The Search For Happiness: Chapter One

“Oh, great. This is just great!” Nan said aloud. She picked up the sandwich she dropped and frowned. “What a way to start the day! Hm, I can’t do anything about it now. I guess I’ll just feed it to the birds at the park.”

Nan walked on and she passed a dead-end alley full of garbage-filled dumpsters in the streets of Dallas. Nan glanced casually in the alley and saw a man. She suddenly stopped. There was something curious about this man. She went back to look again.

In the midst of smelly trash, a man was searching frantically for something. Nothing weird about looking for food, poor guy, Nan thought. The man was dressed in a dirty, tattered suit, which was no better than trash itself. She couldn’t see his face, as his back was turned towards her. He looked about six feet tall and very thin. His muscles could be seen clearly on his wide shoulders and arms as he dived in one of the boxes that were also stacked in the alley. He stood up, finding nothing, and ran his trembling fingers through his hair. He turned around, helplessly, as if he didn’t know what to do. As he turned, Nan gasped in surprise. She had never seen such wonderfully sad blue eyes in a man before. He had a generously high-bridged nose, light brown hair that hung on his forehead, and his lips were drawn in a thin line. Nan assumed that he was in his mid-20s and looked intelligent. Inspite of his filthy appearance, this guy did not look like he was a homeless person. He was definitely drop-dead gorgeous.

“Definitely,” Nan said aloud.

The man heard the sound and turned abruptly. Nan noticed she was gaping at him open-mouthed that she blushed. She started talking in a rush.

“I mean, you’re definitely looking for something here. Um, have you found it?” Nan kicked herself. Good job, Nan. Just one look and you ask him a dumb question.

The man just looked at her and her small figure in the cold February morning. He looked at her from top to bottom: the worn cap that hid her brown hair, her light brown eyes, small button nose that was pink from the weather, and her wide, generous mouth. He stared at her as if she was an alien from outer space. Nan squirmed from the scrutiny.

“Well?” Nan couldn’t find any words to say. The first thing came to mind. “Did you find it or not?” Oh, no! Not again!

The man just shook his head. Poor guy, he really does look hungry, Nan thought. She looked down at the sandwich in her hand that she dropped minutes before and looked at the man. She then held out the sandwich to him as his eyes lighted up and looked at the food hungrily.

“You look so hungry. Do you think you can eat this sandwich? It’s kinda dirty, but—“ She barely finished the sentence when the man grabbed the sandwich from her fingers and wolfed it down greedily. Nan laughed.

“Well, I guess you can.” Nan smiled. At that moment, she noticed that he wasn’t wearing a coat in the freezing weather.

“Oh, what am I thinking? Here I am, warm as toast, and you’re freezing to death! Come on, I’ll get you to a warmer place.” Nan said.

Nan and the strange man walked toward a deserted junkyard. The man looked around, puzzled.

“You live here?” He asked. It was the first time that he spoke since they left the alley and Nan thought that he had wonderfully deep voice.

“Oh, no! This is just a short cut. It’s just behind this junkyard. Actually, the house we’re going to is my friend’s place.”

Just then, the cottage came into view. It had a little garden with a few delectable vegetables and flowers on the right side of a pathway that led to the front door of the cottage. The house itself was surrounded by a white picket fence. Nan led him to the front door and she opened the door with a key. Nan motioned for the man to enter.

Warm air welcomed them as they entered the cottage and the scent of the fresh flowers on the dining table filled the air. It was a small house, with enough necessities for a single person. There were two bedrooms led off to the right. A small kitchen and dining room was on the left side of the cottage. A fireplace was in the middle of the room, bringing warmth all around it. A cozy loveseat sofa sat beside the fireplace, good for snuggling down and reading a good book on a lazy Sunday afternoon. The man looked around appreciatively.

Nan asked the man to sit down on the sofa and she went to the kitchen to make some coffee. She was in a hurry to do so that she forgot to take off her coat and cap. When she finally set the coffeepot, cups and some sandwiches on a tray, she went to the living room. She found the man still standing.

“Haven’t I told you to sit down?” She asked, putting the tray down on the table next to the sofa.

“You have, but I would make your sofa dirty.” He said, smiling.

“Oh.” Nan smiled back. “Well, don’t worry about that. Karen will understand.”

“Karen? Who’s she?” The man asked.

“She’s my best friend, the one who owns this cottage. She’s still at work and won’t be back until later.”

The man finally sat down, and Nan poured him coffee. She took her coat off but forgot to take off her cap so he couldn’t see her long hair.

“I want you to know that I’m not the kind of person that invites every homeless person that I see in this house. It’s just that there’s something about you.” Nan said, looking at the man thoughtfully.

“Really? And what is that?”

“Oh, I don’t know. You look somewhat familiar now that I have gotten a close look at you. You also don’t look like a homeless person, despite your appearance. I assume you were mugged or something. Were you?”

“You’re good. You could pass for a detective.” He looked at her with amusement.

“Oh, I’m sorry! Here I am, babbling about when we weren’t even properly introduced. I’m Nancy Carson.” Nan held out her hand. “You can call me Nan.”

The man took hold of her hand, and said, “My name is William Andrews. But you can call me Bill.”

Nan glanced down at his hand as they shook hands. He had a filthy but well-shaped hand and looked like it hadn’t had a touch of work in his whole life. Then, Nan looked at his face, her eyes meeting his. His eyes had a look of curiosity and wonder as if he saw something familiar in hers. Nan’s heart suddenly skipped a beat. She blushed, and looked down. He was still holding her hand. She took it from his with reluctance.

