Neal, once a-good-for-nothing spoiled boy, recreated himself purely to prove Candy he's a worthy man. He transformed so much that he became an amazingly impressive man. Will Candy accept his apology? Can Albert accept him at work?Chapter 1: Candy and Albert
I really enjoy writing this. I hope you like reading it too. Please kindly leave me a review no matter how brief, kind, or harsh it might have. Please also excuse my poor grammar. Thank you.
- Story starts here -
This story starts when Candy found that Albert was the Prince of the Hill...
Candy ran to Albert's arms and both of them hugged very tightly. Candy asked excitedly, "Since when did you know it?"
Happy on her welcoming reaction Albert felt very relieved and responded, "When I picked you up the night you were running away from Neal, I saw the pendant which I lost years ago. Then, I remembered I lost it the day I went to Pony Hill playing bag pipe and met a crying little girl on the hill. I started to think about the connection and surprise surprise... I realized that your Prince of the Hill was me." He was so relieved that finally he could unload this secret from his heart.
Candy couldn't help to stare and examine Albert's complexion. She compared Albert's blue eyes, blonde hair, genuine smile, caring voice to the prince's. Indeed, the handsome cute little prince had transformed to a very handsome man. She then suddenly realized that Albert was staring at her too. She felt so shy and abruptly stopped looking and blushed.
At this moment George appeared. "Sir William, we have a meeting to attend."
"I know George, I'll be right there," said Albert. Then he turned towards Candy, "Well, I need to go. I'll write you letters, ok? Have fun partying with your friends please give my regards to your mothers."
Candy was disappointed that Albert decided to leave immediately. But, she had no other choice rather than to wave good bye to him. She was upset that he didn't even give her one minute to hear her side of the story. She really liked Albert and was about to tell him that but then George came. She was very annoyed that George appeared at that crucial time. Now he's gone. She didn't know when she could see him again. She cried at that thought. Why it's so hard to have some time with him, she thought. Left with no other choice, she walked back to the Pony's home to meet others.
She and Albert exchanged letters often. Whenever Candy received Albert's letters she's very happy and eagerly responded to him. But, after a while letters got shorter and became rarer and rarer. Time drifted them both apart. Luckily, Candy was a busy professional woman. She went back to school to get a degree in health care program. She also worked in the hospital as an executive of the new hospital Albert built for Dr. Martin. After a while she got used to live without Albert. She'd be a strong woman as she promised herself long ago (1). She also had several dates that came and went. The most serious one was Dr. Kay. Dr Kay was an associate doctor who participated in exchange program with the USA from Germany. Candy and him was in love, mutually. But, unfortunately he needed to go back to Germany something that Candy wasn't ready to do. She's happy living in the USA. Not to mention that she couldn't speak the language.
Albert genuinely liked Candy. But being just introduced as William he was at the height of his career where he needed to do many business trips. He needed to visit many Ardlay places, associates, centers and other engagement around the country and around the world. Time drifted the two apart. After a while what remained was an affection they had for one another like a brother to a sister or a step father to a daughter. Albert did take care of Candy with a living standard appropriate for an Ardlay. He moved her to a more appropriate house with servants, car, allowance, and more. Candy initially refused but he kindly explained to her as an Ardlay she should live like one. After a while she finally accepted it. He also helped to put Pony's home under Ardlay foundation. The house got remodeled and hired more workers to help Ms. Pony and Sr. Lane. As a gratitude to Dr. Martin who helped him generously when he was penniless he also had the foundation built a more decent hospital for him to serve the poor and the rich alike. Candy was an executive in this hospital. In the public eye, Candy was well known as a professional woman and a respected daughter of Sir William Ardlay. She had mastered all manners and etiquette rules with the help from aunt Elroy.
Mm. Elroy was very concerned that Albert was still unmarried. She busied herself to look for a wife for Albert. All candidates were found to be unsuccessful since he felt he couldn't like someone by just meeting her over a dinner or one round of dance. So despite all her efforts, Albert still had no steady girlfriend.
One night, Albert toured around his newly founded Ardlay Chicago technology center by himself. He expected the office should be empty. But, he found one scientist was still at work.
"Sir William," she stood up politely as she recognized the boss came.
"How are you doing, Ms�"
"Melinda, do you mind if I look around?" asked Albert.
"Please," she said and she helped to show him around.
"How come you're still here at late hour?," inquired Albert.
"Night is the best time to work, Sir. It's quiet," she replied calmly.
It started that way. The more Albert met Melinda, the more Albert liked her. The discussion got longer and they started to have dinner together. Before long he started to fall in love with her. He proposed to her. Aunt Elroy was delighted and received the request at no opposition at all.
- TO be continued -
1. Taken from manga. One scene Candy was wondering what if Albert left her. But, she told herself she'd be strong regardless.
Albert had proved to be a worthy descendant of the Ardlay. He worked very hard to bring the enterprise to the new height. Albert was trying to expand the business to technology sectors in the NY office.
Neal happened to study in New York University (NYU) where he worked and studied at the same time. After graduation, he worked full time in the Ardlay enterprise in that NY office. At that time, the office was just a small office branch that just started. He entered the company at a modest entry level position as an intern but as the office grew, his position rose steadily and rapidly too over time. After a while, seeing how attractive Manhattan was, Albert planned to transfer most of other Chicago operations to east coast too, headquartered in the NY office. Recently, accepting the proposal of the board of directors, Albert promoted Neal as the head of the NY office. Albert was very happy with his performance. One day, Albert visited the NY headquarter and welcomed by its chief executive officer, his nephew, Neal.
"Welcome, Sir William," Neal said politely, offering a handshake.
"Hi, Neal," said Albert cordially returning his handshake. Because of their friction in the past, Neal remained calling him Sir or Uncle William instead of Albert. But other than that, Albert remained objective in reviewing his job performance. Neal took Albert around to show the NY office. Seeing how he conducted the business operations made Albert very impressed by his nephew.
He changed a lot, thought Albert (1).
Albert asked him to go to Chicago office to handle some transferring procedure which Neal acknowledged. He also invited him to come to his engagement party with Melinda. Neal was shocked.
Neal thought, Melinda? Candy was the first name that appeared on his mind, to his surprise Albert mentioned Melinda.
