It Must Have Been Love
by Ms Puddleglum
Disclaimer: Candy Candy and all characters belong to Kyoko Mizuki, images to Yumiko Igarashi and anime to Toei Animation.
Introduction: This is a short story which contains only a few chapters. To those readers who have read my other short story "Afternoon Nap" and expressed their wishes to read its sequel, this is it! You can also read this as a standalone though it's more fun to read the prequel first. Just like "Afternoon Nap" was written from Albert's perspective, this was written from Candy's point of view.
I let my imagination run loose while writing this story, which is based on my interpretation of mainly the last volume of the manga version and some spoilers from the Candy Candy Final Story (CCFS), published by Mizuki in 2010.
Please note that I firmly believe that Albert is Candy's destined love (Mizuki sensei had an essay about this), so if you don't agree with that, you might want to pass. On the other hand, if you like this story, I would like to hear from you. Please bear in mind that I reserve my rights to remove any rude or negative comments.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank some Albert fans who are familiar with the manga version and the CCFS spoilers, and I was inspired to write this story through various discussions with them over time. In particular, thanks to my friend, Trastuspies AR, who has confirmed the wordings in her manga version (French) for me and even gave me some new ideas.
Last but not the least, special thanks to my beta readers for their invaluable feedback and effort!
Chapter 1: Memoirs
"Ladies and gentlemen, please listen," I announced courageously, facing the guests who had dressed in their best for the grand engagement party. "I, Candice White, will not be engaged to Neil Leagan!"
As expected, Great Aunt Elroy was completely taken aback by this sudden change in the course of events. For a while, there was not a sound or a rustle from the guests because nobody in this family ever dared to oppose Madam Elroy in public. It was so quiet in the luxurious ballroom that one could hear a needle fall, and everyone could see that Madam Elroy was fuming right now due to my insolent behavior.
At last, Great Aunt raised herself from the chair to confront me, her voice sounding angry, "What are you talking about?"
I believed in her head she was hollering, You apologise right this minute, young lady!
But I was resolute not to take back my words. Just when I was about to defend myself, I heard someone barge in through the French door, and a familiar male voice stated sharply, "What Candy said was true. She will not be engaged to Neil."
Almost instantaneously, Great Aunt Elroy slapped a hand to her mouth, eyes wide with fear. She stammered in a low voice, "William... you are supposed to be in the Villa..."
The look of sheer panic on her face was simply astounding, so all eyes in the room naturally shifted to the unfamiliar, tall and imposing figure with wavy blond hair, who looked incredibly dashing in an impeccable black suit. The guests appeared to be enthralled by this young man because they could tell that his mere presence had significantly perturbed Madam Elroy, which made them all the more curious about who he was.
I knew Albert had promised that he would take care of this forced engagement for me, but I had never expected that he would show up. Moreover, I was just as dumbstruck as everybody else that Great Aunt would react this way at his abrupt appearance.
"What are you doing here?" Neil's loud, stern voice broke the tense silence, catching the attention from all of us. By now, he was standing next to Madam Elroy for support, pointing his finger scornfully at Albert.
In response, Albert advanced towards his aunt with confidence, ignoring Neil's condescending question. Neil couldn't take this insult and furiously bellowed, treating Albert like a tramp, "Go home! This is not your place!"
Needless to say, Neil had no idea whom he was yelling at. Not being observant enough to see that Great Aunt looked rather mortified now, Neil went on, attempting to trash Albert's reputation, "Great Aunt, this is the man whom I have told you about. He had amnesia and lived with Candy before!"
Little had I expected that Neil would give away the fact before all the guests that Albert and I had lived together. In no time they started murmuring something about what they had just heard. I knew I might not have conducted myself with propriety by living with a man in the past, but I trusted that Albert knew how to handle this mess now, so I remained standing at where I was and decided to let fate take its course.
Utterly flabbergasted at what Neil said, Madam Elroy could only turn towards Albert, stuttering, "That is..."
"Yes," affirmed Albert with a serious look, seemingly not affected by what others would think about him. "That's correct. I suffered from amnesia before and Candy was the one who took care of me when I was sick."
"She did...?" intoned Madam Elroy, shifting her gaze back to me with a remorseful look gradually forming on her face.
However, Neil was quite chagrined that Great Aunt still hadn't taken any action about his accusation of Albert, so he impatiently raised a question, "Great Aunt, what is he doing here?"
When Great Aunt spun sideways to face him without a word, Neil continued forcefully, "Please hurry up and throw him out!"
"Be quiet, Neil!" admonished Great Aunt, speaking up at last. "He is-"
But Albert cut her off with a steady voice, "Let me do it myself."
Only then all the murmuring stopped, and the guests sat quietly, waiting for Albert. He pivoted around gallantly and stepped forward a little, introducing himself in an articulate manner, "Ladies and gentlemen, my name is William Albert Ardlay."
