Albert's memory was back, but not all. Important pieces left undiscovered until much later. George scrambled his way to correct the trajectory he perturbed and to put it back in the intended original path.
This story is based on Candy Candy Manga by Kyoko Mizuki, Yumiko Igarashi.
- Story Starts Here -
1. My Prince
This story happened a few months after Albert was announced as Sir William in that doomed engagement party...
Candy helped Annie prepare for her wedding. The night before the wedding day, Candy helped actively and didn't go home until late. When she prepared to go home, Archie approached her. He always loved and deeply cared for her. Tomorrow he'd marry her best friend, Annie. He's concerned that she'd feel left out.
"You know that you are the one that I love the most, Candy. If you want, tomorrow I could marry you instead," said Archie generously.
"I'll be very happy tomorrow when you make Annie the happiest woman, Archie," replied Candy. She hugged him. "Thank you for always be a big brother to me."
The wedding party was a success. Annie and Archie looked very happy, Candy was happy for them. She saw Albert from the far when he, as Sir William, gave the new couple a toast. Suddenly she felt so lonely. While in the past she'd have at least one of them accompanied her and be next to her, now all were gone. Annie and Archie were married. Albert became Sir William. She decided to go back to Pony's home, back to the arms of Ms. Pony and Sr. Lane. They always be there for her.
She went to Albert to tell her plan.
"Are you sure you want to go back to the Pony's home?" asked Albert.
"Yes," said Candy.
Albert saw no other option but to let her go. As soon as she closed the door he felt the ground beneath him rumbled. His heart sank, it seemed that part of his life disappeared. He thought he got her back when she came to visit him in Lakewood. He thought they'd be together forever, he couldn't believe that she decided to leave. He waited until she reappeared from the window. He saw her waving at him. With a fake smile, he waved back at her .
I am losing her, he thought. I shouldn't let her go. What should I do to call her back?
What he didn't know was that Candy was thinking about exactly the same thing. She felt anguished. With a fake smile, she also waved to him. But, as soon as she knew he couldn't see her, she broke down and cried.
Albert, Albert, I love you, I really want to be with you day and night. Why should you be Sir William? Why couldn't you just be the simple Albert I knew?
As soon as he couldn't see her, he sank in his chair.
Why couldn't I be a simple Albert? If this is the way it becomes, I'd rather never recover my memory and live together forever with her.
The sadness was so deep. Yes, he's been busy and occupied after he became Sir William, but if he wanted it, he could have found time to spend with her. He should have done that. He shouldn't be afraid to show her that he's happy to be with her. He sat in his chair reflecting and thinking about Candy. Without knowing it, he fell asleep in his chair. In his dream, he saw him wearing a kilt, playing a bagpipe, and seeing a little girl. After a while, he woke up and jumped almost at the same time. Suddenly he realized and remembered.
My goodness I am her prince of the hill!
Albert was excited. He wanted to tell Candy what he just discovered and used the opportunity to take her back to Chicago to live with him in the mansion.
On the day Candy went back to the Pony's home, he went there too. He left earlier. He visited Ms. Pony and Sr. Lane and told them that he'd wait for Candy on the hill. He went to the hill and excitedly thought about the event that happened years ago.
Yes, it was here when I met that little girl. She's Candy!
Albert couldn't wait for Candy to come. He climbed the tree next to him and waited for Candy there while thinking how to best tell her the surprise. After a while he saw her coming. He saw her crying and right away he got an idea. He climbed down the tree and repeated the line he told her years ago.
"Little girl, you look prettier when you smile."
The effect was immediate. She turned around and right away she smiled and ran to his arms.
"Albert you are the prince of the hill!" said Candy excitedly in his arms. They hugged one another.
Candy thought, my my he's handsome. His blonde hair, his blue eyes, that's him. But he's grown up. The cute handsome boy transformed to be a handsome mature man.
Candy kept observing him. After a while she realized that Albert was staring at her too. She blushed and both laughed.
"How come you didn't tell me earlier?" asked Candy.
"I didn't know that either," he said. "Ever since that day when I suddenly recovered my memory, once in a while I still recover some more loss memory either suddenly or gradually. Sometimes I see snap shot of images for a few days or weeks and after a while I remember what they are. This prince of the hill memory appeared suddenly after you left the other day."
"Have you regained all your memory now?" asked Candy.
"I don't know," Albert replied.
"Candy, since I was announced as Sir William, I have been busy and occupied. But, please come back with me to Chicago. If I don't travel, we can use the opportunity to do things like we did in the past."
Candy was very happy. Of course she agreed. Albert was very happy. They hugged. Candy wondered if she should declare her love to him. They looked at one another and Albert moved so closed to her but at the end he only kissed her cheek like usual. So she decided not to tell him yet.
From that day on the two went out together often to visit balls, ceremonies and other family events together. They took a walk together and did many things together.
They visited Annie and Archie who're expecting a baby. Candy was very excited.
"It's very nice, I can't wait to see them," she said to Albert.
"I'd be more excited to see you pregnant than to see her pregnant," Albert said with a teasing smile. Candy hit him playfully.
Aunt Elroy and other Ardlay elders loved to see the love birds. Their chemistry was unmistakable. The man was handsome, the lady was beautiful, the soft flirting between the two was pleasant to the eyes.
George was beyond thrilled. He was the one who made Candy go to Lakewood to visit Sir William. Without his interference, Candy would have got engaged to Neal. His heart was beaming together with the beaming couple.
- TO BE CONTINUED -
"Albert, Terry is getting married. We are invited to his wedding," said Candy. She showed him the wedding invitation she just received in the mail.
Albert didn't reply, he just stared at Candy silently wondering how she took the news. He knew how much Terry meant to her.
"It's a great news," said Candy as though she understood the meaning of his stare. "Seriously."
"You don't need to go to his party," Albert said.
He didn't believe that it's a good idea for Candy to go. He still remembered what happened at that time when she visited Terry. The aftermath couldn't be worse.
"But I want to go. I am happy that he's married," insisted Candy.
"What if we go together?" said Albert.
"Will you go?" she asked
"Yes, he's my buddy," he said.
Together, Albert and Candy went to Terry's wedding. She could feel the attention they gathered as she came in the arms of the business tycoon, Sir William. The combination of his good look and business prowess brought such a formidable aura. Candy unconsciously compared the many gorgeous looking actors in the party with Albert. To her, without doubt, her prince was by far the most handsome of all. She's so proud to be there with him. She didn't feel a trace of jealousy or unhappiness at all that Terry was married. She was, in fact, very happy. Throughout the ceremony she stole a look at Albert many times appreciating that it's him who's standing next to her instead of Terry. Albert who's wondering how she's doing, stole a look at her many times too. Their eyes met often and they smiled to one another. Candy was so full of joy.
That night, Candy was happily counting her blessing. Her happy life would have been perfect if only Albert kissed her. Too bad, he never gave her a kiss. How much she longed for his kiss to release the exploding passions within her soul. She wondered if she should be the one who initiated it first and told him that she loved him. However, although Albert was always nice and forever gentle to her, she couldn't overcome this emotional barrier to first confess her love to him. He should do it first, not me. She's also afraid to declare her love to Albert. How do I know that he hasn't had anyloveinterest? Even I had Anthony and Terry. What if he's mad at me? What if he really didn't plan to be anything other than just being a friend?
Candy sighed. She wondered if Albert could sense her feeling towards him or totally oblivious like how he had been behaving so far. What she knew for sure was that the day Albert finally kissed her would be the happiest day of her life. One drop of happy tear fell on her cheek and she went to bed.
The following day Albert and Candy went back to Chicago. That night, Albert told Candy about his coming business trip.
"I need to go for two months, Candy," said Albert. "You could come with me if you want."
Although Candy was sad deep inside, she understood how important his business trip was for him. It's more than his job, it's his duty and responsibility as Sir William. She courageously gave him a smile and ensured him she'd be fine. She felt grateful that Albert invited her to come but she thought it's best if she didn't go with him. After all, he went to work, not to have fun. Besides, Annie's baby was coming and also Patty...
"I and Annie made an arrangement for Patty to meet Tom," said Candy excitedly. "Tom is our good friend when we were in Pony's home," explained Candy. She told him stories about Tom.
Albert laughed. He told her to write him a letter with an update of the story. She promised she would.
Knowing that Albert would be gone in a few days, Candy used all minutes he had available to be with him.
Neal was having a summer school vacation. During the break, he went home to stay with his parents. On his first day of vacation, he accompanied his mother to visit aunt Elroy in the mansion. While his mother was busy with Aunt Elroy, he took a walk around the mansion. Suddenly, he heard the sound of people laughing and he accidentally saw Candy and Albert from the far. This was the first time he saw her again after that doomed engagement party. He was at Annie and Archie's wedding party. But at that time with wound still fresh from the engagement rejection, he tried to avoid her as much as he could. He even refused to look at her. He had been trying very hard to forget her. He tried to convince himself how foolish and unreasonable he was.
