Disclaimer: Candy Candy and all characters belong to Kyoko Mizuki, images to Yumiko Igarashi and anime to Toei Animation.

Note: Mizuki introduced Candy's diary in the Candy Candy Final Story (CCFS, published in 2010). It was on her desk in her dormitory room of St. Paul's Academy, a present from Uncle William. Candy freely expressed herself in her diary, including her innermost feelings for Terry. This diary later landed back in Uncle William's hands because Candy wanted him to understand her decision of quitting school in London.

Through my correspondence with one of my readers, a devoted Albert fan who wishes to remain anonymous, I was inspired by her insights regarding this diary. As a result, I have written this short story to entertain my imagination of what made Albert decide to return this diary back to Candy based on the various letters in CCFS plus the manga version. There are parts that you may find controversial, so you don't have to agree with me. Also, there are some overlaps with my other short stories because they are necessary to make this story understandable.

If you spot any error, please don't hesitate to inform me so that I can fix it. But if you have enjoyed reading this, I would love to hear from you, and feel free to write in your own language!

Last but not the least, I'd like to express my sincere appreciation to this Albert fan, who not only has inspired me, but reviewed my draft as well. This story would not have been possible without her invaluable feedback.

-Ms Puddleglum

The Diary

Chapter 1

My study is currently basked in the afternoon sun that shines through the wide and tall windows, a set of French style door openings leading to a large patio area. Summer is about to begin, and it's another gorgeous Sunday with blue sky and puffy clouds. Yet I am so tied up with my daily tedious routines, going through the endless documents on my ebony desk.

I give myself a long stretch and make no attempt to stifle a yawn. I lean back on my chair, staring at the world outside the windows. I am really tempted to take a brief respite-to forget about work and just get out to enjoy the great outdoors. Unfortunately, I'm confined here to review all the end of season reports before my trip to São Paulo tomorrow.

Heaving a sigh of exhaustion, I close my eyes and rub my temples, resting my elbows on the desk. I shouldn't complain; I have escaped from my duties most of my life after all. When I recovered from my memory loss last year, I finally made peace with myself and accepted my destined role in the family. The tough times that I had endured after the train accident in Italy had given me a big lesson, knowing that some people, in particular my aunt and my personal assistant, George, had suffered due to my selfish, impulsive action back in Africa.

In fact, it had nearly cost my own life. If I hadn't run into Candy in the hospital where she used to work, I would have died in misery and despair without knowing my true identity.

Talking about that, what does Candy do on a typical Sunday? Frolicking around with the kids under the sun? I miss her very much, even though she was here in Chicago celebrating her birthday with us not too long ago, bringing all children from Pony's Home. It was my idea to invite them all here to stay with us, which undoubtedly caused my aunt lots of headache.

I chuckle to myself, recalling Candy's words in her letter to me, in which she acted like a sorceress, demanding my presence on her big day.

'...Yes, the birthday of a certain someone!

Well, I'll cast a spell on Prince on the Hill!

ala hela bla bla gela gola booone!

On that day, you will come to Pony's Home to see "the girl who is pretty, whether crying or smiling"! The present for this girl is "your holiday"! To stay with her a lot and talk with her a lot!

I think you're now enchanted...'

She couldn't possibly know how much her birthday wish meant to me. Instead of asking for jewelries, exquisite gowns, or whatever ladies her age would want for birthday presents, she wanted my holiday such that I could talk with her a lot! Her forthrightness touched my heart beyond description.

As a matter of fact, even before I got that letter from her, I had been working hard to prepare presents for her and planned to spend time with her on her birthday, so I had attempted to make some arrangements in order to take a day off, but circumstances didn't allow me.

Yet, although she had come all the way to Chicago as of my request, I could only spend a short time with her due to my frantic work schedule. When she saw the products of my sweat and tears, the refurbished guest room for her plus all the handmade wood furniture inside, her ecstatic look gave me the contentment, which made my hard work and sleepless nights pay off.

"Candy, that's not it. I have some more to show you." So she followed me to the yard behind the stables. There, she got to meet her old friends, Caesar and Cleopatra, the horses she used to take care of when she had worked for the Leagans. She was amazed and absolutely moved to tears.

Regrettably, I had to tell her my reason for leaving her birthday party. I had to go for a short business trip due to some emergency issues. "George is waiting for me in the head office, so I must go now, Candy," I said to her when we were alone without any prying eyes.

She glanced up at me and didn't bother to cover her disappointment, asking, "Now? So soon?"

I nodded my head sorrowfully and pressed my lips to her forehead, saying, "Happy birthday, Candy. I wish you a marvelous time with your friends."

She attempted a strained smile at me. "Thank you for your presents, Albert," she said, barely over a whisper.

So Candy obviously wanted my presence, not my presents. To my dismay, I was the person who upset her on her special day. Yet this was one of the things I loved about her. She trusted me and never hid her emotions from me, unlike the people that I had grown up with, who often put up masks due to the fear of being vulnerable. Nonetheless, her response made me feel guilty, which reminded me of her reply to my invitation, saying, 'I look forward to meeting you in Chicago!'.

However, I had no other choice. "You're very welcome, but I'm sorry I can't stay any longer."

Then I forced myself to turn away from her, but she cried out, "Wait, my prince!" Next, she threw herself to me and hugged me tight, which brought back the sweet memories of the numerous warm embraces we had shared in the past, especially when I had been amnesiac.

As I closed my arms around her petite frame to breathe in her familiar sweet scent, it seemed ages ago that I had last held her like this. I felt complete again with her in my arms. She laid her head on my chest, letting out a long sigh, and implored, "Albert, please promise me not to work too hard, ok?"

Then she drew herself away from me and looked straight into my eyes, craning her neck upward. Something stirred in me as I stared at her, at the pleading in her sparkling orbs. How I wished I could embrace her a little longer! After today, I didn't know when I would see her face again because she would leave Chicago very soon. Was she thinking along the same line right now? Yet I cleared my head and responded with a small smile, trying my best to keep my voice level, "Sure."

She then gave me such a dazzling smile in return that I had to rein myself in not to pull her back into my arms again. Since time was pressing, she went with me all the way to the front gate, where my chauffeur was patiently waiting for me.

