My name is Candice Watson, and I just turned eighteen years old in May. I am the only child in the family because my mother had passed away before I got to know her, not unlike Cinderella or Snow White. But I consider myself very lucky because my pretty stepmother, Lynn, actually adores me, especially for unknown reason she never has a child of her own. She's a psychologist, and being my father's therapist after my mother's tragic accident, she helplessly fell in love with him.
In other words, Lynn is the one who has raised me and made me the person I am today. She read bedtime stories to me when I was a little girl, took me to schools and shed tears with me when I cried. We love each other, but she insists that I call her by her name, because she once said to my father, "Candy has one mom only."
Therefore, sometimes I can't help but wonder what it would be like if my birth mother had been alive. My father still mentions her to me from time to time, but only when Lynn isn't around. He has said something like "Candy, you have your mother's round emerald eyes" or "Your hair is just as blond and curly as your mother". Whenever he does that, the sound of nostalgia is clear in his voice, and the longing in his tone is unmistakable.
So I believe my father and mother would have lived happily ever after if that drunk driver hadn't taken her life that many years ago. By now you might have guessed that I grew up reading lots of fairy tales as a child. In fact, I did, thanks to Lynn. Although I am known as a tomboyish girl to my friends and relatives, deep inside I had always dreamed of meeting my prince one day until I had my first accident.
I could never forget that day. I was fourteen then. My father had been very tied up in his work as a medical doctor in the emergency department of Vancouver General Hospital, so he almost had to cancel our winter vacation to our favorite ski resort in Whistler, but Lynn had protested on my behalf. "Joe, you have always been too busy to join us in our activities, and we haven't gone to a family vacation for more than a year now."
After some serious consideration, my father had agreed to let us go first, and he would join us a day later by carpooling with his brother and his family, Uncle Sam, Aunt Mary, and their daughter, Annie.
Because I had learned how to ski ever since I was very young, I considered myself a professional by then. Besides, I knew Whistler Blackcomb Mountain so well that I believed I could ski with my eyes closed. However, Lynn felt a bit under the weather after two hours of driving to the resort, so she refused to let me go on my own that afternoon.
I kept begging her with tears and promised that I would faithfully follow the trail map. "Lynn, I'm not a child anymore, so I don't need anyone to accompany me. You see, I'm even taller than you!"
She explained that I had always skied under their closed supervision before, so I should wait till my father came the next day, but I implored, "Trust me, I will only go for about an hour or so and definitely return to join you here for some hot chocolate afterwards."
After some more badgering, she reluctantly gave me her permission but nagged me all the way to the ski lifts. It had been a long time since I had last skied, so I was too excited to be bothered, and I knew she did that because she loved me.
It was a blast, skiing by myself for the first time in my life. Nothing compared to the feeling of skiing down the slopes with the rush of wind against my face, not to mention that it was such a glorious day. With the picturesque snow covered mountain peaks perched in the distance, I couldn't help but appreciate the splendor of it all as I glided effortlessly down the trail of snow and ice.
After one descend, I was overjoyed by my achievement, and I couldn't resist the call of going at least one more time. I navigated through the mountainous terrain, weaving and passing the other skiers while watching the awesome visual landscape.
Going on my third round, I was so thrilled that I decided to challenge myself by going for a harder route. I had always traversed the trails I was most comfortable with, but they had become too easy for me, and I believed my skill level had improved over the years. Although my inner voice urged me to wait for my father tomorrow, I already glided down that trail. I told myself I would only try this route once and definitely go back to join Lynn afterwards.
Then before I knew it, a skier shot past me, altering my course, and I made a wrong judgement. I found myself in a middle of nowhere not long after that, and I was aware that I had gone out of bound. I warned myself not to panic, but I watched in fear as I was heading straight for a tree. I did attempt to make a turn, but it was too late.
Whatever followed was a blur to me. I could tell I was seriously injured after crashing into the tree because I couldn't move even an inch. I was in so much pain that all I could do was moan, and it felt like my body had shattered into many pieces. I was half-conscious by the time a man came to my rescue. He removed his toque and ski mask to check my conditions. I barely noticed that he had shiny blond hair, but for sure I had never seen a pair of crystal blue eyes as remarkable as his.
When I came to, I was lying in a hospital bed after my surgery in Vancouver General Hospital. My parents were there with me. Lynn bawled right away when my eyes opened, and my father quickly left the room to get the doctor for me. When the doctor came, she informed me that they had been anxious that I couldn't make it.
