Second Thoughts

By Patty Morales

Setting: Candy sees Terry acting at the ambulant theatre, and everything goes as in the manga... with a difference: Terry is sure that he has actually seen her, and so after the play ends, he rushes out to search for her.

*******

Terry got out of the ruinous theatre. She couldnít be very far; the play had just finished. He was still shocked, but certain that he had seen her, there at the back of the crowd, glaring at him. Iím not that drunk as to start hallucinating... not her at least, he told himself, with an inner grimace.

It was cold outside, and Terry was still wearing his stage clothes, but in his state he didnít mind. He had felt a strong adrenaline rush the moment he had realised Candy was in the theatre, and that had made him react at last, get over his sorry state and resume his acting with a new found optimism, but after that he forgot about everything but her. Her golden hair, like an aura, framing her sorrowful face, her beautiful eyes sparkling with... had it been tears? No wonder she was crying, Terry thought reproachfully, while he looked around, frantically searching for a trace of her. It must have been quite a sight... the great Terrence Granchester, reduced to the state of a pitiful drunk, forgetting his lines, acting in that third-rate pit... I donít blame her for getting out of there as fast as she could. But Iíve got to see her; Iíve got to talk to her. This time I wonít let her go without speaking.

Terry saw the curious looks in the faces of a couple of passers-by. He was accustomed to being recognised, but he knew that this time it was not his fame, but his unkempt looks and his cheap period costume that made him stick out like a sore thumb. He ignored them and kept running, looking for Candy.

*******

Candy was making her way slowly away from the theatre, her vision blurry with tears, her heart feeling heavy as lead, her breathing laboured and painful. Terry, she thought, what have you done with your life? Why are you doing this to yourself... and to - her? Candy swallowed hard. Even after all this time trying to forget the love she felt for Terrence, and to convince herself that he was better off with Susannah, she couldnít bring herself to pronounce her name. It went against her unselfish and generous nature, and therefore she fought it bravely... but she couldnít help feeling a stab of jealousy every time she thought of the two of them together.

All that pain we went through... what for? You promised me you would try to be happy, and to make her happy too. It broke my heart but I had to leave you there and then because there was no other way... no other honourable way... oh, Terry, why did I have to see you in such a state? She stifled a sob that seemed to come from the deepest recesses in her heart. At least you eventually seemed to regain your composure... thatís the way I want to remember you: tall, proud, delivering your lines with confidence... you looked so handsome... oh, I would have given everything for having you hold me once more, for being able to tell you how much I love you... itís no use denying it, I still love you... but it canít be... you belong to her... I must take this love and bury it deep inside me, she told herself sternly, ignoring the pain in her chest.

Candyís train of thoughts was interrupted when she heard hasty footsteps behind her. The street she had chosen randomly in her distress was nearly empty, and she realised that she had lost her way. Suddenly she felt afraid, and a chill ran down her spine.

And then she heard his voice behind her.

"So itís really you... I was afraid I had imagined it."

Candy stood frozen, not daring to turn around and confront the owner of that voice she knew so well. She forced her eyes shut, tears escaping through her eyelashes. He saw me! She started trembling, either with cold or some unknown fear, she didnít know. She had hoped he wouldnít recognise her, but he had. And then something strange stirred inside her. Please, oh please, continue talking, she fervently thought.

"Why were you running away from me?" Terry said, bitterness audible in his voice. "Candy, wonít you even look at me? Oh, donít answer that... I can imagine. I guess I look pretty pathetic, donít I? Surely you werenít expecting this."

Candy wished the ground beneath her feet would open and swallow her up. Didnít he understand? She willed herself to move, and at last stood facing him, but still unable to look him in the eye. Her blood pounded in her ears, so loud that she was sure that Terry could hear it.

"It is not so... it is not so, Terry," she said at last, surprised that she had uttered her name. It had been so painful, these days Ė she didnít dare saying it aloud Ė but now... he was there, speaking to her, standing solid and large as life in front of her, and she suddenly felt as if a knot inside her heart were slowly being undone. Her knees felt weak, and she felt strangely warm. I must be blushing, she thought. Oh well.