But today, once he saw Candy again, his eyes were attracted to her instantaneously like iron pulled by a magnet. He could fully understand his crazy behavior to propose her in the past. Her golden hair, her glowing face, her voluptuous figure, the girl had matured from a beautiful goddess to the very epitome of beauty. The way she laughed and talked resonated exuberance magnetic persona that penetrated deep into his heart. Now he knew that he wasn't foolish or unreasonable. He's totally sane, perfectly sane in fact, that's why he fell for her.
The day finally arrived for Albert to go to his long business trip. At that day, Neal happened to take his mother to the mansion again. He saw how hard Candy tried to be strong and not to cry in front of people when she bid him good bye. However, he could see clearly from her face how sad she was.
While her mother was busy with aunt Elroy, Neal took a walk outside and saw her crying from the far. She seemed to be so alone and lonely. The depressing scene was a far outcry from the happy scene he saw last time. He felt very sad to see her feeling so down. He really wanted to comfort her but he's afraid that he'd bring more bad than good considering how nasty their relationship was. Every time he came to the mansion, he saw her in the same depressing lonely scene. He wondered where Annie or Archie was. Usually they always be around for her. Since no one seemed to care about her, he's determined to personally handle the problem himself. He'd talk to her and apologize for his past bad behaviors.
That day, he came fully prepared to talk to Candy. Unfortunately, he didn't find her. He asked the servants but no one knew her whereabouts. Luckily he met George.
"She went to Pony's home," said George who never failed to give useful information.
Neal hurriedly went to Pony's home to look for Candy.
Candy was sitting outside when he heard someone coming. The day was almost dark so she couldn't see clearly but from the stature, the visitor looked like Albert.
"Albert!" shouted Candy and instantly ran to the man.
To her surprise she heard the man said, "Candy it's me Neal, not Albert."
Candy was so disappointed that she cried so hard.
"I am so sorry," said Neal and took a handkerchief from his pocket to wipe her tears.
She hit his hand but he said, "Shh Shh, it's okay."
She grabbed the handkerchief from his hand and used it to bury her face in it. She cried loudly, very disappointed it's not Albert who showed up.
Neal was just waiting silently until she calmed down. His heart broke seeing how lonely she was. It gave him an idea to take her back to Chicago so she could do her old routine. He knew she liked to work in the hospital. Sadly, he remembered how he caused her to be fired from the hospital and he regretted his past behavior even more.
"I am so sorry I am not someone you expected. Sorry to disappoint you," he said quietly after a while.
"What do you want?" she asked between her sobs. Neal, in fact, was the last man she expected to see and wanted to see.
"I want to apologize to you. What I did to you in the past was awful, I hope I can be your friend not enemy from now on," he said in a low voice.
Candy was silent. She was surprised to hear the offer. She wondered if he's up to do more dirty tricks.
"I made you fired from the hospital, I can get your job back," he said.
"I don't like to work there anymore," said Candy. "I like Happy Clinic now."
"Let's go back to Chicago, I take you to Happy Clinic. I promise I won't cause you troubles any more," said Neal.
Although Candy thought it's a good idea to go back to work in Happy Clinic, she didn't feel like letting him go that easily and would make it difficult for him.
"I always feel that Happy Clinic needs some heating system especially that winter is coming. If you want to be useful, maybe you can persuade some funding for the project," said Candy. "If you can do that, then, we'll be friends."
Neal looked very happy. "Do you mean it?"
"Thanks for the opportunity. I will work hard on that, " he said seriously.
"You have to do the work. You can't just ask your mother or let someone else work for you on your behalf. You need to request for the funding yourself," said Candy.
"Deal," said Neal "I go now. I will come back with the happy news and take you back to Chicago."
He walked before turned around and said," Are you sure you'll be okay here? Don't you want to go to the house. It's getting dark here."
"I'll walk later. Look, you are not my friend yet," said Candy. "Go, I know how to take care of myself."
In her heart, Candy was so sure that the spoiled boy would not be up to the task. She's so sure that he'd give up which was a good thing. She agreed on the deal partly to make him leave quickly. If he failed, which she believed he would, she could use his failure as an excuse to reject his friendship and not to deal with him ever again.
3. Summer Internship
Neal took the project very seriously. He really wanted to end their animosity and be Candy's friend.
He did some research and found that to win a grant was not as a-piece-of- cake as what he thought. One needed to gather data, gave a defense, and submitted a grant proposal. He didn't know how to do it. Even if he did, the process could take years with no guaranteed funding. The outlook didn't look good. He racked his brain trying to find a shortcut. For Candy's sake, no matter what happened, it had to be done this summer successfully. That's when he thought of his mother.
As a prominent member of the Ardlay family, Neal's mother served as a member of the board of directors of the Ardlay charity foundation. Neal came to her requesting to do a summer internship in the foundation.
"Mom, could I do an internship in the Ardlay foundation this summer?" asked Neal.
"What kind of work are you looking for?" she asked.
"I want to request a grant for a clinic." He told her briefly about the project he had in mind.
"Such a little clinic, who cares for such a little project? You won't get anything in return," said his mother. "Helena has been calling you. It's a better investment to take her out. Her father is an influential Greek shipping magnate."
But Neal assured her that the training would be very useful for his work in the future. He insisted on doing it. Since he insisted, his mother was willing to help. She let him do the summer internship in the organization and assigned her best staffs to be in his team members to assist him in doing the project.
Neal then visited Dr. Martin to gather data for his grant proposal. He introduced himself as someone from the Ardlay foundation. Initially, Dr. Martin refused to cooperate.
"We don't need your help," Dr. Martin said bluntly. "I don't want to be chained and made to follow your rules for the rest of my life."
Neal assured him that there's no obligation involved.
"There's no such thing as a free lunch," Dr. Martin laughed at him.
Neal thought hard to find a way to make him cooperate.
He then said, 'The daughter of Sir William, Ms. Candice, brought this case to our attention."
His bait worked, Dr. Martin became friendly as soon as he heard Candy's and Albert's name. He cooperated and thought it was Albert who was willing to return some favor. Dr. Martin took him for a tour around the clinic. After touring the clinic, Neal added renovation in the funding proposal. He wanted to make the clinic be a more suitable place for Candy to work.
After several visits, he and his team finally were ready to put the data together for the final defense presentation. He studiously wrote the grant proposal by himself. The task proved to be more monumental than he ever conceived. He was grateful to have his mother's staffs to help proofread his writing. He also prepared his speech and perfected it again and again with them until it's delivered fluently and convincingly. The staffs proved to be very useful for him. He did brainstorming, got advice and many valuable discussions with them. All the efforts kept him busy and occupied from the morning until late at night during his entire summer vacation.
His mother couldn't wait for the project to be over.
"You go out to have fun, Dear. Just ask my staffs to do the work," she said repeatedly to him.
She'd rather him go for a date than being glued to his charity writing. But, Neal kept working very hard on the project. With Neal mother's connection, his case was in a super fast track with a guaranteed spot in the defense hearing. Well, having good networking is a blessing.
On the defense day, Neal woke up extra early, wore his best suite and did his last preparation to give his best possible presentation.
"Are you sure you don't want me to come to see you?" asked his mother who really wanted to see her son in action. To her, he would always be her baby even though he's already much taller than her.
"I'd rather not. Thanks mom for everything," said Neal. He's very nervous about the presentation. It had Candy's friendship at stake!
"You look so handsome, Dear. I am so proud of you," said his mother with a motherly hug. "Good luck!"
He went to the foundation headquarter in Chicago and gave his speech to the defense committee.
"In the suburb of Chicago, there's one clinic whose contribution to children and people around it is towering it's own very size. Everyday throughout the year, without a single break, Dr. Martin gives his service without requesting anything in return.
After all these years, along with many of the constants we took for granted, the clinic remains accepting its patients with open arms. When illness strikes, it's comforting to know that there is a reliable place which will surely accept them with open arms and unparalleled friendliness. That place is Happy Clinic.
Another constant one can't escape in reality is the need of maintenance and renovation. As it is now, the income is relied solely on the generosity of its chief, Dr. Martin, the patients generosity and public contributions. The clinic is currently in dire need for a better heating system for the incoming winter and renovation."
He then presented the clinic financial data, patients statistic and other numbers to the committee.
"I am here today to ask this committee to help fund the clinic. Your grant will make meaningful differences in the life of its patients and workers. It will be used to make better heating system and renovation for the patients comfort during their visit and to enable the workers to work in a more acceptable working environment. The final goal is of course to have its patients stronger and healthier. Thank you for your consideration on our proposal. I welcome any questions you might have regarding this clinic."
Probably because of his personal connection, or because of his speech, or because the committee sincerely thought the funding was necessary, or maybe all of the above, regardless, the proposal was approved. Neal was so excited, as soon as he found out, he hurriedly went to visit Candy.
