Noah was sitting in a small diner, poking at the greasy hamburger that he had no appetite for. His other hand held up his head while he stared out the window. He wasn’t seeing the bustling street scene that was actually there, but rather Luke’s face as it had been when Noah had brushed by him earlier.
He couldn’t stop thinking about him, even when he wanted to. Was that healthy? Was it normal that he wanted Luke there, sitting beside him even though he was furious with what he’d done?
He imagined that Luke would have made some sarcastic comment about the mismatched salt and pepper shakers or the quality of the food. He might have gone off on some spiel about the atmosphere of small diners tucked away on busy city streets. He would have made Noah talk, and smile, and laugh.
Frustrated, Noah pushed away the plate and slumped in his chair with folded arms. His expression was so fierce that the young waitress clearing tables decided to give him a few more minutes before asking if he wanted the check.
Was he such a bad boyfriend for wanting a little bit of distance? Was he terrible for leaving like that, without a word or any indication of where he was going? As he shifted his feet on the discolored laminate flooring and looked at the dusty corners and faded wallpaper he chuckled ironically. It wasn’t as if he’d had this destination in mind. He hadn’t had any destination in mind. He’d just needed a little while to himself to clear his head.
So much had happened in such a short amount of time. Sometimes Noah didn’t believe that he was living his own life. He imagined some days that he’d been transported into someone else’s body and someone else’s life, and he wasn’t sure how to go about getting back to his own time and place.
But he had to accept where he was, and who he was. Yes, he was mad at Luke about bringing the police and scaring his father off. But the Colonel was a grown man who could have chosen not
to dive into the water. He could have chosen not
to do a lot of things, and his most recent act was just another example of his bad decisions.
Noah finally (reluctantly) realized that he couldn’t have done anything that would have made the situation end any better. He couldn’t have talked his father into giving himself up. He couldn’t have made a deal to get Ameera back safely. And Luke had just been trying to help, trying to save him. And look how Noah had repaid that debt.
Sure he was worried about Ameera and what was going to happen to her, but where was his worry about Luke? What was wrong with him that he hadn’t spared a thought for the man he loved? His thoughts drifted back to the moment when he’d realized that the ‘government agents’ had been working with his father. One of his first concerns had been to make sure that Luke was alright, but he hadn’t thought about him again until he saw him pulling up in another boat.
Had Luke been free the whole time? What had that woman told him? How had he known to get the police? All of a sudden Noah couldn’t stop thinking of questions that only Luke could answer. Mainly, was he alright? Had they hurt him? Noah quickly took out some cash and dropped it on the table, not stopping to wait for change. He stepped onto the sidewalk and took a few steps to his left before stopping suddenly. Where was he going? Where was Luke? He pulled his cellphone out of his jeans pocket.
Before he could open it, the device rang in his hand. The caller ID simply said ‘Luke.’
He smiled as he flipped it open and lifted it to his ear, stepping out of the way of a group of teenage girls. One of them smiled at him but he didn’t notice.
“Noah, it’s Holden. Where are you?”
Noah rushed down the hospital hallway, searching for Luke. The nurse near the elevator had said that he’d probably find him in 301 to 305 and Noah had wasted five precious minutes searching the wrong hallway before finally finding the right one. 292…294…296. He was in such a rush that he wasn’t watching where he was going and collided with a warm body standing directly in his path.
“Sorry.” He managed, his usual manners failing him at that moment in his hurry to see if his boyfriend was alright. He stepped around the person and started to continue down the hall.
Surprised at hearing his name, he finally looked up.
“Oh, it’s you, thank God.”
He looked into Holden’s familiar face and immediately took notice of the stress and worry lines creasing his forehead and around his eyes.
“What happened? Is Luke okay? Where is he?”
Holden held up a hand to stop the rapid flow of questions.
“First: Luke is alright, for the moment. He’s resting. Second,” he hesitated and Noah bounced on the balls of his feet while forcing himself not to interrupt, “second, you and I need to talk before
you see him.”
“Is this about what happened today? I’ll tell you all about it but I need to see Luke first, to tell him that I’m here for him.”
He turned to walk further down the hallway but Holden stopped him with a surprisingly tight grip on his arm.
“Noah, I’m serious about this. We need to talk. Now.
The older man looked around him quickly and noticed what looked like a waiting room a few doors in the direction Noah had just come from.
The pair entered the small room to find it empty. Noah shot a last glance down the hall before Holden shut the door behind them.
Lily sat by her son’s bedside, anxiously waiting for him to wake up. She and Holden had left Oakdale right after Lucinda’s frantic phone call and had made good time to New York
. They’d found their son and his grandmother in a hospital room with Luke fast asleep.
“He was awake a few minutes ago,” Lucinda said, “but he could barely keep his eyes open.” She closed the clasp on her purse before looking both parents in the eye.
“He was asking about Noah. He wanted to get up and go check on him. They didn’t part on good terms earlier.”
Lucinda quickly explained what had taken place that day while Lily and Holden listened. They shared a few glances about the seriousness of the incident and the danger that Luke had been in. Like most parents they spoke volumes in those short moments and as Lily had settled in beside Luke, Holden took Luke’s cellphone from Lucinda.
“I kept it when they brought him in. I knew that he’d want it when he woke up.”
Holden could see that the older woman was still shaken up and he gave her a hug.
“Why don’t you go back to a hotel and have a rest. Once Luke gets checked out and released we can meet you and head back home together.” She shook her head.
“I think I’m going to head back tonight. Emma is probably worried and she might need some help with the girls and Ethan while you’re here. I’ll tell them what happened.”
“Alright. Thanks. I’m glad that you were here with him.” Lily nodded absently in agreement as she stroked one of Luke’s hands.
Lucinda nodded, satisfied that her grandson was in good hands. She gathered her jacket and purse and stepped towards the doorway.
“Goodbye darlings. I’ll see you back at home.”
Holden had stepped out of the room to phone Noah, not wanting Luke to wake up and see what he was doing. He was also going to wait out in the hall for the other boy to explain to him what was going on. Lily wondered at the intense look that she had glimpsed in his eyes before he'd nodded mutely and left. What was Holden thinking? What was he going to do? As Luke moved restlessly her thoughts came back to him and she held his hand up to her cheek as she sat, waiting.