You know, as a Mondler fan, I feel that writing about their London time is like a rite of passage. This is also my tribute to Before Sunrise by Richard Linklater, from which this oneshot is explicitly inspired (the poem used belongs to the movie). Very romantic (and not at all funny, IMO, but give it a try anyway).
"The guy was hammered! There's no way you look like Ross's mother!"
He coupled it with a little laugh of derision. It had sounded ridiculous. It should've sounded ridiculous. Yet she rolled her eyes at him, having poured out another glass of whiskey. "Then why would he say it?"
"Because he's crazy, okay! He came up to me earlier and thanked me for my very moving performance in Titanic!"
She couldn't tell if Chandler was lying. Her senses had just begun to blur with the alcohol, and if she carried on this way it wouldn't be long before she bursts into tears and begins to roll on the floor. She didn't want to do that, at least not on her brother's wedding.
"My mother's right," she gave off a self-deprecating sigh, and chugged in the very last of the scotch, "I'm never gonna get married."
He hung his head in exasperation; he had probably been explaining the same thing to her in rounds the whole evening. He touched her shoulder tenderly, his voice softer than she expected. "You know what that is... Who wouldn't want you?"
This wasn't the first time he was disillusioning her. Why did he do this every time, especially with that odd kind of sincerity? It knocked on a vein of annoyance. She had been single for almost a year now, and her brother was to be married for the second time. Her mother was right. And Chandler, he should probably leave. She didn't need that sort of admiration at the moment. She needed to drink, and drink, and drink some more.
"Please, I'm a single mom with a thirty-year old son!"
She probably sounded unreasonable. He cautiously pulled away, as if he just touched a heated iron rod, and shook his head for the umpteenth time. He would've probably cracked a joke had she not been the bitterest (wo)man in the living room right then. She felt uncomfortable. The lights were too bright. There was no more whiskey by her side. And somebody had to break the ice.
Chandler traced the lining of the tiled floor with his shoe, "Well you know what they say..."
"Let's get out of here."
It was an impulsive suggestion; maybe what she wanted to say was to get out of there and look for some beer. His head shot up, he broke into a disbelieving grin – and perhaps a bit of a relief that she had finally stopped whining. "What?"
"Let's get out of here," she repeated, "Live it up in London."
Chandler had this cheeky, lopsided smile. He didn't care about the party too much either; he was still embarrassed about the best man's speech, but then most of the time he was already maxed out. They often struck the same chords. She wondered why she hadn't noticed that before.
"Where do you wanna go?"
Strip clubs, sleazy bars, London cafés, a ship on the Thames, the list was endless.
"You know, if you'd just stay here your eyes might meet with some tall dark stranger's and lo and behold, you'd be getting it on with your future husband." He offered her a piece of advice.
She glared at him. "Thanks, but no thanks. Now let's get out of here?"
He spent another annoying moment of consideration, pouting and scratching the back of his head.
"I guess, okay."
"Did you see how the hall looked? It was like an adventureland. Candles, the musicians playing a bit of Tony Bennett. I could die."
They walked along the pavement, watching the lined up street lights on one side and the sparsely occupied benches on the other. The city lights flickered from afar. Chandler hopped a few steps ahead and playfully kicked on a pebble. Then he turned at her, his hands in his pockets, and walking backwards, said, "What's your favourite?"
It didn't even need a lot of thinking. She smiled, "The Way You Look Tonight."
"This could be a mood-killer, but do you know it's a cover?"
She rolled her eyes so hard they might've turned inside out. She sighed, "Yeah, I know."
"And frankly, I'd prefer the Frank Sinatra one."
God, he was such a dork. Adorable, nonetheless, but such a dork. With her inhibitions lowered and head buzzing, suddenly Monica laughed out loud, as if she were reminded of something funny. He studied her curiously. "What happened?"
She shook her head, laughing still, "Nottthhing."
Chandler rendered her a half-smiling half-suspicious glance. "What is it?"
"I was wondering if this was how you do romantic talk with your girlfriends."
"Girlfriends?" Chandler chuckled sarcastically, "Plural?"