Terry was trying to look in Candyís eyes, that she kept stubbornly averted; his brow was furrowed, his face a mask of anxiety, and his fists were clenched. He had set out to look for her, desperate in the knowledge that he couldnít bear losing her again. But the alcohol and the sudden turn of his performance that had fuelled him had lost all their power once he found her, and now that she stood less than two metres away, shivering, looking down, so real! he thought, he was left without any strength, and he felt like a balloon that has lost buoyancy. But he knew one thing: he had to keep her there, real, alive, for as long as he could. He needed to go on speaking to her, lest she turned and ran away once more.

"Candy," he said very softly, his lips caressing the syllables, "I need to talk to you... please donít leave right now," he said lifting both hands, for at the sound of her name Candy had startled, like a small bird, and Terry was suddenly flooded with an overpowering desire to embrace and comfort her, so strong it hurt.

Candy felt torn in two. A part of her was crying for her to keep the promise she had made the fateful day Terry and her had parted; she had to be strong, and avoid looking him in the eyes, those eyes she knew perfectly well were profound and sea-coloured, or she knew she would break down. She had been strong enough to choose that painful course of action; she wasnít sure whether she would be that strong now, confronted with the same dilemma over again. But at the same time all the strings in her heart were tugged by the sound of his voice, and his physical presence, and a deep, strange yearning, slow at first but unstoppable as an avalanche stirred within her chest, threatening to drown every bit of self-will in her. He said my name... he said my name. Candy could feel her defences melting like snow in the sunshine, making the inner voice of her conscience shut down...

"I wonít," said she in a low voice. I couldnít even if I wanted to, she whispered to herself.

"Good," said he, relieved. "That place..." Terry nodded towards the theatre. "... I donít imagine you would want to go back in there for a minute, and wait while I put on some more adequate clothes, would you? Iím freezing", he remarked with a remnant of his trademark humour.

Candy found herself smiling, despite her nervousness. How could she ever resist him? How did he manage to charm her, every time?

"All right," she agreed, and then making an effort: "But make it fast... I donít like that place."

"Me neither," said he with a smile, and for a second he was the old Terry again.

*******

So they returned to the ambulant theatre, walking side by side but carefully keeping their distance. Candy believed that she had died and gone to heaven, for here she was, walking with Terry, and despite all that had happened between them there was still a remnant of their old familiarity. Neither of them noticed but they had fallen into the same walking rhythm Ė their bodies felt a lot more comfortable together than they would acknowledge consciously. In her confusion, Candy could still imagine that she heard a small voice within her telling her she shouldnít be doing this, she should turn around and leave, for their own sake, for honourís sake; but she was too overwhelmed by her feelings to pay attention to her conscience, and just let herself go, simply enjoying Terryís proximity.

They didnít speak to each other, but neither felt that it was necessary Ė not yet at any rate. Then they reached the theatreís back door, and Terry lifted a grimy curtain.

"Iíll be back in a second. I hope you wonít get too cold; I would invite you in but itís not very clean."

Candy shook her head. "Donít worry, Iíll wait for you outside. I wonít freeze to death."

Terry disappeared behind the curtain, and Candy let escape a heartfelt sigh, that formed a little cloud in the cold air. It was all happening so quickly, and her emotions were taking over. Where was her willpower? Why had she forgotten so suddenly about her stern determination to stay away from Terry, to leave him to his life? What had changed? Then she remembered Terryís voice, and her own reaction, the tidal wave of feelings that invaded her when she realised that he had found her. She still loved him, however hard she tried to help it. Maybe she wasnít as strong as she liked to think, she mumbled to herself.