I had composed myself by then, so I put up a cheery face and said to her, "Once again, have a happy birthday, Candy, and enjoy every minute of this special occasion!"

She replied in a murmur, lowering her eyes, "It's not the same without you, Albert."

I lost my words momentarily. "Please write to me, Candy." That was all I could manage after that.

As she nodded, I took her hand and squeezed it briefly before I literally dragged myself to the car. When the car was making a turn, I couldn't help but spin around to check on her and noted that she was still waving at our direction, remaining at the same spot. I steeled myself to look away, slumping down in the seat, for I was afraid I would stop the car so that I could run back to her.

Just then, a loud knock on the door jerks me out of my reminisce. I say aloud, "Come in!"

My personal assistant, George, enters my study with a handful of letters in his hand. I press a hand to my forehead and groan, "No more letters today, George!"

His lips curve up subtly as he places them onto my desk. With a light bow, he says, "Sir William, these got misplaced earlier. I apologize for my oversight. I believe you will need some time sifting through them, so I will come back later to discuss the strategic plan with you for our upcoming trip tomorrow. Now, please excuse me."

His remark makes me curious about those letters, but there is nothing unusual with them until I get to the last one. I recognize her handwriting right away, and I can't wait to tear it open.

'Dear Albert,

Albert! Albert! Albert!

Oh? I don't have to call you so loudly again and again? You say you hear me?

But I'm so happy, so happy, and I just can't help but call you again and again…

Albert, thank you!

...'

A blissful grin has found its way to my face. Candy seemed so happy... so carefree, and it's almost like I can hear her voice right now, eagerly calling my name over and over. There's nothing else in the world that can lift my spirits the way she does.

When I continue to read her letter, it's comforting to know that she was very happy on her birthday here in Chicago, but as I have surmised, she complained about me. I can easily imagine how she pursed her lips in a pout when she wrote this:

'...

But it seems my spell didn't have much effect anymore. I didn't have much time to talk with you.

You looked really busy… I'm worried about your health.

Dr. Martin also said you shouldn't overdo it, you know?

Could amnesia recur I wonder … I never want it!

...'

Then she went on and talked about the days when we had lived together in the apartment. Those days were undeniably the happiest in my life yet, albeit being penniless and amnesiac. On her own initiative, she took me under her care despite having her personal problems to deal with. She never made me feel that I was a burden to her, and I shall never cease to remember her kindness to me.

'... I never forget your words — let's share everything with each other.'

I breathe out a deep sigh here. I sometimes wonder what would have happened to us if I had revealed my true identity to her much earlier, say before my train accident or right after I regained my past memory.

In a nutshell, when I realized that I had unknowingly fallen in love with my adopted daughter, I just couldn't bring myself to come clean with her, fully aware that my recovery would mean the end of my living arrangements with her. Moreover, her broken heart was unquestionably still on the mend from her breakup with Terry, who was also in grief and denial according to the tabloids or newspapers. So naturally, she wasn't ready for a new love, and probably the last thing she wanted in her life then was her guardian being in love with her. Even if I didn't confess my feelings to her, revealing myself as her adoptive father could risk losing her friendship forever.

Hence, hiding my recovery, I remained by her side and continued to behave like her big brother, supporting her in whatever way I could. I even proposed to her that we would share everything with each other, both painful and delightful things. I meant it with all my heart then. As days went by, my love for her deepened though I had been in constant debate with myself, asking the same question in my head, what are you going to do with her?, which led to the same answer, wait and see.

Months had passed, and one night I stumbled upon the fact that our neighbors had discovered that I was not really her brother, so I made a wrong move. I chose the escape path, disappearing from her life without telling her the whole truth and breaking my own promise to share everything with her. Since then, I had lost count of how many times I had regretted that decision.

Little did I foresee that my absence would make her miserable. But then fate brought us back together again, due to Neil's caprice. She was understandably more than shocked to learn of my true identity, but exasperated at the same time. I didn't blame her for venting her frustration at me at that moment. Despite knowing that I had already regained my memory from my parting letter to her, she had thought and worried about me so much, resulting in many uneasy and sleepless nights for her.

Not long after I had intervened to call off her forced engagement, one day she came to inform me of her wish to move back to Pony's Home. That was a wake up call for me, and if I didn't do anything about us, the distance between us would only grow with time. Thus, I made up my mind to disclose my last secret to her. To my great relief, when I went all the way to Pony's Hill to convey to her that I had been her Prince on the Hill, she was receptive and cried tears of joy although she was profoundly astounded.

Meanwhile, I hear some birds chirping outside the windows. Are they inviting me to go outside? I raise myself from my chair, plodding over to the couch at the other corner instead so that I can finish reading the rest of Candy's letter. However, what comes next completely catches me off guard.

'I hoped you would regain your memory soon, but on the other hand I also thought it wasn't bad to live with you as brother and sister after all … now I'm your foster daughter!

Actually, am I supposed to call you "Father"?

By the way, when did you regain your memory?

...

Your beautiful adopted daughter'

"What? Father and daughter?" I exclaim, aghast, and in no time I rush to the door and swing it open, only to find my personal assistant standing there, quite astonished. Apparently, he was about to knock on my door as his hand is in the air. So he has come back, but I am absolutely in no mood for business planning. Hence, I speak to him, "George, I need some fresh air. I'll be back."

Without waiting for his response, I leave the mansion in hurried steps though I have no idea what I want to do yet. I just know I won't be able to focus on work right now. What keeps ringing in my head is Candy's question, '... am I supposed to call you "Father"?'

Now that she has asked me point blank, a valid question indeed, I can not dodge it anymore. Our adoptive relationship is quite complicated now, if not absurd or ambiguous. To be fair, I can't properly pinpoint who I am to her either. First of all, we certainly don't behave like father and daughter. Ever since the day Candy realized that I was her prince, we have been exchanging letters. Since she has told me nearly everything about herself already, it is my turn to show that I trust her. I have given her detailed answers to her questions about me, including my growing pain, the significant people and events in my past and the important aspects of my current life. I have been honest and genuine about my feelings in my letters too, except that I haven't directly written about my love for her. Therefore, I believe that every letter between us has brought us closer to each other, and that we are no longer merely friends.