"The funding is approved," Neal said.
"Really?" she asked. She didn't believe that he really worked on it.
He assured her that it's not a hoax. He gave her a thick copy of the grant proposal with "Neal Leagan" name on the cover. She opened it and saw lots of writing, figures, tables, graphs and other things. It looked very professional, she's so impressed.
"Did you really do this?" she asked very much in awed.
Neal nodded. "Yes," he said.
He told her how he and his team made it. She openly showed how much she admired their job.
"Could I keep it?" she asked excitedly.
"Of course, it's all yours," answered Neal. Her request made him feel extra appreciated.
He then told her that in addition to the heating system funding she requested, he also included some renovation proposal. All were approved. Candy was very happy to hear the good news. For a moment she forgot to treat him coldly. She laughed and clapped her hands happily.
"So can we be friends now?" he asked.
Candy offered her hand for a handshake.
"Yes, we are friends now," she said. "Thank you, the clinic does need this."
"Hopefully the clinic will be much better after the project is complete. Since I put your name as the head of the project, all will follow your requirements," he said excitedly. He's Candy's friend now. His heart was blooming with so much joy.
Candy couldn't be more excited. She really wanted to go to Happy Clinic as soon as possible to get started with the project. But suddenly she realized that she shouldn't make things move too smoothly for Neal.
"Do you want to go back to Chicago now? I can wait for you to get ready," said Neal.
"Well, it's too late now. I need to say good bye to so many people. I go tomorrow," said Candy trying to make it difficult and back to her reserved mode for him. She's still not used to be friendly to Neal.
"Fine, then we go tomorrow. I'll wait you here," he said.
Candy went back to the Pony's home to tell Ms. Pony and Sr. Lane that she'd go back to Chicago. They asked about the visitor which Candy answered lightly, "He's an assistant driver."
Sr. Lane said, "Should we offer him to sleep in the guest house?"
"Let him sleep in his car tonight," Candy said. She's still not used to treat Neal nicely.
At dinner time, Sr. Lane asked if they should give the driver food.
"Let him starve for one night. It'd do him good," answered Candy coldly.
"Dear, that's not how we teach you," said Sr. Lane.
Since Candy didn't move, Sr. Lane personally delivered the food to Neal. Neal was very grateful especially that he started to feel hungry. Seeing how nice the sister was, he felt bad to look down at Pony's home in the past.
Neal spent the rest of the evening outside reading a book until it became too dark to read. Ms. Pony graciously gave him a blanket which he much appreciated. He regretted his past foolish behavior even more. That night he slept in his car. Candy looked at him from the far. Secretly she wondered if this was the first time he had ever slept outside his luxurious comfort bed. She decided to stop thinking bad about him considering how much he's willing to do for her. And she promised him that he's her friend now.
The following day, it was Candy personally who came to give him breakfast. He was very happy to finally receive a kind gesture directly from her. Always be a nice and friendly person, Candy decided to really move on and be Neal's friend as promised. Neal took Candy's belonging and loaded them into his car. After Candy was ready, they went back to Chicago. They didn't talk much in the car other than Neal told her about Happy Clinic case. Frankly they didn't know what to chat. Ever since they met when they were little, their interaction was limited to teasing and exchanging harsh words to one another.
He dropped her off in her apartment.
The following day, Neal took her to Happy Clinic and introduced her to the contact person from the foundation to complete his mission. Dr. Martin was overjoyed to see his best nurse came back. Candy was excited on the renovation project she had. She thanked Neal for what he did to her. He's happy to see how excited Candy was. Her big smile warmed his heart. He shook hers and Dr. Martin's hand to bid good bye. His summer vacation was over, time to go back to school.
4. The Ball
Finally, the day arrived for Albert to come back from his business trip. Candy was very happy, she's been counting down the days for him to return home. On that day, she happily went to the train station to pick him up.
While waiting, Candy was looking at a magazine in the news stand. She browsed through the list of top bachelors in the nation. Albert was there as Sir William. She's so proud of him. But to her surprise, Neal was there too! She giggled and laughed at his handsome picture on it. He did look different now that he grew up and much taller than before. She even mistook him as Albert at that day in the dark. Archie was married to Annie, if not, she wondered if he'd be there too. Sadly she was thinking of Anthony and Stear. Without doubt they would have made the list too. Well, Stear probably wouldn't care much. More likely, he even would not have noticed that such list existed, she laughed. But Anthony with his elegance and class would definitely make it and beat all competitors. She bought the magazine to show it to Albert.
Finally, she heard the train came. She waited impatiently for the train to stop. As soon as she saw Albert, she ran to hug him. She's very happy that he came back. He told her a happy news too, he wouldn't have any more travel and would stay in Chicago for the rest of the year.
In the car, she excitedly showed him his pictures in the magazine. They were laughing about that. At Neal's photo, Candy told him about his involvement in Happy Clinic project. She was visibly excited.
"Neal?" asked Albert. "I thought it was you who requested him not to be anywhere around your vicinity. Now you are the one who can't stop talking about him."
Candy explained, "I didn't expect him to actually work on it and win the fund. But he did."
He admitted that his idea for renovation was great, however. He's impressed by it. But he couldn't help to tease her.
"Tell me honestly, you bought this magazine for my pictures or his?" teased Albert.
Candy laughed. She was so happy that he's back. He's always her prince.
Now that Candy went back to work, everyday in the morning she and Albert went to work together. The driver dropped Albert off first since his office was closer. He said good bye and kissed Candy on the cheek before going out of the car and waved at her. At night unless there were emergency patients or some sudden business engagement, they came home together. Candy told him about her job and patients throughout the way and Albert told her interesting things that happened in his office. Then they had dinner together. In the weekend sometimes they took aunt Elroy out either to go shopping, outdoor, visit relatives, and more.
Candy cherished her life very much.
Before long the New Year party arrived.
In the party, Albert started his dance with Candy. She couldn't imagine a better moment rather than being in the arms of the man she adored. His handsome look in the white shirt and black tuxedo blended with his cologne emitting seductive scent of love really made her dizzy with passion. How she wished she could be in his arms all night long.
However, being the host of the party, Albert needed to dance with other guests too. At the end of their dance his blue eyes looked at her gently, "See you later, Candy." He kissed her cheek.
With a heavy heart Candy parted with her handsome prince and started to dance with other people, one of them was Archie.
"You look beautiful, Candy," said Archie who always adored her.
"You look handsome, Archie," said Candy with a teasing tone.
"The man who'll marry you will be very lucky, Candy," he said with eyes looked straight at hers.
"Annie is one lucky woman, Archie," replied Candy back with another teasing smile.
When the dance was almost over he said," I hate to stop dancing with you. I wish I could dance with you only all night long,"
Candy replied, "Bye, gorgeous!"
After a while Candy got so tired of dancing. She sat down and looked around. She saw Albert from the far, Annie, and others. She tried to find if there were other people she knew in the party. A noisy group of giggling young women caught her eye. She saw them surrounded a young man in the center. Curiously, she tried to look who the hot new man was. To her surprise, she found he's Neal! She laughed to herself thinking if the magazine helped advertise his popularity. She giggled seeing Neal behave like a gentleman to those women.
Annie came and cut Candy's observation of Neal. Candy chatted with Annie for a while until she left to continue dancing. Candy then went outside to be alone momentarily to take a break. Besides she didn't like dancing with unknown men. Albert of course was still dancing entertaining his never ending guests. What she didn't know was that as soon as she went outside, Neal excused himself and left his crowd to follow her.
Outside, Neal was looking for Candy. This would be the first time he saw her again after the summer. His heart almost stopped beating when he finally saw her. He thought she was beautiful. That's nothing compared to how she looked tonight. She's simply stunning. He wanted to come to her but he hesitated if he could or should. All he knew for sure was that he didn't want to leave. At the end, he just stood there watching her. After a while, candy felt his presence and looked to his direction. To his relief, she gave him a friendly smile.
"Hi Candy. May I join you?" he asked.
Candy nodded with a smile.
"How's the clinic?" Neal started to open the conversation.
She excitedly told him about all improvement they made. He was very happy to see how excited she was. Her smile was so enchanting, he needed to try so hard not to stare at her for too long and looked natural.
After a while Candy said, "You should go back to be with your dates."
"I don't have any," Neal said. "I come with Laura. She is my classmate. She's an ambitious law student. She wants me to take her to the Ardlays party so she can meet the rich and famous."
"You do this for her?" asked Candy.
"Sure, that's what friends are for," he said lightly.
"I saw your picture in the top bachelors list in the magazine." She giggled. "You certainly qualify her criteria, why doesn't she date you?" asked Candy.
Neal grinned but didn't answer.
Silently he thought, because my heart had been captured by you, Candy. I hope one day you understand how I feel about you.
He felt lucky at that time they heard music played from the far that distracted Candy's attention from the question.
