I’m so glad some of you can’t wait for me to update the story “A man in love”, and I truly appreciate your patience and understanding. 💓 I can only write short chapters now due to my responsibilities in life. Hence, many thanks to those who have written encouraging comments 😍 on Chapter 11 or on Facebook. Despite being tired every day, I keep writing because of your continued support! 💓💓💓
— Ms Puddle
Is someone calling me?
Yet I ignore her and keep meandering through the crowd; that woman then raises her voice. “Sir, wait!”
Only Master William saw me, so it can’t be Miss Candice, but who else can recognize me here in this neighborhood?
Dread threatens to overtake me. Will my young master suspect I’m spying on him? If that’s the case, will he give me a chance to explain? Will he believe my story? That truth be told, I was lost?
What if he is with Miss Candice at this moment? How am I supposed to behave then? Should I pretend that I have no idea who he is?
With all these questions bouncing back and forth my head, I slow down without knowing. As I am leaving the crowd and turn the corner to the steps, I can hear fast footsteps behind me; I act as if I’m not affected by that and speed up with my eyes downcast. No matter what, I can’t let her see my face before I get the permission from Master William. Since he has been deliberately keeping her a secret from me, I’m afraid he isn’t happy for me to meet her here and now.
When I tear up the stairs, the fast footsteps keep getting closer and closer to me. Suddenly, I hear a high-pitched scream followed by a loud thud right behind me.
“Sir!” she utters aloud, panting heavily.
Wait, her voice is coarse; I realize this is not Miss Candice. I quickly look over my right shoulder, and there she is, the young lady who sold me the oranges. She must have tripped herself and splattered on the concrete stairs.
“You forgot your oranges, mister!”
I stifle my sigh of relief. The poor lady is clearly out of breath. My oranges are now scattered everywhere. Feeling terribly sorry, I sincerely thank her and help her get back on her feet. When I apologize for being absent-minded and causing her troubles, she flashes me a forgiving smile. Then, I stoop down to pick up the oranges, and she hands me the crumbled paper bag in her hand. Once I put the sixth orange into the bag, I thank her again in all sincerity. The onlookers cheer, and in response, the corner of her lips curl up. “Enjoy the rest of your evening, sir.”
We then go separate ways, but I realize, in exasperation, that I have lost my sense of direction. I waste no time and call after her; when she turns around in puzzlement, I become terribly embarrassed that a rush of blood flushes my face. I explain that I’m a stranger to this area, and I’ve parked my car somewhere, so as long as I can find it, I will know how to get home from there.
The lady then asks, “Do you remember the street name, where you parked your car?”
I did copy it down on my handy notebook, so I show it to her; she nods, smiling. “It’s not far from here, sir. Go up the stairs and turn right. Walk two blocks then turn left for three more blocks.”
I hope I’ll remember her instructions. Anyway, to thank this kind lady, I pass my bag of apples to her, “Please take this. My gratitude for your help.”
She’s taken aback, but a second later she accepts my small token of appreciation with a grateful smile. “Drive safe, sir!”
Then to assure her as well as myself, I declare, “I will head straight towards my car.” I definitely won’t get myself into trouble again.
However, have you ever sensed that you’re being watched? This is what I have been feeling right now. Other than the curious spectators because of my orange incident, I feel that someone is out there watching me. As I leave the crowd, making my way to the stairs, I haven’t been able to shake away that strange feeling.
Hence, as I reach the first landing of the stairs, I can’t help glancing around. I literally jump when I see Master William running up the stairs towards me. He ignores my startled expression and questions in an empathetic manner, “Georges, I’ve been trying to catch you up. Are you alright? Do you know your way back?”
Does it mean he’s overheard my conversation with the orange lady? She does have a very loud voice, I must admit. However, before I respond to my young master, I unconsciously let my eyes sweep the area, looking for a certain blond girl. As if he sees through my thoughts, his concerned frown breaks into a placid smile. Then he answers my unspoken question, “Candy’s not here. I urged her to go home with our landlady. She’s exhausted from her first day of work at the clinic.”
So he knows. He knows I have taken a glimpse of her loveliness just now.
Yet, his tone is unusually neutral and steady that I find it surreal. What’s going on? Am I dreaming this? Besides, he directly used her nickname “Candy”, didn’t he? It’s like it’s the most natural thing for him to mention her to me, as though I’ve always known he’s been living together with Miss Candice.
