Author's Note: So, here we are finally. Here is part 2 and the conclusion of Spring Fling.
Note: This fic is slightly AU, which means there are some alterations from the original plot and setting from the manga. However, the characters ages are the same as in the manga.
Per usual, replies for comments can be found at the bottom of the page.
I will skip the rambling for now. So without further ado, please enjoy. -forever
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.
Acknowledgement: As always, my heartfelt gratitude goes to my lovely beta readers. Thank you for your invaluable suggestions and comments, gals. This fic will not be here without your diligence and hard work. :)
Also, I want to mention that three Candy Candy drawings, two from Igarashi and one from the ever talented Lezti Bella, inspired three scenes in the fic.
Last but not least, I also want to dedicate this story to those who have been diligently, patiently, and faithfully following my other Candy Candy fics. Thank you all! I hope this could tide you over while you wait for the next chapters of my other fics. :)
As Candy had expected, Aunt Mary had admonished and lectured her for hours even after they had gone back to their house from the party. The days following her birthday had been mostly uneventful. There had been more than one occasion in which she had caught herself staring at Albert's badge, reliving the heart pounding moment and rehashing his parting words over and over again in her mind. Her obsession had risen to a rather unhealthy level. She realized that she definitely should stop her daydreaming now since she was, after all, an engaged woman even though her engagement had not been formalized yet. Albert being an Andrew still wouldn't be able to release her from the chain that had bound her since she was born. But his smiling face and his captivating blue eyes just wouldn't leave her alone, and nothing she did seemed to work to drive off his image.
Nearly a week after the party in Lakewood had passed with nothing that could truly enlighten her melancholic mood, and then Friday came. On that Friday afternoon, a letter that was addressed to her arrived. She was overjoyed to see the Andrews' crest emblazoned on the back of the envelope and thought right away that Albert had written to her. But, much to her dismay, it wasn't from him. The letter was from Madam Elroy instead, formally inviting her and her aunt to come to the Andrews' Mansion in Chicago and to spend next weekend there. Her aunt was, of course, thrilled to have received the invitation and immediately planned their trip, but it wasn't quite the same for her as she had mixed feelings about it. While she still hadn't made up her mind on how she should feel about meeting the Andrews in their Chicago's mansion, her aunt delivered the news that her engagement party would take place next month. Yes - this time around, whether she liked it or not, the date and the venue for the event had finally been set.
Time flew as another week had passed with nothing but a list of mundane activities for her to do in preparation for her formal engagement. She had to accept that this was truly the end and had to purge any thoughts of another man that was not her future husband out of her mind, yet she couldn't extinguish the tiny flicker of hope in her heart - the hope that she might see Albert in the Andrews' Estate in Chicago. And she knew that this surely would be her last chance to meet him before her engagement became official.
And finally, the day for the trip to Chicago had arrived.
Sitting beside her aunt on the backseat of a moving car that would take them to the Andrews' Mansion, Candy turned her head away from the window and looked down at her hands resting on her lap. The trip from her aunt's estate to Chicago had taken almost the whole day, and her aunt's incessant rambling had accompanied her practically since the moment they had departed Pony Hill early in the morning and nearly through the entire train ride. Thankfully, Aunt Mary had finally stopped once they were inside the car.
When she noticed the car slow down in front of a tall wrought iron gate that undoubtedly would lead into the Andrews' Estate, she released a long sigh to alleviate the rising tension within her. After a short drive on a street that was lined with elegantly manicured tall cypress trees, the driver maneuvered the car into a circular driveway and brought the car into a complete stop right at the main entrance of an enormous building that was even more impressive in size and architectural details compared to the Lakewood Mansion. A moment later, the car door was opened for them by the Andrews' chauffeur.
As Candy was about to exit the vehicle, her aunt tapped her shoulder lightly. Candy turned her head to the side to face her aunt as Aunt Mary's authoritative voice rang loudly in her ears.
"I hope you know your place now and will conduct your manner at your absolute best. Madam Elroy has kindly invited us to stay over the weekend in their Chicago's mansion in spite of the vanishing spectacle that you had pulled through in Lakewood last time. I sure hope that you won't disappoint me this time." Her aunt stopped her talk briefly and sent her a warning look before adding, "I believe you don't want to bring shame to your parents' name. Am I right, Candice?"
"Yes, aunt." Candy nodded her head in a resigned affirmation. "I promise I will behave appropriately this time."
Satisfied with the answer, her aunt passed Candy an appreciative smile. They both then made their way to the opened front door, and from the threshold they could see Madam Elroy, dressed in her immaculate long gown, had just crossed the foyer and moved closer toward them with quick steps. Apparently, the lady of the house herself would personally welcome them.
"Mary-" Madam Elroy approached Aunt Mary and exchanged greeting kisses with her.
"Good afternoon, Madam Elroy" Candy greeted formally, moving her head down in a reverent bow.
Upon seeing the display of proper manner, Madam Elroy smiled pleasantly at Candy and replied, "Good afternoon." She reached out her hand to pat Candy's hand lightly. "You should address me as aunt, Candice, since we're practically a family. You are my god niece after all."
Candy wasn't sure how to respond to the request and stole a glance at Aunt Mary for guidance, but her aunt pretended she didn't see her niece's pleading eyes. With hesitation in her voice, Candy finally said, "Um… certainly, a… aunt."
"That's better," Aunt Elroy affirmed. Then, she shifted her attention to Candy's aunt, "How are you, Mary? How was the trip?"
"I'm fine, Elroy. The trip was wonderful. Thank you very much for inviting us here," Aunt Mary replied with a polite smile.
A faint chortle slipped out of Aunt Elroy's mouth. "Don't mention it, Mary. It's my pleasure. We love to have you both here. This is Candice's first time visiting the mansion - am I right? "
"Indeed, " replied Aunt Mary briefly before directing her focus away from Aunt Elroy to glance at her blond niece. "Candice - don't you have something you want to say to Ma-Aunt Elroy, dear?"