His self-introduction as the family patriarch drew audible gasps from all people present in the grand ballroom, except for Great Aunt and myself. Judging by the guests' facial expressions and gestures, they could now understand why Madam Elroy was visibly humbled in front of the young man. I also noticed a stunned expression on Archie's face. His eyes were wide open, pointing at Albert with disbelief.  Patty and Annie looked very shocked too.
In panic, Neil ran to his mother, Mrs. Leagan, who looked scared stiff and too astonished to speak. Their scheme was exposed, and the real Uncle William was here to support me. At this moment, I heard Great Aunt ask Albert in a low voice, "Why did you come unannounced?"
Albert answered placidly, clear enough for everybody to hear, "Because I'll never allow my important adoptive daughter to be engaged without my consent."
Great Aunt lowered her head in shame and replied in a voice barely audible to the people around her, "I was going to inform you right after-"
Before she could even finish her sentence, Albert retorted aloud with a very stern look, "That will be too late already!"
Great Aunt could only gape at him speechless, evidently startled by his strong reaction. I had never seen Albert so cross at anybody before, and I whispered his name without knowing, "Albert..."
This was Sir William, not the friendly and gentle Albert whom I was more familiar with. It was plain for all to see that Sir William got extremely offended for Madam Elroy had purposefully avoided obtaining his consent before this engagement party by thinking that she could always inform him afterwards. His open rebuke of Madam Elroy not only signified his authoritative position in the Ardlay's family to all guests present, but also showed that he was willing to stand up for me if necessary, even to his aunt. I was profoundly touched because of that.
Without waiting for his aunt to respond, Albert directed his words to Neil and his family, "Neil, I'm sorry, but Candy should be the one to decide whom she wants to marry." Albert spoke in a peremptory tone, like he was merely informing them of his decision and the Leagans would have no other choice but to comply with his wishes.
Neil was flushed with rage, fully aware that Uncle William was not one to be trifled with. Yet, Neil muttered something to himself instead of responding to Uncle William. Soon, his body seized up and his expression worsened, a look of revulsion crossing his face. Without warning, he rushed to leave the scene as he could no longer stand being humiliated in front of the guests. Eliza, who was noticeably mortified by the whole incident, gave me a fierce glare before she took off after Neil as well. I felt bad for the Leagans, but I was also relieved that my engagement to Neil, thanks to Albert, now known as Sir William, was annulled. Even Great Aunt didn't insist anymore, and the drama was over.
Although the engagement party had somehow turned into the debut appearance party for Sir William, none of the guests seemed to care about the drastic change. They enjoyed themselves very much with the great food that was served as well as the beautiful music currently being performed by the live orchestra. When I was trying to find Archie, Annie and Patty in the crowd after the lunch reception, I overheard some chatter about Albert behind his back, commenting about Madam Elroy's stepping down as the family matriarch because Sir William had finally made his appearance. Some of them were quite amazed that he was this young and handsome when everybody used to think that he was a feeble old man.
Then out of the blue Albert appeared next to me, speaking to my ear due to the loud music, "Candy, would you wait for me by the lake? I'll join you very soon."
I didn't expect that Uncle William, being the head of the family, could sneak out of the party, so I happily obliged and immediately dropped the idea of finding my friends. As I made my way out of the ballroom, I gave him a wink, and he winked back with a smile and remained at his spot. To be honest, I was thrilled that he wanted to meet with me in private. Since the moment George had come to pick me up from the Mountain Lodge yesterday, I had missed Albert very much and just couldn't get his face off my mind, remembering all the nitty-gritty details of how I had come to discover his true identity and the wonderful time we had shared afterwards.
On my way to the lake, while walking through the manicured garden behind the magnificent mansion, I spotted Neil crying in his mother's arms. I was only glad that they didn't see me. Then I overheard Mrs Leagan talking about going to their villa in Florida. It sounded like they would probably stay there for some time. Frankly, I couldn't apprehend what was on Neil's mind, but I was more than relieved that I wouldn't run into him for the next little while.
As I was strolling along the path that led to the lake, even with the afternoon sun high in the sky, I didn't feel hot at all due to the gentle breeze that swayed the trees and shrubs around me. While taking in the beauty and the serenity of the environment, the thought that I was walking on the premises owned by Sir William Albert Ardlay flashed across my mind.
Who could have guessed the carefree young man, namely Albert, that loved animals and enjoyed traveling around by himself was actually the enigmatic Sir William in disguise? Come to think of it, we had been living together pretending to be brother and sister for slightly more than a year before he had disappeared from my life on a snowy night, and only then I had realized that he had recovered from his amnesia already.
I hadn't seen this coming at all because just a few months before his disappearance, Albert had suggested that we should share everything with each other from now on, including anguish and happiness. Being too moved to speak then, with tears in my eyes, I had sincerely nodded my head in agreement. I could readily make this promise to him because I had always been comfortable sharing with him my thoughts and feelings, including the things that I couldn't even tell Annie. I had believed he had felt likewise, that he could share everything with me too.
Yet what had happened? He had decided to leave without a trace.
