"Candy Candy" Manga is written by Kyoko Mizuki, Yumiko Igarashi.
Avatar drawn by ELSA. Thank you.
"I" = Neal
Less than two years after the manga ended...
I was attending the wedding ceremony of Candy and William.
It was torturing.
A minute ago the bride and the groom just kissed formalizing their relationship as a husband and wife. To avoid scandal, I struggled to put a smiling expression on my face and to clap my hands excitedly with the rest of the guests. Half of the attendee were the same folks who attended my doomed engagement party with Candy.
Later, I took my place in line with other immediate family members to congratulate the happy couple. As my turn got closer, I started to wonder if Candy would skip me. I had prepared to throw my face and to snort bitterly if that happened. But to my great surprise, Candy put her arms around me and hugged me!
"Thanks for coming Neal," Candy said very sweetly.
Perhaps because she was exceptionally happy today or perhaps she had forgiven me but she seemed to forget that I was her worst nemesis. She looked up at me and smiled, that smile that never failed to make my breath stall.
I was stunned.
At that moment, I felt like being snapped awake from a long murky dream. Remembering how unhappy she looked when I forced her to marry me made me realize how wrong my attitude must be to her.
"Congratulations," I managed to respond. I was so closed to her. Her curly hair touched my face. I hugged her back relishing as much of her as I could. I love you, Candy... so much!
It took every ounce of my strength to finally let her go. She looked so beautiful in her white wedding dress, flowers in her hair... Reluctantly, I watched her go into William's arms and went to their honeymoon.
My beloved girl is married… with another man.
I never failed to get what I want in life until she rejected me. Unfortunately, she was the one that I wanted the most.
-To be continued-
Fourteen months later
I was sitting in my room looking at the list of girls names my mom and Eliza had compiled for me, trying to decide who I want to screw this weekend. Then our butler came telling me that Annie was on the phone. I nodded to have the phone transfer to the phone on my desk.
"Neal?" I heard Annie's voice.
"Yes. What's up, Annie?" I replied.
Patty, Annie, and their husbands, Stear and Archie, had moved to California. Our relationship improved a lot after Stear miraculously came back from the Western Front. I was genuinely moved and finally realized that I shouldn't take my cousins' existence for granted. The last time I spoke to Stear, he said Patty was pregnant and they planned to come to Chicago so she could deliver the baby in our hometown.
"There's something," rushed Annie. Her voice trembled. "Patty is going to the hospital. The baby comes early!"
"Thanks. We are still in California. We can't go to Chicago as planned," Annie cut me. "Neal, could you help pick up Candy for us tomorrow? In the train station. Chicago."
At that name, my heart lurched helplessly in my chest. Candy.
"Neal are you there? Can you pick up Candy for us?" asked Annie impatiently.
"Yes, of course. I'll pick her up, " I replied, forcing to sound calm.
"Great. I'm going to the hospital now. My assistant will call you later with the detailed train information. Bye!" Click. Annie had hung up before I could say anything.
I stared at the phone in my hand for a full minute. I couldn't believe it. Candy! The last time I saw her was on her wedding day with William. They left for honeymoon in Africa and I had never heard anything from them ever since.
Odd, I thought. Sir William had so many servants why they had to ask my help? I shrugged. Whatever! As long as I could see Candy again, why not? I would hate to see that Mr. Andrew, though!
The following day, I went to the train station early. After Candy hugged me in her wedding, I had been doing a great deal of reflection. I regretted immensely my silliness to her in the past and had determined to give the best manners possible to make it up.
Finally, the train came. I took a deep breath and put a cool business-like face although inside I was melting with frenzy.
I looked around. At the sight of that familiar golden hair and porcelain skin, I froze. She was still as beautiful as ever. No, correction…! She's more beautiful now! At that moment, I realized that I was still in love with her. I repeated to myself what I had been telling me this past one year in which she was the past, I was over her, and that she belonged to someone else; but that did little to calm my heartbeat.
I saw Candy look around, doubtless looking for her friends.
"Candy!" I cried.
Candy turned to my direction and rested her gaze at me.
"Neal?" She looked surprised for a second then smiled.
I ran to her and made a move to hug her but at the sight of her shiny wedding ring I stopped and decided to offer her a formal handshake instead.
"Candy, how do you do?" I said coolly.
I explained what happened to Patty, Annie, their husbands, and the baby. She laughed excitedly in that fresh giggle I remembered so well.
"So, Mrs. Andrew... should I look for Mr. Andrew first?"
Her bright smile instantly diminished and I saw deep sorrow and sadness in her eyes.
"There's only… me," she said, avoiding my eyes.
