Ever After

by Dora

Chapter 1: Beginning

It was a rainy afternoon. Clouds sailed across the gray sky. Cold wind blew through the streets of Chicago. It seemed as if it was not late summer. Neil pointlessly drove across the city. He thought about marriage.

"Although, who may possibly be the lucky bride," He asked himself. "Candy does not love me. Better to say she despises me. Then that Daisy Dilman. Oh she is so dull and spoiled! I donít know how Eliza could have so many unpleasant friends. I cannot marry Daisy. I am constantly avoiding her."

At that moment, he did not notice Daisy who was approaching him with small steps with her tiny feet. He did not have time to escape. She saw him and rushed towards his car.

"Good afternoon, Neil. I hope that you are fine? Why didnít you visit me? I missed you very much."

"I did not have time," he said quickly, with no intention to continue the unpleasant talk.

"Where are you going? Do you mind if I go with you? "

"No, no I have to goÖI have to go Ö to my sister Eliza."

"Oh what a coincidence! I am also going to see her and a minute ago I thought that I needed to find a carriage. What would I do without you? You are such a gentleman."

She got into the car and Neil knew that he could not escape from her presence so he gave up and drove with her to Eliza.

****

In the meantime, in a small but warm house called Ponyís Home, one could hear a shout coming from the mouth of a small, freckled girl.

"Ha! I won!"

Candy felt great. In Ponyís home she always felt warm. She was never alone since she was surrounded with so many children who admired her because of her honesty and kindness.

"Candy you could come and help us make lunch, " Annie called from the kitchen.

"I thought that Archie was cooking today," Candy said.

"Well, he is, but you could at least help us! "

"But I am in the middle of a game!" Candy said absently, thinking about the interrupted game.

"You will never be a good wife if you do not know how to cook!" She heard the gentle voice again.

Candy rushed to the kitchen. She was always trying to show she could be a marvelous wife.

Sister Lane and Pony smiled with pleasure while looking at the many children who will sooner or later, turn into brave and honest individuals worth admiration.

****

Eliza was in her room reading a book. The book was interesting, but Eliza could not concentrate since she had more important things to do. She gave up reading, stood up and walked around the comfortable room.

"I have to buy a dress. Everybody will think that I am just an ordinary girl, not a descendant of the Reagans. Soon I will become like Candy. Oh, how I hate Candy, she is so arrogant. I canít stand her. I shall go to see my mum. Maybe she knows what to do. After everything that happened, it turns out that grandfather William was Candyís friend, Sir Albert. He was very angry with grandmother Elroy, my mother and me. I thought that grandfather was ill and would soon die."

Eliza left the room and went to her mother. Mrs. Reagan was lying in her bed with a headache. Eliza sat softly near her motherís bed. "Mum, excuse me for bothering you, I have to talk to you."

"Yes dear, what is it?" Mrs. Reagan suddenly sat up.

"I wanted to talk to you about Candy. We have not seen her after her Ďengagementí with Neal. I hope that she will never come again, and I have a plan keep her away."

"Really, I would love to hear it," Mrs. Reagan sad with a mysterious smile on her face.

After half an hour of whispering, Mrs. Reagans headache had suddenly stopped and she said, "That is a brilliant idea. Why didnít I think of it? I have such a smart daughter!"

Eliza blushed a little. She liked to be praised. "But mother, we have to be very careful with that. If anybody finds out about our intention, our reputation will be ruined. And we must not tell Neil because I think he still has feelings for Candy."

"Yes, it is dreadful that my son should love a girl from Ponyís home. My son humiliated our reputation!"

"Iíve tried to set him up with that Daisy Dilman, you know her. The Dilmans are not as rich as the Reagans but she would be a better wife than Candy."

"Eliza my dear daughter, you will not marry anyone who would dishonor our family reputation. Will you?"

"I was in love once, but I lost him because of an unpleasant girl who used a rotten way to get him."

"Who was it, was he wealthy and who was that spoiled girl?" Mrs. Reagan said with sudden interest.

"Well I would rather keep that for myself, I hope you do not mind."

"No of course not, but my headache is coming back again, please leave," said Mrs. Reagan who lost interest in the chat.

"Goodbye mother, I hope you will feel better tomorrow." Eliza went to her room satisfied.