I didn't have a full memory of my horrific accident, but a couple of my ribs were broken, and I got bruises everywhere. Yet the worst thing of all was that I probably wouldn't be able to walk properly again. Not only my left hip was dislocated, but I had also broken my right leg with such force that the bones had pierced through my skin.
I could hardly accept that one false move had cost me this much, and while I was feeling dejected, my doctor relayed to me that I had needed a rapid transfer to the hospital by helicopter, but because I had lost so much blood that blood transfusion was required immediately. Unfortunately, the medical center near the ski area didn't have enough blood in stock. The man who had rescued me was willing to donate his blood to me because his blood type was O, so that was why I had survived.
"What's his name?" I asked as I tried to recall his image. Though I felt so weak and lifeless, my cheeks started to redden when his beautiful orbs resurfaced in my mind.
Then my father replied, "Sweetie, the kind man didn't want to reveal his identity, but had left a message for you before we arrived."
So Lynn passed me a note with the man's neat handwriting,
'To the glamour girl of the slopes,
I have faith that you'll be able to ski again one day. Don't give up!
Tears rushed to my eyes at once. How will I be able to ski when I can't even walk? I asked myself in despair, but I held his note close to my heart, saying to my parents, "I promise I will do my best to learn to walk again."
From that day on, I referred to that mysterious guy as 'My Prince Charming', a man without a name but had saved my life just like any prince in the fairy tales. My number one wish was to meet him again so that I could thank him personally and if possible, I would go to ski with him to prove that I had heeded his words.
Therefore, I was determined to be able to eventually walk without relying on crutches. I went through different rehabilitation procedures available for physical healing, but my progress was dishearteningly slow. Every time I felt discouraged, I would pick up the picture frame with the note from My Prince Charming and reminded myself that I would not disappoint him or my parents.
Almost four years later, as a college student in my first year now, I can walk freely and look perfectly normal to most people. The only thing is that the psychological scars are very deep, and none of my loved ones have ever mentioned of going to the slopes in front of me.
One day, after our midterm exams, I go out shopping with my cousin, Annie, and our best friend, Patricia. December has started, and the malls are well decorated for Christmas.
"It's that time of the year again," says Annie excitedly while we are having our break in a coffee shop. The radio is playing Christmas music, and the shop serves holiday specialty drinks already.
I take a sip of my cup of cappuccino and remark, "Time flies, eh? Is Santa Claus ready yet though?"
Then Patty joins us, saying, "Who cares about Santa Claus? For me I just can't wait to go to the mountains during the Christmas break."
Annie quickly hushes her, gesturing her to shut up. Patty is confounded because she has no idea about my past, so I speak up, "It's ok, Annie. I have recovered now."
While Annie looks concerned, I brace myself and begin describing to Patty my accident years ago, and she just gapes at me like a fish. She doesn't even notice that her eyeglasses have slid down her nose, so I smilingly reach out to push them back up for her.
Neither of them speaks a word when I'm done talking. As a matter of fact, the dreadful memory still haunts me in my sleep sometimes, but it happens much less frequently now, unlike the first year after the accident. I stretch my arms to my back, glancing around the place trying to appear nonchalant.
But right at that instant, I swear that I saw My Prince Charming disappear into a clothing store not very far from us. Although I didn't see his face clearly, my gut feeling tells me that it was him. I have been dreaming of running into him again for years, so in order not to miss this opportunity, without telling Annie or Patty the reason, I instantly leave my spot and dash toward that direction.
Well, I have exaggerated. I can't really dash even if I want to, but I did walk much faster than I normally do. By the time I step into the store, I can't find my prince, but just in case, I decide to wait around a little longer. When Annie and Patty track me down later, they worriedly ask, "What's the matter with you, Candy? What's the rush?"
Then I inform them why. Patty gasps while Annie asks, "So your Prince Charming was here you said?"
I give them a nod, but after a while, I figure that I must have seen an illusion or that he had left the store before I arrived. However, just when I am about to leave, the man I have spotted earlier comes out of the change room, and he starts to line up to buy the items in his hands. Unknowingly, I dig my nails in Annie's arm and speak in a low voice, "There he is, Annie. The tallest fellow with shiny blond hair."
