Thank you for your patience! Lately, I have to juggle many tasks. It’s unbelievable! Besides, I wanted to read more references for this chapter, so it has taken me longer to finish. If you like this chapter, please write a few words. Appreciate your continued support and encouragement!
Though Mrs. Watts had reserved a private compartment for Miss Candice and herself, Albert chose the open section to travel with the other passengers, where the seats were facing each other, his reason being, “When traveling alone, I prefer sitting amongst people, rather than confining myself in a room, regardless of its size. Plus, I can save some money.”
He then playfully moved his brows up and down. Candy highly doubted that he needed to save money, so she remarked, “You must be joking, Granduncle William.”
Even Mrs. Watts found it unfathomable, but Albert merely shrugged his shoulders nonchalantly. “George and I don’t always use a private compartment, believe it or not.”
The ladies were unaware that Albert had been isolated from people, if not imprisoned, since childhood. He hadn’t got to see the world until he had begun his college life in London. Sharing the bathrooms and showers located at the end of the car was no big deal to him. Besides, he had traveled like a vagabond in his early twenties to experience life, so he had no problem tolerating the noise and meeting all sorts of strangers.
At present, the horn from the front of the train tooted, and the conductor hollered, “All aboard!”
In an orderly fashion, the passengers began filing in and taking seats. Likewise, Mrs. Watts, Candy and Albert were lining up, patiently waiting for their turn. Just then, someone shouted somewhere on the platform, jolting them all, “Miss Candice… Miss Candice!”
While Candy couldn’t quite locate the person who was calling her, Albert, being a lot taller, saw a woman pushing through the crowd while waving her arm in their direction. “It’s Stacy, Candy,” he said to the blond girl.
The maid who had been very nice to Candy cried her name again, so Candy responded by waving both her arms high above her head, “Stacy!”
As Candy scurried towards Stacy, there was a stir amongst the onlookers. The people then made way for the ladies to pass. Albert followed closely behind Candy, eager to find out why Stacy had returned. Then he saw Stacy pass something shiny back to Candy, saying, “Miss Candice, you dropped your treasure.”
Candy took a loud intake of breath, unable to believe her eyes. Instinctively, she stroked the base of her throat just to make sure the necklace was really not there.
“Thank you, Stacy! Thank you, thank you!” the girl then yelped with deep gratitude, holding the badge and the crucifix close to her heart. It was her treasure indeed, the badge that belonged to her Prince on the Hill and the crucifix was Miss Pony’s gift to her.
Then Stacy showed Candy that the clasp of the necklace had been broken. “Perhaps it could no longer bear the weight of these items,” she explained, adding that the lady shouldn’t wear it around her neck anymore until after getting a sturdier clasp. “Luckily, I spotted this on the carpeted floor near the hotel entrance right after you had left for the train station with Sir William.”
Upon seeing the badge, Albert was indescribably moved to discover that Candy had brought it with her to Miami. As he thanked the responsible maid in earnest, the train tooted again. They could hear the conductor yelling once more, “All aboard!”
Mrs. Watts had come to them and urged them to leave with her, so Candy gave Stacy a heartfelt hug before she boarded the train with Albert and Mrs. Watts. They wouldn’t arrive at New York until tomorrow night , and it was going to be a long trip.
Around supper, the three met again and dined in the lounge together. Mrs. Watts, a lady in her early forties, was talkative as usual, revealing interesting details about her trips with different young ladies as their chaperones. She then praised Miss Candice once again for being very easy-going and nice, claiming that some young ladies were impossible to please. As she went on to describe how they had caused her pain, both Candy and Albert were quite entertained by her stories, but if they could choose, they’d rather travel without her.
The following day, between the meals, Candy couldn’t help wondering what Albert was doing out there by himself. The train was rather packed with children, men and women, young and old ones. Some time before noon, Candy told Mrs. Watts that she wanted to walk around, stretching her legs a bit, and would be back in about ten minutes. Mrs. Watts put down her book and nodded to her. “Don’t take too long, Miss Candice.”
