that she's indebted to Sir William and was willing to do anything for him in return.* What if she regretted that and became unhappy for the rest of her life because of him?
They might be in a new step of life where they'd better be not together. That night Albert thought and rethought about his decision and finally, resolutely, he decided that romance should be out of their precious relationship. Their relationship should be left as it was without any romance.
At the same time, Candy was staring at the Ardlay medal which she had worn since she was six, thinking about her guardian angel, Albert. Part of her was a bit disappointed that he didn't prevent her from leaving.
Feeling suddenly lonely , she said to herself, Anthony, I'll be back soon. I haven't visited you for a long time, have I?
She cried tearfully until no more tears left remembering the boy's kind face when he promised to marry her when he grew up.
Did Albert ever love me?, mused Candy finally when she calmed down. How to actually know when one finds her soul mate?
Her mind automatically swung to Sam. She trembled right away. Could it be like that? She withered imagining his decisive soul-wrenching passion. It's madness. Hopelessly, she felt overpowered by deep sensations streaking down in her stomach. She shook her head, thinking, Sam, what have you done to me?
She then held the Ardlay medal tightly in her hand, kissed it, and stored it in her luggage. She believed she should start to face life without it.
On Saturday, Candy met Albert first before leaving for the Gendon Hall.
"Thanks Albert for your help," said Candy.
She hugged him tightly. As she walked to the door, she's rather hoping for him to call her back, but he never did. Resolutely then, she opened the door and waved one more time.
From the window, Albert saw her waving to him with the prettiest of smile+. He thought, Oh, Candy... I'm losing you. I shouldn't leave you that day in Chicago. But perhaps this is a better solution for both of us...
In Gendon Hall, Dora secretly arranged Candy to meet James successfully. Just before he left, at the last minute, she took Candy to meet him.
"James, take me to your master," said Candy.
"Ms. Candice, he's on a business trip, he won't be back for months," James said, off-guard. He certainly didn't expect to meet her.
"That's how he wants you to answer me, isn't it? He doesn't let me meet him, does he?" asked Candy looking at him sharply.
James was shocked to hear her answer. "Ms. Candice, no...," he stammered.
"Tell me James, have you ever missed someone who you are so much in love with?" asked Candy. "So much that the thought of her haunts you day and night. That you'd rather sit alone in the dark thinking about her rather than do anything else? That you spend every night crying yourself to sleep just to cry again in your sleep because you miss her just as much in your dream? That every footstep and noise you hear you're wishing that it's her just to have your heart stabbed when you turn around and find it's someone else. That laughter and cry mean the same because your heart was too full too feel anything else but her."
Overcame by her own emotion, Candy's voice started to fall apart, tears started to stream down.
James was stunt. He's an old man who had worked more than half of his life, but never did he encounter something like this. How different she looked now! She looked depressingly heartbroken. He remembered her endless laughter, joke, smile with his master... At that time, he thought she was not capable of anything less than smiling. How much she had changed. Likewise to his master since the day she left. He didn't know what happened between the two. It's far from being his business. But, he just didn't have the heart to see her crying.
"Ms. Candice, please don't cry," said James in alarm.
But Candy didn't stop tears ran unchecked, she's weeping in a passion of grief. Her petite body trembled in agony. But, other then the occasion suppressed sobs, hers was a silent cry. She pressed her handkerchief tightly to her face to suppress the sobs, eyes closed tightly. If it were a loud cry with whaling, James probably would just comfort her with some words of sympathy. But hers was silent, sharpening the senses of helplessness, hopelessness, powerlessness. James' kind soft heart mercilessly sliced.
"What's the use of my eyes if I can't see his smile, my ears if I can't hear his laughter," Candy continued. "Those lengthy prayers wishing him to show up just once, are never answered. They remain nothing but words that are trapped in my mouth, never make it to the heaven door. James, please, I beg you, take me to see your master. I never can repay your favor but I can tell you this, your help means more than my life itself!"
Candy cried again tearfully.
"Ms. Candide..." said James, panic.