"Candy, it hurts!" Annie complains, trying to loosen my grip, so she didn't quite hear what I said, but Patty did. Patty swiftly cleans her eyeglasses so that she can have a better look. "Where? Which one? The young guy?"
I swallow the nonexistent lump in my throat, having inner debate with myself. Should I approach him and introduce myself?
Then Annie inquires with her brows raised skeptically, "Are you sure, Candy? That guy looks very handsome, like a model for a male fashion magazine."
Annie is right. Like us, he is wearing a simple top with jeans, but he looks like he is modeling without even trying. Even Patty agrees, so I retort in a whisper, "I can't be wrong. I have never forgotten his eyes."
Annie grumbles, regarding me dubiously, "But you have never told me that he is this good looking!"
That is the main reason why I hesitate now. The problem is that I don't know what my prince looks like either. Not to mention that this man's appearance intimidates me a bit. Yet his eyes remind me of what I have imprinted in my mind. While Annie and I are busy arguing and pointing at his direction, Patty takes a sharp breath and gives me a nudge.
"What's up, Patty?" I ask without paying much attention to her. Then she answers, nearly shrieking, "He's coming!"
Then I glance up and unconsciously hold my breath. The man we are talking about is heading towards us, showing us his irresistible smile. I almost faint when he opens his mouth, looking into my eyes, "Congratulations, the glamour girl of the slopes! You can walk now."
I can't believe My Prince Charming turns out to be such a dashing young man, and on top of that, he has recognized me! Inevitably, my face turns warm within seconds. For years I have been preparing myself to thank him; I have even memorized my 'speech' written specifically for him to express my gratitude. However, I am at a loss for words currently, which very seldom occurs to me.
But thank God my cousin Annie is here. She raises a valid question during my excruciating moment of embarrassment. "So you were the one who saved my cousin years ago from her ski accident?"
He nods at us with a meek smile after taking a glance at his watch. "I'm meeting someone for lunch now. Would you like to join me? My treat."
Obviously, it isn't just his charms that make us swoon. It's his gallant behavior which is rare these days. During lunch, we introduce ourselves to one another. He's about five years older than we are and spends most of his time in Boston for study. He comes home for a special family gathering and will go back to continue his MBA program shortly after the New Year.
When he is finished, Annie asks the question that I have wanted to know for years. "You know our names now, so what's your name?"
A small smile adorns his lips before he replies, "Albert Adams."
I have an urge to ask why he refused to leave his contact information after my accident, but at this moment we all hear a woman's voice calling him, "Albert?"
We can't help but turn a curious eye to the source of that voice, and we are in awe of this woman's beauty. Like me, she has luscious blond hair, but instead of tying it all up in a ponytail, she lets her long, ruffled waves cascade down her shoulders. Moreover, she looks so feminine and graceful when compared to us though she dresses just like everyone else.
When Albert notices her, he stands up and leans forward to kiss the corner of her mouth. My heart sinks at that second when I assume that this gorgeous woman is his girlfriend, if not fiancée.
"Let me introduce my sister to you all, young ladies. Her name is Rosemary," he says. After she has shaken hands with all of us, he asks his sister, "Haven't we agreed to meet here an hour ago? Where have you been?" After that, they start murmuring to each other.
I am borderline ashamed of myself when I feel relieved to know that they are only siblings. Soon, Albert excuses himself, "Ladies, I'm sorry that I have to leave with Rosemary now, and I will pay for the lunch. Enjoy your day!"
While Albert is gathering his belongings from his seat, Annie uses her eyes to talk to me, but I can't grasp her hint. After Albert and Rosemary are gone, Annie reproves me, scowling, "Candy, you didn't even thank him! Where's your manner?"
"Right... unbelievable, isn't it?" I reply in a despondent tone. "I have totally forgotten my speech..."
"Besides, you didn't even ask how to contact him! If I were you, I wouldn't have let my prince go just like that!" she adds in a serious tone as if I am not feeling awful enough. We all give a collective sigh after that, and the prevailing mood is of disappointment of my behavior.
Fortunately, we haven't dawdled too much before Albert reappears, chest heaving as though he has run a mile. "Sorry for disturbing again. I have dropped this absentmindedly."
He stoops down and picks up a neat, hand knitted scarf on the floor. "My girlfriend would have killed me if I had lost this."
So he does have a girlfriend! I shouldn't be surprised, and what do I expect? That My Prince Charming will wait for me to show up one day? But my ears hear Annie's voice, "Albert, would you like to join our Christmas party in two weeks? You're welcome to bring your girlfriend with you."