In spite of all the distractions around him, Albert was completely occupied with his documents and scarcely had his eyes lifted up from the papers in his hands. Candy had never seen this facet of him even though working whenever and wherever possible might have become a routine for him nowadays. With an aura of focus and determination, he appeared more appealing to her than ever. She didn’t leave until he sensed that someone was watching him, craning his neck to scan the surroundings.
Similarly, after having lunch together, they returned to their seats. About an hour later, Candy closed her book and shut her eyes, pretending to be sleeping. Before long, Mrs. Watts dozed off as expected. Hence, Candy sneaked out to find Albert. He wasn’t working this time, but he had put on a pair of eyeglasses, talking to a pretty woman, who sat opposite him, holding a young child on her lap. Being a bit of jealous, Candy didn’t recall seeing this young woman before. The seat had been unoccupied earlier, so perhaps the woman had taken the child to the bathroom or whatever. Mrs. Watts was a nice companion to be traveling with, and yet Candy wished she could be sitting beside Albert right now, joining their lively conversation.
During dinner, Candy pointed at the pair of eyeglasses that perched on Albert’s nose, asking with a curious smile, “Why wearing this?”
He glanced around the place before laying the spectacles on the dining table. “To avoid troubles,” he answered cryptically in a low voice, grinning at her with a hint of mischief in his eyes. While Candy frowned in puzzlement, Mrs. Watts laughingly bantered, “I suppose you use the thick glasses to obscure your spectacular-looking face?”
He blushed and dropped his eyes, chuckling embarrassingly to himself. His silence was essentially his admission.
Only then Candy understood what he had alluded to. Mrs. Watts hadn’t exaggerated. He had such a flawless face, no blemishes, no spots, and the pleasant blue color of his irises effortlessly attracted people’s attention, like the color of a morning sky right after the sunrise on a sunny day. Not only that, who wouldn’t envy his long thick eyelashes that adorned his captivating eyes?
Meanwhile, Albert went on relating to them how he had collected various costumes ever since he had started college in London. His stories intrigued Candy, but at the same time Candy was imagining what sort of troubles he had run into back then. Had Albert been a rebel like Terry, who had unintentionally captured girls’ interest? Had Albert been involved in gang fights too? He had successfully rescued Terry from the gangsters in London without getting hurt after all. Then it hit Candy that Albert might have fallen in love during college, probably more than once. If so, what had happened to those ladies?
Candy came to realize she knew very little about Albert’s private life, let alone his past, and as a result, her mood dampened slightly. Like what she had written in her unsent letter to Terry, to her, Albert had remained a man veiled in mystery.
It was Albert’s question that snapped the girl back to the present, “Remember my dark sunglasses and full beard, Candy?” 
His lips turned into a smirk as he wriggled his eyebrows in a playful manner. Candy pasted a smile on her face and giggled, “How can I forget Mr. Pirate?”
The two burst out laughing, and Mrs. Watts could only blink. The chaperone was clueless what was so funny about those objects. Albert observed her blank expression and told her where he had frequented in London to begin his collection, including a couple of sunglasses with different shades of grey and several wigs with matching beards. Mrs. Watts couldn’t help teasing the young man, saying that he should have taken advantage of his gorgeous looks. He chuckled without a word, shaking his head in disagreement.
While Mrs. Watts was talking to Albert, Candy’s mind was miles away. She could feel herself flushing when her first few moments with Albert near the waterfall came back to her now, in particular, the very instant he had raised his dark sunglasses from his face to reveal his orbs in an attempt to calm her down. With just one look of those eyes, so tender and so blue, she had placed her trust in him, believing that he was not a bad guy. Right now, Candy saw the same twinkle in his eyes that had first arrested her notice.
However, when Candy recalled the rest of the near-drowning incident, a sudden wave of bashfulness overcame her. After rescuing her from the waterfall, Albert had replaced her soaked clothes with his own shirt, laid her in bed and covered her with a warm blanket. While waiting for her to recover her consciousness, he had placed her clothes near the fire to dry and prepared a hot soup for her.
