Sorry for the delay. It was another hectic week last week, which didn't leave me with much free time. Anyway, here is a new chapter. I hope I didn't make you wait too long. Please enjoy:)
As always, thank you for your follow, favorite, and comments. I appreciate them all. You're all the best!
Please keep in mind that this story and its sequel (AIWFC) are modern era romantic comedy very loosely based on Candy Candy. The story and setting are entirely original writing, deviating from the official Candy Candy series. However, there are few elements borrowed from the official Candy Candy series that are included in the story, mainly the main protagonists, Albert and Candy and a few side characters.
Also, I want to remind you that this is a prequel to All I Want for Christmas (AIWFC). It attempts to fill in the gap in the span of time after AlbertCandy's unexpected reunion leading up to the events that happen in AIWFC. Reading AIWFC will give you a clear context of what this series is all about but it's not a prerequisite. This story should work just fine as a standalone series.
All I Want
The Vicious Sting of Jealousy Part 2
Clenching my jaws in a tight snap, I whirl around and begin to walk toward Candy and the unknown doctor, who are still engrossed in their chat.
"Candy." My voice echoes in the quiet hallway, bringing their conversation to an abrupt halt.
She swiftly spins around to face me, her green eyes wide with surprise. "Albert?"
I will myself to smile at her, paying no regard to the penetrating curious gaze belonging to the dark haired man standing next to her as I continue to approach her with determined steps.
"Mr. Andrew! This is a nice surprise." My stride drops to a slight dawdling step at the loud remark. I recognize the sedate low female voice that sounds nothing like Candy's high pitch one. Has she been there all along? I thought Candy was with the unknown doctor alone, only the two of them without anyone else.
Swiftly, I quicken my pace and advance forward, bringing myself to a few feet in front of Candy. My gaze veers farther to the side, past her shoulder, in pursuit of the owner of the voice.
Then sure enough, not too far behind Candy, I spot her trusted mentor and friend, Dr. Laura Green, leaning against the opposite wall in a relaxed stance, both of her hands stuffed inside the pockets of her white jacket. Dr. Green must have been lingering in silence while her two colleagues were conversing earlier. "Good evening, Dr. Green—" I greet her.
"Good evening, Mr. Andrew. The timing of your arrival couldn't have been more impeccable. You certainly chose the most perfect moment to make your entrance. We were just talking about you," Dr. Green pushes herself from the wall and slowly makes her way toward us, her brows arching high in half amused and half startled expression.
"Is that so? Now that's fascinating. I wonder what I could possibly have done to gain the interest of you and your colleagues." My gaze darts to Candy. I cock an eyebrow at her, questioning her what this is all about, but she only throws me a cursory feeble smile, a mere weak twitch at the corner of her mouth, and lowers her eyes toward the floor.
It appears she is not so eager offering any kind of explanation to me. Now my curiosity is piqued.
"Oh before that, let me introduce you to Dr. Maurits Dietrich here," Dr. Green gestures toward the man standing on the other side of Candy. "He is heading the Pediatric Hematology and Oncology department."
I almost forget about the other doctor. The man, who a short moment ago unknowingly almost drove me to forsake the plan I had so meticulously crafted for tonight. I step forward and outstretch my hand to him, donning on my patented business smile. "A pleasure to meet you, Dr. Dietrich."
Dr. Dietrich grasps my proffered hand firmly and shakes it. His lips curve up, but I discern nothing friendly with the way he is smiling and gazing at me, his midnight blue eyes prodding into mine with something akin to spite. "Likewise, Mr. Andrew. It's truly an honor to meet the man behind the magnificent Andrews Corporation. With your stellar performance and the ever growing list of accomplishments, the Andrews will trump over the Trumps' in no time." He roars in laughter, releasing my hand.
I glance down at the floor to stifle a cringe. His sense of humor is as achingly dry as the smile on his face. The man has no qualm declaring his extreme dislike at me to the world that I can't help but feel a pinch of perverse respect toward him. Such a high degree of finesse is simply missing in my bone. Although, I'm mildly curious as to what has inspired him. I'm aware that not the entire Manhattan population is fond of the Andrews Corporation. There are plenty of nasty rumors in the gossip mill revolved around us, all of which are, of course, untrue and severely distorted, being spread and circulated by those who despise our existence. I doubt the reason for him to display such hostility toward me is because of some petty gossip. Rather it seems as if he holds a personal grudge against me. I can't shake off the feelings that somehow it has everything to do with Candy and his perception of my relationship with Candy.