Neal graciously offered him a congratulation and silently wondered how Candy was. Since his relationship with Albert was not that closed and limited to only business relations, he hesitated to ask Albert. Albert understood his silence, but didn't elaborate, thinking he'd soon find out when visiting Chicago next month.
Neal took him to the train station to see him off when he offered Sir William another polite handshake. Albert disregarded it, instead he hugged him warmly like he did to Archie and told him to call him Albert instead. Neal understood the gesture. The past remained in the past, Albert forgave him. They hugged and said goodbye with friendly smiles.
While in NY, Albert also took the opportunity to visit Terry.
"I'd like to invite you to my engagement party," said Albert with a big smile.
"Congratulations, my friend," said Terry. "With whom?" he asked expecting Albert to mention Candy so he was surprised when it was not. Naturally, his next question was, "How's Candy?"
Albert understood what he meant. He answered, "As you know she saved my life. We lived together for a long time but at that time things were very hectic. Being just announced as Sir William, I needed to go to business trip so often. We didn't spend much time together. We got drifted apart. But now I think about it, I think I really never thought about her more than a sister or a daughter. She's still my daughter as of now."
Albert smiled and added, "She's still available, you know."
Terry reflected the past. Candy was his first love and always remained special for him.
Then Terry told Albert his story. "After she left, I went back to Susanna and married her. But, then we got separated. I dated others, she did too. But we still cared to one another deeply and ever since we decided to have an open relationship. I don't know, I think our lifestyle won't suit her, Albert," said Terry.
Terry also mentioned that he and Susanna would move to California since he started going to Hollywood. Before Albert left, Terry promised to go to his engagement party.
- TO be continued -
1. In the manga, Neal was a spoiled boy. He did nothing good and caused so much trouble to Candy so Albert didn't like him.
Finally, Albert engagement party with Melinda arrived. It was a big gathering. Top business people and politicians throughout the country came to the party. It was the grandest engagement party Candy ever saw. Although inside her heart she felt uncomfortable, she's a strong woman. She non stopped giving a big smile and behaved as though she's enjoying the party with the rest of the crowd.
Candy also met Terry who came again with another date. She's been following his life in the tabloid and felt lucky she didn't marry him.
I don't think I can catch up with his lifestyle, she thought.
At the start of dancing, Albert and Melinda started the dancing followed by other couples. Annie and Archie, Tom and Patty, Terry and his date,... Having no one to dance with, Candy stayed sitting. How much she hoped the floor would open for her to hide. She felt so miserable. While sitting alone, her thought started to wander.
I have so many close male friends but no one really wanted to make commitment with me. Terry ran away from me, also Albert, Thomas, Dr. Kay and more. I wonder what I did wrong� I can't believe even Albert is gone now.
In the middle of her misery someone came and approached her.
"Candy, how do you do?" she heard a man voice calling behind her. Candy felt very lucky finally someone initiated a talk to her, quickly she turned around to see who's coming. Looking at him, she couldn't recognize him.
"You don't remember me, do you?" asked him with a big grin on his face.
Candy felt so embarrassed but she really couldn't recognize the person. She tried hard to think quickly but she just couldn't remember.
"I am so sorry... Did we meet?" Candy asked panicked and blushed with embarrassment.
"Guess who I am," he said and took off his glasses. But, she still couldn't guess.
"I am Neal. I wear glasses now, but do I look that different?" the tall young man started to laugh heartily.
"Neal?" uttered Candy. Was that Neal Regan, she thought to herself, but it couldn't be how come he looked so different. She stared at him for awhile to examine and brought back the memory. After a while Neal laughed again which startled Candy, blushed, she stopped looking at him.
"I am Neal Regan. Ms. Candy, how do you do?" he said and bent to kiss her hand.
"Oh... I mean... Haha... I couldn't recognize you at all. It's been so long, my gosh, you look so very different now. How are you doing?" she said while examining the tall young man in front of her from head to toe.
"It has been a long time! It has! May I join you?" he said gallantly.
"Oh of course, please sit down," she said and talked to herself, My Goodness he looks so different.
"It's been what? Seven years?" Neal started the conversation.
"Seven to eight years, yes," said Candy. "Where have you been?"
Candy was a mature woman with a positive attitude. Although in the past she's so allergic to him, but time smoothed away the rough edges. It was such a surprise to meet an old face in a depressing party. So, forgetting how much she hated him in the past, it's still fun to meet an old acquaintance. She decided to talk to him rather than to send him away.
"I went to join the army for one year," said Neal with a meaningful look (1) which Candy understood but didn't feel like discussing it. "Then, I went to business graduate school in NYU. After that, I worked. I never came home for summer vacation since I always did summer internship in NY. This time I come home to attend Albert's party and to finish up some job in Chicago. I come home every year for thanksgiving holiday but not always come to the one hosted by Albert. So I guess that's why we never met. What about you?"
"I went back to school and work in Anthony Brown hospital in Chicago. I always stay here in Chicago, but again for Christmas and Thanksgiving I don't always go to the one Albert invited because sometimes I went to friends dinner party, Pony's home or other places. So I guess we always missed one another."
After chatting for a while, Candy started to enjoy her conversation with Neal. Candy started to be excited to meet an "old friend" that she had forgotten totally. In these seven years, she couldn't recall a single time when she thought about him. They kept chatting for a while until Eliza came to pick him up. She came with a young man. Candy too didn't recognize Eliza. After being introduced by Neal both of them hugged as though they're old friends. Eliza continued studying fashion designer in Paris and had been in California doing her fashion designer business. Her clients include Hollywood actresses. Their conversation was cut short since they needed to toast the new couple, took photos, and other social things. Aunt Elroy was beaming with joy throughout the party. Candy never saw her that happy before.
Before Neal went home, he said good bye and asked for Candy's phone number to keep in touch. He'd be in Chicago for a few months due to Ardlay work commitment. He asked Candy if he could come to visit her once in a while.
"Oh certainly," said Candy casually didn't really think that he's serious. So many people asked for my phone numbers but never called, she thought. It's just a routine. Besides she was really excited to see Neal. Without him, being in Albert's engagement party would be such a misery. But now she felt very happy and excited.