"In the past, there's an old violinist who used to come to Pony's home around Christmas time. He came to entertain us, the children. Annie and I like this music very much," she said and started to tap her foot.
"Well, I am sure she's enjoying it now with Archie," Neal said and pointed to the couple. Seeing how much she wanted to dance, he gathered all his strength to stand up and offer his arm, "May I have the honor?"
He felt lucky that the lighting was dim to hide his nervous face from her eyes.
To his relieved she agreed. "Sure why not?" said Candy. She got up and accepted his invitation to dance.
They danced. It's a fast motion dance. Both laughed very hard after it's over.
"Very good. A very fast movement indeed," Neal said.
"I told you this one is fun," replied Candy. As soon as she finished talking she looked for Albert. They could see him walking to the garden direction.
"Your man is coming. Good night, Candy. Thanks for the dance"
Candy hurriedly walked to meet Albert. She looked back one more time to give Neal a vibrant smile before she ran into Albert's arms.
"Was it Neal who charms you tonight?" asked Albert.
Candy nodded with a smile. Albert gave her a meaningful smile back, both chatted happily and disappeared into the mansion.
Neal stared at her from the far until she disappeared. Seeing that seconds of vibrant smile covered mildly with her strains of hair made his heart jump to the moon. He would be willing to wait until the end of his life, if necessary, to see her smile like that to him again. He was so hypnotized by it and stood nailed at his spot staring the empty trace she walked on for a long time. His heart was full of joy. He felt very happy to finally be able to dance with Candy. He felt so much on top of the world.
A tap on his shoulder pulled him back to the real world.
"What are you staring at?" he heard someone said.
"Oh.. er, nothing." He noticed it's his sister. She was with a young man.
"Mom and dad are looking for you," said Eliza. "I will go out with John. See you." Eliza winked.
He waved at them, smiled and walked back to the mansion. At the door, he met Laura. He gave his arms and she put her hand in it.
"Did you sweep anyone off his feet tonight?" Neal asked while walking.
"Actually, I did. He's the son of a real estate baron," Laura said excitedly.
Neal stopped walking, happy for her. "Congratulations!"
"I will go with him. Neal, thank you. I don't know how to return your kindness," Laura said beaming.
"Just remember me when you become a famous lawyer," Neal said with a grin.
Laura gave him a quick kiss on his cheek before going to meet her new man. Neal then went to look for his mother.
"Do you get any date tonight?" asked his mother.
"No," he replied shortly. He thought silently that dancing with Candy gave him more happiness than having one hundred dates.
"You don't?" she asked with concerned. "You are the most handsome bachelor in the party, it can't be that all those girls are so blind."
"Well, then obviously I am not," he said with a laugh. His heart was still beaming thinking about Candy. "Eliza is going out, I will be your and dad's date for tonight."
"What about Laura?"
"She goes out with someone,"
His mother gasped and told to her husband about it.
"He doesn't get a date," his mother told his father.
"Isn't that good? He won't give us a baby scandal anytime soon," his father joked. His mother hit him playfully.
Neal laughed. He took both his parents' arms and walked with them to the car.
5. Narrow Escape
After the new year holiday, Albert again went to his business trips often. But since Candy had been busy with her work in Happy Clinic, she didn't feel as lonely anymore. Time moved faster and it seemed faster for Albert to come back.
Fresh from winning a funding from the prestigious Ardlay foundation, Happy Clinic got lots of collaboration proposals from high profile institutions. Dr. Martin was very happy. He's been somber for the longest time. Happy Clinic was loaded with more and more administration works, too. Since Neal put Candy's name as the point of contact, Candy's job got shifted to managerial work more and more. Candy never thought that she'd be a "boss", she's very excited of her new work challenges. She often silently smiled to herself thinking of Neal and appreciating all the things he did for her.
Before long, the summer holiday is coming. This time, Neal would go to London to work with his father in the London office. In the final exam week, he went to his parents home. On the way, he stopped by in Happy Clinic to briefly see Candy who he hadn't seen since the last New Year ball. But Dr. Martin said she's not there.
"It's strange, she never misses a working day usually. She didn't ask for an absence either," said Dr. Martin.
Neal thought probably Candy was out with Albert, but decided to check her apartment anyway since Dr. Martin adamantly believed it's unusual that she took a few days off without telling him.
"She's a role model staff who never leaves without notice," Dr. Martin said.
Neal knocked Candy's apartment door. He waited for a long time but no one opened. He kept knocking. The landlady came out to see who's coming for visit. She also said that she hadn't seen her for a few days. Neal was about to leave thinking she might be out with Albert when someone finally opened the door. It's Candy! Her face was so pale. She looked so sick and was about to fall. Neal hurriedly ran to catch her. He came right on time, as soon as he approached her, she collapsed.
"Are you sick?" he asked before feeling stupid to ask something so obvious. "What happens?" he asked.
Candy gave no response just a brief nod. Neal hurriedly carried her to his car to take her to the hospital. He went upstairs again to her apartment briefly to close the door and get a blanket.
In the car, he told his driver, James, to go to the hospital. He wrapped Candy loosely with a blanket and held her in his arms. His heart sank feeling her high fever.
"Candy... Candy!" Neal's calling her to see if she gave a response. He's panic-stricken to see his dearest who seemed so lifeless.
She opened her eyes briefly and tried to smile.
"Hi Candy," he said softly with a worried smile, so relieved that she gave a response. "How long have you been sick?"
"A few days," replied Candy.
"Candy you should have told someone to get help, say Albert, Annie or whoever," said Neal really worried.
Candy was too weak to respond. She tried to smile briefly to him and closed back her eyes.
Neal was very worried. He told James to pick up Dorothy* and take her to Candy's apartment.
"Tell Dorothy to also take one cook with her," said Neal to his driver. "Ask them to cook and prepare the place for Candy tonight. I couldn't find her apartment key, the door is unlock now."
"Sure, Mr. Leagan."
"Do not tell mom. I'll deal with her later," Neal said.
James nodded. He dropped Neal and Candy off in the hospital.
"Come back to the hospital as soon as possible," Neal told James before he left.
"Yes, Mr. Leagan."
Seeing that a member of Ardlay family came, the doctors hurriedly gave Neal a special help much to his relief. They put her in a VIP room and gave her a check immediately. After they all left, Neal talked to Candy.
"The doctor suggested you stay here for tonight," said Neal.
"I don't want. I want to go home," said Candy weakly. "I don't like to stay in a hospital."
"They said it's for your own good. Here, there are people who can monitor you around the clock. Besides, you are a nurse, ..." said Neal trying to persuade her to stay only to be cut by Candy.
Candy refused and almost cried.
Neal's heart broke into pieces seeing how upset she was. The last thing he wanted to do was to make his angel cry. He decided to comply to her wish.
"Fine, I'll tell them we go home. But you must promise to let Dorothy stay and help you until you get well," said Neal.
She nodded. Neal went to see the doctor to tell him that they were leaving and asked for some instruction what to do at home. He promised to take her back immediately should anything go very wrong. The doctor gave instructions what they should do should the fever come back and other things. Then, he took her home.
He carried her again to her apartment on the second floor.
"You can put me down, I can walk now," she said.
"That's fine, you walk next time," he said.
When they arrived Dorothy was already there. She took Rosa, the cook, with her. The dinner was ready and all had been cleaned up. Candy didn't want to eat but Neal encouraged her to eat a little. He asked Dorothy to feed her in her bed slowly. Neal stayed in her room to study for his final exams while watching her at the same time. Candy ate a little and went to sleep. After a while she became restless, he checked and found the fever was back as predicted by the doctors. Neal instructed Dorothy how to take care of her. She put some cold towel on her forehead and other things. After Neal finished studying, he did those for her.
"You go studying. Ask someone else to do this," said Candy weakly.
"I'm done with my study. I want to do this. Just rest, it's okay," he whispered.
She didn't reject it. She felt so sick, it comforted her that someone familiar finally came to help her. She's been feeling so alone and miserable for days. She was too sick to walk so she couldn't even let her land lady know. She spent days having bad dreams. The day Neal came and knocked at the door, she thought she was dreaming that Albert came for a visit. Then she heard Neal's voice calling her. She realized that was real. It boosted her motivation. Realizing probably this was the only chance she got to get help, she gathered all energy she had to go and open the door. Now, she felt so peaceful and relieved. She's so grateful for his help. All these mixed feelings made her so emotional and silently tears started to roll down on her cheek.
"That's okay, don't worry. All will be fine," he said warmly and wiped her tears with his soft finger. His brown eyes looked at her deeply with so much care.
He thought she was worried about her illness. He didn't know that she felt so relieved and grateful to have him there with her. The warm look of his eyes, the feeling of his gentle fingers touched her heart deeply. She's very happy to have him there.
At night Candy got better. She was sweating so much. Neal woke Dorothy up and asked her to change Candy's clothes. Candy looked much better without fever.
"How are you?" he asked.
