Thank you for the enthusiastic comments on Facebook or Chapter 7. This chpater is a little short, but I hope you like the update to “A man in love”. 😍 If so, please let me know to keep me motivated. 🙂 😀
— Ms Puddle
Only when getting near the mansion than I remember to ask, “Sir William, do you have a specific plan in mind how exactly to inform Madam Elroy of your return?”
His answer comes from the rear seat behind me, “Yes, I do. Georges, seriously, give me your honest opinion. Do you think my aunt can handle my sudden re-appearance?”
He did say he wanted to give his aunt a surprise, and I took that as an order from him. However, now that he asks me, I reply with caution, “Sir, Madam Elroy isn’t as strong as she used to be.”
“I see,” he says with a deep voice. Then I provide some evidence to support my argument. All the while he has remained his silence, and I think perhaps I should cease talking.
Then, unexpectedly, he remarks with longing, “Georges, I can’t wait to see the lake again.”
The sounds of flowing water or rapids seem to give him indescribable comfort, strength or inner peace; that’s why he chose to reside in the hardly occupied lodge near the waterfall in Lakewood. Back then, Madam Elroy’s only requirement for the heir to have the freedom to lead an adventurous life was to live in a family property so that she could find him if she wanted to. The thought that he might sleep under the stars with grass as his bed was beyond her imagination.
Coincidentally, my benefactor used to enjoy spending a weekend at that place sometimes, but after his beloved wife had left the world much earlier than expected, he had immersed himself with work, even unintentionally neglecting his only son. Come to think of it, the newborn heir had essentially lost both his parents around the same time. But thankfully, his family is wealthy enough to have properties by the waters. When there’s no river, a lake is a great substitute. I perceive that Master William has essentially made a request to me, so I take a different route, heading towards the woods instead.
The afternoon sun is streaming through the trees above us as we take the inside trails. The so-called patriarch of the household can’t go out in the open like his nephews, Anthony and the Cornwell brothers, often did in their childhood. The young man walking right beside me used to mock himself as the enviable but invisible direct descendant of a prestigious heritage. Nevertheless, the glimpses of the lake already make him smile with delight. The ripples on the water sparkle like numerous diamonds floating on the surface. At this point, I remind him that his aunt liked bathing in the lake. He responds by nodding in agreement, and I inform him that I was told that she has stopped doing that lately.
“Why? Health issues?” A little crease forms between his eyebrows as he frowns in concern.
“Very likely, sir,” comes my brief reply.
Only then I notice that he looks pensive, his blue eyes lost in nostalgia. I decide to keep my mouth shut and trail behind him as we stroll along the gravel path. Presently, I’m getting hungry, and I believe the same applies to Master William. At the same time, I sense that he has come here to talk. I can feel it in my bones. Just then, he breaks the comfortable silence between us, “I still remember the very instant I came to…”
“You mean the moment your memory returned?” I ask at once.
He shakes his head, his lips curving up slightly, and reveals he meant the opposite. “I had no idea who I was… not even a name to associate myself with.”
I hold my breath with anticipation. He’s opening up, but what if he changes his mind the last minute and back out again? Nonetheless, I remark, “It must be a horrendous experience, sir.”
I slow down deliberately, giving him some personal space. Will this help him feel more at ease when talking to me? It takes him a moment before he finds out I’m lagging behind. He turns around in slow motion as if he’s deep in thought, but merely few seconds later, he responds to my comment, “You’re right, Georges. I was chafed and searched my brain in vain for at least an hour before I could accept the grim reality… that I had lost practically everything in my life, including my self-esteem.”
“Self-esteem?” I echo, unable to grasp the meaning behind his words. Meanwhile, I can’t see his expression; his face is veiled by the shadows. Yet, what bothers me more is the eloquence of his speech, which indicates the possibility of him exerting caution or rehearsing it before today.
Just when I debate if I should shorten the distance between us, he clears his throat. “I felt a desperate need to recover… I could do anything just to get my memory back… At least I wanted to know who I was and whether I had a family somewhere. How I wished I would wake up one day and realize this was only a terrible nightmare, but days later, I sank into the depths of despair.”
I keep nodding as a way to encourage him to continue. No words can describe my relief that Master William is willing to talk now. Having his feelings bottled up for too long is undoubtedly not very healthy. Nevertheless, what he says next blows me away, “Feeling depressed, I contemplated an easy way out… I pictured various ways to… commit suicide.”
That sends a chill down my spine. I exclaim in shock, “Suicide?”
Did he actually make any attempt? Or just thinking about it?
“Yes,” he replies aloud, breathing out a long sigh. “I felt so helpless, hopeless… and abandoned.”
My heart constricts with deep pity. I utter in a rueful tone, “I’m terribly sorry to hear that, Master William.”
I honestly don’t know what else I can say. He responds by flashing me a bitter smile. “If not for the nurse who befriended me…”
He trails off, just as expected; it seems to me whenever he mentions her he has to think twice or choose his words carefully. As I imagine his agony back then, a sudden gust cuts through the woods, roughly rustling the leaves and bushes and causing the tree branches to dance vigorously. He glances around and begins to walk away from me.