As a nurse, what he had done after the rescue made total sense to her. Being soaked to the core back then, she might have suffered hypothermia. Nonetheless, her face crimsoned with embarrassment, and she felt like hiding from him. It had never crossed her mind till now that he had seen her. He must have dried her with a towel before putting his shirt on her. Though her body hadn’t fully matured yet, she had been thirteen years old already, going through her puberty. However, had he paid attention? Did he remember anything? If so, how much?
Feeling self-conscious and discomfited, Candy could no longer face Albert with all these unsettling questions bombarding her. Frankly, she couldn’t even meet his eyes, and sooner or later he would notice her unease. Therefore, Candy interrupted them, hoisting herself up from the chair, “Please excuse me.”
Neither Albert nor her chaperone expected that from her, but she managed to convince them, “I don’t have much appetite. I didn’t sleep well last night, so I think I want to head back and start packing.”
Not long after Mrs. Watts also returned to the private compartment to gather her belongings, Candy heard the whistle blow. The train was slowing down, pulling into the station. To their surprise, the next train was completely booked, so Albert could not board the train with them. The train heading to Chicago had rooms however.
Feeling let down, Candy frowned and bit her bottom lip. She wanted more than anything to show up at the orphanage with Albert by her side. He intuited her feelings, that she was upset and chagrined, so he checked with the train station clerk once again. Nothing was available until tomorrow early afternoon, and there was no private compartment left on that train.
After consulting with the ladies, Albert made a last minute decision to exchange the ladies’ tickets with the new ones by paying a penalty fee, and he reserved a seat near the ladies too. They would spend a night in a hotel that he was familiar with. He would also send a couple of telegrams to Pony’s Home and George’s secretary to notify them of their change of plan.
Being their VIP, the manager at the front desk was able to find the guests three rooms with good views of the city. Mrs. Watts was immensely grateful to be able to relax in a bathtub and sleep in a real bed for the night in a quiet setting before traveling long distance again. If she had difficulties sleeping on a compact berth inside the train compartment, how much more so when Sir William had to bend his long legs for an extended period of time?
When they received their keys to their rooms, the manager added, “Mr. Ardlay, it is an honor to serve you as a long-term guest in our hotel. To express our appreciation, we are more than happy to offer you and your friends complimentary tickets to any show currently shown at Broadway. I’d personally recommend Hamlet. It’s extraordinary and magnificent! But of course you’re welcome to choose any other.”
Albert thanked the manager for the free tickets. While leaving the front desk together, Albert cast Candy a fleeting glance. She shook her head in response to his unspoken question, saying, “It’s too late to see any play at this time, Granduncle.”
As they ambled towards their rooms, Albert suggested, “Candy, if you’re not in a hurry to go back home, you can stay one more day in New York.”
Candy perceived that Albert could have returned to Chicago tomorrow by himself. However, Mrs. Watts said, “Sir William, I’ve watched Hamlet twice already, but if Miss Candice likes, I can watch it again with her. The actors are incredible, especially the one who plays Prince Hamlet. Terrence Graham really brought the character to life!”
Candy only smiled at her. In fact, on their way to Miami, Mrs. Watts had known that Miss Candice hadn’t yet watched the famous play. Albert gave the chaperone a terse nod and turned to Candy, providing another suggestion, “Perhaps I can watch it with you too, Candy?”
Yet, Candy came up with a valid excuse, “Dr. Martin expects me to return to work, Granduncle William.”
“Alright then,” said Albert. With mixed feelings, he wasn’t sure if he was more relieved or more encouraged that Candy had insisted not seeing Terry.
Once inside her own bedroom, the bed looked so comfortable that Candy undressed herself and climbed right in. Pushing the pillows up behind her, she began writing in her travel journal for the children back at Pony’s Home. She promised to tell them stories when she returned.