Candy knew right away what Aunt Mary had alluded to. In a contrite gesture, she dipped her head lower than before, when she had made her greeting bow earlier, and said, "Ma - Aunt Elroy. Please forgive me for my impudent behavior in Lakewood. I assure you that will never happen again." She slowly raised her head back up to face Aunt Elroy.
Aunt Elroy took a deep breath. "It is fine, Candice. I-"
The sound of loud laughter and chatter truncated Aunt Elroy's response.
As her hearing caught the voices, Candy couldn't ignore the feelings that somehow the voices sounded familiar to her ears. She grew curious and couldn't wait to be introduced to the owners of the voices.
"Pardon me, Candice-" With pent up irritation, Aunt Elroy forced out a smile and excused herself, taking a couple of steps toward the direction of the voices inside the mansion. Aunt Elroy let out a cough, but that didn't seem to work to attract the attention of the noisemakers as they continued on with their chitchat merrily.
"Um hum… " Aunt Elroy made a louder gruff sound. This time she appeared to be successful as it suddenly became silent before a loud startled yelp could be heard.
"Oh! Our guests are here already," another voice remarked.
Aunt Elroy pivoted on her heel to face her guests standing by the threshold of the front door and beckoned for them to come toward her in the foyer. Two young men stepped slowly to stand next to Aunt Elroy. "Mary, Candice - may I present to you my two nephews," Aunt Elroy announced and gestured with her hand to point at each of the persons she was referring to. "Allistair Cornwell and his brother, Archibald Cornwell."
A dark haired man with glasses perching on his nose stepped forward. "How do you do, Miss Candice?" he greeted her politely. "Please, call me Stear," he added in a friendly tone before making a small bow at her aunt. "Mrs. White."
Before Candy had a chance to reply, his brother, who had straight blond hair, commented, "So - we finally have the pleasure to meet the famous, naughty birthday girl. I hope you're not planning to make another escape this time, Miss Candice." He winked at Candy playfully. "By the way, the name is Archie." Then he turned to her aunt, dipping his head into a slight bow, "How do you do, Mrs. White?"
Candy certainly didn't expect to hear something as brazen as what she had just heard to be spoken in front of Aunt Elroy. Yet, she found the remark to be rather funny and had to suppress a giggle down her throat by pressing her lips tightly.
"Archibald!" Aunt Elroy sent him a disapproving glare. Then, without letting Archie say anything else, Aunt Elroy quickly asked, "Where is Anthony?"
"Here I am," a voice suddenly replied as a blond, blue-eyed man made his way to approach them.
When Candy's eyes fell on Anthony, she thought she was seeing someone else's shadow. The resemblance was uncanny. Her eyes followed the blond man as he made his way to stand right next to Aunt Elroy.
"I apologize for the delay, aunt," said the blond man, kissing his aunt's cheek lightly.
"It is fine, Anthony," Aunt Elroy answered and then turned her head toward her guests. "Mary, Candice - here is my other nephew, Anthony Brown."
Anthony spun halfway to face the two female guests and stepped closer to the blond woman. "It is a pleasure to meet you, Miss Candice." His eyes met Candy's as they exchanged a friendly smile, and he then turned toward her aunt, bowing slightly. "Mrs. White."
No. It's not him - he is not Albert. Even though Anthony and Albert shared many similar physical features, such as the color of their eyes and hair, Candy could tell that he and Albert were not the same person. Albert's voice was deeper, and he was taller. Furthermore, their smiles were different - Albert had a charming smile that could easily dazzle her. She had just then realized that Albert was not among them. Was it possible that Albert was Anthony's older brother, and for some specific reason he just couldn't be here right now?
Aunt Elroy did not miss Candice's fidgeting. Her god niece appeared to be very distracted, her green eyes moving around restlessly as if she was looking for something or to be more accurate, someone. The older woman curled her lips and pulled back a smirk. "If you are looking for William - he is not here yet. There is an urgent matter that needs to be resolved at the main office - but he should arrive anytime now," she informed.
Candy didn't find Aunt Elroy's information to be particularly fascinating as her mind was completely occupied with questions of a certain tall, blond man that was still missing. So instead of responding, without being able to subdue the eagerness in her tone, she inquired, "How many god cousins do I have, aunt? Are they all here at the mansion today?"
A look of confusion appeared on Aunt Elroy's face. "What do you mean by that, Candice?" Aunt Elroy paused for a second before her eyes lightened up as a thought crossed her mind. "Oh! I see. Perhaps, you are referring to Neil?"
"Neil…" Candy repeated in a whisper. She heard the name before - she was sure of that. Albert and Neil - were they the same person? As she was deep in her pondering, she missed seeing the exchange of befuddled looks among her god cousins as they wondered why she was interested in someone as bratty as Neil.
"Neil and his sister Elisa unfortunately had to return to Florida this morning and will not be able to join us. But you will surely meet them at the party next month," Aunt Elroy explained.
Snickering, Archie chimed in, "Trust me - you're not going to miss them very much, Miss White."
Candy shifted her attention to Archie, cocking an eyebrow. She had no idea why he seemed to be not very fond of Neil and his sister.
Aunt Elroy turned her head sharply to face Archie. "Archibald - that's enough!" she retorted. The irritated look on her face morphed into a smile as she turned to face Candy and Aunt Mary. "Shall we move to the parlor to continue our talk while enjoying some afternoon snacks?" Just after she had said that, an expression of concern suddenly surfaced on her face. "Heavens! How could I be so inconsiderate? You two must be exhausted from the long journey. I will have Jefferson take you to your rooms instead."
Waving her hand in the air, Aunt Mary promptly replied, "No need, Elroy. We are perfectly fine. We had plenty of rest during the train ride. Don't we, Candice?" She took a glance at her niece.
Candy restrained the urge to roll her eyes at her aunt and just nodded silently in response.
Aunt Elroy smiled with satisfaction, her hand rising slightly in an elegant gesture. "Well then, shall we?"
As they were about to leave the foyer, Anthony briskly interrupted, "Would you like to come with us instead, Miss Candice?" He passed her a kind smile and suggested, "We can give you a quick tour of the mansion."