She nodded to tell him that she's fine. She smiled at him and held his hand silently feeling so grateful to have him around before she fell asleep peacefully.
After awhile Neal became sleepy too. With Candy holding his hand, he didn't want to pull it afraid to wake her up. Besides, he liked the feeling of her holding him. So he lay down on Candy's bed using his jacket as the blanket. He was thinking to do it for only a few minutes until he made sure she slept then he'd pull his hand to move to the sofa but he fell asleep. He dosed off comfortably and didn't wake up until the warm sunlight woke him up. For a while, he was thinking where he was, then he remembered he's on Candy's bed. He jumped to wake up and moved to the sofa before Candy could see him lying on her bed. But it's too late. He saw her green eyes were staring at him.
"Good morning," Candy said with a smile. When she woke up, she was surprised to see a man on her bed. Her first thought was Albert. But seeing the brown hair soon she remembered what happened last night and she remembered it was Neal. She felt funny that it's him there instead of Albert like in the past.
Seeing she's not angry, he felt so relieved. He answered shyly, "Sorry, I fell asleep on your bed. I wanted to move to the sofa but..."
"That's okay," said Candy. "Thank you for your help."
"You're welcome, it's nothing. How are you?"
"I am much better," she said.
"Dorothy and Rosa will stay here today to take care of you. I go to my exams, I'll see you later, okay?"
"Does your mother know that they are here?"
"I don't know. Don't worry about her. She might not even notice two of her servants are missing. I'll tell her later."
Neal told Dorothy and Rosa to take care of Candy. He left some money for them to do grocery and went to his exams. He came back again that evening to check how Candy was doing. She looked much better, she's sitting on her bed reading a book. She welcomed him with a big smile.
"Your land lady is difficult," Neal said as he closed the door. He told her how she stopped him this morning and just recently before he entered the door.
"She made Albert left," said Candy laughing. "Ever since that incident, her rule got even tougher for all the tenants."
"Well, since you told her that Albert was your brother, I told her I was something else," said Neal with a naughty smile.
"What is it?"
"You won't like this, but I have no option since she didn't let me in otherwise. I told her that I am your husband," he said with a grimace.
"You said what?" asked Candy in disbelief. "Did she believe you?"
"She didn't believe me. Then, I told her that I am a sailor so I am often not home. She was still doubtful and asked for our wedding certificate."
"Wedding certificate?" asked Candy. "Then? What did you say?"
"I promised her one," he grinned. "I asked my father's lawyer to provide us with a fake wedding certificate."
Candy beat him with her pillow.
"I can't believe you," she said playfully pretending being angry. Then she laughed. "To be honest with you, I think it's a good idea! I like it. She gave us so much trouble in the past."
Someone knocking at the door.
Dorothy handed Neal some paperwork. "James delivered something for you, Master Neal." She left.
"Look, " said Neal to Candy. "Candice White and Robert Smith's wedding certificate."
"How are you?" asked Neal.
"Fine," she said with a smile. "Very good, actually."
After resting for the whole day, she felt so energized that she even wanted to get to work the following day. After some argument, she agreed to work only for a few hours.
"Candy, the reason I came was to tell you that I will go to work in London this summer. I will leave tomorrow. What if Dorothy and Rosa stay with you until I come back."
"Thank you. But, it's no need, really no need."
Neal wanted to persuade her but he's afraid that he's not in the position to do so. Uncle William was her man not him.
Finally he said,"At least please allow me to take you to work tomorrow and have James take you home."
Candy agreed on this one. Neal also promised her to write her letters while he's away.
The following day, before Neal left for the UK, he took Candy to Happy Clinic. Dr. Martin greeted them.
"Candy had been sick for a few days that's why she didn't come to work last week, Dr. Martin," said Neal.
Dr. Martin asked if she's okay now, Candy nodded.
Candy showed Neal the renovation which he admired greatly.
"We should thank you for this," said Candy.
"No, this is all your hard work to put them together," he said humbly with a smile.
Before he left, he assured her to contact someone if she had a problem. He gave his phone number in London, his father's secretary and some staffs from the Leagans Chicago office. He shook hands too with Dr. Martin.
"I'll let everyone stand by and come to you right away should you need anything," he said with a worried look in his eyes.
She repeatedly assured him she'd be fine. He approached his car and James hurriedly stood up to open the door when he turned back to talk one more time to Candy.
"I'll ask James to come back right away and wait for you until you're ready to go home today."
He ended up coming back many more times to tell her to take good care of herself.
"Don't work too hard. Go home early, today," he said.
James waited patiently stood straight by his door before finally he really entered and left.
Dr Martin couldn't help to whistle and comment, "Do you notice the way he looked at you at all?"
"Well, that's Neal," answered Candy lightly. "He's always like that."
"Are you serious? With this guy available, you choose to wait for Albert?" he asked.
"I don't know if Albert and I have ever been together, actually," she laughed.
"Precisely," said Dr. Martin looking at Candy in her eyes.
"I didn't know who Neal Leagan was. I really gave him a hard time the very first time he came. He worked very hard to get us the funding. Why didn't he just ask his parents to do it for him?"
Candy told him the complete story.
"What is it that he lacks, Candy? Is it because he doesn't have blue eyes and blond hair?" asked Dr. Martin.
Candy didn't answer. In her heart she was thinking, because there's Albert. But she couldn't help to wonder when Albert would give her the loving look Neal had been giving her.
Since Candy didn't respond, Dr. Martin said, "I never understand women. Tsk! Tsk! " He clicked his tongue in disbelief. "I am glad that I am an eternal bachelor. "
With that he left to attend his little patients. Candy shrugged her shoulder and got to work.
*Dorothy as far as I know is the name of one of the housekeepers who work in the Leagans family. It's from the anime not manga so I am not that expert either. I think she's the one who Neal consulted on how to attract Candy. Dorothy suggested to give her flowers (from the anime not manga).
Chapter 6 is a prelude to chapter 7�
-Story starts here -
6. A Task for George
In the car, Neal was so worried with the prospect of Candy living alone. Suddenly, he saw the majestic tower of the Ardlay enterprise which gave him an idea. He asked his driver, James, to stop and he went inside to see George.
George was surprised to see who's coming to his office.
"Master Neal," George stood up and greeted him politely. "I could always come to you, you don't need to trouble yourself to come here."
"Thanks George," said Neal. " I have a message for uncle William."
George nodded, curious what matter was so urgent that he needed to come in person.
"Tell him that Candy is sick. Just a cold but a serious cold. She's almost fine now, but more importantly, I think she'd appreciate his attention," Neal said diplomatically.
"Of course, I'll let him know," said George trying to look as professional as possible although he felt strange that it required Neal to come in person to just tell him that.
Neal looked seriously to George. "In addition, I want you to tell uncle William that she got a narrow escape this time. She was very sick for days with no one knew about it. It's by a stroke of luck that I happened to stop by at her place and found out, if not, who knows what would have happened to her."
Neal paused briefly.
Then Neal said, "Candy is an Ardlay, she deserves a better care like an Ardlay. To be blunt to him, she deserves a better apartment, some servants and other accessories worthy of an Ardlay. Her living condition can't be the same now that he is a Sir William and not an amnesic Albert."
George listened silently. Neal then gave his final best shot to seize the moment and had George execute his plan flawlessly for Candy's sake.
"George, this is where your help is greatly needed: You must not mention to uncle William that I come to tell you all this. You are the right hand of Sir William not for nothing. I trust you can convey my meaning to him well and get him execute it without mentioning my name in it. At any cost, for her sake, you shouldn't tell him that I am the one who ask you to do this. Do you understand?" he looked at him penetratingly in the eyes.
Neal said slowly and firmly with emphasis in each word, "I trust you can do it, George. Thank you."
George started to feel uneasy at the task he needed to face. But before he could respond, Neal already left and he didn't feel it's appropriate to call him back. So George just nailed at his spot and said quietly to the empty air, "Yes, Sir."
George was a bit intimidated by Neal's request. Certainly it's harder than any other business tasks he had ever faced. To have Sir William make him do things was natural, but for him to ask Sir William to do something was so unthinkable. Of course he could choose to ignore Neal's request. But deep inside he's worried if Candy's situation was as serious as what Neal said. Otherwise, Neal wouldn't bother to come to his office to personally request him to do the task. He thought carefully and could see the logic behind the request. Candy's an Ardlay, she should live like one. He thought carefully how to have Sir William execute Neal's order.
George sighed and thought, after all things that were going on, probably Master Neal did genuinely care for her.
That day when George met Albert, he brought up Neal's request at the end of the meeting carefully.
"Sir William, Ms. Candice is sick," George said calmly.
Albert was surprised. It's been weeks that he didn't think much of Candy. After coming back from his business trip, he had been having so many meetings and other business engagements that had accumulated while he's away. He didn't even have the time to contact her.
"How did you know?" Albert asked felt really worried.