James was a man who's well known for his integrity and dedication to his work. Everyone knew it and regarded him highly for those. If he helped Candy and got fired for disobeyance, how would he have the face to meet his peers, family, friends? But seeing her suffering was not a better option. Her pale face drowned with tears, her thin body shaken mirroring unparalleled bleed of her heart and soul. The sound of her chilling weep of desperation begging for help which he and only he could end was too unbearable. He couldn't take it anymore.
Mr. Leagan, for once, I choose to disobey you. I am old it's time for me to retire, but she's so young and so broken. Her look will haunt me to the grave if I don't help her. Sorry, Mr. Leagan.
He composed himself. "Ms. Candice, let me take you to meet him," said James back to his regular self.
James drove Candy to another mansion and took her to his master's office. At the door, he knocked and after a polite bow he left to leave Candy alone to fulfill her mission.
"Come in." Candy heard a voice coming from behind the door.
That's Sam, thought Candy. His voice was different now that she's without bandage, but she could recognize the way he spoke, it's unmistakably his.
Candy entered. She saw a man, brown hair, sitting on his desk, head down, busy writing.
"Sam ... This is me, Candy," said Candy still standing at the door.
Hearing her voice, the pen he was holding fell instantly. He lifted his head and in shock he found himself face to face with the love of his love who by now should belong to someone else.
As soon as she saw his face she felt weak, she would've fallen to the ground had there not been a doorway for her to lean on. How she wished she could have gone back in time to undo all regrettable things she said to him on that day.
Oh no, she knows I'm Sam!, thought Neal.
"You shouldn't know who Sam is," Neal said after prolonged silenced. "Yes, he's only me."
-To be continued-
*Ch. 8 when Candy said thank you to uncle William
+ Ideas taken from manga, chapter 10 pg 64-65
Thanks for reading. Almost done, next one is the conclusion and then one more for the epilogue.
CHAPTER 12: Late Saturday Morning
Neal's first initial tendency was to run to hug her. But, when he got up from his chair, he remembered that he's Neal not Sam. The last time Candy was with Neal, she's requesting their marriage to be annuled-. Sobered up, he remembered that she belonged to someone else...
He thought jealously, Why are you here? Request an annulment to marry Albert?
Instantly, he gave her a chilly cold stare to conceal his jealousy.
"How did you find me in the hospital?" she asked, tears building up fast in her eyes. She walked a few steps closer, wanted so much to run to hug him, but the look of his icy cold eyes froze her.
"That night, I went back to your apartment...," he said dryly.
"Of course. I loved you," said Neal trying to look indifferent. He emphasized on "love*" with a past tense for the sake of dignity. "But I didn't find you, then I looked for you."
"Neal, why didn't you tell me that it's been you all along?" she said starting to sob. His coldness tore her.
"If I did, would you run away again? Your injuries were far too serious. I couldn't risk that," he said. "Worse, I don't want you to be obligated to stay with me and hate me even more."
"Why did you give me to Albert?" asked Candy.
"You kept mentioning his name in your dream. On the contrary, you never mentioned my name, not even once." He used all his strength to say it calmly concealing all trace of jealousy in his voice. But his eyes couldn't lie, it scalded by intense jealousy.
"Neal, I'm leaving Albert...," she paused briefly. "I can't forget Sam. I'm going back to America to forget him. But now that you are him�"
His eyes moved slightly wider. Leaving Albert?, thought Neal, surprised. Bah, wait till you hear about Terry.
He walked to his desk and picked up today's newspaper to give it to her.
"Read this. Good news, Terry is divorcing," he said sarcastically. "Check your mail, find his letter, read his marriage request before it's to late." He scoffed.
"Already?" asked Candy.
"Much longer than how fast you left yours. You two undoubtedly belong to one another," he said unemotionally. "Our marriage paperwork is with my secretary. I've told her to follow all your decision, terms and conditions. Where you want to go from here is up to you."
Without saying anymore word, he walked steadily to the door.
Candy screamed hysterically, "No, Sam! I mean... Neal! Don't leave me."
He stopped walking, turned around to face her.
"Why?" he grinned bitterly. "There's no need of me when they are available, isn't there?"
I did say that-, thought Candy.