"Ermm... thank you but I think you're just exaggerating—"
"Nonsense—your reputation precedes you well, Mr. Andrew," Dr. Dietrich cuts in, flashing an exaggerated excited grin at me. "But I wonder why a man like you, who can virtually hire any doctor in the world with a snap of your fingers, are so keen on keeping Dr. White as your personal physician." The smile on his face evolves into a full blown smirk, a challenging glint in his eyes.
So I was right. This man has a vested interest in Candy, so very much so that he feels threatened my mere presence here.
Dr. Green's chuckle, sounding excessively shrill and forced, disperses the tense silence, and I turn to her. "You see, Mr. Andrew... " she begins in a hesitant voice. "What Dr. Dietrich was trying to say is that based on Dr. White's phenomenal performance and her groundbreaking research work, he had presented her with an opportunity to further her study in pediatric immunology."
My gaze shifts to Candy, and I heave a deep, sigh, looking at her with newfound admiration. I know she's very dedicated to her profession, but I never realize she is also that brilliant as a pediatrician. "Is that right? That's fantastic! I don't see why that should be any of my concern. I'm sure Can—Dr. White would be delighted to accept the offer."
The edge of Candy's lips lifts in a bashful smile. She tilts her head sideways, a light shade of pink adorning her cheeks as her eyelids slide lower, her long lush eyelashes fluttering against her creamy skin. "Well, I—"
"That's excellent," Dr. Green interposes in a loud cheery voice, causing me to tear my gaze from Candy. "Actually, Mr. Andrew, Dr. White has expressed her interest but she isn't completely 100% sure. It has been two weeks and she still hasn't given a response yet—she needs to do so by the deadline, which is approaching fast, by Wednesday of next week. She is worried that she might have inconvenienced you somehow. Now that you have given her full consent, she should have no more hesitation and can begin to make arrangements for her relocation to Paris right away, as she needs to be—"
"Paris? Paris, France?" I jerk my head back to Candy and hold her gaze, silently imploring her for an explanation. A blend of uneasiness and guilt settles over her face, and she chews on her bottom lips before averting her gaze from mine.
That's all the proof I need to know that this isn't some twisted joke. This is the real thing!
A torrent of disappointment sweeps over me, drowning me in bitterness. Candy knew about this since two weeks ago—but why hasn't she mentioned anything to me? She hasn't breathed a word about her accomplishment at work, neither has she given any clue that she's currently considering to relocate to another place far far away across the ocean. Does she even have the intention to inform me?
"Where else could it be? I hope you weren't thinking of Paris, Texas, Mr. Andrew. That's just absurd." Dr. Dietrich scoffs while I can only respond with a wry chuckle at his attempt to ridicule me. "I assume you're not familiar with what we're talking about, so let me give you the gist of it. Dr. White will be joining the rank of top-notch physicians from all over the world in a special rotation program that will run for at least six months at the Institut Gustave-Roussy. A highly prestigious program coveted by junior doctors, such as herself. Only the best of the best have been selected to participate, and I'm very proud to say that in addition to securing her spot in the program, Dr. White also managed to impress the committee with her research works, which led to her receiving numerous invitations to present her research at various high profile medical conference and symposium held throughout the summer months." He pauses and smirks at me, as though openly taunting me. "And during her tenure at the institute she will be working along my side as my partner."
Just the thought of Candy working shoulder-to-shoulder with the obnoxious doctor makes my skin crawl, and I feel a bone chilling tremor rushing down my spine when the image of his dirty big hands roaming all over Candy's lithe body flickers in my mind. My fingers curl into tight fists.
"No. She can't go."
The words, though nothing more than a deep murmur, rip furiously through the still air, reverberating in the empty corridor before fading into silence. I swivel my head to the side and find two pairs of aghast eyes on me; one is emerald green, the other steely blue, Candy's and Dr. Green's.
I stiffen, inwardly grimacing as I curb the strong urge to slap my forehead at my own foolish remark that I should've kept to myself. Just marvelous! How am I supposed to emerge out of this one? Now even Candy will think I'm one of those freaky, overbearing employers, who treat their staff like their own possessions.