But soon her mind wandered off to Terry. Hamlet’s posters were indeed everywhere as Albert had told her, but she must admit that Terry, dressed as the Prince of Denmark with a sword in his hand and piercing eyes on his rebellious face, looked like someone completely foreign to her. Hamlet was a tragic hero, and the character was seemingly a perfect fit for Terry.
How many years had elapsed since their breakup? It seemed so long ago already. Being merely sixteen then, Candy had made a heart-wrenching decision to leave Terry, knowing that Susanna’s permanent disability would forever loom over their heads no matter what would happen next. As painful as Candy had anticipated, she had broken the news to Terry soon after Susanna’s suicidal attempt, and his ready consent had fallen upon her like a hammer, waking her up from her dreams of having a future with him. The reality had struck her at that point, that he had already made up his mind to give her up too, only waiting for the right time to talk to her. Therefore, the breakup had been a mutual decision, and Candy hadn’t regretted her choice, not even once.
However, why had Terry claimed that he hadn’t changed? How could he not change? Some time around Candy’s eighteenth birthday, Terry had sent her a brief letter, to which Candy hadn’t yet replied. Truth be told, she hadn’t known what to do with the letter, which had baffled her beyond reasons. Even to this day, she couldn’t figure out what had motivated Terry to write to her, telling her that he had remained unchanged. What had he expected from her?
For one thing, Terry should know that Candy had promised Susanna not to see him again, which included not to contact him ever again. For another, unlike Terry, Candy’s mindset had altered considerably. With Albert’s help and support, she had got over the breakup, as per Terry’s last request to her after shedding tears down her neck. He had demanded, “Be happy… or else I won’t forgive you…”
Candy would never, ever forget that particular moment in her life even though that had occurred years ago already. Hence, Candy had kept her promise to Terry and tried her best to forget, so why couldn’t he?
As a matter of fact, when Miss Eleanor Baker had invited Candy to see the show, the ticket had reminded her of the feelings of exasperation and disappointment in Rockstown, but at the same time, Candy had been tremendously relieved and overjoyed at Terry’s success in his career. Rather than wasting his life away working for a roadside theatre, Terry had become a real Broadway star now, and his efforts and talents had been well recognized. In a sense, Terry had finally moved on in his life.
Heaving a long and heavy sigh, Candy decided she was too tired to write. She turned out the light and slid down in bed. As soon as she snuggled under the covers, she plummeted into sleep, more exhausted than expected. In one of her dreams, Terry appeared to her as Hamlet, asking, “Candy, why are you avoiding me?”
“Me? Avoiding you? What are you talking about?”
“My mother sent you an invitation, didn’t she? Why did you not come to see me? Aren’t you happy for me that I’m now successful?”
“Of course I’m happy!”
His miserable state in Rockstown resurfaced in her head, so she congratulated him from the bottom of her heart, then she asked, “How’s Susanna?”
“She’s fine, Candy. We’re engaged, and I’ve moved in,” he answered, though he didn’t seem particularly excited about it.
Nevertheless, she responded with real joy in her voice, “How wonderful, Terry!”
They were engaged. It was a natural thing to do, wasn’t it? Hadn’t he vowed to Susanna to always stay by her side? Candy then realized she had indeed got over him. She felt no jealousy at all. No tears came to her eyes either.
Yet, neither spoke anything after that as though they didn’t know what else to say. Although Terry would remain special to Candy, they were practically strangers to each other now, not having anything in common anymore. Their days at St. Paul’s Academy or Scotland had turned into her cherished but distant memories.
With hindsight, their relationship had barely started before Terry had abruptly left London without a trace. Going down different paths in life, they had lost touch for a very long time. When they could finally reunite after being apart for more than a year, Terry had chosen Susanna over Candy because of the accident.
Due to prolonged separation, Candy’s strong feelings for Terry had gradually waned. She tried not to read Terry’s news from newspapers or tabloids though she had come across them anyway. Nonetheless, she had cut all ties with him, and she bet he wasn’t even aware that she had returned to the Pony’s Home, working as a nurse in a clinic.