At home, Candy was still in shocked and continued thinking about Neal. How much he had changed, she thought. He definitely grew much taller than in the past. His face also became more like a mature man not a teenager anymore. The way he talked also changed. Although he joked a lot, he had a serious air with him. His hair became more brownish than in the past. His eyes were brown as she remembered it. She laughed and shook her head in disbelief. She couldn't believe she would have a good time chatting with him. She remembered the past time when Neal and Eliza gave her hard times. Then, he even tried to marry her, something that, thanked to Albert's interference, got canceled. Who would have thought that I'd meet him again. It's been seven plus years. Things do change. She laughed to herself.
Little did Candy know that Neal was also thrilled to meet Candy again. During the party, he had been following Candy with his eyes to find the right moment to talk to her. Because of his bad history in the past, he was very anxious that she would refuse to talk to him. To his relieved, Candy didn't send him away and chatted with him until the party was over.
In the car, Eliza teased him saying, "Are you gonna start to hit on her again, bro?"
Neil only responded with a grin.
On Monday, things went on as usual. Candy went back to work and did the same routine, also the following day and on. Candy already didn't think much of Neal, if at all. On Thursday when Candy was in the office, the phone rang. She answered as usual and found out it was Neal! He does call me as he said, she thought. Things really went much smoother with old childhood acquaintance. So, Candy answered the phone and talked freely as though they had been "good" friends for years. They made an agreement to meet on Friday night after work outside the hospital.
So on Friday night, Candy waited outside the hospital. She heard the sound of a car horn "beep beep" and heard Neal called her name from his car just like in the old days. Candy laughed to herself remembering the event that happened years ago. At that time, Candy was so mad at him and refused to go inside the car (2). Today, she entered his car and went with him to have a dinner. Feeling closed like old friends, they talked about anything: daily routine, favorite food, going shopping, cooking, politics, works, etc. The talk kept going and going and going for hours until way past midnight. What just started as a Friday dinner appointment became a weekly routine that also included Saturday. It's like that for weeks. Sometimes, they did casual things like took a walk in the park, went shopping, did errand, or what not. After a while, Candy started to like her new routine. When he left on Saturday, usually Candy felt very sad and started to count down the days until Thursday when he called again. It started to be fun to go out with Neal.
The more Candy thought about Neal, the more she realized that the current Neal was very different from the past. Sure he wore glasses now, but overall his attitude changed too. He's not a spoiled teenager like in the past, he's more mature. Probably because he joint the military for one year which helped to build his character, Candy thought giggled to herself. In addition, to the opposite of young Neal, the current Neal was such a courteous gentleman. Candy started to laugh at herself when she thought that his face was actually handsome. Oh... it's in the blood, she thought. Almost all the Ardlay related men were good looking, she chuckled at the thought. Maybe that's why I haven't been too interested to date other man? My history of dates included handsome Hollywood actor and gorgeous Ardlay men, Candy laughed very hard at the thought by herself. He's much taller too, not as tall as Albert but still considered tall. He told her stories about his education and work. But the one Candy liked the most was the story when he joint the military.
"It was very tough," he said. "The first few weeks, I felt hurt everywhere that I couldn't walk nor sleep at night."
The way he told the story was very funny. They both laughed until tears rolled down from Candy's cheeks. She thought Neal was very funny. She never knew this side of him because in the past they didn't really interact in a friendly way. But, although he liked to joke, he could be serious too. She noticed when he gave instructions to his staff who sometimes interrupted their conversation. They all respected him a lot and he indeed had a boss-air in him. But to Candy, he behaved like any other old friends: fun. Good that he's here, Candy sighed, otherwise my weekend would go pretty boring.
This Friday they again went out for dinner. But, realizing that she had not visited Pony's home for a while, Candy felt rather guilty and she decided to go there this weekend.
"Should we go out again tomorrow?," he asked at dinner.
"I have things to do," said Candy.
She felt bad to reject his offer. She really wanted to go out with him but she felt she had an obligation to go home. He looked at her as though to inquire what it was, but Candy didn't say anything so he didn't ask.
"Oh okay," that's all he said politely.
She couldn't believe how courteous he was and started to laugh and said, "I need to go to Pony's home. Since you came here, I haven't visited my mothers, you know."
"Ah... You never told me about this. It's the orphanage where you came from, isn't it?" he asked.
Candy just realized that she never told him anything about it. She remembered how Albert and Terry both knew the place pretty well. But to Neal she never mentioned about it. Probably because in the past he used to mock her to death whenever Pony's home topic was brought up.
"Yes, I never told you, didn't I? My mothers are the ones who adopted me when I was found as a baby. Ms. Pony and Sr Lane," explained Candy.
"What will you do there?" he asked with a serious tone.
Candy was amazed that he didn't ridicule her. What a change in attitude! Candy explained that almost every week she went home to visit them since they were like parents to her. In the past she helped her to work, but not anymore since Albert through the Ardlay foundation helped to finance their causes. With the funding they could hire additional helpers among other things. But she still went home regardless to visit them and to see how they're doing.
"Could I go?" he asked cordially.
Candy almost fell from her chair startled with the request and the respectful manner that's so un-Neal-of-the-past. In addition it hit her that actually only the ones closest to her ever came to Pony's home with her: Dr. Kay, Albert, and Terry. How things had changed, now Neal would go!
"Sure, absolutely, but it's pretty far, you know. A few hours of driving," said Candy.
"Well... That's not much. Besides, starting next week, I won't be here."
"You won't? Where will you go?" asked Candy straightforwardly forgetting maybe she shouldn't ask due to privacy. As soon as she thought about it, she stopped and regretted asking but it's too late. Deep inside she felt panicked. Weekend without Neal? Oh No�. Since he came here, weekend was the one Candy looked forward the most.
"I need to go back to New York."
"Will you come back here again?" she asked. Neal looked at her but she couldn't detect what he had in mind.
"Well, all depends on the boss, you see, uncle William, or the one you use to call Albert," he said with a big smile.
"Okay then let's go tomorrow," said Candy.
