I know it has taken me longer to update “A man in love” this time, so I really appreciate your patience. ❤ I also like to thank those of you who left positive feedback on Chapter 16 or on Facebook. I hope you will like this new chapter as well. 💓💓💓– Ms Puddle
When I open my eyes the next day, streaks of pre-dawn light stream through the curtains in my bedroom, revealing stripes of dust in the air. Due to my master’s unexpected arrival yesterday, I had a restless night. For the last few hours, I tossed and turned in my bed, and sometimes I could hear the sound of the wood burning and cracking in the fireplace. I felt guilty of leaving him outside in my living room for the night while I was lying in a warm, comfortable bed. At the same time, imagining that the young master might be awake made it harder for me to fall back to sleep.
I told myself again and again, that it was his direct order; he was more than serious then. That took place almost right after I promised him I wouldn’t disclose anything about him to Miss Candice, as per his odd request. When I offered to give him a hot drink, he insisted that I should go rest in my own bedroom. As I hesitated, he wore an impatient frown and settled himself down on the hardwood floor in front of the fireplace, so I informed him he could use the sofa in my study, but he murmured in a solemn tone, his eyes fixated on the blazing flames, “Georges, I can take care of myself. I mean it… Now, go to bed.”
Truth be told, despite being his subordinate, he has rarely bossed me around, unless he’s in extremely bad mood. Right then, I perceived he wanted to be left alone, so I gave up treating him with hospitality, “With your permission, sir. Good night.”
For the time being, it’s very quiet, which is normally fine with me, but not today when Master William is not far from my bedroom. Thus, I wonder if he has fallen asleep at long last. Aroused by curiosity, I swiftly put on my morning robe and shove my feet into my slippers, which help me not to make any noise when I walk towards the living room.
There he is, lying down on his back with his arms as his pillow, one of his knees up and the other straight. The flames, though weak, are in a feeble attempt to consume the log in the center, its shape remains intact. Hence, I believe it was recently thrown into the fireplace by Master William. In other words, he succumbed to slumber not long ago, but unfortunately, his sleep is anything but peaceful. I hear him mumble with a grimaced face, “I hate… hate myself… for doing this… to you… Candy… forgive… forgive me… please…”
Then he turns to his side, facing me, and I spot a tear glisten out of the corner of his tightly closed eye. It runs down the side of his face and into his blond hair, now dry and wavy again. I can’t bear to see my young master like this; his regret makes me uneasy. What did he do, really?
As if I haven’t been unsettled enough, I jump when I hear footsteps behind me. I whirl around to find my housekeeper carrying a blanket in her arms. Then she passes it to me and raises her finger to her lips as her signal for me to keep quiet.
I understand her gestures and kneel down to cover my master with the blanket. At this moment, he mumbles again, “I have…only given you… troubles…”
Nanny and I exchange an anxious glance, stifling our sigh. We then retreat to my study, and there she relates to me that she woke up in the wee hours only to find her beloved master gazing at the fireplace, his face blank and expressionless. When she carefully approached him, asking him what had happened, the hollow in his blue eyes and his wilful silence pierced her heart; never had she seen him more crestfallen. Then she asked, “Can’t sleep, master?”
He shook his head in response. Only then she realized he had not changed into sleepwear, so she guessed, “You’re scared… aren’t you, master?”
When he raised his brows quizzically, she elaborated, “You’re scared of having dreams… because they are out of your control.”
Upon hearing that, his eyes doubled in size. She knew him too well, no doubt. Then he pulled his knees to himself, his head dipped low and his eyes sealed shut. “It’s time,” he began, taking a long, deep breath, “to stop eluding the reality of the inevitable end.”
She didn’t grasp what he meant, but he ceased talking, unwilling to disclose more. She thought he was perhaps way too upset to say anything else. After some awkward silence, he implored without lifting up his head, “Nanny, let me handle this on my own.”
She complied and let him indulge in loneliness. What else could she do when he was pushing her away? However, with a heavy heart, she had difficulties dozing off. After some hours had elapsed, as she heard me come out of my room, she decided to join me and check on her master as well.
Later that morning, Master William knocks on the door to my study. When I open the door for him, he notices that his nanny is lying on the sofa inside, snoring. Immediately, his eyebrows furrow into a sorrowful knot. “Looks like I’ve been nothing but troubles to you two as well…” he finishes with a sigh of despair.
He said “as well” didn’t he? That implies something unpleasant had occurred last night that made him feel like nothing but troubles to… Miss Candice?
Aloud I deny with conviction, “Of course not, sir! We are just…”
I pause, casting a glance at the dark circles that ring his eyes. “Sir, we are concerned about you.”
He lets out a bitter chuckle. “In case you forgot, Georges, I’m not a boy anymore.”
At once I respond, my eyes downcast, “I’m sorry for my impertinence, sir.”
“No no no!” he exclaims. “I should thank you for bearing with me last night. To express my gratitude, I’ll do the cooking. What do you want for breakfast?”
