— Ms Puddle
So Master William plans to drive that car to and from my house every day for work?
Then something dawns on me. He wants to eliminate the chance that I run into his roommate. No wonder he came so early today, to see me at my house before I leave for the day. But…
“Where are you going to park your car?” I slip, astonished that I actually thought out loud.
But he is apparently prepared for this. “I’ve already checked with the landlady, and the monthly rent for a parking spot is minimal.”
“Minimal?”I echo with uncertainty. Which measurement standard does he use, as an Ardlay or as someone with low income?
“Is it affordable with your current dishwashing job?”
“No,” he retorts, shaking his head and stifling his laugh. “We barely make ends meet, Georges, but my friend refuses to let me switch to full-time. She insists that I should take it easy because she has a well-paid job with positive career prospects. Who could have known-”
He abruptly stops talking, clenching his jaw and curling his hands into fists. When our eyes cross, he hastily diverts his to the scenic view. Without a doubt, he holds back, possibly remembering the mistakes he made earlier when talking too much. I suppose he isn’t ready to disclose the fact to me that she lost her job because of him.
A part of me understands his inner conflicts, but another part of me is upset by the fact that he may never trust me again. Meanwhile, I keep driving in silence as he remains lost in thought. Some minutes later, he resumes, “Anyway, I told her that I had found a new job, but not in our neighborhood, so I will pay for the parking.”
“Her? Your friend, sir?” I’m unsure whom he referred to, his landlady or his friend.
It takes him a moment before he figures out why his statement was ambiguous, and he adds with a sheepish smile in a murmuring voice, “No, Georges. She doesn’t know yet… I mean my friend doesn’t know that I quit my job… the same day she lost hers.”
“She lost her job?” I rephrase his words in a much louder voice as a question, acting astonished. Deep inside, relief rushes through me that he’s letting it out. I can see the sorrow in his blue orbs as he nods at me.
“Why?” I figure I should ask; if not, my silence would have been unnatural.
But he only heaves a heavy sigh and peers out of the window again, mumbling under his breath, “I will give her an update at home tonight… I’ll gauge Aunt Elroy’s reactions first.”
Right… the House of Magnolia is home to him…
I then recall him telling me yesterday in my office that he had broken a stack of dishes in the kitchen due to the onslaught of a piercing headache, so I bring this up. His lips curve up slightly in response. “I’ve already taken care of that, Georges. My late father must have taught you well… to pay attention to details.”
Is that why Master William keeps his mouth shut concerning his legally adopted daughter? Has he realized that so far I haven’t mentioned anything about her either?
All of a sudden, he straightens up, turning his head quickly from side to side, and then urges me to stop the car. I’m taken aback by his request, but I park at a random spot on the side of the road nevertheless. When I turn off the ignition, he eagerly asks me, “Where is this place?”
Nobody could have missed the exhilaration in his voice and expression. Without waiting for my answer, he pushes open the passenger door and steps out to the vast green meadow. I get off as well to catch him up. It’s a heavenly place, with sturdy trees scattered here and there. The sky radiates its sapphire blue as far as our eyes can see. We are currently standing on a hill, overlooking a glistening river winding through a valley below, where some kids are frolicking or swimming. Their cheer of warm laughter can be heard up where we are.
By now, the sun has just passed the highest point, and I’m dazzled by the glaring brightness and the breathtaking view. Soon enough, Master William makes his way under an oak tree, and I trail after him. The sun rays shoot through the green leaves, making beautiful patterns on the grass, and he removes the spare sunglasses which I gave him earlier during the ride, saying, “This is sublime. Georges, you have to show me on the map how to get back here again.” He appears overjoyed, his blue pools of light reflecting the vivid color of the sky.
“My pleasure, Sir William.” Then I explain I made a detour to take this scenic route along the countryside because I decided to bypass the traffic heading back to the city.
He grins from ear to ear, surveying the tranquil landscape in one rolling glance. “I’m so glad we have discovered this treasure, Georges. When I was amnesiac, my roommate willingly spent most of her spare time, taking me to various parts of the city with hopes that I could find things that struck a chord with me. She said I must have been familiar with Chicago because that had been the only word I had spoken during my delirium. Her constant support kept my spirits up, and I’d been praying on my knees that I could dig up the memory that might have been buried somewhere subconsciously.”
He looks far into the distance, musing, as the warm breeze ruffles his golden hair. The wind makes shadows dance on his chiseled features, and moments later, he speaks up again, his voice turning thick, “Little did I expect back then that I hadn’t been to any of those places in Chicago… What a shame… I only knew their existence as names from the news.”