I remembered how I collapsed on the floor in tears after reading his departing letter, feeling devastated that he had vanished without leaving any contact information. He had only said "we shall meet again someday".
In the letter he said, "I have caused you trouble", and to my surprise he had left a large amount of money for me as his appreciation. I was quite upset that he had used the word "trouble". Was that what he had felt during his stay with me, that he had given me troubles? Didn't he know it was actually quite the opposite?
At his departure, he had inadvertently taken the feeling of home and comfort with him. Following that night, I no longer felt the same at my place, the apartment which used to be occupied by Albert and me. I was repeatedly afflicted by nostalgia, especially at nighttime when I felt most vulnerable. In particular, I often remembered the evening after he had come home later than usual and found me sprawling on top of the scattered newspapers on the floor in our bedroom. He had scooped me up and carried me to bed in his arms. Then he had apologized in a rueful tone for hiding these old newspapers from me. I had woken up, but I had kept my eyes closed and feigned sleeping. Next, surprisingly, I had felt his warm fingers on my face and through my curly hair, gently wiping away the remnants of my tears and brushing my hair off my face. I could also feel the heat radiating from his body at our close proximity, his scent enveloping my senses. All the while his touch had been so soothing, and I had taken solace knowing how much he had cared about me.
Every time when this incident resurfaced in my mind, it was nearly impossible for me not to shed tears. In any case, I had lost count of how many uneasy and sleepless nights I had spent yearning for him to come back, crying myself to sleep, and curling up on his pillow in the lower bunk bed - previously his bed.
Even in my waking hours, whenever I recalled the delightful moments that I had shared with him, it often evoked a profound tenderness inside me, remembering how we could easily finish each other's sentences and intuit each other's mood without even speaking.
I must acknowledge that I had never shared such a deep emotional connection with anyone else in my life. As I came to realize that Albert was someone special and no longer just a big brother to me, I strongly desired to know if he and I had the same sentiments.
This led me back to the question of when exactly he had recovered. In his departing letter he wrote, "thanks to you I've regained my memory; however… I never had the courage to confess", which implied that he might have kept me in the dark for quite some time already. Based on our original agreement, we would live together until his recovery, so was it plausible that he had preferred to stay by my side?
When I reflected upon the past few months, I couldn't believe that I hadn't suspected a thing at all. Yet after pondering the obvious changes in Albert's lifestyle ever since he had quitted that dishwashing job, I became certain that he had probably recovered when he had informed me of his new job at the zoo as an animal consultant. Since then, he had been so busy that he had to leave so early to work and buy dinners for us almost every day, working even on Sundays. When the rumors about him being a member of the gangsters had begun circulating, I had discovered that he had lied to me about working at the zoo. Confused, upset and wounded, I had resolved to trust him nonetheless, despite feeling uneasy about where and how he could get his extra bonus of money from time to time.
I also recalled that when Albert had proposed to share my happiness and anguish with me in the countryside, he had just bought an old used car because of his so-called new job at the zoo. If my guess was right, then his memory had already returned back then. In the months following that day, being so busy himself, I hadn't had many chances to talk with him like we used to. Yet in his spare time, he had always been very caring and affectionate to me. For instance, I still vividly remembered how he had consoled me after Stear's tragic death by sitting together with me high on a treetop, putting his arm around me and letting me lean on him.
Putting all these into perspective, I couldn't stop myself from believing that he had special feelings for me too. However, I couldn't comprehend what had essentially made him decide to leave me after he had eavesdropped my conversation with the landlady. Hadn't he also heard that I was going to move out with him because I had trusted him no matter what the others had said about him? I knew he must have heard me say that because in his letter he had appreciated my trust in him.
These thoughts and unanswered questions were driving me crazy. Yet what exasperated me most was that I had a feeling that Albert was deliberately hiding from me.
It must have been love... But it's over now...
Lay a whisper on my pillow,
leave the winter on the ground.
I wake up lonely, there's air of silence
in the bedroom and all around.
Touch me now, I close my eyes and dream away.
It must have been love but it's over now.
It must have been good but I lost it somehow.
It must have been love but it's over now.
From the moment we touched 'til the time had run out.
Make believing we're together,
that I'm sheltered by your heart.
But in and outside I've turned to water
like a teardrop in your palm.
And it's a hard winter's day, I dream away.
It must have been love but it's over now,
it was all that I wanted, now I'm living without.
It must have been love but it's over now,
It's where the water flows,
it's where the wind blows 
However, I chose not to open up to anyone about the intensity of my feelings for Albert, but I believed Dr. Martin could sense it. One day when I was idle in Happy Clinic, I sat down to draw a portrait of Albert myself. After Dr. Martin had laughed at my lousy, childish drawing, he offered to draw one for me, which was amazingly realistic. Later, while walking in the snow on my way home, I compared his drawing to mine carefully. A feeling of deep yearning promptly filled my heart, and I even considered asking Dr. Martin to draw many for me so that I could post them everywhere in the neighborhood.