For the time being, I find myself heedlessly heading straight to the stables. Once I get in there, I put the saddle on my favorite horse without bothering to get changed myself. Within minutes, I go out riding into the forest, hoping the horse ride will make me forget the problems that currently plague my mind, even for a short while.

Before long, I arrive at the other side of the lake where I can see the principal Ardlay's residence at a distance. Knowing that I have pushed my poor horse hard just now, I dismount and let him rest. As he grazes the grass, I sit down by the shore, overlooking the lake. I'm more than glad that I have come here. The serenity of my surroundings eases my weary soul, and the spectacular view helps clear my head.

While contemplating how to answer Candy's questions at the end of her letter, her words in her previous reply to me flash across my mind. She promised that she would never call me "Grandpa" again. She also claimed that she would never let me bear anything because she felt that I had become much closer to her. So why did she ask whether she was supposed to call me "father" this time?

To those who don't know my history with Candy, this is actually a ludicrous question. Strictly speaking, I'm her father, so why can't I give her a straightforward affirmative answer? But if I do, that means I have accepted my role in her life as her guardian, which is no doubt against my wish. But how will she react if I say "no" to her? Or more specifically, how do I want her to react?

Besides, she asked when exactly I had regained my memory, which implies that she wanted to find out how long I had hidden my recovery from her and possibly why I had chosen to do that.

All of a sudden, I feel like swimming in the lake. It's very warm right now, and the water looks as blue as the sky above my head. In fact, this secluded area with large trees and bushes used to be my favorite hideout in the premise since my beloved sister, Rosemary, passed away. Whenever I felt down or troubled, I would swim in this part of the lake and often times it would make me feel better afterwards.

Nevertheless, rather than splashing into the water like I used to, I hesitate this time, even though there's no one else around. Yet I take off my socks and shoes, roll up my pants and dip my feet into the lake, which is warm from the bright sun shining upon it all day. I walk further into the water, and the gentle breeze strokes my face. I close my eyes to savor this moment of peace, letting out a sigh of contentment. The tension in my body from working hard for the past few months has gradually dissipated. Just then, I hear a familiar voice from behind me, "Nice weather, isn't it, Sir William?"

I whirl around to see George within the earshot distance. I am startled, but not surprised. He knows me inside out and is more than a personal assistant to me. As far as I can remember, he has been my most reliable friend, always wise and understanding.

In fact, before my father passed away, he had asked George to look after me as his last words. Since I never really knew my father, George is the closest father figure to me, just like Rosemary was like a mother to me.

"George, I'm stressed out." With that, I shift my focus back to the magnificent lake.

Wordlessly, he keeps his distance from me. Although I don't feel like talking to anybody right now, I still appreciate his company. Some moments of silence later, he clears his throat distinctly. As I shoot him a glance in response, he speaks up, "Something in Miss Candice's letter must have upset you, Sir William."

A bitter chuckle escapes my throat. George is extremely gifted in his ability to intuit people's thoughts, especially mine. After all, he has practically known me my whole life, so right now he must perceive that I am hurting inside.

Needless to say, George saw through me soon after I had contacted him last year, explaining to him about my long absence due to my amnesia. He must have sensed that my feelings for my adoptive daughter had drastically changed even though he didn't have any comment about my decision to continue living with Candy.

After I had left her and come home, I acted like nothing had happened, concealing my anguish in public but suffering horribly in private. But later, when Candy was being forced to engage to Neil, George relied on his instinct and disobeyed my order, instructing her where to find her Uncle William in Lakewood.

Hence, thanks to George, I could reunite with Candy, and one day after that I happened to see her childish drawing. She had attempted to draw a picture of me because she had wanted to search for me after I had vanished. I liked that drawing so much that I put it up on display in my office, and my normally reticent personal assistant commented about it with a serious expression on his face, "It could be a masterpiece beyond price."

So I have no doubt that George understands what I have been struggling for months and months. Yet, for some reason, I have never confided in him anything concerning my love for Candy. He has never broached the subject either until today. While I fumble how to respond to his question, he asks discreetly, "Are you planning to write a reply to Miss Candice before we leave for São Paulo tomorrow?"

I release a sigh of apprehension, and at this moment I resolve to open up, "I don't know what to write... without injuring my own feelings..."

He raises his eyebrows at my frankness, and I continue, "She asked me whether she was supposed to call me 'father', and I felt like a knife had plunged into my heart when I read how she ended her letter, addressing herself as my adopted daughter. I don't think she meant to provoke me, and it could even be a joke, but I just couldn't take it lightly right now."

His lips twitch for a split second, and George is seemingly at a loss for words, which rarely occurs. Neither of us can deny the fact that I adopted Candy long time ago, and he was the one who carried out my order.

Then I mutter in a pensive tone, "I wish I could postpone the long business trip and go to Pony's Home to talk to Candy face to face. Yet, what am I going to say to her?"

If I tell her that I love her, what will be her initial response? Will she burst into tears or collapse into laughter? Is it possible that she hasn't stopped treating me like her brother? She did mention in her letter that it wasn't bad to live with me as brother and sister, so did she want us to go back to that stage? I hope not. Or even worse, has she begun to regard me as her guardian?

After some consideration, George regains his composure and remarks thoughtfully, "Sir William, I think it's time to venture out into the water."

Unable to grasp what he said, I lift up one of my brows quizzically. I ask, "What do you mean, George?"

"What made you hesitate earlier? You have always enjoyed swimming, Sir William."

I come up with a valid excuse after emitting another bitter chuckle, "I am not the same guy anymore... with all these burdens weighing me down nowadays."

Then I step out of the water to approach him, and he replies, looking at me, "Sometimes you will need to venture out... to get out of the comfort zone."

I remain quiet as his analogy sinks in. Then he points out, "Perhaps Miss Candice wants to find out how you feel."

"How I feel about what?" I swiftly follow up, standing next to him now.

His expression is very calm, choosing his words carefully, "What's really going on in your relationship with her."

His direct answer strikes me like a blow in my head. Is it true that she asked those questions because she is uncertain of our relationship, uncertain of how I feel about her or uncertain of herself?

I can feel a frown forming on my face, and I hear him add, "Miss Candice was ecstatic when I picked her up from Lakewood after knowing your true identity, Sir William. She kept talking and talking on our way back to Chicago, constantly wearing a grin on her face. I had never seen her happier."