"Oh!" I said. In the past, I would ask rudely or mock. But I was a man now. My dad had polished my manners with iron hands ever since I worked with him. Unlike to my mom, I couldn't do bullshit to dad. Unavoidably, I had transformed. "Shall I take you home to Lakewood then?" I asked professionally.
She hesitated briefly before shaking her head. "No. Not Lakewood," she murmured. "Pony's home. Could you? I-er... don't bring money-" She looked exceptionally embarrassed and tired suddenly.
Of course, I didn't mind. I could take her to the North Pole if she wanted to.
"Sure, no problem," I said. I called my assistant who's standing behind me and told him to take care of Candy's luggage and took them to Pony's home.
In the car, Candy started to talk. The marriage started very well but after the honeymoon was over about two months later, Albert hesitated to go home. Candy suggested to stay one more month. But a month later, Albert still didn't want to go back home. They extended the stay again for another two months… and yet another two months...
"I like it there but I think I'm too young to retire," Candy said. "I want to do things other than watching… animals day after day."
The situation went downhill after Albert's previous fiance suddenly appeared.
"He vowed to marry her in the past before he had amnesia. And she… well it's complicated, so Albert said.. … Albert said...," Candy hesitated. She took a deep breath. "Well never mind what he said," she muttered vaguely. She shook her head before looked up to look at me. "What about you Neal? If this happened to you, would you left me for your first fiance?"
"Me? No, I wouldn't," I told her bluntly. "I do not care about promises I made to whoever as long as I can honor mine to you." I looked straight into her eyes.
She gaped. For a moment she was out of words hearing my blunt response. But I didn't care. How much longer should I stand at the sideline?
"It would take more than that - much more than that - for me to even consider leaving you," I said.
She smiled. "Well... Thanks," Candy said. She coughed and changed subject. "I plan to go to medial school and become a doctor. I want to make Ms. Ponny and Sr. Lane proud."
I nodded supportively. "Then, you should stay in Lakewood. It'd be too much of a commute from Pony's home," I suggested.
Candy again avoided my eyes. Sadness and awkwardness permeated from her eyes.
"I can't stay in Lakewood anymore," said Candy. Aunt Elroy made her sign a wedding prenuptial. She wouldn't get anything if the marriage was over under 18 months. "I didn't pay attention, I thought I and Albert would be together… forever."
"But, that's absurd!" I protested. "You should contest that!"
"Albert is working on something to get around that legally but... I just couldn't wait any longer. I want to start going to school next semester!" She clenched her fists. "I don't need Sir William's money!"
We arrived at Pony's home. Since she knew no one else who had a car, she asked my favor to take her to Chicago the following day. I gladly obliged. I came again the following day. We started by going to a pawn shop to auction her wedding ring.
As we walked back to the car, I stole a look at her. The ring was gone from her finger. Her unusual quietness reminded me of how she was when I was torturing her in the past. Her face was white and hard I knew she's crushed inside but tried to stay strong.
"You okay?" I asked.
I saw her blink a few times before responding. "Can't be better. I have money to pay for my room and tuition." She shrugged bravely.
I grinned. Of course I offered her some financial assistance but, of course, she declined. She's so independent unlike other girls I knew. Then, I drove her to the school to pay for her tuition, look for cheap apartment, and do other errands.
A few days later after things settled, I took Candy to the train station. She went to California to visit our cousins and the new baby. She came back before the semester started and went to school. We met often.
One day, Candy came to visit me.
"It's over," she said tonelessly. She took a brown envelope from her bag and passed it to me. It's the divorce paperwork. "Everything has been finalized." She dropped herself to a nearby sofa.
"I'm sorry, Candy." I could tell that she tried to look composed although failing.
"I wasted too much precious time … with… Terry... and Albert. I could have been a doctor by now," she said sadly.
I quietly mumbled soothing words.
"That's alright," Candy bounced back bitterly. "I learn my lesson. Prince of the Hill! Love at the first sight! Next time I should look beyond someone's blue eyes or fairy tale romance."
"Perhaps...," she continued, "I should start with someone I know well like coworkers, classmates-"
"Childhood acquaintance is better, " I quickly cut her. Like me. "You've known that person most of your life. Can't go wrong." Me, Candy! Me... ME!
"I'm in touch with only Tom and Jimmy. Both are just like brothers to me."
Of course she skipped me. Always, I thought angrily.
She then gave a rueful smile and sighed. "Well, I'd better go. Thank you Neal! It was difficult just now... so I felt like talking to someone … and..." She flushed. "That's why I came."
"Anytime, it's a pleasure," I said. "Hm, you had dinner?"
Suddenly she's watching me intensely. There was a brief unexplained expression passed on her face, unless I was mistaken, I saw a touch of tenderness.