Since Albert had gone that winter night, days had turned to weeks, and weeks to months. I still hadn't got any news from him. Then, on a fine spring day, I saw a parcel at my front door when I came home after work. As I picked it up, I recognized the handwriting right away, and I hastily checked who the sender was just to make sure. I was overjoyed and relieved to know that Albert had contacted me at long last, giving me a beautiful spring outfit. At the moment I read his brief note, "Candy, you are on my mind wherever I go", I was beyond delighted because his note hinted that he missed me too. So I determined to track him down simply based on his sending address, believing that was a clue from him. I had no idea where Rockstown was, but I earnestly wished that he would be there waiting for me to come.
I had to admit that I was getting desperate to find Albert. Other than the fact that I longed to see him again, I was dying to find out the answers to the questions in my mind. Thus, I bought the train ticket and headed to Rockstown as soon as I had got approval from Dr. Martin. Since Albert had sent his parcel from there, someone in the post office must have seen him, so I brought his portrait along, the one drawn by Dr. Martin. I was full of hope to meet Albert again in Rockstown, and I put on the spring outfit because I wanted him to see me wearing his gift.
But to my great astonishment, on my way to the post office, I saw a big sign with Terry's name outside a filthy and miserable tent, a temporary theatre. Caught with disbelief, my feet brought me inside the tent. The trenchant smell of cigarettes and alcohol was suffocating! I hadn't waited for very long before Terry came out, apparently drunk. He was barely able to stand on his feet on the wooden platform, let alone act. I could scarcely believe my eyes, and tears were pouring down my cheeks nonstop. Was this really the same young man whom I had once loved? The one who had performed in the extravagant theatres in Chicago and New York?
Inevitably, the thought that Terry was in denial because he couldn't forget his love for me crept into my mind. As all sorts of my past memories with him came flooding back, I nearly collapsed. But before long, I firmly reminded myself that I had done the right thing by breaking up with Terry, even though it had been one of the toughest decisions in my life.
How could I ever forget that night on the hospital rooftop? In the midst of blizzard, at the moment I had attempted to stop Susanna from jumping off the roof, the painful truth that she had lost her leg for Terry had hit me like a blow unto my chest.
Soon after that, I had witnessed how Terry had rushed back from his premiere for Susanna and how he had carefully carried her in his arms returning to her room. All these had confirmed my thinking - Terry had already chosen Susanna over me. After having some serious contemplation alone, I had made up my mind to give up Terry fully aware that if I had insisted to keep my relationship with him, I would have given him a hard time. Putting up a fake smile on my face, I had told Terry about my decision, and he had conceded without any protest. Right then, my heart had been shattered into pieces, unable to accept that he could let me go just like that, albeit crying at the last moment while embracing me from behind. His tears had torn me apart, knowing this had been the last hug we would ever share. His final words to me were "promise me that you will be happy".
Since the breakup, how much pain had I gone through forcing myself to forget Terry? Thanks to Albert for staying with me throughout this distressing stage. Without his support, I couldn't imagine what would have happened to me during those difficult times.
All of a sudden, Terry's loud and confident voice brought me out of my reminisce, and it was obvious that he had sobered up for some reason. When I heard the applause from the audience, it was more than comforting to see that Terry was back to his old confident self, a natural actor on stage. Hence, I reckoned it was time for me to leave because I had no intention to stay and talk to him. After all, I had promised Susanna not to see him again.
Instead, I spoke to Terry in my mind that he didn't belong here, and he should go back to Broadway and to Susanna. She was the one who really needed him by her side. So I quietly left the tent, genuinely wishing happiness for both of them, because I would be happy if they were.
As soon as I could breathe the fresh air outside, I remembered my original mission of coming to this town. I wiped my eyes and determined to find Albert. While heading to the post office, I was startled by a woman calling my name from behind. As I cautiously turned around, I found Terry's mother, Miss Eleanor Baker.
I didn't expect that she could recognize me, and she even invited me to go to a restaurant with her. She confided in me about Terry's prolonged depression and how much she had worried about him because of that. I could feel her pain, and the anguish of seeing her son suffer must have been unbearable.
Interestingly, Miss Baker was very certain that Terry had seen me just now even in that dim light condition, and that explained why he had suddenly sobered up. I honestly didn't want to take that credit at all, and I wasn't quite sure about her intention of telling me all these. Didn't she know that Terry had already been engaged to Susanna? Perhaps Miss Baker had misunderstood that I had come to Rockstown for Terry. If so, she was totally wrong. I had come for someone who meant so much to me. He had helped me a lot in the past, and I dearly wanted to meet with him again.
Nevertheless, I had strong faith that Terry would eventually wake up from his nightmare and go back to Broadway, pursuing his lifelong dream. Therefore, not long after that, I decided to bid Miss Baker goodbye and left the restaurant. Unfortunately, the post office had been closed, so I began searching for Albert early next morning all around the small town, starting from the post office first. I showed his portrait to almost everyone I met on the street, but none of them could recognize his face.