But, ignoring his bitter response, she ran straight toward him. She stopped in front of him, closed her eyes, reached out her hand to his face. Once and for all, she wanted to check, find out, and confirm who Sam really was.
She traced her hand across his face just like what she did when she couldn't see.
Her heart beat so much by the confirmation which felt like a vivid combination of the extraordinary, the surreal and the utterly wacky.
"Yes, you are indeed Sam," Candy said, eyes still closed. Her face now was soaking wet with tears. "You are unmistakably Sam. Truly Sam. They way you speak, and... especially my hand, it can't be wrong."
She buried her face on his chest, breathed in his soft familiar smell which had haunted her day and night.
The scent... unmistakably his.
Shaken, she sobbed uncontrollably, hugged him even tighter. But he gave no response. He stood steely cold and straight, seemingly unmoved by her words, didn't hug her back. His eyes didn't even look at hers.
I hurt him. Oh no, what's the best way to coax him into a change of heart?, she thought.
She looked at his sour face and racked her brain. Knowing him well enough, the best solution probably was just like the way he always did when harassing her.
She clutched his arms, pressed her cheek tightly against his chest.
"Hey�, you're still mad, aren't you?" she said softly. With face imbued with lust she brushed her soft finger on his lips gently. "Listen, I don't want anyone else. I only want you, Neal. Now, don't be mad, kiss me instead... "
Her unexpected response triggered electric shock throughout his body. One of his eyebrows lowered slightly to conceal his expression upon hearing her invitation to kiss. For once he looked into her eyes.
Weakly, slowly, he surrendered to the lure of her soft inviting voice and alluring green eyes. His mind soon was flooded by erotic illusions.
Candy, you know I can't resist you, don't you!, he thought.
She pressed herself even tighter to his chest, hugged him harder. The warmth of her body instantly ignited him with burning desire. He barely could control the urgency to rip her clothes apart right here, right now. His mind was flooded with the fantasy of tearing her undergarment with his teeth and not only to kiss her lips but to devour every inch of her flesh.
He cleared his throat, trying to appear cool. "What about our tempers?" he asked, starting to lose his ability to think.
"Take me back first, we worry about that later. I got along well with Sam."
"I am not Sam. Just me. The annoying , ugly me-... "
"Forgive my mindless tongue. My eyes were blind, my ears were deaf, but I can assure you that my heart is not. You're the most handsome man with the purest heart known to me," replied Candy back very gently.
"I loved you, I thought that was enough...," said Neal.
"Loved? Past tense?" she quipped*.
He didn't respond, he couldn't respond for she had obliterated his ability to reason to almost nothing.
"Stop using past tense on me. I know you love me. Sam showed it all to me," cut Candy. "Our fight is epic, but our sex will be stratospheric. Our love will conquer our differences."
Oh, that's it!
All his defenses crumbled to dust. His heart melted totally. Her gentle tone, coquette look,... they never failed to arouse him. He loved this woman so much. She saw him coming to wrap his arms around her, initially loosely than got tightened. His hands flattened, started to move caressing her back, his breath became heavier, his eyes now gazed intensely and passionately at hers.
"Are you serious about this?" he whispered.
"How can I refuse? Love, present tense," he said softly. He brushed his lips teasingly against hers, stopped right at the corner of her lips. "Whose kiss? Sam's or Neal's?"
"Neal's, my husband," she answered very softly. "Would you give us a second chance?"
Without giving him time to answer, she tilted her head slightly to have her lips crashed to meet his. He groaned and let his lips answer her question momentarily. His kiss was savage, hungry, consuming her voraciously, there's nothing gentle in it, at all. It insanely aroused her because that what she felt for him too. Happily she let him devour her, savoring the passion, treasuring the moment.
He pressed his palms on either of her cheeks, abruptly pulled his mouth from hers. With eyes burned sensuously he looked at hers. "Yes, with your permission."
"Then love me� ," she moaned. "We make up what we missed on our wedding night."
"You've made me wait far too long," he said hoarsely, slowly emphasizing each word. "I'll show you that my love means more than a piece of paper."
He promptly lifted her and carried her to the bedroom.
"Don't fire, James," said Candy.