Just then, loud knocks on her door awakened her out of her sleep. It was Mrs. Watts. “Good morning, Miss Candice.”
Candy clumsily put on a morning robe and opened the door for her. Mrs. Watts came in and inquired the young lady, “Sir William left a message for us. He wanted to know if you have changed your mind. He figured he could change the train tickets for us again if you’d like to stay for another day. He can either take the train back to Chicago himself or stay with us. It’s up to you, Miss Candice.”
The young lady re-confirmed that she would rather go home. Her chaperone scrutinized her for a long moment as though she tried to comprehend her stubbornness. “Are you sure?”
When Candy reassured, Mrs. Watts said, “No problem. I’ll wait for you down at the lobby in half an hour, Miss Candice. Let’s have breakfast together.”
While closing the door behind her, Candy wondered where Albert was. Would he join them for breakfast too? After refreshing herself with a shower, Candy left her room and headed straight down to the lobby, but Mrs. Watts was the only one there, waiting for her. Much to Candy’s dismay, Albert was tied up with his responsibilities. Her chaperone explained, “Sir William has already paid for the rooms, giving the tickets back to the front desk. However, he just received a telegram from his head office and realized he had to run some errands before leaving New York. He will meet us at the station this afternoon instead.”
A shadow crossed the blond girl’s face. She managed a small nod as disappointment coursed through her, and she also began to worry about his health. How much stress could a man handle before he collapsed? Then she remembered what he had said before, that he hadn’t had enough time to sleep or rest.
Later, while waiting for Albert at the train station, a youth pushed Candy with such force that she was thrown to the ground. The youth then snatched her handbag and ran for his life through the crowd. As both Mrs. Watts and Candy screamed at the top of their lungs, Albert saw the robbery from a distance and chased after the youth. A middle-aged porter happened to capture the thief running his way, and Albert shouted, “Thank you! The handbag belongs to my friend!”
The porter saw the young lady limping her way across the platform, coming towards them and nodding her head firmly. As the porter made the thief return the handbag to Albert, the youth with ash-colored hair kept screeching, “Let me go! Let me go! Let me go!…”
Yet Albert couldn’t help asking the boy in his early teens, “Why did you steal?”
“My mom is sick!” the boy cried out, big drops of tears rolling down his cheeks. “She’s all that I have!”
The porter gripped the boy’s jaw hard with his large hand and yelled, “Liar!”
Even the conductor came and said to Albert, “Sir, don’t believe him. There are too many robbers these days!”
But Albert appraised the boy’s pleading eyes, the tears on his scowling face, his slumped shoulders and his trembling hands. Then the blond-haired man asked the boy, “How much do you need?”
While both the porter and the conductor stared at the tall man in utter disbelief, the boy’s face beamed. With hopes in his dark brown eyes, the boy wiped his tears with his soiled palms and indicated the amount required to see a doctor. That sounded reasonable enough, so Albert produced his wallet. He opened it and began fumbling for money, paying more than the boy had needed. “This should be enough for the medicines too.”
The boy gaped at the cash in the man’s hand. He had never seen so much money in his life, so he instantly made a deep bow to the man in a grey suit. “Let me work for you, Sir! I can do anything!”
But Albert hunched over to pat the boy’s skinny shoulder. As the boy straightened up, Albert gave him a business card too. “Write to my assistant when your mother gets better. What’s your name?”
The boy replied aloud, “Jack Ross!”
Albert repeated, “Jack Ross?”
“Do promise me not to steal again, Jack,” the tall man admonished.
When Jack took an oath not to steal ever again, he kept the money and the business card securely in his pocket. Then Albert said to the porter, giving him tip as well, “Thank you for your help. Please let Jack go.”
The dark-skinned porter scratched his head a bit skeptically before he roughly loosened his grip on the boy’s arm. The boy staggered a little before kneeling on his knees to thank the generous man, “Sir! I’ll never forget your kindness!”
Albert instantly grasped the boy’s arms to haul him up. “Go now, Jack! Take good care of your mother.”