On my way back home on the train, no words could describe my disappointment and frustrations. I kept asking myself where Albert could have gone and why he had sent his parcel to me from this small town?
Then something struck me. Albert was trying to lead me back to Terry! In a sense, seeing Terry again was a significant step to me, as though I could close this chapter in my life. Yet I felt forlorn contemplating why Albert had arranged this meeting. Did he want me to reunite with Terry? Why else had he done that?
Another month had passed since the trip to Rockstown, and I still hadn't heard from Albert. I felt even lonelier than before because I had given up the hope that he would ever show up in my life again. I simply couldn't accept why he seemed to have cut all ties with me. I hated living all alone in this apartment, where I could easily remember my time with Albert nearly everywhere.
One day, feeling heartbroken and desolate, I saw a bunch of kids playing outside the apartment building, carrying some fishing equipment with them. At that instant, I made up my mind to move back to Pony's home or somewhere near there so that I could visit my mothers frequently. Just then, I heard someone knocking on my front door.
My heart skipped a beat as I wondered if it could be Albert on the other side of the door-the moment I had been waiting for months. I held my breath as I opened the door. Unfortunately, it was George who came to pick me up to see Great Aunt Elroy. Later, I learned about my forced engagement to Neil.
Great Aunt coldly informed me that it was Uncle William's order. My tears and my distorted views of my adoptive father must have compelled George to disobey Sir William for the first time in his life, and he was kind enough to instruct me with details about how to find Uncle William in the Lakewood Villa without being noticed by the household staff.
I believed my first meeting with Uncle William would forever remain the most shocking moment in my life. I was absolutely stunned when I heard his voice, the voice that I could recognize anywhere. As he stood up and spun around to face me, I was paralyzed and thunderstruck to say the least, staring at the familiar silhouette against the glaring early morning sunlight pouring into the solarium.
When my eyes gradually adjusted to the bright conditions, I could finally see his handsome face, the one that had haunted me in my dreams. He looked dazzling in his elegant black morning robe with black pants, which couldn't hide his impressive physique. His blond hair practically shone in the sunlight, his soft eyes gazing at me.
Hot tears escaped my eyes as I slowly registered the fact that Albert was the one who had adopted me years ago. Based on all my previous encounters with him, I had never once suspected that he was my legal father. I had regarded him as a big brother before, but never a father. A few moments later, Albert broke the silence by apologizing that he had lied to me in the past, smiling genially at me after that. Yet he remained standing at where he was, keeping a distance between us.
For a long time I couldn't speak at all as my brain was still processing the shocking truth.
How many times had I dreamed about meeting my adoptive father? Only to discover that he was the one I had been pining over the past few months. I had also fantasized many times about meeting Albert again prior to this meeting, wishing that we would run into each others' arms in jubilation, just like the time when he had found me in the middle of nowhere after I had successfully escaped from Neil.
Now my hope was dashed, and I couldn't quite explain my mixed emotions. Looking back on my memories, Albert was the one who had helped me go through some tough stages in my life. He had always been there for me, especially when I had been sad or in trouble, giving me the solace and companionship. Therefore, I was truly elated to know that Uncle William was in fact Albert. On the other hand, I no longer had the courage to ask him the questions that had been bothering me during his absence. How could I possibly ask my guardian whether he had romantic feelings for me?
As more and more uncontrollable tears poured down my cheeks, I started trembling. When Albert informed me that he didn't know anything about the engagement between Neil and me, my legs failed me without warning, and I collapsed onto the carpeted floor as though I had lost all my strength. He immediately rushed to my side to help me get up. When our gaze met, I couldn't believe my eyes. He looked even more charming than I had remembered, his striking blue eyes watching me ever so tenderly. In my shaking voice, I finally spoke up and asked him why he had hidden his true identity from me all this time. He sincerely apologised again but didn't answer my question directly.
Kneeling right beside me, Albert was so close yet so far. Could he tell how much I desired to lean my head against his chest and embrace him like I always did before? But I restrained myself from doing that due to our awkward relationship now. Instead, with tears streaming down my face, I continued to gaze into his sapphire eyes as he regarded me compassionately, seemingly affected by my tears. After a while of staring at each other, he unexpectedly stood up to his full height and left me sitting on the floor, kindly offering to pour me a cup of tea. Despite being startled by his odd behavior, I couldn't help but question if he was trying to hold himself back from me as well.
After I had fully calmed down, I wished to express my heartfelt gratitude to Albert, addressing him as Uncle William, but my speech was interrupted. He gently held my hands and told me to stop because he said that he was feeling embarrassed. At that instant, I was a little taken aback. Why didn't he want me to continue? Was embarrassment the only reason or was it something else?
Then he explained that he had always wanted to be the free-spirited Albert, even though he knew his life was bound to be William, the family patriarch. I perceived that he still wanted me to regard him as Albert, the man I had always known.
