“…Stop me on the corner, I swear you hit me like a vision
I-, I-, I wasn’t expectin’
But who am I to tell fate where it’s supposed to go with it
Don’t you blink you might miss it…”
“Sprints comin’ up!!”
“…See we got a right to just love it or, leave it, you find it and keep it
Cause it ain’t everyday you get the chance to say….”
“Level up and lean forwarrrrrrd!!!”
“…Ohhh, this is how it starts
Lightning strikes the heart…”
“…It goes off like a gun
Brighter than the sun
Ohhh it could be the stars falling from the sky
Shining how we want, brighter than the sun…”
“Level off…” The music fell to a dull roar, everyone fell back onto their bike seats, and the class took a collective sigh.
“Shit,” Noah Mayer panted. “I hate that guy.”
His best friend Maddie took a breath. “No you don’t. You’re just pissed because he’s into me instead.”
“Is not.” He re-gripped the handlebars and smirked as she grinned back. Sweat poured off his forehead and dripped below to the rubber floor, but his legs never stopped moving. And she was too out of breath to respond with anything but a grin.
The two finished the 6 a.m. SPIN class, wiped down their stationary bikes, and gathered their things to head to the dressing room.
“Great class today. Thanks, Hunter,” smiled Noah.
“Thanks for comin’, man,” He grinned back and held his hand out for a high-five. “You’re lookin’-“
“Yeah! It was great!” Maddie added breathlessly as she rushed up.
“Thanks,” he grinned at her, paused thoughtfully, and added, “You both are doing really well. Keep up the good work.”
“Well, you make it so easy,” she gushed. “Your videos are terrific! They make the class so much more interesting! And the music is perfect! It-“
“We gotta get to work,” sighed Noah as he grabbed her arm and tugged her away, rolling his eyes at her kissing up to the hunk.
“Have a good one,” Hunter called out.
“You too!” She sang with a smile and waved her hand feebly before turning to Noah and gritting her teeth. “What the hell??”
“You’ve already got a boyfriend!” He snapped. “I need one.”
“He’s not your type.”
“Is not.” She looked away smugly while wiping her neck as she headed toward the ladies locker room.
“Is too!” he called out loudly as he turned to make his way into the Men’s locker room.
As they did three times a week, the two friends took their showers, changed clothes, and met in the gym lobby for the ten-minute walk to work.
Noah, a video director for online features, and Maddie, an art director for print copy, had known one another since college, and both had landed jobs at the Chicago Sun Times. They were staples in each other’s lives, living just doors down from each other in a high rise. Everything seemed perfect: Downtown living, exciting careers on the rise, good friends with whom they enjoyed Chicago nightlife, and romance. Maddie had just started a relationship with a law student—Casey—she met one night at a club. Perfect. Almost.
Noah had yet to find that perfect guy. He was more than good-looking, very smart, personable, and his well-sculpted body attested to the time he spent in the gym spinning and lifting weights. In a word, he was dreamy. Only, his own dream of finding Mr. Right—Mr. Happily Ever After—hadn’t happened yet. He wouldn’t settle. He was truly waiting for the right guy to come along—he’d know it when it happened. He was sure of it.
It was a beautiful, sunny morning. The air felt clean and crisp, and spring blooms were just beginning to appear on trees that lined their path to work. The sidewalks bustled with people on their way to work, many dressed casually and with an extra spring in their step since it was Friday. Noah and Maddie fit right in. Draped with workout bags over their shoulders, they ducked into Starbucks and came out five minutes later with their usual non-fat lattes and continued their brisk pace.
“You must be excited,” remarked Maddie, taking a sip of her latte.
“God, I can’t wait,” he grinned back. “I need this.” Noah was leaving the next day for R&R in the Bahamas, treating himself to a well-earned vacation.
“Who knows, maybe you’ll meet somebody special down there,” she winked.
“All I want to meet is the back of a lounge chair, thank you,” he retorted with satisfaction. “And if it’s layin’ by the pool, that will be even better. This is about rest and relaxation and-“
“romance,” she sighed dreamily. She was sure that she’d be as happy as her best friend as soon as he found someone. And maybe he’d talk to her about his new boyfriend, and their kisses, and other things they did in private. He glanced at her and smirked like he could read her mind, then he took a bite of his scone.
“What?” she balked. “It can happen.”
“Yeah, sure. Maddie, I can’t even find somebody here,” he gestured in frustration. “I’m not gonna find anybody a thousand miles away on some remote-“
“-romantic-“ she interjected.
“Tropical mosquitos…I’m gonna need some netting.”
“Netting,” she sighed with a smile. “Draped over the soft comfy bed that’s open to the veranda overlooking the ocean….dreamy,” she sighed again.
“It’ll probably be lumpy as hell. I should bring my own mattress pad.” He made a mental note of it.
“You’re not getting any sleep anyway, because you’re getting lucky,” she winked at him.
He shook his head and rolled his eyes. “We’re celebrating the weekend with drinks tonight.”
“Great!” she entered the revolving doors leading inside the Chicago Sun Times Building. Spotting an express elevator waiting, she rushed to catch it. “You call Gabe and Tony, I’ll call the rest,” she called out behind her.
