It’s been a long while since I last updated “A man in love”. 😍 Appreciate your patience and understanding. I’m grateful to those wonderful friends who have commented on Chapter 8 or on Facebook. You have certainly motivated me to keep writing. Thank you very much! 💓💓
— Ms Puddle
Madam Elroy is known to be strict with routines and sees to it that the entire household sticks to her schedule. Hence, at this hour, it’s more than a little tricky to get lunch with Master William at his own mansion.
“Sir William, I should have checked the time-” I begin to apologize after explaining our situation, but he waves it off, showing no hint of worry. “It’s not your fault, Georges. I’m sure our butler can do something about it. Now, go ahead and inform him of my return.”
I promptly ask, “How about Madam Elroy? Should I let her know too?”
He instantly shakes his head, smiling. “No, not when my stomach is empty.”
A chuckle escapes my throat. “Sir, sounds like you want to be in your best shape before meeting with your aunt.”
He laughs. “Yes, Georges. How do you know?”
After Master William has sat himself down comfortably in the rear seat of my car, I close the door to his side and about to get into the driver’s seat. At this very instant, my ears catch the loud rumbling sound of a car engine, and when my head turns to that direction, I see a luxurious car with the family insignia speeding towards us.
That’s Madam Elroy’s designated car!
Other than trees and green plants, there is nothing much to see in this area; as a result, this part of the woods has remained uninteresting to the family. So why is the matriarch coming here?
Before I can react, her chauffeur slows down the car to a halt so that she can roll her window down. When her face appears, she addresses me with a bewildered expression, “Georges, so it’s you! Aren’t you supposed to be working in the head office at this time of day?”
I’m rendered speechless. When my stomach is mercilessly grinding, my brain can’t function in its normal capacity. Needless to say, my odd reaction rouses the old lady’s suspicions, and she instantly orders her chauffeur to park the family car right in front of mine.
My dear master then comes to my rescue. When the chauffeur walks around to give Madam Elroy a hand to alight from the car, Master William approaches his aunt without them knowing. When the lady straightens up, a man’s voice comes from behind her, “I’m glad to see you again.”
Her body is literally frozen to the spot, like she is unable to move even an inch. I suppose she has recognized that voice but at the same time she finds this unbelievable. About half a minute later, she slowly, if not gingerly, spins herself around and looks up. It’s her chauffeur, old Mr. Jacobs, who draws a sharp intake of breath first. This is followed by a loud gasp from the matriarch; she has seemingly forgotten her manners, which very seldom occurs.
Only then Master William removes his half-tinted sunglasses. With respect, he nods his head slightly at her, “Aunt Elroy, how are you?”
Dazed, she can only gaze at his blue eyes, which twinkle under the bright sun. A long moment of awkward silence later, she raises her shaking arms towards his face and cries out, her lips visibly quivering, “Wil… wil… li… am!”
But before her hands can reach him, the matriarch rolls her eyes upwards and collapses into her nephew’s arms. With shock painted all over his face, he scoops her up and demands, “Jacobs, where is the nearest hospital?”
“St. Joanne’s hospital, sir!”
At once, the heir’s demeanor darkens; his features twitches as well, but this only lasts for a second. He promptly composes himself and requests me to accompany them to that hospital. I quickly nod in agreement, knowing that we shouldn’t wait for the Ardlay’s family doctor, for nobody knows why Madam Elroy lost her consciousness.
I swiftly lock my car and leave it where it is. I then go to sit in the passenger seat, right beside the chauffeur, while Master William sits in the back with his aunt, her eyes still tightly shut. On our way there, Mr. Jacobs reveals that Madam Elroy woke up at the crack of dawn not feeling well, but she dropped her plan to rest at home when she found out at the last minute that the elites in Chicago had been invited to a charity luncheon. She insisted to attend even though she was already running late.
Yet, for some reason, she felt compelled to pass by this side of the woods. She remembered her nephew used to ramble around this secluded area as soon as he could get her permission to leave his room. Hence, when they spotted a car from afar, she directed Jacobs to speed up without delay.