Candy was elated by the offer, but without giving the petite blond a chance to even open her mouth, Aunt Elroy quickly replied on her behalf, "Anthony - I appreciate you being courteous to our guest, but I have plenty of matters I want to discuss with Candice now. Perhaps, you can invite her again tomorrow after we have our brunch?"
Discerning the unyielding gleam in his aunt's dark eyes, Anthony forced a smile on his face as he struggled to keep the disappointment from showing. "Certainly, Aunt. With your permission." He made a small bow before turning toward the petite blond. "I'll see you in a bit, Miss Candice."
Candy nodded, smiling halfheartedly. "Sure, Anthony."
Right after that, Archie and Stear excused themselves as well. Candy watched her three god cousins walked away and could only smile weakly at their retreating forms. Then she and her aunt were ushered into a spacious room inside the mansion that was decorated with priceless antique artifacts that had been acquired from all over the world.
Thereafter, time seemed to stay at a standstill for Candy. She had lost track of how long she had been trapped inside the parlor with absolutely no way out for her this time. The situation was utterly hopeless for her. Pricking her fingertips with the sharp edges of her nails had been the only source of entertainment for her just to keep herself awake. As time went by, she felt that it had become more and more like a torture for her, being forced to listen to Aunt Elroy and Aunt Mary conversing nonstop, jumping from one banal topic to another. In the beginning, it was not as terrible since, albeit unwilling, she had been an active participant in the conversations as the three of them had discussed details pertaining to the upcoming event. But later the topics had veered off completely, and she could care less about what Madam Gertrude wore to church last Sunday. She regretted she hadn't accepted her god cousins' invitation. Well, it's not like I was given a choice.
The truth was that she would love to spend time to get to know her cousins more and maybe at the same time could learn more about the mysterious Albert Andrew. Who was he really? Was that his real name, or his real name was supposed to be Neil Andrew? She wasn't sure, but she knew with absolute certainty that he had to be an Andrew and most possibly from the direct lineage since only a true Andrew could carry the Andrews' badge. Even though Candy had known Aunt Elroy for a long time and had interacted with her on several occasions, however, that had not been the case with the other members of her family. She had spent most of her adolescent years in Virginia while most of the young members of the Andrews had been in London attending school. The only way she could learn anything about her god cousins or the other member of the family had been through Aunt Elroy, but Aunt Elroy had seldom mentioned anything about them. Today had been her first time meeting her god cousins. She could've met them earlier, two weeks ago, in Lakewood Estate, if she had not run away from her party. Oh well. At least, I finally met them in person today.
As Candy started to seriously consider pretending to be attacked by a fainting spell just so she could slip out of the current dire situation, following a soft knock, the door suddenly swung open, and a tall figure, dressed in a dark-colored, fine Italian suit, strode inside with hasty steps, heading toward the center of the room.
"William!" Aunt Elroy called out in a loud voice as she saw her nephew had finally made his overdue appearance.
He made a quick bow. "Good afternoon, aunt. My apology for the delay. I didn't realize traffic can be bad during…" His sentence was left hanging when his eyes met a pair of wide emerald eyes looking at him in a look of bewilderment mixed with a tinge of anger.
He swallowed to moisten his suddenly dry throat. "Miss White-"
Forgoing etiquette protocol, Candy rose to her feet and approached the tall blond man. "William? You - you're William?" she pointed her shaking finger at him, her brows crinkling slightly. Confusion was gradually replaced by indignation as a horrible feeling that she had been deceived into being the object of a practical joke grew inside of her.
"Candice!" Aunt Mary exclaimed with reproach as she practically stumbled out of her seat to stand on her feet.
Aunt Elroy turned her head back and forth, alternating to look at the two young blonds. "You two have met already?" Aunt Elroy asked in a surprised voice as she slowly stood up from her seat.
"Long story " the blond man simply told them while his eyes remained focus on Candy's face. He noticed how angry she appeared to be and could practically see the smokes coming out of her ears. Sometimes a desperate measure must be taken to mitigate a difficult situation, and this was certainly the kind of situation that would necessitate an unorthodox strategy.
The next thing he did stunned the older female occupants in the room as a chorus of sharp intake of breaths could be heard in the room.
Swiftly, he grasped Candy's hand, holding it firmly in his, and tugged her along with him toward the door. The blond woman was completely taken aback that she couldn't even react, and only when she felt the slight pull on her hand, she realized what had happened. She glared at her captor, but his attention seemed to be somewhere else.
Without loosening his hold on her hand, he swiveled to face the older women, and the movement caused Candy to turn around also. "Forgive me, aunt, Mrs. White" He bowed slightly at his aunt and moved his attention toward Aunt Elroy's friend, making another small bow. "I would like to take Candy for a walk, and we shall return before dinner time. I hope that would not interfere with your plan."
Aunt Elroy quickly shook herself out of the state of shock that was caused by her nephew's outrageous display of improper conduct. Under a different circumstance, she would blast William for the atrocious behavior. However just for right now, she would let him go. Her thin lips arched into a full smile. With a graceful movement of hand in the air, she answered, "Oh please, go right on ahead, William. Dinner is not going to be served in at least two hours from now. The weather is so lovely today - it will be such a waste for you two young people to stay inside and not enjoy it to the fullest. " Lifting an eyebrow, Aunt Elroy glanced at Aunt Mary. "Wouldn't you agree, Mary?"
The older women exchanged quick smiles. "Absolutely, Elroy." Aunt Mary turned to face the blond man and gave him her consent as well. "Take your time, William. You have nothing to worry about."
Candy was just about to open her mouth to voice out her objection, but when her eyes met Aunt Mary's stern glare, sending her a clear warning signal, she knew that her fate had been sealed. Releasing a sigh of resignation, she bit her bottom lip to contain her frustration.
"Thank you. With your permission." Albert made a small bow, and Candy forced herself to mimic after him in silence.
