His head turned to take in the majestic view of the mountains surrounding the house and the city skyline. The panoramic sweep was interrupted by a gentle rubbing against his ankles. Noah’s eyes lowered and landed on the handsome face of a grey and white Maine Coon cat greeting him with a welcoming meow.
“Well hello there.” Noah picked up the thick fur bundle. “Who do you belong to…hmmm?” The cat quickly claimed a spot in the crook of Noah’s arm and began to purr with every stroke of the man’s soft hand.
“Seymour!“ Noah turned back toward the house to see his friend, Emerson Blake standing in the doorway. “I think you’ve hit upon a new size record in found objects."
“Hi Noah,” he said, nodding to Seymour. “I see you’ve met the king of this castle. C'mon in and get out of this early morning chill.“
The short white-haired actor, who had starred in Noah’s last feature - Live for the Day, ushered the director with cat attachment into his home.
Once inside, Noah deposited his laptop and duffel bag along with Seymour in a small alcove near the front door. He placed his cell phone and car keys on a hallway table before peeking into the comfy, shabby chic decorated living room dominated by a roaring fireplace.
“I can’t thank you enough for agreeing to house sit this week, Noah. When Time Magazine offered Hallie this assignment in the Middle East, we had to move fast. Given the unrest in Syria and Egypt, I couldn‘t let her go alone.”
Noah shook his head and touched his friend’s forearm. “I completely understand. The shoot is a dream assignment; and I‘m glad you could clear your schedule to go with her.”
He walked over to a wall of framed magazine covers all shot by Hallie McGinnis, Emerson‘s wife of nearly 35 years. “Besides,” he said, turning back to his friend. “I needed somewhere to crash while the landlord fumigates my place.”
“So…Luke still hasn’t answered your texts or called you back?”
Having become instant friends onset, the two men shared many confidences including Noah’s back story of his relationship with Luke Snyder.
The former couple had talked on the phone and exchanged texts and emails ever since Noah moved to LA nearly two years ago; and they had briefly seen each other at Christmastime back on the Snyder Farm in Oakdale, Illinois.
But ever since then, rebuilding the relationship had slowed to a snail’s pace.
“If there’s one thing I've learned over the past 18 months, it’s patience is a virtue,” sighed Noah, suddenly finding the pattern in the old wood-plank floor quite interesting.
“Well hang in there, my young friend,” Emerson smiled, reaching up to gently pat Noah’s shoulder. “Progress can be made when you least expect it. I wouldn’t be surprised if you hear from Luke soon. Meanwhile, where is that wife of mine? I swear she‘ll be late to her own funeral….Hallie! Come see what Seymour dragged home this time.”
The sound of a suitcase on wheels could be heard coming down the hallway, stopping just short of the archway. “Wanna dial down the dramatics there, hubby? Ugh…actors… always on,” sighed the statuesque blonde as she strolled into the living room to throw her arms around Noah‘s neck.
“So good to see you again." Hallie kissed his cheek. “I wish we could sit down and hear all about your next project. But I‘ve got to get the equipment loaded; and Em here needs to show you where all the essentials are including the alarm system, the emergency cutoff valves and how to work all those newfangled appliances in the kitchen. Thanks so much for taking care of the house while we’re away.”
With that she grabbed the suitcase and flew out the door. “Living with that woman is a constant whirlwind and yet… I still love her,” Emerson chuckled, taking Noah by the arm.
“C’mon let me show you where everything is. One thing you won’t have to worry about is Seymour. The meow king comes and goes as he pleases through a cat door in the kitchen. Just keep his water and food dishes filled; and take an occasional swipe of the litter box. One thing I should warn you about though is Seymour’s tendency to bring home things."
“Things…?” Noah asked, tilting his head toward Emerson. “Define things.”
“Oh you know. Just your run of the mill occasional dead bird, injured baby squirrel, shredded snake skin…among other things… all for your amusement, of course. He fancies himself quite the entertainer.“
“Really? It must run in the family.”
Returning from outside, Hallie checked the contents of her photographer’s vest; and pulled out an extra house key. She dropped it in the basket on the hall table and then spotted Noah’s cell phone.
Hearing Emerson and Noah talking in the kitchen down the hall, she snatched up the phone and opened it. She ran her finger down to a particular number in Oakdale. Hallie quickly copied the number on the palm of her hand.
“Well thankfully that’s the last of it,” said Emerson later as Noah helped him slam shut the rear door of the couple’s black Cadillac Escalade. “I think we just might make the plane.”
“Bye Noah. See you in about a week." Hallie waved from the front passenger seat as Emerson climbed in behind the steering wheel.
“Safe travels you two,” Noah called back as Emerson started down the winding driveway.
Keeping his eyes peeled for oncoming traffic, Emerson asked, “Well…did you get it?”
"Yep…dialing it now,” answered Hallie as she glanced between her cell phone and the smudged number written on her hand.
“Rats, voice mail.”
“So leave a message…”
“Just waiting for the beep, hon. ‘Um…hey Luke, this is Hallie McGinnis. We have a mutual friend…Noah Mayer? Just thought you’d like to know that he’s taking care of our house out here while my husband, Emerson and I are overseas. Why don’t you come out and keep him company? I’m sending you directions...now!’