Not only that, the sight of Master William holding two large bags of groceries in his arms reminds me of his everlasting incompatibility with his aunt, Madam Elroy. If she had been here at this very moment, she would have chided her nephew like this, “William, when will you ever learn to let the servants do things for you!?”
Being a down-to-earth person, practical and unassuming, his typical retort to his aunt’s criticism of him not bossing the servants around is “Why do I have to describe to someone what I want when I’m more than capable to handle things my way?”
“Let me take you back to your car, Georges.”
His offer not only jolts me out of my stupor but also touches my heart beyond description. He doesn’t have any trace of doubt how I ended up here in this marketplace; he trusts that I wasn’t playing any spy game at all.
“Sir, you don’t have to,” I begin, but he interrupts me, “Where did you park?”
I sigh and show him my notebook. He looks thoughtful for a moment. “We are at the opposite side of the marketplace. Come, follow me.”
I trail after him. “Are you sure, Master William?”
“That’s what friends are for, right?” The smile on his face is a genuine one. Does he really think I’m his friend?
Yet I decide to accept his kindness by returning a smile. Neither of us speaks another word after that. Unlike me, he’s undeniably familiar with the neighborhood, and a couple of people on the streets even recognize him, addressing him as “Albert”. This is not too surprising to me. I have a feeling Miss Candice must have known him as “Albert” as well; there’s no way she knows his true identity. How and when exactly did they meet?
About five minutes later, Master William breaks the silence between us, speaking in a casual tone, “You have it figured out, haven’t you?”
“Pardon me?” I’m at a loss at his supposedly rhetorical question.
“About Candy,” he replies, his voice very tender.
Even though I’m uncertain if he’s asking if I have correctly deduced who his roommate is or if I have figured out why Miss Candice was with him earlier, I acknowledge with a silent nod.
He eyes me, and a bitter chuckle escapes his lips. Before I can say the words “let me explain”, he heaves a heavy sigh of resignation. “Am I an utter fool to even believe I can hide her from you, Georges?”
His remark renders me speechless. When I’m in the middle of articulating my thoughts, he unveils of his own volition, “This was the story I delivered to my aunt.”
He clears his throat and begins, “When I was a nobody, people ignored my well-being. I was scorned, so much so that I was self-abhorred; everyone found me loathsome, except a friend. Due to her compassion for me, she turned the tide and received me into her house. She was my light in the dark, and although my circumstances hadn’t improved, the affliction I faced was unable to overshadow the luster of her unflagging friendship and devoted support to me. Because of that, I found a tinge of hope in my adversities.”
How much time has he spent on composing this in his mind? It’s definitely not something one can come up on the spot. No wonder he appeared undaunted when his aunt wanted to talk to him alone back in the hospital. He knew this kind of speech would stir anyone’s soul, not to mention the listener was his aunt who loves him dearly. Did he speak to her the same way he spoke to me just now? It’s like he was reciting a poem to young children, enunciating every single word with emotions. When he finishes, I can’t stop myself from asking, “Did Madam Elroy question who she is?”
He chuckles, slowly shaking his head. “No… she didn’t. In fact, I was careful not to make her suspect she actually knows my friend. I will eventually inform my aunt that I practically owe Candy my life, but to me, this is not the right time… I only said that the friend who rescued me was currently in trouble. It was thus my sincere wish to help her. Once she has successfully overcome the hurdle, I’ll come home.”
When I consider whether to ask if Madam Elroy wanted to meet this lady, he appends, “Georges, as you can see, I’ve already glossed over the details of my suffering, but Aunt Elroy was tremendously disturbed nonetheless. Therefore, when she learned that my lady friend was in need of my company, she gave me her full support for whatever I have in mind for the lady, only asking how much longer I would stay with her. I said it shouldn’t take more than two months, so she acquiesced with condtions.”
I raise my eyebrows. Two months? Only? That’s much shorter than I have anticipated.
But he doesn’t notice my skepticism; his face takes on a vacant look as if he were staring at something far away. When we reach my car and everyone else is beyond our earshot, he looks at me, his expression filled with confidence, “Just as I reckoned, Aunt Elroy was led to believe my friend had given me a shelter; even better, my aunt has assumed the kind lady is a senior who regards me as her son, like a childless widow for example. I didn’t correct her.”