So I poke fun at myself with a smirk on my lips, "Because she could finally meet with the mysterious old man who adopted her years ago."

He stares at me, unfazed, and a few seconds later he utters cryptically, "I believe you know better than anyone that this is not the entire truth, Sir William."

Having said that, he bows slightly and states, "Please pardon me if I have intruded into your privacy."

"No, no, not at all," I reply and shake my head. "I should thank you for your invaluable advice! I feel a lot better now that I have talked to you."

His mouth curls up into a meek smile at my comment. Although I'm not exactly sure what's going on between Candy and me, there's no question that our bond is getting stronger yet. I feel a deep connection with her, and she's the only woman I want to share my life with. So, as a man, I should move forward to investigate whether she has the same sentiments. Yet, I must take time to think more thoroughly first because the last thing I want is to hurt her feelings again. I can't afford to make another detrimental mistake to our relationship.

On the other hand, George and I should get prepared for the important trip tomorrow, so this is not the right time to ponder what to do next with Candy. In fact, drowning myself with work may not be a bad idea for the time being. So I say to George, "There's no point in analyzing her intention in her letter now, George. Let's go back together. There are tonnes of work to be done."

His countenance is a mixture of perplexity and relief, and yet he gives me an understanding nod without commenting further. "I will meet you in your study later then, Sir William." So he goes back to his car across from the road.

Although our strategic planning goes very smoothly, due to the huge amount of work and the shortage of time, we have our dinners brought into my study. We work till very late at night, and George rests in his usual guest room while I head back to my master bedroom. We must get some sleep before we embark on the long journey in the morning.

Unfortunately, after lying down in my bed for some time, I still can't seem to settle down into a sleep mode. My mind automatically switches back to Candy's letter when I'm alone, and my head is full of question marks about the state of her mind when she was writing to me.

She began that letter with great mood, thanking me for my presents to her and talking about various other things. What made her ask how she was supposed to address me? Was she joking? Or was George right that she was confused or even perturbed and wanted me to clarify my role to her?

After some more tossing and turning, the hazy predawn light begins to filter into my room, and I declare it's meaningless to try to sleep now. I shouldn't keep her waiting any longer, so I slide out of bed and sit down in my nook to write my reply to her. Having made several crumbled paper balls, I'm finally satisfied with my brief letter even though I have answered her first question only.

'Candy,

Let me express my displeasure briefly. You have promised me not to let me bear again, haven't you?

"Father!" and "beautiful adopted daughter" you said!

Yes, you're beautiful. Maybe (getting pouty now?). And indeed you are my adopted daughter.

I had forgotten about it. It even surprised me that I, at this young age and still a bachelor, had an adopted daughter. "Adopted daughter" also sounds unbearable to me. Even though you don't see it, I'm sensitive. (Please don't laugh.)

Now, I'm leaving for São Paulo. I'll write to you again when I've arrived.

Please tell the kids at Pony's Home: "That's just what an adoptive father has to do."

Adoptive father — !

Damn, I did it myself… Take care! Say hello to the kids for me!

Albert'

Have I really forgotten about the fact that I'm her guardian? Not at all. I wish I could. It's just my indirect way of telling Candy not to remind me again. Actually, every time when this resurfaces in my mind, I push the grim thought away, striving not to dwell on it because it will only distress me.

The truth is I have never once treated her as my daughter, even before my accident. Candy was a girl whom I had wanted to help; now she's a lady, and I'm still a bachelor for heaven's sake. However, I will not reverse the adoption unless I have a compelling reason. That is, she reciprocates my love. Even if she does not, I will not abandon her because as long as she doesn't mind, I want to be a part of her life, loving her from a distance as her so-called father. Therefore, I have determined that no matter what happens to us, I will not repeat my mistake of leaving her again.

As I carefully put my note inside an envelope, I wonder how Candy will feel when she reads this. Will she be disappointed and complain "That's it?"? Anyhow, this is the best I can do before the trip, and I will have to give some more serious thoughts before I write to her again. At least she will see that I don't want her to regard me as her father despite the fact that legally I am.

Now that the sun has come out, I'd better take a quick shower to freshen up, getting myself ready for the tedious business trip. George and I have planned everything to optimize our time in order to get the maximum benefit from the trip, and I have already anticipated a tightly packed schedule ahead.

After having our breakfast, I drop by my study to pick up my briefcase. However, I suddenly realize that one of the important travel documents is missing. Urging myself not to panic, I proceed to rummage in several drawers. It doesn't take me long to locate it, but once I get it, I also see Candy's leather-bound diary inside, the one she had left in my care before she left London. Back then she wanted her Uncle William to read it so that he could understand why she abruptly quit St. Paul's Academy.

Immediately all sorts of images and memories flush into my mind, which causes me to shut that drawer with force, as though that could chase away the disturbing thoughts. While I remain standing in front of my cabinet, my heart pounds in my chest, and I will myself to calm down by taking some measured breaths.

Being her guardian, I did read her diary as per her wish while I was in Africa, and her gratitude for me was apparent, but I could not see her reasons for quitting until the very last page. Weeks after that, I got a few more letters from Candy through George, and one of which indicated that she had enrolled in a nursing school. Therefore, I wrote a letter to George to ask him to pass my message to Candy, telling her that I respected her decision to find her calling in life and reminding her that she was always an Ardlay, even though she wanted to support herself. [1]

Actually, I was somewhat influenced by Candy's letters in those days. Even in Africa, I was protected by the Ardlay's people such that I had no problem finding a shelter or a job. They were there to keep a watch on me just in case I needed help. The thought that I could not do anything on my own tormented me all the time. Their presence only indicated that I could never be independent, and it was around that time that I arranged to break free from them. So I packed some of my belongings together with Candy's diary and letters and sent them to these Ardlay's people in Africa.

In short, I know full well what's inside that diary. Other than finding her path, Candy headed to America to look for someone very special to her. She had written truthfully, and even now, I still clearly remember the way she expressed her feelings for Terry in her writing.

How will I ever forget? When we lived together as siblings, she told me everything about her passion for him. I just didn't see it coming that I would eventually fall in love with her myself.