At that moment, Bill said, “The first time I saw you, I thought you were a boy with a little sweet voice. When I heard your name, I guess I was mistaken.”

“Why do you think that?” Nan asked. She looked at her worn overalls and shirt. “Oh, I know what you mean. I do look like a boy, don’t I? And my cap is covering my hair.” She then took off her cap and shook her brown hair that came to rest on her shoulders. She glanced at him. Bill was looking at her hair thoughtfully.

“What’s the matter?” Nan asked.

“Oh, nothing. Your hair has that rich brown color and reminded me of someone I knew when I was little,” Bill replied.

“Who was it?”

“No one of importance. Just someone I used to know.” Bill said distractedly.

There was an awkward silence for a moment between them as they sat together on the sofa. Nan didn’t realize that they were sitting so close together, and she started being more aware of his broad presence in the small cottage. Nan cleared her throat and tried to change the subject.

“So,” Nan said the first thing that came to her mind. “Where do you live?” Nan kicked herself, thinking that she shouldn’t have asked that.

Bill didn’t seem to notice. He just said, “I have no home.”

Nan looked at him curiously. “No home? Why is that?”

“Well, I did have a home, but I ran away.” Bill said simply. After a pause, he asked, “What about you? Do you live here with your friend?”

“Yes, I am. Since my parents died in a car crash, I couldn’t stand to live alone, so I moved here. I do have relatives, my grandmother, an aunt, and some distant cousins. I don’t get along with all of them, though, except for my grandmother. My grandmother and aunt live in this big house called Carson Towers.” Nan said, sipping her coffee.

“Why didn’t you live with them?” Bill asked.

“I hated my aunt, we just couldn’t get along, even though I loved my grandmother. My aunt had arranged an engagement for me and an old, wealthy man.” Nan shuddered at the thought of marriage of convenience. “My aunt was greedy enough to arrange it, just so she could get more money from him. Thanks to my grandmother, I had a chance to escape. My grandmother instructed me to stay here for a while until there were no more problems. Karen was kind enough to let me stay here and let me keep this house in order.” Taking notice that he had emptied his cup, Nan offered Bill some more coffee. His eyes looked at her with sympathy.

“Yes, I would like some more, thank you.” Bill answered. After a pause, he said, “I’m sorry about your parents. Didn’t they leave you anything behind?”

“We were wealthy, but since my parents died, my aunt took over everything. She said I’m not good in financial matters, but I know she was just saying that so she could get hold of my inheritance. I guess I can’t do anything about it now, but just wait.” Nan poured some more coffee in Bill’s cup.

“Thanks.” Bill said. He looked into space thoughtfully, as if looking back in his past. “I was once rich, too.”

“I thought you would be!” Nan said excitedly. She leaned over eagerly. “Besides of being dirty, you don’t look like the type of man that searches for food in murky alleys.”

Bill just sat there, not hearing a word she was saying. He looked like he was hypnotized, as if in a trance.

“My uncle, like your aunt, took over everything when my father died of a heart attack five years ago. My mother is a fragile lady and isn’t strong enough to stand up to my uncle. He was like a dictator. We didn’t know what to do. We even asked help from our grandfather, but even he couldn’t control my uncle by himself.

“I was so desperate to put everything back the way it used to be. So I packed a few things and went to go live with my grandfather so he could train me and give me pointers to be able to stand up to my uncle once and for all. My grandfather’s house is so far away, and I ran out of money trying to get there. I tried to ask some people for help, but they either stole the last of my possessions or they made me go around in circles. I just gave up all hope of getting to my grandfather’s house. That’s why I was just digging around in dumpsters just to get by. I haven’t eaten for five days until you gave me your sandwich.” Bill looked so sad that Nan found tears rolling down her cheeks.

“Oh, you poor man! You must have been through a whole lot!” Nan said, breaking her voice with a sob. Without thinking, she ran to his side and put her arm around his shoulders, not at all minding the filth on his clothes and skin. “It must be unfair to have an uncle like that.”

“So do you.” Bill said, looking at her. His eyes had the same curiosity and wonder as it had a few minutes ago. Nan’s eyes looked at him, as if hypnotized by his stare. She shook her head and closed her eyes. When she opened her eyes, Bill stood up.

“I’d better go.” He said.

Having regained her composure, Nan stood up as well, and asked, “Do you have a place to stay?”

“No, I don’t, unfortunately. Since I lost my money and belongings, I sleep anywhere I can get warm and comfortable.” Bill said.

“Well, then, why don’t you stay here for a while?” Nan asked. He looked at her and asked, “Are you sure?”

“Yes, of course! Since you don’t have a place to stay, you can stay here and keep me company when Karen is at work. It would be good to have a man in the house to protect us, since Karen’s brother left for the Navy.” Nan talked on in a rush. “He even left some of his clothes that, I think, will fit you. And you could probably sleep in one of the bedrooms and Karen and I could sleep in the same room together. Besides, we have to figure out how we can get you to your grandfather.”

Bill looked at her, his eyes wary. “But you barely know me. How do you know if I’m a good guy or not?”

“Your eyes give you away, Bill.” Nan said, smiling. “You have the kindest eyes I have ever seen.” And so startlingly blue, I am mesmerized, Nan thought inwardly.

Bill, surprisingly, blushed, and said, “Well, okay.” He sat down.

“Welcome to our humble home, Bill.”