"Thanks for inviting me, but my girlfriend is in Boston," he cordially answers. There's a gleam in his eyes when he's talking about her.
So I guess he doesn't want to come, but Annie gives me her eye signal again, so I hastily follow up, "May I have your phone number, Albert?"
"Of course," he responds as he grabs a pen from his pocket, and I stretch my palm out, saying, "Write it down here if you don't mind."
"Sure." After a second of hesitance, he grips my wrist gently. While writing on my palm, he says, "I'm in a hurry, but this is my mobile number if you want to get hold of me."
"I'll give you a call later," I comment. He then waves at us and leaves while we wave back at him. After that, we do not say anything else until he's out of our earshot. Thereafter, both Patty and Annie cheer for me by giving me a high-five, and I can't stop myself from teasing Annie, "I didn't know you would host a Christmas party, dear cousin."
She sticks her tongue out at me and retorts, "I did that for your sake, my dear Candy! You don't act yourself when he's around... plus, I'm a hopeless romantic, and your prince having a steady girlfriend doesn't mean he's not available!"
Though I roll my eyes at her, I am overjoyed for I have finally obtained his contact number. At the same time, I warn myself not to have any false hope because he seems to care about his girlfriend, a lot.
Uncle Sam owns a construction company that builds luxurious homes in the expensive side of Vancouver. His wife, Mary, is an interior designer. They work together to buy old residential homes just to tear them down. Then they design and construct new houses from scratch. When a new house is complete, they will move in and reside for at most two years. After that, they will sell the house, which is as good as new, and the interested buyer will pay less tax because strictly speaking, the house is no longer brand new.
Therefore, Annie is used to moving from one luxurious house to another all her life. She sometimes jokes that I should visit her often because she may have to move soon. In fact, this is what's happening. Aunt Mary is planning to sell their house next summer, so this will be the last Christmas party they will host at this location.
Albert has reluctantly agreed to join us after knowing that it will be a cozy family party mainly with guests our age. It's also his chance to meet my parents, who truly want to thank him in person.
Annie has invited some other friends from the college, including her charming boyfriend, Archie, and his elder brother, Stear. They are both slightly older than I am, but Archie has been going out with Annie since high school, and just recently Stear has started dating Patty too.
Do I have a boyfriend? Good question. I have been having casual dates with guys, and they like me just because I'm fun to be around and I never give them fuss. They all know my tomboyish character, so none of them treats me like a lady except for one particular classmate from high school, Terry. It was amazing that I had caught his attention because he was quite handsome, so we were infatuated with each other for a while. Yet as soon as I found out that he was also dating a beautiful lady from another class, Susanna, then our relationship reverted back to being friends.
I guess I could have a boyfriend if I wanted to, but I was being unfair to the guys I met in the past, always comparing them to My Prince Charming, even though I had no idea who he was. Now that I have finally known him, he is too good-looking to be real and has a girlfriend, so I often admonish myself that I should forget about him the sooner the better.
Unfortunately, I have failed miserably in that regard. In fact, I have missed him a lot since our last encounter in the mall, even daydreaming about him. At any rate, we will see each other again tonight, and hopefully I'll be back as my babbling self and talk to him without being self-conscious. I have been reminding myself that I just want to know him more and nothing else.
For the time being, Patty and I are assisting Annie and Aunt Mary to prepare for the party. Later, Annie hands me the mistletoe and says, "Candy, please hang it up wherever you see fit."
So I randomly pick a spot on the ceiling, and Patty offers to climb the ladder for me. I quickly thank her for the kindness, and I realize that I have almost forgotten my past injuries. That's a positive sign, and my mood has never been better. Perhaps I should seriously think about learning to ski again, and this idea reminds me of the note from My Prince Charming once more.
Talking about him, I wonder if he will show up in the party. He knows my number too, so he can always call it off the last minute. When more and more guests have arrived, I begin to check my mobile frequently and anxiously.
After an hour or so, Uncle Sam decides to start the party after consulting with me, and my nervousness doesn't escape Terry's eyes. "Hi Candy, what's up with you?"
He comes with Susanna tonight, who's now his girlfriend. I'm actually happy for him because I wouldn't have given him my full heart anyway. Just before I can answer his question, my mobile rings and Albert's name shows up, so I say to Terry, "Please excuse me. This is important."