A sad chuckle escapes his throat as he dips his head low. Who can blame him for having self-pity? He had lived like a prisoner for years until he studied abroad in a college across the ocean. Even then, he had been constantly watched by personal guards to ensure his safety. It was only after he had graduated that his aunt allowed him to lead a solitary life in Lakewood. Yet he had to promise to reside in a family owned villa near the waterfall, where he could house any animals he had rescued from the woods so that he could nurse them back to health. It was during this period that he informed his aunt why he aspired to go to Africa one day.
Then his voice cuts into my reverie, “I’ll definitely come again with her… as a surprise… to cheer her up.”
I arch my eyebrow curiously at him. He sounded determined, and I hope my ‘how so?’ demeanor will motivate him to tell me more. He sighs, nodding gravely. “My friend hasn’t quite got over her breakup yet.”
“Breakup?” My eyes widen at the shocking news. It isn’t a pretense this time. First, I honestly wasn’t aware Miss Candice had been in a relationship. Didn’t Sister Grey dismiss the rumors about Mr. Grantchester and Miss Ardlay? Besides, does this imply my speculation about my young master and Miss Candice is completely wrong?
That explains why I feel a bit fidgety, getting nervous to hear the truth from Master William’s mouth at long last. Right then, he exhales in exaggeration, putting the sunglasses back on, “This pair of shades fits me well, can I have them from now on?”
“Of course,” I utter as my hope dashes, putting my own sunglasses back on as well to cover my eyes. I have to conceal the frustration that comes over me. He drops the topic once again.
Then it strikes me that perhaps Master William wants to shroud his feelings from me too even though the shades are only semi-transparent. What was his last sentence before this? He mentioned the breakup, right, and that his friend hadn’t got over it yet.
Is my master saddened because Miss Candice is suffering? That depends on how long ago the incident took place. Is he troubled by her mourning over the loss? Is my imagination taking me too far that my master may be feeling down because his presence doesn’t help his roommate forget the pain? Above all, is this why he chose to stay with her for a little longer?
While heading back to the car, he darts his gaze around the vicinity and looks highly pleased and satisfied. Obviously, he delights in enlivening Miss Candice, and the mere thought has chased away his gloomy feelings. At this point, he remarks in a bantering tone, “Georges, I wonder if my ‘new’ car will be able to come this far.”
I chuckle, relating to him that I have the exact same doubt. He guffaws out loud, and his joyous mood is so contagious that I join him in his laughter. This proves that the possibility of raising Miss Candice’s spirits has a positive impact on him. Think about it, this is our first laugh since he appeared yesterday. Thereafter, the atmosphere of elation remains, for that I’m greatly relieved.
Hence, not long after I start the engine, when he’s comfortable enough to take off his sunglasses, I work up my courage to ask him something that’s been bothering me. One of the witnesses of the lion incident mentioned that the guy who had faced the lion had had a car accident earlier in the same year. Yet, since I didn’t hear it from my master himself, I phrase my words carefully, “Sir William, how long have you known Dr. Martin?”
His countenance darkens slightly while he considers my question, looking down at his lap. Some moments of awkward silence later, when we are waiting at one of the busiest intersections in the city, I take the hint and give up, “Never mind, sir.”
“Georges,” he quickly utters in a rueful tone, glancing up at me. “Don’t get me wrong. My memory is still hazy sometimes, even mixed up with some past events, so I need to organize my thoughts and sort them out first.”
As I swallow a sigh of relief, I give him a nod in acknowledgement. Then he reveals, “It all started when I was hit by a car and lost my consciousness.”
“Hit by a car?” I promptly reply, aghast, but his voice is inconceivably collected as though he is talking about someone else’s misfortune. “No need to fret,” he even tries to calm me down. I must look stunned to him. “My loyal friend, it was actually a blessing in disguise.”
He pauses, letting his words register. I urge myself to take this easy. After all, Master William is sitting right beside me, alive and well. It isn’t until the driver honks me from behind that I remember to lift my foot off the brake and step on the gas pedal to cross the intersection. Then he begins his story, how he was carried to the clinic unconscious, how his condition worried his ‘sister’ to the point of insulting the kind doctor, and how they owed him because he had never charged his amnesiac patient. The caring doctor essentially provided his services for free, more than a few times.
“When I was at my rock bottom, Dr. Martin was the only doctor who treated me, a penniless man without a name, with kindness and respect,” he reveals another astounding fact.
“What about the doctors in the hospital, sir?” I can’t help raising my voice indignantly. Master William slowly shakes his head but puts up a bitter smile. “It’s alright. I’ve forgiven them.”