"No?" Dr. Green cracks in an incredulous tone and pins me with a frown in scrutiny. "Did I hear that correctly, Mr. Andrew? That you said—"
I swiftly force myself to slip back into my confident facade, clearing my throat. "Dr. Green. Please allow me to explain myself clearly. Of course, Dr. White can leave if that is her wish." I let my gaze drift to Candy and notice how she refuses to make direct eye contact with me. "My only request is for Dr. White not to leave in haste. I would like to obtain the assurance that her absence will not have any detrimental effect on Lizzie. Who's going to care for Lizzie while she is away? May I remind you, Dr. Green, that it was you who made the recommendation for Dr. White to be my daughter's primary attending physician." I focus my attention solely on Dr. Green, trying hard not to sneak a glance at Candy, who has barely uttered a single word since the moment I interrupted her conversation with Dr. Dietrich, which deviates far from her normally vibrant personality. I wonder if it is because of my unbidden appearance that somehow evokes anxiety upon her—for me to discover that she has been deliberating the possibility to leave New York? Regardless, we surely have a lot to talk about. A lot.
"Yes, of course I remember that," Dr. Green affirms with steadfast conviction in her eyes. "But this is a rare opportunity for Dr. White. If you have a grave concern over Lizzie's well being and the quality of care, I would be more than happy to oversee all her medical needs myself. I will personally make all the house calls and ensure to monitor her condition very closely."
"I don't see what's the problem with what you proposed, Dr. Green, unless Mr. Andrew's concern here extends farther beyond what he makes it out to be," Dr. Dietrich adds with a slight huff.
"That's very considerate of you, Dr. Green. I truly appreciate your willingness to help." I cast her a grateful smile, purposely ignoring Dr. Dietrich's gibe. "But I don't think it will be necessary for you to go to such a great length. I know how busy you are nowadays. Scheduling a regular house visit would have been downright near impossible for you and may interfere with your new role at the hospital. No, I certainly don't want to impose on you."
Dr. Green knits her brows in silent objection, her lips pursed. I can tell she is struggling to restrain herself from expressing her disagreement out loud.
"Instead we could try to make do with the periodic office visits as we had implemented in the past. I think that would be the more suitable arrangement for you as well." I quickly supply to appease her. "However, I have to warn you I have no idea how Lizzie would react. She might not take very well the news of Dr. White's imminent departure. These past months she has grown so attached to Candy, I mean Dr. White, and no longer just sees her just as her doctor, but she also considers Dr. White as her mo—her friend." I catch myself short from uttering the word 'mother', much to my relief. "I worry the news would distress her. And I will be averse to exert any pressure on her, as that may affect her health. So this may end up taking longer than anticipated."
My gaze wanders back to Candy, and I find her opening her mouth hastily, as though she wants to blurt something out, her expression sheepish with an edge of worry.
But before she can articulate anything, Dr. Green emits a long sigh in resignation and says, "I understand your concern perfectly, Mr. Andrew, I really do. But I'm afraid time is at the essence. The earlier Dr. White can move to Paris the better it will be for her. Even though the program itself will not commence until the middle of June. She will need as much time as possible to acclimate to the new environment—as far as I know she hasn't even begun searching for a temporary housing yet. But that's fine, I realize it can't happen overnight. If it would give you more assurance, we could start the transition for Lizzie next week so that we could assess her response right away and make the proper adjustment if necessary. How does that sound?"
At Dr. Green's expectant look, I can only acquiesce. "Sounds reasonable." I smile at her politely. "Then, would you mind if I take Dr. White with me to discuss this matter over dinner?" I steer my gaze to Candy. She flinches, her eyes snapping wider with stunned bafflement. Yet as she has done since the moment I arrived, she refrains from making any comments, neither questioning nor declining my implied dinner invitation.
Dr. Green breaks into a hearty laughter. "No, not all. Please don't let us delay you any longer. I believe she is done with her shift for the day, isn't that right, Dr. White?" Dr. Green inquires, prompting Candy to face her and nod her head in acknowledgment. "I'm sorry if I've inadvertently held you hostage, Candy. I didn't know you had plans for tonight. You didn't tell me."