I hasten to hide in a quiet corner behind the Christmas tree and answer the call, "Albert, where are you? Are you coming or not?"
His voice comes from the other end, "Candy? I can't... come..."
"What? Please speak louder... can't hear you!" I reply, my pulse racing.
I figure he has moved to a different spot because I can hear him now. "A boy and his mother were struck by a car while crossing the street. It was a hit-and-run, and I am the only witness. I just called the police, and my presence is required. I can still come to the party, but I'm not sure when."
So his reason is legitimate. Then I ask him for his location, and he counters, "Why, Candy? You need not worry. I grew up in this area too. Enjoy the party with your friends."
I don't know what comes over me, but at that moment I hear my own voice, "I miss you."
Oh God, what have I said?
I panic, but I can't believe he hangs up right after that without giving me his whereabouts, and wondering why he did that, I feel mortified beyond description. He must consider me weird or a person to be avoided, especially he has already informed me that he is in a relationship.
Meanwhile, most people in the house are having a great time, but I am hiding in this corner with tears in my eyes, thinking I have ruined my chance of being a friend to Albert. Just then, my mobile rings, and Albert's voice comes again, "I'm terribly sorry, Candy. The police car had arrived and I had to hang up. What did you say again?"
He didn't hear me, did he? I wipe my tears and ask him again where he is, and this time he tells me. It's not far from Annie's home at all, so I urge him, "Please stay put. I'm on my way."
Without waiting for his response, I turn off my mobile. Then I apprise Lynn before I take off, and she speaks to me encouragingly, "Go ahead, Candy. Do what your heart tells you."
By the time I reach Albert, he is all alone by himself, leaning against his car waiting. When he sees me, he paces toward me until he's standing right before me. With his lips curved up into a smile, he says, "The boy and his mom were taken away by an ambulance, and even the policemen are gone now. I tried to call you a couple times, but I guess you have turned off your mobile, right?"
I throw him a sheepish glance. Then he chuckles to himself. "Why? I don't think I could have changed your mind anyway." He finishes that with a wink.
I have an excuse ready for this. "But you're my guest, and I am responsible to make sure you're fine. Anyway, were they seriously injured?"
I find that he's indeed very tall. My height is about average, but I'm only up to his chin. Then he answers, "I believe the mother is in critical conditions after protecting her little boy."
He heaves a deep sigh. Then again, something takes over me, and I find myself telling Albert the story of how my birth mother got crushed by a drunk driver after pushing my father and the stroller away.
"So you were on the stroller I figure?"
"We went for a walk after dinner..." I murmur, holding back my tears.
"How old were you?" he asks, gazing at me with tenderness.
"According to Lynn, the accident happened weeks before my second birthday."
When I lower my head and sigh, Albert wraps his arm around my shoulder in a friendly manner and give me a squeeze without a word. I will give anything at this moment such that I can rest my head on his broad shoulder and loop my arms around him, but my conscience nags at me. Regardless of what Annie thinks, Albert is not available.
Oblivious to my inner thoughts, he suggests, "Let's go now before your friends begin to wonder where you have gone, Candy."
So we hop on to our cars, and his car follows mine. When we ring the doorbell, the people gather around us. Embarrassingly, I state, "My friends, we have enough attention and please continue to enjoy the party."
But when Albert helps me to hang my coat on the rack, Archie utters a bantering remark loud enough for everyone to hear, "What should people do when they stand under the mistletoe?"
As if prompted, both Albert and I swiftly look up, and voila! The mistletoe is up on the ceiling right above our heads. I remember I have placed it somewhere else earlier, so I quickly scan the place and look for Annie. There she is, hiding behind Archie's back.
Now I understand why they are all here by the door. They want to watch us get tricked, so I protest aloud, scowling at them, "Albert, it is their prank, so we won't let them win. Let's just forget about it."
He agrees with me by nodding slightly, but Stear banters, "Come on, you two. Tradition is tradition right? We will let you both go after that. A smooch is good enough."
Then Terry joins in, "Relax, Candy. It's not like you have never been kissed."
They burst out laughing at his remark, and warm blood rushes to my face as a result. My friends know that Terry and I used to hang out for some time, so it is natural that we have kissed before. In fact, he had my first kiss, and we had kissed more than once before we broke up. At this moment, I look out of the corner of my eye at my parents and see that they are shaking their heads, but smiling nonetheless.
