There was something about sunset on the Bay that calmed him; the soothing sound of the water lapping against the shore, combined with the brilliant display of reds and oranges that lit up the water, and the surrounding sky. In the distance, the Bay opened up to the Pacific Ocean.
He often wondered if he would ever have the opportunity to explore life beyond these waters; he wondered if there was someone like him, on the other side of the world, watching the ocean tides and contemplating the same thoughts.
He sighed. Perhaps he would never leave this city; perhaps his fate was to live and die here. Perhaps he would never see the other side of the Pacific.
He smiled slightly.
Something told him he was wrong; something told him that there were larger things waiting for him.
Nora was sleeping peacefully when he entered the flat. He shrugged out of his jacket, and checked Nora's temperature with the back of his hand, before walking across the room to the thin mattress that had been shoved into the far corner of the room.
He sat down, and pulled off his boots slowly.
As it often did in the silence of the late night, his mind drifted to the woman he'd met at the pier…Monica. She was stunning—vivacious and intelligent. Like know one he'd ever known.
She's out of your league, a warning voice interrupted his thoughts, she's above you.
He sighed, and lay down on the mattress, his thoughts drifting to bright azure eyes and soft ebony hair…
He knew he might never see her again. He knew he could only have her in his dreams.
But for a man who had little else; his dreams were enough.
She found herself constantly comparing Richard Burke, to the boy at the pier.
Richard was older, and so confident and sure of himself. His voice was loud and boisterous, and he spoke only of simple things to her, saving his talk of politics and other educated subjects for her father and brother. He looked at her adoringly, as though she were a prize in the county fair: his to own, his to covet.
The idea of marrying him made her nauseous.
She thought of the boy—Chandler. He was quiet and insecure, but much smarter than he let on. The first few minutes they spoke, Chandler was very formal with her. He seemed almost afraid of her; perhaps it was the way he was raised—she wasn't sure. As the night wore on, he relaxed, but continued to keep a formal distance. He would ask her about her family, about her education, her thoughts on politics and religion.
The way he looked at her cut through her soul. No man would ever look at her that way again; and she would never love anyone the way she loved him. And as the years passed, he would haunt her dreams.
The feeling of foreboding had followed him all day.
As he loaded the cargo onto the flats, he couldn't help but to be distracted by the constant, constriction closing in on his chest.
His supervisor, Mr. Lowell, had noticed as well, and called him out on it.
"Bing!" Lowell yelled, and motioned the boy over.
Paul Lowell was a reasonable man, but he ran a very tight operation. He knew that Chandler Bing was a good, hard worker, and had never had issues with him. The boy was always first to volunteer for overtime, and would do any task that was set in front of him.
Because of this, the boy's behavior over the past few days concerned him.
He watched Chandler toss the last of the cargo onto the flat, before jogging toward him.
"Is everything alright Mr. Lowell?" Chandler asked breathlessly.
"I was about to ask you the same thing, son," Lowell arched an eyebrow, "You've been…out of sorts these past few days. If it were anyone else, I'd have their ass, you know?"
Chandler's eyes dropped, and Lowell could see the color drain from the boy's thin face.
"I'm sorry, sir," Chandler replied, "I…I'll work harder."
"Chandler," Lowell said slowly, "you're the hardest worker on this dock."
"It…it's my mother, sir," Chandler said softly, "she's…I'm afraid she's taken a turn for the worse. I—I haven't been getting much sleep, I'm afraid."
"I'm sorry to hear that," Lowell said sadly, "Do you think you can finish the day?"
"Yes sir, of course," Chandler answered automatically. Lowell had a feeling the boy's body did not agree.
"Good. Finish out the day, take tomorrow off," Lowell said matter-of-factly.
"Sir, I can—"
"It isn't a request, Bing," Lowell said with mock-sternness.
"Yes, sir," Chandler nodded, though Lowell could see that the boy was still weighed down with worry and exhaustion.
"Don't worry, boy, you'll be paid for the whole week," Lowell added.
Chandler's shoulders relaxed slightly, and Lowell smiled.
"I need you in top shape for the April loads. They're always big ones."
"Yes, sir," Chandler smiled, and jogged back toward the docks.
"I think this place is perfect," Richard said, as he wrapped his arm around Monica possessively. The pair, along with Monica's parents, had traveled out to Golden Gate Park, to scout out a location for the wedding.
"Who would have thought you could do all of this with sand dunes!" Jack exclaimed, referring to the sprawling grass and abundant foliage that now occupied the former sand trap.
"It is quite impressive," Richard said, "John McLaren is a good friend of our family," he gloated, "he'll ensure full access to any part of the Park we wish to use."