And what will happen now? I have broken my promise... or have I? I went away from the theatre, thinking Terry hadnít seen me... it was him who came after me. Candy opened her eyes wide. He came after me! What he didnít do in the hospital, after that last embrace, heís done now... He chose to stay by her then, and let me go... oh, and how cruelly it hurt! But now... he ran after me, he was anxious to speak to me... Could it be? Can he still feel something for me? Candy clenched her little fists inside her woollen mittens. Well, here I am, and we are going to speak. I will make sure everything that wasnít said before, is said now.

*******

A few minutes later Candy and Terry were sitting at a table in a small, nearly deserted cafť. Terry had ordered tea and some biscuits and paid for them with a few coins, and Candy discovered she was ravenous; she crammed two or three biscuits in her mouth, drank a little tea, and felt immediately better. Terry was holding the cup in both hands, looking at the street through the net curtains of the cafť. He was now wearing a dark grey suit, with a woollen sweater underneath. He looked unusually untidy, his suit badly needed brushing and the elbows in his jacket appeared shabby and nearly worn out. His hair also looked a bit dishevelled; it had been tied into a ponytail, and Candy now realised he hadnít combed after loosening it. Naturally neat, and with an awareness of pulchritude further ingrained by her training as a nurse, Candy knew that appearances can tell much about a person, and what Terryís dejected look was telling her now was that he was deeply troubled. Even at St. Paulís Academy, where he had tried to rebel against Sister Grayís rigid discipline by wearing his tie loose and other teenage traits, Terry had always had an air of innate elegance about him, not only in his clothes, but in the way he carried himself. Now his shoulders were slumped, and he looked tired, defeated, or simply as if he didnít care anymore about what his external appearance might reveal of his inner turmoil.

Candy sipped her tea in silence. She knew that the past months hadnít been easy for her, but after their decision to separate, she had told herself that Terry was rebuilding his life alongside Susannah and was therefore striving for happiness. It came as a shock to discover that Terry had had a rough time too. And what was he doing, acting in that cheap little theatre, after his blazing row of success in Broadway? She decided to broach this subject.

"Terry," she said softly, but despite that she saw him startle, as if he had been half-asleep or too deeply lost in some reverie. He looked intently at her, his greenish-blue eyes fixed on hers. Candy felt herself blushing again. " I was wondering... what were you doing in that theatre? I was shocked to see your name and thought it was a publicity stunt, I never expected to see you in..."

"In such a dump, you mean?" Terry gave a lopsided grin. "I wonder, too. I guess I wasnít in a state to be very aware of my surroundings."

Candy knew what he meant; despite his change of clothes, she could notice that he had been drinking and smoking, so evidently alcohol was the cause of his obliviousness... but what had made him drink in the first place?

Terry sighed, and looked outside the window again. "It wasnít easy for me, after we split up." Candy swallowed; he had gone for the direct approach. "I kept telling myself that I had to keep my promise to you; and that if you had been strong enough to walk out of that room, and of my life, I had to be at least as strong, to let you go and continue with that life you were putting in my hands... But it was very hard, and after the first days, when I was feeling simply numb with shock, it got really painful. I knew it had been my choice, and that it was the only honourable option, but that didnít make it any easier. I spent days floating in a kind of limbo, and if it hadnít been for the theatre, I would have simply locked myself in my apartment and let the time pass. But Robert insisted, everyone did, and the play had been so successful... I found out that I could deliver my lines and act almost automatically, so deeply etched was the text in my brain after such long rehearsals. So I acted. In the most literal sense of the word," he said ironically. "I was playing a role, onstage and off it; you could say I was hiding behind the actor."

Candy listened and observed him closely; she had seen him very few times so open, so direct, almost harsh, so much so she was a little shocked. She wondered whether it was the alcohol still in his veins that made him this frank. He doesnít care, she thought, heís so bitter... heís telling the truth without any adornments... and what truth! Did you really suffer that much? Oh, if I had known!

*******

Terry rubbed his eyes. The memories seemed to hurt him physically... or maybe the alcohol he had drunk was beginning to have its aftereffect and he was having a hangover headache, the nurse in Candy thought. She kept looking at him in silence, not knowing what to do or say, still too baffled by his spontaneous confession. He went on speaking.