Without saying anything, he dragged her across the long hallway and several flights of stairs before they were finally out of the mansion. As they stepped outside into the verandah, she wiggled her hand furiously, attempting to loosen his hold on her. "Let me go," she wailed.
Instead of releasing her, he just sent her a subtle smile. "I'm sorry but I'm not going to yet. Clearly, we need to talk in private. And I know just the place for that," he told her with an obvious resolution in his voice while maintaining their steps.
"What?" she blurted in anger. "Where are you taking me?"
He merely said, "You'll see soon." He smiled cryptically at her before he whirled his head back to the front and accelerated the pace of their steps.
Candy took a couple of furtive glances at the blond man and noted the determined look set on his face. It became clear to her that he was very serious about his intention, and there was nothing else she could do at the moment but to comply. They moved along the small dirt path that meandered through a well-kept garden that burgeoned with blooming colorful flowers of many species, a sparkling blue lake standing as the backdrop. Unfortunately, she was too rattled and clearly not in the mood to bask in the beautiful scenery.
As they moved closer toward the body of water, in front of them, she could see a dock jutting out into the vast lake that seemed to run all the way into the horizon. He led them to stride forward and stepped onto the dock. Only the knocking sound of the soles of their shoes hitting the wooden dock could be heard as they made their way along the dock.
At the spot that was approximately halfway from the end of the dock, he slowed down their steps before stopping completely. "Please wait here," looking over his shoulder, he told her as he continued to step forward, leaving her by herself. Then, to her utter shock, he just leaped off from the right edge of the dock, disappearing from her sight.
Candy rushed to the right end of the dock in panic, her heart hammering violently against her chest. She looked down to find a smaller wooden platform floating on the water but with no sign of him. Lowering herself down to sit on her knees and stretching out her upper body forward, she searched for his figure only to find Albert standing on his feet with his back leaning comfortably against the supporting pole right underneath her. She rolled her eyes at him in annoyance for provoking an unnecessary anxiety attack within her. He instructed her to jump to him, but she blatantly refused to follow his direction this time.
Without even giving her a courtesy warning, he just lifted her up by the waist and carried her toward a small rowboat that was tethered to the small landing. "Albert - you better put me down. Right now!" she demanded in a furious shout while struggling frantically to free herself out of his arms.
Dismissing her threat, he just cautioned her lightly, "If you don't want both of us to plunge into the water, I suggest you stop moving around."
Candy stopped her thrashing instantly and turned her head away from Albert to see the boat was only a step away from them. He lowered her down and helped her to stand on her feet. With his other foot planted on the dock, he stepped onto the boat's deck carefully, causing the boat to sway toward them. Wordlessly, he coaxed her to board the boat and assisted her to sit on the bench near the stern. She shifted on the narrow wooden plank to find a comfortable sitting position, smoothing her dress down along her legs.
In the mean time, he focused his attention on adjusting his attire to make it more suitable for the activity that he was about to partake in. He took off his suit jacket and removed his silk tie, laying them on the wooden floating dock. After Albert unmoored the boat by unfastening the rope that had been securely knotted unto a post, he settled himself on the seat facing her. The boat slowly moved being carried along by the current. Once he rolled up the sleeves of his shirt to his elbows, he grabbed the two oars from the deck floor, gripping them by the handles, and secured them onto the rowlocks on the sides of the boat. He purposefully let the boat drift a few feet away from the floating dock before he began to row.
A tranquil atmosphere encompassed them as the boat sliced through the calm water, slowly gliding across the lake. The calm lake glimmered under the late afternoon sun. The sky was especially blue that day with scarce thin wisps of clouds. The flapping of wings from a flock of birds flying low and the quacking from water fowls frolicking in the water could be heard echoing intermittently across the otherwise serene lake.
Despite the peaceful scenery that surrounded her, Candy felt her patience had dwindled bit by bit due to the fact that there hadn't been any sign indicating that Albert would take the initiative to open his mouth to say anything, even when he was the one who had suggested that they urgently needed to talk.
"I thought you said a walk - this is clearly not a walk." Her sarcastic voice dispersed the quietness between them.
Stifling a chuckle, he shifted his attention away from navigating the boat and told her, "I have to take all the precautions. I want to make sure we can talk without any interruptions." His eyes gleaming with sincerity focused on hers. "Please forgive me, if my treatment of you was harsh earlier."
His chaste apology was not sufficient to pacify her as she was still very much consumed by exasperation. And she clearly did not appreciate him skirting around the pressing issue any longer - she just wanted to get to the bottom of it now. "You lied to me, Sir William Andrew," she accused him straightforwardly, brushing off his words of regret earlier, her round green eyes glowing fiercely.
"Because I said we were going to take a walk?" he asked, feigning cluelessness.
Growing more irritated by his seemingly indifferent attitude, she shook her head vehemently and snapped at him, "No!" She threw him an accusing glare. "You lied to me and pretended to be someone else."
He shrugged off her accusation with a soft chuckle. "I did not," he merely disagreed with her assertion.
Her eyes widened in indignation upon hearing his curt denial. "But you told me your name was Albert." She faintly snorted in an un-lady like manner. "Albert and William - I don't know how you could not tell the difference. Do you even know what your real name is?" she questioned in a mocking tone.
He couldn't contain another chortle from escaping his mouth. "Albert is my middle name," he told her simply and added, "And I gave you my badge too - you should know my last name by that time."
She repressed the urge to scream at him in frustration. "You're unbelievable. As if giving me a hint about your family name could tell me anything. Without your first real name, how could I know your true identity?" she contended. Then, as a rather disturbing thought surfaced in her mind, her green eyes flashed with unveiled pique. "You knew all along, didn't you? Were you sent by Aunt Elroy to chase after me?"
"Ah! You're very wrong, Candice," shaking his head calmly, he told her. "First of all, I was out there in the woods out of my own free will. And secondly, when we first met, I had no idea who you were. Lastly, I only learned of your true identity much later, once we were back in the garden."
"And you didn't even bother to reveal yourself to me at that time," she muttered under her breath with a mixture of chagrin and vexation in her tone.