So they went to Pony's home the following day. She took him to see her mothers, visiting the Pony's hill and more. His respectful manner to Ms. Pony and Sr. Lane amazed her so much that many times she secretly laughed by herself. Ms. Pony and Sr. Lane secretly were happy that Candy came with someone again. And this one was much more handsome than the last man she brought home, they talked about that behind Candy's back. When they went to Pony's hill, Candy couldn't help thinking about his prince of the hill briefly but realized that it belonged to the past. In contrast to the past, this visit with Neal made Pony hill dominated by sound of laughter not tears. Candy decided to tell Neal about the prince of the hill. Unlike to Terry, Dr. Kay, or others, somehow Candy didn't feel shy to tell Neal about the prince.
"You are kidding me," said Neal in astonishment after hearing her story regarding uncle William.
"No, I am not. Do you remember in the past you made me cry by taking my pendant and tossed it away (3)? That was his, I found it here. He dropped it when he played his bagpipe."
Neal was impressed on what seemed to be a fairy tale story and apologized again for what he did.
"I was very mean when teasing you," he said regretting the past. "But maybe because I was trying to get your attention," continued Neal.
Candy tried to understand what he meant exactly. She looked at him, only to see an unreadable face and since he didn't elaborate, she didn't ask either.
Then, Candy told him the story in great detailed starting from the prince of the hill, Anthony who looked like the prince, to the end: the revelation of the prince of the hill. It was a long story so they forgot about the time. By the time they realized they needed to go home, the day was already very dark. So they decided to sleep there and went back home to Chicago the following day. Arrived in Chicago, Neal right away said good bye since he needed to go back to NY as soon as possible. They shook hands like good friends promising to keep in touch and off he went. That weekend Candy was at home alone thinking about Neal. The past few weeks, it used to be fun with full of laughter. In the middle of her thought Annie came for visit.
Candy told her that she and Neal had been going out every weekend for months. But now he's back in NY. Annie listened to Candy's story in disbelief.
"Neal? Are you serious?" she grasped.
"Yes, Neal. Do you know that he's very different these days?" asked Candy.
"I didn't talk much to him, Archie did. But yes, from the appearance he looks very different. He wears glasses," said Annie with a grin. "Does he have a girlfriend?" asked Annie.
"I don't know," said Candy. "I never asked, he never talked about it either. But we had fun, so I just agreed to meet him." Both of them looked at one another and chuckled. They kept giggling and laughing for sometimes remembering the past.
"I can ask Archie," said Annie.
"I don't care," said Candy. "The fun part to have friends is at the friendship level. When you started to think about all this dating stuff then it gets ruined and becomes too complicated."
"True true," agreed Annie. "He might not tell Archie the truth either. And he might be suspicious that you ask him to ask."
"I won't think too much about it," said Candy casually. "It was fun, that all matters." If not because of him, I would be devastated at Albert's engagement party, thought Candy silently.
Annie curious and asked if he liked her. Candy said, "I couldn't read the expression in his face at all, I don't know."
All these business people, they really can't have their mind being read. It was like that with Albert, too, Candy thought. Either that or maybe because they truly didn't think much about me, shrugged Candy talking to herself. But Candy had to admit, now that she knew Neal, the memory of Albert's face and arms started to fade away, fast.
The following week, Candy went home again. Ms. Pony and Sr. Lane couldn't stop talking about Neal. Candy was beaming with joy hearing their high opinions about him. They kept saying how handsome he was.
"He was also very polite and down to earth," Ms. Pony and Sr. Lane said.
Remembering the past, Candy couldn't stop laughing to herself. What a description of Neal, she thought. When Candy asked hypothetically who they liked the best among the four men, both agreed to be Neal.
"You try to make me happy because the other three are gone, don't you," said Candy referring to the last three men she took there.
Ms. Pony and Sr. Lane shook their heads. Ms Pony added with a serious tone, "With Neal you looked genuinely happy, Dear. Likewise to him."
Sr. Lane added, "Both of you did things spontaneously, nothing was checked in your head or heart and seemed to be genuinely free, problem-less and happy."
"It's like two old friends being together, friendship worth millions, Dear," added Ms. Pony.
Candy was very excited to hear their opinions but she refused to think too much of Neal. Past experience always let her down. She didn't want this one to ever let her down. She hoped her friendship with Neal lasted forever. Terry left after she loved him so much, Albert and Dr. Kay too. She really didn't want to get hurt anymore. It's better to stay friends forever thought Candy. Candy was very happy and anticipated Neal's next visit. They became the best of friend.
Neal himself was busy in NY. His routine included work, work, and work. To transfer the Ardlay headquarter to NY wasn't an easy thing to do. He had countless of meetings and field study to prepare. He's a very important person in the enterprise now. Something one wouldn't believe to be years ago.
Throughout these years, he never stopped thinking of Candy. But he thought she's taken. He had a string of dates which included classmates, daughters from rich family that his parents introduced, business acquaintances, and models, but he never could stop unconsciously comparing them with Candy. It was a surprise for him to see Candy sitting alone at that engagement party. To his even more surprise, she seemed to be still available. Whatever happened to Terry and Albert, he thought. But he didn't bring up the topic to her. After weeks of having fun with her, the old feeling came again. Being a more mature man, this time, he really didn't show that to Candy openly. He's afraid it'd drive her apart considering the bad history he had with her in the past. He was thinking to invite her to NY for the thanksgiving holiday. The holiday was too short for him to go back to Chicago since he had lots of commitment to fulfill. He didn't really want to wait until Christmas to see her.
So he sent his invitation to Candy to come to NY. To his delight, Candy accepted the invitation. Candy in fact was very happy to be invited. On that holiday, she came using the earliest train. She's picked up by Neal's driver and went to Neal's office directly. She found that her friend's position was much bigger than she had expected. During their conversation in Chicago, he did talk about his work but being a modest person (which was a strange description for the "old" Neal), he didn't really talk about how important his position was. He lead the NY operation just directly under Albert, so everyone in there respected him very much. She saw how he hosted his business activities seamlessly. He looked very cool as someone who had an authority. It made her so proud of him.
Neal took her around to see NY. They took a walk around NY and visited many places. He showed her the future headquarter of the Ardlay foundation building in NY and the Ardlay funded hospitals. When Candy needed to go home, they parted and promised to meet again in Chicago for Christmas. Candy had the happiest of time but still couldn't read from his expression what he thought of her. He's been extremely courteous throughout the stay and he never talked or touched the subjects regarding the personal matter. Candy went home and couldn't count down the time for them to meet again.