"No, I won't," he kissed her again...
All those passions and desires that had been suppressed for months went bursting on that late Saturday morning. He unzipped his dress with eyes dancing with fire, they glew in brightness as more skin was revealed. The first touch brought shivered. For him to finally touch the woman whom he had longed for so long. For her to finally be with the man chosen purely by her heart. Her flesh scorched instantly waiting for him to satisfy.
He didn't disappoint her. He did it so easily. She moaned in delirium as his head moving busily between her parted thighs, his hands and mouths hot devouring her skin flawlessly. It was a surprise even for himself, for never before he wanted so much to satisfy a woman and in doing so got more pleasure in return.
Their body coupled, their heart beat as one as he moved inside her. Each thrust bound their soul closer together, strengthened the assurance that nothing could separate them again.
... After they could talk cognitively again...
"Neal... Are you sleeping?"
"No... ," he responded. "The reality exceeded whatever I can find in my dream. Don't want to miss a second of it."
Sluggishly, she crawled on top of him.
"There's one question that still left unanswered," she whispered hesitatingly, smiled coyly.
"What might that be?"
"How come Sam was so different from... you? He's so... mature, quiet, patient...," she chuckled.
"I was worried about you, depressed that you'd leave me soon. And, ... I was in disguise." He grinned. "Why? You find a mature man to be more appealing?"
She giggled, he laughed.
She then spreaded kisses across his bare chest and shoulder. "You sizzle in bed, handsome."
"I thought today would be another long endless Saturday with me achingly missing you. Who would have thought that my angel came to look for me, to convince me that we belong together!" he reflected.
"Now, I'm holding you, sharing the same bed. Naked..!" He grinned wickedly. "I got inside you, releasing those seeds. Argh Candy! If you knew how long I have wanted to do so..."
He saw her staring intently at his face but her gaze looked blank. "My love, are you listening?" he asked.
She grinned, nodded.
"That's how my heart ached from missing you everyday, not only on Saturday. And it just got heavier each day," she said. Her eyes were soft as smoke, looked into his face deeply, blankly. "I've been admiring your most mesmerizing eyebrows."
She brushed her lips gently following the exotic features of his eyebrows.
"I've never felt so blessed that my eyes can see until I see you," whispered Candy.
He grinned. All compliment from her gave him pride more than any words can describe.
"Good that they are fine now. It broke my heart to see them covered with bandages and you neither could hear nor see." He caressed her eyes and ears tenderly. "What about your arms? Ribs? Legs? Anything still hurt? Sore? Problem?"
His hands moved to massage each part accordingly, but unlike Sam's, this time was sensuously, clenching her firmly over her bottoms, squeezed her there.
She purred. "No problem, all are perfect."
With a face full of triumph he said, "I'll invite lots of people to our wedding party so they all know that you are mine. My wife, Mrs. Leagan, sealed on paper. Albert and Terry will be on top of my list. They should know that they can't get near you anymore. You're taken by me."
She abruptly left his chest, threw herself to her own pillow.
"Let's not talk about them now, please," moaned Candy, protesting. Leaning on her elbow, she looked at him and sighed. "I was the one who's ugly with those bandages, burned skin, hideous dark skin patches, chapped lips, unsightly dry blood and who knows what else..."
"Never," he said, kissing her body again. "You're always beautiful, now, then, always."
She said energetically, "From now on you're stuck with me, Neal. Nothing you do can make me go, however you want it."
He pushed her gently, making her lie flat on her back. Now it's his turn who lay on top of her, facing her.
"Just give me one reason why I want to live without you." He pressed his face against hers. "That night I went back to the apartment just to find that my beloved bride left me for another man. My precious Candy, even though you didn't love me, I love you so much that jealousy couldn't stop me from worrying about you."
"Oh Neal," whispered Candy.
"The past one month, I spent each second missing you. I was dying at the thought of you were with another man. I was tormented to the brink of insanity, but I'd rather endure all the agony and pain to see you happy in someone else's arm than to have you mourn in mine. Tell me my darling, how could such a man would ever want to lose you?"
