Thank you very much for your feedback to “A man in love”. I wanted to write a bit more for this chapter, but my cold is killing me. Rather than making you wait, I decided to publish whatever I have at hand. Hence, your understanding is much appreciated. 💓 Those who have encouraged me through your comments on Chapter 13 or on Facebook, please accept my thanks. 😍 . Please bear with me! 💓💓💓
— Ms Puddle
Ever since Master William explicitly asked me to keep a distance from Miss Candice, I’ve been contemplating what I can do if I run into her for whatever reason. I can easily come up with a valid excuse, that I decided to contact Master Archie because she hasn’t been keeping in touch with me, the representative of her adoptive father, for many, many months. Since I haven’t received a single word from her, it’s a legitimate reason for me to take the initiative to pay her a visit, to prove to her that we care.
Yes, I’m fully aware of the likelihood of seeing ‘Albert’ with her, and then I’ll be introduced to him. Nevertheless, I believe I’m more than capable to make her believe I have never met him before. For today, once I know Master William is safe, I can leave them alone within minutes, saying that I’ll arrange to visit her another time. With all these in mind, I set off towards the outskirts of Chicago without any guilty feeling. Master William is a sensible man, and he will understand that I’m just worried about him.
On my way there, I intentionally take a detour to where he had taken Miss Candice yesterday, just in case. However, the overcast weather must have scared people away, so there’s hardly anyone at the moment. Thus, I keep my original plan, which is to drive around the neighborhood of the House of Magnolia. It doesn’t take me long to get to the marketplace, and contrary to my expectation, the crowds are milling about on the streets despite the light rain. I slow down and make sure I pay attention to the people’s faces. If I don’t spot my young boss in their midst, my first stop will be Happy Clinic.
Presently, the drizzles turn into showers. I see that not many pedestrians have brought umbrellas with them, and they scurry around for covers or shelters. Out of courtesy, I make frequent stops to let them cross. Meanwhile, my mind is completely occupied with convoluted ideas; I strive to articulate them into appropriate questions for Miss Candice, first asking tactfully if her big brother came home last night. Hopefully she will give me a positive response, and next I’ll try to casually bring up my wish to meet him in person. Naturally, she will then inform me of his whereabouts.
Yet, surprisingly, there are at least half a dozen of young kids lining up outside the clinic, patiently waiting for their turns to see the doctor. Just then, a boy comes out from inside the clinic and announces to the others, “Dr. Martin has no idea why Candy is not here yet.”
I can’t believe my ears; negative thoughts bombard my mind for the time being. Where is she now? Is she safe? At home? Or is she somewhere with her big brother? Where can they be?
The boy’s announcement is followed by a collective grunt and a chorus of “whys” from the young patients. In fact, if possible, I want to personally double check that with the doctor myself. With increasing anxiety, I swallow hard and look up at the gray sky, where even more dark clouds have gathered. Apparently, I won’t be able to find Miss Candice here, so it’s time to proceed to my next plan. As I quietly slip away from the patients, the rain gets heavier. Because of that, one after one the kids are leaving the clinic, and only a couple of them stay. It looks like they are here for the nurse, not the doctor. Miss Candice must be popular…
While driving around some more trying to search for a familiar face, my roaring heartbeats synchronize with the rhythm of the windshield wipers. I scold myself for being absent-minded. How could I forget to bring Master William’s current address? Though I know how to get to the House of Magnolia, I don’t remember the suite number. When my car reaches the apartment at last, my inner debate begins. Should I wait in the car or should I get off and approach someone? The fact that I’ve never asked Master William what last name he used in this neighborhood puts me in a panic mode. How am I supposed to ask his neighbors about where ‘Albert’ is…
The thing is, I’m afraid the neighbors will suspect my intention. Some moments later, an idea strikes me. I can simply refer myself as an old friend of Candy’s brother, who should have the same last name as Miss Candice. If I know their full names, I won’t appear like a stalker. Having full confidence that this should work, I step out of my car and start waiting. Unfortunately, possibly due to pouring rain, not a soul exits or enters the building in the next twenty minutes. When my right arm gets sore after holding the large umbrella under the pounding raindrops for some time, I decide to get back into my car. Feeling dejected, I figure it’s a total waste of time that I have come all the way here. It’s a futile search.
Then it dawns on me. Regardless of my reasons, people must find me odd to pay my friends a surprise visit on such a wet day; not to mention that they are supposed to be at work at this moment. That’s right. Last time I checked the clock in the marketplace it was already half past ten, so can it be that Master William is currently waiting at my place or in the office, worrying about me? The thought is more than comforting, and with hope rising inside me, I turn my key to start the ignition, heading back to my house. If I don’t see him there, I’ll go to the head office directly.
Yet, on my way back, what crosses my vision is the least expected. Good luck bestows upon me at long last, and it is no mere coincidence that I come across a truck heading the opposite direction. It’s fully loaded with hays, and by chance I cast a curious glance at its rear. Right there, a couple sit together next to the hays, cuddling under something like a blanket. I can’t see their faces, but my instinct tells me to make a U-turn to take a closer look.
By the time I can make a turn, the truck is already gone, but looking past six to seven cars before mine I can see the couple walking on the road, facing my way. Being able to recognize them from afar, I’m somewhat relieved my car is a good distance away from them. I don’t want the man to discover my presence like last time, but I gather he’s likely too preoccupied to watch his surroundings. His hair and clothes are hopelessly drenched, and only the lady is wearing the spare raincoat I gave Master William last night. Thus, it wasn’t a blanket that was covering them both just now when they were on the back of the truck.