Monica eyed Richard warily as he spoke; the man was connected to every famous and important man in the city, and he had absolutely no trouble letting everyone know that.
She sighed. Honestly, she didn't care if Richard knew God Himself; she could not imagine having to listen to this man for the rest of her life.
"What do you think, Monica?" Jack placed his hand on his daughter's shoulder to gain her attention.
"She loves it," Judy exclaimed, as Monica opened her mouth to reply, "I mean, who wouldn't?"
Market Street was nearly deserted—an unusual sight to be sure. Sunday was generally the quietest day of the week, as most families attended church, then headed straight home. This time of day, late afternoon, found little activity around what was the city's main thoroughfare. Golden rays of the setting sun illuminated the gothic structures that lined the streets, and the passing of a carriage only occasionally broke through the peacefulness.
Monica had managed to convince her parents that she was feeling ill, and had excused herself to her bedroom for the night. She waited about an hour before slipping out of the house, relying on the fact that her father often fell asleep in the afternoon, and her mother was just too self-involved to notice.
She smiled as she passed the various storefronts, eyeing the window displays and enjoying the serenity. She nearly fell over the boy that had planted himself on the edge of the walkway.
"Oh!" she cried, as she struggled to keep her balance.
The young man bolted up, clearly shocked by her sudden appearance. He grabbed her arm, steadying her on her feet.
"I'm so sorry, M'am," the boy said quickly, pulling his dingy brown hat from his head.
"It's fine," Monica smiled, looking up for the first time.
"Chandler, isn't it?" her smile widened.
His cheeks flushed a deeper shade of red.
"Y-yes. I apologize, Miss Geller, I—"
"Please," Monica shook her head, "call me Monica."
"Monica," Chandler whispered, then flushed again. He looked down at his shoes, and fiddled with the hat in his hands.
"You're dressed very nicely," Monica observed, taking in the deep brown suit and vest, "Did you just come from church?"
Chandler looked down at his dingy suit and scuffed shoes, and felt embarrassment course through him. She thought he looked nice? A woman like her must surely be more accustomed to…he shook his head. She was just being polite.
"No, Miss…Monica—I mean, yes, but—"
"You were either in church, or you weren't, Chandler," Monica giggled.
He flushed again.
"I was…in church, I—" Chandler sighed and studied his hat intently, "It was a funeral," he finished quietly.
"Oh," Monica sobered, and placed a hand on his shoulder, "I-I'm sorry."
Chandler looked up, smiling sadly.
"It's okay…she…my mother...she was sick for a really long time." He took her hand, and squeezed it gently.
She smiled warmly.
Neither heard the carriage approach.
"You! Boy! Get away from her!" Richard's booming voice filled the air with a dark current of electricity.
Chandler pulled away quickly, taking two long steps away from Monica, as if by instinct.
Furious, Monica whipped around to glare at Richard.
"What are you doing?" she seethed.
But Richard appeared to be ignorant to her fury.
"Are you alright, my dear? Did he hurt you?"
"Hurt me? Richard, we were simply talking," Monica yelled, her eyes alight with ire.
"No matter," Richard said haughtily, "get into the carriage, I'll take you back to your parent's."
"No!" Monica shook her head.
"Monica, sweetheart," Richard said with irritating calmness, "this is no place for a lady to be wandering alone."
Monica knew she had no choice. As much as she wanted to stay and speak with Chandler, she knew that defying Richard now would only create consequences later. Sighing angrily, she allowed Richard to pull her into the carriage.
Richard made sure that Monica was fully situated before turning his attention to the boy. To his surprise, the boy had remained in the same spot, his head lowered, his hat in hand. Richard felt a surge of jealously course through him.
He had never seen Monica smile at him, the way she had smiled at this boy.
"Boy," he yelled, and smiled as the boy jumped and moved toward the carriage. He handed a folded twenty to the boy, but as he reached for it, Richard snared his wrist and pulled the boy toward him.
"This is for your trouble," he said with mock-friendliness. In a darker, hushed tone, he continued, "If you go near her again, I'll have you hanged."
Smiling, Richard released the boy's wrist, and signaled the horseman to move along.
The boy stepped back hastily, as the carriage lurched forward, leaving a large cloud of dust in its wake.
AN: Oh my holy crap. Not sure why I am posting this, as who knows when I'll get around to finishing it. I'm hoping I can actually wrap it up in a chapter or two, but…well, first I have to write it. This chapter has been sitting, half-finished, in my computer for months. Feel free to review. I know it stinks, but gimme a break—I'm rusty.