Disclaimer: Candy Candy and all characters belong to Kyoko Mizuki, images to Yumiko Igarashi and anime to Toei Animation.
Introduction: I haven’t written any story since I finished “Love Never Fails” last year, but I got so inspired after reading one of the chapters in “Memorias de la Señora Andrew”, in which my friend QuevivaCandy has done an excellent job connecting the major events in the second half of Candy Candy Final Story (CCFS) Volume 2 and its epilogue.
This is a short story inspired by CCFS as well. Note that in CCFS people address Albert as Granduncle William, so I follow suit. You might find some specific scenes or ideas here already expressed in other stories based on CCFS. Please bear in mind that I don’t have time to read all the other stories, so this is purely coincidental.
I aim to publish short installments on my blog every few days. When I’m done, I will also publish the entire story in fanfiction. My deep appreciation to all of you for your encouragement, and without your support, I wouldn’t have started writing again! Thank you, and I hope you enjoy reading this. 😀 🙂
“What’s the matter with you, Eliza?” Mrs. Sarah Leagan reproved, her tone rather impatient. She shook off her daughter’s hand and took a step back, refusing to walk any further with Eliza.
Crossing her arms over her chest, Eliza was obviously sulking. Before she could answer, her mother added, “Don’t you know we are the host tonight? What’s so urgent that you have to drag me out here in the garden?”
The young lady let out a long and frustrated sigh. In fact, she had been taking deep breaths one after another since the moment she had urged her mother to leave the grand ballroom with her, ignoring the commotion around them. Eliza had never felt so humiliated in her life before, and with her heart burning with fury, she just had to leave the crowd.
Nevertheless, the lush landscape and the relaxing sound of water flowing in the wishing fountain in the courtyard had somewhat helped Eliza simmer down, and she realized whatever had just taken place back in the ballroom was only the second worst thing that had ever happened to her and her family. The most humiliating day to Eliza was still the day Granduncle William had openly annulled the engagement of her brother to that orphan girl in front of the relatives and business partners. Even Grandaunt Elroy, the supposedly powerful matriarch, had obediently stepped aside, unwilling to do anything for Neil anymore.
“Eliza, won’t you say something?” Her mother’s voice penetrated her spinning thoughts. “I can’t wait for you forever. Your father has put in lots of efforts prior to presenting to everyone our most luxurious-”
Eliza finally spoke up in an angry tone, interrupting her mother, “Exactly, Mother! This is the grand opening party of our best resort in the chain!”
Having said that, Eliza swiftly scanned the surrounding area to ensure they were safe to talk in this secluded corner. They had reached the stone wall, and a large swimming pool sat between them and the ballroom. When she believed they were the only people here, she complained, “How could you… I mean why did you have to make such a clarification tonight?”
It took Sarah Leagan several seconds before she understood what her daughter alluded. “Oh my dearest Eliza!” Mrs. Leagan exclaimed, sounding exasperated. “You think I had a choice? It was Granduncle William’s direct order!”
When Eliza’s eyes doubled in size, Mrs. Leagan explained how the family patriarch had approached Mr. and Mrs. Leagan before the opening party to make sure they would clear Candy’s name tonight so that all the guests would know that Candy had never had sticky fingers.
“Granduncle William was so serious about it that your father and I immediately acknowledged her importance to him. Hence, your father didn’t even hesitate to concur with him on the plan. Granduncle William was pleased because this was one of the largest gatherings of the clan. As he left the study, he said he was on his way to pick up the girl for the party, and we were not supposed to inform her beforehand. It was meant to be a surprise.”
Sarah Leagan then described how mortified she had felt earlier while carrying out this order in an apologetic manner; she couldn’t even meet anyone’s eyes in case they could sense that she had abhorred the very idea of making amends with the orphan.
When her mother finished talking, Eliza stomped her feet and scowled. “Who is this girl? She’s a lowly orphan for Heaven’s sake! Who cares about her? Isn’t she already back to where she belongs? Working like a low-class nothing? Why did we have to invite her tonight?”
Eliza longed to vent her anger, so she spoke with such a rushed voice that she had to pause to catch her breath, and that was when her mother answered, “Your father has to invite everyone in the clan and all our business partners, Eliza. Yes, even though that girl has returned to the orphanage, we couldn’t ignore her existence in the family. It’s unfortunate Madam Elroy and Archibald couldn’t make it to the party. As a result, this girl got the instant attention of our guests tonight because she is the only one who accompanies the family head other than his personal assistant.”
It looked like something just dawned on Eliza, and she grumbled aloud, “That must be it! No wonder Darren has invited her to dance with him, and not just once!”