"You know what I mean."
"Well, in my defence, I don't think we're a couple."
Would it be that bad an idea? Boy, she must be really drunk right then to be even thinking along that line. Or maybe it was just the tune of the song running in her head. Did she sing it out, because he happened to be humming the same. Anyway, she mumbled, "I know."
For a while, they spoke of nothing. The breeze had a quieting, caressing quality to it. The scent of the river, and the yellow street lights that fell upon the water – she could look at them forever. She glimpsed at Chandler, who looked kind of lost, a little fidgeting and restless as he strolled along. Maybe he was just drunk; this wasn't their first stop after they ran out on their friends. They did go to a restaurant – a posh one, did some tequila shots and sang aloud incoherently before they were respectfully kicked out of the place. Now that they walked along the banks of the river, something about the breeze had sobered them up.
"You know," Monica began, "we might not be a couple. But we're a couple of suckers. We suck at relationships."
He patted on her shoulder in agreement. "Boy, do we suck."
"Mine didn't want to have babies, and yours cheated with her ex-husband."
"Yours went nuts with the fighting championship and got himself kicked in there, and mine – well – slept with a dude with giant man-nipples."
Monica felt a tinge of sympathy for the poor guy. Under his goofy, sarcastic shell, he was messed-up, vulnerable. He made a funny, exaggerated 'loser' pout, and she laughed again. And given the alcohol, the little laugh stretched into an unstoppable giggle. "You know what we need?" she somehow held it in, and clung onto his arm, "We need sex. Dirty, meaningless sex. I don't need to get married today."
"Monica, I don't think you're getting married today anyway."
She narrowed her eyes at him, but then grinned into the nothingness. "What's love anyway? I don't need lurrrve. Love's overrated."
He hummed, "You're drunk."
"What're we doing, Chandler? Are we just passing the time, or trying to hold on to it?"
He ran his fingers through his hair, and glanced up at the sky. It might just rain tonight. "Look, if Joey had asked the question, I would've sung what the paddy wack, are you on freaking crack, but then ... I don't know."
"It's like I've been passing the time my whole life, waiting for a chance night, a walk by the lamplight as I come out of the restaurant with this guy, then we kiss and talk and kiss and talk... and I'd know this is it."
"Wow," Chandler exhaled; he sounded sincere, or at least she hoped he did. But in spite of all of Monica's tries, she couldn't make him stay put in the zone of the vulnerable. "You know what, you're right. From now on, I'm in a committed and understanding relationship with my sweatpants and milkshakes."
"Hey, fella, care to throw a penny?"
It was a man sitting right below a street lamp. He gave them a yellow-toothed smile, his coat in tatters and his titled hat torn as he sat smoking on a tool, a pen and paper in his hands.
Chandler searched his pockets for pennies, when the man chuckled at them, and said in that jarring city accent, "New in London?"
Monica and Chandler looked at each other, slightly taken aback. Maybe he overheard them talking. Monica nodded awkwardly.
"Maybe I write ya a poem and ya pay me whatever ya want?"
She watched Chandler uncomfortably hop in his spot. "I don't know, sir," he began, scratching his head, "I think we'll pass. It's late and the subway will be shutting down..."
"C'mon, laddie, gimme a word and I write ya both a poem." He gave them another mysterious smile, rubbing his scruffy beard as he readied his pen. "Gimme a word. Ya both look so in love."
Chandler jumped at that. "Oh, no no no, we're not – we're not a couple." He stole a glance at Monica, who was gazing at the ground. His reaction irked her a little; why did he sound so – offended?
"C'mon, fella," the man piped again, "it shall be good. Just gimme a word and a minute."
Somehow, she was curious. "Okay," she pursed her lips, racking her drunk brains for a word, "um, milkshakes."
"Milkshakes?" The man laughed at the ridiculousness of it, then gave into an accepting head bob, and retreated to his writing space, "Okay, milkshakes."
Monica tapped a few feet apart and slumped over one of the benches. The cold of the metal gave her goosebumps. The breeze was still so beautiful. Chandler stopped short right in front of her, "Milkshakes, huh?"