He heard what she had said and stopped his rowing instantly. Casting her a rueful smile, he said in a clear voice, "You are right - I didn't. I apologize if you think that I have been misleading you." He paused briefly before adding, "But I do have my own rationale for not doing that."
He stopped talking and waited for her to say something, but her mouth remained tightly shut. After he was sure that she would not make any comment, he continued, "Since I knew that day was your birthday, I didn't want to ruin it for you, especially after what you told me about being tricked by your aunt. I didn't want to make it worse for you by revealing my real identity as your fiancé. I wasn't sure how you would react, so I decided not to take any risk and just wait until another opportunity comes." He paused and drew in a breath. "I hope you understand my reasoning now." He held her eyes with his in a tender gaze.
By the time he had finished talking, her anger had dissolved into a mere frustration but not toward him - she was upset at herself now. The drastic change in emotions that was triggered by his explanation threw her off-kilter. She spun her head sideways abruptly to evade looking at him directly. She acknowledged what he had just said was the truth and couldn't find another valid reason that she could use to argue his point. A specific part of their conversation in the garden in Lakewood, in which she had casually derided her 'fiancé' in front of him, came to her mind. From the way she had behaved at that time, she certainly hadn't given him any hint that she cherished her betrothed that much. She really couldn't blame him anymore now for keeping mum about his identity, especially the part about him being her fiancé. A feeling of utter remorse began to flourish in her heart. She most probably had overreacted earlier, acting like an immature little girl and could only hope that he hadn't thought the same about her.
A moment of peaceful silence with only the splashing sound from the oars striking the water surface reigned between them. As he continued rowing the boat, he observed her quietly and noticed how lovely she appeared today in her cream colored dress with her curly blond tresses cascading freely down to her back.
His eyes fixed on her profile unblinking when, suddenly, a gust of wind blew and caused the loose golden strands from her hair to dance around freely in the air, partly impeding her face. The picture of loveliness that was produced took his breath away, and he couldn't tear his eyes away from looking at her. The image slowly lured his mind to wander away into a completely different territory. Realizing the direction his imagination had strayed into, he quickly captured his unbridled thoughts and brought his attention back to his current task of propelling the boat. He was then being reminded of the fact that there was still another matter that they still needed to discuss. With that thought in his mind, he decided to engage her back into a dialogue, steering them into another topic where he could finally divulge to her his intention, other than the one about clearing their misunderstanding.
"So... Miss White." He began as he saw her turn her head back to face him. "I have decided to annul our engagement."
She stared blankly for a few seconds before straining a smile to mask her tumultuous mind. "It's Candy, not Miss White," she corrected quickly and then told him, wearing a complacent look on her face, "I'm glad you see it my way, Sir William." Despite the air of aloofness that she projected, she was actually in a very disconcerted state. Whether she wanted to admit it or not, she was utterly disappointed by his decision.
He raised an eyebrow at the formal way she had referred to him and thought that she had done it intentionally just to badger him after he had called her 'Miss White'. "You're not even the slightest bit interested to know why I did that?" he asked.
She shrugged. "Why? It doesn't matter, right? An arranged marriage is just so ridiculous and so old fashioned," she stated with a hint of revulsion in her voice.
He chuckled lightly. "Well, I agree with you on that regard." He ceased his chuckling and said, "But I have another reason."
She glanced at him with a dubious look. "Another reason? Should I be worried?" She crossed her arms against her chest while she fought to suppress the consternation from showing on her face. The last thing she wanted to hear right now was him telling her that he was in love with someone else.
Disregarding her sarcastic remark, he told her, "From the very beginning, I decided that I will only marry a woman of my own choice." As soon as he had said that, he noticed her nuanced facial expression.
She wasn't sure she was happy with what she had just learned from him. Heaving a long sigh, she uncrossed her arms. "I see… " Her eyes averted his gaze. "It looks like we share a similar philosophy. That's good - I don't need to explain anything now." She forced herself to revert her focus back on him, passing him a small smile, and said, "It has been a pleasure meeting you, but I must say that it looks like we will be going on our separate ways soon and- "
A stream of chuckles stopped her from talking at once, and she gave him a quizzical look, wondering whether she had said anything funny.
He promptly told her, "I don't think so, Candice. I'm afraid it will not be that easy for you to get rid of me." His clear blue eyes regarded hers intently. "On the other hand, I think we'll be seeing each other more often very soon." The determination was clear in his voice and his face.
His comment made her feel utterly lost. "Huh? But didn't you just say that…"
He smiled reassuringly at her. "Don't worry - I always keep my words. I will make the announcement pertaining to the cancellation of our engagement as soon as we're back inside the mansion, " he explained to her in a firm voice. When he saw that he still had her full attention, he continued, "But I also want to let you know that I have every intention to court you and make you fall madly in love with me. When the time comes, I will propose to you myself and by then you will not be able to refuse." His head tilted at an angle while a faint smirk materialized on his lips.
The nonchalant manner he had assumed to deliver his message almost made her miss the significance of it. As her brain reprocessed his words, she felt the quickening in her pulse, her face turning beet red. She couldn't believe that he had actually said that so easily. Feeling unsure of what to do now, she brought her eyes hastily to focus on him. "Alb- Wil-…" she sputtered, spouting incoherently.
He chuckled, looking at her glowering. "You can call me Albert, Candy. I actually like that more than William," he suggested lightly.
Her mouth opened slightly before she quickly shut it tight again. She then whirled her head to the side, avoiding direct eye contact with him. It was difficult for her to determine whether he truly meant what he had said or not. And at the moment, she was not too keen to put more effort to delve into it more. But she couldn't deny the fact that she was quite affected by his words. She immediately cautioned herself that there was no point to let herself get carried away just by what the man had said. There was absolutely no true basis for her to believe him - she still knew nothing about him. In the end, she resolved that he had only been teasing her.
Absentmindedly, Candy lowered her hand closer to the surface of the water and dipped it in slightly. The feel of cool water on the tips of her fingers startled her a bit. Her lips twisted into a mischievous smirk as an idea simmered in her head. Abruptly, she brought her hand out of the water, cradling some liquid unto her palm. Then, with a sudden powerful swing of her arm, the droplets of water flew right onto Albert's face.