"No, I ummm..." Candy's unsure gaze slides to mine, appealing me to respond to Dr. Green in her stead.
I strain a smile, masking my anguish. The surprise is ruined now. All I want to do is to bolt out of this place with Candy in tow as fast as I can. I have no desire whatsoever to divulge the real intention behind my unannounced visit, especially with Dr. Dietrich around. "Well, it's been nice chatting with you Dr. Green, Dr. Dietrich, but it's getting late. We shall take our leave now. Dr. Green—I will contact you tomorrow to discuss in further details about Lizzie."
After a hurried exchange of customary goodbye, I accompany Candy back to her office. She tells me that it shouldn't take her longer than a few minutes. So I decided to stand by the door while waiting for her to tidy up and perform other menial tasks she needs to do. Now is probably not the best time to bombard her with a barrage of questions. I figure I can do that later and keep my mouth shut for the time being.
A moment later, as I see her retrieve her jacket from the coat rack, she announces that she's ready to leave. Wordlessly, I lead her out of the hospital building into the parking garage.
The entire walk is spent mostly in silence. The air around us has grown so thick with tension that I feel the tightness in my chest and my throat, any urge to talk to her vanish.
But that simply won't do.
The least I should do is to apologize. I can't deny I acted rather irrationally earlier, provoked by jealousy and fear of losing Candy, behaving like a possessive boyfriend. Worse, I was using my own daughter as an excuse to gain sympathy—I still can't believe I did something as despicable as that. Was I that desperate?
Who am I to Candy that I feel I have the right to hinder her from leaving? She is never mine to begin with. I'm just her... I feel my throat constricts at the painful reality. I'm just an old friend of hers, who also assumes the role of her employer.
Thrusting both hands into my pants pockets, I take a deep breath and muster all the courage I can gather. "Candy... I'm sorry. If you really want to go to Paris, you should go. You should leave right away as Dr. Green said. You don't need to wait another week or another day. You can leave tomorrow if you want." I swallow, struggling to banish the image of her and the arrogant Dr. Dietrich out of my mind. "I have no right to stop you."
"Are you sure?" Her soft timid voice fills my ears as we slowly climb up the stairs of the parking structure and come to a stop at the first landing. "But how about Lizzie?"
I turn to face her, smiling stiffly. Six months is a long time, a very long time, and not being able to see her in that span of time will feel like an endless torture. Yet there's nothing else I can do—I have no claim in the matter. I know she would stay if I begged her to, but I cannot in my conscience allow myself to resort to such a deceptive and manipulative machination. I've caused enough damage when I impetuously used Lizzie earlier to satisfy my self-serving motive. I can't make it far worse than it already is by succumbing to my ruthless side.
No. I will not do that. I will never clip her wings to prevent her from flying freely. In the end, despite all my yearnings and desires to be with Candy, more than anything I want her to soar high reaching for her dream, I want her to be happy, even if that means she will be thousands miles away in another continent, under the company of another man...
"Lizzie will be fine. You and I know that under Dr. Green's attentive care she will surely be in good hands. But... " I quirk the corner of my lips in a wistful smile. "I can't lie—I really don't want you to go. I would prefer you stay here with me... " I expire a lungful of air and let the words linger for between us before adding in a low voice, "And Lizzie..." I fasten my gaze on hers, intending to convey my sincerity that I meant every word I said, but instead I find myself sinking in a trance, gradually losing my grasp on reality, my eyes tracing her exquisite features.
There's no other way to describe the woman standing before me. Many years ago she was cute and adorable. Now she looks every bit like an enchanting goddess, wearing beauty perfectly and effortlessly, draping it around her like fine silk. Not too bold nor too meek. Just perfect. Her delicate face is adorned with a light dusting of makeup, her lush blond curls hanging loose past her shoulders—but it is the pair of small pink lips that simply captivates me, wholly and fiercely. I watch with bated breath as they part and draw close and then graze against each other, folding into her mouth. I could almost taste their softness, their sweetness. That was how they tasted as they slid and meld with mine in a passionate kiss.
One step. Just one single meager step, and that's all I need to take to wrap my arm around her slim waist and capture her delectable lips with mine. Then I will...
I've sunk too far, too deep, too fast.
What am I thinking? How can I imagine seducing her at this very moment? How shamelessly low can I go?