Early the next morning. . .
A drowsy Noah batted away a buzzing in his ear only to have it return seconds, later, this time accompanied by a soft nuzzling to the side of his neck. He slowly opened his eyes to discover he wasn’t alone in bed.
“What the. . .?!” Noah lifted himself up on his elbows and watched as Seymour edged closer. Noah reached down to pet him and felt something stuck in the cat’s fur. It turned out to be a small old ‘No on Prop 8’ campaign sticker. Noah gently detangled the sticker while thinking back to another voting day.
Al’s Diner, Election Day 2008. . .
“The bottom line, Noah, is they don’t deserve to win and I do!”
“You wouldn’t be winning. . .” Noah leaned toward Luke. “…not if you cheat.”
Luke looked up into his boyfriend’s eyes.
“Well. . .what did Colonel Mayer use to say? Didn’t your father used to say that winning was the most important thing no matter the cost?"
Noah narrowed his eyes toward the other man sitting across from him.
“You know you are the last person I ever expected to be quoting the colonel. He did a lot of bad things in his life and he always had some self righteous excuse. But you . . . I always thought you were better than that. I don’t know of anyone else with a better sense of right and wrong. How can you even consider this?”
“I tried taking the high road, Noah," Luke shot back through clenched teeth. "Look where it got me. Kevin gets to slander my name and lie and cheat and he still comes out the winner.”
“This is getting way too personal." Noah shook his head. “What is it about Kevin that pushes your buttons so much?"
“I just can’t let him do this to me again.”
“Make me feel like. . ,” Luke admitted, biting his lip, “like a non-person.”
“Are you kidding me?” Noah took Luke’s hand in his. “You are a hundred times a better person than he is and that’s what knocked me out about you. How honest you are; how comfortable with yourself. I would not be who I am today if it wasn’t for you, so don’t let some hypocrite like Kevin change that about you.”
A few days later at the cottage, Noah decided that being stretched out on a chaise lounge by the backyard pool was much more conducive for writing the proposal for his next film. Resting the computer in his lap, Noah started typing away only to become aware quickly that someone else was also enjoying the sunshine.
Looking around, he discovered Seymour sprawled on his stomach next to the pool ladder, happily gnawing at something trapped between his front claws.
“Oh please, whatever it is he’s munching on," Noah thought, "let it be already dead." He crept toward the cat. “What ya got there,Seymour?
The proud cat relaxed his hold long enough for Noah to see that the object was actually a balled up piece of wrapping paper with similar colors and pattern to a treasured item of clothing from long ago.
Luke’s bedroom, May 2010. . .
“I’m surprised my mom didn’t tackle you and feed you.”
“I didn’t want anything." Noah’s eyes remained focused on the DVDs in his hand."Except to say thank you to them, especially your mom for everything she did for me.”
“Did you come here to break up with my family?”
“No…I’m not going to be around very much, Luke." He stared at his ex. “I didn’t want to just disappear.”
“Look Noah, if you don’t want to be with me, that’s fine. But that has nothing to do with my mom and dad and Faith and the kids. They love you.”
“They mean a lot to me, too,” said Noah as he laid the DVDs on the desk and spied a familiar striped tie draped over the back of Luke’s chair. He picked it up and held the narrow strip of cloth reverently between his thumb and forefinger.
“You know all that time I was praying to see again…to see you again, I didn’t expect to feel like this. . .”
“I didn’t expect this to happen…not to us.”
“I never expected it to be like this but everything I see reminds--"
Dr. Reid Oliver stepped into the room. “So. . .this is where the party is?"
Noah shot a cold stare at his neurosurgeon and dropped the once treasured memento in a heap on the desk.
After stepping out of the shower, Noah quickly wrapped a large warm towel around his waist and walked over to the bathroom sink. He was reaching into his toiletry bag to pull out a razor, when he heard something resembling street hockey being played out in the hallway.
Noah walked out into the hall and was stunned to see Seymour swatting at something, causing it to ricochet off the baseboards on either side of the hall..
Seymour swiped the object again, sending it sailing toward Noah, coming to rest at the side of his foot. Bending down, Noah picked up what turned out to be an old key tag full of tooth marks and covered with slobber yet still legible enough to read: Los Angeles School for the Blind 2010.
A patient’s room at Oakdale Memorial Hospital, March 2010. . .
“Noah. . ." Luke gently shook his ex’s forearm and pulled over a stool to the bed. “Can you hear me? They say you might be making some headway so. . .if that's true, if you can hear me, just open your eyes, please. Wake up please.”
The patient’s eyes began to flutter and before long he was squinting at the man sitting next to his bed.
“Noah,” smiled Luke as he leaned in closer. “It’s me. Can you see me?”
An awakening Noah continued to stare at the slowly focusing image of his ex-boyfriend. “Noah, are you OK? Can you see me? If you can see or hear me, just say something or nod your head.”
Noah took a deliberate hard swallow before answering. “I see your eyes…one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen in my life.”
“You’re you." Luke gently touched Noah’s temple. “You’re still you.”