Later, he told me some stories about his beloved late sister, Rosemary, Anthony's beautiful mother, as we toured around the villa together, starting from the rose garden first and visiting Archie's stone gate and Stear's water gate next. This place was full of precious memories to me, so I reckoned it must be quite painful to Albert because some of his loved ones had passed away. At least from the way he talked about Anthony, I knew how much he had regretted for not doing much for Anthony during his short life.
When I saw the swan boat at the water gate, one of Stear's inventions that had broken down long time ago, I was a bit surprised. Albert told me that he had fixed it and even invited me to have a ride with him on this boat.
But we ended up getting soaked to the skin because the swan boat accidentally malfunctioned on our way to the Mountain Lodge, where we had first met near the waterfall. To dry our clothes, Albert gave me a blanket to wrap myself with; he simply took off his shirt and put a towel around his neck. We sat side by side in front of the fireplace to warm up ourselves.
This reminded me of the moment when Terry and I were sitting in front of a fireplace in his family villa in Scotland. As if Albert could read my mind, he casually brought up the news about Terry, informing me that he had gone back to Broadway according to some tabloids. I was genuinely happy for Terry, and deep inside I recognized that time and distance had undoubtedly driven us apart.
Just then, the thought that Albert had known about my trip to Rockstown flashed into my mind. Unfortunately, I couldn't bring myself to probe him why he had sent me that parcel. I was certain that no matter how I broached this subject, I would end up telling him my deep feelings for him, and I wasn't sure if he wanted to know now.
Although Albert and I were hardly clothed, I felt a mixture of embarrassment and shyness. Being a gentleman, he hardly looked at me and resolutely remained focused on keeping the fire in the fireplace by poking the logs occasionally. Likewise, I avoided looking at him directly because I had rarely seen him shirtless even though he had lived with me for more than a year. How could one imagine a good-looking young bachelor with an athletic build like Albert having a teenage daughter like me?
While we were both gazing at the fire quietly, I spoke up, telling Albert that George was the one who had taught me how to find Uncle William in Lakewood with specific details. A chuckle escaped his lips as he poked the log with a stick. He remarked, "That's what I have figured too. I will definitely thank George when I have a chance."
"Me too," I whispered.
When we exchanged a quick glance right after that, his eyes, sparkling from the glow of the fire, captivated me. Instantly, the memory of the moment when he had first shown his beautiful eyes to me years ago came back to me, and I couldn't tear my eyes away from his face. As he returned my gaze, my pulse sped up and I could feel myself starting to blush.
Then with a tender smile spreading across his face, he simply said, "Candy, I think our clothes are dry enough now."
When we got changed in separate rooms, I asked myself whether it was inappropriate that I found Albert attractive. Honestly, I hadn't known that he was my guardian until today, and no doubt I had developed strong feelings for him already. I couldn't just forget him, and I knew that I didn't want to either.
With a heavy heart, I came out to meet Albert. He kindly asked me, "Candy, what's your plan for tonight?"
"Oh my goodness! I have no idea!" I exclaimed. Since my sole mission of coming to Lakewood was to appeal to my adoptive father to cancel the engagement, I didn't even plan where I was going to stay the night.
While I was clearly at a loss for words, staring blankly at Albert, he offered with a sincere smile gracing his lips, "Would you like to stay here with me then?"
Upon hearing his invitation, my mood lightened up. I promptly agreed without any hesitation because I couldn't be happier anywhere else! He seemed delighted at my response and suggested, "Let's make our dinner together then, Candy. I believe you must be hungry by now because I'm starving myself! I haven't eaten much since this morning-"
I cut him off, clapping my hands eagerly, "Hurray! I haven't tried your cooking for a very long time!" I intentionally stressed the word 'long'.
Albert cast me a contrite glance, heaving a deep sigh. "I'm sorry, Candy. I had no choice but to leave..."
He abruptly broke off, hesitating. Soon, he composed himself and resumed his previous topic, "Candy, shall we begin fixing our dinner?"
After that, Albert went straight to the kitchen. I trailed after him, helping him out with the preparation. Being busy, he was unusually quiet, presumably absorbed in thought. Meanwhile, I let my mind drift back to what he had mentioned earlier about having no choice but to leave me. I could hear from his troubled tone that it had not been an easy decision for him.
Only then it dawned on me why he had vanished that winter night a few months ago. The moment he had regained his memory, he had remembered the adoption. Since then, he might have gone through some serious emotional struggles if he had indeed had feelings for me, and this situation had likely lasted for a while until he had overheard my heated argument with the landlady at Magnolia. Perhaps after hearing the rumor about him being a gangster and that our neighbors had already figured out that we were not real siblings, he had finally listened to his conscience and decided to leave me for good without causing me further problems.
If that was the case, it made sense to me now why he had not contacted me at all the whole time except when he had tried to lead me back to Terry. He had probably wanted to forget about his feelings for me so as to snap himself out of his inner turmoil.
Having these unsettling thoughts in my head, though purely based on my speculation, I felt upset, wondering if Albert had already achieved his goal after all this time without me by his side. At the same time, I contemplated how to get the answer to this burning question in my head.