Although Neal didn't show how he felt for Candy throughout the visit, deep inside he was so much in love with her. He just almost couldn't pretend being a friend anymore. He definitely wanted to be more than just a friend or a good cousin. He wanted to be her lover. He really wanted to love her. How many times he had to suppress the urge to kiss her when they were alone together. He almost couldn't control it anymore. In the last visit to Chicago, he already took care of most work needed to be done. As what Albert also just confirmed, his presence in Chicago wouldn't be needed for a time being. It's a blow for his plan to spend more time together with Candy. While she's in NY, he already showed her all Ardlay foundation properties and briefly mentioned that all Ardlay operation would move to NY next year.
"Albert would more likely move to NY too," he hinted to her.
He meant to tell her that more likely her job would move to NY so they didn't have to live far apart, but he's not sure if she got the hint.
All these uncertainties really drove him crazy. He just couldn't wait any longer. He decided to propose to her this Christmas no matter how stupid the idea might sound. It's silly considering they had been together for only a few months. But, technically we had known each other since childhood, he reasoned.
- TO be continued -
1. This is from manga, Neal threatened everyone that he'd join the army if Candy didn't marry him. Candy didn't believe the threat since she thought he's too coward to really do it.
2. Taken from manga. Candy really hated Neal back then and didn't want to follow him into his car.
3. This scene actually happened from manga. Neal saw the pendant and made fun of Candy by throwing it around like a ball. Candy was very mad at him.
Christmas holiday is a busy time for Candy. Being an executive of the hospital, there were many social events going on. On Christmas Eve, she needed to attend two parties, one hosted by Albert and one in her hospital. So on that day Neal came early to her home with his proposal plan before Candy left for her hospital party.
Candy couldn't help to admire how handsome he was in the tuxedo. Candy was also very beautiful. Having the proposal plan in his head and worried to lose her forever, it hurt him to see her beauty. For the first time, he let off his emotion and showed it to her what's inside his heart.
"Candy you look very beautiful," he bent and kissed her hand with a gloomy face.
Seeing his face, right away Candy knew something was going on. "Likewise," she said shortly.
Neal said seriously, "May I talk to you." Candy nodded.
"Look I don't know how to start," he said with an anxious tone.
"I am listening," said Candy equally anxious anticipating what her friend was going to say.
Then he continued, "The last time you rejected my engagement proposal made me think how worthless I was. I thought about myself and I had to admit that I couldn't find a single good thing that I had done in the past. It was like a wake up call for me. I determined to fix myself to prove to you that I could be a good person worthy for you to look at. I really joint the army to prove to you that I wasn't a coward. I trained very hard everyday to prove to you that I could do it. Then I went to school where I studied really hard to prove to you that I could be a serious person too. When I went to work, I did it with you too in my mind. I wanted to show you that I could be a responsible man."
He paused and looked at Candy straight in the eyes.
"I have to thank you for the way I am now. Without you, I would lead a worthless life. I apologized for all wrongdoings I did in the past. I caused you so much pain. I can't tell you how much I regret the past, if only I could undo those. In Albert's engagement party, I saw you and started to talk to you again. After a while I realized that I still love you. I loved you then but I expressed it in worst possible ways. I love you much more now and I promise you that I'll do better. I wonder if you could reconsider my engagement proposal that you rejected years ago?" he inquired with eyes still looked deeply to Candy's.
Candy was speechless, nobody else had proposed to her before. Not even her dearest Albert or Terry. And Neal did it... again, for the second time actually! She's glad that he proposed her. She's been hoping for this moment. But now he said it, she was too stunt to make a decision. After all, what about the last three men who hurt her so much. She's very afraid for that hurtful moment to come back.
Although inside her heart she felt grateful and happy and really wanted to say "yes", what came out was, "Neal, I am grateful for what you said about me. I am very happy to be with you too, but I really can't accept it�"
At this point her servant came to announce, "Ms. Candice, Dr. Kay is here."
Although expected, Neal was still disappointed not to hear a yes from Candy. She hadn't finished her sentence but the sentence really lead to a no rather than a yes, he thought. In addition there's this Dr. Kay factor who suddenly appeared. He remembered that name, Candy's past serious date.
Candy said, "Let him in," to her servant and told Neal, "Excuse me, please wait for me."
He saw her leaving and felt very much heartbroken. From the spot where he's standing he also saw her greeting Dr. Kay kindly. Dr Kay hugged her back warmly and greeted her emotionally with a kiss, "How are you doing, my love. Ready for the party?"
Seeing that, Neal was so upset. Candy didn't even invite him to come to her hospital's party, he had never kissed or even hugged Candy and this guy got all. He wondered if he's also the reason why she rejected him again for the second time. He felt foolish assuming that she's available.
Very dumb, he thought. After all the efforts I made, I am still not good enough for her. He really regretted how bad he treated her in the past and regretted it even more that there would be no opportunity to make it up. Disregarding her request to wait which probably just for her trying to console, he decided to leave.
At the door, Neal met Dr. Kay who stared at him with an inquiring look and asked, "Candy, could you introduce..."
Neal cut him off with a business like smile and offered him a handshake, "I am Neal, her cousin, nice meeting you, Dr. Kay." Then he said to Candy, "Have a great Christmas" and left.
He's back to his normal self where one can't read what's in his mind. But, Candy could sense his disappointment and she felt so confused. Her heart broke at the word "cousin" he said to Dr. Kay. Meanwhile, Dr. Kay was wondering since when Candy had such a charming cousin.
Candy went to the Christmas party with Dr. Kay but her mind was not there. She couldn't wait for the party to be offer so she could go home and think about Neal quietly. At home, she buried her head in the pillow thinking about her past lovers. She thought, what was love, why loved someone. She thought about Albert, Terry and Dr. Kay. Why did they never commit to her and left her? Did they really love her? Would Neal leave her too later? After a while she got confused where all these arguments lead to and if that mattered. The point was she liked Neal now because of the friendship. Neal was her best of friend. He's an old friend who she had known since she was little and had changed so much to be the best a man could be for her. What's wrong to accept his proposal? She decided to meet him and told him her thought.