His voice hoarse, his tone fervent. His look was like someone whose love and devotion to her knew no limit, exceeded all boundary. He kissed her as if his whole life and existence depended on it.
"I love you, Neal," she said, overcame by his words.
"I love you, Candy," he whispered. "Keep me with you, don't leave me ever again."
He flattened his palms to hers, gripping hers tightly. He brought his mouth against hers, down her neck, nuzzling it fervently, flushing wild sensations trough her inside again. But before she got disoriented with pleasure, she wanted to respond to him first. He's more than just her soul mate, he's her best friend, the person who would do all for her. How rare it was to find such a devoted man, how lucky she was to have him.
Gathering all her sanity, she managed to whisper, "Oh Neal, my husband, my love, my darling, I won't leave you ever again."
She moaned, and that's it... soon after that, helplessly his kiss and touch swept her away, yet again...
-To be continued-
- Chapter 7: Candy wanted the marriage to be annuled. Told him that she preferred Albert and Terry, he's ugly, etc...
* "love" is present tense. The past tense of "love" is loved.
Thanks for reading.
** Published together with ch 12. DON'T MISS CHAPTER 12 ! **
Chapter 13: EPILOGUE
That night, Neal called his parents to tell them about his bride and to start preparing the wedding party. He didn't forget to emphasize his wish for everyone to be respectful to his wife.
They soon, too, visited the father of the bride.
The servant announced, "Sir William, Mr. And Mrs. Leagan are here."
Sarah?, thought Albert. He wondered what his cousin wanted from him. She just plain never kept in touch with him.
Albert went outside to meet them. To his surprise, he saw Candy and Neal. He understood instantly.
"Congratulations!" Albert said gleefully as he hugged Candy and gave a friendly look to his nephew at the same time.
"Sir William." Neal offered him a handshake, not really sure how to actually address Albert.
"Call me Albert. We're just one family. Truly is, in fact," said Albert hugging him. "Now, who wants to tell me the story?"
Albert noticed how happy Candy was, the happiest he had ever seen her. The sullen face that had been lingering for one month just disappeared without a trace. He always sensed that there's something about Sam.
Before they left, Albert gave Candy a stack of letters.
In the car, Candy glanced trough her letters briefly until her eyes hit on one name. She picked it up and immediately turned around to look at her husband who, judging from her face, knew exactly who the sender was.
"Well," Neal said, "open it."
Without replying, she tore the envelope as he wished, perused the letter and tossed it to her husband who skimmed it briefly.
"Will you go?" he asked.
"Yeah." She looked at him, narrowed her eyes. "To my husband's lap..."
She grinned, climbed to his lap to kiss him some more.
He welcomed her eagerly. One hand readily groped under her dress, one hand loosened his tie, lips kissing her. He buried his hands in her thick curly hair to pull her closer, buried his mouth deeper in hers. Her breath labored, she moaned in his ear, "Love you, Neal". He had brought her to the most wrenching climax this morning. She should have been satiated, in fact, she did. But it also made her want him more.
"I love you, Candy," he whispered. "I'm never happier in my life."
As soon as they arrived at home, they bursted into the bedroom, slammed the door closed to continue what they're doing in the car,... just what two people did when they became one...
Candy's reply to the mails...
I'm glad to hear about the alternative solution to Susana's legs. She deserves the best. Tell her that I will try to attend her next premier. And, of course, yours too!
My heartfelt sympathy to your separation decision. I wish I could be there to comfort you trough the difficult time, but I am in London now with my husband. We'll go back to Chicago soon after he's done with his business in London.
Yes, I am married now "legally" to Neal. Yes, that Neal Leagan. We will have our wedding ceremony in Chicago. The date is still undecided. Judging from the number of guests that his parents and aunt Elroy plan to invite, however, I think it would take several months to prepare.I certainly hope it'd be less than a year.
It'd be an honor to see you and yours come to our special day, old friend.
Wish you all the success in your career. You certainly are at the fast tract to the top, Terry! I'm proud of you! Can't wait to attend your premiers and to read more about you in the news.
Wish you all the happiness too, Terry. Thank you. Remember that I'm still the same person, forever be your dearest friend.