My housekeeper is now awakened by our conversation, and no matter how we object his proposal to cook for us, he takes a firm stand, his reason being, “I don’t think I’ll be given a chance to prepare any proper meal again from now on.”
He sounds so forlorn and wistful that we have no choice but to let him have his wish. However, he doesn’t eat much himself afterwards, like he has lost his appetite. What’s more, though he’s physically present with us, he appears distant and pensive, his thoughts obviously preoccupied.
I think he misses his roommate, if not dreadfully worried about her. After all, he was the person in charge of the kitchen when living with her. Now that he’s left, will she be able to adjust to living alone and cooking for herself?
This reminds me, how did she respond to his departure yesterday? Did he inform her of his recovery? What else did he say to her? Was it an emotional farewell?
Regardless, judging from his melancholy and mood swings since he came last night, it must have been a tough call, even though he was mentally prepared for many months. Didn’t he say in his dream he hated himself for doing this to Miss Candice?
What troubles me more is the promise he asked me to make last night. I honestly don’t understand why, other than his long lasting wish of keeping his true identity a secret from her. However, I don’t think I will be able to get the answers to any of these questions bouncing around in my head. Because this is likely the last day he will come to my house to change before and after work. That is, we will not see each other much outside of the office hours.
It turns out my guess was right. After taking a shower, Master William thanks me again in earnest and apprises me of his new plan. He will move back home and arrange his bodyguards to meet him there instead. Therefore, he removes all his belongings from my house before heading to work.
His nanny can’t stop shedding tears; she is accustomed to seeing her beloved master at least five days a week now. I can’t help but wonder if Miss Candice reacted in a similar fashion last night. Did she cry like my housekeeper too? Some moments later, the old lady is somewhat consoled by Master William’s warm hugs and kind words “Rest assured I’ll come visit you”.
Before the two bodyguards show up, my master also expresses his strong interest in hiring a bodyguard for Miss Candice. His criteria this time are very different. “The man must be experienced and tight-lipped, preferably middle-aged, and willing to work long hours.”
Since I have kept the list of candidates from before, I believe I can readily find one that meets the requirements. Then Master William heaves a sigh of resignation. “I trust you, Georges. Hire anyone you see fit, and he will report to you directly. No need to give me any update unless there’s something wrong or it’s emergency. Just make sure Candy doesn’t know the existence of a bodyguard.”
As much as he tries to hide it, his eyes can’t lie. He looks like a man who is being attacked by the terrible pangs of conscience.
Since then, I haven’t seen the vulnerable side of my young master again. Not to mention that he is seemingly avoiding me. We talk about business and work-related topics, but nothing personal. As a matter of fact, he doesn’t ask me anything about Miss Candice, and one time when I broach the subject, he leans forward in sudden consternation, asking apprehensively, “Is she alright?”
When I affirm she remains working for Dr. Martin and living in the House of Magnolia, he breathes a sigh of relief. “No news is good news then.”
At once, he dodges the topic and talks about something else. Moments later, something dawns on me. He wants to forget her; more precisely, he is in a process to detach himself from her.
What a contrast to the man who, for months after his recovery, couldn’t tear himself away from the girl…
Did Master William force himself to wake up from a sweet dream, finally aware that his true feelings for Miss Candice have gone beyond brotherly love? I gather he has been in a constant struggle; that is, he deems himself bound by the law, and he thinks he ought to stop cultivating his relationship with her this way.
At any rate, since he cuts me off, I have to find another way to inform him that Miss Candice didn’t look very well last time I saw her on the street. Unbeknownst to Master William, I make a point to personally check on her in secret occasionally. Gone were her cheerful features that used to be full of vigour and health. Similar to her big brother, her cheeks were gaunt, her eyes haggard and cavernous.
Now that they are being apart, I have a hunch that deep down Master William is suffering as well. Although he looks normal on the outside, he works longer hours each day, six to seven days a week. Moreover, he doesn’t go home for dinners anymore, quite opposite from before moving back to the mansion. Rather than eagerly wrapping up for the day in the early evenings, he often loses track of time these days because he’s completely immersed in his work. As a result, he opts to have dinners delivered to his office so that he can continue working. Those who have known my benefactor would have found Master William acting like his late father. Back then, the healthy growth of the new heir couldn’t help the patriarch emerge from his depression of losing someone so dear to his heart. The beautiful boy only reminded the patriarch of his deceased wife.
In short, history repeats itself. Needless to say, I’m not the only one who arrives at this conclusion. Madam Elroy is greatly alarmed by her nephew’s working habits, and she urges him to take breaks on a regular basis. After some negotiation back and forth, he concedes to rest on Sundays.
One Sunday afternoon when I come home, I see him talking to his nanny. He casually asks me where I have been, so I make a bold request, “Can we talk in my study?” Once we are alone, I can’t hold it any longer. “Master William, Miss Candice looked a bit wan today, if not emotionally distressed.”