She returned him an annoyed, bored gaze. "You seemed offended there."
"At the guy thinking we're a couple." It wasn't a big deal, but it did give rise to that surge of self-doubt that she had been trying to drown beneath the gallons of alcohol since the evening. Chandler's words had meant nothing, after all; he himself wouldn't wish to fall in love with somebody like her. She was too much into details; she could irritate people to death with her competitiveness. She was high-maintenance. And she had always been a relationship disaster. But so was he, and even he didn't want her. Not even in an unreal, ideal, hypothetical world.
"Who said I was offended?"
"Well, I heard you, didn't I?"
"Mon, what're you even talking about? You're way, wayyyy out of my league."
"Get out," she flailed her hand at him, flattered.
"Mon, you have to let it go, okay," he touched her tenderly on the knee; it was that low, heavily sincere voice again."You were the most beautiful woman in the room tonight."
"You kidding? You're the most beautiful woman in most rooms," that little after-laugh of derision returned, as if he were only stating the obvious. "And you know, even if you end up as an old spinster cook, the guy who peed on you is always there. I'm heading to hermit junction anyway."
She couldn't help but smile at that. "Ah, yes. I totally forgot about it." He joined in, and settled beside her. She put her head against his shoulder, a little drowsy now. Soon they watched the poet guy stumble up to his feet, trot towards their bench and hand them a scribbled parchment. She felt Chandler shift a little closer to read.
Oh, baby with your pretty face,
Drop a tear in my wineglass;
Look at those big eyes,
See what you mean to me.
Sweet cakes and milkshakes,
I am a delusion angel.
I am a fantasy parade.
I want you to know what I think,
Don't want you to guess anymore;
You have no idea where I came from,
We have no idea where we're going;
Launched in life,
Like two branches in a river,
Caught in the current,
I'll carry you. You'll carry me;
That's how it could be,
Don't you know me?
Don't you know me by now?
Monica read and reread it several times. She felt a twist in her stomach; her heart throbbed against her chest. "This is beautiful," she gasped. The weird part, however, was the fact she was made all the more aware of Chandler's eyes on her. She looked the other side. "Here you go, buddy," she heard him say and pull out some money for the man who happily walked away. His voice had a nervous strain; he too was thinking.
It felt like hours before Chandler finally managed to mutter, "Looks like it's gonna rain. What're Ross and Emily gonna do tomorrow if it rains?"
Monica glanced at him from the corner of her eye; he was whistling, fidgeting, fishing in the air for a talking subject.
"They said they'll get wet."
Even the view of the mundane room back at their hotel felt depressing. The light walls, the ochre curtains and the pretentious beds. It was one o' clock in the morning and her night was over. She strutted a few steps ahead and rested her handbag upon the table, the parchment still crumpled inside her palm.
"You okay?" Chandler softly called after her, leaning against the door frame. She nodded.
Chandler turned his back to leave, when she let out a mumble, "And thanks for the evening."
He gave her a wide grin. "Glad you liked it." Then he closed the door behind him.
She took in a long, deep breath and fell on the bed. Opened up the scrunched paper again. "Daydream delusion, limousine eyelash." She stared at the hurried scrawl, the blotted ink, the unintended hole where the pen tore into the surface.
The night wasn't over. She wouldn't let it go that easily. She wouldn't let the spark simply die down; she wanted it to sprawl to the extremities of her body and build up into a wild, passionate fire.
But not with Chandler.
Because she knew him all too well. With him, it wouldn't remain a chance night anymore. After all he had done for her today; she couldn't just barge in there with her own needs. Furthermore, tonight had left her confused and tingling.
"Sweet cakes and milkshakes."
No, no. It had the potential to ruin their friendship, and she probably, probably couldn't afford that.
She bent over into a foetal position. Maybe with Joey. Maybe with Joey? Not that she didn't care about her equation with him, but to get real, it never took Joey more than a shower to get over a relationship. A one-night stand couldn't be a big deal with him. They had both accidentally seen each other naked before, that cancelled out the tension too. It would be nothing but an act of animalistic passion.