Archie finally steps up to stop the commotion and exclaims, "Listen up. Do we all agree that they should kiss for friendship and goodwill?"
While they have unanimous consent, Albert speaks up, "Hi, let me introduce myself first, my name is Albert."
My friends who have betrayed me respond almost simultaneously, "Hi Albert."
Then Albert turns to regard me with a gentle smile, saying in a casual tone, "Candy, I promise I won't bite. Let's get this done and over with."
Everybody cheers for him, and Albert raises his hands to calm them down. When he turns his focus back to me, I concede at last and tiptoe to whisper to him, my ears and neck burning, "Don't let your girlfriend know."
Albert grins and nods, and I close my eyes, waiting for him. I don't hear a sound except the beating in my chest plus the Christmas music in the background. I will definitely deal with Annie and Archie later, but right now I decide to relish the moment with my prince, even though I'd much rather do this in private. As Terry mentioned earlier, this isn't my first kiss, but why, oh why, do I have that ridiculous feeling with butterflies in my stomach?
The reason is obvious. My Prince Charming is about to kiss me for the first time, and it's likely the last time too, which makes the whole situation all the more poignant. When he places his fingers under my chin, lifting my face, my heart skips a beat. As he connects his mouth with mine, giving me a sweet kiss, his lips are so warm and soft. I feel like my body is melting, and I can't breathe. It is like the whole world has stopped turning, and there are just the two of us. I don't care what the others think anymore, and I only wish this moment would last forever.
But as expected, the kiss lasts just a few seconds before Albert pulls away, but the sensation lingers. I open my eyes to see that my friends are giving Albert their warm welcome. Now that the show is over, the crowd is dispersed, but I have never felt so miserable in my life. As much as I want to deny my emotions, I must admit that I have fallen in love with my prince, whose heart belongs to another princess.
For the rest of the night, my body is present, but my mind is not. I see that Albert has no trouble mingling with others, even manages to make them laugh occasionally. Yet my spirits are down, knowing that my feelings for him will not be reciprocated. After several attempts of entertaining myself with my friends but to no avail, I decide to go to the balcony alone to get some fresh air. For all I care, I want to savor the memory of the kiss with My Prince Charming.
Before long, I hear someone open the balcony door behind me, and when I whirl around, my prince is there. He simply states, "I was looking for you."
"What for?" I ask him, putting up a fake smile.
"Because Rosemary wants me to go home asap," he replies, standing next to me now but staring into a distance. A brief while later, he remarks, "It's a nice view from here, isn't it?"
"Yes," I whisper, striving not to appear sullen.
Then he gives me a fleeting glance before he suggests, "Keep in touch?"
I respond at once with a genuine smile, "Certainly."
So we exchange our email addresses, and then he says, "Mr. and Mrs. Watson have just given me a huge Christmas present."
"Have you opened it? I bought that for you!"
He shakes his head and asks, "What is it?"
Then I remember I still have the rest of his presents in the trunk, so I inquire, "Are you leaving now? If so, I still have something for you in my car."
After bidding goodbye to the other guests in the house, Albert and I exit together. I show him the other presents I have bought for him-a whole set of ski equipment and accessories, including ski suit, a pair of poles and boots, and what not.
He looks reluctant, giving me an incredulous look. "This is too much, Candy. You know you shouldn't."
"Please accept our heartfelt appreciation."
He is still shaking his head politely, but as I put something into his coat pocket I utter, "I hope I have got the right sizes for you, if not, here are the receipts for you to exchange within two weeks. No refunds you know."
It is so chilly now that I can see his breath when he exhales, a sigh escaping his lips. Then I muster my courage to place a chaste kiss on his cheek, saying, "This is to thank you for saving my life, Albert. Merry Christmas to you and have a happy new year!"
At last, he returns a smile, and under the dim light condition, he looks incredibly handsome. Then he remarks, "Who knows? One day we might go skiing together."
Exerting every effort not to ask whether he will also bring his girlfriend along, I simply answer, "Good idea. I'm thinking of taking lessons."
"Excellent!" He grins, and there is joy in his eyes when he gives me two thumbs up. Then I offer to help him transfer his gifts from my car to his. When we are done, he plants a quick peck on my forehead and says, "Merry Christmas to you too, the glamour girl of the slopes."
Then, with a radiant smile playing on his lips, he waves goodbye to me while heading to the driver seat of his car.