Right at this particular moment, I finally understand what has made me hesitant to step into the realm of unknown with Candy. So far, I dare not question her directly whether she is through with her old relationship, even after knowing that she didn't stay with Terry in Rockstown as I had predicted. Deep down inside, I fear that once I bring up this sensitive topic, I will lose what's there between me and her, leaving us with emotional scars that are beyond repair.

Just then, I hear a soft knock on my wide open door. I quickly place the document in my briefcase and spin my head to the side, facing George. "Let's go, George. We have a train to catch."

Since we travel with our business partners, we don't have much free time and work is unavoidable. When we arrive at São Paulo after days of travel on board a passenger ship from New York, we have meetings after meetings with local business partners. George is again very dependable and knowledgeable, and I have learned a lot from his experience. On top of that, what amazes me the most is that I actually begin to enjoy working.

After our last meeting tonight, I suggest we go back to our hotel on foot since it is just a few blocks away. However, it's unexpectedly chilly.

"It should be warm back home, and here winter has just started," I remark to George, pulling the collars of my jacket tighter together in an effort to shield myself from the brisk night air.

With a half smile, he replies, "Yes... It looks like it will be even colder tomorrow."

As we drift down the road, I spot a very elegant, light green winter coat displayed in a window. "George, wait a minute."

I stop to take a closer look, remembering the day when I bought Candy a spring coat from Rockstown, in an attempt to lead her back to Terry. At this point, an idea hits me hard. If I had the courage and heart to do that for her back then, why can't I do it now? What matters to me the most is her happiness, right?

Since the shop is long closed, I speak to George, "Please remind me to come back later to buy this."

He nods his head and responds, "That will look nice on Miss Candice. It will make a good souvenir."

Just like the previous nights, by the time I have some free time in my hotel room, it's already way past midnight. However, I feel like writing to Candy tonight because it's likely that she has received my brief reply to her already. In fact, whenever I have some time alone during this business trip, I often contemplate how to answer her questions in her previous letter, so I just need to put my thoughts into words. Hence, I don't have to struggle much to write this time.

'Dear beautiful (maybe?) Candy,

I'm now in the hotel in São Paulo. It's shortly after 2 a.m. Finally I have time for myself.

Don't worry, I'm doing fine.

I really enjoy working these days.

I think I do have my father William's blood in my veins.

I'm glad you liked your birthday. You also enjoyed the party, I guess!

I'm sorry I had to leave in the middle of the party.

...'

Then I describe when exactly I regained my memory and what happened before and after. I owe her an explanation after all.

'...

I should have told you at once, but I couldn't.

I'm still feeling sorry about it.

Besides, I didn't want to get away from that heart-warming life with you, Candy.

...'

Will she be able to connect the facts that I hid my recovery because I couldn't tear myself away from her? I continued my life with her not because I wanted to escape from my own family, and despite my dilemma, her smiling face was what I yearned to see after each long day of work.

'...

if I couldn't meet you —.

Candy,

At that time, I was nothing more than a suspicious man without memory, with no identification.

But you didn't leave me. You didn't leave me even when you were fired from the hospital.

Your words, "your memories will surely come back", had kept my spirit up.

Just one time I have saved you, but you —.

I can never thank you enough.

I'm going to find out where your happiness lies.

I'll certainly take a holiday and come to meet you when I'm back.

Bert'

I can't imagine what would have happened to me without her then. She never left my side, affectionately and kindly cheering for me all the time, even though her reputation was ruined because of me. Regretfully, I was the one who left her, not the other way around.

After writing this reply to her, I believe I'm ready to face whatever lies ahead. It's not fair to her if I continue to be vague about my feelings for her, but before I bare my soul to her, I have to find out what makes her happy first, even if that means she's going back to Terry. I tell myself, if she's happy, then I should be happy for her. For sure I will suffer for a period of time if it turns out that I have misinterpreted her feelings for me, but I should be able to survive and continue to look out for her afterwards.

So the next day, I apprise George of my plan to visit Pony's Home after this business trip. He acknowledges that I deserve a short break and promises me that he will try his best to arrange a holiday for me.

When we get back to Chicago in July, I'm overjoyed to find Candy's letter in my inbox. That means she has read my long letter to her:

'Dear Albert,

When will you come back from São Paulo?

When will you come to the Pony's Home?

If you are so much thankful to me, I hope you'll come soon.

Well but, "Bert"? Did people call you so?

It sounds cute!

And now, that's all for today.

I just want to meet you and talk with you personally.

Maybe I'm stingy?

Candy'

Stingy? Of course not. This reply makes me miss her even more, and I long to visit her! Though her letter is very short, it was obvious that she wanted to see me. Does she miss me too?

Thanks to George, I will be free in the upcoming weekend. Since Candy needs to work in Happy Martin Clinic, I figure Sunday will be more appropriate for both of us. Besides, I plan to give her a surprise for she doesn't know that I am back to Chicago yet. [2]

This time, I have brought her diary with me to Lakewood. I put it on the desk in the solarium, the room where she discovered my true identity a long while ago. After knowing the shocking truth, I believe she was smart enough to figure out that I had her personal diary. Yet she has never mentioned anything about it and neither have I.

Now that I have made up my mind to return it to her, I feel extraordinarily calm and even relaxed about the whole thing. I'm prepared for the worst. If this diary proves that she still loves Terry or somehow rekindles her love for him, so be it. It's her treasure after all, and I have no rights to keep it with me forever.

Thus, after a night of peaceful sleep, I am ready to set off to Pony's Home as soon as morning breaks. When I get dressed, rather than wearing my regular, casual outfit, I feel like presenting the best of me today because I'm going to meet the woman I'm in love with.

So I pick one of my fine black shirts, which Vincent, husband of my late sister Rosemary, bought for me in France two years ago. After all, this is my judgement day, and no matter what the outcome is, it's a day to remember. Hopefully, Candy will not ask me to climb a tree with her today.

The closer I am to my destination, the more anxious I get. My breathing becomes shallower and faster, and my heart begins to palpitate. The drive seems much longer than usual because I can't wait to see Candy again for the first time since her birthday in May. How will she respond to my impromptu visit? Will she be lukewarm or even indifferent, telling me that she has lots of chores to do today? Will she be reluctant to spend a whole day with me? I keep my fingers crossed that she's not out doing something with the kids yet, but I press my gas pedal harder to speed up anyway.