What if Chandler woke up the next morning and heard about how she spent the evening with him and got in on with Joey at night? She shrugged. How would it matter to him? He didn't see her that way, after all.
It didn't matter.
It didn't matter to her either. It didn't.
She picked herself up and rushed out of the room. They were only three corridors apart. She turned right, and then tiptoed towards their hotel room. Her heart pounded against her ribs. She blinked hard; she was slightly dizzy and drowsy – she might just pass out soon – hence it shouldn't be too long and scarring. Holding her breath, she knocked on the door.
Against all expectations, it was Chandler who opened the door.
He looked tired. He hadn't changed yet, just put away the coat and loosened his tie knot. His hair was tousled and falling against his forehead, and his shirt slightly unbuttoned. Messy Chandler looked, kind of, sexy. But messy or not, it was still Chandler.
"Hey," he whispered, "What happened?"
She stared at him blankly and pressed her lips together, then peeked into the room. She walked in. "Is Joey here?"
"I might sound explicit here but Joey's probably getting it on with the other bridesmaid, London style," he laughed, "Funnily enough, you caught me at a good time. Two minutes later, and I would've been naked."
She fixed her gaze at the clock. One thirty-two. She expected disappointment, but what she felt was more of a relief. It would've probably been a wrong decision. Suddenly she realised she had the parchment still locked in her fist.
This was her chance night. She wouldn't let it go that easily. She gazed at Chandler. Stepped closer. His blue eyes were carefully studying her. He was a little worried. He knew she was too drunk to think straight.
No, she wasn't. She was thinking straight. She knew what she wanted. And she was willing to take the risk.
Maybe she thought love was overrated because she never knew what it was. Maybe it lived in the chances. Maybe it lived in the little space in between.
"Daydream delusion, limousine eyelash," she whispered. Chandler opened his mouth to speak, perhaps to crack a joke – but she delicately put a finger on his lips. Like a surge of adrenaline, she brought her lips on his.
He was taken aback. "What're you doing?" He was confused, but never reprimanding. She didn't want to explain, she probably couldn't either.
Oh, baby with your pretty face,
Drop a tear in my wineglass.
"Look at those big eyes, see what you mean to me," it was another urgent whisper. She put her arms around his neck and rested her head against his chest. She could smell the oak and dew of his deodorant, and the whiskey; she could almost hear his heart beating.
Sweet cakes and milkshakes.
I am a delusional angel.
I am a fantasy parade.
Then she sensed him caress her back. It was long enough already. His fingers lightly traced her neck down to her shoulder and left off a tingling sensation; she clung on to him tighter. "I want you to know what I think, don't want you to guess anymore," and she kissed him again. This time he kissed back.
The kisses became all the more fervent with each passing second. It didn't ruin them. Or probably it did, in the sweetest masochistic way they didn't even want to think about right then. This might mean nothing. This might mean everything. This was her chance night. This was their chance night. This was their nightmare. This was their fairytale.
You have no idea where we came from,
We have no idea where we're going.
He pecked on her neck. She shuddered in pleasure. His hand trailed at her back to the zip of her dress. He looked earnestly into her eyes. He was asking for permission. She nodded. He pulled the zip down and the straps slowly flapped aside. He was so nervous. And so was she. "Launched in life, like two branches in a river."
For a while, they stood still. It seemed one inhaled what the other exhaled. The alcohol breath, the perfumes, the sweat, and the tears – she could relive the night in flashes. They had always said something about the smells rocket-launching nostalgia in the brain.
Caught in a current.
"Are you okay?" He asked tenderly as he unhooked her bra. It was hardly audible, barely a whisper; it felt like a tickle of air against her ears. The emotion bottled up in her throughout the day, which was bubbling on the surface, exploded right then. She cried. She didn't even try to be subtle. She cried like a child lost on the streets. He held her steady and kissed her in the hair.
I'll carry you, you'll carry me.
That's how it could be.
Don't you know me?
"Don't you know me by now?"
I kinda suck at romance, so I don't know how this really turned out. Do tell me, and review. :))))))
And to people asking whether I'll continue my other stories, yes I will. Yay!