"When the numbness went away, it got so bad that I started drinking in order to be able to cope with my situation. It soon turned into a cycle. I drank to feel better, then the next morning I would feel awful and so I would drink again to forget... So now you know. I am a pathetic drunk." Terry grimaced and finished his tea, and looked straight at Candy, who looked deep in thought.

"Terry," she said, "but what about..." She had to force herself to say it. "...Susannah?"

He didnít flinch, she observed. But a dark shadow seemed to cloud his eyes for a moment.

"She is still in New York. I think she is making a fast recovery."

"You think?"

"I havenít seen her in a while, Candy. What do you think I am hiding from, in that wretched scrapheap of a theatre? I ran away from New York, I couldnít bear to be by her side, her continual whining and whimpering, and even worse, her brightening up whenever her mother brought up the issue of the engagement..." Candy lowered her head and looked at the contents of her teacup, not trusting her expression not to give her feelings away. "Susannahís mother would be by her side at the hospital at all times, I couldnít see her on her own... and I donít know whether it was for the better. I donít know... it was dreadful, to see her so dependent, so utterly clinging to me! I felt sick. I couldnít keep that farce up. So I told her I had to leave in a journey, be away for some time. I was very vague, but she was so eager to understand, to please, that she accepted it, as she had accepted everything else. I didnít realise at the time, but now I see... what a lovely matching couple we did... she the whingeing invalid, I the dishonest liar..."

"I am so deeply ashamed of myself! All my promises, all my dreams... all lost! And all my fault! What a failure! Oh Candy, why am I telling you all this?", he said, shaking his head, with a sad smile on his lips. "My dear Freckles, you donít deserve to be burdened with all this... you left me to be happy and now, here I am, telling you my woes."

Candyís eyes were flooded with tears. "Terry, you are right, I donít want to see you unhappy... I canít bear to see you like this", because I love you too much, she thought, "but you are wrong too... I want you to be happy, not to be oblivious to your pain. It was such a shock to see you... because I thought you were rebuilding your life, fighting for it, and that kept me going. It was the only thing that helped me: to think that you were happy. How can I live with the knowledge that you are so miserable? I donít want to ignore your situation; I want to be certain, positive, that you are doing well."

"Always thinking of others first... you havenít changed a bit", he said with a little smile.

"No Terry, I am being selfish here. I need you to be strong. I canít go on if you are not," she said, deadly serious. A tear rolled down her cheek. Terry straightened himself, looking at her earnestly.

"Candy..."

"No, listen to me. You have told me your feelings; very well, now Iíll tell you mine. Donít you realise what you are doing? Youíre not only breaking your promises to yourself; you are deceiving me, and Susannah too. And you want me to remain ignorant! How dare you! How dare you do this!" She was crying now in frustration, her cheeks flushed, and Terry thought he had never seen her so poignantly beautiful. "We suffered so much... I know I did, and you tell me you did too... and now you are making it worse! I could forgive you for everything else youíve done: for leaving me behind in England, for not telling me about Susannahís accident... but I wonít forgive you for this!"

Terry looked at her in awe. What kind of material are you made of, Candy? he thought. "What do you want me to do then? Are you asking me to go back?"

Candy sustained his stare. "I am asking you to pull yourself together."

Terry shook his head. "Candy, I canít. Donít you think Iíve tried? But I canít go back... that path is closed for me. I donít love Susannah. I canít marry her; and nothing you say can make me change my mind on that."

"What do you mean? You are engaged to her! You promised to marry her... because... because... she risked her life for you! You are bound to her!"

"That doesnít mean I love her," Terry answered, slow and deliberately, "and I donít. I love you, Candy. I always have. And I may be a miserable liar and a drunkard, but that I know, I couldnít marry another woman because I only love you, always have, and always will."

Candy was breathless. Her heart was threatening to break her ribcage any moment, and she could feel her whole body trembling. What? What?

"Terry," she managed to say, "donít say that."