The boy, shedding tears of gratitude, nodded his head with resolve. “I will, Sir!”
The boy then took off without looking back. Candy had stood beside Albert for a while, watching everything. She couldn’t have felt more proud of Albert today, so when he turned to her, asking in a concerned tone, “Are you hurt, Candy?”, she gazed up at him, admiration brimming in her eyes. He returned her gaze, nonplussed, and a blush crept up his neck within seconds. Then she shook him out of his stupor by telling him that her knees were hurting, but not too bad. “Thank goodness I wear a long dress today!” she stated, a radiant smile gracing her lips, and she bent forward to brush off the obvious dirt on her dress. Only then he remembered to return the handbag to her, and he put his hand under her elbow to support her all the way back to where the luggages and Mrs. Watts were.
The trip back home was relatively shorter, a little more than twenty hours.  This time, they could sit near one another. The seats that faced each other in the open section could be converted into an upper and a lower berths, each screened from the central aisle by a curtain. Mrs. Watts sat facing Candy, and Albert sat on the other side of the aisle by himself until a man with white hair showed up.
Without wearing any disguise, Albert immersed himself in paperworks. Candy threw stealthy glances at his side profile from time to time, adoring him in secret. He exuded charisma and self-confidence while working.
Few hours later, the man with white hair stretched his arms up high, yawned and left his seat. Candy noted that her chaperone began to nod off, so Candy put her book down and quietly retrieved the badge from her handbag. When its tiny bell jingled, Albert raised his eyes from his document and saw the badge in her hand reflect the light off its surface, so he unhurriedly put his pen and papers back into his leather briefcase, asking casually, “Is anything wrong?”
Her face turned pink as if she got caught, but she flashed him a smile and said she could hardly believe she had almost lost the badge twice during this return trip. Presently, they both heard the snores coming from Mrs. Watts, who had obviously drifted off into her dreamland, so Candy continued, “I have kept the badge close to me all these years just in case… You know, my prince…”
Yet, Candy unexpectedly trailed off, shooting Albert a swift glance. She hesitated because she didn’t want him to misunderstand her by any chance. It was true that Candy had never forgotten about the very charming teenager, still holding onto the hope that he might eventually reappear to her one day, but she wouldn’t trade Albert for him. Albert was way more important to Candy now.
So she stuck out her tongue at him. “I’d better stop before I bore you with the details again.”
He always felt flattered whenever she mentioned the Scottish boy. She had spent her childhood longing to see her prince again, even cherishing her girlish fantasies of romance, which explained why she had fallen for Anthony at first sight, so Albert promptly said, “It’s OK, Candy. You know I don’t mind.”
He means it, she thought. She lost count of how many times she had related to him about her brief encounter with Prince on the Hill, and Albert had never shown any sign of impatience. Nevertheless, the way his face currently lit up took her by surprise, and she felt simultaneously pleased and perplexed. The smile that came on his face was a mixture of amusement and understanding, and his eyes shone even more under his thick eyebrows. Little did she know that the badge actually gave him a brilliant idea, and he felt a thrill of excitement ripple over him.
But Candy disagreed, “No, not now. Let’s talk about other things.”
Hence, she gingerly put the badge back into her handbag and glanced at Mrs. Watts out of the corner of her eye. The chaperone was apparently fast asleep, so Candy tiptoed her way towards Albert. The seat was wide enough for two people, and though he was delighted to have her come to his side, he raised an eyebrow teasingly at her when he moved over to make room for her to sit between the window and himself. She deliberately ignored his teasing gesture and bathed him with a smile that compelled him to draw a deep breath. She smiled like someone who finally got her long-awaited prize, and a complacent smile spread across his face in no time. At that instant, he determined to do whatever he could to make her happy for the rest of her life.
After a moment of amiable silence, she spoke up, unable to mask her curiosity any longer, “Albert, about that teenage boy-”
“Candy,” he said, cutting her off. “I meant to tell you that I shouldn’t have released him without asking-”
“No, no, no,” she uttered in a rushed tone, shaking her head side to side. “That’s not what I was going to say.”