"Hey!" Yelping loudly, he flinched when a sprinkle of cold water hit the warm skin on his face. He looked toward her to see her sitting quietly on her seat with an innocent smile on her face, her folded hands resting on her lap, but he didn't let the angelic look deceive him. Trying to be as inconspicuous as possible, he loosened his hold on one of the oars, his eyes never moving from hers. And in a very rapid movement, he lowered his cupped-hand into the water and hurled the liquid toward her in a drizzle.
Her eyes caught his hand movement, but it had been too late for her to dodge the attack. The cool liquid collided against her face in a hard impact. "Albert!" she cried and passed him an exaggerated angry look while he only roared in laughter.
Candy's face and a portion of her hair were wet now. She observed him quietly from her seat, and it appeared that he was still too absorbed in his laughing to be able to pay attention at her. She smirked inwardly as she thought that now would be the perfect opportunity to retaliate. Swiftly, she sprayed another scoop of water at him, causing him to halt his laughing in an instant. His blue eyes clashed with her green ones in a glaring contest. Then simultaneously, they briskly turned facing the lake and immersed their hands into the water.
What ensued between them next was an all out intense water combat. Using their hands, they raced to out-splash each other with as much water as they could scoop out from the lake. Their frantic movements caused the boat to rock turbulently on the water. A few moments later, once they were both mostly soaked, panting out of breath, he finally called a truce to stop the battle. He knew that if he hadn't, they would continue and might end up capsizing the rowboat due to the vigorous agitation. Besides, they were already thoroughly drenched. Their sopping wet hairs were plastered onto their faces with water trickling down from the clumped tendrils. Their clothes were sodden, and the material clung tightly to their skin. Fortunately, the day was unseasonably hot, and the sun shone brightly transmitting its warmth unto them while a tepid breeze blew gently.
When their sights fell on each other, they saw how they each looked like they had been dunked into the lake and burst in hearty laughter, their loud laughs resounding all the way across the quiet lake. Gradually, the fits of laughter diminished into few chuckles before they faded out, leaving only contented grins on their faces. Their eyes met, and the smiles dissolved slowly from their faces as their gaze grew in intensity. Then, as if being pulled by an unknown gravity, they leaned closer and closer toward each other.
When Candy finally came to her senses, there were only a couple of inches left separating their faces. Noticing that the tips of their noses barely touched, she jerked backward in reflex. But before she could withdraw completely, Albert's hand swiftly moved to cradle her nape, preventing her from pulling farther away.
Nervously, she willed herself to meet his eyes. The second her eyes locked with his electrifying blue ones, whatever words she had wanted to articulate vanished from her mind.
"You are beautiful when you smile, Candy," he murmured hoarsely as he ran his palm against the damp pale skin on her cheek down to the underside of her jaw, his thumb lightly caressing the delicate flesh across her bottom lip, his eyes focusing on her lips.
His gentle ministration caused her heart to skip a beat and her breathing to cease momentarily as she seemed to suddenly forget how to breathe through her nose.
He had intended to let her go, so he could curb the growing desire that had slowly overtaken him. But the sight of her looking at him in a daze with slightly parted lips, her wet face glistening and droplets of water dripping down from her sopped hair, made him forget about everything altogether. Ignoring his conscience's attempt to caution him, he removed the distance between them.
All coherent thoughts forsook her being entirely when his smooth lips grazed against hers, and slowly her eyes closed in their own accord. He gently melded her lips with his by kneading them in a rhythmical movement, slowly increasing the pressure that he applied on her lips. The maneuver triggered a rush of delightful sensations running through her insides as her hands grabbed tightly onto the wet fabric of his shirt sleeves for support in a seemingly desperate manner while a weak whimper was being emitted from her throat. When he felt her lips start to move timidly against his, he found himself struggling for control to restrain himself from ravishing her wholly. With great reluctance, he slowed down the pace, pressing several fleeting kisses against her lips, before he withdrew slightly from her, heaving heavily. Her eyes remained shut as the haze in her mind slowly began to clear away, her heart thumping wildly inside her chest, her breathing erratic.
Albert leaned his temple gently onto Candy's. "It looks like that you agree to our courtship," he let out in a guttural voice.
Her eyelids lifted halfway as she peered at him shyly from under her lashes. "You were not joking… " she uttered in a soft whisper with a hint of disbelief in her tone.
To see her appear even more enticing than before, he pulled away from her in an abrupt movement before another surge of desire could overpower him, inciting him to do something that he might regret later. Albert took several deep breaths to calm himself and counted to ten in his mind before he could finally manage to speak with a steady voice, "Let me just say that you're quite mistaken if you think I'm going to let a beautiful woman that shares my passion and my belief go just like that. I've been searching for someone like you all this time, and it turns out that I've been betrothed to one since I was young." He let out a wistful chuckle. "If I had known that, I would have never kept skipping out on our meetings." He brought his eyes to meet hers. "And do you know that our engagement was originally planned to be formalized when you turned eighteen?"
"Eighteen?" Candy asked with uncertainty in her voice while her brain dug deeper into the well of her memory.
He nodded to affirm. "We're supposed to be formally engaged by then. But somehow I was able to convince my aunt that we should wait until you're twenty-one." His eyes wandered down to her red lips that were still swollen from being kissed earlier.
Eighteen? That was three years ago, and she had just graduated from high school. Candy couldn't imagine what would have happened if she had met Albert then or before that. Now that she thought about it more, she recalled a couple of instances in which she and her fiancé William were supposed to meet in a more casual setting, and in each of the occasions, Aunt Elroy had to apologize on behalf of her nephew for suddenly being unavailable. She was about to make a quip to respond to him when she saw his face lean toward hers.
And a fraction of a second later, he stole one quick kiss from her lips, finally succumbing to temptation. He was not the type of a man that indulged in a short romantic fling, and he never condoned a casual display of affection. But being with her made him easily forget about all his resolves.