"I love you, Freckles. Didnít you know that?" He said with a familiar glint in his eye. Candy couldnít believe her ears. He loves me! Oh glory! He loves me!, a part of her was shouting, and she felt flooded with unearthly joy, but at the same time she couldnít shrug off a dark little voice that whispered in her ear, No! Itís your duty! Tell him! She confronted his glance. Terry was smiling, his impossibly beautiful eyes shining, his face glowing. His whole body was shouting: I love you. And she knew that every fibre in her own body wanted to shout back I love you, too.

"Terry," she said at last, nearly choking, "whatever you feel... you have to realise... you have a duty..." but she couldnít finish what she was struggling to say.

"Oh shut up," he said, standing up then stooping by her. He lifted her up by the arms and embraced her, her strong arm surrounding her slender waist, then with one hand he softly cupped her nape and looked her straight in the eyes, his face a couple of centimetres away from her face, and after what seemed to Candy like an eternity he lowered his face and kissed her.

She nearly fainted in his arms. He loves me... he is here with me, and he loves me... was all she could think. All else was lost in a shimmering blur, her heart overjoyed, her senses buzzing. Terryís lips on hers, his arms encircling her, his warm body pressing against her, and she trembling, hardly believing what was happening...

Terry drew back. "Donít slap me again!" he said. Candy opened her eyes reluctantly, still half convinced that the whole scene would dissolve like a dream if she did. But there was Terry, still holding her. And he was smiling openly, and his eyes were hovering so close near hers, that she saw her own face reflected in the dark mirror of his irises. And she could still taste his kiss on her lips. She felt dizzy. Then realisation hit her hard.

"Terry, oh Terry, what have you done? Why? And what are you going to do now?" Candy said in distress.

Terry looked at her frowning. He slowly let go of her, and sat down on the table by her side. Candy slumped back in her chair. He paused to collect his thoughts, then spoke firmly, but warmly: "Candy, I was serious when I said I wonít marry Susannah. I canít commit myself to marriage in those conditions. I made a grave mistake accepting her and her motherís blackmail; not the first, and not the last, of many mistakes. Of course I am grateful to her; if it wasnít for her it would have me who would be an invalid now, or even worse, who knows. But there is a limit to gratitude. I cannot pay her back by marrying her; she knows I donít love her, and it would eventually only add to her sorrows. I have to tell her this. It will be difficult, but there is no other way. I can see that now."

"Oh Terry," Candy nearly sobbed, "I never wanted this... to tear you from Susannah."

"Youíre not tearing me apart from her, Candy. I never felt united to her. Obliged by a sense of honour I never before suspected I had; bound by shame and pity; yes. But I have never loved her... like I love you."

"But she needs you! It will break her heart!" she feebly insisted.

Terry sighed.

"Saying goodbye to you broke my heart, Candy; I canít live without you, and I know because I tried, and failed. Once I needed you to tell me what I had to do; I was too confused, too ashamed, to take a decision. But now I know for sure what I want to do, and nothing, not even you this time, will stop me from doing it", he said with a fierce intensity that shone through each one of his words, piercing Candyís heart like bittersweet arrows. She suddenly realised that tears were still streaming down her cheeks.

"I have lost you too many times. I wonít lose you again, Candy."

She was speechless. She had dreamed with such a reencounter; she had lived harbouring a secret wish, to be held by him like this, one more time, and every time she had rebuked herself and fought her impulse, until she thought she had forgotten it, but it kept burning like a brand, deep and hot in a hidden vault. And now they were together again, and he loved her, and would not leave like in her reveries, a bitter awakening into reality every time. This was so much more than she had ever dared to dream.

But could I live with this?, she asked herself. Can I accept Terryís love, knowing how it will hurt Susannah? We had once this choice, and I gave him up, for I knew how much she needed him, how dreadful her life would be without him... I had to make that sacrifice! But then that other voice within her said: And what about you? What has your existence been after that night, if not a horrible void? You can lie to others... can you lie to yourself? Can you deny how much you love him? How much you have suffered? Candy shuddered remembering that terrible night, and the days afterwards. And Terry... I thought he was better off that way... I took that decision for him... but it ended up making him unhappy...