Since I don't want anybody to notice me, I have intentionally parked somewhere far away from Pony's Home. But a teenager is coming towards my car when I turn off the engine. He does have manners because when he gets near, he bows slightly and greets me, "Good morning, Sir Ardlay."

Have I met this good-looking fellow before? How come he knows my name? Then he asks, "Are you here to see Boss? She's not in Pony's Home at present."

My heart sinks, but then I have recognized him now, so I exclaim, "Jimmy? Are you Jimmy? You've grown a lot, and even your voice has broken!"

"I'm a big guy now, Sir Ardlay," he mutters when I get off my car, blushing. When I am about to ask him where Candy is, he measures his height against me and sighs heavily, "I'm still short compared to you. No wonder Boss treats me like a young lad even though I'm already taller than her."

I am taken aback by his comments. Why does he try to measure up to me?

Then he adds, "Boss has gone out fishing with the kids by the river. Mr. Cartwright needed my help after Sunday mass this morning, and now that I'm done, I'm actually on my way to give her a hand. Do you want me to inform her that you're here?"

"No," I reply at once, relieved that she's still around the area. "Could you please lead me to where the river is?"

He lets out a laugh surprisingly, but very soon he snickers, "I'm sorry, Sir Ardlay. I can't help but visualize how she will react, especially I know she must be a mess right now."

We both break into laughter. It's been a while since I last had a good laugh. Then he says, "Anyway, I'd better take you to her now. Boss will be upset if she knows that I have kept you with me without letting her know."

"Sure, please," I respond, impatience coursing through me now.

Then he suggests, "Please come this way, Sir Ardlay. I'll show you the shortcut."

He takes me up on Pony's Hill, and on our way there, I try to persuade Jimmy to call me Albert, just like Candy. I give up after a while because he explains, "Miss Pony insists we address you as Sir Ardlay, even though we all know that Candy calls you by your first name. I have protested more than once, but Sister Lane keeps saying that Candy is a special case."

Then he mimics Candy's voice, "Albert this and Albert that..."

Instantaneously, I chortle at his imitation, and he says, "I don't think you know how frequently she checks if you have sent a letter to her."

I did hear his words, and I can't stop myself from feeling elated, but I remark, "I see that you do pay a lot of attention to her, Jimmy."

His face turns pink at once, and I chuckle and make a comment, "By the way, Albert is not my first name, but never mind."

"Really?" he asks, confounded, but right at this moment, I hear a girl's voice from afar, "Albert? Is that you, Albert?"

My heart skips a beat. It's Candy! I spin my head to where the source of her voice is, and I see her sprinting uphill, her hair flying behind her. So I run down toward her, and when she is near, she jumps up and flings her arms around my neck, crying out, "My prince, you're here... at long last! Tell me that this is not a dream..."

She still calls me 'my prince'!

"No, Candy, you're not dreaming," I answer her tenderly, holding her tight. Emotions flood through me presently when I know she's far from being nonchalant. In fact, I am so intensely moved that I have to fight the urge to confess my love to her right there and then. I have to keep reminding myself that I should wait until I'm convinced that she's over Terry already. The return of her diary later today will be my first important step.

While we lock each other in our arms, Jimmy coughs and says, "Boss, I'll take your place to watch the kids down by the river."

She loosens her grip on me right away and straightens herself, blushing furiously. "Thank you, Jimmy. I appreciate it." I guess she didn't see Jimmy earlier.

"No problem at all, Boss, I don't have anything to do right now anyway," he replies with a reassuring smile.

She then explains with a sheepish look on her face, "I was going to get a fishing rod for myself... but I got carried away because I couldn't believe my eyes..."

As her voice trails off in embarrassment, Jimmy teases her, "Boss, there's no need to explain anymore." So he turns to me and says, "Have a good day, Sir Ardlay!" Then he waves his right hand at us and walks down the hill, whistling.

But what Candy does next baffles me. I note that she is turning her head from side to side, so I ask with bewilderment, "Candy, what are you looking for?"

"Albert, is George coming to pick you up soon?" she asks, her brows creased slightly.

"No, I've firmly instructed him not to bother me this time," I reply, feeling guilty of always leaving her in the middle of things. Then I inquire, trying to stay poised, "Are you free today?"

With her eyebrows raised teasingly, she answers me, "It depends. Why?"

My pulse is racing, and I feel unusually warm. If I'm not mistaken, this is the first time I officially ask her out. So I muster my strength and say, "Candy, I have a whole day today to do whatever I like."

Her eyebrows shoot up even higher. She smilingly prompts, "So?"

This is much harder than I thought, but I'm glad I have my message rehearsed in my head before this. "So I want to spend my holiday with you. Will you accept my belated birthday gift?"

Upon hearing that, she exclaims in high spirits, "Does it mean we have plenty of time to climb my favorite tree together, Albert?"

Her question makes me chuckle although I am not sure if it was a "yes" from her. But then she hastily comments, "Just kidding, Albert. I did notice that you have dressed up, and I don't want to ruin your fine shirt. So do you have any plan in mind?"

Now that I can take a good look at her, I must say that Jimmy was wrong. Candy is far from being messy. Her pony tails are slightly tousled from playing with kids, but her rosy cheeks and bright round eyes are enough to make her look highly endearing to me, even when wearing plain clothes. I have the overwhelming impulse to embrace her again, but my strict upbringing helps for moments like this. With a gentleman's bow, I propose, "Yes, I do. Would you give me the honor to take you to Lakewood today?"

She draws a sharp intake of breath at my invitation and replies with another question, "Who else will be there? And what's the occasion?"

I clear my throat loudly to hide my nervousness. "Just the two of us, Miss Candice, and nothing special really. So back to my original question. Are you free today?"

She appears thrilled, her sparkling eyes widened with exhilaration, but some seconds later her expression turns cautious underneath her smile. She slowly rephrases my words to ensure she has heard it right, "So Prince on the Hill is taking me to Lakewood today just to spend time with me?"

I curl up my mouth at the ends of my lips, moving my head up and down to confirm. Nodding eagerly, she clasps her hands together and cheerfully responds, "I must get changed and inform my mothers first!"