"Oh accidentally, someone who knew her told me," said George coolly hoping that Albert didn't press him with more questions. He tried to make his voice sound as natural as possible.
"With all do respect, Sire," continued George.
"Candy is an Ardlay, probably she should start to have a living standard like an Ardlay?" said George.
Albert was silent, he looked at George without making any reply. Since Albert was silent, George remained silent too.
"True George," Albert finally said, started to feel really guilty for not paying enough attention to her.
George started to feel uneasy. What if Albert only said "True George" but didn't make any action. He remembered how Neal told him that he trusted the matter into his hand. What if Neal found that he failed to do his job.
"Sire," said George respectfully. "What I meant was, according to her friend, Ms. Candice was very sick for a few days without anyone's knowledge. It was a luck that she was finally properly taken care of. Considering how important she is, she is an Ardlay, I think this could be avoided in the future."
George said calmly and without emotions.
"Why didn't she call me?" said Albert.
George said, "As far as I know, she didn't have a telephone line in her apartment."
"Well, she could have asked someone else to let me know," said Albert
"She was very sick. She barely could walk, Sir."
"Why didn't her friend tell me?"
"I am sorry, Sir, I don't know." George answered as vaguely as possible.
In fact, George dodged all Albert's questions elegantly ambiguous. After a while, Albert stopped asking. He nodded and dismissed George.
That evening Albert came to visit Candy.
Candy was happy that Albert came for a visit. It's his first visit ever. She thought he came because he missed her. She was about to prepare a drink for him when he said, "Candy, please sit down. Let me do it for you."
Albert let her sit on the sofa and put a piece of blanket to wrap her. He then prepared some hot drink for her.
"Candy, I have been busy. I am sorry that I didn't take care of you as much as I should," said Albert. "How is your cold?"
Albert could hear from her voice and saw from her nose that she was indeed sick like what George had said.
"I am fine," said Candy. "It was bad a few days ago, but now it's almost gone."
"Why didn't you tell me?" asked Albert feeling really guilty that she needed to go through all of that alone.
"I was so sick, I couldn't even walk," she said.
"Then what happened?" asked Albert very worried.
Candy told Albert that Neal accidentally came so he took her to the hospital, took her to Happy Clinic, lent her his car, everything. Albert was surprised to hear about Neal and all he did for her.
"Candy, either you like it or not, you have Ardlay as your last name. You need to live like one," said Albert.
Albert told her about his offer to move her to a better apartment with servants and more. Of course, Candy refused.
He sat next to her and put his arm around her shoulder.
"Candy, I really don't want this to happen again. If there's a servant, someone could always help you when you needed a help. Someone could always tell me if you were sick or needed some help so I could come immediately," said Albert with the gentlest tone.
Candy was really touched by his sincerity. His gentleness made it not possible for her to refuse his offer. Furthermore, she's surprised by Albert's sudden sweet gestures for her. First, he came to visit her, and now he gave her this offer. What happened to him? she thought. Still wrapped up tightly by the blanket Albert gave her, she could not give him a hug but she stared at him and nodded with the sweetest smile. They agreed that when Albert was not on business trip, she'd stay in Lakewood, otherwise she'd stay in the new apartment which Albert would prepare for her.
Albert felt relieved that she accepted his offer. He really cared about her well being. He hugged her, determined not to have what had just happened repeated ever again. Albert kissed her forehead and gave her a warm look.
Candy thought, if it's not because of my cold, would you kiss my lips instead?
For a split second, unexpectedly even to her, the undisguisable loving look on Neal's hazel eyes passed through her brain. What would someone with that look do if he were my man? Would he also be as reserved as Albert in kissing? But she abruptly stopped the thought. Love shouldn't be measured by kisses, she said ashamed to herself. She hurriedly put her head on Albert's shoulder and focused on his company.
Albert cooked for her that night, just like in the good old days. They had so much fun together. Have not cooked for a while, Albert made several awkward gaffes which they couldn't stop laughing about. Then, together they went home to Lakewood.
In the weekend, Albert accompanied Candy to shop for the interior decoration of her new home. They discussed the material, the matching color, the motif and so on together. Of course, they received a high end service fitted for Sir William. The manager treated them as though they're a couple. Candy couldn't be happier. When Albert paid the bill, she looked at her man imagining he were her husband and they shopped for the new home together. She laughed quietly. But, as soon as she finished thinking about Albert, again the thought of Neal came to her. Uncontrollably, his image had been lingering nonstop in her mind. The look of his loving eyes as Dr. Martin had witnessed was carved profoundly in her brain. It's carved deeper each time they met and it became harder to ignore. No one else looked at her with such an intense power of love, including her prince. She shook her head and tried to forget it. She felt so guilty to even think about Neal, she hurriedly walked to stand next to her man, Albert.
Ch.6 is just a prelude to the next chapter. I wish I could combine them, but it'd be too long if I do. Ch. 7 will cover what in Albert's mind.
8. Uncle vs. Nephew
Albert's engagement news hadn't traveled to America. But in the UK, the news of his engagement with Christine, photos of both of them together kissing, holding hands, and other gossips started to hit the newsstand. Neal wondered if Albert had told Candy that he's engaged. He sympathized on how alone and lonely Candy must feel if she found out that Albert was taken. Suddenly he got an idea. He could accompany her through letters! Ever since that day, he actively wrote her long letters.
The first time Candy got his letter in the mailbox, she thought it was from Albert. She giggled when she saw it's from Neal. He wrote me as he promised he would! She was surprised to find that Neal was such a prolific writer. His letter was long, pages of pages of stories with a neat small handwriting. At first she's reluctant to read such a long writing, but the more she read it the more she found that it was entertaining. It's much better than short stories in the magazine. She excitedly replied to him too to make comments. On the contrary, to her disappointment, Albert's letter never came.
Neal was beyond ecstatic when he received Candy's letter. He read it dozens of times and stored it in his drawer so he could look at it as many times as he wanted to. In her letter, Candy mentioned about her new apartment. Neal was very happy that his plan worked. He was so grateful to George. He's undoubtedly a worthy right hand man of Sir William.
After a while the two were actively writing letters to one another. Everyday, whenever there's something worth telling, Candy would make a note so she could remember to mention it when replying to Neal's mail. Her letters to him became like her diary. She shared stories, excitements, frustrations and all her feelings in there. Never be an enthusiast writer, her letters were not as long as his, but what important was she replied. Gradually, whenever she had something worth sharing, she thought about Neal first than Albert. Without she realized it, he became part of her life. She greatly anticipated his mail that came a few times a week. Neal also had his staff who visited Chicago deliver his letters personally to Candy. She's so grateful of that thoughtful gesture. Everyday, it became a routine for her to wait for his mail. She'd be overjoyed if she received one and felt disappointed if she didn't.
After exchanging many friendly letters with Candy, Neal's heart which had been full with love for her was soon overflowing with love. In every girl he dated, it's Candy's face who he saw. He wanted so much to write her and tell her how much he loved her, especially now that he knew Albert was taken. But, on a second thought what if it made her hate him again and started over the whole cycle which he just successfully managed to break away. He didn't want to be her enemy again. He'd rather die than having her look at him with that much hatred again. Rather than having all these awful prospects and not have her at all in his life, he'd prefer to be just her loyal friend. With determination, he made a resolution to be Candy's most loyal friend and the best brother ever for her, just like what Stear said about Candy, "To see her from the far and don't get too close*."
There will be no romance between us ever, Neal repeatedly convincing himself.
Just a few days before Neal came back to America, he received a letter from Candy trough one staff who came to London.
"…Eliza told me that Albert is engaged, is that true? You are in London too. Did you hear anything about it? Could you try to find out before you come back?�"
Neal sank to his chair. He couldn't believe his sister. What's the use of doing this to Candy, or perhaps, is it for the better? It angered him that Albert didn't resolve the matter with Candy yet. Knowing that Candy was worried, he decided to confront Albert.
I am her friend not for nothing. I'll make uncle William talk and explain the situation to Candy, Neal thought.
Without wasting anymore time, Neal hurriedly went to Albert's office. Albert was surprised that Neal came to meet him. They never talked since that fatal engagement party.
"Congratulations on your engagement, Uncle William," said Neal cynically.
Albert was surprised. "How did you know?"
"News traveled faster than you think especially when it involved high profile socialite couple," said Neal coolly. "Imagine if Candy read about your engagement from the tabloid before hearing it directly from you first."
"I never had done anything with her and it's none of your business," said Albert. He coldly stared at his nephew whose height now was about the same as his. He didn't like Neal to interfere with his personal matter.
"Now that you get a new pot, obviously you forgot the old one," said Neal.
"I think I told you not to go near her and yet you still stick to her like mud." Albert was referring to that infamous engagement party. "What makes you think that you are qualified to give me advice?"
"At least I have more conscience than you," he answered, aggravated by Albert's meddling over that engagement party again. The delicate topic remained to be the touchiest subject to him even until now.