“But he should have apologized to you,” he insisted, his brows drawn together in a sorrowful frown.
With a nod of her head, she uttered softly, “It’s alright. The boy had my pity.”
He smiled at her with genuine admiration. “Candy, you’re truly kind-hearted, willing to forgive others’ faults.”
She blushed and replied, “I’ve learned not to hold grudges.”
Nodding, he mildly countered, “But not everyone can do it.”
She shied away from his searching gaze, averting her eyes, which made his heart stand still for a moment. Yet he kept his gaze on her, studying her delicate features, powerless to stop the tender feeling from growing stronger in his chest. Am I really the lucky guy whom she fancies?
When she suddenly raised her eyes back to his, her mouth dropped, not expecting that he was staring at her with affection. For about two seconds, neither of them spoke as they held each other’s gaze until he regained his composure and cleared his throat. She felt her face reddening, but she heard him, “So, Candy, sorry to have interrupted you. What about Jack Ross again?”
She curbed her emotions and swallowed a sigh, asking the question, “What made you think he was telling the truth?”
He shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t know. Something in his eyes or facial expression I guess? My instinct told me he wasn’t a liar. As a matter of fact…”
He paused here, diverting his attention to the window as though he was contemplating his next words. The train was chugging along the tracks at full speed, and the sun was setting, coloring everything, trees and houses included, a golden shade.
Oblivious to Candy, Albert recalled how he had been greatly stirred in heart at the exact moment when the boy had mentioned his sick mother, and she was all he had in the world. Albert himself had never got to know his own mother. Mrs. Ardlay had passed away soon after giving birth to him, the only male descendant. Sometimes, Albert mused over why his late father had chosen to remain single since then and what would have happened if his father had remarried.
Taking in the sight of Albert’s wistful visage, Candy wondered what was on his mind for the time being. He appeared bemused and somewhat shaken. Just when she placed a hand on his arm, he said, still peering out of the window, “Jack reminded me of George to some extent.”
“George?” she echoed with doubt, her eyes widening in bewilderment.
He brought his focus back to her. “Yes, my late father met George in France.”
“France?” she asked with questioning eyes. “Are you saying that George was originally from France?”
He gave a brisk nod to confirm. “Yes, he wanted to steal my late father’s briefcase.” His voice was level and neutral, even edging on indifference, like he was talking about some news he had read on newspapers.
“What?” she gasped incredulously. How could that be possible?
Albert looked into her eyes and recounted, his tone warming up significantly, “Rather than giving George a hard time, my late father decided to take George under his wing and brought him back to America, giving him proper education and treating him as though he was his own son. George in turn adored his benefactor from the bottom of his heart, and George surpassed my father’s highest expectations with flying colors.”
Candy continued to listen with fascination. George was also an abandoned child, only slightly older than Rosemary, and they had grown up like siblings. Compared to them, Albert was so much younger. When Albert had reached eight years old, just before his father had passed away in his prime, his last words to George had been, “George, look after my son, William. Do it for me.”
Albert’s voice turned thick with emotions by now. He closed his eyes for a couple of seconds before he blinked, and Candy saw a glint of moisture in his eyes. She felt tears come to her eyes too as a lump formed in her throat. She was aware Albert had lost his father years ago, but she had no clue this had happened to him at such a young age. How about his mother? Where was she when his father died?
Then Candy remembered those family portraits she had seen at Lakewood or Chicago, and none of them showed Mrs. Ardlay with a boy. Oh dear, does that mean he lost his mother as a child too?
Candy was saddened at the sudden realization that Albert had also grown up without the love and nurturing guidance of his own parents. With her heart pounding like a drum, she pushed down the lump in her throat. If she remembered correctly, this was the first time Albert had ever revealed to her something this personal about himself, his late father and George. Come to think of it, when was the last time Albert had shown his vulnerable side to her?