"No. I'd better be going," she quipped. "You must have... a date?" She chuckled.
"No, I have nothing scheduled for tonight" I said untruthfully. I had a date alright, but for the sake of being with Candy I would cancel it with no thought.
"Lie!" she laughed. She examined me from head to toe with that curious gaze again. "You are quite tall now… and… not at all bad-looking. Many girls like you? Yes?"
Correct again. I was the most eligible bachelor who walked on the surface of the earth. I had plenty of dates, but my heart was pinned only to Candy.
"If you think I'm that charming, you may stay and have dinner with me," I coaxed.
"No, I won't! Don't be silly!" Candy laughed like she'd just heard the most incredulous thing ever.
"Why? What's so silly of having a dinner with me?" I said a little petulantly. Candy's tongue could be so sharp at times.
"Mainly because I don't want to have a clash with your dates. One if them will be the future Mrs. Neal Leagan, you see!" She winked.
I was hurt. Did she realize that I am a man and that I could fall in love with her too? How come she could see Anthony, ugly Terry, and dorky William but she kept missing the point with me?
Candy, I love you! Can't you tell!, my heart screamed angrily.
My face felt flushed hot with frustration. I hid it by looking out of the window. That's when I saw a shooting star!
"Look," I snapped. "A shooting star! Good Lord, another one! Candy, make a wish!"
"That's for a young maiden," Candy snorted disinterestedly. She put the divorce letters back in her bag and got ready to leave. "I have nothing to wish -"
"What nonsense!" I cried. I took her in my arms and carried her outside. "Look up and wish something, sweetheart!" I said, ignoring her protest.
"Release me!" she screamed, giggling. I disobeyed. "Oh," she cried excitedly as soon as we're outside and she spotted the magnificent objects. "Lots of them!"
It was a spectacular show but all I felt was her warmth. I ended up watching her instead of the shooting stars. After it was over, she looked at me. Realizing that I had been watching her, she blushed.
"Did you see the shooting stars?" Candy asked
"Yes, some, " I replied.
"You wished?" asked Candy.
Our eyes made contact and for a moment we held each other's gaze. I saw that tender look again before she turned away.
"Eh Neal... put me down. I can stand."
I obeyed and put her down.
"What did you wish?" she asked, playfully.
"The rule is we're not supposed to tell what we wish." My heart throbbed madly that she's playing with me.
"But I can give you a hint," I said playfully back.
"Oh?" She chuckled. "Say it."
I stared at her until her face flushed red, seeing that I made her blush was beyond exciting.
"I would like to kiss you," I whispered.
Her green eyes widened. "You would?"
"Yes, I would and I am going to. You used to not like it. But you are too irresistible."
My first impulse was to pull her and capture her mouth with mine. But remembering the lesson of the past, I knew she hated abrupt affectionate gestures. So I brushed my fingertip along her lips to gauge her reaction and watch out for her hand at the same time. I didn't like to have my face slapped by her. It's painful.
No hand flying. She stood still watching me, her breath grew quicker.
I brought my lips to hers and kissed her. The wonder of it - and the fascination was beyond belief. My heart shot like the shooting stars. I closed my eyes. If she wanted to slap me let her do - I just wanted to enjoy her fully while I could.
When I finally wanted to pull away, I felt her arms moved up behind me pressing me closer and she kissed me back.
"Neal…," she sighed. Her voice sent shiver up my spine.
"Candy… I love you," I whispered. To finally say this to her felt really amazing.
I carried her again - back into the mansion. I spent the whole night kissing her and holding her just how I had always wanted.
A few weeks later I went down on my knees and proposed to her. I always acted fast when it came to her. I simply couldn't help it! I had been yearning to make her mine since years ago!
"I'm not sure, Neal," said Candy. She seemed apprehensive. "I think we ought to think about the it more carefully."
I understood that she didn't want to make a wrong step for the second time.
"It's not about when, my dearest," I replied assuringly. "It's about the person you're with."
I wanted her so much. I had determined to stay knelt down to explain until she saw and understood. To my delightful surprise, she accepted my proposal quicker than what I had feared. After I slipped a ring in her finger and kissed her, I told her that this was my wish when we looked at the shooting star. She replied, her wish was if this should ever happened, she would want it to last forever...
That… happened more than 39 years ago. Tonight is our 38TH wedding anniversary. With that memory in mind, I gave my arm to my obstetrician wife, Dr. Candice Leagan.
"Love you, Neal." She stood on tiptoe and pecked my cheek.
"Love you too, Candy," I smiled at her.
Hand in hand we walked to meet our children and grandchildren to dine and celebrate the happy day together...
THANKS for reading.
Western front: It means World war 1 here
Obstetrician: A type of doctor