He breaks off unexpectedly, glancing around before fastening his eyes on mine, and utters in earnest, his confident demeanor rapidly transforming into a sincere one, “Georges, no matter what lies ahead, I must defend Candy’s best interests. That’s the least I should do for her.”
“Of course, sir,” I agree without delay, nodding simultaneously.
Right then, he takes a deep breath and beseeches with a voice that’s almost inaudible, “So, please keep your distance… I mean she’ll find out who I am… in due time, but before I’m ready to-”
I summon my courage and cut him off, “Sir, I understand your situation and completely respect your privacy.” My expression can’t be more solemn. I rarely act on my impulse, but this time, I can’t bear to see his sudden vulnerability, which elicits pity from my heart.
Rather than feeling offended, he appears relieved. Yet, he scrutinizes my face, as if he is looking for assurance, so I elaborate just in case he has missed my point, “I do see that you’re in a quandary, Master William, you and Miss Candice.”
What I said has apparently caught him off guard; he’s nonplussed, his eyes doubled in size. He opens his mouth for a second and closes it, as if he’s debating how to respond. Perhaps he’s mulling over the possible implications of my comment; besides, he may be exercising caution in order not to disclose unnecessarily. Nonetheless, I take this opportunity to bid him good night. “Sir, with your permission, I’d better go, or my housekeeper will begin to worry.”
Without a doubt he grasps the hidden meaning behind my words this time. The longer he stays here, the higher the chance his roommate will worry too. Hence, when he gives me a strained smile of approval, I open the door to the driver’s seat and wave him goodbye.
I’m more than glad that Miss Candice didn’t spot me amongst the grocery shoppers. When you don’t expect a bit to see someone, even that someone appears before your eyes, it’s possible that person won’t stand out in the crowd. I think that was what occurred to her.
The next morning Master William comes to my house earlier than yesterday. I wasn’t even properly dressed when the doorbell rings. Later, as I make my way towards the kitchen, I hear him talking to his nanny, “I intentionally skipped my breakfast…”
I didn’t hear the rest due to my lack of knowledge in Gaelic, but the hearty laugh from my housekeeper is unmistakable. It turns out he joins her in cooking, and together they have made a scrumptious meal for both of us. I can hardly believe the precious son of my benefactor has done this for me. As I stare at him in utter disbelief, he urges as though it’s nothing unusual, “Come, sit down and eat with me, Georges.”
I comply with his ‘order’, and while we’re savouring the delicious food, he reveals, “I practically cook every day for the past two years. I don’t feel obligated at all. As a matter of fact, I think I’m actually gifted.”
We burst out laughing, and he feigns indignation, straightening his face, but seconds later, I ask, “Did you cook last night, sir?”
He only smiles and dodges my question. “So you have finished your plate. Ready to start the day, Georges?”
During the ride, since he’s dressed in expensive suit, I really can’t imagine him cooking every day. So what else does he do? How about Miss Candice? They have lived together for nearly two years, and they have to split the house chores, don’t they?
We mainly talk about work all through the ride, but minutes before we arrive at the office building, he suddenly broaches the subject, “Georges, I don’t want you to have any misunderstanding of my relationship with Candy. The main reason why I have decided to stay a little longer with her is… she lost the man she loves a lot, so she’s still in grief. If I leave her right now, she might be devastated. I can’t bring myself to do that, you know?”
Sounds like it’s the other way around. He’d rather continue living with her not really because he can’t pull himself away from her sweet presence, but it’s she who needs him by her side?
Presently, we have arrived at the parking lot. Since his reason is in line with the one he gave his aunt, I decide to swallow my doubt “why not bringing Miss Candice home with you as Miss Ardlay”.
Note: I’d like to express my appreciation to my friends below (not in any specific order) for their encouragement and support! ❤❤ I know there are silent readers out there too, so hopefully I’ll hear from you one day. 🙂
Tracy Jordan, Loren Rios, Mariacristina Marchetti, Gina Riquelme Orellana, Tania Frias, Anonymous, marmalade, Martha Cervantes Quiroga, anonymous, chosen615, Candy Bert, JeannyJJ, and Antlay