The answer angered Albert. They started to argue louder and louder. They hit table, banged chair, threw books or anything they could grab within their reach. The noise reached George's ear who went to Albert's office for something. He knocked at the door but no one answered. Just to make sure his boss was fine, he opened the door slightly to take a peek. He was surprised to see chairs, books, papers falling on the floor. To his great horror, at this time, he saw Albert grabbed Neal's collar with a very angry face and one hand in a fist position ready to hit him. George couldn't believe what he witnessed was actually happening in Sir William's office.
"You are a dead man," said Albert to Neal with a very angry voice.
"Maybe, but you still get to tell her," Neal responded back to Albert, undeterred. He calmly gave Albert a grin.
Albert was about to swing his arm to hit Neal. But since his position was facing the door, he saw the door swung open when George entered the room. Georges' sudden presence distracted him. Neal used the opportunity to punch Albert and free himself. Albert fell with a bloody nose.
Albert got up and ready to face Neal again. With fiery eyes, he approached Neal so much eager to hit him back. Neal stood unmoved. He waited for Albert to come to start another round of fight. But this time, George fully determined not to let the two young men continue fighting. He hurriedly ran in front of Albert and stood in between him and Neal whose distance got closer by the seconds.
"Sir William, Master Neal, please! Someone might get seriously hurt," George shouted much in panicked. He tried very hard to block Albert from moving closer to Neal.
Neal who had successfully scored one point over Albert decided not to continue.
"That's for Candy," Neal said in rage.
Seeing blood dripping from his nose, Neal threw his handkerchief to Albert and said, "Uncle William, I am sorry." He walked away.
Before leaving the room, Neal fixed his tie, suit and hair briefly so not to make a scene to Sir William's entire business personnel outside.
"I shouldn't come to distract you just now. I am sorry, Sir," said George horrified seeing blood dripping from his nose. Seeing Albert stayed unmoved, George picked up Neal's handkerchief and put it on Albert's nose.
"That's okay, George, I am fine," said Albert. He tried hard to cool down very irritated that he didn't have a chance to hit Neal back.
Using a low voice almost like talking to himself, Albert added, "What he said probably was right, it's time to discuss this with Candy."
"Sir William, I need to remind you that your travel back to America is arranged for tonight."
"That soon? You go first George, I go in a few days." He dismissed George. "I really need some moment to think quietly. Tell everyone that I don't want to be disturbed."
George nodded and left. As soon as he was outside, he took a deep breadth. He thought, "After all that's happening, Master Neal indeed cares for Ms. Candice." He shook his head.
That night, Christine saw Albert's swollen cheek. "Are you alright? What happened to your cheek?"
Albert told her what happened.
"Christine, if it's okay with you, I need to go to America. I think I owe Candy some explanation in person."
"You haven't told her, have you?" asked Christine.
"No, I haven't told her," said Albert. He sighed. "It's complicated. If I told her, I'm afraid it'd ruin our relationship. It's like I break up with her. It's like I leave her and she becomes the second best while actually we never dated. Our friendship is deeper than what others except us can understand. But on the other hand, it's true, she needs to know that I have you. And she'd better hear that from me."
"She seems to be a nice girl. Do your job well."
"Thank you for your understanding. I love you," Albert hugged her. "You could come with me to America, too."
"I'll go with you next time after you clear your problem with her," Christine replied. "By the way, who is Neal?" she asked curiously.
Albert told her about him and his past history with Candy.
"You and your family are fascinating, Albert," said Christine in awe. She thought Albert having a brawl with his nephew was interesting, but now she heard an even more incredible story. "Do you think Neal still likes her? See what he did to your cheek for her sake!"
"You know what, let me tell you this, tell me what you think of it..." said Albert gleefully and told her more things about them. Seeing how amused Christine was with the story, he started to forget his anger. In fact, he started to see it from a different perspective that he had never thought before.
* Taken from manga ch. 4.
Next Chapter: George's Reverse Action. We'll meet Candy here.
9. George's Reverse Action
In Chicago, Candy was very curious about Albert's status. She got very impatient and called Neal in London, but he had left for America. Candy then called Albert, but he also had left for the USA. Candy called Albert's secretary in Chicago daily asking if Albert was back. One day, she found out that George was back.
The moment she heard that George was back, she came to his office right away.
"George is it true that Albert is engaged?" Candy asked very much anticipating to hear the answer from a trustworthy source.
George really regretted being the one who needed to answer Candy's question about this matter. It's too bad she needed to hear the truth from him instead of directly from the man himself.
"Ms. Candy, he met her long before he had amnesia. He didn't remember that until just recently," said George trying to answer her question indirectly to minimize the blow of the brutal truth.
"So it's true. He's engaged!" said Candy in total shocked. "Why didn't he tell me?" she whispered in disbelief.
Candy didn't believe that her dear Albert would have done such a thing to her. She started to cry no matter how hard she tried not to. She fell to George's arms and cried harder and harder. With full of respect, George hugged her. He felt he was having a deja vu. He remembered the same exact scene when she hugged him and cried as she was forced to get engaged to Neal. He felt guilty to make Candy meet Sir William in Lakewood which resulted in the engagement cancellation. Probably he should have just let her be engaged to Neal instead who seemed to genuinely love her.
"I was very happy when he finally visited me in my apartment," she said between her sobs.
George suddenly got an idea. Perhaps he could try to undo his past action.
He cleared his throat and said using his most professional tone, "Ms. Candice, maybe you should reconsider the man who made Sir William visit you in your apartment. He seemed to really care about you."
"The one who made Albert come to my apartment? What do you mean? Who was he?"
"It's Master Neal," said George without showing any emotion from his face. "He is the one who asked me to tell Sir William to visit you in your apartment when you're sick and to move you to the new apartment."
"Neal?" asked Candy surprised.
"Yes, Ms. Candice, but he asked me not to tell Sir William about his plan. I never mentioned that to you either."
Unexpected to her, this news made her happy and wiped out all the sadness instantly. She hugged George one more time and said, "Thank you, George, as always."
"Ms. Candice, do you want me to take you home?"
"No need George, I have a private driver now." She hugged him and left with a joy in her heart. "Thank you."
Neal had proved again and again how much he cared for her. What George just told her confirmed Neal's never ending care for her even more. All this time, it had been him who genuinely cared for her. Thus far, due to her love and loyalty to Albert, her heart seemed to be blocked by a dam which prevented it from reaching freely to Neal without feeling guilty. Now that Albert was not available, she felt the dam had been destroyed and she could freely think about Neal. She felt rather relieved that Albert was taken so she could move on. No matter how much she loved Albert and how sweet he's to her, she always felt there's a thin transparent sheet which created gap between them.
Suddenly, Candy missed Neal's loving look, his soft hand, his grin, everything about him. As soon as she arrived at home, she hurriedly looked for the thick grant proposal he wrote for her sake. She felt so touched by it and tears started to fall on her cheeks. She then looked at the thick stack of his letters which had been her most joyful and loyal companies these past months. She hugged his letters and cried hard thinking about him.
After cooling down, Candy started to think more rationally about Neal. Is he still available? She wondered if he loved her romantically or he just wanted to be her caring friend. He was nice to Laura and other girls, too (-). True, he proposed to her, but that was in the past.
Suddenly his past bad boy image appeared in her brain. His irrationally annoying characters came back to her. He even proposed to me without asking for my permission first! But unlike in the past, she smiled at those. Who would have thought behind those illogical behaviors he actually genuinely cared for me?
Suddenly she got an idea.
There's one way to find out about his real intention. Candy grinned. I will use the same blunt approach he did to me. But first, I need to meet him. She chuckled thinking about her plan.
A few days later, Candy's servant announced, "Mr. Leagan is here, Ms. Candice."
She hurriedly ran to meet Neal. He just came back from London and the first thing he did was to visit her.
"Hi Candy," said Neal very happy to see the love of his life looked healthy and glowing. He stood straight courteously although deep inside he really wanted to run and hug her. If only he could have her in his arms, if only he could kiss her irresistible red lips, if only he could tell her how much he loved her, he would be the happiest man in the entire universe.
But no, I am her brother and her loyal friend, let's get that intention straight. There will be no romance between us, ever! He said to himself.
To his surprise as soon as he finished his thought, Candy did something she never did before. She ran to him and hugged him tightly. In that split of a second, he wondered how to react. Sure he wanted to hug her tightly in his arms, but would she allow him to do that? The last time he did that, she was very angry and pushed him to fall. The last thing he wanted to was back being her enemy again.
So, he returned her hug lightly and gallantly.
Then, to his even more surprise, Candy said, "I miss you."
What? He almost uttered that out loud. He wanted to say that to her too one hundred times. But if he did, would she slap him again like in the past? He's so worried to be back being her enemy again. But being silence was not good either.
After some consideration, he replied back awkwardly, "I miss you too," very softly, barely could be heard.