"Albert... What are you trying to say? You want me to stay?" Candy's nearly inaudible voice filters through the silence, stopping my spinning thoughts at once. "Is that true? Is that what you really want, for me not to go? But I thought..."
The look of utter bewilderment on her face strikes me hard right in the gut, and it dawns on me that she has reached the wrong conclusion.
And that's because I have misled her, whether intentionally or not.
"No—I mean yes..." I feign a chuckle. "Candy, how could I not want you to stay? After such a long time, we can finally reconnect again. I never thought it could happen, never even imagined it. Of course, I would love you to stay—and Lizzie too, I'm sure she would wish the same thing. We both will terribly miss you when you're gone. On the other hand, I'm well aware that it's an opportunity of a lifetime. You might never get another chance like this again. You shouldn't waste it." I give her a reassuring smile. "I know you'll outshine them all. Because that's just how you are. A bright sparkling star."
She presses her lips tight together and tugs them up in gratitude, her green eyes glistening with unshed tears in the bright neon light of the parking structure. "Thank you... Thank you, Albert, for being so supportive, for your encouragement, for your understanding, for everything. It means a great deal to me that I have your full support behind me." She appears to be hesitating before murmuring, "To be honest, I haven't truly made my final decision yet. I'm not even sure it's a good idea for me to go. I mean... if... if for whatever reason—"
I whip my hands out and clutch her shoulders, gently squeezing them with my fingers. "Candy—you don't need to worry about me or Lizzie anymore, okay?" My gaze mirrors the determination in my tone. I know what she's doing—she is wavering. She must have not been able to liberate herself from the shackle of guilt, and admittedly, I'm partly at fault for putting her in that predicament. "It will be all right. Dr. Green will never let anything disastrous happen under her watch. If there's any other doctor I find as reliable as you in handling Lizzie, it will be her. She used to be Lizzie's attending physician after all. So please don't agonize yourself over this matter any longer. Think about what you really want to do. Accept the offer—and go. I'm sure you will do a superb job in Paris as you have in New York. Lizzie and I will cheer for you from here. So make us proud, Dr. White!"
A fleeting smile is her only response, and once again we are engulfed in silence, the loud tapping and shuffling of our shoes reverberating in the narrow stairway as we resume our steps. When we round the corner of another flight of stairs, I catch sight of the metal door marked with number three and scurry through the treads toward the landing. I approach the door and fling it open, propping it against my elbow and my foot to hold it still.
"You parked on this floor?" Candy walks up into the landing and approaches me.
She crosses the threshold and continues strolling into the parking lot. Without moving my eyes from her, I retract my elbow and drag my foot back toward me. The sturdy door swings shut with a resounding bang.
"I know you said I shouldn't worry, but what if—Albert, where's your car?" she lurches to an abrupt halt in her track, swiveling her head from side-to-side, her gaze skimming the vacant lot before settling on the stall with the only car parked there, right behind the stairway.
My lips stretch into a smile as I saunter closer to her. I have nearly forgotten about this other surprise that hasn't been revealed yet. Perhaps it's not too late to salvage the night. We can still have the celebration.
I pull the key out of my jacket pocket and extend my upturned hand to her, showing the key resting on my palm. "Happy birthday, Candy. Today is your birthday, isn't it?"
For a long moment that feels like an eternity, she remains still, looking at me with a puzzled expression and then glaring down at the key on my palm.
Her reaction confounds me. That's not what I expected to see. Not in the least.
"This is for me? You bought me a car for my birthday?" One of her hands flies to her mouth, stifling her gasp, her round eyes gleaming with astonishment. "A real car?"
I chortle. "Last I checked, it's real." I scan her face. The lack of enthusiasm perplexes me. "Is there a problem? You don't like the car? Is it the color?"
Candy shakes her head in vehement denial, her gaze drifting back to the car. "Umm... no... It's a gorgeous car. The pearly white color is also very appealing, but..." Her voice drops into a near whisper, weighed down by uncertainty. "It's a car, a brand new car..." She falls into a halting silence for a moment before flicking her gaze back to me, her upper lip curling in a tinge of petulance. "I'm sorry I don't think I can accept this. It probably doesn't amount anything to you, but this is simply too much for me."