Candy hurriedly called her driver and told him to go to the Ardlays residence. The party was already over and had only a few people left. She felt lucky when she spotted George. Hurriedly she asked George about Neal. The always-be-helpful George told her that there's a business emergency in NY so Albert asked him to leave for NY immediately. Knowing their past history, he was surprised that Candy was looking for Neal.
The following day, Candy planned to ride the earliest train to go to NY. But there was a big snow storm so she couldn't go. She sat on the train station felt so uneasy and full of turmoil. The last time she was like this was with Terry, she couldn't believe she's still doing it again years later. She couldn't believe she broke Neal's heart again for the second time. The first time, he earned it, but this time, it was her fault. She shouldn't be afraid to accept his proposal and be hurt. Finally the train came. She couldn't wait to arrive in NY.
It was late at night when she arrived in NY. Candy went straight to Neal's home but the housekeeper told her that he'd not come home since he came back from Chicago.
Great, Candy thought, probably he's proposing to his girlfriend right now. I am late again. I spent all my times chasing men just to find they're taken by someone else.
Candy wasn't familiar with NY. Knowing nowhere else to go she decided to ask Neal's driver to take her to his office. Who knows, she thought although she realized it's foolish to think that he's there at this late hour in the holiday season. But maybe there really was a business emergency like what George said. Candy always thought positively which was one of her positive character.
The road was very jammed so Candy chose to walk for the last few blocks. She went to his office only to find that it's empty. Disappointed and really thought he had been taken by someone else, she was ready to go back to Chicago feeling very stupid and like Terry scene all over again. Just when she's about to leave the building, she heard someone calling her name, it's his secretary, Mary. Mary was a middle aged woman, very nice and helpful just like George to Sir William was.
"Ms. Candice, are you looking for Mr. Regan?" asked Mary.
"Yes," said Candy with a huge hope in her heart. "Is he here?"
"He's having a press conference, come let me show you," she took her to a conference room.
While walking Mary told her that there's a fire broke in the other part of financial district near Ardlay's property. The fire already stopped but shareholders worried about the effect of the fire to their investment. In addition there's a riot in that area. No wonder it was jammed, Candy said to herself.
"He's been in meeting answering shareholders and press questions since he came back from Chicago," explained Mary.
And I thought he was dating, said Candy ashamed to herself.
As soon as Candy saw him, she felt so relieved. She couldn't believe that he actually still was working at that hour. Especially it's Neal! Knowing how he was when he was young really made her smile to herself. Having nothing else to do, she took a sit and chose to listen to the conference. She paid attention on how he answered the questions to relieve everyone. Candy couldn't help but to admire him. Some of the questioners were very agitated and rude that Candy felt so eager to hit them but Neal remained cool and calm. She thought about him highly. How much he had changed. And all those because of me he said? Candy chuckled at the thought.
When the meeting was offer, Candy waited for him at the door. She saw him coming followed by so many people. Finally he saw her, he looked surprised to see her but didn't say anything. He smiled cordially and made a gesture for her to follow him to his office. There, he instructed Mary, business managers, public relations, staffs, etc what to do. They kept coming and going non stopped... After a while Candy felt so sleepy. It's been a long day. She was out since in the morning when she was stranded in the snow. She picked a quiet and private spot in the corner of Neal's big office and sat there to take a rest. After a while she fell asleep.
"Wake up, wake up," she heard someone talking to her gently.
When she opened her eyes, the first thing she saw was a pair of Neal's brown eyes. He was staring at her with a smile. She also noticed his jacket over her. Candy was very grateful for the gesture. The room was already empty, everybody had left.
"How are you?" Neal greeted her.
Sleepy, she couldn't talk much but just to give him a smile and followed him.
"My driver is ready, let's go home. I have been stuck here for so long, I don't want to be here anymore," he said.
Outside the traffic jam had gone but somehow his car wasn't there yet. So they waited. It was cold so they decided to take a walk.
"Neal, there's a misunderstanding," said Candy didn't want to waste anymore time. "Dr. Kay is a friend. I dated him once but he went back to Germany. I didn't want to go to Germany, our relationship was over a long time ago. He came to Chicago to attend our hospital Christmas event."
Neal didn't reply, he's wondering why Candy suddenly told him all this.
"I was thinking about your proposal...," Candy continued.
At this time, suddenly, there was a man coming with a knife. A bandit! Suddenly Candy remembered what Mary told her about the riot. She couldn't believe that they actually needed to face one. It was very late at night. The road was empty, there was no one and the driver hadn't come yet. She was very scared.
"Give your money. Don't make a sound!" the bandit demanded.
Without hesitation Neal talked slowly and coolly to the man not to attack and they'd give their wallets to him.
"Throw them to the ground," the bandit said.
They followed but Candy was so nervous that she threw hers to the bandit instead of to the ground. Panicked, the bandit started to attack Candy. Unhesitatingly, Neal jumped in front of Candy to cover her from the bandit's knife. The knife hit his arm. But it didn't stop him to keep fighting with the bandit. Candy was so horrified. She couldn't help to shout for help and for Neal to be careful. Luckily the driver and one of Neal's staff just arrived. They had looked for their boss but wondered why they couldn't find him. Suddenly they heard Candy's screamed for help, right away they came to the scene. Neal successfully kicked the bandit and made him fall. Seeing more people coming, the bandit ran away. Neal didn't bother to chase him and told his staffs to let him go too. The first thing he did was to run to Candy to check if she was okay and asked worriedly if anything was wrong. She assured him she's okay. Then he suddenly felt a sharp pain in his arm. It appeared it got wounded by the attacker's knife when he jumped to cover Candy. Candy was very frightened and suggested to go back to the office to have it checked. His driver picked up the wallets and Neal's broken glasses and followed from behind. Lucky it was in the winter, Neal's coat helped to shield his body from the knife. Being a nurse, Candy hurriedly did first aid help for him. Her heart crushed seeing his white shirt became red stained with blood. The company doctor was called to examine.
After all confirmed okay not really wanting to waste any more time Neal said, "Nothing serious. Let's really go home now."