Darren was the oldest son of Mr. McPherson, who was one of the Leagans’ business partners in Miami, Florida. Soon after Neil’s engagement had been annulled, the Leagans had decided to move to their villa in Miami to make a fresh start. Besides extending their business in Florida, Sarah had introduced her children to various families in the high society, and one of them was the McPhersons. Needless to say, Eliza had soon fallen for Darren, who was not only charming and young but also the heir to the large family inheritance. Darren had two younger sisters, and Eliza had encouraged Neil to get closer to them in order to forget the orphan girl.
However, although Darren had remained cordial with Eliza so far, he had seldom danced with her. To her dismay, this Darren hadn’t yet talked to her this evening, but he had danced with Candy at least twice. With fiery jealousy, Eliza blamed it all on the blond girl. That witch… can fool any man into falling for her spell… including Neil! I know how flustered Neil was, knowing that she was coming to the party, but Father has strictly warned him to keep himself away from her…
At this point, her mother’s voice broke into her train of thoughts, “Don’t worry, my dear Eliza. By now Darren should realize Candy is not worthy of him, don’t you think?”
The sound of her mother’s gloating voice caused Eliza’s face to break into a smile of triumphant evil. “You’re absolutely right, Mother! She might have the most glamorous gown and brought a personal maid who could make her look like a princess in a fairy tale, but deep down, she still identifies herself with the servants!”
“Yes, Eliza,” her mother eagerly asserted. “I think that girl is used to a life of servitude after all!”
Then Eliza sneered and chimed in, “True! Imagine her dry and ugly hands hidden beneath those long satin gloves!”
They burst out laughing. Their contempt for Candy was further fueled by the orphan’s humble but absurd action. While taking family pictures just now, despite dressing up like a high-class lady, the orphan would rather stand among the servants even though the family patriarch had asked her to stand beside him.
Not only that, soon after taking pictures, to obey Granduncle William’s order, Mrs. Leagan had to openly deny the rumors about Candy. Because of that, those in the audience who hadn’t heard of Candy’s origin now knew that she used to work in the Leagans as a servant girl before the adoption.
With hindsight, Eliza’s sour mood had taken a complete turn. She felt that she had got avenged somehow although she couldn’t stop replaying the moment Candy had made her first appearance this evening. Since her arrival, Eliza had been seemingly neglected.
When an elegant lady entered the grand ballroom with her hand placed on the crook of a young man’s elbow, the guests around Eliza instantly held their breaths. Needless to say, their attention, including Eliza’s, had been seized by the charming couple. Attired in a sleeveless, V-neck emerald satin floor length gown with sheer chiffon overlay, the young lady looked stunning to say the least. The sash with floral design around her slim waist accentuated her petite but feminine figure, and her silky blond hair was swept up in a stylish chignon. Even from afar, Eliza could see the pendant around the lady’s neck reflecting the lights of the grand chandelier above the double doors of the entrance.
This mysterious lady’s partner, an attractive man himself with a towering figure, couldn’t have appeared more proud. Dressed impeccably in a tux, his bowtie and vest had the same shade of green that matched the lady’s gown. In short, they looked dazzling as a couple, and for a long while Eliza was clueless who they were until she spotted George behind them. The instant Eliza realized the identities of the lady and the man, Eliza nearly passed out. How could she not recognize their faces and even mistake them for a couple?
Perhaps Eliza had never seen the man this happy in other gatherings. With Candy by his side, his face literally brightened up and his grin practically stretched from ear to ear.
What about Candy? Without pony tails and tomboyish behavior, she acted like an utterly different person. Since when had she grown so much and transformed into a nubile lady?
At any rate, now that the family patriarch had arrived, the blond girl soon replaced Eliza and become the star of the party. Tormented by a mix of jealousy and hatred, Eliza had remained sullen like a three-year-old ever since.
At this moment, Mrs. Leagan’s question snapped Eliza back to the present, “Shall we head back, my dear daughter?”
Eliza nodded in agreement. As they began to amble along the path in a leisurely pace, Eliza snickered, “I honestly don’t understand that girl. Even Cinderella didn’t want to revert to her old lifestyle, and yet when this orphan could easily have anything she would ever desire in her life, she willingly gave it all up…”
Eliza paused, shaking her head and chuckling some more. “I guess Granduncle William eventually has to accept that his so-called daughter would never be a real lady like us!”
“Yes, Eliza dear. Who in the right mind from the high society would want such a girl? She will surely bring disgrace to the family. A child is abandoned for a reason, so who knows if she’s an illegitimate child?”
“I think so too, Mother,” said Eliza, a complacent grin materializing on her face. “Even if Darren likes her… no, he won’t! That is impossible! Anyway, I’ll warn him in private, that this girl has lived with a man-”
“Hush!” Mrs. Leagan halted in her tracks, glancing around nervously. They both knew very well who this man was. There had been rumors about the exact nature of his peculiar relationship with the orphan, but nobody dared to touch this sensitive topic, especially the Leagans, who couldn’t afford to offend the family patriarch again. Therefore, they had to be more than cautious even though they figured they were the only ones in the courtyard for the time being. Then, out of the blue, a man’s deep voice echoed through the garden, “Candy?”