"Excellent! Let's get going then!" I feel extremely relieved, grinning ear to ear now. Candy has more than readily agreed to take a trip to Lakewood with me, so it turns out that my worry was in vain. Heading towards the orphanage together, I remind her, "Candy, you still call me Prince on-"

"Oops! I can't help it," she utters aloud, sticking out her tongue. "Perhaps I should call you father or Uncle William then?"

"What?" I exclaim with shock, giving her a feign glare. But before I know it she has already started moving away from me, laughing merrily. The funny thing is that she isn't running fast at all, and she keeps turning back to look at me, like she's drawing me to her. I take her hint, and when she realizes that I have caught her up, she gives out a mock scream and picks up her speed. When she's in my arms reach, I have to exert every effort to quench my desire to snake my arms around her waist to hold her tightly against my chest. Instead, I gently grasp her right wrist and lean forward to give her a peck on her cheek. She blushes like it was her first kiss.

"Are you alright, Albert?" Her question jolts me out of my reverie; her face has contorted into a contrived smile. I realize that I did grab her right wrist to stop her from going further, but I didn't kiss her. It was a fantasy, but it felt so real.

"I'm sorry, Candy, did I hurt you?" I quickly relax my grip on her. She shakes her head in response to my question, but she does look very shy for some reason. I swallow hard and pretend nothing has transpired, and I speak to her, half joking, "Don't call me father again, or I will play along and call you grandma. Is that clear, Miss Candice?" [3]

She nods at me with twinkling eyes, her lips tugged into a wide, playful grin, so I roll my eyes at her with mock anger. Just then, I find that we are standing under the shade of a humongous tree, where there is a rope ladder hanging down from one of its strongest boughs. I ask her, "Did you put this up, Candy?"

Shaking her head, she replies, "Not me. Jimmy did. He said not all kids were as brave and agile as us, so he put that up for other kids too."

"That's a great idea!" I utter out loud, giving a nod of approval. "This is your favorite tree, isn't it?"

She nods her head, showing me her most charming smile, which puts me into a daze again. My mind drifts back to our first encounter many years ago, and she had the same captivating smile then.

So I nearly miss her words, "When I was a child, I liked to climb this tree to bid a silent goodbye to every kid who got adopted," she comments in a thoughtful tone, looking upwards at the top branches, her emerald orbs fringed with long eyelashes glimmering in the sun. She has me enchanted. I don't think she has any idea how enticing she looks now. Who could have thought a crybaby would become an attractive woman one day?

Oblivious to my thoughts, she turns her focus back to me a moment later, saying in a low voice, "Now I like to read your letters up there while watching the sun sets."

I can't help but step closer to her, and I hear myself murmur under my breath, "You asked me about 'Bert' in your letter..."

I can't believe my ears. I don't know what comes over me, but I didn't mean to talk about this until I bring her back tonight. But she responds with delight, "Yes! It sounds cute! Was it your nickname when you were in college?"

Anyway, I might as well let her know that Rosemary gave me this nickname. "My sister used to call me 'Little Bert'. Nobody else knows about it except you, Candy. Not even George." [3]

"You must be joking! Little Bert?" she asks incredulously, her hand covering her mouth to hide her grinning face.

"I'm not! But only when we were alone. I was much younger than Jimmy when she passed away," I reply with a nostalgic smile.

Her jovial face then transforms into a rueful one. Then she regards me with an understanding glance and very softly she questions, "You miss her, don't you?"

I look straight into her eyes for a brief moment and remark wistfully after that, "Nobody has loved me the way she did, so deep and unconditional. She was the only person in the family who encouraged me to be myself. Candy, have I told you that you reminded me of her when I met you again near the waterfall?"

She gently shakes her head, holding my gaze for a few more seconds before she chastely averts her eyes from mine. Then I say, "I feel that I can talk to you just about anything, so that's why I told you a lot about myself in my letters, including this nickname."

She acknowledges that by nodding quietly, still avoiding my eyes. There's no better time than now, so I take courage and speak to her in my tenderest voice, "Please feel free to call me Bert, but only if you want to."

She looks up at me right away, her face painted with astonishment. The blood that rushes to her head has turned her lovely face into a shade of crimson. It seems that she wants to say something, but nothing comes forth. Just when I am about to affirm what I have said, we hear a collective gasp not very far from us. Both Miss Pony and Sister Lane have spotted us together, and they are quite shocked to see me appear out of nowhere.

So they urge us to go back to the orphanage with them. While Candy is talking to Sister Lane, Miss Pony busily fixes some snacks and tea for me. Then Sister Lane replies, throwing a kind glance at my direction, "Of course, Candy. Go ahead and enjoy your day with Sir Ardlay."

So Candy comes to me, saying, "Albert, I won't take long." Without delay, she dashes down the hallway.

Sister Lane gives a soft sigh, shaking her head disapprovingly behind Candy's back. Then Miss Pony tries to distract her by talking to me, "Sir Ardlay, how was your trip to South America?"

"Thank you for asking, Miss Pony," I reply after taking a sip of my cup of tea. "It was hectic to say the least, but I should be grateful that we have accomplished more than we anticipated."

Only then I remember I have forgotten to bring the toys I have bought for the children at Pony's Home. But before I can inform them that I will bring the toys with me on my way back this evening, Sister Lane raises a question, "So how long is Candy going to stay with you in Lakewood, Sir Ardlay?"

Right at this moment, Miss Pony's face lightens up, so I gather Candy is coming back into the room. She's much faster than I thought, even though she told me just now that she wouldn't take long, as if she already knew what to wear. Miss Pony reaches out her arms and says with so much tenderness, "Come, Candy, my dear! Oh Sister Lane, look at her!"

So I turn my head curiously behind my shoulder, and when I take in the sight before me, my breathing hitches and my jaw drops. She looks so refreshed and beautiful wearing the spring coat which I bought her in Rockstown, her face beaming and her long tress flowing around her shoulders like a turbulent ocean of shiny blond waves.

I hasten to collect myself, standing up from my chair. Then I approach her, fixing my eyes on hers. "You look wonderful, Candy. Ready to go now?"

She nods at me bashfully and goes to hug her mothers goodbye. Then I shake hands with them, saying, "Sister Lane and Miss Pony, I will bring Candy back after dinner tonight because I must return to Chicago tomorrow morning."