“Have a good one, sweetheart,” he called back with a smile. He hurried himself—he had a lot to do to prepare to be off for a week. And he crossed his fingers. Maybe today would be the day he'd hear.
“Commercial?! Really, darling? Why on Earth are you-“
“Because the plane wasn’t available, and I need to get away now. I’m tired and worn out. I hardly know what I'm signing my name to anymore. It’s all too much. I need this. Besides, it’s not gonna kill me to fly commercial, grandmother.”
They never flew commercial, not since his grandmother owned a plane for her business, WorldWide Industries, and his father owned one for his own commercial shipping company. But he didn’t care. He needed to get away now. Work had suddenly become too much, and he needed a break, and the Bahamas would be just the ticket.
“Well enjoy yourself, my darling. Heaven knows you deserve it.” She folded her hands on her desk and spoke softer, and she insinuated but didn’t speak of his recent breakup with a boyfriend, Reid, who she hadn’t liked in the first place.
“This is about rest and relaxation, grandmother. Nothing else. I want nothing more than to lay around the pool, or the beach, and do nothing but relax.”
“Hmm, who knows,” she smirked. “There may be some cute cabana boy who could-“
“Nope, not happening,” he smiled insistently. “I gotta go. I’ve got a lot to do before leaving tomorrow.” He leaned over and kissed her. “See you in a week,” he grinned.
“Bye darling! Have fun,” she waved as he left her office.
“Just open it,” she glared at him in the passenger seat. Noah had grabbed his mail on the way out the door, and she’d given him a ride to the airport. And now here they were, pulling up to curbside check-in, and he still hadn’t had the guts to open the letter he’d been waiting on for weeks.
He took a deep breath. “Okay, here goes.” He slid open the envelope and pulled the letter out and scanned it. His look of hope quickly to turned to dismay and eventually disgust. Maddie’s face fell.
“Shit,” he muttered as he clutched the letter in his hand and looked back up at her. “Shit!”
She frowned for him. “I’m sorry.”
“What a freakin’ jerk!” He spread the letter back out in anger. “Listen to this! Dear Mr. Loah Mayer…LOAH!”
She giggled, which wasn’t the right thing to do based on his sneer.
“Dear Mr. Loah Mayer….I regret to inform you that your project entitled, “A Gay Man’s Journey in Search of Real Love” has not been approved for funding by the foundation. Blah blah blah, crap, crap, crap, yada, yada, yada. Signed, Luke Snyder,” he seethed, “Chairman of the We-Don’t-Give-A-Shit-About-You Foundation. What a jackass!” He pursed his lips and folded the paper angrily, sliding it into his coat pocket.
“God, he needs to change the name of that company—it’s a mouthful.”
He glared, and she giggled for the slightest of seconds. “I’m sorry, baby. You’ll get something next time.”
“He didn’t even spell my freakin’ name right! How dare they respond with such a stupid form letter!!”
“Come here.” She grabbed his cheeks and pulled him close. “You are going to forget all about whoever this stupid Luke Snyder is, and you’re going to have a fabulous time on vacation, and then when you come back we are going to march into that jackass’s office and demand they fund your film project because it’s terrific, and you are terrific.” She kissed his cheek and smiled.
He sighed and gave her a pout. “What would I do without you?”
“You’d wither away and die a lonely old man. But that’s never gonna happen, because you’re going to meet the man of your dreams on this trip.”
“Am not,” he smiled at her.
“Are too,” she said insistently.
He gathered his carry-on bag behind the seat and got out, but not before poking his head in the window and smiling through. “Am not.”
She winked and grinned, and as she pulled away, she yelled out “Are too!”
He smiled to himself and turned just in time to run into another man with two bags over his shoulders and pulling a third—all matching Louis Vuitton.
“Oh! I’m sorry,” the man said in a flustered tone. “It’s my fault. I wasn’t watching where I was going. I-“
Noah lost everything he said after ‘Oh’. He instead stared into the most beautiful pair of brown eyes he’d ever seen. His own eyes quickly roamed the man’s blonde hair that glimmered, an angelic-looking face with cherub cheeks, and a smile formed with lips there was only one word to describe: tasty. To Noah, his face was brighter than the sun. All that, plus the heat he felt upon immediate contact with the smaller man made his heart beat fast.
“Uh, no,” Noah swallowed heavily, finally gathering his thoughts. “I’m sorry. I didn’t see you.”
The man paused and smiled back, and for five full seconds, the two stood on the curb simply smiling into each other’s faces.
Until the moment was broken. The man cleared his throat. “Well, I better go or I’ll miss my flight.”
“Okay,” Noah responded, still in a daze. “Um, do you need help with your bags?”
“No, I’m fine, thanks. Have a safe flight, wherever you’re going.”
“Thanks,” Noah almost whispered, still staring dreamily after the man as he began to walk away. “You too,” he called after him.
The man turned once more and smiled shyly, Noah grinned perhaps the biggest grin he’d ever felt before on his face, then the man with the bags continued on his way until he was out of sight.
And as Noah continued staring in his direction, his grin turned to a troubled look as he realized maybe he’d just done the stupidest thing ever by not getting that man’s name and number.