While Mr. Jacobs is still talking, Madam Elroy unexpectedly regains her consciousness. She casts a fleeting glance at the man beside her and gasps in horror, “William, what are you doing here? To check on me? Or are you terribly worried as well?”
Her words don’t make sense to any of us, but when Master William responds in puzzlement, “Aunt-”, her sudden loud sobs cut him off. In between her sobs, she apologizes to him for being too harsh on his son. Only then we realize she has mistaken her nephew for her late brother. That’s when she begins describing with details why she believes she has been too strict with the heir. She has spent her days and nights in regrets now that he has deliberately run away, which is not the first time, and never thought of coming back. Since she’s also crying, her words are garbled, but there’s no sign she’s going to stop any moment soon.
At any rate, what she’s saying is incoherent but heartbreaking nonetheless. I gather none of us has seen this vulnerable side of her, not even Master William. Without a doubt, she has taken all the blame upon herself that her nephew is missing for a long time. Think about it, if her rambling speech makes my heart constrict, imagine the impact it has on her nephew!
When we enter the vicinity of the hospital, she starts taking long pauses and eventually falls asleep. Then Master William gently feels her forehead with the back of his hand, and he breathes out a heavy sigh. “No wonder. She’s feverish.”
As expected, his voice is thick and hoarse. I suppose the discovery of his aunt’s true feelings has stirred him considerably, like a boat being ruthlessly rocked in the midst of the storm. Those who are personally close to the heir are fully aware of how stern his aunt has been to him all these years; but after her confessions today, none of us will ever doubt her genuine love for her nephew, which flows from the depths of her heart.
Now, I wonder, will Master William reconsider his decision about his current living arrangements? Will he change his mind and move back?
Soon enough, we arrive at the entrance of the emergency department, and as though they were expecting us, several hospital staff in uniforms rush out to meet us. Jacobs isn’t the least surprised. He later whispers to me in a stealthy manner, “My friends have told me that patients who come in fancy cars are treated with best possible services.” Well, wealthy people will less likely owe them any medical costs that incurred, I surmise.
However, the strange thing to me is that the staff can’t seem to recognize Master William. Aside from the fact that his features are presently obscured by his sunglasses, I tell myself that perhaps none of these people were around when the young millionaire was hospitalized for weeks. In addition, even though he’s dressed like a person in the working class, since he appears close to Madam Elroy, people will automatically rule out the possibility that he belongs to that class. Should any of them find his face familiar, they will likely shrug it off as coincidence. After all, there is always a probability that some people share some sort of resemblance.
There is one more reason I can think of, and when it slithers into my head, it makes me shudder. That is, none of the hospital staff has ever paid thorough attention to Master William’s features, so even if they see him face to face today, they won’t recall a thing. This terrifying thought practically sends shivers up and down my spine, and I cannot fathom what kind of hell the young heir must have gone through.
After Madam Elroy is being wheeled away for examination, Jacobs inquires where Master William has gone these past months, to which the master only smiles without saying anything. Jacobs instantly knows his place and retreats, “I’m sorry, sir.”
“No, Jacobs. It’s personal. That’s all.”
Good old Jacobs has worked for the Ardlays for many years, and he has witnessed the birth of the young heir and the death of the deceased patriarch. At this point, Master William relates to Jacobs that we haven’t eaten yet. Jacobs promptly replies with absolute deference, “Sir, please go ahead. I will stick around here.”
Master William then asks me to pick a place to eat, so I choose a modest sandwich place beside the hospital. Nodding, Jacobs promises, “If I have news, I will come find you, sir.”
We go there on foot, of course. Master William then reveals to me that he has completely lost his appetite, but he doesn’t provide the reasons. In any case, he knows he should not starve himself, especially we are uncertain how long we will need to stay around the hospital.
Not long after our sandwiches are ready, Master William speaks up, “Have I told you this was where I was hospitalized?”