It’s been more than a month since he left her. Surprise overcomes him when he discovers that I’ve just seen her myself. “I was running errands in the Ardlay’s mansion, and I overheard Miss Patricia and Miss Annie talking about Miss Candice. When they saw me, I offered them a ride to her place. It so happened that Miss Candice was on her way home when we were getting near.”
I know by the glint in his eyes that his heart is considerably stirred by my report, and his pleasant countenance becomes careworn. Within seconds, he inhales audibly through his nose to compose himself, and then he wipes his face with both hands in an agonizingly slow motion. “Georges,” he begins in a tone that begs for sympathy. “I have made up my mind not to see her again.”
My jaw drops, and his disheartened look literally sends shivers down my spine. After a flabbergasted moment, I watch his eyes grow moist. This is the first time since that unforgettable snowy night that he lets his emotions show, and when my ability to speak returns, I venture out in disbelief, “Never?”
He shakes his head violently for emphasis. Then he sniffs, blinking back his tears. “No, not until my début.”
“Début?” I echo, unsure if I have heard it right.
Then he nods, telling me that he and his aunt has already agreed upon a date at long last. It’s next Easter weekend when the relatives will always gather together. They plan to hold a news conference on Easter Sunday.
“I’ll arrange to meet with Candy as her legal guardian one week before that, so as to prepare her in advance.”
That will be months away. Despite the resolve in his voice, anguish evidently displays on his face, which makes his decision all the more poignant. I can only stare at him, nonplussed; the expression in his gaze beseeches my understanding of his inner conflicts. Then the famous saying “out of sight, out of mind” hits me like a brick. Maybe he thinks it’s only natural for her to forget about him sooner or later. As long as he deliberately keeps a distance from her, by the time they meet again she would have moved on with her life.
While these entangled thoughts mesh in some kind of disorder inside my convoluted mind, he suddenly looks away and turns on his heels, saying in a rushed voice, “Georges, I have to go.”
Maybe he’s afraid he can’t suppress his genuine feelings for long, that they will burst out like water from a dam…
“Absolutely,” I respond in haste, trailing after him. “See you tomorrow in the office, Master William.”
A couple of days later, he enters my office before I leave for the day, which seldom occurs. I’m the one who always goes to his office to ask if he has anything else for me. Anyway, he closes the door behind him and inquires about hiring a private investigator to search for the missing Broadway actor, the man who dropped his family name ever since he started his career at Stratford Theatre.
“Sir, are you serious?”
He confirms that ever since our last talk on Sunday he has been pondering over various ways of bringing happiness back to Miss Candice. Then it struck him that he might have the power to reunite her with her lost love. Since Mr. Graham is still missing, he might have slid into a depression.
“Terry is somewhere out there in desperate need of a helping hand.”
“So you want to kill two birds with one stone.”
Master William acknowledges by nodding emphatically, but I remark, “Pardon my insolence, sir. If the private investigator can successfully track down Mr. Graham, what are you going to do? Lead him back to Chicago?”
The boss doesn’t bristle at my concerns, but rather, he’s at a loss and slightly chagrined. He admits the idea of a thorough investigation has churned in his head but he hasn’t thought out the details or consequences yet. Hence, I take this chance to summon all my courage. “Besides, what if Mr. Graham can’t help?”
My valid question catches my young boss completely off guard; perhaps it has never crossed his mind that the reunion with Mr. Graham might not achieve the goal. Yet, a moment later he collects his thoughts and retorts, “What do you mean, Georges?”
My gut feeling tells me that Miss Candice is mainly affected by the absence of her roommate. Otherwise, I don’t see why a normally resilient girl like her doesn’t move to another city for her nursing career, or even going back to work at the Mary Jane nursing school. She has always been strong-willed and self-reliant, and she’s got enough money from her grateful amnesiac friend to travel.
Alternatively, if she wants company, she can return to Pony’s Home, where she gets loving support to weather the storms of life. Therefore, there’s no compelling reason why Miss Candice keeps her job at Happy Clinic and stays in the old apartment, unless subconsciously she hopes her big brother will come back to her one day. Just in case this happens, it’s easier for him to find her at the clinic or at home.
Nevertheless, at this instant I decide to keep my opinions to myself. I have no solid evidence to prove my points, so this is my brief reply, “No, nothing, sir. I was merely thinking out loud.”
He appears relieved, the puzzlement on his face vanished. “Let’s go for dinner. My treat.”
You know, it’s not easy to write this chapter. Hope you guys enjoyed reading it. Anyway, in Candy Candy Final Story (CCFS) Archie wrote a letter to Candy, telling her not to worry too much about Albert. Archie said he and the other friends would help looking for Albert too. In other words, Candy did let them know about her worries, and they were aware that Albert was missing.
I’d like to thank my following friends for their encouraging words to me (their names are not in specific order): 😍❤😘
Delia Diaz, Candy Bert, Hani R, JeannyJJ, Mariacristina Marchetti (Mariacristina), Martha Cervantes Quiroga, marmalade, Antlay, Marlene Mendes de Abreu, Mayra Exitosa, Loren Rios, Melisa Lopez