The brief brushing on her lips made her green eyes grow wide in astonishment, pink blushes tinting her cheeks. "Did you just?" Her fingers moved to touch her lips.
"What?" he asked, casting her an innocent look.
His nonchalance grated on her nerves. How could he act like nothing had happened between them? At least they should talk first before… Before what? Before they went back to share another passionate kiss? She couldn't believe she had just thought that. By now the soft color on her cheeks had darkened into bright red.
"Are you referring to the kiss?" Albert questioned in a casual tone, catching her off guard.
She recovered from her stupor quickly and repelled any unwholesome thoughts from her mind. Noticing the smug smile on his face, she definitely didn't want to give him any hint that she was quite fine to be the recipient of his kisses. "What do you think?" she muttered.
"I don't remember you were complaining when we kissed earlier," he simply pointed out, letting out a half chuckle.
Candy's mouth hung open as she couldn't deny his claim. Once again, she found herself tongue-tied, unable to form a response to him. As she contemplated what to do next, out of the corner of her eye, she saw the water lapped gently against the side of the boat, and immediately she knew what she could do now. She brought her hand down toward the water.
But as she hurled her hand in mid air, he seized it by the wrist. "No more," he warned her in a low voice. His eyes locked on hers.
He abruptly pulled her toward him, causing her to lose her balance. The impact threw him backward onto the bow deck as she fell right onto him, her soft frame pressing down onto his firm one. Realizing their improperly intimate position, their bodies wrapped in their soaked clothes pushing against each other's, she immediately attempted to move away but to no avail since he held on tightly to her.
In his mind, he cursed at himself for making the decision to void their engagement. Now, he had to wait longer, but for how long? Dispelling any unpleasant thoughts from his mind, he brought his focus back on the lovely angel resting on top of him.
When her eyes met a pair of blue orbs shining with sheer adoration, the protest died on her tongue instantly as her body became still, her heart throbbing out of control. He cradled her head gently with both hands and guided it to move down closer to his.
He proclaimed to himself that their courtship began in that instant as his lips found hers again in another round of delicious kisses. "It isn't a spring fling, sweet Candy," he murmured against her soft lips, vouching that this was just the beginning for them.
Meanwhile, some distance away, onshore, two women's eyes were strained to focus upon a sight of a small rowboat floating on the vast lake.
"It looks like that we did well this time, Elroy," Aunt Mary commented.
One corner of Aunt's Elroy's lips lifted into a faint smile. "I couldn't agree more with you, Mary. Those two were just too stubborn."
"Even destiny needs our help," Aunt Mary added, without moving her eyes from the object on the lake.
Aunt Elroy glanced toward her friend. "But the proper credit should go to George," she confided. "It was his proposal to use the skunk. I would never think of doing anything with that filthy creature, if it were not for him." A grimace crossed her face for a split second. "I must say that was quite an ingenious idea."
The two older women exchanged looks and broke into laughter.
A while later, after dragging their drenched forms into the mansion while dismissing sporadic audible gasps and astonished stares from all around them, Albert and Candy rushed to change and prepared for dinner. True to his words, he made the announcement about revoking the engagement in the dining room right when dinner was about to be served. Before Aunt Elroy and Aunt Mary could express their opinions on the news, he quickly added that a formal courtship between them would commence immediately. A moment of absolute silence ensued. After a few seconds passed, Aunt Elroy expelled a discrete cough that was proceeded by her vote of approval. Soon, a stream of congratulatory smiles emerged on the faces of the occupants across the long table, and the once stiff and orderly atmosphere was quickly displaced by jubilant chatter and cheerful laughter. With that, Albert and Candy officially became a couple.
It was well into the evening when Albert walked Candy to her bedroom door and fulfilled the words that he had said as they parted in Lakewood.
"Candy - could you please return my badge?" he asked. His upturned hand was extended toward her.
She tilted her head to the side, a slight frown marring her features.
Seeing the uncertain look on her face, he quickly added, "Do you remember what I had said that evening in Lakewood? I-"
"Will give you a more proper gift next time we meet…" she finished the sentence for him, reciting his words that had been branded to her mind since she had heard them on the evening of her birthday.
He half-chuckled in response. "I see that you haven't forgotten." He paused and shoved his hand inside his pocket. "It's not an engagement ring - but these should be a good start." He pulled out his clenched hand and slowly unfurled his fingers to reveal five pieces of vividly colored candies made of fine Murano glass. "Happy belated birthday, sweet Candy." His blue eyes regarded her with affection, a gentle smile gracing his lips.
She lowered her eyes to look down at his hand. When her eyes fell on the colorful glass candies, the corners of her lips stretched to the sides into a wide grin. With one eyebrow slightly raised, she uttered, "Candies?"
Yes - Albert was truly a man that kept true to his words, but he could also be quite whimsical. When she asked why he had given her glass candies, he shrugged at her question with a smile and told her that when he had searched for her gift 'sweet candy' just persistently flashed inside his mind and before he knew it, he had procured the items from his colleague's collection.
The man just couldn't stop to impress her and continued to prove to her the sincerity of his intention. In reality, however, he probably didn't need to put too much effort to woo her - as he had already captured her heart the moment she had gazed right into a pair of smiling sky-blue eyes while she sat on top of an old oak tree. It was only a matter of time before she fell hopelessly in love with him, and it didn't take her long at all to reach that stage. Approximately three months after her birthday had passed, he fulfilled his other promise.
It was a balmy late afternoon on Saturday when Candy found herself standing by one particular oak tree in the woodland. Earlier, Albert had invited her for a quick stroll in the woods before they headed out for dinner in a restaurant, and she had spontaneously welcomed the idea. They had walked for a few minutes until he excused himself to go check on Pouppe. She quickly offered to come with him, but he refused to let her accompany him, arguing that he didn't want to ruin her shoes and her dress. Eventually, though very reluctantly, she conceded.