To his relieved, Candy finally released her hug. She looked into his eyes briefly and finally gave him the biggest surprise of all. In one poignant moment, she pulled his neck and gave him a deep passionate kiss in his lips. This was too much for him. He pushed her lightly and asked flabbergasted, "What happens?"
"I love you," Candy said. Something that she hadn't been able to give to Albert in years, she could give it to Neal just like that. In contrast to Albert, she's not afraid at all to declare her love to Neal. His unceasing loving look and caring behaviors broke all personal barriers she had from him. They gave her silence assurance and confidence that he wouldn't disappoint her. There's no better way to express it than to do it bluntly like he used to do in the past. Back then, out of the blue he used to hug her, want to kiss her, and say he liked her which both scared and annoyed her at the same time.
His jaw dropped and he looked at her with eyes wide opened wondering if she got a wrong person.
Ignoring his push, Candy pulled him back. She hugged him even tighter this time as if she's afraid to lose him. Without feeling a slight awkwardness, she freely told him what she had in mind.
"Yes. I love you, Neal. Am I too late? Have you been taken by someone else?" She hugged him still even tighter. "It took me all this time before finally I realized that it's you who genuinely care about me. Do you still love me like the day you proposed to me?"
After a moment of silence where he convinced himself that this was real, he pushed her again very gently so he could look at her face. He looked into her eyes to convince himself one more time that this was real.
He replied, "Are you kidding me? Of course I love you and I will always love you for the rest of my life."
"Are you still available?"
"Of course, I am always available for you until the end of time." He grinned.
"What if by the time I told you, you already had a girlfriend?" Candy asked.
"Then I'd break up with her," he said tenderly
"What if by the time I told you, you already got engaged to someone else?"
"Then I would cancel my engagement with her," he said even more tenderly with softer look in his eyes.
Candy was happy to hear that. "What if you already got married to someone else?" with flirty look and playful voice.
"Then I'd divorce her because more likely I'd marry her due to obligation. While the only woman that I'm really, truly, deeply in love with and want to be with for the rest of my life is you," he said very very tenderly with the softest look in his eyes. Her playfulness made him so infatuated with love.
"Do really you mean it?"said Candy, happy to hear his answers. "I love you, Neal. I really love you."
"Of course I mean it. I do anything for you!" he replied. "I love you, Candy, so much,"
This time, he couldn't resist it anymore. So much for his original intention to be Candy's brother, he kissed her deeply and gave her the warmest embrace. His heart felt very happy to finally hear that loving sentence from Candy. He was ready to act one step further had not the servant come to announce.
"Sir William is here, Ms. Candice."
He stopped kissing her and started to release her slowly. "Should I go?" he asked.
"Why? Don't you want to ask his blessing to propose to me? He's my father, you know!" said Candy.
He was so closed to shout propose to you? But he quickly regained his composure and asked her seriously, "Are you really serious about this?"
"Absolutely, are you going to back off now?"
"Not for the world!" he replied back. "Let me meet him now, I'll show you how serious I am. I'll tell him about us before you change your mind," he said with a big grin. He couldn't be happier with her answer.
Before Candy ran to greet Albert, Neal took one more opportunity to have a moment with Candy which was cut abruptly just now. He held both of her cheeks with his hands so she couldn't leave.
"I love you, Candy," Neal said movingly. His eyes looked deeply into hers with so much affection. "I love you, I love you, I love you," he said repeatedly. It's like a dream that finally he could tell her these words freely without fear.
"Thank you. You make me the happiest man. I promise you that I will work harder than anyone else to make you happy*," said Neal.
Candy was so touched by his assurance. Her eyes were swelling with tears of happiness. Neal gave her another deep kiss in her lips until he heard Albert's footstep coming approaching the living room. Then, reluctantly he let her go.
As soon as Albert arrived, Candy welcomed him and went straight to his arms to hug him. After this hug, she'd be ready to let him go and treat him nothing but the best of friends. Albert was thinking about the same thing so both were hugging emotionally for sometimes. Then, Candy started to notice something on his cheek.
"What happened to your cheek?" she asked
"It's not important. Got hit by something," Albert answered with eyes looking at Neal's. He's already here and faster than me, thought Albert.
"Neal has something to say to you," said Candy with the sweetest smile.
"Uncle William," said Neal nodded politely. He started to be nervous if Albert was still angry to him and would give him a hard time to propose. "I love your daughter, Candy. I wonder if I could get your blessing to marry her."
To his relieved, Albert came to hug both of them with a friendly smile.
"Of course. Congratulations, I am very happy for both of you," said Albert. Christine was right, thought Albert giggling in his heart.
He then looked at Neal and said, "Call me Albert."
Albert was relieved that he jut got a narrow escape. Now that Candy was with Neal, he didn't need to explain Christine's problem to candy. His relationship with Candy had better be left open the way it was and undisturbed. He genuinely regarded Candy as the most important person to him with no romantic attachments. He loved her dearly and never forgot how much she had done to him during the darkest time in his life. But, more importantly, he's happy that Candy got the man who really cared and loved her. He's been thinking about Neal's caring behavior to Candy and couldn't be happier for her.
-0 -0 -0
Soon, Candy and Neal came to visit Annie and Archie to tell them about their engagement. Annie and Archie were surprised to see the two held hands together. They almost gasped in astonishment when they told them that they're engaged.
"Neal?" asked Annie when she was alone with Candy.
Candy told her the story. At some point Candy was so overcome by emotion that she cried happy tears. Annie hugged her and cried with her. Annie and Archie watched in amazement how Neal picked up Candy that day.
He approached her and said, "Are you ready to go home, Honey?" He kissed her lips.
"Sure, Sweetheart," replied Candy tenderly.
The scene looked paradoxical. The genuine mutual love emanated from their eyes was unmistakable, however. They felt very happy for the new couple. For a moment, Archie felt rather jealous. He couldn't believe that it's Neal who finally won Candy. He wondered if he should have fought to win Candy's love instead of to just surrender to Annie.
Stear, you wouldn't believe this, thought Archie. How much he wished his brother was around for him to share the news.
A few weeks later, Neal and Candy had their successful engagement party. In one beautiful warm summer day, less than a year after their engagement party, they celebrated their wedding. George was their guest of honor. Their relationship with Albert and Christine couldn't be closer. The two families became the best and closest of friends.
Neal brought the Leagan enterprise to the new height of success. He and Candy planned to do more for the greater good and founded The Neal and Candy Leagan Foundation. On the inauguration day...
"Mrs. Leagan, the driver will be here in five minutes."
Candy nodded. She went to look for her husband.
"Dear, are you ready for your speech?" asked Candy.
"I just finished the final proofread," Neal replied. "What about your speech?"
"I am all ready," answered Candy looking at her husband. She sighed.
"Every time I see you giving a speech, I can't help to think about that one speech that I missed. You must have looked so handsome when you gave the defense speech for Happy Clinic renovation grant proposal." (+)
"Handsome? Maybe. I had no gray hair back then. But, that's a kid's speech, this is the real heavy weight speech," said Neal pointing to his speech draft with a grin. "Trust me, you didn't miss a thing."
"I love your gray hair," said Candy kissing his brown hair which now mixed with gray hair. "I meant to say, your experience was very limited back then and yet you were willing to do such an immense task for me. I never can stop admiring the effort you made for me."
"I do anything for my love to you, Candy," said Neal calmly. "I mean it."
He kissed her.
"Actually, after that speech, I became used to write and give speeches. It was a worth spent summer internship," said Neal. "And, I won your friendship."
They laughed. He folded his speech draft and put it in his pocket.
"I want to thank you for including me in the foundation name," said Candy.
"No, Honey. Please, don't say that. That's just the least I can do to express my gratitude to you," said Neal. He looked at her earnestly and said with a serious tone, "I am the one who should thank you. Without your love and support I won't be able to do all these."
He hugged her. He was about to give her kisses but the servant knocked the door saying the driver was ready.
"Well, we should continue the kissing tonight," he said with a grin. "Besides I don't think I should ruin your make up." He gave his arm to her.
"Have the children left?" he asked as they walked.
"They all have. They are welcoming the guests especially our parents, Albert and Christine, Eliza and Pete, ..."
They were very happy to have each other and very much anticipated to do meaningful work trough the foundation.
What do you think of the story?
From my little corner here, I'd like to thank all the readers for reading this story. It's been a pleasant journey.
Special thanks as always to the reviewers. I love to read what you write enormously.
* Neal kind of implying this in the manga ch. 9 when he kidnapped Candy. (But of course with that kind of behavior, who wants to listen :) I reword it here to emphasize his intention stronger and to fit it better with the dialogue.
- Laura: The woman who Neal took to the ball (in chapter 4).
+ Neal's Happy Clinic grant proposal defense speech and all his effort are covered in chapter 3 (Summer Internship) in great details. (Probably in too much details, I got too carried away when writing it :)
Back to Candy page