My heart leaps and thrashes painfully against my rib cage as I stare at her in disbelief. Why is she doing this? Is it excruciatingly that difficult for her to accept something I especially picked for her? I thought she would want a new car after hers was completely demolished by the accident. Was I wrong?
I admit I haven't exactly been feeling sunny since this afternoon—Aunt Elroy with her devious covert matchmaking scheme managed to drain nearly every drop of mirth from my body and there is also the matter with a certain arrogant doctor—but it's obvious Candy isn't tickled pink either in spite of today being her birthday. In fact, all her attitude and actions so far seem to indicate that she doesn't care about her birthday at all, and to an extent it looks like as though she rather forgets about it altogether—and I can't dismiss the notion that my presence has done nothing but perturbed her. All in all, it would've been better if I hadn't come here at all tonight.
Spurred by a spark of indignation, I briskly grab her wrist and press the key to her hand, urging her to take it. "Um... It's your birthday gift, so I will not take it back." Bitterness escapes out of my throat, tainting every single word I utter. "The dealer doesn't provide a refund option. You can donate it to charity if you are so firm against keeping it. That's perfectly fine with me if that's what you wish to do."
Her mouth snaps open, but she doesn't make the slightest sound, merely peering up at me through her lashes as she grips the key between her fingers. The sparkles in her eyes fizzle with confusion and affliction.
Regret and dread wash over me like a bucket of ice cold water.
What have I done? With my imprudent words, I succeeded in making the situation ten times worse than it was.
I whirl my head to the front, away from her forlorn gaze, gritting my teeth in frustration.
This is incredibly awful. Not even close to how I had imagined everything should unravel tonight. It was supposed to be a time filled with carefree laughter not wary glances and awkward silence.
Perhaps I've finally reached my limits. There is only so much provocation one could bear for a day. Apparently this is beyond the capacity of what I can mentally endure.
Where should I go from here?
With no ounce of excitement remaining in me, I'm so tempted to cancel the dinner and just drive her straight to her apartment. But amid the dark shadow of despair I can still hear the small sobering voice in the back of my mind, warning me that I would commit an egregious mistake if I walk away now, leaving things unresolved—I might lose Candy for good.
No... Even though I may not understand everything nor have I all the answers and explanations as to why she has behaved a certain way and said a certain word, there is one thing I'm very sure of—I will not lose her. Not tonight. Not tomorrow. Not a year from now. Not ever.
Taking a deep calming breath, I steel my resolve and step forward to stand right in front of her. She twitches in surprise, eyeing me anxiously as I reach for the key held in her fingers. "You know what?" I begin, tugging the key out of her grasp into my hand, a thin smile on my lips. "You can think about what to do with the car later. Right now I'm starving, and if I don't feed myself soon I'm afraid I'll pass out and end up being your new patient. So would you like to have dinner with me? Don't worry—I'll drive."
The taut lines and creases around her face melt away. "I would love to join you for dinner, Albert." She dips her chin slightly, her lips ever so slightly curving up in a demure smile.
It may not be her biggest, brightest smile, but it is genuine. For that, I'm unbelievably grateful.
TO BE CONTINUED
Disclaimer: I don't own Candy Candy manga and all the characters in it, but the talented Kyoko Mizuki does. This fic is a product of my own twisted imagination and inspired by Mizuki's masterpiece. If any of the plots, specific scenes, or dialogues appears to be similar to that from another fic or story, it is purely unintentional and coincidental. 'Great minds think alike', after all.
The characterization in the fic is based on the Manga and not the Anime.
Rambling: Finally! A brand new chapter. Okay, maybe not entirely brand new for those who follow my blog and managed to read it when I posted it a while back. But I must say I've revised it quite a bit, and by quite a bit I mean a lot, nearly every paragraph :D. So yes, you'll notice right off the bat it's no longer a drabblet. LOL. So much for my ambitious goal to challenge myself to do a drabble. As for the chapter, you should notice I've upped the angst level by few notches. I want to make sure I convey the constant struggling clearly. Poor Albert-I guess I really do like to torment him. :evil cackle: Anyway, the next chapter shouldn't be long in coming, but I'll update Forever and a Day first prior to that. So keep your eyes peeled.
Thoughts, comments, suggestions? I welcome them all.
Till next time