He had always been strong for Candy, ready to protect her, carry her burdens upon his shoulders, or give her a hand. Yet, he was but a man of flesh and blood, and he had his own memories and griefs just like everyone else.
Then his voice cut through her train of thought, nearly startling her. “George has always been by my side for as long as I can remember. He’s my confidant and most reliable friend, and I can talk to him about almost anything…” he paused abruptly to exhale, sniffing. “Oh my… what’s got into me? I just rambled on and on like an old guy, didn’t I, Candy?”
“No, no, Albert, please go on,” she implored. She didn’t realize he felt sorry to have told her about George. He should have got his permission first. Hence, at her encouraging nod, he simply wrapped up, a heavy-hearted smile curving his lips, “I must say I owe George a lot, and thanks to him that I could enjoy my freedom in my youth. Regrettably, I have made him worry very much too.”
She fixed her eyes on his melancholic ones, which brought the period when he had been amnesiac, totally lost and vulnerable, back to her. While he had been missing for many months then, she could imagine how distressed George must have felt. Albert seemed to have picked up her thoughts, and he acknowledged, “Yes, George had never been this panicked and distraught before in his life… until after months of hearing absolutely nothing from me.”
“I can tell…” she murmured her agreement, and she had chosen to keep the amnesiac patient a secret from George too so as not to worry her guardian back then. When she told Albert that, they both let out a bitter chuckle, shaking their heads in resignation. Then she turned serious, asking if he had mentioned any of this to anyone. He shook his head very slowly and enunciated, “No. Only you. My aunt knows some of it, but not everything.”
That caught her off guard, and his answer made her feel amazingly special. She was considerably touched by the fact that he had confided in her, and she found herself gazing into the depths of those blue pools of light. He also stared at her with a steadfast gaze that froze her in place and made her pulse race like crazy. She sensed that he had something else to say to her, and when she felt her cheeks getting hot, a strong arm came around her shoulders. As she was drawn to his masculine body, enveloped in his familiar fragrance, Mrs. Watts’ question spoiled the moment between the two.
“Oh! What time is it?” the chaperone asked in a sleepy tone, stifling her yawn with her eyes still closed.
Albert then lifted up his arm from Candy, pulling himself away from her before he stood up. Outside, the sunset was deepening, so he answered, “Mrs. Watts, I think it’s supper time.”
 According to Amtrak, to travel from Miami to New York takes about 1 day 4 hours.
 In Wikipedia, it said that the use of sunglasses started to become popular in the early 1920s. Sunglasses were not mass-produced until Sam Foster introduced them to America in 1929.
 According to Amtrak, to travel from New York to Chicago takes about 19 to 21 hours, but since I don’t know where exactly the Pony’s Home was located, this is a rough estimate.
Note: Once again, this story is a product of my imagination. If you find any typo or obvious error, please kindly let me know. Thank you. About sleeper trains, I got the ideas from reading several sites, including Open Sections and Pullman Cars.
Many thanks to the following people for their comments to the previous chapter: Luna, CKati, Agnès, Antlay, Vera García, Evelyn, Anonymous, You Ri Lee, Candy & Albert World, and Jessica Paulina Cajero Gonzàlez. In addition, to those of you who have read this story in silence, I’d like to thank you too for your interest.
In Candy Candy Final Story, Terry sent a brief letter to Candy without a date, but he wrote (CCFS Vol 2, P. 283):
…あれから一年たった。(…It has been a year since that.)
The mere fact that Terry used あれ (which means ‘that’) indicates that he referred to an incident that was familiar to both himself and Candy. People don’t always use あれ this way, but sometimes あれ can be used to hint at a rather sensitive or uncomfortable topic that one would prefer not to say it explicitly but both the speaker and the listener understand what it alludes to.
Therefore, I’m inclined to believe Terry meant their painful breakup at New York because he shouldn’t expect Candy to know the date of Susanna’s death by heart (as many have assumed). Like some of you have pointed out, about one year and a half since their breakup, it was possibly around Candy’s birthday, which might have triggered Terry to contact her.