“Who else would I be?”
The next day dawned rainy at the cottage. Noah ducked out the kitchen door to retrieve the morning edition of the Los Angeles Times. In his haste to return to the dry kitchen, Noah accidentally dropped an insert out of the paper and into a puddle.
Back inside, Noah settled down at the table and had just started to read the cover story on the Arts and Entertainment break page, when the sound of feline frustration reached his ears.
Turning toward the noise, Noah saw Seymour struggling to pull something through the cat door.
“Here let me help you,“ Noah said, reaching down and pushing back the flap. Seymour gave the object one last yank and in it sailed, knocking over the cat.
Noah chuckled and pulled the ad off Seymour’s head. The insert was drenched but he could still make out the copy. “Free red hots to the first 100 customers today at New York Hot Dogs, La Brea and Sunset Boulevard."
On the Oakdale Now Set at WOAK, September 2010. . .
“Noah, we believe in you, all of us.” Luke looked up from his seat at the counter. “So you have to get on that plane and you have to go to LA and you got to make your movie.”
“Alright…but on one condition.”
“You take a break from building your beautiful hospital wing and you come visit me on set.”
Luke made a counter offer. “Will I be able to eat out of those craft service carts?”
Noah smiled. “Will you settle for that hot dog place you like on La Brea?”
Later that day, Noah was watching a DVD when Seymour suddenly jumped up onto the couch. He dropped something on Noah’s bare feet and used his wet nose to nuzzle his new friend’s toes.
“Hmm…what do you have there?” asked Noah, reaching down to pick up the small jagged edge piece of old black and white movie film.
Lily’s Family Room, March 2010 …
“There’s a camera in my back pack. Will you help me get it out?”
Luke pulled out the small camera and placed it in Noah’s hand.
“Great, thank you. I’m going to document my entire trip and I’m going to post it on US Tube. So it’s going to be like you’re right there with me.“
“Sounds terrific." A small smile broke across Luke’s face. “But how are you going to make an entire film?”
“Oh,” answered Noah. “You mean because I’m blind?”
“Yeah…yeah…kinda,” admitted Luke, accentuated by a small chuckle.
“Well let me show you,” said Noah, holding out his back pack for Luke to take. “You can just watch and be amazed.” He flipped over the view finder to face Luke and waved his free hand. “There… see yourself?”
“Uh-huh.” Luke slightly tilted the screen so his face was in frame.
“OK. . .centered?”
“OK. . . now what film festival is going to turn down a blind film marker?”
Luke laughed. “You’re amazing.”
“Hey c’mon…say something,” encouraged Noah, aiming the camera at the sound of Luke’s voice.
Luke quickly steadied the camera and adjusted the screen.
“Noah Mayer, you are the most incredible person, I have met in my life; and it is an honor to know you.”
“Thank you,” Noah responded, his eyes glistening with threatening tears.
“I mean it.”
“And I’m so happy you’re in my life.”
The next morning Noah explored the property’s five acres. There were creeks to cross; deep woods to drudge through; and more than one hill to climb.
By the time he arrived back at the cottage, his hiking boots were caked with mud. Sitting down on the back door step, he unlaced the boots; banged them together to shake off the excess dirt and debris; and then sat the pair out in the sun to dry.
It was around this time, Seymour appeared carrying a dingy white piece of scrap.
“Well is this the welcoming committee bearing a gift?“ Noah laughed, gesturing the cat to come toward him. “C’mon…give it here.” Noah placed his open palm under Seymour’s mouth and was rewarded with a piece of Styrofoam cup with the name Java Joint printed on it.
Java in Old Town, September 2009. . .
Luke shyly walked into the coffee house, seemingly to hug the wall. All the while he stared at a surprised Noah, who dropped a handful of dirty dishes onto the counter.
"Look, I want to apologize." Luke edged toward Noah, rooted against the counter. “You were right. I have been pushing you away lately and I am really sorry.”
“I know things have been really hard for you lately,” Noah admitted.
“I want to move back home.”
“To the apartment?”
“To our apartment,” Luke corrected him. “Do you remember when you asked me to come get you when I figured out what I wanted you around for?" Luke closed the gap between them.
“It was only a few hours ago…so yeah.“
“Well I want you around for everything.”
“That’s what I want too." Noah moved closer. “Why do you think I act so crazy sometimes?"
“I don’t know…but maybe I make it harder on you?"
“Yeah, you do but you’re kinda worth it. So when…” Noah swallowed hard. “…are you gonna move back in?"
An anxious Luke tilted his head and broadly smiled up at Noah. “Well my bags are in the car…so when’s your shift over?"
“Not soon enough.”
Noah had just started preparing dinner when he heard scratching at the back door.
“Seymour…” chuckled Noah, opening the door, “what have you brought home this--" Noah stopped short. Were his eyes playing tricks on him? There standing in front of him, holding Seymour was. . .Luke Snyder, in the flesh.
“Luke, how did you....where did you?" Noah took a step closer, praying the beautiful love of his life was truly there.
“Blame it on the cat,” Luke smiled, gesturing to the purring Seymour. “I heard he brings all kinds of good things home.”