As she let her eyes scan the familiar surroundings, she released a blissful sigh. Three months had passed since she had crossed paths with a skunk after she had fled away from her fiancé only to unknowingly fall right into his arms, so to speak. She let out a soft giggle at the absurdity of their first meeting. If they both hadn't escaped from the party - their own engagement party - they might have met under a very different circumstance. It turned out that Albert had been completely in the dark as well with respect to their supposed engagement party and had only discovered about it right after the party had started.
Apparently, he had been just as ungrateful as she had been with regard to their so-called marriage arrangement that had been the product of an agreement between their parents and had vehemently expressed his opposition to the idea, vowing to dissolve the engagement. The only reason why Albert had not broken off the engagement was because he wanted to meet with his betrothed first before making any public announcement and convinced her that the commitment between them had been a terrible mistake. However, he had not counted the possibility that he could fall in love with his fiancée, even right at their first encounter. Alas, that had actually happened. Perhaps, their parents had had an insight into the future when they had made the pact to join their son and daughter in an arranged marriage. Or perhaps it was just meant to be - it was their destiny.
Her reverie was halted when she felt something pressed against the side of her calf. Looking down, Candy saw Pouppe standing on its hind legs by her side. She instantly felt a déjà vu. A smile formed on her lips. "Hello, Pouppe. Where's your handsome owner?" Her eyes automatically shifted to the small item clamped inside Pouppe's claws. "What do you have there with you?" She lowered herself into a squatting position and reached her hand out to take the object from Pouppe. It was a black jewelry case. Thinking that this must be one of Albert's pranks, she flipped open the box carelessly.
A loud gasp was the only sound she could manage to produce, her eyes brimming with tears. "Albert… " she whispered breathlessly as she stared at the diamond solitaire ring inside the box while her other hand flew to cover her mouth, tears trickling down to her chin.
Albert stepped out of his hiding place behind one of the trees and approached her quickly, kneeling in front of her. Without moving from her spot, she raised her head slowly to face him. He moved her hand that was on her face and used his fingers to wipe off the droplets of tears on her face. His blue eyes held hers in a loving gaze as he took the jewelry case gingerly from her hand. "Please - let me… "
Surrounded by nature in the woodland in Lakewood, right in front of the old oak tree, with both knees on the ground, Albert proposed to Candy. "Candice White - would you give me the greatest joy by becoming my wife?"
And just as he had predicted when they had been in a rowboat in Chicago, she could not refuse. Unable to articulate an answer, she just flung herself into his arms in uncontrolled excitement, toppling them both onto the ground, before they eventually lost themselves in passionate kisses to celebrate the new milestone in their relationship.
Initially, they both had wanted to wait until the following year for their wedding, specifically choosing the date to fall on the seventh of May, the same date as her birthday and the anniversary of their first meeting. But as his work obligation demanded more and more of his time with the possibility of him leaving on an extended business trip for at least six months, they mutually agreed to advance their wedding date by a few months. Finally, in the cold month of December, inside the Lakewood Mansion, witnessed by their loved ones and many others, William Albert Andrew and Candice White were joined in Holy Matrimony, pledging eternal devotion to each other. And under the thunderous clapping of hands, they sealed their promise in a sweet kiss.
Even though their story might have been a whirlwind romance that had begun from a spring fling, the love that was born out of it was everlasting. Following the winter wedding, the happy couple set sail on a journey around the world to begin a new chapter in their new life as a married couple.
And with that, their story continued…
Author's Remark: As much as I want to continue, this is truly the end. I hope you find the conclusion satisfying. I'm so happy I actually completed writing one Candy Candy fic, granted it's a short one. The idea from the fic came when I thought about what would happen should Albert and Candy meet under a very different circumstance and what would happen if Candy wasn't an orphan. From there, the plot for the fic sprouted. What could be a better way than to use Candy's birthday as the background for the story? Since her birthday falls on spring, I decided to make the tone of this fic warm and fluffy just like spring. When I first started writing the fic, I never expected it would be so much fun to write. And since it's AU, I have more freedom to do whatever I want. That's all for now. I need to get back to my writing and finish the other chapters of my other fics. Once again, thank you for taking the time to read this. Until next time. -forever
Replies to comments:
EnakaT - Thank you for the kind words. I'm sure you're pretty satisfied to find out whom Candy was engaged to.
janja8 - Thank you. I didn't realize Candy Candy AU could be such a fun project to do. As for my other fics, they're currently being written.
Lezti Bella - Thank you for the kind words. The beautiful spring weather was my main inspiration for the fic. I hope you enjoy part 2 as much as part 1. And thank you for providing such a lovely and inspiring fanart. :)
GG - Absolutely true. Candy and Albert belong together. I'm happy to hear that this fic could entertain you on your birthday. Happy belated birthday!
GirlwPoorGrammar - Love the B&B song excerpt. I hope you're pretty satisfied with part 2.
keilanot2- Thanks for reading the chapter. I'm glad you like it.
granchester es un amor - Hola, primeramente muchisimas gracias por leer mi fic estoy muy contenta de que lo hagas aun cuando tienes que traducirlo al Espanol. Respecto a tu pregunta. Lamento no poder ayudarte en eso, ya que desafortunadamente yo no escribo en espanol, pero estaria honrada de que siguieras leyendolo. Hi! Thanks for reading my fic even if you have to translate first. I'm glad you like it. Unfortunately, I don't write in Spanish. I'm sorry I can't help you with that. Thank you again for reading.
Tina Chou - Many thanks to you for taking the time to read this, my dear Tina. :)
Ms Puddleglum - I'm glad that you enjoy reading my version of Candy Candy ;) And Candy was surely one lucky lady to have captured some one as adorable as our hero.
liliana - Thanks for reading the fic. I hope you like part 2 as much as part 1.
aznchocoholic - Well, I hope I didn't disappoint you with the lower level of suspense in part 2. Thanks again for reading my fic.
I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I have enjoyed writing it.
I love to read feedback and would love to hear from you what you think of the story. Or if you have any question you want me to answer, you can contact me through PM.
Lastly, thank you again for taking your time to read my writing.