In the car, the driver and his staff non stopped apologizing to Neal. They said there's a segment of the road that was still jammed and it took them much longer to come. Neal repeatedly assured them it's okay. Overcame by everything that had happened for the day, Candy didn't really feel like talking her mind wandered to what had just happened. She was touched on how much he's willing to sacrifice himself to save her. It was dangerous, what if he got hurt more seriously.
Neal changed a lot, she thought to herself. The old Neal would just cry for his mom.
Neal didn't talk much either partly because he was paying attention to the conversation and partly because he was wondering why Candy came to NY all of a sudden. She almost explained it were it not because of the bandit. At home, they had some late dinner when they started to talk again in private.
"Thank you for just now. I am so sorry," Candy said again in a very emotional voice. "If not because of me, you �"
"That's ok," he said calmly. "I learned all this from the military training. You should see how many wounds I got when I learned to crawl under the razor wire�," he smiled, tried to undersize the problem to comfort her.
Candy hardly could listen since she felt so guilty and still very shocked. How dangerous the situation was. Seeing his wound and his attitude she couldn't believe the current Neal. How much he changed, she thought. As a boy, he'd make a big deal out of a little cut in his finger� Was it really all because of her like what he claimed? She wondered if it's a good time to talk about his proposal.
Seeing how silent she was, Neal started to be serious too.
"What did you want to say just now?" Neal changed the subject abruptly. He actually was anxious about that much more than the attack.
At this moment the servant came saying, "Sir William would like to talk to you, Mr. Regan. He's on the phone."
Candy was relieved with the interruption so she didn't have to answer the question and could have more time to be quiet. Still in shocked, she's not in a mood to talk about anything especially romance. Neal couldn't believe it, he couldn't have even one minute for Candy to finish her sentence. But he had no option, duty called, so he excused himself and went to the phone. Albert had just heard about the attack incident from his associate and worried about their safety. But, Neal told him all was okay, it was just an isolated incident. Candy was fine too. He assured him everything was fine before they hung up.
Neal came back to Candy told her it was Albert asking if she's fine.
"What did you want to say?" asked him for the second time wishing Candy to say it quickly to have all done before anyone came to cut their conversation again.
But that night everything was very hectic, phone kept ringing and the servant or staff came again in and out to ask Neal's instruction for panicked shareholders, riots and more. Albert called five more times that night. Candy waited for Neal for a long time in the dining room. One servant took an action to lead her to her bedroom which she much appreciated. Candy took a brief shower and fell asleep instantly. Neal was very tired too with all that happened around him and he fell asleep on his desk. Since he came back from Chicago he had no time to even go to his bed.
When he woke up the following day, the first thing he saw was Candy who was staring at him. He's still wearing his business attire but there's a blanket on him. It must be from her, he thought.
She smiled at him and greeted, "Good morning."
She's been staying there watching him asleep and thinking. Without his glasses, his face looked more boyish. He looked so peaceful at sleep. She never knew how much responsibility he had in his shoulder and how important a man he was. Thinking again what had happened in Chicago, how much time he spent for her made her appreciate him even more. She couldn't help admiring him and really thinking very highly of him. She couldn't believe seeing him protecting her yesterday. That was very selfless and brave. What if anything bad happened considering how important he was. She was very grateful for what he did to her. All these shook hesitations from her. She promised she'd give a solid yes for the proposal. She had decided yesterday and now she's even more determined. She couldn't wait for him to get up to tell him that.
"I fell asleep. Thanks for the blanket," he said.
He excused himself to take a shower. Candy then helped him to change the bandage. While doing it she couldn't help to feel Neal was staring at her. She looked at him quickly and saw he smiled at her.
"Why did you come here?" asked him gently. "What did you want to tell me last night?"
Candy finished putting the last piece of bandage and looked quickly in his direction. For seconds their eyes met.
She said with a shy smile on her lips, "Is your proposal still valid?"
"Yes," he said very seriously which showed clearly from his face.
"Then, I want to accept it. That's why I came here," said Candy shyly, avoiding his eyes.
Neal was surprised to hear that. For a moment he let go all his self control. He jumped up, held her hands... Unfortunately, at this time someone again knocked at the door.
"Come in," he shouted trying to suppress his impatience. Candy couldn't help to giggle a little.
"Sir William wants to talk to you, Mr. Regan," said his staff.
Neal couldn't believe suddenly Albert called him that often. He hardly called him more than once a month usually. Enough is enough, he thought. So he said "Tell him, I will call him back in one minute."
The staff looked at him to assure what she heard was correct. "It's Sir William," she said.
"I know, tell him, one minute," he said really impatiently this time.
The servant nodded and left.
Neal looked at Candy and said very gently, "Look, I don't have much time but thank you."
He kissed her tenderly. Candy accepted and kissed him back. That's their first kiss together.
"Would you like to accompany me to the ball tonight?" asked Neal .
"But I don't bring anything, I was pretty much jumping to the train yesterday," replied Candy grinning.
"You have the whole day to prepare, Dear," he said softly. "I love you so much." He said closing his eyes and hugged her closer. "You don't know how long I have been wanting to have this moment with you."
He had so much happiness in his heart. At this moment, they both heard footsteps again outside the door. They both looked at one another knowing that someone would definitely come in again. Candy couldn't help to smile widely to see his annoyed expression.
Before long they heard Mary spoke, "Mr. Reagan, the manager from Fifth Avenue building would like to talk to you."
"Please come with me to the ball tonight," said Neal ignoring Mary to hug and kiss her a bit longer.
Candy just had enough time to nod. Releasing her gently, he said with eyes still looking at Candy, "Come in! Tell him, I'll be right there. Mary, could you make sure to have someone helping Candy to prepare for the ball tonight?"
Mary said, "Yes, Mr. Reagan."
She could sense her young boss unfinished passion towards Candy that she couldn't help but to give Candy a quick smile. Neal kissed Candy quickly one more time and hurriedly got ready to work. First, he'd give Albert a phone call to apologize for letting him wait...
While Neal was leaving the room, Candy was following him with her eyes. She couldn't help to compare him with Albert. At that time in Pony's Hill after his revelation of the prince of the hill, in the very crucial moment, George appeared to ask him to leave and he didn't even stay for half a minute longer to be with her. He left immediately, leaving her alone with her untold revelation. While Neal was willing to let others wait for the sake of showing his love to her. She was very happy and felt so appreciated.