Your faithful friend,
-0-0-0 And, other letters... -0-0-0
Dear Ms. Pony and Sr. Lane,
I'll soon go back to America with... my husband! Yes! I am married!
Do you remember my stories, years ago, about a boy named Neal? The..., how to to put it, anti-Anthony? That one... I love him dearly, mothers. I do! I can't wait to introduce him to you.
Oh, he has a surprise proposal for Pony's home**. I won't tell you about it here, I let him say in person. He's a businessman, by the way, a quiet serious one if he wants to. But between me and him, he doesn't really act that way too often. It'd be thrilling to see how he brings the proposal to you.
Miss you so much. Love you! My kisses to the kids too!
Candy L. (Look at my last name new initial!)
I AM MARRIED! (I wish I could see your face now!)
Guess, with whom? Yes, you know who he is. His first name starts with "N". Ask Archie to guess too!
We'll be home soon. I'll tell you more about it, in details!
-Twelve years later-
On one Saturday late morning a father and his three children were in a study room together. They did their homework, he did his work and at the same time answering their homework questions if they had any. But the three children kept talking, joking and being not serious about their study. Finally the father made a warning.
"Quiet all. Don't talk when you study!" said Neal. He added with a grin. "If everyone could study seriously for one hour, we picked up our new pet right after this."
"Wow dad, are you serious?"
"Daddy, I want a dog."
"No lie. Promise. But now, study! Quietly!" said the father with authority.
With the bribe, the three children studied diligently without a single noise.
One hour later...
"Good students. Let's go to pick up the skunk I ordered from William," said Neal.
"A skunk?" his children asked in disappointment. "Who wants a skunk!"
"I want a a dog."
"A skunk is not trendy, dad."
"Dog can protect us."
"Who says skunk can't be protective?" said Neal. "Let me tell a story..."
All at once they're silent to listen. They believed their father was the best story teller in the world. His stories were always awesome and they treasured them highly. The three pairs of little eyes watched him attentively.
Neal started. "Once upon a time, there's one handsome, smart, little skunk. His name was Pouppe..."
He told his children how Pouppe saved him and Candy +.
"Without Pouppe the skunk there probably is no daddy, no mommy now. This is a true story," Neal said at the end to them.
The children were quiet, speechless, totally dumbfounded.
"You married mommy after that, daddy?" asked the daughter breaking the silence.
"Not even close! Your mom was not that easy to win, kids."
"Your dad wasn't any easier either," said Candy who silently had been standing at the door listening to their conversation. She just came back from working shift in the hospital. "Did he tell you about the mysterious Sam?" she asked the kids.
"No, who's Sam?
"Tell us about Sam, dad."
"Is he another hero?"
"That's for next time," he grinned again. He got up to greet his wife, putting his arms around her waist and said, "Children, you all play outside for half an hour, daddy has something important to do with your mom."
He gave one of his rare naughty grins to her.
"No, we can't wait that long!"
"You promised we go after studying."
"Now, daddy, go now!"
"Fine, five minutes, then," said Neal.
"Five minutes? " now it's Candy's turn who protested. "No way! We go to visit Albert and his wife right now. The earlier the better so our kids can play with theirs longer. We also pick up the skunk."
She then playfully pulled his tie to bring him closer to her. "Then tonight, mister! All night long," whispered Candy in his ear.
She smacked a kiss on his cheek.
He grinned. "As you wish." He pecked her lips with his.
"What name should we give it?"
"How to train a skunk, Daddy?"
"I have no idea. But, you can ask William. He mostly trained Pouppe himself," said Neal.
"Wow! He's so cool."
"What a man!"
"You certainly are not the only ones who think so," said Neal giving Candy a meaningful look. She laughed and gave him a smooch.
"Now, let's go," said Neal. The children were very happy. They kept talking and shouting happily looking forward to meet their skunk.
They named the skunk Pouppe, Jr.
They lived happily ever after.
** When proposing to Candy, Neal promised that he'd take care of Pony's home too. (Chapter 6)
+ Chapter 1-2: Pouppe saved Neal and Candy.
Thank you so much for reading. It's been more than a pleasure.
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