For the time being, Albert was so preoccupied with cooking that he didn't know that I was observing him. When he sensed that he was being watched, he stopped what he was doing and smiled at me, asking, "Candy, could you please pass me that cutting board over there?"
He acted as if he didn't know that I had been watching him. Then he gave me instructions of what to do to assist him in the kitchen. Meanwhile, he casually told me that whenever he had longer breaks in between his business trips, he would retreat to this Mountain Lodge himself to spend a night or two to enjoy nature and independence. He had already let the household staff know beforehand that today would be one of those days, so that was why there was enough food in the pantry for him to cook whatever he liked.
"Do you come here by boat too?" I asked with a small smile, trying my best to distract myself. At least I should feel honored that he had taken me here to join him at his retreat.
He shook his head and said, "Actually, the answer is no. I usually come here by walking along the river, enjoying the scenery on my way."
"So why did you fix Stear's swan boat?" I was curious.
"I don't know. Maybe I figured it was a waste leaving it in the storage?" he ended with a bright smile on his face.
"I think so too, Albert," I agreed with him right away.
After a brief pause, his smile transformed into a smirk as he continued, "By the way, George was right that I like to spend my mornings in that solarium, and the household staff would not disturb me at all."
I swiftly responded, "But you got an intruder this morning!"
He burst out laughing, and I joined him soon afterwards. It had been a long time since we last had a hearty laugh together.
When our laughter faded, I inquired with a serious face, "Please be honest with me, Albert. Have I disturbed your solitude? Would you rather be alone?"
His expression changed almost imperceptibly. Fixing his eyes on mine, he seemed to struggle for words. While waiting, I was getting apprehensive about what he was going to say to me. I truly wanted to know why he had brought me here to this Mountain Lodge, his own haven. Did he really enjoy spending time with me or was he just being polite? The last thing I wanted to hear from him was that he wanted to nurture the father daughter bond.
A moment later, he chuckled and diverted his eyes back to cooking. "Quite the contrary, Candy. I am more than glad that you have shown up today and accepted my invitation to join me here." His voice was level and even friendly, but no emotion was evident.
When I was pondering what had made him hesitant just now, Albert changed the topic by telling me that one of the male servants would come in the morning to check just in case he was in need of anything. Most of the time, Albert would kindly send the servant away, but this time he would leave a brief note for the servant to contact George on his behalf.
"I will ask George to come here tomorrow afternoon, and I'm sure he will understand the reason why I have asked him to come. In any case, I don't want the servants to know that you're here with me," he finished with a matter-of-fact tone, watching me with a determined look.
"Why? What's wrong?" I didn't take offense, but I didn't quite understand him either.
"You're too innocent, Candy." His face broke into a sweet smile, and he patiently explained to me, "I don't want anybody to know that we are together just by ourselves, except for George. Most of the servants don't know that you're my... my..." He stopped thoughtfully and threw me a fleeting glance before he continued, "Ok, they don't know about our relationship."
I was relieved beyond words when I learned that he was clearly reluctant to say that I was his daughter, just like I didn't want to think of him as my father. When I was about to thank him for being considerate, he suddenly asked with concern, slightly creasing his eyebrows, "Do you trust me?"
So he actually treated me as a lady! I answered with a firm voice, "Of course! Albert, I have always trusted you, so you need not worry about that," I assured him with a wide grin on my face. After all, we had shared the same bedroom as siblings for more than a year and he had always been a gentleman.
"Thank you, Candy," he replied with a sigh of relief before he shifted his focus back to preparing the dinner. Then he remarked without looking at me, "I know I could have introduced you to the servants, but not today. Maybe next time when you come again."
I was intrigued by what he had told me, which indicated that he had weighed his options and still decided to spend time with me alone, at least for one day, without prying eyes all around us. I knew for a fact that we had to observe etiquette when the servants were with us, which neither of us enjoyed very much. Yet the thought that Albert had asked me to join him in his haven meant a lot to me and made me feel that I was someone very special to him, especially because it was supposed to be a time for him to enjoy his freedom and to be away from everybody else.
I must admit that I had enjoyed a marvelous time with Albert from that moment on. We were soon back to our old selves, treating each other like we used to as if time had not separated us at all. After having a great dinner outdoors while enjoying the glorious sunset, we came back to the Mountain Lodge to rest. Albert suggested that I use the only bed in the lodge and he would sleep on the couch right beside it. At first, I did try to protest, joking that I shouldn't use his bed, but he insisted. Soon enough, I gave in to my exhaustion. It had been a long day for me, and I had no problem drifting off to sleep, feeling content that I had reunited with Albert at last. As a matter of fact, it had been a long time since I last had a wonderful and deep sleep.
After spending the night with Albert and his animal friends inside the Mountain Lodge, he took me to his favorite places around the area the following day, doing all sorts of fun outdoor activities together. In sum, I hadn't felt so alive and enraptured in months, and these two days would definitely become some of my fondest memories in my life.