****

Somewhere in France where the weather was entirely different from the weather in America, everybody was busy working. The whole place was in ruins. Frightened people were slowly getting out of their destroyed houses. The Sleepy sun rose above gigantic and gloomy mountains. There was a big tent near the destroyed town. It was a hospital with many patients in it. Most of the patients were wounded soldiers. The heat was insupportable. Everybody was sleeping except one nurse. She was hardworking, but nobody liked her because she was very serious looking. She was worried about one patient. He was almost dead when he was brought to hospital and he was still struggling for his life. They did not know his name. They could not inform his family.

"Please get better," she begged in a moment of compassion.

"He is in a very bad state, I donít think he will survive, Flammy." She heard a strong voice behind her.

"Yes doctor," she said.

"Why isnít your voice like before?" Doctor Michael said.

Flammy pretended she didnít hear that question and she asked, "Is there a possibility that he will live?"

"If he has a very strong reason to live, a girlfriend that he loves, then he could find strength to fight for his life."

"You really think that, doctor?"

"Yes, but I donít think that he has a reason to live because if he had he would already show improvement."

"Mrmrmm," the patient mumbled.

"Oh dear God he is not in coma any more," Flammy cried.

"Donít get too agitated, this may not be a sign of recovering.

"Mrmrmm," The patient mumbled again.

"Doctor, your opinion?"

"I must say I really donít know. This is the strangest case I have ever had. From now on you will take care of this patient, Miss Hamilton."

"Yes doctor," Flammy said quietly.

"I am glad. Iíll go and check other patients. It is time for them to get up. If anything extraordinary happens to him or if he gets better please inform me."

"Yes, doctor," Flammy repeated.

Doctor Michael stood up and slowly walked to the door. He looked back as if he wanted to say something, but he changed his mind and went out of the tent.

"I didnít know what was awaiting for me here, but Iím glad I came. I didnít know what agony was till I came here."

"I hope that everybody is fine back home. Mum, dad, my sister, and brother, then at nurse school: Judy, Natalie, Eleanor, and CandyÖ Candy, I think she became a great nurse. But she was always in trouble, and though we never became good friends I admired her because she always had a smile on her face. Iíve learned how a smile can help patients. It is very hard and Iíve finally understood her. The war is ending, and I have to go back home. I want to go home. I miss my family though I know that they arenít faultless and they never will be, but I now know what is it like to be without home, friends, family. But I must not neglect my duties as a nurse because of feelings. I have to wait till this patient recovers, if he ever does."

****

At night, Candy was awakened by heavy rain and creaking of the old windows. After that, she could not fall asleep. Lying in the bed like that she thought of her life. Every time she was happy about something, someone had to ruin everything.

"It all started with Anthony. I truly loved him and his death made me feel like the loneliest person in the world. Oh Anthony I miss your warm smile and your kind nature. When I met Terry in England I thought that Iíve finally met the man of my lifeÖ and I had, but I didnít know what pain cost of love could be, and after all thatÖ Stearís death. That affected me a great deal. What is going to happen with me now? Will I ever walk down the aisle? Am I going to spend my whole life here in Pony home? No, I have to go back to Chicago and be a nurse, because that is what I decided to be. And about the marriageÖ well I only know that I love Terry even when we are separated. Maybe even more than before. A lot of men wanted my love but I think I could not give it to anybody except Terry. Especially not to Neil, he always treated me as someone from a lower class. Eliza and NeilÖthey did so many bad things because of their family name that terrified everybody. I donít know why names are so important. Well, it is better not to think about it. I wonder what Terry is doing now? Well of course he is sleeping."

With that thought she fell asleep and dreamed about Terry.

But Terry was not sleeping.

He was in a bar, drunk. He hoped that nobody he knew would see him. He knew that he would destroy his life in this way, but alcohol was the only thing that would make him forget Susanna. He went home. His little flat was the only place where he was free of Susannaís unwanted company. He sat on his bed talking out loud. I donít love Susanna that is clear. I miss the days at St. Paulís Academy. If I had known what was waiting for me here, I donít think I would have ever come. I canít imagine life without Lady freckles."

He stood up and he went to the window. "Am I going to spend my whole life like this?" he thought, looking out through the open window. There were no clouds anymore and the brilliant stars covered the entire sky. It was magnificent. But Terry did not see anything.

Suddenly a mysterious silhouette went across the street. It was going very fast as if it was running.

A chilly draft sneaked into Terryís room. He quivered and closed the window. Soon after that, Terry heard a loud knock. It continued much louder this time. Terry sensed trouble. He quickly approached the door.

©(2000) Dora

Chapter 2