The ladies were startled. As they panicked, wondering who that was and whether he had overheard their conversation, they heard the sounds of running footsteps behind them. When they whirled around, they saw him and gasped unanimously in terror, but he ignored their odd reactions and greeted them, “Mrs. Leagan, Eliza.”
The man had always addressed Sarah as Mrs. Leagan, keeping his courtesy and distance. They were merely relatives by marriage, not by blood.
On the other hand, his presence sent a shudder of fear down Sarah’s spine, but she managed to curtsy and greeted, “Sir William.”
The woman could barely hide the tremor in her voice, and she nudged her daughter to do the same, not knowing Eliza’s knees had turned to jelly. Yet, the man didn’t wait for Eliza to respond and asked the mother, “Have you seen Candy? I can’t seem to find her anywhere.”
They both shook their heads, and Sarah reasoned, “Eliza felt tired, so I came out with her to get some fresh air. We haven’t seen anyone else however, Sir William.”
As he acknowledged by nodding, they excused themselves to return to the ballroom. He replied, “Of course. I think Mr. Leagan is looking for you, Mrs. Leagan.”
He immediately continued searching, making his way around the wishing fountain. When a soft breeze rustled the leaves of trees, his sensitive ears picked up a noise to his left. Someone just crossed the path, taking advantage of the breeze blowing through the garden. He jerked his head toward that direction and saw a lady carrying her high heels by the straps and walking on tiptoe. He recognized her silhouette in the dim light. “Candy? Is that you?”
She heaved a sigh of resignation and spun around to face him. Relief washed over him, and he took big strides toward her. When he was within an arm’s length of her, he ceased his steps. He was glad to be alone with her again, and he could now see her delicate face, shining under the moonlight like an angel. At the same time, from his height he could see the hint of her cleavage below the heart-shaped emerald pendant, dangling in between the sequined shoulder straps. He hastily averted his eyes, fully conscious of a desire rising rapidly inside him, the desire he was forbidden to show due to their legal relationship. The lovely nurse whom he had met as an amnesiac patient had undoubtedly grown to be a true beauty.
As a matter of fact, Albert wasn’t the only one who found Candy desirable tonight, considering the number of people lining up to dance with her. Albert simply hadn’t had a chance. Upon their arrival, Mr. McPherson had requested Mr. Leagan to introduce them to his children. When greeting one another, his son Darren, a man in his twenties, had formally asked Albert for his permission to dance with his beautiful adopted daughter, so Albert had also returned the favor by inviting Darren’s sisters to dance with him after fulfilling his duty to dance with the mayor’s wife and Mrs. Leagan.
Since then, whenever Albert had wanted to approach Candy, someone would come in his way for various reasons, either talking to him or introducing him to their friends and other ladies. Not to mention that over the course of reception, Candy herself had been swarmed with a dozen or more eligible young men.
Not long after the photograph shooting, Albert had given Mrs. Leagan his signal. Hence, Mrs. Leagan had stood in front of a large audience and attested that Candy had done nothing wrong while being a servant girl in their household. From a distance, Albert had noticed Candy standing up from her seat, heading out of the ballroom. He had decided to follow her, but once again someone had come out of nowhere to talk about some pressing matters needing his attention. Within minutes, he had lost sight of her.
“Albert, I… I think…” Candy faltered. Her slightly despondent voice shook Albert out of his trance. She pursed her lips, lowering her eyebrows in concentration, as if something was bothering her, so he promptly inquired, concern dripping in his voice, “Are you alright? I’m worried about you and have been looking for you-”
He stopped short when an unexpected smile lit her face, like she had suddenly changed her mind. It was the smile that could instantly melt his heart, and then she craned her neck and raised her resplendent eyes to meet his, teasing him, “I thought you liked playing hide-and-seek with me.”
He could only gape at her like a goldfish. How could her mood swing so dramatically within such a short time was beyond his comprehension. Is this something to do with Eliza and her mother? What have they done to Candy? Or were they aware Candy was somewhere hiding?
Just then, a warm balmy breeze rustled the trees around them. Still smiling, Candy fluttered her eyes closed and lifted her chin to the wind to let it play with the loose tendrils of her hair. Meanwhile, the moonlight shimmered on her porcelain skin and golden hair, illuminating her beauty even more. Oblivious to her, Albert grabbed this opportunity to scrutinize her exquisite features like the way a jeweler examined a rare gemstone with admiration. How he yearned to pull her to him this second and let her know she meant everything to him.
Yet, he swallowed hard and forced his jaw to close, fighting against his sudden urge to forget about propriety and simply run away with her right now. She was turning twenty-one soon, and he had been impatiently counting down the days.
However, he finally noticed the tears that sparkled on her eyelashes, which brought him back to the current situation. Why? Has she been crying?