I haven't seen My Prince Charming since then although I miss him very much. I have talked to Lynn; she understands my feelings and sympathizes with me wholeheartedly. She lets me cry it all out, and after that, she suggests that I should avoid contacting him again. She reckons that I'm bound to get hurt otherwise. It will only keep my hopes up.
Yet one Sunday after the new year starts, when I am in my bedroom checking my emails on my laptop, I notice Albert's name in my email inbox. What a pleasant surprise! I am so excited that I forget that I should probably delete his email. Instead, I can't wait to click on it. His message is very short though.
'Happy New Year, Candy! I should have written to you sooner, but I've been quite busy with study. How are you? Have you taken ski lessons yet?
Apparently he cares about me as a friend. Perhaps I should bury my feelings for him and start treating him as a friend too. He even includes the link to his social network account, so I make up my mind that my new year resolution is to learn to regard him as my friend. Thus, I send him a friend request and minutes later, he accepts me.
I can't stop myself from browsing every one of his photo albums, and my stomach churns when I see that he appears very much in love with his beautiful girlfriend. I even check her name. Chantal. What a special name.
I end up sprawling on my bed before long, shedding tears and sulking for who knows how long. After that, I actually feel a lot better. In fact, I have woken up from my prolonged fantasy. I believe I can now honestly declare Albert Adams as one of my guy friends.
Therefore, I write him the following message,
'Hi Albert, your girlfriend looks very beautiful, and you both look great together! Are you planning to propose soon?
I hit the 'send' button at once, and I feel as though a burden is lifted off my shoulder. Ever since that day, we begin communicating with each other online through messaging, chatting, and even video calling sometimes. But his schedule is very tight, so I don't expect immediate response from him. Even Annie and Lynn know that they will not associate his name with any special meaning again. They are aware that I'm over him now, or so I thought.
Few months later, my family and Annie's family go to Mexico together for a brief vacation during Spring Break. While my father, Lynn, Annie and her parents are all having fun snorkeling in the blue waters, I sit upon the sands alone, watching them.
"Hey there," a familiar voice says as a hand lands on my shoulder, I jump and shriek because all people I know are in the water. I twist around and see Albert right behind me. He chuckles, squatting down, "Did I scare you?"
"Why are you here?" I yelp in utter disbelief. Am I dreaming? "In Mexico too!"
"Can't I enjoy myself once in a while too?" Having said that, he points his finger toward the dress-up crowd behind us. Only then I realize that Albert is wearing a light grey tuxedo. He has my pity. How can he endure this hot weather wearing that?
"A wedding party, Albert?" I ask as I pull myself up, dusting the sand off my clothes. He also hoists himself up.
Then he explains his sister Rosemary and her fiancé have booked this resort for their wedding ceremony. They have just exchanged their vows in front of friends and relatives, and they are taking pictures now. Even from a distance, the bride looks radiantly beautiful.
Albert says, "I can recognize you from afar."
I feel more flattered than I can admit. I love how his eye color matches the sky. "Is that right? Am I this conspicuous?"
He nods. "It's your hair. It practically glows in the scorching sun, and I have a feeling that lady sitting in solitude is you."
His words only make my face flush and my mind race. I can't believe he still has this effect on me, but I smile at him and distract myself by showing him the people in the water, "My family and my uncle's family are waving at us."
As we wave back at them, Albert asks me, his eyes expectant, "Do you want to meet my family too?"
I swiftly shake my head and turn him down, "No... I'm not dressed for the occasion, and I don't feel like it. Sorry."
He casts me a glance, an understanding smile crossing his face. At this moment, his relatives are beckoning him to join them, so he says, "That's fine. Keep in touch then, Candy."
After he's gone, Annie appears and questions with a quizzical expression, "Was that really Albert?"
I affirm, and she exclaims, "Oh gosh! He looked impeccable in his suit! It's just too bad that you-"
Then she instantly covers her mouth with her hand, her face contorting into a rueful smile. I feel even worse now that I have to be the one to comfort her, "It's alright, Annie. Don't mention it again."
I turn around with the intention to head back to my room, and on my way there, I spot Chantal in the crowd. Albert has his arm around her slender figure. She's simply breathtaking, and her long wavy brown hair is tied up in a lovely and elegant style. I must admit this couple looks wonderful together, almost like movie stars. I believe it's only a matter of months that I will receive the news about their engagement announcement.