Honestly, I can’t remember if he told me directly or I have found this out by myself. Luckily, since I’m chewing, I can conveniently keep my mouth shut until I have swallowed the food. Interestingly, he mumbles under his breath, “My hair was quite long back then. I must look drastically different from now.”
He explained like he had seen through my thoughts earlier, but because he sounded forlorn, and there was such a weariness in his voice, I have a hunch he is trying to talk himself into believing that.
Right then, he peers out of the window in pensive silence, his eyes glassy with emotions. I have never seen him more dejected. On one hand, he probably feels perplexed, perhaps even troubled, why no one could recognize him. On the other hand, something else may be bothering him. Can it be his aunt’s heartfelt outpours? Or the dreadful memories of his days here as a patient without a name?
After I’m done with my sandwich, I clear my throat and take the risk to jar him out of his deep retrospection, urging him to start eating. My words must have brought him back to reality; he should work on the plate right before him, and that we shouldn’t spend too much time here when Madam Elroy might come to any minute.
The moment he grabs his last bite from the plate, someone bursts through the door and turns his head side to side. It’s Mr. Jacobs, and I swiftly stand up so that he can find me here. Master William immediately gobbles up the last piece of sandwich and wipes his mouth. He then pulls himself up to his full height, walking towards the chauffeur.
When we are near, Jacobs reports, speaking in an almost inaudible voice, “Sir, Madam Elroy is being well taken care of and is feeling a lot better already, but she is anxious to see you.”
Relief brings a smile to Master William’s lips; Jacobs then leads us to her private room. The matriarch is sitting up in bed, and a nurse is obviously measuring her vital statistics. Upon hearing our footsteps, the matriarch whirls her head towards the door, her jaw slightly dropped and her attention solely on the young man right beside me, as though she still finds his presence unbelievable. A couple of seconds later, she collects herself and lifts up her right hand to beckon him, but she puts her arm down almost right way. Unlike before, this time she keeps her emotions well at bay. She only murmurs, “Come.”
“Aunt Elroy, have you eaten yet?” he responds, approaching her with big strides across the spacious room. The old lady’s face breaks into a faint smile, her eyes remain fixed on her nephew. Then she commands her chauffeur, “Jacobs, inform the household of my conditions.”
As Jacobs acknowledges, she eyes me. “Georges, you can take a break outside.”
The nurse also receives an order from her, “Are you finished?”
Nodding with understanding, the lady in white uniform says, “Yes, Madam Elroy, I will come back later.”
It’s understandable why Madam Elroy only wants to see her nephew alone. It doesn’t stop me from casting him a concerned glance. Yet, my worry dissipates as soon as he winks at me with a reassuring half-smile. Then it dawns on me. He’s totally prepared for meeting with her one on one.
After the nurse has left, Madam Elroy reminds us not to disclose her nephew’s identity to anybody in the hospital, and we respond almost unanimously, “Yes, madam!”
I wander around the manicured garden to enjoy the nice weather and summer breeze. Regrettably, I’m not the type of person who likes dawdling the time away, so half an hour later, I decide to return, waiting outside in the hallway in case Master William wants my assistance.
Roughly about fifteen minutes after this, the deputy director, Dr. Leonard, comes by. He recognizes me right away and explains that the doctors need more time to diagnose what makes Madam Elroy unwell. Then he inquires, pointing at the closed door and sounding sincere, “May I go in now to talk to Madam Elroy?”
I shake my head at once. At the same time, I’m searching my head for a valid reason. “I know you want to give her an update, but… she’s with a visiting relative.”
“Relative?” he echos, arching one of his thick eyebrows thoughtfully.
Just then, the door is swung open; Master William appears with his sunglasses still perched on his nose. The moment their eyes meet, the young man’s countenance immediately transforms from a confident one to an astonished one. Without any more hesitation, I introduce them to each other, “Mr. Brown, this is Dr. Leonard, the deputy director of St. Joanne’s hospital.”