What’s happened? Where have they been? Where’s the wrecked car?
Before I know it, the lady has abruptly stopped in her track. When the man notices and turns around, she immediately offers half of the raincoat to her taller friend, but he shakes his head slowly to decline her kindness, his quizzical frown replaced by a tender smile. Yet, his rejection upsets her, and her lower lip shots forward in a pout. Hence, the man puts his hands on her shoulders, seemingly explaining to her why. At this instant, she hastily pulls the raincoat off herself and throws it high up in the air. Before he can catch the raincoat, she literally sprints forward, running away from him and laughing mischievously. That catches him off guard to say the least, but he turns on his heels to chase after her. His long legs give him an advantage, and in a matter of few strides he closes the gap between them and clutches her arm to stop her from running further away. Right then, I can’t quite see how it comes about, but they end up in a friendly embrace. Needless to say, her clothes are now as soaked as his, and they burst out laughing. But their laughter dies down when he draws himself away and drapes the long raincoat over her shoulders. The lady responds by craning her neck with pleading eyes, and he looks down and holds her gaze, his fingers affectionately stroking her damp, spiraling ringlets off her face. Soon enough, he leans forward and plants a peck on her forehead. As if that light kiss is magical, a look of enchantment appears on her face at once. Not only that, her sulking lips break into a demure but sweet smile. Once again, she stands on her toes, stretching the raincoat out towards him invitingly. This time, he gives in, his smile broadening to a grin that makes his features glow. Although my raincoat can barely cover them both, they look content and happy as can be. By the time I drive past them, still unnoticed, I can observe from the rear view mirror that they continue ambling under the downpour of rain.
Judging from the way he interacted with her, my suspicion is confirmed. Without a shadow of a doubt, the man is in love, a love that is regrettably mingled with struggles. I know firsthand how it is when one suffers from unrequited love, the exquisite pain of desiring someone unattainable. Yet, I’m not so sure about Miss Candice, because I’ve never been close to her. Does she still regard him as her big brother or merely a male friend she cares deeply about?
Maybe she does; after all, he insists she’s still in grief of a lost love. Or is it a good enough excuse for him to deny his own feelings? Anyway, I heave a long sigh of resignation and head back home feeling saddened. How did the poor man feel the moment his memory returned? That he found out he was one of the overwhelmingly rich people in the world but legally related to his roommate? However, come to think of it, the fact that he became aware of the adoptive relationship didn’t necessarily enable him to convert the nature of his love for her. Neither would it make his feelings less intense. Somehow I wish Rosemary were still alive. She would know how to console her little brother or even give him advice how to handle this predicament.
After going home and inform my housekeeper of the possibility of Master William’s late arrival, I go to work without delay. As soon as I step into my office, my secretary knocks on my door and reports to me about Madam Elroy’s earlier visit. “Madam Elroy has left already but was obviously displeased. Not to mention her disappointment heightened into disapproval due to my ignorance, not knowing why neither you nor Sir Ardlay was working.”
I understand. Rarely have I been so late to work without giving my secretary a heads-up. As I nod in acknowledgement, she goes on to fill me in of what I have missed in the morning. When she’s done, I say a few words to appreciate her efficiency and hard work. Her lips curl up into a satisfied smile after that, and when she leaves, I say, “If Sir Ardlay comes, please let me know.”
Instead, Master William unexpectedly shows up in my office later. By then, it’s at least two hours past lunch time. He plops himself down on the chair across from my desk, looking at me with a rueful smile. “Georges, nanny said you had gone out to look for me.”
When I give him a firm nod, he whispers, his eyes downcast, “Should have listened to you… not to consider that clunker.”
His confession nearly blows me away. I can’t help wondering about its fate, and feeling unsure whether to ask him to elaborate or not, he looks at me, asking with his brow furrowed, “What made you stop searching for me?”
Is he anxious about what I have witnessed?
“I knew you would ask, sir,” I reply in a matter of fact tone, and he raises an eyebrow but remain silent. I cough to clear my throat and begin, “I had been driving around in vain and when I left with a terrible sense of defeat, it so happened that I saw you both walking on the street. This came as quite an astonishment to me; that said, relief washed over me so long as you weren’t driving.”
He’s scrutinizing me carefully, as if wishing to read in my face whether I’m hiding anything from him. I boldly return his gaze without flinching, and before he has a chance to respond to my recollection, I throw a reasonable question back to him, “Where’s the car now? Have you left it at home because it stopped running?”
That successfully distracts him. He avoids my stare and abruptly pulls himself up to stand, letting out a tired sigh. “It’s a long story. It’s not the right time, so I’ll tell you more later. Now, first thing first, let’s focus and catch up with work at hand. Then I plan to visit my aunt. I was told she was infuriated about my unexplained absence today.”
Note: Again, this chapter is entirely my imagination. Here, my sincere gratitude to my dear friends below (not in any particular order) for their encouragement and continued support! ❤❤ To the silent readers out there: thanks for following. 🙂
Elen Harket, Gina Riquelme Orellana, Loren Rios, Tania Frias, Martha Cervantes, Reeka, Mariacristina Marchetti, Tracy Jordan, JeannyJJ, Candy Bert,, Antlay, and marmalade