Miss Pony then reminds us with a motherly smile on her face, "There's no rush, so please drive safely, Sir Ardlay. Candy, make sure you behave like a lady, alright?"

I am barely able to restrain myself from making a witty comment, and at the same time Candy gives me a mischievous wink. Then she responds with a ladylike curtsy, "I promise I will behave, Miss Pony. No worries."

Soon after we have left Pony's Home, she refers to the coat she's wearing, saying, "I don't think I have a chance to thank you for this present, Albert." Then she promptly adds with a regretful tone, "I like it very much and even wore it to Rockstown, but too bad you weren't there to see it."

What is she trying to tell me?

"But do you mind if I take it off now, Albert? I feel hot."

"Of course! I was going to suggest that, but anyway, I'm very glad that you like my gift, which might be useful tonight when we come back." I respond as I return a smile at her, reminding myself that I should be able to grasp how she actually feels about me later today. Then I help her slide it off her shoulders and carry it with my left arm.

As we pace towards my car, I see that she's wearing one of her nicer dresses, a light green one that matches her eyes. But still, it can't compare to those expensive ones worn by high society ladies. As a member in the Ardlay's family, Candy can lead a luxurious life if she wants, but being unpretentious and down to earth, she'd rather live a simple life. In other words, we are two people from two different worlds, but somehow connected since her childhood and have developed feelings for each other. Is she willing to give up her current lifestyle and accept my love?

"Where did you park, Albert?" she asks. Her voice snaps me back to the present.

"We're almost there. It's a bit of walking distance, so let's hurry up such that we will have enough time to tour around Lakewood in the afternoon."

She glances up at me with glee. "Is that what we are going to do today? Touring around Lakewood?"

"Yes, Miss Candice," I affirm, grinning at her. "Unless you have other things in mind?"

"No, that sounds like a marvelous idea!" she replies, the corners of her mouth curling up into a radiant smile. So I bend my right arm, waiting for her, and she gladly places her left hand on the crook of my arm. We then scurry toward the car, laughing heartily like children. I was so looking forward to the joy of spending time with her again, and I am not disappointed at all. I just hope that neither Miss Pony nor Sister Lane sees us now.

Soon after I have started driving, Candy pops a question out of the blue, "Albert, were you serious when you said that I could also call you 'Little Bert'?"

I correct her, smirking, "No. I said 'Bert', Candy, but 'Big Bert' is acceptable too." [5]

She collapses into a fit of giggles, which is like music to my ears. Some time later, I casually suggest, "Want to learn some Scottish folk songs today?"

Her eyes gleam with excitement when she responds, "Certainly! I'd love to hear you sing! Remember I said in my letter that you had a sweet voice?"

It is such a lovely drive to Lakewood. We both enjoy the scenic route and chit-chatting with each other. I truly adore Candy and cherish her companionship. She's the sweetest person I've ever met, and I feel so comfortable with her. At times during the ride, when neither of us is talking, I catch her quietly peering out of the window. I wonder what kind of thoughts she has during those moments of silence.

More than once in the past, Candy has told me her theory that we are tied by invisible threads, which explains why our paths have crossed again and again over the years. Well, we will see whether she's right about fate bringing us together. As a matter of fact, she will get her diary back today, and I will hopefully find out where her happiness lies afterwards.

(to be continued...)

=o=o=o=

Footnote:

[1] In CCFS, when Candy was studying in nursing school, she got a letter from George indicating that Sir William had received many letters from her. They respected her decisions, including her enrollment in Mary Jane nursing school and her wish to support herself.

[2] In CCFS, after Albert came back from São Paulo, he went to pay Candy a surprise visit, taking her to Lakewood. I assume this took place some time in summer because several kinds of flowers Candy named on their way to Lakewood bloom between April and July (late spring and mid-summer in the northern hemisphere).

[3] This idea was borrowed from the old CC novel. Candy jokingly referred herself as Albert's daughter, and he replied and warned her about calling her "grandma" if she did that again.

[4] Mizuki used the word, chicchana, which often means little, tiny or mini.

[5] Again, this is from the old CC novel. After Albert had told Candy his nickname, when she actually addressed him as "Little Bert" in her letter, he addressed himself as "Big Bert" in his reply.

Author's note:

I hope you have enjoyed reading this as much as I have enjoyed writing it. Thanks again to the Albert fan who gave me the insights about Candy's diary. We both believe that Albert read her diary while he was in Africa because Candy left London in autumn (falling leaves were everywhere) and returned to Pony's Home on a winter day (snowing heavily). She then enrolled in nursing school in Spring and according to the manga, she received a present and a note from George around her birthday in May, informing her that Sir William supported her decision. According to CCFS, Albert didn't leave Africa until shortly before the war broke out (summer 1914).

In addition, at the end of the manga, Albert told Candy that he didn't like to wear fine clothes, but he did wear a fine shirt the day he took her to Lakewood. This Albert fan thought it was his judgement day. Candy's response to the return of her old diary would likely define their relationship later.

The rest of this story is my imagination. The timeline in CCFS is quite confusing, so I wrote this mainly based on my own interpretation of the CCFS epilogue. Albert revealed to Candy that he was her prince in Spring after she had moved back to Pony's Home (note that this is different from the manga in which he did that on the day she returned to Pony's Home). Later that same year, Albert went to Pony's Home and took Candy to Lakewood.

For those who are familiar with the letters in CCFS epilogue, you might have noticed that I have rephrased some sentences to make them more coherent. Also, Candy always called him Albert-san, but I simply use Albert. If you want to read the translation of these letters by fans, please feel free to contact me. I will gladly provide the links.

I would like to dedicate this story to the reader whose ideas inspired this story. Also, this story is dedicated to the following readers (there's no specific order), who have recently written reviews or messages about my stories (either here in fanfiction or elsewhere). My appreciation goes to you all. Thank you for your support!

rowelorena, Esposa De Watson, forever, a happy reader, 221BakerSt, Alexandrite, Lezti Bella, janja8, LvNvrFlsFan, M, Milady, keilanot2, KattieAndrew, Nathanalie, luzpaat, EnakaT, treehugger, farmergirlTX , DidiBug, 3ndl3ss Ft3, Melissa U., Mariella D., and some guests with no names.