As a matter of fact, I enjoyed Albert's presence so much that I didn't really care what we did as long as he was there with me. Later, I even suggested making two long flower chains, one for him and one for Pouppe, as my souvenirs for them. After collecting all the flowers that I needed, Albert told me in a sorrowful tone that he hadn't had much sleep the night before, so he wanted to take a nap while I was working on my little solo project.
He lay down just behind me and fell sound asleep before long. Since I knew that George would come to pick me up shortly, I tried my best to work as fast as I could. Thinking about George, it suddenly occurred to me that he might have sensed Albert's inner conflicts too. Or had Albert confided in him? Anyway, Albert must have contacted George soon after his recovery and resumed working in the family business even though he had chosen to stay with me on the outskirts of Chicago. That was why Albert had to work so hard everyday, and it also explained why our neighbors had seen him with other men with black suits and he had extra income from time to time.
So the normally tight-lipped George had opted to disobey Sir William to disclose his whereabouts to me, fully aware that Great Aunt Elroy had misused his name. When I would meet with George later, I would thank him with all my heart, although no words could fully describe how grateful I was to him by leading me back to Albert.
Sleeping soundly, Albert appeared so peaceful, handsome, and even boyish. I looked at him with tenderness in my heart, and the warm feeling that coursed through my body was telling me that I wasn't gazing at my brother or my father, but a man whom I was in love with. Yet I was still unsure how Albert felt about me; I certainly hoped that my feelings were not one-sided.
At least I could see that he had enjoyed my company a lot as well, and nothing he did implied that he regarded me as his daughter at all. In fact, neither of us had ever mentioned our adoptive relationship again, but I couldn't deny that we both showed some reserve and restraint. Whether intentionally or not, we avoided getting too close to each other physically, except for now when he was napping right behind me.
With wishful thinking, I thought perhaps Albert couldn't take the first step to confess because he was supposed to be my guardian? Should I let him know my feelings then? Since I had no clue when I would see him again, this could be my last chance now. Soon, an idea came to my mind.
After I had finished my exceptionally long flower chain for Albert, I woke him up from his nap. As he reluctantly opened his eyes, he appeared dazed from his deep nap. He even slapped himself awake and rubbed his face roughly. A few moments later, he propped himself up on his elbows, but he slightly ruined the shape of my flower chain.
So I asked him to lie down again such that I could fix it. When I was done, he was visibly astounded to see my finished product. The chain formed a heart shape with myself encircled inside and most of the chain rested on top of his body.
While he was speechless, possibly still reeling from the shock, I asked him chastely, "Do you like it?"
That was the best I could do to express myself, but then we both heard the honk right after this. George was already here for me, and I knew I had to go. I wanted to ask Albert whether I would see him again, but I believed he would show up if he wanted to. I figured that my message to him was clear enough.
Therefore, when I saw that Albert had come to the engagement party today to deal with Great Aunt Elroy for me, I felt deeply moved. It showed that he truly cared about me because he was supposed to enjoy his break in between his frantic business trips.
Just then, while walking along the lakeshore, I happened to spot a strong tree with sturdy branches, and I couldn't resist the urge to climb despite wearing a delicate gown. Once I got near the top of the tree, the spectacular view was breathtaking! I believed when Albert came later, he would be glad to join me to admire the beautiful lake behind the magnificent mansion from a high spot.
Or would he behave like Uncle William? Albert certainly had acted very differently at the engagement party earlier as someone who had the absolute authority in the family. What would the guests say about Sir William if they saw him sitting on a tree branch like an unrefined teenager? Well, if Sir William had to keep his image untarnished, I could always climb down.
When I was anticipating whether Albert had something specific to say to me, I realized that I hadn't written to my mothers at Pony's Home for a long while already. It was about time to give them some updates. In particular, I would describe how I had met my adoptive father and how he had come to my rescue from the forced engagement.
Needless to say, I wasn't going to tell them about my feelings for my guardian. First, I didn't want my mothers to worry about me. More importantly, I myself was very confused about my relationship with Albert. I wished he hadn't referred to me as his "important adoptive daughter" when he was talking to Great Aunt in front of all the guests. I knew it was true, but it hurt my feelings nonetheless. I had a feeling that this was his way to protect me from vicious gossip because of Neil's accusation of us living together in the past.
Ultimately, I wanted to find out what Albert thought about us or our relationship deep in his heart.
Who am I to Albert?
(to be continued...)
I felt so inadequate when I attempted to describe how Candy discovered the true identity of Albert and her subsequent reactions. It was a shocking moment for both of them, and yet very romantic and even bittersweet. No matter how much effort I had put in, I still had the feeling that I hadn't done enough to capture the essence and the beauty of this episode in the manga.
Also, I know there is something different about this encounter in Candy Candy Final Story, but I prefer the one in the manga version way better.
 This is extracted from Candy's letter to Archie in the Candy Candy Final Story, which is different in the manga version.
 "It Must Have Been Love" by Roxette (1989).
Revised: June 1, 2012
Revised: March 31, 2013 (amendments here and there)