While walking to his desk, Neal asked for the situation update to his staffs so he could report it to Albert. When he's ready, he gave him a call.
"Albert, I am sorry to let you wait, I was�," excused Neal.
Albert cut him short said, "Neal, I can't be more grateful for the way you handled the situation. My staffs had told me many things you did. They even said you slept on your desk. I am sorry I can't be there to help you."
Neal was happy that Albert understood. He kept assuring him that the situation was fine and much better. The tonight ball was not even canceled. The ball was not an ordinary ball. Albert had highly anticipated the ball since NY was a new place for Ardlay so it's very important for them to attend as a sign that they were welcomed in NY business society. Albert also asked about Candy which Neal said was fine.
"What is she doing there anyway?" asked Albert curious about the situation.
Neal hesitated how to answer the question so he said bluntly, "She'll accompany me to go to the ball tonight."
Albert laughed, knowing their past history, he could sense that something interesting must have happened. They talked more about business issues before finally hung up.
That afternoon, Neal came home and got ready just in time for the ball. Candy came to greet him. He was very astonished to see her mesmerizing beauty. He approached and hugged her closely. He closed his eyes and tenderly kissed her continuously from the neck to the lips very much enjoying the moment. He had put years of effort to finally be at this moment. How much he had struggled to finally win the love of his life. It's like a dream to him that it was really Candy that he was hugging and kissing at that moment.
"You are very beautiful. Thanks for coming to the ball with me," Neal said while hugging her and added emotionally. "Thanks for giving me a second chance. I am so sorry for what I did to you in the past."
Candy could only nod silently.
"I have loved you so very much for a long time," he whispered again and again movingly which melted Candy's heart deeply.
Candy could feel his longing for her love all these years. All she could was to hold him tightly. She really cherished the unwavering love he had for her even after so many disastrous years. She appreciated the effort he made, the personal barriers he overcame in order to be with her.
Suddenly Neal took a box outside his pocket, it's a ring. They did the proposal ceremony one more time formally without interruption including of course he bent on one knee, asked candy's hand and put the ring in her finger. During the process, Candy was very happy and touched by his sincerity. She sobbed in tears with so much happiness.
The night ball was superb. Being an Ardlay, Candy had gone to so many balls, but still this NY ball was indeed awesome. Almost all of the most important people in NY business world were there. She also found out that Neal was regarded as one of the most formidable rising stars in NY socialite. Many watched in marvel to his surge and the daughter of Sir William Ardlay he had in his arms. She was very proud to be with him. During the dancing, Candy could really sense the deep intensity of his passion for her. Nobody had ever been holding her like that. Definitely not Albert. She was grateful that she accepted his proposal and now wore his engagement ring.
Soon Candy needed to go back to Chicago. They chatted at length about their next plan. She also asked if his parents knew about the proposal and if they'd mind it.
Neal answered, "They didn't mind years ago, why would they mind it now. Especially you now are much more elegant, intelligent, and beautiful."
They laughed at the incident years ago. He promised to talk and asked their permission as soon as possible. He also promised to talk formally to Albert as Candy's father and write a letter to Ms. Pony and Sr. Lane as Candy's mothers as soon as possible. Candy couldn't be happier.
Back in Chicago, Candy went to Albert's office. Albert was happy to see her back safely and Candy told him everything that happened there. Albert was impressed by Neal and was very pleased by his dedication to the enterprise and his works. He couldn't be more satisfied with the outcome of the ball. Neal's star power would help to put Ardlay new lines of business in the spotlight which what he had been hoping for.
Finally, Candy said, "Since you are my father, I'd like to seek your permission to get married." She had a big smile on her face.
"Absolutely, who has the honor to marry you, Candy?" said Albert full of curiosity although he could guess it's Neal.
"Neal," said Candy beaming and showed her ring to Albert.
"Did he propose to you?" said Albert in disbelief. "How could he possibly even have the time?" he asked, very much in awed.
Candy then told Albert the complete proposal story. How every time they tried to speak it got interrupted repeatedly including by him and a bandit! It took two days for the proposal to finally complete. Albert couldn't stop laughing and hugged Candy.
"You both are very impressive. I am sorry to call him at a wrong time for so many times," he laughed and said seriously, "Of course I approve, dear daughter, I am very happy for you."
Albert was very impressed with Neal. His appreciation to him went up much higher. He added, "We should have listened to aunt Elroy long time ago."
Both laughed. Aunt Elroy was also pleased. "William should have listened to me long time ago. What made him think he's better than me in marriage arrangement," she said choked with happiness and hugged Candy tightly. Reading Neal's letter, Ms. Pony and Sr. Lane couldn't be happier. They had said how much they thought Neal was the one among all Candy's men that they had met. They cried with happiness when they saw the engagement ring on her finger. Annie and Archie's jaws dropped in disbelief seeing the ring and listening to the proposal story. Thinking about how he was in the past, three of them laughed very hard about Neal. And� George. George remembered how Candy, in tears, had wanted to have her engagement canceled to the same man she just decided to get engaged.
"What a world," George said to himself with a smile.
Neal called his parents to let them know about the engagement. His parents were very delighted that their son finally got the woman he really loved. They greeted Candy at the gate with big hugs and big smiles when she came to visit them in their house.
Since his first proposal years ago was rejected flatly by Albert, this time Neal decided to prepare it very carefully. At the end of one of their business calls he decided to bring it up.
"Albert, could I have a few more minutes?" he asked nervously.
"Yes, what is it"?
And he said very carefully and seriously, "Sir William, I'd like to have your permission to propose to your daughter, Ms. Candice. I promise this time I'll treat her better. It is my intention to do all in my power to make her happy, to take care of her..." and so on.
Albert listened patiently. At the end of his little speech, Albert said very seriously, "You know what?" then added with much friendlier tone, " You should see aunt Elroy's proud smile. She believed she scored a goal over me." They both laughed. Of course Albert agreed and gave him the permission.
They both got married and had children. They lived very happily ever after.
I wrote a sequel for this. "Because of Her 2: Many Years Later."
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