Then I turn to the doctor, saying aloud so that Master William can hear me for sure, “Dr. Leonard, this is Madam Elroy’s visiting relative, Mr. Brown.” I use Rosemary’s husband’s last name because it’s a very common name. Besides, Vincent Brown is really a relative.
Then the doctor invites Mr. Brown to hear an update from him. After accepting the invitation, Master William leans towards me, saying, “She is also expecting you, Georges.”
As we all go in together, Dr. Leonard gives the old lady a warm greeting, to which she returns an equally warm one. After delivering his message, the doctor reassures everyone that she is in good hands. Thereafter, with a small flick of the head, the deputy director uses his chin to refer to the blond-haired man in the room as he speaks to the old lady with an enthusiastic tone, “It’s my pleasure to have met one of your relatives, Madam Elroy. He’s such a distinguished young fellow, I must say.”
His comment pleases her exceedingly, and a proud look instantaneously spreads across her wrinkled face. I bet the doctor can easily deduce that this Mr. Brown must be a prominent relative; he is important enough to be granted the privilege of having private conversation with the family matriarch.
Then, the doctor turns to face this young man, his lips curling up into an eager-to-please smile, “Mr. Brown, in fact, you look somewhat familiar. Have we met before?”
The ‘relative’ bursts out laughing. A brief moment later, he snickers, “Really? You think so, Dr. Leonard?”
The playfulness in his voice can effortlessly disarm any offense the doctor may feel. Nevertheless, since the young man doesn’t give a definite answer, the smile on the doctor’s face fades; he possibly gets the hint that he should not outstay his welcome, so he excuses himself and leaves.
After the door is closed with a thud, Madam Elroy begins to order me, “Georges, hire at least two bodyguards for William, a condition he has already acquiesced if he is not coming home for some time yet.”
Struck by her matter-of-fact tone, I helplessly throw a curious glance at Master William, who cocks his eyebrows with a radiant smile. Compared to his downcast mood back in the sandwich place, what a huge contrast! So, despite his aunt’s intense feelings for him, his resolve isn’t wavered in light of the current situation. Yet, how did he manage to convince his aunt that his decision is sound, that he is levelheaded, and his judgement doesn’t go against common sense?
I can’t help wondering, how much has he revealed to his aunt? Will he relate the details to me later? I’m intrigued to the point of feeling deserted. No matter how I look at this, it’s so out of the ordinary that Madam Elroy relented without a fuss. Perhaps an intelligent woman like her can see the futility of any attempt to persuade her nephew otherwise. Master William is not here to get her approval; he has apparently made up his mind regardless of her reaction.
Come to think of it, since he’d much rather continue living somewhere else, and judging from his contented state, there’s no denying the luxuries in life means nothing to him. One’s happiness isn’t measured by the abundance of one’s possessions after all. If Madam Elroy protests against her nephew’s plan, he can readily walk away and never return, which is detrimental to the Ardlays clan, no doubt about that.
Not to mention that she is no longer his guardian; she has no authority over him anymore. It’s mainly out of reverence and courtesy that he apprises her of his decision.
A question then hits me. Is Madam Elroy aware the very person she has despised since the beginning is essentially the one who saved her precious nephew’s life?
Note: Those who have read the end of the manga may remember the drama during the engagement party, in which Neil angrily spilled the beans that Albert was the guy who had lived together with Candy. Albert then openly acknowledged that Candy had taken care of him when he had been sick. Do you recall Aunt Elroy’s reactions? If not, read the manga again. 🙂 Based on her response, I suppose she was aware of the fact that her nephew had been cared for by someone, but she didn’t seem to know who that person was. What do you think? 😉
Anyway, this chapter is my imagination inspired by the manga version. Thank you, my dear friends, for your continued support and positive feedback to my previous chapter (not in any specific order)! ❤❤
Gina Riquelme Orellana, Mariacristina Marchetti (Mari), Loren Rios, Tracy Jordan, Tania Frias, Rosa Leon, Sarah, Martha Cervantes Quiroga, Reeka, JeannyJJ, Candy Bert, Evelyn