He instantly averts his eyes, avoiding my flabbergasted gaze. I can sense that he has absolutely no intention to relive those days, and the fact that he’s refraining himself from saying it actually speaks volumes about the treatment they put him through. Right at this moment, I remember Dr. Leonard’s implications of what kind of person the amnesiac patient might be, and if he thinks like that, what about the other staff?
Then I hear Master William remark, “Dr. Martin is an irrefutable example of why people shouldn’t be judged by their appearance.”
He said with conviction, which nearly elicits an enthusiastic approval from me. I stop myself from making yet another blunder just in time or else he will likely find out I have seen the doctor in person.
He adds, “Anyway, as Dr. Martin predicted… the accident might have stimulated my brain… in fact, he knows all along that I am not the big brother of Ca-”
He almost said her name. It was so close, but he instantly coughs to clear his throat. My heart races and my ears pound as I was getting myself ready to respond to the “news” the most natural way possible. Yet, he composes himself, rewording, “Dr. Martin knows we are just pretending because we live together, and yet, she’s truly like a younger sister to me.”
He assumes I have read the news article about the lion incident. Maybe he feels it’s necessary to clarify things for me, but I can hardly believe he regards Miss Candice only as a sister. Nonetheless, after getting an understanding nod from me, he looks away, murmuring, “Yesterday morning, I went to see him and related to him about my recovery the day before. I then expressed my deep gratitude, but he refused to let me return his kindness.”
“Really?” I utter with bewilderment. This is least expected. I would have thought the doctor would appreciate some tangible reward, especially I’ve seen what his clinic looks like. Also, what’s the biggest reason why Master William could tell the doctor the good news but not his roommate? Judging from what he said earlier, she wants him to recover as well, doesn’t she? Besides, the return of his memory is something he can celebrate with her, isn’t it?
With all these questions in my head, I hear him let out a long sigh of resignation. “I don’t get it. I offered financial assistance to help him advance in his profession. Regrettably, he turned me down, claiming he was who he was, a poor doctor who liked to help people who can’t pay the costly medical bills.”
“Interesting…” I murmur, contemplating. Then a thought strikes me. “Sir William, perhaps the doctor deems your proposal a bit too much for his past services to you?”
He shrugs his shoulders, saying, “You’re probably right. He said I was like a friend to him despite our wide age gap.”
I then follow up, “Sir, so you may consider buying him presents instead of giving him money. Do you know much about his hobbies or favorite-”
His loud applause cuts me off. “Georges, you never fail to impress me! That’s it! He’s an alcoholic, and he won’t be able to resist a box of bottles!”
As he chortles merrily, I have to make a conscious effort not to flinch in horror. He’d better not inform his aunt that an alcoholic has treated her precious nephew. Yet I decide to take advantage of his good humour at this very moment, “Did you disclose your full name to the kind doctor?”
My tone can’t be more casual. The name William A. Ardlay is well known in Chicago after all, and I reckon there’s no need to hide from someone like Dr. Martin.
“No,” comes his unexpected answer. As his grinning face is being replaced by a somber frown, he subdues his voice, mumbling, “I’m not ready yet.”
One can interpret that he prefers to stick with his aunt’s schedule of not telling outsiders till his début, but to me, I gather he’d rather not take any risk that Miss Candice will discover his identity anytime soon; the same applies to his peculiar choice of a car for his daily commute.
Thus, I conclude, “I suppose the doctor is also aware of your decision to continue living with your sis-”
Before I can finish, he replies, “Yes, you bet, Georges, and you’ll know my reasons when I explain to my aunt later.”
He undeniably proclaims his authority. If I want to know, I have to wait for his timing.
“Certainly, Sir William,” I respond in a submissive tone as I drive towards the quiet secluded gate of the grand Ardlay’s mansion, which is locked all the time. I’m one of the few who have the key, not to mention that the private path leading towards it is obscure. When I get off to unlock the gate, Master William perches his shades back on his nose and moves himself to the back seat, where the windows are tinted. He still remembers this protocol; he must remain a mysterious figure, not to be noticed or recognized by anyone in his own household.
Note: I have a feeling that Albert went to see Dr. Martin the morning before the lion attack, and the doctor knew about his recovery long before Candy did. This is my interpretation, of course. Hope you like my imagination inspired by the Candy Candy manga. 🙂 Thank you, my friends, for your precious comments to my previous chapter (not in any specific order):
Mariacristina Marchetti (mariacristina), Loren Rios, Delia Golds, Tania Frias, Gina Riquelme Orellana, Carolina Flores, Miriam Rmz, Rosa Leon, Anonymous, Candy Bert, JeannyJJ, Antlay and Yue Chan (Twitter)
I know some of you read this story with a translator, for that I’m extremely touched. ❤❤