I hope he will continue his story, so I catch him up. “Sir, how did you end up living in the House of Magnolia?”
He smiles, looking far into a distance. “Believe me, I didn’t plan to stay in Chicago.”
Sounds like he’s dodging the subject, but I won’t give up yet. “Sir, so where did you plan to go?”
“Good question, Georges,” he remarks, shrugging. “I had no clue.”
“You just wanted to leave?”
“Yes…” he says, the corners of his lips curl into a sheepish smile. Then a scary thought hits me. What if he actually left Chicago? What would have happened to him?
When I’m getting near him, he goes on, “Yellow and brown leaves were flying all around that day… I sat up in my bed and watched how the wind constantly blew them up and down, here and there… The leaves looked so free and full of energy, and I no longer found any reason to stay in the horrid hospital room.”
He said ‘horrid’, didn’t he? The notion that he had been despised by the hospital staff is further hammered home. My gut feeling tells me he didn’t really mean the room conditions, although I won’t rule out this possibility. No wonder he resorted to ending his own life, and anger begins to rise inside me.
Then he utters, “So I escaped.”
It then dawns on me that his bad experience in the hospital had driven him away; that he even planned to leave the city. Without knowing, I slow down and fall behind him when his narration continues, “It was extremely windy… But where could I go? My pockets were empty.”
Right… He said he was penniless…
He goes on, “Hours of wandering around didn’t give me any sense of direction, and I was starving and exhausted. When I thought nobody cared if the amnesiac patient was alive or not, she appeared out of nowhere, looking for me frantically.”
“Your sister,” I utter in a low voice.
He lets out a sigh of resignation, giving me one firm nod. “She was the only nurse who smiled to me and cared about me. The rests only scowled.”
Filled with indignation, I can’t help raising my voice, “Sir, seriously, you have every right to sue the-”
But he interrupts as though he didn’t hear me, “To be honest, I didn’t recognize her at first. It was quite dark… When I wondered if God sent an angel to take me home, the moon broke through the clouds and gleamed down on her. I could hardly believe what took place next. She told me that she actually knew me… That I saved her life once, and she literally begged me… to let her take care of me until I recovered.”
My jaw drops. Miss Candice… was rescued by… Master William? How? When?
“Although her compassion stirred my heart beyond words, I rejected her absurd proposal and left her side without looking back. I also kept my head high to show her that I would be fine on my own.”
“What made you change your mind, sir?”
He takes a stride backwards, facing me. “Truth be told, I don’t remember why I softened my resolve… I think I would have stood my ground if not for… the tears that were rolling down her cheeks when she said she was an orphan and had always regarded me as her big brother.”
In other words, her vulnerability triggered his empathy with her misfortune in life, making him unable to leave her alone.
Then Master William averts his gaze. “At that very moment, I must admit now… I was at my weakest state.”
Another long sigh escapes his mouth when he dips his head further down. “Besides, her presence gave me a sense of peace, like I found a much needed anchor in life. It seemed to me… that we were somewhat connected… so I gave in at last.”
“Because you felt you had each other despite being abandoned by others.”
His blue eyes widen upon hearing my opinion; as a strained smile gradually replaces his astonished expression, he says, “No matter what… I made up my mind then, that regardless of whom I would turn out to be, I would take care of her to the very end.”
“Of course,” I readily acknowledge, nodding emphatically and telling him that I totally understand why he thought like that. Silence then falls upon us until the strong wind makes its way through the woods again. When the young man runs his fingers through his wavy blond hair, I’m suddenly aware that this is the very first time he directly related to me that his ‘sister’ is an orphan, a fact that I shouldn’t have known beforehand. Hence, to react accordingly, I ask in a matter-of-fact tone, “Sir, aren’t you glad now that you have recovered? Having deep pockets, like you want to pay back Dr. Martin for anything he wishes, you can also reward your sister abundantly to give her a-”
Without warning, he turns on his heels, running away from me before I can finish my suggestion. When he’s getting farther and farther away, I hear him reply over his shoulder, “I’ll think about it, Georges. Now, let’s find something to fill our stomachs!”
That signifies the end of his confession, at least for the time being. I put aside my disappointment and pick up my speed to go after him. Nonetheless, this abrupt end of his confession only reinforces my suspicion that the girl is special to Master William; for sure he treats her differently from Dr. Martin. Right then, I begin to see the young man’s courage to fend off the lion’s attack in a new light. He told me he couldn’t help it. I suppose he was horrified when her life was at stake, and he knew there was not a moment to lose. What else could guarantee her escape except facing the lion himself?
Note: Again, this is another chapter of my imagination based on the manga version. Thank you, my dear friends, for your support and wonderful feedback to my previous chapter (not in any specific order)! ❤❤
Tracy Jordan, Loren Rios, Mariacristina Marchetti (Mari), Gina Riquelme Orellana, Rosa Leon, Candy Bert, Eydie, JeannyJJ and Antlay