Candy felt stricken by shock. I made him unhappy! It was me who made him stay by Susannahís side! I didnít realise at the time, but I was throwing them together to live in endless recrimination and guilt... Oh my God, what have I done?

Candyís sense of fairness rebelled against hurting other people, but now she realised that with what she had believed a selfless decision, the lesser of two evils in fact, she had made two people deeply miserable Ė Terry and herself Ė, and condemned a third one to live a lie. It was hard to accept, but true. And now fate had given her the chance to correct her judgment, to choose again Ė only this time it seemed that it was Terry who had chosen for her, and she only had to give her consent...

And despite her initial reluctance, it was no use denying the joy in her heart, the immense bliss that inundated her, and how pure and good it felt. She realised that her doubts were but fetters to her heartís wings, that she was denying herself what was well within her grasp, and that it was as monstruous a crime to renounce love as to egoistically and regardlessly pursue it. She could will herself to clench her teeth and fight against adversity, as she had done so many times; but to fight her own, and Terryís, happiness, was nothing short of a sin.

Candy lifted her face, still wet with tears, but with a radiant smile that shone in her eyes as well as in her lips. She felt an urge to laugh, to dispel with her own hands the dark, heavy threads that had hung within her heart and mind for the past months, to break free of all bonds and run towards her love...

So she got up and threw her arms around the young man, who was still sitting on the table, astonished. Candy embraced Terry tightly, burying her face in his neck, in a silent but eloquent gesture. He could hardly believe it, but there she was, in his arms, this time by her own accord. Terry felt an old knot of anguish in his chest dissolve, and let himself be washed away by pure joy, not noticing the tears that gathered in his eyes.

"Stay with me, Terry. Donít ever go," she whispered in his ear.

He hugged her fiercely, defying the world to tear them apart.

*******

A young couple was walking down the street towards a little park, ignoring the cold wind and the snowflakes it carried. They walked slowly, holding hands, not speaking, but any discerning observer could feel the intensity of feeling between them. The girlís cheeks were flushed, her beautiful eyes still reddened; she had shed tears recently, but it only made the emerald green of her irises shine more vividly. The young man walking by her side looked at her, with a mixture of emotions in his pale, handsome face: elation, the joy of loving and knowing oneself loved, and perhaps a certain degree of surprise as he regarded the delicate figure he held by the hand, as if still in disbelief. He smiled and tenderly put his arm around the girlís shoulders, making her face glow with pure bliss.

The girl sighed, a little sound of perfect happiness. Then she seemed to have an idea, and a mischievous grin slowly spread across her face, making the freckles on her nose and cheeks stand out. She let go of the manís embrace, and laughing merrily started running toward the trees, her golden curls tumbling after her, a vision of youth and exhilaration.

He caught up with her in the park. Then under a blossoming almond tree he grabbed her by the waist, and pulled her back to him. She felt an exquisite pain mingled with delirious happiness. They had embraced like that before, that black night at the hospital, when she hadnít dared looking him in the eye for fear of not being able what duty and honour, and her love for that troubled and confused man, told her to do. But now she turned around, looked in his adoring eyes, took his face in her little hands, and very softly she said:

"I love you, Terry. I love you more than my life."

Then they kissed again, under the white and pale pink flowers, and it was as if time hadnít passed, and all dark memories, all past sufferings, were erased from their minds and hearts. They were young, they were in love, and for a little while nothing else mattered. The world was just a tiny bubble of space that contained just the two of them.

*******

And so... Terry went back to New York and broke his engagement with Susannah; then he returned by Candyís side, founded a small theatre company, and a year after the events described in this little tale they got married and lived happily ever after.

And scores of Candyfans breathed a deep sigh and recovered from their childhood traumas. ^_^

The End

© (2000) Patty Morales